Category Archives: Social justice

Related to bringing fairness and goodness to the world because of a good and perfect God.

Thoughtful Thursday: An Almighty, Good God Allows an Evil World?

Human Brutality, one of the World's worst evils.

Here is a response to a difficult subject: Evil and human suffering. Your comments are valuable here. Thanks for reading.

The following are comments from a former classmate Marty Schoffstall as placed within the comment section on blog site of Theology Professor Ken Miller.

From Marty:

Dr. Dorsey [professor of Old Testament Studies] says that the story of the prophets (a rather large portion of the canon) looks like this:

(1) God Is Allowing Wickedness…
For a season…. and the wicked to succeed in their opposition to Him to temporarily triumph over Him (and over those loyal to Him). He may allow them to spurn Him, mock Him, humiliate him, or persecute those who remain loyal to Him.

(2) God is redirecting their evil….
to accomplish his own good purposes. The deeds of the wicked play into God’s hands and are used by God to further his own semi-secret agenda. [During this time when evil appears to prevail], God’s children are encouraged to: (a) Trust God, (b) Wait patiently for the time when God will intervene and right all wrongs, (c) Remain loyal and obedient to him.

(3) Finally, God dramatically intervenes…
to defeat his enemies. God is vindicated the wicked are punished; and those loyal to God are rewarded.

Now as my old friend friend Dr. Cunningham from UVA who was a very competent Roman Catholic Theologian on the side used to say:

“…mercy and justice are always in tension. We want mercy for ourselves, and justice for the other…”

Eventually we grow a little wiser and want some mercy for the other as well; however, we can never give up the concept of justice completely. Some decisions are so revolting (like genocide) that they must rigorously opposed, some people are so broken (like serial killers, serial kidnappers, etc) that we invest enormous time and money in the criminal justice system to stop them, they are horribly corrosive to society, they must be stopped.

How do you respond?

TUESDAY 5 Minute Retreat. (2 of 5)

Thank you for coming here. Ed Cyzewski invited me to carrying on with his 5 minute Retreat series, “with my own spin”. This is day 2.

Let’s enjoy a time and space set aside for refreshment. (Please feel free to comment anytime. Sharing your experience is valuable for all of us.)

First,
prepare yourself to take a short rejuvenating break, by eliminating potential distractions. (Silence your phone, computer, shut your door, etc.)

Now, fold your hands. That’s right interlace your fingers as you clasp them together.

As you look at your hands, either your left or your right thumb will be on top. Many people hold their left thumb on the top. Which is it for you? (you can let us know in the comment section)

Now, re-clasp your fingers and thumbs so the opposite thumb is on the top.

It will feel unfamiliar, and perhaps “wrong” or slightly uncomfortable. (You can describe what it feels like to you in the comment section)

With your hands this unfamiliar way, take 3-5 deep inhales and exhales, slowly.

Think about the habits and routines in your life that you never really notice. Like… Tying your right shoe first, or sliding into your driver’s seat a certain way, preparing your coffee, brushing you teeth, or something more important, like checking your email first thing in the morning, or interacting with your kids.

Could this be a day where you can be extra aware of your daily habits? Today, could you survey all you do, and see if you want to change some things up?

Unfold your hands and fold them the uncomfortable way–again.

Pray about what make of the details in your life, that keep you from growing, or that keep you where you are, and not where you should be.

Do you need to forgive someone? Ask God to help you. Rely on his strength to forgive that person, through you, (with his strength) even if their are no warm feelings toward them, yet, or maybe ever.

Unforgiving habits are ruts we should overcome.

Try to fold and unfold your hands several times today to remind you of the habits you are in, and the ones that should change.

Stretch out your hands, arms, and body, and let out a big breath.

Take on the day!

Thanks for sharing this with me. May you be blessed.

 

MLK: Love Your Enemies

 

Pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

The following is an excerpt of the last portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech entitled,

Loving Your Enemies
November 17 1957

…And our civilization must discover that. Individuals must discover that as they deal with other individuals. There is a little tree planted on a little hill and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came in this world. But never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history. Oh no, it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.

So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, “I love you. I would rather die than hate you.” And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university
of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.

Oh God, help us in our lives and in all of our attitudes, to work out this controlling force of love, this controlling power that can solve every problem that we confront in all areas. Oh, we talk about politics; we talk about the problems facing our atomic civilization. Grant that all men will come together and discover that as we solve the crisis and solve these problems—the international problems, the problems of atomic energy, the problems of nuclear energy, and yes, even the race problem—let us join together in a great fellowship of love and bow down at the feet of Jesus. Give us this strong determination. In the name and spirit of this Christ, we pray. Amen.

