Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to Prepare for Christmas

Outside of the essential groceries, I would rather drink a gallon of milk and go on a roller coaster ride than have to go shopping (especially when it comes to the mall).  There is something that has been fused into my DNA that prevents me from shopping without developing migraines, frustration, and the gout (ok maybe not the gout).  That makes this time of the year particularly difficult.  With so many gifts to buy for my friends and family, holiday shopping reaches a new level of pain (like going from a normal wedgy to an atomic one). 

There are some things in life that are particularly difficult for me to deal with.  It is hard for me to see the Cardinals outperform my beloved Cubbies year after year.  It is difficult to hear my strange alien voice on a recording device.  And it is downright painful for me to go shopping.

This is not only painful for me, but this becomes a real difficult circumstance for my wife who must drag me through the stores like a petulant child with the promises of ice cream and candy if I am good.  Not only am I of no help at shopping, but my present wrapping skills are inept, and my hand writing for Christmas cards is legible only to highly trained graphologist ninjas.  When it comes to Christmas I am hopeless. 

It is amazing to think about all the things we do to get ready for the 25th of December.  We put up lights, a tree, buy and wrap presents; we write Christmas cards and bake cookies.  Christmas is something that we have to prepare for.  When comes to the evolution of Christmas preparation I am prehistoric.  But maybe that is not so bad.

For me Christmas is first and foremost the celebration of the birth of a baby that changed that world as we know it.  Christmas is when I remember the reckless of love of God who became human.  The event shows the love of God, and the length that our Creator is willing to go to reach out to us, forgive us, and give us life.  The question that I ask when it comes to Christmas is how ought I prepare for the birth of the King of Kings?  How do I get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Savior and Son of God?  

The good news is I do not been to be proficient at shopping, or a master present wrapper or a Pulitzer Christmas card writer to prepare for this kind of Christmas.  However, to prepare of a Christmas that celebrates not just gift giving, but the greatest gift ever given, we must do something that comes quite difficult to us, we must wait and be still.

Preparing for Christmas is about waiting, being still, and allowing God to come.  Christmas is a time we ought to not run, but wait for God to come into the world as a baby, and into our life as our King.  We are reminded that it is God's doing that changes things not us.  So if this is the Christmas you want, then I urge you to get ready by putting down the list and wait for God to come once again.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fiscal Cliffs and Political Deficits

Strap on your parachute, attach your bungee cord, and secure all safety harnesses the end is coming.  If they Mayans were wrong and the world does not end on December 21st, than the fiscal cliff will certainly be our demise.  It seems that the leaders of our country who are suppose to be the representatives of the interests of their constituents, have unfortunately only been interested in representing themselves and their party.  The egregious irresponsibility or our leaders has been not just an approaching cliff, but a continual downward spiral that has not hurt our leaders, but the poor of our nation.  Instead of progress we have politicians getting on television and radio stations pointing fingers at each other.

The gap between the rich and poor continue to grow as companies are less likely to share their profits with their employees.  The impractical wages given by our nation's largest employers is insufficient.  The rising cost of education,  the impossibility of owning a home without paying twice as much as it is worth with mortgages, and the impending rise on taxes are clear evidence that our leaders have failed to serve anything but their own agendas.

All that said I do not despair simply because I do not give too much credence to governmental leadership.  I admit that our government has a great amount of power to make life easier or more difficult.  However, the government can never fully provide the things that make life worth living.  While I hope the Fiscal Cliff is avoided, my hope for the New Year is much deeper.

I truly believe that the fully functioning church of Jesus Christ is the best solution to the world's problems. I believe that the Church is the best answer to hurting families, education, Medicare, care for orphans, and care for the elderly.  I understand the Church has made many great mistakes that have caused pain, I understand not every individual church is functioning under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I understand this makes a lot of people angry and suspicious of the Church.  But the church that confesses to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the only organization that Jesus promised would not be overcome by hell's gates.  The Church is the only organization that is called the adorned bride of Jesus the Messiah.  The Church is the only organization that is center around relationships with Jesus and with each other.

Governmental programs can be helpful, but they are limited by their paper work and staff.  I have seen the good, but I have also seen the devastating shortfalls of governmental programs such as the Child Protective Agency, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, rehab, and more.  These programs only go so far, many fall through the cracks, and they are prevented from going deep into people's lives.  The programs are also corrupted by the political process.  The church is only limited by the love of Jesus Christ and its members.  I have been part of a church that has taken time to go further and deeper with people than any government could.  I have seen the Church not only feed the body but feed the soul.  I have seen the Church not only provide shelter, but provide a home.  I have seen the Church not only provide clothes, but also provide warmth.

I have seen the local church do much more good than any other organizations has or could.  This should not be surprising because true change cannot be mandated by a law from our politicians, but real change is something that happens from within.  Real change is allowing God to make you into a new creation, and fill you with the Spirit.  True change comes not from law, organization, or policy, change comes from God's grace manifested through the Church.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Black Thursday

Black Friday is synonymous with gigantic televisions, the latest gaming systems, Tickle-Me-Elmo's, long lines, trampling people, and mass hysteria.  This is the most hyped shopping day of the year.  This is a highlighted day for owners, workers, and shoppers alike as it kicks off the Christmas shopping season.  Millions of people scrounging for deals to wrap in elaborate boxes and place under artificially lit trees.  No one is excluded from the commercial chaos.  I once worked for a Christian retailer who once lectured me about this day and season was about making money (silly me thinking it was about a birth).

It's a day we throw away our money, our common sense, and our common courtesy.  It is a day of the survival of the fittest.  The weak are trampled, the slow are left behind, and the broke are imprisoned behind scanners for 16 hours straight with the promise of longer hours to come during the "most wonderful time of the year."

Is it not bad enough Black Friday comes hours after we celebrate being thankful for what we have?  Now stores are opening sooner.  Not just 3:00 am Friday morning, but now even 8:00 pm on Thursday night.  Now families who had to work on little sleep after Thanksgiving will not be able to have any Thanksgiving at all.  Thanksgiving will soon be a holiday reserved for the wealthy who are not forced to work customer service jobs. Have we all gone crazy?

