What it Means to be Human Part 7

     We Are Not Perfect But We Are Unique

We are not well served by those in Christian ministry or academics who want to change traditional Biblical interpretations in order to accommodate current social standards. The Gospel is not served by an attitude that we must “go along” in order to “get along” with this world. The missionary and apostle Paul would not be remembered if he had said to everyone on Mars Hill, “Here is another god to add to your collection”. We do not need improved theology. We need an improved attitude that reflects a Christ like spirit. We need an attitude the Holy Spirit can use to bring salvation and a restored, God created, humanity to the lost in this world.

What it means to be human can best be seen in Jesus Christ. The more our lives reflect His spirit and actions the more human we become.

This essay is not intended to reflect academic standards of attribution of all ideas expressed.

Brief Biographical:  Morris E. Vickers.

Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religion, California Baptist University. Riverside, CA.

Master of Divinity Degree, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Fort Worth, TX

Doctor of Ministry Degree, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. (Now Palmer Theological, Philadelphia, PA.).

50 Plus Years. Minister of Christian Education, Pastor, Associational Missions Director (Arundel Baptist Assn. Maryland).

30 Plus Years. Owner, Financial Security Advisors, Inc. A registered investment advisor.

What it Means to be Human Part 6

    Responding to Our Challenges

How are we to respond to our challenges related to homosexuality, same gender marriage, and religious liberty? These are not philosophical issues. They are issues real to people. That is the beginning point: As Christians we treat our conversations and actions with others and about others with respect. Being respectful of others does not mean agreeing with their ideas or lifestyles.

Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice not a God created or blessed gender condition. Several passages in Scripture disapprove of homosexuality (Gen. 19:1-13; Judges 19:22; Lev. 18:21-22; Lev. 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:8-10) There are no verses in the Bible that approve of it. We should not voluntarily provide encouragement enabling it any more than we would buy an alcoholic a drink, drive a bank robber to a bank, give an obese person fattening food, or fail to be critical of adulterous behavior. Being an enabler is not the loving thing to do. The person engaging in any of these, and other destructive behaviors still deserves respect in our attitudes and actions. A follow up to our well used quote in John 3:16 is found by reading John 3:17; “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him”

Our role in the world is not to pronounce judgement on others but to relate to persons in a manner that will give us an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus as the Christ through whom they can begin to regain their full humanity.

Same gender marriage is a natural result from the acceptance of homosexuality. We are not only individuals we are social creatures. It is a natural desire to want emotionally satisfying relationships with other humans. “Marriage” is a civil designation. Civil authorities recognize marriages performed by clergy as legally valid. The process of having a legally recognized relationship called marriage begins with securing a license from civil authority, making certain promises before a recognized official, and returning the properly signed license to the civil authority.

The Christian concern needs to address “God blessed unions”. Ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as His representatives, need to keep their participation within Scriptural bounds. Biblically blessed unions are commitments between a male and female made to God and each other. They are lifetime commitments of love for each other and God.

In the United States issues of homosexuality and same gender rights involve religious liberty issues. Behaviors previously permissible by voluntary choice of conscience are now made mandatory with interpretation and enforcement administered by local, state or federal authority.

One recent example of this involved a family bakery declining to bake a cake for a same gender wedding. The husband and wife owners were, by reports, cordial and respectful of the homosexual couple. The respect was not reciprocated and resulted in them being heavily fined to the point of losing the business. It is a reminder that while we are called upon to be respectful of those who oppose us the respect may not be returned. Instead it may result in hostility and persecution.

In addition to this story involving religious liberty it also points to a concern for fundamental American values. An integral part of our economic free enterprise system is in question. Much progress has been made in our past by enterprising individuals “building a better mousetrap”. Progress in transportation, communication, and medicine are examples of someone having or improving on an idea in existence at the time.  The American enterprise answer to a group not being served by an existing baker is to start their own bakery! Or, do business with and tell your friends about another baker who will make your kind of cake. Economic advancement requires individual liberty.

