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5 Tips for New Christians and Those Seeking to Deepen Their Faith

January 4, 2015

Starting-Line

For many of us, the New Year is a time of reassessing the previous year as we set our hopes on the future. Maybe that’s why I’ve been bombarded lately (in a good way) with questions from friends related to matters of faith over the last couple of weeks.

At the risk of getting lost in the barrage of New Years resolution posts and related content flooding the interwebs this time of year, here’s a short list of concrete actions I often recommend to new Christians. Whether you’re a recent convert to Christianity or a seasoned believer looking for a deeper walk with God, I hope you’ll find this list useful.

1. Find community with other Christians.

This is hands down the most important thing you can do as a new Christian. Human beings are social creatures. While American culture values independence and rugged individualism, membership in the family of God is an inherently communal affair. We need other Christians to challenge us, lend support in tough times, and experience life together. Jesus might be our “personal Lord and Savior,” but that does not mean we are saved as autonomous individuals — salvation is experienced, worked out, and sustained in community with others.

All that being said, it is equally important to remember that the church can be a challenging place. Communities are made up of imperfect people and some communities (even many Christian ones) are downright destructive. But even if you’ve been hurt by a church at some point in the past, flying solo in the faith is a sure way to burn out and lose our way. Find a Bible study group where it’s safe to ask questions, a few trusted companions who can (lovingly) call you on your bullshit, or even a worship space where you can blend into the crowd and encounter God while you heal. Whatever you do, don’t go it alone.

2. Get to know Jesus by reading the gospels.

New converts often want to learn everything there is to know about Christianity. Many will try to read the Bible cover-to-cover, only to crap out when they hit Leviticus (the third book of the Bible, and not much of a page-turner). While the entire Bible is important and worth reading at some point, I always encourage new believers to start with Jesus. Open up to the Gospel of Matthew and just start reading. Once you’ve finished, move on to Mark, then Luke and John. When you get to the end of John, go back to Matthew and do it all again.

It doesn’t matter how much you read at one time or whether you do it every day, just try to make it through the gospels twice over the course of a year. If every Christian did this, the church would be a whole lot more Christ-like. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the gospels, then you can go on to tackle Paul and the Old Testament. Learning is a life-long process and there will be plenty of time to explore once you’ve covered the basics. And anything you miss can be made up at the resurrection.

3. Obtain a mentor.

Discipleship is how this whole Christianity thing got started and it is as important today at it was 2,000 years ago. A mentor can be anyone who has been in the faith longer than you and is willing to invest time in your development as a Christian. I’ve probably had over a dozen mentors over the years and the times I’ve been without someone to shepherd me have been some of the weakest times in my faith.

A mentor can be older than you, younger, or a peer. While a person of the same gender will be safer in some instances and can probably challenge you in more personal ways, I’ve had some great female mentors and have discipled folks from across the gender spectrum. You will never be too old to need a mentor and, someday, you might even be able to return the favor by mentoring someone else.

4. Develop a rhythm of prayer.

Maintaining a conversational relationship with God can be one of the most challenging and rewarding elements of Christian spirituality. While there are many forms of prayer and ways to go about praying, the most important thing is to find something that works for you and make it habitual. Maybe it’s praying at set times each day, like in the morning, midday, and/or right before bed. Maybe you prefer to read written prayers, keeping a journal, imagining yourself in the midst of a classic Bible story, or just a free-flowing stream of dialogue with God. It’s all good as long as it gets your praying.

I have personally benefited from the use of prayer books like Daily FeastCommon Prayer, and The Divine Hours. For the tech savvy, there are also a number of great prayer apps like Echo and Instapray. Find something that works for you and will help establish a rhythm of daily communication with God.

5. Serve in ways that are outside your comfort zone.

Go on a short-term mission trip to another country. Teach Sunday school to a rowdy group of 6th graders. Spend time with a shut-in or cook a meal for someone who’s sick or just had a baby. Donate an embarrassingly large (or small) sum of money to an important cause. Train for a charity 5K. Help with voter registration in a poor neighborhood. Raise awareness about an injustice happening in your community… etc.

When we serve in ways that are outside of our comfort zones, God will challenge us like we’ve never been challenged before. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my faith by being placed in uncomfortable situations for the sake of the gospel. Go out and do something crazy. Find out what Jesus meant when he talked about being present among “the least of these” (Matt. 25). If nothing else, do something you love that helps someone in need. I guarantee God will show up.