Wal-Mart, our nation's largest employer, is following suite.  Wal-Mart already has a terrible record with managing its employees.  They already have unlivable wages, scarce access to health care, and discrimination lawsuits enough to backlog the courts for several years.  Their record on the environment is reckless, and their concern for local business is nonexistent.  Now Wal-Mart is opening on Thanksgiving "for their customers."  It is not enough to steal employees from their beds in the wee hours following Thanksgiving, now they are stealing them away from the dinner table so that they can provide our country with things we do not need. 

Black Friday has moved over to Black Thursday, and it seems that the darkness is spreading. 

The truth is we don't need a Black Thursday, and we don't need a Black Friday, what we need is a Good Friday, a Friday where work is not done through shopping malls and super-stores, but where work is done by God himself mending our hearts, our families, our nation, and our world.  We need days of Sabbaths, to remember God's work for us.  We do not need to jump start our economy, or get a head start on our shopping, we do not need to grab tents and wait in line, we need to gather together around the table and wait for the Lord.

There are people who have had enough.  Wal-Mart employees have already started walking out.  People have signed petitions and made promises not to shop on Thanksgiving or Black Friday for the employee's sake.  This all gets me excited and hopeful.

The truth is if we continue to head down the path over manic materialism we will not have to worry about any fiscal cliff, because we will have already fallen so far there will be no else further to go.

Not that shopping is wrong in itself.  But let us be honest, haven't we gone so far overboard that it has become downright unhealthy, disturbing, and just plain wrong?

 I would not dream of asking employees to stay home, that would be unfair, but I am asking employers to close their shops and trust in the Lord, I am asking shoppers to stay home and "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  Please let us stay home, let us be thankful, and let us enjoy a Sabbath rest.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Physician not a Politician

The election always reveals our nation's problems and issues that each candidate promises to fix.  The problems with jobs and a shrinking economy, the problems with education and failing schools, the problems with national security and foreign threats are seen as issues that can be corrected if the right candidate is elected.  The Democratic nominee believes that his leadership and party can correct the wrongs, and the Republican nominee wants to ask "are things better than four years ago?" Both candidates think they have the answers to our nation's problems, but what if they are both wrong?  I believe that not only do both candidates have the wrong answers to our problems; I believe they have the wrong idea completely about what the problems are.

The reason things fail to get better is because we have been inadequate at naming and addressing the true problems.  A struggling economy, the loss of jobs, national security, and failing schools are not the problems, instead they are the symptoms of our problems.  Trying to fix symptoms does not fix our problems.  I watched a women die this year of cancer pain free.  The morphine and medicine took away her pain.  I am glad that she was able to pass pain free but the pain wasn't the problem, the cancer was.  We have a cancer in our country and our politicians plan is to inject our country with morphine so that we will no longer feel pain, and it is not all their fault.  We look for and vote for politicians to take away our pain instead of leading us through difficult treatment to restore us back to health.  We rather die comfortably than live with heroic struggle.  We look for people to numb our existence instead of push for growth.

The issue with all this is that no political nominee of any party can bring about the holistic healing of our nation, their position and qualifications are inept.  

The true problem that causes the symptoms of job loss is greed.  CEO's and stockholders demand greater profit which means minimal cost which effect job market, livable wages, and even the environment.  No government official can undo and cure greed.  The issue with our economy is entitlement.  People of all classes believe they are owed something and live off the backs of other people.  The problem that causes the symptom of failing schools is discipline.  Our students are not disciplined, our teachers are not all disciplined, and our parents are not disciplined.  The problem that causes the symptom of national defense is lack of peace and love.  No government program and change these real problems.

If we create more jobs, they will simply be shipped overseas where they can legally pay unlivable and destitute wages.  If we simply throw more money at the impoverished, they will still lack the ability to provide for them, if we create more testing for students and teachers they will surely tell us nothings has changed, and if we add more missiles and bombs to our arsenals our enemies will follow suit.

Where does our hope come from?

What if there was one person who lived this out?  What if there was a person who was not greedy but giving?  What if there was someone who was not entitled but humble?  What if there was someone who was disciplined and lived out love and peace?  What if this person did all this and instead of saying "vote for me" he said "follow me."? What if there was someone who could not just cure the symptom but the problem?  What if there was someone who could not only change things but change us?

There is someone who offers such hope, who does not go on television and slander other people with lies, but is gentle and loving.  There is someone who does not charge ridiculous prices to eat in a banquet hall with him, but freely invites you to come and eat the broken bread and wine.  There is someone who has cure, a great physician who knows the ailment and solution.  Unfortunately we have failed to see our sickness, and we have failed to go seek the cure.  But the physician is still here.  The one who can fully effect change has not abandoned us.
Jesus who takes the illness of the world upon himself and proclaims forgiveness has given us cure from all this and even cure from death itself.  If you want the cure, if you want the change, if you want Jesus then he invites you to follow him and experience not just change but transformation!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Character Counts: The Debase Debates of our Petty Presidential Candidates

It is official the Presidential debate has turned historically ugly.  With both candidates pushing to raise 1 billion dollars in pursuit of being named Commander in Chief, resources have recently been overwhelming spent on negative ads vilifying opponents.   The ads question Romney's past CEO initiatives and Obama's past Presidential programs.  Not that questioning an opponents' motives are wrong, but these paid messages have more name calling than a grade school playground fight.  These messages paid for by wealthy intelligent people in support of candidates are nothing more than bully talk.  The campaign messages are full of half truths that distort the other candidates' words.  There are sound bites taken to make a completely different message than ever intended. There is more dishonesty in this campaign than any other in our history.
Politicians (on both ends) lie about their opponents' to smear their name and then they dare to claim they stand for truth and justice.  Meanwhile the issues of rising poverty, escalating war, unstable governments, and missing opportunities of the lower class go ignored.  When is the last time the Afghanistan War which has over 80,000 U.S. troops engaged been mentioned?

These debase debates effect more than just our voting system.  The behaviors of our nation's leaders are a terrible hideous disease that has infected us all.

 We as a people can no longer discuss points and ideas in how to govern a nation, instead we get angry, make personal attacks, ostracize opposing ideas, and even commit unthinkable acts of violence.  We do not know how to have differing respectful debates because our leaders have debased the art.  Our politicians speak out against bullying, yet when it comes to their opponents' they cruelly attack anything and everything they can.  We have had everything from people’s pet ownership to singing ability attacked in political ads vying for what is supposed to be the highest position in our country.  We have been left with petty presidential debates that disease our nation, families, and even our own reasoning skills.

