September 22, 2010

It's not that complicated

“I attain salvation by allowing my spiritual, rather than material, nature to dominate my actions. If I lead a life of spiritual good deeds of compassion, virtue, and self-sacrifice I will enter the kingdom of heaven both in this life and after death.” (Baha’i)

“I save myself by living out my expected dharma of required conduct and by meditation and reciting mantras. I attain salvation only when all my desire is eliminated and I achieve final and ultimate enlightenment.” (Buddhist)

“The goal of my existence is moksha, a freedom from infinite being and selfhood. I work to get out of the cycle of reincarnation. To attain moksha I can choose from several paths: yoga and meditation taught by a guru, the way of works, the way of knowledge, or the way of love and devotion.” (Hindu)

“Only ideas that reflect God’s nature are real, so sin, death, disease, and pain are not real. I attain salvation by overcoming those illusions with a realization of my divine spirit and mind.” (Christian Scientist)

“In order to attain salvation I must have faith, be baptized by immersion, and be actively associated with the Watch Tower and Tract Society. I have no hope of salvation if I fail to display righteous conduct and absolute loyalty to Jehovah.” (Jehovah’s Witness)

“My plan to acquire the celestial kingdom requires that I adhere strictly to the twelve steps of 1. Faith, 2. Repentance, 3. Baptism by immersion into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 4. Laying on of hands by a member of the Melchizedek priesthood in order to receive the Holy Ghost, 5. Being ordained as a Melchizedek priest, if I am a man, 6. Receiving the temple endowments, 7. Celestial marriage, 8. Observing the Word of Wisdom, 9. Sustaining the prophet, 10. Tithing, 11. Attending the sacred meeting, 12. Obeying the Church, its teachings, and the prophet.” (Mormon)

“I attain salvation by attending church at least once a week, reading my Bible and praying daily, giving 10 percent of my income to the church, and making sure that my good deeds outweigh the bad.” (Average American churchgoer)


August 25, 2010

Thank God for the Bert Elliots of the world.

Ran across this gem on Christianity Today's site. Here's to faint stars that rise night after night to the glory of God.

In January 2006, author Randy Alcorn had the opportunity to join with Jim Elliot's family for a dinner that marked the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Jim and four other missionaries in Ecuador. Randy writes:

There we met Jim's older brother, Bert, and his wife Colleen. In 1949, years before Jim went to Ecuador, they became missionaries to Peru. When we discussed their ministry, Bert smiled and said, "I can't wait to get back from furlough." Now in their eighties, they are in their sixtieth year as missionaries, joyfully reaching people for Christ. Until that weekend I didn't know anything about them. Bert and Colleen may enter eternity under the radar of the church at large, but not under God's ….

Bert said something to me that day that I'll never forget: "Jim and I both served Christ, but differently. Jim was a great meteor, streaking through the sky." Bert didn't go on to describe himself, but I will. Unlike his brother Jim, Bert is a faint star that rises night after night, faithfully crossing the same path in the sky to God's glory. I believe Jim Elliot's reward is considerable, but it wouldn't surprise me to discover that Bert and Colleen's will be greater still.

Randy Alcorn, If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Multnomah, 2009), p. 421

August 2, 2010

"Change the Gears Within Us..."

Forgive us, Lord Jesus, for doing the things that make us uncomfortable and guilty when we pray.
We say that we believe in God, and yet we doubt God's promises.
We say that in God we trust, yet we worry and try to manage our own affairs.
We say that we love Thee, O Lord, and yet do not obey Thee.
We believe that Thou hast the answers to all our problems, and yet we do not consult Thee.
Forgive us, Lord, for our lack of faith and the wilful [sic] pride that ignores the way, the truth, and the life.
Wilt Thou reach down and change the gears within us that we may go forward with Thee. AMEN

Peter Marshall, Mr. Jones Meet the Master; Sermons and Prayers, 1950. (emphasis added)

June 8, 2010

Prominence vs. Significance

prominent - adj - 1. Projecting outward from a line or surface: PROTUBERANT. 2. Immediately noticeable: CONSPICUOUS. 3. Widely known: EMINENT.

significant - adj - 1. Having or expressing a meaning: MEANINGFUL. 2. Having or expressing a covert meaning: SUGGESTIVE. 3. Momentous: IMPORTANT.

