Between the Kingdom and the Culture

For my final post of October, during which I have published a blog post each day of the month, I have decided to do one that blends kingdom theology, contemporary culture, and politics. By means of a “Top Ten List,” I will attempt a serious, if not comprehensive, response to the following question:

As a citizen of the kingdom of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ, what major points of interface to I observe between the kingdom and the contemporary culture around me? Continue reading

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On The Cusp of a New Reformation

The church is unique among human institutions. It is composed of flawed and fallible people, but it serves a divine purpose in a way that nothing else can. The former reality means that it will, over time, suffer the consequences of human fallibility. It will experience imbalance, misdirection, and, sometimes, intentional corruption.

Because it serves a divine purpose, however, we have reason to hope that, when necessary, it can be purged of its excesses and reformed so that it once again serves the purpose of God more faithfully. Continue reading

In Defense of the Critics of the Church

The late Roger Ebert (1942-2013) was something of a hero of mine. In some ways, I identified with him. Like me, he was a portly writer with a good sense of humor who lived in Chicago, my second-favorite city. Mostly, though, I respected him, especially for the Roger Ebertcourage and fortitude he showed while suffering a debilitating and disfiguring cancer which ultimately took his life.

Roger Ebert was a professional critic. He criticized movies for a living, and he was good at it. He was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Continue reading

Coping With IPR (Involuntary Premature Retirement)

In the spring of 2008, I experienced the onset of a disorder for which I was totally unprepared. The symptoms reached maximum severity during the first year. After that, the intensity subsided, but the symptoms have persisted. While uncomfortable and discouraging, they are not, so far, totally debilitating.

The disorder, which seems to be on the rise among people (especially men) of a certain age (55-64) is commonly known as IPR—Involuntary Premature Retirement. I have pursued several avenues of treatment, and while their effectiveness has varied, none has resulted in total eradication of my symptoms. With each passing month, the possibility of full remission becomes more and more unlikely. Continue reading

I Do What I Can

There is very little I can do about anything these days. I have no wealth, and I own no property. Financially, my net worth is roughly zero. I have no power and an extremely limited sphere of influence. Seven years without a paying job will do that.

I do have a loving wife who has stood by me without complaint for more than forty-two years, even when things have been really rough and our circumstances difficult to comprehend. I also have an eight-year-old grandson, whom I adore, and a beautiful daughter who is making me proud as a hard-working nurse and single mom. I am trying to do everything I can to pour myself into their lives and to use my limited means and resources to help make their lives richer. Their happiness is my reward. Continue reading

The View from the Other Side

I’ve recently begun to think of my life as a long train ride to a destination about which I know very little for certain, but my impression is that it is a good place to go. Arrival time is not announced, but the older we passengers get, the more the conductor encourages us to be ready to disembark at any time.

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One thing I’ve noticed. For most of this journey so far, I could observe the passing countryside through the windows on one side of the train only. The windows on the other side were obscured in some way. I could see movement through them, but the images appeared blurred or distorted. Continue reading

A New Direction in Simple, Practical Faith

Have you ever noticed that, when you first identify with a new group and adopt its beliefs and tenets as your own, the members of that group commend you for your wisdom and discernment? Later, when your experience and careful consideration lead you to change 1your mind about one or more elements of the group’s shared beliefs, you are regarded as having somehow lost your ability to be wise and discerning. Instead, you have apparently succumbed to influences that have led you into error.

Or, as a friend of mine put it, “I was a prophet right up to the moment I became a heretic.” Continue reading

Leaders and Loss

Most people, including religious leaders, follow a course most suitable to their natural interests and inclinations. That is the path of least resistance where the surroundings are familiar and comfortable. A skilled leader can even make the pursuit of comfort, familiarity, and security sound noble while the path of suffering and sacrifice seems unreasonable, irresponsible, or possibly evil.

During his lifetime, Jesus was never popular with religious leaders. He was too honest, too self-sacrificing. He didn’t play the angles for his own benefit. And he loved being with people who could not enhance his social standing.

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Instead of wringing our hands over the waning influence of religion in our culture, we should be looking for leaders like that. Show me a leader who cares more for the kingdom than for his or her personal interests and agenda, and I’ll show you fertile soil for religious renewal.

In the twilight of my life, I look for leaders whose principles have cost them something. I look for teachers and guides who have sacrificed comfort and security in the service of conscience and conviction. Not every leader suffers loss as a consequence of faithfulness. Only the great ones.

 

The Main Reason Why I Write

I recently happened upon the website of the Bible college from which I graduated forty-five years ago. I was particularly drawn to the audio recordings of presentations, mainly sermons, made in the school’s chapel services over the past few years. For nearly three hours, I listened to excerpts, ranging in length from two to twenty minutes each, from a dozen or more preachers. Many of the speakers were men I knew personally from my years as a student.

It’s hard to describe how the experience of listening to those voices from the past affected me. At first, I was nearly swept away on a wave of nostalgia, as their familiar speech patterns took me back to a time when life seemed simpler and the future was filled with promise. The longer I listened, however, the less positive I felt about the experience. Continue reading

Something You Need to Know About Me

I’ve been a Christian all my life. Between 2008 and 2012, however, owing to some difficult personal circumstances, I came within a hair’s breadth of giving up on Christian faith and religion altogether. Instead of that, and with nothing left to lose, I swept all my earlier beliefs and assumptions off the table and asked myself if there were any aspect of my former faith system that I felt I could not, in good conscience, abandon. I found there was one: the historicity of Jesus Christ.

I asked myself if there was any record of his life and teaching that I could depend on, at least rudimentarily. I determined there was no intellectual reason to reject the essence of the testimony of the Gospel writers. I made the subjective decision to regard the Gospels as fundamentally trustworthy records of the life of Jesus. I began to look at all of life, including my assumptions about God, through the lens of the life and teaching of Jesus. Continue reading