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Theology Thursday – When fear is no longer a reaction, but a willful action

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A picture taken by Magnus Wennman from a collection called “Where The Children Sleep”, which showcases the life of refugee kids after their flight from their homeland, Syria.

Like most people, I was shocked, angered, disheartened, and incredibly saddened by the recent horrific violent scenes coming out from Paris. I was at a book launch when my Twitter feed started to fill with the news that there were shootings and explosions in multiple locations. I saw the number of fatalities rise, almost every hour, it seems. The number of injured people also changed each time I checked.

Beirut also suffered severe bombings that took the lives of many people. I read the story of an unexpected hero, a father who saw the second bomber and rushed him, causing the bomber to detonate early, saving multiple lives and yet losing his own in the process.

Japan also suffered an earthquake and there were potential tsunami alerts. All of this happened within the space of 48 hours. It’s a bit too much to take it all in.

A video recently came out of a father having an important discussion about the event with his young son. The reporter asked him if he knew what happened. He replied, “Yes, because they’re really really mean … Bad guys are not very nice.” He was so worried that he may have to change houses. His father reassured him that they were not leaving because France is their home. “They have guns, they can shoot us because they’re really mean, Daddy,” the young boy responded back. “It’s ok. They may have guns, but we have flowers,” his dad calmly reassured him.

Admittedly, that was the part of the video where a tear or two may have escaped my eyes. I’m thankful that in the face of death, this father chose to focus on life. I’m glad that a generation of children can potentially grow up knowing that violence may not necessarily be the best response. I want a generation of children to know that flowers and candles can protect us.

However, I only have to go on Facebook to know that my dream is nothing but a dream. Many in my news feed want nothing but for there to be total destruction, even if it means innocent civilians are left dead, or what I think is even worse… alive and orphaned. The reaction against Syrian refugees has also been rather infuriating for me. These people want to escape the same terror that Paris and Beirut experienced and yet they are being blamed for the very thing they are trying to escape. As a Christian, it seriously boggles my mind when I hear anti-refugee sentiments from other professing Christians, especially since the main figure of Christianity was forced to flee from a maniacal terrorist and received refuge in another city. With Christmas fast approaching, the irony is rather striking.

In the past, I have tried very hard to write fairly neutral blog posts. However, I refuse to remain neutral in the face of injustice. When there are prominent Christians who are lumping the term “Syrian refugee” with the word “terrorist,” I am going to go out of my way to make sure people know that they do not speak for me. When there are more self-professing Christians who are bothered by Starbucks red cups and their lack of Christmas designs thus making them anti-Christ figures yet find nothing wrong with elected officials saying that they refuse to accept any refugee, even if it was a 3 year old orphan, there is something incredibly wrong about this. There is a vast difference with someone saying that proper procedures must be put in place to weed out terrorists among those claiming to be refugees versus making sweeping generalizations that all refugees are terrorists. Lest people forget, Timothy McVeigh was white. Last time I checked, there were no sweeping legislations made against white people as a result of the Oklahoma bombing. Dylan Roof went into a church and brutally killed 9 people and yet there was no general prevailing sentiment against the American people that all American males were cold blooded killers. It would be a lie to think that racism has not reared its ugly head throughout this situation.

Recent reports state that the Syrian passport found on one of the bombers was a fake. However, this information will probably have no effect on those who think that all the bombers were from Syria. This goes to show that this is not an issue of the head, but an issue of the heart.

I can only pray that our hearts will be full of compassion towards those who are in need. History reminds us that one day, we might need it too.

 

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A Lenten Poem

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The sky darkening
Thunder
It was as if the heavens themselves wanted to let the earth know of their anger
It was more than they can bear.

From the lofty heights, the clouds saw what was happening below
“What insanity has taken hold of the mortals?”, they wondered.
He was the One to redeem creation itself
Yet it was He whom they were intent on killing.

The trees began to whisper to one another
What madness is this that they chose one of our own to bring about His death?
They wanted no part in this folly
They wanted to clap their hands in praise
Instead, they mourned that one of their lot became a weapon of His destruction.