Why are we even passionately arguing for one leader over another when neither has risen above the challenge?  Why do we put our energy and resources into a failing system?

I think it is time we expect more from our leaders.  Every year candidates wonder why people do not make it to the polls when we are left with no good options.

Our leaders have failed to lead us to be better people; our public servants have failed to serve.  We have put winning, election, and position at the forefront of our achievement and we have only sunk to the bottom in attempts to reach these goals. 

Jesus Christ quite plainly told his disciples the secret to leadership and effective change; serve humbly and look to others interest before your own.  If we are to become a people united together with vision that can effect change, our leadership, our politics, our theology and deepest personal self must turn away from the egotism that has led to violent words and behavior of debate.  We must learn to serve.  This message is for our politicians, for our CEO's and world leaders, but if we expect them to reflect this behavior, we must first lead them with our own daily sacrificial lives, just as Jesus did.  We as a people from the bottom must imitate the greatest teacher who ever lived, we must trust in the powerful words of service and humility allow ourselves to become last so others can be first.  This will not trickle down from the top, but it will be planted in those on the bottom.  It will slowly, yet surely as a strong oak, grow into an unmovable, healthy, and fruitful tree. 

This will happen with those who trust in those words of Jesus and become the underground, dirty, unnoticeable roots that hold together both tree and nation.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Unjust Scandal of Chick-fil-A

When the donations of owner of Chick-fil-A started to go to places that among other things had official stances against gay marriage the public became suspect of the faith based fast food chain.  When the owner was asked about gay marriage he stated that he believed in a Bible based marriage that recognizes solely the joining of a man and a woman, all suspicions were confirmed and now Chick-fil-A has become a nothing short of modern Nazi rĂ©gime.

But let us wait a minute here.  The owner of Chick-fil-A never said he supports the illegalization of gay marriage.  The owner never said that if someone is homosexual they are terrible people.  In fact there are homosexual employed at Chick-fil-A.  He was asked a question (no doubt to stir up controversy) and he answered honestly.

There are now protests and articles, and blogs attesting at what an evil corporation Chick-fil-A is, have we all lost our minds?

The CEOs and owners of Wal-Mart are one of the largest employers in our country, yet their employees have no health care and fall under the poverty line because they fail to pay adequate wages, where are the protests?  Apple has been accused of atrocious crimes of starving, overworking, and putting their employees in dangers environments to make a cheap popular phone.  Apple does not give money to charities and they force workers to sleep on factory floors, yet we dare not protest one of America's most favorite products.  In fact, the former deceased owner Steve Jobs has been lifted up as on iconic hero of marketing and technologies.  Companies that employe children in dangerous factories and sweatshops dehumanize workers making them nothing more than slaves are our favorite brands that escape the scathing eyes of justice.

Chick-fil-A has donated millions to charitable organization and gives their employees a day off to be with their family on Sunday, yet we have made them our modern society's villain.   

Are we truly so blind?  Are we so focused on specks that we fail to notice the logs in people's eyes?  If you believe Chick-fil-A's ideology is wrong that is one thing, but to put their actions above the atrocities of Syria, Apple, Wal-Mart and other power hungry companies enslaving people overseas in unhealthy work environments is a sign we have truly lost our moral compass here in the United States.

We have become such disoriented wanderers in the pursuit of our sexuality that we have lost our eye on justice, mercy, compassion, and love.  Can we not open our eyes and ears and put first things first, can we not recognize good and evil?  Don't get me wrong, I am against all kinds of hate, but I do believe the words spoken by Chick-fil-A may not be words we all agree with, but they were not words of hate.

We are a lost nation, and either the voices of modern prophets will turn us around into the direction of love and compassion, or we will wonder as shepherdess sheep right of the cliff of selfish obsession.  Let us become a people concerned with true justice, true mercy, and let us not become distracted any longer by the perception of noble causes.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The God of Science and the Science of God

Let us be honest, Religion has been guilty of interfering with fields of study such as science.  When Galileo purposed the earth revolve around the sun instead of the sun around the earth, the Church was quick to contradict such claims based off unrelated scriptural texts.  But if we are truly honest, we must admit that Science has been guilty of interfering with faith and religion as well.  With the theory of evolution and the Big Bang, many scientist of pointed out that these prove God cannot exist.

Both Religion and Science have overstepped their bounds.  As a pastor of an American Baptist Church let me contradict many strongly held stereotypes and say that I am a big fan of science and technology.  Issues such as Evolution and the Big Bang do not disturb my faith.  I feel no overcoming urge to refute scientific claims because I have not the knowledge or understanding to debate with highly trained physicists.

My faith expresses the beauty of a creative God carefully and deliberately fashioning a habitable world full of diversity and life.  If God decided to developed life through slow evolving creatures that is his prerogative.  It is simply beyond my scope to suggest the validity of theories of Big Bangs and Evolving Apes, they may be correct, they may not be. 

Scripture, though intimidating to many, is relatively brief when considering its subject.  The Christian Bible does not have the luxury to detail every nuance of creation and existence.  In fact, John even admits that not everything about the short life of Jesus could be accounted for because the world is not spacious enough to hold the volumes it would produce (John 21:25).  If scripture is too brief to account for the entire life of the Savior, how could we reason that it holds all mysteries of heaven and earth?

I believe that there is much to be revealed about the amazing planet given to us.  What we do with the discoveries is what is important.  If Science is used to better care for humanity and the world I believe every Christian and non-Christian should celebrate.  However, if our advancement in science and technology is used to strip men and women of jobs, produce unfathomable and consequential pollution, if the earth is raped of its resources and beauty, and money becomes the pursuing ambition of our research, then the prophets of God ought to speak again unjust practices.  While science has brought comfort and efficiency, too often it has brought great consequences.  The atomic bomb is a great example of scientific advancement but at too great of a cost, one that too few Christians spoke out against in its debut during World War II.

Science has also been guilty of misusing their expertise and betraying the very field they represent by concluding god could not exist.  Science does not have the ability to affirm or deny the existence of everything in existence.  The scientific process relies on materials that can be measured, weighed, seen, or heard.  Yet humanity overwhelming believes in love, a reality that cannot be succumbed to scientific research.  Though brain patterns can be measured and tested, love and its practices will always be an unproven theory.  I find it amazing that Scripture testifies that "God is love" (1 John 4:8).

