our lives tell the story

our lives tell the story

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

“My kingdom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.”

Then Pilate said, “So, are you a king or not?”

Jesus answered, “You tell me. Because I am King, I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.” – John 18:35-37

Every Wednesday evening, my men’s covenant group is always – without fail – a significant blessing. Our time is a great mixture of insightful Bible-study, great conversation, heart-level sharing, listening, support, encouragement, and – most importantly – simply being together.

I leave our church not only full, and inspired, but thoughtful. Stuff we talk about takes up residence in the “mulling” portion of my brain (btw, if your brain doesn’t have a designated mulling slot, then you should definitely get one), and percolates – usually for several days.

This week we talked about trouble, difficulty, challenge, and tragedy. We used the Old Testament story of Joseph as our scripture reference, and our conversation circled around what story we tell about the gospel via the way that we respond.

PASSION = INVITATION

unnamed (4)-001I used this image – from the pastors’ conference I spoke at a couple of weeks ago – because of what’s on the screen behind me. It’s not the most flattering photograph ever taken of yours truly, but I love the words, “Your passion is an invitation…”

What I was talking about was the fact that people can read between the lines, not only when we talk, but as we live – especially as we live. If we have no evident passion for the good news about Jesus, then it really doesn’t come across as good news, does it? Our lives tell the story. Our lives become the most eloquent invitation that we can offer.

Fact is, we don’t chose whether or not to be witnesses. “It’s not my spiritual gift; I’ll leave that up to those who feel called to be a witness…” Nope, sorry, that’s not how it works. We are living witnesses to the faith we profess. The question is not if we are communicating about Jesus, the question is what story is it that we are telling?

  • The question is not if we are communicating about Jesus, the question is what story is it that we are telling?

One question we talked about Wednesday was living with courage. But this is something we seem to have all backwards in our popular culture. Aggression, fighting back, responding in kind when we are berated, returning evil for evil… these are all advertised – and modeled in the shows and movies we watch – as acts of courage. Christians get sucked into this too: “believers” are often hostile to those they disagree with; lawsuits are filed within churches; there are multiple splits and schisms; bad behavior is parsed as defending truth (who’s truth?)….

Bullying, hate, vitriol, fighting… these are not acts of courage. Jesus said this, just before he allowed them to nail him to a wooden cross: “My kingdom doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king” (John 18:36).

Jesus – “I am not that kind of king.”

This is one of those “no-brainer” statements that I’ve used many times before, but I’m going yo say it anyway. Jesus is our model; following Jesus means being imitators of God. Yet, so much of the time, Christians do the opposite: Instead of remaking ourselves in the image of Christ, we try to reinvent Jesus in the image of us.

and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children… – Ephesians 4:31-5:1

Courageous men and women of the light follow Jesus. We do tell a story in the way that we live and how we respond to the challenges we face – so let’s get the story right! – DEREK

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talking about discipleship

Postscript to a Beautiful and Courageous Life

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Sandee Hagen

A short while ago, and after an escalating illness, one of the brightest lights in the constellation of our friends faltered, flickered, and then passed into eternity.

The news tore a hole in our hearts. It’s a huge blow for those of us who love her, and a sad loss for our world. But Sandee was one hundred percent confident that this life is just the beginning of the journey, and so am I, so in that sense she’s been freed up to shine more than ever before.

Sandee Hagen was one of the most courageous people I have ever known. We became friends back in the early 1980’s, when Rebekah and I launched a ministry for young families at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Pensacola. Sandee, her husband (Bruce), and their son (Nicholas), were a key part of the beginnings of what became an epic crowd of great friends.

Then, in an unimaginable tragedy, both Bruce – forty-one, and Nicholas – a vivacious six-year-old, died in a terrible car accident. Something like that leaves a wound that will always remain open, but Sandee made the choice – every day – to live. Not just to live but to live graciously, and creatively, and generously, and lovingly, and faithfully.

That’s what I mean when I say Sandee lived courageously; it takes not only great faith, but great courage, and honesty, and persistence, to continue to shine in the way that she did; and this world is a brighter place today because of her constant, insistent, faith-charged, luminosity.

That’s what I mean when I say Sandee lived courageously; it takes not only great faith, but great courage, and honesty, and persistence, to continue to shine in the way that she did; and this world is a brighter place today because of her constant, insistent, faith-charged, luminosity.

