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Category: Current Events

When the world rejects your prayers, pray anyway

It didn’t take long after the tragedy in Las Vegas for the bloviating and hyperbole to begin. While many expressed shock and sadness for both the victims and for the city itself, sadly others took the massacre as a call to arms to press their political agendas. In the name of compassion, this latter group rejected the compassion of a country that was shocked into momentary paralysis as though they even had right to reject it in the first place.

Armed with the principle of never letting a crisis go to waste, they insist, “No! Only action is compassion.” And so, they shame, guilt, and demand action even before the blood is dry.

This has always bothered me. While the nation is still doubled-over in shock, using intense grief to promote an agenda—no matter how sincere—seems to amount to little more than emotional abuse. Any grief or pastoral counselor will tell you, decisions made in the heat of emotion almost never turn out well. In seminary, I had a professor tell his class, “Never resign on a Monday.” read more

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Final thoughts: Jesus, his kingdom, and predicting the end of the world

Apparently, in a matter of hours, we’re all going to die.

Really.

According to a Christian Numerologist—whatever that is—September 23, 2017 is the day when an unseen planet known either as Planet X or Nibiru will come crashing to earth, creating tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, flooding, and—far worse—the widespread release of the movie mother! to a frantic public.

This will result in wide-spread panic, confusion, and other levels of mayhem.

There is already evidence of this: The Great Solar Eclipse, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the flooding in Houston, and the Mexico City earthquake.

Even the Bible backs up this claim, Luke 21:25-26:

“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” read more

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When the world went strangely dim: God’s glory amidst suffering and hate

My wife and I traveled down to my sister’s house in Albany, Oregon to experience the great eclipse a couple of weeks ago. From Oregon to South Carolina, the moon blocked out the sun, casting a 70-mile-wide shadow across the United States. Albany happened to be in the path of totality. Portland would get a 99.2% showing of the eclipse.

But what a difference .8% makes.

My wife and I sat in my sister’s backyard and donned our dorky eclipse glasses.

For an hour, we watched the moon slide slowly across the surface of the sun. A show like one we have never seen was about to begin. About fifteen minutes out of totality, Albany grew darker—a strangely dim type of darkness, not quite twilight, not quite dusk. It was like looking through oddly-tinted sunglasses. read more

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With the world coming apart, the church still must be the church

I haven’t said much during this week following the violence in Charlottesville. I have followed the rhetoric on social media and have been saddened by what we have become. But I felt it unwise to say anything, even if it meant not expressing sadness. In truth, I really don’t know what to say that wouldn’t merely contribute to the growing cesspool that is social media. I have no idea how to fix this ugliness.

But my heart is churning.

Although I lean conservative, I am finding it impossible to take sides. I cannot, in the name of Jesus, stand with the white nationalist groups. Their ideology is repulsive and un-Christlike. Any attempts to hijack the name of Christ to their cause is an abomination. And nothing could justify the violence done. read more

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Changing our response to a violent world

We live in a violent world. Always have. And if I were a betting man, I’d say we always will. If humans excel — truly excel — at anything, it is coming up with new, exciting ways to kill each other. This will always be the case, as long as we exist in a broken, sinful world.

At the May 22 Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, a terrorist attack killed 23 people and injured 116. Days later, on a cross-town train in my town of Portland, Oregon, a white supremacist knifed three protectors trying to stop his hate speech toward two minority women. The women escaped, but two of their protectors died.

Acts like these obliterate the idea that this world can somehow overcome violence and achieve peace. We can preach platitudes, but does anyone really think Katy Perry can change the heart of ISIS by begging them to “coexist”? We can pass laws, but does anyone truly believe determined terrorists can’t circumvent them? And if we ask our governments to respond, virtually their only tools are sanctions (not always effective) or brute force (more violence). read more

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Why is the cross so hated around the world?

Last Tuesday, as I waited outside for someone to unlock my church for an event, a young couple walked by. As they passed, the woman read aloud, not once but twice, a sign on the door and gave a loud, exaggerated snort of derision. Then she actually turned around and came back to snap a photo of it. Judging from her sharp, sarcastic laughter, I was sure the photo would be posted online with a snarky comment — something about the stupidity of church people.

