Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why Would God Allow...

My daughter Zemira is at the cruising age. While it is a fun age it also comes with a lot of bumps and bruises. I don't like to see my baby get hurt and do whatever I can to prevent it from happening, but it still happens. Even though I do not like to see her get hurt there is something that happens when she does that makes my heart swell with pride and love.
If Toby is around he will stop whatever he is doing and rush to comfort her. It does not matter to him that I have already scooped her up and am comforting her. He wants to be a part of the comforting. He will pat her tenderly and talk soothingly to her and if that fails he will sing her favorite song ("I Like to Move It" from the Madagascar movies). Eventually, Zemira will stop crying and at least smile at her loving big brother.
There is a lot of pain in this world. I along with probably everybody have at one time uttered the words, "Why would God allow . . . (fill in your tragedy of choice)?". I don't have a satisfying answer to this age old question, but I do have some thoughts.
I am by no means the best father in the world, but even I want to prevent my daughter from getting hurt. God is the best father in the universe, so it stands to reason that God wants the same for his children. God does not like it when we get hurt. He does what he can to prevent us from getting hurt. But for whatever reason it still happens. We get hurt. Our family gets hurt, our friends get hurt, the world gets hurt.
Admittedly it is at this point that I usually begin to rant at God, showering him with "whys" and "where were yous" but seeing how Toby reacts to Zemira when she is in pain got me thinking. What if my response is the wrong one? God has yet to answer my anguished, angry why's. What if in his silence God is looking for my obedience? What if he is waiting for us to mourn with those who mourn? To comfort the broken hearted? When Zemira is hurt Toby does not turn to me and start angrily asking me why I let her get hurt, no he rushes in to comfort her.
What if instead of questioning God we did what my son does? What if we dropped whatever we were doing and rushed to comfort those who are hurting? What if we stepped in and comforted the hurting, easing their pain with tender touch and singing?
I think our Father's heart would swell with pride and love.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

An Altar Call

Toby and I have been studying the Civil War and subsequently slavery. This led to my son asking, "Does slavery still exist today?" Unfortunately the answer is "Yes."
This is hard for some people to believe. When I first brought this issue to the attention of some of my friends I was met with skepticism and disbelief. But slavery exists today, and denying it or excusing it away will do nothing to end it. Action is needed.
I read somewhere (probably Sojourner's magazine) that the altar call was started by abolitionist preachers. When people responded to Christ their faith was immediately put into action by signing up for the abolitionist movement.
Becoming a Christian also meant becoming an Abolitionist.
The same should be true today.
Become a modern day Abolitionist. Check out these resources and get involved:
Call + Response
Not for sale

Monday, November 10, 2008

Holy Community

We need community. A lot of us do not want to admit it, but we do. We cannot live without it. Christians especially need community. Ours is a communal faith. Even our God is communal: Holy Spirit, Father, and Son. But somewhere along the line we got the idea that we should only commune with other believers that believe like we do, think like we do, vote like we do, the list goes on. There are of course historical and cultural reasons we do this. Catholics killing Protestants; Protestants returning the favor. Baptists teaching Charismatics are full of demons; Charismatics disdaining Baptists, again the list goes on.
Is this how God wants it? All of our various denominations huddled in our corners, whacking each other and fighting each other for the biggest attendance. Calling each other names and arguing over some random verse that probably doesn't matter all that much. I don't think so.
I know what you are thinking. You agree that God wants us to be one, after all Jesus prayed for our oneness, but you KNOW you are right about . . . whatever your pet issue is. I have my pet issues too (just read some of my past blogs). But is the issue you are so concerned about more important than loving your fellow Christian?
We do not have to throw out our beliefs and never talk about what we disagree about, but we do have to throw out our pride and our need to be right. That's a hard one for me because I like being right and I like the person I am disagreeing with to know that I am right. It's hard for me to let go of the debate, but God is more concerned with me (and you) being loving.
Love means that we are committed to living and working out our faith together. It means that when we disagree we do so civilly. We listen to each other. It means that despite our disagreements we stay in relationship with each other.
There will be times when God moves you from the church you are in, or even the denomination of which you are a part, but if it is God you will still find yourself loving the people you have left.
We need community, not just as individuals, but as churches. My church needs your church. The Baptists need the Charismatics, and vice-versa. We must reach out to each other. We must try to understand each other, but most of all we must love one another. Peace

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Will God Judge You For Your Vote?

I started to write this article in large part as a response to what Dutch Sheets wrote in response to the US electing Obama. (For the record I think Dutch is wrong on this one, but if history proves me wrong, I'll apologize. Any chance Dutch will do the same?) But as I wrote I realized how little I've done to end abortion in this nation, so this is more of a confession than anything else.

I have not done what God showed me to do years ago when I was praying about my role in ending abortion in America. Basically he showed me sitting on a bench outside of Planned Parenthood and praying. I have not done that. Oh, sure I've done it some, but not to the extent that God called for. For this I repent, and God willing I will pray more.

