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Friday, October 23, 2009

United States is Unrepentant

United States is Unrepentant

It can be very difficult to face the truth. It is also very difficult, once one has faced the truth, to let that “new reality” transform their lives. I am very grateful for mentors who have challenged me to “face the truth” and then allow it to “transform” my life. While the process is on-going I am grateful to be a different than I was and different from what I will be.
With this in mind I was taken on the journey of racial reconciliation about 16 years ago. There is still so much to learn and so much I don’t understand about other people groups. Yet, I know and understand far more than I did 16 years ago. I am so grateful for that knowledge and understanding and hope it is only a foundation to be built upon in however many years I am allowed to breathe on this earth. It is incredible to know that we are all made in the image of God. Yet, the power of God is demonstrated in the fantastic diversity that marks the human race. Diversity that God created, and God uses to demonstrate His love, grace, and mercy.
Today marked one of those “bench mark” days, an Ebenezer, in my life. I had an experience that affected me deeply and reminded me, at the core of my soul, why I am working in racial reconciliation and cross-cultural ministry. It reminded me of how far transformation can take us and how short of His plan we fall when we ignore our past. It reminds me that transformation is for the purpose(in part) of making us more Christ-like so that others may seek out Christ.
Today I experienced, in a very visceral way, the sorrow and grief which is often the first step in facing the truth. Today I faced the depth of my nation’s sin in regard to slavery and its consistent support of not just discrimination, but full on perpetuation of evil through oppression to our African-American ancestors as well as our First Nations ancestors.
Don’t misunderstand, I’ve known and grieved slavery and our treatment of First Nations’ People. I’ve repented for the past sins of my own ancestors. But my visit to the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio was life-changing.
I have visited the Holocaust museum in Los Angeles. It was a powerful experience and served as a deep reminder to the consequences of unchecked sin. I was saddened and even disgusted with humanity’s propensity toward hate. The fact that it was perpetuated by an insane, megalomaniac gave me some relief (maybe a bit perverse). After all, this was the work of a profound communicator who capitalized and manipulated a nation’s insecurities by casting a vision of utopia through purity of ethnicity. Yes, he swayed others to join his evil, but it wasn’t built systemically. It was a different kind of atrocity. Not the kind of atrocity my own country has accomplished.
The issues behind my country’s enslavement and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Africans, the systematic breakup of African family units, the denial of citizenship (Dred Scott case) and later, after emancipation, the backroom dealings which brought about Pres. Hayes into office and then removed federal troops so southern states could make their own rules about racial issues under the auspices of giving the south “free-rule”, and bringing the effectual end to “reconstruction” in the south, cause me a deeper sorrow than I could imagine.
What brings about this sorrow and grief in my soul is that my country, using its Constitution, the Supreme Court, legislation, and backroom dealings “legitimized” horrible atrocities and oppression. This was not the work of an insane dictator with cultish building abilities. This was decided and agreed upon to be brought into LAW by what we would define as “rational” men!
Rational, thinking, some would even say Christian men, decided that not only were slaves not worthy of full personhood (for taxation purposes they were established as a literal fraction of personhood), they had no rights to citizenship even if they were free. The Compromise of 1877, under Pres. Hayes, would then allow that they would have no protection from the singularly focused racism of the south.
It was during this time that the government’s efforts to expand its territory, inhabit it, led it to legitimize its oppression, lying, thievery, and genocide of the First Nations’ people. My country turned its pursuit of monetary gain against the existing people of the land. As with slavery, this was calculated, systematic, ruthless, and thoroughly evil.
Again, as with slavery, these decisions and actions were not produced or imposed by an “insane” dictator. It was administered by men of “stature” and “respectability.” Their decisions were thought to be thoroughly rational and these were men who had complete belief in the democratic process. They also thoroughly believed that there were people in the land who shouldn’t be allowed into the democratic process.
It is for these reasons I found myself weeping and then grieving in my visit to the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati. The harsh reality of the depth of evil my country has perpetrated on Africans and First Nations’ people strikes me to the core.
Is it any wonder why my country won’t apply pressure to Turkey to admit its genocidal reign against Armenians? We aren’t willing to admit our own governmental “ancestors’” sins against people it brought to this land and against the people who first inhabited it. We, the people of the United States, our government which is by the people and for the people, by not admitting to these sins against humanity we are also party to it! We are directly responsible for the sins of our Fathers’ when we don’t renounce, repent, and reconcile those issues of sin.
It is not enough to say “we don’t do this now” or, “I never participated in that activity.” What is necessary is to fully disclose the violation of a people and express sincere regret for our nation’s treatment of these two groups of people. Doing so, and this is of first importance, validates the humanity of the descendants and their ancestors who were dehumanized for centuries. This is the greatest act of love a group of people can do for another, appreciate their dignity while admitting our inhuman behavior. This type of life is commanded in the Christian faith through the greatest commandments.
Secondly, this would create a legitimate foundation by which genuine community and unity could be sought. Humility in wrong-doing creates an environment where trust can be built. Authentic admission of wrongs, even when generational, have the power to draw people together because where there is trust, there is also a sense of safety. When there is a sense of safety, the people who have been wronged (even through generational issues) are willing to build on the sincere gesture of repentance.
From a spiritual, Christian perspective, this is how community is built, preserved, and strengthened. It cannot be accomplished by ignoring past wrongs or, maybe worse, by trying to distance ourselves from those wrongs. In attempting to distance we inadvertently communicate that the atrocities simply weren’t important. At the core, distancing dehumanizes the descendants of those who were harmed. Distancing from, instead of embracing, the faults of our ancestors always creates the thought that the harm could occur again. Maybe the atrocities wouldn’t be to the same extreme, maybe not in the same overt manner, but in subtle ways which reinforce the “formerly” oppressed group’s fears and distrust of the dominant culture.
I strongly believe, through my understanding of biblical forgiveness and repentance, our government needs to pass a resolution that admits to the atrocities, oppression and theft as it pertains to African-Americans and First Nations’ people. I fully realize that it would probably be most effective if driven through the leadership of a white president, but I also believe that if significant white leaders in the business and political realms brought this forward it would be received appropriately by the groups most adversely affected by my nation’s systematic, deliberate sin. The sin of treating others, created in the image of God, as less than human. It could, quite literally, change the course of history for America. It could truly render us the “United” States of America.
May the God of all people by glorified……….

