Dr. Ben Witherington: Suspicious Minds

We live in an era when people are prone to suspicion, and susceptible to believing conspiracy theories, even in extreme forms. What often happens is there are things that people would like to be true about people or institutions or beliefs they don’t much care for, and when a conspiracy theory comes up that smears the person or belief or institution in question, they are all too ready to believe it. Sometimes this form of cynicism is confused with critical thinking. But genuine critical thinking start with an open mind and examines evidence. It does not start with a suspicion and then looks for one’s suspicions to be confirmed, selecting evidence that supports the preconceived notions. When the blinding searchlight of suspicion is turned on the subject of religion, including Christianity, all sorts of evidence is left in the dark in order to focus on this or that fact which one wishes to highlight. This does not constitute good critical thinking, much less objective analysis. It is in fact a sort of negative apologetics, or as Paul Simon once said “still a man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest”. While that is a cynical view of humankind, it is sadly too often true in a cynical age. Suspicion is a corrosive acid, and it is the opposite of trust much less faith. The saddest part is it destroys the soul of the person who is pouring the acid on this or that object that one used to care about— a loved one, a cherished belief, and so on.

Read it all.

Ana Marie Cox: Why I’m Coming Out as a Christian

Lot’s of good stuff here to munch on.

1425302314481.cachedMy hesitancy to flaunt my faith has nothing to do with fear of judgment by non-believers. My mother was an angry, agnostic ex-Baptist; my father is a casual atheist. (I asked him once why he didn’t believe in God, and he replied easily, “Because He doesn’t exist.”)

I am not smart enough to argue with those that cling to disbelief. Centuries of philosophers have made better arguments than I could, and I am comfortable with just pointing in their direction if an acquaintance insists, “If there is a God, then why [insert atrocity]?” For me, belief didn’t come after I had the answer to that question. Belief came when I stopped needing the answer.

No, I’m nervous to come out as a Christian because I worry I’m not good enough of one. I’m not scared that non-believers will make me feel an outcast. I’m scared that Christians will.

Read it all.

C.S. Lewis Opines About Theology

This is worth your read, especially if you are one who considers yourself to be “spiritual” but not “religious.” Excerpted from The Joyful Christian.

Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you… They all say “the ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion.” I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means “the science of God,” and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about him which are available. You are not children: why should you be treated like children?

In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, “I’ve no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!”

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real, to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from real waves to a bit of colored paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America [from England].

Now Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But the map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God—experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you or I are likely to get on our own way are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion—all about feeling God in nature, and so on—is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.

Gregory Alan Thornbury: Why It Matters That the Exodus Really Happened

53902Not only does Christian faith rest squarely on the historicity of the Moses account. So does the foundation of law and order in Western society. Our traditions of common law and jurisprudence go back to Jewish notions of covenant. Without Moses, we lose divine sanction for limits on government and the power of human authorities. What is the goal of this constitutionalism rooted in Torah? According to the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Courtit “seeks to prevent tyranny and to guarantee liberty and rights of individuals on which free society depends.” Everyone who cares about liberty, then, has purchase in the debate over Exodus. Were the teachings of Moses from Moses? Were they rooted in a transcendent source? Those are some pretty important questions.

It is also serendipitous that Mahoney’s film hit theaters on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We as a the nation remembered the life and legacy of the leader of the civil rights movement, gunned down at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. King repeatedly cast the struggle for civil rights against the historicity of the backdrop of the Exodus. He clearly thought of the Exodus as a historical account that paralleled the experience of African Americans in the United States. The night before his assassination, King preached what would be his last sermon. He began like this:

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the Promised Land.

The bondage of the Israelites and God’s deliverance of them out of Pharaoh’s grip weren’t matters of indifference to King and his band of heroes in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The historical reality of redemption mattered deeply to them. There was real slavery and real redemption. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” was not an abstraction or poetic sentiment.

Read it all.

