Category Archives: Christian

generous

Persecuted though they were, Christians in the early church were noticed by emperors, some of whom even wrote that Christians put others to shame by serving the poor, aiding the sick, and caring for the dead and dying.  In other words, those inside the church took care of people better than those outside!

These Christians were not simply known for their beliefs, but by the actions those beliefs inspired.  Isaiah writes of this progression: “Feed the hungry and help those in trouble.  Then your light will shine out from the darkness and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” (Isaiah 58:10).  For Isaiah, “light” would shine as a result of good actions.  And as bearers of the Light of the World, they are truly our actions that will prove to our communities who Jesus really is.

What would our community, our city, look like if followers of Jesus became known for this again: caring for God’s creation, for fighting for all of human life – unborn and born – for peacemaking, for forgiving those who wrong us, for extending God’s love to all?

Let us be generous. Let us live life beside each other, united in God’s Spirit and serving the world God has made.  Let’s join together to live the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

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they like jesus

but not the church...

but not the church...

I’m disturbed.

Ask anyone on the street:  What do you think about God?  What do you think about Jesus?  What do you think about Spirituality?

Then ask them:  What do you think about Christians?  The Church?  Christianity?

I’ll bet we’d find that people – from all walks of life, religious and irreligious (with the exception of Bill Maher, perhaps) – have a positive reaction to God, immensely respect Jesus, even practice some sort of Spirituality.

But Christian changes everything.  Descriptives emerge:  bigotted, intolerant, homophobic, subculture, controlling, hate.

How in the world did we change the world to the point that the world likes Jesus (at least in their limited understanding, but like him nonetheless they do) but can’t stand His followers?  Certainly there are wrong perceptions, but the fact remains that perceptions shape people’s realities.  And as Christians, we’ve given more than enough fodder for people’s negative perceptions to become reality.

The question for us is not necessarily how to change their perceptions, but how to change how we shape those perceptions.

In other words, regardless of what narrow (and I mean this positively, not negatively) beliefs we have, how can we communicate love to our world.

More importantly, how can we communicate God’s love to God’s world.

Because as much as people may like Jesus…

…Jesus likes them more.

in god we trust?

MSNBC.com recently ran an article and online vote inquiring whether or not to keep the motto, “In God We Trust” on our national currency.  Michael Newdow, an athiest, has embroiled himself in a lawsuit to remove this motto because it carries overt religious overtones – because it prefers religion to non-religion.

You can imagine the stir this provokes in the “Christian” community.

Fury.  Outrage.  Disbelief.

Fear.

It is as if removing “In God We Trust” implies that our country, the United States of America, has abandoned its Christian and religious roots.  No wonder this provokes fear.

On the other hand, it seems to me that placing “God” on “Money” can too easily blur the distinction between the two.  It can lead us to delude ourselves, believing that God approves of our religious nationalism, that God somehow feels better about Himself because His name is splashed across Benjamin Franklin’s bust.  Rather than reminding us that we should put our trust in God (and not in financial security), the motto on the money slyly implies that God is quite okay with our reliance on something other than Him.

He stamps His approval on our consumerism.

His name validates our ambition.

Worse, it gives the false impression that ours is a “Christian” nation (as if writing something about God on money proves that we really seek to follow Jesus).

I have a better idea.  Instead of indignantly asserting that “this is one more step towards secularism”, let’s acknowledge that we Christians have often done a poor job of revealing who Jesus is in a way such that all can be drawn to Him (John 12:32).  Let’s decide to show our friends, community – even our nation – that we trust in God by what we do more than what words on paper read.

right or good?

I’ve been contemplating this question for some time now. Evangelical Christians, especially here in the US (I know this type of Christianity best) are concerned (and rightly so) about correct belief. We spend inordinate amounts of time studying and proving ourselves and our doctrines right. After all, it’s what someone believes that is important, right? We’ve all heard the statement, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere” and we know the answer: “You could be sincerely wrong.”

We devote entire ministries to proving creationism right and evolution wrong, writing books proving the historical accuracy of the Bible, websites to disproving a heretical tenets of particular groups, whole denominations to protect our earnest beliefs in one interpretation of a biblical concept such as the baptism in the Holy Spirit or social practices deemed sinful such as smoking, drinking, dancing, singing alongside instruments or voting Democrat.

Christians are obsessed with being right.

Too often, we’ve forgotten how to be good.