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Naomi, Rebekah, Sandee

Where many people would have built a wall to protect themselves from the danger of more pain, Sandee allowed us to love her, and she loved us back; she became a very real part of our family. She loved our children, and she allowed them to love her; she served countless others through her counseling practice; she became a Stephen Ministry leader at our church; she cared for people with a sensitivity and a depth born out of her own pain.

Sure she was hurt, and sometimes angry, and confused at such outrageous and impossible loss – but she trusted her Creator enough to work through the hard times without letting go of God’s hand.

  • Sandee convinced me of the truth of Psalm 23“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”
  • And she demonstrated the reliability of those first few Beatitudes in Matthew 5“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.”
  • And she illustrated the authenticity of Paul’s words to his friends in Philippians 1: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

In many ways, Sandee’s work (here) is complete, and those of us who love her feel privileged and grateful to have been witness to her eloquent testimony to grace, and faithfulness, and God’s unfailing love. But God’s work through the rest of us remains ongoing – an invitation, really.

Each one of us is a work-in-progress in our own way (me especially), and it is my prayer that we will be encouraged and inspired to live this gospel truth out loud, to the very end of our own days here on this Good Earth.

So I’ll wrap up these thoughts by continuing in Philippians 2:14-16

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”

Our imperative is to shine – and then shine some more – as we hold firmly to the word of life.

Thanks, Sandee, for everything. In Love, and because of love – DEREK

Lighten up, get off your religious high horse, and open up your hearts!

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Working at the kitchen table today… because I can!

Peter said, “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another. Rather, in every nation, whoever worships him and does what is right is acceptable to him. This is the message of peace he sent to the Israelites by proclaiming the good news through Jesus Christ: He is Lord of all!” – Acts 10:34-36

Sometimes I’ll be sitting at my desk, reading the Bible, or – as some biblical writers put it – searching the scriptures, and a passage seems to just stand up and reach out of the page.

  • “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another.”
  • “This is the message of peace… the good news through Jesus… He is Lord of all!”

Not a message of confrontation. Not a message of “we’re right and you’re wrong.” Not a message of “we’re God’s favorite Christians.” Not a message of finely tuned doctrine and culturally nuanced theology. But a message of peace; a message of Good news through Jesus; the message that God is Lord of all.

  • But what if this other group doesn’t line up with our interpretation of scripture? “Peace; good news; He is Lord of all!”
  • And what if they baptize people all wrong? “Peace; good news; He is Lord of all.”
  • But maybe they’re in a sect, or believe stuff I don’t get? “Peace; good news; He is Lord of all!”
  • Okay, then, but what if they’re not like us, or they’re gay, or they burn incense, or they’re socialists, or they voted for the wrong person, or they have deviant lifestyles, or we don’t like how they do communion…? “Peace, good news; He is Lord of all!”

Here’s what God is poking at me with today. Sure, I want people to know about the good news that Jesus brings… but then – too often – I want it to be my slant on the message! But this is the good news, not that Jesus favors my comfort zone when it comes to religious expression, but that God is Lord of all! Jesus is an open invitation, Jesus is God’s great initiative of grace and mercy. Jesus doesn’t belong to my way of thinking; I belong to God because Jesus has opened the door.

 This is the good news, not that Jesus favors my comfort zone when it comes to religious expression, but that God is Lord of all! Jesus is an open invitation, Jesus is God’s great initiative of grace and mercy. Jesus doesn’t belong to my way of thinking; I belong to God because Jesus has opened the door.

Peter had to understand that, once the door was open (now the door is open) absolutely anyone may possibly walk on through. Our job is to extend the invitation. Jesus is the gate. Peace; good news; He is Lord of all!

Peace; good news; He is Lord of all! – DEREK

I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest. – John 10:9-10

Not just preaching – but “living” the Good News

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Charles Alexander: 1928-2017

If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. – Romans 14:8

Rebekah and I made it back from Uncle Charlie’s funeral service just at midnight. We left the beautiful North Georgia mountains too quickly, we know, but the opportunity to say goodbye, and to see family, was more than worth the long drive. The time we spent there – though only 20 hours – was a brief shift from chronos into kairos time, and while exhausting physically, the time away was refreshing spiritually.

