I have found myself second-guessing the wisdom of posting this picture last night on Facebook. I know many of you saw it and engaged in the extensive discussion that went on about it. I am very conflicted about my statement that Obama is “incompetent.” I should have worded things differently (or just not put the graphic up). Please forgive me as this was out of character, contrary to the approach I encourage people to take in theology. Whether I believed it or not, I would always caution against saying another theologian is incompetent. It is best to just stick to the issues. I did not do that here and was manipulative in my approach. I apologize. I pray for Obama and praise God for whomever he chooses to lead our country.
On a website separate from this blog, I recently made the comment that I did not believe Obama was a Christian. I don’t believe he is. I am not sure, but from what I know of him, it is more responsible for me to say (context allowing) that he is not rather than to remain agnostic or just give him the benefit of the doubt.
The uproar was tremendous and, often, vicious. Many Christians were appalled that I would presume to make such a judgment upon someone who claims to be Christian. It is as if once someone makes the claim, you had better have “hands off” even suggesting that such a claim may not be true.
I am not sure where people get this.
First, this post is not about whether Obama is a Christian. I will not defend my belief that he is not here and I don’t want this to turn in that direction. It is about whether or not we can biblically make such judgments about a person’s status before Christ once they have declared themselves to be Christians.
It is understandable in one sense. If you are a conservative evangelical such as I am, to say that someone is not a Christian when they claim to be is acting as if you know them better than they know themselves. More than that, saying they are not a Christian is the “lightest” way one could put what they believe about the person’s status before God. Think of these three things I could say: Continue Reading →
Lord, I am thankful to you that I have yet to experience anything like the dreaded time of 2010. I still don’t know the reason such a depth of depression came upon me, and you know that I am weary of trying to figure it out.
When I left you for those three days, I have never felt so lost. My life–-you—were taken from me. Along with that, all meaning, hope, and happiness. My faith was gone and along with it any hope for joy. My kids were rocks, my wife was a plant, and all people were, to me, as worthless as a scrap of metal. That is what life is like without you. I understand that now. My best thought is that you were teaching me what it was to be in such darkness. I had never experienced it before. Yes, you know, there were (and are) many times when I think, “Is this all really true?” But such thoughts, until 12:01 pm on that dreaded day, March 15, 2010, were merely fleeting. At least they were fleeting until the crash of my soul. For three days you allowed a coroner’s blanket to be laid over my spirit. I know now that if I were to have died during this time, I would be with you now. I think I even knew it then. Somehow I knew you were responsible. I knew that you were teaching me a lesson. But it will take me many more years to realize the purpose of such things.
Has a child ever woken up to see their parents were dead? That feeling could be said to have shared the land of my darkness, but it still was close to the shore. My darkness was even more hopeless. My cries were even more desperate.
But you rescued me from the despair. You pulled me up out of the mire. Continue Reading →
I don’t care for many reality shows but I confess to being a Project Runway fan. It’s a welcome diversion from my the crime drama genre I like so much. If you are not familiar with the show, 16 aspiring designers are given challenges each week to show their proficiency and creativity as a designer. The ultimate goal is to win the prize of $100,000 to start their own line, a spread in a popular magazine and the notoriety that goes with it Having just concluded it’s 10th season, there is something about the combination of watching the creative process and the human dynamic unfold with each episode. Most of the designers come with some pretty well established experience. Some have worked with well known designers. And all of them think they are the next best thing out there.
The human dynamic that emerges on the show is fascinating. Some are consistently good and their work speaks for itself. They may toot their own horn and even sound obnoxious in the process. But when their work product stands up to their words, it is validated. For the most, however, there exists a fair amount of delusion among many of the contestants about the greatness of their work. They may also frequently criticize other designers and their supposedly inferior work. Naturally, it’s related to a comparison to show how great a designer the criticizer is.
There is a mentor and fashion guru who lends a critical eye to designer’s products while they are in progress. Sometimes he has to tell that overly confident designer that there is something not working right with their design. He gives them some suggestions on how they can rethink the design to something that is more likely to wow the judges. For the most part, I have found myself in agreement with his input. The camera does not lie. If something doesn’t look right, it doesn’t look right no matter how much the designer engages in self-exaltation.
Some of the designers listen to him. They step back and engage in a critical self-assessment of their work. Sometimes, they might ask other designers for feedback on the mentor’s assessment. But then there are others who are so consumed with their own importance, their own adulation of their products and commitment to their design aesthetic, they refuse to listen to critical input. It’s really telling when the designer meets the same criticism from the judges and they cannot understand why the judges are being so critical. Some have refuted the judges verbally and basically tells them “I disagree”. I find it really interesting when I go on the Project Runway Facebook page only to hear a community chiming in and basically in agreement. Everyone can see it except for that delusional designer. Continue Reading →
Of course, as it is with so many things, our gifts are a blessing and a curse. We praise you, oh God, when our passions are directed in a way that is beneficial and full of purpose to your glory, but when these are in foul circumstances, their ability to produce iniquity produces a darkness that is as intense as the light given when good is the end.
I glory in my intense passion for great things. But I sink when I call these things “obsessions.” I have a passion for you. But obsession often rules my day. My gift is my curse. My curse is my gift.
When I have a passion for my marriage, I see this as a good thing. And so I conduct my family affairs according to this passion. With instructions to my children, wife, and myself, a revival takes place for a time. However, this passion does not know patience. Eventually the passion turns others sour.
