Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Life of Happiness or Purpose?

I am sitting at my keyboard not sure of what to type. I used to have lots of time to read, meditate, contemplate, etc. my life as a Believer, but these days are making it harder to do this anymore. I heard a quote (not from the Bible, but a secular reference) that really struck a chord with me...got me back into this wistful place of contemplation and meditation about the world, about my God, about my walk with Him...Here is the quote I heard...

Happiness or Purpose, a life being lived cannot follow both paths. Living a life of happiness requires living and focusing on the day at hand. Living a life of purpose means you are haunted by regrets of the past and anxious or hopeful for the future.

This saying got the old wheels turning in my head again. First off, the Word has little to say about "happiness", so that word has little relevance to me (although it has great relevance in our cultural context). The biblical word for me would be "joy", but joy and happiness are very mutually exclusive ideas (but, alas, I will get past that part). The rest of the saying really got me thinking though. If it is true, I must be living a life of purpose (and by the way, the word "purpose" here doesn't inherently mean a "good" purpose) because I rarely concentrate my feelings, thoughts, and emotions on my current "day". I spend a lot of energy thinking about my past, failures and successes (ugghh, I hate those words)..check that, setbacks and progressions, and learning from them. I spend time thinking about how gracious, merciful, and patient God was with me when I was straying far from Him. I think about my life as a single and how much it has changed. I think about how radically God has changed my worldview concerning His Kingdom on earth. I think about past things..often..in the present. Then I think about where I am going and who I am becoming. I think about being a missionary again. I think about providing for my family's future and progressing as an individual, husband, father, son, etc. Lest you think I only have positive thoughts...I think about fears of the future as well: age, retirement (another foreign concept in Scripture), health concerns, how to be a father and husband, and fears.

So, a life of "purpose" is what that is huh? I think not. Maybe ideologically it could be thought of as that. As the show Heroes says...just saving the world. However, the Bible speaks about living for the day and being concerned with only that, for who knows if tomorrow will ever come. It also says that the past has been washed away, lest we hang Jesus again over and over. My point is this: living for the day is hard, but its biblical, and things that are biblical are often hard. I need to learn to let my past be my past and not to worry about the future, which, according to this worldly quote, leaves me with a life void of purpose...which is great news to me, because I know of a different story than the world's....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Changing of Seasons

Economically, it marks the end of the Long Boom, which began in 1983. Politically, it probably marks the end of conservative dominance, which began in 1980. Generationally, it marks the end of baby boomer supremacy, which began in 1968. For the past 16 years, baby boomers, who were formed by the tumult of the 1960s, occupied the White House. Tuesday, November 4th 2008, a member of a new generation became president-elect.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Presidential Election

I know politics are touchy. I know we all have opinions. There is a new dialogue that is emerging within Evangelical circles revolving around politics, presidents, and ideologies. A conversation that I am joyful to be a part of.

This is a letter:
From my brother and my dear friend in Christ, Brett Berger.
Another voice. For your edification. May we all grow closer to Him...

