People’s Dilemma

All unrighteousness is sin (1 Jn 5:17).  God’s eyes are upon our ways.  No one can hide their iniquities from him (Job 34:21-22).  The fool has said in his heart there’s no God, and does abominable wrongs (Ps 53:1).  Wickedness burns like fire devouring the briers and thorns that kindle the thickets in the forest (Isa 9:18).  The wages of sin is death, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6:23).  People who are guilty in one point of God’s laws are guilty in all (Jas. 2:10).

Sydney J. Harris (1917–1986), a journalist for the Chicago Daily News, later the Chicago SunTimes, said, “Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”  For some sinning is a sort of fulfillment.  They don’t have to obey any laws and feel free to act any way they wish, even if it’s wrong.  But change in Christ is reassuring and uplifting.

This simple statement is often a dilemma for some people.  An author and second lady of the United States, Tipper Gore (b. 1948) wrote, “The dilemma for society is how to preserve personal and family values in a nation of diverse tastes.”  Diverse tastes aren’t a problem.  It’s about knowing what’s right from wrong.  This calls for moral leadership to influence us correctly.

Societal Paradoxes

At times society is faced with paradoxes.  Some of these situations can be corrected, but others remain a problem.  A German-born actress and singer Marlene Dietrich (1901–1992) remarked, “A king, realizing his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties.  A father can do neither.  If only sons can see the paradox, they would understand the dilemma.”  Once a father, always a father, there can be no abdication here.  Surely a father could run from his responsibilities, but he would always be responsible as the father.  Whether this is a sin or not, depends on what people believe his role to be.

What about those issues people don’t feel like bringing up?  Could these ever be sinful?  It depends on what they are.  James Levin (b. 19943), conductor and pianist said, “The invisible dilemma is that men face the very real problem that they don’t feel comfortable bringing these issues up and they tend not to be acknowledged at work.”  Issues do take various forms.  Some of these are insignificant, while others have to be dealt with to be resolved.  If these aren’t, they tend to undermine our welfare, and lead to fractured relationships.

Nature of Issues

Some issues might be “big” like abortion that people may not fully understand.  Pro-life activist and founder Randall Terry (b. 1959) wrote, “We want every human being in the womb to be safe, not have these babies be killed to solve some dilemma.”  Pro-choice advocates may counter by saying, “It depends what dilemma we’re talking about.”  But our main consideration should be, “Are our views and actions concerning these problems sinful?”  These issues call for prayer and discernment.

In our world people may even see a dilemma between spiritual truths with those that are empirical.  E.O. Wilson (b. 1929), a biologist, naturalist and author said, “The essence of humanity’s spiritual dilemma is that we evolved genetically to accept one truth and discovered another.  Is there a way to erase the dilemma, to resolve the contradictions between the transcendentalists and the empirical world views?”   Yet they are theologians who argue that these differing truths complement each other.  Such an observation leads us to conclude our decision making may well be based on discernment.

Our Blessed Gifts

Our earth has certain characteristics:

  1. It arose some 3.5 billion years ago
  2. 3 billion people inhabit it
  3. 71 percent of its surface is covered with water
  4. Its remaining 29 percent is land with mountains, deserts, plains, and plateaus, and
  5. Over the year because of its axial tilt there is variation of sunlight reaching every part which causes seasonal changes.

John Lubbock (1834–1913), an English banker, Liberal politician, and philanthropist wrote, “Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can learn from books.”  We may learn that the future of the earth is tied to the gift of the sun.  Over billions of years 99 percent of all species that ever lived on earth are extinct.  And today there exist over 200 sovereign states with which America has diplomatic ties and trade.   American journalists travel to these countries – some torn by political strife, and they present them to worldwide audiences via ubiquitous media networks.

Gift of Earth

There are concerns how long God’s gift of planet earth will continue to sustain life.  These estimates range from 500 million to 2.3 billion years.  The earth’s future is closely tied to that of the sun.  Evo Morales (b. 1959), president of Bolivia said, “Sooner or later, we will have to recognise that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution.  What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.”  People continue to obtain large deposits of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and natural gasses from the earth’s crust.  They are therefore concerned about how long these will last – and while doing so, much to our detriment, industries, air-crafts, and other motorized apparatuses are polluting our environment.  Some see linkages of environmental pollutants with extreme weather – cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, blizzards, floods, tsunamis, droughts, and wildfires.

Jimmy Dean (1928–2010), a country music singer, TV host, and businessman said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”  Will we be able to adjust our sails to meet the needs of our 7.3 billion inhabitants that are increasing geometrically each year?  It’s true that wind is a great blessing from our first breath of life, in early civilizations with wind powered sailing ships, to modern air-crafts, windmills as power supply, for dispersing seeds in farming, and in some popular wind-related sports.