Robert A.J. Gagnon: What Newsweek Doesn’t Get About the Bible

I will let the rebuttal in this article speak for itself it destroys the utter bogus thinking used by Eichenwald in the Newsweek story. It’s time to be clear-headed about much of the malarky being used to distort Scripture.

Newsweek, in an article by Kurt Eichenwald, says that Christians who regard homosexual practice as sin (or who—horror!—favor prayer in public school) “are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians,” “hypocrites,” “Biblical illiterates,” “fundamentalists and political opportunists,” and “Pharisees.” To support his slurs, Eichenwald first tries to undermine reliance on Scripture as a supreme authority for moral discernment and then to show how Christians, oblivious to the problems with biblical inspiration, ignore its clear teaching.

Eichenwald claims that the New Testament Greek text is unreliable, ignoring the fact that no other ancient text comes close to being so well attested. For example, while the oldest surviving manuscript for a significant portion of Plato’s fourth-century B.C. dialogues dates to 895, for the first-century a.d. New Testament the dates are ca. 200 (Paul) and the third century (Gospels, Acts), with over a dozen substantial manuscripts from the fourth–sixth centuries. Only a tiny fraction of the variations among the manuscripts pose any serious problem for scholars in determining the original text. Furthermore, no major Christian doctrine hangs in the balance because of these variations.

Read it all.

Albert Mohler: Newsweek on the Bible—So Misrepresented It’s a Sin

Sigh. A new year. Same tired old stuff from those hostile to the Christian faith. Sad to see people robbing themselves of real power. Mohler has a well-reasoned response. See what you think.

newsweekcover2015-225x300Newsweek magazine decided to greet the start of 2015 with a massive cover story on the Bible. For decades now, major news magazines have tended to feature cover articles timed for Christmas and Easter, taking an opportunity to consider some major question about Christianity and the modern world. Leading the journalistic pack for years, both TIME and Newsweek dedicated cover article after article, following a rather predictable format. In the main, scholars or leaders from very liberal quarters commented side-by-side those committed to historic Christianity on questions ranging from the virgin birth to the resurrection of Christ.

When written by journalists like Newsweek‘s former editor Jon Meacham or TIME reporters such as David Van Biema, the articles were often balanced and genuinely insightful. Meacham and Van Biema knew the difference between theological liberals and theological conservatives and they were determined to let both sides speak. I was interviewed several times by both writers, along with others from both magazines. I may not have liked the final version of the article in some cases, but I was treated fairly and with journalistic integrity.

So, when Newsweek, now back in print under new ownership, let loose its first issue of the New Year on the Bible, I held out the hope that the article would be fair, journalistically credible, and interesting, even if written from a more liberal perspective.

But Newsweek‘s cover story is nothing of the sort. It is an irresponsible screed of post-Christian invective leveled against the Bible and, even more to the point, against evangelical Christianity. It is one of the most irresponsible articles ever to appear in a journalistic guise.

Read it all.

David Robertson: Turning Christmas into Mythmas: Why We Shouldn’t Ditch the Virgin Birth

It is alleged that the Christians just borrowed the myths of the Babylonian Marduk, the Egyptian Horus or the Greek legend of Perseus and came up with the virgin birth of Christ. To the uneducated and those who have a desperate need to debunk Christianity this seems so obvious that it must be true. It just makes so much sense – after all virgin births don’t happen and Christianity is just made up anyway.

But on closer examination the whole case just falls apart.

Read it all and check this out too.

Jesus Creed: Advent with Tim Spivey

I preached on this last Sunday. See what you think.

Here are four practical reasons I think churches should celebrate Advent and Christmas:

1. Advent helps keep people on-track spiritually through the holidays. It isn’t OK for us to lament people’s “greed” and/or materialism at the holidays if we aren’t willing to lift up Christ in special ways during a season of temptation for people. It’s a great time to help reestablish a Kingdom perspective about money and possessions and call people to generosity—and to do so with great intentionality. We also have a special opportunity to help people understand the importance of incarnating the Gospel as they deal with personal and family difficulties throughout the season. I could go on here—but the point is the holidays are spiritually poignant and Advent provides a unique opportunity to pastor.

