Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The school shooting today and our fears...

Greetings.

So, I wanted to take a moment as a Christian, a friend, and a parent of a child in a local middle school to talk about how we might process this local school shooting and those like it.

First and foremost, I have personally prayed - and I ask any reader of this to do the same - for the victims, the families, and all those involved in the shooting today at Great Mills in St. Mary's County.  I believe our God is mighty and hears the prayers of His people.  He can bring comfort where there is only fear and anxiety. 

Next, I want us to take a step back.  I want us to seriously ask a question - seriously now - what kind of world do you believe that we inhabit?  What I mean by this is do you believe we inhabit a good world or a wicked one?  Because this is what I believe - I believe we live in a world that was created perfect, but then was changed by humanity's disobedience into something evil.  I believe that we human beings are sinful now in our very nature.  I believe that this world is so evil that God is going to completely destroy this place and build anew.  I am not alone in this - Christians have believed and confessed this for millenia.  Yet, while we confess it is true, sadly, we rarely apply this truth to our personal lives.

So if you have not before, apply this truth.  Come to this reality beloved - we live, work, play, and do all of our socialization in a sinful world.  Jesus Himself calls Satan the, "prince of this world." [John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11] We live in a world where death, disease, sickness, murder, greed, etc...are prevalent.  When I write that we live in a, "sinful" world, too many Christians think this to be a vague, ethereal statement.  It is not meant in such a fashion.  We live in a world where murders occur, where rape occurs, where violence, death, disease, hate, and anger all are real and have real-world consequences.  This was true yesterday as much as it is true today.  Yet, for many in my area today that world has hit home - as there was a local student who turned a gun on their classmate(s).

Because of the reality hitting home today, I wanted to discuss this reality; and then discuss how we ought not react to this.  We ought not react in fear.  Death is a reality for each and every one of us.  We will all die.  We know not how, we know not when, but we did know that we will.  

I understand that at first this is not comforting; but rightly understood beloved it is.  We spend so much time trying to prevent and protect from that which is going to happen. If you and I are Christians, let me say this clearly - living in fear is not only wrong, it is a part of the problem of this world.  You and me, above all people, need to be people of hope.  If we are not people of hope, we become reclusive, ineffective, and unloving.  You and I cannot react to this world in fear - no matter how bad this place gets.   When we act in fear we stop reaching out and we reach only in.  When we act in fear we almost universally pull away from our society instead of engaging in our society. And that my friends is precisely what the devil wants - Christians to disengage.

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors; and he wrote something back in the mid 20th century about living in an atomic age that I find very refreshing.  He writes:

"In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. "How are we to live in an atomic age?" I am tempted to reply: "Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents."

"In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors - anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

"This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts - not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."


This is amazingly refreshing.  It faces reality head on and understands the world in which we live.  If you are a Christian you believe in a Jesus that rose from the dead.  Death is not the end of the story.  We have eternal life right now and we will rise again as well.  This is not to say that we take unhealthy risks; but it is to say that we live life - and live it to the fullest.  If the threat of death and the threat of pain stifles you from doing what God would have you do - then repent.  Yes, hug your children.  Yes, as parents protect your children.  But for goodness sake, do not be deluded into believing you can protect your children from death.  That is a lie.  They will die.  We know not when.  We know not how.  But it will happen.  So beloved - teach, pray, work, love, give compassion and aid, read, listen to music, go to the cinema, and live life.  Do not cower in fear.  We have a Jesus that rose from the grave - and tragic events like today make me want to live for Him more - not less.  

Your friend,

Chris

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Social Media Bullies and what to do with them...

Just this past week a good friend of mine posted something she was excited about.  It was not controversial in my book; she was excited about what she was doing and posted to her friends.  Her post went much further than she ever dreamed, and many people read her post.  While the great majority of responses were positive, a few loud, harsh, critics on-line were cruel to her.  It caused her great distress and even caused her sleepless nights.

Just a little while later, someone publicly maligned the church I pastor on-line.  I do not even know the person who did it, I had never met them and, as far as I know, they never entered the church building.  Yet, they had strong opinions about the church.  And those opinions were not so nice...

