Truth Is [Coming]

… because it's here, and yet not here…

Peter and Easter

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I was thinking about Peter this morning.

Here’s a guy who’s been with Jesus since the beginning.  Jesus, the guy who keeps talking about this kingdom.  A kingdom that Peter hoped for.  A new system.  One worth fighting for, in Peter’s mind.  And Peter was besties with the guy that was going to get this revolution started.

And then Jesus dies.

Peter is devastated.

Obviously.

Because if you know anything, you know that

Messiahs

Don’t

Die.

It’s just common sense, really.

If a guy is going to do something big, like something that’s been promised to you for thousands of years, then that guy sort of has to have a pulse, right?

Peter had grown up in a system where empire wins.

The biggest sword, the strongest fist, the loudest voice,

Always

Wins.

And Jesus had looked Peter in the eye and said, “Things are going to change.  Follow me.  Watch and see.”

And now Jesus was gone.

The night of Jesus’ death, Peter gave up.  There was no point in pretending.  “I never even knew the guy,” Peter would say.  Because Jesus was just like all the other Messiah hopefuls.

Dead and buried.

And several days later, Jesus shows up.

Which is odd, to say the least.

And this also puts Peter in sort of an awkward position.

I mean, what do you say to this guy who had totally let you down?  And now he’s not even dead..?  What is going on?

And Jesus looks Peter in the eye and says,

“See?  This revolution is so big, death can’t even handle it.

“And Peter, you’re gonna be part of it.”

That’s what Easter is about.

It’s about being at the end of your rope, in the darkest place, with no hope left,

And then Jesus shows up from the dead and says,

“Be a part of this.”

So there you have it:

What’s your answer, Peter?

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Written by Mark

April 4, 2010 at 8:06 am

Posted in Bible

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Sanctity of Life Sunday

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I am embarking on a dangerous mission.  I am going to talk about abortion.

Today, evidently, is Sanctity of Life Sunday.  The day where Christians rally around the “rights” of the “unborn” and protect “babies” from being “killed.”  I use quotations not to insult them or show that I disagree; this is simply the rhetoric that the church tends to use.

Now, before I proceed I should state this.  I am pro-life.

That’s right.  But perhaps it would help that I clarify what this means.  I have found that Shane Claiborne’s definition of the term is the most fitting.  I believe that life does not end at birth (or the third trimester for that matter).

I feel that the church today has said both good and bad things within the conversation on abortion.  For one, the idea that life is a gift from God is good.  Obviously.  And so children should also be seen as a gift from God.  The church has promoted this idea, and I applaud that.  And I think Jesus would say the same thing.

But there is another area of this conversation where the church, I feel, has been a little… immature.

It’s seen in the phrases “killing babies” and “good thing your mom was pro-life” (which sounds a little bit like a “your mom” joke).

The issue here is not a matter of political correctness, or factual integrity.  It’s an issue of rhetoric.

Sure.  Pro-lifers might be correct.  A life is being prevented.  But this is not the debate.  And I feel very strongly that the church needs to wake up and realize this.  Nobody that considers themselves “pro-choice” is really a proponent of killing children (well, maybe that’s a bit of an extreme; I shouldn’t say nobody).  They’re not going to the voting booth hoping for more abortions and more pregnant teens (which reminds me of a very funny Brian Regan bit about tasering 7-year-olds).

So riddle me this: when a Lifer goes up to a Choicy and says, “Why are you killing babies?”, do you expect an intelligent conversation to take place?  Do you expect those two people to arrive in a more healthy relationship?  Do you expect the problem of abortion to be more accurately assessed and analyzed?

No.  Here’s what will happen every single time:

Lifer: “Why are you killing babies?”

Choicy: “I’m not killing babies.  I just feel that there are certain circumstances where a woman should be able to make decisions with regards to her body.”

Lifer: “But what about the baby?  Doesn’t it have rights?”

Choicy: “Well it’s not a baby for starters.”

Lifer: “Yes it is.  Life begin at conception.”

Choicy: “No it doesn’t.  It…”

You get the picture.  It’s the same old thing.  The same old arguments back and forth.

The real problem here is that Lifer and Choicy aren’t talking about the same things.  Lifer’s talking about a human life that God has designed.  Choicy is talking about the personal rights of a woman (among other things of course – obviously, I’ve abbreviated the issue quite a bit).

Let me get to it: I know that there are a number of people who do not fall into one of these categories perfectly.  And chances are that I misrepresented what everyone believes in one way or another.  But here is something that I understand quite well.  There are many people in my life – people that I know names of, and their kids, and what kind of clothes they wear, and their quirky habits – that are pro-life, and while I want to agree with them when they state so proudly that we need to stop Obama from killing babies, I can’t help but cringe because they sound so stupid and they are acting like 6-year-olds with their ears plugged and are shouting and singing at the top of their lungs so as not to hear what their foolish opponent might have to say and disagree about.

I really do want to agree with them.  I don’t like the idea of teenagers getting the idea in their heads that sex is whatever and has no consequences.  I don’t like the emotional and psychological damages that women go through after having abortions.

