Luke 12:51 (Not Peace, But…)

I follow The River Walk blog each day. While Beejai’s style is different, this post reminded me of one I wrote not too long ago, “Claim Your Religion.”

“Joe” is one of those who would be in the category of losing so much more than we even think of losing if he claimed Christ as savior.

Thanks to The River Walk for its challenging message each day.

THE RIVER WALK

Not peace but

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. (Luke 12:51)

Read: Deuteronomy 32:28-52, Luke 12:35-59, Psalm 78:56-64, Proverbs 12:24

Relate: One of the friendliest guys I have met recently is a man I am going to call Joe. Joe is a Muslim but the way IS is acting almost makes him want to be an atheist. He says that what they are doing comes more from the hadiths (the traditions of what Mohammed said that grew up mostly two centuries after his death). This conversation mostly sprang up after he heard that I got a degree in Bible. Joe started asking me questions about what Christians thought about Isa (Jesus). Mostly I let him lead the conversation and just answered as I could, but when the conversation started moving off in a different direction I turned and asked “Joe” a question of…

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I Can Hear It Now

Today’s Feature For Friday is again about food. A snack food that has been compared to social media. I suppose it’s true; the more generous you are with it, the more people you attract.

Popcorn. Do you think of

a) Jiffy Pop
b) Microwaved
c) Theater-popped
d) Air-popped
e) All of the above

When popcorn pops, it creates not just a sound in the ear, but an aroma in the nose. The unique treat in your hand belies the soft crunch you’re about to feel between your teeth (and the nasty hulls stuck there later on). Popcorn is a sensual experience only the eater can describe.

I come from the era of Jiffy Pop, but my family could neither afford it nor would one package have fed our large family. We popped our kernels from a bag the old fashioned way.

f) In a pan on top of the stove

My earliest association of popcorn involves Mom serving up the surprise, usually on a Saturday night. The seven of us–Dad and we six kids–would be sitting in the living room watching TV when, all of a sudden, “It” would begin.

Pop! Pop! Pop! POP-POP-POP! POP-POP-POP-POPPITY-POP! An unmistakable sound, those kernels hitting the lid of a pan. Mom couldn’t hide now what she was up to. And inevitably, one of us would hurry to the kitchen to confirm and report back, “We’re having popcorn!”

By then, the aroma of those tiny popping kernels wafted through the house; we needed no one to tell us. Imagine six kids full of anticipation for a rare treat. Then Mom came first with a bowl for Dad and, in turns, a bowl for each of us children. She’d give the popping another go because one pan didn’t feed everyone.

popcorn time

I confess that I can eat popcorn until it’s coming out of my ears (pun intended). At a movie theater, I’ve actually had friends with whom I’m attending keep tabs on me. Or talk me down from the ledge of even getting in line to purchase a bushel basket of it.

Whew, I just walk in the door and I’m a theater popcorn junkie. How can those youngsters at the concession stand possibly feel good about trafficking refills for a paltry fifty cents (or whatever the going rate is now)? Dripping with butter, for me, it’s a cross between Mom’s love served in a bowl and Paula Dean’s favorite recipe.*

Now, just in time for my blog post–I’ve wanted to write about popcorn for a couple weeks–the New York Times publishes an article about scientists “discovering” the mechanics of popcorn popping. Is this really news? Did no one ever figure this out before?

As if the average kid about to get a bowl of air-popped, Jiffy Popped, microwaved, or theater popcorn cared. **

At heart, I’m a kid when it comes to popcorn. It reminds me of sitting with my sibs and the folks watching the boob tube. That truly felt like family time. I didn’t need bowl after bowl of it to enjoy it. I didn’t need the buttery-flavored junk on top or the special toppings they offer these days. It didn’t have to come quickly like microwaved popcorn.

The sound and the scent were enough. And Mom knowing just when it was a good night to treat us. That’s another sensual experience, I suppose. One that evokes pleasure in my heart.