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Gift of God called Grace

I was sitting, reading and contemplating the life I am allowed to live. There isn't anything I could ask for that would enhance what I all ready have and have experienced. It made me start to think about the incredible gift of God called "grace." It is such an intangible representation of God's character. Yet, it has such tangible results in our daily lives. It occurred to me that God's grace is really administered from two perspectives.
The first perspective would be what I would call "in order for."
The second perspective would be what I would call "because/need."
The grace of God existed before sin, before any of our creation. God's grace was on display as He majestically, artistically, in the finest detail and with perfect precision, made all we know and are still in the process of discovering. In the depths of our oceans and to the far reaches of space we continue to find the grace of God.
His grace, as it manifests as "in order for" keeps the universe functioning after creation. Gravity, planetary and moon orbits, star placement, even light are in place to maintain life on this planet. Ecosystems are by the grace of God. They are in place "in order for" life to be maintained. Thus, environmental awareness and conservation are theologically sound exercises of our faith in fulfilling God's grace in granting us dominion over His Creation.
His grace, operating in the form of "in order for" will eventually bring a stop to the pain and suffering of this world. But before that gets expanded upon let's look at God's grace in from the perspective of "because/need."
In the beginning God's grace was in place to sustain all He created (and is still operating as such) and was especially rendered for the specifically unique centerpiece of His Creation, the human race. The only part of creation created in His Image. Unlike the rest of creation this work of art would be able to react, think through, and respond to a relationship with the Creator. Unlike the rest of created beings on earth the human race would not be driven primarily by instinct. The human race was given the gift of being rational, emotive, analytical beings who could weigh circumstances and freely choose. The were given the right to make decisions. "Right" and "wrong" would be allowed to be evaluated. Like their Creator they could be righteous. Or, they could make the decision to be completely unlike their Creator. They were allowed to make decisions based on their own desires, not those of others. They (we) chose the later.
Since that infamous day in human history, this poor choice has been repeated everyday by virtually every human being on the planet. Our "self" is the ruler of the gift of free will. So grace took on its other form, it became the grace of "because/need."
BECAUSE we have decided to continue with the choice to live our way we NEED a means by which to be restored to the grace of "in order for."
So Christ took up human life and lived it according to the original plan. He would make all His decisions based on our Creator's will and on behalf of others. His "self" did not influence his decisions. He did this because of our need. He gave up everything in order for those who accept, can re-enter a daily relationship with the Creator. We re-enter the eternal relationship as we walk, breath, and occupy the portion of time granted to us. Eternity is not something we wait for, it is something granted the moment we say "yes" to following Jesus' Ways.
The original form of God's grace, giving us choice, giving us the means to be sustained, is reintroduced to us because of our need. Ironically, the form of grace of God referred to as "in order for" is now operating through those who realign to Christ. In order for others to know God, in order for us to grow and more closely resemble Christ, in order for us to live the abundant, full lives brought to us through Christ, God's Spirit is released into our lives. The Spirit guides, convicts, rebukes, and illuminates in order for our transformation to continue as we utilize our free will to honor our Creator and others.
That is the ultimate role of grace, to bring glory and honor to the Wonderful Creator. What He has so graciously provided for our benefit shows brightly into the lives of those yet to know Him.
So the question must be asked, "Are you allowing God's grace, in either form, to change the direction of your life and allowing your life to reflect into the lives of those around you?" Truly, this is our best offering of worship to our Creator, the willingness to focus all our life toward God. That embracing of grace has a draw that no mortal can withstand.
As always, may you discover and embrace the life Jesus has made possible for you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Pastor's Prayer

