The Next Great Catholic Sin: Hoverboards

father-873830_1920Father Albert San Jose seems like a pretty cool dude. While many clergy are stand-offish and difficult to approach, San Jose strikes me as the kind of priest that really connects with people where they are.

Of course, I only have one example to go on – his mad hoverboard skills! Check this out:

Right? MAD skillz, yo. Because it seems a lot of adults can’t pull off what this priest makes look easy, and videos of adults wiping out have taking the internet by storm.

But it’s not all fun ‘n games for the good Father. You see, his diocese disapproved of his behavior. Not only did the diocese disapprove, but they suspended the minister.

The diocese wrote:

The Eucharist demands utmost respect and reverence. It is the Memorial of the Lord’s Sacrifice. It is the source and summit of Christian life. It is the Church’s highest form of worship. Consequently, it is not a personal celebration where one can capriciously introduce something to get the attention of the people.

Okay, sure, I understand what they’re getting at. And, to be totally honest, as one who has been labeled blasphemer for some of my religious humor I’m not sure I’m unbiased in this case. I have a pretty fair streak of irreverence in me. Of course, Father San Jose played ball with the diocese, apologizing and promising that it won’t happen again.

But I think it SHOULD! Here’s why:

A Worldwide Church (that’s all of us who are followers of Jesus) that is earth-683436_1280willing to embrace culture (in this case a hoverboard craze) WITHOUT compromising its content will have a greater impact in people’s lives. This is the church that will set the world on fire.

This is exactly what the good padre did. Did he change the liturgy? Nope. Did he alter the meaning and significance of the sacrament? Nope. All he did was carry out his usual service in an unusual way. In fact, is it so far out of the realm of reason to imagine a priest walking among the people while singing, “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You”? If you can imagine him walking, why get upset when you add the tech? I applaud the priest for being creative in using elements from the world around him in a faith tradition that goes back thousands of years.

Even Jesus used the culture around him to make his points come alive. In the agricultural setting of the Ancient Near East, Jesus told stories of shepherds, farmers, and Samaritans. He used sticks, architecture, and the landscape to offer entryways to draw and keep people’s attention.

The Apostle Paul utilized the statue of a Pagan god to make a point about the one true God. Is singing God’s blessings on a hoverboard more outrageous than this?

Rather than shunning culture and trying to insulate the church, let us rather seek to engage culture in all of its insanity (yes, a hoverboard craze really is quite ridiculous). As long as we’re not changing the message of the cross, it shouldn’t matter what elements from the world around us we use.

The diocese talked about having the utmost respect and reverence for the Eucharist, but I’m not so sure Jesus himself was so full of reverence that he couldn’t appreciate the lighter side of faith.

While Father San Jose may never ride another hoverboard in church, I do hope that he continues to push the envelope and find ways to engage the people and culture around them – using their stuff to point to a timeless God.

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Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the piece. If it resonated with you in any way, please share it on your own social media platforms. Blessings!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Force AwakensYes, I just saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yes, there WILL be some spoilers in this post. But opening weekend is now over, so I’ll risk it. I’m not posting them to ruin your movie, but this movie is absolutely worth talking about. I’ll even go so far as to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens could be the best movie of the generation.

Of course the score itself is iconic (who doesn’t love a John Williams score?). The acting is superb. Not only do the old actors bring back their characters with perfect delivery, the new additions to the story are well-written and well-performed. I understand there was some hullabaloo from racist fans about having a black Storm Trooper, but that’s ridiculous nonsense.

The story was perfect. J.J. Abrams has outdone himself. The story is a perfect blend of homage to the original trilogy while moving the story-line forward in a new direction. As a fan of the original three (but not so much Episodes I-III), I thought this new episode honored the original spirit and character of the first films and passed the torch to the new generation (an amazing feat J.J. Abrams also did with his Star Trek reboot).

But the biggest take-away I had from Star Wars: The Force Awakens went far beyond the story, acting, or special effects (which were pretty sick). For me the biggest take-away was the issue of identity.