The clerk of a county court in Kentucky is a different story. Because of her Christian convictions she refuses to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples. She refuses to sign her name on a certificate and issue it. The state of Kentucky and the county she serves as clerk accepts the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court recognizing homosexual marriages as valid. She is a sworn officer of the county. In this situation she is an employee of a civil jurisdiction. Her name is entered on a documents, not as an individual, but as a representative of the civil authority that is her employer. As long as the employer is not asking her to commit a civil crime she should either fulfill her elected responsibility or resign her position. She needs to respect her employer. Being a media martyr will serve no useful purpose. As a private citizen she can follow her religious conviction and have nothing to do with homosexual marriages. Except she will still need to go fish and pay taxes to the civil government.

Leaves All Statues Where They Are

             LEAVE ALL STATUES WHERE THEY ARE

As published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Sept. 19, 2017.

The current fury regarding Confederate statues fails to consider the rationale for having memorials. Statues are memorials not just representations of individuals. They are one kind of memorial. Other forms take the shape of walls, buildings, bridges, public facilities, and even military hardware.

As the name indicates, memorials are memories. They are reminders of history. They are visual representations of past accomplishments and failures. Of times when we, as a national entity, were united and when we experienced division of opinion and commitment.

The World War Two memorial in Washington, D.C. reminds us of why 400,000 citizens lost their lives and multiple numbers more suffered in other ways.  We do not celebrate their deaths but we honor them for benefitting our lives by their sacrifice.  Also in our nations’ capital is another memorial. It is a reminder of the loss of 56,000 young Americans in a war that was controversial and divisive. Americans demonstrated against participation, some leaving the country to avoid being drafted. Years later even the erection of the Vietnam Wall was criticized and opposed. Reading the names on that wall is a more recent painful reminder of the cost of physical combat.

Memorials do not approve or disapprove of past events and the people involved in them. They tell us what has been, hopefully so we will not make the same mistakes but also can be guided by our better decisions. After all, that is a value of preserving history.

Memorials do not tell the whole story of an event or of an individual. They are snapshots not a lifelong motion picture. Events are seldom simple and uncomplicated in how they begin, develop, and conclude. Life is messy. We are complex living growing organisms. We are not easily caricatured stick figures incapable of change.

For example, the day signatories showed up in Philadelphia and signed a Declaration of Independence was preceded by years of pain, suffering, debate, and obstacles. We see the picture of men around a table but we do not see what it took individually for them to be there. Some were there who wanted the document to express freedom of all slaves. Some were there as slave owners. Should we erase from the picture those who were slave owners? Should we erase those who compromised their principles in order to have a document acceptable to all who were to sign?

How perfect a life must an individual live in order to justify having their likeness preserved? Is history best served by having pictures, statues, writings on a wall and other monuments only of people with whom we agree?  In a multicultural society such as ours who should decide what is an acceptable memorial to be publicly honored?

For the betterment of the future let’s leave all statues, and other memorials, where they are. Losing memorials means losing history and what we can learn from it.

What it Means to be Human Part 5

In the World but Not of the World

Having two citizenships gets complicated. This is especially true when one is a civil citizenship whose standards are based on a constantly contentious changing moral code and the other a spiritual loyalty based on the unchanging Word of God. Jesus knew this difficulty living both as a human and as of divine origin. Roman political and military dominance, a culture greatly reflecting Greek philosophy and a Jewish theological mandate kept life unsettled.

The question was: On any issue what does the Roman authority approve of or disapprove? What does Greek thinking endorse or discourage? What is good or evil according to Jewish law?  Three arenas of authority: Political, Moral, and Religious. Try satisfying all of them with one answer to any question. How Jesus managed should be instructive for us.

Decision criteria:

To whom should priority be given: God, Government or Culture?

Is it possible to satisfy more than one?

What attitude should we convey to all parties?

An example: Tax time has arrived and Jesus is asked if it is lawful to pay the government. Jesus sends Peter to catch a fish in whose mouth is a coin with an inscription on it. Jesus asked whose the inscription is. The answer is “Caesar”. He replies, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are God’s”

It is not to imply that Jesus approves of Caesar or how all the tax money will be spent. Jesus does not call for withholding a portion as a demonstration of protest with government policies. Jesus is not responsible for the misuse of tax dollars. His ministry purpose is more important than a diversion of attention to civil tax policy. What is most important, Jesus keeps as most important. His priority is to bring the salvation of God to all people.

