life

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Jesus didn’t involve Himself in politics when He lived among us and that’s one of the things I love about Him.

His people wanted and expected their Messiah to be their champion, to render powerless any political authority over them.  And since Jesus had no interest in politics, He was disqualified and rejected.

And so with the intention of entangling Jesus in His words – a political strategy still in use today – those who rejected Him sent a delegation to ask: “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

Jesus answered, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.”

So they brought him a denarius.

“Whose likeness and inscription is this?” He asked.

“Caesar’s,”  they answered.

“So render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.  (Matthew 22)

Let’s marvel at the little phrase, “and you do not care about anyone’s opinion,” because it’s one of the things I love about Him.  He didn’t care about being politically correct or about being popular. He knew who He was, He knew His mission and He knew the truth.

His mission had nothing to do with politics and power.

Case in point: James and John. They wanted to sit at Jesus’ right and left in glory, so they asked if they could.

When the other ten heard about their bid for power, they became indignant with James and John.

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It’s not about power and prestige, it’s about heaven.

Jesus sent a bunch of guys (72) out ahead of Him to every town to which He was about to go. “I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves,” He said. He sent them with the authority to bring peace and healing to households.

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

That’s His mission – not to defeat political, or even spiritual, enemies – but to write names in heaven.

So I cringed a little, one recent Sunday, when I passed this sign on my way in to worship:

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Not because I disagree with it but because it’s political.  And Jesus wasn’t.

I want people of all nationalities to feel welcome everywhere.

But the sign, in typical political fashion, oversimplifies the issue.

It’s not about where a person is from, it’s about how a person behaves.

I decided to ignore the political implications and embrace the sign at face value. I began to hum along with Mr. Rogers each week as I approached it.

“Would you be mine, could you be mine, won’t you be my neighbor?”

And then last Sunday our pastor announced that the sign was found tossed in the bushes.

And a message had been spray painted on the back of the church.

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And I wondered two things:

1. What does the sign have to do with worshiping devils?

2. Are we glad our paint-can-wielding neighbor is our neighbor?

I wondered whether we should put up another sign, spray painted in the parlance of the perp, “No matter how you express yourself – as long as you do so legally, peacefully and respectfully – we’re glad you’re our neighbor.

Because the issue is, after all, behavior.

As the pastor set the Eucharist table he said all are welcome – even our graffiti spraying neighbor.

That’s what I like about him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tell the Truth (and be of noble character).

The hub and I watched Concussion last night.

 

And all I can say is this country needs more meddlers like Dr. Bennet Omalu.

And more whistleblowers like Dr. Julian Bailes.

And the church needs more Bereans like me.

Because everything these days is political.

And political correctness reigns supreme.

Even, at times, in the pulpit.

Call it the gift of discernment, but a whopping red flag went up recently as I was listening to a sermon.

The pastor slightly edited God’s promise to Abram from “I will make you a great nation” to “I will make you into many nations.”

From singular to plural, from great to many.

The Holy Spirit dropped a flag on the play.

Wait, we can’t quote God accurately anymore because Donald Trump uses the phrase “Make America great”?

Because it is politically incorrect to be a great nation?

Like every good Berean, I picked up that flag and double checked the Scriptures.

The Hebrew word translated “great” is gadowl (gä·dōle’). (Strong’s H1419)

The KJV translates Strong’s H1419 in the following manner: great (397x), high (22x), greater (19x), loud (9x), greatest (9x), elder (8x), great man (8x), mighty (7x), eldest (6x), miscellaneous (44x).

And defines it as:

  • large (in magnitude and extent)

  • in number

  • in intensity

  • loud (in sound)

  • older (in age)

  • in importance

    1. important things
    2. great, distinguished (of men)
    3. God Himself (of God)
  • great things
  • haughty things

  • greatness

It is from the root word gadal (gä·dal’). (Strong’s H1431)

The KJV translates Strong’s H1431 in the following manner: magnify (32x), great (26x), grow (14x), nourish up (7x), grow up (6x), greater (5x), miscellaneous (25x).

  1. to grow, become great or important, promote, make powerful, praise, magnify, do great things

    1. (Qal)

      1. to grow up
      2. to become great
      3. to be magnified
    2. (Piel)

      1. to cause to grow
      2. to make great, powerful

      3. to magnify

    3. (Pual) to be brought up

    4. (Hiphil)

      1. to make great

      2. to magnify

      3. to do great things

    5. (Hithpael) to magnify oneself

Neither the Hebrew word, nor the root word from which it is derived has “many” among its uses or definitions.

Nourish, increase in number and importance, cause to flourish and do great things, yes.

Yes, He did.

Make into many nations?

No. He didn’t say that.

I checked an online Septuagint, which opened a whole new can of worms – a can which did not include Abram being made into many nations.