Can one be significant without being prominent? This is a question I have grappled with for several years now. The vast majority of us are not, and will never be, "prominent" but I firmly believe we can all be significant. The difference is, I believe, well, significant.

There is much desire for prominence in our culture. Gaining one's fifteen minutes of fame seems to be the life pursuit of many. Some see prominence as equal with significance as is illustrated in the celebrities who find it necessary to comment upon subjects about which they have little or no knowledge. Sadly prominence does not necessarily carry with it the weight of significance.

Significance may go largely unnoticed by the tabloid tititlated public. Significance may pass quietly under the radar of the prominence seekers. Significance rarely seeks prominence preferring the quiet and steady rhythms of meaningful change.

On rare occasions there are those significant individuals who are contentedly carrying out their significant livs that, much to their surprise, become prominent. One thinks of Mother Teresa, or Rosa Parks, or Billy Graham, or Martin Luther of the reformation (Perhaps Dr. King would fit this category though I might argue from his biography he was always seeking prominence), and these are only a few who come to mind quickly.

Can one be significant without being prominent? In my little life there have been many significant people whose names would mean nothing to you, yet for me they are the sources of life and inspiration. Here's to significance! Live it well!

May 12, 2010

Now the State is Telling the Church What to Say?

All the recent discussion about church and state issues has centered on the church's intrusion into state matters, until now. It seems that Speaker Pelosi feels that she has some authority to instruct the church on what should be proclaimed from the pulpits. It goes without saying that I wholeheartedly disagree. In fact, I think this very sort of thing was what concerned the founders.

Here, again, are our options:

  1. The Church is above the State, a theory held by those claiming that their ecclesiastical head is the Vicar of Christ on earth.
  2. The Church is alongside the State, a theory held by the State Churches of various countries.
  3. The State is above the Church, a theory held by totalitarian governments.
  4. The Church is separate from the State, the theory championed by Baptists everywhere and held by those governments that have written religious liberty into their fundamental laws.

Let's get this right people! Politicians have no business telling the church what to say or do. The church has the moral obligation to comment upon what politicians say and do. The State should keep us from killing each other. The church should help us to love each other.

May 7, 2010

Franklin Proposes Prayer

James Madison preserved for us this bit of American history which casts light on the all too shadowed relationship of church and state. If there is any doubt concerning the soil in which their thoughts were planted this motion by Mr. Franklin is representative of their thoughts. While they understood that a particular church should not be sanctioned they likewise understood, and grasped, the foundational concept that "God governs in the affairs of men" (Franklin).

Doctor Franklin to Mr. President

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks
close attendance & continual resonings with each other - our different
sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes
as ays, is methinks a meancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human
Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom
since we have been running about in serach of it. We have gone back to
ancient history for models of Government, and examined the differet forms of
those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution
now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe,
but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were
in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when
presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once though
of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our
understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we
were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine
protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously
answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed
frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that
kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the
means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now
forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need
his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the
more convincing proofs I see of this truth - that God governs in the affairs
of men
. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his
notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have
been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that "except the Lord build the House
they labour in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also
believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political
building no better that the Builders of Babel; We shall be divided by our little
partial local interests' our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall
become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And, what is worse,
mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing
Government by Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and

I therefore beg leave to move- that henceforth prayers
imploring the assisatnce of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be
held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one
or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that

It is vital to note that this motion was never voted on and the Assembly adjourned after some discussion. Among the points of discussion were the issues of concern for the perception that things had gotten so bad in the Constitutional convention that they had to resort to prayer! Also mentioned was the issue of having no finances with which to pay the clergy for their services. Though the motion was never ratified it set hearts and minds on a different track and soon after the Constitution was produced in its final form .

Franklin may not be the most religious of our Founders but he was certainly cognizant of the foundational role faith plays in life. Perhaps we should remember our history and stand firm on the foundations on which our nation was built.

May 3, 2010

Temporal and Spiritual

Began reading "Wrestlin' Jacob," by Erskine Clarke which revisits religion in the old South, particularly Liberty County, Georgia and its surrounding environs. I immediately ran across the following lines which gave me pause as they resonated with the thoughts already rattling around in my head about this deeply important question of church and state relations.

