Monthly Archives: April 2008

When Peter Was Demoted

In digging around the letters by the apostle Peter lately I noticed a rather striking change in his introduction when comparing 1 Peter and 2 Peter.

1 Peter 1:1

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ”

2 Peter 1:1

“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ”

In the NLT,which I happened to be reading, the word “servant” was “slave,” which gives a stronger sense of Peter’s change. So what exactly happened? Was Peter demoted?

In a sense, I wonder if Peter demoted himself, realizing what it meant to be a true apostle. Perhaps I make too much of this, but notice that servant/slave comes before apostle. Something radical has happened to Peter in between the writing of these two letters and he makes a huge change in how he thinks of himself.

These words of Peter embody the message of Jesus that the greatest must be the servant (Matthew 23:11).

Wright Gives a Speech and We Should Care Just Because the Media Reports It

All Things Considered yesterday provided a great deal of analysis of the latest remarks by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of Barack Obama who was at the center of a controversy about his remarks in a sermon that included the phrase, “God damn America.” The report shared the following:

He [Wright] said he was quoting an ambassador to Iraq in that sermon, although he did not give the ambassador’s name.

“Jesus said, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,'” Wright added. “You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles.”

Wright said the comment captured on YouTube — in which he says, “Not God bless America, but God damn America” — was taken out of context.

“God doesn’t bless everything,” he said. “God damns some practices, and there’s no excuse for the things that the government — not the American people — have done. That doesn’t make me not like America or unpatriotic.”

Also key to his defense, Wright spoke of black theology and preaching as different, not hostile or bombastic (See Time Magazine as well)

After this report NPR provided some analysis by two senators, one who supported Obama and one who supported Clinton. Curiously they both initially remarked that this controversy has gone on for too long and lamented the way the media has handled it.

I couldn’t agree more. While our candidates should be scrutinized carefully, I think it goes too far to overanalyze a sound byte from a sermon that Obama didn’t even hear. Also, we can’t drop everything Wright says into Obama’s mouth. We can question him about it and be concerned about his beliefs in relation to his pastor, but everything has been blown out of proportion.

There are plenty of things we can scrutinize about Obama without digging into his pastor’s sermons. Let’s look at what he himself has said. I know I don’t agree with every single thing my own pastor has said, and I know that even if I agree with my pastor, there are times when he may say things differently than I would have said them.

Both campaigns recognize this has been blown out of proportion, when will the media catch on?

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Dismissed for the Right Reasons

The Bible repeatedly tells followers of Jesus to expect suffering, to endure patiently, and to never be ashamed of Jesus of the good news of his salvation (see Romans 1:16). This obviously means different things depending on where you live. In some countries you may be in danger of imprisonment and death, however in America much more a matter of social and cultural dismissal.

On one hand, I have no issue with people writing me off as a Christian. I live to please God. That’s just how it is.

But there’s something that really does bother me, that I even fear, and that is being dismissed for the wrong reasons. This usually happens when people associate all Christians with a  particular Christian leader or someone they know personally who has failed to model the love of Christ, lived  as a hypocrite or worse. While suffering as a Christian is a very good thing, I’m a bit concerned about being dismissed because of the failings of other Christians or misunderstandings of what it means to  be a Christian. Perhaps some people have a false impression of Christ by observing me…

Like any other group, Christians want to be understood and represented fairly. I recognize that I can’t control this, that sometimes I just need to take it on the chin. However, I do believe it is very important for Christians to clearly distinguish themselves from the negative associations that detract  from the core Gospel message, and to then let that message be the source of offense. In other words, we need to work on undoing some of the damage we ourselves have caused in order to clear the air and let the gospel do its work.

For example, I find it very important in conversations with people I don’t know and in public settings to quickly follow up an ID of myself as a Christian with a denunciation of the Iraq War (specifically Bush’s reasons for attacking). For the record, I never thought it was a good idea–I remember listening to the radio in 2003 and dreading what our president had just unleashed, but more importantly I want to make sure people know that even if Christians did vote for George Bush, that does not constitute a rubber stamp on all of his policies. In other words, I don’t want people to write me off  because they think all Christians support the Iraq war. There are Christians who  supported it and those who did not.

Maybe I’m overreacting here, but it really chews me up sometimes to hear the negative associations people have with Christians that really have little to do with the message the God has come to free us from sin and to give us new life, life the way it was meant to be. If you hear me out and understand what I’m saying and then write me off as a deluded, religious nut, that works for me. So long as you heard what I had to say.