The words those 70 chose in their translation were more along the lines of putting Abram in the midst of a great people.

The Septuagint isn’t afraid of saying “great.”

All I’m saying, my fellow Christians, is that we need to know the Scriptures in these politically correct times.

So we can check for additives and PMOs (Politically Modified Obfuscations) before we take any old bread our priests and pastors are offering.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.  Acts 17:11

#don’tmeddlewiththeScriptures

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life

What to Wear?

I always wear black when I go to the movies.

So I’ll be harder to see.

As soon as I sit down I locate the nearest exit.

And then I devise the safest route for shimmying under the seats toward it.

I always wear pockets when I take my dogs for a walk.

Because I need a place for my phone.

In case I, or one of them, sprains an ankle and I need to call for help.

Or in case one of them looks adorable or the sky is gorgeous or we come upon something interesting or peculiar and I want to take a picture.

But mostly I always bring it in case we come upon someone peculiar.

And I have a plan:

  • Snap a picture of him if it looks like he’s going to attack me.
  • Tell him the picture has been instantaneously sent to icloud.
  • Tell him even if he disposes of my phone, his face is already on my laptop and ipad.
  • Tell him my family and the police WILL see it.

So he better just leave.

Now I have to figure out what to wear to softball practice.

If I should ever go to softball practice.

Because the world has gone dangerously mad.

Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition and I blame the hate mongers.

Remember Bill Penzey, president of Penzey Spices?

Remember the wretched e-mail he sent me last November?

Well, I wonder whether the shooting of Republican congressmen during practice for a charity softball game is what he meant by President Trump’s election unleashing “a wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades.”

I wonder whether he would admit that his self-righteous rant, along with a host of self-righteous celebrity rants, may have incited Wednesday’s violence.

Really hoping we stop this dangerous game of partisan radicalization.

Before we all need a whole new wardrobe.

 

 

 

 

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church nonsense, Jesus

Manipulators of Men

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I read a short, encouraging article today. It reminded me of a scene from Blue Like Jazz. I hope you have a minute to read it.

It kinda’ goes along with what I was thinking about after church yesterday.

I used to be a member of a conservative church. Everyone, as far as I knew, was like-minded. So much so that I assumed all Christians were like-minded.

Because everyone was like-minded, the pastor thought nothing of inserting political commentary into his sermons. He didn’t mention anyone by name or violate tax-exempt laws in any way, he just assumed everyone agreed.

From there I began attending a politically diverse church. The pastor may have leaned liberal but the large congregation seemed to be a fairly equal mix of Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Centrists and Conservatives. There were Independents who lean left, Independents who lean right (me) and Libertarians scattered about, too.

Discussions in the Thursday morning women’s Bible study were uplifting. Because we were aware of the diversity of viewpoints, all political comments were made carefully and with respect. As a result we were able to actually hear one another and even broaden our perspectives. It was easy to love those women – even the ones with whom I disagreed – because their respectfulness loved me back, because it was obvious that our Christian sisterhood was more important than our viewpoints. I miss them.

These days I attend a mostly liberal church.

Sitting in the pew yesterday I thought of any liberal-leaning people who may have been in the audience of that first church years ago. And as I sat in their shoes (shoes that probably walked far away) I missed the mix of the second church.

I missed being where a diversity of opinions was assumed and even appreciated. I missed knowing that at least half the congregation saw what I saw.

As I was walking the beagle the other day God reminded me that half the country sees what I see. He brought to mind the county by county map of the US I saw on election night – the one that was almost completely colored red.

When one half of the country is yelling f- you, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the minority.

When you sit in church and hear a faint f-you from the pulpit and feel a silent f-you in the pew next to you, it’s easy to wonder if you are in the wrong family.

I know the incoming administration wants to make changes to the Johnson Amendment to the tax code, but that could become a nightmare for the church.

Fishers of men could become manipulators of men.

I hope not. I think I might do a little research, weigh the pros and cons.

In the meantime my pastoral friends, a sermon that indulges in even the slightest bit of partisan commentary is a sermon that has just lost its power; a sermon that has just clogged the flow of the Spirit.

At our ritual after-church lunch my daughter shared that one of her friends resurrected his LiveJournal account back when they were in college just to post a rant about this very thing. He ended by saying how much he appreciated that his pastor back home just said what Jesus said and left it at that.

Amen.

#aconservativefishinaliberalsea

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church nonsense

We Don’t Need No Nitpickin’

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I have a friend who works at the Cru HQ in Orlando. This morning he shared this on Facebook:

“Donna and I saw a pre-screening of [“The Shack”] last night (in theaters March 3). It was emotionally powerful and well-acted all around. I pray it becomes a fantastic God conversation-starter for a very long time!”

Good prayer. Great desire.

