Liberty and Justice For All, part 2

A man was arrested for murder. He didn’t set out to kill anyone, just to get some extra cash to pay the rent. But, the convenience store clerk went for a weapon under the counter, and the thief fired the handgun he brought for the robbery before he could suppress his defensive instincts. Continue reading

Liberty and Justice For All, part 1

In a March, 2009 Tokens Radio Show interview, Brad MacLean, a former corporate lawyer who now serves as an advocate and attorney for death-row inmates, and one who opposes capital punishment, related a letter that he had once read that illustrated the reasons behind his career choice.  An article in The New Yorker had put together various arguments for and against the death penalty.  One particular argument opposing the death penalty asked the readers to consider, before supporting capital punishment, whether or not they could throw the switch for the electric chair.  A rabbi wrote a letter to the editor responding to that particular argument.  He said that after considering the horrible, heinous nature of the crimes committed by some of the murderers on death row, he had no doubt that he could enthusiastically pull the lever that would kill one of these inmates. Continue reading

Truly Christian, part 3

Slavery. What an incredibly inhumane concept. What kind of pride does it take to believe that you can own another human being? Of all the awful sins of humanity, this should rank near the top of the list.

The Bible, however, with all of its condemnation of sin and prohibition of inhumane activities, seems to say little against the practice of slavery. Actually, I am no longer convinced that that is true. Especially after studying Philemon, I am now persuaded that the Bible says plenty to condemn slavery, just not in ways we expect. Continue reading

Truly Christian, part 2

Beautiful Things - Gungor

The latest album by the band Gungor (lead-singer’s last name) features some thoughtful artwork on the cover. At first glance it appears to be just a few brightly-colored flowers. Look closer, though, and you’ll see that the entire picture is made up of unlikely elements (click for larger image). The flowers and soil are made out of skulls, bombs, and guns.

Now, before you write it off as just another hippie picture, take a look at these lines from the chorus of the title track: Continue reading

Truly Christian, part 1

I just finished preaching a series of sermons on Paul’s little letter to Philemon, and I have a new respect for Paul.

Behind the letter is the crazy story of Onesimus, a slave, who has run away from his master, Philemon. In the process, he has disrespected Philemon’s authority, stolen from him, but he has also met Paul. Whether Onesimus sought out Paul, or God sought out Onesimus is not immediately clear from the letter, but an interesting twist evolves in the story when the slave finds the apostle: Onesimus becomes a Christian. Continue reading

Good News for Dead People – 8 Obeying the Gospel

RisenI used to want a horse. But, somewhere along the way I realized that if I got a horse I would have to feed it and water it. Horses also don’t know brush or train themselves, and they don’t clean up their messes, if you know what I mean. So, if I got a horse I would get more than just a horse, and probably more than I wanted.

I have been guilty, and maybe you have, too, of viewing the Gospel like many of us view horses. I have incorrectly believed and taught that the Gospel was everything that had to do with becoming a Christian, and with the initial steps of Christianity. Continue reading

Good News for Dead People – 7 Jesus is Better

RisenThe book of Hebrews is devoted to one common theme: the superiority of Jesus.  The author covers subjects ranging from faith to animal sacrifices, and from angels to the kingdom of God, but all of that information is given to prove one essential point: that Jesus is better (1:4; 7:19,22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16; 11:35,40; 12:24).

Better than what?  Well, the short answer to that is, everything (especially everything the Hebrews writer mentions; see below).  But, the more important point is that Jesus is just plain better because of who He is—because of His nature. Continue reading

Good News for Dead People – 6 The Right Jesus

RisenThe gospel is not just the good news that we can be saved from Death. It is the good news that Jesus Christ can save us from Death.

The thing is, we often think of Jesus like He is an idea or a character. We talk about His teachings and His miracles. We refer to Him like we refer to famous writers: “Have you read Frost?” Or like we talk about actors: “Did you see the latest Tom Cruise movie?”

What I am saying is that rather than thinking about Jesus in terms of who He is, we think about Him in terms of what He said and did. Continue reading

Good News for Dead People – 5 He Is Legend

RisenIn the 2007 film, I Am Legend, Robert Neville (played by Will Smith) is one of the few immune survivors of a pandemic that turns the diseased into human-hunting zombies. Neville is also a virologist, and though other survivors fled to find safety elsewhere, Neville remained in New York City attempting to develop a cure for the deadly disease.

His self-appointed mission involves capturing diseased zombies, and using them as test subjects for experimental vaccines he develops from his own blood. He believes that since he is immune, then his blood must carry the key to a cure. You can watch the rest of the movie to find out what happens.

Neville’s dramatic (horrific) search for a cure is based (loosely) on reality. Continue reading

Good News for Dead People – 4 How to Save the World

RisenI wish I had a good story about saving someone’s life. I don’t actually wish a life-endangering situation on anyone. I don’t really want to go through the effort and trauma of having to swim to a drowning child, or push a car off of the railroad tracks. It would just be cool to say, “Yeah, I saved someone’s life one time.”

Maybe I’ve watched too much MacGyver. Wait. I didn’t mean that.

But, there’s a major problem with saving people’s lives in our world: they will always die later, anyway. Continue reading