Saturday, July 30, 2016

Surrogates For Jesus

You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;
And you shall be witnesses unto Me . . .
(Acts 1:8)

Last week I determined to go on a media “fast” regarding all things political—Stephen Colbert my only exception. (I mean…let’s be reasonable.)

And let me tell you: The cleanse feels pretty good.

If you’re like me—and it’s hard to imagine you’re not—it’s quite easy to get sucked into or wrapped up in whatever happens to be CNN’s or Facebook’s flavor of the day.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to be informed. However, obsessively thinking about politics or whatever the news is entertaining informing us with can be, at least in my experience, counterproductive.

Shouldn’t we want our thoughts and worldview to be shaped and developed more by Jesus Christ, than Wolf Blitzer? (If this offends you, please do not hesitate to substitute Wolf with FOX.)

Two things come immediately to mind as to why we should desire this.

First, Jesus is more knowledgeable, wise, powerful, and loving than anyone else. If we truly want to understand ourselves and the world in which we live, why wouldn’t we learn from Him?

Second, we are to be His witnesses.

The force of witnessing was impressed upon me a couple of weeks ago.

While enjoying coffee and a donut, I rather disinterestedly watched a morning show on TV. An actor I don’t know was talking about a show I don’t watch. (Yes, I’m that plugged in.)

But suddenly the interview shifted.

It seems the actor is a surrogate for a well-known political candidate. With pride and enthusiasm he began to tell the politician’s story. He was winsome and articulate. He was no longer interested in talking about anything or anyone else. He only wanted to talk about the life and philosophy of the one for whom he is a surrogate.

After he finished I mused: What if more of us were like this guy—happy and eager to share Christ’s story and His ideas. 

You see, dear reader, Christ’s life is the greatest life. His ideas are the best. There’s no one better to follow. So let’s unashamedly pledge ourselves to Him and His Way. In other words, let’s be passionate surrogates for Jesus. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

American Idols

Best-selling author and professional provocateur, Ann Coulter, is soon to release a book entitled, “In Trump We Trust;” obviously hijacking our national motto and substituting God with Trump.

We may wonder why someone who self-identifies as a Christian would write such a thing.

But I have an infinitely more important question: how many folks do in their heart what Ms. Coulter does in her title—supplant God with something or someone else. 

You see, replacing God with anything or anyone is called idolatry. It’s the breaking of the first of the 10 Commandments: You shall have no other gods before me.

Thankfully, most of us aren’t as crass as Ms. Coulter, but sadly, idolatry is more common than we may think.

John Calvin observes,

 . . . the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols . . . it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of God.

What are some common idols?

Obviously, people come to mind. Worship of the self and other humans is always popular. Entertainers (sports personalities, TV and movie stars, Country and Rock musicians, etc.) are often the objects of adoration and praise. The “cult of personality” reaches even into the church.

Ideas may be idols. Think of things such as liberty, socialism, atheism, love, conservatism, environmentalism, liberalism, capitalism, racialism, feminism, patriarchy, humanism, equality, scientism, nationalism, patriotism, and tolerance. All concepts and “isms” are dangerous when absolutized.

Our aforementioned national motto appears on our currency and sure enough…one of the most powerful idols in the world is money. People will—quite 
literally—sacrifice just about anything for it.

Surely there isn’t a more potent idol than sex. The amorphous god of sex saturates our world. How many marriages, families, and friends are slain on its altars?

The god of sports is a perennial top contender for hearts and minds. Few things spark tantrums and tempers, rantings and rudeness, like sports.

And now a “curve ball” for my Christian friends…

I think doctrine—even if it’s correct—can become an idol. Doctrine is not God. If we aren’t careful, we may love the doctrine of God more than the Son of God. The Apostle Paul and many subsequent theologians have pointed out that the knowledge of God—without the love of God—is sure to go bad on us.

These are just a few American idols. Our pantheon of gods is practically innumerable—an unbounded witness to the emptiness within.

