There are plenty of debatable issues among Christians. Valid topics on which reasonable believers disagree. The life of a Jesus-follower is marked by freedom from judgment and condemnation because of the work of Jesus on the cross, so we should give one another a wide berth.
There’s one subject, however, on which the Bible is clear: the Jesus-follower’s relationship with hate.
Hatred can find no quarter in the body of Christ and we must be relentless on this front. The Bible warns that there will come a time when the love of many will grow cold and that people will fall away, betray, and hate one another. (Matthew 24:10-13) Jesus is describing a time of spiritual and interpersonal ugliness that permeates even the visible church. Anyone who’s had a taste of it already cringes at the recollection. Continue Reading →
Once I accidentally evacuated a Starbucks.
Okay, it wasn’t an accident that I did it but it was accidental I had the authority to pull it off. As it happened, I was enjoying some quiet in a window seat at the coffee shop when the fire alarm went off.
Initially, I reacted like everyone else in the place. I continued about my business and assumed momentarily the staff would turn it off. They didn’t. Continue Reading →
Not sure if you’ve noticed but there are a lot of cranks in the church of Christ. That would be splendid, if we ran like the early Model T’s that required cranking to get their engines revving. In my experience, though, church cranks are more likely to kill momentum than to inspire it.
Cranky church people have been memorialized in books, movies, prime time, late night television, and church lore as well. We’re well-versed in the stereotype of the sourpuss hard-wired to take issue with every issue. Until Jesus returns to take us home, cranks will walk and worship among us. Continue Reading →
Driving home from a breakfast date today, I tuned my radio to the local Christian radio station. (That’s right. It’s Rhode Island so I’m only aware of the one.) Here in the rural area of RI, it’s not uncommon to pick up one or two stations at a time on one dial location and that’s what happened.
For several miles, it was obvious I was driving on the line where the airwaves intersect for several stations, none of them able to dominate. I heard a crossfire of contemporary Christian music, an interview with a noteworthy Christian, and a sermon. I wanted to hear the sermon and kept hoping that station would take over but the three continued to battle it out for several minutes until I finally opted for silence. Continue Reading →
Does God ever call people to incompetence? Does He ever ask us to do things He knows we won’t do as well as someone else could?
Yesterday, I read these verses in Habakkuk during my morning devotions:
“What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:18-20 ESV
These are sobering words and it was early morning so in my self-confidence, I prayed and recorded my prayer in a status update on my Facebook page. This is what I wrote: “Today I will ask God to show me the worthless idols of my own making in my life. Today I will keep silence before Him who hears and speaks, the only living God, the One who created me and I’ll pay attention. He is the Truth in a world of deception but He cries out and today I’ll have ears that hear.”
That’s a lovely prayer, isn’t it? I thought so, too.
I brushed my teeth. Walked out of my front door. And God immediately answered that prayer. That sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? And, well, it was, but first – – – Continue Reading →
We’re a nation of wrestlers. Daily we contend with the greater issues of our humanity. How do we define gender and sexuality? How do we love our neighbors – those within and those without our borders? How can we protect our loved ones from violence and terrorists? Is it ever moral to take a life?
We hear a great raging river of voices – most are angry and shouting, others are fearful or alarmed, some speak reason but are quickly silenced, others are almost too meek to be heard – almost. And we, the followers of Jesus Christ who comprise the church, stand on the banks of this cultural Nile wondering how we will ever cross safely to the other side. Continue Reading →
Absolutely no one is listening.
I know you’ve noticed. Lots of people talking, shouting, tweeting, blogging, debating, declaring, speeching, preaching, sign-toting, status-updating, well . . . you know. We are a nation of assertive, right-knowing, ground-standing, self-empowered individuals and no one, no one, is going to run our lives. We’re all going to do it our way.
And it’s here, in this time, to these people, that we share the gospel. It’s into this fray we send our messages, like stray balloons, of love, grace, truth, mercy, holiness, and eternal life. (Mine keeps getting caught in the power lines, bursting into flames before it ever reaches the crowd.) This is the place and time our loving Father determined for us to represent Him, this throbbing, pulsing, vein-popping outpost of glory. Here is where He’s sent us to deliver. Even when no one is listening. Continue Reading →
If you can keep your faith when all about you
Are losing theirs and demanding you do, too.
If you can trust in God when others deny Him
But not hate them for denying what is true.
If you can be despised and not give in to hatred,
Or being pressured choose not to compromise,
Or faced with fearful times not yield to fretting,
And hold fast to truth when barraged with lies.
Last week, I was stricken with a painful infection, one that had me in agony for several long hours. All I could comprehend was pain. My entire focus was on accessing relief. Driven to secure a solution, in four short hours I called my doctor’s office three times and the pharmacy twice.
When I finally experienced relief (only a few hours after receiving a prescription), I happened to read a report by Open Doors about the plight of Christians in countries hostile to our faith, countries where believers suffer pain and hardship for which there is no immediate prescription.
I thought about how we sometimes romanticize persecution and martyrdom as though the brothers and sisters who experience it are some other breed of humans, a people somehow impervious to pain and suffering, a people somehow resigned to yielding their personal hopes and the dreams they have for their children over to a greater cause. All the while we, Christians in countries friendlier to faith, are free to make sacrifice a choice, an a la carte option on some larger Christian menu. Continue Reading →
Dear Listening American Church (those who have ears, let them hear),
This week, our country will witness another transition of power at the highest level. The election was brutal on the entire nation but the Christian church took hits from within and without. Many are feeling, at the very least, beat up, battered, or bewildered. Others are resentful and angry. Still others harbor self-righteousness and smug pride. All of us are weary and wondering what the future holds. Now is an opportunity for the church to facilitate healing, restoration of truth, and reconciliation within the body of Christ. Continue Reading →