Identity is a theme that plays from the beginning to the end of the film. Every character wrestles with the question: Who am I? This theme is even jokingly referenced when Han Solo comes face-to-face with C3P0. Han is speechless and C3P0 says, star_wars_vii_force_awakens_c3po“You probably didn’t recognize me because of the red arm.” We never know why the droid has a red arm, but it’s a humorous way of pointing out the theme that will weave in and out of every character’s plot.

Let’s look at how identity plays out:

kylo-renKylo Ren – he’s the new villain, the new Darth Vader. But he’s never talked about as a Sith Lord. Instead he’s the leader of the Knights of Ren. But the audience is never clued in to who these mysterious knights are. Ren himself wrestles with the question of identity during a moment of prayer/introspection where he is talking out loud to the damaged helmet of Darth Vader. Ren confesses that he can feel the light Vader Helmetcalling out to him.

At the beginning of the film, Ren is talking to the leader of the Resistance who says that, even though The First Order (The Empire 2.0) comes from the Dark Side, Ren does not. Still, Kylo Ren wants to continue in the tradition of Vader, his grandfather, and asks Vader for the strength to continue in the power of the Dark Side of the Force.

RaeRey – The new heroine in the Star Wars saga. She’s a mystery. All we know is that she’s been abandoned without parents on a planet made up of a lot of sand (hmmm…kind of like a young Skywalker we knew in Episode IV). The Force is strong with her, and when she touches Luke Skywalker’s old lightsaber she has some stranger vision/revelation.

At the end of the film, Rey is left standing face-to-face with Luke Skywalker and holds out his lightsaber to him. Aaaaaand that’s when the credits roll. What?!? Wait, who is she? Is she Luke’s long-lost daughter? Is she some other connection? The “Who am I?” question fills Rey’s story is one that will continue through the next movie(s).

Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-John-BoyegaFinn – I like Finn a lot because he has a very real struggle with his “Who am I? question. He starts out the film as a Storm Trooper. When Kylo Ren orders his Troopers to kill an entire village, Finn freezes. He knows that the order is immoral, and he cannot carry it out. He then helps a Resistance pilot escape from The First Order because “it’s the right thing to do.”

This is one of the strongest identity stories in the film because Finn does a complete about face: he moves from being a foot soldier for the First Order to openly defying an evil organization and fighting to bring about its downfall.

Han and ChewieHan Solo & General Leia – The first identity issue is clearly seen with Leia. Those who grew up with the original trilogy know that “Princess Leia” just seems like the right title. Now we can’t call her that – she’s a general in the Resistance. There are a few references to the “Princess” throughout the new movie, like when Han and Leia get into a fight and C3P0 looks at Han and declares, “Princesses!”General Organa

But the biggest element of their identity story comes out as they work through some of the issues of a relationship that is strained after dealing with the loss of their son, Ben Solo.

The loss of a child is a huge strain on marriages, and, unfortunately, many relationships are unable to cope with the loss and the couple ends up splitting. Such is the case with Han and Leia. Finally reuniting after a long separation, Han tells Leia that they all had to deal with it in their own way – so he went back to doing what he does best. Leia replies, “We both did.” Smuggler, rebellion leader, husband, father, back to smuggler. Princess, rebellion leader, wife, mother, back to noble leader fighting an evil regime. Their identities are in flux as their lives go through chaos (which is actually normal and very human). In a heart-wrenching scene when Han comes face-to-face with the lost son that tore his marriage apart, Han tells Ben, “Come home. We miss you!” His identity as father overrides all other identities and concerns.

The father/son identity has always been a strong motif in the Star Wars saga, and is in The Force Awakens just as much as it was in any of the others. It’s also one of the strongest motifs in the Bible.

In fact, the issue of identity is seen from the beginning to the end of the Bible. Identity is one of the eternal human quests. “Who am I?” is a deeply profound question every human wrestles with at some point.

