Several weeks back I wrote about how I hate politics.
Yet I seemingly find myself addressing them in one fashion or another.
Maybe I am a glutton for punishment.
This election season is very difficult to ignore with the constant and prominent news on the subject along with the proliferation on social media like we’ve never seen before. Perhaps I, too, need to take a vacation from media.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the concerns of taking our country back for God and the “Christianity” of America.
I suppose when I finish writing here, many of my conclusions will be the same. Consummated in the fact that our ultimate hope and assurance is in God, not our country.
But I do have concerns for America.
I do love my country and I am troubled about its future. America has been gifted with much material wealth and prosperity and the freedoms to live life mostly as one chooses and desires, at least relative to many other cultures and times. Many great things have been accomplished by many great people in this nation, both individual achievements and collective achievements. The land itself is just so beautiful and magnificent. Maybe others know better, but I do not know of any other country that has such a diverse majesty of landscapes and natural wonders.
In addition, when one studies world history, I would think one would be hard-pressed to find another nation or empire that has wielded as great of power and has been more gracious and generous with it and abused it less than has the United States of America. Yes, there are some ugly black marks in our country’s history. I am not ignorant of them. Some I wrote about in my previous article. But again, this study is all relative. Compared to all the great powers in our world’s history, it is hard to find one who was/is better than America in these regards overall.
I don’t want to see my country lose these things. I don’t want to see it go downhill. I don’t want America to become impoverished. I don’t want Christians to someday have to choose between their faith or going to jail. I don’t want it to become a moral morass. Where one “will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” (Sorry, Stars Wars moment.) Not so much for myself, but for my children. And for their children. I sometimes shudder to think what society may be like for them.
In many ways, it is probably inevitable. World history tells us as much. America as a prosperous world power will only last so long. The interconnectedness of our global society today adds even further challenges. Many signs point towards the vulnerability of our country.
This current election season really makes me concerned. The two leading candidates to become our next president truly make me question the mindset of the people of this nation. One is a man who leads with ridicule and vulgarity and disrespect and has a life full of all sorts of immoral behavior that he is proud of it in many ways. The other is a woman whose life and career is jam packed with lies and cover-ups and scandals. A woman who has consistently done and said whatever she believes she has to in order to gain political power and position and cover with no regard for those she needs to step on to do so.
Now, I usually have misgivings around just about any political candidate and rarely get excited about any one of them. They all have their issues. But these two are an extreme. Is this really the best we can do? Are we really saying that we’re okay with people of this character leading our country? A person’s character is not the only qualification for the presidency. But it should mean something. Shouldn’t it?
Once again I am brought to the understanding that our hope is not in this world. That we are not guaranteed to live comfortable lives. That we can expect trials and tribulations and persecution. We have been fortunate to live in a country with relatively good wealth and freedoms and standards. Spoiled in many ways. It may not always stay that way. I just wish it could. Not just for myself, but all the more so for my children and their children and their children’s children and all there after.
But our hope is in the living God.
Our hope is in the salvation He grants us and in knowing that someday He is going to set all things right and make all things new.
Lord, help us to stay centered on you who is eternal, and in living our lives in the way you would have us to, not on the conditions of this world which are only temporal.
A lot of people are angry with Steve Brown over his handling of Tullian Tchividjian’s scandal and the statement he made afterward.
Brown has publicly admitted he didn’t handle the situation well, though he didn’t give us specific ways that he believes he failed.
Many of us who have a history with Steve are satisfied with his answer as it fits coherently with everything we’ve known him to teach for more than three decades.
We’re not completely satisfied, but trust the man enough to leave a ladder of grace for him to climb back inside the house with.
That makes some people angry with us.
Upon thinking about this matter, I’ve come to the conclusion that we culturally now have only two allowable responses to almost everything.
Affirmation or outrage.
A nuanced response to people or to any political or social issues will result in both the affirming and the outraged taking turns rending their garments (and you) if they can catch you.
There are people and issues that I can almost completely affirm and some that should leave us outraged.
However, we spend so much time being outraged that outrage itself has become pedestrian and lacking in meaning.
Should you ask the people that know me the best what they think of me, the answers would (hopefully) be a lot of affirmations along with a recognition that there are some things about me that they wish were different.
That would be a reasonable assessment…I am after all, simultaneously saint and sinner.
Anyone who completely affirmed me or was completely outraged that I am still sucking air would be someone who either didn’t know me well or chose to believe things that were not based in reality.
With Steve, I wonder what do people want now?
Should we fine him?
We can’t defrock him because he’s not frocked.
I’m perfectly able to acknowledge that he blew it while still appreciating the gifts he brings to the church.
He’s been exposed to public humiliation and censure after a long and spotless career.
That’s more than enough for me.
I’m not going to affirm what he did, but I’m going to affirm him.
I’m disappointed, but miles from being outraged.
