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Heaven and Earth: Jesus and John the Baptist (John 3:22-36)

 This particular situation might be confusing: two unique people, who seem to have truth from God are both preaching and baptizing. John the Baptist notices that people seem to be more drawn to Jesus. John's disciples notice, too. John the Baptist reminds them and us that he is not the Messiah, but that he was given the task of proclaiming His coming. He uses the analogy of a wedding. In our terms, John the Baptist is saying that he is the best man. The best man's job is to celebrate his friend, the groom, and to do whatever he can to help the guests celebrate and enjoy the wedding. Our culture isn't much different than theirs in this. The best man is usually the closest friend that the man getting married has in the world. Any solid best man will be thrilled for his buddy, and once it's over, his job is done. That's exactly what John the Baptist is saying. There is a fair amount of discussion about whether verses 31 through 36 is still John the Baptist talking, or
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Thoughts On Hope

I felt really tender when I went to church last night. "Tender" in my parlance usually means that I'm going to cry about the trials and tribulations of fictional characters that I love and appreciate. I'm just really into stories, and I find that the stories I really enjoy are the ones that help me put words to my feelings and experiences. I had it in my head: "We're just here to be memories for our children." That's the sort of climactic line in the beginning part of Interstellar that really resonates with me emotionally. I was thinking of my father, and that most of what I really have from him is a memory of who he was. I suppose that if you are about to make the fitting sacrifice of the new covenant in Jesus, thinking about your dear departed loved ones is proper and good. As I continued to sit there, I realized that I am deeply drawn to all stories of love, reconciliation, and harmony. I think many people in the business of telling stories think

I Am Not In Control, But I Am Safe

 If you spend any amount of time reading the news, you will become aware that human beings live a tenuous and fraught existence. Death is always close at hand, but in our comfort and blessing, we can almost pretend that it is not. When people realize they are not in control, things can go two ways: either a person becomes irretrievably anxious about their lack of control, or they come to know that the One who is in control has them securely. I have been made master of a few things; I have plenty to eat and drink, and I can choose whatever thing I want. I'm quite particular about my clothing, and I have a favorite shirt. I have a pair of "happy pants" that I'm quite fond of. Yet maybe my tendency to become upset at the utterly inconsequential things of life is an occasion to reflect on the ways that I still seek control which I do not have. If we are simply chasing money, or influence, or any number of things, the emptiness of it all is readily apparent, eventually. Th

You Belong Here

 I stopped in the neighborhood church today. Today was the day that they decided to test the fire alarm in my apartment building, so I would rather be in a church. I can't remember what hymn was being played, but as it turns out, the organist likes to practice, when he thinks no one is there. For an entire hour, it was the same hymn. I wish I could remember, but I know it was about the love of Jesus. Then again, aren't they all supposed to be about the love of Jesus? As I sat there, a friend found me, and he said, "Don't you get curious about the hidden places in here?" Or something like that. I said that I did, and that one time years ago, I got to see "in the back", where most ordinary folks don't get to go. I said I had the feeling that I shouldn't be back here, and he said, "You're an institution; you belong here." That was a very kind thing to say, but when did I become an institution? I only know that it was a joy to rest in t

9-11, 20 Years On

 I was in the bathroom of my residence hall in college, brushing my teeth. It was pretty late in the morning, actually. A guy ran in, telling me that 50,000 people probably just died in the World Trade Center, because some terrorists attacked it. I remember saying, "Come on man, don't joke about that. That's not funny." He wasn't joking. I was sort of numb, but I went to the front desk, where I knew we would have news. On the whiteboard which had news every day, there was a little box off to the side, and it said, "In spite of what has happened, we are committed to not judging people based upon religion, or national origin." Today, it is fashionable to bash sentiments on diversity, or even to claim that a certain openness in that regard stifles discussion as to the nature of the truth. That may be true sometimes, but I have never been more proud to have been spoken for in that way. I did truly fix in my mind that the attackers were some sort of radical f

I Have Just One Question About Critical Race Theories

 Is any particular expression of it premised in epistemic skepticism? That is, are we able to reason together, to test particular assertions against evidence, and reach a shared conclusion, or must its claims be accepted on authority? If it cannot be questioned, its assertions collapse into fideism, a kind of dogma without reason. In that way, certain expressions of it may be a "religion," as many critics claim. Notice I said "theories." Every unique expression of a theory that could fit under the umbrella of CRT has aspects that may explain particular observations best, and other aspects that explain what is observed less well. That's the nature of theories. There isn't one Critical Race Theory. I will say that banning CRT because it is Marxist is foolish. You can't avoid the pitfalls of Marxism, if you don't know what it is. I studied Marxism up close; even young people don't automatically become advocates of whatever they are taught. That not

I Do Happen To Be Dogmatic About, Well, Dogma

 I am gratified that I maintain relationships across the Christian world, in spite of the divisions among the Christian people. "In spite of" probably hits some people the wrong way, because I think a lot of times, "ecumenical dialogue" means, "let's get together and celebrate all that we agree on," instead of what it is, which is dialogue concerning the matters of revealed truth, with the express purpose of reaching agreement in that truth. Then again, this is one of the reasons that I don't like debate that much, because I don't enjoy telling people that I love that they are completely wrong, and that their wrongness could have dire eternal consequences. There is a large part of me that is a hippie, who just hopes that all the historic talk of sin, judgment, and wrath--not to mention heresy and schism--will just be wrapped up in a big ball of hugs from the Trinity. I'd like to be a universalist, but I am not. This is a tough balance to st

These Are The People In Your Neighborhood

 Admittedly, I have been spending too much time at the neighborhood McDonald's. It is perhaps a betrayal of a commitment to slow food, healthy eating, and localism, but it's right there, and I don't have to cross any major streets to get there. Anyway, I often see the same man at the neighborhood McDonald's. I'll call him Gabe. He's one of those guys that could be anywhere from 50 to 80, and I can't tell. When I first met him, he seemed solicitous for my well-being. He asked me if I wanted a refill on my drink, and I did not, because even I don't think 32 ounces of Coke should be upgraded to 64. We started talking about kindness--ironically enough--and we both decided that we thought there wasn't enough of it in the world. I decided that Gabe must've been a leader of men at some point, like a coach or in the military. Still sharp, and perfectly able to tell people what to do, if the need should arise. I thanked him for his kindness, and we went o