Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Peace I Give You

I have said these things to you so that in me you might have peace. In the world there is affliction, but have courage.  I have conquered the world.  -- John 16:33 (Lexham)
It's extremely simple to get worked up about the afflictions and dangers in the world.  News networks gain all of their viewers from the voyeuristic tendency of humans to be magnetically drawn to tragedies and afflictions of others.  Terrorist attacks, shooters in public venues, car wrecks, plane crashes.... The news media gives us round-the-clock coverage 24 hours a day from around the world.  Afflictions abound.  The source of peace though is not to be found in ending affliction, if such a thing were possible.  It is not in waiting for some End-time rapture by and by,   Peace is achieved and accessible now in and through Jesus Christ.

Christ has conquered the world.  Standing alongside Christ we step outside attachment to this life with its afflictions and worries.  A new dimension exists where there is no impact to us personally from the afflictions we experience.  Our eternity is secure.  The present world's afflictions might come over us and even take our life but our sure footing is in the conquered realm that exists beyond this one. So have courage.  Turn away from despairing over the news, pray, and work for bringing ever present reminders of the Peace Source to all you can.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. How easily do you pull yourself away from news of tragic circumstances?
  2. What kind of reminders can you provide to others when they are stressed by news events?
  3. Where do you find peace?

God of Peace, we ask your peace to settle upon us in times of affliction.  Inspire us to be peace to others around us, and remind all of Christ's ever-present love.  Through Christ.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Letting Go of Lostness

"And I will lead the blind into the way which they know not; and in the paths which they were ignorant of I will make them walk..." -- Isaiah 42:16
Floundering or "feeling one's way along" is a fairly common human experience.  The Jewish people had landed in Babylon and suddenly were no longer sure of who they were.  It is a difficult thing to hold onto one's identity when everything familiar is stripped away.  For a time nobody knew where to turn.  They looked for guidance, but there was nobody to be found who they could respect or trust.  The Prophet Isaiah comes on the scene and tells them that God does know you are here.  God knows how you got yourselves into this pickle.  You've walked very arrogantly without God, and now you are in a tough spot.  But God is keeping up the Promise and is sending one who will bring light, and straighten out this mess.

Many of the verses in the 42nd chapter of Isaiah strike Christians as foretelling of the Advent of Jesus the Messiah.  Without the Messiah, being struck blind on the crooked path of life is almost a certainty.  Jesus comes to us and shows us a new, straighter way.  The shackles of sinful failure are cut loose.  The gift and grace of forgiveness lifts the scales from our dismal view of ourselves.  Hope comes into bloom again.  God has not forsaken us at all.

No matter how bruised and beaten up in life you are, no matter how lost or struggling you might feel, God hears and sends the help meant for you in particular.  It's hard to believe it at times, yes, but certainly God's enduring presence is the promise given from scripture.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. How well are you able to keep a positive self-esteem?
  2. What obstacles or assistance do you find in keeping true to yourself and your faith?
  3. How has Jesus' coming into the world changed who you are?

Dear Lord, no matter what our circumstances are, be with us.  Lift the low places in our road, smooth out the rough places, and carry us safely into sacred space with You daily.  In Christ's name.  Amen.

This is the reading from Day 3 of Advent Meditations: Isaiah the Prophet by Mark Fredericksen, M.Div., N.D.  It is available at  Click on the book cover in the right column to order paperback or Kindle.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

To Christ Be The Glory

I am praying for them.  I am not praying for the whole world, but for those you have given to me, because they are yours.  Indeed, all I have is yours, and all you have is mine, and in them I have been glorified.  -- John 17:9-10

We are living in rough seas and threatening times.  The violent attacks on human life in Beirut, Paris, across Syria, and in so many other places around the world have jarred the safety and sensibilities of just about everyone.  I read this morning that the Dalai Lama has even said not to be praying for the world because the mess is not God's responsibility but humanity's and, as such, it is humanity's to fix.  On the heels of that this passage landed on my laptop.  