FCF Weekend Roundup (10/25/14): Tragedy, Evangelism, Gushee Comes Out, and More!

October 25, 2014

It’s been a crazy news week filled with both hope and tragedy. Two nurses from Dallas are free of Ebola, while two communities have been shaken with shootings in Ottawa and Washington. Here’s a mix of some of the stories that caught my eye this week:


Radical Islam and the Shooting in Ottawa

Canadian flag marked in memory of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the guard killed in Wednesday's tragedy (Reuters).

Canadian flag marked in memory of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the guard killed in Wednesday’s tragedy (Reuters).

A number of important pieces have been published in response to Wednesday’s shooting, in which a Canadian citizen with Libyan roots and possible jihadist ties opened fire in the Canadian capital, killing an army reservist:

We will not make our world better through fear or anger or attempting to shift suffering from us to ISIS or anybody else we qualify as “other”. We can make it better through a perfect love that casts out fear. I firmly believe this option is available to us, and it is this way taught by Jesus which is the only way we can bring lasting peace.


Evangelism in the Twenty-First Century

churchless-coverThe Barna group has a new study out (and with it, a new book) examining changing trends among the unchurched in America. These include growing secularism, loss of familiarity with the concept of church, and attending church on Sunday mornings no longer being a mainstream part of American culture.

While many Christians will mourn the decline of the church in our culture, the folks over at Reknew remind us that America was never really a Christian nation to begin with, asking the question: Is America uniquely “under God”?

Although I agree that the church tends to be at its best when Christians are in the minority, this doesn’t excuse us from the call to make disciples. In that vein, “The Way?” blog has a great article examining what evangelism needs to look like in the twenty-first century. It’s a really excellent post that all Christians would do well to read.


Gushee Comes Out, and More!

David P. Gushee

David P. Gushee

Renowned Baptist ethicist David Gushee made waves this week with news that he will be coming out as pro-LGBT (affirming same-sex relationships) in a speech next month as well as his upcoming book entitled Changing Our Mind. Here’s the official description from Amazon:

“Every generation has its hot-button issue,” writes David P. Gushee, “For us, it’s the LGBT issue.” In Changing Our Mind, Gushee takes the reader along his personal and theological journey as he changes his mind about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inclusion in the Church. “For decades now, David Gushee has earned the reputation as America’s leading evangelical ethicist. In this book, he admits that he has been wrong on the LGBT issue.” writes Brian D. McLaren, author and theologian.

It takes a lot to admit when we are wrong, especially for academics. I look forward to reading the book and to seeing how Gushee’s denomination, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will respond. Since I personally favor the “third way,” standing for marriage equality in society while believing that this is a topic on which those in the church can agree to disagree, it is my hope that grace will abound.

As for my promise for more: Here’s a testimony you all should read from Brad Kramer, a good friend of mine who works for BioLogos. Brad talks about growing up in Evangelicalism and his own personal journey on the topic of evolution. It’s a good read — check it out!

And last but not least, your weekly dose of awesome: the trailer for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, which was leaked on the internet a week before it’s scheduled release. Hail Hydra!

Those [Christians] Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones [at Muslims]

October 22, 2014

ISIL militants kill 102-year-old Syrian in Alawite massacre

ISIS militants (source).

With yet another American-led war in the Middle East and numerous acts of violence carried out against civilians by ISIS soldiers in Iraq and Syria, anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States is nearing an all-time high. On the TV, internet, and social media, talking heads have emerged denouncing not only Islamic fascists, but Islam itself — even all Muslims — as violent.

This sort of rhetoric is to be expected from “New Atheist” types anxious to denounce all religion, but I have been alarmed by the number of Christians who have joined in the fear mongering chorus of our culture. While the actions of the Islamic State are horrendous, I would expect followers of Christ to exercise a bit more grace in the matter in our public discourse.

My mother always used to say that when you point one finger, three more point back at you. While popular culture is currently focused on the evils of radical Islam, it’s only a matter of time before the news cycle shifts its critical eye to Christian fundamentalists (and with an election around the corner, I suspect that will come sooner rather than later).

With that in mind, here are a few similarities between Christianity Islam that should make followers of Jesus think twice before bashing our Muslim friends.