  • In the Garden of Eden, the serpent convinces Adam and Eve that they shouldn’t let God hold them back – that their identities could be more powerful if they chose their own path, if they were their own god.
  • On the mountaintop, Moses asks the God in the burning bush, “Who should I tell the Israelites who sent me?” God’s answer, “Tell them, ‘I AM’ sent you.”
  • When Jesus is baptized the heavens open up and God declares, “This is my son.”
  • In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus characterizes God as a father who is distraught at losing a son and is willing to go to extreme measures to celebrate the lost son’s return.

See? Identity. It’s the question we all want answered. This is the reason why Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a tremendous story. It’s not about the effects or the acting or any of the other stuff (that DO, indeed, contribute to making it a terrific film).

This is a great film because it asks the question we all ask. Who am I? And how we answer that question determines our path – in this life AND the next.

It’s Not Hard to Make a Difference

In 2015 we took on an endeavor to help raise support for Jeff and Tammy, missionaries to Africa.

Thus far we have sent almost $3,200 to Africa, where they pastor a church in Zimbabwe.

But we can do more. We have such a great ability to give and we seldom realize it. Maybe you can go without your Venti Frappe once a week. A few dollars saved here and there really adds up.

Zimbabwe is in Southern Africa. It is one of the five poorest countries in the world, has one of the highest AIDS problems on the continent.Zimbabwe The average life expectancy is only 37 years and almost 10% of the population is orphaned. It is a country that desperately needs help.

Tammy says:

“One of my cousins said to me shortly before I left for Zimbabwe, ‘Tammy, I can only imagine all the prayers that went up to God by the dying parents asking Him to watch over their children and I think He is sending you there in answer to their prayers.’ That statement is what motivates me to do all that is in my power and ability by God’s AMAZING GRACE to help support these children any way I can.”

Tammy immediately began going to the orphanages in Bulawayo telling Bible Stories and doing Jana Alayra worship with them. As she began making relationships, two orphanages obtained property in September 2012 and they offered it to her, a 50+ California girl who never farmed a day in her life, to help them use the land to become self-sustainable.

Scorziell 3Thus was born “Fruitful Harvest,” a ministry with the mission of creating “Zimbabwean Products Helping Zimbabwean Children.”Scorziell 4

One of the Properties belongs to the Sandra Jones Centre. This is a home with over 70 sexually abused, abandoned, and orphaned children. Many of the young girls are between 11 and 17 years old. Most of them are victims of rape and incest and are pregnant. Many are also uneducated. Debbie Brennocks, the founder and director of the Centre, and Tammy took another leap of faith and applied for a grant that would help teach these girls a skill to help them support themselves and their baby (if they chose to keep them). It was approved and they now Sandra Jones Graduationteach the girls gardening skills and how to raise chickens.

There is no government support for these children. The orphanages feed, clothe, educate, pay medical bills, etc. for the children all by faith and the help from others God leads to them.

Please consider how you can help these children and this ministry.Scorziell 2 Whatever you donate through our GoFundMe campaign goes right to Fruitful Harvest Ministries and missionaries Jeff and Tammy Scorziell.

Click on the button to go to our fundraising campaign:

If you have any questions you can contact me or see the Fruitful Harvest Ministries website.

This holiday season, you can make a difference in the lives of children. Will you help?

God bless you all.

Chris Linzey

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The Big 10: Murder Most Foul!

C’mon, preacher. I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve got the 6th commandment down – piece of cake!

“You shall not murder.”

I don’t think anyone would disagree that murder is not cool. Whatever you’re feelings are about justifiable homicide, war, etc. – everyone seems to agree that murder is not okay. So we’re not going to spend a lot of time on this one. It’s just that one little line. Instead, we’re going to jump right to the New Testament:

MATTHEW 5:21-24 ~ 21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire. 23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Jesus takes the Old Testament idea of the action (murder) and converts it to a matter of the heart (anger). We can’t get away with avoiding behavior any more. We are confronted with the attitude and heart that underlies the behavior.

This is a problem for me. I could avoid killing people all day long. Getting angry? That’s a whole ‘nother matter! anger-794699_1280Jesus is saying that what’s on the inside can separate us from God. We can’t hate each other on the inside and then go pretend that everything is okay. But we do it all the time. Something happens and fills us with anger. Then we walk into church and we put on a happy face and say, “Praise Jesus – God is good!” We’re two-faced liars who would rather be passive-aggressive towards people than to be open and upfront.

