Why Is a Love Story Told as a Tale of Horror?

This morning I was watching Outside the Lines on ESPN as I do most Sunday mornings before going to church. The story this morning was about Tim Tebow and his outspokenness of his faith. My dad happened to be watching with me since he had come town to for the Baylor – SFA game. My dad is not a Christian. He was letting me know about how he did not like how Tebow had the Bible verses on his eye liners. Because of how outspoken Tebow is, my dad is not a fan. Then they also showed a clip of Tebow preaching. In the clip Tebow was giving the standard line of if you do not accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior you are going to Hell. This approach more than anything else in the story got to thinking about how we present to Good News of the coming Kingdom. The story is a love story of God through Jesus pursuing reconciliation, a relationship. Essentially it is a love story. Yet when people preach the message as Tebow did it does not sound like a love story, it sounds like a tale of horror. God is so angry with you that God is going to throw you in Hell, unless you accept God’s son who was brutally murdered. The love and grace is underplayed while the fear and pain is overplayed. I think this is the wrong approach to spreading the Good News. Shouldn’t the message sound good instead of bad. One might argue that well isn’t escaping Hell good news? It can be but what is the motivation for them believing in this telling, to escape Hell or because they have found a meaningful relationship with Christ. Jesus is not a get out of Hell free card. We seek a relationship with God because we love God and wish to be reconciled just as God wishes to be reconciled to us. This fire and brimstone approach fails utterly at this aspect, which is, in my opinion, the most important. If escaping Hell, is the reason you claim to have a relationship with God, you may want to reexamine if there is a real relationship there.

I was thinking about this while we were singing at church. I thought, ‘I think this might be a good topic to blog about.’ Little did I know that the sermon was going to have a similar vibe. The sermon was on Matthew 20:1-16. Josh explained that Heaven may be too graceful. God may allow for people we do not want to be in Heaven. Some people who are assured they are going to Heaven may think twice about going if they knew who God was willing to show grace and mercy to and allow into Heaven. He then showed this picture, which I think is the best example of God’s unending grace…

How many people are accepting of this picture? But isn’t this what Jesus came to teach us. To pray for our enemies, to be servants to the world. He did say be servants of those who you like? God’s grace abounds further than we can imagine. God wishes for one and all to come and be reconciled, including Osama bin Laden. I believe this extends throughout eternity. Jesus’ death was a never ending invitation to be reconciled. I do not pretend to know why sin and evil were allowed to come into being, my best guess is it is a true consequence of free will. I particularly like the idea of Hell being locked from the inside, meaning those ‘trapped’ are free to leave. C. S. Lewis deals with this notion his book The Great Divorce, I highly recommend it.

So would you being willing to live in a Heaven that included Osama bin Laden, Hitler, Casey Anthony, etc.? I think God is willing and has been willing to extend them an invitation. What is your motivation for wanting to be in Heaven, to escape Hell or because you believe in a God who wishes for reconciliation with all the earth. One reason I believe God is willing to pursue this reconciliation for all eternity, is this one haunting question… Can Heaven be heaven if your parent or child was not there? The Good News is that God is unveiling God’s Kingdom and the invitation has been extended to all. This is what we should be preaching, the invitation to the Kingdom, to reconciliation, not a get out of Hell free card. The invitation is not for our sole benefit, it is a reconciliation of the a fallen world to God.

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10 Years Later: The Lesson Not Learned

Ten Years ago today an event happened that altered how America views the world. While there has been positives gained from the experience, there are a key lesson I think America has failed at.

You may ask why would you write this now, on this day. Well, there are tons of stories stating what we have learned that have come out this past week and today, what good does those stories do if they do not also include what ‘we’ still could improve upon?

A terror attack’s main goal is to induce terror. I would say since 11 September 2001Americnas have been more terrified of the world ‘we’ live in. ‘We’ have given into the idea behind the attacks, ‘we’ have vilified a third of the world, a view ‘them’ as ‘them’ and to a greater extent dehumanized ‘them.’

‘We’ have not learned from Gandhi and MLK. ‘We’ have retaliated creating more pain and suffering. A reason given for this was the celebrations in the streets in Middle Eastern countries after the news of the attacks spread. This justified ‘our’ need to respond, see ‘they’ all believe in death to America. ‘They’ all hate us, the celebrations proves it. May I remind ‘us’ that ‘we’ did the exact same thing a few months ago. Osama bin Laden had been murdered and spontaneous celebration broke out across America, chants of USA and people went out into the streets to celebrate. How does this differ? While I think there is a difference, it does not convey a significant difference in attitudes between the two actions. ‘They’ celebrated the falling of a symbol and ‘we’ did so in return. What kind of message does this send? ‘They’ got ‘us’ so ‘we’ get ‘them’ back. For a nation that many wish to call a ‘Christian’ nation, how ‘Christian’ is that response. Last time I checked Jesus said love you enemies and pray for those who persecute you, not retaliate and dehumanize them.

