Nobody’s Right, If Everybody’s Wrong

Years ago my friend Stephen and I began collecting what we labeled “Repetitive Redundancies”, those word combinations, in which an adjective is added to a superlative: I understand the intent is usually to emphasize the matter, however, the end result is often to lessen the power of the word being modified.  We had a lengthy list compiled, many of which have since been forgotten, yet several are common and come easily to mind: very unique, almost decimated, completely razed. (Interesting side note – Microsoft grammar checker had a problem with only one of those combinations) Perhaps more annoying are those ridiculous marketing materials that use multiple words to describe a product or idea. Take this chalkboard sign spotted outside a restaurant in Boston, advertising the day’s special: Beef Bourguignon in a Wine Sauce. Or the training manual for a women’s gym that explained, “a mental thought process takes place in the mind.” Recently, I heard an ad on the radio for a certain Mall chain claiming they were offering “extra extraordinary” pricing.

My point is, I really dislike redundancy, though I, myself, (catch that one) may be guilty from time-to-time: for instance, now. You see, a short time ago in my post on tolerance and diversity, I talked about the polemic that plagues our culture. As some of the responses I received served only to emphasize my point, and I continue to be disturbed by the lack of civility I witness regularly, I have decided to address this matter once more.

Now, I trust my atheist/agnostic/irreligious/secular (choose your own label) friends and readers will be patient with me if I get a little “preachy”, since I really want to take my Christian/churched/religious friends to task here.

For those who may not know much of my history, a simple way to explain my natural political leanings from an early age is to say that I had “Goldwater ’64” stickers on my lunch box in first grade. When Lyndon Johnson won that election, I simply crossed out the “4” and penned in an “8.” However, since Barry didn’t run again, I became a Nixon supporter, then Reagan and… well, you can easily guess the rest. So, I was a Republican long before I was a Christian. Years later when I came into relationship with God, at first, that relationship had little effect on my politics. But one thing that has happened thanks to God and his Spirit who lives in me is, I have come to understand the importance of loving and respecting those whose opinions differ from my own.

This change didn’t happen all at once, in fact, it was only about three or four years ago that at a gathering for the National Day of Prayer, at which I had been asked to lead prayers for our President, Governor and local elected officials, I found myself publicly confessing and repenting of an ungodly attitude.  In preparation for the event, I had spent time looking for a Biblical framework concerning prayers for those in leadership. I thought immediately of Paul’s counsel to Timothy: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV) Good stuff, but I decided to keep digging.  What I found surprised and convicted me. Often, though many Old Testament prophets confronted and challenged those in leadership, they almost always did so with respect. One example that stood out to me in particular was Daniel. Many are familiar with the story of Daniel in the Lions Den, but when you read the whole story you find that Daniel had a unique relationship with the kings of Babylon, Media and Persia. For the sake of space and time I will speak here of just one, Nebuchudnezzar.

You see Daniel, along with a large number of people living in Judah, was taken into captivity by the Babylonian king, Nebuchudnezzar, in about 606 BC. He, and three other young Hebrews were chosen to serve the king. These young men were taken from their homeland, forced into servitude (and likely castrated) and given new names that honored a pagan god, yet they always showed respect for the king, even referring to him as “lord.” In Daniel 2:37-38, addressing the king Daniel says: “Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all.”

Daniel’s respect had nothing to do with his personal feelings regarding his treatment or about the king’s policies or personality. Rather, it was due to the fact that he understood what the Apostle Paul later wrote to the church in Rome: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1 NIV) (Huh, I guess even Paul used redundancy to make his point – but at least he rephrased).

So, while I may (and often do) take issue with the policies of the President; or Governor, or members of Congress, or for that matter, my employer or Pastor, I must always pray for and honor them. In fact, if I call them nasty names, ridicule them, make fun of them or belittle them in any way I am guilty of sinning against God, for I am expressing that God somehow erred by placing them in authority.

