|Thursday, March 28, 2013|
In all the world, it is doubtful that any single spot recollects more agony per acre than Israel's Yad Vashem--the Holocaust museum in downtown Jerusalem.
Within its cement walkways, there is more sadness per square inch than any place I have ever visited.
In addition to what you might expect--photos, letters, artifacts--there was something I had NOT expected: video testimonials. Large monitors by the dozens recounted the personal agonies of holocaust survivors.
Behind glass display cases, I saw things I wish I had not: a collection of shoes taken from people entering death camps....faces of men who would be shot just seconds later...photos of rabbis who had just been hung...
In one display there were gallon sized cans of pellets used in gas chambers.
To me what is most disturbing is that in many instances, these were neighbors committing atrocities against former neighbors. The difference? One set of neighbors had so dehumanized the other that any proper sense of evil had vanished.
When a neighbor is transformed into a nameless, faceless, worthless lump, the road from greeting them to gassing them is very short indeed.
In many ways, evangelical Christians today are undergoing a similar kind of dehumanization that the Jews experienced in World War II.
It begins with unkind stereotypes--"Bible thumpers", "Jesus freaks". It progresses toward increasingly vicious labels, as Christians are now often said to be as dangerous as terrorists or the Taliban.
Once dehumanization is achieved, the step toward outright persecution is both natural and easy.
Christians, beware: Israel's Yad Vashem is more than a cross section of cruelty past. It is a faithful mirror of an evil alive and well.
|The Lady Behind the Curtain
|Thursday, March 21, 2013|
As I write this, I am sitting in a hospital where my wife is recovering from surgery. A mere curtain separates me from a conversation between the lady in bed #2 and those trying to give her the care she needs.
The lady moans constantly and cries out violently in her dreams (or are they withdrawal tremors?). She is nauseous and calls over to my wife, who is on the other side of the curtain, recovering from kidney surgery.
A friend's text suggests that Christ would have us show this woman His love. But how do you love someone on the other side of a curtain? What would Jesus think or say or do?
The woman throws up, and I assure her I will summon a nurse. She thanks me. Maybe that's the first step.
Twenty minutes pass and the lady mentions an AA Bible on her chair. I get up the boldness to read to her from John 3, explaining and extending Jesus' invitation to be born again. Her answer is confusing and morphs back into her drinking problems.
Honestly, I am grateful I am not her. Yet even as pride seeps in, I am reminded that this woman's ultimate problem—and mine—are both spelled the same: S-I-N.
I’m still wondering—as should we all—how do I reach out to the person behind the curtain?
|Lost in Wonder
|Thursday, March 14, 2013|
It is a strange moment.
As I write this, my wife and I are on our way to meet a new family member. Our grandson.
He has been alive for eight hours. But we have not met him. Do not know him. We’re desperate to see him, grab him, love him. But it hasn’t happened yet.
Strange. His fingerprints bear my DNA...there is something of ME in him...somewhere. Yet I really don't know him.
Lord willing, we will look back years from now and talk—together--about “when he was a teeny tiny baby.” There will be shared experiences and funny sayings and laughable moments. That is all before us. But right now, I've never held him, never touched him. Never heard his voice. Never even laid eyes on him...other than the two photos our daughter texted. Like I say, it is a strange moment.
I am drawn to the mystery captured in David's prayer in Psalms 139:
Psa 139:13 You are the one who put me together inside my mother's body,
There are times in life when writers like me are unable to write. Unable to find words that paint the pictures in my heart. I can only see them. Sense them. Ponder them.
As I say...it is a strange moment.
I am thoroughly…totally…lost in wonder.
|Why Facebook is so Shallow
|Thursday, March 07, 2013|
When it comes to Facebook, I'm a latecomer.
While most ten year olds can run rings around my Facebook skills, I'm convinced my disconnect to this point has given me a perspective that seasoned Facebookers lost a long time ago.
For one thing, I want to know why so much of the Facebook world amounts to so little.
Why is it acceptable to post to the public a message that only applies to one or two out of the earth's 7.5 billion people?
And why is so much of the content —dare I say a convincing majority—void of any real substance?
Minutia and mundane are the main fare.
Now we're not all called to write like Ernest Hemingway and I’m not suggesting every Facebook poke needs to be profound. But surely we can do better than total self-absorption.
It’s as if we've forgotten to ask before clicking the mouse, “Does anybody really care about this—and honestly, should they?”
I’ve arrived at a theory—and please try not to be too offended. My theory is that most people write shallow things on their Facebook pages because that's precisely the kind of life they're living: shallow.
Could it be that shallow living compels a shallow people to share shallow things in the vain hope of finding significance? I honestly wonder if all the “spare-me-please” postings on Facebook, are a sick attempt at finding some sort of personal significance.
Yet insignificance is exactly the byproduct of a person—or a culture—that has jettisoned God. Worse, we babble foolishness—dare I say, like much of Facebook. I'm drawn to the observation Paul made in Romans 1:22: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became foolish.”
Wondering if there’s a connection between Facebook…and the Good Book...
|When Lifestyle Evangelism is Non-Evangelism
|Thursday, February 28, 2013|
Years ago, an older brother in the faith took me aside and discipled me in something called lifestyle evangelism. The concept is something of a reaction to older forms of evangelism. Like preaching on a street corner. Or shoving a gospel tract into somebody’s hands. Incidentally, I’m not suggesting that either of those is wrong—or even bad.
But the idea behind lifestyle evangelism is that we—quote—“earn the right to be heard” by virtue of the life that we live. And there’s something to that. When it comes to sharing Christ with my neighbors, I’ve worked hard at first being a good neighbor—as in loaning them tools, or helping take in their trash cans. No point in sharing Jesus if I won’t share my stuff.
Lifestyle evangelism underscores that making disciples is a process. Conversion is rarely instant. So far so good.
My problem with lifestyle evangelism is that there is now statistical evidence that many of us end our witness with good deeds. But that’s only the starting point. Those good deeds are intended to lead to conversations. Conversations about Christ.
Yet George Barna can show us reams of surveys that show most of us never get to the talk. Maybe it’s because we’re scared. Or maybe it’s because we’re ashamed. Or maybe we’ve forgotten that despite the manicured lawn and shared interest in the Chicago Bears, that neighbor over the fence—apart from a saving relationship with Jesus—really will spend eternity burning in hell.
At some point it comes down to words. Bible words. It has to. Or it’s not really evangelism. Could I challenge you? Keep on doing those nice things for your neighbors. But don’t forget the kindest act of all: sharing Jesus verbally. To ignore that is to be the worst kind of neighbor.
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