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In the past week we have witnessed the American discourse at its lowest. No I am not talking about the presidential debate. I am talking about Ann Coulter and Donald Trump.

On the night of the debate, Ann Coulter tweets an offensive remark about President Obama. Then the other day Donald Trump challenges the president.

Sadly, Coulter and Trump seem to lack the talent to get people’s attention without being shockingly rude and offensive. They use their power to tear down and spread sensationalism rather than build community and search for truth.

In Christ, I find the picture of one who shocks with love and forgiveness. Those that others would keep out of power and experiencing God, Jesus sits and has dinner with. Those who were judged by others based on their social status, ethnic status, or faithfulness to tradition, Jesus healed and taught.

If only Ann Coulter and Donald Trump would choose to shock us with love and grace rather than rudeness. But I guess there is no money in that.

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Luke 1:39-56

Both Elizabeth and Mary respond to God’s invitation to partner with him by going away–Elizabeth to silence and Mary runs to Elizabeth’s home.

~I seem to run ahead a lot in life rather than waiting on God. Perhaps it is time to find a mentor and take some time away from it all, so I can disciple others as I have been called to do.

~Do you have a “spiritual mentor” or director? Do you take time to be alone with God?

Elizabeth’s baby recognizes Mary’s greeting. Elizabeth greets Mary–“blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what the Lord had spoken.”

~God has promised in Christ to write his law on our hearts, bring resurrection, bring justice flowing like a waterfall. Do I believe these promises?  If I truly believe these promises would I be more inclined to be a peacemaker, meek, loving? Would I take Christ more seriously and truly want to live out the Kingdom because I really believe the Kingdom is really coming?

Mary’s song: like Elizabeth, Mary equates God’s invitation to her as a sign of favor. And she interprets what God is doing as good news for the poor and an evening out of the playing field among humanity.

~If the Good News I am preaching and living out is not good news to the poor, am I really proclaiming the Good News?

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Luke 1:26-38

Mary is perplexed by the angel’s greeting. “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

~was she perplexed by the title “favored one?” Do I find it hard to believe God favors me?

The angel promises Mary the child she will bear will be called the Son of the Most High. He will be given the throne of David. Mary, like Zechariah, questions. “How can this be?” or in other words, how can this promise be fulfilled in my current state?

~Zechariah looks for proof to believe. Mary looks for how will the promise be fulfilled. When God is leading me, do I look for proof before I will believe? Do I trust and ask what is the next step?

The angel promised the Holy Spirit will come upon her, the Holy One will overshadow her. Nothing is impossible with God.

~In God’s promise on my life, do I run ahead without the Spirit? Do I doubt and forget with God nothing is impossible?

Mary answers, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” 

~Oh to have the faith of Mary. Like Mary, I am called to be a Christ bearer–to bear His image to the world around me–to love like Christ loved, to proclaim the greatness of our God. How often do I doubt, question what others will think of me, keep silent because of fear, continue to hate or avoid someone out of fear…..

Lord, I wish to be like Mary and declare, “Here am i, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” But I let fear keep me from loving others as you have loved me. I allow fear to keep me from forgiving others because the hurt is too great. I allow my own reputation and agenda to keep me from being meek, humble, a peacemaker. Help my unbelief. Amen

Really?? Saw a news story on how the American Family Association has protested an anti bullying program where students mix it up for lunch and sit with someone they normally don’t eat lunch with. This supposed Christian organization sees this anti bullying program to be part of the homosexual agenda. Really?

I say supposed Christian organization because the last time I checked…Jesus ate with sinners. Jesus crossed the line and sat with the unclean for meals. And here is the kicker–according to Romans we are all sinners. Christ would sit at our table and eat with us. Was he supporting tax collectors and prostitutes because he ate with them? Or was he bringing the healing and hope of the Kingdom of God to them? Jesus invited to the Last Supper the disciple who would betray him, the one who would deny him, the one who would doubt him when he rose again, the ones who would run in fear and hide….When we come to the Communion Table, do we believe Christ is supporting our sin? Or do we find the grace and forgiveness of Christ at the Table to be transformed into the image of Christ? Yet we would deny that transformative power of a meal shared to those in the homosexual community. If you believe homosexuality is a sin, you are keeping them from the healing presence of Christ found in a shared meal, in the presence of Christ found in community with other believers.

Secondly, no matter what your belief on homosexuality is, no one deserves to be bullied. Why would a supposed Christian organization not stand up against bullying no matter who is being bullied. In fact I would say Christian organizations like the American Family Association are being bullies against the homosexual communities. It is the old saying, “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” They are promoting bullying because they are afraid to show any compassion to homosexuals.

Why is Christianity dying in the US? Why are people under 35 anti church? The answer lies in the actions of groups like the American Family Association. The world can see the actions of the church and groups like this done in the name of Christ are not Christian. In fact, our bracelets need to read What would Jesus NOT do. We seem to be experts in doing the not so Christ like thing.

Fail.

I tried one time going through the Gospel of Mark on my blog. got to one entry. Fail.

But here I go again. I am not going to promise anything big this time. But here is my thoughts on Luke 1:1-25. The beginning of the Gospel according to Luke and the story of Zechariah.

ImageGod is doing something new and Luke doesn’t want Theophilus to miss it. God is still at work in our world. I want to be a part of it. So what can I learn from Luke’s account to recognize God’s work and participate?

Zechariah is serving in the Temple, doing his priestly work. God meets Zechariah where he was and doing his daily work.