But after watching pro-life video after video, and hearing political plugs prayer after prayer, I’m sick of it and I want to be pro-choice (which doesn’t sound too bad according to the name in my opinion; it’s like life v. freedom to me).  And after seeing the way that Christians, “people of love,” behave in political discussions, I want to stop being a Christian.  Because it does not look like Christ.  It is not biblical.  Yea sure your voting is fine.  But what about that verse in 2nd Timothy that says to deal with your opponents gently?  Or what about when Jesus said to love your Choicy neighbor?

This is not a call for the church to change her views.  This is a call for the church to engage in intelligent discussion with people that disagree with her.  This is a call for the church to really believe that life is so incredibly valuable that it demands sacrifice.  I think Mother Teresa believed this when she’d go to a teenage girl considering an abortion and say to her, “Let me take your baby.”  I think Choicy would respond a little better if Lifer wasn’t a jerk.  And maybe some day there might be this sort of relationship that develops.  And then who knows?  Some communication might actually happen and we might actually start making progress on this mess of a world we’re in.

But what do I know?  I’m just a non-partisan kid whose too liberal for the conservatives and too God-fearing for the liberals.

Written by Mark

January 25, 2010 at 12:08 am

Posted in Church, Politics

Tagged with ,

The Long Awaited Post

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Yesterday, my D-group was discussing blogs again.  I realized that my blogs have not been writing themselves, so I figured I’d step in and help out.  If for no other reason than that I simply want to start blogging again.

We were discussing a number of ideas, but it mostly boiled down to the new/old earth debate, science v. religion, and evolution.

So I thought I’d just write down my take for the three people who read my blog to look at.

It seems to me that this feud between science and religion is really just two different schools of thought in pursuit of the same thing: truth.  And yet, they both try to show why the other school is wrong in their approach instead of just pursuing truth in and of itself (I believe that the exact same is true of political parties, but I digress).

I’ve never understood why science and religion are considered mutually exclusive.  And those that argue that the two are not exclusive receive criticism from both sides.  (Sounds familiar.)

Now I understand perfectly well that science is not perfect (e.g. carbon dating, string theory), but neither is religion (e.g. duh).  So why is it that so many people fall prey to the fallacy of a false dilemma?  Why are we so unable to just pursue truth for ourselves?  And why can’t we do it together?  Why do we have meaningless bloodshed over issues that are 1) irrelevant and 2) never going to be fully understood anyway.

No one has ever shown how evolution disproves God.  No one has ever explained the difference between the earth being four billion years old and four thousand years old.  We’re still here now.  If anything, coming to grips with the mystery that surrounds us should be even more motivation to work together for the here and now, the only thing we really “know”.  It should put us in awe of the world around us.

Yesterday, Jake said something like, “Yea.  It doesn’t really matter, but it’s still fun to talk about.”  And I would agree.  I just think we need to put a little more emphasis on the fact that these conversations are “for fun” and not “for truth”.  Otherwise, atheists will never believe in a God who loves beauty and Christians will never believe in gravity.

Written by Mark

November 21, 2009 at 11:22 am

Posted in In Pursuit of Truth, Science

Tagged with ,

Jesus Loves Me This I Know…

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Stop. Right there. You were singing the song in your head, weren’t you? You were gonna say, “…because the Bible tells me so.”

I would encourage you not to.

Jesus does not love you because the Bible says he does. He loves you because he is the very definition of love.

Now you might be thinking, “Wow… He’s being a little harsh.” That’s an understandable reaction.  But it actually is quite an important distinction.

A few months ago I received an advanced reading copy of Jesus Loves You This I Know by Craig Gross (xxxchurch.com founder) and Jason Harper.  I finished it in four days.  The book’s thesis is this: Jesus loves you.

That’s it.  It’s not about theology or religion.  It’s about love.  Period.

Jesus told us quite clearly what the most important part of the law was.  And no one ever argued with him about it.

Which raises the question: what in the world happened?

“‘Jesus loves you’ has become an overstated Christian cliche from the religious establishment.  What was once meant to be a statement of concern, a thought, or a pronouncement of spiritual enlightenment has been reduced to a casual exchange in passing.” (p. 79)

But sadly, this is only part of the problem.  It is true that Jesus does in fact love you.  The statement itself is true.  But do we really believe it? I think that is the question worth asking.

Ever since Jesus’ time the church has done the same thing: “Christians become too safe and choose to gather together in small groups, or holy huddles, hoping ‘the world’ doesn’t get in.” (p. 157)  We saw the Pharisees do it, and we see our churches today do the same thing.  Don’t get me wrong – there have been exceptions, I know.  The church in the first and second centuries for example very much succeeded where we today have devastatingly failed (in the love department, that is).

So what now?  Luckily, we have a really good example of what it looks like when someone actually believes that Jesus loves us.  His name is Jesus.

Jesus demonstrated real life.  And how did he do it?  “His willingness to meet a practical need before he asserted a spiritual answer proved that he cared about people where they were in life.” (p. 93)  When people were blind, sick, even dead, Jesus did not tell them, “I love you” – even if it was true.  He gave them sight, he healed them, he restored them.  That’s what love looks like.  Or what it is supposed to look like anyway.

