Giving Jesus a Makeover

a yellow flower on an orange backgroundMany years ago a dear Christian sister told me she was convinced that if Jesus appeared in our day, he would surely be a fire and brimstone Baptist preacher. As you might imagine, she admired Baptist preachers who preached hell and judgment. She made Jesus over into an image that suited her own faith and worldview.

She isn’t the first. Human beings were made in the image of God. Yet ever since our creation, we have been returning the favor in a twisted way—making God over into our own image. We all do this. In fact, it is one of our greatest sins. Read more

What God Intends

Milton Wright was a Bishop in the Church of the Brethren, traveling throughout his denomination until his death in 1917. He is reported to have said that if God intended human beings to fly, he would have given us wings. We know from history that his sons, Orville and Wilbur, thought otherwise.

At times, I find myself thinking this way. I think that if God intended us to have this or that new technology, surely God would have provided it. For example, I care little for cell phones, and only own one jointly with Gayle. If God intended us to talk anywhere, any time, surely we’d have “blue tooth” phones fitted to our ears when we were born. And I find myself thinking this way when it comes to oil and coal. I figure that if God intended us to put carbon into the air, then God surely would not have taken so long and worked so hard to fold these materials deep into the earth. I wonder if God really wants them to be taken from the bowels of the earth and used as we use them.

There I go, thinking like Bishop Wright again. Read more

Obama and His Preacher

Barack Obama has endured criticism for his membership in Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ and for his association with his now-retired pastor, Jeremiah Wright, Jr. Wright’s inflammatory remarks have met with angry disapproval. Yet this reflection is not about Rev. Wright. I am writing, instead, about Obama and his understanding of the Church.

Political pundits have said that Obama should publicly refute his pastor. They have written that if Obama had any integrity, he would withdraw his membership from his Trinity church. These people are merely revealing that Obama’s understanding of the gospel is far more mature than theirs. Indeed, these “experts” cannot fathom the integrity that Obama has shown.

Thus far at least, Obama’s actions and words witness to an understanding of the church that is orthodox and biblical. In the tradition of Christian faith, Obama seems to understand that we do not “choose” our church, nor does the church exist to please us and to meet our needs. Rather, the church is the body of Christ. It can be wrong, and often is. Its preachers can speak words that are not the gospel, and we often do. Read more

Fools For Christ

I’m thinking this morning of Van Thompson. There he is down in Memphis, newly married. To the surprise of some, Van and Kristin have chosen to live in the Binghamton neighborhood, a community riddled with urban poverty and crime. They are two of many Christians moving into the community in recent years in order to bear witness and to offer their bodily presence. Read more

Telephones and What is Good for Us

David Kline is an Amish man. He insists that Amish people are not understood. Amish people are maligned for being against all forms of modern technology. That is not true, he says. Rather, the Amish use only those technologies that, in their best judgment, do not harm their community life.

For example, lanterns are not allowed on their farm field equipment. With lanterns they would be tempted to work into the night hours. And working in the fields past sunset would weaken their family life and would overwork their horses.

Several years ago the question came up about whether David Kline’s community would use telephones. Everyone in the church—the community—met and discussed it a number of times. It took all summer for them to decide whether they would have phones. They finally decided against it. And they had two reasons. Read more