For almost three years I have struggled in the place I have been placed by God. This is the prayer that seemed to simply pour out of me in order to be what I am supposed to be in God's plan. I submit this with the hopes to encourage all who may struggle in their faith. And I am so grateful for a congregation that loves me.

"Father the prayer of your son comes to you now. Your Son's sacrifice is all that I have, yet it is also all that I need to be your son. while I am not allowed to take your grace as a cheap overture, but to soberly remember it was a priceless, sacrificial grace given to me, I am grateful you are not focused on my imperfections, but the possibility of what Your Son's Perfection can accomplish in me and through me.
Father, I have slipped in my confidence. Not in your provisions, but in my confidence to lead your people. I have discounted my value, my influence on people, and for that I seek your forgiveness. You chose me, equipped me and and abundantly provided for me in leading your people.
Lord God of Moses I have behaved like this great patriarch in arguing with you about my abilities. I am foolish! It isn't my abilities that put me in this position. It was your Sovereign Hand which placed me at CCC and developed HCCD. It is your Hand which will deliver victory in the ministry you created.
Lord, bless me with your power & wisdom and give me your heart for people. My heart must be in love with our people as well as with you. I love you. I love most of your people and I love those who don't know you. Father, I need to love everyone. God said to Moses, as Moses argued about his assignment, "Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf & mute? Who gives them sight and makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go, I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." (Ex. 4:12)
I am behaving like your servant Moses when he was chosen by you. Father, despite this you used Him in a powerful way. There would be other confrontations, yet you stayed with him.
Father, I ask for your mercy. Help me Father not to use that power to do things my way, but to always stay patient with your people. father, i do not wish to be insolent or to ask for more than is due me, but may Your ministry prosper under the time I am in leadership. Father, as it prospers in numerical growth, spiritual growth, and influential growth, may Joshuas be raised up. Joshuas which run CCC ministries, HCCD ministries, CCC itself and aother ministries throughout Your Kingdom.
Father, i know i need to guard my heart, but Lord I desire this for your glory and not my prestige.
Father, as your performed miracles to Pharoah may you do the same through me. Lord, I know it won't be me, but you that is moving powerfully through your servant. Help me to NEVER lose sight of that fact.
Lord, if it pleases you, if this is truly your plan in CCC, HCCD and the Kingdom at large, use me to draw people to you. Lord, I pray that it is in large numbers. I pray for the unsaved to discover you through Your children's care and ministry. I pray for your wayward children to find an assembly they feel welcomed in and encourages them to live out their faith in a genuine, bold way.
I also pray for leadership provisions from two perspectives. The first Father is that I would do and allow what is necessary to insure that leadership development is part and parcel to the CCC & HCCD ministry. Secondly, godly "transfers" that unify the Kingdom would come and help us.
Lord, without any doubt I believe you have placed us at 4710 N. Polk Ave. the work You have designed is to be taught and transferred to other minstry sites.
Lord you know the needs for running ministry today and you can and will provide should our faith, humbleness and obedience seek to be good representations of Your Son. May that be so in CCC & HCCD. Prosper us Father so we may care for the poor, the broken-hearted, the alien in our land.
Father, if I may ask, and I know it must be in your will to be answered, could you move in these matters staring today? May I ask that growth begins this Sunday (the 26th)? Please return your people and I ask that our "current people" whould embrace our "future people." Truly, may we be one as You and Your Son are One. I pray this in the glory and honor of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

