When Worlds Fail To Even Acknowledge One Another…

* Please note well that what follows in not –in even the very least– intended to be an explicitly political critique.  My concern is –rather than that of politics– strictly, here, of deeply held religious, even theological, interests.

ImageThis past Friday, my heart and mind raced from genuine surprise to appalling frustration as I listened to an exchange on a popular radio talk show hosted by a popular “conservative” political pundit who openly and boldly claims to be a Christian.  [I do not “often” listen to his program but occasionally do so for a few minutes here and there when in the car.]

He had taken a call from a lady whose both name and story he remembered from a previous call she had apparently made to his program –what seemed like– not long ago.  After talking her up for a moment, even sharing and explaining the significance of her Twitter handle, he went on to describe their recent conversation.  It seems that she had previously expressed to him an opportunity she was being given to work with ladies who have far less than stellar backgrounds.  In fact, she would be working with ladies who had been convicted of various crimes and were or had been serving time in prison.

In bringing her –finally– into the conversation, the host spoke of his previous warnings that she’d surely be yelled at, cursed, spit upon, etc.  He then loadedly [Please bear with my exercise of grammatical license, here.] asked for her to confirm that he had indeed told her that she was “too nice for a job like that” and that he had given her ample reason to not even consider stooping to such a lowly level of work.

She sheepishly obliged and acknowledged that, yes, she’d been burned –so to speak– by the opportunity.  Hopefully, they both seemed to agree, she had learned her lesson.

As the conversation soon came to a close, the host proudly assured her that he’d do all that he could henceforth to help her land any job opportunity so long as it’d be with a “conservative” organization.

Please let me repeat and clarify: I was sincerely befuddled by how disconnected the host’s practical advice was from his otherwise ardent claim of Christian faith.  Immediately, I thought that this brief yet bold exchange was clearly a poignant anecdote of how commonly we live in two separate worlds presuming that “never the twain shall meet” — the “real” world (as it is too often so profanely termed) and our “religious” (and, generally assumed, private) world.

While my aim, here, is not to address how these “two worlds” are to coinhere, it is, however, to desperately plead that they must indeed coinhere.  John Stonestreet and Eric Metaxas having repeatedly called their BreakPoint listeners to be good citizens of two Kingdoms, I instinctively suspected that this was at least a fair and fitting example of how one could ever-so-naturally fall woefully short in doing so.

We believe…

…[I]n one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried…

It is to our benefit that He didn’t consider Himself “too nice for a job like that” but, rather, “emptied Himself of all but love and bled for Adam’s helpless race.”  He bids us, “Come and die.”

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“A Case of the Mondays”

Ugh.  What an obnoxious phrase, though it certainly alludes to one of the funniest movies to have ever been produced [in my humble opinion].

This past Monday, I was delivering my regular Meals-on-Wheels route.  You probably already know that I also ended up on the Rush Limbaugh show during said route.  However, just prior to my stop which prompted my being on his show, I made another stop which proved to be a tough one.

For the last couple of years or so, I’ve been driving this route, making my rounds, and delivering to mostly the same folks each time.  During the first half of my route, I typically deliver to an elderly married couple.  This Monday, the delivery I made just prior to that which would bring me passing fame was to this couple.

What made this delivery tough was being greeted and welcomed at the door by the couple’s daughter.  She explained that her father died this past Friday and that she was in from out of town.  That was tough to hear.

She invited me in, talked with me for a brief while, expressed tremendous gratitude for my looking out for her folks seeing how she lives 3000 miles away, explained that I’ll need to use a different door from now on to deliver her mom’s food, allowed me to share a few memories with her, and asked if she could have a hug before I left.  She was a kind lady with wonderful parents, and I –of course– granted her request gladly.

As I drove alway, I choked back a tear or two and went about my day.

My call to Rush was on a whim.  While my story was indeed forthright and legit, I made the call with the passing thought, “Ugh. It’s been a rough day so far… I’m calling Rush.”  Never did I think that, on my first attempt to call [ever, though I’ve listened for years and have considering calling many times], my ear would immediately hear a ringing tone.  After what seemed like 40 rings, a voice –to my astonishment– actually answered…

“What would you like to say to Rush?”


The Transcript

RUSH: We go to the Smyrna, Georgia. This is Adam. Great to have you on the program, sir. Hello.

CALLER: Rush, hi. It’s great to talk with you. What a joy.

RUSH: Thank you, sir. By the way, you’re calling from the soon-to-be isolated South.

CALLER: Well, I was actually gonna say I’m deep within the isolated South. I think it’s already partially isolated.

RUSH: And the effort to isolate you is ongoing and intensifying.

CALLER: I can feel the eyes watching and the breath on the back of my neck.