I celebrate the fact that we live in a world that can be discovered and revealed through the power of science.  I also celebrate the reality that there is more to life than what mere humanity can capture, hold, and analyze.  Love, forgiveness, loyalty, compassion are all beyond quantifying.  Science has revealed many mysteries and complexities of our existence.  I think it is disingenuous for anyone in the scientific or religious field to assume all is revealed and understood in the ever expanding universe we live in.  There is so much we have come to know, but think of the so much more that is unknown.  I see God in the known and unknown, I see God in power of love and forgiveness, and I see God transforming lives in miraculous ways.  Some say it is psychology, others insanity, but for me and millions of others it is truth that defines truth itself (John 14:6).

So let us as followers of Christ not be intimidated by the findings of science, and let science not be intimidated at the prospect of something greater than their methods exists.  Let us use our skills and wisdom to advance the world in things of love, compassion, health, and forgiveness.  Let us put aside our pride and remember nothing we have made or invented has come without the resources given to us.  Let us not be surprised about the statistical prospect of something greater than us exists, and let us rejoice that the greater thing loves us and desire to be known.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Stop Hating Leaders and Become One: The First Health Care Mandate

Say whatever you like about the constitutionality of the health care law, it will not solve all the problems as some hope, and it will not be the fiery apocalyptic end of civilization as others tend to argue.  My concern is how did we even get here in the first place?  How does any "modern developing" society that believes in evolving intellects and advancement find itself in a place that must cajole people to move.

We idly sit by criticizing our leaderships every move demanding them to make changes that allow for better jobs, better pay, affordable healthcare, and equal access to education and opportunities.  The majority sees the world as an incomplete place and we point figures at past leaders, opposing political parties and contentious markets for our problems.  When did we adopt the belief that real change must trickle down from the top?

What if the only way to provide better jobs, equal opportunities and health care was through small local changes?  The early church had it right.  The church had the message of Jesus Christ upon the cross, the message of forgiveness and hope, the message of eternal life.  The early church also believed that they were called by their messiah to advance his kingdom here on earth.  The advancement of Christ's kingdom does not come with holy wars, forced conversion, or a Christian nation-state, but through caring for the poor, widow, and orphan.

The early church quickly attracted a following because of their encompassing way of community.  No one had shortage of food in the church because they all shared their meals together.  The rich with the poor sat down side by side, brother next to brother, sister next to sister as equals and ate the same meal.  If someone was out of a job due to famine, cutbacks, or being blacklisted because of their faith, the church carried the family through and helped them find a job.  If someone was injured and could not work, the church would not only carry the family through the difficult time by taking care of food and shelter, they also provided physical care or the injured.  If famine destroyed your farm, your house burnt down, a plague ran through your town, there were no sick days there was no insurance, there was no equal cheap access to health care, the church was formed together to take care of every need.  The only mandate was to love at all tiems with everything (literally everything) you had.

This kind of community extremely attracted the poor, but it quickly grew so that even the wealthy could not ignore the power of the movement.  The power and provision was always driven by Christ as their Lord and savior, but as the church grew in size and influence they began to focus less on local communities to address problems.  The Churches started becoming regional, then national, and then global.  The church formed a hierarchy that imitated the powerful nation-states, with a Pope at the top, cardinals as governors, bishops as local magistrates, and priests as alderman.  The church became an ineffective government.

The early church understood the importance of influence not through money, or power, but through joining together, eating, praying, living together and providing for needs.  The church did not try to fix the world, it tried to care for those within her reach, and this enacted a chain reaction.

If we want change we cannot hand it over to leaders governing from the top of the world.  Change begins by reassessing our values, reaching out and joining with our neighbors, and committing to care for those within our reach.  Everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to change themselves.  Everybody wants to save the world, but nobody wants to save their neighbor.  A smaller focus means a bigger change.

It is time we focused on doing the right things, like making sure we are paying our neighbors livable wages, not because someone makes us but because it is right.  We need to make sure our neighbors are getting enough food to eat instead of handing them a form for food stamps.  We need to join together and help find shelter for those struck with tragedy, and not wait for the government to do it.  It is time we do the right thing for our neighbors without passing it off to anyone else.  The kingdom of God is coming, and Christ with it, and we will be judge on his mercy, and how we care for each other, if we rely on some other force to care for our neighbor why we turn our back, we may miss out.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

When Progress becomes regress

When progress becomes regress

And cities are set on fire

The rage of the people will burn bright

Tottering ideals expire.

Tyrants feed, dictators greed

Who can lead the wild flame?

When the earth begins to turns backwards

All the unknown need a name.

Mass killers only hinders

More than generals can command.

The devil wages the fiercest war

For much more than our mere land.

When what's torn part is our heart

And we cannot find our soul.

More is needed than our human pride

A mender to make us whole.

Ideals burn placed in the urn

And everything is in soot

We refuse to build it back again

We will shake it from our foot.

A new place with a new grace

Unlike all others before

What was started from the beginning

God will finally restore. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

How to Raise a Bully

Grade schoolers cussing out bus monitors?  Karen Klein, 68, was hit with a barrage of profanity from pre-adolescent school children.  They make sexual taunting passes at her, and blame her for her eldest son suicide that happened 10 years ago.  If you watch the viral video, you see the children are relentless, even continuing while Mrs. Klein cries.  Throughout the video you feel extreme discomfort and sympathy for this poor woman.  However, those who work with students on a regular basis may not be too surprised by the taunting.  Teachers, aids, and monitors are being cussed out regularly.  I was cussed out by a seven year old in the parking lot of our church.  While this incident with Mrs. Klein goes far and beyond most cases, I believe it is a sign of the continuing trend of our society.

Yahoo recently released on article detailing the "non-issue of profanity and nudity in television.  Censorship is turning down the "bleeps" and the "blurs" of foul language and nudity, and allowing more to been seen and heard.  Censors believe there is too much censorship!

Another trend is happening if you watch the Disney network.  "Innocent" and "kid friendly shows" are containing more themes of disrespect to bumbling parents and clueless adults.  I challenge you to watch a show and count the times the adults disrespected or considered idiots.