2. Advent focuses us on theological themes that should be central to who we are: incarnation and the Second Coming of Christ. Most Christians understand the importance of these two themes. However, one is “in” and one is “out” in theological circles these days. In particular, the Second Coming is something that needs much more emphasis—and Advent provides a fantastic opportunity to focus on our Great Hope.

Read it all.

David Robertson: Biblical Christians are Winning the War; Here’s Why

From Christian Today. See what you think.

We are radicals, not conservatives. I am not a conservative Christian. The terminology is all wrong. We are biblical Christians and therefore the far more appropriate term to use is radical. I don’t want to ‘conserve’ our corrupt society – I want to turn it upside down (Acts 17:6)! The irony is that it is those who call themselves ‘progressives’ who are in fact the conservatives. They go along with the culture and shibboleths of our day. Why do you think the secular media love and laud Steve Chalke, Vicky Beeching, Richard Coles and Richard Holloway? Because they are basically of the same mind. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

Read it all.

Death, Resurrection, and Carlton Fisk’s World Series Home Run

I hated that home run too, but for drastically different reasons. A wonderful personal story about the power of the risen Christ that is worth your read.

45182The day after my mom died, I told a neighbor I was glad, so that she wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. While sincere, I didn’t know what I was saying. When someone you love dies, Mark Twain said, it’s like your house has burnt down; it isn’t for years that you realize the extent of your loss. I’m not sure if I have realized it fully even yet.

Soon I grew accustomed to coming home to an empty house. My two oldest brothers were in college, and my other brother stayed away from home as much as possible. We never talked about my mother and soon stopped talking altogether. In our house, there was always noise but little communication. My last year in high school, my dad and my sister and I often would eat dinner in silence.

Some psychologists hypothesize on the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I flirted with denial at times. For years, I’d dream that my mother wasn’t dead. She had been at some type of medical clinic for years, and one day she unexpectedly and unannounced returned home. It wasn’t denial so much as avoidance. I skipped the bargaining stage and camped out in the anger and depression stages. I never came close to reaching the acceptance stage. My anger wasn’t directed at anyone in particular, even God, if I even believed there was a God. It was directed at death itself, as if death were some person. Like the hooded chess player in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, death deliberately and maliciously killed my mother. Had I the ability to kill death, I would have done it.

Even when I was having a good time, at my core I was defined by mourning. My hope for healing was captured by Abraham Lincoln in a letter to Fanny McCullough upon the Civil War death of her father. Lincoln observed that “in this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares.” Fanny’s hope was that “perfect relief is not possible, except with time.” My hope too was with the passage of time, the wound would heal. But time did not heal my wound; it made it worse. An untreated physical wound can result in infection or nerve damage, causing numbness, pain, or loss of feeling. Slowly over time, my heart became numbed, unable to feel anything except pain.

The Western calendar is divided between B.C. and A.D, with the birth of Christ marking the transition from one era to the other. My life could be divided between pre-October 1975 and post-October 1975. Carlton Fisk’s homerun became a permanent marker of the transition from one period to the other, from carefree childhood to adult loss, disappointment, and pain.

Read it all.

ABC Justin Welby: What We Talk About When We Talk About Evangelism

A good piece from the Archbishop of Canterbury. See what you think.

the-archbishop-of-canterbury-justin-welbyFor years it was popularly believed that to call these animals ‘kangaroos’ was based on a profound and embarrassing misunderstanding.

Evangelism is such a word. For Christians, it’s the name for an activity that some love and others hate – it’s a passion for some and an embarrassment for others. For non-Christians, it’s a word that can send them running to the hills, feeling they are in danger of having something ‘done’ to them. (I wonder which of these descriptions fits you – and what you’ve experienced in the name of evangelism to make you feel this way?)

