If you have a co-worker who is gay, what are you supposed to do? You have options, but acting as if his life is your business isn’t one of them. This is one reason Christians are hated: we are busybodies. We do act as if other persons’ moral convictions or lifestyle choices are our business. We get caught saying “I don’t want a gay in this neighborhood” or “in this workplace” or “around my kids” as if there are no heterosexuals we ought to be wary of.
Maybe I’m an idealist, and there is no possible friendship between gays and Christians who affirm traditional morality, but it seems to me that Jesus did it, and I need to pray that I can do the same. (Michael Spencer, from Sept, 2006)
Two years ago, I was in the hospital with my dying mom, and I needed a pastor. At the time, I didn’t have one. I guess I could have called any number of the ministers that I know. Actually, having been the minister in the hospital before, I was fairly certain of what would happen, and while I wouldn’t have been ungrateful, it wasn’t that important to me.
Walter happened to be in the hospital that day, visiting members of his congregation and the wider community, as was his habit. He found me, my wife and my dying mom in the ER.
Walter stayed with me all day. He found a doctor who would let my mother stay in our hospital and pass there, instead of flying her to Lexington. He helped me talk to the doctors about the course of treatment mom and I had agreed on. He prayed for me. He was a pastor to me. He was Christ to me.
Never once did Walter attempt a theological justification of the ways of God. He never got out the Bible. (Nothing wrong if he’d chosen to, of course.) He was the Bible for me that day. He put flesh and blood on God and hung out with me. He thought for me when I couldn’t think clearly. He knew my heart and he helped me listen to my heart at a very confusing moment. He treated me with love and dignity that brought joy into one of the worst days of my life.
Walter showed me that day that if you are going to measure life by how it’s lived, and not by how people talk about what they believe, he knows a lot more about God than I do. (Michael Spencer, from Sept, 2007)
The real prosperity gospel isn’t the overt appeal to wealth. It is the more subtle appeal to God guaranteeing that we are going to be happy, and the accompanying pressure to be happy in ways that are acceptable and recognizable to the community of Christians we belong to. (Michael Spencer, from Sept, 2008)
The assurance of pardon speaks the word that the Gospel speaks to the people of God. With so many sour, legalistic, moralistic churches in evangelicalism, what a wonderful thing it is to confess corporately, and then silently, but to hear the announcement of God’s forgiveness, personally applied, followed by joyful celebration in song. (Michael Spencer, from Sept, 2009)
I never have been what one might call a wild-eyed, hard-edged fundamentalist separatist. I was just a kid who was found by Jesus and thought that meant the rest of my life should be different somehow — lived in a separate category from the ordinary course of human life. Now I know that becoming a Christian doesn’t put a person one step above the rest of the human race, or mean that one should separate from sharing common life experiences with one’s neighbors.
I’m still blown away by the grace and mercy of Jesus.
I still think the church is special, the amazing family of God in all times and places.
I just don’t want this whole “Christian thing” to keep me from being human.
…No longer does “the world grow strangely dim” when I look at Jesus. For some reason, when I’m most focused on him, the world takes on a strange, inviting beauty. And I’m ready every day to move more deeply into it with his kindness and love. (Chaplain Mike, from Sept. 2010)
Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self (Mark 8:35, The Message).
I find nothing in Scripture that tells us we are on our own to improve our lives. Nowhere do I read that it is our responsibility to become better, more moral, people. Instead I see Jesus going to the losers and sinners and dying and saying, “Because of your lostness, your lastness, your death, you will live.” Thus I agree with how Eugene Peterson interprets this verse: “Self-help is of no help at all.” (Jeff Dunn, from Sept. 2011)
I have served in the ministry for almost 20 years now, both as a youth pastor and senior pastor. I’ve never skimmed from the offering plate, gotten drunk or had an affair. But my constant temptation is to have a self-identity focused on my actions for God rather than his actions for me. After all, I am a pastor. Doing things for God is my job and identify. Even on my days off, I am still a pastor. People call me pastor as if it were my name, and my spouse is often introduced as “the Pastor’s wife”. This is not bad, but it doesn’t help me to remember that I am a beggar, not a builder.
I need a season where I build nothing, produce nothing, but simply remember, worship, and pray. I need a season of fallowness, a time where I do nothing but receive the refreshing rain of God’s goodness.
In short, I will be listening to the silence, and, by doing nothing, seek to do the one thing needed. (from Daniel Jepsen, Sept. 2012)
Whatever this “Christian” thing is about, it is about earth. It is about life on earth. It is about life with God on earth. It is about life that begins now here on this earth and extends into the age to come on a renewed earth.
