The Night Jesus Saved Liam

March 20, 2011

After reading Jesus’s words about hell in Mark 9 before bed, Liam told me, “I don’t want to go to hell. ” I told him that there’s only one way to know for sure that you’re going to heaven. I explained our separation from God because of sin, and Jesus’s provision. We prayed the prayer of salvation together, then asked for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I explained to Liam that he had become a Christian, and told him that he should tell everyone he knows about it.  He thought it might be fun to have everyone come over to our house for a party.

Liam also had some interesting questions. He wanted to know why I’m not perfect, even though I’m a Christian. I told him that my sinful nature still wars against the Spirit of God in me, and that I won’t be perfect until I die and go to heaven.  I told him that I’m not perfect, but I am forgiven.  And God’s now forgiven him because of what Jesus did.  Liam told me that when we go to heaven, we’ll have perfect bodies, just like Jesus.  Apparently he’s been listening and putting some of these things together. I feel like he has a very real understanding of what he prayed, and I’m so happy that he’s chosen to follow Jesus!

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Your Kingdom Come: The 4th of July

This 4th of July, I’m (as ever) torn between faith and patriotism. A friend said that freedom can never be won or maintained by any soldier or government, and that our true freedom only comes from Christ.  I have to agree, but I’m left questioning, “Then why government? And why our government?”

The answer, I believe, is that we were given stewardship of this world in the garden of Eden.  When God told us to multiply and fill the earth, to care for it and govern all that it contains, I believe that political government is part of that mandate.

The United States Government is not the answer to all things, nor the answer to ultimate freedom.  All things we have, freedom in its several types included, are ours because God has willed it so.  In the specific case of freedom, God sent his son, Jesus, to secure that freedom and redeem us for Himself.

But if we’re living out the redeemed lives we’ve been given, we can’t ignore the several mandates that political governance can  fulfill.  Far from ignoring the structures that order our communal lives, we’re to pay attention to those structures; to provide for justice and care for the oppressed.  If we call ourselves Christians, then our government should not be ignored, but attended to carefully.  We need to enter into dialogue with others, to seek optimal ordering of our communal life, to provide justice and order.  Even political freedom should be on our list of priorities if follow carefully God’s mandate to govern the earth.

You probably won’t hear me saying that our government is optimal, or that our nation is the only nation on earth with the truth.  For truth doesn’t reside in our political structures, but those structures should reflect truth if we’re obedient to the governance mandate.  You won’t hear me say that it’s the American Way to put a boot in anyone’s fundament, though that brand of overblown patriotic pride fascinates me in the same way that a car accident slows down traffic.

But you will hear me say that it’s our responsibility to craft and mold a government that reflects the character of God.  A nation with such an orientation wisely seeks justice on a national and global scale, and reflects the very good values of freedom and equanimity that we learn from our creator’s nature.  I seek to join in the crafting of such a government.  And to the extent that our government reflects this orientation, I will celebrate.  Indeed, we encourage what we celebrate, so I celebrate the political freedom that so many have worked and died to craft.  Though it’s only a reflection of true freedom from the tyranny of sin and death, it’s still a worthy reflection.

And as I pray that God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven, I will work in the space and time I occupy to make that prayer a reality.  Not that I seek to create a theistic government, but a government that reflects the goodness of God.

Why religion and politics shouldn’t mix

This is one of my favorite topics. I’ve been thinking about it and reading about it for some time now. I don’t have it figured out to my satisfaction, but I came to a new thought this morning, so I figured I should share.

I was pondering the nature of religion and the nature of politics, and I realized they have something inverse in common. The reason religion and politics should not mix is partly due to their relationship to compromise.

Religion in general and Protestant Christianity in particular should not compromise. The philosophical game of religion is played on the field of truth claims.  Negotiating or compromising on truth claims is like kicking field goals for your opponent.  It’s not a good idea.  This is the (very good) reason that people have died for their religious convictions throughout the centuries.