Remember when I first started following you? I read through the entirety of your Scriptures in just a few months. I could not read enough. I took up and read all of the great saints’ works I could get my hands on. I loved you with a fire so great and am thankful that this fire has yet to turn to ash. Yet in my passion, I pushed many away. I required the same thoughts and feelings in them as I was experiencing at that moment. “Who are they?” I thought to myself. “Why won’t they follow in my passions? Why are they running away?” I began to pride myself in my passions to such a degree that I even thought they were unspiritual and persecutors of the faith. Why didn’t they take up the exact same flag that I was bearing?
I have pushed many away in my passions. Often, I can push you away. When I lay depressed in bed, when I drive down the road in darkness, when I suffer confusion, my obsessions kick in. I cannot get my troubles out of my mind. And it is not so much that I want to sink deeper into them, but I want a solution to present itself. If I think hard enough, figure out where I went wrong, or say this prayer and make this confession, then I will have figured it out. But the solutions are always short-lived. In excitement I have exclaimed many times to you, “Oh, so that is what you wanted to teach me. I have learned that lesson now. The problem is solved so my life should soon return to normal.” When the victory is shown to be a mirage, I return to my obsession of solving things.
When my passions turn into obsessions, I sink further into my pain.
But you know, oh Lord, that I would not trade this in. For when you set me on a course, I love the course. Though I can make those closest to me hate this same course, you have shown me how to balance the extent of my passions so as to let you work in your own way with others. I shall keep these passions, for they are dear to my heart. Don’t ever let me lose them. I have delighted myself in you and you are giving me the desires of my heart. Let not my obsessions turn these desires and make them stagnant and bitter. I shall do all that I do with all these hopes and dreams that will not contain themselves. I shall pursue you without always having to have the people I want follow in the way I want them to follow. I shall exercise these passions and then release them to you. Worry is not a right which my passion has been given, yet it desires much to go there.
Of course Martin Luther could not be accused of hiding his real self.
“I sit here at ease, hardened and unfeeling—alas! praying little, grieving little for the Church of God, burning rather in the fierce fires of my untamed flesh. It comes to this: I should be afire in the spirit; in reality I am afire in the flesh, with lust, laziness, idleness, sleepiness. It is perhaps because you have all ceased praying for me that God has turned away from me…. For the last eight days I have written nothing, nor prayed nor studied, partly from self-indulgence, partly from another vexatious handicap [constipation and piles]…. I really cannot stand it any longer…. Pray for me, I beg you, for in my seclusion here I am submerged in sins” (E.G. Rupp and Benjamin Drewery, eds, Martin Luther: Documents of Modern History, pp. 72-73).
Not too long ago, I gave an assignment to a class I was teaching on Christian history. It was a biography on St Augustine. I was pretty excited to introduce people to a good friend whom they had (more than likely) never really met. He is a titan of the faith and has, over the years, become one of my best acquaintances. Yes, this guy comes fully stocked with baggage. And yes, some of this baggage was lacking in modesty. But that is how it is with all my friends. They don’t have it all together. They never have. All of the greats of the past. Whether in theology or lifestyle, if you want to get to know the real thing, you are going to have to wade through some waters that are going to be far outside your comfort zone.
I was somewhat discouraged when one person came to a part of the book that described Augustine’s problems with sexual promiscuity. There was nothing too gory as Augustine never felt the need to describe any details. However, this person thought it unwise to let other Christians read this side of Augustine, especially the teens. “They might be encouraged to do the same,” this person said. “I just don’t think they should be exposed to a ‘hero’ who lived such a life. I just want to hear the good stuff about Augustine.”
It is hard to make it through this life with an eye only for “the good stuff.” Really, it is very hard to define “the good stuff.” First (and please forgive my postmodern cliché), your good stuff is not always my good stuff and your bad stuff is not always my bad stuff. Second, is it even possible to see the good stuff without the bad stuff?
Let me take a turn here . . .
I hate Christian movies. I can’t watch them. Every time I do, I begin to get dizzy and need to find my vertigo correction pills. Why is this? I suppose it is a number of things. Of course there is the usual: the acting is terrible and stilted, the cameras predictable and boorish, and the post-production sound and music integration cliché and clumsy. But there is one element that is worse than all others: The story. Why? Well, I can’t believe I am saying this, but it is too “Christian.”
Let me back up (forgive me for going all over the place here).
I love movies. I love television shows. I love to escape my own world and live in another world for a time. Although I am not watching too much TV or movies these days, there is one show I don’t miss: The Walking Dead. This post-apocalyptic show about zombies is breaking record after record in audience numbers. It is quite a phenomenon that such a show would have so much popularity. After all, it is about zombies! Are you kidding me? Fifteen million people watch a zombie show? It is the most-watched basic cable drama in history. Why? It makes sense for me as I am a post-apocalyptic nut. But why have so many people joined in front of this screen? Well, of course the acting is great, the budget allows for some incredible special effects, and the story is absolutely intriguing. But there is more to it. It is about the human condition. It is called drama. Not action, not horror, but drama. Unrealistic as the world around these apocalyptic survivors may be, the intrigue is that the show enters into humanity and drops the bombs of real life, real struggles, real hurt, real pain, and real disillusionment. And the solutions to these problems are not wrapped up in a nice red bow. The conflicted drama is left unsolved or ongoing. Zombies are not real, but the drama surrounding them is. And we like that. Continue Reading →
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