Tag Archive for christianity

The Truth About Elections

Elections bring out the best and the worst of us

It is amazing to watch how some people view and participate in the electoral process. The views and slogans that are expressed run from doom and gloom to a chicken in every pot. The political process is a window on the collective soul of our nation and it shows us for what we really are.

As I look into this political window, I see some things that give me pause. For instance, there are many Christians who are genuinely anxious about the outcome of this election. While it is important to be concerned and involved, to be anxious about elections is misguided. Christians have a higher and better citizenship that should hold their allegiance.

I have watched with great interest the actions of many involved in the Tea Party movement. These people are not extremists but people who care deeply about their country. Unfortunately many of these people believe the power over their lives rests in Washington D.C. While it is true that the government is powerful and it is out of control, it is a drop in the bucket and a pawn in the grand narrative of God’s sovereign plan.

As you go to vote and then hurry home to watch the returns, let me encourage you with the following truth from God’s word:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
(Proverbs 21:1 ESV)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
(1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)

Wanted: Christian Community, Idealists Need Not Apply

Idealism Kills Christian Community

I have a confession to make. I am a closet idealist. I like to day dream about how I think things could be or should be. Here lately I have been thinking about what the ideal christian community should be like. It warms my heart to think about brothers and sisters in Christ acting and relating just how I think they should. There is only one problem, genuine christian community and idealism are mutually exclusive.

This fact dawned on me as I was preparing to teach this past Sunday morning on the purpose and mission of the church. I began reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. I was hoping to find fuel for my fantasy but what I found there was not at all what I was expecting. Imagine my surprise when I read the following statement:

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others , and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.

I hate to admit it but I was that guy. I had begun to develop standards of what I thought was the ideal and I had begun to measure both God and man by them. It dawned on me how much in danger I was of becoming an accuser of the brethren and an obstacle to genuine community.

My first reaction was disappointment. Idealism is hard to surrender. I like my idealism. Its a great companion and justifier of my impatience, and irritation with the “weaknesses” of others. As I continued to read, however, I came across another of Bonhoffer’s statements that put everything in perspective:

Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together- the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.

After I read this, it occurred to me that Bonhoeffer is not eschewing all vision but only that which emanates out of a sinful heart. If my vision is for the gospel, if my desire is for what God’s word teaches, if I am humbly living according to it then I have every right to expect it of myself and my brother in Christ. To do any less would be to dishonor Christ and what He has called us to do. Thus Bonhoeffer goes on to summarize his point and give me punctuation for this post when he states:

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we must participate.

Participation, and all the excitement, frustration, heartache, and inexhaustible grace that goes along with it is the key to Christian community. How is your level of participation?

Laughing and Learning About Ourselves

Are you capable of laughing at yourself? If not you are missing out on a great opportunity. It is amazing how therapeutic and revealing laughter can be.

Laughter is not only an aspect of common grace but it has redemptive import as well. Consider Jesus following statement:

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 18:1-4

Although laughter is not mentioned here, it is implied that becoming more like a child means laughing more. The fact that Jesus mentions humility almost certainly confirms this. Laughing at all but especially laughing at oneself requires a great deal of humility.

One humorist that has of late caught my attention is Jonathan Acuff. The humor that Acuff provides is especially entertaining and challenging because it is informed by a distinctly Cristian worldview and experience. In one short essay, Acuff can take you from laughing to reflecting on the authenticity and fervor of your faith in Christ. Acuff in his painstakingly descriptive style has raised humor to a higher level that results in a better understanding of ourselves in God’s great narrative.

Here is an excerpt from Acuff’s blog Stuff Christian Like:

Although the pirate phenomenon is making a spirited comeback, I’m almost positive some of us have some backwards opinions of Africa. But you know what’s even worse?

People who become experts on Africa after a 6-day mission trip.

This is the time of year when they start coming back from trips and regaling us with their tales of massive missionary magnitude. Soon they will return from a short hop overseas. How do you spot them in your church? How do you see them coming? Here’s how:

6 ways to tell your friend has become an “overnight missionary expert.”

