Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Great Divorce

I suppose it’s time to make it official: The “Christian Right” (CR) and I are splitsville.

Some of you have seen this coming for a few years now. Others are undoubtedly shocked—what with us being together since high school and all. (We even made it through my college years.)

It’s difficult to say how these things happen really. I guess it’s never just one thing. I think more than anything we just sort of drifted apart…

I know I’m not the same person I was back in high school when I first fell for CR. And, honestly, I think CR has changed some too. (For example, CR used to be so focused on the family and was always talking about how character matters and such. CR got weird and stopped talking like this a little over a year or so ago. It was like these things never really mattered.)

I don’t’ know…maybe I started seeing CR a little differently when I first bumped into a guy named Ron Paul. All his talk about not killing foreigners got me to thinking: Was there ever an American war that CR wasn’t absolutely giddy for?

Our relationship only got more strained as I started rethinking “wars” of all 
sorts—the “war” on terror, the “war” on drugs (every bit as effective as yesteryear’s “war” on alcohol), and the granddaddy of them all: the culture “war.”

The wise words of Edwin Starr come to mind. 

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing

Speaking of absolutely nothing, it started to feel like that’s what CR and I had in common after I stopped fighting folks all the time.

Greg Boyd didn’t help us any. His “Myth of A Christian Nation” only put more doubts in my mind as I wrestled with new thoughts and feelings. I started to suspect CR wasn’t all I had imagined.

I don’t mean to throw Greg under the bus. There were others. But in all actuality, Jesus is mostly to blame. I began to focus, and I mean focus, on His teachings. You know…the red letters.

It slowly dawned on me. Conservatives and Progressives are walking the same way—the way of Empire. Both want coercive power over others.

What do conservatives want to conserve? The Empire. What do progressives want to progress? The Empire.

Jesus offers an entirely different Way. Finally, I could see it.

I was going to have to choose.

And then there was the political dumpster fire of 2016. That was the last straw, my Meatloaf moment.

“I would do anything for love…but I won’t do that.”

As I parted ways with CR, for the most part, I felt relief. But there was also sadness and a few “What now?” moments.

Can CR and I still be friends? I don’t know. CR has anger issues.

Breaking up is hard to do and this ain’t no Hallmark movie. 


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Basement Statement

What’s my opinion of the “Nashville Statement” you ask?

Well…

In my estimation it’s yet another salvo needlessly fired in the unending culture war.

I say "needlessly fired" because as far as I can tell, it has accomplished nothing other than to harden people in their already held positions. I see no one reading the statement and significantly changing his/her mind. The initial fruits of the document are more anger and fighting.

Does our culture need more fragmentation? Not just the culture—how about the church?

83% of LGBT people were raised in the church and 51% left the church after they turned 18 years old. Do you know why? The reasons aren’t primarily theological; they are relational. Only 3% of LGBT people who left the church said they left because of the church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. The main reasons why they left had to do with relational problems not theological ones. They were dehumanized, isolated, shunned, or simply kicked out of the church once it was discovered that they experienced same-gender love. So my question is this: Will the NS [Nashville Statement] help or hinder these profound relational problems?

That’s a good question! Here’s another one: Is anyone being drawn closer to Jesus because of the Nashville Statement?

I don't see how. Neither does Josh Daffern.

What’s the greater purpose behind the Nashville Statement? To defend the biblical view on gender and sexuality, I get that. But the manner in which this statement defends it is so abrasive that it actually runs counter to a much larger goal, and that’s called the Great Commission. If we as Christians are called to love people into the Kingdom (regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity), this sure is a funny way to show our love. In fact, this statement will in fact drive a wedge further between us and those we’re called to love. Instead of drawing lines in the sand, we should be building bridges. To me that’s one of the great fatal flaws in the Nashville Statement: this seems to do more harm than good in fulfilling the Great Commission.