Somewhere, kids must still be sitting in living rooms listening to the poppity-pop out in the kitchen while Mom prepares to serve up a little fun and love. I know this because I see that popcorn can still be found in kernel form on supermarket shelves; the kind you have to pop without a microwave.

Why not pick up some popcorn–your choice–this weekend and enjoy the treat with your family? Don’t forget the dental floss.

*I realize that’s not real butter, only some buttery-flavored concoction but still…
** Actually, my geeky grandson would probably love to study the principles of corn popping.

River Language

The elements for today’s Writing 201 poetry assignment:

  • ‘Water’ as the prompt
  • Haiku as the form
  • Simile as the device

Haiku takes several forms, with each form defined by how many lines it contains and how many syllables are in each line. This poem takes the three-line 5-7-5 form. I chose a river because I’ve always enjoyed the experience of watching and listening to the movement of a river, whether large or small. There is no obvious simile in this poem.

shot-of-reeds-growing-in-water-1

 

 

River Language

Slow river murmurs

secrets to the shore, and in

the reeds, it giggles

 

“P” Is For Poetry

“The Fruitful Life” has evolved since I began in August last year. It’s bound to see more changes. My basic purpose is still the same. I’m simply finding different ways to use the blog to express myself.

I’m participating in Writing 201 on WordPress for the next two weeks and that means I may be posting from their poetry writing prompts. My first was posted on the 14th with “Snow Man” (Ode On A Wintry Day). So along with the regular postings–however those are defined–and Features for Fridays, I’m trekking back in time to when I wrote poetry in college.

Letter P w-scrolling One or two of the poems might be considered of good quality. Then again, quality is probably relative to whomever is reading the material.

If poetry isn’t your thing, that’s okay. I won’t take it personally. But it is another way to express myself. And who knows, one of my efforts might relate to my spiritual journey.

Since God is creative and He blessed each of us with a unique creativity, I encourage you to take the next two weeks and explore your talents in some new way as well. I’m a writer (and a talker) so my passion is to communicate ideas, information, encouragement and personal experiences. Sometimes those things spill out as sharing the gospel or an observation from God’s word.

Also, people say I’m a natural storyteller. (Hence, the “talker.”) Maybe I’ll get to write a poem in story form. As a writer, I have days when I feel wiped out of ideas. WordPress’ Blogging University could fill in some of those gaps for me in the next two weeks.

I just hope they don’t assign any limericks about frogs.

 

Claim Your Religion

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15

Many Christians, members of the religious group to which I belong, have been trashing the word ‘religion’ for a long time. They shouldn’t, in my opinion, especially when referring to their own Church. A follower of Christ may be called upon to answer someday whether he or she claims this religion.

News sources all over the world openly reported countless incidents when this was true during 2014.

Taking a word for its literal meaning gives us one reason for accepting ‘religion’ into our vocabulary without prejudice. The basic definition my dictionary offers for the word and what most people, if pressed, understand it to mean is simple and direct.

“a personal set or institutional system of attitudes, beliefs and practices”

Our world is made up of people who practice a multitude of religions. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Atheists, Confucians and more. For some reason, Christians have no problem with saying, for instance, “The Islamic religion.” They may even study a course in college comparing world religions.

But they don’t want to be called ‘religious’ themselves.

A Creed

Many Christians throughout the world regularly recite either the Nicene Creed or the Apostles’ Creed in their church services. Other creeds exist, but these two are most well-known. The Creeds are statements of faith. The words describe the belief system of a Christian. It’s important for a believer of any religion to know and understand his or her personal faith and remember that a creed isn’t synonymous with “rules.”

Followers of Christ tend these days to emphasize their relationship with God, and a relationship is important. We revel in the fact that we can call God our Father and that Jesus is not only our brother but our friend. However, doctrine–one’s belief system–is also important. Here are a couple of good reasons why.

