June 29, 2009

Lying Down In Green Pastures

This Shepherd will be on vacation with the family this week. Don't look for updates here or anywhere else. I'm taking a break from all things electronic...well, I will have my cell phone in case of emergency but there will be no facebook or twitter updates. I'm probably not responding to SMS messages. I might listen to my voicemail - might not.

Check back next week. I'll tell you about life disconnected. What I'll really be telling you about is life re-connected. Re-connected with the relationships that really matter in this life. Until then, I am outta' here!

June 28, 2009

Enough Tabloid News!

OK. Michael Jackson died. Is there anybody on the planet who doesn't know this now? I've got it. We can move on to other news now if it's ok with everybody. I'm not interested in his autopsy report. I'm not concerned about his toxicology screening. As for the kids, common sense says Mom gets them unless there is some mitigating circumstance making that an unhealthy choice (i.e. Mom is currently serving time on child abuse charges).

I feel like the police officer at an accident, "There's nothing to see here people, lets move on."

Please understand I am not a Michael Jackson hater. Deeply disturbed by his behavior in recent years but felt more pity than ire. I remember my cousin Danny gathering us all in the living room to see the "Thriller" video. It was a huge event that everybody was talking about and still talks about. I too turned up the radio when "Smooth Criminal" hit the airwaves. But I must tell you this is, in my step-father's signature line, "Too much sugar for a dime."

How can the tectonic shifts happening in Iran or the ominous rocket saber rattlings of North Korea or the bank breaking health care plan or any number of other issues of importance be pushed to page two or three? Just another sign of the apocalypse I suppose.

When our culture is more concerned with celebrity than clarity, I believe it's a pretty good indicator that we've lost our way. Enough with the tabloid news. Save it for the tabloids. Can we get back to the things that affect the way our lives are lived?
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June 24, 2009

Breathtaking Confession


That's all I can say about Gov. Mark Sanford's press conference today.

Clarity, clarity, surely clarity is the most b...Image by [ r ♥ c e y t ♥ y ] {I br♥ke for bokeh} via Flickr

By way of quick review here's what we saw:
  • A man take full and personal responsibility for his actions. No finger pointing. No whining. No paper thin double talk about word definitions (i.e. Clinton's "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is.") Just a man simply saying, "I was wrong."
  • A public figure using words like "sin," "God's moral law," and "forgiveness" with a straight face and with the expectation that those listening would understand what he meant. (I think many, if not most, did understand.)
  • A man clearly stating that though the sin was committed by him it had serious and far reaching ramifications in the lives of many others.
I may find words later. For now, I am breathless.

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June 23, 2009

A Good Word on Behalf of Respect

Dr. Rick Lance wrote a piece worth a look. You can read it here. For those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Lance you can check his bio here, but in short he is a leader of remarkable caliber in a day desperately short of leaders. I am glad to know him and it is a joy to contribute in some small way to the work he is doing through the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

Respect is a social commodity that has lost value in recent years. I often hear teachers in our public and private schools bemoaning this fact. Seeing it on public display in the instances Dr. Lance mentions simply serves to reinforce the disdain for others which is already rampant in our culture. Perhaps a return to civility would serve us all well.

I often tell my children, and on occasion other people's children, "It doesn't cost you anything to be polite and show respect." Maybe some of those Dr. Lance mentions should be reminded of this simple truth, in a respectful manner of course. Paul said it like this, "If you bite and ravage each other, watch out - in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?" (Galatians 5:15, The Message)

June 17, 2009

God's Good Care

The kids are all off to M-Fuge this week so my beloved and I are enjoying a taste of the empty nest. Our youngest is the farthest and longest from home he's ever been so he approached this week with some trepidation.

I got a phone call from him on Monday (he hasn't yet learned that calling the parental units is no cool - please don't anybody tell him!) He asked me to pray for him as they were getting ready to sign up for their groups and he wanted to be right where God wanted to him to be. I assured him I would pray and reminded him that God already had everything taken care of for him.

Pray I did.

The Light of God HimselfImage by KLuwak via Flickr

Later that evening he called again (whew, nobody has filled him on the parents and cool thing yet) and asked me if I knew a guy named Roger B. In fact I do. It seems that when they were assigned to their various groups youngest just "happened" to be placed in the group with one my college buddies. Coincidence? I'm thinking, no.

