Normal Christian Living

Normal Christian Living

Growing up on a farm with cows, dogs, chickens and goats, my brother and I were hard on our shoes, forcing my father to take us shoe shopping every few months. And every time he always reminded us of his one rule: no white shoes as they would be quickly destroyed. One day, though, I was able to talk him into allowing me to buy a pair of white tennis shoes. I promised him that I would take good care of them and make sure they stayed white. This was a lofty promise as keeping a pair of white shoes white was like keeping the sun from rising! Yet my dad, most surely out of love as he knew that I would never be able to keep my promise, bought them for me. Sure enough, it didn’t take very long before the shoes were covered with a layer of manure and mud. Going over to the water hose, I proceeded to spray the shoes down trying to find a patch of white in the midst of the brown dirt. After what seemed like hours, I finally had a pair of white tennis shoes! Rejoicing, I went into the house where in the bright lights I realized that the shoes were still more brown than white. Sighing deeply, I went into the bathroom and grabbed an old toothbrush. Sitting down beside the bathtub, I begin to scrub each of the seams with the toothbrush, trying to recover that original whiteness. There would be times when I thought I was through only to turn the shoe over and see a piece...
The Forgotten Story of Palestinian Christians

The Forgotten Story of Palestinian Christians

There are times when things that we should know about are lost in the avalanche of information that surrounds us each day. The stories of what happened to – and what is happening to – the Palestinian Christians is something that we should know more about. Sadly most of American Protestant Christianity has bought into a theological system that rejects these followers of Jesus while embracing the secular state of Israel. Though it may not be a popular stance, I firmly believe that followers of Jesus MUST stand up for each other no matter what our ethnicity or race. As such while I don’t have a problem with existences of the nation of Israel, I do have a problem with the way they treat the Palestinian Christians – not to mention Palestinians in general. And, yes, I understand that there are Palestinian groups who are actively fighting against Israel. And yes, I know this causes security issue. So why I’m not smart enough to know how to solve the political situation, I do know that Jesus of Nazareth said to love and bless EVERYONE – even those who are trying to kill you. As such I feel that American followers of Jesus must learn how to shift through the noise to hear the voices of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are following Jesus. The book Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace in Israel by Archbishop Emeritus Dr. Elias Chacour of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church is a good starting point in learning about the history of Palestinian Christians. Published in 1984, the...
Experiencing the Kingdom through Environmental Stewardship

Experiencing the Kingdom through Environmental Stewardship

It is a sad but true reality that many of the followers of Jesus do not take care of the creation the Creator King made. Instead, they quote selected Bible verses, chosen to support their view that what they do to the environment (biological and geological) does not matter. After all, it is all going to burn anyway. Or so goes the standard view of a lot of Christianity today. In stark opposition to this view is the concept of Kingdom Theology which declares that the rule and reign of the King over every area of life and everything, created or uncreated, invisible or visible. Time itself began with the Creator King declaring that everything was good. The dirt was good; the animals of the land, sea and sky were good; the trees, grass, and plants that covered earth was good. Everything that was made or would be made was good. This declaration of the King of Kings has never been revoked. It is a fact that God made this planet and all other planets across the galaxies of the vast skies, simply because he wanted to. He found joy in creating things that no eye, animal or human, would ever see. And he declared it all good. Things did change when Adam and Eve decided to try to rule things themselves, as we have seen. Despite the entrance of sin, evil and death into the creation, the essence of creation remained good. Sadly, as the years rolled by, the creation was ground down by sin and evil. Things that were beautiful became deadly; elements that were to bring...
“Being” King

“Being” King

It is interesting to me to see the actions of God shortly after Adam and Eve left the garden. In Genesis 4, the Bible records the first murder, that of Abel by the hands of his brother Cain. Murder in and of itself is not that interesting as it is actually kind of common in this crazy, messed-up world. What is interesting is how Cain was treated. Three things could have happened after the murder. First, the people in the area (Cain’s family – Adam, Eve, siblings, or their descendants) could have gathered together and punished Cain for his deeds. In modern terms, this would be a type of democratic society in which the people decide what is right and wrong according to popular vote or what is best for society. In other words, society as a whole becomes the king who determines what is right and wrong. Second, they could have ignored the killing and continued living out their lives as if nothing happened. This would be a similar concept to the first choice – namely promoting society to the role of king. Granted, there may have been some folks who would disagree with society and try to enact judgment on Cain themselves. But, then again, this would still be humanity deciding what is right and wrong – and if we learned anything from the Genesis 1–3, it is that God alone determines what is right and wrong. This brings us to the third choice people had after Cain killed Abel: they could let the Creator King judge the deeds of Cain. This may sound self-evident, considering that...
Why should we trust Jesus?

Why should we trust Jesus?

I think it is very important to stop for a moment and ask the question that the early church had to ask itself: “With all the different versions of the kingdom of God, why believe Jesus’ version? What was it that made his claims different than all the other claims out there?” The New Testaments gives us two answers as to why the first-century followers of Jesus took his word over and above the words of all the other voices of their time. These answers are also the ones that we, in the twenty-first century, must hold on to, as they are what set us apart, not only from other definitions of the kingdom of God, but from all other religions. In 1 Corinthians 15:1a, 3b–8, Paul gives us the first answer to the question of why we should believe Jesus’ version of the kingdom: “Let me remind you, brother and sisters, about the good news which I announced to you…The Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Bible; he was buried; he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Bible; he was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve; then he was seen by over five hundred brothers and sisters at once, most of whom are still with us, though some fell asleep; then he was seen by James, then by all the apostles, and last of all as to one ripped from the womb, he appeared to even to me.” (TKNT) It was the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth after three days in the grave that marked him as someone different. If...
Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality

Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality

Christianity in Protestant America is, as a whole, very skeptical of anything coming out of the monasteries of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox tradition. While a lot of this skepticism was inherited from our Reformation fathers (which, oddly enough, was started by a monk), most of it has to do with our tendency to want to have our cake and eat it too. What I mean is that we, if I might be a bit stereotypical for a moment, tend to want to live in the modern world while also hanging onto our Christianity faith. As such, the idea that someone would voluntarily walk away from society and modern conveniences (not to mention sex!) to join a monastery…well, that person must not be right in the head… or so we think to ourselves. The reality is something far different – as is usually the case. The monasteries of our older brothers (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches) are full of wisdom and life. And we, the younger, more rowdy, sibling would be wise to pay attention to the lessons and traditions of these monks. A good place to start is with Kyriacos Markides’ book Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality. In this book, which is essentially a follow up to his early book The Mountain of Silence, Markides explores the spiritual traditions and practices of the Eastern Orthodox monks who draw from the elders of Mount Athos. Written as a journey of discovery, Markides leads the reader by the hand into the monastic world of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Starting first with a monastery...