Monthly Archives: July 2014

Acting Like Christians in an Election Year….


Just a quick question this week!  I’m wondering what would happen if all the people who profess to be Christian in the state of Kansas (a majority, I’m sure) declared that the FIRST TIME THAT SOMEONE LIED ABOUT, OR MISLED PEOPLE ABOUT THE OPPONENT,  OR DEFAMED THE CHARACTER OF AN OPPONENT THAT THEY WOULD NOT VOTE FOR THAT CANDIDATE?  In this time when “Fact Checkers” are necessary in order to check the truthfulness of political advertisements on TV and radio that would be a radical move for Christians to make.

Would it make a difference?   Of course it would !!  So why are we not doing that?   I seem to remember that the 9th Commandment (Exodus 20:16) says: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”   Untruthful and misleading information and defamation of character of opponents in politics is “bearing false witness.”    When we , as Christians, support those who do so, we are supporting the breaking of the 9th commandment  just as much as the politicians who do so.  .   Are you doing so?   Is that what you want to do?   Think about it!!

By our acquiescence in giving those politicians who do this our vote, we as Christians are actually as guilty as those who do the untruthful mudslinging  that defames and degrades the political process these days!    Is this what Christians want to do?  Is this what Christians want to do?   REALLY!!!????

What would happen if all the churches in Kansas, all the Christians in Kansas, demanded truthfulness and honesty from politicians before giving them their vote—at state and national levels?    Would it make a difference?   It would make a world changing difference in our political process!!  Why don’t we try it!!??

If you agree—share this post with your friends.  Make it go viral!  Making the difference starts with YOU!  Quit just “talking the talk” and begin to “walk the walk” as Christians!

An Attitude of Apathy?

In the early history of the Christian Church, heresies were a major concern.   When a person or group strayed from what the church determined to be the orthodox Way, they were branded heretics.   Being so branded could be dangerous—it could cost you your life!

In today’s society heresies are no big deal, and certainly not life-threatening.   At most people may be branded as “wrong-headed, wrong-thinking”—–misinformed but tolerated.   At worst persons may be expelled from some churches.

Some call this change “tolerance”.    On the one hand, tolerance is a good thing, in that we no longer “burn at the stake” those who differ from us religiously.   On the other hand, much of what we call “tolerance”, I am afraid,  is better named “apathy” or “indifference”.

In my opinion, apathy is one of the greatest problems the Church has today.   Not only are non-Christians apathetic toward the Church, but the Church itself is apathetic about issues that bring great harm to God’s children.

I need to define terms here:    According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of apathy is:   Apathy (noun) the feeling of not having much emotion or interest; lack of feeling or emotion, impassiveness;  lack of interest or concern, indifference.     The word comes from the Greek apatheia—-literally meaning “no feeling”.   

I hear all too often these phrases from Christian persons about problems today in our  large, diverse and complex  society.   They are warning signs of apathy that is infecting our churches and us as Jesus’ disciples:

  • “Nothing can be done about it”
  • “You can’t fight city hall.”
  • “One person can’t change the world”
  • “There’s no hope.”
  • “GET REAL!!”
  • “GIVE UP!”
  • “What’s the use?””
  • “What can anybody do about it?   Nothing!”

These phrases  reflect a warning about religion that is found in the 18th Century I  writings of the British statesman and writer, Edmund Burke:   “Nothing is so fatal to religion as indifference, which is, at least, half infidelity.”    He links the  indifference of the church to society’s problems as  lack of faith in God!

And in the 20th century, psychoanalyst Rollo May reflects Burke’s thinking in writing that “the most tragic thing of all in the long run is the ultimate attitude ‘It doesn’t matter’ “.

All churches, from mainline to evangelical to Pentecostal, are all in danger of this attitude as they confront, or fail to confront the evils of modern day society.   Jesus was pretty clear in his message as to what the church was to be about—-it was to “love God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength, AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”    That Great Commandment of Jesus indicates that social justice for all, economic justice for all, and political equality for all is important.   Over and over in the ministry of Jesus he brought up the issues of social injustice and threw them in the face of the rulers and high priests, just as the prophets had done before him.  Long before Jesus, the prophet Micah had spoken for God in similar words:   “He has told you, O mortal, what is good;  and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God!”   Jesus’ confrontation of injustice in the social, economic and religious life of his day is what caused  Jesus’  crucifiction!    It wasn’t Jesus’   preaching  about love, which he did, but it was his confrontation of  the social and economic issues of the domination system of his day and his actions  against them that led to his death!