I have a lot I want to write about the trip to Georgia, but I’m driving to Richmond in a few minutes to get the grandkids for a few days. So for today I’ll simply share a handful of photographs and say this:

Charles Alexander was one of those rare men who help to define his generation. He was born in the depression (1928), he served his county in the immediate aftermath of World War Two, and he served Jesus – and by extension those in need – his entire life.

dsc_0132Along with his wife Ellen, uncle Charlie dedicated several decades to reaching the poor, the destitute, the homeless, and the hopeless of Brazil’s slums with the message that they could be rich in Christ, that they could find a home in God’s kingdom, and that they could know hope and promise because of the love of Jesus.

But Charles Alexander didn’t just preach the Good News, he lived the Good News, he did the Good News. I’m going to share more about this in the days to come, along with some amazing photographs and a few great stories. But for today I want to leave you with these images, including the doves that were released at the graveside. Doves represent peace, they represent the presence of the Holy Spirit, and they represent the promise of God’s everlasting kingdom.

Uncle Charlie didn’t just preach the Good News, he lived the Good News!

May we all know such peace, and serve with such passion – Derek

Light (that’s us) for this new week!

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“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” – John 13:34-35

I understand this isn’t the first time I’ve written something like this… but yesterday was a wonderful day with the disciples who worship at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church.

I share these stories to be an encouragement. There is so much negativity floating around the Internet, with so many ready to pour scorn and criticism on other people (and churches) – so I’m always going be the guy who reminds everyone how much good news there is to share.

Rebekah preached about light (Here, I’ll link the message for you: ( “Light Even in Darkness – she starts speaking around the 9:30 mark), children’s church was full at both services; both the praise band and the sanctuary choir were inspirational, love and worship filled the space, and I had my largest crowd of the year in my discipleship class.

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Tim, Derek, and Dan

Then – and I always enjoy the opportunity to do this – a couple of the guys from my Saturday morning men’s group joined me for what turned out to be a fairly tuneful rendition of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” in the early service (you can listen to that right after the sermon in the video).

But the highlight of the morning for me was the baptism at 11:15. There were two girls, part of a family that recently joined the church; love, emotion, and spiritual gravitas literally filled up the sanctuary.

So my Monday morning post today is a word of simple encouragement. We are called to be God’s light and love in this often dark and broken world. Our ministry is not criticism, or judgment – but reconciliation, healing, and grace.

Enjoy these images from Sunday. Then take a few minutes to listen to Rebekah’s message. Be inspired, be blessed, and be the presence of Christ in this world – DEREK

Redeemable Monday

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The Praise team lead in worship at WFPC

The best solution for your Monday morning problem is a great Sunday!!!

Happy Monday, friends! I know Monday mornings get a bad rap sometimes, but I’ve always believed they are eminently redeemable. Fact is, the best solution for your Monday morning problem is a great Sunday – and yesterday was no exception.

My wife, Rebekah – who also happens to serve as senior pastor at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church – has been preaching a series of messages based on The Fruit of the Spirit. The Good News of the Gospel is always encouraging, but the emphasis of Galatians Five seems exceptionally appropriate right now, when this particular set of attributes appears in scant supply in so much of day to day life.

I’ve posted the entire passage below my signature, but here are the key verses that speak so profoundly into today’s world:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. – Galatians 5:22-23

Kindness & Goodness:

This week we talked about “kindness and goodness,” and their necessary relationship to love. But, Rebekah pointed out, this is not a checklist of things we can “do” in order to become better people… instead they are evidences that we have a vital, engaged, deepening relationship with God. We don’t “do” kindness and goodness in order to earn status with God, they come from our transformed character as we walk more closely with our Lord.

We don’t “do” kindness and goodness in order to earn status with God, they come from our transformed character as we walk more closely with our Lord.

Rebekah challenged us to take a good look at the examples Paul lists that stand in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit. It’s fairly obvious what tends to come to the forefront when we’re not following Jesus.

The key here on a Monday morning, I believe, is to invite Jesus into every aspect of this new day, every plan for this new week. When we live as intentional companions of Jesus it’s no longer about us, but about what God will accomplish through us.

What an amazing, inspirational opportunity! No wonder Mondays look so good – DEREK 

Video ( a little shaky) of this weeks’s Praise Service – “Kindness & Goodness

“I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do. But if you are being led by the Spirit, you aren’t under the Law.The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires.

 “If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other.” Galatians 5:16-26

do you have a reputation for joy?

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Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord. – Philippians 4:4-7

Here’s the question: What can be done on a winter’s Saturday in North Carolina, when it’s barely fifty degrees, wet and muddy underfoot, and misty with the promise of rain? The answer – of course – is to get out there in the fresh air and play some golf.

img_7428While the little white ball only cooperated marginally, the day itself was perfect. There’s a stark beauty to the winterscape of bare trees on rolling hills, the grass mostly brown other than up on the greens.