RUSH: I’m not kidding. You have the ability to look at it with jocularity.

CALLER: Yes.

RUSH: But there’s an ongoing effort to marginalize conservatism, and the South is the greatest concentration of it, and therefore the words out — Lincoln didn’t finish the job. I mean that was in Salon.com last week. Lincoln didn’t finish the job.

CALLER: And what’s worse is that I’m actually a young pastor, and so I’m probably one of those right-wing kooks.

RUSH: And a target because you preach to others.

CALLER: Yes. Yes.

RUSH: Anyway, I welcome you to the program. I’m glad you’re here.

CALLER: I’m glad I’m here as well. In fact, just holding the line I felt a thrill run up my leg. But the purpose of my call is I’ve actually been on a Meals on Wheels delivery route this morning, and when I walked into the apartment of one of my customers, she’s an elderly minority lady living in poverty, and she had the tube turned on and was watching the press conference, and I said, “How you doing?” She said, “Well, I’m doing all right. I’m just watching my president on this press conference, and I’m trying to get my head around what’s going on.” And she went on to tell me that her Social Security went up $13 bucks, but that really doesn’t matter because she’s been told by her doctor that with everything that’s been transpiring she’s gonna owe $147 for every visit before Medicare even touches it, and she was asking me, “What in the world am I gonna do?” And she said that she feels like she’s kind of being left out in the cold.

RUSH: She said all this to you while she’s watching Obama and his press conference?

CALLER: Yes.

RUSH: Does she blame the Republicans for this or did she say.

CALLER: No, she seemed to be feeling a bit disenfranchised, if you will, from her president. She referred to him almost in jest as her president.

RUSH: Did you say this woman’s African-American?

CALLER: Well, I said she’s a minority. She is an African-American.

RUSH: Okay. I was gonna say you don’t sound like a Southerner. You’re helping her.

CALLER: Do what?

RUSH: I’m being facetious. I said you don’t sound like a Southerner, you’re helping her.

CALLER: That’s right. No, you know, it’s interesting because just in my previous interactions with her, I feel like she thought highly of the president. I image she probably voted for him, if she voted. You know, she’s gladly referred to him as her president before, but today —

RUSH: I’m sure. There’s gonna be a lot of confusion. I think there’s going to be a lot of confusion among Obama voters ’cause they believe him. Like the people who are now experiencing smaller paychecks because the payroll tax cut ended, and the full FICA deduction has been restored, so people’s paychecks are smaller. They see this, but they trust the media, they trust Obama. They were told that their taxes aren’t gonna go up. They were told that only the 1% or 2% would see a tax increase, that any taxation had to be fair and balanced and responsible, and that meant they weren’t going to be called on to pay the burden, and here right off the bat, their first paycheck is smaller somewhat or a lot smaller, depending. And they’re going to be, folks, really conflicted.

The media, for the past year, two years, has been spreading the word that the middle class isn’t gonna face a tax increase. Only the rich are. Obama’s been saying the same thing. These people are not going to want to think poorly of President Obama. They voted for him. They’re not gonna want to think poorly of him. So they’re gonna be really confused and conflicted. They believed him. They believed the media. And they still do. So they’re gonna start asking how did it happen. And it’s going to be somewhat easy for the media to somehow blame this on the Republicans, and I think the way they’ll do it is simply say the Republicans wouldn’t negotiate with the president. The Republicans just simply refused to move off of their desire for tax cuts for the rich. And the president tried, he tried very hard.

He worked very hard on this, did the best he could. But now the Republicans are trying to hurt the country and hurt the president again on the debt limit deal, is the way this is all going to play out. None of this, as far as the media’s concerned, none of it will be allowed, if they have anything to say about it, to attach itself to Obama in terms of blame. I’m just telling you this to try to make sure you don’t get as frustrated as you otherwise could, ’cause I know you all sit out there and you pray that at some point this country’s gonna wake up. You pray that at some point people are gonna finally realize that what they’ve been told isn’t true. And they’re not going to want to believe that for a long time. Obama’s a cult-like figure to some of these people. And it’s gonna take a number of these betrayals before they start to substantively question whether or not Obama and the media have been not telling them the truth. Adam, I appreciate the call. God bless you.

To read the transcript of the entire segment, click this link which will take you to the appropriate subpage of Rush’s website.


A Celebrity in Your Midst

So… I was on the radio yesterday… being heard by the largest radio audience in history… talking with the self-proclaimed “lovable little fuzzball” — El Rushbo himself.

That’s right: I was on the Rush Limbaugh show.

My friend Jessica said that she felt like she knew a celebrity.  Haha.  While I am certainly not a celebrity, I must say that it is eerily odd how –as my beloved Lindsey readily notes– things of this nature just seem to happen to me on a regular basis.