One of the brethren immediately chided him:

“That book was a theological disaster. I encourage you to read Tim Challies review before recommending the book or movie to anyone.”

He provided a link to that review.

We don’t need no theological nitpickin’.

Half of this country is in a frenzy of fear because they don’t know and/or trust God.

Right before the election, many, many, just about all of my Christian Facebook friends – Republicans and Democrats alike – posted something like this: “No matter who is in the White House, God is on the throne.”

After the election, those who hold that truth did not gloat or panic.

Those who don’t hold that truth did.

In the midst of this fear-filled frenzy, we don’t need no stinkin’ nitpickin’.

The book is a NOVEL.

Since when do novels have to have every theological i and every theological t dotted and crossed correctly?

And by whose theological standards must they be dotted and crossed?

The novel beautifully portrays the caring heart of God.

Who wouldn’t want the caring heart of God portrayed in theaters for all to see?

Fifty percent of this fear-filled country NEEDS it.

Purists.

When Campus Crusade for Christ changed its name to Cru back in 2011, the purist accused them of bowing to political correctness, of being ashamed of Christ’s name. HQ received angry phone calls, critics took to social media.

You can read about it here.

Back when Amy Grant released a pop album – one in which every single song wasn’t overtly about Jesus, or Christianity, the purists dropped her from their playlists. She was selling out, ashamed of the gospel.

OR

She was trying to reach a wider audience WITH the gospel.

Christian Purists:

Take the straight jacket off the Truth already.

Stop loading the gospel down with burdens it’s not intended to carry.

Stop guarding the truth so heavily that no one can penetrate it.

People need to come into the safe arms of Jesus and you – however loyal you think are being – might be standing in their way.

They will know we are Christians by our L.O.V.E. LOVE.

And they just might know God cares by our “theologically disastrous” songs and books and movies.

Just as the first Christians knew Jesus was the Son of God by His theologically disastrous teachings and Sabbath healings.

 

 

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Heads Are Exploding.

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My daughter came home from class tonight with tales to tell.

Apparently millennial heads are exploding all over social media.

Young white people want to join hands, encircle the White House and not let Obama leave, in solidarity with their minority brethren.

Meanwhile her African American classmates shrugged their shoulders and said, “He hasn’t done anything for me.” And, “I didn’t even vote for him.”

Wrote my daughter on tumblr:

“90% of the white people I follow on social media are viciously berating anyone who didn’t vote for Hillary (all in the name of protecting minorities), meanwhile my Muslim friends voted for Gary Johnson. What a time to be alive.”

On my Facebook feed, there are lists of impending doom and it’s all the fault of Republicans/Christians. It seems “Republicans” and “Christians” are synonymous.

Except a majority of Catholics in this country are Democrats.  Plenty of Protestants are, too.

Everyone needs to simmer down.

And not bring Jesus into it.

As a sixteen year old member of the LGBT community said to my daughter today, “I’m not worried about Trump. What can he do in eight years? I don’t think people understand how our government works.”

Level-headed lad.

Wise Founding Fathers who put those checks and balances in place.

I understand thinking the world as we know it is going to end when one’s candidate is not elected.

I felt that way in 2008.

I was probably tempted to post my dismay on Facebook the next day, too.

But I didn’t.

I’m sure I didn’t because, according to my fb memories, on Nov. 5, 2008 I posted about the wonderful aroma of my squash soup.

And life went on.

Here, 8 years later I am still alive and well.

Eight years from now your exploding heads will be just fine, too.

So stop reading the fear-mongering propaganda and chill.

As President Obama said in his speech today, the sun will come up in the morning.

 

 

 

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Ancient of Days

When news of the attack on our embassy in Benghazi was unfolding and a video was being falsely accused, my thoughts went straight to Uriah the Hittite.

You’re probably familiar with what happened to Uriah – murdered in a cover-up – but if you’re not you can read about him here.

The bizarre blaming of a video before any facts were gathered; the blatant lying right into the grieving faces of the victims’ families; the callous, self-protecting “What difference, at this point, does it make?” smacked more and more and more of a desperate cover-up.

With every mention of Benghazi came thoughts of Uriah.

I thought of Abel, too, whose blood cried out from the ground.

And I hoped Ambassador Stevens’ blood and the blood of Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods was crying out from the ground, too.

David suffered consequences for killing Uriah:
The sword would never depart from his house.
He would be publicly humiliated.
The son born of the rape he was trying to hide would die.

Plus he was disqualified from rebuilding the temple because of all the violence to which he had been a party.

I’m not saying anyone killed Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods the way David killed Uriah, I’m just saying that if she did, she ought to be disqualified, too. I’m just asking God to avenge the blood of those four innocent men.

“As I looked,
thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened.”  Daniel 7:9-10

#ancientofdays

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