INSPIRED BY OUR YOUNG PEOPLE AND THEIR DESIRE FOR A SAFER WORLD

I know that many people say that they don’t have the maturity to speak to political issues. Well, many have had the bad fortune of being killed within the system that has its flaws, many of those flaws aided by the lack of vision on the part of the political parties and leadership.

Young people are in many ways idealists believing they can make a difference and these tragic killings are driving them to desire and demand change. And I for one say that change is good. (I think our government Leader says that). I say that it’s good for our youth to find some purpose in life other than mere academics or what might be some other trivial pursuits.

Back in the days of Vietnam protests many of us were actually too immature to understand fully the dynamics of war and our country’s involvement. And to this day books are coming out trying to fathom just went wrong. To wait for all the answers is to be indecisive. I say ‘go with the impulse’.

All I remember as a young Christian in college was that I wanted to join a movement that cried out ‘no more deaths’.

We adults are so uptight about making money, surviving day-to-day, getting ahead and the like that we forget there are greater goals in life. When I see our young people and our communities coming together against some very large forces in this country I say ‘bravo’. I hope they keep going and keep leading us to find greater causes for our lives and the life of this nation. They are shaking up our existential crises. And that’s a good thing.

Some say they don’t have the ‘right’ to tell the adults how this country should be governed. I say, ‘they are the ones dying and have unfortunately earned the right that the adults have abrogated’.

I am not sure how many of these young people are believers but frankly I don’t care because as they put themselves out there for this nation and they are living in the way Jesus taught. NOT JUST TALKING or BELIEVING but DOING.

I grew as a Christian during Vietnam. I grew because I learned to step out of my and my country’s comfort zone. I learned to live more faithfully, if not idealistically, to my Lord who calls me to stand with the prophets and with Jesus. Jesus was scorned for his identification with those on the left (there’s a word to make some of you nervous). Jesus shook up the status quo and parted ways with the religious RIGHT because they were WRONG.

I am not sure what will come from all the outcries and marches of our young people but it seems that a whole lot of adult people are getting on that train. It’s the train of glory and it goes against the grain of the big money and power. I like that (even though I mixed a couple of metaphors).

By the way, I served in the military for one year (67-68) before being medically discharged. (It was a small thing but not as small as a bone spur).

 

MY FRIEND GARY

My friend, Gary, died this past week. His body was ravaged by cancer for almost a year. Gary was 66, not quite making it to retirement.

A faithful Christian, husband, father, grandfather and brother, his body finally succumbed to the groanings and travails of this earth. So many prayed for his healing and strength. They prayed by touch, by distance and most assuredly in the name of Jesus.

Gary kept saying to doctors and friends alike that his problem was a ‘win, win’ situation. He quoted scripture that to live is Christ and to die is even greater gain. And yet a great earthly sorrow darkened his last days until the comfort of hospice and his loving family along with some special doses of morphine allowed him to pass from this earthly life into eternity.

Some friends and I were talking about how that should have been us if this illness had anything to do with living a less than good moral and faithful life, which Gary lived. And I question the notion of ‘faith healing’ that was so desired by and for Gary. This world is frail and broken by all kinds of things and I just can’t fathom why Gary had to die. Death seems to be no respecter of persons. It is called in the Bible ‘the enemy’.

And yet when I look to the Christ on the cross I see a God who suffers with us while God works to restore and reconcile God’s creation. And in that suffering I do not know how my good and loving God is bringing about God’s purposes but I trust this Christ whom I know, the same Christ who in his own agony said to his Father, “Thy will be done.”

The earliest Christians were always facing one hardship or another. Everything from illness to persecution and martyrdom was their lot and we read in Hebrews 11:16 that they looked for a better home. This one breaks down after a while.

Sometimes people report marvelous miracles. Other times I believe God is quietly transforming death into life. And through it all I trust God. So do many of you.

Now this part may wonderfully disturb you but I believe that Gary, being with Christ, is praying for me even as I write. I believe that Gary is as much alive now as he was 10 days ago, and even more so. And why wouldn’t he pray for others and me in the presence of Christ.

Thank you Gary. God bless his family and friends and may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus be praised for Gary’s life and witness. I miss you, my friend.

SYMPATHIES FOR SUTHERLAND SPRINGS …..AND SECONDLY

First of all. The church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas has left good folks dead, families and friends in unspeakable grief and a nation once again in mourning. Flags are again at half-staff. Many churches are on lock down and people are scratching their heads again, wondering ‘why?’

May the Christ who innocently suffered and died and who understands so completely such grief come to the side of the mourners and bring those who died into his eternal bosom of peace. This is first and foremost on our hearts.

But there is a concurrent and redundant issue. Mr. Trump proclaims this a mental health problem and the man as deranged. This, according to his expert knowledge. Who can question him? I can. Any person on the one hand who slaughters innocent men and women and children in church is in some sense ‘deranged’. On the other hand the man’s mental status did not prevent him from knowing how to secure and use a powerful semi automatic weapon to take these precious lives.

