Tag Archives: politics

Lent is Over. Now What?

During the last 60,480 minutes I’ve missed a few things. That’s 1,008 hours for those of you not handy with math. Forty-two days. That’s how long I gave up TV and radio for Lent. Now several days after Easter, the day Lenten fast’s finish, I’m wondering if I really missed anything.

Sure, news happened, even important news. But did I really miss anything?

Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign. Newsman Mike Wallace, banjo virtuoso Earl Scruggs, and painter Thomas Kincade all passed. These were great losses. Looming less large, so did Scottish champion darts player, Jocky Wilson and probowler LaVerne Carter.

Also during Lent, Madonna was banned from a talk show, Lindsay Lohan was released from probation and given a warning by a judge, and Ninjas attacked a medical marijuana delivery man.

Depending on your point of view, I may or may not have missed anything.

Sacrifice is always dangerous. It’s an act of release, opening oneself up, vulnerability. When you give something up or away, you always stand the chance of ending up empty-handed or, worse, hurt. That’s also why sacrifice is powerful.

But often in taking a risk, we discover that our sacrifice also makes room in life for something new. That’s why, in my opinion, I don’t think I missed anything in my self-imposed media ban.

I gained.

Freedom.

My daily thoughts have not been held captive by the commercially driven yammering of some talking head or disembodied voice. I’ve not spent one moment worrying about who the next President of the U.S. might be (though I will inform myself and vote), whether it might rain on my parade that day or not, or what the insane governments in Iran and North Korea might do.

My mind has been free to notice life and people near and around me. I’ve taken more pictures, seen spring fight off the blandness of winter, and my voice memo function on my iPhone is full of ideas for sermons, books, articles, and blogs. I’ve rediscovered music. I feel wildly creative. I started writing poetry again.  And I’m partnering with gifted musician, Cliff Hutchison, in writing song lyrics. I’ve prayed for my friends and family more consistently as God brings their names and faces to mind in the absence of media noise.

I gained.

Time.

I simply don’t feel as rushed. Standing in my living room as night closes down the day, I’ve often asked myself what I should do next.  It’s a wonderful, languid feeling. Usually I’d be vegging in front of the TV. I’ve taken longer walks with Dee Dee, my wife, and had spontaneous conversations with her. Gone to bed earlier. I have time to write my novel and I’ve read around seven books. Leif Enger’s novel “So Brave, Young, and Handsome” gets better each time I read it. I’ve journaled almost everyday of 2012.

I’m gaining.

Insight.

It’s not been all sweetness and light, however. This Lenten silence has allowed me to recognize who I am and who I’m not. I, maybe like you, am a pretty flawed person. The noise of TV and radio often allowed me to cover that fact. My journals are just as full of inanities, complaints, and judgements as they are prayers, poems, and pretty prose. And some things have only shifted. Instead of carrying on an imaginary debate with some TV commentator, I now do so with a Facebook friend. Argh.

The ancient but honest theologian and philosopher, Paul of Tarsus, expressed it this way, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” 

Lent’s Over. Now What?

Still I’m not willing to give the reins of even my messy life back to some advertising executive pulling levers behind a curtain. Monday I watched, or rather slept through, the Colorado Rockies’ home opener. But, I’m not going back. Yet. I’ve gained too much to gorge myself on media again. The silence has been exceedingly rich and I’ve seen living spiritually–for me–cannot happen in a world dominated by media noise.

After  60,480 minutes I’ve found I missed nothing. Rather I gained–even if the most disconcerting as well as comforting truth is that I cannot live spiritually, become a better person, on my own. I must agree with Paul again. “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Eugene C. Scott loves listening to the blues, which has nothing to do with this blog, but is worth saying anyway. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following this blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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What Do You Do When God Loses The Election?

If I didn’t know better, I’d think every political candidate should be in jail.

At least that’s what I’d think if I believed every political ad on television. Political mud-slinging is at an all-time high in my state of Colorado. Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Ken Buck have attracted unprecedented amounts of money as both national political parties have determined that this particualr race is pivotal to control of the US Senate. Ironically, both sides complain about the mud-slinging that’s coming from the other side.

If you live in another country or you’re rusty on your civics, remember that only 100 people serve in the Senate. Currently the Democrats own a 59-41 advantage over their foes, which means that a change in only 10 seats—a very real possibility given the current anti-Obama climate among some—would change the political landscape in our country.

Which begs the question: what do you do if your candidate loses? I mean, if your political party lost by a landslide and the leadership grew increasingly hostile to your views, what would you do?

Move to another country?

Pray and ask God for deliverance?

Perhaps you’d even wonder how God could lose the election.

Welcome to today’s topic in our daily Bible conversation!

