Friday, March 25, 2016

So why do we call it Good Friday?

It seems strange that the day in which Christians remember the death of Jesus we call "Good Friday."

There really is nothing good about it.  He was handed over to the people in charge and they beat Jesus within an inch of His life and then crucified Him.  Nothing good about that it would seem.

Buddha fell facedown into his rice.  His last words were "Don't make me a god."

An easier way to go.

Jesus was abused before dying.  After forgiving the people who did this to Him Jesus cried out, "My God, why have you forsaken me?"  Words of anguish.

Was it anguish or prophecy?

Just like we throw a line from a song on Facebook, Jesus was quoting from Psalm 22.  Read it.  It describes the horrible agony of someone smitten by God.  Bones out of joint.  Dried mouth.  Heart about to burst.  Hands and feet pierced.  People at foot dividing his clothes - everyone mocking him.  Seems to describe Jesus' horrible last day.

One eerie note - Psalm 22 was written a thousand years earlier - 700 years before crucifixion was invented.

So why is any of this good?

Some experts believe it has to do with the word - perhaps it just means what it means.  It was good because it enabled us to be forgiven of our sins.  The punishment for my sins were upon Him - He took it in my place.  That is good (for everyone else but Jesus).


It could also be that he word good is a long term mutation of the word 'God."  Kind of like we say "Good Bye" (God Be with Ye).  Not as likely - as if to say it was God's Friday.  It doesn't even make a whole lot of sense - it really wasn't God's Friday.  If anything it was the Friday of darkness.  Between 12-3 darkness fell across the land.  A time of shadows.  Uncertainty and sadness.

It seemed that darkness had won.

It is probably most likely that Good Friday is called Good because the word Good used to mean "Holy."  The English language has changed quite a bit over the last several hundred years.  "Passion" used to mean "Pain" but now it has to do with love.  "Charity" used to mean "love" and now it means compassionate giving.  In the same way "Good" used to mean "Holy."

And Holy means set apart.

So this day is set apart.  A day of reflection.  A day in which there was a death in God.  Something that doesn't fit into our understanding but we are grateful for.  Because of this Holy day, I am made right before a Holy God.  Something I don't quite understand and often take for granted.  A Holy Day in which Jesus gave up His Holiness so that I can be made Holy.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

For the first time . . .

If you were there about 2,000 years ago you probably would have ran off like everybody else.  We like to think that we would be different - that we would have stayed with Jesus right up to the end.  Like Peter - even if we had to die with Him, we never would have left.

But remember a few things:

* There was no New Testament. No Gospel.  No weight of thousands of years of religion behind this new movement.  Just a man who claimed to be one with the Father.  There are many of them around today that we write off as religious wackos.  Jesus would be no different to you.

* There was no accepted concept of grace and pardon and mercy - the Law was God's revelation to mankind.  Yes, a good portion of it talks about the grace and mercy of God but like people do today, the religious types find the things that they like to focus on and it wasn't grace.  So listening to this man talk about God like a daddy and emphasize the grace and mercy of the Law sounded like a hippie version of God.  You too would have thought this.

* There was no Church - no place to go to discuss this man Jesus and consider His teaching and evaluate whether He really was the Messiah.  Those who talked about Jesus among the religious were those that were plotting His death.  So chances are the only version of Jesus you were hearing was a twisted version of the Son of God.

Now think about this -

For many of our friends, coworkers and family those three things still apply today.  There are many who have heard the name of Jesus but don't know who He is.  Many who have never heard of grace - only the condemnatory remarks of the religious types in our culture.

And yes, for many there is no church they attend - your interactions may be the only place they hear about God . . .

But this weekend is a weekend that people are most open to coming with you to a place to hear about the life-transforming work of Jesus in our everyday life.

There are eight locations of LCBC throughout Southeastern PA that would love for you come this weekend and bring a friend that has never heard the truth.  Perhaps it can be a place to start the conversation about what God is doing in our lives here and now.

Consider bringing someone to church at LCBC this weekend.  Check out our locations here.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

How we messed it all up in three points . . . and some encouraging ideas forward.

The high and lofty one who lives in eternity,

    the Holy One, says this:
“I live in the high and holy place
    with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.
I restore the crushed spirit of the humble

    and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts."
Is 57:15

To those that have had it with the savage political climate that we are in . . .