The church of Jesus Christ is called to do the same today if we are to lay claim to being disciples of Jesus.    We are faced with a similar domination system of the rich and powerful today that, as in Jesus’  day, uses their wealth and power to become even more wealthy and powerful since they control the political  and governmental system.

There are thousands of examples at the current time I could point to, but I will list just a few to make my point:

  • A Congress in Washington and a legislature in Kansas that passes laws the benefit the wealthy and the huge corporations who contributed to them retaining power , resulting in the shrinkage of the Middle Class and the  the reduction of the standard of living for millions of people in the U.S.
  • Refusal to pass a national minimum wage that would enable two working parents to support a family.  In current times this refusal results in poverty for many people.
  • Witholding of the extention of Medicaid in Kansas, even though the medical profession and hospitals plead for it and point out that many lives will be lost due to inadequate medical care.
  • The increase of poverty and homelessness that is worsened by reduction of food stamps and increasing use of part time employment in order to reduce need to provide benefits and thus  add  to profits for the stockholders or owners of businesses.
  • Efforts to balance the budget rather than care for the needy at both state and federal levels.
  • The use of wealth to elect those who are favorable to big business and its ruthlessness pursuit of a “free market system” that benefits the rich at the expense of the poor.
  • The lies of politicians and the malicious attacks on the  character of those who oppose them that we see as the midterm elections draw near, funded by the wealthy and powerful to maintain  their wealth and power.

How is the church responding to these and other concerns?   THE SILENCE IS DEADLY!   At most, the church is trying to do something about the “symptoms” of these problems, but nothing about eradicating the problems.    Have you heard the churches speaking out about the lies that politicians make in their TV ads?   What would happen if the churches told the politicians—-you lie to us and we won’t vote for you because we believe in honesty and truthfulness?    If the churches took such a stand, it could bring about great change in our political discourse.   It isn’t happening!

What would happen if even half of the people who claim to be Christian and go to church in Wichita would write their legislators and governor and say, “if you want our vote in the next election—extend Medicaid?   We don’t want Kansans dying for want of good medical care that is available.   We don’t want Kansas children growing up without adequate medical and dental care.  People are more important than politics!” Agreed, one Christian writing the governor would end up with the letter in the wastebasket.   Thousands of letters threatening to elect someone else would get the attention of the governor and lawmakers!

This is not happening and that is why I say that the Church of Jesus Christ is not following the great commandment.   It has succumbed to “apathy”, and is in danger of not being the church.

While we as the church may SAY we are trying to help, we are DOING very little.   We are treating the symptoms, like feeding the homeless, but not advocating a solution to the problems that cause homelessness like the low minimum wage.   We contribute money to clinics that try to treat the poor and homeless, but do not go to the root of the problem that is found in the refusal for political reasons by the governor of Kansas to extend Medicaid.

Perhaps this poem (written to be sung to the tune of “Onward Christian Soldiers” is true of the Church today :

Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of God;

Brothers we are treading where we’ve always trod;

We are all divided, many bodies we,

Very strong on doctrine, weak on charity.

—–Quoted by David C.K. Watson, One in the Spirit

Churches banded together as the “Body of Christ” can make a difference in the world today.   An historical example can be seen in the black churches during the 1960″s as they joined together with the result being the Civil Rights Movement.   They shed their apathy.   They took great risks.   They achieved great results.

The black churches put their faith in God who is on the side of the poor, the unhealthy, the outcasts of society   They put their faith in a God who desires that all of God’s children be blessed with social justice, economic opportunity, and be free from oppression by the rich and powerful.    Is the church today willing to do the same today?





Your Love is a Gift Only You Can Give!


Love is a gift we give to others.   As with all gifts given out of love, the gift often blesses the giver as much or more than the receiver of the gift.    Our God is a God of love and gives to us each day because of the great love God has for each of us.    Jesus taught that since God’s love is at the core of all God’s actions, then it should also be at the core of our actions.  He taught that the Great Commandment is to “love the Lord Your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself.”

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church taught that love must be at the core of everything that we do as Christians.  In I Corinthians 13 he says that you can speak in tongues but if you aren’t doing so with love then you are just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.   You can be a prophet and understand all things and have all knowledge and have faith that can remove mountains, but if you are not loving, it all means nothing.   He goes on to say that you can give away all your possessions and sacrifice your body, but if you are not doing so out of love,  it means nothing.    He sums up by saying:  “Love never ends.  But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease, as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 

We know that if we receive something given grudgingly and not lovingly that we feel disappointment and not joy.   We know that if we give our children gifts and they don’t feel the love we have for them behind the gifts, and often the sacrifice  behind those gifts, the gifts mean little to them.   The same is true for other family members and especially our spouses and significant others in our lives.    Gifts are only seen as gifts if they come from a loving heart.