It is early after this prayer was read to the CCC congregation and I have important steps to take to insure I do not stand in the way of the movement of God, but the Spirit of God is working in a profound way. If you pray, pray that I would do what I should as someone appointed by God to my position.
If you need to know God, respond to this message and I will be glad to speak or write to you about life with this Incredible God.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Christianity without a cause

In Elton Trueblood's, The Company of the Committed, Samuel Taylor Coleridge is quoted. Coleridge said, "He, who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth, will proceed by loving his own Sect or Church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all."
A little later in the book Trueblood writes, "...labor union members often think that they have found a cause of their won which makes the Christian cause unnecessary." This book was published in 1961 and there a plenty of "prophetic" statements made by Trueblood which have, unfortunately, come to pass. While Trueblood may not have been writing to "foretell" he was certainly writing as a means to provide a corrective to the church universal. Unfortunately, much of what he wrote is still, largely, not being applied.
Back to the two quotes at the beginning of this dialogue.
Both statements help to point out the probelm of the christian church, whether evangelical or mainline or catholic, whether "conservative" or "liberal," our agendas tend to replace Truth, and we love our causes, thus ourselves, more than the truth.
Let me apply this to the "conservative" side, often referred to as the evangelical side, and the issue of global warning. So many of the political "right" and evangelicals are in bed together so they share ideologies which includes the notion that there isn't global warming. Now I am not here to argue this issue at all, for me this issue is irrelevant to the purpose of this writing.
The issue is that Truth is being ignored in order for the "cause" to be perpetuated. The cause being that we should continue to consume and live as if we cannot affect/effect our environment and that stewardship of resources somehow doesn't apply to this issue.
Of first note, often pushed forward by Limbaugh and Hannity, is that we should continue to consume because we can and because we are American. Since they believe that global warming is a hoax (again not here to argue that issue) we shouldn't make correctives in our materialistic/consumeristic society.
For the believers of Truth, the global warming issue (again, regardless of factuality or not) is an excellent time to teach about the proper stewardship of the earth's resources, conservation of those resources, and learning to live life with less consumption.
The argument that we can't hurt this hurt is ludicrous in a spiritual sense as well as in historical realities. We are commanded to steward, in part, because of our human nature to abuse, serve ourselves, and ignore others.
Historically, we have witnesses the devastation wrought on our environments due to strip mining, deforestation, and even nuclear mishaps. We can bring plenty of harm to this world we have been created to live in and ordered to care for.
An important step for the church to reclaiming relevancy in society would be to establish leadership in biblical stewardship and care for this planet's resources and encourage our children to pursue the sciences, through a biblical worldview, which would help humanity discover ways to develop cleaner, more efficient uses of energy, while the church teaches strongly the Truth about stewardship/conservation being part and parcel to the transformed life given to us through Christ.
I doubt Christ would have been "green." But I'm certain he would have minimized His consumption and sought the most efficient means to live in this society. That seems quite apparent when He walked this earth. SUV's are not from the devil, but thinking that it is a "right" to purchase one just because we can does come from evil.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Christian Social Action

Not too long ago I "tweeted" that christian Social Action requires standing against injustice, dignity driven compassion, and the willingness to use wealth for the benefit of community.

To do so is to live out a rather inconvenient faith. Each of these issues carries with it a significant costs. Costs that can be difficult to overcome and "investments" which may not show a "benefit" in the course of our lifetimes.

Injustice is something we tend to overlook or ignore in our American culture. There are still many who believe that our bigotry and prejudices no longer exist and if people would just "try harder" they would succeed. These same people think that everyone is on an even footing, that we all have the same opportunities and that the "rules of the game" are equally applied to all participants. Unfortunately, injustice can be found quite easily if we just would take a serious look at our surrounding communities. If one looks, with the intent to find, slum lords will be found, unequal access to quality education will be discovered, farm workers living in conditions worse than inner city slums, and much more. It is the responsibility of those who claim to follow Jesus to not only be the voice, but to take the necessary actions to irradicate these issues not only in our own society, but in other areas of the world as well.

Dignity driven compassion goes far beyond charity and service opportunties. Dignity driven compassion requires substantial efforts in developing relationships with those in need. Dignity drvien compassion addresses tomorrow, as well as today. It requires the one who can provide for needs to become involved in the day to day living of the one who has needs. It requires involvement with the person to be more important than the service itself. While the service required cannot be neglected, it is simply the means to the more important requirement on a believers life, is to use the service as the means to build relationships and let the person in need know they belong to a community that cares. Dignity driven compassion insures that the person understands that they are not a "project" to be completed, but the invaluable tool of God to teach people with means to see beyond themselves.

