Archive for Jesus Christ

My daughter has been monitoring tweets about actor Cory Monteith’s death this weekend. I think it’s been quite some time that a person who was on TV weekly and loved by many teens and young adults has passed away. For them I think this is going to be very hard and significant. They need our prayers. I want to blog about it more to the teens I know later this week.

But in her watching tweets, my daughter found that the Westboro Baptist Church is spewing its vile attitude again, being “Glee-ful” at Cory’s death, and threatening to picket. They don’t represent me at all, and when they are described as Baptists and as a church that really bothers me. I’ve been wanting to say something for a while about them, especially for people who aren’t part of the orthodox Christian community.

This is what I hope you know:

Baptists Are Not All the Same

First, “Baptist” is not a term that always stands for a well organized denomination. There are several good Baptist denominations or confederations between churches that provide checks and balances if needed to the individual churches and pastors. But “Baptist” basically means only that one believes that when a person becomes a Christian he or she should be baptized by immersion in water. It says nothing, really, about how the church lives out its faith.

If you and I wanted to go out right now, buy a building, and start a Roman Catholic parish to run any way we pleased, we couldn’t. We would need to come in line with the denomination and agree to their viewpoint. But if you and I wanted to buy a building and hang a sign that said, “Baptist Church – Come Sunday at 10”, there’s nothing to stop us.

The Westboro Baptist Church is run by one man independently. The condemning things the church says and the picketing and hatred they promote are the teachings of this man. He is in a miniscule minority. Very, very few Baptists would join him on the picket line, and many, many of us would be glad to serve in the lines of “human shields” who protect mourners from what Westboro’s doing. They do not speak for the American Baptists and Conservative Baptists I have known, and I’m sure they don’t impress the Southern Baptists, either. Overwhelmingly they speak only for themselves.

The Matter of Being a “church”

Usually churches are made up of believers from a community. The members share a faith in the essentials of Christianity, but from there, they can be from different cultures, races, and economic classes. The Westboro church is made up almost completely of the relatives of the pastor. That’s an unusual and insular situation, lacking diversity and giving the pastor the powerful dual relationship of religious leader and family patriarch with almost everyone. There’s a proverb in the Bible, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) In other words, my differences of opinion with yours are like two swords sharpening against each other and becoming greater tools to sharpen both our understandings of God and the Bible. The extreme and unquestioned opinions, and the lack of outside community participation, should give anyone pause. A church was never meant to be a closed group.

As It Should Be

people hugging photo: People Hugging group_hug.jpg“>

Although the terms “Baptist” and “church” grate me when used with Westboro, the last thing I hope you know is more important by far:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34 and 35

Below is a beautiful song based on this verse by Christie Knockles:

They Will Know Us By Our Love

This command of Jesus is buttressed by so many parables and incidents in His ministry: the Good Samaritan, the adulterous woman, the injunction not to judge lest you be judged. Accusing people of sins and humiliating them is not the way to go. The Holy Spirit can convict people of their sins far better than we can. We were sent to love as Christ loved us.

The Westboro people may believe that Jesus died for their sins and is their Lord and Savior, and it’s not mine to take that away from them if they say they believe it. But my understanding is far different than theirs. I believe Jesus died not only to take my sins, but so I would have His life and love in me, and because of that, in my life and the lives of other believers this kind of hateful venom would end. Let me say it again:

My Savior hung naked on a cross so that this kind of hatred would stop. It’s that important.

Jun
28

Sweet Sustenance

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Got Honey?

Last time I said how hard it was to have my friend Kristin move out of state. There’s another story to that which is actually funny. It includes what Fly Lady calls a “God-incidence” – one of those coincidences you know the Lord has His purpose in. This time I think God was laughing a little.

On the Friday night before the graduation/going away party, I told this recollection to my daughter: Not long after I graduated from college I was not making much money, and my mother asked me if there was any food I’d especially like to have. I said, “I’d like some honey.” I prefer honey in my tea but as you likely know already, it is expensive. My mother snapped, “That’s not a necessity,” probably because she preferred sugar in her tea. “Well, you asked me what I wished I had,” I countered, but I was still feeling rebuked and as if my feelings had been negated. She did, in fact, include a jar of honey in the groceries she bought me, but by then the sweet treat came with a stinging taste.

We went to the party at Kristin’s, and she gave me the food items she could not take with her on the move. It seems that sometimes Kristin forgets and buys things that she already has. In the bounty she sent home with me were three jars, all half full, of honey. It was as if Jesus was winking at me and saying, “Oh, you want honey? I can supply you with honey and you can forget the sting of the past. I can take care of all your needs.”
honey in jars Pictures, Images and Photos

Honey, Oil, and a lot of Spaghetti

Later I was struck at the particular items I ended up with in abundant duplicates. There was the honey, famously promised to the Israelites:

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – “ – Exodus 3:7 & 8

Milk and honey become the symbols of the affluence that will follow the rescue from their time of need.