Given all this controversy around the word, it was no surprise that when, on taking office last year, I declared evangelism as one of the three priorities for my ministry.  Some people thought I was profoundly misguided, while others jumped for joy.

However, it’s my belief that if only we truly ‘got’ evangelism, we, the Church would live to show what it meant. And to ‘get’ it means to receive it, and to give it. Continually. And if we lived what we spoke of, and spoke of what we lived, no-one would have to point at the Church and wonder what it was for.

This Pentecost the Archbishop of York and myself are calling everyone who counts themselves as a follower of Jesus, to join us in asking the Holy Spirit to work across the country in our parishes and communities, our friends and our neighbours, and in his Church that the Good News of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed, heard, lived and trusted. We are doing this for three reasons.

Read it all.

Our Resurrection Hope: Raising Our Desire to Proclaim the Good News

Sermon delivered on Sunday, Easter 6A, May 25, 2014, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

If you would prefer to hear the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Acts 17.22-31; Psalm 66.8-20; 1 Peter 3.13-22; John 14.15-21.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As Christians, at our very core we are resurrection people. As we have emphasized throughout this Easter season, when God raised Jesus from the dead, he not only destroyed the last enemy, death itself, so that those of us who are in Christ know that our destiny is resurrection and life, God also ushered in his promised new creation in which he will ultimately put all that is wrong and hurtful to rights and banish evil forever in his righteous judgment. In other words, God’s good creation matters to God. We matter to God as his image-bearing creatures and this is both Good News and our hope. This should be a game-changer for us! As we have also seen, if God didn’t really raise Jesus from the dead, we have nothing and are without a hope and a future (cf. Jeremiah 29.11), and all our work in Jesus’ name is in vain.

But there must be more to our resurrection hope than making it all about us and our needs and anxieties. The Good News that is in the death and resurrection of Jesus is available to all people, even those who are our enemies, and as God’s people in Jesus we are called to speak the truth of God’s righteous salvation and judgment to a world that is fundamentally hostile to God’s truth but which paradoxically wants desperately to hear it. How else are we to explain the plethora of false, manmade gods? This is what I want us to look at briefly this morning. Specifically, I want us to look at how and why our resurrection hope must lead us to be bearers of God’s Good News in Jesus, with its twin messages of salvation and judgment.

Before we look at this more closely, let us acknowledge that proclaiming the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection is going to be an increasingly difficult thing for us to do because our society is increasingly rejecting the gospel and God’s authority over our lives. Like Paul in Athens, we are confronted with voices who oppose the Good News of Jesus in favor of their own gods or version of religion. We are told, for example, that there are many paths to God, that all religions are essentially equal. We live in an age where folks increasingly reject the idea that there is one standard of truth. Instead, we are told that truth is in the eye of the beholder and it is up to us to establish our own truths. Furthermore, we are told that if there really is a God, he is more like a distant landlord who only occasionally peeks in on his tenants, and then only to harass them for their behavior. Do you hear the echoes of this in Paul’s speech to the Athenians? Increasingly, we as Christians can expect to have our worldview marginalized in favor of something else that is fundamentally hostile to God and his truth contained in Scripture (see examples here, here, and here). And if current trends remain unchecked, we can expect to be actively persecuted for our beliefs because many are increasingly unwilling to tolerate hearing God’s truth. They only want to hear their own and we need to engage in this work with eyes wide open to the very real dangers that exist.

Despite all this, however, we are called to proclaim God’s great love for his stubborn and rebellious human creatures and as both Peter and Paul remind us in their own ways (I’m not sure what Mary’s views are), we should always be prepared to give a defense for the basis of our hope. But we are to do it gently and graciously, and we have a magnificent example of this kind of defense in Paul’s sermon to the Athenians, which we will look at shortly.

