Archives for posts with tag: faith

 

I drive the streets and highways around Atlanta with hardly a thought about being feet- sometime inches- away from several thousand pound vehicles traveling at a very high speed. Even when I walk on the sidewalks near my home I am virtually oblivious to the fact that automobiles are flying past without notice. The slightest turn of the steering wheel or a momentary distraction could be deadly. Without even thinking about it I am trusting my life to unknown people. Is this faith or insanity?

Hundreds of years ago men and women, along with their families, braved the dangerous open seas making their way to the New World. Many of them were seeking freedom from oppression or poverty. They believed America would offer them the opportunity for a better life. Many modern day migrants follow a similar path. What motivated them to pursue such a remote possibility? Was it faith or insanity?

Westward Expansion in “the 19th Century offered people (of the United States) the opportunity to find new homes and work, to experience adventure, to explore possibilities, to become rich, to find gold or silver, to escape from the constraints of civilization and to make a new start. Americans were motivated to move west for a whole variety of practical reasons (and) they were inspired by the belief that the Manifest Destiny of the United States was God’s will (*).”

Was it faith or insanity?

In ancient times Moses accepted the task of leading millions of Israelites from the captivity in Egypt. They had minimal resources and the journey presented monumental challenges. The early followers of Jesus were persecuted beyond our understanding but they remained true to the beliefs and bravely spread the Good News. Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and countless other were passionate in their efforts for religious renewal. What motivated these people? Was it faith or insanity?

Faith or insanity? Sometimes they seem so similar. One writer said that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV). One translation puts it this way: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NIV). Some would say that faith is just a synonym for blind optimism, naivete, or wishful thinking. 

One definition of insanity is “something utterly foolish or unreasonable.” Another dictionary defines insanity as “extreme foolishness; folly; senselessness; foolhardiness.” For some people those terms also describe faith.

An individual once told me that I was a “realistic optimist.” I am not sure what that means but if it suggests that I acknowledge what is but believe that it can be better, then I agree. That is an appropriate description of who I am. And that is a good definition of faith. I believe that faith requires you to see things as they are. Sometimes you have to recognize that “it is what it is.” Denial of reality is really insanity. Faith faces unpleasant and difficult circumstances and situations as they are but believes and works to make them better.

If people act boldly because of their faith, they will often be called crazy. But there are a lot of behaviors and thought patterns that can legitimately earn you that label. So, why not live by faith and not by sight?

Jamie jenkins

* http://www.american-historama.org/1841-1850-westward-expansion/westward-expansion.htm

 

 

 

 

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Sam and Susan are folks you might never have known if it was not for two of their children. They lived in a small town and although they both were well educated neither of them were in high profile positions of leadership.

Sam’s career path was certainly not one that many would count successful. He spent over 40 years in a rather non-descript place. Many of the folks he worked with and for did not like him. Some of them even burned his house down- not once but twice. One of his associates had him thrown into jail because he could not immediately pay a debt. This was one of two times he spent in jail due to his poor financial status. Lack of money was a perpetual problem.

It could be easily argued that Susan was more gifted than her husband but there was no attempt to upstage or overshadow him. She gave birth to nineteen children but nine of them died as infants. Her primary role was to focus her attention on her children. She was the primary source of her children’s education and ultimately the prominent force in shaping their lives.

Sam was also a poet but never achieved any real fame or success as a writer. One account suggests that Sam “spent his whole life and all of the family’s finances” on one literary work that “was not remembered and had little impact on his family other than as a hardship.” In contrast, Susan’s writings were foundational to her children’s education.

Susan devoted several hours every day to her children’s education. She was a commanding presence and a profound influence in their lives. Sam failed to provide financial security for his family but his life was a demonstration of perseverance- holding on when suffering, tragedy and opposition came.

In different ways Sam and Susan profoundly impacted their children. Their influence can be seen especially in two of their boys, John and Charles, the founders of the Methodist Movement that changed the course of history in 18th century England and is a continuing spiritual force in the world today.

Stained glass windows depicting John and Charles Wesley.

Because of the impact of the Wesley brothers, the world knows Samuel and Susanna Wesley. In his book, Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It, Adam Hamilton says that the boys learned a lesson from their father that would be essential to their future work by his example that “when suffering, tragedy, and opposition come, don’t turn away; turn to God. And don’t give up.” As for their mother, Hamilton says: “Susanna Wesley changed the world by shaping the heart and faith of her children and by her wise counsel and persistent prayers and encouragement.”