1) Bloody texts and bloody histories

A popular trend among anti-Islamic bigots is to quote violent passages from the Qur’an out of context to imply that the Muslim holy book endorses violence. The problem is, this same tactic can easily be applied to the Bible, with similar results:

  • “You must destroy all the peoples the Lord your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.” (Deuteronomy 7:16)
  • “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” (1 Samuel 15:3)
  • “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.” (Nahum 1:2)
  • “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34-36)
  • “With justice he [Jesus] judges and wages war.” (Revelation 19:11b)

The same can be said about our violent histories. Critics point to the wars waged by Mohammed and the Muslim conquest of Spain as evidence that Islam is inherently violent, but let’s not forget about the long history of Christian violence: persecuting heretics, perfecting anti-semitism, the Crusades, centuries of European wars waged by Christians against other Christians, etc. We have some nerve to label Islam a religion of violence.

Some will argue that while Christianity “got with the times” and abandoned violence, Islam remains stuck in the Middle Ages. But before we go pointing fingers, Westerners would do well to critically investigate why it is that some Muslims appear so out of step with the twenty-first century.

Arabs and their leaders have been pawns of Western powers for over a century. The boundary lines being fought over today in the Middle East were set by colonial powers generations ago with little regard for tribal borders. These same colonizers put brutal dictators in power to serve their own interests, robbing native peoples of their security and sense of dignity.

Meddle with the destiny of a people long enough and they will turn to any extremists that offer to overthrow their oppressors. If Islam is stuck in a violent past it is European imperialism — not religion — that has kept it there.


2) Inaccurate portrayals by the media

Just your typical Christian our for an afternoon stroll, oh wait...

Just your typical Christian our for an afternoon stroll, oh wait…

If there’s one thing Christians and Muslims have in common today, it’s the fact that we both suffer from terribly inaccurate portrayals of our faith in popular culture. Always on the lookout for a story, the media habitually portrays entire religions via their very worst representatives.

I cannot tell you how many times I have told someone I am a Baptist, only to have them respond, “You’re the ones who hate gays, right?” It’s no wonder that the common perception of Christians in America is that we are judgmental, hypocritical, homophobic, and politically conservative — the same media that mishandles the image of Muslims is shaping public perception of the church!

For the sake of consistency, if we’re going to accept the notion that all Muslims are militant extremists, we must also concede that all Christians are bigoted racists who get their kicks protesting funerals of dead soldiers. Don’t like that idea? Then stop dishing it out.


3) Overlapping religious traditions

Another reason Christians should be hesitant to bash Islam is the extent to which the content of our faiths overlap. In addition to our shared worship of the God of Abraham, Christians and Muslims claim a long lineage of patriarchs and prophets — e.g. Noah, Jacob, Elijah, etc. — as part of our religious heritage.

While some of the details are different, a surprising number of narratives are found in both the Qur’an and the Bible. Muslims even hail Jesus as a prophet, second only to Mohammed, and accept the historicity of the virgin birth (a tradition that even some Christians have turned away from).

Christians and Muslims also employ remarkably similar apologetics to argue for the existence of God and reasonableness of faith, while sharing an overlapping and co-influencing history of religious philosophers and theologians. It’s no wonder that Islam, when it first emerged, was viewed by many ancient Christians as a mere Christological heresy, and has even been praised by some for spreading monotheism among the pagans.

While we disagree on key tenets — like the character of God, divinity of Christ, and inspiration of Scripture — our faiths exhibit a considerable degree of overlap.


4) Image bearers of the same God

Can you see the image of God in your Muslim brothers and sisters?

Can you see the image of God in your Muslim brothers and sisters?

Perhaps the most important reason for Christians to love and respect our Muslim neighbors is the fact that they too bear the image of God. The apostle John drove this point home by making our love for others the measure of our love for God:

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

Because human beings are made in God’s image, to vilify another person is to sin against the image of God. Jesus also made this connection, linking love of God with love of neighbor in his teaching encapsulating the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40). When Jesus was challenged to clarify who counts as our neighbor — and thus who God’s people are commanded to love — he told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

Jesus’ choice of a Samaritan as the hero of this story was a radical one. The Samaritans were distant relatives of the Jews who followed different Scriptures and observed rival holy sites. They were considered unclean, violent, and sub-human. Come to think of it, if Jesus were to retell the story today to a Christian audience, it might look something like this:

Wanting to justify himself, the Evangelical Christian asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A Catholic priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Baptist missionary, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Muslim, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man in his own station wagon, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out a wad of cash and gave it to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

Too blinded by bigotry to acknowledge directly that a Muslim could do good, the Evangelical Christian replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus used an enemy to set the parameters of who counts as our neighbor. If love of neighbor reflects our love of God, and love of enemies is the measuring stick for love of neighbor, then Christians had better be damn sure to sincerely love our Muslim friends. After all, God’s image is reflected in them too.