Our hope, of course, is in the cross. There God dealt decisively with our sin and the dark powers of evil. As Peter puts it, Jesus suffered for sins once and for all so that he might bring us to God, i.e., so that we might be reconciled to God and finally begin to enjoy real life in ways God originally intended for us. Peter also reminds us that because Jesus is now raised from the dead and ascended into heaven (God’s space) as Lord and ruler of the cosmos, the powers and current rulers have been made subject to him (cf. Col. 2.15). In this dense little passage, Peter reminds us that if the resurrection did not happen, nothing has changed. Jesus is just another failed Messiah and we are lost, alienated, and separated from God forever, cut off from our very Source of life because only in God can there be life. But because the resurrection did happen, we are assured that God’s goodness and life-changing love for us have won the war. The bad guys, while winning some battles, have won only a temporary victory and are ultimately defeated. And our archenemy, death, has finally been conquered forever, thanks be to God!

But there is more. Because Jesus has ascended into heaven and is no longer available to us in his bodily presence, he has promised that even this will not separate his followers from him because he has promised to be with us in the power and person of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us individually and collectively as Jesus’ body, the Church. And because we have been given the gift of the Spirit, we never have to fear being left alone or abandoned by Jesus. Ever.  This latter point is massively important to help us speak the truth in love to a hostile world because we need to be convinced that the Spirit will give us wisdom and insight when speaking to the enemies of the cross and to help bolster our faith when we (and it) come under attack.

In sum, we believe that God the Father has come to us as God the Son to suffer and die for us so that we could be healed and reconciled to God and to finally defeat the powers of evil that plague us, especially death. We further believe Jesus is always available to us in the per-son of God the Spirit and that God does this because of his great love for his creation and his desire to rescue us from evil, sin, and death. It’s all about God’s faithfulness to his creation and this emphasis on the game-changing impact of Jesus’ resurrection is woven throughout the NT. Take away the resurrection and we lose the entire NT. It’s that important!!

And we must be very clear on this point. If we do not believe our own story, the story of God’s rescue plan for his fallen and disordered creation through Abraham and his family Israel (Genesis 12.1-3) and ultimately through Jesus the Messiah, there is no way we can be faithful witnesses to Jesus. If we have bought the enemy’s line that Jesus is really no different from other religious leaders or that he is somehow just a great teacher and nothing else, we might as well stay at home on Sundays because that is the surest indication that we really are not resurrection people, i.e., we really don’t believe the hope and promise of resurrection as it is manifested in Jesus. This kind of thinking is also decidedly unbiblical. Notice, for example, how Peter assumes we have a resurrection hope in us for which we must always be ready to give an account!

But if we really are resurrection people and we really do take God’s command to us seriously that we are to love God with our whole being and others as ourselves, why would we want to keep quiet about the Good News that is ours in Jesus? If Jesus really is the only way to the Father and the way, the truth, and the life, how could we possibly keep quiet and claim to love others? Does not compute. But we have generally let our enemies cow-tow us into silence. Why is that?

So how do we proclaim the Good News in the midst of a hostile society? Here we can take our cue from Paul in today’s NT lesson. Notice that Paul did not come to Athens and immediately start to denounce it. While he certainly would have been justified in doing so, he didn’t because he surely knew that people do not generally respond well to denunciation when that is the first thing out of our mouth. And besides, how can we as Christians proclaim God’s love for people if we immediately tell them they are evil, wicked, mean, and nasty, and going to hell if they don’t get with the program? Of course there will be a time for us to talk honestly with people about God’s righteous and holy judgment on his sinful and rebellious creatures. But that time is not when we are first trying to get people to hear us about God’s great love for them and his plan to rescue them in and through Jesus the Messiah. So when we begin to talk to others about God’s love for the world as manifested in Jesus, we must be prepared to meet folks where they are, just like Paul did with the Athenians.

So, for example, if we hear folks advancing the idea that all religions are equal, we should be prepared to challenge that notion by reminding them that no other religion makes the claims the Christian faith makes, that God is indeed the creator of the world and has revealed his plan to rescue it and us from evil, sin, and death by raising Jesus from the dead. We should be prepared to tell others why Jesus’ resurrection is the first-fruits of God’s promised new heavens and earth and why that is the basis for our hope as individuals. No other religion comes close to making such a claim and if the resurrection is an historical fact (here we can be prepared to offer reasons why we think it is), it is decisive proof that our claim to truth is complete and valid.

