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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Airbag Christianity: Cushioning the Blow of a Head-on Collision with Jesus Christ

There comes a point in every Christian's life -if you are serious about your Faith- that you'll be faced with a decision that will cost you. Mine came today.
Last year, a friend of mine I've known since childhood took his stand. He is a pastor back home, and when Delaware was voting on same-sex marriage, George decided he could not stand by and watch the state legislate this law into existence without speaking up. He did. It was his crossroads moment. Whether you agree with him or not, he made a conscious decision on principle and he stood.
I became a Christian at a fairly young age. I was eight or nine years old. So I didn't get saved from much as far as a personal history of sinful behavior. Nor was I simply bull-rushed to the altar after Sunday School and told to repeat a prayer. My first Sunday School teacher was a sweet man named Bill Bell, and he carefully explained to me that I was a sinner, just like everyone else. One sin or a million sins was not the issue. The issue was my nature. I prayed with him that Sunday, and I got saved. Saved from my nature. Saved from the same condemnation that awaits all mankind. I was born again. Because the first time only resulted in a lost soul entering this world. You don't hear these terms much anymore. You hear "engage" "interaction" and the ever popular "relationship."  Listen...I have a relationship with the mailman, because I need my mail. But I don't know a thing about him. We don't hear clear-cut messages about salvation anymore. We hear about "manifestations of the Spirit" "Prosperity" "God wants you to be super duper awesome" "God is love" "Speak the Kingdom into your life!" and "Go claim your destiny in Jesus name."  Around Williamson County, where I live we hear about well-drilling in lower Bungaloor, we hear 10 weeks about the Holy Spirit and His work, we hear about the latest Duck-call maker and how he is our new buddy, but we don't hear "Don't be so surprised that I have told you, you must be born again!"  (John 3:7)  We announce on Social Media when the Governor visits our church, or the grand opening of a brand new satellite campus where no teaching pastor actually exists and instead the main pastor drops down on a viewing screen like the jumbo-tron at Cowboy Stadium. "Heeeeeeere's Pastor!"
We have prayer lines where believers stand and get prayed for. That's wonderful. But then we close the service and send the masses home with a gesture of the hand and pronouncement of a benediction, but without the opportunity to avail themselves of the altar, and do their business with God.
We'll occasionally applaud the story of how brother so-and-so came to church, loved it, and then a few weeks later he prayed with his neighbor and accepted Jesus. Meanwhile, we ignore the fact that every single week hundreds of brother so-and-so's are in the seats in our mega building and we preach an awesome sermon about the Christian life without ever asking them, directly and forcefully, if they actually have that life within.
The Cross of Calvary is the defining moment of world history. It was the head-on-collision moment between mankind and God. One does not come to the cross and leave unphased. One does not meet the Christ of God in his torment and suffering on Calvary, and it deliver only a glancing blow. Calvary is a face-first, head-on collision. Your metal gets twisted and your frame is bent. The window through which you viewed this world gets shattered and the paint that made it seem so beautiful gets scarred. And when the impact is over and you grind to a halt on the path that lead you to this hill on the outskirts of do not continue on the same path. You awake from the fog of the way you have been living, and you shake your head to clear the cobwebs, and you check to see what it was that you hit. And then you see the fearsome menace of the cross and you see it has not moved.  The Cross of Jesus Christ is the immovable object and the irresistible force.
It draws you to itself and then it breaks you on impact. It is not a sideswipe. It is not a glancing blow. It is most definitely not a hit and run...Jesus doesn't just drop in, make a few corrections, and then leave you with his insurance card in hand. You slam face-first into the cruelty of Calvary. There is blood. There is damage to your old frame. There is noise and violence as the nature you were born with is demolished and destroyed and the new life of Christ Himself is put in it's place. There are no airbags to cushion the impact.
But the church today has tried to become just airbag to soften the impact of the most impacting moment in human history.
I can't play that game anymore.
When I was 14, I sat beside a campfire at Summit Lake Camp in Emmitsburg MD. My church didn't have a Youth Pastor at the time and so we didn't go to summer camp.  I went with another church because some friends invited me. That Friday night I sat by that fire, and listened to the preacher, and heard God calling me. I said yes. From that day forward, He has had a plan in place. I spent my entire high school years thinking about that plan and hoping to see it happen. One day I read in Ezekiel this verse, and it radically changed my life. It's Ezekiel 22:30  “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one."
I don't know why that verse would leap off the page at me at age 14. I don't know why in 1977 I was already so acutely aware of the path we were on as a nation and how big a role the Church was playing in where we were heading. In hindsight, this played a large part in my affinity with Liberty University, and with Dr. Falwell. I saw that verse as literal. And I saw "the land" as America. No, I do not believe this verse specifically applies to America. I believe this verse is typical of any nation that claims Christianity as it's base and it's founding doctrine. I believe this verse applies to any nation that is founded upon principles derived from Christian doctrine. I do not believe America was ever a "Christian Nation" in the classical sense. We are not a Theocracy. But when the founding Fathers decided to build this nation on principles, they chose the principles outlined in the Bible. They chose to build a nation based on Faith in God and they crafted laws that favored the practice of religion, particularly Christianity
I look at that verse today -36 years later- and it still feels as ominous and still moves my soul. There is a gap in the wall. The hedge has fallen down. God is seeking righteous men to stand in the gaps and make up the hedge so that He would not have to destroy the land, but He finds none.
He is not finding the voices of ones crying in the wilderness. He is not finding clarion calls to repentance and redemption in the Osteens, Paula White's and Rob Bell's of this world. He is not finding it in the mega churches of Williamson county where half the population starts their Sunday morning and leaves without a clear-cut presentation of the doctrine of salvation. How is it that Tennessee is the most churched state in America, and the most corrupt( list of corrupt states )
Because we have preached a grace that is a disgrace in the eyes of God.
I believe in grace. My life was changed by reading “The Ragamuffin Gospel” because I had become enslaved by legalism. But we have overreacted to the legalistic chains of the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s and bound ourselves with a chain just as insidious. The chain of deception that everything is permissable. We do not preach a Cross-of-Christ experience that bends our metal, and twists our frame, and scars our paint, and breaks the windows we see ourselves through. We've preached airbag theology. We've softened the impact of the very cross that Jesus died on. Jesus Himself made this bold self-pronouncement in Matthew 21: 40-44
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?  “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.  Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
That’s not a fender-bender. That’s not a cheap-grace, imitation gospel. And that’s not universalism. You have two choices and those choices become your destiny. When you come to the Cross of Christ you will either fall on it in surrender, and be broken and rebuilt...or the Cross of Jesus will fall on you in Judgment, and you will be shattered and destroyed. There is no middle ground. There is no cheap repair, and discount paint job. Where is this message today?
I can’t escape this anymore. I can’t sit back and watch this country slip into the grasp of evil and not speak up. The church is to be the salt and the light and she is neither.
36 years ago, God burned this into my heart. He apparently wasn't kidding.

