Being Thankful for……Things?

Being Thankful for….. Things?

I went to church today.  It was Grace Church’s ( annual Thanksgiving service…  It is our tradition that the congregation actually does the speaking in this annual event.  Anyone who wishes can come up to share what they are thankful for.  People who spoke were thankful for many “things”…. These “things” were not just physical “things”….  Some spoke of being thankful for their friends, for physical healing, for Divine healing, for their church congregation, for the leadership of the church, for their children, for being able to be a foster parent.  children spoke up being thankful for their parents, and family, for God, Jesus, etc.  By now you may imagine I am not going to write merely about “things” form a materialistic point of view, therefore, I will cut the “quotes” around things……

I shared some things also…

It has been a hard three years or more in my personal life.  My business is housing related, and these are probably the worst of times for the industry I have worked most of my adult life in.  I have lost a lot of things.  I have lost money, I have lost customers, some of whom have had to go out of business, some of whom have, I suppose had to find less expensive places to purchase their products.  It has been difficult, but I am thankful I have more than I really need, and, compared to the rest of the world’s economic standards, even considering all our losses, I am still in the 1%.  Even the poor in America are probably in the 1%, and much of the rest of the world is in the 99%.  Therefore, I am thankful for the trials that have occurred in my life.  I feel it has made me more productive and more fruitful, but enough about me….

In relationship to all these things, I was thinking about how “in Him we live and move and have our being…”  I realize that several who read my writings about Peace are not Christians, but let’s just imagine these things are actually true for the time being, and test the hypothesis…..  Let me quote below:

Acts 17:24-28

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28’For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’


Those who are not Christians may not be aware that this statement by the Apostle Paul resulted from a quote from a person who actually was not a Christian either. Paul had read an inscription on a Greek non-Christian altar, and he recited the quote from non Christian, non Jewish, sources. The altar was, “TO AND UNKNOWN GOD”…..  If you wish, you can read more about it in Acts 17 and 18.  The Greeks were said to be very intelligent people…  Paul respected that, and some Christian doctrine even contains traces of Platonism and Aristotle’s tenants….  Paul said that this unknown God did not really need any “thing” … oops…. I said I would cut the quotes…  He says, there is a God, we are all created in Him, (God’s image?), and in Him we live and move, and have our being.  ALL of us… Christian, and non Christian, Jew, and Greek, Jew and Gentile… Everyman.

To me, Paul seems to be saying that if this were not so, if we did not live, and move, and have our being in an unseen God, an unknown God, relatively speaking, we would not exist, that all “things” would simply evaporate, or, more correctly, not exist at all, never having existed to begin with.  However, since we do exist, so must this God exist, now let’s get to know Him.

This living and moving and having our being in God is not guaranteed to be easy.  We all suffer, yet we can all be thankful.

Many in Grace Church have suffered in many ways…  There have been losses, losses of life, losses of health, losses of friends who are no longer here, losses due to sins, losses due to misunderstandings, perhaps losses financially, losses of innocence, all types of losses.  However, we have not yet evaporated into nothingness. It is in Him we still live, and move, and have our being….  We all do so individually also, and do so in whatever people group, or nation we are a part of.

After thinking about the above hypothesis, I thought of another one, related to it, which seemed to make sense to me.  It is also about an image of God, also about an invisible (unknown to some), God.  Normally I do not quote a lot in writing this type of essay, but just refer to the concepts, however humor me again.  I feel I should quote the following:

Col 1:15-20

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.


And, you thought you would be spared my talking about Peace, just this one time:):)

Really though, mankind having peace among themselves, and with God, and God with us, is founded upon such thoughts as this… It grieves me that so many, even Christians, are offended when the subject of peace is broached….  One of my trials is living with objections from the majority opinion, not just of the world, but even from Christians, regarding this subject of Peace, Non-violence, and Social Justice…..

Back to the “things” thing, again…. All “things” were created by Him, For Him, and held together through Him, (else everything would melt away into nothingness)….  Everything, that is All people, All physical matter, that is things visible, and invisible, that is powers, rulers, and authorities, that is Grace Church, and all churches, that is all Jewish synagogues, and all Islamic temples, that is the Pagan alter to the UNKNOWN GOD, that is our wife, our husband, our friend, and even our enemies, whom Jesus asks us to love.  That is the difficult customer, the cranky schoolteacher, the domineering boss, the snotty child, the rank sinner, the prostitute, the drug addict, the pornography addict, the murderer, the evil dictator.  That is the chair you sit upon, the computer you have, the food you eat, the water you drink, the home you live in, the car you drive, the business you own….  Be thankful for all the above, even your enemy…  All of them, belong to God.  He owns them ALL…

If God owns every “thing”, all things, even the devil and his fallen angels, that were created for him, why don’t we give up on holding on to “things” so tightly?  These things do not really belong to us.  They belong to God.  We are only their stewards…  We belong to him also, (in him we live and move and have our being) and should go about dressing and keeping all these things, reconciling all these things, and yes, telling everyone about the Peace God has made, and wants to continually make, with us…and us, with each other….

Oh, and also, going about being thankful, for all these “things”…..

John Cooper

Not a Good Provider?

Not a Good Provider?

