Friday, November 22, 2013

Bigotry. Whatever that means.

Satan doesn't care how he uses "bigotry" so long as he hinders the Gospel.  In Eric Metaxas' book, Bonhoeffer, he mentions that one of the earliest shots fired against the Jews by the Nazis, was that they were no longer allowed to go to church with other Christians.  We can't even imagine this happening today. This kind of discrimination is abhorrent to us now.  

This was an assault, committed by Satan, against the great commission.  The Gospel was for the Jews first. The early church was made up of Jews reaching Jerusalem, Judea and the uttermost parts of the world, in that order.  Future Germans would be saved, ultimately, because Jews were saved first. The Gospel came second to the gentiles.

The heart of God has always been to reach the world, but the nation of Israel was first.
A satanically racist regime sought to thwart God's plan.

Satan is still at it.  We're in a different age where there is no greater cultural sin, at least in America, than bigotry.  Sometimes I wonder if American culture can find it within herself to call anything else a sin.  But let me remind everyone that God was the original hater of bigotry and the true church has always fought for a kingdom made of every nation tribe and tongue.  This was God's idea and it has been our mission ever since.

Our enemy is a liar and a fanatic.  Of course he is.  He is the racist. He hates the people who are saved by Christ. He will now use bigotry in a new way to stall the proclamation of the Gospel.  It will not work but he is trying.  You know where I'm going with this. Gay marriage.  It is not enough to accept people and disagree with their lifestyle, anymore.  We must be forced to welcome their ideology into our ancient doctrines and recreate our beliefs into their image or be labelled bigots.
It feels like a stab wound to the heart of me and all believers everywhere who have devoted their lives to being characterized by love.  The more we love, the more we are accused of hatred.

Crafty, however. What we champion, the acceptance and love of all people in the Gospel, will be our swinging rope. Oh for the days of Hitler and his clear hatred. Christians could at least stand up and shout, "Love your neighbor!" Now we have to wade through the argument sludge of "We really do love them. By telling them they are sinners, we are loving them." We are starting at a frustrating cultural deficit. We have to first convince everyone we aren't haters, before we can even share the good news of Christ's mercy. Our hands of love are cut off at the word "repentance".

What's new? Could we be finding ourselves in good company, finally, with those who sacrificed comfort and freedom for the purification of the church? Count me in. Bonhoeffer stood against hatred and for the Gospel and it got him killed. Something else has been named hatred now.  And in that name, we may soon face similar persecution.  It doesn't change the truth of who we are because we've been called a name.

Arm yourself with truth and love. Persecution is coming.


Friday, August 16, 2013

The Real Stuff

I'm fairly sick of image. I like the real stuff. But the real stuff doesn't advertise itself.

A young woman comes in every day with a bottomless bag of arrogance, which is promptly turned over and spilled out on the counter for everyone to accept and validate. They all have to be proud of her because, well, she is proud of her. A perfect picture of the Oprah generation's woman is presented, a product of the fabricating image culture.  Her self-worth must be real, because this is how she sees herself. If I keep taking pictures of me, until I find one I like, then the world will know that I am as great as I pretend to be. I am in control of what others know of me and how they see me, on an Internet-sized scale.

This girl is so enamored with who she would like everyone to think she is, that she forgets she could really be someone, someday. A coworker, being older now, listen quietly to the bragging is feeling embarrassed that anyone still does this.  She waits for the deluded one to blush and it never comes. In place of the self-awareness that reigns in every non superhuman being, and plants her feet in the dirt of earth, there is instead, a confident punctuated tone of "that's just the way it is, whether you agree or not."  The older woman wants to laugh but humbly keeps it in and indulges the girl's ego for the sake of showing courtesy.

Like every day, it is a cavalcade of glaring self love. She looks good when she wears that. She was funny when she said this. Everyone loves to hear her sing or speak or tell a story. That one comment she made that one time, stopped the show.  Every body turns to find her at the party. She filmed herself doing something great. She's happiest eating something sweet but also likes savory such and such. Talking down, she throws open the doors of all she knows to the older woman who realizes that, frankly this girl's warehouse holds a vanishing box or two.

Who is the older woman? She is someone real. She's really someone. Years of heartache have weathered her face, and service has done the same to her hands. Her father, who fought in the war taught her that it didn't matter what you said about yourself, it mattered what you did for another. If you want to stand up and be counted you have to count yourself as one of the many. Leadership is learned, earned and proven. Talkers get nowhere.  Her husband was a fugitive of cancer for five years until he got tired of running and passed away last year.  She's raised four children older than this young coworker.  She was top of her class in high school and the boys all thought she had looks that could stop a clock. Losses and blessings together, have shaped and taught her, softened and strengthened her.