And now in response to every email I have received and every post I have seen on the internet, I will add my official statement on this election. I make this statement as a Christian, who confesses that Jesus is Lord, to Christians who make the same confession. I am nobody. I do not say this with infallibility. I do not say this with disrespect. I may charged with naiveté or worse. I only say this because my gut was about to bust, and I need to go on record. I am writing this to my friends and family, but I will be slightly disappointed if this does not make it around the world before dinner time.
(1) What is the most frequent command in Scripture? Do not fear! If there is anything with which I am disappointed concerning the church’s place in this election and the responses there after, it is the reign of fear. Prominent Christians have sent out messages trying to motivate us to vote McCain-Palin with threats of terrorist attacks, communism, abortion, homosexuality, the rise of Islam, the rise of the anti-Christ, the judgment of God, and cross-dressing kindergarten teachers. All of it playing on fear that may or may not be grounded in reality.
What is Scripture’s message to us? Do not fear! Why? Not simply because “God is in control,” but because “Christ is risen.” What is the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection beyond the atonement for sin, but that we ourselves have the same destiny and call. What does that mean? Jesus’ resurrection points to our own and that we might also share in the cross before that glory. The sting of death is overcome, and so our deepest fear goes with it. When people no longer fear death, the tyrant’s power is threatened because his reign depends upon it. When the tyrant’s power is threatened, he will lash out. We look at the lives of martyrs throughout history and marvel at their courage and the testimony of their lives but think little of whether we might be considered worthy of same call or why they faced such terrible circumstances calmly, courageously, and-dare I say it-with joy. It is because the kingdoms of this world are impotent in the face of the kingdom of God. It is because they believed the promise of Jesus that if we lose our lives we find them. They believed that our call to take up our crosses might be literal and not simply about whether we are eating too much ice cream. They believed him when he asked us to love our enemies so much that we would resist killing them and offer them a blessing. They believed that we are to overcome evil with good by doing good even to the point of death.
Am I saying that we are all destined for martyrdom with an Obama administration? Not at all! Rather that our fears look so petty. I am simply saying “Do not fear!” Death is the worst that can happen, and it means nothing to the followers of a crucified and risen Messiah. Our prosperity and the ease of our lives may have made us soft and subtly wooed us into all kinds of idolatries.
(2) Have we, as some suggest, invited the judgment of God by electing Barack Obama? Hold on to your seats because I am about to lose some. If we invited the judgment of God upon our nation, I believe it was back with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Our so-called Christian forefathers signed a document that says,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
But our Christian Scriptures say,
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2)
But what if the government was bad? Paul wrote these words under the reign of an Emperor who would eventually use Christians as torches to light his parties. He was not good. He was not Christian. He was not democratic. He was not a capitalist. He was not pro-life. He was the Emperor, and Paul trusted that his rise and fall depended more upon the will of God than any assessment or actions of our own, and that he did not have wisdom, knowledge, nor strength enough to resist that. Does this mean that we are to acquiesce to evil? No, rather it means that those is in power mean nothing to our ability to do good. But weren’t our founding fathers Christian? Some were. Some were in name only. Some were not. It would be an error to grant to them some kind of papal infallibility. The fundamental philosophy and structure of our government owes more to Enlightenment philosophy than it does to the Christian gospel. The autonomy of man, the supremacy of human reason, and even the individual’s right to seek one’s own happiness simply are not the virtues of the Christian gospel. Rather we are to find our life in God and give ourselves as servants to him and in the service of our neighbors.
The judgment of God in many ways is giving us what we want. When we declare our independence from God, he gives it to us.
(3) Neither America nor any other nation nor any form of government holds a special place in the heart of God with the exception of Israel [but more must be said on even that subject]. Even as early as Genesis, God has had his eye on blessing the nations. God bless America? Only if you can pray with equal conviction that God bless Iraq, Afghanistan, China, North Korea, and Iran. The gospel is meant to go to all nations, and the gospel is meant to unite people from all nations for “in Christ” there is no “Jew or Greek.” Ronald Reagan’s application of language to the United States of America used for Israel in the OT, and which Jesus applied to himself and his followers in the NT—namely that America is a “city set upon a hill” a “light to the world”—is to my mind not simply an error but an heresy from perspective of the Christian gospel. Yet from the beginning of this nation, much of our patriotic rhetoric has been to apply to the American experiment that which only applies to the kingdom of God. I believe in the separation of church and state not in the way of the secularists (which includes Republicans)—to protect America from the church. If I believe in it—if at all—to protect the church from America.
The Christian can not capitulate to such confusion. And the Christian must not confuse such allegiances.
(4) What about Obama’s platform? I take the two most common objections.
A) Obama is Pro-choice. Yes, and from my perspective, his voting record and position on this issue is unconscionable. Ultimately, I could not vote for him because I believe this issue to be one of our generation’s great moral stains on par with the slavery and segregation of generations past. Let me put this into perspective though. The early Christians lived in a pro-choice empire. Unwanted babies were, among other things, taken to the trash dump and left to die of exposure. What was the Christian response? They made runs to the dump to rescue these babies and adopt them as their own. I am convicted by my own indifference to the abortion debate on every day besides election day. By focusing solely on legislation I have essentially deflected my personal and social responsibility to the government. If our goal is save babies, we can not solely depend on our legislators and courts, we must be committed to making sacrifices such as adopting more children, involvement in the foster care system, supporting young women financially and emotionally who will choose to keep their babies, or at the very least giving chunks of money to ministries doing this work.
B) Obama is a socialist or redistributionist. So was Jesus. I say that in jest because it completely anachronistic, but let me put it this way. One of the defining and shining qualities of the early church was this: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44-45). One might object that this was voluntary and it was through a faith-based organization. I might also object that it was so voluntary that one famous young man was turned away by Jesus because he would not sell everything he had and give it to the poor (Luke 18:17-30; cf. Mark 10:17-22 and Matt 19:16-22). I might also say to those who advocate for a “Christian America” one must then consider advocating for a redistributionist America. I must also say at this point that whatever one might argue as far as pragmatism is concerned, please do not argue for capitalism and democracy on the basis of Christian doctrine. Neither capitalism nor socialism, neither democracy nor monarchy, nor any other human form of government are advocated by the Bible—only fidelity to God. The gospel can and has existed under every form of government. And in fact, it is only in the west that the gospel is in decline. China, Africa, Latin America and others are the places you want to go to find vibrant Christianity.
What am I advocating? I simply want us to see the world clearly. I want the church to be the church. If we are to do so, I believe that we must have the courage to put aside certain lies, misplaced hopes, and misplaced allegiances. We must put aside any notion that the American experiment and kingdom of God are the same thing. We must see that our primary allegiance is not to the “flag of the United States of America” but to the crucified and risen Lord. We must not let our hopes rise and fall with an election or a single candidate. Our love for country must be put in submission to the gospel. We must not see power in the same way. We must not see money in the same way. We must not see politics in the same way. We must not see patriotism the same way. We must be truthful people. We must be courageous people.
Abraham Lincoln said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”
Jesus turned the world upside down. Strong is the new weak. Weak is the new strong. Do not fear!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Dime A Dozen - Vision

"Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what should be."

If this definition of vision is in the ballpark, then I have tons of it. However, I seem to lack the ability to either step out in faith or cultivate direction in which to push forth vision. Throw on top of that the issue that every single person is viewing the world through different eyes (essentially their "vision") and that getting people to latch on to your "eyes" is a tough sell...

One might envision reaching the streets of Phoenix. One might want to pioneer into inner city Providence. A person might feel the call for the election of someone other than McCain or Obama. A Progressive might try to make poverty a bigger issue than it is. Someone has a vision to reach the Middle East for Jesus. Another envisions a socialist America.

This generation, the postmodern generation, in which I am especially connected to, has no lack in vision. What they lack, what I lack, is the means to make the vision happen. I have a bunch of different causes...many of those seen above...so one day I feel like I need to proclaim the Revolutionary Way of Jesus, His egalitarianism, His love for the poor...other days I want to take it to Washington! Then some days I want to sit with Muslims in a far off land and hear their story..then I also have times of heartache for my brothers and sisters doing ministry right here at home who need community, teammates.

So this "vision" can pull me in so many directions that what ends up happening is that I have ultimately no vision! Amazing how that works!!

Oh God, cast my vision, let it be one with Yours. Direct my paths, lead me in the Way.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hypocrisy Defined

John McCain, " Wall Street is greedy, and full of corrupt excess....."

This is coming form a guy who owns 7 houses.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


This week I am speaking on parenting at my church. Having been through an adoption, passing of my father, divorce, and meeting my birth parents, I feel like I am tackling an issue that is important to my heart and to who I am, but also an issue that is hard….