In addition, the past two months of Youth Nights at our congregation have focused on how to live life as a faithful christian on social media. 

Putting all of these events together, I thought it fitting to write a short blog about how we behave on-line. 

Social Media allows us to do things that we never had the ability to do in the past.  We can share our experiences and share our opinions with a wide array of people that we do not know.  We can network with people with like interests and argue with people with whom we disagree.  Often however I think we forget that when we post opinions there are actual living, breathing, human beings that read what we write.  We type on a computer and forget that the person on the other end reading what we type is also a person. 

Jesus taught a very simple rule; it was reiterated by the Apostle Paul and we are told the entire Law and the Prophets are summed up in one little phrase, "love your neighbor as yourself."  Ah, if we could only live the rule...

So here are a few basic rules that I believe appropriate:

If you have a problem with a person, the first step is to take up that issue with the person personally and without involving a large swath of the public.  This is basic and follows the prescription of the commandment, "do not bear false witness."  We are to speak well of our neighbor and build him/her up, not tear him/her down.  Would you like it if someone who disagreed with you approached you privately?  Me too.  So...do that. 

Also, if you have something negative to say to someone, and you know them personally, almost never put the negative comment in a text or e-mail.  Approach them.  If possible, deal with them face to face.  At the very least, make a phone call.  Being able to hear tone of voice, see facial expressions, and the added reality of seeing another human being will often change the interaction.  9 times out of 10 you will not want to confront them with your issue.  If you do not want to confront them in, "live time" then it is not worth confronting on-line. 

Please remember that your Christianity does not end on-line; it is heightened.  Many eyes see what you write, what you post, what you are interested in, etc...  Please remember that.

Now, a few basic rules for those that post publicly:

If you post something publicly, you must expect people to respond.  Some people will respond negatively.  Some people will be mean.  We must remember that some people do not possess the Holy Spirit and as such we cannot expect people that are void of the Spirit of God to behave as if they had Him.  Therefore, if you post something, I believe that ought to come with an expectation that people respond.  And, some of the people that respond will be jerks.  Jerks exist.  We've all been one before.  They are out there. 

As Christians we know this world is full of evil people who do evil things.  We were once stuck in sin and indeed we still find ourselves being sinful.  Remember that.  We need to be people who give grace when we are treated poorly; for we worship a Savior that uttered the words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." 

Paul's advice in Romans 12 is appropriate in person and online, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be wise in your own sight.  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yoursleves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."  To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." 

It is that last line that always gets me personally, "do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." 

The temptation when attacked is to attack or to run.  Both of these responses are poor ones.  When attacked, bless.  When cursed, pray.  When cruelly spoken of, give a blessing.  If you actually do these things let me tell you what happens - inevitably peace ensues; because you have given that person over to God.

In addition, if what you write on-line you believe is holy, good, and true then no amount of criticism should shake us. [I know it often does, but when it does ask for forgiveness for your weakness and keep it moving.] We need to remember that we exist ultimately to please but three persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

My advice to anyone who is attacked on-line is this: respond with blessing.  They may continue to curse you but here is the blessing in that - when you are publicly maligned and you publicly respond with blessing, that too is seen.  Everyone sees what that person is doing - and everyone sees how we respond. 

We are in love with Jesus because in the face of the great evil of humanity, He showed love.  If we trust in Him, we are of Him; and if we are of Him, we ought to behave like Him. 

Brothers and sisters, love.  That is all. 

Your friend,

Chris Ogne

  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jerusalem, North Korea, Iran, terrorism, and what are we to do with all of this?

Greetings!

I have been prompted to write this based upon some recent events in the news, and my hope is that it will be a word of encouragement to my brothers and sisters in Christ.  

A lot has been going on in the world.  If you look at or read the news it seems like we are under a constant threat of annihilation.  It could be a missile from North Korea.  It could be nuclear material from Iran.  It could be an act of terrorism.  Is the move of our embassy to Jerusalem going to spark off another holy war?  It seems that with every waking moment our society is more and more torn at the seams.  What are we to do with all this??