A willingness to use wealth for the benefit of the community is a fundamental reason for God allowing a person to have wealth in the first place. Our hard work doesn't mean we deserve wealth. Millions, if not billions, of people work extraordinarily hard and never have the "hope" of being wealthy. Wealth is something God grants, even to those who don't believe in His provisions. For the believer, wealth should not be equated as a "reward" from God for some kind of good behavior. Wealth should be considered in line with our talents and abilities. It is simply a resource meant to be used to show others the Loving God. Bigger houses, expensive cars, expensive clothing etc. are not how the wealth of believers is to be spent. Instead, better housing for the poor, better access to transportation, creating opportunities for those who might not afford clothing being able to earn clothes, or food, or quality used items is how God expects the wealth He grants to be used. Wealth is supposed to benefit the whole community of the individual, not just the individual. Whether the wealth has been given to an individual person, a family, or even a church body, it is meant to be used to leverage good in the community. Anything less than this is unacceptable to the Lord.

While you may have not responded to Christ because you haven't seen the above take place, please understand many believers, throughout the world, do live under these principles, and they do so gladly. Please also understand that should you make the decision to follow Christ that this requirement will also be on your life. It is a truly great way to live.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grieving in Fathering

I as wrote a couple of days ago, there is much I have learned about God's character through being allowed the honor, privilege and responsibility of being a father. As any parent knows there will be seasons when fathering (parenting) can be very difficult.
One of those seasons has "sprung up" in my fathering. The pain of a child estranging themselves from the family is painful. I doubt that I fully grasp the circumstances and I also know that dark secrets are part of the issue that has developed.
As I contemplate what I must deal with I realize that the Father has dealt with my own "secrets" and blatant disregard for His will and desires for my life. Of course, His will and desires and completely righteous. While I would like my will and desires for my children to be the same I still wrestle with my own self-will.
God has never abandoned me. He still guided me while I thought my "secrets" were hidden, even from Him. Natural consequences did take place and I will have to be willing to allow the same thing for one of my children. I can't rescue, funny how God doesn't jrescue either until we call. That is what I what to prepare my heart for, being ready to rescue as soon as the call comes. I do hope the call comes sooner than later. I pray for my child and I hope it closely resembles the thoughts of God as He has dealt with me. I pray that the reconciliation and restoration of my son to myself and the family resembles how God has always done that for me in my relationship with Him. If you see my son, tell him I love him.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Grateful to be a Father

I've not written in almost three weeks so today seems appropriate to get back into the groove. I'm contemplating the improbable blessing I have received in being a father. Few people deserve this less than myself, yet the Lord of my life has granted me the incredible privilege, blessing and responsibility to be the father of four of God's people made in His image.
Fatherhood has really helped me to better understand the character of God. When my first son was born I was about just of two years into my faith in Christ. I still struggled with the concept of unconditional love (I'm sure that isn't uncommon) mainly because I didn't seem to possess the capacity for giving the same type of love. Yet, the moment they put my newborn son in my arms I felt overwhelming love for this little person who could offer me nothing. Well, that is not completely true. He could give me poop, pee, and puke. He had nothing of value to offer me, yet I loved him completely.
When I think about it, I often haven't offered God much more than what my oldest could offer me in his infancy. Yet, despite this, God does love me unconditionally. He does not call me to perform and I don't have to beg for His attention. He is giving Himself completely to me and as I grow and mature my relationship deepens with Him.
That is the route my relationship with my children is like. Unlike God I come up short in my fathering. Yet, with God's grace, my efforts to love, to support, to encourage, and to simply be there, seem to overcome the shortcomings. Additionally, my love requires that I discipline, even punish, but also teach and train (sometimes to their chagrin) and I am starting to observe them seeking my advice and weighing it (this is still work in progress!).
God is also like this. While He remains our Lord, He desires (for us) a relationship in which there can be open communication. In that process we grow in our appreciation of Him and He returns blessing to our lives.
Another thing I've learned is that I must love each of my children equally, but I must love them differently. Whether you look at it through the lens of "love languages" or just the fact they have different personalities I have had to learn to "love" them according to how they receive love. They all have very different talents, interestes, and personalities and I have to take care to value those differences and not "cookie cutter" my fathering. I need to tailor my love to special design
God has used for each of them.
Isn't that what God does for us? He does treat us each differently, but never at the compromise of His character. He also has a desire to fulfill our passions, as long as they will not compromise our character! Isn't this what parenting is all about?
I am so grateful to be a Father. Not just because of the great kids I've been allowed to father, but because it has taught me more about God than anything else except God's Word. In fact, I think God has used fathering to be the application of His Word.
I hope you will seek out my Father. You will find constant wonderment in His love for you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Unimaginable