To those that are fearful, worried, vexed and exacerbated . . .

To those that feel alienated by their own culture.

A little perspective about how we have arrived at the current Trump phenomenon.

1.  There is very little good leadership going on anywhere regardless of where you land politically.  Most good leadership is local - in our communities.  Our national leadership is kind of scant.  Both sides of the aisle have either re-treads or opportunists (no one else is running, maybe this is my year!).  Hillary and Sanders were considered jokes along with Trump before he started winning.  Now it is just who is the less dangerous joke.

2.  The crowded field has made it easier to win.  Because there were 15 people vying for approval in the primaries you could win a state with 1/3 the people's votes.  Think about this - according to Real Clear Politics, Trump has averaged 36% of the vote.  Now remember - these are primaries - only 35-40% of people in these states are voting.  So Trump is getting 1/3 of 1/3 of the voters in any given state.  Not the majority we envision.  Now consider that his biggest rivals got 12,18 and 22% of the vote.  Which of course means that if there were an alternative to Trump he would consistently lose primaries 52% - 36%.  But there are not a lot of good alternatives (see no#1)

3.  We as a nation have become less open-minded.  Because of this, we are embracing views that don't factor in any balance.  So we wind up with passionate people solving complex issues simplistically.  Jobs are leaving?  Build a wall.  College expensive?  Make it free.  Obamacare is failing?  Scrap it.  Income inequality?  Democratic socialism.  What we see in polling is less balance, more 'us vs. them' and derision of anyone who has a different idea.  Basically immaturity as a people to collectively seek answers to difficult problems that go beyond one's worldview.  At least Hillary balances out Sanders - people can like what Bernie has to say but feel safe voting for Hillary.  There is no such balance on the other side of the aisle - which goes back to point no#1.

And so all of this for me comes down to this - 

Take a deep breath

We are the victims of circumstance.  A lot of factors have combined to bring us here - we are not doomed . . . yet.

These times remind me that we really are just a bunch of stupid human beings.  As such there is no place for 'us vs them' or derision of others' points of view.  There are no Democrats and Republicans - we are human.  As human beings we are all groping in the dark for the best way forward.  And perhaps the best that these times can do is to inspire us to do a few things:

1.  We should not look to politics as the solution.  It is not.  We are the solution and we means you and I.  You can't have we with division.  Politics divide.  So put away your memes and listen to each other for heavens' sake.

2.  We should not look at different ideas as the enemy.   New thinking calls for new ideas.  Just because they belong to the person you disagree with doesn't mean they might not work.  What if we learned a new phrase:  "Let's try it your way and see if it works!"  Not catchy but boy is it helpful.

3.  And please, let's be ok with seeking direction and guidance from something beyond ourselves.  

We've tried leading ourselves, maybe it is time for us to consider the wisdom of humbling ourselves before God?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Getting rid of naive arguments on both sides of the debate . . . hopefully.


Bernie Sanders has us all talking about it.
(but there is an awful lot of confusion and naiveté about it).

At the risk of oversimplifying:

Socialism is a political and/or economic system in which goods and the means to produce those goods are owned and administered by a community of people (usually in the form of a governing body).
Oh - And it is very chic right now to say you are a socialist, btw.

It is also very polarizing.

Those for it:
Just look at the Wall Street collapse!  Capitalism is dead!  It only makes the rich richer and the poor poorer because no one is looking out for me.  Socialism makes sure everyone gets a fair chance and narrows the gap between the rich and poor by engineering the system to be fair to everyone.  Now where’s my Obamaphone?

Those against it:
Just look at the Soviet Socialist Republic!  Millions killed by a ruthless dictator!  We fought wars to keep this off our shores!  There’s no way that anyone is going to sit on a committee and tell me how much I can earn, how much I can sell my car for and whether I can take a vacation!  Those hippies need to get a job.

Um . . . you’re both wrong.  So there.

Socialism is a range of things – not one thing.  Some of it is pretty scary and some of it is pretty amazing.  For people who follow Christ you have to remember that heaven itself is probably some form of economics in which we all share with each other and take care of each other.  Seriously – God makes the houses (you didn’t build that) – check the Gospels and Revelation.  We don't know what economic system it is but I am pretty sure it doesn't involve personal gain as a motivator.
That may be nice about heaven - but what about here on Earth?

