Category Archives: Christianity

Living Christian, Living Different.

Christians are not only different in who they are but also in what they do. I know a young woman who, after her first baby was born – I’d never heard of this before – ate the placenta. I’m sure … Continue reading

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Christians Should Be Different: Here’s Why

How do we make the teaching about God attractive to people who have never given it any thought – don’t even know there is anything to think about? How do we help them trust the unseen God, when there are … Continue reading

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The Wrong Metaphor for Christian Mission

Ideas are always context dependent. They make sense within a context. Outside of that context they may have a different meaning – or no meaning at all. The words I just used to describe our role (salespeople, promoters, advance team, … Continue reading

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The “Cosmetological” Proof for God

In philosophy, there are five principal arguments or proofs for the existence of God. One of those is known as The Cosmological Proof and argues there must be a sufficient and non-contingent cause for the contingent beings and processes that … Continue reading

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COVID-19: We Could Have Done Better. Why Didn’t We?

We could have done better. COVID-19 might have been a uniter, bringing Americans together to deal with a common threat and to preserve a shared interest. We could have done what America has done before in the face of such threats: put aside what divides us and work together for the common good.

But COVID-19 has not be a uniter. Or rather, we have not been uniters. We have retreated from each other into our political, racial, and religious corners, like prize fighters, impatient for the next round so that we can deliver our jabs or maybe even a knockout punch.

Writers and social commentators are calling 2020 “The Year of COVID” and “The Year of the Coronavirus,” but this is a misnomer. 2020 was “The Year of Division.” The coronavirus merely alerted us to how deep our divisions are.

Before the coronavirus, the division between the races, always painfully present, was front and center. The division between the sexes was also highlighted by the Me-Too movement and the trial of Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men. The division between the wealthy and the poor became glaring in the light of growing income inequality.

The divisions have further divided us. Somehow Black Lives Matter turned into an argument about the value of Blue Lives. The pain and humiliation suffered by the sexually harassed led to the defamation of victims. Instead of raising concern, the income inequality numbers became a sword in the hands of political swashbucklers. COVID didn’t divide us. We were already divided.
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The Role of Witnesses: What Have We Seen?

I was invited to speak at a prayer retreat 40 miles away. The night before I left, I was up, pacing the floor, and questioning whether I should continue as the pastor of this church. We had no money, no groceries, and two kids to feed. I was having a crisis of faith. I was a dad who couldn’t take care of his family. But that night God helped me and I renewed my commitment to him. I told him he was still my portion and my very great reward and that I would trust him.

At the retreat, a woman I didn’t know asked if she could speak with me. She handed me a check, already filled out, and said, “God wants me to give this to you.” When I got home that night, I learned that people from church had dropped off groceries, which was the first time I remember that happening.

Those in-the-moment-of-need provisions became a common occurrence and, the thing is, we never told anyone (except God) of our need, not even our parents – especially our parents. We have seen how God acts in this world for the people of Jesus.

But money is just a little thing (as Jesus himself pointed out), a first-year introductory course. More important is what God is doing in our lives and our family. He has been changing us, even while – even by – allowing us a small part in what he is doing to change the world. Karen and I are satisfied. We are satisfied with life. We are satisfied with God. And with the things we are not satisfied – usually ourselves – we trust God to keep working until he is satisfied! Continue reading

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The Role of Witnesses: Revolutionary or Religionist?

Once the disciples had grasped the big picture – that the kingdom of God had broken into our world with Jesus’s resurrection – they began telling others. They started functioning, just as Jesus said they would, as witnesses to him and the resurrection.

We will go wrong if we think those early followers of Jesus thought they were spreading a new religion. Nothing could have been further from their minds or more repugnant to their hearts. They were Jewish people who worshiped the God of Abraham, who had acted through Jesus to bring the world under his rule and would take further action still.