The attacks were an opportunity for ‘us’ to work on reconciliation, to understand a culture different from ‘our’ own. Instead ‘we’ highlighted the differences, working hard to distance ‘ourselves’ from ‘them.’ The gospel is about creating life out of chaos, calling out the foreigner to join the banquet feast. America has chosen another path. ‘We’ responded to terror with terror, ‘we’ furthered the issues that differentiated ‘us’ and ‘them.’

My hope is in the next ten years, this will be the path ‘we’ take, one of reconciliation not hate, peace not war, forgiveness not retaliation. That ‘we’ venture to learn from ‘them,’ to understand ‘them’ on ‘their’ own terms from ‘their’ perspective. The goal would be that there is no longer a ‘us’ and ‘them’ but a collective humanity. ‘Us,’ ‘them,’ we all were created in the image of God, maybe we could treat all people with that respect.

May we forgive, there is no need to forget, we can remember, remember that that was the day we recognized all as human, every single person no matter the color of their skin, the religion proclaimed, the place of residence, etc, a day we united to say you and I are human. A day to learn to live in a global world with our fellow humans. To create out the chaos a new creation, one in which we recognize each other as human.

This has begun in the ‘Arab Spring.’ ‘They’ have learned, violence and terror are not needed to effect change. Nonviolent resistance can be just as effective, if not more so. May ‘we’ remember those lessons, from Gandhi, MLK, and North Africa.

To forgive and forget is to not learn. May ‘we’ forgive and learn, learn to love ‘our’ ‘enemies.’

When Enough is Enough, Airport Security

The following is an email I sent to the TSA asking for common sense to be used…

I have not flown under the new security measures but have heard quite a deal about them in the news. At what point will the TSA say enough is enough for checking individuals. The first goal of terrorism is to incite terror. It seems the TSA has become terrified, thus the terrorist have been successful. While I agree I would like to be safe while traveling, I would also like to be respected as an individual. I realize for years I have let certain rights protected by the fourth amendment go, by allowing my bags to be checked, but at what point do we say enough is enough. I would say, and many others it would seem say, that the full body scans and pat downs (read gropings) is a point too far. Not only do these go well beyond the previous measures, they greatly increase the wait at the airport according to several reports. I, again, repeat the goal of terrorism is to incite terror, putting people through the hassle of the new airport security measures only shows that the terrorist are succeeding in their goals. When we give up our rights, we have admitted we are scared (read terrified) and are only furthering the terrorists’ beliefs that they are accomplishing their mission. I ask that common sense be employed and that these new security measures that go well beyond a reasonable invasion of privacy be stopped. When we lose our guaranteed freedoms we become one step closer to becoming more like the ones we are trying to stop. I appreciate the TSA’s concern for our safety while traveling but at some point enough is enough and I believe the TSA has passed this point.

… I think if people write rational and well thought complaints to TSA (which I hope mine is), then I think the TSA will have to at least discuss alternatives to their current measures. Boycotting plane travel only works to a certain point, because really the boycott effects the airlines and not the TSA, first and foremost. Also, people traveling internationally are much more limited in their options as boat takes much more time than flying, compared to driving versus flying continentally. I think cooler heads and rational discussion will bring better results than yelling arguing. Trust me, I do not like the idea of having to go through these measures, as I will be flying next year potentially on three different trips and would like to avoid having to choose between a body scan or pat down. If the measures are still in place I will voice that I believe this measures are beyond reasonable but comply (as I will have no other choice if I plan to complete my trips). I suggest that if you agree that the new measures are beyond reasonable that you contact the TSA (https://contact.tsa.dhs.gov/DynaForm.aspx?FormID=10) and let them know in a rational way. (Feel free to use my response if you wish, however I think it will make a bigger impact if each email is worded differently.)

How We Should Have Viewed 9/11

An Islamic community center has been proposed near, again I say, near, the site of the former Twin Towers in NY, “Ground Zero.” This of course brought controversy and the way this controversy has developed is quite frightening to me. I bring this up being the ninth anniversary of 11 September 2001.

I first think there has been an overblown reaction to what happened on 9/11. Instead of Americans waking up to realize that the world is and always has been a violent place and we could be the model for beginning the reversal of this trend. However, as a “Christian” nation (something I vehemently disagree with calling America) we do the un-Christ like reaction of bombing and invading. I remember Christ promoting peace and love, right? Maybe we should go back and read what He taught, I think that would wake us all up, as we all need grace and continually.