Witness and Discipleship

Anyone hoping to share their faith with another must be able to communicate their beliefs. We can talk all day about our personal relationship with Jesus, but when the rubber meets the road, it comes down to “What do you believe in?” How can we help win someone to the faith without telling them who Jesus is and that he died to save them? Our core beliefs are the essence of the Gospel.Jesus Is ---

Christ himself had a conversation with a man named Nicodemus and witnessed to him with the words quoted in John 3:16-17, among others. Jesus told this Pharisee that he came to save the world. Christians today use these words of Christ more than any others to witness to people. I dare say there hasn’t been a professional football game played since the 1960s that hasn’t had some guy holding up a huge sign with that scripture. If those words were good for Jesus, they’re good enough for us. Nicodemus became a follower, after all.

Jesus talked about his relationship with his followers, but most of all, he said, “Believe in the Father; believe also in me.” Over and over again people Jesus encountered for healing were restored because of their faith. Their belief in who he is. Likewise, spiritual healing comes as a result of our belief. It means a lot to God and to his Son that we believe.

Our belief is what allows us into the relationship we talk about with such fervor.

Furthermore, we can’t help people in their walk with Christ (Jesus calls it making disciples) if we can’t speak about our own faith in Christ. It’s that simple. Again, we can talk all day about our relationship, but another Christ follower has to find his or her own way into that unique communion with the Lord.

What’s In a Word?

I understand when people say things like, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” Or “Christianity isn’t about religion, it’s about relationship.” Or “Lose your religion.” They usually say those things because other Christians were sometimes less than helpful when they tried to enter the kingdom. The approach was hard, judgemental, or downright scary. So they blame ‘religion.’

If we’re honest with ourselves, we know it’s not ‘religion’ (by definition) that’s to blame; it’s people. Ever since Moses received the law from God, we’ve been guilty of misinterpreting and manipulating God’s word to suit ourselves. Then we want to make others follow those rules too. For people who do that now, as then, Jesus had fiery words.

“Woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11:46).

I speak from personal experience that it’s still true. It was part of my upbringing and I’ve had some ‘spiritual’ folks bang me over the head with their ‘spirituality’. In fact, I confess that at one time, I too was a spiritual bully.

Still…

As I said, any believer of any religion may one day be asked to give answers about what they believe.

We Americans often think we’re being persecuted if the government, our bosses or some organization take actions we disagree with. We can be more vocal about what we are against than what we’re for. Many of us take issue with the smallest slights, when Christians in foreign lands are truly suffering because of their beliefs. These people don’t pass under our daily radar. If ever. Maybe when there’s something in the news. I don’t speak about all Christians, because many are really trying to make a difference.

But what’s inspiring is that those truly persecuted Christians consider it a privilege to “claim their religion.” So that’s what they do.

In most of these countries true persecution begins when a Christian claims his or her religion. At baptism–the public statement of belief–that person will become estranged or ostracized from the family and the community. If that country is in the very least accepting of Christianity, believers may worship according to the government’s standards. If there’s no tolerance at all, those Christians worship in secret.

Many times they don’t have it that good. Their lives are at risk. The opposition to Christianity in those countries won’t ask, “Do you have a relationship with Jesus?” They’ll ask something more like, “Do you believe in this Jesus?” “Are you a Christian?”

Not a friendly environment.

Name It, Claim It

We don’t need to be afraid of the word religion in referring to Christianity. Knowing the security we have in our relationship with God will encourage us to boldly claim our religion instead of “losing” it.

Talk about your relationship with God. It’s okay because that relationship is what sets us apart from other religions. But spreading the Gospel message begins with doing what Jesus did: preaching the good news of the kingdom. The Good News starts with talking about Jesus. Tell people what he did and why he did it. Tell them about some of those beliefs in your creed. He rose again as he said he would. He’s coming back to claim his own.

If you can get that message across, you may have helped win someone over just as the Spirit led you.