[full speech here.]

Please leave your comments. Thank you.

Explaining ‘Walk Humbly’ (Micah 6:8)

Here’s a bit of a excerpt from a paper I’m finishing right now. I would love your comments. 

-lisa

The Rich Language of “walk humbly”

In verse eight, it is fascinating how God uses the term (we read in English) “walk right” or “walk humbly.” In this apex verse, God asks his people to act as he does, and “live carefully” (Barker, 114). To walk with God implies constant prayer and watchfulness, and possession of a familiar yet “humble” communion with God. It includes both passive and active obedience towards God, their Sovereign (Fausset). While actions show the condition of the heart, worship is the outward expression of humility. One must love God and neighbor thoroughly in word and deed. For God, this renders sacrifices as secondary, or even unnecessary (Smith, 51). This Just God takes his people into kind consideration through protective laws, and in honoring them (among many other Just things). In that fashion, he expects that Israel’s “living carefully” includes Social Justice and true religion (113). Like the command of Deuteronomy 10:12-13, the people should act out of justice, not just talk about justice (115). Through the method of God’s prophetic message, God reveals the history of his Just and Merciful actions toward Israel. God asks of them that which stem from Justice–the attribute–that applies directly to God himself.

Bibliography:

Barker, Kenneth L. and Waylon Bailey. Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. The American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman, 1999.

Fausset, A.R. Robert Jamieson, and David Brown. The Book of Micah:
Commentary: Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871. Public domain. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/jamieson/jfb.i.html. Accessed 2/20/10.

Smith, Ralph L. Micah-Malachi. Word Biblical Commentary 32. Waco: Word, 1984.

Coping with Pain (The ironic strategy)

 

Why are we so often alone in our pain?

 

There is a terrible irony in the typical human’s response to pain.

Emotional, physical, or mental suffering is most often considered personal, or about one’s self, and so it is dealt with on one’s own.

A suffering person, ready to divulge their pain, may say, “This is hard to say out loud,” or “This is difficult to share with people I don’t know that well.” The pain has been internalized, and taken in, stewed.

We all do it. But now I ask “why?” Habit maybe, yet we do terrible jobs of healing ourselves. Our wounds fester and putrefy.

Outside perspectives, and the gracious love of community offer healing we can never find alone.

I wonder if the broken-ness of this world makes us retract. Maybe a flight/flight instinct is at first to simply be self-preservative. In reality, we are not alone, our pain is not unique. But, the shock, and upset sends us into hiding, or a kind of “hunker in the bunker” mode. The bitter stab, the disappointment, or the awfulness of suffering makes us fear, and mistrust, so we give ourselves no option but to withdraw, and go inward, taking the pain with us. It rarely finds a good exit. Then we lick our festering wounds, in solitude, even as we may curl back unnoticed, behind the dumpsters of the very hospital (a situation) that could being healing, comfort, and hope. Don’t we?

Could pain really be something different altogether, and we might just be misapprehending it far too much?

                         Could it be a way to lead us home?

                                       Is it a way to lead us into each others arms, once again?

Those who have been calmed and gained healing, find that healthy community is the surest way to growth, start invigoration, locate meaningful purpose, and heal hurts. How is it that so many of us suffer quietly, and alone, in the margins?

How very strange that together, we suffer alone! The irony is horribly striking. How awful too, I think, that we’ve also missed something big about others who suffer. We too often shoot our wounded, by condemnation or inattention. Or push them out, somehow, into further isolation. How coarse. How morbid. The God who welcomes the outcast, the wounded, the sick, and the sinner, mingles with them, pulls them in, and is close enough to touch their afflictions, and pass them bread.

Let us think of ways to come out of our own sufferings into the light and healing nature of community with others, God has provided. Beyond that, let us reach out to those isolated, or away from us–those silently hurting. Let us understand that they will try to handle their pain themselves, but they cannot. We can kindly be there, to hear them, offer friendship, and love. But most of all, with or without words, reassure them that no one suffers alone, not any more.

Do you have comments about suffering or isolation?

Please contribute.

If you take this to heart, and do something about it, please share that with us. Thank you.

Prayer: Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Christian Man of God: Martin Luther King Jr.

