Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The rubric these days among evangelicals is that if you are a Christian, then you are also a member of the “Religious Right,” or the “Moral Majority,” or at the very least, a Republican. And if you are not a Republican, then by definition, you are 1. Probably not really a Christian, of if you do make a profession of faith, then it is likely disingenuous. 2. Lacking in patriotism and love for country. Or, 3. You are a liberal Christian, which likewise makes your profession of faith suspect.

I sat in the class of my theology professor in seminary, lo, several millennia ago, who advised we lowly students that all Christian doctrine is derived from the Epistles, not from the Gospels, (books of history) and certainly not the book of Acts, where they spoke in tongues. As I sat there in class, a fleeting thought struck me to the effect that told me, “Hey. That is truly wrong.” The thought was quickly buried as the eminent professor moved on to the next point in the syllabus. Buried, but not dead.

Scrambling up through the dirt that was my theological training, and clawing its way out of the grave, that “fleeting” thought has followed me around for the rest of my life -- bugging me, haunting me, sticking it to me whenever I waxed too eloquent in expository preaching, explaining Greek words and stuff.

Not long after I graduated from seminary, sporting a brand-new doctorate, and after serving several churches, a copy of The Life of Christ in Stereo fell into my hands. Despite its pedestrian title, it is likely the most important book I have ever read. It changed the direction of my life and provoked a total remake of my understanding of God in general, and of Jesus Christ in particular, and not surprisingly, the critical importance of the Gospels in theological formation.

The Life of Christ in Stereo is nothing more, or less, than a brilliant, meticulous, harmony of the Gospels. The advertising trumpets it, “Four Gospels Testify as One.” Remarkably, that is exactly what it does. Johnston Cheney, a layman who had taught himself Greek, put it all together over a period of twenty years. As you read the single narrative, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John disappear and behold! Jesus appears in powerful and compelling relief.

To the end that I wish to consider the political views of Jesus in this narrative, I must acknowledge the importance of this work. That said, I wish to note in my observances of Jesus in the now dozens of times I have read this work, devoted my life to comprehending him within the pages of the Gospel narrative, and writing my own book about him, I wish to state that Jesus was unequivocally apolitical. The Gospels reveal Jesus as having the political awareness/concern of a stone. Jesus was, in a climate of intense political factions and uproar, utterly disinterested.

Note, for example, his treatment of taxation. When questioned about it, he said plainly, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And when accosted by tax-collectors regarding the payment of his own taxes (and that of Peter’s), he cavalierly sends Peter out to catch a fish out of which Peter extracts a gold coin and with which, as he was instructed, he paid the tax. Would God we all had such a fishing pole! Ergo, taxation was a trivial, tellurian bore to Jesus, although he clearly did not oppose it. The best that can be said about Jesus and taxation, is that he was inert to it.

This was his basic attitude toward government in general. It was an irrelevant issue. He was far more concerned with the church (synagogue/Sanhedrin) than with throwing off Roman oppression. Witness his engagement with Pilate. When told by Pilate, “Don’t you realize that I have the power to crucify you or let you go?” Jesus replied, “You don’t have any power at all except that which is given you from above.” I suspect Pilate’s eyes widened at that. But it was true. Had God the Father wished, or had Jesus himself wished, Pilate would have been completely neutralized.

So how does all this speak to people of faith?

There is no issue here with anyone having political perspectives based on what they perceive to be moral or even pragmatic concerns. There is no concern here with honest patriotism, there is no issue here with informed decisions about concerns of patriotic and/or political importance.

What concerns me is when these issues supercede their importance. In short, if we are followers of Christ and consumed with politics, we are genuinely missing something. When our lives are characterized by our political perspectives more than with our faith, we have a problem. Jesus teaches us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things (which can be understood to be necessities of a satisfying and peaceful life) will be added to you.” When politics, whether the religious right, or the radical left, become divisive and engender hate and murderous intent, then they have superceded the Gospel. They have superceded our legitimate concern for one another.

They have superceded Jesus.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Finished watching Billy Graham's life portrayed in video, narrated by David Frost. Deeply moving experience. I believe he is the greatest man to live in my lifetime. I am grateful to have lived when he did. I wish with all my heart that I could have even a small portion of the impact for Christ that he had.

