Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘what’s wrong with America’

Naked Church


In the morning you say “There will be a storm, for the sky is red and threatening.”  Do you know how to read the signs of the sky, and yet cannot discern the signs of the times?

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Ghost and The Darkness (1996.)  A big game hunter named Charles Remington looks at a humiliated comrade and says, “We have an expression in prize fighting: ‘Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit.’ Well my friend, you’ve just been hit. The getting up is up to you.”

That’s a fair appraisal of where the followers of Christ here in this country find ourselves in 2016.  Something happened to us when the US Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right last year. We had voted and lobbied and marshalled all our poitical might only to be undone by five unelected justices! Really? For many, it was like a sucker punch to the gut.  It felt like the last straw.  Some decided to keep fighting a battle that seemed utterly hopeless.  Others decided to cave and find some kind of compromise position between welcoming and affirming.  Then the dreariness and discontent descended like a dark cloud

Reading Zephaniah today, I came across a word that almost leaped off the page.  I had been thinking about this malaise so evident in American churches; this prevailing mood that the light at the end of the tunnel is most likely a train!  Then this little known “minor” prophet made me snap to attention.

“At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good nor will he do ill.'”  Zephaniah 1:12

That’s where 2016 finds many of us in the church: complacent.  When the Jews were captured by the Babylonians, it was bad enough losing everything and being uprooted and relocated into a pagan land.  But almost as bad was the haunting question, “Where is our God?  Why does he look so weak and hapless?”  In fact, their God had engineered the entire tragedy to bring his people to their senses.  He had stripped them naked to reveal their shame.

We feel the same way today:  defeated and disappointed that God could have been outflanked by activist judges.  But God wasn’t outsmarted or out-voted: He is still on his throne shaping and directing history.  He has stripped away all our pretense of being street smart, highly sophisticated, and media savvy.  Naked, we stand here looking like hypocrites and Neanderthals, clueless about the changes in culture and the hearts of men. A wicked and adulterous generation, we can tell where the wind is blowing but have no idea where the Spirit is going.

God hasn’t been hit, but we have.  The getting up is up to us.  But before we can stand we will need get off our backs and rise to our knees.  That’s how the army of God always advances- on our knees.  And that’s the first step to having the winds of heaven fill the sails of the churches again.

With Resurrection Sunday less than two weeks away, it’s useful to remember that our God does some of his finest artwork with the dark hues and heavy oils of hopeless situations.  If you and I begin the journey of repentance and searching, maybe some other complacent saints will follow.  I don’t want to seem glib here: repentance and renewal begin small and move slowly.  There are no quick fixes we can conjure up overnight; but a few broken-hearted saints can at least take one baby step in the right direction.  So I’m praying more with others seeking revival, and am eager to hear about others who are doing the same.

Just a thought: don’t give up; kneel down.

And lift up the cross!





Not with a Bang but a Whimper


This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper.   – Elliot

In Bakersfield, California, an 87 year old woman died this week with a nurse standing by her side and talking to a desperate 911 operator.  The operator literally asked the uncooperative nurse to step aside and find a passerby who would be willing to perform CPR.  The nurse declined to intervene, allowing the senior adult to die waiting for EMT’s to arrive.  The story has hardly raised an eyebrow across the USA.

Compare that to the firestorm that erupted in 2005 when a comatose woman named Terry Schiavo died in Florida.  By the time doctors finally disconnected the patient’s feeding tube and allowed her to die, a massive passionate had erupted to spread across the country!  The incident created such a furor that Congress actually attempted to override state courts in order to save the life of an individual.  Despite her husband’s wishes, it took just about five years for one court to finally achieve the standing to order that Terry Schiavo be allowed to die.

Granted, the details of the stories are different.  Schiavo was a younger woman who happened to be in a persistent vegetative state.  The Bakersfield woman was almost ninety years old, and the institution where she lived had a written policy that nurses in a particular situation will simply call 911.  But the notable lack of national outrage, concern, or even debate is stunning.  It measures how far our nation has drifted in less than ten years from our earlier conviction that human life is sacred and we must err on the side of reverence.  In 2013, not even the recorded pleas of an operator that someone should assist this dying woman- not even that can rouse our compassion.

In the words of an old Aerosmith song, we are jaded.  We have been overcome by a surplus of comfort, an abundance of bad news, and a loss of idealism.  There are so many moral battles that we cannot fight them all.  So we refuse to engage in any of them.  There are so many causes that we cannot rally around them all, so we settle for apathy.  And we have enough problems of our own- so many that we don’t have the energy to wade into the battles of others.

T.S. Elliot was ahead of his time when he worried that we have become hollow men, not violent savages but simply stuffed replicas of human beings.  This is how the world ends…

Lift up the Cross!



“We must consider that we shall be as a city set on a hill.  The eyes of all people shall be upon us.” Puritan Pastor John Winthrop, 1631

Liberal Democrats aren’t the only ones who misquote the Bible and take it out of context.  Conservative Republicans also tend to practice selective theology.  President Ronald Reagan lifted the “city set on a hill” from Pastor Winthrop, and applied it to America.  So for the last twenty years, we’ve all insisted that our national greatness is supposed to make the USA a gleaming city on a hill, an shining example for a hopeless world.  Unfortunately, that’s lame theology.

Whatever happens to America, it’s the Church of Jesus Christ that is rightly depicted as a city set on a hill. John Winthrop was paraphrasing Jesus Christ.  “You are the light of the world,” the Lord explains in his Sermon on the Mount.  “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  Shining a light into the world is the task of saints, not patriots.  That’s because the world needs more than freedom or even prosperity: the world needs Jesus Christ.

It was conservatives who first made the mistake of assuming we could impose democracy on Muslim nations.  Unfortunately, Islamic nations don’t seem motivated to become democratic republics.  They seem to prefer authoritarian regimes.  It was the Christian faith and the character of Jesus Christ that prepared the American colonies for true liberty.  Our founding fathers said that time and again.  And only the Gospel will create the necessary foundation for freedom in Iraq or Iran.  This means we might consider celebrating “American values” a little bit less, and the Good News of Christ  a lot more.  It’s the glory of God that drives men and women to seek freedom of worship. Point them to the glory of Christ.

Lift up the Cross!

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