The winds were often thankful in His presence even if He did rebuke them that one time for their excitement
The words that came from His mouth gave them such pleasure to spread all over the world
Today, his cry was too much for their hearing
Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani
They wept at the message they had to send to the Father.

The rocks grumbled their disapproval
They could remain silent no more
The mortals had the audacity to nail his hands and feet
This can not be!

Michael, readying the legions of angel
Raphael, sharpening his sword
Gabriel, in utter disbelief that these puny beings should dare lay a hand on Him
Azrael, waiting to wreak vengeance.

They waited for the signal to lend Him aid
He but needed to speak the word
None came from his lips.

It is finished.

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Flashback Friday – My hatred for the term “man up”

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Hey everyone,
For today’s Flashback Friday, I’ve decided to re-post something I wrote back in the day (Feb.2, 2011 to be exact). While time have passed since I first wrote it, my feelings about it remains unchanged. I still hate the term “man up” and I still think it’s meaningless.
If you are going to comment, please remember to refrain from being mean, sarcastic, condescending, and other negative attributes. If you can’t be nice, don’t post it. Please keep that in mind when you’re commenting. Thanks.
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A response to all the “There are no Christian men” blogs/posts
Introduction

While the bemoaning of the fate of Christian men (where are they?) by men and women have gone on for a very long time, I have a sense through the recent proliferation of blogs/posts by those within my social circle, that it somehow has reached some sort of tipping point. Many more people are talking about this not-so-old complaint. And so, I just wanted to add another voice, albeit probably a different one, in the conversation.

First of all, I have sincere and complete disdain about the term “man up.” While there are many societal and cultural conceptions of what man is, those things are ultimately bound up in its own cultural expressions. While I do not advocate some sort of relativization of definitions, I think it is important to realize that the concept of “man” is bound up in earthly descriptions that seek to promote its own cultural mandate for what a “man” should be.
If we truly believe that Jesus came down to earth to show us what true humanity looks like, I think it would be more appropriate to say “Jesus up.” The word “man” is bound up in too many semantical, linguistic, cultural baggage that it can sometimes be difficult to ascertain which qualities we are trying to call forth when we say the word “man up.” I would like to think that calling someone to “Jesus up” is synonymous to the call that Jesus has on both men and women to be more Christ-like.
Aside: when I see a woman who does not really exemplify a Prov. 31 woman, I don’t exactly write blogs/posts about how they need to “woman up.” If there is a challenge for men to be more like men, shouldn’t women be also challenged to be more like women?
In Christian circles, this type of thinking can lead into statements like, “real men pray” or “real men treat their wives well” or the like. While I do not disagree with such statements, what happens if I didn’t pray for a day. Is my masculinity negated by such an act? Is being a “man” a question of doing, or a question of being. Donald Miller, during an interview, probably said it best when he defined a man as “someone who has a penis.” (With recent medical changes, I would qualify that as someone who was born with a penis. I know that that definition could probably be re-visited for hermaphrodites, but I digress. Hopefully, you got the major point!)
Is there such a thing as Biblical manhood? While I have not read Piper’s book on “Recovering Biblical manhood and womanhood,” I would hazard a guess that most Christians would probably say that there is such a thing. At this point, I would say that the rules and regulations that God has given to humanity apply to both sexes. Obedience, submission, leadership are areas that God calls each and everyone of us to participate in and instill in our daily lives. While the expression of these things could potentially look different (complementarian vs. egalitarian), it does not negate the fact that no man or woman is exempt from exemplifying such attributes in their personal life.
Yes, I do believe that most XY individuals over the age of 18 yrs. old do not act in a responsible manner that traditionally such an age would call for. I also do not think that the Church has done a great job in discipling and mentoring young men to help them mature in their own Christian journey. It is a problem and it is an epidemic. We have created a generation of irresponsible, uncouth, selfish generation. (Of course, each generation have always looked down upon their youths. Egyptian artifacts would testify to this fact. So no, this is not a new problem kids.) However, instead of bemoaning and “challenging” men to be more like men, why don’t you help foster and create an atmosphere of encouragement for men to learn what it’s like to be men? Clearly, most of us have no friggin’ clue what it is to be a man. Does that mean you just keep on reminding us that we should be something that we don’t even know what it means to be what you are calling us to be? How can we be men if no one teaches us how to be one?
And this ultimately goes back to my hatred of the word “man up.” It points to no one and to nothing. The word “Jesus up” points us to be more like the Human Being that we all aspire to be.
I also think that women should be called to the same standard of being a woman as men are called to be a man.
Inconsistencies
One of the complaints being re-iterated is the fact that men are not leading and how women need/want to be led.
The passages in the Bible that most people look to for this type of thinking concerning the role of men and women are passages that advocate for male leadership within a marriage context. While I do not disagree that our cultural expectation is for the male to lead and for the female to follow, I do have problems when Christians exegete a passage improperly and not maintain logical consistency.
This is what I mean. If somehow you are going to promote an idea that a man must lead in a relationship (outside of a marriage context), then it follows that the woman must also submit to the man. Most women I know say that the idea of submission should happen within a marriage context and anything outside of it is outside the purview of those specific Biblical passages. In this, I agree with them. However, if you maintain that a man must lead in a relationship, then it must follow that you should be willing to submit to them in said relationship. You can’t have it both ways.
Secondly, each individual, either male or female, is responsible for their own personal walk with God. it is a PERSONAL relationship after all. That being said, a man or a woman, irregardless of their sex, should not expect another person to come along to lead them to Christ. That’s the Holy Spirit’s role. Yes, God gives help-mates along the way… but they should help, not initiate, a relationship with Christ.
In a romantic relationship, it is advisable and highly encouraged and recommended, to find a mate who would lead you to a better understanding of Christ and who would challenge you to be more Christ-like. Yet, when we die, we are called to take account for our own personal words and deeds, not the deeds of others, not even our spouses/lovers.
Conclusion
Men, we are called to look to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, and follow in His ways. Likewise, women, you are likewise called to the same high calling. All of us, men and women, are called to be Children of the Light. If one of us is not quite there in our Christian walk (and really, who isn’t?), let us exhort one another and encourage one another to be like Jesus, the ultimate model of what humanity should look like. We are ALL called to the same standard – and that standard is Jesus Christ.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Day 9 – The Lenten Journey of Sid

