Monday, March 11, 2013

Christian Poster Children

This quote is for those of us who have to at least "show" that we're all put together and presentable. You know how it is. You've built a reputation with people and no sign of weakness is acceptable or the whole facade comes down like an overturned pottery cabinet. Maybe it's not a part of your job description like it seems to be for pastors, but you relish the company you keep by appearing "spiritual." You get satisfaction or find your identity in being a Christian Poster Child. I think this quote is for all of us in some small way:
You are most loving, patient, kind and gracious when you are aware that there is no truth that you could give to another that you don't desperately need yourself. You are most humble and gentle when you think that the person you are ministering to is more like you than unlike you. (p.23)
 If this is true (and I think it is) then the attitude I need to take with me when I open my Bible is one of introspection--one that says, "I need this most."

Have you ever thought you remembered the Bible saying something or other about that thing that really irks you in someone else? Have you ever picked it up only to search for that verse that could wither your opponent in an argument? Yeah, me too. We need to stop. We need to remember that aside for God's grace no human depravity is outside of our reach.

Imagine how the church would change if we integrated this philosophy into...

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Follow Jesus Away from Racism

John 4

Racist. Today this label can get you fired, ostracized, and branded untouchable in our culture. But as I look around, racism seems to be alive and well despite the efforts of both religious and non-religious people.

Racism, as I see it, is when I think I'm better than someone else because of what race I am, what my race has accomplished or what my race is capable of doing. It is a branch of elitism and prejudiced is a related term.

Jesus knew about racism and intentionally placed himself right in the middle of the issue. One of the realities of his day was a deep-seeded resentment between Jews and Samaritans. How did he respond? In stead of walking around Samaria to get to Galilee from Judea he walked right into Samaria and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink (totally scandalous!). Their ensuing conversation is incredibly enlightening because Jesus showed concern for her as a person. He did not profile her. He merely offered her what she wanted most: Redemption.

As a Christian I am sensitive to this issue because Christians are sometimes labeled intolerant, sexist, homophobic or bigoted elitists. Nice. Some of that criticism is deserved, especially when some of us go around dropping "truth bombs" on hapless citizens without concern for the effect it will have. What sets us apart is our claim to know the truth. That's something from we can't shy away, nor apologize. But, truth must be packaged in love (Ephesians 4:15). We'll be getting somewhere when we are as concerned with the way in which our message is received as we are on "getting it off our chest."

Ultimately, racism won't die until Jesus returns and banishes all our superiority complexes. But in the mean time I think we'll get closest to what Jesus did with the woman of Samaria by facing the problem head-on. If Jesus didn't think he was too good to sit at a Samaritan well, neither should we.

Paul's words in Galatians 3:28 seem like a good way to end:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you [Christians] are all one in Christ Jesus."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Why is there so much Suffering?

I just read an article that came in the pre-Christmas mail from RZIM. It was written by Michael Ramsden--the  director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. In the article he makes two points I find fascinating:
1. When he travels to the parts of the world where suffering seems most severe, he fields no questions about suffering and the moral character of God. The nationals, it seems, trust God in everything, even when things are going well. It is here in the western part of the world that the questions about evil and pain are loudest. Why is this so? That leads to the second point, which is really an observation mixed with hypothesis (but fascinating none-the-less),
2. "Maybe we struggle with suffering so much in the West because we are so comfortable most of the time that we feel we don't need God. We don't rely on Him on a daily basis, and so we don't really know Him as we should. When suffering comes along, therefore, it is not so much that it takes us away from God, but that it reveals to us that we haven't really been close to Him in the first place."

When I pray in times of difficulty it is helpful to remember that in praying to Jesus, I am praying to one who has suffered on an incalculable scale himself. Isaiah says of him:
"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed" (53:3-5 NIV).
To pull these threads together, it seems to me we must, if we are Christians, live in fellowship with the "Suffering Savior" whether in good or bad times. Are you in a "sunny" phase of life? Be grounding your faith in his word. Store up spiritual strength for the times of clouds and rain. And if you are in a storm, cling to him. "The Lord's our Rock, in Him we hide, A shelter in the time of storm; Secure whatever ill betide, A Shelter in the time of storm" ("A Shelter in the Time of Storm" by Vernon J. Charlesworth).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Cacophony of Humanity

Psalm 19:1-2

I'm going to blink and this season will be gone. September and October are my favorite months. The sun streams through the green room windows and outside the dogwood berries show bright red against brown-tipped leaves. These days you have to make a conscious effort to enjoy nature around here. Construction vehicles are repairing the railroad tracks and the road is being widened. Trees are being cut down and trucks use "jake brakes" to roar to a stop at the light. I know there are birds and crickets out there, but it's hard to get past the cacophony of humanity.

As a shepherd boy, David spent many nights out on the quiet Bethlehem hills. He did not have to contend with the noise we do today. He wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard."  I'm sure that was true then, but today it's hard to filter out all the racket.

Do you know a place where you can go to hear nature praising God? Is it naive to think that it's possible to get away from all your responsibilities for an hour once in a while to walk with God unplugged from all the trappings of technology? And, what about the laundry? That certainly won't get done if you go out for a while.

I am a nature lover. Can you tell? As more and more of the planet gets tattooed by pavement I think it takes more and more of a commitment to overcome what Richard Louv calls the modern epidemic of  "nature deficit disorder." I venture to say many people have no idea what I'm talking about in this piece. The best way to come to an understanding is to try it and see for yourself. Google "hiking trails" in your area. Get some sturdy shoes, a camera, a water bottle and your Bible. Consider this your invitation to go listen to nature's praise.