Some believe the Nashville Statement will at least help the church to focus on God’s word. But dear reader, Christ-followers focus on the Word of 
God—Jesus—by trusting Him and His Way every single day: no Nashville Statement needed.  

Okay, enough of my opinion. This is what I know about you.

Jesus knows your name. He knows your story. He loves you deeply, selflessly, and without reserve. And He always will.
 

I’m thinking folks like us need the Savior from Nazareth far more than the Statement from Nashville. (But then…you probably already knew that.) 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Statues and The Image of God

Until recently, when Americans of a certain age heard General Lee they pictured this.

Not this.

But the times, they are a changin’.

For example, it used to be that White supremacists had to slink around at night bedecked in bedsheets and dunce caps. Nowadays they proudly show their faces in the orange light of...ahem…day.

Still, why did they descend on Charlottesville to defend a statue? (I’ve a hunch that the vast majority of them were visiting their "beloved site" for the first time.)

Remember when racists gathered in Arkansas to protect the 10 Commandments statue? Me neither.

So I don’t think they just have a thing for statues. There must be something more…

The Robert E. Lee statue is a symbol. And like all symbols, it evokes different things in different people. Some value it as an artifact of culture. Others view it as a reminder of oppression. Many see it as some old guy on a horse. (Ignorance is bliss?)

One thing’s certain; General Lee himself wanted no such monuments of war.

I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.

Regardless of one’s perspective, it’s rather difficult to argue that the statue stands for heritage not racism, when the folks vehemently protesting its removal are neo-Nazis, not history teachers. 

Again, symbolism is subjective, but more than this, a symbol’s meanings evolve. What a symbol stands for today may not be what it conveyed yesterday or what it will communicate tomorrow.

Yes, symbols can be very powerful; but even so, what are the statue’s actual effects on society?

Will the lives of African-Americans in the USA be better once it’s removed? How so?

Will its removal alter the study of history as we know it? How so?

Suffice it to say, I think the statue has extremely minimal real-world impact—except, of course, for the 3 people (and those who loved them) who were killed because of hate-filled people using it as a pretext for violence.

Jesus says that humans are much more valuable than sparrows (Matthew 10:31).

I’ll bet He thinks they’re much more valuable than statues too.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Jesus, Fire & Fury

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States . . . they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.
~Donald Trump

Will only the U.S. have option [sic] called “preventive war” as is claimed by it? It is a daydream for the U.S. to think that its mainland is an invulnerable Heavenly kingdom.
~Korean People’s Army (KPA)

All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. . . . Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.
~Jesus

The stark contrast between the Way of Jesus and the ways of Empire couldn’t be clearer. Even so, do you think Jesus’ teaching “just won’t work” in the “real world”? Is His “wisdom” only so much wishful thinking? (Be honest.)

However we may answer; Christians within the USA—by and large—have not followed Jesus in the way of peace.  

Richard Hays observes,

One reason that the world finds the New Testament’s message of peacemaking and love of enemies incredible is that the church is so massively faithless. On the question of violence, the church is deeply compromised and committed to nationalism, violence, and idolatry.

In other words, despite Jesus telling us that we can’t possibly serve two masters, Christians doggedly persist in their attempts to do so. But to what end, dear reader? 


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

War Games

A couple of days ago a Chicago Sun Times headline grabbed my attention: “North Korea missiles have range to hit Chicago.

I almost cared enough to read the story.

Thinking better of it, I turned to my favorite newsman, Stephen Colbert, and as always he delivered.

I have a hard time believing Chicagoans will be scared by this. Okay? For Pete’s sake, the Cubs won the World Series! They already know the end is near.

Something else grabbed my attention just moments ago…fighter jets, circling my home.

I understand they were practice-bombing a bridge a couple of miles from my house. The sights and sounds were stunning. For about 15 minutes I watched in awe—the climbing, the diving, the synchronized soaring. It was spectacular.

Three thoughts tumbled into my reverie.

1) I’m glad they’re on our side.

2) I’m sure glad it’s only practice.

