Monday, March 27, 2017

A Jesus Kind of Church - Greg Albrecht

"You know, I always thought when I got older God would come into my life. Well, he hasn't. I don't blame him—if I were him I wouldn't come into my life either." —No Country for Old Men 
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." —Luke 4: 18-19 
Out in the endless, desolate desert of west Texas, a hunter looking for antelope stumbles on a crime scene. Abandoned cars and trucks are pock marked with bullet holes, and a half dozen or so dead bodies are scattered around. 
In that odd and somewhat glib euphemism used by the media, it's apparently a drug deal "gone wrong" (if indeed there was ever a "right" drug deal!). Examining this massacre, as flies hover around the bodies, the hunter finds a suitcase of money which provides the motive for all of the violence that follows in the 2007 movie, No Country for Old Men.

Seeing God in My Grandchildren - Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer: Seeing God in my Grandchildren from Plain Truth Ministries on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I'm in a small boat in a raging sea - Jessica Williams with Krista Heide

"Small Boat in a Raging Sea" - by Krista Heide
I'm in a small boat on a raging sea.  

And it is hard to believe in Jesus. 

I’ve never seen him -- you know? I have this Sunday-School picture that is stuck in my head but I’m sure it’s not what He looked like. And was He really born of a virgin? Was God a baby? Was he crucified? Is he coming back? This -- is our faith.  Jesus, he did these things, he turned water to wine, he healed the sick and raised the dead. But -- none of us were there.  I didn’t see it.  

I’m in a small boat on a raging sea.

The waves are big and full of all things. 

The brokenness of this world. Girls made into product, stolen and sold, boys sent to war, corruption, greed, violence, abuse, addiction, poverty, politics, pain, religion, racism, rape, starvation, slavery, sickness, shootings  -- all around us.

I’m in a small boat on a raging sea.

The kingdom is now/not yet, illusive and hard to grasp.
I see it and I don’t see it.  It’s but a poor reflection.

I’m in a small boat on a raging sea.  

And, listen: This boat is made from the trees of my youth, my home. Which is both comforting and haunting all at once. My foundation is weathered wood and it holds my story, where I’ve been, this wood matters. There are many weak places beneath me and they make sense of this fear in my heart.

I’m in a small boat on a raging sea. 

So, if Jesus were in this boat with me?  The man, Jesus.  I confess even then I am sure I would still freak out. L
ook at that sea! Jesus is just a man and we all know that some men abandon the ship. The waves are crashing here and it is obvious that I am at risk of dying any second so my question is this: 

Does He not care that we are perishing? 

Am I loved as I ask it?  

Because, for some reason the only thing that has ever helped this doubt in me is saying it. I have to speak it out. I believe and I disbelieve so if you ask me to only believe I will not make it. But if you can listen to my fear, if I can hand it to you, I will find that inner place of rest. My own sleeping Jesus. And I will see that He in this boat with me will be enough.

But, I will only find my yes after all these no’s have been spoken making room in my lungs to breathe in hope. This doubt leads the way to faith. Slowly, pulls me close enough to understand that if Jesus didn’t care about this raging sea I’m in he wouldn’t be here with me. But he is. He is Emmanuel. He is God with us. And I will know it as I doubt it.

I’m in a small boat on a raging sea.

-Jessica Williams is a poet and Krista Heide is an artist and musician. They are both from Winnipeg, Canada and are currently graduate students in theology at St. Stephen's University in New Brunswick.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Letting Go of Grudges - Greg Albrecht

Remember the older brother, the third major character of the parable of the prodigal son? As he witnessed the extravagant love and forgiveness of his father, lavished on his younger brother when he came home from wasting his inheritance, the older brother was eaten alive by jealously, envy and bitterness. 

The older, unforgiving brother refused to join in the festivities and celebration. 

The older, responsible, hard-working brother felt that he was a faithful and diligent son, always trying to earn his father's favor. 
But the celebration and festivities—the barbecue, the music and the dancing—were not in honor of all his hard work. 

The joy and celebration were because his obviously less-than-perfect younger brother had come home. The parable ends without us being told the end of the story—did the older brother let go of his bitterness?

Buddy Hackett, an American comedian and actor who died a little over ten years ago once said, half in fun and half seriously, "Don't carry a grudge. While you're carrying the grudge the other guy is out dancing."

The Role of Art in Critiquing Religion - David Hayward (the Naked Pastor)

David Hayward: The Role of Art in Critiquing Religion from Plain Truth Ministries on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Cross is a Weapon of Peace - John Behr

"But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).

The Cross is the Weapon of Peace, we sing. Yet, despite the militaristic overtones, the Cross is not simply a more mighty or powerful weapon in some kind of divine arms race! No, it is the weapon of peace, it is a weapon which doesn’t resort to greater fire-power to blow apart our enemies in a cycle of violence, but rather brings that cycle of violence to an end, ushering in the peace of God for those who are prepared to live by it.
When someone strikes or offends us, Christ does not direct us to hit back or retaliate, but to turn the other cheek, to bear one another’s weaknesses, not so that we can be beaten some more for the sake of it, but to take upon ourselves the anger that is in the other person, to neutralize it, to put an end to it, as Christ himself did, the blameless lamb led to the slaughter, or rather going willingly, taking upon himself the sin of the world.
This is not simply a matter of being passive, but rather being passive actively, creatively, and being creative in the most divine way possible–for it allows God to work in and through us, rather than just doing whatever it is we ourselves can come up with.
But God can only work through us if we ourselves take up the Cross and live by it, for if we do so–dead to the world–we will already, now, be in the peace of God, untroubled by anything the world throws at us, and the peace that we will know will spread through us to all those around us.

(John Behr, The Cross Stands While the World Turns, pp. 38-39).