It’s hard to ever really know if you have fully comprehended in your heart major trials and tribulations that happen in your life. I mean, I believe that I have gotten past these hard issues because of Jesus and time, but can you ever really know? I also believe that I have conquered my addiction to gambling through the Spirit, but every time I see a casino that thrilling sensation comes back…but, I just push it aside. Recently, the wifey and I went to the Jersey shore which was literally blocks away from Atlantic City. The casinos loomed large over the city and were never outta my line of sight. The urge to sit down at a table, or bet on the NBA playoffs came rushing back. I would say, no. I have a wife, a kid on the way now, and am a 30 year old adult..In my mind, I told myself, “grow up!!” Then, I would quickly think of something else, but inevitably my flesh would drift back as soon as I lost focus. By God’s grace I didn’t place a bet that weekend, and I have been gamble-free for a while now…but I know this is something I will always struggle with, at least for the foreseeable future…so back to my childhood. If gambling is till in battle between the world/flesh/Satan and the Spirit, how much more would my childhood identity issues?!?!?!? After all, my childhood is much more inherent to who I am. I then contemplate if I really have gained victory over this as well.

Maybe I will never know the answer. I do know one thing: because of my childhood I have always had this insatiable desire to be a good father. I believe this is one way God has redeemed me here on earth from this checkered past. I do know that full redemption, which I am looking forward to, will happen when I take my last breath, but also believe God intends to partially redeem my life story by being a father.

So, this Sunday I will be speaking on parenting. I have been studying a lot recently about parenting. I have talked to many Believers about the subject to further my understanding, have poured over the Scriptures, and listened to my Spirit….and it makes me think….you know, I love the way God works sometimes…he takes fishermen to be His disciples, reaches out to the outcasts of society, touches lepers, eats with heathens, makes covenants with sinners, rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, and has Grant Walsh give a sermon on parenting….God, you are amazing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Turning 30 (and there's nothing I can do about it)

I'm turning 30 this week. The anticipation of this day has loomed large over me for a while now. It probably started back when I was 26, passing the big two five and on towards the big three oh. God has wired me as a person who reminisces much, and contemplates the past often. I like to see where God has taken me, where He is now in my life, and where He is going with me. But I have to admit, I have feared this day for a while. 30. 30 is a big milestone. Other milestones (in no particular order) include your first day of school, first day of high school, 16, 18, high school graduation, first day of college, 21, college graduation, 25, marriage, becoming a Follower (not just a Believer), and alas….30. I can say I have lived a full 30 years thus far. I can also say that many of those years were not living for God and done in vain. I only can thank Him and praise Him that He did not leave me dead to my sin, but that He redeemed and adopted me into His Family.

I feel like an adult now (and I am not sure how I feel about that..). And of course, one could say that adulthood happens at 18 or something, but I am talking about REAL adulthood. Maybe I was an adult at, say, 24, but only insomuch as I made decisions for myself, but I was still learning about myself. Although I do not believe learning about oneself is ever over, I do feel that I have a good, core understanding of my gifts, failings, and identity. Being a husband and a soon to be father only expounds the issue.

They say that life truly begins after 30. Should I believe them? When I was younger I knew it all, and they said I didn’t know it all..they were right. When I was younger I said I wanted to be rich, they told me that riches weren’t everything (or anything)…they were right. When I was younger and had my life all planned out, they told me “you never know”…they were right. But what about life beginning at 30, are they right about that? Well, if life truly begins at 30 then I am in for a heck of a ride. Because I liked my younger days, and they were definitely filled. Would I have changed a lot? Probably. But as THEY say, those events shaped me into the person I am today.

So, 30 here I come. But I will still look back. Back to high school football games, 3-on-3 basketball tournaments (in which my missed 15-foot jumper is still stuck in my head), summer camps, choir tours, Argentina, the Group, “I Got Five On It”, proms, car accidents, chromies, Independence Day, Taco Bell (every day), Wednesday nights, Ben/Julie/Kulia, arguing over sports teams (Go Devils, Cowboys, Cubs, and Wolves), Les/Tyler/James Mc/Lynch/Tiwa, The SCR, bouncing, Vegas, Conversion, Seminary, overseas/over there, my supporters, finding Sweet Baby, marriage, the baby….Yes, I will still look back. But I try not to look with a gazing eye, wishing for those times again because they were so good (who can argue that life revolving around Taco Bell, hanging with friends, not needing to make money, etc isn’t good??!??!…). But rather I will use those memories to reflect on the journey God has me on, what His purpose was in that, and how to learn from it….