3) People who think their guns are protecting them from the government are delusional. (I’d be very surprised to learn that the fighter-pilots observed me gawking into the sky with my mouth open and thought: I’m glad he’s on our side.)

Sidebar: I know. Dead is dead. But “From my cold dead hands!” is so much sexier than “From my incinerated bits & pieces!” Forget Charlton Heston. Not even Liam Neeson’s pulling that off.

My ruminations grow a bit more somber now as I think about why the USA conducts war games.

It plays war around us to wage war around others. 

Thus, the display of raw power that mesmerized me looks and sounds a bit different to those who are being terrorized by a dispassionate deluge of death and destruction. 

This is the way of Empire but it’s not the Way of Jesus. Nowhere does Jesus teach His followers to kill their way to peace.

Jesus comments, “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (Jn 14:27). Jesus’ disciples knew who Jesus meant by “the world.” It was plastered on city walls, engraved on columns and stamped on coins. The Roman Empire prided herself on peace, the famed Pax Romana. . . . The United States is famed worldwide for Pax Americana, for bringing peace the same way the Romans did. . . . We should not confuse Pax Americana with the Christian way. We need to stop writing scripture verses on the sides of bombs. (Richards and O’Brien, “Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes,” p. 185)

Bombs with Bible verses? Eat your heart out, North Korea.

Friday, July 7, 2017

All Abooooaaaarrrd!

How many times a day is Hitler referenced on social media, do you suppose? (I defy anyone to read an on-line political fight—past 3 paragraphs—without finding a mention of Hitler, fascism, or Nazism.)

So I thought I’d finally join the chorus!

Just kidding (sort of).

I want to talk about something much more important: The church.

The odious truth is, “Hitler was an opportunist who was quite happy to use the church for his own ends.” 1

This is the truth but not the odious part. We expect politicians to try to exploit the church.

The odious thing is this: the church, by and large, was quite happy to be used by Hitler.

In general, Protestants in Germany found a way to be both believers in Christianity and supporters of Nazism.2

While this was appallingly generally true, thankfully it was not universally true.

One detractor was theologian and pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Someone asked Bonhoeffer if it would be wise to participate in the “German Christians” party and try to work within the system towards a good end (a kind of “lesser of two evils” approach…sound familiar?).

He famously replied: “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.”
  
Bonhoeffer causes me to think of my own nation and how it seems to be headed off the rails. In my estimation, politics in America is a runaway train and has been for a long time.

Most of my adult life I rode the rails with my fellow travelers as we culture-warred against anyone and everyone too stupid to be in our particular car. It never occurred to me that my “enemies” and I were on the same train, going inexorably in the same direction—away from Christ and His Kingdom.

In Hitler’s Germany, most churches went along with the Nazis. Some did so reluctantly but many were enthusiastic. . . . Bonhoeffer reminds us that there are people of conscience and moral courage everywhere—there are just too few of them.3

My prayer is that more and more American Christians will open their eyes, exit the train, and walk with Jesus.
___________________________





Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Kingdom of Love

As I reflect on the United States and how it is polarizing within and diminishing without, my thoughts turn to GK Chesterton’s assessment of Rome.

There was nothing left that could conquer Rome; but there was also nothing left that could improve it. It was the strongest thing that was growing weak. It was the best thing that was going to the bad. (The Everlasting Man, p. 162)

Couldn’t the same be said of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Mongols, Turks, and Brits?

In with a “bang” and out with a whimper. Such is the way of empire.

But such is not the Way of the Kingdom of our God.

Of Christ and His kingdom prophets and angels agree: There will be no end.

Clearly, Jesus’ kingdom is superior to all earthly powers, and it is different in quality and in kind. He teaches,

The Kingdom of God can't be detected by visible signs. You won't be able to say, “Here it is!” or “It's over there!” For the Kingdom of God is already among you. . . . My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world (Luke 17:20-21; John 18:36).

To be sure, Jesus’ kingdom is a present reality that is in the world but not of or from it. He rules in the hearts of His followers.

