Archive for March, 2006

Convert Or Die!

Posted: March 24, 2006 in Everything

I hope you are as disturbed as I am about the case involving Abdul Raman, the 41-year old former Afghan aid worker who recently converted to Christianity. Raman is currently facing the death penalty in Afghanistan for his conversion to Christianity. Apparently, converting to Christianity–or anything other than Islam–is against Islamic law!

“Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die,” said cleric Abdul Raoulf, who is considered a moderate and was jailed three times for opposing the Taliban before the hard-line regime was ousted in 2001.

There’s been a lot in the media about Raman this week. Some say he is crazy and needs psychological attention (he admitted to his conversion on TV, knowing where it would get him). Others say that the Western presence in the region is the cause for his conversion and insanity. Still others say that if Raman is not sentenced to death, then someone–either in prison or on the streets–would kill him anyway!

The situation reminds me of the threatening and terrible circumstances those early Christians we read about in the New Testament lived under. Time and time again, the apostle Paul and others were being stoned, chased out of town, being lowered out of windows in baskets, and having to lace up their Nike sandals to try to outrun the gathering mob–made of both Jews and Greeks.

It’s funny how we forget that, isn’t it? It’s easy to glaze over the fact that Jesus was killed in the most horrifying way for what He believed, and His disciples didn’t fare much better. Christianity has never known a day when there wasn’t somebody somewhere who wanted to kill Christians. Here’s the crazy part: If you read the letters of the apostle Paul–check out 2 Corinthians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians–you will discover that Paul thinks that the more Christians suffer, then the closer they are to being like Jesus!

Though I am horrified by Abdul Rahman’s situation, it is a reminder to me of what Christianity is: a radical, world-defying way of life that has always been threatening to all systems and people who would harbor visions of power and dominion.

That’s why I think it’s important for American Christians to be very careful before they bemoan the loss of their “Christian Nation” or protest the loss of “prayer in schools” or even people choosing to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. Afghanistan is an Islamic Nation. That means that anyone who comes to alternative conclusions about how, why, or who to worship must be killed. There’s plenty of prayer in Afghan schools. It’s all to Allah–or else!

Is that really what we want, only substituting ‘Christian’ for ‘Islamic’? Do we think that’s what God wants? A nation populated with people who worship and pray to God because if they don’t they won’t live to regret it. Do we really want a national religion? I don’t think many of us realize what we are asking for when we are asking for it. If congress passed a law tomorrow allowing prayer in school, but it had to be to Allah or Buddha, so many Christians would be livid. But at the end of the day, it would be prayer in schools.

It’s important to remember that though God wishes none be lost, that some likely will. It’s important to know that the Bible tells this beautiful story of a God that goes to pretty incredible lengths to give His creation freedom, and that means the freedom to disregard Him. It’s important to recognize that Christianity is a faith intended to be embraced by individuals and communities then lived out in the world. It is not a system of religious propositions by which all people must submit as if it were an imperial edict.

Because when a faith becomes a law, it becomes something that doesn’t bring life, as Jesus promised, but rather something that brings death. You can ask Adbul Raman about that.

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Adventures In Missing the Point

Posted: March 22, 2006 in Everything

Brian McLaren has helped give me a vision for the church and Christianity as an adult. Tony Campolo helped Jesus become meaningful for me as a teenager. Here are some words from their book, Adventures In Missing The Point.

I love their take on what salvation means, and what Jesus came to do. It’s a sharp contrast to what a lot of people are wanting to get out of Jesus.

“Salvation doesn’t mean slitting Roman throats and getting power. Salvation means being liberated from the cycle of violence, liberated from the need to be in power. God wants to save you from your present life of hatred and fear, and instead reconnect you with God’s original plan for the descendants of Abraham. Even as an oppressed people, you can be a blessing. Instead of slitting a Roman soldier’s throat, carry his pack for him. Instead of cursing him, pray for him. I am here to save you from the whole system of insult and revenge–not by giving you political victory (as you and I would, and not by telling you to give up on this life and instead focus on salvation from hell after this life (as some people are going to do in my name)–but by giving you permission to start your participation in God’s mission right now, right where you are, even as an oppressed people. The opportunity to start living in this new better was is available to you right now: the kingdom of God is at hand!”

More News

Posted: March 20, 2006 in Everything

Here’s another clue about my news.

Clue #2: Voice

NEWS

Posted: March 18, 2006 in Everything

I’ve got some big news, well, at least it’s big for me, coming soon. So keep posted! Exciting days ahead.

Clue #1: BIBLE

Day Surgery

Posted: March 15, 2006 in Everything

Okay, so my doctor says I have to get my tonsils taken out. Well, I don’t really have to, but if I don’t have it done, whatever I eat will continue to get trapped in the back of my throat causing really bad side effects–you know side effects like funky breath and continues sore throats. Apparently, the condition is fairly common.

Truthfully, I must admit it’s a little embarrassing to have to have your tonsils taken out at thirty-one years old. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it just feels like something you should have had done when you were twelve. As a matter of fact, after my doctor dropped the surgery bomb on me, he asked me to watch a short video about the tonsillectomy. The video was apparently made in 1986, it documented a nervous eleven year old boy and his mother going through the process of preparation, surgery, and recovery. As if that wasn’t enough to make me feel like I was coming to the tonsillectomy party 20 years too late, sitting next to the small video monitor on which I watched the 11 year-old be nurtured through surgery by his mother was another video: Veggie Tales.