Unfortunately, being good and being right don’t always go hand in hand. In striving to be right, it is all too easy to develop an escapist mentality and disappear into judmentalism – to live our lives south of grace.

When Jesus was approached, he was asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to be saved?” (Mark 10:17). Good teacher, not right teacher. Perhaps it was already understood by the questioner that Jesus was “right”; he was, after all, asking Jesus an incredibly important question. But this is significant: the young man recognized Jesus as good.

In Matt 25:23, Jesus will address those entering His Kingdom as, “good and faithful”. Notice what comes first: good.

Think about it. Are Christians known for being good in our world? If you were to ask random people on the street what they think of Christians, what do you suppose their typical response is? Would they answer, “Christians are kind”, “Christians look out for others”, “Christians care about the poor and oppressed”, “Christians are loving”, “Christians open their arms to everyone”?

Or do you imagine another response?

“Christians are bigoted”, “Christians are narrow-minded”, “Christians think they’re better than me”, “Christians are hateful and exclusive”.

Though there are wonderful exceptions, the rule is that we are better known for our attempts at professing to be right than we are for our actions to be good.

There’s a world out there that needs good Christians: Christians who are good to those, even, who we consider wrong. Jesus’ goodness was not only extended towards those who accepted His message, to those who were His disciples. He fed the 5000, many of whom may have cried out, “crucify him!”. He even said, “Love your enemies, and do good.” (Luke 6:35).

Yet, in all He did, He did good.

May we be more and more like our Good Teacher.

everyone who seeks

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In his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis writes, “Everyone who seeks, finds.” Of Jesus, in Matthew 7:8, the same is quoted: “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds.

Notice that neither Jesus nor Lewis place any requirements on the seeker, the asker, the knocker. There is no list of do’s or don’t’s to keep. Neither are there any beliefs one must hold in order to approach that which one is seeking. The only requirement is the desire: asking, seeking. Seeking truth, asking for the way.

This is the beauty of God’s words – God in flesh speaking to people then and to us now. This is the promise held out to everyone, regardless of where in the world someone lives or what in the world someone believes:

the woman who seeks, finds.

Period.

the man who asks, receives.

End of discussion.

It is promise that is held out to every seeker in every age, every country, every religion, every creed. Jesus is only exclusive in that the ones who will find are those who humbly seek; the ones who receive are the ones who dare to ask; the ones to whom the door is opened are the very ones doing the knocking. It doesn’t presuppose that those who are seeking, asking or knocking know what they want – they only know that they want:

It.

Something.

More“.

And it, something, more is held out to all – to us and to all who are far off. Everyone who seeks, finds.

the medium is the message

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Spring semester at opened with a class on Personal Transformation and one article I read by John Stott made some startling points, two of which hit home with me.

The first was his implication that those who preach the gospel are first preaching themselves, that we as Christians are our own first important message. This rings clearer when we realize that the first things people see is who we are before they hear what comes out of our mouths. This begs the question, “What are we presenting to those who are not Christians?” In other words, we “need to look like what [we] are talking about. Authenticity gets across.”

What do we look like? How do we act? Or respond to people? Are we Christlike? Do we love like He loved? These questions should shadow us, haunt us. To spur us on, for his coup de grace, Stott quotes Reverend Iskandar Jadeed (a former Arab Muslim): “If all Christians were Christians – that is, Christlike – then there would be no more Islam today.” It might do us well to substitute “poverty”, “inequality”,”oppression”, or any number of social or spiritual ills for “Islam”. If Christians were Christians, there would be no more ____ today.”

God transform us into the likeness of Christ.

vote right…

Here’s an interesting tidbit from Rick Scarborough (who, on his website has a section entitled “Patriot Pastors“) as he endorses Mike Huckabee for President:

“[Our goal is to get] people who love Jesus to register and then vote their values – not as Republicans nor Democrats – but as follower and sons of God and Jesus Christ. If we can get them to do that and then present to them what the candidates believe, I just happen to believe that the majority of them will vote right.”

So, what exactly is like to “vote right”? Who’s standards will we employ? Who’s values? Does the Sanctity of Life value limit itself only to the unborn? Or does it extend to those facing the death penalty? How about the millions of children living in poverty or the 1.35 millions children who are homeless on any given night? Are their lives sacred? Are they included? If we’re going to vote “pro-life”, let’s vote truly pro-life.

How about stewardship? Do we see care for the environment and political fiscal responsibility as Christian values?

So, back to Mr. Scarborough’s quote, how indeed do we “vote right”?