Month: March 2014

“Mourning Fred Phelps”

2004 vacation 095When I read about the passing of Westboro Baptist Church founding Pastor Fred Phelps I experienced a collage of emotions.  I may have been more grieved by the news of Osama bin Laden’s demise than his.  I am not ascribing greater guilt to Pastor Phelps and I take no comfort in sharing this opinion I am simply expressing my range of feelings.  All evil darkness grieves me.  Period.

When someone claims to be a purveyor of the Gospel and then mars the name of Christ under the guise of moral indignation my skin crawls.  And what of the countless souls created and beloved by God who have been driven away from His saving knowledge and grace by such vitriolic hatred?

I grieved the death of Osama bin Laden due to a conviction that his eternal fate is not heavenly.  I confess ignorance with regard to what eternal fate awaits Pastor Phelps and I am comforted by the fact that I don’t have to know and even more importantly that it is not my decision to make.

Fred_Phelps

The judgment and wrath of God is real but it is His judgment and wrath.  It is not ours to assign.  He sent His Son, Jesus to rescue us from a holy and just wrath because that very same holy and just God desires to extend mercy rather than wrath.  However, a sinful and imperfect creation cannot abide in a holy and perfect heaven. (See “square pegs and round holes”)

Jesus established the church to communicate the message of God’s love and mercy to a hurting world.  In order for that message to have any significance, the truth of judgment also needs to be communicated but communicated with love, not contempt.  (Ephesians 4:15)

The biting malice exhibited by adherents of the Westboro Baptist Church is not only presented with a wrong spirit but it also delivers an erroneous message.  God does not “hate f…s”!  Motivated by love He sent Jesus to rescue all of us from all of our imperfections. (John 3:16-17) Neither does God derive pleasure at the embarrassing and hateful protests presented at the funerals of our nation’s fallen warriors.

I hope, for His sake, that Pastor Phelps passed away under covering of the grace of Christ’s blood.  Additionally, I would like to assume that his passing closed the book on a dark and distorted segment of the church.  Unfortunately he managed to leave a small yet vocal legacy to carry on his teaching.  This closes a chapter but sadly, the book is still open.

I pray that a revelation of God’s heart would descend upon the Westboro Baptist Church so that truth can and will be taught from a heart of love and mercy; a heart like God’s.

A Time to Kill and a Time to Heal

*Note: Click on the link at the end of the post when you finish reading for a related video.

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The iconic Byrds ballad, “Turn, Turn, Turn”, has always stirred something in me.  It wonderfully and *biblically illustrates the diverse seasons of life that we all experience. (*See Ecclesiastes 3:3) Some of those experiences are good, some not so good, some wonderful and some horrific.

As physical battles rage Christ-followers in the military, law enforcement and even politics are confronted daily with decisions that could avert imminent danger to individuals and nations.  They are necessary and we support them with every fiber of our being.

We are now engaged in a different kind of war!  A war has been launched against the church – the Kingdom of God.  It is primarily a cultural or social war but nevertheless, a war.  Naturally, when attacked the logical response is to return fire; in other words fight fire with fire.  However, why not fight fire with water?

Consider the following option.  It may be time for the church to raise a white flag.  Not a flag of surrender but a flag of purity; purity of heart that calls us to level weapons of love and prayer toward our opponents.  Jesus prayed thusly for His attackers, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”.

When we employ the same weapons as our attackers we lower ourselves to snarky insults and spiteful strategies intended to bring down our antagonists.  However, Jesus endorsed the following strategy, “…bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” Luke 6:28-29

Let us leave judgment in the hands of the Father and begin viewing our antagonists through the lens of the completed work of the cross. Though it may be a rose-colored lens, it will empower us to have greater impact through sharing Christ’s love over assigning God’s judgment and wrath.  A strategy of blessing and encouraging others will yield numerous opportunities to share the deeper truths of God than if we engage in mean-spirited culture wars.  The old adage clearly illustrates, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.

Unfortunately many of Christ’s adversaries are such because they have never experienced the love of God that has been vociferously proclaimed but seldom practiced.

The Apostle Paul wrote that the love of Jesus was demonstrated thusly, “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8  We must practice love to those around us who are “still sinners” rather than applying condemnation and behavior modification.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”                            Ephesians 6:12

http://youtu.be/2zx6j4vI8lE

Not Guilty; Not Innocent

2004-vacation-0951.jpgA sentiment reflected on bumper stickers in the 1970’s and 80’s asserted,  “Christians Aren’t Perfect, Just Forgiven”.   My initial encounter with Jesus, my “conversion”, left me incredibly transformed  but I also knew that I was still very definitely not perfect… I was not without sin.  How could I walk in the freedom of forgiveness if I still succumbed to my selfish desires? To this day, whenever I stumble it grieves me to consider the heartbreak I inflict on the One who gave everything in order to free me from the consequences of sin, to save me from myself.

A traditional presentation of the Gospel often implies that with submission to the pursuing hounds of heaven and  the beginning of the journey of following Jesus, an expectation to live in strict obedience to the Old Testament Law exists.  Ironically, a premise of the Gospel is that obedience to the Law is not possible.  Therefore, God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, lived a perfect and holy life (obedience to the Law)  and then, although innocent, expressed altruistic love by paying the death penalty for man’s sin.

A tension arose within me.  Am I more like Christ or more like the “sinners” of our world?  I identify with Jesus and endeavor to honor and love Him but my life still reflects more human selfishness than divine altruism.  I believe that my perspectives and attitudes are increasingly lining up with those of Jesus but my priorities are still more about me.  I do not consider the welfare of others to the degree that Jesus does.  He became a servant of all placing our needs above His own.  (Matthew 20:25-28)  Of all the miracles that Jesus performed, He never performed one for His own personal benefit revealing that His primary focus is for the benefit of others.