God is good in all of His care for us. It is humbling that He is willing to attend to small prayers like this one in light of all the other things happening in the world today.
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June 15, 2009

Old, but Insightful, Interview with N.T. Wright

I am fast becoming a fan of N.T. Wright. He seems to be able to communicate orthodox doctrine in a manner which makes sense in our modern world. A needed voice. I just finished his "Evil and the Justice of God" and, in a word, I consider it outstanding. I ran across this interview from the Wittenburg Door, which set aside it's funny bone (for the most part) to talk with Wright back in '07. It serves as a pretty good introduction to the man if you are unfamiliar with his work.
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June 14, 2009

Zemanta test...

Playing with a new tool. Zemanta. We will see how well I like it. It's supposed to give me "relevant content to enhance my blog and emails." As you can s

MISSILE STONEWARE:  Thor's thunder~bolt~serpen...Image by quapan via Flickr

ee from the "relevant photo" I've chosen I still prefer stone aged tools like pen and paper to all this modern machination. However, I do enjoy the interaction that such modern marvels as the blogosphere and email have made possible. At what other time in history would I have been able to put together a few words expressing some of my ideas and then have the opportunity to have response from such far flung places as Australia, Africa, and Arkansas? Have fun clicking on the links! I think this may enter the area of "too much information" but it may have some useful helps along the way. We shall see.
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June 11, 2009

Left Wing Christianity or Right Wing Christianity

Another engaging post over at Pragmatic-Eclectic. Mark raises the specter of Christianity's all too comfortable relationship with right-wing politics. I must agree in principle with this as I have, on several occasions, been a guest in churches in which being a Democrat would be akin to punching one's ticket to hell. Beloved, this should not be the case. I have stated on numerous occasions that our salvation will not arrive on Air-Force One or with the ascension to power of any political party. We would do well to heed James' declaration that "the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires." (James 1:20).

Mark goes on to remark that Jesus' teachings sound "left-wing" and wonders how "the message of Jesus ever become [sic] aligned with big business, military spending, gun ownership, tax cuts and disdain for the environment?" Cogent questions all.

I take issue with Mark in that he creates a false dichotomy. I do not believe it is an either/or proposition but a both/and. Just as an airplane needs a right and a left wing to fly, I likewise believe our political process, and our Christian involvement therein, needs both wings.

Mark questions the conservative penchant of preserving the status quo. Understandable, but I would posit that it is oh-so necessary. Without the "status quo" of solid theology the church would have, on many, occasions wandered into the spiritual wilderness never to return. Likewise without the left-wing radicalism of men and women like Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, William Carey or Mother Teresa, who took seriously the command to care for others we would be the inheritors of a stale and lifeless theology.

The ongoing discussion of the Christian's role in the political process is an important one for us as believers. We need to get this right. If we, as the church, desire to change our society and our culture we must do it by changing the hearts and minds of those within that culture. Yet, we also bear a responsibility to speak up for those who are without a voice, be they the unborn or the underprivileged. We must be conservative in our theology ("Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" Jude 3) and liberal in our praxis ("In as much as you've done it to the least of these my brethren, you've done it unto me." Matt. 25:40).

Reconciliation Continues in South Africa

Cori is at the Amahoro Gathering and she referred to this post from there. Scroll down through the list of speeches (you may wish to go back and take a listen later...) and read about the exchange between Adriaan Vlok and Sean Callaghan, it will be worth your time.

Grace is dangerous stuff.

June 10, 2009

When Is It Right To Rebel - Part 2

Mark, over at Pragmatic-Eclectic has posted an interesting read on this issue I raised last week. I am greatly appreciative of the historic insight he offers as well as his decrying the latest addition to the already bloated "Bibles for profit" business. (Rant for another day and time.)

It is an additional voice to bring to the table of this conversation. I am of the opinion that there is a time for all things (Ecclesiastes 3:8 - unless of course we're just throwing that portion out...) but that we are often too quick to rush to war. So, any other thoughts on this one? Is there a time to take up arms as believers? If so, when?

June 9, 2009

No Future Without Forgiveness

I don't often post book reviews here. I ordinarily utilize Shelfari for this kind of work. However, in this case I will make an exception. It is not because I consider this piece of writing a towering achievement, or because I believe everyone should read this, rather, it is because I have been profoundly affected and challenged.