Another article has just been released that reveals teens spend an average of 10 hours a day connected to media (tv, computer, music). 

Kids are plugged into more media, media is showing more language and sexual content, and children are using more language, sexual content, and practicing complete disrespect.  Do you suppose there may be a connection?

I have spent the last month without watching television (except for a few minutes of a Cubs game when I was visiting a sick friend).  Also in the last month I have only listened to the radio 4 different times, less than 30 minutes each time.  During this month, I have extra time to read, go to the park with my daughter, and pray.  The best part is not what I am getting, but what I am missing, all the negative messages.

The principle made an official statement assuring the public that the students who participated in the hazing would receive discipline, but what about everyone else?  Don't we all deserve some punishment in this?  This is not High School students throwing these insults, they are middle schoolers.  Are we not to blame in putting these words, these sexual images, these scenarios of entertainment that encourage disrespect before their influential eyes?  Could we actually say these students ought to know better when they have not been shown better?

W only know what we see.  You cannot expect someone to know better when they don't see respect, love, kindness, and patience lived out.  It is not enough to verbally teach the meaning of such words, they must be seen in action.

When Jesus called his disciples he did not call them into a classroom, tell them to open and text book and read the definitions of love, respect, and forgiveness.  Jesus did not just teach his disciples, he showed them.  When he called them he said "Follow me."  When he told them it is better to serve than rule, he showed them by washing their feet.  And when Jesus wanted his disciples to learn the depth and power of forgiveness, he surrendered himself to death on a cross.

Our children are simply living out the lessons they are taught on the internet, television, music, and us adults.  It is time we start showing the lessons children out to live out, and block the message that we do not want them to practice.  It is perfectly acceptable to refuse to allow children to watch violent images, sexual images, and prevent them from hearing offensive language and negative lyrics. 

I think it is time we act like adults and begin showing our children what is commendable, and blocking what is condemnable.  Let us clean up our act, clean up the media we allow to influence our children, and clean up our schools.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mercy Not Sacrifice: The Idolatry of War

2,000 American Soldiers now have died in Afghanistan.  The suicide rate for our soldiers has reached nearly one per day.  The momentous number of fallen soldiers is the culmination of 3,900 days in Afghanistan.

Every time a son or daughter is brought home in a box, tears are shed, hearts are broken, and the ubiquitous phrase "she/he paid the ultimate sacrifice" is announced as a word of comfort.

I am growing weary of this "sacrifice."  I have become infuriated at the idea of us proudly sending our children across the world.  Boys and girls who ought to be busy going to college, starting families, building community are given rifles, an enemy, and a paycheck.  This is an impossible life that has claimed 2,000 soldiers in this war.

Today is Flag Day, and many homes, businesses, and churches will wave the banner of our nation high in patriotic pride.  But this flag is drench stained with so much blood, the gore has made me ill.  I feel dirty and guilty every time we sell the idea to our children that people must die so we can have the freedom to vote for indifferent politicians who break apart families by sending them to war.  Too many have returned home dead.  Too many have returned home severely injured.  Too many have returned unable to cope with the things that no man or woman or child or soldier should have to see or do.  Too many unable to cope with the evil drown their lives with liquor, drugs, or other self-destructive tendencies.  Other's cannot cope and end their lives.  This is the "ultimate sacrifice" we are willing to accept for our lives of "freedom."

The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel saw terrible acts of sacrifice happening in their day.  Mothers and Fathers were actually sacrificing their own children to idols.  Ezekiel cries out

"You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols" (Ezekiel 16:21).

Can you imagine such a heartbreaking image?  What evil can manipulate parents to surrender their children to the temple flames of a grotesque god?  Yet, we participate in the very act today.

While none of us may physically put our children in a fire, we put them on buses and planes and send them to distant lands, knowing their life is in the hands of the United States.  We do this in the name of freedom, in the name of democracy.  We believe that freedom cannot exist if the flag fails to fly.  We are willing to have our children die so a government can continue to promise us what only God can give.  Is it not Jesus who brings freedom (Luke 4:19)?  What god then are we trusting when we sell our children to war?

We sacrifice our children, then go to church singing God bless America and Ezekiel says,

"On the very day they sacrificed their children to their idols, they entered my sanctuary and desecrated it. That is what they did in my house" (Ezekiel 23:39).

We believe that guns and missiles will ensure our God given rights when 2 Corinthians 10:4 says the weapons followers of Christ use are not weapons of the world.  We believe we can have peace and freedom by sacrificing our children when 2 Corinthians 3:17 says freedom comes from the Spirit of the Lord.

I know many who are enlisted and on active today.  I pray that they may not have to encounter violence; I pray that they may come home safely, but I most earnestly pray that we stop relying on our children to do what only God can and has promised to do.  The ultimate sacrifice is not our children, the ultimate sacrifice is Jesus Christ upon the cross, through him we have freedom, peace, and life. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Evil Church Vs. Good Church: The Unfair "Truth"

I am a pastor of a church on the Westside of Indianapolis.  We are not a big church (130 worship weekly).  I am passionate about my job and my church, and I truly believe I have the best occupation in the world.  However, after watching/reading the news this past week I have been left with a feeling that all pastors and churches are a bunch of bigoted whack-jobs. 

Just within the last month we see news stories of Priests suing the President over birth control, and pastors advocating extreme and violent methods against homosexuals.  Every time I see Priests/pastors in the news I hold my breath and prepare myself for the worst.  The headlines for spiritual leaders have gotten so bad that sometimes I wonder why I even do what I do.

Somewhere in the middle of being flooded with ethically suspect clergy, I realized that media is extremely biased.   Now I am not saying they are biased against all forms of religion, or even a specific religion (they may or may not be).  But media is biased toward the audacious, the corrupted, scoundrel, catastrophe, and the tragically ironic.  Media shows the worst of the worst.  Media is not about reporting facts or truth in of themselves, but they seek to report rating boosting headlines.  It is about the money from commercials they receive from gathering an audience.

Now I am very well aware that there are many self proclaimed religious leaders who callously take advantage of the susceptible and weak.  I know great crimes have been committed by those who are held to the highest standard.  However, the reporting on churches and leaders has been so outrageously slant, that it makes me wonder if it is the Priests/pastors that are corrupted or the reporters.