Well, the first thing we are NOT to do is fear.  Nor are we to act out of fear.  If you know me personally, than you know that my favorite author [outside Biblical ones] is C.S. Lewis.  I have read his theological material and believe him to be brilliant.  [I do not agree with all his conclusions, but I find his philosophy magnificent.] He wrote a little article entitled, "On Living In An Atomic Age."  Please remember that Lewis died in the 60's; therefore the threat that was getting people all worked up was the Nuclear threat.  He writes:


"In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. "How are we to live in  an atomic age?" I am tempted to reply: "Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenthcentury when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents."



"In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors - anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

"This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts - not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."

The first great point about all this is simple - what are we afraid of?  Death?  That was certainly going to happen regardless of any current event.  A great majority of us are going to die painful ones at that.  

The 2nd point made is that this is nothing new.  Are we so void of historical knowledge that we do not know that 25-60% of London was killed by the plague?  As Lewis aptly puts, "a microbe can do that..."  

Death is a reality.  Societal problems are a reality.  Terrible things happening are a reality.  Post Eden this has never, nor will it ever, [until the end of the age], change.  Sin is real. It has real effects.  And those effects are really bad.   

Yet, as Christians we are to be the ones with the most hope; but sadly so many of us have a, "the sky is falling!" mentality to life.  And that is the main point of Lewis' article that resonates so much with me.  We are allowing all the bad possibilities to, "dominate our minds."  And that which dominates our mind will dictate our actions.  If we are so afraid of our neighbors that we never engage them with love and the Gospel, than the devil has won.  If we are so absorbed by the possibilities of the end that we never actually live in love in the present than the enemy has won.  

What I am calling us to is a simple understanding.  


  • This world is sinful.  Bad stuff - really bad stuff - is going to happen.      
  • Because we are sinful, we will die.  No bomb shelter, amount of money, medicine,        etc...is going to change that. 
  • Jesus came to this world to save sinners. 
  • He died to pay for my sins and the sins of the whole world. 
  • If you believe in Him you are saved from hell, death, and the devil.  You are still here on this earth to be His ambassadors to this sinful, dying, world. 
  • If we are all caught up and afraid about the sin and dying, we suck as an ambassador to this sinful, dying world.  If we are worried about ourselves we are not that good at  helping others. 
  • Remember this - Jesus did not just die; He rose again.  What that means is that death  has lost its sting.  Yes, we will die.  But a much greater yes is this - we will rise again.    No matter what this world throws at us, it cannot defeat Jesus.  He already defeated it.  

So yes people, really bad stuff is going to happen.  Guaranteed.  We, as Christ's ambassadors, need to be doing the stuff He called us to do - being neighbors in the midst of this sinful, dying world.  When terror comes to us, which it will, let it find us boldly loving, not cowering in fear.  Let it find us laughing because we have already won.  Let it find us having a good time with friends, because we are looking forward to glory.  Of all people, in all places, at all times, the Christian should be confident.  

Your friend,

Chris

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Charlottesville, racism, and where we go from here...

As many of you already know, there was a tragic incident this past Saturday.  Neo-Nazi's and other hate groups gathered and protested in Charlottesville,VA.  There was a violent clash that culminated in a person driving a car through pedestrians murdering one and injuring more.  It was horrific and homegrown terrorism.  The hatred was racial.  The hatred was vehement.  The hatred ended in death.
That was Saturday.

Then on Sunday we had our church picnic.  I am blessed to be the pastor of a very diverse congregation.  I have not sat down and tallied it, however off the top of my head I will say this - we have Hondurans, El Salvadorians, Sierra Leonians, Liberians, Nigerians, Colombians, Puerto Ricans, White Americans, African Americans, etc...in our congregation.  [And forgive me if I forgot a couple nationalities and you read this! :)] Having said that, we are not some huge congregation.  It is not sporadic diversity.  We all sit together and worship God together every Sunday morning.  And this past Sunday was our church picnic.  It was hosted by a couple themselves that are diverse - a white man and a Salvadorian woman.  They have a beautiful home and they were gracious enough to host the church family.