Yet Jesus beckons us to follow a different Way. He says, “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.”

So let us love and pursue the only living and true God and ask Christ to make us holy and wholly His.



Saturday, July 16, 2016

Bombs Away?

There seems to be a crescendo of terror in the West, and every attack is met with angry choruses to “bomb away” our troubles. Why do people persist in believing that bombs are the cure for what ails us?

More killing isn’t the answer. 

In fact, terrorists are enraged and emboldened by our militarism.

Bombs fall. Terrorists rise. It’s the same old refrain.

That is, the more we intervene “over there” the more we experience terrorism “right here.” Indeed, one of the reasons we’re resented and hated is we are meddlesome.

Make no mistake, the Obama administration meddles in Middle Eastern (and North African) affairs as much as any other presidency...Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.

Aren’t we always up to something? 

Many years ago I heard a professor say: When it comes to the Middle East we never leave the dance. We just keep changing partners.

Talk about poor taste in partners!

We actively take down secular leaders only to see them replaced with fundamentalists. (Study the plight of Christianity in Iraq since we vanquished Hussain. It ain't pretty.)

One thing is clear: we can’t end Middle Eastern unrest but we can certainly exacerbate it.

Consider.

How much of the immigration crisis in Europe and Britain is connected to our interventionism? You see, dear reader, we don't end their wars; we prolong them. (I’m thinking the war in Syria would have been short-lived were it not for our assisting ISIS—ahem—rebels fighting Assad.)

In other words, while pressuring foreign governments to bend to our will, we stress local populations beyond breaking points and voila…we have an immigration problem.

For a very long time we've done a lot in the Middle East. What if we did less? What if we allowed the folks who actually live there to work things out as best they can?

Could we at least think about it?

Decades ago, Francis Schaeffer wisely observed that the US cannot impose a system of governance upon a people who do not have the philosophical foundations to produce or sustain it. (This, I think, was the primary blunder of the Bush administration.)

Maybe we should listen to something other than the hypnotic beat of our own war drums.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

God, Race, & Other Parodoxes

We Americans have much in common and much tearing us apart. This is certainly nothing new.

What is new is 24/7 cable and internet news. The all-seeing eyes traumatize us, bringing every senseless tragedy—no matter how far away—into our consciousness. Yet the technologies that traumatize, oddly enough, also desensitize.

Furthermore, I doubt we’ve ever been more connected and isolated. What paradoxical times these are! Remember Charles Dickens?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness . . . we had everything before us, we had nothing before us . . .

As the folksy “philosopher” Yogi Berra once quipped, “The more things change the more they stay the same.”

Speaking of paradoxes…the news that informs is the news that misinforms.

(This reminds me of a quote from Mark Twain something to the effect: “If you don’t read the newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read them you are misinformed.”)

One ill-effect of ratings-mad, entertainment-driven news is that it focuses on the dramatic and spectacular, ignoring the everyday and mundane. As a result, our perspectives, insofar as they are shaped by media, can become distorted.

For example, would it surprise you to learn that less than 12% of police officers fire their guns at another human being for the duration of their entire career?1 In fact, 95% of NYC police “have never fired their weapons while fighting crime.”2

Thus when it comes to shooting folks it seems our cops are less Dirty Harry and more Sherriff Andy. But you wouldn’t know this from watching the news.

Now don’t get me wrong. I watch and read plenty of news. But when it comes to race issues and the things which make for our peace, I don’t think the media, by and large, is fighting on the side of the angels.

Racial harmony won’t come from more news, but from good news.

I believe the reconciliation we long for can only be found in Jesus Christ. God on the Cross offers the repentance and the forgiveness, the hope and the healing, that all of us so desperately need. God on the Cross collectivizes and dehumanizes no one. Rather, He sacrificially loves every man, woman, and child as the image of God.

He’s shown the Way. It may not be easy, but let’s walk in it.

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