29 September 2010

The President Talks of his faith...

The President said recently that he was a Christian by choice rather than by heritage and culture.

Now I know that this will set some of my good friends on fire, because they wonder how you can have some of the policies this President has and still be a Christian. But when I read the NY Times report (excerpted below) President Obama says the same thing that most Christians are supposed to say. Or actually he says it better. He's not talking about heaven and hell, good works or abominations but about personal sinfulness, God’s grace, caring for others and salvation. Sounds like he’s talking about my Jesus.

Here’s some of what the NYT says:

But the religion question was perhaps the most revealing for the president – and also perhaps the most welcome, given that polls show that the public appears confused about his religion, with some 18 percent of Americans believing, erroneously, that he is Muslim.President Obama addressed his religious faith when he took questions during a discussion with local families in Albuquerque on Tuesday.

“I’m a Christian by choice,” the president said. “My family, frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church, so I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. Being my brothers and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

We live in a complicated world. It’s a world where Christianity is a matter of intellectually giving credence to the right things. Presidents, politics and culture seem to complicate things. You’d think following Jesus would be clear. Bill Clinton claimed to have been born again as a boy in a tent-meeting. George W. Bush claimed to have become a transformed Methodist after being an alcoholic partier. They both had their moments when we wondered, and some are still wondering.

My concern is that whether the President says it, a TV preacher says it or the guy next to me in church says it - being a Christian is more than just ticking off the right beliefs. It’s more than fast-forwarding to the bottom of a software installation and ticking “I accept.”

Being a Christian is an ongoing supernatural experience of continual transformation. Being a Christian is living supernaturally from internal motivations of love and sacrifice because the Holy Spirit is living inside us, guiding us and assisting us in living beyond ourselves and not for ourselves.

I am follower of Jesus by choice, but also by encounter. When I supernaturally encountered Jesus by the Holy Spirit in college, He changed my life, my direction, my allegiance, my motivations. Some in “one fell swoop” but most in increments of choosing and letting go. Some things almost forty years later, I still struggle with. Some things pop up like an uninvited obscene relative and I have to – by the grace and power of God – deal with them. Some things are long gone.

Honest to God Christianity moves from head to heart to hands and feet. Transformed thought to transformed motives to redemptive actions. I encounter, I believe, I act.

Living supernaturally natural in a blood and guts world is a feat only God would expect of us! But then again He supplies the ability.

14 September 2010

My new word...

quo·tid·i·an [kwoh-tid-ee-uhn] 

– adjective

1. daily: a quotidian report.

2. usual or customary; everyday: quotidian needs.

3. ordinary; commonplace: paintings of no more than quotidian artistry.

4. (of a fever, ague, etc.) characterized by paroxysms that recur daily.

– noun

5. something recurring daily.

6. a quotidian fever or ague.

1300–50;  < L quotīdiānus, cottīdiānus daily, equiv. to cottīdi ( ē )every day (adv.) ( *quot ( t ) ī a locative form akin to quot however many occur, every + diē, abl. of diēs day; cf. meridian) + -ānus -an; r. ME cotidien  < OF < L, as above

— Related forms

quo·tid·i·an·ly, adverb

quo·tid·i·an·ness, noun

Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010

And now to see it used in a sentence...

"Spirituality now wanders from sex to drugs to art to revolution to violence —whatever seems to promise deliverance from the quotidian."

Mason Cooley (whoever he is...)

04 September 2010

Change is good! You go first!

Eddie Hammett says, “Change values before you change structures.”

But obviously he doesn’t understand. It’s easier to change structures. It’s easier to make new packaging than new contents. It’s easier to talk about change while continuing to hold the same values. It’s hard to have a value-change.

Because values are descriptive rather than prescriptive. “Values” really describes behavior. What we value will determine how we spend our talent, time and treasure. What we value will be reflected in the way we live our lives. Check out how much time you spend with your wife and family and you’ll see your family values. Look at how much you give to world missions – really give (look at the checkbook!) – and you can see how much you value the Great Commission! Look at what you do with your “leisure time” and you will see you values. If you live with a TGIF mentality, how much do you value your job?

