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Solomon. Just the name catches your attention. The man lived, and he lived as king during Ancient Israel's Golden Age.

Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. During his life he spoke more than 3,000 proverbs, left us with portions of Scripture, and undoubtedly spoke and did a lot more than has been recorded for us. But what we have is significant.

Solomon wondered aloud about the meaning of life, because his general observations led him to cry, "Meaningless, meaningless. Utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless" (Ecc. 1:2). Now had he stopped there he would have ended up like Ernest Hemingway or Kurt Cobain, who took their own lives with shotguns because life didn't seem worth living to them. But Solomon did not stop there. He systematically investigated and tried just about all the world had to offer, then he came to his conclusion.

In the last chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes, one of the most philosophical and one of my favorite books of the Bible, Solomon said, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth...Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (12:1,13).

Here's more from Solomon:

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and for that matter many other regions, people believe in something called the Evil Eye. It’s a superstition, but it’s real to those who believe it.

The Evil Eye is the idea that someone can look at you and, whether intentional or not and whether realized or not, cause you discomfort, injury, or bad luck. To “give someone” purposely the evil eye is the height of social ill will. The Evil Eye may also be sourced in demons or other worldly spirits that have in their power the ability to plague people with all manner of bad developments.

In the Middle East it is also possible, according to belief in the Evil Eye, to induce evil upon a person unwittingly, simply by calling attention to something good in his or her life. For example, those who believe in the Evil Eye would be horrified to hear you say they have “a lovely child” or are living in “a very attractive home.” Such compliments invite the negative attention of the Evil Eye.

Because people really do believe in the Evil Eye, charms of all shapes and sizes have been developed to ward off the potential and power of its curse. Usually such charms are made of dark blue glass or some other hard polished material on which a light blue circle is imprinted, which in turn is centered by a dark circle or dot. The design suggests an eye.

To me it’s paradoxical: wear an eye to ward off the effects of the Evil Eye. But what people believe they believe. I’ve seen these charms in shops in Cairo, Istanbul, cities in Cyprus, Beirut and other Lebanese cities. I’ve seen people wearing them on the street as necklaces, bracelets, or some other amulet. And I’ve seen them hanging from the rearview mirrors of cars.

It’s sad, actually, for the Evil Eye is nothing but a superstition, and the charms are nothing but powerless talismans. You might “give someone the evil eye,” as is said in America, but you’re giving them nothing but a glaring, frowning stare. You nor I nor anyone else holds the power of good or bad luck over anyone.

One reason we don’t hold the power of good or bad luck is that we’re finite beings. Another is that there’s no such thing as luck of any kind. Certainly Christians should believe this, though some Christians in the Middle East are susceptible to the cultural influence of the Evil Eye. But from the perspective of Christian theology you must recognize that the idea of a Sovereign God and luck are mutually exclusive concepts. Both cannot exist.

Yet people persist in believing in luck, “just in case.” Americans don’t often wear blue charms to ward off the Evil Eye, but Americans do, more often than we generally admit, embrace a host of good luck charms. Just walk through a casino and ask gamblers if they believe in luck; then ask them what’s their good luck charm. You’ll hear about rabbits feet, a special penny in a shoe, a certain piece of clothing, beads, baubles, crystals, crosses, even a given woman, and more. Professional athletes aren’t much behind gamblers in their belief in luck and lucky charms.

So while we don’t see many Evil Eye charms in America (we will), we do see our own version of lucky artifacts. Sad thing is though: it’s all a waste of time and money.

 

 © Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Tragedy is a fact of human life, or at least of human history. What seems to us to be terrible outcomes and heartbreak happen weekly somewhere in the world. Harm and death to thousands caused by disasters, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, accidents, hurricanes, tornadoes, "Acts of God," so many they run together in our minds.

Is God even aware? Is he involved? And if he is involved, why does a loving and just God allow human suffering? Does he care?

Tragedies are sometimes explained by a Christian worldview in terms of "theodicy." It's an attempt to reconcile the character of God--omniscience, omnipotence, love, righteousness--with human degradation, pain, evil, and suffering, including that which emanates from nature's weather.

Theodicy is a word Christians should learn. It helps bring perspective, meaning, and perhaps understanding to tragedy. Think with me some more on this topic:

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

History is not destiny, though much of the world believes it so. Past may be prologue but it's not predestination. The future, in particular one’s individual and personal future, need not be dictated by the past. Human beings can change.

Yet millions do not believe this; not really. Some are falsely misled by fear, superstition, or animism. They think “the fates” or some other force beyond us arbitrarily play with our lives and only the “lucky” make good.

Some are locked in family, clan, tribe, or culture influences they’ve inherited environmentally and to which they succumb mentally. Their learned attitudes and behaviors absorbed from their environment form mental cages from which they do not have the faith, reason, education, or inclination to break free.

Some are oppressed by religion or religious systems that demand obedience, subservience, and blind loyalty yet offer nothing but poverty of the soul and hopelessness in return. This is false religion based upon works and ritual that are never enough and leave adherents victims rather than victors.

