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

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Tune Our Hearts, part 3

Read other articles in this series: part 1, part 2, part 4, part 5

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace

Music is important to God. This idea is not more clear than in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16:

addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart…

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

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

Preconceived Notions

Several years ago, I had a friendly but intense conversation with a gentleman about the nature of God. He didn’t believe in the concept of the Trinity, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God. We spent some time discussing the most common scripture references that seem to have something to say on the subject. After our discussion had moved quickly through several of these scriptures, and the weight of the conversation was on him to explain his position, he made a comment that I have not forgotten, though most of the rest of the discussion has slipped from my mind. He said something like this, “You know, the idea that God is three persons always bothered me even before I became convinced of my view.”

More recently, I had another conversation with a young man who says he doesn’t believe that Christians should meet every Sunday as we do today. 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

Reconsidering Holidays

Columbus PortraitToday is National Bank (and Government Offices) Sabbath Day. But, it is also Columbus Day.

I think a lot of people are disenfranchised with Columbus Day, or at least with the fact that we can’t withdraw any money. And, honestly, as long as I can remember having critical thinking skills (which, admittedly, is not all that long) I remember questioning why we have a “Columbus Day.” Didn’t he just “discover” some land that had already been discovered, and, in fact, inhabited, for quite some time?

But, there’s another aspect for us to consider from a Christian standpoint: should we celebrate what Columbus “accomplished?” Here’s a video offering an interesting perspective. Continue reading

Advice to Christians Concerning Religious Freedom

Obama re-centered himself in the conservative political cross-hairs recently when he seemed to make statements supporting the building of a mosque near Ground Zero (not at Ground Zero, as the media consistently implies). At the same time, New York (among other regions) also faces a debate over how public schools ought to handle religious holidays, especially Muslim holidays in increasingly Muslim communities.

I have no desire to get caught up in any of these debates. I certainly have some (often shaky and inconsistent) opinions, but they are opinions. Instead, I would like to offer some biblical advice for properly responding to these prickly issues.

1) DEMOCRACY IS AN IMPERFECT, HUMAN INSTITUTION
If nothing else, I hope these controversies highlight the weaknesses of democracy, an institution that has been deified all too often. Continue reading

On Life and Music

John Denver was a talented musician, a hero in the folk music realm. If he had one musical weakness, though, it was this: he never wrote a song in a minor key. He always wanted to write upbeat music, the kind that makes people smile. But, music, like life, is more complex than that. It is not all major keys and well-timed resolutions. It is not all sunshine on our shoulders and Rocky Mountain highs. But, it is not, for that reason, any less beautiful.

I hail from a generation of spoiled brats. Continue reading

More Than a Name

Names used to have meaning. Not so much anymore.

My first name, Clinton, apparently derives from a surname which referred to the original name-sake’s hometown. This, of course, was not what my parents intended when they named me. And, no, I was not named after Bill or any other politician. What my parents wanted was a relatively unique name that wasn’t so crazy that I would get beat up every day in school. They weren’t concerned with the meaning of the name, but mostly with how it sounded, and if they would get tired of yelling it (they most likely did).

On the other hand, many biblical characters have names with meaning. Continue reading

Collecting, part 2

Warren Moon trading cardsI collected sports trading cards for three main reasons: 1) because that was what cool kids did; 2) because they looked neat; 3) because I hoped to strike it rich (would you call that gambling?).

I did not collect sports trading cards for particularly good reasons: 1) for the love of sports; 2) out of admiration and respect for particular players; 3) as an investment in my future grandkids’ retirement.

I have discovered that I, and many other human beings, have a similar problem in other areas of life. We collect “beliefs,” “philosophies,” and even “doctrine” and “theologies.” And we often collect them in the wrong way for the wrong reasons.

I used to tell other kids at school that I didn’t go to dances because “it was against my religion.” Continue reading