How can I, with any integrity consider myself a follower of Christ when I appear more like the rest of the world than like Him?  How can I accept His forgiveness when my actions reveal something different?  How can a just God afford me this freedom?

The answer can be found in our own jurisprudence.  Our criminal judicial system allows three principle adjudications: guilty, not guilty and innocent.  A guilty verdict indicates the overwhelming evidence of guilt.  An innocent verdict indicates equally overwhelming  evidence of no guilt.  However, in certain circumstances, there may be insufficient evidence of guilt or extenuating circumstances that compels the judge or jury to render a verdict of not guilty.  Having entered into a relationship with Jesus, we still sin (1 John 1:8-10) but due to extenuating circumstances; namely, the cross, while we are not innocent neither are we in a state of guilt.

In summary, followers of Christ are responsible for our actions but Jesus has freely imparted His innocence to those who receive it declaring us not guilty.  Not innocent but also, not guilty.

That is true freedom!

Death To Daylight Saving Time!

2004-vacation-0951.jpgIt is said that it is always darkest right before the light and that is never truer than at this time of year when we turn our clocks one hour forward to “gain” an hour of daylight.  No convention more glaringly highlights our collective stupidity than the practice of Daylight Saving Time.  Here’s a revelatory statement… “WE’RE NOT SAVING ANYTHING!  The hour of daylight that we are “adding” to the end of the day is simply being pilfered from the beginning.  In other words, not only is our collective stupidity being brought to light; our collective laziness is as well.  We may notice an extra hour of daylight at night but we’re too busy sleeping to miss it in the morning.

This farcical bi-annual custom most adversely affects two categories of people: Church parishioners and graveyard workers. (People who work the graveyard not cemetery employees)

Church goers lose the hour of sleep the night before worship celebrations meaning they either forget to adjust their clocks resulting in late arrival or they realize the time change and decide to celebrate the lost hour with a personal Sabbatical; IHOP anyone?  DST is especially taxing on the leadership and servants who arrive early in order to prepare for service.

Graveyard shift workers endure the longest hour of the year in the fall when the clocks are changed back.  One hour after the clock tolls 2:00 am… it is still 2:00 am!

Daylight Saving Time was the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin as one among a list of ideas suggested in a tongue-in-cheek essay entitled “An Economical Project” he wrote while in France.  He noted that the French rarely rose before noon and therefore had greater need of sunlight in the evening than in the morning.                                                         For more information visit…

http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/franklin.html

A 2010 U.S. News & Word Report poll revealed that 47% of Americans believe Daylight Saving Time isn’t worth the hassle and that only 40% say support it.

Let’s cut to the chase.  While I see little reason to learn many lessons on lifestyle improvement from Russia I applaud the action taken by President Dmitry Medvedev in February of 2011 when he abolished Standard Time and implemented Daylight Saving Time, or as much of the world calls it, Summer Time, year round.  That’s my vote!  Let’s keep the sun up later all year round!  Please take the three-question poll below to let me know what you think.

“Dream On!”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgThis year for the first time ever I actually watched the Academy Awards from start to finish.  Thank God for DVR.  Many topics from the event deserved attention but a primary theme that stood out was the value of following one’s dreams .

Acceptance speeches by statue-toting laureates conveyed gratitude for the encouragement and empowerment they received from the inspirational people in their lives to pursue their ambitious dreams.

Steve_McQueen

The giddy and unpolished speeches presented by director Steve McQueen and actor Lupita Nyong’o for their contributions to Picture of the Year winner, “12 Years A Slave”, evinced the childlike delight of ordinary people achieving what they may have once considered an unreachable dream; a dream that could easily have fallen into the category of “pipe” rather than realized triumph.  Because people whom they loved and respected encouraged them to take risks and follow their dreams they realized the fruition of a staggering triumph.

Lupita_Nyong'o

Throughout history men and woman have been free to live lives of calling rather than conventional vocation.  Admittedly, there have long been obstacles including racial and gender prejudices that have hindered gifted people from pursuing their dreams.  But even those hurdles have, essentially, been overcome; consider Amelia Earhart and Jackie Robinson.

Conquering the hurdles of gender and race have left the largest remaining hurdle facing dreamers to be a fear-fueled paradigm that diminishes the pursuit of dreams by directing  young people to first establish a safe, conventional life and then pursue their passions – time permitting.

Consider the countless masses who have stuffed their imagination inside of backpacks of procrastination only to reach the waning years of life with a cargo carrier filled with regrets; regrets accompanied by a lifetime of angst that results from the realization that the star-reaching dreams of which they dared only contemplate in moments of solitude were dashed before they could draw their first breath. Tech-geeks and mechanics enjoy a luxury to pursue vocations that are in sync with their passions but artists, athletes, activists, entrepreneurs and inventors wistfully wile life away for want of secure opportunities to foster their dreams.

Let us encourage one another, both young and not-so-young, to pursue wild dreams rather than establish “practical” careers destined to cultivate an empty and unfulfilling life of convention.  Many of the Millenials and Gen-Y’ers with whom I speak scarcely devote any thought to their future and they often exhibit little or no ambition.  I believe that this is symptomatic of inspired dreams being shattered in the name of pragmatism before they have a chance to take root.

It has been said that, “…the secret to fulfillment and happiness is to identify what you love to do and then find a way to get paid for it”.  It begs the question, why are so many adults dissatisfied with their vocations?

America became great through dreams, visions, risk and invention.  We can; no, we will be great again.  Release the dreamers!