Tag Archives: hope

History Brings Hope: The Church in Times of Crisis, Part 1

As we weather the coronavirus, we must be vigilant and wise, while retaining helpfulness to our neighbors and hopefulness to a world awash in fear. This is a moment to be thankful for local churches and charities as people under economic and emotional pressure experience the weight of very trying circumstances.

It is right to lament and repent for the moral scandals that often plague religious communities. Today’s 24/7 news cycle brings negative news with an immediacy that is jarring…and helps us forget all the good things that are happening through the efforts of millions of caring people, including people in our local churches.

In this essay, I want to recount some bright moments when the Church expressed her best virtues and served sacrificially, even when under great duress. Generosity is baked into the gospel and the mission of the Church. The Apostle Paul spent years evangelizing Jews and Gentiles – and he called upon the non-Jewish believers in Christ to sacrificially give toward their Jewish brothers and sisters suffering under a severe famine in Judea (Acts 11-20; 2 Corinthians 8-9). In addition to examples of Jesus and biblical texts extolling helping others, here are some heroic moments that can inspire us in our current situations:

249-250 AD: Emperor Decius declares an empire-wide assault on Christians, including demanding that they sacrifice to Caesar, and the destruction of buildings and libraries. At the same time, a serious plague came upon several places in the empire (coincidence?). The governors charged with carrying out this evil edict petitioned the Emperor and requested a delay in persecution. Why? Because it was Christians that were offering care and comfort to plague victims! Even under severe pressure, they were caring for all, enemy and friend alike.

440s and 450s: As Attila the Hun and other outsiders carve up the Western Roman Empire, it is the Church that maintains order and distributes food amidst the conquests. The Popes negotiated with the conquerors and ameliorated (in places) some of the atrocities and enable food to get to the populace.

6th and 7th centuries: The Benedictine Order and other monastic groups are doing much more than praying. They are establishing the first hostels for visitor, hospices for the dying, and rudimentary hospitals for the sick. They also add to the overall economy with sustainable agriculture, waterwheel technology and generosity.

12th-15th centuries: Long before the Reformation, Roman Catholic scholars are teaching the goodness of free trade and natural pricing in contrast to the mercantile controls governments often placed on goods. The University of Salamanca in Spain led the way in affirming what we now know as the principles of ethical free enterprise, in service of, “The brotherhood of Mankind.”

The Reformation (16th century): We see a leap forward in affirming “ordinary” work as equally important to God as “religious” labor. Without denigrating the importance of sacerdotal leadership, all Protestant streams affirm the priesthood of all believers (see Exodus 19:6 and I Peter 2:9-10), offering one’s daily efforts as worship before God. And this led to unprecedented expansions in charitable giving, entrepreneurship, and economic change.

In the next essay, we will examine the last five centuries of goodness through the Church, without sugarcoating the historical challenges. May we be inspired in our context toward creativity and innovation.

Love During a Pandemic: A Special Message of Hope

Dear Friends,
We are praying for God’s peace and wisdom for all as we endure a very challenging season. This is a moment for hopeful realism, for faithfulness under pressure, sober thinking, and eternal hope. I encourage us all to read Psalm 46 and Hebrews 12 – in these “shaking” moments, God is working, refining our character and allowing the Church to be a beacon of spiritual power and sanity.

Here is a special work by Kathy, entitled, “You See Broken; I see Mended” The “I” is the Lord, who brings the power of the Cross to bear in every situation.

This painting was being finished with another theme – that of heavenly power and purity. In the process of moving it, it was torn. At first, it felt like everything was ruined…but Kathy saw an opportunity and wove a cross into the painting. One of God’s names in Yahweh-Rapha, the Lord our Healer. The Hebrew term for healing includes the image of mending by stitching. God love to take the scars and tears and create a wellspring of compassion and wisdom. 

Friends, today we have an opportunity to share faith, hope, and love in a world paralyzed by fear. Yes, we need to follow sound guidelines and navigate health concerns with wisdom. But we have many channels open – from personal conversations to virtual communication. Above all, we can affirm and demonstrate hope and share Christ with all around us. We are not immune to suffering; however, we serve a Lord who suffered and triumphed over all sin and sickness, sorrow and sadness and in his resurrection, Jesus offers a preview of the glorious future awaiting all who place their trust in him! (Hebrews 2-5; 11-13)

Let’s stay faithful to our local church in this moment. We do this by attending the online services, generously giving, and being available to help those in need. Our pastors and communities need us more than ever. Let’s stay faithful in prayer and support of the ministries we care about. These organizations are serving sacrificially and our generosity matters.

Understanding this hour: the spiritual warfare is real!

As we grow in character, experience new depths of community, and work for the common good, it is important we remember that we have an adversary, who, unlike our wonderful Lord, is out to deceive, dehumanize, destroy, discourage, and distort present circumstances. Our best posture in humble confidence in our Advocate, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings. We combat our enemy with love and truth: exchanging deception for integrity, dehumanization for affirming God’s image in all, destruction with creativity, combatting discouragement with hope, and confronting distortion with pure hearts and skillful hands, bringing beauty to brokenness.

May the Lord bring his comfort and peace to you during this unique Lenten Season.

Reflections and Laments from Dallas, Texas (July, 2016)

Dallas tragedy.
No words.
I am weeping over the historical and systemic injustices still rampant in our land.
As a citizen grateful for first responders and law enforcement, I am weeping for families left desolate.
I am weeping bitter tears over the extremists that gain from inflamed tensions while people of conscience of all colors and classes seek some way forward.

Since the loss of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and the polarization of both political parties, we have lost the moral and spiritual center that grounds peace, reconciliation and shalom.

There is hope: authentic, deep, moral and spiritual awakening rooted in humility and sacrificial love.

There is hope: when we begin with the infinite value of every person and the dignity and equality that flow from this conviction.

There is hope: when we desire peace for our posterity over the passions of this moment.

Weeping and hopeful today.