We think we are in a time of great structural change, but I’m not so sure about the value change. And in spite of all our chatter about change and the need for change, because we don’t know how to change our values, I’m not sure we know how to change anything for long.

Maybe more later…

01 September 2010

WWJD about the Mosque in NYC?

For weeks and weeks I've listened to people say a lot of things about the "Ground Zero Mosque" and have been appalled and troubled by the comments.

Newspeople write and say things to make controversy; it's their job. Politicians basically "make hay while the sun shines" politically by making the Mosque an issue and getting their names in headlines . And the American people, with confused patriotism coupled with 9/11 insult and injury, fumble to know how to respond.

Some of the chatter is fuzzy-headed, some is ignorant and some is just wrong. Freedom is always a scary thing, whether it's of speech, religion or the press.WWJD

And it seems that many Christians are confused, too. I'm not sure most of us know enough about Islam or Christianity, history or the Constitution to say much. But of course we do. Opinions are supposedly cheap.

And there is the Onion Article, that is a satire about a man who knows all he needs to know about Muslims. Funny and sad -- as satire should always be. And of course there could be similar articles about Jesus, the Bible, Christianity, forgiveness, joy and peace. Closed minds are everywhere. We are limited, not by what we don't know, but by what we think we know.

So instead of me adding my two-cents-worth, I thought I'd paste the thoughts of Leighton Ford, a true Christian Statesman who pretty much echoes my heart about the issue.

Jesus and the Mosque, Leighton Ford

On a shelf at home I have a copy of Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road, the story of the Syrian-born writer Mazhar Mallouhi. As a young man who grew up in a Muslim family he had a profound spiritual hunger, read widely, learned of Jesus in the Bible, and became a follower of Christ while remaining loyal to his Muslim culture.

His novels are read by millions in the Middle East. Through them he has sought to bridge misunderstandings between Muslims and Christians.

In the book is a photo of him in the famous Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo, sitting with a group of Muslims as they read the Gospels together. It is his custom to say, “I am a follower of Christ. Here is what Jesus said. Tell me honestly, do you think I am living as Jesus said I should?”

I thought of Mallouhi’s question during the heated dispute over the location of a Muslim mosque and community center near Ground Zero in New York. Among the voices being raised – some harsh with anger, some deep with indignation about rights – I wonder if the missing voice is that of Jesus?

If I were a Muslim I might want to claim rights, but also want my leaders to consider whether another location would work and help to heal some deep hurts. But I am not a Muslim. Those issues are for the Muslim community to decide.
What I need to ask is: what does Jesus say to us who say we follow him?

Suppose we, like Mallouhi, sat down with some Muslims in the new community center, and read with them some of the words of Jesus, words like “Do good to those who hate you.” That could apply to radical terrorists who want to blow us up. So how can it not apply to Muslim neighbors who are living among us?
Many years ago my late friend J. Christy Wilson was pastor of the first ever Christian church in Kabul, Afghanistan. Through the good offices of President Eisenhower permission was granted to build the church, attended by Christian expatriates.

The time came when the Afghan authorities revoked permission and announced they would knock the church down. When the bulldozers arrived what did the church people there do? Served tea to the workers who were pulling down their church building!

They were living out a central tenet of our Christian faith – that we are “saved by grace” – God’s grace freely given in Jesus Christ – and they showed grace.
How can we do that? I hope the churches and the Christ followers in New York can figure it out. Perhaps delivering a cool drink to the workers who will build the center? After all Paul went so far as to write (and this was about enemies, not neighbors) “If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.”

Does this mean we naively accept real evil? Not at all. I understand the rage that 9/11 stirred. Force is often needed to protect the innocent. But ultimately I have to follow Jesus as Paul did when the apostle admonished us to “overcome evil with good.”

What does the love of Christ compel me to do? Perhaps, whether in New York or Charlotte, to extend a little more grace – actually a whole lot more. Wouldn’t that be the best witness we could make right now?

A little more grace, seems to be the Jesus way. Not easy and kinda messy, because nothing's cut and dried. But who said following Jesus would be?