I’ll tell you what I think is deranged in the sense of being disturbed and irrational. Deranged is a country and lawmakers that believe the semi automatic guns somehow fall under the second amendment rights. That’s absurd and unfathomable. Making such weapons available to deranged persons or anyone else who could at any given moment become deranged is beyond my comprehension for a civilized nation that wants her people to be safe.

The President says this isn’t a gun situation. Bull…. This man could not have done the unspeakable horror he did with a pistol. The availability of semi automatic weapons poses a grave danger to our way of life and if congress won’t do something about it, maybe a national referendum would give the people of this country a hand in the decision making.

I am a pastor and as such I would want to know that my parishioners didn’t die in vain if their deaths address and change a serious problem in this country. That little Baptist church in Sutherlands and all those congregants have a special place not only in our hearts but also in the future of this country.

Why are these kinds of weapons available? To create a militia that can take on an evil nation? I guess RPGs should be available to the general public. Sorry, I digress.

How long will this go on and how may people will died before we as a nation realize that the availability of these assault rifles, used in most of the mass killings, needs to be abolished?

May God grant wisdom and grace to our nation because He may just hold us all accountable for these little ones whose lives have been so cruelly taken from those who love them so much.

 

 

 

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

I can’t help but think that in our overthrowing one particular evil in a region of the world another more monstrous evil was perpetuated.

I am not sure of the exact application of these next words but they are worth considering. “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Jesus tells us ‘not to resist evil’ (Matthew 5:39). I have to wonder why this is so. Perhaps we don’t truly know what real evil is or how it is born. Perhaps only God knows. So Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer tells us to pray to the Father, ‘deliver us from evil.’

It is constructive to notice that Jesus in surrendering to evil was thereby the victor through his resurrection. The early Christians faced their deaths rather than ‘fight’ with worldly weapons against evil.

And then I love this verse, which so strengthens my allegiance to Jesus above any earthly rule. “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:15)

Our weapons are not material. They can’t be bought only believed. Let us continue to trust our God and where there be any evil in this world let us make sure it does not spring from us in the personal or worldly sphere.

Message for Roseburg

If I were a pastor in that little community of Roseburg, Oregon or any community that is connected to the people there here is what I would want to say:

Let’s stay with Jesus for a while. Let’s not hurry on even to a sense of victory. The resurrection is muted. We just need to stay with Jesus. Look at his body, the blood, his tears. See his weakness on that cross. Don’t turn away with some easy answer to the senseless tragedy. No, stay with Jesus. Each one of these lives, these precious souls whose death has pierced their loved ones hearts, belongs to Jesus, the Jesus who suffers with each aching heart.

Don’t rush to change laws right now. Don’t rush to blame. Don’t rush to judgment. Just stay with Jesus.

Don’t rush to revenge. Leave that to the Lord. There was none of that on Good Friday. They just stayed with Jesus, cried with Jesus, and something in each of them died with Jesus just as something in all of us dies with these young men and women, their families and communities right now. They stood for Jesus. Jesus stands with them. Their hurt is his continuing pain. Don’t rush to find the end just yet. Believe right where you are, right where your heart breaks right not. If you need to doubt or rage against heaven, go ahead because heaven knows how to bear our doubt, disbelief or uncontrollable anger. Heaven has been here before.

Just stay with Jesus right now. That’s right. Where their blood poured out it is mingled with the blood of Jesus. That word ‘Jesus’ right now is the only word we can speak.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, ONLY A SUFFERING GOD CAN HELP NOW. May each of our hearts find a place where that suffering God can rest for a while.

PRO LIFE SHOULD MEAN PRO LIFE ALWAYS. BABIES & GUNS.

PRO LIFE SHOULD MEAN PRO LIFE ALWAYS. BABIES & GUNS.

I am a Conservative, theologically, in that I believe in a sound Biblical, Christ- centered reading of Scripture, one that informs life within the church and within society. I am pro life, for life, for the flourishing of life by all means possible since life comes to us through Christ and in the image of God.

So here’s what I don’t understand. How can Conservatives say that they are ‘pro life’ and deny a woman’s right to choose what happens to and within her own body to save to life of a child that is to be born, and then in the same discussion NOT be willing to somehow deny the right to GUNS in order that little children as well as adults might have life along with their families and the society that would benefit from their lives.

Please don’t tell me it has to do with some obscure reference to ‘swords’ that Jesus makes when you can readily assess the heart and mind of Jesus with regards to peace and violence and ‘enemies’. Is it because we good capitalists don’t want to destroy the arms industry? Are we as conservative Christians so callous to life and so conformed to the world that we are so afraid of giving up guns rights to save more lives?

Help me out here. How can I defend the little child’s right to life within the womb when some of my brothers and sisters aren’t willing to TRY to save the lives of children in the school, on the streets, and in their homes and when they grow up?

This is a decision of THE CHURCH and not just an individual opinion based on a misinformed conscience. This is an opportunity for the church to speak a prophetic word to the church and say, in ‘Christ’s name, STOP.’