That is where I think a Sanders-driven socialism falls apart.

Of course the kind of socialism Sanders is talking about is democratic in nature (like Northern Europe – where life-satisfaction is interestingly high).  But is it the answer we are all looking for?  Doubtful.  I have spent good amounts of time in some of Europe’s best democratic socialist nations to know that it is just as much a headache there as it is here. 

·             -  Heading to the emergency room in Switzerland when we were staying in Germany because the health care system in Germany stinks. 
·              -  A friend of mine who had to lay off employees because the socialist policies of France make it unaffordable to keep them employed. 

These and a handful of other realities led me to the realization that if it is led by humans, the system will always be flawed. 

And when you hear Sanders and others question whether or not someone should receive huge amounts of money for a speech, it makes me wonder whether we are really talking about democratic socialism or something more restrictive.

Jesus made a very good point that man left to take care of himself only makes a mess.  It is one of my biggest reasons that I pin my hope on God returning to restore order in this messed up world.  We need it.

But honestly, we are forgetting the biggest reason why socialism at this point is not a good idea. 

We are in debt.

Let me say it again – we owe lots and lots of money.

Free college?  
Limiting people’s pay?  
Expanding Social Security?  
Single-Payer Heathcare?

Um . . . We are Eighteen Trillion dollars in debt. 

Let me type that out for you with the zeroes:   $18,000,000,000.00

That means each man, woman and child in America owes $154,000.00

If you paid $10,000 a year to the debt it would take over 25 years of payments with interest to pay the debt.  Even if we had billionaires paying 'their fair share' yearly it is still over 20 years away.  And this is every man, woman and child.  

And you want free college?  You want to redistribute the wealth?

There is no wealth to redistribute. It is debt.

Our job number one (and so few people are talking about it) is to get out of debt.  Period.  

Then lets talk about what we should be spending money on.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

If this guy makes you angry - look at yourself

It is really interesting what this election cycle is bringing out in us.

As you, I am appalled at what is happening – I can’t believe that millions of people are voting for a person that is clearly stuck in seventh grade.  I think all of us thought this would pass in time – a novelty that we enjoyed but realized that you can’t really put someone in a position of power who is so clearly unstable.

But we were wrong.

So what is going on?  I am definitely not interested in the politics of it all.  I am more interested in the psychology of it.  Why are so many Americans supportive of someone so divisive?

I don’t think we realize it yet, but the whole Trump phenomenon is a mirror.  It is who we are.  In an uncertain time – a time of instability at home and overseas - we cling to what is familiar. 

In a sentence – Trump is us.

Think about it - how do we describe ourselves?

I just tell it like it is.
Sometimes that is good . . . and sometimes it is not.

We tout as a value how authentic we are by saying:
I really don’t care what you think about me.

Again – sometimes that is good but many times that just leads to being a jerk.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the meme that starts with, “I don’t have time for people . . . “  or “life is too short to put up with people who . . .“

·      . . . who don’t respect me or my family
·      . . . for people that hate
·      . . . for people that are never going to change.

Really?  I thought that was life – working with people that are difficult.  Guess what?  Your life has been enriched by people who have put up with jerks like you.  They believed in time you would change and you have.  That is life – bringing each other up – not cutting off.  We too quickly un-friend, shut-out and ignore people that are a pain.  Life is pain.

A friend of mine since high school unfriended me when I sent her a private message that challenged her opinion on an issue.

Talk about building walls.

If you are shocked at what is happening in our culture currently you need to look no further than the climate we have encouraged in which we tell people it is okay to be narrow-minded.

I don’t mean narrow-minded like

“how can you be so narrow-minded that you can’t see there is a God”
“ . . . that you don’t see the effects of global warming?”
“ . . . that you don’t see the impact of Obamacare.”

No. I mean the middle-school approach to life in which we craft snarky sarcastic remarks aimed at those who disagree with us rather than listening to those people that have a different take.  I have personally experienced someone tell me that they believe Republicans hate America.  Hey – maybe they are right – but really, what kind of conversation takes place after a statement like that?

That’s because it is a speech.  In the order of Trump.

The only way we defeat this kind of mindset is to be open to people that have a different perspective and to treat others with respect.  And maybe it starts here on social media.

Because ultimately you reap what you sow.