I suspect that Samuel and Susanna had no idea of the impact they were having on their children. There was no way they could have seen the effect of their teaching and example on their lives. They were just doing what good parents are supposed to do- live before their kids a life of faith and integrity and leave the results to God. The role of parents has never been easy but has always been important- and never more so than today.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

ADVENTURE 1

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Life is full of starts and stops. Ups and downs. Cycles. But I believe that people of faith ought to always see life as an adventure.

Long ago God called Abram to pick up and leave everything that was familiar and journey to a place that he did not know (Genesis 12). Although Abram did not know the destination, God assured him of guidance to the “land that I will show you.”

It was not necessary for Abram to know the end from the beginning. God knew the way.

Along the way Abram and his entourage encountered some difficult circumstances but the promise of God was that blessings would be the reward for faithful obedience. As they traveled on their divinely directed journey we are told that “the Canaanites were in the land” (Gen. 12:6) and they lived in “great cities walled up to the sky.” The Canaan Convention and Visitors Bureau was not very hospitable. But Abram continued to follow God’s direction.

It is irrational to believe that all of life will be smooth sailing- even for people who follow God’s leading. We mistakenly think that the absence of struggle and challenge is a good thing. In fact the opposite is true. Adversity is not our enemy; it is often our good friend strengthening us for the journey.

 

In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 “famous and exceptionally gifted people” called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people’s lives. Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were.

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Malcolm Muggeridge said, “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.”

It seems to me that the key is to be on the path that God has planned for us. If we are, we will be equal to every test and able to overcome any obstacle. As we journey with God we will learn, as Abram did, that God will bless us and make us a blessing to others.

Jamie Jenkins

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On this first day of the New Year the words of the following hymn, written by Brian Wren, gives good guidance.

This Is A Day Of New Beginnings

 This is a day of new beginnings,
time to remember and move on,
time to believe what love is bringing,
laying to rest the pain that’s gone.

For by the life and death of Jesus,
love’s mighty Spirit, now as then,
can make for us a world of difference,
as faith and hope are born again.

Then let us, with the Spirit’s daring,
step from the past and leave behind
our disappointment, guilt, and grieving,
seeking new paths, and sure to find.

Christ is alive, and goes before us
to show and share what love can do.
This is a day of new beginnings;
our God is making all things new.

-Brian Wren, 1978

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I pray that God will bless and guide you throughout the coming year.

Jamie Jenkins

 

The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person” but the word is often used in ways that has caused the real meaning to be lost. Rather than an expression of affection, the word is commonly used to indicate taste or enjoyment or as a synonym for lust and passion.

I love ice cream. I love my new car. I love the Atlanta Braves- even when they lose. I love spring time. I love to travel. These and other uses of the word love has diminished its significance.

Jesus said that love was the one undeniable characteristic of persons who would follow him. He said, “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:35, The Message)

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OK, so we are to love one another but what does that mean? What is “love?” An extensive definition is given in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth (I Corinthians 13). He presents a long list of the qualities and characteristics of love. He sets an extremely high bar when he says that love is more powerful than faith or hope.

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Among other things, I have come to understand that one significant characteristic of love is understanding acceptance. Understand and acceptance. A woman who had been caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus. Her accusers reminded him that their law called for her to be killed by stoning and they asked his opinion of what they should do with her.

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Jesus stooped down and began writing in the sand. When the accusers continued to press him for an answer, he said, “Let the one among you who has never sinned throw the first stone at her.” When they heard this, one by one they drifted away. When they had all gone, Jesus asked the woman, “Where are they all—did no one condemn you?” Then he said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go home and do not sin again.”

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Jesus understood the woman and accepted her as she was. That does not mean that he agreed with her actions or approved of her conduct. He loved her as she was even though he encouraged her to change her ways.

 

It is important to note that love and “like” are not the same. I had a college roommate who irritated me with his music and his insensitivity to others. His attitudes and actions made it difficult to like him. However, as I learned about the difficult circumstances of his life I understood him, accepted him as he was, and learned to love him.

Anais Nin, in A Literature Passion: Letters of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, said “What is love but acceptance of the other, whatever he is.”

 

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I am grateful that God does not wait for me to be “acceptable” before He loves me. I am glad that God loves me not because of what I do or think but in spite of my thoughts, words, and deeds.