Don’t blame the criminals. They are only doing what they know to do. Blame the good people for doing nothing.

GOD KNOWS HOW WE FEEL

God knows how we feel. Ever hear that and wonder just how God who is so ‘up there’ and seemingly far from us can somehow know or even sense what we are going through? I am not sure how other religions grasp any concept of divine empathy but let me share what I know about Jesus being the one who put it on the divine heart to know you and me so well. Besides God knowing how many hairs on our head or how much more we are worth than all the sparrows. There’s something going on through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We know that Jesus was tempted, that he suffered, that he was obedient and that he ministered to hurting people. He wept at a friend’s funeral and sorrowed over Jerusalem for not accepting him. And how does all that translate to God?

Been reading a theologian. H.R. Mackintosh, a Scottish Theologian around 1900.

He suggests that since God and humanity are one in Jesus Christ (the incarnation) through the Word becoming flesh something wonderfully unique happens. Jesus through his experiences on this earth ‘are received into the eternal memory of the Godhead.’ Through the experience, the death and resurrection of Christ the human experiences are part of the Eternal memory. See, what Jesus went through, although ‘foreknown’ by God is made real in time and kept as part of the experiential memory of God, the Trinity. There is a person within the Trinity who has actually experienced pain, sorrow, death and resurrection. So within the Trinity there is an incredible awareness of what you and I go through because Jesus went through it all including being tempted sorely.

Mackintosh concludes this by writing, “The heart of man and the heart of God beat in the risen Lord.” (p. 371 of his book on the doctrine of the person of Christ)

So as we continue this Lenten time let us remember that God remembers, through Jesus, just what we are going through right now, in this moment that will be etched in the eternal memory forever. And so as the song suggests:

Have we trials and temptations?
  Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
  Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
  Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
  Take it to the Lord in prayer (WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS)

THE CROSS TODAY

Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. What precisely is that cross for us in 21st century America? (See Matthew 16:24) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” I have been reading a wonderful book by John Bright entitled THE KINGDOM OF GOD, in which he details from Old Testament through New Testament the meaning of God’s Kingdom. In his book he writes about the cross and what it means to take up that cross today. “This, then, is our cross: that we lay down our unrighteousness, and that easy righteousness which is our deepest sin, that the righteousness of God may rule in us; … it means total surrender in faith to the Kingdom of God. It is also our victory for the cross and the victory are one. (Page 271 of The Kingdom of God).

All that we desire for ourselves must be relinquished in order that we say to God as Jesus did, THY WILL BE DONE. Those words do not come to us with unhindered ease if they are to mean anything at all. And so we in our most humble way let God know that our desire is for his Kingdom and that we are willing to take up the cross to live in that Kingdom. I think of the thief on the cross, next to Jesus, who said, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’ That is a cry that we can only make from the place of the cross in our lives.

We want peace. We want comfort. We want love. We want life. But Jesus tells us to seek more than anything else God’s rule, God’s governance, which includes the loving providence of God in all things. (See Matthew 6:33) Jesus follows that statement by one of profound significance. And everything you need shall be given to you. 33 Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well. (New Century Version) The ‘other needs’ is reference to that about which we are so anxious. Think of a place where you have had to give up your own will, willingly or not and that will be a place of the cross for you. It will mean both death and life. And the only way we will know it is true is to place our confidence in Jesus who has told us that the way to life is through death knowing that the victory has been promised to us.

Remember that Jesus, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross. And none but God’s Spirit can truly confirm this in us. And all of this should happen within the context of the fellowship of believers who know God’s word and God’s love. Today such an opportunity may come to you. Pray to receive it in Christ.

Comfort from the King

Imagine for a moment that Jesus is speaking to a group of people on a hillside.  He is offering them the Kingdom of God. He is the presence of the Kingdom of God and he is making his life, God’s life, available to anyone who wants to place his or her confidence in him. He is not challenging them to be a certain kind of character. He is addressing their character as they are and saying that in God’s Kingdom they are welcomed and they are blessed, favored as it were, by God.  He has already addressed those who are poor and now as he looks around he issues an invitation to another group of people who well may include those who are impoverished in spirit or material goods. Here’s what he says:

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. These are the people who hurt. Some of them may think they deserved their lot. They hurt for themselves and perhaps for others. Their pain is deep and they see no relief. It may be thought that blessings come in the form of wellness and being pain-free but Jesus says that those who place their confidence in him, again the embodiment of the Kingdom of God, will experience the comfort of the Kingdom of God. Like the Psalmist they will say, ‘your love is better than life’(Psalm 63). And the comfort that these mourners will experience may come as a surprise to them in some form that brings happiness to their souls.

Jesus knows full well that the Kingdom has been mainly shut to such people as he addresses but he welcomes them, blesses them and will eventually call some of them to follow him. This is indeed the good news that was issued to shepherds, to Mary and to many who were waiting for the Messiah of God’s Kingdom. Let us, particularly we who hurt right now see our place in the embrace of God’s comfort.