The greater the number of people in a society who reflect a kingdom view the greater can be the influence on the moral standards in civil life. If we don’t like the moral decline of the country the answer is for us to be more intentional in leading more people to a saving knowledge of Jesus. His most important thing is ours also. Is it possible a substantial number of people will take offense at having a kingdom view reflected in moral standards? Absolutely Yes! After all, we are still in the world, just not living according to the attitudes and behavior of this world.

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What Kind of Business Will You Buy?

     Investing 101

Are you saying you have no interest in being part owner of any business?

Let’s take a look at that comment. Have you eliminated investing in stocks, mutual funds, ETF’s, variable annuities, or private partnerships?

If you own a share of stock you are a partial owner of the company that issued it. The mutual funds and the other mentioned investment vehicles likely own shares of public companies.  You are likely partial owner of many companies.

Do you participate in a retirement program? Is it an Individual Retirement Account?  Is it through your employer, such as a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan?  Is your employer setting aside money guaranteeing you a pension when you retire?  Where is most of the money invested?

Your money is used to buy partial ownership in businesses. Some are incorporated in the USA. Others may have headquarters in foreign countries.  Some companies may be well established with long histories of providing goods and services. Some may be new, as recently opened as within the past few days. Some may be sharing annual profits with shareholders, others keeping the money in order to more rapidly expand business. Some have strong cash reserves while others may not have “two dimes to rub together”.

So, let me rephrase the question. Do you know what kind of businesses you partially own? Do you understand the amount of risk being taken in your businesses?

The determination of what businesses to own, how secure they need to be financially, and how diversified among industry areas and countries is an individual decision.

A trusted financial advisor can help you decide on the kinds of companies to consider and how to select the right combination of businesses.   

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What it Means to be Human. Part 4

       The Human Family

It begins with Genesis Chapter 1. Having completed an earthly habitat capable of sustaining all forms of life ‘Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness; and let him rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’” (Gen. 1:26)

Humans are created with two gender designations: Male and Female. (Gen. 1:27) “God blessed them; and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth….” In Gen. 1:28 the genders are blessed by God and given a responsibility for the care and expansion of creation. Of all created beings only humans received life as God breathed into them.

The responsibility of increasing the human population is given to a woman and a man by way of a special relationship. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”. (Gen. 2:24). Male and Female join together in a sexual relationship and another human being is brought into this earthly life. They bear a responsibility of caring for and teaching the young a way of life pleasing to God. No other gender combination is physically equipped to make a new human life. All other gender designations are of fallen human origin and have not received God’s blessing.

God is the judge of all, even those who choose not to recognize God in Biblical revelation as the designer and giver of life. The apostle Paul writes in Roman 1:18 & 19, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident to them”. He continues “that God’s invisible attributes have been clearly seen, being understood” (v. 20); “all people know God” (v.21); Possess moral knowledge of what is sinfulness and of idolatry” (v.23); “sexual perversion” (v.24); ‘falsehood’ (v.25); “covetousness” (v.29; “murder” (V.29); “ill speech” (v29); and “disobedience to parents” (V30). Homosexuality is condemned as a sin “against nature” (v)26. In the final verse of Romans 1 Paul says, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these things but also approve of those who practice them”.

Humans are created to have an awareness of God even without divine revelation. God can become known through intellect and reason. Ignorance of revelation is no excuse for not being aware of God’s presence. The person who does not pursue knowing God does so as a matter of personal choice. The person who chooses to find God, beginning with a rational view of the world, will experience God’s revelation. God does not leave any one ignorant who wants to know him.

“Free will’ is the freedom to willfully know God or choose not to.

The Biblical view of the family, as presented in Genesis, finds its identity in God. It is not merely the construct of a rational materialistic oriented society. The family as the fundamental unit of society predates all other means by which individuals become part of groups. The family existed before man made relationships were designated and codified. Rules, regulations and laws should reflect the creator of the family not human thinking that comes years or centuries later. The civil political unit that maintains social order is the custodian not the source of truth, justice and law.