Hence, Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of love, not force. Jesus says that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. This is true of all earthly kingdoms. They come into existence and pass into non-existence by coercion.

Not so with the kingdom of heaven. It does not kill and it cannot be killed. No one is forced into or out of it. The kingdom of love has no end.

Furthermore, Christ’s kingdom is a domain of peace with no geographic borders, nationalities, or economies to advance or defend. In other words, His realm transcends all things that would divide and conquer us. Thus, the Apostle Paul writes, 

In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us. (Colossians 3:11) 

Christ is all that matters. Do we really believe this? 

Think about it. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Politics & Prostitutes

Ronald Reagan once quipped, “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

Quite frankly, this is an insult to prostitutes everywhere.

Is it any wonder Jesus had no use for politics, religious or secular? Yet politicians were certainly interested in Him—all for selfish reasons of course, just like today.

Matthew tells us that a group of politicians (“the chief priests and the elders”) confronted Jesus regarding the matter of authority (21:23). They wanted to know who gave Him the right to teach and preach; the implication being, He had no authority since they hadn’t conferred it upon Him.

Politics is always about power.

So Jesus asked them a simple question: The prophet, John the Baptist—did you give him authority or did God? Fearing the crowd, the politicians refused to answer.

Then Jesus dropped a truth bomb: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

Why would Jesus say such a thing? Is He trying to embarrass or anger them? No, though He surely knew He would do both. Rather, He is doing what He always does—speaking truth.

The leaders already confessed that they did not listen to the voice of God as it fell from the lips of the prophet. But Jesus says prostitutes and tax collectors did. They listened and they believed.

We learn from this that entrance into Jesus’ kingdom has absolutely nothing to do with one’s social status, gender, wealth, race or any other worldly identifier or achievement.

It’s a kingdom of pure grace.

As such, the kingdom of God—which is in the world but not from it—is antithetical to and transcendent over all earthly domains. And Jesus would like for you to be part of it, to follow Him in His Way.

Would you seriously consider it?  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Prince & The President

Then the devil took Him up and revealed to Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give You the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to You if You will worship me.” ~Luke 4:5-7

Without apology I imbibe as little news as possible. Nevertheless, this trickled in last week.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday meant to allow churches and other religious organizations to become more active politically, though the actual implications of the document appeared limited. . . .

[Trump said] “We are giving our churches their voices back and we are giving them back in the highest form."

Since reading this, I’ve had two nagging trains of thought—theological more than political.

Trump is quoted above as saying “we” (I don’t know if this is a magisterial we or if there’s a Republican in his pocket) “are giving churches their voices back . . .” 

As a Christ-follower this raises very serious questions.

First there’s a matter of fact: Were churches silenced prior to Trump?

Really?

Then there’s a matter of faith: Who gives the church her voice—the State?

Roll that around awhile…

Let’s board my second thought-train now.

Greg Boyd asks, “If Jesus viewed the desire to acquire political power to be a temptation of the devil, why do so many American Christians fight to acquire as much of this political power as they can?” (Keith Giles, Jesus Untangled, p. 16)

That’s a good question, Greg!

A few hundred years after Jesus, the church was seduced with secular power and she’s been hooked ever since.

Politics is the church’s worst problem. It is her constant temptation, the occasion of her greatest disasters, the trap continually set for her by the prince of this world. ~Jacques Ellul

Dear reader, the devil’s promises are hallucinogenic poison.  

So just say “No.” Jesus did.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

God & Kenny Wallace

Last week Shelly and I enjoyed a baseball game at Busch Stadium (aka, “Baseball Heaven”) with some dear friends of ours.

Midway through the game, a gentleman struck up a conversation with my pal and we began to talk shop about Cardinals baseball. (Yes, I butted in because I’m friendly like that.)

Before long the game got exciting and we were all reveling in the thrill of victory. It was a glorious day, dear reader!