Fourteen years ago, tomorrow, I was terminated from a the ministry I was allowed to lead. It was an extremely difficult situation, but I wouldn't call it "devastating." It certainly shook me and I seriously questioned myself. After all, I was fired from being a youth pastor. Two perspectives, and some very faithful friends and my wife, kept me upright and continuing the course I am still pursuing.
Once perspective was simply this, God is in charge. My situation didn't surprise Him and He had certainly carried people through much worse situations. While I couldn't fathom what post youth ministry would look like I was certain He would lead me if I would follow.
The second perspective was this, what I was doing in ministry was right. It was biblical. It was the way ministry should be done. That doesn't mean I was doing everything correctly, it just means that the ministry philosophy, the theological moorings, were sound.
To this day I am so grateful for Jim Westgate, Jim Hutton, Jan Van Oosten, Francis and Mike Ribera, Kurt Gregory and Robin, and most importantly, my wife Lisa for believing in me. Their prayers, their friendship, their love, and their confidence in me held me accountable and motivated me to continue on the journey I still travel, and will continue to travel.
Bad circumstances cause most people to develop tunnel vision. Sometimes that is very good because it serves as the means to get out of the mess. My focus wasn't on the termination but making the situation that was being given to me work out well. I say "me" very loosely, it was the people already mentioned and the power of the Holy Spirit working through me. I hope that most of the time I was a willing servant in the process.
This Saturday, virtually marking the 14th anniversary of that firing, I am being granted a doctorate in the very ministry which seemed to contribute to my termination back then.
That is "The Unimaginable" situations God brings about for those who will strive to follow Him. We don't have to do it perfectly, I sure haven't. But He has this incredible capacity for grace and mercy to overcome those shortcomings and magnify the issues of obedience.
I never even considered, or dreamed, or imagined that this could be happening for me. Yet, with God being God, He had it figured out all along the way.
I am humbled and grateful to be counted as one of His. I hope if you are struggling right now, this could provide you the door to the peace that transcends all understanding. God is there with you. Just follow Him.

Monday, May 25, 2009

9/11 Manipulation

Recently, former Vice President Dick Cheney issued a type of rebuttal speech to President Obama's speech. In Cheney's speech he chose to invoke the memory of 9/11 at the beginning and at the end of his discourse. While it was a rather shrewd means by which to touch people emotionally, he did it in a way to manipulate people so they would not investigate what he said in the middle.
I am not going to debate the merits of either speech, both are obviously quite intelligent and adapt at communicating a message, both in words and vision. But I do want to address the issue of 9/11 and its use in manipulating our society.
For those who "say" they want to follow Christ, we are seriously shortchanging our faith, if not blatantly diregarding it, when we don't evaluate the situation (or any other) from a biblical worldview.
ALL situations in life fall under the perspective of the commandments of Christ (reiterating the teachings of the whole of Scripture. A horrendous event took place in Sept of 2001. It was the type of event which occurs quite regularly in other places in the world, but because it happened in America it was a bigger deal. Which will bring about some points to ponder a little later in this discourse.
In all situations, we are to insure we are LOVING God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This commandment is a command to grasp unto the sovereignty of God in all situations. We are to submit all that is part of our lives to His Lordship. The question, "Why did He allow this to happen to us?" is impertinent, even obstinate, unless the question is asked as a legitimate means of introspection to our culture and political processes and lead us to an honest evaluation of the breakdown of our moral standing in the world's eyes. I would challenge you to think about that issue.
In the 2001 event we are also told to "love our neighbors as ourselves." We certainly "loved ourselves' in this event. We were heartbroken, sorrowful, and even showed a great capacity toward bravery, heroism, compassion and generosity. Afterall, innocent people had been killed in the name of a "holy war." As our political will turned on the power switch of our military and great deal of death and displacement has occurred to innocents in the dispicable name of "collateral damage." Are we, I'm talking to those who claim to follow Christ, if you are still mourning the 2001 event, are you also mourning for the mothers, fathers, and children who have lost their family members simply because they were in the wrong place when destruction was wrought? I would challenge you to think about that issue.
In the 2001 event we are also told "As I (Christ) have loved you, so you must love one another." While the American Church has been incredibly generous toward families suffering through the tragedy of that day in 2001, has there been any conscious effort to love our brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran who have suffered terribly during this time. Many refugees of fled Iraq into Syria and Jordan. Are we praying and thinking of ways to support our Palestinian brothers and sisters who practice their faith and suffer for it at the hands of Muslims and the Israeli's alike? What America experienced in a moment, it was is endured daily by our faithful (more?) family of God members in the world. I would challenge you to think about that issue.
Finally, as a believer seeking to evaluate our reaction to events in the world. In this case, an event which took place in 2001 in America. What have you done with the teaching of the One we say we follow, when He commanded us "Love your enemies and pray for thsoe who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." This command is given in the context of how to live out our faith with authenticity and as a means to "perfect' our faith. Of course, He who we follow, epitomizes this as he suffers for US while on the cross he says to the Father, on behalf of those killing Him, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." This is where the issue of a "just war," torture, and a preemptive war on another country must be seriously evaluated in light of what we claim to believe. Scripture simply, not only doesn't support those concepts (a "just war" can only be led by God), it repudiates them by the strictest means possible. Christ commands us NOT to react the way others might. I would challenge you to think about that issue.
Finally, as a summation, if we truly demonstrated love to God in all our actions, truly loved our neighbors (remember this was illustrated in the Good Samaritan parable), love our brothers and sisters in Christ the way Christ loved us (this includes Arab Christians), and loved our enemies (the way Christ loved them), we would consider the event of 9/11 from a different perspective and all issues of our life from a different perspective. We would be living according to our faith. Our faith, now approaching an authentic, biblical faith, would change our lives and the lives around us. I would challenge you to think abou that issue.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Generosity of God

