By What Authority?

By What Authority?

On July 18, 1996, an early morning Bible-quoting contest turned ugly in Dadeville, Alabama, ending with one man dead and another fleeing justice. Gabel Taylor, 38, died after being shot in the face. Police are looking for a suspect who was comparing his Bible knowledge with Taylor’s. It was discovered that their disagreement arose because they were quoting different versions of the same passage. The suspect reportedly retrieved his Bible and was angered when he discovered that he had been wrong.

True story. And as sad as this account is, it is not the first time a believer has sought to defend his or her interpretation of Scripture with an angry tirade. We live in a chapter of the Christian story in America that finds many people defending the authority of Scripture in ways that do great damage to the cause of God and the people for whom Christ died. They are the kind of Christians we wouldn’t want to be linked to. Could it be they misunderstand the issue at stake?

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The Ten Commandments: The Gift of Heaven

The Ten Commandments: The Gift of Heaven

In the Book of Exodus, God acts and something inexplicable happens. Slaves are set free. The powerless are empowered for a journey thought impossible. The powerful are left in shambles with their firstborns in the mortuary and their army at the bottom of the sea. God rewrites the expected ending. The dying live; the living die.

In essence, Christians see the shadow of resurrection in this story. God moves in a way that creates a future where there was none. A dead end becomes a new highway. People without need for a map now browse travel brochures. They are going somewhere. Their future is blessed by God. Tomorrow is a gift.

Out of this come the Ten Commandments. They come on the other side of Egypt, on the other side of liberation. They are not given as an exit plan from Egypt or a road map to the Promised Land. They are given after God has already acted on their behalf. The commandments are given to people who used to be as good as dead and are now vibrantly alive—and free.

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$1000, Farmer Jason, and the Trevecca Urban Farm

$1000, Farmer Jason, and the Trevecca Urban Farm

OK, you’ve been given $1000 and are required to spend it somewhere that will make the most difference.

How would you spend it or give it away?

I’d give my $1000 to Farmer Jason who manages our Urban Farm at Trevecca.

A little background on Farmer Jason for you.

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Hell on Earth

Hell on Earth

I think the best description of hell comes from C. S. Lewis’s image in The Great Divorce. He imagines hell as a flat gray plain where people are forever moving away from one another. All the behaviors that find their final resting place in hell are those that separate humans.

Sometimes in the church, among the people of God, we perfect the art of hell.  When we develop our camps, we move people from a larger, messy group into tighter, agreeing groups: Hymn-loving singers here; new song lovers over there. Liberals who like Obama and his healthcare plan over here; conservatives who hate the same over there. Southerners who prefer to see the rebel flag here; everybody else over there. Tithers here; cheapskates over there. Rainbow folk here; nice but not-budging-on-marriage folk over there.

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Do You Want to Dance With God’s Law?

Do You Want to Dance With God’s Law?

How do you feel about law?

When’s the last time you browsed the two-volume truth-in-lending law or the federal law for income tax or the rule book at your local school? I would guess if you requested to see a copy of your company’s code book, the pages would be in pristine condition, hardly thumbed by human fingers.

Have you ever known anyone to record the company policy manual on a CD so he or she could memorize it en route to and from work? Or have you ever come across a college student sprawled out in the middle of campus reviewing the campus code of conduct?

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10 Concerns About The Supreme Court’s Same Sex Marriage Ruling

10 Concerns About The Supreme Court’s Same Sex Marriage Ruling

**edited to add P.S. at the end of the post – 7/10/2015**

I’ve tried to listen, pray, and think about the impact of last month’s Supreme Court ruling that now allows for same sex marriage. It seems to be a coming-out celebration party for everyone who identifies as homosexual and for their friends.

Some have described it in the same vein as Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. While I would not go that far, I do think many who have lived in the secrecy of public shame are emboldened that a public declaration makes them a little less sidelined and affords them a government-approved entrance ramp to marital bliss.

I’ve tried to imagine myself in their shoes. To be shamed for an orientation I did not choose, and to live with it secretly for fear of what others might think of me or do to me, would be a very heavy burden. So I do understand some of the “we-won” reaction.

However, the large majority of same-sex folk are not headed to the marriage altar. They just want their orientation “normalized.” And, like it or not in the church, this decision goes a long way in that direction.

A decision that impacts something as foundational as the definition of marriage will take a while to create consequences. As I look ahead, I have concerns (and some predictions) about the impact of this decision.

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Three Things That Inspire Me

Three Things That Inspire Me

What’s inspiring to you? Do you find inspiration in other people, beautiful places, creative works of art?

I thought I’d share with you today three things that inspire me.

I’m inspired by:

  1. My wife’s ability to connect with our grandchildren in a tireless, creative, and winsome way. I vote her the Eighth Wonder of the World.
  2. The never-ending wonder of a retired emeritus biology professor named Chris. He still loves learning about God’s creation, volunteers on our Urban Farm, and makes a difference in the Chestnut Hills Community. Most people are dog-tired of what they have been doing for 40 years. Chris still loves it.
  3. The idealism of the incoming freshmen. May we all believe that the world could be changed as simply as they do.

Now it’s your turn. Let me know what three things inspire you today!

Why Fireworks?

Why Fireworks?

I get it. “The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

But still, I have wondered why blowing up chemicals in the dark of the night sky is our signature way of celebrating our independence. I love a great fireworks display and do not despise the artwork and technology that goes into such a city-wide heavenly display, but is re-creating a scene of war the best way to celebrate?

I recall the Wednesday night in the late 80’s when we gathered around a church fellowship hall TV and watched the shock and awe of the first Baghdad bombing. And then there was the news footage of the Israelis’ knocking SCUD missiles out of the air with US defense wonders. I wonder how people who live in Baghdad and Israel feel about fireworks in the sky.

I don’t even like that I sound like an old grouch just bringing this up because my son-in-law loves to buy stuff and blow it up in our backyard on the 4th, to the delight of all of my older grandchildren. And we laugh a lot. Maybe there is just something in the human spirit that likes to blow up things about once a year.

And while I’ll go along, I still prefer cutting and eating a watermelon.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

 

 

 

Getting to Beautiful Places

Getting to Beautiful Places

In our summer attempts to refresh the weary soul, we often vacation in the most peaceful, beautiful places we can find.

I vote for the simplicity of the little town that time forgot, Sewanee (nearby us in Nashville), and its mountains that bring the great Appalachian chain to an end.

I also love the Great Smokies, but on the North Carolina side rather than the Tennessee side due to the commercialization of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The Inn at Biltmore seems to be the place that frames the mountains just right, with a porch view and a rocking chair and some fresh blueberries and a good book.

I have nothing against towns in particular, but my soul needs something besides concrete and stores for renewal.

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Consumerism in the Church

Consumerism in the Church

As I’ve written these last few months about the issues that divide us, I recognize that there’s a pervasive cultural reality that has a great impact upon the way we relate to one another. That’s because it’s also prevalent in the church. It’s consumerism.

When we interact with others on a consumerist level, we turn people into objects and use them. We relate primarily on the basis of what we might get. We become a world of consumers with goods to be bought and sold. We run on greed —the desire to profit from each other by the transactions we have.

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