She just does what she does for everyone else and doesn't feel the need to be recognized. Her life of imperfections, decisions with consequences aren't bragging rights to her, they are wounds that produced the scars of character, lessons learned. There isn't a hoping in herself or touting the trinkets of pretend personhood. Suffering under every lesson God had for her, has produced a wisdom that speaks for itself. Just because no one is asking, doesn't mean it isn't there.

Scripture verses like, "For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray..." and "...Such were some of you..." resonate with the dignified. For people like her, it is enough for them to know what they were, and what they have been saved from. Who they are now, is a product of grace. There is no boasting in that. To be someone worth knowing, you kind of have to keep it to yourself. That's one of life's little ironies.

Braggers gonna brag, they are holders of an empty bag. If you want the real stuff, from real people you're gonna have to ask.


Monday, July 1, 2013

What makes a someone?

All I have to gain, from letting myself be insulted is, well, everything.  Sometimes, we act as if being unjustly treated is the worst thing ever.  Being insulted or condescended to, becomes an entitlement volcano that erupts into a lava mess of self-justified anger and sometimes retaliation.

Our prissy, sissy-footed culture of appeasement teaches us plainly, one absolute truth: placation is the only virtue.  No one is wrong, except the person who says someone is.  The only bad people are those who notice bad things in others.  Those who accept all soggy blarney as if it were life sustenance itself, they are the virtue makers of our time, the winners of the day on the grandstand of history.  How much they miss. They get the accolades, but sadly, never the award of actually being someone.

This is what being unjustly accused gets you.  You get to be someone. That someone is a person who is stronger leaving the arena than when he came in.  You aren't so easily bruised next time. You become secure knowing you're right and it's OK that no one else knows it.  You learn, you grow, you become someone smarter, wiser, more self-controlled, able to take the heat much longer.  In essence, more like the Christ who bought you.

You also become someone who can let go. This world holds less and less value for you and your eternity shines more lovely.  You're looking forward to the real prize, the lasting prize of heaven.

Someone who can truly love, that's who you become.  And this is love, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Your daily dying to the urge to verbally, or otherwise, pummel nasty little punks who seek to put you down, gives you a clearer understanding of what Christ did for you.  And though you are unjustly treated, insulted, patronized or injured, even killed, you will never fall as far as the King of Heaven did to win your soul.

So, that is everything.  To be more like Christ and to understand his love for the world is everything.  If it takes a little persecution to bring this about...I think it is worth it, don't you?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Importance of being useless

We have such a hard time deciphering God's will. We get all busy analyzing, reassessing and over analyzing what we think God might want us to do. We want to obey him. We really do. The hard part in all of it, is that we forget that sometimes God wants to use us by making us not very useful.
People who get sick can't get up and run marathons for a good cause. Mute people can't share the Gospel on a bus.  I don't speak Kikuyu. You probably don't either. That rules out entire villages for us to reach, in Africa.

Some limitations are very obvious to us. We see someone in a wheelchair and we understand their physical constraints.  We tend to learn to accept obvious restrictions, brought on by God's design, like,  I am not a 7 feet tall male with thighs, the circumference of which, rival my front yard tree, therefore I will never slam dunk for Jesus. I don't sit and sulk in my house about that. It's just the way it is. I even accept things like, how magnificently some women who are really gifted, can organize, plan and carry out huge events with ease and effectiveness, all while wearing a pair of fantastic heels, knowing that I will never be that put together.
But we don't like to be set aside or discarded. We don't like being considered useless. We want to contribute. We can't accept that God wouldn't use us at all.  But sometimes, He doesn't.
Sometimes the quiet acceptance of a place of stationary submission is the largest billboard of faith. When Job lost it all, he did not know that God was lighting up a giant neon sign for future generations to learn that God is to be feared, Satan doesn't have the final say and God's blessings come in the morning. God gives and God takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.  I'm not privy to the spiritual realm of dialogue, but I'm guessing it isn't every day that God brags to Satan about a person.  He said, "consider my servant Job, there is no one as righteous as he is."  When Job complained and then met God in the whirlwind, his response was to  put his hand over his mouth. I am suggesting that this is what I need to learn to do.
I think I know. I think I understand. I think what's best for the kingdom of God is what I can reason out and then do with my own hands. I forget that God's most amazing place of usefulness for me might be to not use me at all, for a time. How I respond to down time, can be an instrument of great accomplishment. When there is nothing of my good works to be seen, my faith can then speak volumes about God.  After all, it is his majesty I want to proclaim anyway.
_________________________________________________________

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

INSIDE AND OUTSIDE

Going to Maria's, out of my already bad
neighborhood to the "housing" where
she has a home, the drive is not
significant here, but the stairway leading
to her door is, and it's nothing like what's
inside.

Maria's little one bedroom, spotless,
linoleum refuge....white and plastic, is
clean, clean, clean. On the table, only
the best for us, autentica, delicioso,
nothing harmful here, and nothing like
the stairwell.

She tells us about the people in the
building who are always doing bad.
"They try to get my son to do bad too."
Many times she has to step
over the one man who is passed out
on the stairs, outside her door,
in order to get in.