More on that tomorrow... 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The End of the Innocence... my remembrance of 9-11

I wanted to write something about today but I couldn't make the words come out for a long time.
12 years later and we're so dangerously close to being overtaken by the same animals who flew airplanes into our iconic towers. Last night our president essentially put OUR military behind the very people who committed that barbaric attack 12 years ago. I wish I could forget. I wish we had eliminated the threat forever and we could all forget. But we can't. we remember.
I remember watching in horror and shock and then racing across town to gather up my 3 year old daughter at her daycare. On the way over, I worried that something would happen in the meantime...they'd attack the children, they'd bomb on a local level. Then I got there and saw on the faces of the other moms and dads, the pain of disbelief, and the frightening horrors of simply not being able to grasp an attack on our soil. I saw the hollowness in the eyes of the parents who thought as I did: We didn't know where we would really be safe but we knew our kids were safer with us.
My daughter and her friends were playing happily, not realizing that these were the final waning moments of the world they were born into. I wish I had thought to take a picture. Or write it down. Or just watch through the doorway for five more minutes before walking in and taking her in my arms. After that day...after that moment, my daughter would live under the shadow of terrorism for the rest of her life. She has grown up with security threat levels crawling across the screen on news stations. With being all but strip searched at airports. With surveillance, and war and fear.
It was the last day of innocence for her. At least as far as her nation was concerned. If I had realized it then, I would have savored it a few minutes longer. Maybe instead of whisking her off, I would have let her play with her friends until we were the last ones to leave. Maybe 30 minutes, maybe an hour. Just a little while longer before the post-terrorist world became her home.
I remember leaving the daycare, and calling her mom, and telling her I had her, and we were going to my house. And I remember not knowing what the heck to do. I went home. We stopped at the grocery store to get some things in case case this was bigger than even the WTC.  I remember thinking this might be a full on invasion.
The events that unfolded throughout that day are well rehearsed. We can all recall how it happened. What still hurts is how it felt. How it still feels.
Every generation has an "End of Innocence" For me, it was the day Reagan was shot. For my daughter it was this day. Her innocence ended before it ever began.
I love this country. Love it like a living, breathing thing. As crazy as this sounds, there are times when I wish I could literally wrap my arms around the expanse of her, and just hold on and let my heart beat into this sacred soil. I love her that much. She was everything to my family -immigrants on both sides- and she is everything to me. I miss the way she was when I was young. When my friends and I had no fears of airplanes, and bright blue September skies.
I wish we had leaders who loved her this much. Because her people still do.
I still do...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Running on Love...what happens when hope is gone?