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Sowing Seeds of Scripture

I’m sure I’m not the first one to think of this metaphor, and it happens to be curiously similar to Jesus’ parable of the sower, but here you have it…

The fields in my valley are still damp from a lot of April rain and the March snow melt. Streams running down the sides of mountains remain swollen, and the Battenkill River licks over its banks as it rushes toward New York state. Still, with a steady week of sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures the farmers have been able to plow their fields.

It’s a lovely site to see freshly turned soil where yellow, barren stalks once stood from the previous year’s harvest. Soon they will be sowing seeds, waiting for the corn and soy beans to emerge.

And that brings me to the role of reading scripture. I think we sometimes set ourselves up for disappointment by expecting miracles to happen, angels to descend, or the Holy Spirit to drop in as we read these sacred words. It’s not unreasonable to expect God to use scripture in powerful ways, and there are times when words jump off the page and into our lives, bringing renewal and the life of God.

However, in the grand scheme of things, I think that reading scripture is a way that God tills the stiff, barren soil of our lives, sows his word of life, and then, whether immediately or later, those words will sprout with life. In other words, we read scripture to get the life of God within us so that the Holy Spirit can water them and bring about new life.

Just as a farmer must always till, plant, and harvest every year, we have the same responsibility to continue reading scripture, sowing new seeds and allowing God to raise up new life. When we least expect it the seeds of scripture sown into our lives will be brought to life by the Holy Spirit.

I know, I know, I’m not exactly breaking new ground here. I think it’s been on my mind lately because I’ve found that I am using a lot more scripture in my prayers. God seems to be bringing up stories, verses, and words as I pray and man, it’s a really powerful thing. It feels like the Bible is so alive at those moments.

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How to Publish

I’ve been busy revamping things at my writing blog over the past few days. While I still have a ways to go as far as personalizing the design and graphics as my very own, I did manage to make a nifty little pencil graphic. However, with me it’s always about the writing.

Since I’m moving towards the publication of my first book (there’s a link to it on Amazon now, but that’s it) and have now entered the marketing phase, I thought it may be fun to revisit some of the steps I have taken over the past 3.5 years to arrive at this point. I created a category called “publishing” and will be posting a few times each week on some practical things you can do to get published. Though my ultimate goal will be publishing a book, publishing magazine articles are all part of the process, and so I’ll be able to address a variety formats.

Of course there is no sure-fire way to get published, but I have found some great ideas in reading the stories of other published authors and even managed to rule out a few things that would not have worked for me. Even if you’re not looking to get published, I find that many people are interested in knowing what goes into publishing.

I’ve actually reduced it to a simple formula:

hard work + lots of rejection + late nights + small victories + resilience + help from published authors = published book

Well, that’s a bit simplified and, if I may say so, formulaic, but you get the picture!

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How Can You Peacefully Break Up a Fight?

Find out some answers to this question and a whole lot more at my friend Adam’s new web site for his community that is committed to Christian peacemaking: Shalom House. He wrote the following:

Our blog is basically the story of Shalom House as we try and work out what it means to be Christian peacemakers in this violent world.  It is a work in progress, we intend to keep it simple, but also hope to make it a useful resource for peacemaking information and maybe even a little inspiration.

Hillary Clinton Says She Belongs in the Kitchen…

As if this Democratic primary season isn’t weird enough, Hillary Clinton’s latest ad makes the strangest of all statements. Essentially, she tells Obama to get out of the kitchen and to leave it up to her.

With an all-star fear-mongering cast that includes Osama–not to be confused with Obama–bin Ladin, Clinton pulls all of the boogie men from under the bed, waves them in our faces, and then offers her assessment that Obama can’t take the heat. The commercial ends with a tribute to perhaps one of the greatest Democrats of all time, “Harry Truman said it best –- if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

To be quite frank, I’m quite relieved by this.

If Barack has been kicked out of the kitchen, perhaps Hillary has finally realized that politics just isn’t her thing and that she’d like to take a whirl at being a homemaker. With Barack out of the race to see who gets control of the kitchen, he is now free to campaign for president of the United States.

Phew, I’m glad that’s all settled now. And we thought this primary was going to drag out all summer and Howard Dean was going to have to scream or something! No, it was really control of the kitchen that got everyone so worked up. I suppose the folks in Pennsylvania planning on voting for Hillary can just stay home and not bother voting. I heard a rumor that she’s teaming up with Rachel Ray for a special episode… but wait, wasn’t Obama interviewed by her today? Oh, that Barack, always meddling in the kitchen! When will he ever learn!

Now Barack, listen to Hillary and leave the heat of the kitchen to her. You have a campaign to run!