I had to hit the ball high because it wasn’t going to roll in the soft, muddy ground. But the greens were running fast and pure, and the putts simply wouldn’t stop rolling. I hit the ball better than ever, then had no finesse around the greens and – consequently -scored poorly. But the game was all kinds of fun, the fellowship of good friends enjoyable, and the brisk air invigorating.

In my men’s Bible-study group Saturday morning we talked about the difference it would make to this world if all Christians lived their faith out loud, if people of faith freely embraced the deep joy of knowing God, and if followers of Jesus let the Good News spill out and all over, without being preachy but just letting love have its way.

What if all Christians lived their faith out loud? if people of faith freely embraced the deep joy of knowing God? and if followers of Jesus let the Good News spill out and all over, without being preachy but just letting love have its way?

img_7427I thought about that later that morning, as I drank in the goodness and celebrated creation. I hope my joy is evident, and I pray that some of it bubbles over and into the lives of others.

So enjoy these few pictures of a North Carolina winter’s day. I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to be living in this beautiful place, surrounded by such good people.

Peace, blessings, and the promise of more tomorrow – DEREK

 

 

Rebekah back in the pulpit – Everything we hoped for and then some!

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After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” – Mark 1:14-15

Well, Rebekah survived her first Sunday back in church! She not only preached twice, and taught the, I’m interested in becoming a disciple at WFPC class, but she talked a whole lot in between. So much for easing her way back in!

But I understand entirely. Ministry may be demanding and difficult, but for Rebekah it has also always been a joy. To be back, exactly where she belongs, exactly where the people want her to be, exactly where God has called her to serve, verged on pure bliss.

img_7348She told the congregation she had whittled the sermon down from, “A good two and a half hours of material!” Then she shared directly from her heart for thirty minutes or so – and her voice remained surprisingly strong.

By the time Rebekah had hugged the last neck after the second service, it was close to 1:00, and she was completely exhausted.

Pain? Yes. Voice still compromised? Absolutely. Not nearly her usual complement of energy? You bet. Still feeling weak? That’s right. Ready to continue giving it absolutely everything she’s got, and then some? You’d better believe it!

Christ’s Good News Message:

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Children’s moment with Katherine

Then, and here’s the most important thing about being back in church Sunday morning, Rebekah leveraged the opportunity (rapt attention from 400 people seriously happy to listen to her preach again) to talk about how important it is that we share Christ’s Good News message with the world.

Rebekah read passages from Mark 1 and Matthew 28, quoting both Christ’s first official words in ministry and his last official words. “Jesus launched his ministry by announcing that his purpose was to tell the Good News,” she said: “Now is the time! Here come’s God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news! Then he concluded his ministry by commissioning us for our purpose. And our purpose is to be disciples… in order to make disciples… to be disciples…”

“Now is the time! Here come’s God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”

Listen to Rebekah’s message via this live-stream connection.

Unbroken Chain of Leadership:

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ordination

Sunday morning we also ordained and installed a new class of deacons and elders –  chosen, set aside, trained, and charged with the responsibility of being leaders in our corporate life of discipleship.

The most moving part of this service is – always – when these men and women are surrounded by elders (past and present), who then place their hands on them and pray the prayer of ordination, connected one to another – and to the saints throughout history – in an unbroken chain of faith and leadership spanning 2,000 years of witness.

Yes, we’re excited about 2017. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for us, and for this wonderful church!

let the Great Adventure continue! – DEREK

 

Jesus doesn’t decorate – he recreates

dsc_0313“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”Jeremiah 29:11

Today’s post comes with a headache. We’re now two days into a new roof here at Maul-Hall, and the pounding just won’t stop.

Yesterday was all about tearing out of the old (1986) roof, including removal of compromised and rotted plywood, fascia, soffiting, and even some siding; then today is focused on getting in the new roof before this evening’s rain and then snowstorm. The garage, guttering, and more will have to wait for after the deep freeze.

NO LEAKS!

img_7267Here’s what’s interesting: our roof wasn’t leaking; we didn’t have any water coming into the attic; where were no tell-tale stains on the ceilings. Sure, we could see some rot on the fascia, but – to the casual observer – it looked like we should have managed to squeeze another few years of life from the existing shingles.