The airwaves and cyber-waves have been full of a great deal of fear-mongering, hand-wringing, and even some hate-speech.  Refugees fleeing for their lives have become suspected terrorists, wars on top of rumors of wars, and non-stop TV coverage of police manhunts have escalated to the surreal level of a James Bond movie.  A Christian superiority melded with patriotic flag waving is being used as noble grounds for attacking Muslims in some kind of hyped-up prelude to a modern day Crusade.   Followers of Jesus need to put their anxieties and politics on hold and do some praying.

This passage has a lot of Light to reflect into Christian souls searching for answers.  It begins in Jesus modeling for us that he is praying for us.  In this particular instance, he is not praying for the world but for just those of us who might call ourselves his disciples.  His prayers go out specifically to and for us who are walking The Way of Christ.  When it's put that way, we should know that we are always and safely in Jesus' constant thoughts and protection.  But we are not just Jesus' beloveds, we are with Jesus because we were first God's.  From God, through Christ, back into God's care we go.  Eternal safety confirmed and assured.  We need have no fear of whatever the world throws at us, we are secure in an Infinite and Eternal Love.

Everything Jesus has is God's, and everything God has is Jesus', but did you catch where that mutual stewardship leads?  This scripture says Jesus is glorified because of his relationship with us. Does this not then place a huge responsibility on our shoulders to speak and act in ways that really do glorify our Lord and Savior?  It adds a profound depth to the too often used cliche' of "What would Jesus do?"  If Jesus' followers are how he gets glorified, it is incumbent on us to be accurate loving reflections of Jesus in our world.  That is our mission.  That is our task.

1. How can you reflect Christ into the world through your interactions with others in person and online?
2. How much prayer time do you spend recharging your spirit by just basking silently in the light of God's and Jesus' love and respect for you?
3.  In what ways can you sense and remind yourself in the face of scary news that you are held in sacred safety eternally?

Help us surrender our fears to you, dearest Savior, and find peace and rest for our souls which we can then spread to others through our calm and gentle words and action.  Let all we do be glorious for your name's sake.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  -- Psalm 119:105

Recent developments in neuroscience have allowed researchers to get totally new views into the structure and function of the human brain.  They've learned many new and exciting things about how amazing God is in forming us.  For example, that the number of neurons (nerve cells) in the brain outnumber the stars in the universe.  That repeated or habitual ways of thinking create neural routes or pathways in the brain such that the same initiating thought ends up in the same place, tripping the same almost automatic physical and emotional responses; that these pathways can be changed and re-routed with work of will and taking charge of our thoughts.  We are not helpless victims to how our brains work or to aging.  All can be changed.

This is good news indeed.  To change attitudes, sinful patterns, difficult relationships, and even our abilities to accomplish great and glorious deeds all are significantly possible by taking charge of our wants, desires, thinking, and perspectives.  The realities about our lives that we've assumed were set in stone can be changed.  What better way to take control of this new found power than to use the Word of God as our template to new neural pathways that re-route us around problematic thinking/attitudes and into wholeness living with Christ under girding us every step of the way?

One of the most powerful ways this new information from science can help us is in our prayer life.  No other single place in our life can have a greater impact than spending time re-routing our stressed, worried, over-worked lives than through time spent praying and meditating on God's will for us.  God's will is a lamp to our feet and a (stronger, new, better) light to my (brain's) path.

Staying on the Path with Christ,

Dr. Mark

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Starbucks and Their Red Cups

"About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning The Way." -- Acts 19:23

Over the past few days "no little disturbance" has arisen on Facebook over Starbucks' release of their very plain red paper holiday cups.  A one-person cry of blasphemy toward Christmas, and by extension Christians, has managed to morph into a near rebellion with even one leading Republican candidate to suggest boycotting Starbucks for not including a "Merry Christmas" message on their cups.

