English: Exterior of the Cadet Chapel on the c...

English: Exterior of the Cadet Chapel on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s another short, interesting article at Relevant Magazine: A Natural Disaster With No One to Blame

It’s about some Evangelical groups who frequently tout natural disasters as being God’s punishment for wicked cities and nations, but are now silent about the Colorado wildfires raging through their own HQ neighborhood.

I like reading Relevant’s blogs and articles, but even better, I like reading the comments. You can keep your finger on the pulse of Western Christianity and learn a lot about what rank-and-file Christians think. From time to time, I add my own comments.

Sometimes, I love what other readers say. Other times, I’m shocked. There are Christians who seem to be as lost and even more confused than the non-Christian world (not that I have all the answers or that those who don’t agree with me are automatically “lost”).

Sometimes I want to reach out to them with a reply comment, but then realize it would take an entire book to help or make any sense. So I keep my remarks to myself, and usually, say a little prayer.

But I’ve written that book. It’s currently in the hands of an editor, which is turning out to be a surprisingly slow process. No wonder. The manuscript is just under 400 book-size pages. It might even end up as two books—we’ll have to see how it goes.

So I can’t put all that in a blog comment no matter how well-intended I am. Yet a too-short remark would only encourage flaming arguments, and there’s plenty of that going on already.

On a happier note, I hope my fellow Americans enjoy a safe 4th of July. (My understanding is that some of Colorado Springs has cancelled their fireworks displays, for obvious reasons.) Those of us who aren’t dealing with wildfires can pray for those who are—not just the victims, but the firefighters and other workers who put their time and lives on the line. For those in a position to do more, there are numerous ways to help with donations of money, supplies, or animal rescue-related concerns.

People helping people, Christian or otherwise, is neighbor love in action that contributes to God’s good and the living kingdom of heaven around us. I didn’t always think so, but I know now that’s the best fire to spread and the greatest fireworks display in which to engage and celebrate, especially in the midst of disaster.

What’s your take on the Relevant Magazine article and/or the reader comments?

 

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Treat people the way you want to be treated. Respect is earned, not given.When this recently popped up on my Facebook news feed, it had almost 1,000 “likes.” It’s an easy-to-like saying that sounds wise, and I’m sure the intent is to discourage people from demanding respect, which almost always backfires.

But my first thought was that, for Christians, the character of a rich life is never about earning, it’s about the ability to give freely without the need for payback and without feeling cheated.

First, the command to love our neighbors as ourselves is really about respect rather than affection. Thank goodness, we don’t have to like people to respect them. Second, respect is a form of love, and love never demands; yet it never earns, either. Respect is also a form of grace; and grace is always given, never earned.

Common Wages

When it comes to giving and receiving, I think we tend to see it as obligation on the one hand, entitlement on the other. We live in a world where everybody owes and everyone pays. I call it wages mentality—in a word, earning.

The problem with my earning your respect is that I become dependent on you paying me what I’ve earned, what I’m entitled to. If you don’t pay, I’ll quickly see you as the “problem” and will become angry or frustrated. Then you’re in control of me rather than me being in control of myself.

When my satisfaction depends on you, I’ll go after you to collect what you owe, be it respect, an apology, whatever. And once I’m in that frame of mind, any love, grace, or respect evaporates like raindrops on hot summer pavement.

This is where the great lessons on grace come in. (more…)

Marriage

Image by Lel4nd via Flickr

I read an interesting article, “You Never Marry the Right Person.” That article sparked debate in comments from readers. I added my own comment, and then realized it might make an interesting post on my blog. For what it’s worth, here’s my comment, expanded a bit for my own readers:

What if we’ve been looking at marriage out of context for centuries and missed the big picture, straining out gnats and swallowing the camel? This is way over-simplified, but points worth considering:

1. Adam and Eve are two halves of mankind in God’s image. His purpose for mankind is to rule and serve His creation (rule/serve being synonymous) in partnership with Him. (Gen. 1:26) That purpose is the same today. Everything in life, including marriage, feeds that purpose.