True—we can be hurt by loving others.   Sometimes they take advantage of us.  Sometimes they reject our love.   Sometimes they do not reciprocate.   Loving makes us vulnerable—but not loving makes us miserable.

Recently I came across this poem written by Harold Sandall in 1912. It expresses what I’ve tried to say above much better than my prose is able to do.  I’d like to share it with you:

Love that is hoarded, molds at last

Until we know some day

The only thing we ever have

Is what we give away


And kindness that is never used

But hidden all alone

Will slowly harden till it is

As hard as any stone.


It is what we always hold

That we will lose someday;

The only things we ever keep

Are what we give away.


Have you shared your love today for those you hold dear?  We don’t know how many tomorrows we have—-let’s show our love today!   Your love is a gift that only you can give!


God Never Gives Up On Us

Fear of Abandonment!  Perhaps this is the greatest fear that human beings have.  It stalks us from the time we are born until the time we die!   We see evidence of that fear in many different circumstances:

  • In babies and young children who feel abandoned when they cannot see their parents  Research has shown that babies who are abandoned in hospitals by their mothers and fathers, if not regularly held by nurses or other aides at the hospital may well die for no physical reason.   Those who survive will be likely to have permanent psychotic problems for the rest of their lives.   All of us who have been parents recognize the cry of fear when a baby thinks its mother has left it—-all who teach school or who are parents remember kindergarten children who are away from their mothers for the first time—-clinging to their mothers or fathers and crying—-afraid that the parent won’t come back for them—-fear of abandonment!
  • Adults have the same fears.  Many are the number of men and women in our society who put up with both verbal and physical abuse and violence from their mates rather than face the fact that their mates might abandon them.   As a pastor I have heard this many times from both men and women who are in the midst of divorce—-“I feel lost and rejected and abandoned!”
  • One of my saddest experiences as a pastor was walking into a hospital room or nursing home room and seeing a patient in the midst of great suffering or even actively dying—AND THE PERSON WAS ALONE!   At the same time, it was always amazing to watch that person’s countenance change the minute myself or a loved one or friend walked into the room.   Those who suffer are less anxious, and even have less pain we are told, when someone they love or care for deeply is willing to walk with them through the valley of the shadow.
  • As a hospice chaplain, I learned that one of the seven greatest fears that dying persons have is DYING ALONE.   Abandonment!   Terminal patients often feel abandoned by doctors who don’t see them as often;  by friends who don’t know what to say and so stay away; and even by family that doesn’t visit as much because they are uncomfortable with the realization that the person is dying.   FEAR OF ABANDONMENT IS A REAL FEAR FOR MANY AT THE END OF LIFE AS WELL AS AT THE BEGINNING.
  • One other fear is FEAR OF ABANDONMENT BY GOD.   In hospice we referred to it as “Spiritual Pain.”   It is a feeling by the patient that God has abandoned them because of their worthlessness or sinfulness.   Spiritual pain can result in great anger, or great sorrow, and is difficult for the patient to overcome.  Spiritual pain can be the cause of death of hospice patients before the terminal disease overcomes them.

The Bible speaks often to this fear of abandonment.    One of the places it speaks is in the book of Genesis.

God said (to Noah),  “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you for all future generations.   I have set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.   When I bring clouds over the earth  and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”   (Genesis 9:12-15

The Hebrew word for “bow” here is keshet—and it may be used to refer both to a weapon or a natural phenomenon—-to a “bow” (as in bow and arrow) or to a “bow” (as in rainbow).

Some scholars think that the context of this passage tells us that God is placing his “unstrung bow” in the clouds as a reminder of the covenant God has made, not just with Israel but with all creation, to never again use God’s power to destroy humankind, no matter how terrible the aggravation we may give God.

Regardless of how “bow” is translated, the message is the same—-the “bow in the clouds” is a constant reminder that God will never give up on us.   This is the heart of the gospel that Jesus is at the center of.   This is the heart of the gospel that the Apostle Paul proclaimed.   God loves his creation and that love is not something we earn but are freely given.

Jesus tells his disciples shortly before his death:   I will not leave you orphaned.   I am coming to you.   In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.   (John 14:18-19)

Jesus’ final words to his disciples at the close of Matthew’s Gospel are:  “And remember I am with you always, even to the close of the age.”