The priests who molest people should be held responsible.  The pastors who steal, cheat and lie for gain should be called out, and spiritual guides who make provocative violence endorsing speeches should be removed, but we should also call to remove those who misinterpret the truth through slanting stories against certain peoples.
Of every corrupted pastor who commits some crime I know hundreds who give up so much to help so many.  Of every church that sweeps things under the rug, I know hundreds that expose the truth and offer comfort.  I know hundreds of churches that give food to hundreds of people in their communities on a regular basis without using government funds that come from taxes (of which we are one).  I know hundreds of churches that provide clothes to those who need them for free (which we are also one).  I know many churches that donate money, gifts, and time to hospitals for the sick (which we are also one).  Yet the members of our church who make this possible are not in the news, only those who are doing something morally disgusting are. 

There are hundreds of churches I know that help addicts recover without the use of public funds.  I know churches that provide homes for the homeless, schooling and training for the unemployed, assistance to struggling families, and counseling to hurt relationships.  When someone passes away a church is always there to comfort the family (we even provide meals to families).  When someone is in the hospital the church is always there.  When there are hungry, homeless, naked people, the church is there.

I am not saying we are perfect, and I am not saying we should ignore the ugly sides that rear their heads, I am only advocating for honest reporting; I want some truth in the news. 

A local church daycare got in trouble for a boy who accidently drowned.  The news began reporting that Churches do not follow regulations or guidelines that other daycares must.  This is the dishonesty that saddens me.  We run a Preschool ministry, and our teachers are highly trained, highly qualified people who follow all the procedures and requirements every day.  One of our children stopped breathing due to a severe seizure episode, and our teachers saved the child's life.  No where was that in the news.  Our preschool prepares the children more (according to teachers, staff, and administration at our local elementary school) than any other that feeds into the school.  We offer the 2nd lowest cost in the area with the best care and education, and we are strictly non-profit.  Any family that is struggling receives discounts so that no child is without a place in our building.  Our church and many other churches are helping hurt communities. 

I do not expect accolades, nor do the saints in the church that work hard every day.  We simply want people to know, that many of us, most of us, are not about hate; we are not about judgment, but we are about the love, reconciliation, and acceptance of God.   

Let us stop pretending that all Christians are terrible people.  Let us do the unpopular thing and show what real churches, real pastors, and real lay people are doing everyday in small local churches.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ethics of Food: Hungry for Justice

Did you hear about the man who was forced to leave an All-You-Can-Eat Buffett because he ate too much food?  You know you are too big for any britches when you are removed from a buffet.  While I skimmed the story I must admit I could not stomach to read the whole article.

I do know the man paid for a service, and that service was not delivered.  And I am sure the man gluttonously took advantage of their offer, but the restaurant should have at least given him a full refund, if he couldn't leave with a full belly.

 We American's sure like to eat, and apparently this man takes the cake on buffets.  We Americans also like to sue, which I was relieved to not yet hear of a pending lawsuit (but won't be surprised if one is filed).  Besides eating, and suing, we like to rectify wrongs, insure justice, calling out the power hungry institutions that take advantage of the little guys (and obese ones).  So this man decided to picket the restaurant.  This man decided to stand outside the restaurant with sign in his hand until he got his just desserts (he was finishing up appetizers when they escorted him out). 

If you allow me, I would like to digest this all for a moment.  Around the world 11,000 children die of hunger every day.  Millions go without food on a daily basis.  Parents watch their children waste away slowly and helplessly.  We live in a country where our complaints and picketing are reduced to not getting to eat all we want, when many don't get to eat what they need.  Why do we give such a story any credence?  Why do we seek out the little injustices when there are so many great one's happening throughout our world?  Why are we so focused on our full platters and never notice the empty plates of the poor?

Jesus says "blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (Matthew 5:6). 

11,000 children dying around the world, and 1/3 of children in our own country who suffer from insufficient food, are certainly hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  Yet, we have been blinded by the petty things of this world.
If those who hunger for righteousness now will be filled later, what about those who are full now?  What about us who turn the blind eye and eat our fill?  Will we who have the means but not the passion end up empty? 

 I believe the greatest injustice, and the first issue that needs to be addressed is the ethic and justice of food.  If we end terror, if we take down drug cartels, if we rectify the false promises of our business, if we construct amazing hospitals, cathedrals, and global markets, but we still watch children starve, will all our accomplishments please our maker?

Let us stop the charade.  Let us stop pretending that we don't get what we deserve in life, and let us turn our attention to those who have had nothing.  Let us be the ones who assure justice and bellies are filled.  Let us be caretakers of the children of God.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Marrying Gays and Divorcing Politics

Did you hear, after NC voted against allowing gay marriage, and after VP Joe Bidden spoke in favor of gay marriage (and then did some back tracking) President Obama came out and said he supports gay marriage.  I have no issues with Obama, I didn't vote for him last election (I wrote in "Jesus") but I have nothing against him.  However, Obama's stance for gay marriage seems to be more of a calculated move toward reelection than a confession of social ethics.  States have voted against gay marriage before (California, New York) yet Obama was silent in those times.  Joe Bidden has opened his mouth before, and Obama was silent then.  The question we must ask then, is why does Obama speak out now?

Some may argue that Obamam had time to think over his feelings on the issue, and now has come to a conclusion.  Some argue that Obama's position has completely changed and now he must speak up about his new formed convictions.  Unfortunately, I see his statement as nothing more than a power play for the upcoming election.

The calculated timing of the statement is pretty genius.  Obama wanted to create a new political battle topic that detracts from the former fighting points that neither politician was winning.  Economy, war, and spending are all areas of government that the GOP and the Democrats have failed on in the past 8 years.  With the election heating up, a new topic was brought in, a topic that would certainly raise the ears of young apathetic voters, a issue that would create a driving force to the polls, not an economic issue, or a militaristic issue, but a social issue.   

In essence what is happening is that Obama is using gays and lesbians as a tool to generate victory for his campaign.  Our President is simply using people as a means to the end, which is his reelection.  That is the overwhelming problem with our world, people merely become a means to an end.  We assign value on people dependent upon their ability to serve our agendas.   This election and everyone before is about using people to accomplish one party's aspirations.