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What it Means to be Human. Part 3

                                 Humanity Lost

 Evil is real and in competition with God for souls. Sin results in our loss of humanity. We become less than who God created. The more we give in to evil the more we decrease our humanity. The image of God, in us, is not lost but is corrupted. Our inherent image of God means that no matter how far we may be from God we still know the difference between good and evil. (Romans 1:18-20)

The equation is: Through Adam sin entered human existence. Through Jesus restoration is extended by the grace of God. (Romans 5).

“The work of divine grace in cosmic atonement is integrally united in its regenerative activity in the individual life; the two are different aspects of the unity of God’s purpose to save men from sin, and of the accomplishment of that purpose through Jesus Christ. He has shown us the nature and goal of human personality; He has atoned for our sinful failure to realize that nature and reach that goal; He has become the center of the fullest development of human personality yet known to us. What Christ has to do for us, in this last respect, is to bring to realization the possibilities of our nature interrupted or defeated by the sinful will. Sin is the intruder, not Christ.” (The Christian Doctrine of Man, H. Wheeler Robinson, Principal of Regent’s Park College, London.)

Becoming a disciple of Jesus begins a process of restoration and transformation. The struggle for a Christian is the conflict of being a citizen of two cultures. (Romans 6). We are in this physical world, with defective societal standards of conduct with regard to family, justice, freedom of conscience, government, and economic fairness. But, we are called to not be of this world. That is the challenge. A Christian struggles to live a Kingdom view life in a Worldview society that has little or no interest in living in a way that reflects God.

As Christians we are restrained in our attitudes and treatment of others by the inherent dignity of every human, even non-believers. Psalms 8 reminds us “You have made him a little lower than the angels and have crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet”. Even in our fallen state we continue to reflect the image of God. Somewhere deep inside his spirit the worldview man senses an incompleteness.

The Worldview man compensates for it with ambition and achievement; leaving his name to be known for years after passing from this world. Or he rebels against that inner spirit of God with destructive violent behavior. He may seek to hide from it in the excesses of addiction. He creates human gods whose standards he can meet. In desperation, he denies God.

Like it or not, his origin is in God. He has been made in the image of God even if that image now is but a shadow. And, he deserves to be treated with respect.

We should not be naive and expect our convictions to be welcomed by those who are trying to live without reference to the image and authority of God. People who are avoiding God by ambition, rebellion, destructive life styles, unsatisfactory shadow gods, and denial will feel threatened and respond accordingly. Prophets, Jesus, and disciples through the centuries, including now, have been punished for challenging worldviews.

The Kingdom view provides the Christian with a standard by which we can address current cultural practices in areas such as the family, marriage and sexual identity.

Coming Next: Part Four, The Human Family

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Contributing to Tension Situations

         CONTRIBUTING TO TENSION SITUATIONS

Some people seek for and thrive on tension. This is in especially evident today in our political climate. However, it may be true in family life, at work, with neighbors, or in church. Even if most of us seek to avoid conflict we may be drawn into situations because of the actions of others. Recent consideration brought to mind techniques used to create and maintain tension.

Opportunistic people exist. Such people see issues as “causes” for them to defend and opponents as objects to conquer. They use code words to push other people’s hot buttons in order to energize the cause with great emotional fervor. Language may be used to sway opinions, degrade others, gain a foothold or push an agenda. Phrases such as “radical”, “unfeeling”, “our kind”, their kind”, “racist”, “fascist”, “elitist”, and “deplorables” are examples.

Most situations do not have two sides but rather involve a web of feelings, convictions and opinions. Individually most of us cannot be easily labeled because we are not consistent in positions we adopt. Our thinking is not as rational as we like to think.  It is colored (or discolored) by our feelings, past experiences, influence of other people and personal convenience. Thinking is time consuming and difficult, therefore it is an effort to do it. It is much easier to react out of preconceived convictions and use rationale to defend conclusions.  It is easier to parrot phrases than think through issues.

Rumors abound and thus distort facts, undermine relationships, and create an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Qualities which make for good character and the betterment of life are often sacrificed to error and distortion without investigation into the context of the subject’s life or ulterior motives of the rumormonger. We need to verify facts and not vilify persons.

Awareness of these factors helps me keep issues in perspective, avoid being manipulated by others, and hopefully, not contribute to increasing tensions in difficult situations.

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