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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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!

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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A Litmus Test for Holiness

A Litmus Test for Holiness

I am intrigued by litmus tests. Consider the many definitions of the term, litmus test:

  • A common chemical pH test that indicates whether a solution is acid or alkaline: red indicates an acid solution; blue indicates an alkaline solution.
  • Any kind of social indicator used to classify someone either favorably or unfavorably.
  • In politics, a question asked of a political candidate, the answer to which determines support or opposition.
  • A crucial or revealing test in which there is one decisive factor.
  • A test that produces a decisive result by measuring a single indicator.

I’d like to find the one thing, the one characteristic, the one reality, the one indicator, the one revealing factor that tells me I am in the presence of a holy person.

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How Theology Influences Our Discussions

How Theology Influences Our Discussions

For today’s post, I’m going to give you a quick church history and theology lesson. I know; some of you are groaning at the thought. But hang with me here. I think you’ll quickly see how what happened in the past influences how we live together as the Church today.

In resolving differences, we tend to bring our theological influences to the discussion. Whether you’re aware of it or not, the language you use often reveals your theological camp.

Protestant Christianity has two primary ways of thinking about God and the Christian faith—Reformed Calvinism and Wesleyan-Arminianism. In case you haven’t picked it up, I’m from the Wesleyan-Arminian camp. And in my following attempt to broad-brush these two ways of thinking, I admit my bias and recognize that some Reformed folks would describe themselves differently.

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Trust

Trust

The essence of biblical covenant relationships is found in the Hebrew word, chesed. When people enter covenant, chesed—which is often translated as “loving-kindness” or “steadfast love”—is established between them. Trust is implicit to the covenant relationship and suggests that we intend to behave in certain faithful ways toward each other while expecting the same in return. The beginning assumption is peace, not conflict; trust, not suspicion.

The church today needs a greater degree of trust in at least three different areas.

Generational Trust

An older generation needs to trust the missional spirit of a younger generation as they seek to reach their changing world. The pessimism about the younger generation is not valid. Our youth are in touch with the same God who found us early in our lives and dreamed through us the church as it became under our leadership.

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Recovering Our Identity as People of Trinity

Recovering Our Identity as People of Trinity

My friend Dean Blevins presented a paper at Trevecca Nazarene University titled “Global Pedagogy: A Table Conversation.” He discussed three current ways of teaching, conversing with, and shaping the coming generations (the first two are found in Benjamin Barber’s Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World; the third is Blevins’ response to them).

1. “McWorld” is the attempt to standardize culture through consumption of goods.

Companies portray their products as generic, but they contain cultural and theological assumptions. Marketing these goods persuasively convinces people that the quality of their life is rooted in the consumption of these goods.

Images and slogans reduce persons to passive consumers. The assumption is “one size fits all.” There is only one way to think about life and one product that delivers that life to the willing consumers.

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Should Christians Drink Alcohol?

Should Christians Drink Alcohol?

A few years ago, I was in Chicago with some friends. It was a hot, sticky day, and we needed to get some exercise, so we went to a gym at the University of Chicago to play racquetball. The four of us played cutthroat racquetball until we were drenched, exhausted, and spent.

Then one of my friends offered postgame beverages—a six-pack of Heineken on ice back in his room. We all trekked to his room, and I enjoyed my machine-cooled Coke while the three of them split the six-pack.

My abstinence made the math easier. Dividing a six-pack by four is like figuring out who gets the last piece of pizza. We sat around and talked about our jobs, our families, our sports teams, and our faith. My three friends were an Episcopalian priest, a Lutheran pastor, and a Mennonite leader.

Should Christians drink alcohol? Are my friends sinners for guzzling the beers? Are they going to hell? Did they do damage to the cause of Christ that hot summer day?

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Bible Verses

Bible Verses

I grew up Bible quizzing. Memorizing and reciting Bible verses on the quiz circuit was a teen sport that was a little bit nerdy.

We memorized and mastered the texts of a specific book of the Bible and competed by jumping first and answering questions posed by the Quiz Master.  It was a sport of significant discipline. For instance, I memorized the Gospel of John the year we quizzed on that 21 chapter masterpiece.

I made the local church team. You competed for one of five places on the team. Then I made the state team for Mississippi. Then I went to the Southeast Regional Quiz where we competed with the other states.

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