Only recently have I become concerned over what the women getting abortions are going through or what drove them to get abortions.

Even with this new found compassion I have yet to do anything that would positively effect these women's lives and give them a realistic alternative to abortion.

I have become cynical that God will actually do anything to end abortion in this land.

I have not been arrested for sidewalk counseling mostly because I have never sidewalk counseled.

Nor have I been arrested for protesting the killing of Iraqis.

Nor have I let my concern over the war drive me to actually do anything about it.

Nor have I prayed as hard and long as I should for the blessing of God to be poured out on the enemies of the United States of America.

I have been more concerned with fitting in and not rocking the boat than I have with speaking and doing what God has called me to.

I have, alot of times, chosen TV over God.

I have often responded to others out of fear or anger or annoyance and not in love. This includes those I disagree with politically and theologically.

I have also done numerous more things that I should not have done and have not done numerous more things that I should have done.

Of all these I repent and pray that God will give me the grace to live as he wants me to live.

I however, do not repent of the way I voted. First of all, I live in Illinois does anyone seriously think my one vote was going to change the outcome of the election in Illinois? Maybe if the presidential election was based on popular vote my one vote could have tipped the scales (but I doubt it).
Secondly, I don't think God is going to judge me for one vote. He is much more likely to judge me based on how I live the rest of the year.

The main problem that I see in the words given by Dutch Sheets and others is that they place too much emphasis on our political leaders and not enough on us. They told us to vote for Bush. Is the US really any more godly as a result? Have we made progress in making abortion illegal? Do we have more compassion for our neighbors? For our enemies? Does voting for someone who is pro-life negate the fact that he supports the killing of Iraqis? Or are our unborn more precious to God than the lives of boys and girls, men and women living in Iraq? Does voting for Obama mean that all the other things we do to defeat abortion mean nothing? Does a vote for McCain and Sarah Palin mean we are off the hook the rest of the year? Is how we voted more important than why we voted? If I am a racist and I voted for McCain does that mean I escape God's judgment?

Another problem with these words is it turns Obama and those who support him and those who did not support McCain into enemies rather than brothers and sisters. I do not agree with Dutch Sheets on his political stance, but I do not think he is evil. But he seems ready to judge me as such without really understanding why I voted the way I did.

To summarize (for those of you who want to skip everything else I wrote above): God is not going to judge me or any one else for how we voted. God will judge us based on how we live out our lives. I have lots to repent about.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope For Our Future

I did not vote for Barack Obama (I didn't vote for McCain either -- some day Green Party, some day), but I feel the weight of this historic day just the same. I think what made it hit home for me was seeing Jesse Jackson with tears streaming down his face. I wish that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. could have been standing there with him. I think of my own dear mother (a white woman) who bravely spoke up for African Americans at her all white high school and who endured her family's rejection to marry my Puerto Rican father. I think of my African American daughter Zemira whose first memories will include an African American president. This is a momentous occassion and a cause for celebration whether you voted for Obama or not. Can't you feel the generations of slaves rejoicing that America has finally gotten to this point? Can't you feel the satisfaction of reaching up into the tree the civil rights movement planted all those years ago and tasting this fruit? I can.
Is racism over? Certainly not, we still have a long way to go, but this election is a step in the right direction. This election was and is about more than just the issues of our day. It was and is about the spiritual state of our nation. It was and is about spiritual reconciliation. This is huge. I hope my white friends (especially my white Christian friends) realize how huge it is. When injustice is tangibly overthrown, when things that have blocked the blessings of God are removed, then justice and God's blessing can flow. This nation sinned terribly -- enslaving, torturing, raping, and killing other people, children of God, because of the color of their skin. Worse than that the American church participated in many of these sins. When revival broke out on Azuza street many Christians spoke out against it, not because of strange things happening, or miracles occurring, but because white and black people were worshiping together. Even today our congregations remain largely segregated. This should not be. The election of Barack Obama as president gives me hope that our nation can change. It gives me hope that our churches can change to become places where God pours out His Spirit on brothers and sisters of every color. It gives me hope for our future.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Christians, Truth, and Obama

I have had it with all the lies circulating about Barrak Obama. I, as all Americans, expect mud to fly during an election season, but enough is enough! Obama is not Muslim. He does not refuse to say the pledge of allegiance, he does not mock the Bible. Do the people who start and those who perpetuate these lies think it is godly to do so? It's not.
If you are going to vote against Obama, let it be because you disagree with his policies, not because of some stupid internet lie! (Grrr!)
As Christians we should be truthful, let alone loving, so before you send out another factless email about how Obama will destroy "Christian" America think, "Is this loving? Is it even true?"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

But What If . . .

Every one who is against the use of violence has been asked this question, "What if someone was attacking your family/friend/wife/husband/church/etc.? What would you do?" I'd like to rework it a bit and ask it this way, What if your child was attacking your wife? What would you do? Would you resort to violence ? Would you kill him? Or would you think of some other way to stop the attack?