Jesus says, “I CALL SHENANIGANS!”

He calls us out and says that the things we have between us can get between us and God. Don’t try to get right with God when you’re not right with everyone else. Let’s be honest – we do it all the time. We come to worship while harboring anger towards other people. And how often are we intentional about reconciling that anger before we worship? It almost NEVER happens.

Anger by itself is not wrong. We see examples in the Bible of God getting angry. We see Jesus getting angry. It’s not wrong – it’s part of the character of God. And if it’s part of the character of God it’s part of how we are wired. No, anger is not wrong.

How we DEAL with anger is where we go wrong.

Ephesians 4:26 ~ Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.

Anger is not bad – it’s part of who we are. Paul seems to believe that we can be angry and not sin. Anger is an attribute of God. God’s anger is a right reaction to moral evil and injustice. It’s not about personal insult or hurt. When God sees moral evil and injustice, God gets angry. What God gets angry about; we can get angry about in a righteous way. We can spot injustice and be righteously angry. When we get angry about our personal causes and offenses is where we run the risk of getting into sin.

Anger in and of itself is not wrong. The question is simply, “What are we angry about?”

What we get angry about and how we deal with that anger are the important things here! Anger can stir up trouble and have harmful consequences.

There are 3 Primary Causes of Anger:

  1. Injustice – We can get angry about the things that God gets angry about – when it’s about faith, righteousness, and justice.
  2. Frustration – something blocks us from our desired goal/outcome.

upset-534103_1920Frustration can cause anger. It’s NORMAL to respond in anger to frustration. If my desired outcome is to get all of my kids out of the door and into the van by a certain time and they fail to comply, my children are being roadblocks to my desired outcome. They are preventing me from my plan. And I get steamed – I become angry. It’s an easy anger, but it’s not a good anger.

  1. Threat/hurt – injury, insult, attack, etc.

Any time we’re injured, see an injury coming, or perceive any kind of threat (physical, emotional, etc.) our normal response is to get angry. Have you ever whacked your thumb with a hammer? We respond in anger. Did the nail do anything wrong? Nope. How about the hammer? Nu-uh. Yet we get angry over the hurt.

The same thing happens in relationships. When we see someone flirting with our significant other and we feel some sort of threat we respond in anger. We might call that type of anger jealousy, but it’s still an anger response.

It’s normal.

But just because anger responses are normal in these situations does NOT mean it’s okay to hold on to our anger. That’s why Jesus comes along and says, “Your anger is keeping you from your relationship with God.” Just from a physical point of view, holding on to our anger can cause real health problems. Living in freedom from anger can heal our souls AND our bodies.

But it often easier said than done. My dad’s side of the family is Scottish. My mom’s side is Irish. People often joke that I’m genetically bred to be angry. But there is no DNA excuse – we can’t skate by simply because of where we’re from. So here are some practical steps to letting go of the anger.

  1. Acknowledge/identify the anger – Who am I angry at? What am I angry for?

Confess to God. Confess to the person you have an issue with. Stuffing your feelings deep down inside is only going to make you sick. Tackle it head on (lovingly, if you confess to the person you have an issue with).

  1. Restrain your outbursts – no matter how mad you get it’s not gonna change the past. How you handle your anger IS gonna change your future.

I remember a classic Disney cartoon in which Donald Duck was taking an anger management class (via a record player). The voice on the record told him to try 10 second countdown timer – when he felt himself getting hot under the collar he was supposed to count down from 10 to zero. Whatever it takes for you, find a way to practice restraining your outbursts. Give yourself time to cool down.

  1. Let compassion replace resentment – get a different perspective; is there ANY other way to look at what’s happening?

When it comes to our anger towards other people, we can go a long way in letting go if we try to see the situation from another point of view. From my shoes I’ve been wronged, sure. What would happen if I tried to see it from an outsider’s vantage point? What about from the vantage point of the person with whom I’m angry? Find compassion for what they’re going through rather than focusing on your own sense of indignity.

