Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lenten Reflections: Humility

"But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled." - Matthew 26:56


We began the Lenten season together in humiliation. Ashes marked our foreheads, humiliating reminders of our sin and morality.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. 


Despite His divine nature, Christ chose the path of humility, not humiliation. Similar word origins, but very different perspectives. And in doing so, He disarmed His enemies, even the enemy of death, the corporate enemy of all. Humility didn't comfort Him. Humility didn't make His path any easier. Humility didn't embrace Him. Humility left Him alone. Humility rewarded Him with spit in His face, a back torn to the bone and a cross in which to hang on.
In His humility, Christ shows us that we have a choice: humiliation or humility. The choice lies within us, although the world may see no distinction. While we may choose to walk in complete, nothing guarantees that we will not stand humiliated. The result of humiliation or humility is from our perspective. 

Do we walk our spiritual journeys humiliated or humble

Lord, as we make our way through this second week of Lent, we come to you with the choice; to walk though the remainder of Lent as humble, or humiliated. Through the power of Your Spirit, enable us to face the world as humble servants of the living God, sometimes alone and deserted, but complete in You. Amen 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lenten Reflections: First Sunday of Lent

"Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long."

Psalm 25:4-5

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

The path that we find ourselves on is filthy. Let's step off for just a while. 

As we look back over the first week of Lent, we see that the ashes are still settling. They settle on you and they settle on me. They settle on everything around us. The ashes mock us as we stand naked; humiliated at the broken and dirty nature of our existence without Christ. They remind us of death, and that it stands ready to eagerly greet each one of us for services rendered. But pride is quick to build a false facade that shields us from the realities of the mess that we are. And pride fuels the fire that makes a fist and declares, "I'm better than you!" Rather than picking up a broom, we fight over the mess that the ashes have made.

Break time.

But don't be so quick to pull out the cleaning supplies! We're just beginning our journey and there's plenty of  filth to come! You think we're dirty now? We're going to need plenty of soap when this journey's over!

Today is Sunday. Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Today we stop and rest. Today we leave the cleaning until tomorrow. Put your broom down for now. Today we feast!

This is a filthy journey, but let's not forget that Christ leads the way, and in Him there's no room for the ashes of Wednesday. No place for filth. 

Through Christ, through His Spirit, He reveals to us a path that is waiting of each of us. It's not a path of dirt, rocks and dying earth. It's a path of life, perfection and peace.

We're are on this path together.

We're on our way to Resurrection, and by the time we get there, we'll have no need to carry these ashes with us any longer. Today is a prelude of what's to come. This Sunday is temporary. Easter Sunday is eternal.

May you find your peace today. Tomorrow we will continue our journey, and trust me; it's going to get worse.

Lord, today we rest. Today we find our joy in you. Let Your love cover us this day. Let the joy of heaven rain down upon us and give us peace. You are our compassion. You are our peace. You are our joy. Comfort us in the mess that we're in and give us strength, endurance and perseverance for the journey that's ahead of us. Amen.   

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lenten Reflections: Fighting

"The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit...." - Genesis 3:12

Fighting began early for humans. Even within the beauty and perfection of Eden, the blame-game began and rages on to this day. "The woman," Adam said, accusingly, "whom YOU gave me." She did it. An because YOU gave her to me, it's YOUR fault, God!

We love to be right and we love to prove others wrong. "I'm right and you're wrong." becomes the declaration and rallying cry of a self-centered culture. Sometimes this position is defended with raised voices, sometimes a fist, a gun and sometimes a bomb. And the wheels on the bus go round and round.....Violence is a downward cycle that only leads to more violence. Blaming others causes disunity and a subtle seed of anger to take root.         

"Am I my brother's keeper?"

"This was all your fault!"

"Those damn liberals!....Conservative!"

"Our finances are a mess, and it's because you can't stop spending!"

"If you showed me the attention that I need, I never would have cheated!"

"I drink because of you."

"If the there weren't so many illegals....."

"It's because of the Jews!" 

"It's because of the Muslims!" 

" would betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” - Luke 22:48

Pride demands us to be better than the other person. Pride never takes the blame. Pride never admits wrong. Pride is always right. Pride looks in the mirror and shouts back, "You are right!" Pride wants to pick a fight, because initiating peace means you're weak. You loose. And in a culture of individualism, that's exactly how it appears.  

"I'm going to kick his ass!"

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with EVERYONE." - Romans 12:18 

"But he betrayed me!"