This is the realization I came to that evening a few years back which caused me to confess and repent. It is one I pray that all those who claim the name of Christ will come to, if they have not already done so, in order that we may live at peace with everyone, as much as it depends on us. (See Romans 12:18)

To drive the point home further, just this morning in my quiet time with God, I was reading in the book of Acts about Paul before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council). When Ananias didn’t like something Paul said he ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Paul reacted with a harsh rebuke of his own saying, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall…” When he was then challenged for speaking in such a way to the high priest, Paul humbly replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’” (see Acts 23:1-5)

So there you have it – a gentle chiding for us church folk. For those of you who have issues with the church and Christians – I’m sorry we can be less than Christ-like at times. And hey, perhaps you could try being a little more tolerant with us as well?

Now I leave you all with the following musical selection from Buffalo Springfield. Listen closely and enjoy.

As always, your friend,






Old, White, Country Boy Hits The City

1436559Last evening I climbed on my trusty steed and headed south toward Boston. The simple act of dealing with Boston traffic on two wheels might be adventure enough for some, (though its not something I would do just for fun) but I was on a mission. As part of my quest for the reflection of Christ in contemporary culture I was headed to a vision service called The City Boston.  I know – sounds vague – let me explain.

A short time ago in my post “Ripples”, I mentioned attending a denominational meeting where I heard about some potentially exciting things going on right here in New England. One of which is a movement of young adults who have been meeting every Wednesday evening at the Embaixadores (Ambassadors) Church of the Nazarene, in Pawtucket, RI. This dynamic group identify themselves as “The City” and their desire is to see the movement spread from Pawtucket to Boston. Thus the Vision Night held in a ballroom at the Holiday Inn, Somerville.

While I will share my experience and impressions in a moment, let me first direct you to a statement from the about page of their website:

“We are a community of young people dedicated to worshipping God with our whole lives. We are intentional about meaningful discipleship. We are commissioned by God to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our world. We believe this commission begins in our schools, at our jobs, in our homes & in our city.

We are real people, with real stories, living our lives for a real God.”

So what did this old, white, country boy see and learn? A lot. Without exaggeration, what I saw sparked hope, for this, and future generations.  In this multi-ethnic group of mostly 20 somethings (yeah, maybe I did feel kind of like a combination of Dick Clark and the Pillsbury dough boy) I saw genuine faith and a deep love for the God of the Bible who is the same yesterday, today and forever. The music was loud, the praise was exuberant, and the presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable. While my natural tendency in worship may be more quiet, reflective and, if not refined, reserved;  even I couldn’t resist a little hand raising and a few audible utterances of praise. There was nothing trumped up or artificial about it (I’ve been in those services), but a genuine, heartfelt longing, adoration, and excitement for God.

In his message, Pastor Shane referenced Acts 6:1, pulling out the phrase “In those days” and spoke of things from the 90’s (remember the age of his audience) that are now gone and all but forgotten. I guess it doesn’t matter what our age, it is always easier to look back than to see forward.  Yet, his task was to cast a vision, one in which the God of all ages is still the same and still active in the lives of those he sought to redeem, one in which Christ, the Redeemer is living and active to purify his bride, the church. The message rang true to a diverse audience and helped re-stoke the fire in my soul as well.

Remembering the quote from J. I. Packer about Christianity in North America being 3000 miles wide and a half-inch deep, I have stated that I seek the deep pools of faith. Well, I have found one. It’s located in Pawtucket, RI and spreading north to Boston. Then again, it’s not so much the geography that counts. Rather, as faith is a matter of the soul, the deep pool is found in this exceptional group of young adults who seek to serve God and love their neighbors in a way that is significant and relevant in post-modern culture.

Please join me in gratitude and prayer for Shane and the entire leadership team of The City. As always, I wish blessings to all.

Your friend and servant,



Diversity & Tolerance

8201868As I scroll though my facebook feed I am often struck by the fact that I have an extremely diverse set of friends. I see this fairly often but I don’t think it has ever been more apparent than in the past couple of days since the Supreme Court’s decision about The Affordable Care Act and Hobby Lobby. Often this diversity pleases me – I am very glad that despite our differences I am able to stay connected and friendly with people who hold different (at times extremely different) views than I.

Yet, the polemic I witness is, at times, disconcerting, and I am beginning to believe that very few people give a rip for reality anymore. Truth has become positional rather than factual. From the left I hear cries of this decision being a violation of the separation of church and state and a sign that we are heading toward the establishment of a Christian Theocracy.  Don’t you think that might be just a tad hyperbolic my friends?