And it is about you and I starting to live that life now. (from Chaplain Mike, Sept 2013)
When it comes to evangelicalism it is a little easier to see our own bias. We have stood within it, and we have also seen it from an outsider’s perspective…. I attend an evangelical church and have done so for my entire life. I don’t want evangelical expressions of Christianity to fail. If anything I am biased towards evangelical expressions of faith. More than anything though, I want to be a follower of Jesus. I know evangelicalism best, and when there are things within evangelicalism that detract or distract me, or even more importantly others, from following Jesus, then those things are going to come under criticism. To quote Jesus (badly and out of context): “Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen.”
This is what I do. I speak of what I know. Sometimes it isn’t pretty. When I hold up a mirror in the morning it encourages me to shave and brush my hair. Perhaps some of my writing at Internet Monk will encourage some change as well. (from Mike Bell, Sept. 2014)
There is always an impulse in Christianity (and other religions) to think those who “give up” more and “devote” themselves to the Lord for some kind of ordained service are better Christians, higher in spirituality and more impactful on the world for God. This is a mirage, and one day we will see the magnificent harvest that will spring from seeds planted by “ordinary” Christians doing ordinary things in everyday life. (from Chaplain Mike, Sept. 2015)
Sign for My Father, Who Stressed the Bunt
On the rough diamond,
the hand-cut field below the dog lot and barn,
we rehearsed the strict technique
of bunting. I watched from the infield,
the mound, the backstop
as your left hand climbed the bat, your legs
and shoulders squared toward the pitcher.
You could drop it like a seed
down either base line. I admired your style,
but not enough to take my eyes off the bank
that served as our center-field fence.
Years passed, three leagues of organized ball,
no few lives. I could homer
into the left-field lot of Carmichael Motors,
and still you stressed the same technique,
the crouch and spring, the lead arm absorbing
just enough impact. That whole tiresome pitch
about basics never changing,
and I never learned what you were laying down.
Like a hand brushed across the bill of a cap,
let this be the sign
I’m getting a grip on the sacrifice.
Finally, it aggravates me to no end that evangelical Christians regard climate change as a hoax. It’s the same anti-science incredulity that causes them not to accept the age of the earth. At the same time they pay big money to go see a display of a supposed Noah’s ark with the proposition that all the species on the planet were on one boat, and when they got off they hopped, crawled or whatever to the ecological niche they are in now. All the kangaroos and other marsupials traveled all the way to Australia from the Middle East and didn’t leave any trace. Why did they all go to Australia? The climate of the Middle East was just as hospitable. Why didn’t they stay there? Or new world sloths that move at 1 mile an hour. How did they cross the ocean, even being good swimmers? But no, climate change, that’s the thing to be incredulous about.
This is why I blog on science and faith. If we are going to present the reality of Jesus Christ to the world then we darn-well better be able to grasp reality—period. (from Mike the Geologist, Sept. 2017)
A large part of escaping the wilderness for me was realizing that what I was chasing was just a mirage. If you find a fresh source of water, put up a decent shelter, find a good source of food, and keep warm and dry, all of a sudden the wilderness doesn’t seem so much like wilderness anymore.
And that’s what I am trying to do with Church. It may not be perfect, but if I start making myself at home, then maybe it will start to feel like home. (from Mike Bell, Sept. 2018)
Two people stand in the front of a sanctuary at the altar in front of a minister. The minister asks them questions that have become familiar to us, so familiar that we don’t really grasp how radical and demanding they are.
Joe, will you have Mary to be your wife, to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live? If so, please answer, “I will.”
Joe answers, “I will!!”
And in a few moments, Joe makes the following vows to his bride:
In the Name of God, I, Joe, take you, Mary, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.
Through the exchanging of these lifelong promises, in that moment, two lives are completely changed. The past is past. They find themselves in a new reality. It’s as though they’ve walked through a door and entered a completely new country. A new family in this world has been created. The two people at the center of the ceremony are now in a whole new relationship, and because of that, all other relationships in their lives have changed.
…The old has passed away, all has become new, and who knows what the future will hold? Who knows what changes it will bring? Who knows where it will lead?
…What these two people are saying on their wedding day is this: We want to make a life together. Today it begins. From now on, there is no turning back. Our former experiences have brought us to this new adventure, and now it is time to embrace it fully. No matter where this path may lead us, we’re in it together for the long haul.
…Jesus’ invitation to us isn’t just about forgiveness, as wonderful as that is.
It is about entering a whole new life with him. A life that changes everything. (from Chaplain Mike, Sept. 2019)