Gift of Water

Through evaporation and transpiration there’s precipitation of our lands.  Although this water is a blessing and great gift, some one billion people still lack access to safe drinking water.  More than 2.5 billion people suffer from a lack of adequate sanitation.  Margaret Atwood (b. 1939), a Canadian poet, novelist, and environmental activist explained, “Water does not resist. Water flows.  When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress.  Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you.  But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it.  Water is patient.  Dripping water wears away stone.  Remember that, my child.  Remember you are half water.  It you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it.  Water does.”  Undoubtedly, people must continue to do all they can in building dams and constructing wells, to bring pure drinking water to the many villages of Africa, Asia, and Latin America that lack this vital resource.  Many indigenous people’s survival depends on such actions.

Gift of Fire

People must be positive when thinking about fire.  It’s a stimulant of life.  This gift is used for cooking, generating heat, as lighting sources, and propulsion purposes.  It’s also known for its growth and maintaining ecological systems.  Bruce Lee (b. 1940), a Hong Kong American martial artist wrote, “Love is like a friendship caught on fire.  In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering.  As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love become as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.”

That’s the reason why people must become fired up about God’s great gifts of earth, water, and fire in our lives.  It takes love to kindle these vital resources of the earth for the benefits of mankind.  For these gifts we’re most thankful.

Our Diverse Gifts

Voltaire (1694–1778), a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher observed, “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”  Interestingly enough, gifts of living well may be perfect, or imperfect, but some of the best gifts are free.  People may have the gift of health, or knowledge, while there are those who are blessed with both.  It’s however necessary to cultivate good gifts to live well.

Gautama Buddha (583 or 480 BC– 483 or 400 BC), founder of Buddhism on the Indian subcontinent wrote, “Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”  We often hear people say that if you have good health you’re truly blessed.  This can be true to a certain extent.  It depends on the nature of health issues.  There have been cases where disabled persons have attributed their accomplishments to their disabilities, because these handicaps allowed them to focus on those aspects of their lives that mattered most.  As ironical as these may sound, through their afflictions they were able to find happiness and contentment.

Simple Ways of Happiness

Still there are those who reduce happiness to rather simple ways.  Brad Garrett (b. 1960), an actor and stand up comedian said, “You take away all the other luxuries of life, and if you can make someone smile and laugh, you have given the most special gift: happiness.”  To Garrett, just bringing a smile, or laughter to others, you’ll be accomplishing your task in conveying happiness.  How amazing!  It’s joy cloaked in such simplicity.

But how are gifts passed on?  Elizabeth Kŭbler-Ross (1926–2004), a Swiss-American psychiatrist and pioneer in near-death studies said, “We need to teach the next generation of children from day one that they are responsible for their lives.  Mankind’s greatest gift, and also it greatest curse is that we have free choice.  We can make our choices built from love or from fear.”   According to Kŭbler-Ross, free choice is like a double-edged sword that can cut both ways.  Our future depends on children to make good decisions.

Unexpected Gifts

There are often discussions about what are perfect gifts, but we must also consider mistakes as some of these gifts.  How often have people completely messed up on making wise decisions, and the results turned out better than they expected – often well beyond their wildest dreams.  These mistakes may well be their greatest gifts.  People therefore mustn’t be afraid to err, for making errors are part of life’s experiences.  The fear of making mistakes can rob you of some unexpected gifts.

BeBe Winans (b. 1962), a gospel and R&B singer said, “Love is so unconditional; love liberates; love is the reason I do what I do, and so I think it is the greatest gift we have.”  Undoubtedly, agape – love, is the greatest gift from God.  It’s transforming, restructures relationships, provides hope, generates joy, and ensures a brilliant future.  This supernatural gift is so marvelous that the world is built on it, shaped by it, and lives through it.  It’s also a gift of faith. The amazing beauty about it, is, that it’s available to all who seek it.  Jesus Christ showed us this by his sacrificial love on the cross at Calvary.

Jim Rohn (1930–2009), an entrepreneur, and motivational speaker reminded us: “Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.”  Our communication world is massive, and complex.  It’s not only personal, but interpersonal.  Media exists in all forms and types.  Through social media Christians reach out to families, relatives, friends, and acquaintances.  These gifts of God are most welcome, for these super-cede our reliance on mainly the traditional electronic and print media.

Our Daily Bread

In early Jewish culture an ordinary meal served as the foundation of the Holy Eucharist.  Much of this tradition goes back to the days of the Exodus, when the Israelites were liberated from Egypt, and was a great gift to the Jewish people.  The story of Pharaoh’s charioteers being crushed as they pursued them continues to live in our memory.  In the Old Testament every Jewish household had to slaughter a lamb, prepare it as instructed, and dress in haste, as they prepared to leave Egypt.  The doorposts of their homes were sprinkled with blood as security for God’s judgment to pass over them.  On every anniversary this rite had to be celebrated to commemorate their freedom.  This event has become a special way of giving praise of God’s wonderful works.