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" - Matthew 5:44

"That's ridiculous! They're savages! Sub-human!"

"the message of the cross is foolishness...." - 1 Corinthians 1:18

And a fool for Christ once prayer....

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that we may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

St. Francis of Assisi 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Straight Face by Brandon Wallace: A Book Review

The issue of homosexuality is one that has advanced to the forefront of most societal circles, especially within the Church. This has not simply been by course of agenda or political intent, but one that has developed quite naturally as our culture continues to progress in becoming more socially minded. There was a time when one could develop a personal belief on homosexuality, keep it to themselves and within certain circles, discuss it openly and without fear of judgment. Pastors and Christian leaders could remain fairly neutral by virtue of political correctness, and never have to really confront the issue or take a stand one way or the other. While radically opposite ends of the spectrum have continued to stand by traditional positions, mainstream Christianity has been afforded the luxury of ignoring the issue. This is simply no longer the case as an obvious line is being drawn for all to choose a side on which to stand. In the company of authors such as Timothy Kurek and Matthew Vines, with his first book, Straight Face, Brandon Wallace has created yet another instrument that has etched that line even deeper and more defined.

Brandon is well on his way to becoming a leading voice for homosexuality within the Church. Gay Christian leaders are finding their way into the mainstream of Christian culture, although this is still a somewhat of an anomaly. What makes Brandon’s voice so unique on this issue is his deep connection with traditional conservative church culture and his previous personal rejection of homosexuality. Growing up in Arkansas, in the heart of Southern Bible Belt theology, being a gay Christian was not an option, much less for one hoping to enjoy a career in ministry. From all practical and outward perspectives, Brandon experienced a typical upbringing within the Evangelical Church. Finding faith in Christ at a young age, Brandon developed a deep relationship with Christ and began to entertain early aspirations that he was called to a life in ministry. Although knowing the truth of his sexuality from an early age, he began the process of preparing for what he thought his life would look like as a pastor. He jumped through each proverbial Evangelical hoop, dotted each Baptist “I” and crossed every Conservative Bible Belt “T”. From the outside looking in, Brandon was on the ministerial path to become an Evangelical golden boy; as long as the door to his closet stayed closed and well locked. Brandon would need help in achieving what he had always aspired to achieve, and to silence the part of him that he had grown to hate. That help would come in the form of an unusual partner in ministry. A friend that would stand by him, but not exactly in love and support. A partner that would become more of an enemy than ally. Enter Straight Face.       

Straight Face is more than the autobiographical title of Brandon’s story; it is the name of his mask; his alter-ego that helped him navigate the uncertain waters of being a gay Christian living in the closet. Straight Face is the story of what it is like to wear a mask and reject the true self. It’s the story of a Christian leader, with a deep love for Christ, the Church and even the traditional conservative culture in which he was raised. It’s the story of how a talented young leader struggles to not only find his place in ministry, but discovers and accepts himself as God created him to be. And it’s the story of how, upon finally coming to grips with the truth of his sexuality, he finds that in reality the enemies he would face were not those of the typical nature. His greatest foes were not God, not the Church, not his friends and family, but the one person that he had spent years fighting against: Himself.     
Brandon writes in a compelling way that draws the reader into his story. It challenges the reader to look at the issue of homosexuality within Christianity from a real, humble and honest perspective. The reader will feel as if they are joining him on this journey, feeling his pain, experiencing his frustrations and sharing in his joys. Each page creates opportunity to feel that you are with him, walking side by side in his struggles. Brandon welcomes the reader into his story as a friend, brother or son, and regardless of your personal beliefs on homosexuality, you will feel compassion. Straight Face is not necessarily intended to convince the reader of changing their views on the issue, but is a humble and respectful entreaty to help the reader come to the realization that we all wear our own masks to some extent. With love and conviction, Brandon gives the reader permission to be who they are, without concern with popular and cultural opinion. 

The Church is rapidly facing a point in history in which it must confront changing societal issues in candid and honest discussion. Despite our comfort zones, we are rapidly moving to a culture that is more focused and concerned with issues that may have previously made many of us uncomfortable. Within the Church, the key to facing and remaining relevant in times of cultural shift is truth. And while talk of transparency and authenticity are common in most Christian circles, the evidence proves that words do not always match actions. Brandon encourages the reader that our first action must be removing the proverbial masks, because only then can we face the other person with the unconditional love and compassion of Christ.  

You can find Brandon's book, Straight Face on Amazon and connect with Brandon on facebook, twitter or his website, The Gay Christian