Politics, on the other hand, lives with an entirely different relationship to compromise.  For a politcian, compromise IS the game.  Legislature and governance is all about negotiating between competing interests.  If different interests didn’t exist, governments wouldn’t need to exist, either.  That’s why politics is so easy to criticize, fun to talk about (e.g. ‘Those idiots in [Washington, Sacramento, Madison, Dakar, etc.] wouldn’t know the right thing to do if it bit them on the hand!”), and so demanding of wisdom.  Compromise IS the task of government, and it’s not an easy one.

So every time a pastor asks his congregation to vote a particular way, he is speaking from one realm into another: he is speaking from a position that’s used to wielding divine authority to make absolute truth claims into a realm where issues always have different sides and a single voice bearing the best idea is not guaranteed to make headway.  In politics, strength of conviction falls subservient to the power of coalition.  That’s not a fault of politics; it’s just the nature of politics.  But this pastor is likely to create an unproductive voting bloc.  He’s likely to create or encourage a group of people to take a position they can’t back down from.  In the end, it makes for bad politics and bad blood.

And every time a governmental leader speaks toward the realm of religion, it’s natural (but altogether inappropritate) that he should ask for compromise and ecumenism.  He, who is used to compromise as a way of doing business, naturally expects this from the realm of religion.  And he’s dead wrong.  Religion thrives on truth claims, and asking religious people to deny what they know as truth for some greater good is like asking religion to drink poison.

There are many outworkings of this continued tension between church and state, and they’re likely to be messy.  I can’t claim any kind of special ability to negotiate such perilous waters just because I understand the larger principle.  But I can offer one guiding question for discussion: what can we do to build up a HEALTHY wall of separation ‘twixt the two very important areas?

Book Review: Mere Christianity

Ed. note: I don’t feel adequate to even review a book by C.S. Lewis. For years I’ve considered the man a literary Everest.  After reading this book, I still feel that way.  But audacity has never slowed me much, so here goes:

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewsis garners a score of 5 (out of a possible 5) for importance of content, originality of thought, clarity, and skill of expression.  The first half of the book was given as a series of radio talks during World War 2 in Britain.  It’s a brilliant (and brilliantly simple) defense of theism in general and Christianity in particular; a cause plead as if to an unbelieving world.

Every section of the book has the peculiar quality of being at once relatable and theological; original and orthodox.  You feel as if Lewis is sitting on a porch with you appealing to the ordinary, sensible chap you feel yourself to be.  He’s strident in his appeals, but not so strident as to make you feel uncomfortable.  Lewis is an analogy-artist.

Each chapter is short and digestible (like bathroom reading-type short) and sufficiently small in its scope.

I picked this book up because it’s considered by many to be a must-read.  I must now number myself among those people.  You’re free to borrow my copy, but not for too long.  I’ll definitely be diving back in from time to time.

My desire to be an artist

Recently, my heart has been tugged. It’s as if the Holy Spirit, called by some the Hound of Heaven, has been on my trail. He’s been giving me a desire that, at some points in my life, would have shocked me. It’s a desire to be an artist who impacts the world for Christ. I want very much for my art to communicate meaningful things and touch people’s hearts.

WHETHER I’m even an artist is a matter of serious debate, at least in my own mind. I know I create things, and I know know to execute a few techniques. But I feel an artist should have something visual to say, the ability to say it, and an audience of some kind. Thus far I’ve taken a few pictures, only one of which has achieved any significant audience or visibility. And that picture doesn’t say anything too profound. It’s just a cheese-ball crowd-pleaser. I’m not even sure that photography is my medium; lately I’ve been wanting to paint (though I don’t really know anything about painting or where to start).

But that desire is there, and it hasn’t gone away. I pray that whatever the medium and whichever the way, I’ll be obedient to God and create things which reflect his image brightly and compel people toward Him. Pray that for me, please.