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Carl Heinrich Bloch, oil on canvas

This whole non social media thing is WAY harder than not eating meat. As I’ve been going through “Lent for everybody” which is a Lent devotional by N.T. Wright from the Youversion app of the Bible, it was talking about the Sermon on the Mount and had readings based on this famous sermon. When I was in seminary, one of the courses I took was on the Beatitudes/Sermon on the Mount. We studied the text for 3 months. At first, I was wondering if that’s really stretching it. It’s 3 chapters. But as I got into it, I was thinking “3 months is not long enough to study this text!” I have written various papers on it, and I still feel like there is more that I have yet to discover concerning this seminal text. As I’m going through this fasting during Lent thing, one of the things I want to make sure I do is that I spend my time properly in terms of focussing on God during this time. I don’t think I’ve been doing a good job on that front. So I need to make sure I do that.

Join me on this journey.

Encouragement of the Day

“We do not need the grace of God to stand crises, human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.” – Oswald Chambers

Encouragement of the Day

“In general, Jesus doesn’t spend a great deal of time qualifying his points and making sure that everybody understands him clearly according to the recent political correctness. I am afraid liberal people are just as trapped in political correctness as are conservatives. Liberals often want you to say what
will be inoffensive to any ego, and their false self is easily offended. (If you do not offend any ego whatsoever, you are supposedly being Christian!) In fact, Jesus offends the rich, the arrogant, the superior, the righteous, and the supposedly orthodox.” – Richard Rohr

Encouragement of the Day

“Christianity began not as a religion, but as a way of life shaped by the gospel. The pattern of that way is the loving service of Jesus, consummated in his self-giving on the cross. Paul made it clear that Christian worship is our own self-giving in similar service, enabled by the Spirit who dwells within us.” – Canon Hugh Wybrew