The Bible teaches that by the measure I judge, that is the way I will be judged.
I’m going to spend my outrage carefully and wisely.
I will be as liberal as I can be with my affirmations…and pray God do likewise for me.
You think about that…
Since I posted this article I’ve received new information from unimpeachable sources that indicate that Browns involvement in covering up this scandal are more grievous than I had known.
While this saddens me deeply, it must also be posted.
My prayer is that Steve will reconsider his actions and make things as right as he can.
If I began this class by saying “turn in your bible to the book of the last days, the end times”, I am sure that most would be flipping to the back to the Book of Revelation. No, right here at the very beginning of the New Testament we are at the end times.
The end times have come not with Blood Moons, but with the birth of Jesus Christ.
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
If something depended on your showing or proving your genealogy what would you do? What would you show? Could you do it? Would Ancestry.com satisfy?
Why would a Jew need a genealogy? – To show that he was part of the covenant.
What was the promise to David?- Someone from your line will rule on the throne.
Was King Herod from the Davidic line? NO! Keep looking.
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
It is very interesting the narrow selection of names to make the genealogy list.
Sarah the wife of Abraham – Rebekka the wife of Isaac – Rachel & Leah the wives of Jacob
The 4 Matriarchs of the Bible – of the 12 tribes of Israel … don’t make the list.
Tamar – Rahab – Ruth – Bathsheba (listed as ‘the wife of Uriah’) all of a ‘non pure past’ are mentioned.
3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,
How Tamar contributed to the line – Genesis 38 (Judah & Tamar)
4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse,
Rahab the prostitute (if you read her story, she was probably a madam) – what does this say about the bloodline of Jesus?
Ruth – a Moabite outsider
6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,
It’s interesting that Matthew does not say Bathsheba’s name.
I think it may be his way of saying – “don’t take pride in your lineage.”
Bringing in Uriah, brings in David’s sin.
7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,
At Solomon we see the split with Luke’s genealogy which instead of descending from Solomon, descends from another son Nathan.
8and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah,
9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos and Amos the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
The deportation is an important historical event in the genealogy.
It’s like saying “if you are proud of your lineage, look at these ancestors – who gave away all of God’s promises.”
12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud,
Look at all of these unrecognizable names – but they are all tied in a chain to Messiah… forever.
15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
Why is this important? What have we learned?
Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament!!!
The Birth of Jesus Christ — Everything above this is Jesus’ earthly genealogy.
Everything below is his heavenly genealogy.
The above genealogy really only gets Jesus to having a right to be the king of Israel – not the savior – not the deliverer. He could have never redeemed men, never conquered death, never conquered sin, never conquered Satan and hell. For that He had to be God, and so Jesus was the God-man, 100% deity, 100% humanity, that is the message of Matthew 1, and so Matthew splits his chapter into two parts dealing with the human and then the divine.
For most of my Christian life Good Friday and Easter were “holy days” where I was expected to teach about the doctrinal meanings of the crucifixion and the resurrection.
These are the foundational truths of our faith and it was necessary to be able to speak to them clearly for the sake of pedagogy.
This year, I get to test myself on what I taught.
This year, it’s not just doctrine.
My heart is failing and the future is uncertain.
But it’s not.
Traditionally, at the end of a Good Friday service, the congregation leaves suddenly, silently, and in darkness, to solemnize the death of Christ.
We ought to leave singing and head straight for a party that lasts all weekend.
We know the end of the story.
We know that the enemy was conquered and our sins atoned for at the cross.
We know that after the cross, Christ rose again and because He did, we will too.
Frederick Buechner wrote;
“The worst isn’t the last thing about the world. It’s the next to the last thing. The last thing is the best. It’s the power from on high that comes down into the world, that wells up from the rock-bottom worst of the world like a hidden spring. Can you believe it? The last, best thing is the laughing deep in the hearts of the saints, sometimes our hearts even. Yes. You are terribly loved and forgiven. Yes. You are healed. All is well.”
For me, for you, for all that believe in His name… the future is certain.
It was the joyous boogie woogie piano that got Jerry Lee Lewis kicked out of bible college.
“The Killer” had imbibed too deeply in the joy of the Lord.
It was the theology that makes the old standard unsingable in doctrinally “sound” churches.
Evidently the joy of the Lord should never create the urge to dance, nor should that joy ever be felt…only thought about.
A Mona Lisa smile is permissible, but still suspect.
You know what they say…never trust an experience.
We have the Bible now…no need for anything else.
This doctrine must have badly confused those who saw a sea part, a Messiah transfigured, or an empty tomb.
I say all that to tell you this.
I received a phone call from Germany this morning, where a boy is receiving treatment for Lyme disease.
He has been healed of that scourge there, but more healing, a different kind of healing… was also needed.
So, God came and visited the boy.