Underneath, however, it was another story. When the first layer came off I could see the rot. So far we’ve had to replace an additional six sheets of plywood. Some of the fascia was so soft you could stick a finger right through.

Yet, still, some roofers offered less costly quotes by saying, “We can save you money by laying your new roof right on top of this old one.” In other words, “I can make this look good from the street, cover up, and ignore the rot entirely…” Thanks but no thanks.

DEVOTIONAL:

dsc_0315The spiritual parallels here are impossible to ignore. This is why Jesus is in the re-creation, renovation, restoration, and rehabilitation business – not decorating. If we want to build – and maintain – an ongoing relationship with God that tells the world a worthwhile story, then we must be willing to let God enter our story, strip us down to the studs sometimes, and remodel us from the ground up.

Then – and this is a huge point at the beginning of a New Year – it’s critically important that we understand just how costly re-creation can be. Not just showing up at church with our shiny, happy faces on (although that’s certainly what attending church can do for our faces), but completely investing ourselves – time, talent, resources – in an ongoing commitment to following Jesus as intentional disciples.

We are called to renovation to the core. That’s where God begins the rest of the work. That’s why I am so optimistic that 2017 will be filled with more than promise, and adventure, but also with a future defined by hope.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

In love, and because of love – DEREK

 

Speak truth to power – but also to ourselves

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.” When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. – Matthew 2:1-3

FAITH AND POLITICS:

Today I’d like to take a bit of a left turn away from all the Christmas stuff, and take a moment to address the fuzzy boundary between the practice of faith and the political arena.

Yesterday I read a provocative article by Will Willimon (Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at the Divinity School, Duke University) that takes a more confrontational approach vis-à-vis the idea of being radical as followers of Jesus. Willimon asserts that – as Christ followers – it’s our responsibility to be subversive.

In many ways I agree. In fact, wrote a whole section on subversion in my 2010 book, The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian. “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations? (Colossians 2)”

At the same time, I’m not so sure that revolt is our calling as Christians. In his excellent blog, A Peculiar Prophet, Willimon effectively calls out the president elect. He references King Herod’s fear of the newborn King (Jesus), encouraging Christians to live out our faith in such a way as to make Herod tremble. Willimon writes:

I can’t join those Christians who respond to the current political climate with calls for civility, unity, harmony and healing of our nation. Matthew’s story says to me that ours may be time, not for pacification, but for resistance and revolt. We ought to be more fearful of missing out on God’s revolution than afraid of Herod’s reprisals.

I say that not simply because I think the Trump administration will be bad for America but because I’m a citizen of that baptized band who believe that the Babe of Bethlehem is the only true sovereign and that Jesus’s people, though marginalized and ridiculed by the powerful, are God’s politics. (Will Willimon, A Peculiar Prophet)

While I share some of Willimon’s concerns regarding the next four years, what he seems to be talking about suggests theocracy, and it’s my belief that little could be worse for freedom than blurring the lines of separation between church and state.

Of course I agree that, as believers, this “baptized band” who like to talk about the Kingdom of God, it’s critically important that we accept God as sovereign. Yes, Jesus is our King, and the Kingdom of God is our first allegiance – but we can’t forget that it was Jesus who said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:20-22). Here in the USA we live in a constitutional republic, and – like it or not – we have freely elected Donald Trump as leader.

In this contentious time I believe it is critical that we embrace rather than reject “civility, unity, harmony, and healing;” because our calling as emissaries of the Good News of Jesus is the same that led Jesus to ride into Jerusalem in peace, on a donkey, rather than mounting a warhorse, at the head of a revolt.

Yes, the Gospel “Proclaims freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, declares freedom for the oppressed, and announces the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4). But we are instructed and equipped to model and to live out, “Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

My take on this – and I’m thinking out loud here – is that our responsibility as Followers of the Living Way is to introduce people to Jesus, to shine the light of God’s love with clarity and integrity, and to work to effect positive change as Kingdom citizens – blessed to live in these United States and respectful, grateful, to be citizens of the USA.

img_5999But I do come to the end of this post in much the same place Willimon did his, when he wrote, “So, Troubled Christmas to you, Herod. Thanks for reminding us, without intending to do so, that the Babe at Bethlehem is not only gift, joy, but also threat.

This is going to be a challenging time for us as a nation and as a redeemed people. But I am a Child of Promise, committed to following Jesus, and I intend to be a source of light, not dissension – DEREK