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Ten weeks ago I completed a two-day journey of 1400 miles. I was heading home to California after a visit to the Nebraska church whose staff I’ll be joining next month. This week I’ll be making the same drive in the opposite direction and once again I’ll be heading home.
Home is Where the Heart Is
I grew up in California. I’ve spent nearly all my life there. My deepest connections are to people who live there. My most profound memories occurred there. Now I’m moving to a place I didn’t even know existed a year ago. I don’t know much about it and am only beginning to build relationships there. Despite this, Nebraska has become my home.
They say “home is where the heart is”. Nebraska is my home now because it’s where I’ve directed my heart. A piece of my heart and of my sense of home will remain in California. California has shaped who I am and while I’m no longer a Californian I will always be from California.
It’s possible to have a divided sense of home. If you went away to college or have had an extended but temporary stay in another city you know what this feels like. You have a home that is immediate and familiar but you know it’s temporary. Your “real” home is further off but more permanent. [Read more…]
If you’ve been watching the Rio Olympics you’ve probably been inspired by stories about the dedication and perseverance of the athletes competing in the games. There’s something noble about their single-minded commitment. It makes us question why we run the race of life the way we do. Imagine if we pursued Christ with the same passion with which these athletes pursue their Olympic dreams.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
The apostle Paul uses athletes like those at the Olympics to illustrate his dedication and passion for his mission. He cites the motivation of the athlete, the prize for winning (which in his day was a crown of laurel). He then points out that this prize is essentially worthless, especially compared with the eternal rewards of living for Christ.
Why doesn’t Paul compare eternal rewards to a more profitable activity like business or conquest? Perhaps, there is something about the connection between the training and reward of athletics that is similar to the connection between dedication to God and eternal rewards.
A Faithful Failure
Jan Hus died a failure. He died heroically, faithful to God and his conscience but without reason to hope his efforts to reform the church would have a lasting impact. Although Hus died an apparent failure his life changed the world and should force us to rethink failure.
As Hus was burned at the stake the church he’d dedicated his life to reforming was more corrupt than ever. The powerful men he’d convinced to support him had abandoned his cause. The Czech people he’d hoped transform the church had been ostracized from Christendom. By every significant measure he had failed.
Hus faced tremendous pressure to renounce his critiques of church corruption. It’s unlikely that he imagined his refusal to do so would make much difference. He didn’t know that his martyrdom would lead the Kingdom of Bohemia to renounce the corrupt Roman Church and repel it’s resulting crusades. He didn’t know his death would lay the groundwork for the movement that would turn the world upside down a century later.
The horrible news keeps coming. We’re bombarded with reports of ugly politics in the U.S. and abroad, continued racial tension, and a constant stream of terrorist attacks and unthinkable crimes. Some pretty horrific things are going on in the world. It’s hard to find hope amidst the horror of sin that seems to dominate.
As Christians, we’re called to be people of hope. Our hope isn’t in this world but it is for this world which God loves and promises to renew. Where can we find hope? Our political system offers little. Our nation and world seem increasingly divided. The church seems to be declining, divided and full of scandal. So how do we find hope?
Here are three ways to seek out hope amidst the horror
During this week’s Republican Convention and throughout his campaign Donald Trump’s supporters have sought to portray him as the “Christian” candidate. Trump identifies as a Christian, says he will strengthen the power of Christians, and is supported by prominent Christian leaders. However, Christianity requires repentance and Trump wants nothing to do with repentance.
This isn’t a political blog. I’m no expert on economic or foreign policy. I’m not offering an opinion on Donald Trump as a candidate. I object to calling Trump “Christian” because of what it communicates to the world about the gospel.
Trump’s morally questionable words and actions are not the basis of my objection. Like all of us, Donald Trump is a sinner. While grievous sins may disqualify a person from leadership for a season, no sin can exclude him from receiving forgiveness and following Jesus as Lord. I object to identifying Trump with Christianity not because he’s a sinner, but because he’s an unrepentant sinner.
The importance of family is a rare Christian value that overlaps with the culture at large. It’s natural for churches to elevate family in a world where it’s affirmed but often competing with careerism, materialism and sensual self-indulgence. We should value family but family isn’t first.
Family is important to pretty much everyone, after all we’re all part of some family. Consequently, promoting healthy families is more appealing to nominal Christians and to the world than many other aspects of the Christian faith. This acceptance can be an opportunity to connect people to the gospel but it can also tempt us to subtly allow family to become an idol.