He didn’t come just in the form of a doctor, family, or friends, though He has done that as well.
He came in person….or more accurately, personally.
There was no book involved, nor any readings.
Those will come later…
The details are sacred and not for sharing…but the reality of what happened is undeniable.
Despite this, denials will come.
There will be attempts by both the carnal and the faithful to question the experience and reduce the pure joy felt to a sliver of a smile.
Some will deny it completely.
We simply cannot have a God that jumps out of the book and shows up unbidden to bless us.
But we do…
My instructions to the boy were to tell no one… as some would feel it their Christian duty to deny that he had a life changing, faith making, experience with God that God Himself initiated without the aid of the English Standard Version, bread, wine, water, or clergy.
It doesn’t take much to know that I am a sports fan.
One look at my gravatar and that much can be deduced. Being in the middle of March Madness (the NCAA college men’s basketball tournament) and Opening Day for baseball just around the corner, this is one of the best seasons for sports. Many can wax poetic much better about these things than I can. I like to think I am a decent writer, but a poet I am not. Even though I can’t put them in majestic words, it is hard to beat the wonder of these things.
Baseball has always been my number one and is near and dear to my heart. The hope and excitement and beauty and warmth of opening day is unlike any other sport, even when you are a Phillies fan who’s team has had far more bad seasons than good.
There is just something special about a fresh start each year, even when all the prognosticators are dooming your team to another year of dreck. You just never know for sure what the season might bring, and one can always hope. From 1985 to 2000, the Phillies had losing seasons every year but one. Right in the middle of all that dreariness, they caught lightening in a bottle and made the 1993 World Series. It was the most fun I ever had cheering for the Phillies. It was so improbable and so unexpected and the team that perpetually got beat up was for once the victor.
Likewise, one of the appeals of March Madness is cheering for the underdog. My fondness for such was born in 1985 as a child. The Villanova University Wildcats from suburban Philadelphia perfectly played the role of David as they slayed the Giant of the Georgetown University Hoyas to win the national championship. It is so much fun to cheer for the little guy with scant notoriety as they match up against the big name programs who normally receive all the acclaim. It is even more enjoyable when they come out on top.
Some segments of the blogging world are like cheering for the underdog. While the big names with all the renown usually capture the spotlight of the traditional media, the stories of the underdogs sometimes can be found in the margins that are the bloggers.
The big difference between these two worlds is that while the underdogs in sports usually receive their beatings in games on the fields and courts of play, the underdogs in life often receive their beatings in the alley ways or behind closed doors in anything but an act of play. While the sports underdogs will suffer many losses and much disappointment, the losses and disappointment suffered by the underdog in real life are exponentially more painful, devastating, and life-altering. It can be afflictive even for those standing behind and supporting those underdogs in real life when learning of the blows already received and seeing the new ones as they come.
I have been writing here for a couple months now but I hardly consider myself a blogger, (even when I get accused of living in my parents’ basement and typing these things while in my underwear. ) 🙂
Yeah, I have been bloviating my thoughts about any such subject I feel like. Yeah, I don’t have to answer to any corporate bosses or sponsors or handlers. But I haven’t gotten into the down and dirty of getting the stories from the underdogs or disadvantaged. Stories about how they have been mistreated and/or abused by those more powerful than them. About how they have been taken advantage of and felt like they had little or no recourse to protect themselves or fight back. About how the rich and powerful abuse their positions of control and influence even when the underdog(s) are not as easily or directly personally identifiable.
I am not a reporter or investigative journalist and probably never will be. I have never felt the calling to do so. But we know that this blog has a history of digging into and reporting on the stories of the disadvantaged. Of reporting on the misdeeds of those who are in position to use power for their own gain and at the loss of others. In standing with and/or for the downtrodden and against the famous and powerful. Even when things can get messy and ugly and thoroughly unenjoyable. When the attacks can come from every which direction, sometimes even from the abused themselves. In real life, the consequences of supporting the underdog are often much different and far more painful than supporting the underdog in the sports world. But they can also be much more enriching in those occasional moments when the underdog experiences some glimmer of victory.
So we are grateful of the work that has gone on here for many years. There has been plenty of conflict and rarely is there a moment where all participants agree. This is not easy work. But I think I can speak for many of us, commenters and readers alike, that we are appreciative of the work that has taken place here. Of the heart for the little guy, the abused, the disadvantaged. Of the concern for healing and justice and righteousness. Of the contempt for the big guy. 🙂
We know dealing with all these things can take a toll. And these things are only added onto the much greater toll of the trials and tribulations of one’s own immediate life and those around them. It is no wonder that a break is sometimes needed. So Michael, rest up and get well. We’ll continue to pray for you and Trey and family and we’ll welcome you back when you’re ready because we know from plenty of past history, that until the Lord takes you first, the Phoenix can’t help but to rise again.