I think the thing that most impressed me about the Graham video last night was that Billy wasn't in it for the money. He wasn't in it for the fame. He was in it for Jesus. His preemptive focus was to preach the Gospel. Nothing else, just the Gospel. Not only was he not in it for the money, he actively eschewed the Gantry image whenever and wherever he could.

I need to keep this in mind as I “market” my books. Unfortunate term. What I am really doing is distributing them in hopes that all may read and come to know Jesus Christ in a way that is deeper and more satisfying than ever before.

Yes, I am hoping and trusting that my family's financial needs may be met. In terms of actual dollars, I am not quite sure what that means. But I have no need to be wealthy or rich, compared to the society in which I live. Compared to other societies in the third world, I am already wealthy beyond imagination.

The other thing that impressed me, indeed, brought tears to my eyes, was the graphic of the chinese woman, in a crusade in mainland China, spontaneously spreading out her arms in praise and worship. She obviously, in this communist country, did not care who saw her. She was taking all of Jesus that she could get. What incredible passion does the Holy Spirit bring! My God, may I feel it as well. May all who seek the Lord Jesus Christ feel it. As an evangelist I heard once said, “When a malignantly sinful man meets an infinitely Holy God, Somebody's got to feel something!"

Friday, July 17, 2009


The manner in which you interacted with the kings of Judah and Israel, is much different than the way you seem to work with your people today. In fact, I am often inclined to think that the ancient narrative in Hebrew history is more from the perspective of the Hebrews themselves, than from you. I am not saying I am right in this understanding, just saying that my experience with you, and the teachings of Jesus and the gospels, seem so radically different that I sometimes wonder if it was you at all back then. After reading of the way you interacted with the Hebrews, I wonder how a God like that could love and accept someone like me.

But Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe.

In these years of study and consideration, have I come to know you more deeply? And by doing this, have I answered, at least partially, my own prayer? How am I to understand that Jesus went through this torturous death for me on a personal level? How am I to see that he did it, or would have done it, just for me?

I feel very inadequate in my knowledge of you, dear Father, or you, dear Jesus, or you dear Spirit of God. It was Jesus who taught us that there is a Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One needs to understand Jesus before one can really discover the Trinity in the Old Testament. Without Jesus, my knowledge of you probably would not exist at all.

Does it matter that Jesus called you, “Father?” Does it matter that he never called you, “Mother?” He said that God is a Spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in Spirit and Truth. But in Jesus' teachings, God is always a paternal Spirit, never a maternal Spirit. Does it matter? At the moment in my enlightenment, I can't see that God's “gender” has any relevance at all. Was Jesus merely accommodating the paternalistic culture of his society? Perhaps someday, I shall know more than I do now, but for the moment, I can't see how it matters at all.

What really matters is that I am loved by God, by the Father, by the Son and by the Holy Spirit.

Whatever happened to that black lady, Lord, who asked why I referred to you as a Father and not a Mother? I pray for her today. I pray that you would bless her and bring her to yourself. Fill her with your love and acceptance and may she walk in the light of your Spirit and Truth.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Every individual created in the Image of God should be able to say . . .

Stop! Pay attention! I am real. I take up space. I am here. I am. I am a fact -- as certain as the sun and moon, the speed of light, the Sequoia and Stone Mountain, Georgia. Now the rest of you out there are just going to have to learn to deal with that. You can lock me up. You can try to discredit me. You can even kill me. But you cannot destroy me. You cannot, you will not ignore me. I will come back. I will incessantly and relentlessly continue to Be. I will not go away. And because I have lived, you will never be the same.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4, 2009

If we spent half the time we spend complaining about our leadership, in prayer for them, perhaps the threats we endure, both real and imagined, would be less threat than blessing.

May this Fourth of July give us pause to reflect on how God has blessed this nation despite its flaws of character. Let us give thanks for the brave and noble soldier and sailor who alone, are responsible for our freedoms of worship, speech, movement and the pursuit of happiness and peace.

God grant us humility and strength of purpose.