I sat on the edge of their pool this past Sunday and looked in the pool.  White kids.  Black kids.  Immigrant children as well.  All together.  All having fun.  No problems whatsoever.

Later that evening I went to the grocery store.  [Before I go further I will say that our congregation's diversity represents the city's diversity in which I live] In the grocery store I was one of a few white patrons and the rest were of a different skin color than myself.  I did not feel out of place.  I did not feel threatened.  The checkout lady that served me was black.  The people in the line around me were black as well.  We smiled at each other and we made small talk.

Then I got back into the car and listened to the news.  Hatred.  Anger.  Division.  That is all that I heard.  Then I checked my Facebook feed.  Hatred and division;  emotive outbursts from people that I know personally and have always found pleasant in real life interaction.  And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I asked myself a question, "who is profiting off of all this hate? Who is profiting that so many are encouraging and inviting us to hate one another?"  And make no mistake - there is money to be made off of our anger.  All the internet click bait causes advertising revenue.  Every hate group wants more sympathizers that will make them more money.  24 hour news cycles demand viewership.  Politicians need us to be motivated to vote and think in lock-step.  Hate sells.  Anger motivates us to action.  But...to what kind of action does it motivate?

There is a lot of money to be made and earthly power to be kept through the motivating power of hate.  There is very little money made and very little earthly power created through love.

And beloved, make no mistake - racism and tribalism is not new.  Even as Jesus walked the earth 2000 years ago He combated racism and tribalism.  The Jews did not talk to the Samaritans.  They were, "half breeds."  The Samaritans reciprocated.  The Greeks hated the Jews and the Jews hated the Greeks.  The Apostle's themselves were not immune.  One of the most comically sad verses in the Bible is when Peter figures out that Jesus wants to save not just the Jews but the Gentiles as well.  He is simply dumbfounded in Acts along with other Jewish followers when the Holy Spirit is given to the Gentiles in Cornelius' house.  This is vv 44-45 of Acts 10, "While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.  And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles..."  It is that little word, "even" that always gets me.  "Even them...God wants to save even them!"  

And here is the answer, "yeah people...even them."  Let us simply get this straight - we are all equally sinful and equally in need of a Savior.  Let us all remember that.  Human beings are naturally sinful.  Human beings are naturally tribal.  But remember my Christian brothers and sisters - our nature is what God gives us the Holy Spirit to overcome.

My concern is not that I can add that much to this discussion about race in America.  I am not going to solve the problem with a little blog.  However, I do have a goal.  Please beloved friends - do not allow those who want to pull the strings of hate pull you into it as well; because if we are not careful, the hate we saw in Charlottesville, endlessly reported, will make us look at the people in the pool a little differently.  It may make us look at the people in the grocery store differently.  We are all susceptible.  Please simply remember wise words from Dr. Martin Luther King, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  Or if you will not listen to Him, listen to the Apostle Paul in Romans 12, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Or if the Apostle is not authoritative enough, listen to the Christ Himself in John 15:12-13, ""This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends."

Please remember - we are all created in God's image.  We all have lost part of that image in that we have sinned.  We are all in the need of a Savior; and that Savior is Jesus, the Christ.  He gave up His life for His enemies.  And if you are unfamiliar, you and I were those enemies.  He died for you before you loved Him.  He died for me while I did not love Him.  He rose again to defeat our final adversary - death itself.  And for all who trust in Him, He intercedes on our behalf.  Please remember that the next time the media tries to get you to hate.

Your friend,

Chris



Sunday, April 23, 2017

''I am god..."

I was forwarded an article by a friend recently.  It is linked here so that you can read it.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/12/health/monogamy-sex-kerner/

As you can see, it's an article about having more than one sexual partner within a marriage.  While both, "sides" are presented, the thrust of the article is to inform the reader that monogamy - staying sexually exclusive with only your husband/wife - is not necessarily  healthy or beneficial for all marriages.  I will quote one sentence at the beginning of the article:

"consensual non-monogamy can be a healthy option for some couples and, executed thoughtfully, can inject relationships with some much-needed novelty and excitement."