"'We are sensible," they wrote in the Articles of Incorporation, 'to the
advantages of good order and social agreement, among any people, both for
their Civil and Religious Benefit. . .' For theses Puritan setlers, the government of
such a commuinty would consist of two coordinate branches: the Church and
the Society. The church would be governed by the male communing members who would administer spiritual affairs; the Society would be composed of all males who would subscribe to the Articles of Incorporation, whether they were communing members of the Church or not, and would administer temporal affairs. If this
were not a "Holy Commonwealth," it was clearly a Christian Society they wished to establish on the Georgia coast...At the center of this community stood the church.
" (emphasis added)

I find it instructive that for our Founders, and the society in which they lived and breathed, issues of faith played a central, undeniable role; particularly issues of the Christian faith. You will find this singular fact borne out in the architectural fabric of almost every community in this great land where standing in the midst of the places of law and merchandising are the places of faith and worship.

Can there be any denial that the ground from which the early thoughts about our nation grew was a thoroughly Christian ground?

April 29, 2010

Questions I Am Pondering...

I enjoyed the unique opportunity to hear Dr. Martin Marty speak earlier this week at Samford University. It has sparked several thoughts in my heart and head, most unresolved but not unimportant. I list a few of them here for initial consideration with the hope that I can flesh these thoughts out in future posts.

1. Dr. Marty states that it is "historically untrue that our laws are "Christian" laws and that the Founders did not set out to create a "Christian" nation. That said there can be no doubt that Christian thought exerted a strong influence on the thinking of the Founders."

My response: Is it possible that though it may not have been the intent it was, however, the inevitable result?

2. Dr. Marty spoke of the harmful result of "privileging" the church citing the example of Finland where the "official" religion is Lutheranism. 94% of the population is Lutheran and only 2% attend services with any regularity.

My response: I think he is on to something significant here.

3. Dr. Marty asked, "Can the church be prophetic if it is privileged?" and then quoted John Leland (I believe) "Whoever takes the King's shekels gets the King's shackles."

My response: I have always been more than a little suspicious of the "Faith-based Initiatives" approach from government. The church can only speak to power when it is clearly not beholden to that power.

4. Dr. Marty speaks of the Deism of Benjamin Franklin and it being a poor example for the religiously passionate.

My response: While I agree that Franklin is, at best, pragmatic in matters of faith I must call to question his commitment to Deism. If I correctly understand the notion of Deism being that of a disinterested Deity, then many of Franklin's statements fly counter to that notion. One cited by Dr. Marty is a fine example, "A super-intending providence...God governs in the affairs of men." (From Franklin's speech to the Continental Congress, June 27th, 1787). This does not sound like a man who would advocate for a God who made the watch, wound it up and left it to run it's course. It sounds suspiciously like someone who believes that somehow God is engaged directly in the comings and goings of the lives of all mankind.

5. Dr. Marty noted that Franklin did indeed propose that prayer be offered at the Continental Congress but that the motion was not acted upon. The reason being that those present recognized the terrible can of worms this would open. Would the prayer be Anglican or Congregational?

My response: This is a cogent point. Though not well remembered, 9 of the 13 colonies had "official" religions. (Always an interesting recollection as they were steadily recreating what so many of them had fled, i.e. religious persecutions.) A similar point I often make in discussions of this nature concerns prayer in the public schools, who will lead the prayer? Here in the Bible belt I have a reasonable assurance that it will be a "Christian" prayer of some sort. In some other part of our nation it might be a Mormon prayer, or a Muslim prayer, or perhaps even Wiccan! Who is to decide and am I willing for others to be teaching my child, or anyone's child, how to pray?

What response do these thoughts spark in your head and heart?

February 8, 2010

For those of you who happen by here every now and then I thank you for your patience. My time in front of a computer has been limited (not neccessarily a bad thing - just make time for blogging take a back seat) but it seems that may be coming to a close as doors are opening that have the evident finger prints of God. It would seem that prayers for clarity during this time of transition have been answered and it simply remains for us to faithfully follow. I will leave details for a later time but suffice it to say we have a peace about the new day of ministry dawning for us.

For all of you who have prayed, thank you. Please don't stop! Evey anxious moment we have faced in this time of transition has been made easier by the sure knowledge that you were praying for us.

Watch this space for addtional details in the coming weeks.