Good News from Mars (Part 2)
Paul is led up a 512 ft. hill, Mars Hill, also known as Areopagus, and there he faces the Epicureans and the Stoics (and others). These intellectual giants represented the philosophical thinking of the day in which Paul lived. And when these PhD's saw Paul, they sneered and considered him a vain babbler (seed picker). They had given Paul audience merely to amuse themselves by listening to what he had to say.
Now, the Stoic religion, founded by Zeno (c. 300 B.C.), was rooted in the art of living wisely. Their teaching suggested that the ultimate principle of the universe and the ideal of the ethical life is to live in harmony with reason. Reason will keep each man under control. God was thought to be the indwelling reason, the soul of the universe and apart from it, God had no existence. So according to stoicism, the fundamental injunction laid upon man was to follow the law of nature and maintain self discipline by listening to the voice of reason.
I think the Stoics made a good point because if we investigated the doctrines and practices of most of the major religions, we will find something comparable to the teachings of Christianity. We can look at Buddhism or Confucianism or Hinduism and find teachings against murder, stealing, adultery and so forth. And so the Stoics believed there was something in our natural thinking process that would lead us to do the right thing. Paul contemplated this philosophical leaning and came up with a gospel that seemed to undercut what the Stoics believed. I imagine Paul saying something to the effect: Men of Athens, I can appreciate your philosophical thought that there is something in the laws of nature that will lead us to do the right thing. I understand what you are saying concerning the laws of nature, but I do not think you have considered human nature. You see, just because we know what is right does not mean we will do what is right. Just because we know we should not lie does not mean we will not lie. Just because we know we should not gossip on each other, stab each other in the back, dig ditches for one another, does not mean we will not do it. But my gospel takes into account human nature. Because I discovered the other day that even when I would do right, even when reason does lead me to do the right thing, evil is always present.
As intelligent as we may consider ourselves, we cannot afford to rely solely on reason. When we have done all the thinking we can do, we will realize that there are some things beyond reason. We know this because if we stop to think about it, we would have to admit that the virgin birth is not logical. The turning of water into wine is not logical. It is not reasonable to accept the idea of a man walking on water. But the gospel transcends logic. The doctrine of the gospel is a great mystery of godliness. It is out of the road of the enquiries of human reason; it transcends the finiteness and limitations of man.
The Epicureans were also on Mars Hill. They believed in the art of living happily. They considered pleasure of mind and body to be the highest good in life. Life to the Epicurean is simple fulfillment of natural desires which they felt rendered a life of security and lasting pleasure. They emphasized and sought to maximize the happiness of the majority and did not worry about the rest. For them, the chief end of man was to eat, drink and be merry.
Well, I can hear Paul telling the Epicureans, There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. It is great to want to maximize the happiness of the greatest number, but my gospel also considers the few. There may be a few folks out there who cannot afford the cost of an education. There may be a few folks out there who are struggling trying to make ends meet. There may be a few folks out there who are not listed among the fittest; because under the evolutionary program, only the fittest will survive. If you are not fit, you'll be lost. But under the Gospel that I represent, it does not matter who you are, God cares.
Unlike man, God's love is not conditional and not predicated on who you are, where you are, where you live or your education. You can be the President of the United States or you can be a sanitation worker for the city, God cares for you. It doe not matter where you are ? you can be on top of the mountains or you can be on the bottom of the barrel, God still cares. It does not matter what street you live on. You can live in the richest neighborhoods or you can live in the ghettos of America, God still cares. Maybe you do not have a degree behind your name, maybe you do not know how to make the subject and the verb agree; God still cares for you.
Paul looked at the surroundings he was in and could hardly believe what his eyes were seeing. Athens was famous for their temples that were exquisite works of art. There was no other place on earth at the time where so many idols were exhibited. It was often said that it was easier to find a god than a man in Athens. Paul observed the many temples, surrounded by statutes of deities and gods of many natures. There were thousands of public statutes and thousands more in the Parthenon. Athens was not only the home of the great philosophical thinkers; it was the home of the Greek gods of mythology. Many deities were housed in the temples and shrines of men's hearts and minds including Zeus, Apollo, and Narcissus. So Paul challenged them with the preposterousness of all the idols. What he said to them was tantamount to:
I've noticed you have a lot of idols up here. Everywhere I look, I see idols. I have even noticed an altar with the inscription ? To the Unknown God. Here you sit like you have all the answers, like you have a monopoly on wisdom and yet the true God is an unknown God. Well, let me tell you about this unknown God.
The Good News from Mars (Hill) is that God cares. He cares for you in a personal and intimate way. It does not matter who you are, where you are, what your circumstance, God cares.
