Friday, February 29, 2008

God's Politics - Jim Wallis blog, faith blog, religion, christian, christianity, politics, values

God's Politics - Jim Wallis blog, faith blog, religion, christian, christianity, politics, values

So let's set the record straight. I have known Barack Obama for more than 10 years, and we have been talking about his Christian faith for a decade. Like me and many other Christians, he agrees with the need to reach out to Muslims around the world, especially if we are ever to defeat Islamic fundamentalism. But he is not a Muslim, never has been, never attended a Muslim madrassa, and does not attend a black "separatist" church. Rather, he has told me the story of his coming from an agnostic household, becoming a community organizer on Chicago's South Side who worked with the churches, and how he began attending one of them. Trinity Church is one of the most prominent and respected churches in Chicago and the nation, and its pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is one of the leading revival preachers in the black church. Ebony magazine once named him one of America's 15 best Black preachers. The church says it is "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian," like any good black church would, but is decidedly not "separatist," as its white members and friends would attest.

And one Sunday, as Obama has related to me and written in his book The Audacity of Hope, the young community organizer walked down the aisle and gave his life to Christ in a very personal and very real Christian conversion experience. We have talked about our faith and its relationship to politics many times since.

Read the full article in context

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Prayer Request

Please pray for Northern Illinois University, and the families of the victims of the shooting there today.

Snow lesson like an object lesson

Here is a somewhat embarrassing story that God used to teach me something (including humility). A couple of weeks ago I bought a snowblower. I couldn't believe I could get one so nice and so new for such a great deal. The previous owner was an older man who had undergone surgery for a broken neck. His top three vertebrae had to be fused and his surgeon told him that he had to get an electric starter, because pulling on the pull-start chord could literally kill him.

Now, as tight as things are, my wife and I both agreed that this was a good investment for us because I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and I struggle with chronic sinus infections and mild bronchial asthma. Every time I shovel snow, I end up in a coughing attack and sometimes even have to throw up. So I was excited.

But two snow storms came and went and for the life of me I couldn't get the stupid thing started! I'd try to be patient with it, I'd try to be violent with it. I tried every combination I could adjusting the choke and the throttle. I pushed the little pump to prime the fuel line. I checked the gas, the oil and the spark plug. I couldn't believe how inept I could be. Why was it so easy for all my neighbors to get their snow blower's started? Was it just because I'm from Arizona? Is it because I'm so unhandy? Unmanly?

I pulled and I pulled, I yanked and I yanked. I exerted as much energy and strained my arms and back more than if I had simply shoveled the snow. Not to mention my blood pressure raising from the anger and frustration.

Take a look at this picture. From left to right, you can see the choke, the throttle, the spark plug and the button for priming the fuel pump, and the gas cap. All there in plain sight to anyone standing proudly in front, ready to drive, ready to lead and command the machine. So what was my problem?

Finally, one day I got home before my wife and kids so the garage was empty. It was a relatively warm day in the 30's with no new snow and even some melting. I thought to myself, okay, I have some time and some room, and no pressure- so I'm going to take a look at this thing one last time before I give up and try to sell it and hopefully recoup some of my losses. If I could get it to work, thank God, if not, then crap- I'd have to give up.

I'm not even sure why I decided to do this, but I got down on my knees to look around the rest of the engine to see if I could see if something was wrong- as if I was some macho mechanic.

Lo and behold, down on my knees, from a different, decidedly more humble point of view, something was revealed to me that I had overlooked.

A little switch. A valve that the manufacturer had no doubt, included to prevent gas from freezing in the lines. All I had to do was to turn it to the clearly marked "On" position and guess what- voilĂ ! it started on the very first tug. Didn't even have to tug that hard.

The lesson? Sometimes the only way God can show us something is when we're on our knees. Prayer & Humility, submission to Him. These may be difficult, but you won't believe how much less work and grief they involve.

Thank you Jesus for teaching me, even when I have to learn things the hard way.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Aaronic blessing

24 " ' "The LORD bless you
and keep you;

25 the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;

26 the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace." '

27 "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

~Numbers 6:24-27
(New International Version)

Here's another opportunity to pray Scripture over your neighbors, friends, or loved ones. Try this:

LORD bless ________________
and keep them;

Reveal Yourself to them and let them know how much You love them, Lord
shower them with Your grace;

Look favorably on them and smile on them
and give them Your peace, Lord.