TODAY’S READING

Jeremiah 26:1-27:22
2 Thessalonians 3:1-18
Psalm 85:1-13
Proverbs 25:16

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Jeremiah 26:1-27:22. God instructed Jeremiah to give yet another message to Judah calling for repentance so that “perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way” (Jeremiah 26:3). The Old Testament prophets represented God’s relentless attempt to call his people back into relationship with him. The purpose of the prophets wasn’t to call down fire from heaven to destroy God’s people. Their purpose was to restore the people’s relationship with God. This perspective gives us a window into God’s relentless love toward us.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-18. Paul instructs the Thessalonian church not to associate with people who are idle. Apparently, some people in the congregation needed financial help from the church but weren’t willing to work themselves. Instead they were busybodies. This is a problem in congregations even today.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

He was a pagan king. By his orders his troops destroyed Jerusalem and deported the best and brightest people to Babylon, where they served as his vassals. While his troops were at it, they also stole all the sacred implements from the temple. So brutal was he that after his troops ransacked Jerusalem, he ordered his men to kill King Zedekiah’s sons in front of their father before blinding the king so that his final visual memory would be that of his sons dying.

This man who was infamous for his temper also ordered the construction of an enormous idol and issued an edict stating that anyone who refused to worship the idol would be thrown into a fiery furnace. And sure enough, when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—followers of Yahweh—refused to bow down, they were thrown into the furnace and then miraculously saved.

Without a doubt, King Nebuchadnezzar embodied the prototype of the negative ads we see on television. “If you vote for the other candidate,” we’re told, “you’ll have higher taxes, fewer freedoms, rampant government, corrupt officials, etc.” In other words, you’ll be electing a veritable Nebuchadnezzar. Why, voting for the other candidate is like voting against God’s candidate.

And surely evil King Nebuchadnezzar was an enemy of God himself.

Not so fast.

Today’s reading in Jeremiah chapter 27 should give us pause to reconsider the identity of God’s candidate. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God told the people of Judah:

Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. Jeremiah 27:6

Did you catch that? God called Nebuchadnezzar his servant. If you think something got lost in the translation, God reinforced the message:

If, however, any nation or kingdom will not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon or bow its neck under his yoke, I will punish that nation with the sword, famine and plague, declares the Lord, until I destroy it by his hand. Jeremiah 27:8

Resisting this pagan king meant resisting God.

What gives?

Amidst a political landscape where each side claims that voting for the other candidate is akin to voting for the Antichrist, it’s helpful to know that God uses whoever he wants to accomplish his will. This is also a good reminder that if the other side wins, it isn’t the end of the world.

God is always in control. Always. And God’s ultimate will is always accomplished. Always.

In the short run, the destruction of Jerusalem seemed like the end of the world. But in the long run, it broke Israel from its worship of foreign gods. And it also prepared Israel for the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ.

So if your candidate loses in an upcoming election, remember that God is still in control–just like he was before the election. And remember that God works with a long-term view on world affairs (and your life).

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Do you worry when the other candidate or political party wins an election? Why? How does it affect your trust in God?
  3. When your candidate or political party wins the election, do you find it easier to trust in God’s control of the country? Why?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado

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Does God Have Anything to do With Politics?

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2008 candidate Barack Obama spent approximately $730 million dollars in winning the U.S. presidency. John McCain spent close to $334 million in losing. That’s over 1 billion dollars for two candidates in one race. That is a huge and troubling number for several reasons. Mostly because of what it says about how many of us view political leaders.

Does it matter who the U.S. president is? Can one person, even the one holding the most powerful office in the world, change the world economy, the global power structure, and our individual lives that much? By the amount of money spent one would assume it not only matters, but it is down right crucial. Is it?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Ezra 8:21-9:15

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Psalm 31:1-8

Proverbs 21:1-2

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Ezra 8:21-9:15: Once again Ezra shows his faith. His first response to danger and trouble is fasting, prayer, and worship. Rather than contradict how he has expressed his faith in God to the king, Ezra sets out back to Jerusalem not under the protection of the king and an army but under the hand of God. Ezra is not naming and claiming God’s protection, however. He has made a statement of faith and is going to live or die by it. Ezra leaves life and God’s reputation is in God’s hands.

1 Corinthians 5:1-13: Biblical honesty about human sin is not relegated to the Old Testament. A church member having sex with his father’s wife? And the people who know find a way to justify it? Again we see God’s Word is not sanitized. Why not paint a prettier picture of the brand new church?

Because there is enough in this book that is hard to believe. We would never believe a fairy tale. If God is real, then his story of how he relates to us must be real as well.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Ideas, especially political ideas, matter. Big government, small government, low taxes, high taxes, liberal, conservative, pragmatism, idealism, freedom, control: these ideas, and the people or person who wields them, affect the way we live.