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach which can be reviewed on her site. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, is expected to be available in July.
You are welcome to visit AMEN Ministries: Your Soul's Service Station for spiritual refreshing, soul edification or to browse our newly expanded mini shopping mall.
Blessings to all!
Run Forest Gump Run
In the movie "Forest Gump" we see Forest succeedin just about every aspect of his life. What weadmire most about him is his ability to overcomephysical obstacles all throughout his life. Butwhat we didn't see is Forest had much more goingfor him than just being naive and gutsy. We firstsee this in a scene where he is a child withbraces on his legs. His best friend Jennie and himare walking home one day and some boys are pickingon Forest and throwing rocks at him. Jennie yellsout, "RUN FOREST RUN", so what did Forest do? Heran, and ran and ran. He ran so much and so hardthat his braces broke from his legs and he neverhad to wear them again.
Theory on PRAYER
Oxford dictionary defines PRAYER as "a request for help or expression of thanks made to God". But I strongly believe that prayer is not mere seeking or demanding or requesting. It is a mode of communication with the ALMIGHTY. Prayer is not one in which the individual should seek something for his/herself or for the society. For me prayer is a platform where the soul makes a comfortable understanding God. Ordinary prayer is for those who think God is beyond reachable and something very far from them. For those who think and treat God as one in them or within them,ordinary prayers are mere words piled up. (Here I refer ordinary prayers as ones which involve demanding). With these kind of people one can find mere conversation exists between themselves and God. These relationships are eternal, far beyond materialistic one, there one can find no offerings, desires, expectations etc.
A Bellyful of Mindfulness
Taco Bell, the Mexican fast-food franchise, has a new ad campaign focusing on the slogan, "Get full." The commercials show people ecstatically announcing that they are full--thanks, of course, to the huge value meals now available at Taco Bell.
Have you ever heard something that really "resonated" with you? I'm sure that if you are in tune with yourself emotionally, physically and/or spiritually you will know this experience well. Have you however ever reflected on what it means when something "resonates" with you?
Horse Racing and Seabiscut -- A Hope, A Prayer, and A Horse!
Even though our lives progressively moves forwardon occasion it has a way of working what seems tobe in a backwards motion, yet in the end achievesthe same results. I remember years ago when Istarted my bodybuilding career, I had no self-confidence, poor self-esteem, and an introvertedpersonality. I couldn't fathom doing what othersbelieved I could accomplish in such an unusualsport that went totally against my nature.However, at first I thought, "I didn't want to letthem down and what if they're right? What if Icould accomplish something if I set my mind to it,I asked? What if by believing in something biggerthan myself would allow me to be a better person,develop confidence and be more outgoing?" Thenover a period of time the belief others hadstarted to rub off in me, combined with my workethic the rest became history.
If You Want Healing Step Out of the Boat
Did you happen to see the made-for-tv movie, "Jesus," that first aired in 2000? I especially was moved by the scene of Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on the water to Jesus.
Spirituality: Impersonating Jed McKenna
"No man is a prophet in his own country."
Was There a Better Way?
Whenever, we have a task or project to carry out don't we alwayslook for the most capable person to lead us? And if the task were supposed to follow a set pattern, don't we like to stick to time-tested methods that worked all the time?