As we were leaving the parking garage my friend said, “Man, that guy looked familiar. It was his mannerisms and the way he talked. I feel like I’ve seen him before…”

A few days later he realized who it was: NASCAR driver, Kenny Wallace.

(After a walk-off Grand Slam, a jubilant Kenny shot this video. If you watch without blinking you can almost see us behind him and his wife.)

What?

I was yelling, laughing, and high-fiving with Kenny Wallace? I hadn’t a clue. But how could I?   

I’ve heard of him but I don’t follow NASCAR. I’d never seen his face. I wasn’t expecting to run into a race car driver. It wasn’t like he was carrying a sign or something. Kenny was incognito.

So how could I possibly have known?

Naturally, such an encounter makes one think.

My mind went to C.S. Lewis.

We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him. (Mere Christianity, p. 50)

My premise is this: It’s entirely possible to meaningfully interact and connect with another person whom one does not actually know.

If this is possible with a human person, is it reasonable to think it’s possible with a Divine one?

It seems plausible, in fact it appears highly likely, that one could relationally experience God but not truly know who He is.

Of course, there’s a big difference between Kenny and us and God and us.

I didn’t know Kenny and Kenny didn’t know me. (I’d imagine if Kenny reads this he’ll think: “I didn’t know that was Steve Griffin!”)

But God knows the one who doesn’t know Him—and He loves this person immensely. Upon what levels does God mercifully and lovingly relate to those who sincerely, yet ignorantly, interact with Him?

Jesus is our only hope of salvation. He’s the only Way to the Father. But is it possible that the narrow way is wider than it appears?

I know some will label me a heretic for having, much less expressing such ruminations.

So…

If you find me burned at a stake, don’t believe the suicide note.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Moral Injury

Last week I pointed out that over the last 30 years or so, the US has killed around 3,000,000 people in the Middle East. Now, I’d like for us to think about what we’re doing to our own sons and daughters. 

A Vietnam veteran and dear brother in Christ shared this affecting video with me a couple of weeks ago.


The soldiers…they just wanna go home.

It’s a great line delivered by a great actor. And I’m sure it’s very true.

Yet many of them don’t get what they want. They don’t go home.

Thankfully, most of them do. But here’s the thing: the soldier who goes home is not the soldier who left home.

There are physical wounds. There are mental wounds. Some heal, some don’t.

And then there’s suicide.

We may quibble over how many and why veterans are killing themselves. Still, it’s alarming that,

Suicide rates within the veteran population often were double and sometimes triple the civilian suicide rate in several states. . . . Almost one out of every five suicides committed nationally is a veteran. . . [yet] veterans make up only about 10 percent of the adult population in the United States.

Something’s wrong.

That “something” is what Robert Meagher calls moral injury.

“Moral injury” has most commonly come to mean the transgression, the violation, of what is right, what one has long held to be sacred—a core belief or moral code—and thus wounding or, in the extreme, mortally wounding the psyche, soul, or one’s humanity. (Killing From The Inside Out, p. 4)

Meagher’s thesis is many war veterans are morally injured. They suffer not only from what they’ve seen, but also from what they’ve done.

He shares a scribbled note from Noah Pierce, a veteran of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Mom, I am so sorry. My life has been hell . . . I am freeing myself from the desert once and for all. . . . I am not a good person. I have done bad things. I have taken lives. Now it’s time to take mine.

Noah then shot himself in the head.

Two questions, dear reader:

1) Why is the US killing 3,000,000 people in the Middle East?

2) What’s it doing to those doing the killing?

Think about it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Killing For Peace

Making war has apparently become as addictive to American political leaders as crack cocaine or heroin. ~Jonathan Shay 

War is big business and under our new businessman-in-chief, business is absolutely booming.


 Using poorly paid professional soldiers for profit is old hat. We all know this.

But did you know that the US has been waging war for 222 out of the last 239 years?1

Please, take a moment. Let that sink in.

Here’s something else to contemplate.

