Thursday, June 25, 2015

Flag or Cross?

The news this week is full of stories about the decision of the governor of South Carolina to push for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds. Polls are being taken, politicians are being interviewed, and the network talking heads are weighing in. In much of the discussion, the controversy is being used to advance one agenda or another.

To me, the issue boils down to what should I, as a follower of Jesus, think about this. First, some personal background. I was born in Rockville, Maryland, to parents who were raised in the North Carolina mountains. I remember going into the center of what was then a small southern town just outside of Washington, DC and walking past a memorial to soldiers from the area who had fought for the Confederacy. My family has been in North Carolina since the late 18th century and were some of the first settlers in the western part of that state. I have ancestors who fought for the South.

Because of this, and because my birth place is south of the Mason Dixon line, I have always considered myself a Southerner. Had I been alive in 1861, I probably would have fought for my state against those who were seen as invaders. None of my ancestors had slaves and were farmers rather than rich planters, so I don't think my motive would have been to preserve slavery. It was a different time then, and a person's state meant much more to them than the nation did. So, I get those who feel that the battle flag is about their heritage as southerners. I have felt the same way, and still would except for how that flag has been those who espouse hate and how it causes pain to the hearts of others. I have also learned more about the philosophy on which the Confederacy was founded, and as a Christian, I cannot be okay with that.

In this post, Russell Moore writes something that I believe anyone who calls themselves a Christian must take seriously. He writes:
The symbol was used to enslave the little brothers and sisters of Jesus, to bomb little
girls in church buildings, to terrorize preachers of the gospel and their families with 
burning crosses on front lawns by night. That sort of symbolism is out of step with 
                    the justice of Jesus Christ.

I get what the flag means to white southerners who love their heritage, and I have no problem with anyone flying the flag on their own property, although I would encourage sensitivity to neighbors. I also am beginning to understand what the flag means to those whose heritage includes enslavement, oppression, beating, death, and discrimination. As one who follows the King whose kingdom includes every race and tongue, I cannot be for something that causes heartache to my brothers and sisters in Christ.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Prayer for Charleston and Beyond

Father, we pray for the people of Charleston, for the families of those killed and for those injured. We pray for continued healing and strength in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you for the gospel we have seen in the forgiveness extended toward the shooter. Let that spirit of forgiveness and love spread throughout the city, throughout the state, and throughout the nation.

We pray that you would take what was meant for evil and turn it into the good of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation between races, between denominations, between political parties. May your church be united in the love of Christ and may the world know who we are through that love.

Let your name be hallowed, your kingdom come, and your will be done even in the midst of tragedy.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Repentance: The Other Side of the Coin

Last week, I wrote here about the importance of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a vital, ongoing part of life as a follower of Jesus. There is another side to that coin. Along with being people who are known for forgiveness, we are called to be folks who are known for repentance.

Repentance is one of those concepts that we sometimes have a hard time defining. It is definitely one of those things that we have a hard time doing. Repentance is usually defined as being sorry for our sins. That is part of it, however I believe being people of repentance and creating a culture of repentance in our communities calls us to go much further. Of course, this is just my belief, although I am convinced that it is informed by Scripture. Your results may vary.

The Greek word "metanoeo," usually translated "repent" means to change one's mind, or to turn away from. It is turning away from a way of thinking and acting that brings death and turning to life. Jesus told people to turn from their way of thinking about the kingdom of God and turn to God`s way, the way of the Messiah. The Sermon on the Mount lays out the essentials of the kingdom way of life.

When I look at the way Jesus calls us to live I see a life of repentance. We need to repent and turn away from sins we commit or from heart attitudes that are not pleasing to God. I would contend that there will be times when we need to turn away from words and actions that may hurt or offend someone, even if there is not sin involved, and even if the hurt was inadvertant. We are told to do everything we can to live at peace with others. Jesus said that we are to go to anyone we know has something against us, even if that means leaving religious duties. He also tells us that we are to be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. In our relationships, we are to be smart and awake to the effect we have on others and be harmless in our dealings.