I am not going to spend much time in this blog debunking the above sentence - or the article as a whole for that matter.  This blog is not about marriage or exclusive sexual relations within marriage.  I take those things to be self-evident.

Instead, I am going to spend the rest of this blog on the underpinning philosophical grounds that gives license to an author to make such ridiculous statements as the one above - and the grounds are this: I get to decide what is good, right, and moral for myself; and what I decide IS moral.

Basically, as the blog is entitled, the new American philosophy is, "I am god..."

It used to be that the world would look to their, "god" to find out what was good. People recognized that they needed authority to inform them of what is right and wrong.  Well, interestingly enough, that is still true today.  It is simply that in America, to a great extent, we have unashamedly declared that our, "god" is self and the self's desires.  Desire trumps all other things.  If I desire it, it is good.

I know that in the past people have mocked the old adage, "if it feels good, do it."  But I am convinced we have reached new heights in our adoration of self.  No longer do we even hide the fact that we are stripping away any moral constraints given to us from outside of ourselves.  At least in the past we used to make rationalized arguments about why we were allowed to break the moral code; but no longer.  Now, from popular news organizations we simply make it clear, "I get to decide what is right and wrong for myself."

This will not end well.  It cannot.  Reality will have its say.  Or, better stated, God will have His say.  When Jesus stated in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..."  He wasn't being arrogant; He was speaking truth.  He is that which is true - He is truth personified.  So when He says in Matthew 19:5, "A man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one flesh - so they are no longer two, but one" He was not stating opinion. He was stating truth.  This is the truth of marriage.  When the Father spoke to Moses and said, "you shall not commit adultery" He was speaking truth. Therefore, even if it feels good, healthy, and exciting to cheat on your spouse and have multiple sexual partners, it is adultery, it is bad, and it is unhealthy.  Even if she agrees you ought to do it and she can do it to.  Simply because two people consent to break the rules does not for that reason change the rule.  It does not matter if you, "feel" the negative effects of immorality right away - God will have His say.  Truth will have its say.  It will not end well.  

But some people do not find mongamy pleasurable.  Some people do not find life-long marriage pleasurable.  So they fit to change it.  In the past, we used to make excuses for our adultery.  There were reasons why, "well in my case I had cause for my adultery..." The existence of the excuse was evidence that the conscience was not entirely seared; the adulterer thought up an excuse.  But now, no excuses are necessary.  We simply say, "marriage is not what the ancients taught...it can be something that I make up for myself..."

Marriage is not the only area. All throughout the landscape of our society we see the evidence of, "I am god..."  We get to decide what is moral and right in our schools, society, etc...But this will not end well.

Beloved, the Bible calls us all sinners.  What that means is that we have all failed - miserably.  This is why God gave us His Son - so that He could take our sins upon Himself and pay for them; and then rise from the grave to give us new life.  However, if we are not sinners - if adultery is no longer adultery - if we can simply change the rules to fit our sinful desires - who will repent?  Why will we repent?  If we are not wrong, if we get to make it up, then why change?  The Bible's beginning premise is no longer true - we are not sinners after all!  Who knew!

The evidence is in.  You and me making up morality does not benefit anyone; including ourselves.  Reality has its say.  Our over-sexualized culture has produced no good benefits.  Disintegrating families, children born without involved fathers, and 55 million abortions that have left the physical, emotional, and psychological toll inform us of this.  We cannot wish away moral constraint - it is built within us by the God who is - whether we want Him to be or not.

It is time we come face to face with the facts.  If we do not like the moral code, the problem is with us and our sin.  Come to terms with it.  We are wrong.  You are wrong.  I am wrong.  God is right.  His way is right.  His way is holy, good, and healthy.  If we do not like that which is objectively healthy  that is because we are in dis-health; or put another way - we are sinners.