My journey has reached 30. Thank you Lord.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Spirit vs. Flesh: Spiritual Gifts

Lately, addressing the issue of spiritual gifts has come up in my life. I can say that although I periodically have theological shifts, evangelism theory shifts, and callings, I have noticed that my spiritual gifts have remained constant, only changing in how I administer them.

One spiritual gift that I have that is not specifically laid out in Scripture is: encouragement. I have felt the Lord use this many times in my life and as I interact with others. I have come to see that this gift of encouragement generally comes from my overly optimistic view of life and of others. I have finally realized that this gift manifests itself in the Biblical gift of: exhortation. Exhorting can be both for admonishment and encouragement; for building up or confronting. Life has been a fascinating journey with this gift.

I would generally say that exhortation is my main gift, the one I am most comfortable with, the one that come naturally. Other gifts that I use here and there include: discernment (which can go hand in hand with exhortation) and shepherding.

Recently I have been enlightened about the severe nature of spiritual gifts. I hope that you who reads this will ponder and think about what I am about to say if you haven’t already…but, I am guessing you have all have thought about it before, and thus I pray this serves as a reminder of the battle between Spirit and flesh.

I remember recently times when I was exhorting. I was talking about the Scriptural example of Economical Jubilee. I went round and round with this guy, sometimes coming to agreement, sometimes not. In another example, I can remember exhorting a loved one to godly living. I have also exhorted Christian leadership back to a life of prayer. The list can go on and on. As I reflected back on these instances where I think I was using my spiritual gifts, what I realized is that I often slipped into the flesh when exhorting. I ended up sinning as a result of trying to administer a spiritual gift! This confounded me! I then began to realize that there is a fine line to administering our spiritual gifts for God’s glory, or Satan’s. I have learned a hard lesson. I have learned that if I do things without love, the Spirit, grace, mercy, the fruits of the Spirit, then even when I think I am using the gifts God gave me, I am actually denying Him, being self serving, and sinning because I am doing them in the flesh.

So, I can either exhort someone in love and Spirit to follow God, or exhort in judgment and sin of the flesh.

I can either discern the path of Truth thru the Spirit, or lead astray in the flesh.

I can either shepherd in humility and meekness of the Spirit, or in the self-righteousness of the flesh.

God help me to overcome myself and administer gifts from your Spirit of love and give me eyes, wisdom, and a oneness of your Spirit to know when I am slipping into my sinning flesh.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Priesthood of All Believers

I am reading a book called, “Pagan Christianity,” by George Barna. The book has rocked my world. Some of the book challenges me, some I disagree with, some I label irrelevant, and some makes me sit and ponder. I do know this….I have this unsettling, gnawing at my soul about how church is done now. This book confirmed those feelings, but also showed me that there are others (and not just on the margins of life, but in the “mainstream”) who are battling the same types of feelings. It’s comforting to know that many are dissatisfied.

One of the biggest areas that I feel needs to be addressed inside and outside of the church is that of IDENTITY. Identity plays a huge role in Scripture and the full meaning of it will never be realized this side of heaven, but the implications of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in our lives are immeasurable. Yet, most people are not taught, not enlightened, not engaged, in what it truly means to be a child of God, born of the Spirit, a new creation. Barna taps on this issue in regards to how we do church….

‘The term ‘laity’ is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from Christian conversation.” –Karl Barth

One of the most illuminating, life-giving realizations I came to know when I decided to follow Jesus was the idea of the “priesthood of all Believers”. I understood this to mean that because we now have God dwelling within our hearts (the Holy Spirit), that we were now a “new creation” set apart for God to do His work. This has not been happening in what we call church today. Most Evangelical churches have a pastor (a trained person, usually a man) who stands above everyone on a platform, before up to thousands of people, telling them about the Word of God, God Himself, etc. The audience sits passively and listens, never administering gifts as each has. This type of “church” practice only enhances laziness, apathy, and ineptness. We come to church and are told when to sit, when to stand, when and how to sing (led by a “professional” music director), and then are taught (by a pastor – a professional). And NEVER does anyone interject during a sermon to offer further insight, further relevance, or personal experience/wisdom.

