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Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

One of my favorite things to do, is to go out dancing. Whether you believe it or not, I’m a fantastic two-stepper (and waltzer). It is one of the things we do down here in Texas. And I’m sure you are all quite jealous of all the fun we get to have because of that.

To go dancing generally requires going to a bar. Because there aren’t many places to go and dance where alcohol isn’t served. Mainly because most men are too chicken to get out and dance without any liquid courage. That’s their loss. (To all the men reading this, take it from me: women love a man who can dance proper).

I love dancing. It allows me to get in my exercise (because dancing is a cardio beast), and when I was single, it allowed me to meet (hopefully) eligible women. (I find churches are usually too pious for something so worldly as dating.)

Now, meeting women at dancehalls is a mixed bag. You have women who are not looking for anything with anyone, you have married women just out with friends, you have married women looking to not be married, you have single women, etc. There may be a room full of a hundred women, and perhaps only ten of them might be single. And that is assuming they even want to dance with you, or find you attractive.

Well, lesser men than I perhaps have had that issue. I can’t really comment on what I haven’t experienced.

I’m just kidding, folks. I’ve been turned down more times than I care to publicly admit. Thanks again for allowing me to relive my humiliation for your benefit.

But…the Gospel is kind of the same way. Jesus talks about a farmer sowing his seed among the field. Some seed landed on the road, where the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil, where there was rock beneath, so it couldn’t grow. Still other seed fell among some thorns, where the weeds choked out the fresh new life. But some seed fell on fertile soil, and it produced greatly, and was worth many times more than what had been originally planted. (Matthew 13)

Spreading the Gospel requires us to take chances. Many times people are not receptive to the Gospel of Christ. It requires a lot, and it doesn’t promise much in return. But spreading the Gospel is a lot like asking a girl to dance. At first you’re trepidatious, worried about what she will say, but totally acting nonchalant about the whole thing. Then, as you get closer, you really decide whether you’re going to go through with it or not. And you either turn away at the very last minute, as if you were on you’re way somewhere else. Or, you come face to face with her. And at first, you may stumble with the words, but eventually you become a bit more sure of yourself. Every time though, you’re worried about whether she will accept your invitation, or decline it.

Being a Christian requires us to be uncomfortable. Rejection is never fun. It always hurts. But we must share the Gospel always. Unto the ends of the earth, and even into the dancehalls. Because you never know where the Gospel will flourish.

Ask the girl to dance. Who knows, maybe she’ll say “yes”.

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I remember the first time I was introduced to Christian Pacifism. It made literally, no sense to me whatsoever. As an eighteen year old kid (saying that as a twenty-six year old kid), the thought of Christian Pacifism was anathema. The very idea made me sick to my stomach. Pacifism wasn’t Christian in my eyes, it stood in direct contrast to everything I had been taught to believe by my culture.

My parents didn’t raise someone who was so easily turned away from differing viewpoints, however. The more the idea of pacifism disgusted me, the greater I wanted to delve into it and see why someone would commit to such lunacy. It also required me to confront head-on passages of Scripture that not only went against my worldview, but against the very god I believed in.

Having a crisis of faith is never fun. People don’t do this for kicks and giggles. The very bedrock of your faith is shaken to its core, because it was built on something that you’re not sure will withstand the test of time. Jesus gives a parable about this in the Scriptures. Everyone who builds the foundation of their faith upon the teachings and actions of Jesus will be able to withstand all the winds and rains and storms that may come. But those who do not build their faith upon the example of Jesus, will be like a man who builds his house on sand, and the first storm that comes will knock it down. And great will be its fall. (Matthew 7 & Luke 6)

The more I dug into Scripture, and the more I read the words of Jesus, the more my foundation began to crumble. My faith, my house, was built on sand. And the fall was great indeed. I became confronted with the very same question that plagued C.S. Lewis during his own crisis of faith. Either Jesus was a madman, or he was the Son of God.

Fortunately beneath my sand, was a bit of bedrock. That happens sometimes. My house fell, but I was able to clear away the sand, and begin building anew. It took some time, but I knew the foundation was firm (although I do still find granules here and there). My neighbors and friends and family laughed at me. I probably felt a bit like Noah, my faith being mocked. Yet I knew that somehow everything would be alright, because my new faith was built upon a Gospel that was solid. A Gospel of Love.

There have been some bumps along the way. Faith journeys are never easy. And there have been storms, Lord have there been storms. I’ve had hurricane winds blow against my heart and soul, and there have been times when it was all I could do to not give in. But our God is a mighty fortress, and happy are those who put their trust in Him.

The journey isn’t over yet. I still have a long road ahead of me. I’m still learning this path of love and peace, trying to show mercy and grace. (It’s been eight years since I started on this road, and you’d be surprised how little you actually learn in that time). A little something that helps me along in this regard is a quote by Stanley Hauerwas: “I say I’m a pacifist because I am a violent son of a bitch. I’m a Texan. I can feel it in every bone I’ve got. And I hate the language of pacifism because it’s too passive. But by avowing it, I create expectations in others that hopefully will help me live faithfully to what is true. But that I have no confidence in my own ability to live it at all.”