Or we might hear folks expressing a deist view of God, in which they talk about a distant or uncaring God. We can point out to them, gently of course, that this is not the God of the Bible and we do not worship that god either because that god is a false god of human making! We should be prepared to talk about God’s intimate involvement in the lives of his people, e.g., Ruth, David, Abraham, Noah, Esther, et al., including our own, and about how we know Jesus’ promise to send us the Holy Spirit is true because we see the fruit of the Spirit and signs and wonders in our lives. Think, for example, of the many times you have had prayers answered or how God’s people have helped you when your prayers seemingly went answered. Tell folks about how God has helped and been with you as you have walked through the darkest valley or how you have walked with others in theirs. Remind the person that God usually works in and through his people (and occasionally even through those who are his enemies). This is no deist god and it is certainly not the God of the Bible. This is exactly what Paul told the Athenians!

There are literally hundreds of examples I could cite, but I hope you get the idea. Notice that in these examples, we are meeting folks where they are and we are not beating them down (or up) over their beliefs. We are trying to share the truth, God’s truth, with them and we should always understand there is real power in sharing the gospel with others. We are Spirit-filled people, remember? So that when we share God’s word and truth with others we can expect God to produce some positive results. Our NT lesson ended before we heard the outcome of Paul’s preaching in Athens. Luke reports that when they heard Paul talk about the resurrection, some of the Athenians scoffed. It was too incredible for them to believe. But some wanted to hear more and some decided to become believers like Paul. At that point, Luke tells us, Paul moved on. His work was done. There were more people to reach. The point here is that Paul understood about witnessing for Jesus. It is not our job to get people to believe. That is God’s job. Our job is to invite them into a life-giving and saving relationship with Jesus and if it is going to be any kind of real relationship, people must enter into it freely and without coercion.

And what about those who scoff at us, who try to make us feel like we are out-of-touch, or lunatics, or hate-mongers, etc.? What do we do with those folks and their attempts to demonize us (and sadly we will encounter more of them than we might care to)? We leave them with a blessing. We might politely tell them that we are saddened at their attempts to demonize us and the hard-heartedness and closed-mindedness that is always reflected in such attempts. We might say that we were simply offering real life and real truth so that they too could benefit from a relationship with the living Lord as we have and that is our heart’s desire, not to impose our will or some arbitrary rules on them. This response may further infuriate some and if it does, we need to move on and ask God to bless them and open their mind to his great love for them as manifested in Jesus. This is probably best done silently, but the point is this. Christ came to offer everyone life and healing and forgiveness, not just those who treat us nicely. As Peter reminds us, Christ the righteous died for us the unrighteous. As his baptized image-bearers, we are called to take up our cross and proclaim our Lord, rejoicing in our suffering because we know that like him, God will also vindicate us in our suffering for the Name. Of course we cannot do any of this on our own power. We do it in the power of the Spirit and we do this work together so that we can support and encourage each other when we encounter opposition. When we are able to act thusly toward our enemies, we have further proof that the Lord’s promises are true.

And of course the effectiveness of our witness to Jesus will be ultimately influenced by our lifestyle. If others see us preaching one thing and practicing another, we are telling them in a very powerful way that we don’t really believe our story, that like the world, we are simply trying to fabricate a god of our own making to justify our chosen lifestyle and that we are still hostile to the Spirit who dwells in us to heal and transform us. We don’t try to obey God’s ethical commands to get our ticket punched because it already has been punched in the cross of Christ. We choose to live like Christ because we know that only in him can there be real life as well as a real hope and a future. We believe this because we believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection marked the turning point of history, and for our good. And that of course means we have Good News, now and for all eternity. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.