The Washington DC-based Physicians for Social Responsibility (PRS) released a landmark study [in April of 2015] concluding that the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million, and could be as high as 2 million. . . . In Iraq alone, the US-led war from 1991 to 2003 killed 1.9 million Iraqis; then from 2003 onwards around 1 million: totaling just under 3 million Iraqis dead over two decades.2

So, over the past 3 decades the US has slaughtered around 3,000,000 people in the Middle East—I’m guessing the vast majority of them civilian.

Again, take a moment. Let that really sink in.

Dear reader, this is the way of empire. It’s the way of “the thief” who comes to kill and destroy (John 10:10).

This is not the Way of Jesus who comes to give abundant life.

Here’s my concern…

How can people who claim to follow Jesus support the savagery of empire?

Evangelicals who self-identify as “pro-life” and yet shamelessly vote for warmongering politicians are deluding themselves. They may be anti-abortion but they’re certainly not pro-life.

I confess that I was once among this crowd—the “Christian Right.” But as I walk with Christ (I speak only of my own walk, not yours) He is leading me in a different Way.    

Jesus teaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). 

Yes, and they’ll be called lots of other things too.

Even so, killing our way to peace doesn’t seem to be working, does it?

__________________________


Friday, April 7, 2017

"Just War" Or Just War?

Please note: These thoughts (and others) were first published on September 13, 2013 (see here). So, no, I’m not picking on Trump. I’m simply observing that some things never change.

Dear reader, the appetite for war is voracious.

**************************

Something to consider: How would we Americans feel if the top leaders of a country (a country we never threatened or attacked) assaulted us with missiles? 

This is precisely what our leaders did to Syria. 

Syria is in the midst of a civil war. And as is the case with many civil wars it can be more than a little challenging to know who—if anyone—is wearing the white hats. 

Furthermore, like all civil wars, innocent non-combatants are caught in the middle. (Hence the “noble rebels” are fond of fighting Assad by murdering Christians.) 

Speaking of Christians

The 16th century reformer Pierre Viret said, “There is nothing which Christians should be more wary to employ nor which is less suited to their profession [than war]” (Joel McDurmon, The Bible & War in America, p. 29). 

Yet oddly enough, it seems American Christians are often eager to beat the drums of war (especially if the President is a Republican). After all, what’s wrong with killing people when one is always on the side of the angels?

But are our wars “Just” or are they just wars? 

Reflecting on the unconscionably high rate of suicide among US veterans, Robert Emmet Meagher observes,

Every war is just, from the perspective of those waging it, and every killer is a hero, to the side they are on. That is the wall our veterans still run up against today. They are expected to deny their own pain, ignore what war has taught them, and take up their civil status as heroes. (Killing From The Inside Out, p. xv)

Jesus calls His followers to a different Way.

He says: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). 

When He speaks of the blessedness of peace-making, I don’t think He has blowing up Syrians in mind. Do you? 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Fear & Trembling

Fear is a powerful drug.
It’s a fantastic political tactic.
It’s a wonderful manipulator.
It’s an effective motivator.
But it’s a really lousy religion.
~ John Pavlovitz

Have you ever thought about how fear is routinely used to manipulate or motivate us?

Fear is used to sell virtually everything: cars, tires, and life insurance are classics. But, clever marketers also use it to sell breakfast cereal and deodorant. As a result we purchase all sorts of things that a generation ago were considered unnecessary. . .

But it’s not just marketers who use fear to control others: doctors, politicians, newspersons, preachers, parents, peers…the list is lengthy. Sometimes it’s warranted. Many times it’s not. It’s the latter that concerns me.

Like never before, we need to recognize and reject fearmongering. To be sure, propaganda isn’t exactly new. But with the unparalleled influence of today’s social media, discernment is sorely needed (as is an “off” switch).

Jesus once told a weary crowd: “Come to Me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Maybe today He would invite those with anxious minds: Come to Me and I will give you peace.

“Why are you so afraid?” He asks (Mark 4:40).

