Archive for the tag “Culture”

The Church of Chicken Little

churchchickenlittleHere’s what will happen. Maybe you’ve already been through it. Or maybe you’re living it even as your eyes scan these words. I don’t know what will trigger it—I’m no prophet—but I do know, sooner or later, something will. The company you’ve poured your heart and soul into goes belly up. Your spouse slips off her wedding ring, puts it on the counter, and slams the door forever behind her. The details will vary. But in that moment, and in the days and weeks—maybe even years—that follow, you’re convinced that the sky is falling, and your life is basically over. Draw the curtains, turn out the lights, the party’s over.

I’ve been there. As have many of you. It hurts. It’s frightening.

And it’s highly deceiving.

Oh, yes, deceiving. Because as bad as it does get, as much pain as it does inflict upon you, it is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s not even close. It just feels that way. But if you’re not careful—as I was not careful—you’ll become so overwhelmed with all the bad stuff going on, you’ll spend so much time staring up at the sky that you’re convinced is about to fall, that you’ll forget you’ve still got work to do, people to take care of, vocations to fulfill. Your world has changed, to be sure, but it is not over.

The same applies to the church, perhaps even more so. On a recurring basis, Christians spot news headlines that signal yet one more moral collapse in society, the growing paganization of the cultures in which we live, the spread of antipathy toward the faith. It hits social media. Facebook becomes transformed into everything from an online pity-party to a preaching-party, lamenting or decrying all these wicked goings on. Twitter explodes with 140-or-less character doomsday-sounding predictions. And in pulpits across the land, pastors have plenty of fodder for their Sunday morning sermons.

But if we’re not careful, if we become so engrossed with the flood of divorce, the spread of gay marriage, the holocaust of abortion, the loss of religious freedom, and countless other very legitimate concerns, we’ll end up sounding more like the church of Chicken Little than the church of Jesus Christ. We’ll give the impression that our central message is not “Christ crucified” but “The sky is falling.” We’ll forget that we’ve still got people to take care of, vocations to fulfill, plenty of work to do.

And that work, that mission, is not to save our culture from moral collapse, nor to raise up law-abiding citizens, and especially not to spend all day, every day, whining and complaining about the loss of the good ole days. The mission of the church is to bring sinners into communion with the life-giving, sin-forgiving, salvation-imparting flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.

Until the sky really does fall, that’s the work God has given the church to do. Let’s do it.

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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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The Church of Chicken Little

ImageHere’s what will happen. Maybe you’ve already been through it. Or maybe you’re living it even as your eyes scan these words.  I don’t know what will trigger it—I’m no prophet—but I do know, sooner or later, something will.  The company you’ve poured your heart and soul into goes belly up. Your spouse slips off her wedding ring, puts it on the counter, and slams the door forever behind her. The details will vary. But in that moment, and in the days and weeks—maybe even years—that follow, you’re convinced that the sky is falling, and your life is basically over. Draw the curtains, turn out the lights, the party’s over.

I’ve been there. As have many of you. It hurts. It’s frightening.

And it’s highly deceiving.

Oh, yes, deceiving. Because as bad as it does get, as much pain as it does inflict upon you, it is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s not even close. It just feels that way. But if you’re not careful—as I was not careful—you’ll become so overwhelmed with all the bad stuff going on, you’ll spend so much time staring up at the sky that you’re convinced is about to fall, that you’ll forget you’ve still got work to do, people to take care of, vocations to fulfill. Your world has changed, to be sure, but it is not over.

The same applies to the church, perhaps even more so. On a recurring basis, Christians spot news headlines that signal yet one more moral collapse in society, the growing paganization of the cultures in which we live, the spread of antipathy toward the faith. It hits social media. Facebook becomes transformed into everything from an online pity-party to a preaching-party, lamenting or decrying all these wicked goings on. Twitter explodes with 140-or-less character doomsday-sounding predictions. And in pulpits across the land, pastors have plenty of fodder for their Sunday morning sermons.

But if we’re not careful, if we become so engrossed with the flood of divorce, the spread of gay marriage, the holocaust of abortion, the loss of religious freedom, and countless other very legitimate concerns, we’ll end up sounding more like the church of Chicken Little than the church of Jesus Christ. We’ll give the impression that our central message is not “Christ crucified” but “The sky is falling.” We’ll forget that we’ve still got people to take care of, vocations to fulfill, plenty of work to do.

And that work, that mission, is not to save our culture from moral collapse, nor to raise up law-abiding citizens, and especially not to spend all day, every day, whining and complaining about the loss of the good ole days. The mission of the church is to bring sinners into communion with the life-giving, sin-forgiving, salvation-imparting flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.