The apostles didn’t think of themselves as starting a religion but as carrying on a revolution. They announced that Jesus, not Caesar nor anyone else, was the rightful ruler of the world. Continue reading

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Jesus Is Not Peter Pan: Let’s Stop Confusing Them

I think we get Jesus confused with Peter Pan. We seem to think he is the boy who would not grow up.

A seven-year-old girl went with her grandparents to look at Christmas displays in the suburb where they lived. When they saw a large Nativity scene, Grandma called attention to it: “Look, Sarah, isn’t it beautiful?” And Sarah, who was a very smart girl, said: “Grandma, one thing bothers me. Jesus is the same size he was last year. Why doesn’t he ever grow up?”

Perhaps Jesus does not grow up because we won’t let him. We love the baby Jesus. He is so sweet, sitting on his mother’s lap, like he is in Leonardo’s painting, stretching out a tiny hand to his admirers. It is all so charming – and entirely innocuous. What could be less threatening than a little baby – particularly one that never grows up?

But leaving Jesus at Bethlehem on Christmas Day is like leaving WWII at Normandy on D-Day, or manned flight at Kitty-hawk on a December day in 1903. It is important to celebrate the act that set it all in motion, but there is so much more to the story. Interestingly, Christians did not think to celebrate Christ’s birth until about the fifth century, but for many contemporary westerners, Christmas is the only Christian holiday they celebrate.

At Christmas, we stand over the manger – we are comfortable there – and sing about the Child who is proof of God’s love for the world. But at some point we need to move away from the manger.
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What’s He Doing Here? Why John the Baptist Shows Up at Christmastime

Religious people can be odd. Saints can be downright strange. If there are any contemporary saints trending on Twitter or YouTube, it is more likely because of the weird things they say and do than in spite of them.

During the third week in Advent Season, the Common Lectionary’s Gospel readings are all about John the Baptist, whose life is celebrated each year in preparation for Christmas. If one of the qualifying marks of sainthood is strangeness – and such a case could be made – John must be at the head of the class.

He was born to aged parents. Were his birth to occur today, we would call it a miracle of modern science. When it occurred, friends and family simply called it a miracle. At some point, John moved from his Judean countryside home to the rugged desert between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. His diet was odd – he ate locusts and honey. His wardrobe was odd – he wore camel hair clothing. His life work was odd – he dunked people in the Jordan River for the forgiveness of sins.

John’s was a strange life and also a strange death. When he stuck his prophetic nose into the king’s so-called private affairs, the king cut it off. Well, not just his nose but his whole head. The king only did this because his stepdaughter – at her mother’s request – put him up to it.

Even John’s burial was unusual. His grieving friends had to go to the authorities – not the coroner but (quite possibly) the executioner – to request his body. As far as we know that body still rests in some ancient grave, absent its blessed head.

Why is this man, so odd in life and in death, renowned among Christians? Continue reading

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Getting into Heaven Is not the Point

Christian faith is often pictured, by Christian and non-Christian alike, as a kind of insurance policy that secures a person on Judgment Day from a guilty verdict and a sentence of eternal damnation. Some people choose to purchase the policy, some choose not to, and others ignore it altogether.

This picture misrepresents the story the Bible actually tells. It is a caricature, having less to do with what the Bible says than with the concerns we bring to it, chief of which is saving our own skin. Or, failing that, our own soul.

God wants to save our souls and our skin even more than we do, hence the importance of the biblical doctrine of the resurrection. But God has other concerns as well. Humanity is but one part, albeit an important part, of the larger creation which God, according to the biblical revelation, intends to save and restore.

If asked, many people – both those who attend church and those who don’t – would say the whole point of Christianity is to get into heaven. Death is looming, eternity awaits, heaven is the much-preferred destination, and Christianity offers an affordable plan for getting there.

Were someone to lay out this synopsis of the faith to St. Paul, he would not recognize it. If we told him we had come to this understanding through his letters, he would be appalled.
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