  1. Resist ruminating – the 10 second replay button has to GO!

Going over and over and over and over situations that make us angry do nothing to help us cool down. In fact, they usually keep the fire stoked. If we’re serious about keeping our anger under control, we need to stop replaying the situation in our heads. Find something positive and lovely to think about instead. I’m not saying to ignore the situation and sweep it under the rug. I’m saying that we don’t have to re-live it day after day and hour after hour.

  1. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not take your anger out to the general public (like Facebook).

It only serves to escalate the problem and doesn’t allow you to forgive. The public route is merely an attempt to justify your anger. If you have to talk about it, talk to the person you’re angry at and not the entire community.

So What?

Jesus calls us to right relationships – to reconcile conflict as best we can (sometimes that’s not going to be possible – it is a two-way street) It’s time to let go of the anger we’ve been holding on to and time to move forward.

 Questions for Reflection

  • Who am I angry at?
  • Have I tried to work through the anger or am I holding on to it?
  • What would happen if I let go of the anger?

That’s How You Picked Your Baby’s Name? Really?

baby-84552_1920Sometimes we just look at the culture around us and shake our heads. Like last week when I heard about the top trending baby names for 2015. While some old names like Noah and Eleanor are making a comeback, there is a disturbing trend. Not disturbing theologically – just in terms of stupidity. People are naming their babies after the names of Instagram filters.iphone-1055371_1920

For those of you who are not familiar with Instagram, it’s an app that allows you to edit photos and apply different effects (filters) to your pictures.

Yes, this is how people are naming their infants. Names like Lux, Valencia, Willow, and Ludwig. And those who aren’t using a picture editing app are using teen fiction. Um…wow.

Call me a stick in the mud, but I think that names are important; to important to leave up to something silly to name a baby (if you’re named after something silly, I mean no offense – you’re a wonderful person). I like my name and it’s meaning. My wife and I put thought into naming our children. Names are important. This is especially true in the Bible. From the beginning of creation, humanity was given the task of naming.

Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. ~ Genesis 2:19

Names are important.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. ~ Proverbs 22:1

God himself has a thing with names. When God tells Moses to return to Egypt in order to free the enslaved Israelites, he has a naming discussion.

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” ~ Exodus 3:13

The New Testament continues this understanding of the importance of names – especially the name of Jesus. Peter famously preaches:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” ~ Acts 4:12

xmas-1021208_1920As we’re now in the holiday season you’ll find a lot of Christians get bent out of shape when people remove the name of Christ from Christmas and replace it with an X. While there is no need to be upset (X is the Greek letter that has been used to abbreviate the name Christ since the beginning of the faith), it’s obvious that people CARE about names.

Names set us apart and give us identity. In a world that is constantly vying for our attention and is trying to assign us identities, it’s important that we choose our “names” carefully. Sometimes we get caught up in worldly names: Democrat, Republican, American, European, Male, Female…the list goes on and on.

But the only name that really matters is one that is given to us through faith: Christian.

How about you? What name do you want to be known by?

 

#SanBernardino and the Only Solution to Gun Violence

By now most of the world has been brought up to speed about the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. San Bernadino ShootingThree people went into a building and killed 14 others and wounded an additional 17. It is an incomprehensible tragedy. The violence is sickening and disgusting. Yet, even before the event concluded, both side of the political spectrum launched into promoting their own agendas.

Ban guns!

More guns!

Ban guns!

More guns!

It was entirely predictable.

The problem with the gun debate as it stands is that nothing either side proposes will provide a real working solution to the violence in America. Because the problem isn’t really about guns.

It’s about people.

A friend of mine commented that violence has been part of the human condition since the beginning, when a single act of rage wiped out 25% of the world’s population (Adam and Eve had two sons, so when Cain killed Abel…). It’s not the guns – it’s the human heart.

This is what Jesus is trying to get at when he says:

“You have heard it said, ‘Do not murder….’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire….”