~How often do I miss God in the everyday, ordinary work because I am waiting for the next conference, the next concert, the next big event? I am not listening to God in the silence because I am waiting for the next Thunder clap?

Zechariah’s response to the angel’s announcement that he and his wife will have a child–a child who will be great in the sight of the Lord and will be filled with the Holy Spirit and the power of Elijah–is a little less than a show of faith. Zechariah questions the angel “How will I know?” (as if a pregnant wife would not be proof enough that God can use an elderly lady to bring forth new life?)

~How often do I miss God working in the world around me because I want proof?

~Zechariah is forgetting the story of God. Had not God given a child to Abraham and Sarah in their old age?  How often do I forget or dismiss the story of God and declare I cannot participate in God’s work because “I am too old, I am too young, I am too poor, I cannot speak well?”

Elizabeth responds to the work of God was to go away in silence. (silence is forced on her husband. She chooses silence.) And she declares God’s work in her life and the world is evidence of God’s favor. God’s work in her life removes her disgrace, restores her honor.

~How do I see God’s call and work in my life? Intrusive? God is asking too much?

~Or can I see God’s work in my life and invitation to partner with Him as evidence of God’s favor? Can I see what God is doing in my life as God removing my disgrace and restoring my honor?

Upon my arrival home from a few days at a clergy retreat/conference, my Great Dane, Greta, overwhelmed me at the door. I could see the relief, the joy, the love, the gratitude in her blue eye and her brown eye. She hates to be separated from me even when we are simply playing.

Greta being her playful self.

As a 2 year old, Greta loves to play. And one of the games we have is my hiding under the covers in bed. Greta jumps up and tries to get the cover off of me as fast as possible. She hates when anything gets between us.

I wish I could say the same about my relationship with God. I let my schedule, my job, my exhaustion keep me from time alone with God. I let my agenda, my politics, my opinions, my preferences eclipse God and make God over in the image of my politics, my opinions, my preferences. Suddenly, God likes the same worship I like, God would vote for the candidate I want to vote for–I have covered God’s face and replaced it with something I already am.

At the conference I just attended, Mike Slaughter called it being a “soft secularist.” The church has created “soft secularists.” We come to church regularly, can recite the proper doctrines. But when it comes down to who we really are–we have embraced the culture around us and slapped Jesus on it–and called it Christian. We have made over Christ in the image of our politics and preferences instead of letting Christ make us over in his image.

Mike Slaughter shared what he would like to say to people who come up and tell him their preferences. A lady comes up to him and states they need to be singing more of the old hymns in church because that is what she likes. Mike says to her, “well if you still have preferences, someone didn’t hold you under the waters of baptism long enough.”

Dying to ourselves is hard. Often we limit dying to ourselves to be about dying to our sins. But we are to die to our agendas, our preferences, our politics. Because as long as we let them dictate what we do, where we go, how we act, well we have simply thrown a blanket with our face drawn on it over God’s face. We are making God in our image, rather than we being transformed by God.

So I am on a retreat with other clergy this weekend. It is a combination of a conference where we re-focus on ministry and a retreat where we can hike, swim, golf, etc. Only into the first 2 hours and it has been refreshing. Thanks be to God.

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When I drove up to the resort the conference/retreat is being held at, I was greeted by a wall with the words “Health, Smile, Peace” playfully mounted upon it along with a smiling face. The road then lead to a guard shack, where we had to give our name. It seems this hotel/resort does not like unwanted or unexpected guests. Behind this wall, beyond this guard–there is health, smiles, and peace. But not for everyone.

I know. The hotel is protecting us–the paying guests, the paying golfers, those who are seriously retreating and conferencing–from those who are just looking for a place to stay overnight in their travels.

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But it made me wonder. Within the Church lies salvation, hope, joy, peace. Have we erected a guard shack to protect our doctrines, our dogmas, our traditions? And in doing so, are we keeping people out from experiencing the salvation, hope, joy and peace we have found in Christ?  In the name of protection and self preservation, are we keeping the very people Christ came to save from the community which is to make disciples?

We say “people need the Lord,” but if they vote differently than we think Christians should vote–they are “misguided” or even enemies. If they preach love and forgiveness, they are wimps and don’t stand for the truth. If they are in different relationships than we are in, they are sinners. And we don’t realize that our labels are the guard shacks that keep our faith “pure” and keep “them” from experiencing salvation, hope, love, peace, joy….

This song is speaking to me right now. Partially because I am can really, tangibly feel my need.

It has also given me a challenge. “Where sin runs deep, grace is more. Where grace is found, that’s where you are.”

According to Genesis, we humans have been created in the image of God. Dr. Robert Mullholland at Asbury Seminary use the illustration of statues which are reflections of an image. In dictatorships, the dictator often places his image all over his kingdom to remind everyone who the supreme ruler is. God created us in the Divine Image to reflect that image to Creation.

And so where sin abounds, God might just want to use me to be evidence of his amazing grace. Being God’s grace is not always easy. It is not easy when the person is sinning not just against God but also against me–when someone is lying about me, cheating me, bullying me. It is not easy when the person’s sin is the sin that bothers me most–my talking point.

But the call for me to reflect the Divine image of God which includes his amazing grace which found me as I was and loved me as I was and died for me while I was still a sinner, doesn’t change based on the sin the person is committing.

And so, I find myself singing all the more–“Lord, I need you. Oh I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense. My righteousness. Oh God, how I need you.”

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