I heard a sermon recently, by a friend of mine, Dan Arsenhault, entitled, “The Answer to the Question that No one is Asking”.  Dan spoke of the time Jesus was asked by the religious folk, “Should we pay taxes to the Emperor, or not?  Jesus asked to see a coin, and answered the question with a question, as He most often did, asking, “Who’s image is on the coin?”

Dan asked a question that apparently did not occur to the religious folk in this story, “Whose image is on you?”

He went on to explain that we are all created in the image of God and that God’s indelible stamp is on each of us.

In this context, Dan reviewed the message of the Scriptures, which we should, if we carry God’s image, love one another as (as much as) we love ourselves…  He admitted his guilt in not doing so, and all who understood his message came to the point that, neither do we, and we must fall back on the justice and mercy of God.

We all have a God, in whom we are carriers of His image.  To NOT render to our fellow man, created in the same image, all that we have, without condition, without limit, is a failure to render what rightly belongs to God.

At least, that is my take on the sermon today….

It got me thinking, did Jesus actually answer the question about whether we should pay taxes to the Emperor, or not?  I think perhaps, Jesus leaves it up to us….  Some would say, no, we should not pay taxes, where about 40% of our spending goes toward military programs designed to kill those created in the same image of God that we are, including, according to what I heard from Dan, (I am hard of hearing, correct me if I am wrong), we spend 40 Billion Dollars to kill other Christians each year.  I would add, let alone the Trillions we spend to kill other humans likewise created in the image of God.

So, after the sermon, I thanked him…  It was a very good sermon and there is another point to it which Dan did not yet share…..  Regarding what happens to the image of God in a person if he goes to hell, whatever definition of hell it is….  Maybe we will go there and find out if we do not love one another…

Well, I was reminded of something else, since I have been wearing an orange plastic bracelet the past couple of months, which also asks another unanswered question related to our discussion of whose image is on the coin, and other things we are speaking of….  The bracelet is from Sojourners,, and the question is: “What would Jesus Cut?”  To me, a very good question in view of our budget crisis, and any image on our U.S. coins or paper currency, being pretty much worthless, anyway….   Should we cut our military budget, or our Social Justice Budget, intended to care for those created in the image of God?  Which is it?  I gave Dan the bracelet I was wearing, since I had one more, and, being the ex hippie I imagine him to be, he put it right onJJ..   Now, I have given away all my plastic bracelets, but most of those, except my wife, Wink, to whom I gave them, (Wink put hers right on), were apparently not thinking it was exactly the best thing to be wearing around with such a question on it, “What would Jesus cut?”  Is it only those of us who are just a little out of the box, slightly off our rockers, according to the Emperor, (who himself, wears no clothes), who appreciate and understand such things as this…  (I also wore my St. Louis Cardinals red logo shirt under my jacket when I went to a friend’s wedding recently:):))  After all, it was the day after the Cardinals won the World Series, what else is one supposed to wear? :):)

Then, in my random thoughts I thought of how many, who knew my Father, think I am created in his image.  One family friend called me Lawrence, which was my Dad’s name, one time…  Now, as I spout off such craziness as this and other essays and articles, they are sure I am definitely created in his image.  I remember a faded out old farm truck, a 1939 KB5 International, I think I recall, with hand lettering by my father, signs on the side of the door, Lawrence B. Cooper & Son….  I was his first son, and the other sons never got added to the doors on that old truck….  My Dad did all he could to provide, given the very difficult economic times on the farms he farmed in those years…  I remember a statement my mother mistakenly made one time, in front of my Dad, actually, and in public, that “Lawrence is just not a good provider”..  I am sure that cut him to the heart, having done probably all he could for us, a large family of 7 children…..  I have not been such a good provider, myself, recently, in these worst of economic times for housing in recorded history…  I don’t think the U.S. Government needs to look to me for assistance…

Then, after those thoughts, I was thinking, I am created in the image of another Father, God, who owns the whole universe, and I am a member of a family, called the Church, whose husband, Jesus, is a very Good provider…  Also, I am left with indelible marks of this God, the Holy Spirit, I believe with all my heart….  I believe we have a good provider, a husband who owns  the whole earth and all that is in it…..  Maybe the problem is not God’s provision, but our own failure to provide and share in a loving manner for ALL those created in God’s image, as much as lies within us…  I think we have enough…  We are well provided for…

Dan’s original premise that we are all created in God’s image was based upon the book of Genesis, where man is also early on instructed to “dress and keep” the earth.  Would God’s original mission and vision for those created in His image not be that we should not only take care of God’s provision for us, but also dress and keep, cloth the naked, feed the hungry, etc., of those likewise created in the same image?  ALL of them, not just those who look and believe exactly like us?  Oh, and for those who do believe just like us, if we are Christ followers, for instance, should we not be known for the same character of Jesus, of His unconditional love and forgiveness, of His Peace in us, which He left us?

What are we going to do with this provision?  If the U.S. thinks it is running short on funds, which it definitely is, might we soon develop and answer to another question that apparently not a lot of people are thinking about answering, “What would Jesus Cut?

Thank you, God, for all you continually provide, and thank you, Dan, for serving as a tool in His hands, working for Goodness in God’s own garden…..


John Cooper