It’s not about the weapon – it’s about the heart. As weapons change and technology changes, the ways in which we kill may change. When the condition that fuels such behavior remains unchecked, though, we will never see an end to the violence.

This is why the gun issue will never be resolved. It’s not really about guns. ChangeUntil humans are willing to change their hearts we will continue to be subjected to news stories of terror and violence. And this is not a solution that the government can carry out.

It’s something only God can do.

Dear Christian, Can You Be More Bigoted Please?

Look up any single word in a dozen dictionaries and you may find a dozen varying definitions. IntoleranceThe other day I saw someone on social media calling Christians bigots.

It made me want to look up the word to see the variations. While you will find definitions that fit the way liberals use the term against Christians, dictionary.com had this:

big-ot [big-uh t]

noun

1. a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

In some sense, then, I believe that Christians SHOULD be bigoted.

Yes, we need to be utterly intolerant to a different creed, belief, or opinion. In Acts 4:12 we see the Apostle Peter preaching:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Peter is merely reflecting the words of Jesus in John 3:18:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

There is no room for allowing other creeds to coexist along side of the Christian creed. Jesus is not A way to God.

Jesus is THE way to God.

So yes, call me a bigot. I won’t waver in my belief that the Christian way is right and any other way is wrong.

Where Christians and non-Christians get confused, though, is understanding that we can treat people well in spite of religious differences. I can believe that my way is the only way and still treat people decently. A difference of beliefs does not necessitate anger and animosity towards those who differ.

Liberals tend to see this as a cop out. I’ve been told if Christians really treated people decently we’d allow people to believe what they want to believe (ironically, they are refusing to allow me to believe what I want to believe).

Conservatives tend to see this as a sell-out.Sellout If we hold firm to our beliefs then we will separate from the world around us and shun evil. This is why so many Christians are up in arms about selling wedding supplies to gay couples. This is why Christian doctors are refusing to treat infants of gay couples.

I will be blunt: THIS IS NOT TREATING PEOPLE WELL!

We can disagree theologically and still be decent human beings. So I will do my best to treat people well.

But don’t ask me to cave on my belief about salvation just because you feel excluded. 🙂

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I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!

God Doesn’t Favor Israel Any More

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it himself:

I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy.

That may be a contender for understatement of the year. I’ve seen conservatives using Bibi’s speech to blast President Obama (“This is what a real leader sounds like,” “It’s about time a strong leader spoke in Congress,” and on and on). I’ve seen liberals belittling Israel and conservatives as using this opportunity to undermine the President.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in political science or foreign affairs. That’s not my primary concern. Like many people, though, I am concerned about a nuclear Iran. As Netanyahu notes:

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated — he tweets. You know, in Iran, there isn’t exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.

I am against the slaughter of people groups. I am also pro-democracy. For those reasons I tend to be pro-Israel. Israel But political science and foreign affairs is not my primary concern nor is it the focus of this blog. The focus on The Bible Blotter is the Bible and letting the Bible influence our behavior.

That being said, I think it’s time American Christians separate our support of Israel from our idea that Israel is God’s special nation. We must realize that the Israel of God’s Old Testament promises is not the geo-political entity we call Israel today. We who believe in the one true God have been “grafted in the vine” and are now part of God’s chosen people. Blood line does not matter – faith matters.

As Paul says in Galatians 3:28-29 ~

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

I understand this is not a popular opinion. I know many Americans consider supporting Israel to be a God-honoring biblical mandate. In the grand scheme of things, though, the nation of Israel is simply one of the nations of the world.

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 9:6-8 ~

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Being born Jewish doesn’t make you a child of Abraham any more. We are of Abraham through faith. The citizens of Israel need to respond to the Gospel of Jesus just as the citizens of any nation must.

God is not the God of America. God is not the God of Israel. God is the God of ALL nations. Christians in America and Israel are on the same spiritual footing as Christians in China, Thailand, Russia, Cuba, France, and every other nation on earth.