“Well,” I thought, “if my two-year-old were here at least she could watch her favorite video.” Suffice it to say that sitting in this small room, having to have a surgery typically done to children, while I was watching a nervous boy and his mother, and living with the knowledge that I could pop in a Veggie Tales video if the nurse tarried too long, all made me feel kinda like a kid.

Here’s the funny thing: After talking with my wife after I left the doctor’s office, I called my mother. What’s more, one of my first instincts was to ask her if she would be willing to come visit during my recovery. It’s not that I don’t think Rochelle is capable of taking care of me. She’s more than capable, but there is just something about having your mother around when you’re sick or infirmed somehow. They say when soldiers are injured on the battlefield, they don’t call out for their wives, they cry out for their mothers.

I think one of the most overlooked pictures of God in Scripture is that of God as mother. Most of us refer to God as “Father”. That’s a good thing. When Jesus talks to and about God, He calls Him “Father” primarily. But God is also pictured as mother.

I’ve always liked this pericope from Isaiah: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you…(Isaiah 66.13)”

I suppose people need a lot of different pictures and metaphors to describe God. As Thomas Aquinas reminds us, everything we can say about God is only an analogy since God infinitely surpasses anything we can say or think of Him.

It’s helpful to me to see God as mother. To see Him as the nurturing, tender, caressing holder of children and lover of beauty. It’s helpful for me to see God as the kind of God that flies halfway across the country to sit next to a thirty-one year old having his tonsils taken out. In the end, I guess that’s why the Bible gives us so many pictures of God. We need different images for different events in our lives. Sometime those events are big like death and disaster and we need a picture of an all-knowing, all-powerful God to help us understand that there is someone who knows how the play ends. And then some of the events are small, like day surgery, and we need to know there is someone who knows how to comfort a child–no matter what age they are.

God Bless your day.

To Own A Dragon

Posted: March 3, 2006 in Everything


A couple from my congregation gave me a gift certificate for Christian Book Distributors for Christmas. Having too much to read at the time, I purchased two books which weren’t going to be out for some time. The first one arrived this week. It’s Donald Miller’s new book, To Own a Dragon.

At his website, you can hear Miller read the first chapter of the book. It’s great.

It’s great. It’s a hilarious! I laughed my way through the first chapter keeping my wife awake with my outburst. Though I plan that it will make me cry at some point soon. This book, though I haven’t yet finished it, has pushed some other reading down the list.

Miller writes about his own lack of being fathered and the fathering crises in our country. There’s a little something for everyone here. So, if you get a chance, pick it up and read. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll realize why fathers are so important.

More on fathering later…

Give Me Jesus

Posted: March 1, 2006 in Everything

I have been captivated again this week by the simple, yet powerful, song and voice of Fernando Ortega. Every day this week I have listened to “Give Me Jesus”. I was reminded how much I like Fernando and his music last week when I was in Abilene. Mike Cope used these words in his presentation there.

The words couldn’t be more simple:

GIVE ME JESUS

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
Give me Jesus

Chorus:
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

When I am alone
When I am alone
When I am alone
Give me Jesus

Chorus

And when I come to die
When I come to die
When I come to die
Give me Jesus

Chorus…END

Don’t you wish you could sing that song and mean it? Don’t you wish that Jesus was all that you wanted and all that you thought you needed? I sure do. I wish that I weren’t concerned with money or power or sex or any of a hundred other things that occupy my day. I have always been ambitious; wanting to do more and be more. How about you?

Don’t we all crave to be respected, well-thought of, listened to, wealthy, important? But when you sit back and think about it, where has that gotten most of us? I know for me that when I am most pursuing those things that I think I can’t live without is when I become the short-tempered husband, the distant father, the minister more concerned with the program or the event than the guy concerned about the people at the event. I know the reason why, too.

I don’t really believe that Jesus is enough! Before you congratulate me on my bold confession, let me tell you something. The reason that I confess that I don’t believe that Jesus is enough, is not only because I see it in my own life, but because I see it in the lives of people around me as well. Nearly everyone I know is chasing an extra dollar, another promotion, something that we think we finally make us whole, make us complete. You would think that human history and the story of scripture might give us a head’s up that what we are chasing will never make us happy or whole.

Last month, I went to our churches men’s retreat where we studied the book if Ecclesiastes. One refrain stood out to me throughout our time together. The author makes this profound statement early in the book, speaking of the meaninglessness of life, he writes, “All the streams flow to the ocean, but the ocean is never filled.”

Apparently, that’s a tough lesson for humans to learn, because centuries after those words were written we are still trying to fill our lives with things that we know won’t fill us. There’s no paycheck, no vacation, no sexual escapade, no woman or man, no position, no level of influence that can make us matter. In the end, there is nothing but Jesus. That’s all there ever was, and all we ever needed.

I guess that’s why Fernando can sing, “Give Me Jesus”. Perhaps there are some angels walking our planet that know that asking for Jesus is the only true and real thing that we can ask for. They know that Jesus is the only thing. Boy, I sure hope to get there one day.