When My Pastor Became Clint Eastwood (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Day 1)

On Good Friday, my childhood pastor would become Clint Eastwood. He would basically tell us, “You are a know good-for-nothing-yellow-bellied-gizzard. You are a worthless worm. You killed Jesus! Feel guilty.” (And we wondered why people didn’t come to church on Good Friday.) What if we told the story like the gospel writers? In Jesus’ last moments, he teaches us the greatest lesson of all: how to love those who hate you. He teaches us how God suffers. The point is not guilt; it’s godliness—no matter what the circumstances.

T-Minus 2 Days until Jesus Dies. The chief priests and the scribes want to kill Jesus. Why? Power. They can’t have a rabbi around who teaches against their religious power plays. But wait: they can’t kill him during the Passover feast, because that would ruin the party and could create an uprising among all the peasants—Jesus’ main following—who were in Jerusalem for the festival.

Slavery in America: The Year of Jubilee

On the way to church this morning, my mom and brother and I were talking about how our world would be so different today if we still practiced Jubilee. We talked about how great it would feel to have our debt wiped away and the opportunities we’d be given if only it were still practiced today.

Directly after the service, I ran into a friend of mine who I traveled with to Malawi a couple years ago. It’d been a few months since we’d run into each other. It was great to see him. He shared with us that he had been in our neck of the woods earlier in the week and had thought of me while nearby. He drew out the night and day differences between the area where I live and the area where we were attending church this morning. He asked, “Why aren’t we hanging out with the people who live in your neighborhood more?”

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Are you a Humanitarian?

So this is my first blog ever...

A couple of definitions --  Humanitarian: A person devoted to promoting the welfare of humanity.

Jesus: The human-divine Son of God; the great High Priest who intercedes for His people at the right hand of God; the central figure of human history; the one who conquered sin and death; and the way, truth and life through whom alone can we be reconciled with God.

Are you a humanitarian?  It is a big word and an even bigger idea.  With Haiti on our collective hearts and minds it would be hard to understate the need to ask ourselves if we really do exist for others.  Sure, we do sometimes, maybe even much of the time, but as for me, not all the time.  We live in a broken world, groaning under the weight of its decay, haunted by the knowledge that it could have been different.  We see shadows and remnants of the perfection that was and is to be, but live in, with, and through the vestiges of brokenness.  

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A Resurrected Servant in Isaiah?

The servant in Isaiah 52 and 53 is one of the most intriguing figures in the prophetic Scriptures. The questions about this passage are many, the interpretations are diverse, and the answers always seem to be different.

Some have looked to Isaiah 52 and 53 in search of Jesus, others to reclaim Israel’s role in the world, and some to find a historical explanation for this prophetic text that seems to have no precedence.


Here's my translation of part of Isaiah 53:10–11:

If she places his life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days ... From the trouble of his life, he will see light. He will be satisfied. In his knowledge, my righteous servant shall make many righteous and he will bear their iniquities.

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Why the Cross Matters Most

Is it possible to talk too much about the cross?

I ask this question only because some preachers and writers and teachers seem to talk about the cross a lot.  Some do so almost continually.  We can understand why they might carry on in this way because we know the primacy and weight of Calvary.  But there are still times this thought crosses many of our minds:  “Great, so I understand the cross is important.  But can’t we move on to the next topic?”

We say this sort of thing when we feel our faith is about more than Jesus.  And in one sense, we can say this is true.  Our faith is about God’s glory, and our joy, and loving others, and meeting the needs of the oppressed, and being made holy, and sojourning through life, and laying up treasures in heaven, and all sorts of other things.

God's Gift-love

The love of a man for a woman (or a woman for a man) can be of the noblest sort, and to those two people it may be the greatest thing of all. But what about the love of a man for a dog, a car, or a sandwich? Are those noble loves? Of course not. Those are what C.S. Lewis describes as "Need-loves," as in "I don't have any friends, so I need a dog," or "I need to be seen in this car," or "Right now I need a sandwich."

There's nothing wrong with loving something you need. Most close relationships are based on Need-love. We need the companionship, the warmth, and the love of other people, so we reach out in love. "Our whole being by its very nature is one of vast need," Lewis writes. Even our love for God is based on our need to be connected with the Creator of the universe, who himself is love.

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Does God have a purpose for evil and suffering?

We will be the first to admit that we don't have some kind of special insight into the mind of God and know why he allows evil and suffering. We just believe that as a holy, loving, all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing God, he does have his reasons for allowing evil--both human and natural evil--to exist in our world and inflict the suffering it does. Here are some possible purposes God may have for allowing evil and the suffering it produces. See if you identify with one of more of these.

Suffering Can Make Us Stronger

You've no doubt heard the expression, "No pain, no gain." We're not trying to trivialize the nature of pain and suffering, but there's truth in that slogan. Something about hardship, difficulty and pain can sometimes strengthen us. Suffering and setbacks can also bring us closer as families, friend and communities. Dare we say, in the wake of the earthquake in Haite and its horrible aftermath, the global community has come together in extraordianary ways to provide relief on a massive scale. There's an incredible amount of work yet to do, but there is hope that Haiti and its people will one day be stronger.

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Haitians Cry Out To Jesus. How Will He Answer Them?

It’s breaking news everywhere. Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, shook yesterday as a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the tiny island country. An earthquake of this size is devastating regardless of where it strikes. In poverty stricken Haiti, it is of the highest level of trauma. Haiti, comparative in size to the state of Maryland, lacks infrastructure and the means to enable recovery from such a force as this quake. Haiti needed help before the quake and Haiti needs help now.

In 2007, Haiti ranked 43rd in the world for highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS. The risk of contracting a major infectious disease is high for Haitians due to unclean water. While 80% of Haitians identify themselves as Catholic and 16% as Protestant, nearly half of the 9 million island inhabitants practice voodoo.*

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Jesus Would Reject Charter for Compassion

When asked by Joan Ball over at Belief Net to respond to Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion, I said:

"I don't think [Jesus] would sign [the Charter for Compassion]. I think he would be aware of how easily it could lead to condoning the actions of other faiths that are unjust. Jesus was not compassionate towards those who had no compassion. Instead, he was ruthless with his words of rebuke of whatever injustices they were committing."

This generated a heated debate, as you can imagine. To see my justification for my conclusion and read the discussion, head on over to Joan's blog.

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