Now as for us, the church.  The church is Jesus’ hands and feet.  Our job is to be Jesus in today’s world.  To show the world his love.  So how do we do that?  I think the biggest step that the “religious right” could start with following Jesus’ lead: “Jesus did not have an argument to win.  He just loved.” (p. 157)

We find ourselves in an extremely argumentative culture.  When it comes to “the issues” we whip out our practical and systematic theology guidelines, our three supportive Bible verses that are manipulated completely out of context, and our misinterpretation of the Bible as a whole to defend our political views that we don’t even know how we ended up with.  Instead of loving gay people, we tell them why they shouldn’t be gay.  Instead of serving partying teenagers, we ignore them.  Instead of ministering to porn stars, we avoid them.

That is not the Jesus of the Bible that I read.

This book calls the church to something better (and frankly, more productive).  To go to the broken.  To serve the sinners.  To realize that we live in a dark world and we’re not supposed to be hiding our light under a blanket.  And sadly, there are consequences to this resulting from the very people that are supposed to be doing it: “… when the outcasts are loved, the religious begin to get cynical and skeptical toward the one who reached out.” (p. 142)  Essentially, people will hate that we go to dark places.  That we leave our comfort zones.  But that is still what we are supposed to do.  If we don’t, then we are not the church.

I understand that this may seem a bit like a hopeless cause or a rant aimed at the church’s shortcomings.  But after reading Jesus Loves You, this is what I have come to realize:

  1. We are the church.  We are Jesus for today (in a sense).  The church needs to do what Jesus did.
  2. Jesus loved and went to the darkest places.  The church needs to look more like Jesus in this sense.
  3. There are hurting people that need to be told not that they are sinners in need of a Savior (most of them even know it), but that they are made for something better and that they are still loved no matter what.
  4. The greatest commandments are to love God and love people.  It is our primary job to do this.  Not to argue theology or use reasoning to reach a conclusion.  Love.  Period.

Well done, Craig and Jason.  I think the world needs to hear this message.  (And yes, that means the church too.)

Go read this book.

Written by Mark

August 26, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Wrong

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There is something deeply wrong with humanity.

The most difficult aspect of realizing this is the fact that no one really can explain it.  Philosophers have tried.  Linguists have offered definitions.

In the Bible, it is called sin.  But really, what exactly is sin?

There is no pretty definition for it that everyone agrees on.  Everyone disagrees.  Some might say it’s the absence of good.  Some say it is something, that it has substance.  And yet there are others who would say there is no sin.

And yet, they would still agree with you: “Something is wrong with humanity.”

I mean, there has to be.  We get angry and upset with people – even at inanimate objects.

To me, though, the most unsettling of it all is that I can lay in bed, and my stomach is in knots.  For no clear reason at all.  Just knowing of what we are capable of – of our selfishness, of our carelessness, of our lust, of our greed, of our gluttony.

It’s Las Vegas.  It’s the fact that our country’s number one health concern is obesity.  It’s knowing what people do, and go to church and pretend like nothing is wrong.

And the worst part sometimes is turning the finger back towards me.

Written by Mark

August 13, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Posted in In Pursuit of Truth

Tagged with ,

Obama Said This

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Freedom is your inheritance. Now, it is your responsibility to build upon freedom’s foundation.

I think there’s a lot of truth to that.  I mean, granted, I’m taking the quote out of context.  But still.

Written by Mark

July 11, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Posted in In Pursuit of Truth, Politics

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A Lighthearted Discussion On Death

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Yesterday I found myself in a conversation.

One of the things I love about talking to people is that I usually try to say certain things, and the wrong words come out.  But then I follow where those wrong words lead me and I arrive at a whole new thought.  Such was the case yesterday.

I found myself talking about the Bible and sort of the overarching theme of it, and God’s “big picture” in a way.  The way I described it was as follows.

God created us for a purpose.  There’s a reason we’re here.  Our lives were created in a certain way and for a certain reason.  (I feel I should clarify that I’m referring to humanity as a whole.)  God created human beings with a specific life in mind.

Genesis describes it this way:

God created human beings in his image, blessed them, and told them to be fruitful, increase in number, fill the earth, subdue it, rule over fish, birds, creatures on the land, and he gave them plants for food, and He said it was good.

There was life that God designed.  As the story of Genesis continues though, another option is brought up.  Evidently, God warned that if a particular tree were eaten from, the said eater would surely die.  Kind of a serious punishment for the crime, in my opinion, but nevertheless – those are the rules.

We all know how the story goes.  But I guess the way that I see it is simply this.  We have life.  God has designed a kingdom for us to live in.  And if we choose to live outside of that reality/kingdom/plan/etc., it is not really life.

And if something is not living, then what is it?

It is dead.

Death is the absence of life.  And God spelled out life pretty clearly there in Eden.

As I read the Bible I see it often as God saying over and over to us [humanity], “Live.  Please!  Here is real life.  It is eternal!  It is joyful!  It is the only thing that will satisfy you!”

The choice was Adam’s.  And the choice is ours.

Written by Mark

July 10, 2009 at 10:20 am

Posted in Bible

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