Just a few years ago, I got through to the Sean Hannity radio program, scheduled a call with him to be recorded for the air, and regretfully failed to answer the call.  Ugh.  Most recently, though, I’ve met Greg Gutfeld, received responses from former U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) via both Facebook and Twitter, been retweeted by John Stonestreet, been on the air with Jamie Dupree (WSB Radio’s Washington correspondent) on the night of the most recent election, and been mentioned on the air by Erick Erickson, who has also replied to me via Twitter on a few occasions.

Odd.  I know.

What’s even more baffling is that, despite what others might say [Ahem.]:

  1. I am hardly ever on Twitter.
  2. I don’t spend all that much time on Facebook.
  3. While talk radio is my primary means of keeping up with politics and the news, I’m hardly a constant listener.  Most of my listening is done for short periods while driving or for a little while here and there only on a couple or so days a week.

My Kind of Trail Mix

Be ye warned: This trail mix is not for the faint of heart.  I concocted it just yesterday and should let you know that it was quite amazing.

Image

the ingredients:

  • salted pretzels (with sesame seeds)
  • lightly salted cashews
  • dried cranberries (not “craisins” but, rather, the fresh ones)
  • dark chocolate-covered espresso beans
  • dark chocolate-covered almonds (rolled in sea salt and turbinado sugar)

Because you asked…

On Christmas Eve, I was asked for a brief explanation of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  I had mentioned it the day before in my sermon.  Here’s what I wrote and sent via email:

Regarding the Twelve Days of Christmas, there are a few minor discrepancies among the various Christian traditions (i.e., Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism).  However, here are the essentials…

The Twelve Days of Christmas (or, Christmastide, Yuletide, Twelvetide) begin with Christmas Day and run through January 5.

The song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a rather old English carol, having first been published in 1780, but was probably written originally in French.  The carol’s purpose is quite debatable, but some suggest that it was originally developed in order to serve as a sort of teaching tool akin to a Catechism.  The gifts given and their suggested biblical/theological representations are as follows:

  • 12 Drummers Drumming (the 12 supposed points of the Apostles’ Creed)

  • 11 Pipers Piping (the 11 faithful Disciples)

  • 10 Lords-a-Leaping (the 10 Commandments)

  • 9 Ladies Dancing (the 9 fruits of the Spirit)

  • 8 Maids-a-Milking (the Beatitudes)

  • 7 Swans-a-Swimming (the gifts of the Spirit)

  • 6 Geese-a-Laying (the days of Creation, the 7th having been the Sabbath rest)

  • 5 Golden Rings (the Torah or Pentateuch [Genesis–Deuteronomy])

  • 4 Calling Birds (the canonical Gospels)

  • 3 French Hens (the three theological virtues [i.e., faith, hope, and love] or perhaps the Magi’s gifts)

  • 2 Turtle Doves (the Old and New Testaments of Scripture)

  • and a Partridge in a Pear Tree (Jesus, the Partridge or Dove traditionally serving a symbol of peace and the Pear Tree representing the wooden manger)

Christmas, which ends at Epiphany, is the second season in the Church’s liturgical calendar, the first being Advent.  While Advent begins four Sundays prior to Christmas and comes from a Latin term (adventus) meaning ‘to come’, Epiphany is January 6 (twelve calendar days after December 25) and comes from a Greek term (επιφανεια) meaning ‘to appear’ or ‘to manifest’.  Epiphany celebrates Christ’s appearance to the Gentile world, seen first in the visit of the Magi from the East.

While the Magi (or, Wisemen, Magicians) are often found in Nativity scenes, they probably didn’t arrive in Bethlehem until Jesus was well beyond a newborn, perhaps as long as two years after His birth.  This takes into consideration the fact that Matthew specifically mentions that the Magi visited Jesus in “the house” rather than in the innkeeper’s stable mentioned in Luke as well as the fact that, upon inquiring from the Magi as to the initial appearance of the star they followed, Herod orders the slaughter of all local infants two years of age and under.  Perhaps Jesus was a few months old; perhaps He was as old as a year and a half or even closer to two.  What we do seem to know, however, is that He had to have been old enough for Mary and Joseph to transition into a more permanent home as they got back on their feet, so to speak, before returning to Nazareth (which they don’t immediately do because of the dream’s warning and their subsequent flight to Egypt).

In the rhythm of the liturgical calendar, these three seasons which begin the Church’s annual pattern of worship lead us as follows: the anticipation of Christ’s coming (and return), His arrival itself, and the wider implication of His incarnation (that He came to redeem all humankind, not just Israel).