But human beings are created in the image of God. They are vested with the capacity to reason, to think about tomorrow, to wish for something better, to learn, and to grow. They are vested with the ability to change, if not in their own strength than through the positive benefits of education, community, and the spiritual renewal of true faith.

The Scripture says human beings are born in sin. We are, at bottom, sinners even as babes who’ve not yet willfully sinned. But God does not leave us there. He offers first, love, then forgiveness, and finally hope in this life and the life to come. Through Jesus Christ and the indwelling and enabling work of the Holy Spirit God changes us. In Christ we go from sinner to sinful-but-forgiven and redeemed saint (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:1-17). In God’s embrace we remain a saint even when we do not act saintly.

The Bible says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). For the Christian, the believer, the follower of Jesus, all things are become new. History is not destiny.

Your father was an alcoholic? You need not be. You were beaten or molested as a child? God can give you the ability to forgive and he can give you healing and peace.

You have an “anger management problem” as it’s called today? So? It may not be easy. It will not be easy. But God can give you victory over this emotional and spiritual behavior.

You’re the worst sinner that’s ever lived? Paul considered himself the same thing, yet God changed Saul the Christian killer to Paul the Apostle.

History may be influential. History may be powerful. Nature and Nurture may both be out of kilter in your past. But history is not destiny.

It’s never too late to become what we should and could become. It’s never too late to change. Our history is simply that, history. It’s past. Destiny awaits our choices.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

For a century or more our culture has moved away in fits and starts from a general belief that God created the universe and everything in it. We still believe in God, sort of, but if he exists we no longer believe he created us. No, we believe the universe, and human beings, began by Chance.

OK, I don't buy that, but let's take the next step. If Chance, the Fates, or some other source launched our human lives, what ends them? In other words, if we came into this world By Chance, do we simply leave this world By Chance as well? Or another way of asking the question, if Chance--unguided, unintentional, non-rational happenstance--determined our birth, do we die without intentionality as well? Do we die without any Direction, Purpose, Meaning, or Significance? Are human beings just animals after all, or worse, do our lives and inner-us possess a value about on the level of a plant?

Here's what I think:

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Years ago one of our sons returned from a date with his girlfriend. They’d gone to a movie and decided to walk out because the film proved to be less than worthy.

What was interesting to me at the time was his exasperation when he got home—something that turned out to be a teaching moment for me and what he later said was a maturing moment for him. Remember, they’d walked out because the film got nasty. I was proud of them for doing so. But when we talked about it at the dining room table that evening he said, “But Dad, it was PG-13. It was supposed to be OK.”

Yeah, it was supposed to be OK. He’d wisely checked the ratings, as we’d taught our kids to do, to assure he wasn’t taking his girlfriend to a raunchy movie. But the film’s language and sex scenes belied the rating.

The teaching moment was this: “Checking the ratings was a good thing. But a rating of PG-13 doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good movie, or one that’s worth your time and money. Hollywood or critics may say it’s a good movie, but that doesn’t mean it actually is. A rating is one indicator. It helps, but you still have to think. You have to exercise your spiritual discernment.”

Through that experience my son learned to think more carefully, purposefully, and thoroughly. He learned to apply his Christian worldview and to flex his Christian critical thinking muscles. He took another step toward mature spiritual discernment.

Thinking, particularly the kind where we apply knowledge of the Scripture to life’s everyday issues and events isn’t what it used to be. In my estimation, as a culture if not individually, we give over too much to a host of pretenders we let do our thinking for us—celebrities, politicians, preachers, athletes, super models and super stars. Meanwhile, we forget how to think.

But God created us to think. He created us as reasoning if not always reasonable beings and he entrusted us with the responsibility to think well and wisely. This we must do to care for our selves, families, country, and world. God wants us to think, to discern as the Scripture calls it.

Spiritual discernment is rooted in Philippians 1:9-11. It’s the act of using biblical principals and values to decide what is best so that we may live the Christian life the way God intended. It’s about holiness, Christian liberty, independent judgment, and mature decision-making. It’s the act of living “in the world” while being “not of the world.”

We’d do well to rediscover how to “think Christianly,” as philosophy professor Arthur F. Holmes (who just passed earlier this fall) used to say.

What, for example, does Christian spiritual discernment suggest about these thorny issues?

Immigration; religious professions or protestations of presidential candidates; gay rights; respecting Muslims while disagreeing with tenets of Islam; deficit spending and debt; global warming; cohabitation without marriage at any age; healthcare; welfare.

The list of issues needing, nay crying, for Christian thinking is virtually endless. So I say, learn to discern and think Christianly…about everything.

How do we rediscover and reactivate thinking Christianly? By learning biblical doctrine, by understanding the principals and values we’ve drawn from biblical doctrine, by learning about real world issues—not just reacting, and by integrating our biblical, Spirit-guided discernment with real world concerns.

As long as we breathe, we can never “not think.” We live, we are Christians, therefore we (should) think Christianly.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.