1. They temporarily wear some wicked awesome sandals.

Mission trip sandals, something I’ve chronicled before, come in two varieties: woven and rubber. The woven ones appear to made of some sort of rope and actually look painful. My wife and I saw a guy with bloody feet wearing these the other night. He was limping. The rubber ones are more comfortable but only come in two colors: rainbow and bright rainbow.

2. They use the phrase, “So American.”

This might be the worst one on the list because it attempts to shame you for something you’ve done. Sometimes you’ll see it in the comments on SCL. I’ll write about money and then someone will immediately say, “That is so American to think that way.” Or they might use the variation, “Well, in the West …” What they usually don’t tell you is that they spent all 32 years of their life, minus the six days they were on a mission trip, living in Ohio. Which is in America.

3. They pretend there’s a household need for a machete.

87% of all men who go on mission trips buy machetes. Like how I felt when I saw two Lamborghinis racing on the highway the other night, something about a machete makes you feel like an 8-year old little boy again. You get giddy with the possibility of actually owning a sword. But if your friend starts using it to whack away at yard work, they might be taking it a little too far.

4. They convert everything into foreign currency.

Never go to a Starbucks with a mission trip expert. They will inevitably look at your four dollar coffee and mumble, “Hope that week’s worth of wages is delicious.” To be kind, respond with a simple, “I’ll pray for you.” To be a jerk say, “I’ll stop drinking coffee when your wife stops wearing that blood diamond.” (That’s a horrible thing to say, because ultimately both issues need to be addressed.)

5. They use the phrase, “used to live.”

I spent about 25 days or so in Costa Rica. Once at a dinner party, I told someone I used to “live in Costa Rica.” My wife, who was unfortunately within hearing distance, burst into laughter. I hadn’t lived there. I had visited there. Briefly. If your friend uses weird math to pretend they were on the trip for a long time, like when the ex-coach of Tennessee said he really enjoyed “the 13 months at Tennessee,” you know someone is faking it. (As if saying “13 months” makes folks feel less like you were jumping ship after a year. Might as well convert it into weeks and say “I was a great coach here for 56 weeks.”)

6. They are constantly dragging you out to restaurants.

My wife and I once lived in a fancy neighborhood outside of Boston. On our first day there, our neighbor, a professor, came over and said, “Do you guys like Southern Cambodian cuisine.” Now clearly, if you know me, you know I prefer Southeastern Cambodian. I actually just order by longitude and latitude, I am that cultured. Not really, but if your friend suddenly refuses to go to Applebee’s because “they don’t have good breadfruit,” be worried.

I write this list not because I hate missionary experts, but because I’ve been this guy. I went to Dominica once, probably one of my top three favorite Lesser Antilles, and that entire list happened except for number 6. I had rainbow sandals. I found three machetes in my garage yesterday. And I once said, “Our Western culture doesn’t have a mourning process that leads to real healing.” I wrote this list because I am this list.

Jonathan also has a wildly popular book entitled Stuff Christians like. You can purchase a copy here.

Widening The Horizons

Is there anywhere in the world where God is not God? Its easy to acknowledge God’s sovereignty when you are surrounded by the familiar. It is when you are in a strange place surrounded by strange things that you begin to realize how your view of God is skewed by material things.

I see God as God of my town; the streets that I drive on. I see God as the God of my church; the God of my brothers and sisters in Christ in the building where we worship and in the style with which we worship Him. I see God as God when he is referenced using my terminology and in ways with which I am comfortable. You see the pattern here. There are way too many I’s in this paragraph and in my view of God.

You might think at this point that God would step in and slam all this narcissism. He does exactly that but not in the way you might expect. Where I would step in and put on the smack down, the Lord steps in and shows His matchless grace:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:38-39

This gentle response reminds me that He is God of all things, places, and times. Nothing can separate me from His love except lack of faith in His son Jesus who died on the cross for the sins of His people.

So now I am away from home. I am out of my usual surroundings. I am among people who call on the name of Jesus but live differently than I do. My call to live according to the gospel, however, remains unchanged. I am loved by God and am in no less position to receive His grace here as I am when I am at home. My horizons are being widened.