While I suppose writing these blogs seems to indicate that bloggers think they have something important to say there are times I just have to share the awe I have with the God of the Universe. I am marveling at His generosity. His willingness to reach all the people groups he created, despite their efforts to avoid Him, despite their efforts to create their own gods, despite their unbelief there actually is a God who created them.
I marvel at a God who sees beyond our gender, our age, our culture, our strengths and weaknesses, and even sees beyond our sin to that which could be if we would align ourselves to His way of living life. He has always been the God of the possible.
I marvel at a God who has very few "do nots" in His vocabulary but an enormous amount of "blessings if" and He wants to act on the positive.
I marvel at a God who can work through His people's obvious short comings and still bring daily benefits, as well as, eternal benefits, to those who will strive to know Him. He never quits on us, never writes us off, never stops loving us.
I cannot help be overwhelmed by the generosity of God. I hope you meet Him in your lifetime.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Temporal Needs are Spiritual needs

It is sometimes frustrating, often times saddening, to hear a pastor ask what the spiritual value is of doing something that would meet the temporal needs of an individual. It is as if some types of "caring" are more spiritual than other forms of "caring." Even worse, some forms of "caring" aren't seen as spiritual at all. Maybe it would be good to take a good look at some of Jesus' last words as he hung on the cross and have our minds turned inside out as to what is "spiritual."
Those of us who believe Christ's claims about himself, understand that everything he did was based on obedience to the Father's will. Thus, everything he did or said had deep spiritual realities that we are supposed to replicate in our lives. To be a follower of Christ is to learn to live like Christ, take action like Christ, and to do it all with Christ's motivation.
So if we go to the cross, the story around the cross, we will find that there is no such thing as an unspiritual act of caring. The gospel recorded by John sets the irrefutable testimony that the meeting of temporal needs means we are also meeting spiritual needs.
As Jesus hangs on the cross, beaten, tortured, mocked, ridiculed, naked, and suffering the indignation of watching people gamble over his clothes he looks past his physical, emotional, and spiritual pain to provide a solution to his mother's temporal needs.
Mary's situation was dire. She is believed to be widowed, her oldest child hangs on a cross before her, and she is about to become destitute with virtually no means by which to care for herself. The cultural issues of her day ecplised any opportunities for her to provide for herself financially.
So Jesus looks at one of his disciples and tells the disciple to take care of Mary. Despite his own horrible circumstances, he sees outside of himself and reaches out to address the temporal need of Mary. He not only insured she had family, but that she would be provided for in a financial sense.
This is profound. Shortly after this incident Jesus would say, "It is finished." He confirms the faith of one of the robbers and then provides for the temporal need of a woman. Since everything Jesus did was spiritual, God oriented, then how can it be any less for those who claim to follow Jesus?
Any care that a believer offers in love of God and our neighbor creates a spiritual stirring in the arena which is unseen by our mortal eyes. This action by Christ teaches us to look beyond our own struggles and afflictions (unlike Jesus most of our issues have a self-infliction factor) and take care of the needs of our neighbor. Any act of love has a spiritual impact. It is time for the American church to realize this, en mass. Do the good we are supposed to do, allow the Spirit of God to work through that good. These should be the daily actions of the people who claim to follow Christ. Make it happen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm going to stop being a "christian"