I pray that I will be able to love others like God loves me.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

Everyone has faith- in someone or something.

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We have faith in our parents. When we are young we trust them and believe they are the wisest people around and can work miracles. During our teenage years that perspective changes but then as we reach adulthood we realize they might really know what they are talking about.

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We have faith in our spouse. Although there might be things about which we disagree, we know that he/she can be trusted to have our back. You can depend on her/him to be honest with you and tell you the truth. They will be there when the going gets tough and there is no one better than him/her with whom to share your joys and sorrow.

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If we have a healthy self-image, we have faith in ourselves. It is possible to be overly confident and become an egomaniac, but a healthy individual has a realistic assessment of their abilities.. If we are intentional about learning and growing,  we will know our capabilities and our limitations.

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We have faith in wise and intelligent people who invest themselves in their academic or professional disciplines. Their conclusions are well thought out and substantiated with reliable factual data. We invest our money, our health, our security, and much more because we trust their economic, philosophical, and scientific theories.

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We are skeptical of the folks who predict the weather but we apparently have faith in them. Otherwise why would we take an umbrella with us when they say it is going to rain. Even if it does not rain as predicted, we still trust them and the umbrella we carry the next time rain is in the forecast is ample evidence.

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I saw a wonderful example of faith the other day as I drove down Peachtree Road in Atlanta. Hundreds of people were walking down the sidewalks in front of Lenox Square Mall. When the traffic light turned red I stopped and dozens of people streamed across those eight lanes of traffic without even looking to the right or the left. Obviously they had faith that I and the other motorists were going to stop when we were supposed to.

Evidence of faith is everywhere and everyone has a measure of it. So why is it so hard for some to accept faith in God? Some of us are cynical, at best, when it comes to putting  our faith in something/someone that we cannot see or touch. Yet, we risk our lives on so many different levels to people or principles that we cannot see and do not encounter face to face.13251-trustgodlife-1200w-tn_

To deny that faith in God is a valid disposition would make sense only if we did not trust anything or anyone. To fail to recognize that faith in God is a solid principle on which to base our lives, is as ridiculous as if we did not believe that water is wet or that the sun is hot. Without faith one could not function in life. “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” (Hebrews 11:1-2, The Message)

Jamie Jenkins

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The pursuit of happiness is one of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration of Independence says has been given to all human beings by their Creator. However, happiness is often considered elusive and fleeting. Nathaniel Hawthorne said that “happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

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Recent research suggests that happiness can be attributed to three major sources: genes, events and values. Data suggests that if we understand them we can improve our lives and the lives of others.

According to the researchers, data on happiness remain fairly consistent. Arthur C. Brooks reports in the New York Times that every other year for four decades, roughly a third of Americans have said they’re “very happy,” and about half report being “pretty happy.” Only about 10 to 15 percent typically say they’re “not too happy.”

Although there are demographic differences that can affect the statistics, about 48 percent of our happiness is inherited from our parents. Studies further suggest that isolated events control up to 40 percent of our happiness at any given time. Social scientists say that we can control the remaining 12 percent if we pursue four basic values: faith, family, community and work.

The website www.lifehack.org offers another formula for happiness: Letting Go + Acceptance + Gratitude. This suggests that the best things you can do with your life is to “let go of what was and what will be and be okay with it, thankful for it, and appreciate it.”

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In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at University College of London have provided another formula for happiness. They created an equation that accurately predicted the happiness of over 18,000 people. Participants in the study completed certain decision making tasks. Then researchers used MRI imaging to measure their brain activity and asked them repeatedly, “How happy are you now?” This testing resulted in the following equation:

FORMULA FOR HAPPINESS

You will have to do your own research to figure out what all that means.

The suggestions based on studies that are offered above are worth considering, but I commend the following to you as a formula for happiness that I think will work.

Rev. Bill Britt, Senior Minister at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, offered another formula for happiness in his sermon last Sunday.* He based it on Philippians 4:4-7 in the Bible.

  • Be gentle
  • Don’t worry about anything
  • Pray about everything
  • Be thankful for all things

Actually Rev. Britt gave only three steps. I have added one: Be gentle. The Message translates those two words in verse 5: “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”

This formula sandwiched between “The Lord is near” and “the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds” offers a simple but effective process for pursuing happiness.