Paul reassured the Corinthian Christians with these words:   “He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.   God is faithful, by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

And Paul’s writes the ultimate words of assurance of God’s love in his letter to the Romans:   “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  ….No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation , will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   (Romans 8:35-39)

God is with you.    You cannot change that.    God will never abandon you.   As the prophet  Isaiah writes:   “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:   “do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.   When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.    For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.   I give Egypt as your ransom.   Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.   Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.   (Isaiah 43:1-4)

The Psalmist sings:   “The Lord is my shepherd.   I shall not want.   He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters, he restores my soul.   He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his names sake.   Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, he is with me; his rod and his staff comfort me.   He prepares me a table in the midst of my enemies; he anoints my head with oil; my cup overflows.   Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”   (Psalm 23)

God loves us as God’s children!   He will not abandon us—ever.   In our joys and in our sorrows; in our triumphs and our failures,  when life is beautiful and when it is stormy, God is there.   Despite anything you or I do—-God loves us and will never abandon us.

Post-Resurrection Christians in a Pre-Christian World


Text:     Luke 3: 1-6


Charles Dickens began his novel about the French Revolution:  A Tale of Two Cities, with the words:    “These were the best of times, these were the worst of times….”

Luke, the gospel that is every historians favorite, might have began his gospel with similar words.     If we could go back and see how life was lived in those times we might agree that they were “the worst of times”, while the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, signaled the coming of the  “best of times” with the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God on earth that he proclaimed.

Into the  “worst of times” came John the Baptizer—-preaching a “message of repentance” to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.  We might ask how  a “message of repentance” prepared the way for Jesus?    Was it because people were so bad and sinful?    No—–it is because we misunderstand the word “repentance” these days.   We have come to understand it as “feeling sorry for having disobeyed God” or “regretting the bad things we have done.   That was not the meaning of repentance in John’s day.   In the Greek the word is metanoia— and it’s meaning is “turning around”.    John was urging people to be willing to turn around and go in a different direction—the direction Jesus was coming to proclaim— to turn toward the Kingdom of God.    The Kingdom of God was breaking in on earth—-this Kingdom is not “heaven” or “pie in the sky bye and bye”—-the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed was a new way of living—-a very different way of living.   We see glimpses of   the way of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed  throughout  the gospels .   Jesus proclamation of the Kingdom of God set  the business of living in this world in the conventional way on its head in many ways: 

  In God’s Kingdom, Jesus said:

  • Blessed are the poor”—-not the rich.
  • Blessed are the meek”—-not the powerful. The meek will inherit the earth instead of the conventional expectation that the powerful and rich will do so and then pass it on to their heirs.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers—-they, not the army generals as in Jesus time, will be called children of God
  • You have heard ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ but I say to you Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WHAT THE WORLD WOULD BE LIKE IF GOD RULED IN EVERYONE’S LIFE.

These are descriptions Jesus gives and many more of the way life in the Kingdom of God will be different.

The gospel writer, Luke, carefully dated the coming of the Christ by referring to who ruled at the time.   Let’s start our examination of “bad times in Palestine” by looking at those who ruled:

  • Emperor Tiberius:   The stepson of the great Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus. He was never accepted by other Roman leaders because he was not considered a natural heir. He was neither well-loved nor respected.
  • Pontius Pilate:   had risen from a “middle-management” position to become procurator of Judea in 26 A.D.   He had a gift for antagonizing his Jewish subjects. He knew his hold on Judea was tenuous, so Pilate made up for that weakness by periodically unleashing his soldiers on the citizenry, crucifying hundreds at a time of those who challenged him.   He was feared and despised.
  • Herod Antipas:   A dangerous ruler, designated “King of the Jews” but ruling only with the power of Rome behind him.   He spent a lot money on building cities and pagan temples to impress the Romans—levying high taxes on the Jewish peasants to pay for them. . A paranoid ruler—-feeling everyone was out to get him—he murdered many of those around him he suspected of treachery or even those who spoke out against his evil ways such as John the Baptist whom he beheaded at this wife’s request and gave the head to her on a platter.
  • Caiphas and Annas:   Caiphas was Annas’ son-in-law and together their loyalties lay more with maintaining their shared place of power and wealth they had won from the Romans who appointed them rather than loyalty to God and God’s people.

These rulers in these “worst of times” for the Jews ruled over a culture that:

  • was organized into political entities that included city officials, territorial governors, and heads of state—-all of whom drew their support from the high taxes levied on the peasants
  • Was organized around the worship of many pagan gods.
  • Was designed to support the political and economic power of those who were rich and powerful who lived by different rules and standards than the common people.   Among those rich and powerful were the temple priests and the Pharisees and Sadducees.
  • A culture where about 1 to 2% the population of the Empire were rich and powerful; those who worked for and supported them about 5%  and the other 93% were peasants living a subsistence life or below—just enough to barely live on and survive.   [When Jesus taught his disciples to pray saying—–“Give us this day our daily bread” and “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” he was speaking of the two most constant worries of the peasant class—-food and freedom from debt. If you had no food, you starved.   If you couldn’t pay your debts, including your high taxes, you were thrown in prison and if you had land it was seized by your creditor to satisfy the debt.
  • A Culture where the religious structure and leaders worked in concert with the political/governmental power of Rome to maintain their wealth and power and carry out their temple agenda that kept them wealthy.
  • A culture where many people were lost and perished every day—a violent culture.