But beloved, here is the good news.  God loves sinners.  He loves sinners so much that He sent Jesus to right our moral selves.  He healed us every place we were hurting or wrong.  He died to pay for our wrongheadedness and sinful selves; and He rose again to give new life.

Beloved, please do not try and rewrite the rules; they are etched in stone.  They cannot be changed.  Let us just admit we have gone awry of the stated rules - and seek forgiveness and restoration.

You friend,

Chris





Friday, November 4, 2016

Ok...my 2 cents about this election coming up...

I am highly passionate about politics.  I get into the nuts and bolts of policy and I really do believe that what is going to happen electorally on Tuesday November 8th will indeed have far-reaching consequences for every person in our country.  Yet, I have not done that much posting on Facebook about my political opinions and that which is my desire for the outcome of the upcoming election.  Around friends with whom I know that I disagree politically, I will absolutely have discussions and we can have very interesting conversations; yet I try to always halt the conversation before it gets heated; and I'll tell you why - I firmly believe that the Lord is far more important than what is going to happen on November 8th; and I am convinced that we are putting way too much importance on who will be stewarding our Federal government for the next 4 years and way too little importance on the God who not only stewards - but holds this entire creation together; and our lack of priority is corroding that which is very important - our relationships with one another.  

Let me try and explain.  I have been blessed in my Facebook friend list to have many Trump supporters and many Hillary supporters.  I find some of the articles posted interesting and I laugh at many of the political memes.  And, if that's all that was going on - people sharing their political thoughts and all, then what I am about to write would be unnecessary.  However, I see much more.

I see much of what people post - and a lot of it is downright hateful: And through this electoral season I have encountered people from both sides basically write something along the lines of, "I simply cannot be friends with anyone who would vote for _____."  I have seen some people simply astonished at those with whom they disagree.  "What!  You're one of them...."  I have seen friendships of years vanish publicly over differing political philosophies.  It is pitiful.

I have seen people become downright vicious with those whom they disagree.  I do not think I am alone in this - I believe you have seen it as well.  [On a side note - I think we have to keep in mind that we are not safe from enacting cruelty while we type behind our computers.  What we write behind our computers is read by someone else behind their's.  We need to keep that in mind before we post something...]

I decided at the beginning stages of this election to follow the advice of the Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 2:2, "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."  You see, I already know that He is the rock of offense; and if you are going to dislike me or unfriend me, I hope it is because of my adoration for Him; not my affinity for a political figure.  I yearn to be defined by my love for Jesus - not my love for a political party or a political candidate; because this is what I know - no matter who is elected on November 8th, this world is going to remain sinful and is desperately in need of the knowledge of the Savior.

That is not to say that I think that what happens with this election is unimportant.  I do not believe that.  I believe it is very important.  I simply do not believe it is of paramount importance; and my focus ought always to be on that which is paramount; perhaps better stated - He who is paramount.

Take a deep breathe and look at the nations of the world.  Find the nation that is sinless. [hint - there isn't one.]  Find the nation that has somehow found the secret to governing so well that ALL its people prosper. [Hint - there isn't one].

I know that many of my friends yearn for government as it was when we were founded.  Most of my friends that want that though...are not black.  I would not want to be black and live at the founding of our nation.  That would suck. Badly.

I know that many of my friends yearn for government to give, "rights" to more and more people.  Yet...a government that bestows rights - has control over those rights.  That is terrifying.  According to the Declaration of Indpendence, [of which my Bible agrees in this point] my rights are given to me by God - not government.  It is government's duty to protect rights - not bestow them.  Government needs to stop in the box given it by God.  An ever encroaching government is no good.  At all.

One of the things I find so impressive about Jesus is that when He physically walked the earth 2000 years ago, his political nation was under military occupation by an invading Pagan force.  Yet, in the Gospels, Jesus spends absolutely zero time talking about this political reality.  I truly believe I know why.  It wasn't worth His time.  You see, Rome today [the military force that occupied Israel at the time of Jesus] is simply a city in Italy today.  It is but a mere fleabite of what it once was.  Yet, the people that Jesus engaged with at that time are eternally enjoying heaven or eternally suffering in hell.  Cities fall.  Nations todder.  But people live forever.