Jamie Jenkins

*Rev. Britt’s sermon can be viewed at http://www.prumc.org

 

Safety officials and medical professionals report that pedestrian accidents are becoming more common leaving many people with bruises and lacerations. This phenomenon is not the result of encounters with automobiles but with other pedestrians. As more folks are walking without looking where they are going collisions occur frequently on the sidewalks and in shopping malls.

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The increased use of hand held devices have increased the likelihood that people bump into each other more often. Serious, and not so serious, injuries are on the rise. A recent three-person accident on a busy sidewalk resulted in the one of the most serious incidents. A young man playing Pokemon Go collided with a woman talking on her cell phone and a couple who were taking a selfie. Each of the injured blamed the others for being careless.

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The Washington Post recently carried a story about another fairly new health hazard. It reported that “text neck is becoming an epidemic and could wreck your spine.” According to a study published in Surgical Technology International, when the neck bends forward the weight of the human head on the cervical spine increases. This is the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone which millions of people do for hours every day.

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According to research published in the National Library of Medicine, Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, says “the poor posture can lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, degeneration, and even surgery.”

A national chain of physical therapy clinics reports that more teens than ever are complaining of “text neck,” or back and neck pain that can only be explained by the strain on the body caused by constant viewing of hand-held technology. “We have teens experiencing the same shoulder, neck and back pain usually felt by people 30 years older,” said physical therapist Megan Randich.

One of the two stories above is an exaggerated fabrication to call attention to our attachment (addiction?) to portable technology. The other is a factual report of a medical issue that is fairly new among us. You can verify the authenticity of the information on “text neck” and you can only imagine that the reported pedestrian collisions are only slightly theoretical.

The intent of this writing is not to emphasize the negative aspect of technology. My purpose is simply to accent the potential downside to the wonderful advantages of cellphones, tablets and other devices. There are many pros and cons to technology, like almost anything else. Even things that are essential to life (food, exercise, etc.) can be abused and in excess can be harmful. Rest and relaxation, meditation and introspection are as important as our physical activity and human interaction. The real issue is balance. To take advantage of the positive elements and minimize or avoid extremes.

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That which is true for physical and mental health is also valid for our spiritual life. We need a balance of belief and action- faith and works (James 2:14-17). What we believe is important but it needs to be balanced by our actions. Whether it is in our service to others or our own self-care, moderation/balance is essential if we are to lead wholesome and holy lives.

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Jamie Jenkins

TODAY 3

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. I know you have heard that before. So what do you make of it.

If the circumstances of this day are desirable, should you expect that to be the case forever? If you find yourself in an unpleasant situation, does that mean the rest of life is going to be bad?

Paul Harvey said, “Tomorrow has always been better than today, and it always will be.” Do you believe that is true? No matter what your day is like today, tomorrow will be better? Some days you have to think like that because what you are experiencing today is horrible.  Things have to improve or you are not sure you can survive. You identify with the sentiments expressed by Chuck Palahniuk in his novel, Fight Club: “Today is the sort of day where the sun only comes up to humiliate you.”

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On the other hand, some days find you riding high. You find yourself singing Oscar Hammerstein’s words from the musical play, Oklahoma:

Oh what a beautiful mornin’

Oh what a beautiful day
I’ve got a beautiful feelin’
Everything’s going my way

And you think that it doesn’t get better than this.

Bill Keane, the originator of the long-running newspaper comic The Family Circus, once said, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” Therefore, we follow the admonition to seize the day- Carpe Diem! Instead of an attitude of gloom and doom, you choose to accept “this is the day the Lord has made” and you resolve to “rejoice and be glad in it.”

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In an online blog a few years ago, Glennon Doyle Melton wrote: “Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc. I know that this message is right and good. But … I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. (It) makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.”

Melton goes on to explain the difference between Chronos (regular) time and Kairos (God’s) time. As the mother of three small children, she describes her days as enduring “hard, slow passing time.” She also recognizes Kairos- “those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day.”

Whatever today brings it is important to live in the moment. We must not deny harsh realities or expect blissful conditions always. Perhaps the advice offered by James Dean is fitting. “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”

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A song from the 1970s musical Godspell offers good counsel.

Day by day, oh, dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly, day by day

As we sing these words and follow their direction, we remember Jesus’ instructions that loving God and loving each other go hand in hand. Today is the day!

Jamie Jenkins