This sacramental memorial came alive again in the New Testament when Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist with his disciples, before sacrificing his life on the cross at Calvary.  Christ’s salvation was to follow the tradition of our present-day Eucharist.  Omar Khayyam (1048–1131), a Persian mathematician, astronomer and philosopher observed, “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.”  “Thou” is “Jesus Christ” and “you and I” – his communicants.  At Corinth however there were abuses of this rite that led to the nature of the Mass that Christians enjoy to this day.

Nature of the Mass

Our daily bread became a Mass with the Liturgical Word, hymns of thanksgiving, and the offering of bread – Christ’s flesh and wine – his blood, as described by Johannes H. Emminghaus entitled, The Eucharist: Essence, Form, Celebration.  It was a divine right of the original Passover meal.  Charlie Trotter (1959–2013), a chef and restaurateur described a sacred meal this way:  “All four elements were happening in equal measure – the cuisine, the wine, the service, and the overall ambiance.  It taught me that dining could happen at a spiritual level.”  But unlike such a meal in the Middle Ages, and on the eve of the Council of Trent (1545–1563), there were deficiencies how the Holy Eucharistic rites were conducted in churches.  There were abuses, schisms, selfish political interests, and social upheavals.  The Word of God was not adequately preached, rituals were hindering it, and the spiritual life of the congregations was not helped.

In the nineteenth century William Morris Hunt (1824–1879), a painter spoke for many when he declared, “What is nobler than a man wrestling and wringing his bread from the stubborn soil by the sweat of his brow and the break of his back for his wife and children.”  Today men and women don’t necessarily have to be in their working environments to have such hardships.  They would wish to be touched by the Lord and accepted at his table in good standing.  The Holy Eucharist is a communal undertaking, a salvific celebration that takes humility, dedication, discipline, and commitment on the part of believers, for full enjoyment of the Lord’s true blessings.

The Eucharistic Rite

From the 1800s reforms of the Holy Eucharistic rite could be traced back to the days of the Enlightenment Movement.  By having better sermons in the vernacular languages, participation of faithful parishioners has enriched the liturgy.  The continuation of education for the clergy in pastoral counseling was stressed.  Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and renowned polymath wrote, “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”  The “wine” like in the Holy Eucharist represents life itself.

Giovanni Guareschi (1908–1968), an Italian journalist, cartoonist, and humorist said, “When you share your last crust of bread with a beggar, you mustn’t behave as if you were throwing a bone to a dog.  You must give humbly, and thank him for allowing you to have a part in his hunger.”  The Holy Eucharist is necessary not only for beggars of God’s mercy, but also for his grace.  We’re the hungry souls that have to be grateful that we have found trust in our Savior.

With such blessings come beauty and healing too.  John Muir (1838–1914), a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and philosopher assured us: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”  Even nature must be considered the bread of life that parishioners celebrate in the Holy Eucharist.  “Our bread” is everything people need for sustenance.

Jew & Gentile

Whether Jew or Gentile there’s a oneness to humanity.  When discussion is centered on world faiths certain features predominate.  They attest to the need for development of the individual regardless of his race, creed or national origin.  There’s focus on freedoms that ought to be guaranteed to all men and women.  Then, there’s emphasis on the nurturing of families.  It’s necessary to have responsible families that are fed and housed, and whose civil rights are protected, so that they can live to their fullest God-given potential.  Moreover, it’s recognized that there should be widespread participation at every level of society.

In the developed and developing world some national leaders are concerned about the impact of science and technology on their cultures.  Jean Arp (1868–1966), a German-French sculptor, painter, and poet observed, “Soon, silence will have passed into legend.  Man has turned his back on silence.  Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, and meditation.”  Arp saw this essence as important for the growth and development of life.  But are we losing the battle to noise in our daily life?

A Country’s Development

Some national analysts look at certain aspects to determine a country’s level of development.  They generally examine their “human capital,” social capital, culture, social integration, and community well-being.  Mattie Stephanek (1990–2004) a poet, peace advocate and motivational speaker said, “Unity is strength … when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”   What must be gathered from Stephanek’s vision was that citizens of a country have to pull together to be successful in nation building.  Amazing things can be accomplished if they do this under the banner of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The benefits to drive this are unity in diversity.  Every citizen must be viewed as a brother and sister in Christ.  Christian living becomes noticeable in the States.  There will be equity and justice for groups living within a nation’s borders.  It’s hoped voters see politicians as morally responsible individuals.

A Christian Underpinning

The press will be free, and there will be independent investigations by journalists.  The standards of the people will be high.  James E. Faust (1920–2007), a religious leader, lawyer, and politician wrote, “The overwhelming message of the Atonement is the perfect love the Savior has for each and all of us.  It is a love which is full of mercy, patience, grace, equity, long-suffering, and, above all, forgiving.”

Faust’s words mean a great deal in cultures with their underlying religion in the Christian faith.  Leaders and citizens show respect for one another.  They know their service is in the national interest and responsibility.  Still, every person has to make his own decision about living a God-fearing life.  It’s a commitment which only comes through the saving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This is the goal all Christians must seek.  Their rewards are great, for they will be blessed by God for their faithfulness.