Put your name on them as Your precious child and possession, and bless them.

And here's a Psalm that you can sing or pray alone or in a group as a form of worship:

Psalm 67

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us,

2 that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

3 May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.

4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth.

5 May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.

6 Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us.

7 God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Pray for positive thinking

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
~Philippians 4:4-8

  • Pray Philippians 4:4-8 for a friend or loved one:
  • Pray that they'll have a song (of worship) in their heart all day everyday, and thereby grow closer to the Lord.
  • Pray that even in the most challenging times in life, they will bring everything to Him in prayer and that no matter how stressful life becomes, she will not be anxious.
  • Sure, the battle is already won- it was won by Jesus on the cross and in His resurrection, but we don't always remember that, we are too caught up in the difficulty in the here and now to keep our eyes on the prize- so pray that this peace that passes all understanding will be something that they are acutely is aware of. Sure, our religion is about faith, not feelings, but pray that they actually feel His peace and be reminded of it minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.
  • And finally, please pray that they fear, love and trust in Him so much that they will think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy— rather than all the things that are so discouraging, difficult, and distracting.

Friday, February 08, 2008

"You are being Loved" 2007 by Steven Curtis Chapman

And one thing you're never gonna be worthy of
But there's a song being sung over you
By the One who breathes life into you

You are being loved
You are being loved
Right now at this very moment
You are being loved
You are being loved
Right now, you are being loved, loved, loved
You are being loved, loved
You are

You ought to see the smile you're bringing to your father's face
You ought to hear Him sing His version of Amazing Grace
Cause that's the song being sung over you
By the God who breathes life into you

You are being loved
You are being loved
Right now at this very moment
You are being loved
You are being loved
Right now, you are being loved, loved, loved
You are being loved, loved
You are

With every breath that you're taking
And every beat of your heart
Even while even this song is playing
Whatever you do, wherever you are
There's a song being sung over you

You are being loved
You are being loved
Right now at this very moment
You are being loved
You are being loved
Right now, you are being loved, loved, loved
You are being loved, loved
You are

You are loved, loved, loved
You are being loved, loved
You are

You are being, you are being
You are being loved
You are being, you are being
You are being loved right now

There's a song being sung over you
There's a song being sung over you
There's a song being sung over you
There's a song being sung over you

You are being loved
You are being loved
You are being loved
You are being loved

You are being loved
You are being loved
You are being loved
You are being loved
Right now

There's a song being sung over you
There's a song being sung over you
There's a song being sung over you
There's a song being sung over you
Right now

Get a job, get a haircut.

A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed.As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation.

They talked about so many things and various subjects.When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said: 'I don't believe that God exists.'

'Why do you say that?' asked the customer.

'Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn't exist.

Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children?
If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things.'

The customer thought for a moment, but didn't respond because he didn't want to start an argument.
The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop.

Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard.

He looked dirty and unkempt. The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber:

'You know what? Barbers do not exist.'

'How can you say that?' asked the surprised barber.

'I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!'

'No!' the customer exclaimed. 'Barbers don't exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.'

'Ah, but barbers DO exist! That's what happens when people do not come to me.'

'Exactly!' affirmed the customer. 'That's the point! God, too, DOES exist!

That's what happens when people do not go to Him and don't look to Him for help. That's why there's so much pain and suffering in the world.'

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Prayer of Abandonment

Father, I abandon myself into your hands;

do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

~Charles de Foucauld, 1858 - 1916

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Prayer requests

  • Please pray for Audrey, who's sister Joy is struggling with leukemia
  • Please pray for John , who's dropped out of school. The principal said that he's going to pursue a GED, but I'm fearful that his court case didn't go well and he may be in jail
  • Please pray for all of the families of the victims of yesterday's storms especially the tornadoes
  • Please pray for our leaders and the environment- meteorologists note that we usually average 80 tornadoes per year, and we're already at 45 this year and spring is a long way away- global climate change is frightening
  • That more kids will start coming to our HS Bible study at St. John- but thank you, Lord for the two that have been coming

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Philippians 3:2-11

Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
Who is Paul angry at here? Some of the "old-school" Christians at the time were trying to convince the new believers in Philippi (a Roman colony in Northern Greece, practically Turkey) that you couldn't be a Christian or be saved unless you fist became a Jew. That meant undergoing circumcision! Talk about demanding good works to be saved!