On the extreme end of the spectrum, Karl Marx’ idea of communism spread and unintentionally brought untold suffering to millions. On the other end, the first ever televised debate between curmudgeonly Richard M. Nixon and handsome John F. Kennedy unintentionally changed how U.S. political candidates needed to look and present themselves.

One person, especially one with political power, can make big a difference.

This truth haunts me, particularly when the candidate I voted for, with the ideas I shared, looses. I suspect others feel the same.

Yet a greater truth overrules. God is sovereign. “The king’s [or president’s or prime minister’s or dictator’s] heart is in the hand of the Lord,” claims the author of proverbs.

This does not mean, cannot, that individual choice and responsibility are a sham. Humans are not puppets to God’s puppeteer. God is sovereign over the end result.

“[God] directs [the king’s] heart like a water course wherever he pleases,” the writer continues. Like a river inside its banks the heart of a leader knows the right way to go, yet may overrun the banks, dry up, get polluted.

In the end history flows, taking some incredibly twisted turns no doubt, into the sea, its intended destination. God can and does work all things–good and bad leaders and ideas–to accomplish his will. Money, even a billion dollars,  and power are no match.

Yes, it matters who leads us. But the thing that matters most is relinquishing our fear and hopes to the One who leads the leaders. I may not have voted for any particular leader. And even the ones I do will make mistakes and lead poorly.

But God is at the heart of what will come. I can trust in that.

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. Do you believe God is sovereign?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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Our Favorite Sin May Be Favoritism

I delivered a good sermon, my first as the new associate pastor at Old Presbyterian Church. After worship, decked out in my spanking new robe, I dutifully made my way to the back of the sanctuary and stood to the right waiting for the people to file by and greet me with the traditional and obligatory, “Nice sermon, Pastor.”

Some believe this tradition dates back to the 1500s and probably originated with John Calvin himself. Every Presbyterian church I have served in has practiced this grip and gripe ritual. So, you can imagine my shock when every single person filed out to the left without even giving me a glance much less a greeting.

My sermon couldn’t have been that bad, thought I as gray haired saint after saint sauntered by. I gave it at my last church and the people there appreciated it.

Dejected I stood there staring down at my shiny black wing tips. I felt a light tug on my sleeve.

“Pastor Scott, the preacher always stands on the left side to greet the people,” the tiny, wrinkled grandmother said. I started to argue but she gripped my arm and shot a piercing look up into my eyes. I moved across the doorway and sure enough the people began grabbing my hand and gushing, “Nice sermon, Pastor.”

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Kings 15:25-17:24

Acts 10:23b-48

Psalm 134:1-3

Proverbs 17:9-11

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Kings 15:25-17:24: God holds the many bad kings named in this section responsible for causing Israel to sin. This may seem strange to our radically individualistic ears. Why doesn’t God hold each individual responsible for his or her own choices? God may. But God also holds each of us responsible for one another. My decisions impact my family, friends, church, and culture.  Moreover God calls leaders to a standard above that. We are our brother and sister’s keeper.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

That first Sunday at Old Presbyterian Church should have been a sign. But I’m a little slow. OPC was well over 100 years old and brimmed with ritual and tradition. I imagined it would only be a matter of time before I mastered enough of their traditions to find acceptance.

Wrong!

Why didn’t those folks greet me despite the fact I was standing on the wrong side? Because I was an outsider from the wrong part of the country. And a long haired, young whipper snapper to boot.

Little did I realize that though “God does not show favoritism,” many of us in the church have turned it into a fine art, using rituals, traditions, inside jokes, and insider language to draw lines of inclusion around ourselves–to the exclusion of all others. It’s our secret little sin, secret to us but not to outsiders who stand befuddled and hurt on the wrong side of the door.

In Acts we read how Peter struggled with and against favoritism. Jewish followers of Christ so feared losing their favored place they at first resisted Gentile followers of Christ and then restricted them with traditions.

This is the dark cave exclusive favoritism flows from: fear of loss. From the simplest loss of one’s seat to imagining a devastating loss of God’s love.

The truth is, however, that this strangling hold favoritism lays on us eventually brings on that which we dread. In grasping we lose.

The widow in 1 Kings 17 should have favored her son and herself. But with only enough food for one last meal, God asks her to share it with Elijah. Fearlessly she does so and finds God refills her jar with his everlasting supply. Her faith overcame her fear and its deformed twin: favoritism. In giving she gains. God made the his world this way.

Favoritism is strangling the modern church. We hold on to our buildings and budgets, our music and methods our traditions and rituals. We fear the loss of our place politically and culturally. And in grasping we have lost the ear of the culture surrounding us. They cannot hear or see the love of Christ in us because we are holding it too tightly.

Maybe it is time again to take a lesson from a poor starving widow and give to others all that God has given us.

  1. What does favoritism look like in your part of the world?
  2. How can faith in God eliminate favoritism?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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