From Spiritual Cry Baby to Bold Seeker of Truth
Ever notice how people dread discussing the truth about life? Their fear usually comes out as, "I never talk about that" or "Some things we're not supposed to know." They quickly cut off any probing of who they are and why they're here. How strange that people who are brave in everyday affairs tend to cringe and cower when asked to think about the reasons and powers behind their existence! Yet, what could be more urgent than to face your own reality? Humanity's spiritual jitters often stem from centuries of reliance on designated spokesmen who are said to be anointed or divinely appointed, or inspired, or trained in theology and who we are not allowed to question. Adding to our plight are society's cruel traditions of rewarding mass conformity and mocking original thinkers. This is a new day. Everyone has the right to know the secrets of the universe. Best of all is the stunning news that every person is capable of knowing the most awesome truths and the most loving principles. That includes you. To make the leap from spiritual cry baby to bold seeker of truth requires self examination. In quiet moments you must ask yourself what you really believe. Be willing to tolerate question marks in your search till you find answers that are perfect for you even if it takes years and years. Plunge your mind into the finest ideas ever put on paper. Or spoken to you directly or through various communication media .Or overheard in conversations among strangers. Make it your business to become familiar with the noblest thoughts of any age, any writer or speaker and any culture. No finer hobby could be found than to gather the wisdom of the world around you. There are tons of literature just waiting to be tapped-philosophy, religion, psychology, self-growth, self-realization, higher awareness, to name just a few. Wisdom comes in many flavors, so to speak-poetry, essays, scriptures, drama, comedy, satire. Start with short sayings and work your way up if you can't tackle the big stuff yet. Test all spiritual concepts to see if they work for you. Let's say you've heard of something called the Inner Kingdom. Find out all you can about it, but more importantly make up your mind that if such a glorious kingdom exists, you intend to find it and claim it as your own. Sure, this is scary. Of course, you'll be tempted to give up along the way. You may have to keep on crying to get through it all. Be a tough critic of all you find no matter the glowing reputation or fame of the speaker. Be prepared to discover that popular ideas are wrong more often than right. Teach yourself to know the difference between myth and proof. Inch along, with tiny tasks and timid steps. Finally, turn your search into success. You don't want to be a self-help junkie reading your life away and never lifting your own heart and soul. After investigation comes a time of grace, when you rise above books and arguments. You respect all worthy ideas, learned or lowly, and see how uneducated words of insight ascend to the same literary heaven with equal standing as the thoughts and teachings of spiritual celebrities. You make peace with conflicting scholars, scientists and saviors. Standing atop the knowledge of the ages you add your own voice to the crowd with new words that are your contribution to the eternal quest. What's the payoff? Is it worth all the trouble? After all to succeed means you probably have to spend long periods of time alone to ponder the great issues of life. You have to deal with destiny one-on-one with nobody to hold your hand or go in your place. Truth is the payoff and that may or may not pay the bills or eliminate your worries. Truth is its own fantastic reward. You will know that when you find it. Don't be surprised if you shout, "Hallelujah."
Change Your Outlook on Change
Make no mistake about it, change is challenging whether it is conscious or unexpected. Viewing adversity as change, not loss or failure, is part of empowered and positive thinking. Humans develop resiliency through change, both physiologically, and emotionally. It's necessary for all life forms to evolve. Change comes though many vehicles ? some hit us hard, others are rather sneaky. But despite the challenges change brings, we know it is our natural state. It's inevitable ? the world grows and we grow with it fueled by our emotions. We are already designed to cry, express sorrow, frustration, anger, resentment, even give up for awhile ? and most of us choose to explore these feelings. But we are also designed to have hope, recover, be stronger, and inspire others as a result of change. You are never, never alone because emotion gives us plenty in common - as a society, we are not yet Vulcans. What makes one person triumphantly survive loss and turn it into positive energy, while another in similar circumstances resign? It has to do with our underlying assumptions on change. I have two very dear friends; each have had a double mastectomy from breast cancer. Losing body parts is devastating, not to mention living with the daily uncertainty of not knowing whether you continue to remain in remission. Yet one woman has forged ahead as a life-force warrior, focusing on triumphs and wins of today. She doesn't look back. The other has difficulty moving forward ? not engaging in work outside her home, quitting her job, waiting for "something" to happen while in a state of self-imposed limbo. They've processed their information in completely different ways. Why?It's because people want certainty before they decide to accept change. It's a natural reaction. Certainly our culture has become more comfortable with making choices that have predictable outcomes. A current cultural disease we suffer from is predictability, reflected in our inability to accept change at a deeply personal level. It applies across the board to choices we make with our finances, careers, or our relationships. Science, especially when applied to health issues, has given us a false security blanket when it comes to certainty. After all, it seems we've been able to control nature. We like to think we've cornered the market on predictability and good planning, when the truth is we live in a time where prediction is more intuition and common sense than science. To embrace change, we need to release the umbilical cord we think we have to outcomes of certainty. In other words, stepping off of the plateau requires a huge amount of trust. Your fall will be broken somewhere at the right time. Believing that is what allows us to cope. It is the first step, unsupported by any scientific doctrine. And it's a big one. No matter what science pronounces, whether it is in the form of a diagnosis, prognosis, or the state of the environment, there is no sure thing. Science has already given us permission to accept truth with a margin of error in just about anything. There is always the possibility something may exist, or not exist, despite what patterns indicate. Truly, it is a useless endeavor to let science, or proof for that matter, hold you back from moving forward. Whether it is health, or other issues surrounding job loss, divorce, or death, you will successfully navigate through change and elevate the quality of your life by knowing anyone can beat the odds. There is evidence everywhere, not just from Christopher Reeves, Mattie Stepanak, or those whose stories you find in People magazine, but from the dry cleaner, your third cousin, your own child. Almost everyone you know has a story of beating the odds. Let's pay attention to the real evidence instead of looking for ways to prove that we can't make it or the odds are just too great.Adopting a new attitude on adversity requires big picture thinking on the subject of change. View life, and spiritual development for that matter, as an upward spiral where you experience some of the same lessons over and over again. Is it because we just aren't getting what the lesson is telling us? Perhaps, but that's not the only reason. We've deliberately put those circumstances in our chart in frequent doses to allow ourselves an opportunity to see how we've been progressing on the upward part of that growth spiral. Adversity is an inescapable performance indicator ? a frequent reminder of our upcoming 360-degree review in how we handle the bumps. We are meant to be a stronger, more insightful person each time we get walloped. With each business obstacle, make a stronger commitment toward your goal of service to humanity; each time you grieve, become better at comforting others and showing compassion; after each funeral, return home knowing life is a precious gift. With all setbacks, it drives the point home on the one true certainty in life and that is we must use our time wisely to make conscious change in the world. Change is designed to get outside of ourselves and become conscious of our place within a community of souls. Without change, there is no transformation. Change is good, making us stir the self-development pot a little faster!