First of all the phrase “separation of church and state” is nowhere found in the Constitution.  When the words are uttered, most people are thinking of the First Amendment, which states simply: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

What most people don’t understand is that the concept of the separation of church and state originates in a struggle that Baptists, as well as Presbyterians and Methodists, were having in Virginia, where the official state religion of the time was Anglican (Episcopalian). These decidedly Christian denominations, that were being discriminated against and persecuted, petitioned men such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson who gladly took up the cause to provide religious freedom. For those interested in the facts, you may read more about The Virginia Act for the Establishment of Religious Freedom (1786) by clicking here.

From the right (that would be primarily the Christian right) I hear hallelujahs and amens and “take that you liberal bastards!” I get a picture of a group of people sitting around in a Bible Study suddenly jumping up, doing celebratory chest bumps and high fives… Okay, maybe that’s my own little bit of hyperbole, but my point is, I am seeing more self-congratulatory rejoicing than love and tolerance, salt and light. I could cite verse after verse that tells us to take a different approach but for the sake of space I offer the following two passages:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

    “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
          if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
     In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:17-21 NIV)

[For the sake of clarity, please understand that to “heap burning coals” on someone’s head refers to giving them a source of fire that was needed in the days before strike anywhere matches and butane lighters. It does not mean to set their head ablaze.]

Or perhaps we should consider these words from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:13-15 NIV)

Now I will leave you all with these words from 1 John 3:18: let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Yes, I’m Talking to You – I Hope


Something on which I have been ruminating of late is the challenge to effectively communicate cross-culturally. I am making every effort to find a voice that transcends for the purpose of this blog. The significance of this struck me at Bike Week 2014 in Laconia as I found myself a member of a subculture within a subculture.  What I mean by that is, Bikers comprise a subculture and Christians are another subculture and within the Biker culture there a good number of Christian Bikers. I was very pleased to see how well Christian Bikers are integrated into the greater Biker community and it got me thinking about language, culture and context.

In referencing Bike Week, I closed my last posting with “rumor has it that Christ can be found there.” Yet, even as I wrote that, I knew such phraseology would have appeal to only a portion of my desired audience. Make no mistake, I am unashamedly a Christian and I want other Christians to read this blog; vicariously participating in the Emmaus Road Trip. My desire for my friends who are a part of the Christian/Church subculture, however, is mostly that they be challenged to stretch and grow, opening their minds and hearts to the greater culture in which we live, gaining a deeper understanding of what it means to be “the hands and feet of Christ.”

Interestingly though, the folks who gave this project their endorsement or expressed enthusiastic appreciation for the concept in its early developmental stages, were people who don’t attend church and some who would label themselves as atheist or agnostic. I am most grateful and indebted to you who fall within that camp and desire to honor you and your apparent hunger for learning and truth. I hope that what I discover and share throughout the coming months will be uplifting and edifying to you. If at times I come off a little too “preachy” or “churchy”, I trust you will extend to me patience and grace.

The largest potential audience, I hope to address are those who would refer to themselves as “spiritual but not religious” This label has become so popular that perhaps we could say this reflects the mainstream culture of North America. Frankly, there have been times that I have been so frustrated with the lack of depth in the church subculture that I have been tempted to wear that label myself. Within the church I know I am not alone as I see a growing number of those who are calling themselves “recovering evangelicals.” (Plenty of bloggers out there who fall into this camp) I confess, I cringe just a little when I hear someone so define himself/herself.  I won’t go quite that far myself, preferring rather to strive to recover evangelicalism, but I get where you’re coming from.

So yeah, I’m talking to you. If you attend church, keep going and keep growing to be more like Jesus. If you are “spiritual but not religious” keep digging, keep searching, keep reading and follow the golden rule. If you are a skeptic but have a sense that there is something more to life than just living for yourself then please, please, please, pay attention for I was as you when I began my journey of faith.

As always, if you are aware of ministries that are doing great work, Please share that information with me. If there is something about Christianity or this blog that bothers you, feel free to share that as well. Reader comments are critical to the development and success of this project. I am working on some basic interview questions for when I actually hit the road. I will be posting those soon for your input and feedback so stay tuned.  Blessings