FCF Weekend Roundup (10/18/14): Ebola, LGBT in the Church, Talking Zombies, and Much More!

October 18, 2014

Welcome to your weekly gathering of noteworthy items from around the web. There was a lot of great stuff out there this week — a lot happening in the church and around the world.

Before we get started, I’ve got to say that I really enjoy doing these “weekend roundups” — they force me to follow the news and stay engaged with current events. I only hope you enjoy discovering the following content as much as I enjoyed collecting it!


News

Protesters in Hong Kong (image courtesy of relevantmagazine.com).

Protesters in Hong Kong (image courtesy of relevantmagazine.com).

The eyes of the world are on the protests in Hong Kong and Relevant Magazine has a great piece in support of the protesters, putting forward a moving argument for Why the Hong Kong Protests Should Matter to Christians:

The most captivating aspect of the current events in Hong Kong, even more than the numbers or the dignified, disciplined way in which most protesters have conducted themselves, is their courage to ask for change despite the daunting odds. They are hoping for hope’s sake—and doing so before the entire world, regardless of the outcome… Modern human history is full of movements that began long before anyone thought they had a chance—abolitionism, women’s suffrage, decolonization, civil rights, anti-apartheid. This is where all great social change begins: with a few people willing to speak up, and a few people willing to listen.

In other news, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been all over the media for the past few weeks, and the coverage has been laced with plenty of hysteria-invoking misinformation. If you’re looking for a different approach to the issue, Sophie Kleeman over at Mic.com has a great piece highlighting Exactly What’s Wrong with How the West Talks About Ebola.

Christians have been all over the news this week as well, especially in connection with LGBT “issues.” It began with the surprising news of the Vatican softening its stance toward homosexuals in an official document released last Monday.

Not long after, news broke of five pastors in Houston being forced to turn over sermons mentioning homosexuality to the city government. Marty Troyer, a Mennonite pastor in Houston who is not one of the five, has a great piece in the Houston Chronicle beseeching the city council not to read the sermons (and it’s not for the reason you might think).

In the midst of all this, Nadia Bolz-Weber (one of my favorite preachers) released this moving video as part of The Nines, an online Evangelical conference. The testimonies are a fantastic wake up call that reminds us of just what (or should I say, who) we’re really talking about:

mark-driscoll_profile_img

Mark Driscoll.

Last but not least in the news section, this week brought the resignation of Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle who has found himself engulfed in a number of controversies in recent months.

I found the official announcement from the church troubling on a number of levels, not least of which is the ambivalence expressed toward the very real abuse that has taken place under Driscoll’s leadership. David Howard has an excellent post over at Naked Pastor that unpacks this shared concern.


Faith

On the religion front, I dug up a number of articles this week with some real depth:

Theological Graffity offers this reflection on Moltmann’s understanding of the doxological trinity (WARNING: intended for theology nerds).

Greg Boyd offers a compelling piece arguing that there is room for doubt in faith. And on a related note, check out Gary Gutting’s opinion piece in the New York Times, where he debates himself on the philosophy of religious belief and atheism:

The weakest intellectual aspect of current atheism is its naïve enchantment with pseudo-scientific biological and psychological explanations of why people believe. There are no doubt all sorts of disreputable sources for religious belief, and the same goes for rejections of religion. But it’s just silly to say that there’s solid scientific evidence that religious belief in general has causes that undermine its claims to truth.

One of my favorite authors, Scot McKinght, has a new book coming out soon called Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church. In it he argues that “kingdom” is the most misunderstood word in the Bible. I think he’s really onto something here, but check it out for yourself in this promo video for the book:

To round out this section, be sure to take a look at Richard Stearns recent post over at HuffPo where he argues that finding one’s soul means you first have to lose it.


Entertainment

Marvel-vs-DC-Wallpaper-1024x640

The heroes are coming!

Major entertainment news dropped this week with DC Comics and Warner Brothers announcing release dates for DC movies through 2020. Check out Screen Rant’s coverage of the story, where they chronicle the estimated 40+ comic book-related movies that are due to hit theaters in the next six years.

I know I’m excited!

My wife and I are big fans of THE WALKING DEAD (yes, even season two). To celebrate the record-breaking premiere of the show’s fourth season, here’s your silly video for the week — Bad Lip Reading’s latest riff on the zombie apocalypse:

Ken Ham Has Zero Credibility

October 15, 2014

Ken Ham, president of creationist apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis, just lost any credibility he had left (which admittedly, is not all that much).