Jesus is the great equalizer. It is our faith that binds us together – not our bloodlines. This is a hard concept for us to embrace. Jesus took it to a radical degree. Once when his family came looking for him to try to “manage” him, the crowd told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside seeking you.” Jesus’s response?


Who is my mother, or my brothers? Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother. (Mark 3:32-35)

In a society where family is everything FamilyJesus sets a new standard. This is the standard that is upheld in the rest of the New Testament. God’s people are not so by birth into the Jewish nation.

We are God’s people by our spiritual birth into God’s kingdom through our faith.

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I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!

Why Won’t You Vote For Jesus?!?

Jesus for President

I’ve been enjoying an ongoing dialogue with my friend Thomas about the place and role of Christians in the political sphere. It started out with his comment:

Christians in Politics

From there I wrote a response called Stay Away From Politics, Christian!

After that Thomas wrote his rebuttal in Don’t Vote For Jesus: Reflecting on Christian Political Involvement.

So I guess this is my rebuttal to his rebuttal, and we’re just a couple of butt-heads.

Thomas writes:

Jesus doesn’t rally armies and overthrow the Roman government and he doesn’t establish a political theocracy that forces everyone to obey the Mosaic Law. Instead, Jesus spends a lot of time teaching people that God is more interested in their hearts than he is in their behavior and that their behavior is really just an indicator of what is in their hearts anyway. Jesus invites other people to follow him and to join him in his ministry to the afflicted and the oppressed. He doesn’t run for office, he doesn’t lobby the Roman government, and he even tells people that they should pay their taxes to Rome!

Yup, it’s true. Jesus’s mission wasn’t about politics or government.

Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

Jesus didn’t come to set up an earthly kingdom, but let’s not believe that Jesus called everyone to the same profession he lived. There is an understanding from the beginning of the faith that we take our faith wherever we are and in whatever we do. In the Gospel According to Luke, people are convicted by the preaching of John the Baptist and ask him, “What then should we do?” John tells the tax collectors to stop collecting more than they should (they were known to be cheats) and tells Soldiers to stop Roman Soldierpracticing extortion and to be satisfied with their wages.

He does NOT tell these people to leave their government jobs.

Instead, people are told to behave righteously as believers whatever their jobs might be. Do you work for the government? Great! Be a Christian on your job. There is nothing wrong with government work. There is nothing wrong with believers being part of the system. We are simply called to do it in a God-honoring way. While Jesus didn’t run for office, we can.

Then Thomas says:

Jesus said, “I’m sending you out into the world to tell them about me and you will help them become my disciples just like I did for you.” No talk of politics, no talk of legislation, just powerful witnesses in word and lifestyle.

Thomas is a really smart guy and a seminary student. I’m sure he knows the wording and declension of the Great Commission in Greek. In English we often see it, “Go, therefore, and make disciples….” A better rendering would be, “As you go along, make disciples….” It carries the sense of being a disciple-maker wherever we might be. We’re not called to drop our professions and all be overseas missionaries. We’re called to serve God wherever we go. That might mean as a housewife. That might mean as a seminary student. That might mean as a legislator.

Next, Thomas writes:

The moral of the story seems to be that the more political power the Christians attain, the less effective we become at doing what we were actually called to do: ATTRACTING people and WINNING their hearts by living and loving in a NOTICEABLY DIFFERENT way than the world.

I agree that Christians are supposed to be different from the world around us. I agree that too often we are not. As Lord Acton famously said:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Here’s the kicker – we see this in all of life even apart from politics. The question isn’t about holding onto or relinquishing political power. The question is, “Can we maintain our Christian distinctive and live righteously even with the power granted us?” Ultimately we are not responsible for attracting and winning people. Sure, God calls us to live as examples to the world around us, but as Jesus said:

No one can come to me unless the Father who send me draw him…

God is the one who wins hearts, and He does that no matter who is in office or how we vote.

And Thomas notes:

We are not to judge non-Christians by Christian standards. That, however, that is exactly what we do when we legislate distinctly Christian principles.

He’s referring to 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:

I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? But God judges outsiders. Put away the evil person from among yourselves.

