Can We Talk About Sin?

Can We Talk About Sin?

Niceness is the new religion. The only people who are offensive enough to mention sin are the kind of people I don’t like very much. They are arrogant, mean, judgmental, and far from the loving Jesus that the world is willing to embrace. So to keep from being thrown on the pile of “mean Christians,” we just avoid the word sin.

It seems to offend the sensibilities of people. And this isn’t just political correctness at work. It is the fear that we might offend. We don’t want to be off-putting. I listen to some denunciations of Christians upon the world and just cringe. I don’t want to come across that way. I want to be more like Jesus.

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Ole Miss-43, Alabama-37

Ole Miss-43, Alabama-37

Before you start drawing conclusions about this post, read on. Anne is the assistant to the president at Trevecca Nazarene University. We have worked together in the same office suite for ten years. Anne went to college at Trevecca along with Denise and me. She is an outstanding administrator and a gift to the University. She makes me look better than I actually am.

But Anne has one glaring flaw as a human being. She is a die-hard “Roll Tide” Alabama football fan. She genuflects at the mention of Bear Bryant. I often remind her that one of our friends, Morris, grew up in Alabama, but is now a leading administrator at Ole Miss. And he seems very happy.

And I, of course, am an Ole Miss fan from the grand state of Mississippi, home of Faulkner, Oprah, Favre, and Elvis. We’re so famous down there that we don’t even need two names for people to know who we are.

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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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Daffodils and Dead Jesus

Daffodils and Dead Jesus

I’m ready for spring. So ready that Denise and I took a few days off in the middle of a work trip and went to Florida. Mickey needed a visit. We needed some sunshine. I think I am solar powered.

Ice damming (a real thing, not a curse) did a number on our roof this winter. We lost a ceiling, three walls, and half of the wood floor in our master bedroom. Our home insurance company still hasn’t gotten here to survey the damage and write a check. Florida was good medicine.

When we got home, the daffodils were up, the ice was gone, and the grass was looking a little green. Spring always seems to arrive when we’ve had it with the cold stuff.

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Growing Kids Who Embrace The Christian Faith

Growing Kids Who Embrace The Christian Faith

As Advent goes, we get Jesus in a manger and Mary pondering these things in her heart. And the next thing we know, Christmas is put away for next year and Jesus is thirty years old being baptized in the Jordan. From baby to grown man in a week of biblical texts.

As you’re taking down the tree and lights and looking ahead to a new year, once again consider Jesus. Luke 2:21-52 invites us to slow down and look into the Jewish world of religious ceremony and observance of the law—practices that began to form the young boy Jesus. Luke writes about circumcision, purification, dedication, naming, consecration, and ceremonial festivals. All of these rituals are packed into one text. Jesus grew up in the context of religious practices.

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The One

The One

From childhood we’ve heard the stories of “the one who could”:

Cinderella—the one who could fit into the glass slipper
King Arthur—the one who could remove the sword from the stone
Prince Charming—the one who could wake Sleeping Beauty

Our primal stories all have a hero who fits the moment and arrives to save us as hope is expiring.

But long before belles of the ball fit slippers and swords were withdrawn from stones and kisses woke sleeping beauties, people were longing for the one who could. This is the quest of the human heart in Scripture.

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Letters to Churches

Letters to Churches

A man was stranded alone on a desert island. Years passed before he was rescued. During this time he built three buildings. His rescuers asked what they were. Pointing to the first he said, “That’s my home, where I live.” Pointing to the second, “That’s the church where I worship each Sunday. I’m a religious person.” When asked about the third building, he replied, “That’s the church I used to attend.”

Church—for many the word does not evoke feelings of deep commitment or devotion. Like grocery stores and telephone companies, we will switch in a flash for a better deal.

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The Best Clue on What to Expect

The Best Clue on What to Expect

My wife loves surprises. For my 47th birthday, she planned a surprise. The buildup was spectacular; for months she talked about “the day.” In fact, she was so excited she almost let it slip. Suspense kills her. Not me; I can wait. So I waited for “the day” to come. Denise soared with excitement—on the giddy scale, she registered a 9.9. I knew this would be big. But I also knew that her surprise hadn’t broken the bank. No huge dip in the checking account. No IRA or Fidelity retirement withdrawals. No credit card meltdowns.

Finally, “the day” came. She told me to dress casually, and I started getting ready while she took our youngest daughter to school. I waited and wondered. An hour later she returned. I was blindfolded and led out the back door for the grand revelation. What I saw next was an apocalypse . . .

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What Would Jesus Say to Donald Sterling?

What Would Jesus Say to Donald Sterling?

What would Jesus say to Donald Sterling about recent events in his life? I think Jesus might say something like this:

When I came to earth to do the work of my Father, I laid aside all power and took the form of a servant. I came not to do my own will, but his. The culture I was born into was Jewish. These people had a rich, storied past with traditions that formed generation after generation. They believed they were the chosen people of my Father—and they also believed, mistakenly, that their chosen-ness was about privilege rather than service.

I found myself deeply at odds with the people of my own race and culture. I knew that I was sent to seek and save the lost, the outcast, the neglected, the poor, the outsider—to make one people out of many. They preferred that I do miracles only among the chosen people and that I lead a political revolt to restore power to them over the occupying enemy. My refusal to adopt their agenda cost me my life. My crucifixion was their way of saying that I was cursed by God and an enemy of the people of God. They called my words blasphemy. Abandoned to the grave, I would have been a minor footnote in Jewish history – a deluded messianic figure who ran afoul with the Jewish religious establishment and the Roman rulers.

But my Father had other things in mind. He raised me from the grave and now I sit at his right hand interceding for those who need the grace available in me. Donald, my Father loves all peoples and redeems all wrong—even yours.”

Jesus

Easter Sunday and Our Fear

Easter Sunday and Our Fear

“Do not be afraid.”

Why does the resurrected Jesus need to keep saying this to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and all the disciples? Is fear the human response to resurrection?

Admittedly, to see a dead person walking and talking would give me the shivers for sure. Is this momentary fear that turns into courage? Or is it the human response to the reality that life as we once knew it has been turned on its head and something has happened that changes everything? Probably both.

This realization should help us understand why people resist Christianity. If they are seriously considering what we are saying, it is a leap of frightening proportions. They (and we) have no capacity for integrating this resurrection faith with everything else they believe.

It is like a crashed computer, a totaled automobile, a bankruptcy – the end of what we once had. Fear may be a good sign of serious discipleship. I suppose that is why the first words of Jesus to folk like us are, “Do not be afraid.”

What a life is to be had on the other side of fear.

Happy Easter!