How can something be the “church” when we can come into it and sit passively for up to 2 hours or so and go back home without expressing ourselves? We have been deceived by Satan into these ideas of laity and clergy. The clergy basically monopolizes the church service. It simply isn’t Biblical.

One time I was talking about spiritual things with some people and the conversation went in such a way that some spiritual wisdom was needed. Someone then said to me, “You are the one who went to Seminary, you should answer….”

What if we all truly believed in our hearts that because of what Jesus did, and because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, that we had something more to offer than just showing up at church? What if the church was meant to be all inclusive, each administering gifts as they have been given? What if the church truly integrated all people? What kind of church would we have? This is what I ask, what I seek.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Not Anti-God, But Almost-God

"Most of the ugliness in the human narrative comes from a distorted quest to possess beauty. Coveting begins with appreciating blessings. Murder begins with a hunger for justice. Lust begins with a recognition of beauty. Gluttony begins when our enjoyment of the delectable gifts of God starts to consume us. Idolatry begins when our seeing a reflection of God in something beautiful leads to our thinking that they beautiful image bearer is worthy of worship."

Claiborne and Haw, "Jesus for President".

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Why I Left the Republican Party, but Didn't Become a Democrat: The Seamless Garment

The seamless garment is a prominent but puzzling symbol in John’s Gospel. The soldiers cast lots for this garment so they would not have to tear it since “the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top” (John 19:23). This seamless garment, like the seamless net (21:11), seems to be a symbol of unity or oneness, the unity that Jesus brought and calls us to live out. The late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin used the seamless garment as an image for a unified or consistent ethic of life. This image challenges us to have a seamless respect for life from the womb to the tomb. This is my story.

A “consistent ethic of life.” This was the resounding word I heard from Scripture, from God, as I embarked down this journey of transformation. Instead of gripping to 2 life issues: abortion and gay marriage, I also found that the Bible had to say a lot about other life issues, such as: war, poverty, capital punishment, euthanasia, universal health care, immigration, nuclear weapons, the environment, racism, AIDS, the poor, the maimed, the widow, and the orphan. When I was younger I saw abortion and gay marriage as the crux of my foundation in which I chose my candidate, or party. I also focused on ultra conservative economic principles like capitalism, consumerism, and the trickle down theory. Then it all changed.

Now I am trying to formulate a biblical, God-fearing approach to how I live my life out in the practical day to day and for the locus of my morals and ethics. So, not only do I stand on moral principles to guide my pro-life platforms and traditional marriage/family platforms, but I also stand on the platform that tells me that it is uncompassionate and inexcusable when thousands of Christians believe in the saying, “God helps those who help themselves”. That when millions upon millions live in the world without access to water, it is a life issue. That it is also a life issue when a country who holds a fraction of the world’s population uses 40% of its resources. It’s a life issue when 6 million children die a year due to malnutrition/starvation related diseases, when 4/10 of 1% of the US budget is used to address world poverty (and guess how much goes to war…), when 47 million people have no health care coverage, when corporate executive incomes are 400x higher than the average worker, when 3.5 million people experience homelessness every year, and 20% of those are military veterans (talk about hypocrisy).

As God widened my understanding of who He is and what He calls for He began developing in me a holistic approach to applying His Word into practice. No longer did I stand only in the gaps of the Religious Right's unbalanced approach to ethical issues. I now understand that life issues are more than just abortion and gay marriage, and as I was finding this out, it hit me like a dear in the headlights that I was no longer a Republican, yet not becoming a Democrat. I realized that as one author puts it (paraphrase)...Republicans draw lines that are never meant to be crossed and that's a good thing, and Democrats erase lines that never should have existed, and that's a good thing. I was somewhere lodged in the middle, hoping to stand with an Evangelical minority (which is fastly becoming a majority), to stand up for what Jesus calls for and to show our "leaders" that this is what we stand for. I say this minority is becoming a majority because as Barna, a leader in Christian research, has just said, "One of the most reliable constituencies of the Republican Party in recent years has been born again Christians. Our latest national survey of likely voters, however, shows that the Republican Party has lost the allegiance of many born again voters. The November election is truly up for grabs - and if the election were held today, most born again voters would select the Democratic Party nominee for president, whoever that might be." We are truly witnessing a shift within Christian ranks to the middle. I am in those ranks.