As Americans we have allowed this one single act, 9/11, to be our complete and full understanding of the Islamic religion. Do I believe I know the ins and outs of their religion, no, but do I have a knowledge of all the nuances of the Bible, no, do you? If we allow this one event to be are full understanding of Islam then it is perfectly fine for them to point to the Spanish Inquisition or Crusades to be the full and complete understanding of Christianity. Or, would you want someone to define you by one act in your own life, especially an act you are not even proud of? Yet this is what we are doing with 9/11.

If we truly believe in religious freedom and a just society we will welcome the Islamic community center near the “Ground Zero” (GZ) site. This center will, if it functions as proposed, be a place for young Islamic men and women to come and learn about their faith and how to live their lives in America, not as terrorists but as citizens.

A complaint I have heard about this center being so close to GZ: ‘They are building this center on hallow ground.’ If the area is hallowed ground, then America worships strip joints and bars which are much closer to GZ than this center will be. (Though I would argue many do unknowably worship these type places.) Another complaint I have heard is that Islam is a religion that believes in converting everyone to Islam. Okay, this is news how, Christianity also promotes conversion. Anyone remember the Great Commission: Go make disciples in all the nation… How is that any different, oh, right this is Islam we are speaking about so it has to be completely different and terrible.

I can understand an American having these mind frames (we cannot allow this center to be built) but Christians that happen to live in America also having this mind frame is pathetic. I agree, I do not think Islam leads to a true understanding of God, but to show hatred the way many Christians that live in America have is un-Christ like. As Christians we are called to be a better kingdom, the Kingdom of God (no, this is not America, sorry). We are to be peacemakers and live lives that promote and speak of this Kingdom. Will we always be the best examples, no, we are a fallen people saved through faith, but we can be a lot better than we have been here in America. If we want America to be a nation full of Christians (not a Christian nation, Christ did not come and die for land, He did so for people) then we need to start acting like Him. When did He ever go into a Roman temple and condemn it, never, when did He criticize where they where building Roman shrines/temples, never. He did inform the Jewish leaders of how they were misunderstanding what God has called for them. He did go to the people, Jewish and Gentile alike, to show them what the Kingdom of God is and can be. This is what we need to do as Christians. We can go to them and tell them we disagree with their view of God, if we are persecuted for this, so be it, Christ promised us persecution. Maybe the fact we are not being persecuted is a telling sign of how far we have gotten away for Christ? (That statement includes myself.)

The world is full of people with differing ideas, opposing ideologies, and with people (of all races, religions, gender, ages, etc.) prone to violence. Should we in turn respond with hate and violence to those we disagree with, not according to Christ. We should turn the other cheek; we should love them; where they are, not where we want them to be. Love them unconditionally.

As Christians (Americans who are not Christians are allowed to think differently if they wish) we should not oppose the center and should work on changing how we respond to those who may hate, disagree, or oppose us. We are to love them no matter. We were informed to Love God and love our neighbor, and everyone is our neighbor.

I ask that this 9/11 be the beginning of us, Christians, on fully committing to loving others, no matter their, race, gender, religion, economic status, age, and any other label you can think of. But, not to love them as we understand love on earth, but as God loves us, unconditionally. Will we get this right all the time, no, but I think we can improve from where we are, not matter our past accomplishments or failures.

Trying to Restore Honor in Glenn Beck

(Subtitle: but failing)?

Glenn Beck decided to throw a big rally at the Mall in Washington D.C., his rally coincided with the 47th anniversary of MLK Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. (Personal aside: Honestly if you thought it was okay for him to do this then I cannot see how you can also claim the mosque in Manhattan is wrong. I think both are/were insensitive but legal nonetheless.) Beck said this rally was not political in nature (though he originally planned it to be). Here is my take on this rally:

Glenn Beck can put on a great show/rally. But he cannot keep a consist message, are we advancing or are returning to the founding fathers, he promoted both. Beck paraded many different people up on the “stage” all of them were spouting unity. However his unity is not a real unity for America as a whole since he had those professing Christ up on the stage. Hey Beck what about the Hindu or Muslim or Atheist or other Americans how are they united in this restoration (he did make one or two small remarks but for the most part it was obviously missing). Oh yeah, isn’t Beck a member of LDS (better known as Mormon). I believe this rally was put on so Beck could point back to this event and say, “See I am a Christian and I call for unity, not divisiveness.” However Beck also calls for us to put or faith, hope, and charity in America and not in God. I seem to recall Jesus preaching the Kingdom of God (Heaven in Matthew) and Jesus made it clear this was not an earthly kingdom such as an America. This is why it is not a good idea to get spiritual/religious guidance from and uneducated man (Beck did not finish a college course or receive any Biblical training). Yet Beck continues to try to teach us what it means to be an American (despite not taking a college level History class) and how to be a Christian (despite being a LDS member and not having any training in the matter). It scares me more that people look to him for advice on these matters. I implore you to reconsider taking Beck at his word and do some research yourself, if you follow him.