Do You Need An Answer About Life?
I was originally brought up Catholic, at the insistence of my parents. I quickly lost interest after going through my confirmation and began doing my own thing. After many years of drinking and partying, I got very bored and thought, "Is this ALL there is to life?!?!" I thought, "If there really IS any truth to a 'life after death', I should at least TRY to find the answer." I started to do some research on science and religion to see if I could come up with any TRUTH about the "meaning of life".
An Open Invitation
"All you who are thirsty, come and drink." ISAIAH 55:1, NCV
Believe-Dont Doubt; Give Thanks-and Receive!
Does this ever happen to you? You ask God for something but you don't believe that you will receive an answer to your prayer.
Penthouse or Basement? The Spiritual Realm is Topsy-Turvy
Am I dreaming? The sign outside the skyscraper reads: "Spiritual Realm." I hurry straight to the elevator. "Up, please," I tell the operator.
How Much Do You Love Me?
Love...it's a deep emotion. Sometimes we say it in jest to appease someone. We say it to friends when we feel more than just a casual liking for them, but would we die for them? Spouses say it to eachother out of habit sometimes, parents tell their children, "I love you". Being a parent, I feel this is probably the truest form of love as we know it. Can people really know what it means to have perfect love? God showed us what this kind of love is, He calls it agape' love. There are no boundaries to this love, there are no exceptions and no excuses. Our love tends to wax and wane when someone either pleases us or disappoints us. It's a good thing God doesn't measure His degree of love for us that way. His love never changes even for the child who is disobedient and turns his back on God. Let's look at a man who loved God so much he would do anything.
Pray Off Your Debts - in 10 Days or Less
It will all be clear in a minute, but first I have to ask you...
Go Beyond - You Are Your Own Best Friend, So Start Liking Yourself!
A year ago, a beautiful woman came to see me. Her husband had been cheating on her and she wanted some advice regarding her future.Even though her eyes were dull, shoulders drawn and her face sad, I managed to look beyond that. Did you know that when you go "beyond", you can create new things?
Faith - Moves Mountains
Faith is the remarkable force that gives us the empowerment to accomplish the ordinary or the seemingly impossible. How many examples of the remarkable empower of faith in action do you know? Mother Theresa, for instance, had faith that God would provide the food, money and the provisions she needed to continue her service to the poorest of the poor. The chronology of her work is filled with miracle stories about how the things she needed showed up exactly when she needed them, often in the most surprising ways.
Getting Beyond Imperfect Examples & Resistance, to Receiving Loving Guidance & Help from the Father
As soon as he saw me I saw him. It was freaky. I must have looked like the anti-son. Long hair hanging out from a bandanna, dark sunglasses, rolling with a couple of older guys I hardly knew. I was even embarrassed that he sighted me. I think he tried to make a gesture of reconciliation. He made a motion towards me and yelled out, "Ronnie!"...I was just gripped when I heard his voice...saw his frame. Then I just slow mo-ed like before a car crash "Nooooo!" It was like a soul Brown-Out. I fazed. It was too much for me. No chance would I go towards him, instead I just ran away...I just bailed. I bolted. There might have been some love there, I just couldn't cop to it. It was gritty. (recalling an unexpected encounter with my father while I was a 17 year old runaway)
Actually, loving does not take any great effort on our part because it is not something we must put forth great effort to achieve. When God enters our heart, soul, and mind, love is spontaneously produced because He is love. It is a spiritual attainment. It is the result of a cause and the cause is this: God loved us first (1 John 4:19).
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