She moves the little vase of red
flowers on the table to make room for
dessert. "They don't like us because
we don't do like them. They
don't love me, but I love they."
Walking back down the stairs outside,
we can smell the aroma of Maria's home.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The best advice I can offer young people: Eat at Crow's

We are a country of the youth. With that comes shame. Unfortunately it is the older and wiser who are shamed and the youth that are esteemed. There is so much to know, and so many young people know it, that they have no need of the knowledge that can grow them up in the dignity and wisdom of the aged. It's probably best to stay young and lacking discretion, as long as you can Google the answer to things that won't secure true wisdom, like "How does one do the Harlem Shake?"  And that's a shame because wisdom can help you know things like: there are some things you shouldn't know. That is for another blog post...but...

alternatively, Google Stephen Nichols' book, The Reformation: how a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World. It is refreshing my memory on some major reformers of the church and is serving to prop up my resolve to love God's word. It is reminding me that it is valuable to stay faithful to it and to reject the empty-headed, post-post modern thinking, the latest wave of lukewarmity in so-called believers, who stand against everything Christian and nothing non, yet still try to hold the title Christian. It just can't be swallowed. Even less so, under the reminder that men were burned at the stake for beliefs the likes of believers' baptism and for disagreeing with the Catholic queen.

It's the same today. Men, well-versed in the Scriptures strive to understand them for the good purpose of bringing them to the people with integrity, to shepherd the people of God and lead them in truth, are opposed by unlearned men, steeped in the love of money or power and whatever pleases the masses at the time. It isn't only that our world lacks education on these things, though it does, it is as God says in Romans chapter 1, they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Leaders have been irresponsible in both allowing our youth to remain uneducated in the things of Scripture, and guilty of not reminding them of their moral responsibility. Young men and women, ignorantly give in to the laziness that furthers the damage.

I've been that young know-it-all. I know how hard it is to actually humble myself and seek out the truth in order to right myself, and to have to go back and say, I was wrong.  Eating crow is almost impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit.  It's hard enough in the flesh, as a believer.  But, once again, Christ Jesus speaks the final word on this, that the truth sets you free.  There is no freer place than the place where crow is served.

We aren't being burned at the stake, here in America, at least not yet. But everyone's opinion matters, but God's.  We believers get on Facebook or Pastors get in pulpits and declare the word of God as authoritative and all the supporters of free speech cry "You Can't Say That!"  But where is the valor of the humble?  Where is the bravery of the young man who, in search of greater good, will condemn himself in order to be right in the end?  He will do all things gymnastic to dodge what is best for him.  He will even get all angry and sweaty, making himself a fool, speaking loudly about his vast knowledge, which to the learned and wise, older, onlookers amounts to 2+2=6.  He doesn't even see that so many see through him.  The freshmen of the world spout off about love and mercy to someone who has endured extreme hardship despite showing mercy.  Noobs love pontificating grand wisdom about poverty and morality and "judge not lest ye be judged" while they, themselves, judge unjustly, a dignified man who is well-worn by both and has experienced Christ's victory over unspeakable trials long before the young punk was born into his spoon-fed life of comfort.  Oh the diamonds this young man could win himself, in his own shutting up.

Youth is embarrassing to those who are coming out of it.  I should know. Boy, am I glad it's over.  Now if I can only maintain what I've learned and make it the practice of my older years, to live like I don't know as much as I think I know.  That would be a mercy.

Just because we are living in a world that doesn't want to hear it, doesn't mean we should cower.
Hold to the things you know for sure, the things God has spoken, things shamelessly called Right and Wrong.  You shouldn't mind being burned at the stake for loving and obeying them like the martyred reformers did years ago.  And like Christ before them, let's do it loving and forgiving those who hate us, and those who in willful, youthful ignorance try to shame us.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

That Italian lady laughs: a poem for my dear friend, Linda

That Italian lady laughs
and laughs until
she cuts a path
into your fast
and fading past
killing time
and smashing masks
She's real and
genuinely glad
when you are.
With her you're
never too far
from a coffee bar
or open jar of
giggles spilled
out in the car
or in the yard.
If you're with her
the day gets blurred
complaining words
are rarely heard
the meanest streak
never stirred.
She's kind
and real
not steely
like a sword,
but wieldy
to the Spirit's word;
unbending tho
to fleshy throes
hard-fast loving
friend or foe
no beholden kindness grows
but genuine and warm
love glows in Linda
mia sorella
my dear friend
La gentile signora
mia consorta
(made that word up
don't interrupt)
My trusted ally
won't just sit by
while I
with fleshly venom fly.
She, all the wiser
calls me higher
calmer, righter,
tells me truth
saves me face
never ruthless
ready grace
sets me down
sets me straight
makes me see
I'd never be
without a doubt
the silly or the
better me
without her.