World View
Many Faiths, One Jesus (Part 1)

ReligionsWhat are you supposed to think? All your life you’ve been taught that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. But the Muslim parent with whom you serve on the local schoolboard is nicer than some of the Christians you know. What about the Hindu woman in the next cubicle at work? She’s shown more integrity at work than your supervisor who professes to a follower of Jesus.

For many of us, encountering men and women of different faiths is a reality that our parents seldom faced and our grandparents almost never. Immigration has brought the world to our doorstep in new ways. More and more immigrants come from cultures not shaped by a Christian past. Knowing men and women who are Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, or Buddhist is no longer unusual. Even in the small mid-West town where I live, I’m often surprised how many Muslim women I see in the stores or driving minivans full of kids.

Yom Ha’Shoah

holocaust_survivor_300x200And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 ESV

Recently, I happened to read about a Jewish memorial day that I was unaware of: Yom Ha’Shoah. It is a day in April, meaning “Day of the Holocaust,” that commemorates the Holocaust, and the heroic suffering of the Jews who experienced it. It is a day on which parents teach the next generation of the evil that man can do to man if he does rejects the belief that we are created in the image of God, equal to one another in His sight. Shortly after reading about this remembrance, I watched the news about the slaughter of four Jewish worshippers—murdered by an ax-wielding assassin while praying in the synagogue. I saw the bright red blood smeared on the white linoleum; the emptiness of a room now changed forever. War against our Jewish neighbor—still.

Christmas and Paganism

christmas_tree_coliseum_300x200Every year at Christmas time we hear arguments that our Christmas celebrations are little more than warmed over paganism. We hear that the date was selected to compete with pagan holidays, or worse, to absorb pagan holidays into the church, and that our Christmas practices originate in paganism. What are we to make of these arguments? Are we buying into paganism in our Christmas celebrations?

The answer is no. The arguments for the supposed pagan origins of Christmas are overblown, and even where there are some tinges of pagan roots in our practices, that doesn’t mean we are practicing paganism. We’ll look at two specific examples in this article, the date of Christmas, and Christmas trees and related custom.

Not How, but Who

traffic_conesWorldliness. You know the verse. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”1 It’s an easy concept to ridicule. “I don’t smoke, I don’t chew, and I don’t go with girls who do.” Sure, that’s indulging in a bit of a stereotype. But we all have our favorite examples of behavioral prohibitions offered in the name of stomping out worldliness in the church.

Unfortunately, though, discussions of worldliness have left many of us allergic to the issue doesn’t mean we can ignore the problem. “Do not love the world,” John says, “or anything in the world.”2 The fact of the matter is that our cultural environment does have enormous power, power that can co-opt, reshape and subvert our faith. I don’t have to be anti-cultural to get why the Bible puts such a premium on watchfulness with regard to “the world.”

Whatever It Takes

Light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnelWhen I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

Living in Stressful Times
‘Tis the season of political polls; and according to the most recent ones, more than 60% of Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track. Our sense of well-being is plummeting as we consider the problems plaguing our land: the financial and social strain illegal immigration is placing on our communities; the threats posed by the rise of radical Islam; the attacks on our religious freedom; the millions of unemployed Americans who have given up looking for a job; the sense that the explosive anger of the black community in Ferguson, Missouri hints at much a more widespread problem among African Americans; the increasingly intolerant demands of the LGBT lobby; the not-so-affordable Affordable Care Act; Ebola and the threat of a global pandemic; a disconnected president; and an ineffectual Congress. We know our nation is in bad shape, and few of us expect better days ahead. We may hold a cautious hope for this week’s mid-term elections, but many believe that—at best—we will only be able to slow down the tsunami of sin and evil engulfing our nation.

Worthless Things

leaky-bucket_356x237Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:37

Every time I come across this verse, I cringe; and I must pronounce myself “guilty” when it comes to “looking at worthless things.” It might be a vapid television movie I wasted two hours on; a series of Facebook posts about Grumpy Cat, stupid pet tricks, or other silly stuff; a poorly written novel I picked up to pass some idle hours on a plane; a fashion magazine I read in the doctor’s office that’s filled with pictures of half-starved women wearing ugly, overpriced clothing; or a tabloid news story I perused in the checkout lane at the grocery store containing the latest Hollywood gossip. Frankly, the modern world is full of “worthless things,” and I am too often guilty of letting my eyes linger over them and, even worse, letting them infect and influence my soul while drawing me away from more worthy pursuits.

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