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It is remarkable to me that there are so many who view the Catholic Church with such disdain, even now. Do not misunderstand me, I’m no Papist. My great-grandfather’s dying words were, “Damn the Pope!”. But surely we have come to a point in the Christian religion where we can disagree on secondary issues, even so far as to call each other out on where we disagree, without questioning the salvific status of the other person.

No man has knowledge of who will enter the gates of Paradise. But I do not see how one can damn another professing Christian, especially when it is a man like Pope Francis who seems so remarkably intent on spreading the Good News of Christ to the poor and the least of these. It seems to me, that Pope Francis is the most Christ-like pope there has been in ages.

Do I have issues with the Church of Rome? Absolutely. For starters, they can begin to renounce papal infallibility when speaking ex cathedra, begin to consecrate women to Holy Orders, and allow Latin Rite priests to marry. But these are not salvific issues. None of them contradict the message of the Gospels, which is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit.

However, I have noticed a remarkable lack of the fruit of the Spirit when it comes to folks who lambaste the Catholic Church and Pope Francis, and refuse to acknowledge his stature and prominence in spreading the Christian religion. They would sooner gnaw off their own foot, than to admit that the Pope may indeed be a Christian, and may indeed be advancing the cause of Christ.

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I’m still trying to figure out how to define my experience watching “Selma”, last night. The closest I can come to, is that it was a spiritual experience. “Selma” is heart-wrenching, and beautiful.

The entire film, I could not help but think, “My God, what have we (white Americans) done?”. The answer to my question came in the movie itself. When any white person stands by, and does not speak out against racism when it rears its ugly head, we have implicitly condoned it. It is our sin of omission.

“Selma” also illuminates the activities of Dr. King in Selma, Alabama. His leadership of a non-violent protest against those who sought to harm and kill him. How disappointed I was to learn that while “Selma” had a full audience, a film that glorifies the life of a military assassin was sold out.

This is the sin of the Church in America – we have failed to speak out against the violence of this nation. We have implicitly stood by as our government systematically oppresses and murders its enemies – at home and abroad. Many in our churches have even explicitly supported or participated in such efforts.

We have glorified the military industrial complex as our savior and have placed our hope in our elected officials. Yet the Scriptures speak out, and proclaim a new way of life. That in the Kingdom of God, swords are beat into plowshares. That those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword. The Gospel of Christ is this: Love thy God, love thy neighbor, love thy enemy, love thine own self. Love.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Which then is the love of Christ? The killing of enemies for national pride? Or the sacrifice of one’s life for the freedom of others?

Skip “American Sniper”, Church. Go see “Selma”.

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With the Texas elections, there was an overwhelming victory by Republicans across the board. Many view the officials who have been elected to be valiant defenders of life. And perhaps these men are valiant protectors of the unborn (though I may disagree with their methods). I believe abortion to be a difficult decision, but one that is bereft of any moral or spiritual goodness.

That being said – being a champion of life extends to far more than simply ensuring fewer abortions. With fewer abortions come children who are born into unwanted and possibly dangerous situations. These children have an increased risk to grow up in a situation of generational poverty, and become victims of societal ills. With an alarming population of Texas’ children already going to bed hungry, and with Republicans fighting tooth and nail to cut funding for schools and welfare programs, are these officials really defenders of life?

Children who grow up in these scenarios have a higher likelihood to become juvenile offenders, and many end up in a cyclical pattern – repeating mistake after mistake because society did not offer them the same privilege given to children with better resources at hand. These juveniles grow into adults who cycle in and out of prison, many of those die on the streets, or are sentenced to death in the prisons that many of them have called home for the majority of their adult (and possibly adolescent) lives.

Does a champion of life only care about ensuring that a fetus is born into a human being? Does a champion of life care about ensuring that everyone has enough food to eat, clean water to drink, a roof over their head, and adequate medical care? Does a champion of life seize every possible chance to execute someone whom they deem to be past redemption?

No, a champion of life is a champion for all those who live. A champion of life fights not only for those who have yet to be born – but also those that have been born already. Especially those who have been outcast by society and have either by circumstance or by choice been relegated to lives lead in the dark. A champion of life champions not only his friends, and those who think as he does – but also his enemies.

A champion of life recognizes that all are made in the image of God. That all life is sacred. That all of us are broken – and that all of us are in need of redemption.

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For the past six years almost, I have been advocating the Gospel of Love. Not because I’m really that much of a loving person, but because I believe that God is a loving God. I believe that the sacrifice on Mount Calvary was a sacrifice of love, and that it was not meant to be contained amongst the select few. I believe in a Gospel that stretches across time and space, oceans and mountaintops, valleys and plains and fields, and from the furthest reaches of the universe. There are not enough words to explain how great I believe the Love of God is. Language is limited, as is the capability of the human mind to comprehend that which is incomprehensible. But through the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the love of God is accessible to all peoples, of all nations, in every tongue, and in every era.

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I cry out to you O Lord, in the depths of my despair. My cries for help have fallen on deaf ears, and those who could help cannot be found. My God the fear that wells up within my soul! Shall Hades continue to reap his wealth from my Tartarean sorrow? Only you can save me, my God! Are you not my shepherd? Hear me O God of Job; He who has crafted the universe! Release me of this I beg of you! You are the Father who gives only good gifts; the God who hands not over death to His child who asks for bread. Grant your Holy Spirit to comfort me! By the power and the passion of the Cross, free me from these chains!

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