"Tutor 2-hours a week and benefit 2-people forever," I just heard someone wisely advise. So very true. That quote captures one of the most important expressions of faith, hope and love in any community – the volunteer spirit. Every act of devoted action to give faithful, informed, regular service to address needs within our communities or on mission trips can embody the very spirit of Christ. That joyful ministry service can be a measurable benefit both to the people who are helped and to the volunteer helpers.
This is deeply encouraging, because Gospel-teaching churches must take bold Biblical leadership on the present American racial scene for there to be real progress. The very institutions that remain so embarrassingly segregated on Sunday mornings can become the brightest, exemplary beacons of light for racial justice and reconciliation going forward. This is also a personal passion; racial social justice has been a constant and costly major theme of my life and ministry.
Many of the 2014 protests have missed their mark. At the risk of oversimplification, we believe that there are two profound traits that distinguish many of the 2014 protests. If we deal with these two profound traits, we can achieve the needed social changes more effectively in 2015 and beyond.
This Thanksgiving, let us all joyfully thank the Lord God for his sovereign grace, shaping Gospel Progressive leadership at so many points throughout history. Also, let us thank the Lord God for his amazing grace empowering you and me to continue this precious progressive Gospel witness and work now.
Of the hundreds of thousands of published Christian writers over the centuries since the Scripture books were complete, none have had a level of influence to compare to Augustine. Even now in 2014, he remains a #1 favorite for huge numbers of both Evangelical leaders and Roman Catholic leaders. He was a scholar and an evangelist; he was a faithful senior leader of the church universal and a charismatic healer who made house calls. Now he is 1660 years old. Happy Birthday, Augustine!
The Reformation was a precious but complex step in Church history, where the beloved Biblical teachings of the amazing grace of God were renewed. We are all beneficiaries – Protestant, Roman Catholic, and everyone else. What can we learn from Martin Luther, Ignatius Loyola and others from that era – and especially from the Living Lord now – so that we can approach this 500th anniversary with a renewed awareness of the Lord and his purposes for his whole Church?
In 2014, the agenda for right action when it comes to the creation, our environment, is still best described by the Scriptures. Creation-care guidance includes four vital Biblical teachings, all four of them introduced early in the Bible and then repeated significantly throughout its pages.
From Rockefeller Center I took the subway to St. Paul's Chapel, directly across the street from where the World Trade Center Twin Towers had stood, on the east side of WTC. Thirteen years ago those towers became a huge pile of massive steel, toxic ash, broken concrete, human remains, and burning fuel from the airplanes and massive tanks full of heating oil for the Towers.
Thirteen years have passed since the tragic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers. We remember that day as if it were yesterday. Two years ago I wrote on our reflections on 9/11. Much has changed, yet what matters remains the same.
Who I am today is the result of a huge "clerical error" – where nobody lost, but many gained.
We live in a time of great persecution against followers of our Lord Jesus in very many places in the world. More people are paying a great price for their commitment to Christ now than any other time in the life of his Church. We must act, starting with effectual, fervent prayer.
Such grace-based spiritual freedom is the best antidote to Jihadist exploitation and oppression. Existential freedom fully supports all people's right to choose their religion and values – and also to choose to change their religion and values. This is why the Gospel is transmitted by witness, not by warfare.
The Supreme Court was right to allow corporations to be exempt from the mandate to pay for abortion pills or contraception when their leaders have established religious reasons against them. Moral issues can stand as questions for the liberty of conscience – whether individual conscience or corporate conscience.
Yesterday we examined the wholeness of the Gospel that fully integrates the saving Gospel and the social Gospel. The Gospel is one, a unified whole like a precious two-sided coin.
What's truly tragic in an ironic way is that many of our divisions make no sense at all! For example, are you an American passionate about the health and safety of all babies being nurtured in the womb? If so, you are most likely against abortion-on-demand, and you are drawn to supporting the Republicans. However, are you passionate about the healthy environment of all people once they are born? If so, you are now likely drawn to supporting the Democrats and their programs for protecting and improving the environment.
The Bible text itself – especially in John 20:11-18 – suggests four reasons for her failure in recognizing the living Jesus, even though Jesus is standing right in front of her and speaking with her, and even though she is thinking only about Jesus at the time.
What we see with our eyes matters. Each of our "perceptual worlds" depends upon what is in front of us to see, to look at. But what we see also depends upon other factors, too, such as our knowledge, our interests, our experiences, our attitudes.
Yesterday I argued that doubt is necessary but unbelief is dangerous. As odd as its sounds, doubt is never a hazard to vibrant Christian faith. Rather, some sincere doubt is necessary to sustain the vitality of the Christian walk.
By contrast, I know of no Biblical passage where we are even warned against doubt! Perhaps this is because doubt and belief are fully compatible and because there is no slippery slope from doubt to unbelief. Actually, as odd as this may sound, doubt is never a hazard to vibrant Christian faith. Rather, some sincere doubt is necessary to sustain the vitality of the Christian walk.
We all can be vigilant, and be especially wary of those who bring their scissors to Bible study – intent on cutting everything away but their own preconceived, powerless, paper-doll "Jesus."
This season of Advent, beginning the first day of December, is full of the JOY of the Lord! What could be more wonderful than the Good News that the Savior is born, that God himself has come to Earth as the Messiah? The great prophesies are fulfilled, including these profound and awesome words of Isaiah:
We live now in a time of great courage. More people are suffering for their faith in Christ than perhaps at any other time in history. Christians are suffering in Muslim countries in many places in Africa, southern Asia, and the Middle East. Not only are churches burned with worshippers locked inside, and other Christians are severely tortured – but more "camouflaged" persecution continues, too, with harsh discrimination in jobs, education, housing and other necessities. In some countries like Afghanistan, no churches are even allowed, and it is a capital crime either to communicate the Gospel or to commit to Jesus Christ.
As we watch some of the leadership catastrophes in Washington, D.C. – in the White House, Congress and Supreme Court – and in countless other places, it is evident that our leaders lack something crucial. And perhaps most of us lack it, too, since we helped put these "leaders" into office. How else do we explain the chaos of American foreign policy (Syria, Egypt, etc.), health care policy (Obamacare, etc.), and budgeting the public treasury (debt explosion, etc.)?
In the present political posturing and race pandering, the real race issue is missed, even though this one race issue matters most to God and is most deeply addressed in our national documents. What is that real race issue?
Now, any appreciation of the precious power of words should awaken within each of us a compassionate desire also to help illiterate people. In justice, we must help men and women and children who find themselves fully or partly dis-empowered as people and detached from the joys Word-power.