Have you ever noticed how much baggage is attached with the word "christian?" The self proclaimed, and now dead, Moral Majority, attached itself not only to politics, but the ideology of a specific political party. The constant drumbeat created the perception that to be 'christian' is to be part of that particular party. Even worse, a perception within that group developed that one couldn't be 'christian' if not associated with that political party.
It became even more defined that one couldn't be 'christian' if one's stance on specific issues differed from the rest of them. Patriotism, which is often disguising nationalism, became associated with this type of 'christian." The issue of torture that I wrote about in my last entry is really motivating me in this direction. And for my part, I want no part of it any longer. I think I'll stop being 'christian.' Obviously, I mean that I will not associate myself to that which the term now defines.
Interestingly, the word christian is only used twice in Scripture. Once in Acts and in First Peter. the term 'believer' is used 19 times (I like this) and follower(s) is used 8 times. I like follower because it is associated always with Jesus. I really like the term "the Way" used five times in the book of Acts.
I think I will tell people from this day forward that I am a follower of the Way. It is Jesus that I am following. Enough said for the moment.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Evangelicals think torture is "ok"?

It's hard to comprehend that any person who holds to the authority of the Bible could think that torture of any kind is a legitimate use of force. Yet, according to a Pew Research study evangelicals who attend church more than more than once a week, favor torture by over 50%! How can this possibly be?
Does the admonition of Micah to "act justly" and "love mercy", not to mention "walk humbly with your God" only apply when we are not threatened? The incredibly painful irony is that if the nation of the U.S. would operate this way in all arenas the hate that is directed toward this nation would never have developed.
It would not surprise me to find out that these same "christians" probably have a desire for the U.S. to be a "christian" nation. No wonder people despise Christians and consider the American church to be irrelevant (Check out The American Church in Crisis).
Torture is in no way compatible with the teaching of Jesus or the whole of Scripture. The argument that it is somehow legitimate because it saves lives is morally bankrupt, not to mention it is utterly unbiblical. The dignity of life is not protected by destroying the dignity of a single life.
True, we may have to suffer the loss of life due to another's evil decision, but it is not righteous to save lives by performing our own evil act. Righteousness is to be our pursuit in life. Striving for every action, word, and thought to honor God and demonstrate love for our neighbor. As Jesus said, "love our enemy."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Keeping our heads out of the sand!

I love the words Jesus prayed when he said he wasn't asking for us to be taken out of this world! It is a great reminder that following Jesus doesn't protect from stuff when it hits the fan. We aren't protected from stench and there is a good chance we will have to bath regularly (think about the metaphor) if we are living our lives properly.
So often Christians either get into a "bunker mentality" or we simply bury our heads in the sand and ignorantly prayer for trouble to pass us by. As believers we are uniquely qualified and empowered to go after the problems of this world. If properly aligned in faith, devoted to God and our neighbors, our motives are always "other" oriented, which means we don't worry about the limelight, prestige, or fame. We concentrate on doing "right" for the sake of doing "right." In this process we experience that internal joy that defies the emotions normally expected in less than ideal circumstances.
If you are aware of a need, you are in the proximity of the need, you have a "job" to do! Pull your head out (of the sand), get out from behind the sand bags and tackle the problem. Get dirty, get smelly, it will lead to righteousness. God bless you.

Friday, April 24, 2009

New "normal"

For the first time in three years I don't have the over arching, always in the back of my head, thoughts concerning my doctoral program. What a great adventure it has been, but I am looking forward to see what my new "normal" will look like. There is much to do in the area of community development in the Highway City area. Creativity, vision, imagination, boldness, and collaboration will be the only way to accomplish the work. Time for my brain to be rewired and refocused to this next phase.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I am committed to the struggle to live according to Christ (Christian) in the urban environment (Urban) and to have a keen understanding of what I was and could be again, without Christ (Maggot). Worldwide there is a growing group of committed people learning to live, day to day, serving the needs and people of their communities.
I hope to communicate the necessity of the American church reaching back and understanding it has a unique role in serving the under served, under resourced, and the ignored. It is a mandate on us who claim to follow Christ to live like Christ, not just talk about Him.