Then there was olive oil. A lot of olive oil. I am not going to want for olive oil for quite some time to come. And oil was the blessing Elisha gave to a widow in 2 Kings 4:1 – 7. She had a creditor she could not pay, and he wanted to enslave her two sons as his payment. Elisha sent her to her neighbors to ask for empty jars, and she filled them all from the little bit of oil she had left in her house.

“When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’” 2 Kings 4:6 & 7

The miracle of the oil became the means for the widow to pay her debts. What a comforting account of God’s provision.

Finally, there was a lot of spaghetti, nearly nine pounds of it. Evidently I was the beneficiary of some recent sale. I found that the prophet Elijah, too, had multiplied both oil and flour (from which pasta is made) to save another widow and her son from a drought. Elijah asked her for bread, but she told him she had none, just a little oil and a handful of flour for a last meal, after which she expected she and her son would die of starvation. But the Lord had another plan for her.

“Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’ She went away and did as Elijah told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” 1 Kings 17:13 – 16

It must have taken great faith to make that first bread for Elijah, when just before that she had seen it was the end of the bread and oil. But they did not run out until the drought ended! God gave the right provision at the right time. Jesus asked,

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? . . . how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him.” – Matthew 7: 9 & 10b

Kristin gave me her groceries, but God gave me His promise. I’m trusting in Him to provide and protect me in the tough times.

May
17

Into His Eyes

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Last Sunday my church took communion. One of our elders, Rick Bringhurst, challenged us beforehand to examine our hearts in this way: what if Jesus were sitting across the table from you? I had to smile. It was this very concept that had started my journey toward a deeper spiritual life over twenty years ago.

I’d been at a retreat, and the leader had suggested we close our eyes and imagine a peaceful scene – so far so good – and then Jesus coming and sitting with us in that scene. My reaction was sheer panic. Although I’d been a Christian for some ten years, the thought of Jesus actually being there, sitting right next to me, looking into my eyes, made me want to run. Of course I knew He knows all about each of us, “and even the very hairs of your head are numbered” (Matthew 10:30). But to confront Him face to face? I knew this was totally the wrong reaction. My day-to-day life with God needed some major work.

Into His Eyes


Have you ever heard the word intimacy described as “into me see”? I was really not open to that. My innermost thoughts were strictly my own. That’s how I dealt with people, and that’s how I wanted it with God. But God is not satisfied with that answer. He wants to dwell in our hearts, including the parts we don’t show. And more than that, there were some feelings I had locked away. I was trying to forget, and in trying, was not being honest with myself. God wouldn’t have that dishonesty, either.

Over a period of time, I returned to this idyllic imagery gone wrong. I had to be able to let my Savior see my eyes, and thus, my soul. Those eyes penetrate so deeply! At first I thought he was looking for all my sin, and hence the terror. Eventually I realized that He was looking deep into the good in me. Yes, God deals with our sin, but there was a deeper purpose for the deep intimacy that was not for accusing me. I did not realize in my heart that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

You may want to know why this path thinking was not based more in Scripture, or in searching the Scripture. I knew many passages already that said God loved me, that He was good, that God would never leave us or leave us comfortless. But they hadn’t come off the page for me and into my real life. I knew many of the passages telling of God’s intimate knowledge of us. But would I let Him see into me to that depth? Could I let Him “search me and know me” (see Psalm 139:1)? I certainly haven’t arrived. Even if someone spent hours and hours in deep meditation, with the vastness of the love of God one never could come to full understanding. But it is much better than the young woman who wanted to run away all those years ago.

I am so glad that I was challenged to go deeper with God, to look “full in His wonderful face” as the song says. If this story challenged you or left you startled at the thought of facing Jesus, I encourage you to take the journey, too. Start having the thought of “going to the Lord in prayer” becoming a time to actually sit and be with Him so He can show you who He is – and who you are, too.

Apr
08

He is Risen in Joy

Posted by: | Comments (0)

He is risen! Happy Easter to all, and may the joy of Easter spread through your week. My Easter morning was spent at my home church, Living Hope Christian Church in North Kingstown, RI. The sermon I heard got me thinking. I don’t think my pastor, Peter Atkin, will mind if I use it as a jumping off point.

We looked at the woman who anointed Jesus in Bethany just days before his crucifixion (Matthew 26:6-13). Jesus explains that she has anointed Him in preparation of His burial. I started to wonder about that. I am used to anointings that come in times of great joy, but we don’t think of burials as joyful. For instance, I thought of one of my favorite verses from Psalm 45, where a wedding is taking place:

You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.(Psalm 45:7)

The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus saw the joy beyond the crucifixion:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus encouraged His disciples to see the joy beyond the coming days:

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22)

Past the days of the horrible death and burial lay a reunion with the risen Christ and a joy no one could take away. More than that, He wanted for them a joy that was complete (John 16:24b) and that was the full measure of His joy as well (John 17:13b).

Then Paul ties together the reason for Christ’s suffering with a wedding, not the one literally described in Psalm 45, but the spiritual one that we all are part of:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy…. (Ephesians 5:25-26a)

So the anointing of Jesus’ burial could still be an anointing of the joy set before Him and the joy that lays ahead for us when we are with Him in perfect joy.

The Open Tomb