Ham’s most recent claim to fame was a televised debate back in February with Bill Nye the Science Guy. The two men debated evolution and creationism in an event that was panned by scientists and Christians alike for abundantly missing the point. It also managed to set the dialogue between science and religion back by at least a decade.

Deborah Haarsma (source).

Deborah Haarsma (source).

In a blog post published a few days ago, Deborah Haarsma, president of the BioLogos Foundation — an advocacy group that emphasizes the compatibility of faith and science — invited Ken Ham to dinner. The invitation was issued in response to a recent blog post by Ham attacking the integrity of Hugh Ross, president of Reasons to Believe, yet another Christian organization, this one devoted to advancing progressive Creationism (spot the pattern?).

In what sounds like the setup to the best joke ever, Haarsma proposed for the young earth creationist (Ham), old earth creationist (Ross), and theistic evolutionist (Haarsma) to have dinner together and discuss their differences.

Unfortunately, Ken Ham declined.


Background

image-question5-large

Image courtesy of BioLogos.

For those who don’t know, young earth creationism of the “Answers in Genesis” variety advances a strictly literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-2, believing that God created the universe in seven 24-hour days and that the earth is therefore only about 6,000 years old.

Old earth creationism of the “Reasons to Believe” variety argues for a less literal interpretation of Genesis, allowing for varying lengths of biblical “days” and gaps in the creation account to explain the age of the earth in line with current scientific data.

Theistic evolution of the “BioLogos” variety argues that God used the evolutionary process to shape creation and bring about the diversity of life presently observable in the world around us. The book of Genesis is not interpreted as a rival scientific theory but as a divinely inspired account of creation that utilized the best knowledge of its day to articulate God’s relationship to the world as its Creator.

Imagine the possibilities if the three leaders of these different Christian camps sat down for dinner together! Rather than a fruitless debate, we might actually get meaningful dialogue. Sadly, that’s not going to happen.


A Disappointing Turn

ham-ken.aurora_standalone.prod_affiliate.79

Ken Ham (source).

In a blog post published yesterday, Ham declined Haarsma’s invitation. According to him, Haarsma is seeking some sort of justification — attempting to get Ham to compromise his own beliefs by conceding that he and his detractors can agree to disagree.

But Ham didn’t stop there — he compared himself to Nehemiah, who stood up to the pagan enemies of Israel in order to help the Jews rebuild the wall around Jerusalem in the fifth century BCE. As Ham writes:

We at AiG [Answers in Genesis] are busy “rebuilding a wall.” We are equipping God’s people to defend the Christian faith, and I believe we are doing a great work for God. We are busy being “watchmen” — warning people of those who undermine the authority of the Word of God. Now, of course, I don’t consider Dr. Ross a personal enemy (as Nehemiah considered some of his detractors) — he is actually a pleasant person. But he is what I would call an enemy of biblical authority. He already knows our views, and we know his.

There are a number of things that are problematic about this response. For one, Ham casts his opponents as villains — and more than villains, “enem[ies] of biblical authority” seeking to destroy God’s people. While Nehemiah’s opponents sought to destroy the Israelites through military invasion, Ham accuses his opponents of destroying the church from within by promoting a low view of the Bible.

Even more alarming, Ham arrogantly casts his own view as the only faithful reading of Scripture. Nevermind that by utilizing the creation account as a polemic against evolution, he handles the text in a way its original audience never could have imagined; Ham also falls prey to a deeper error of equating his own understanding with that of God, committing a form of the very sin he believes literally resulted in the fall of Adam.

Perhaps the most disappointing element of Ham’s refusal to break bread with his non-literalist counterparts is the precedent it sets for Christian community. “He already knows our views, and we know his” — end of discussion. There’s no room here for fellowship, dialogue, or meaningful community. Ham will debate his fellow Christians, but he won’t talk with them.

The message here is very clear: because we disagree, we have nothing to talk about. Forget that we believe in a common God, live by a shared text, and serve the same Lord — if you don’t accept my views as your own, you’re wrong, I’m right, and I will have nothing to do with you.

Such an attitude is toxic to Christian community and reinforces the negative stereotypes of Christians held by many outside of the faith. If we don’t have the grace to listen to our own brothers and sisters inside the church, how can we expect the world to listen to us?