It’s a piercing question: Why do the things that trouble me so, so trouble me?

Think about it, won't you? 

Jesus is no scaremonger. He says, “Don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

You see, the Kingdom of God is governed by something far greater than fear: Love.

Love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. ~1John 4:18

Would you like to walk peacefully with Christ in the Way of perfect love? You certainly can.

But you’ll have to leave the fearmongers and their fearmongering ways behind. 

That’s the deal. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Something's Missing

As I catch snippets of news, Facebook fights, and sometimes actually talk to people; I’m finding that lots of folks primarily think of evangelicals as people who: 1) hate abortion, 2) hate gay marriage, 3) love guns, and 4) vote Republican.

Dear reader, what do any of these things have to do with Jesus?

Now, we can debate over who is more to blame for how evangelicalism in America is perceived—the media or evangelicals themselves—but what seems beyond dispute is that this perception is very real and widespread. (Personally, I believe it is real, widespread, and deserved.)

A philosophical question: Is evangelicalism—divorced from Christ—a meaningful or logically consistent term? 

I don’t think it is.

Evangel is defined as “the Christian gospel (good news).” When evangelicalism is no longer rightly or truly associated with Jesus—the only Evangel—it’s simply another failing “ism.”

We [evangelicals] proclaim to follow a man who chose to affiliate himself with the poor and dispossessed, who called the political and religious leaders of his day to account, who saw and loved people whom others had discarded. . . . When “evangelical” starts to sound like very bad news for very many Americans, it has drifted far from its roots. . . . I can’t defend my people [evangelicals]. I barely recognize them.

Perhaps when Jesus says, “apart from Me you can do nothing” He means it.

The culture needs more Jesus. So does the church.

Maybe you and I can work on that. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick, The Humble & Fearless

Once again, St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. While we commemorate the patron saint of the Emerald Isle, we should pause for a moment to thoughtfully consider: Who was this man?

Legends about Patrick abound; but truth is best served by our seeing two solid qualities in him: He was humble and he was courageous. The determination to accept suffering and success with equal indifference guided the life of God’s instrument for winning most of Ireland for Christ.

Details of his life are uncertain. Current research places his dates of birth and death a little later than earlier accounts. Patrick may have been born in Dunbarton, Scotland, Cumberland, England, or in northern Wales. He called himself both a Roman and a Briton. At 16, he and a large number of his father’s slaves and vassals were captured by Irish raiders and sold as slaves in Ireland. Forced to work as a shepherd, he suffered greatly from hunger and cold.

After six years, Patrick escaped, probably to France, and later returned to Britain at the age of 22. His captivity had meant spiritual conversion. . . . His great desire was to proclaim the Good News to the Irish.

In a dream vision it seemed “all the children of Ireland from their mothers’ wombs were stretching out their hands” to him. He understood the vision to be a call to do mission work in pagan Ireland. Despite opposition from those who felt his education had been defective, he was sent to carry out the task. He went to the west and north, where the faith had never been preached, obtained the protection of local kings and made numerous converts.

He suffered much opposition from pagan druids and was criticized in both England and Ireland for the way he conducted his mission.

In a relatively short time, the island had experienced deeply the Christian spirit, and was prepared to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe.1

I like the opening observation that he had two “solid qualities,” viz. humility and courage. Oh, that we would have such solid qualities of heart and soul!

It is further observed,

Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. So complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission, he feared nothing -not even death.2

Here we discover the bedrock of his exemplary character: love for, total devotion to, and complete confidence in God. This is not the way of the world—and look at the rotting fruits of godless living and thinking!

But Jesus calls us to a different Way than that of the world. He says, Follow Me.

Will we do this? Will we trust Him and His Way in every aspect of our lives? I assure you, following Jesus and His Way is the greatest privilege we will ever have in this life or in the life to come.

I leave you with a prayerful verse penned by St. Patrick.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

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1http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Saints/saint.aspx?id=1325

2http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=89