2. In biblical perspective, Jews and Gentiles (non-Jewish peoples) are also two halves of mankind in God’s image. Just as Eve completes Adam, so Gentiles complete the Jews. Two halves make the joined, completed whole. The two shall become one. (more…)

English: SVG drawing of a baseball bat.

We’ll find relationships and well-being already improved if we’ve implemented steps 1, 2, and 3. It’s important to understand, however, that it doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why Jesus says to “put into practice” his words. He’ll help, of course, but he won’t do it for you. That would rob you of the joy of “overcoming.”

To expect instant success is a set-up for failure. Trying it out of sequence also guarantees failure. So, for most of us, it isn’t a lack of “faith” as we’re usually told, but rather, a lack of clear understanding.

Culprit #4 is score-keeping and payback. Both stem from perceptions of indebtedness, i.e., the sense of owing. Owing involves the sense of entitlement on one hand, and the sense of obligation on the other—what we feel we owe others and what we feel they owe us. It causes us to keep score in relationships and usually has a negative impact.

I’ll shorten Jesus’ quote because this step is a bit lengthy, but here are the relevant verses. (This is where most people give up in defeat because they don’t realize that there’s a method to Jesus’ “madness” and they’ve missed his first three steps.)

You’ve heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well…

You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Aren’t even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing so much better than others? Don’t even pagans do that?” (Mat. 5:38-40, 43-47)

A Rich Spirit (more…)

Angry Talk (Comic Style)

Few people, even Christians, realize that the secret to well-being is to gradually kill off six universal culprits that sabotage it. Jesus exposes them in his Sermon on the Mount, Unfortunately, however, it has become more and more the Sermon That Doesn’t Count.

When it comes to real life, Jesus has been framed as pretty much clueless, not exactly the modern go-to guy for life-coaching. He’s only good for his blood, his gig on the cross, and a few profound sayings that even Christians pay no attention to. Consequently, it is we who are clueless.

So I thought a series on these sneaky culprits would be helpful since they often come disguised as “right.” The secret to their demise is the Sermon’s sequence. Though we’ve heard it a million times, few people have heard that the order in which Jesus teaches is key. And his first step is to eliminate retained anger and contempt:

You have heard it said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I’m telling you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment also. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Mat. 5:21-22)

When Jesus says “angry with,” that includes everything from little pet peeves all the way up to raging violence. A “brother” is anyone; it’s synonymous with “neighbor” or “others.” And “subject to judgment” refers to human judgment as well as God’s.

Contempt covers a lot of ground, too. “You fool!” is a dangerous mind-set because it includes all forms of ridicule, shame, malice, indignation, and superiority.

The Mechanics of Anger

(more…)

English: Foggy sunrise in San Francisco and Bu...

Image via Wikipedia

How often have you heard that you’re a no-good sinner and will always be a no-good sinner? Jesus taught, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good.” (Mat. 12:33) “Wash the inside of the cup and the outside gets clean in the process.” (Mat. 23:26)

Some will say, “Jesus was good on the inside, but we can never be.” This is only partially true; and it robs us of hope. The idea that we’re nothing but no-good sinners and will always be no-good sinners in this life is a terrible conflict with God’s refinement and redemption process.

In a busy restaurant, I recently overheard part of a conversation between two people, apparently Christian. One was saying, “But even when I’m saved and in heaven, I’m still a sinner. God only lets me in because His love is so great that He forgives me.” The other person nodded emphatically.

I don’t know where the rest of the conversation went, but I thought how sad it is that we’ve been convinced that even in a resurrected state in a perfect heaven, we still can be no different. Even then, we can’t be made new; we can only be forgiven, which, for many Christians, is the “greatest” expression and fullest extent of God’s love.

It’s so bleak, so minimal, so unworthy of our calling; and it’s hardly true redemption. If this is the best hope that the “saved” can look forward to, no wonder the “doomed” have less than zero chance and God is so underwhelming. (more…)