Steve Forbert had a watershed album in 1987 called “Streets of this Town” the opening track was called “Running on Love.” The song is about falling in love, and how that changes your perspective on almost everything. I’m stealing the title for this article because it fits.
Usually I’m a verbose guy. Usually I have something to say. But these last weeks since losing a job before I even had my first day have been harder than almost anything I've endured. And I've endured a lot.
I've endured homelessness for over five years now. I've endured rejection upon rejection in this job search that seems to go on forever. I've seen five years of my fatherhood stolen by this economy. I've endured the soulless, heartless, selfishness of some people who were in the position in my life to have offered help and encouragement. I've seen Christianity being lived out by people who seldom ever openly proclaim their faith...and I've seen the vocal Christians live absolutely nothing that even closely resembles Christianity in their interactions with me. It’s consistently been the quiet, flawed, ragamuffins who have been my best friends, who have put an arm on my shoulder, held my hand in prayer, or simply called to say hi. It’s been the forgotten ones who themselves refused to forget me.
I am so weary. More weary than any time in this unbelievably long journey. I’m out of options, out of hope, out of faith. I am not yet out of tears, although I wish I was.
Three weeks ago I wrote an open letter to the President. I wanted him to know about my plight. I wanted him to have a name and a face to attach to the 90 million people like me who can’t find work. I did send the letter besides posting it here. I did forward it to his office. I do know that someone in the Executive Office of the President read it. Of course they read it on the site. They never responded to my actual letter. They would have ignored it altogether had it not gone viral, and thousands of people read it. But someone in the White House read it. I don’t know who...Statcounter doesn't reveal that kind of info. But they read it.
Of course, they never responded. No encouraging letter to “Hang in there” no autographed picture of Barack and the wife and kids. Nothing. He ignored me and he ignored my plight. I know he’s busy. I mean with the IRS scandal, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the horribly bad Obamacare, and now going into Syria when nobody wants him to...he’s a busy guy. On top of this, he’s been golfing more than any other President in history. Heck he plays more golf than the President of the PGA.
But I know he has a staffer who could have dropped me a line. Some intern who could stuff a pre-autographed glossy into a manila envelope and mail it to me. But nobody did anything. Because he doesn't care. His life is good, his friends lives are my life is inconsequential.
Maybe it is, but not to me. And not to my daughter.
He ran on “Hope” he promised “Change.”  I’m hopeless and nothing is changing.
I hate saying I’m hopeless. I have always been a positive, upbeat, glass is half full and it’s Dom Perignon, kind of guy. But not anymore.
Last weekend I had to tell my daughter about the hiring freeze. I had to tell her that I didn't get that job after all. I had to tell her that unless some miracle happens between now and mid October, I get another job or sell a lot of books, I will still be homeless and she can’t come live with me, and she can’t change schools, and we can’t be together like we’d been hoping for these past five years. She can’t get another cat to replace Giacomo and she can’t have her daddy tuck her in again. My daughter’s heart was broken. She let herself believe. I let her believe.
Mr. President, if you (or the NSA) are reading this...I still can’t bring myself to hate you, because I love the office you hold as I love this country. But it’s personal to me now. I don’t like you. Your polices have broken my daughter’s heart. I’m a dad and when you harm my child I take that personally.
I have wondered, at times, what it would take for you to “get it.” For you to finally stop arrogantly behaving like a king and start acting like our President. The only thing I can come up with is impossible. The only thing that would break through to you and make you understand, would be for you to actually feel what my heart feels. For you to see disappointment and disbelief in your own daughter’s eyes. To be unable to stop her tears or heal her heart. But you will never be in that place. And so you’ll never grasp the sorrow I feel. Your talk of struggling in your past is just You don’t have a shred of compassion and even less empathy. You don’t understand what my life feels like and you don’t care to know.
I have to endure three more years of you and your horrible policies. I don’t know what America will look like in 2016 and it scares me to think about it. But I know’ll be just fine. Your daughters will be happy and healthy and your pockets full.
I’m out of faith, and out of hope, and running on pure stubbornness now. Stubbornness and love for my daughter so deep that I will endure homelessness to stay by her side. Unless I find a job or sell a few thousand books, I’m stuck here. While you’re golfing and ducking issues and enjoying an 8-year vacation...I’m more tired than I've ever been in my life. I’m running on vapors.

Running on love.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Being attacked by the Left...and why I can't hate Barack Obama

I took a beating from two very ruthless individuals this week. Some folks will defend Obama no matter if it requires a massive strawman effort and outright lying in some cases.
Here is my response...just click the link! Response to attackers