This book came along at a kairos moment for me. (For an explanation of kairos see this post.) I have been ruminating on the concept of forgiveness for several months now as I am in preparation for a sermon series on reconciliation this fall. Included in this extended consideration I have read and prayed pertinent scripture while seeking the foundational truths therein and alongside the scriptures I have sought out, and continue to seek, illumination from those who have wrestled, academically or personally, with this all important issue. Few fit this description like Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Reading this book can be laborious as the cast of characters is as big as the nation of South Africa. Combine that with an outsider's diminutive grasp of the historic landscape of this nation and one can easily get lost. While I often found myself mystified by the faceless names and foreign factions, the lighthouse of forgiveness continued to shine clearly.

When confronted with unspeakable evil and personal pain what are we to do? This is a question which haunts us all. All have been wounded by another. In like fashion, all have wounded another. Can such wounds be healed? One solution is retributive justice, an eye for an eye. But where does that cycle stop? As Ghandi famously stated, "An eye for an eye will make the world blind." Tragically, there is already enough blindness in the world, blindness which is often self-imposed. Mr. Leon Wessels, in his testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa stated, "I further do not believe the political defense of 'we did not know' is available to me because in many respects I believe we did not want to know."

Another path is open to us. It is not a path for the faint of heart or for those desiring to cling tightly to their bitterness. Indeed, Archbishop Tutu asserts that, in the end, it is the only path holding any hope for us. As the title of his book proclaims, there is No Future Without Forgiveness. Rather than retribution we must seek restoration and there can be no restoration without forgiveness.

Perhaps here, as in few other places in our world, is the seat at the table that only those with a sound theology can fill. The world has cheapened reconciliation to mean "forgive and forget" when nothing could be further from the truth of forgiveness. "On the contrary, it is important to remember, so that we should not let such atrocities happen again...It means taking what happened seriously and not minimizing it; drawing out the sting in the memory that threatens to poison our entire existence...Forgiveness means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin, but it is a loss that liberates the victim...True forgiveness deals with the past, all of the past, to make the future possible." (Chapter 11, No Future Without Forgiveness)

I do not know what the cultural climate of South Africa is today. I do know that for one shining moment, a moment which confounded, and continues to confound, a watching world, the people of South Africa, both the wrongdoers and the wronged, found a way to stand with hands outstretched in welcome rather than with fists raised in anger.

I suppose I am so profoundly moved by this because I realize how petty my grievances are and how desperately unwilling I am to forgive. Like Mr. Wessels I prefer my comfortable, self-imposed blindness to a discomforting clear-eyed view of my neighbor.

June 2, 2009

When Is It Right To Rebel?

I participate in a men's discussion group on Sunday evenings and the following question was raised. When is it "right" for a Christian to rebel against authority?

Our entire cultural identity finds its roots in a rebellion against authority. The American revolution is a well documented and much discussed moment in history. That it was influenced and, largely, directed by men who saw the world through a Judeo-Christian lens is often commented upon. The founder's own words clearly acknowledge God's activity in their lives and in the workings of the world in which they lived. Refresh your memory with these words from The Declaration of Independence.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Furthermore, considering that 40 of the 56 signatories of the Declaration were members of Christian churches, among them Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Episcopalian, Anglican, Quaker, and Roman Catholic, there can be little argument that these men were committed, admittedly to varying degrees, to the ideals presented in Scripture.

With that in mind we perused Paul's instruction in Romans 13 and Peter's exhortation in 1 Peter 2. I print these passages here for your consideration.

"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor."
1 Peter 2:13-17
"Let evey person be subect to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed and those who resist will incur judgment. "
Romans 13:1-2
That last line from Romans 13:2 caused quite a bit of consternation for us. It would seem from that instruction that we as a nation were set upon a path to "incur judgment" from the very foundations of the revolution because we, as a nation were clearly "resisting the authorities." Just how did the Christian men of 1776 reconcile this issue?

Our discussion wandered to Martin Luther and his nailing of the 95 theses to the Wittenburg door. He too was resisting the authorities. We found that we stand in a long line of "rebels," John Knox, William Tyndale, John Bunyan, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, to name just a few. Were they out of line scripturally? If not, what standard should be used to determine when rebellion against authority is merited?

We came to no clear cut answers and deferred the discussion to our next meeting. We would love to have the input of people like you. What do you think? When is it right to rebel?