I used to respect Ken Ham a Christian, while seriously disagreeing with his reading of Genesis. But any credibility he had in my book is gone now. I hope the folks at BioLogos will keep the invitation open and that someday, maybe, Ham will accept.

Blogging Through My Ink: The Laughing Jesus

October 14, 2014

I receive a lot of questions about my tattoos: What do they mean? Why did I get them? Did they hurt? etc. This post is part of a series where I focus on one tattoo at a time and explain its significance. For other entries in this series, click here.

The laughing Jesus was my second tattoo, age 22. It has very special meaning to me that goes back to when I was a wee lad.

IMG_2511

Statistics

Background

97.084P/14

Willis Wheatley.

Christ the Liberator — commonly referred to as “The Laughing Jesus” — is a modern classic. Originally sketched by Willis Wheatley in 1973 as part of a four-part series commissioned by the United Church of Canada, there is now an estimated one million copies of the image in existence.

I first encountered The Laughing Jesus as a teenager. A close mentor of mine had a print of the picture which hung in his office. On Sunday mornings when I’d go to church, his office was often one of the first places I’d pop my head into. It was a safe place where I could be myself and I was always greeted by the laughing Jesus.

I used to tell my mentor that someday, when I had covered my body with tattoos, the laughing Jesus would hold a place of honor as one of my most prominent one. He’d laugh it off and tell me never to get tattooed. I was only 14 after all, but I sure showed him!

Significance

Prior to researching the picture for this blog post, I had no idea its original title was Christ the Liberator. The little bit of information makes me love the tattoo even more. There are plenty of iconic images of Christ out there — some depict his suffering, others his compassion, and still others his majesty. But there’s something deeply liberating about an image like this one.

In Christ the Liberator Jesus let’s out a belly laugh, head thrown back, eyes watering, snot probably about to burst out of his nose. It’s an image that captures Jesus in his earthy humanity — a statement which in some mysterious way begins to redeem the humanity of us all.

Reflecting on Christ the Liberator, United Church of Canada Moderator Gary Paterson had this to say:

“A laughing Jesus, as he announced the good news of God’s love and invited everyone to experience the Kingdom of God that was breaking into their midst… recognized the wild incongruity between his vision, this holy promise, and the reality that surrounded him — with Roman oppression, economic hard times, religious authorities investing far too much of their energy on maintaining the status quo, and a bunch of thick-headed disciples who never really seemed to catch the dream. But Jesus laughed, trusting that nothing was impossible for God.”

Amen and amen.

FCF Weekend Roundup (10/11/14)

October 11, 2014

ClimateCartoonFirst up this week: an article calling Christians to not be duped by climate change deniers. The piece is full of useful data and puts forward an excellent theological argument for preserving our planet:

We are responsible to God for what we do to this planet and its inhabitants. We have higher values than simply making money and hoarding our wealth. Of all people, we should be willing to pay the cost of simplifying our lives and reducing our consumption to help the world and to help poorer nations and God’s people who live there. The facts are clear enough, and becoming more clear and concerning every year. Christians are positive change agents. Let’s be leaders in making this important change.

Second, a fascinating piece from The Economist exploring the global divide over LGBT rights.

On the podcast front: check out the latest debate from Intelligence Squared, where two teams of two debaters argue over whether or not American action in the Middle East makes things worse. No spoilers, but I found the outcome of the debate quite surprising (and somewhat encouraging).

jesus-loves-muslimsMicael Grenholm over at Holy Spirit Activism has a compelling piece calling on Christians to sincerely love all Muslims. This topic is made especially relevant in light of recent bigoted remarks by Bill Maher and Sam Harris against religion (broadly) and Islam in particular.

While many Christians I know are quick to agree with these secular critics (so far as Islam is concerned), I see this as a a golden opportunity for Christians to go against the grain and demonstrate the radical love of the gospel.

In other news, Benjamin Corey has a hard-hitting piece chronicling the decline of the Religious Right, where he notes that:

When we combine the message of Jesus with the need for political power — whether liberal or conservative — we attempt to build a Kingdom that depends not on God, but on winning elections and destroying our enemies. Since movements such as the Religious Right rely on power, they are nothing without it — which doesn’t sound like the movement Jesus invites us into. In fact, throughout history we see that the Jesus movement spreads the fastest when his followers are not only out of power, but when they are actively oppressed by those who are in power, such as the early Church or the modern Church in China.. the Kingdom grows best, and always has, when followers reject the need for political might.

And for your weekly dose of something fun: SNL’s take on the decline of white people — enjoy!

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