DOES IT SOUND FAMILIAR?   The similarities to our country today are apparent:

  • We also are a country where the rich and powerful live by different rules and standards than the common people and where those with money and power have become popular status figures.
  • A country where 10% of the people have 60% of the total income with the other 40% of the money divided among the other 90% of the population.
  • A country that worships many pagan gods—-we just call them by different names—-money, power, pleasure, comfort, sports, etc.
  • A country where people with no conscience kill and rob on a daily basis.   Where life is cheap.   A country whose children kill and maim their teachers and fellow classmates. A country where multiple murders are committed in movie theaters and at marathons. We live in a country where violence is commonplace.
  • A country where the wealth of a Beverly Hills exists in stark contrast to the filth and poverty of a Watts in the same city of Los Angeles.
  • A country where the lonely and the aged, the poor and the mentally challenged, the children with no access to health care and not enough to eat, the homeless, and the misfits of society remain largely unseen and uncared about.   Programs to help them, such as affordable health care and extension of Medicaid benefits are the first ones cut from government budgets or discarded for political reasons.   We reduce food stamps and aid for struggling families in order to reduce the federal deficit—–while huge corporations that contribute to re-election of our legislators continue to receive tax breaks and other benefits they do not need.
  • We live in Kansas—-also a place where children go to bed hungry, without health care, and are homeless even though both parents work—-but for indecently low wages that can’t support their families—and we still support those who have made the lives of these vulnerable people worse and fail to speak out about the lack of fairness and the injustice of the wage system that gives business CEO’s 250% higher wages than those who work for them.
  • A place where religious leaders are too often in close collusion with political and governmental powers in order to get their limited negative agendas taken care of legally.
  • This is a country ruled more and more by men and women whose only aim is to do whatever is necessary to stay in power, whether right or wrong does not matter, —-like modern day Herod’s and Pilates



There are many people wondering in the wilderness of drug abuse, of broken relationships, of too little income, of homelessness.   There are those who have given up hope and struggle from day to day to fight down the urge to end their lives.   There are those filled with anger who want to strike out at the world that abuses them and uses them.   These wanderers in the wilderness are young and old, rich and poor, male and female, all skin colors; but they all feel vulnerable in a world that seems to have gone crazy. They are trying to raise families in this world where even the schools are unsafe for their children. They are not aware of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed.   They are waiting for someone to show them, not tell them, a different way—-a way that will give them and their children hope and happiness and a new beginning. They are waiting for us to show them by our lives how to follow the Great Commandment of Jesus:   “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself.   That is a vision for the church—-To live the Great Commandment in the community that surrounds us.

For people are wandering around in this wilderness today, having lost their moral, emotional and economic way—–yearning for something better and not quite knowing what that something better is.   They are yearning for Jesus to show them the way—-a different way of living that leads to a society where all of God’s people are treated equally, fairly, and lovingly.   Jesus proclaimed that way.   He lived that way.   THE CHURCH IS JESUS’ BODY AND NEEDS TO SHOW THAT WAY TODAY.    AND WE CAN’T JUST “TALK ABOUT IT” WE NEED TO “WALK THE WAY!”

Listen to what one of the Millenial Generation wrote to you and me….Post-Resurrection Christians……

Do you know, Do you Understand

That you represent Jesus to me?


Do you know, do you understand

That when you treat me with gentleness,

It raises the question in my mind that maybe Jesus is gentle, too?

Maybe he isn’t someone who laughs when I’m hurt?


Do you know, do you understand

That when you listen to my questions and you don’t laugh,

I think, “What if Jesus is interested in my questions, also?


Do you know, do you understand

That when I hear you talk about arguments and conflict and scars from your past

That I think, “Maybe I am just a regular person

Instead of a bad, no-good person who deserves abuse?”


If you care, I think maybe God cares—

And then there’s this flame of hope that burns inside me,

And for a while, I’m afraid to breathe

Because it might go out.


Do you know, do you understand

That your words are His words?

Your face, His face to someone like me?


Please be who you say you are.

Please, God, don’t let this be another trick.

Please, let this be real.



Do you know, do you understand

That you represent Jesus to me?