On the outside, I briefly made eye contact with her and gave her a nod and a smile.

But on the inside, I sensed the insult and felt a rush of snappy retorts. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit kept my pie-hole closed.

After she left, I turned to see what she had found so funny. The sign just said: “No woman’s [sic] Bible reading tonight.” read more

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How the church lost our prophetic voice in 2016 (and how we might get it back)

On Friday, our next president will be sworn in.

The 2016 election ended the most bizarre, unsettling campaign season I’ve ever seen. Afterward I felt great relief, not because my candidate won (I couldn’t vote for either major candidate) but because it was finally over.

Thankfully, mercifully, happily over.

Then the protests and riots began—the most violent of them in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. The losers threw tantrums while the winners gloated.

My heart hasn’t stopped aching about the 2016 election season. However, what troubled me most was not the candidates, but the body of Christ. I consider 2016 to be the year the church lost its prophetic voice.

Both progressive and conservative Christians took their eyes off God’s simple requirement: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). Each side seemed to have a sickening case of tunnel vision, condemning vile behaviors in the other candidate while overlooking equally vile behaviors in their own. God’s people could have called for justice and repentance without scrambling down into the mud with everyone else. But we didn’t. So we lost our prophetic voice. read more

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Why we need Advent now more than ever

5598559126_90f2e2024c_bAdvent—beginning with the first of four Sundays before Christmas—is usually my favorite time of year. I start anticipating it around June 21, when the days start getting shorter. I love the lights and colors, the smells of Christmas trees and warm fresh-baked cookies, the sounds of bells and carols, and the sight of Rudolph and Charlie Brown running across my television screen. But there’s a deeper reason for my love of Christmas.

For years, I have wrestled with my broken life, and Advent is a season to remember how God stepped into humanity’s story—my story—and lived among us for the sole purpose of saving us. Have you ever suddenly realized that you find more excitement in the days leading up to Christmas than the actual day itself? That is Advent. The “secular” Christmas season of anticipating Santa Claus is merely a shadow-like reflection of what Advent is. Advent is waiting, knowing Jesus will come. So for me, Advent is a reflection and celebration of the magnitude of Jesus’s birth, and what it means in the mess that is my life. read more

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Seriously, what is going on with this presidential election, and what do we do now?

hillary_clinton_vs-_donald_trump_-_caricaturesIn the last few days – amid yet another outbreak of scandalous news items and a second debate involving the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates – traditional and social media continue to warn us that if the “wrong” candidate wins, the sky will fall, children will starve, and the Yellowstone caldera will erupt.

Then there are thoughtful commentaries by Christian writers and leaders, trying to present biblical reasons why Christians should vote one way or the other. Theologian Mirasolv Volf says the policies of Hillary Clinton best represent Christian values; theologian Wayne argues that Trump is the better choice.

Christian progressives wag their fingers at Christian conservatives for being single-issue voters, without admitting that they themselves often are too. And don’t get me started on the old argument that “if you don’t vote, then X will win and the sky will fall, children will starve, and the Yellowstone caldera will erupt.” read more

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Will we ever find utopia in a broken world?

IMG_1201I just returned from a week in Helena, Montana.

It was utopic: silent mornings, sitting alone on a wide deck overlooking Hauser Lake; loud middays, talking and laughing with family under the big Montana sky; and brilliant evenings, watching the horizon erupt in a blaze of colors as the sun dropped below the western mountains.

The scenery was fresh and spacious. The air was tranquil and clean. And most important, I was out of the city.

The whole time I was there, I fought back dread of the day when I would have to return to the city where I live – Portland, Oregon.

But  before that day came, something worse happened. Shortly after the Fourth of July, the country exploded with violence, protests, and domestic terrorism. Two videos went viral, showing police officers shooting African-American men in St. Paul and Baton Rouge; then five officers were gunned down in Dallas. The nation cracked in two, and the schism spread wide. I knew—absolutely knew—the next several days would be filled with raging debates and groundless conclusions made from hundreds or thousands of miles away, based on a few seconds of unclear video. read more

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