Obama is not alone.  Right after the President's announcement Romney went on to say he is against gay marriage.  Romney is using the people who are against gay marriage to serve as his means to get elected.  Our government, officials and Presidents all do this.  The people have simply become a means to their ends.  We are used to accomplish their place in the history books, we are used so they can amass wealth, gain authority, accomplish prestige, and ascertain power.  This is the worst act of humanity because it diminishes all people to sub-human entities. 

Obama may truly believe in gay marriage, but that is not the point of his statement, and that is not the point of Romney's follow-up.  Their statements are geared at using the citizens as pawns in a power play for election.

The really tragic part of all this is that we will all fallow suit.  Churches will now regrettably standup to support Romney because he is against gay marriage, we will fall into their power plays, and in the end the election is never about social issues, economic issues, or military, it is about who can win.  It is never about what is best, or about what the people need, it is only about what will get people roused up and divided.  Election is about division, dividing politics, dividing up the candidates, and dividing the people.

Jesus did not come to figure out the best strategic way to get our biases to serve his agenda.  When Jesus came it was not about us serving him, instead it was about him serving us (Mark 10:45).  Jesus came to be the means for our end.  He became the way through the cross and the resurrection so we could have the end, eternal life.  Servitude is leadership, it is true power. 

We lack this in our politics, in our churches, and even in our own communities.  The fabric of our nation is wrapped up in having others serve us.  Jesus created a new kingdom for those who wish to join.  This kingdom is not like democracy.  This kingdom does not look to serve self, but others.  This kingdom rests in the example and power of Jesus the King.  This kingdom is the kingdom of God, and door is opened to all who wish to enter.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Where is Jesus? Where is his Church?

Where would we find Christ today?  If Jesus came to live on the earth again in this age, where would we find the Son of God spending his time? 

Certainly would find him among the poor.  But would we find Jesus in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen?  Could we find him volunteering his time at a food pantry or rescue mission?  Could Jesus be hitting up the street corners with beggars handing out food and blankets with his 12 disciples in tow?  With what kind of poor would we find Jesus?  Would he be around those who lost their jobs due to downsizing?  Would we find him with the poor who greatly mismanaged their resources?  Would we find him with the poor who spend their money on alcohol and drugs?  Would he invest his time with those who succumb to poverty due to their languid attitudes accepting welfare, disability, food stamps, and assistance when they are able to work?

We know Jesus would certainly spend time with sinners as he frequently did 2,000 years ago.  But with what kind of sinners would Jesus associate?  Would we find Jesus frequenting the local pub, The Checkered Flag, down the street to share stories with the debaucheries of society?  Would he converse with those working in the red light districts as they try to attract clients and turn tricks?  Would he visit the corrupted CEO's, the Bernie Madoff's in prison?  Would he ride into gang territory and share the love of God with Hell's Angels?  Would he knock on the dilapidated homes turned into meth labs for a visit?  Would he visit the East Side of Indianapolis known for its violence, and rampant drug use? 

We know Jesus would enter into intense discussion about the nature and will of God.  But what kind of leaders would Jesus disagree with the most?  Would he oppose the Catholic Priests, the Baptist ministers, the Episcopal clergy, the elders, deacons, or lay Christians around the world?  Would he argue against the Imams, Clerics, Rabbis, and other leaders of religious organizations?

We know Jesus avoided the political spotlight as much as possible.  Would Jesus again avoid the liberal and conservative pulpits and platforms?  Would Jesus preach a new political association that rises about right wing left wing dominance?  Would he preach a new Constitution, a new Bill of Rights, a new government that was not democratic, or republic, but monarchy in nature where God ruled?  Would he criticize the monetary and violent powers we utilize like he did under the shadow of Rome?

Jesus' message was simple "The time has come.  The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news" (Mark 1:15).  What time are we in now?  Is the kingdom of God not now here?  What would Jesus call us to repent from?  What sin must we ask forgiveness today?  What path have we lost that must again be found? 

These questions are important to ask.  The reason we ask them is because Christ is here among us.  The answer to these questions is resoundingly yes!  Jesus would do all these things, and even more.  The Church is the body of Christ, if we would find Jesus in such places, with such people, preaching such messages, should we not also find his Church there as well?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jesus Gave Away the Winning Lottery Ticket

Did you notice the 3 winners who get to split the over 600 million dollar Lottery winnings. Perhaps you owned one of the over 1 billion tickets that were sold for this Lottery’s high tantalizing prize. For the first time I can ever remember I held in my hand a Lottery ticket. My wife and daughter were in our home town celebrating my daughter’s first birthday. We stopped at a gas station to fill up on gas when my mother-in-law came out with a Lottery ticket for each of us.

When that ticket is in your hand you cannot help but begin to dream how the right combination of random numbers would change your life forever. You begin thinking about the debts you could pay off, the house you could afford, the car you could drive, the flat screen HDTV 3D you could watch (is that even a real television?). When my mother-in-law handed me that ticket, I began dreaming.

I have often thought about what I would do if I won the Lottery even though I never played. I often ask our youth group what they would do if they won the Lottery, and just listen to their dreams. Often time’s people in our church tell me if they win the lottery the first thing they would do is buy this or that for the church. The more I think about the more I realize I could only spend the money in one way: I would have to give it away.

Now most people who share their dreams of winning the Lottery usually have a component of giving some to charity, but I would have to give it all away. I wouldn’t first pay off my debts, I wouldn’t first take care of school for my daughter, I wouldn’t even first give some to my family or friends, but I would give every last dollar and dime away.

Now this blog is not about demanding that anyone who wins the Lottery must ethically give it all away. I am simply stating that through reflection, and my faith I have been given the freedom to give everything away. People do many good things with winnings, but imagine the impact of giving everything away and keeping nothing for yourself.

I am not talking about walking down the street and giving it to anyone who looks like they need it. I am talking about being faithful with my talents. I would invest, set up a fund, and provide food, school, and medical necessities for people without. I would invest in churches that are still the largest resource of volunteers and raised funds for the needy in the world. If I won I recognize it as God trusting me to use the money in the best possible way. Not that I don’t have college debt, and I would like to see my daughter go to college, and there are some dental issue in our family that would be nice to take care of, but I also realize that my faith in Jesus has made me completely happy and content.