However, if you look at Paul’s list of inappropriate behavior you will find that we DO legislate against these things. We have laws governing sexual immorality (at least some types). We have laws about slander and libel. We have laws about public intoxication and swindling.

Paul isn’t saying, “Don’t try to hold the world accountable to our standards.” He’s saying, “You can’t judge someone’s spirituality based on Christian codes of conduct. I agree with this. I don’t judge a non-believer’s righteousness when he doesn’t live up to God’s standard. But if God’s way of living represents a better way then there is no biblical injunction from codifying God’s standards into civil law.

In a democratic republic we have the option of passing laws that we think will benefit the common good. The way the system works is that others have the right to vote against that legislation. It’s not being a bad Christian to attempt to normalize Christian behavior. It’s not about judging the souls of non-believers. It’s about recognizing that God’s way is the best way. And if the legislation is voted down, so be it. That’s how a free government works!

Finally, Thomas says:

I also don’t have a problem with Christians participating in a government that works to advance universal human rights and the common good, so long as they are not forcing people to conform to distinctly Christian principles.

This is the tough question, because it forces us to ask which values we will support legislating and which we will let slide. I don’t think there is an easy answer, I just know that we already do it. All legislation represents a worldview and a morality. WorldviewI think Thomas needs to clarify a definition of “distinctly Christian principles,” as he has not yet pointed to any principles that are distinctly Christian that would not be beneficial for all of humanity.

I think that Christian ethics and principles are sound and would benefit everybody. I know that Christianity is not monolithic and that there is WIDE variation in how Christians interpret and live out those principles. Still, when all is said and done, we must recognize that the Bible calls us to be faithful disciples where we are, and in the Western World that means citizens with a vote. We would be irresponsible citizens of God’s kingdom and of our nation (whichever nation you belong to) if we didn’t bring our voice to the political sphere.


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Hello, May I Speak With Muhammad? – Calling Muslims

Have you head about this? It seems Duke University will start sounding the Muslim call to prayer from the bell tower of the campus chapel every week.

Call to Prayer

Statistically, most private institutions grow more liberal as time goes on. Still, it’s disheartening to see an institution founded by Methodists and Quakers over 100 years ago move towards religious pluralism.

I understand that universities try to accommodate all students, but the call to prayer seems a tad excessive. The call to prayer is this:

Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest.
I bear witness that there is no God but Allah.
I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
Hasten to worship.
Hasten to success.
Prayer is better than sleep.
Allah is greatest.
There is no God but Allah.

My question is this: When will Duke University start sounding a call to Christian worship proclaiming Acts 4:11-12 ~

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Yeah, I didn’t think so. It’s not gonna happen.

So where’s the equity?

It’s simply non-existent. Allah forbid we make non-Christians listen to proclamations about our faith that there is no other way than Jesus. But when it comes to proclaiming that Allah is the only one? Sure, we’ll allow that.

Maybe because it’s said in Arabic we ignore what’s actually be said. Can we broadcast the Bible across campus if we do it in biblical Greek? Probably still not gonna fly.

But these are the times we’re living in. The Christian perspective is more and more being pushed aside to make way for pluralism. But it’s a faux pluralism. It’s a pluralism that allows for every faith to be present EXCEPT for Christianity. We’re relegated to the corner as religious kooks who cannot bring our faith to the public square.

Funny thing is my reading in the Gospel According to Luke this week comes from Luke 6:27-28, where Jesus says:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Hard words to hear.

Harder words to live out.

But if we really desire to live a life that follows Jesus we need to be putting his words into practice. That means no matter what injustice and inequality is brought against our faith, we love them, do good things to and for them, and pray for them.

I’m not sure Jesus knew what he was asking, ’cause it’s a pretty tall order.

Or maybe he really did know. Maybe he knew our human tendency to hate and mistreat those who oppose us (whether theologically, emotionally, physically, WHATEVER). Jesus calls us to go above and beyond – even towards those who would be considered opposition.

The difficult question for us is: Will we follow his instruction?

***UPDATE***

Seems Duke has changed their position and the call will no longer be broadcast from the belltower.