This really made Paul angry- see what he wrote about them in another letter?
Galatians 5:12 "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!"

Paul wants us to understand that being circumcised isn't what saves us. Nothing we can do ourselves can make us right with God. Then he goes on to explain that if anyone was ever good enough to claim to be a good Jew, it was him. He thought that he loved God so much that he defended the faith against this new "cult" of Jesus-followers called Christians. Before his conversion, Paul was named Saul and he was out to "ethnically cleanse," to eradicate the Christians. ( See Acts 7:54-57)

Incidentally, here's a really scary/gross story about circumcision from the Old Testament: Dinah and the Shechemites in Genesis 34: "All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised....Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male."

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

But that was Paul's old life. Now the MOST important thing to him is knowing Jesus personally.

The bad news is in, God told us- Leviticus 11:45 "I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy." No one can be with God or even near God unless they're perfect. Bummer.

But the good news that Paul's talking about in Philippians 3:9 is the same thing he talks about in Romans 3: 21-23 "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

In other words, because Jesus loves us enough to die for us on the cross, we can have HIS righteousness, His right-ness. It makes us holy so we can be in a right relationship with God the Father. And Paul would give up everything else in life, so long as he has that.

Amen, thank you for making it possible for us to know you and be in a real relationship with you , Jesus!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Don't be afraid to just knock

I wrote this for my Feb. 7 column in the Mapleton PRESS:
(And I painted the portrait a couple of years ago)

Last month, I started re-reading a book of sermons by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called “Strength to Love,” from 1963. Many people would be surprised by what a Biblical teacher King was because we tend to take him for granted as a cultural icon or a Black leader or a political activist.

One chapter in particular struck me as something that we could all use these days. Let’s face it, this is a time of high anxiety and stress for many of us. Governor Culver recently tried to reassure Iowans that we’re in better shape than the nation as a whole to face the coming recession. But come on, things have been getting hard for all of us for a long time.

Wars, stagnant wages, increasing costs of living especially gas, food, heating fuel and health insurance, talk of climate change, cultural change, and global competition have all left us a little frazzled. Perhaps you’re finding that just the challenges of daily life, let alone personal tragedies and crises are wearing you down.

Rev. King talked about Jesus’ parable of the man who knocks on his neighbor’s door at midnight asking for bread found in Luke 11:5-8.

“The traveler asks for three loaves of bread,” Dr. King wrote. The three things we need most are faith, hope and love.

“In a generation of so many colossal disappointments, men have lost faith in God, faith in man, and faith in the future…in the midst of staggering disillusionment, many cry for the bread of faith.”

“There is also a deep longing for the bread of hope.” Dr. King continued, “In the early years of this century many people did not hunger for this bread. The days of the first telephones, automobiles, and airplanes gave them a radiant optimism. They worshiped at the shrine of inevitable progress. They believed that every new scientific achievement lifted man to higher levels of perfection.”

But as we all know, came WWI and WWII and the Cold War. We realized that technology won’t produce a futuristic utopia. We may have more than enough food to eradicate world hunger, but greed and corruption prevent us from ever being able to get the food to who needs it. The twentieth century left mankind wounded and disillusioned.

King lamented that “the light of hope went out, and they roamed wearily in the dark chambers of pessimism. Many concluded that life has no meaning… But even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope.”

If anything, we’ve learned too well that life is not fair. Some people don’t even see the point in trying anymore.

Finally, MLK pointed out what we are most starved for.

“There is the deep longing,” King wrote, “for the bread of love. Everybody wishes to love and to be loved. He who feels that he is not loved feels that he does not count. Much has happened in the modern world to make men feel that they do not belong. Living in a world which has become oppressively impersonal, many of us have come to feel that we are little more than numbers.”

We all need to find ways to get out of bed in the middle of the night and come to our neighbor’s aid. We all need to try to feed others in anyway we can but we should also remember where to turn when times get worst.

Luke 11: 5-8 has a man asking to borrow bread from a neighbor, but in Luke 11:1-4, Jesus teaches the disciples the Lord’s Prayer and in 11:9-13, He urges us to pray and ask God’s help for anything we need. If we need faith, hope, or love, all we have to do as ask, seek, or knock.