While Beck and those who spoke did not make any implicit political statements, many were there in the under tones, especially Palin’s speech. It is obvious from how Beck spoke and how ideas were presented, there was a deep under tone of political ideas and thoughts, the current (and I would say they meant Democrat) politicians are not honorable. Of course none of this was actually said but I think everyone knows this was implied. One only needs to read the comments of those who attended, they got political messages out the rally.

So Glenn Beck tried to restore honor in America, good try Beck, but we need to restore honor in our faith in Christ and live it out as Christ preached. Christ preached the Kingdom of God and not the Kingdom of Israel, Rome, or America. I am sure most of the people Beck had at the rally meant well, but I think Christians in America have gotten off track on what it means to be a Christ follower. Jesus did not come to America (unless you are LDS, as is Beck) and has made no promises to America as a country. Christianity is not own or controlled by Americans, it is a worldwide belief and faith (not a religion though that is how it is practiced). Also it is impossible for America to be a Christian nation, as nations cannot be Christian only people can be.

Galapagos: Snorkeling off Isabella (end of Day 2)

We had two options for our second afternoon, we could snorkel or walk where Darwin walked but only see the same animals as we had previously seen. I elected to snorkel and got to see several sea turtles, sea stars, fish (including a puffer fish), and some sea urchins. 

a Puffer fish

a "chocolate chip" Starfish

Following the snorkel we took a dingy ride around the island to see wildlife in action along the rocky edge of the island. Then we returned to the boat to relax for the rest of the day. I am still feeling well (I was ill the day before).

This is a pic of our boat while we were on the dingy

Penguins, the only place to see them North of the Equator (though I think we where south of it at the time)

Flightless Cormorant

One of the first Blue-footed Boobies we saw

As you can see the wildlife is friendly with each other

a Blue Heron posing for us

During our briefing for the next day my cabin was selected to eat with the captain. Six people can dine with the captain each night and so each cabin is selected for certain nights. But before dinner and after the briefing we went up top to look for whales, orcas, and dolphins. We did get to see one or two whales slightly (no pics though). Last week the group saw a pod of orcas.

Then the call came for dinner. However, Shelby felt bad and had to miss the dinner. The Captain told us about a great story concerning his time in the Ecuadorian Navy. He found a boat not moving on his radar screen in the Galapagos. He drove up the ship and after some work he got a hold of the captain. He found out that they had been illegally fishing for Tuna and were from Columbia. The fishing vessel was rather large and could not be handle at San Cristabol. So he had to accompany the boat all the way to the mainland. Later on he found out that boat not only had 700 tons of Tuna but also 400 kilos of cocaine and heroin. Needless to say he got a promotion for the bust. After dinner I went up on the “Sun” deck to see the stars and then came down to write this (I wrote an entry for each day this entry is only half of the day as is obvious).

For our first day in the Islands and the morning portion see Shelby’s blog (link on the side). I will also mostly likely post my thoughts on the first day and this morning later (Shelby decided to have these posted differently than I was thinking and she had more time and so she won by doing when I could not.)

Clive Staples Lewis

C. S. Lewis is tenth (and final) on the list.In modern thought no one stands out like C. S. Lewis in my mind. I cannot think of any other person who could write an enduring, gospel filled children series and write a mind blowing (in many ways) book, Mere Christianity. While he is viewed mostly favorably today I think his place in history is still up in the air. I am hoping he over many others represents this era.

Jacobus Arminius

Jacob Arminius is ninth on my list.To even out Calvin I included Jacobus Arminius, just as I did sort of with Aquinas and Luther. I did not think Arminius himself was a great theologian like Calvin but I think he helped balance out God’s sovereignty and God’s love together.

John (Jean) Calvin

Jean Calvin is eight on the list.For those who know me, my find Calvin’s inclusion strange. However, I realize that not matter what I am going to have to deal with some variation of his theology. I applaud Calvin’s commitment to God’s sovereignty but have to think he went over board on what that means.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther is seventh on the list.Martin Luther is the most devious on the list in my opinion. While he was a great theologian, I question his Christian spirit from my reading of him. Name calling really. I realize you had a differing view on some elements of theology from the Catholic but it could have been done more maturely. See Erasmus for a potentially better way to handle the situation, aka reform from within not splinter. I also picked Erasmus but thought he is not quite known enough and too close to Luther.