I don't believe in abortion. I stand against gay marriage. I believe we are to be good stewards of the earth. I believe everyone bears the image of God, even enemies of the United States. I believe we are to take care of the poor, the lame, the widow, and the orphan. I believe no one should go to bed hungry. I believe water should be accessible to everyone. I believe if we say someone else cant have nuclear weapons, then we cant have nuclear weapons. I believe in alternative energy. I believe in gun control. I believe that the Bible says we are all pilgrims and strangers to this earth and that we should embrace strangers when they come into the land, and that we will be judged by how we treat them. I believe that every person should have access to health care. I believe no one should be homeless. I believe minimum wage should be increased. I believe consumerism and big business are inherently evil in that they divide allegiances (see Jesus' statement of God versus mammon). I believe corporate executives and boards should be ashamed of themselves. I believe the "American Dream" is tragically flawed and leads to death. I believe all of these things and more..and that makes me neither Democrat, nor Republican.

I leave this post with this entry:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I life my lamp beside the golden door." -Statue of Liberty

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Why I Left the Republican Party, but Didn't Become a Democrat: The Grace Awakening

Some people say the Sermon on the Mount cannot be taken literally. Why do they say that? They say it is because it tells us to lead a life that is impossible, that is too high of a standard to actually live out. I say all things are possible with God. This is my story.

Although it could be said I became a Believer in junior high (depending on one's theology of justification), the Spirit finally budded in me at the end of my undergraduate days at Arizona State University. I praise and thank God for enduring with me; for being long suffering; for His endless grace. Shortly after this great transformation in my life, I began reading Scriptures for what seemed to be the first time. I also engaged in reading Christian inspirational books for further edification.
The Sermon on the Mount is still my favorite section of the Word. It is hard to put into words, but imagine how the life and words of Jesus shattered my worldview as the Spirit moved in my life. These are the words I read....

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God"

"You have heard it said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist and evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth...but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven."

"If anyone desires to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me."

"If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor."

"'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay', says the Lord. Therefore, 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good."

I kept reading words like this, from the inerrant Word of God (I only scratched the surface of available passages). My worldview began to change. I began questioning long held views of this life I led. I began to see that this world that Jesus lays out for His believers to follow was distinctly, overwhelmingly different than my ultra conservative, Republican world.....

Then one night while at work, I picked up a book during my break called, "Grace Awakening", by Charles Swindoll. Something clicked that night as I read. I was moved, so moved that I wrote all of my friends about what God was doing in my life. Though I do not have the book anymore (I gave it away to a friend), I can still recall its contents even though I read it 7 years ago. Here is the idea Swindoll conveyed about grace....

Imagine this: A thief breaks into your house one night. Among stealing some of your livelihood, he also steals a part of you as when he kills your only daughter. There are three ways one can react to this scenario:
-Revenge: Realizing what the thief has done, as you catch him, you give him what he deserves, and kill him.

-Justice: Realizing what the thief has done, as you catch him, you turn him over to authorities to deal with and he is held accountable for his actions.

-Grace: Realizing what the thief has done, you give him what he doesn't deserve by forgiving him. You even extend grace upon grace and invite him over for dinner.

I don't do Swindoll's version much justice, but you can see how this shattered me. I finally realized through this illustration what grace is all about. Because the fact is that we are all the thief that comes into God's house. We are not worthy of Him, yet He forgives us as we sin against Him, as we put His Son to death, and even invites us over to dinner at His table. Amazing stuff.

Though much of this entry has to do with my personal walk with God, and not much about politics, the one obviously influenced the other. My Walk changed how I viewed life and the world around me. The way of Jesus stands in stark contradiction of the Republican platform, as well as the Democratic. Now you have seen what transformed me, what spark started this road down which I traveled.

Next, how this played out practically in my political views and life.....