Have you ever wondered why the greatest commandment - and the 2nd - are what they are?  For those of you that do not know them they can be found in Mark 12:30-31, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."  Do you want to know why these are the greatest commandments? The answer is actually quite simple - they deal with that which is eternal - God and your neighbor.

I do not want to lose friends over politics.  As a matter of fact, I can assuredly tell you that as long as you desire friendship - it will never end simply because of your political views.  I make that promise.
Beloved, I know a few things most assuredly:

1.  This world is sinful.  I am a part of this sinful world.  Therefore, I am part of the problem.  There is only one cure for it - and His name is Jesus.  I must strive to love Him.

2.  People are very important.  Love them.

One last impressive thing about Jesus.  He chose some interesting characters to be a part of His 12 Disciples.  Two that are pertinent to this blog post and impress me are Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector.  For those that are not familiar with Biblical history, a Zealot was an individual that was part of a faction of individuals at the time of Christ that wanted to overthrow the Romans - by any means necessary.  They were militaristic and violent.

Jewish Tax Collectors were hated by the regular Jewish layman at the time of Jesus.  They were traitors to their country in that they paid the Roman government for the, "privilege" of being a customs officer and taxing the Jews.  They would often take more than what was demanded of them by the Romans and enrich themselves on the backs of the poor Jews that were being oppressed.

Jesus could have chosen anyone to be His followers.  I smile when I think of the first night when Simon and Matthew are at the same table as Jesus' disciples.  Just a few days prior Simon would have wanted to kill Matthew and Matthew would have wanted to hand Simon over...but now - after an encounter with Jesus - they were on the same spiritual team.  That, my friends, is impressive.

I want to work on being that kind of guy.  I am far from it now.  But Lord, I pray I will get closer.  I will do my Christian duty and vote.  I will pray for the direction of this nation. I will most likely stay up late on election night watching the returns.  I am interested.  But Lord, let me not be too interested...

Your friend,

Chris 

Monday, July 18, 2016

#BlackLivesMatter #AllLivesMatter #Hate #Love.

I have hesitated to write or blog about any of what has been happening in the news lately simply because so much has already been written and so much has already been said.  However, I thought that as a Christian and as a pastor it would be important for me to write down a couple of things.

The first thing I want to write about is:

#BlackLivesMatter

I am not here going to discuss any particular methods used by the powers that be in the movement, nor any possible extreme elements of the movement.  I am here going to simply discuss the words and philosophy behind many regular people who say, "black lives matter."

I think the best way to put this so that all people would understand the thinking behind the movement is this:  Everyone who knows me knows that I am Pro-Life.  I absolutely, unequivocally, unquestionably believe that human personhood begins at the conception of egg and sperm inside of a woman.  From the very first cell-division, personhood begins.  Therefore to take a pill to eradicate that conception, to physically go inside of a woman and eradicate this life, is to commit murder.  Therefore, I believe that over 54 million human beings in our country have been willfully murdered.  In this way, I absolutely believe that the powers that be in this country, the structures of our country, do not believe that babies lives matter.

Now, imagine me standing outside of a Planned Parenthood facility - a facility dedicated, in my mind, to infanticide.  Imagine me holding a sign that says, #BabiesLivesMatter.  You would get what I was saying.  I don't think anyone would say to me, "hey-are you trying to say that adults' lives don't matter?  Are you denying the importance of adults?"  No...people would get that I was staking out a position - that this is a place that does not care about babies.  This is a place that indiscriminately kills babies.  Therefore, to highlight that babies' lives do not matter here, I am making the statement that, "Babies matter."

In this way I see that many in the #AllLivesMatter movement and the #BlackLivesMatter movement are talking past each other.  They are not even having the same discussion.