The death and resurrection of Jesus has wiped away every fear, and I am happy with my life, my family, and my friends. Millions of dollars is not worth jeopardizing my joy that I have through my faith.

When I share my idea with people, my friends, and my family people usually look at me like I am crazy. Often I am told that there is nothing wrong with keeping some for yourself. I know there is nothing wrong with keeping some. I don’t condemn those that keep money for themselves, but there is also nothing wrong with keeping nothing. Truthfully, this is not a discussion about right and wrong, but what we are allowed to do through the freedom and security that God has given. This article is about blessing people, about being faithful, about not putting yourself first, about addressing need, and about protecting what God has already given you by not letting money threaten to take it away. This is simply about the opportunity to fulfill your dreams by fulfilling others. This is about watching Jesus head to the cross willing to give away his life, his peace, his innocents, and even his divinity, so that we would have what we cannot purchase for ourselves. It is about remembering Jesus’ call to follow him on that path to the cross. This is about doing what Jesus has done and allows us to do; to give it all away.

I feel like I already won the Lottery. I have the world’s best wife (proven fact) I have the most wonderful daughter, I serve with an incredible church, I have no hunger, no lack of clothes, and no lack of friends. Most importantly I have life that not even death can take away. It is absurd to even find myself thinking I need or even want more. I have God, I have family, I have friends, I have a church, everything else I could just give away, and I try to everyday.

Of course when the winning numbers were listed not one of my numbers or my wife’s numbers on our tickets matched. I guess God is content to trust us to give away what he has already given us.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guns kill people

We have all heard the meaningless slogan chanted “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” But maybe guns can be partly to blame for the horrific violence that is done in our modern world. The most recent national case of gun violence is the unfortunate death of Trayvon Martin by captain of the neighborhood watch Mr. Zimmerman.

You have seen the hoodie marches and the loud outcry of injustice that a 17 year old boy was killed by a man who still walks free. The media has portrayed Mr. Zimmerman with a photo in prison clothes, and Trayvon as a young sweet smiling boy. However, recently people have been posting pictures of Mr. Zimmerman in professional clothes with a big grin, and Trayvon in baggy pants with no shirt, throwing up what seems to be gang sings. Mr. Zimmerman’s criminal past has been well documented, and now people are advertising Trayvon’s drug use, and suspension of school. Essentially, what we are attempting to do is establish blame.

What is most telling is that blame seems to correspond to ones’ race. Whether we want to admit it or not, this is a race issue. However, we will probably never truly know exactly what happened. God alone can testify and we can only hypothesize.

But perhaps we are overlooking the real problem. Perhaps the reason this all happened is due to our lax ideas concerning guns. Yes, I know our Second Amendment grants us rights to Bear Arms, but that does not mean it’s good for our society.

If we take the same situation and eliminate the gun I can come as close to as a guarantee as possible that Trayvon would still be alive today. If Mr. Zimmerman approached Trayvon without a gun, there may have been harsh words, there may have been pushing or shoving, there may even be fists thrown, but Trayvon would still be alive.

Why are we so insistent on allowing violent weapons to be present in intense situations? We think we need guns to protect ourselves, yet we see too many children killed by these very things that are designed to “protect” ourselves.

Jesus says those who live by the sword will die by the sword. You can believe that if guns were around when Jesus was, the same would apply. Jesus had every right to defend himself, he had every right to pull out an armed weapon according to his 2nd Amendment right, he had every right to pull the trigger on his enemies, but he didn’t. Jesus instead laid down his life, picked up his cross and died, and then Jesus tells us to do the same thing. We worry about our rights far too much, when the Son of God thought nothing of his. When we use violence to stop violence, violence wins. Peace cannot come through violence, only through self-denying love.

So my conclusion is that people kill people, but a lot less people would be killed if guns did not exist and Jesus did in our hearts.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Christianity should be illegal.

Christianity should be illegal. Now I first must clear the air. I consider myself a Christian. I believe that Jesus was the Christ, the messiah, the son of God, who died on a cross, was buried; three days later rose from the dead for the forgiveness of sins, and ascended into heaven. The more I think about what I believe and what this countries values and goals are, the more I am convinced that my faith should be illegal.

First, our country believes that to live in the United States and enjoy the equality and benefits you must gain legal citizenship. Christians believes foreigners have inherited rights:

The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. - Leviticus 19:34

Americans believe acquiring wealth through hard work is an admirable trait provided by a capitalistic market. We seek out big lands and big homes and use those as measurements of accomplishment. Christians believe acquiring mass amounts of wealth, land, and possessions are not only troublesome, but a great act of injustice.

Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. – Isaiah 5:8

The ideals of the United States state that those who work hard deserve more than those who don’t. Christians believe life is all a gift of grace and equal sharing is the desired result.

Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. – Matthew 20:14

Americans believe you have the right to carry a gun and use it when you feel threatened. Christians believe that we should turn the other cheek and lay down our own life, not others.

But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. – Matthew 5:39

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. – 1 John 3:16

American citizens inherently believe in “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” Christians are called not only to forgive, but to love their enemies, and to hold nothing against each other.

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you – Matthew 5:44

Americans believe in the sacred act of owning land and possessions, Christians believe that everything belongs to God. We believe every 50 years possession should be restored to original owners (Leviticus 25 Year of Jubilee). We believe possessions are to be shared not possessed (Acts 4:32-37).

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. – Acts 4:32

But store up; for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieve do not break in and steal. - Matthew 6:20.

Americans believe peace comes through battles fought and wars waged and Christians believe it comes through a cross.

and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. – Colossians 1:20

Finally we uphold the value life and self preservation, but Christians believe in the value, beauty, and love in laying down their lives.

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and takes up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? – Mark 8:34-36

The grace and truth of Jesus Christ, many times stands in direct opposition to the values and beliefs of our country. I find it odd when politicians try to emerge the teaching and resurrection of Jesus to the law of the land. If the United States wishes to pursue their values of capitalism, violent defense (which is usually offense) exploitation, and unequal monetary distribution than the best thing this country can do is outlaw Christianity. It is Christ who has supreme authority (Colossians 1) therefore the United States should feel threatened.

I am bold enough (or perhaps naive enough) to say with Peter that I will follow Christ to jail, to persecution, and even to death.