As Peter was waiting for lunch, he slipped into a trance and saw a sheet drop from the sky full of unclean animals. The image must have startled him—Why was a good Jew like him having a filthy dream like this? What he heard next shocked him: “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.” “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean” (Acts 10:13-14).
Recently, I took a 17-hour road trip and my family and a foreign exchange student we were hosting were also along for the ride. To save time, we attempted to cut through a bordering country. We were turned away at the border, however, because our exchange student did not possess the right paperwork. Good security resulted in bad news for us. Disappointed, but undeterred, we took the long way to our destination.
Many years ago, it was assumed that women could not play the French horn better than men. Their thoughts were challenged and disproved, however, when Julie Landsman auditioned for the role of principal French horn for the renowned Metropolitan Opera. During her audition, Landsman sat and played behind a screen—and played beautifully. After being declared the winner of the lead chair based on sound alone, she stepped out from behind the screen. The judges gasped! They didn’t expect to see a woman.
A few years ago, a prominent Christian group removed the word Christ from its organization’s name. The organization defended its name change, citing research which revealed that 20 percent of non-Christians were alienated and offended by the name of Christ. So they stated that they were merely looking for a name that would make the organization more effective in sharing the gospel.
Theologians are debating what the apostle Paul meant when he said that “we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law” (Romans 3:28). Traditional Protestants follow Martin Luther’s insight that sinners like us can’t do enough good works to satisfy a holy God. We become right with God by putting our faith in Jesus. When we trust Christ, God our Father performs what Luther called the “joyous exchange,” placing the guilt of our sin upon Jesus and counting His righteousness as our own.
How does a cute, little baby grow up to become the face of evil? How does an Austrian boy become Adolf Hitler or a son of privilege turn into Osama bin Laden? And what makes one group of people slaughter members of a neighboring group? How could they possibly think that was a good idea?
A pastor and his congregation, serving in an area known for addicts, alcoholics, and prostitutes, have prayed an interesting prayer for many years: Lord, send us the people nobody else wants. That prayer has been answered, for more than 800 church attendees are now involved in recovery programs designed to help them break free from destructive lifestyles. Recently, the pastor added this phrase to the end of his prayer: . . . and nobody else sees. He says, “[These people] are often overlooked. . . . But after all, as Jesus put it, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do’ ” (Matthew 9:12).
In 1857, a few white members of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) in South Africa asked permission to celebrate the Lord’s Supper separately from their black brothers and sisters. The General Assembly believed their request was wrong, but acquiesced “due to the weakness of some.” This concession soon became the norm. And this racism prompted the unwanted black Christians to leave and start their own churches. So the South African church, divided by race, eventually became a vocal supporter of apartheid. In 1924, the DRC argued that the races must remain separate, for “competition between black and white on economic levels . . . leads to poverty, friction, misunderstanding, suspicion, and bitterness.”
Amos is one of the most intriguing biblical characters, tucked away in the neglected corner of the Minor Prophets. I’ve struggled with the prophet partly because my son Seth once had a stuffed monkey named Amos. My main difficulty, however, has been that Amos is true to his calling as a prophet.
During the US civil rights struggle, lovingkindness required the demolishing of unjust laws, but it also required that individuals take deliberate action. It was not enough for whites to take down the “Whites Only” signs or allow blacks to vote. True welcome and relationship required whites to move toward friendship; and it also required blacks to embrace (again and again) the risk of stepping into friendships within contexts where they had been wronged and excluded. It required love in action.
The High Five Choir is not your typical choir. Teens with developmental disabilities such as Autism, Down syndrome and Noonan syndrome have banded together and perform with a group of disability-free classmates. They don’t always sing in tune or move together in perfect unison. But the High Five Choir is so inspiring that they receive standing ovations during every performance.
This week a court in the US will hear the case of a former “team lead” NASA scientist who—according to the evangelical plaintiff—was fired due to his belief and promotion of intelligent design. Why do you feel that belief in intelligent design and a Creator is apparently not tolerated in many academic and scientific research arenas?