Until the sky really does fall, that’s the work God has given the church to do. Let’s do it.

Smut and Smug: Secret Religious Delight in Society’s Moral Degradation

ImageCrouched inside my conservative heart is a little monster that cheerleads on the liberal agenda. The more pornography spills its sexual sewage into our culture, the more he whoops. The more Miley Cyrus twerks; the more benedictions Obama pronounces upon Planned Parenthood; the more LGBTs couple up, wed, and adopt children, the louder my monster claps. He could flip through channels all day long, watching example after example of the cultural corpse decaying before his eyes, and greet his disgust with gusto.

Perhaps I am the lone conservative who cloisters this inner, liberal-loving monster. But I daresay that every right-leaning thinker suffers this trollish beast. I sensed his awakening the other day, and could almost feel his lips smirking, as I studied an article that detailed, quite convincingly, the various ways that sexual “freedom” has undermined the stability of marriage and family. And the thing is, I wholeheartedly agreed with the author’s arguments. It is my firm conviction that he’s logically, biblically, and ethically spot-on. In fact, I’ve echoed his sentiments in my own teaching, writing, and everyday conversations. I loathe the fact that America is slouching toward Sodom. Yet, alas, the monster closeted in my soul laps it up.

Why? For what reason would a conservative Christian find secret religious delight in society’s moral degradation?

Some might say I’m just a hypocrite, one more right-winger who publicly lambasts the very thing he privately loves. And, no doubt, I suffer from that vice to an extent.  Lord knows there are few, nay, no men whose words and actions exhibit perfect, perpetual integrity.

I suspect, however, that something else is afoot. I think the chief reason that a faction within me welcomes the disintegration of the American ethos is this: it makes me feel so much better about myself. The smut makes me quite smug. The dirtier things become round about me, the cleaner I sense myself to be. The more porn there is, the more chaste I think I am by comparison. The more homosexuals come out, the more I deem heterosexuals the ethically superior group. The monster within, you see, uses all this when he fulfills this vocation: he is a priest before an altar upon which sits an icon of myself. And to me, his lord, he offers up the sacrifice of self-affirming praise.

I am caught, therefore, in a dilemma. For on the one hand, God calls me to speak the truth in love, to speak out against evil in all its manifestations. But on the other hand, the more evil manifests itself, the more ecstatic my inner monster becomes. What’s a man to do?

Here are my two goals. I shall endeavor, first of all, to see in every manifestation of evil, a crime scene that has my fingerprints all over it. For if there is a problem in society, it is my problem. Every man is my brother, every woman my sister, every problem in society is therefore my family’s problem. If I wish to be part of the solution, I must first acknowledge that I am part of the problem. Rather than isolating myself atop a mountain from which I can decry the iniquities in the valley below me, I will confess that daily I drag my feet through the muck of that valley floor. Along with the abortionists and crack whores and pedophiles and gossiping Grandmas, I am dirtied by sin, plagued by vices, and desperately in need of the Christ who will once and for all shower away my filth and envelop me with his own sacred skin.

And I shall also endeavor, as one who knows the author of all good, to continue to speak out against evil. But I shall speak as a sinner to sinners, as a sick man to comrades in calamity, as a dying man to others who teeter on the brink of the grave. Before I speak against evil, however, I will ask myself: are these the words you would choose if your son or daughter were the object of this address? If not, I will zip shut my lips until I learn to speak the truth in love, for ‘tis better to be mute than to screech orthodoxy in the tones of a finger-wagging Pharisee. As a brother of mine recently commented, “Loveless truth is just as harmful as truthless love,” (Bill Cwirla).

Yes, I confess that my inner monster finds secret delight in society’s moral degradation, but I also profess that I abhor that demonic, immoral delight within me. That is not the man God created me to be, nor the man I desire to be. I wish, and therefore I pray, to be a man who bears the icon of his Creator—the one who, in his fathomless love for mankind, leapt from heaven, enveloped himself in our skin, and befriended the sinners, especially those whom the religious folk of the day shunned as the morally degenerate. And in the mercy of that friend of unfaithfuls, Jesus the Christ, I shall lay hold of peace, as do all those who rest not in their own worth or morality, but in the bleeding wounds of him who died that in him we might live in, but not of, this world.

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If you enjoy my writings, please consider purchasing my recently published book, The Infant Priest:  Hymns and Poems.  This poetry gives voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world.  Whether you weep, rejoice, struggle, or hope, through these hymns and poems you can speak to God with honesty and fidelity.  By buying a copy, you will also aid mission work, for 25% of the proceeds from book sales go to benefit Lutherans in Africa.  Click here to purchase your copy.  Thanks!

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