I have many parishioners in the congregation of which I serve that are black.  I happen to live in a County in Maryland where the majority of people that live here are black.  I have spoken to many [not all] but many of the black parishioners I serve - and many of the black parishioners which I serve as their pastor expressed to me that they do not believe that their lives mattered to the powers that be in our society as much as other people's lives.  Many expressed that as far as law enforcement is concerned, as far as opportunity is concerned, as far as the structures of society are concerned, they do not feel as though their lives mattered as much as others.  The great majority in the Black Lives Matter movement are simply pointing to what they believe is their experience - and their experience is that they do not believe that they are treated equitably and fairly.

Now, this is either true or false.  Just as my above example of abortion being murder is true or false. If abortion is not murder, than I am saying Babies' lives matter and...well...no one is treating them as if they do not.  If Abortion is murder, then I need to highlight the infanticide under our nose, I need to work tirelessly to help mothers who are considering abortion to carry to term and value life, and I need to work tirelessly to educate people on the importance of babies.  I will continue to advocate that laws are passed that value human life.  I will not back down - because I believe that to back down would be to passively say that murder is ok.

The same goes with this movement.  If black people are treated by the powerful in our country as less valuable, then that absolutely, unequivocally needs to be addressed.  If it is false, then we need to address the falsehood head on.  I am not going answer the question whether this claim is true or false.  That is actually not the point of the post.  However, that is the real question being asked.  At the very least, let us have a discussion about the real question.  I am very tired of seeing people build very weak straw men and then easily knocking them down.  The question is not, "do all lives matter?"  The question is not, "do black lives matter more than other people's lives?"  Perhaps fringe people think that.  Perhaps people are co-opting the movement to say that.  However, I do not believe any reasonable person is trying to say that - on either side of the issue, I do not believe anyone is saying that.

However, this leads me to my calling as a Christian.  As a Christian I am called to love my neighbor as I love myself.  Remember it was our Lord that said in Luke 6:27-36, ""But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."

With this in mind, if I knew that my neighbor thought that Christians were jerks who were judgy and mean, I would be compelled to go the extra mile with that neighbor to show, to the best of my ability, that I, as a Christian, love them.  If I know that they have a pre-conceived notion about me, I take extra care with them.  This is love.  If I know that my black friends and neighbors believe that they are being singled out and treated as if they are, "bad" off the bat, then for the love of God go the extra mile with them.  Tell them you love them.  Tell them you care about them.  Tell them that you cannot solve all of society's ills, but you can tell them that you love them and value them.

If I know that the police in my area are on edge and they feel attacked and hated by the community which they serve, I, as a Christian, believe it is my absolute duty to take greater care as I deal with them.  If I get pulled over, I answer, "yes officer" and "no officer" and give them the utmost respect.  When I see an officer I say, "thank you for your service."  I also have police officers in my own family, and I can say first hand that what they do is indispensable.  This is what is called being Christian - loving those who are hurting.  If I know you are hurting, I am called to be a person of care, not anger.

Beloved, we must remember that there are a great many people that make money off of our anger.  They need us to keep watching.  They want to make us angry because they believe that keeping us divided into groups and sub/groups will keep them in power.  Division is not the work of God - it is the work of the enemy.  Remember that.  Your anger gets them to have you in their grip, but it gets us no closer to Christ and our neighbor.

Please know that I am not here advocating for any government program or political persuasion.  I am writing as a Christian.  I serve a God who loves us so much that though we did not care about Him, though in thought, word, and deed we treated Him as if His life did not matter, He came down from heaven and became one of us.

I serve a God who became flesh and cast out demons, raised the dead, healed the sick, blind, and lame, and walked on water.  Take a close look at His life - He healed the Jew and the Genitle.  He ministered to the Samaritan and the Centurion.  Every single person - no matter what group - was accepted by Christ as they came to Him and believed on Him.

When I treated God as though His life did not matter, He treated me as though I was all that mattered.  That is what the cross is.  He died for my sin and He rose again to give me life.

Beloved, it is time to turn off the news and to love our neighbors - all of them.  Those that feel marginalized, please, go that extra mile.  Walk two with them.  Hear them.  And then give them Jesus Christ - He is better than any party or group or movement.  He is the Savior of the world.

Chris