Family Isn’t First
When we emphasize family we need to remember that family isn’t first. It isn’t our ultimate goal. We should strive for better families as part of becoming more like Jesus but we must not treat Jesus as merely a path to the family life we want. [Read more…]
An Open Letter to Law Enforcement
Dear Peace Officer,
Thank you for doing a job I don’t want to do but desperately needs to be done. Thank you for putting yourself in harm’s way to keep our communities safe. Thank you for being part of a national law enforcement community that is among the most ethical and least corrupt in the world.
Last night five of your fellow officers were killed and seven others wounded during a horrific shooting in Dallas, TX. I don’t have words to adequately express my sorrow and sympathy for the victims and their loved ones or my admiration for the officers who ran toward the gunfire that those they were protecting could run away from.
I know you must be hurting today. I want you to know I support you. I respect you. I appreciate you. As with any group, not all peace officers are of equal quality but even the few who may not always do your profession proud have my respect simply because of the sacrifice and responsibility that comes with the uniform. You are valued.
There’s something else. Perhaps today isn’t the right day to bring it up, or maybe it’s the perfect day. I’m not sure, but this is on my heart so I’ll ask you to forgive the timing if you feel it’s inappropriate. [Read more…]
Every July 4th I’m reminded how grateful I should be to live in the United States. There’s no nation in the history of the world that I’d rather be a part of. At the same time I’m sometimes dismayed by the way godly patriotism can be twisted into the kind of nationalism that warps Biblical truth. Christians can be proud Americans but we must be followers of Jesus first and citizens of the U.S.A. second. With that in mind here are a few dos and don’ts for embracing godly patriotism as we prepare for Independence Day.
Do acknowledge our Christian heritage
Christianity, has been the most influential world view in shaping our nation. Even though many of the founders may not have been good Christians in terms of their personal doctrine or conduct there’s no denying that Biblical principles and a Christian world view shaped their thinking. Christian churches and individual followers of Jesus have had a tremendous impact on our nation from its founding until today. Many of our national values, traditions and much of our identity has been drawn from Biblical Christianity. We can’t honestly celebrate America without acknowledging the important role Christianity has played in it.
We celebrate Memorial Day to honor the men and women who have died in service to our nation’s military. This honor isn’t dependent on their success or skill in carrying out their duties. We honor these heroes simply because they made the ultimate sacrifice by both living and dying for the protection of our peace and prosperity.
Dying in and of itself isn’t necessarily honorable. Everyone dies. An ordinary life doesn’t become heroic simply by ending in a tragic and unexpected death. The deaths of those we honor on Memorial Day are different. In truth we’re not honoring death so much as the way of life which led to death.
The men and women we honor weren’t perfect in life. They were sinners like the rest of us. They may not have done their duty perfectly or been unflinching in the face of death but all of them signed their life away to serve and defend people they would never meet. They gave up some of their freedom to protect our freedom. They sacrificed their safety to help ensure ours. They chose to give their life away for something worth dying for.
Most of these heroes died suddenly and unexpectedly. They didn’t know they were about to be hit by a bullet or drive over an IED. They didn’t give their life away at the moment of death. They gave it away daily. They gave it away when they signed up to serve. They gave it away as they endured basic training. They gave it away every time they put on a uniform and reported for duty. The death they suffered was the result of a life that was given away by living. That’s what makes them heroes. [Read more…]
This week I found myself driving halfway across the country, traveling from Northern California to Central Nebraska along Interstate 80. A little over halfway through my trip (somewhere near Rawlins, WY) I crossed over an invisible line known as the continental divide. To the west of that line (with the exception of the Great Basin and a few smaller terminal watersheds) water flows into streams, creeks and lakes that drain into various rivers which eventually feed in to the Pacific Ocean. To the east of the divide the same process flows eastward toward the Atlantic.
If I’d poured out my water bottle before crossing the continental divide that water (unless redirected or absorbed) would’ve made its way through mountain streams into the Colorado River passing through the Grand Canyon and over the Hoover Dam before reaching the gulf of California. Once I crossed the invisible boundary that same water would have a vastly different destiny. It would flow into the Platte River and across Nebraska before joining the Missouri river and eventually the Mississippi, passing into the Gulf of Mexico.