It should be duly noted…

…that the passage from Luke 2 in the previous post was chosen based upon the flow and order of our Christmas Eve.  In its place, I have elsewhere used Isaiah 40:1-5.  However, our service began with the reading of Luke 2:1-7 and later included the reading of Luke 15-20.

There you go.


The Christ Candle

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

          “Glory to God in the highest,
          And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

-Luke 2:8-14

Four Sundays ago, we lit the Candle of Expectation, which reminds us that Christ was the One for whom the whole world had waited: the Messiah of Israel, the Redeemer of Mankind.  As we longingly await His glorious return and the fulfillment of all God’s promises, we do so in hopeful expectation as His faithful people.

Three Sundays ago, we lit the Candle of Preparation, which reminds us that before the Advent of Christ, as Israel was being prepared for her promised Messiah, the whole world was being prepared for her expected Redeemer.  As we prepare this Advent season, we prepare ourselves for His return.

Two Sundays ago, we lit the Candle of Celebration, which reminds us that, while we have ready for the return of Christ, there is reason to celebrate, for He is – even now –Emmanuel: God with us.  He is not only our hope; He is also our joy and song.

Last Sunday, we lit the Candle of Incarnation, which reminds us that the Son of God did not simply appear to man and offer words of hope; no, the Son of God actually became also the Son of Man and offered Himself, the eternal Word, as our hope.

Today, we light the Christ Candle.

The Christ Candle is lit in joyous celebration that He has come.  Christ our Savior is born!  Today, as a Church family we celebrate His amazing birth together.  Our expectation has been realized; our preparation has not been in vain; our celebration is now overflowing; and the incarnation of Christ has brought us redemption.  The long-awaited Messiah has come.  The Redeemer of all mankind has arrived, and today we rejoice in His coming.  He is born!  Praise the LORD!  Christ is born!


The Candle of Incarnation

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
     And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
     The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
     The Spirit of counsel and might,
     The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.

His delight is in the fear of the LORD,
     And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
     Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
     And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
     And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
     And faithfulness the belt of His waist.

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
     The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
     The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
     And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
     Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
     The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
     And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
     As the waters cover the sea.

-Isaiah 11:1-9

Three Sundays ago, we lit the Candle of Expectation, which reminds us that Christ was the One for whom the whole world had waited: the Messiah of Israel, the Redeemer of Mankind.  As we longingly await His glorious return and the fulfillment of all God’s promises, we do so in hopeful expectation as His faithful people.

Two Sundays ago, we lit the Candle of Preparation, which reminds us that before the Advent of Christ, as Israel was being prepared for her promised Messiah, the whole world was being prepared for her expected Redeemer.  As we prepare this Advent season, we prepare ourselves for His return.

Last Sunday, we lit the Candle of Celebration, which reminds us that, while we ready ourselves for Christmas day and ultimately for the return of Christ, there is reason to celebrate, for He is – even now – Emmanuel: God with us.  He is not only our hope; He is also our joy and song.

Today, we light the Candle of Incarnation.

The Candle of Incarnation reminds us that the Word was indeed made flesh and dwelt among us.  The Son of God did not simply appear to man and offer words of hope; no, the Son of God actually became also the Son of Man and offered Himself, the eternal Word, as our hope.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.  We beheld the glory of the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Let us celebrate, today, His first Advent as we ready ourselves for His second.


The Incarnate Embrace of Human Suffering: Redemptive Thoughts from a Good Doctor

Nativity

At Wesley Biblical Seminary, Dr. John Oswalt was both my Old Testament professor and my discipleship leader.  He now serves again at Asbury Theological Seminary.  Here are some redemptive thoughts from Dr. Oswalt via my friend Scott Engebretson [shared on Facebook]…

Oswalt“a good word this morning from my ph.d. mentor, Dr. John Oswalt, on Newtown:

” ‘Reading the headlines this morning made me want to resign from the human race, just to disassociate myself from all the messy viciousness that seems to mark our path. I thought it was especially tragic when we are supposed to be celebrating all this peace and joy stuff at Christmas. But then it struck me – Jesus did the very opposite of what I was fancifully contemplating. He didn’t resign from the human race – he voluntarily joined it! He left the perfection of heaven to become a part of this messy viciousness. And he did it with his eyes wide open – he knew what he was getting into and he knew what we would do to him, and he joined up anyway. The messiness was right from the start. Anybody who has been in a delivery room knows that births are not serenely pretty, they are hard, painful, and bloody, and every baby ever born has come into the world screaming his or her head off for just having been forced through a ring of fire to come into this mess. And there are no clean barns: the hay was itchy and scratchy and the “gentle cattle” were covered with manure. And in the end, we don’t know how, but we know it is so, crunched into about three hours he carried for us all the hell, all the grief, all the horror of this viciously messy world. He didn’t resign – he joined up. That’s good news.’ “