I believe that we should be known as people who are quick to repent and even quicker to forgive. Our churches and communities should be known as communities of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation, fueled by the mutual, sacrificial love of Christ. Think of what that would look like!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Weekend Wanderings

Happy first weekend of June! This has been a busy week but I was able to put together a few links for your viewing pleasure. Next weekend, Jan and I are heading to New York City for a week so the wanderings will take a couple weeks off. In the meantime, enjoy these slices of the internet:

Very good post from Michael Spencer.
Interesting post from Scot McKnight.
Trinity Sunday post from Chaplain Mike.
Thoughtful post from Lisa Dye.
Thought provoking post from Mike Erich.

A Christian response to Caitlyn Jenner.
The Jesus slingshot. Yep.
Again, really?
Stage two exile.

This is bad.
This is a sad state of affairs.
P. T. Barnum was right.
Michael Hidalgo on judging.
Sin boldly?

Beggar to beggar.
The big reveal.
Life after retirement.
Again, wow.

Have a blessed couple of weeks!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

World Vision Wednesday

In May, enough rain fell on the state of Texas to cover the entire state with 8 inches of water! 24 people have died and there is devastation statewide from the rain and tornadoes. World Vision is helping with relief efforts. For more information, including how you can help, check this out.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Wisdom From Don Henley

As you may know, I believe that all truth is God's truth and that truth can come from many different places. In Don Henley's song, "The Heart of the Matter," there is a bit of truth about forgiveness. The song is about a lost love, but there is something there for all of us who have been hurt by other people.

Henley sings, "The more I know, the less I understand / All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again." Those words speak volumes to me. It seems that the older I get the less I understand about some things, especially when it comes to people. Sometimes the more we know about someone, the less we understand what they do. That is one reason we need forgiveness, whether given or received.

 The song goes on:
These times are so uncertain/ There's a yearning undefined/
...People filled with rage/ We all need a little tenderness/
How can love survive in such a graceless age/
The trust and self-assurance that can lead to happiness/
They're the very things we kill, I guess
We live in uncertain times. Those of us who follow Jesus face an uncertain future that may include persecution and definitely will include a loss of the influence the church has enjoyed. Because we are family, we must be a family that forgives. The age is quickly becoming more and more graceless, and forgiveness is necessary for love to survive.

In some way, Henley gets it: 
"I've been trying to get down to the heart  of the matter
But my will gets weak/ And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if you don't love me anymore

He recognizes the vital importance of forgiveness:
There are people in your life who've come and gone
They let you down and hurt your pride
Better put it all behind you; life goes on
You keep carryin' that anger, it'll eat you inside

We have all been hurt by people, whether it's an abusive parent or spouse, a tyrannical boss, or a friend who has betrayed us. Some of those hurts heal relatively quickly while some will never be totally healed until God wipes all tears from our eyes. Some folks we can reconcile with, while with others reconciliation is impossible. The one thing we can do is forgive. Like the Amish in Pennsylvania, the people in Rwanda, or the formerly oppressed majority in South Africa, we can forgive. We must forgive. If we don't, it will eat away at us and cause issues for the rest of our life.
Forgiveness is more about us than the person we are forgiving. By forgiving, we release the other from any hold their act still has on us. We also release ourselves. We do incur a cost by giving up our "right" to extract a pound of flesh, but that pound of flesh can never pay for their act and forgiving frees us and enables us to move on with our lives. We are no longer bound to that act or that person. We also must forgive because our Father has forgiven us far worse trespasses than any of us have ever felt. Jesus command us to forgive and reminds us that forgiving is an indication of our own forgiveness. We must forgive. For the glory of God and the advance of his kingdom, for the good of others, and for our own wholeness. It's not easy, but it must be a part of our lives.

There is another side to this coin. That is repentance. That's a subject for another post.

Moving On

It's been a while since I've written here. Life has been happening the past few months. I have decided to start fresh, so I'm mo...