This struck me as not altogether unlike the disturbance told in the later part of Acts 19 only in reverse.  According to the story in Acts, the popularity and spread of the Christian Way through the Eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor is starting to pinch some businesses.  The silversmith's union in Ephesus was up in arms over the new number of Christian converts who were not buying statues for the goddess Artemis anymore.  A large gathering was threatening Paul's life and riot in the streets.  The town clerk stands up and basically says, "They aren't doing anything illegal so disperse."

In 21st century America, it seems we've come full circle such that over-sensitive Christians feel offended by a business simply including a free cup with their coffee.  The ridiculousness of this claimed insult has bypassed all rationality, and seriously damages public perceptions of the Christian Way that the Apostle Paul taught us.  Why is there such a powerful siege mentality among a loud, significant minority of Christians?  One video online this morning showed a "Christian" so offended by a paper coffee cup that he rebelliously waved his handgun while ranting about Starbucks encroaching on his rights.  Seriously?  I don't get it.

From the beginning of the Church, legitimate Christians secure in their salvation have never raised alarms or weapons over the very real persecutions they endured.  "Blessed are you when people revile and persecute you... your reward is great in heaven," --Matthew 5:11.  American "Christians," who will be whining all through this entire holiday season about the "oppression of Christianity," need a reality check.  Their sickening sense of entitlement and privilege being used to whine over their "persecuted status" is an egregious insult to those brave Christians throughout Church history who did endure gladiators, torture, imprisonment, and death for their faith.

Please take your guns, your cameras, your computers, phones, and vitriol and just quietly pray somewhere.  If your faith feels threatened, then do something constructive for the rest of Christiandom -- find someone who needs a loving hand and the True Word of our Lord's hope and grace.

Lord, forgive them for they know know what they do.  Amen.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Can Christians Counteract World Violence?

Who can separate us from the love of Christ?  Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Christ who loved us.  -- Romans 8:35, 37
There were 21 Egyptian Christian men murdered last week by ISIS in Libya.  First, I want to honor them by listing their names here.  More important than these fallen ones (who are now with Christ) are their families, who are still among the living, grieving their absence from their lives.  Even though the news cycle has moved on and these eleven men are passing out of our awareness, let us remember their families in prayer as they still smart from the loss.

Richard Rohr begins a talk about "How Men Change" by listing the hundreds of thousands of war dead since 1990 and comments, "When one person dies, those who knew him or her feel the tragedy; when thousands die it's a statistic and we have trouble relating.  We simply can't get our heads around it."  Some of Rohr's stated figures included, 2 million dead in Afghanistan, 1.5 million in the Sudan, 500,000 in Angola, 200,000 in Guatemala, 150,000 in Liberia, 77,000 in Algeria, and 880,000 in Rawanda (in 90 days). 

Violence pretty effectively generates more violence in it's wake. Egypt's response to the ISIS murders was to bomb ISIS bases.  Many "defense experts" feel military retaliation is a necessary response.  A State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf, got soundly criticized for making the statement, "We can not kill our way out of this war."  She was suggesting that there were socio-economic reasons for violence being perpetuated.  Why the resistance to talking about the socio-economic changes needed?  Because such change would shake the foundations of the wealthy, who ultimately benefit from the cycles of violence.

All Christians should spend time in prayer and study during Lent pondering all the structures that support and maintain violence -- from racism, classism, and sexism to a world that bases individual identity on possessions and consumption of the world's resources.  We say we worship the Holy Trinity and yet, when famine, fire, sword or other lesser threats challenge our lives we resort to defensive strategies that protect me and mine by destroying you and yours.  Rhetoric and actions that wave a flag and declare war violates the victory we already know through Christ.  In addition, hatred, hostility, and revenge pumps more massive negativity into the world emotionally and energetically.  The cycle needs to be broken and belief in Christ along with the New Testament provides a strategic plan for doing this.  The Pauline Letters, and in particular the 4th chapter of Philippians summarizes sound Christian advice on transforming the negative downward spirals in our private emotional lives, as well as in our collective global life.