 

A  Prayer by Martin Luther King, Jr.

O God, our heavenly Father, we thank thee for this golden privilege to worship thee, the only true God of the universe. We come to thee today grateful that thou hast kept us through the long night of the past and ushered us into the challenge of the present and the bright hope of the future. We are mindful, O God, that man cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of things and humanity is not God.

Bound by our chains of sin and finiteness, we know we need a savior. We thank thee, O God, for the spiritual nature of man. We are in nature but we live above nature. Help us never to let anyone or any condition pull us so low as to cause us to hate. Give us the strength to love our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us.

We thank thee for thy Church, founded upon the Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon thee. Then, finally, help us to realize that man was created to shine like the stars and live on through all eternity.

Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace, help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all of God’s children — Black, White, Red, and Yellow — will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and of our God, we pray. Amen.

Source: Harold A. Carter’s Prayer Tradition of Black People (1985)

“Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

I remember the time that MLK day became a national holiday. My mother had just remarried, and I wasn’t too fond of my stepfather, at the time, for various reasons. Namely because it meant my parents could not reunite. Jim got the day off work on this first MLK day, but he was disgruntled.
“Martin Luther King (Jr) doesn’t deserve a holiday, he was just a trouble-maker,” said Jim.
Needless to say, this infuriated me, and I liked my mother’s husband even less. I realized Jim didn’t see Martin Luther King as a non-violent Christian brother-in-Christ who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs, and for standing up for equality, justice, harmony, and God’s love to reign.
Finally, I swallowed my anger, and I said, “Just be thankful that he gave you the day off.”
To that he commented, “Yeah, I guess that’s the good part.” Each year, this conversation would take place, in some form, but thankfully Jim grew less hostile, overall.
One of my favorite things about MLK is that he lived out his worldview which was completely sold out to God, as the center of reality, and God’s ways (love.) To him, this was the answer, the remedy for human weakness, and injustice. It was the way toward redemption, peace, and equality this country was supposedly founded on. His Christian beliefs were thoroughly sincere and ruled his heart, life, and actions. That is inspirational to me, and something to celebrate!

What reflections do you have about MLK, his prayer posted above, or the holiday day we have to celebrate his life?

Featured Blogger: Matt Appling!

I’m so grateful that Matt was willing to participate with me here at this blog.

I’ve been visiting and enjoying Matt’s increasingly popular blog, thchurchofnopeople.com for about 6 months. Last year he was awarded his Masters of Divinity at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is currently the lead teaching pastor of Levi’s House -Kansas City, MO, and is also the co-founder SaveAfrica.com (an organization that brings the gospel and builds schools in the Sudan.)

I sent Matt a few questions, to which he responded. I’ll share those, and what I came up with as my replies, as if to recreate that we were chatting fire side over some hot cocoa at a ski lodge. Try, if you will, to picture Matt in a white, cozy. cable knit sweater. 

(me) Wow! I love this fireplace. Anyways, let’s get started. So, Matt, what is your blog about and what drives you to do it? 

 
(Matt) My blog’s “official” description is that it contains all the sermons I would give if no one showed up to church. That is, when it comes to Christianity, ministry, politics, or life, I try to speak my mind in an unvarnished way. Most of the time, the topics of have been random, but all of a sudden, a bunch of similar topics began stacking up in my mind, thus January has become “Doubt Month,” and it’s been pretty amazing, if I do say so myself…mostly for the comments that have built the conversation. 

I started the blog because I was inspired by all the ‘big’ blogs I was discovering, and there’s nothing better than trying to stand toe-to-toe with your heroes. It would be better if I could try to do that and not fail, but since then, I’ve discovered that I’ll never stand toe-to-toe with them. But I have a modest audience who give great comments, and I’ve been at it for over a year now. That’s an addicting combination. 

It does seem like you take the gloves off sometimes, but it’s really refreshing and challenging. Writing like that, for all the world to see is a risk, for sure–much like that sweater you’re wearing. But it’s gutsy, and I appreciate that!


Do people misunderstand you, and your intentions? 

 
I think so. My wife says I’m an “acquired taste,” whatever that means. I think it means I’m an “onion,” with lots of “layers,” or some silly produce-related analogy like that. When it comes to blogging, people have certain expectations from Christians. Well, I’m not particularly theological. I’m not really flamboyant with my faith. And sarcasm seems to be Kryptonite to some really “nice” Christians. So people don’t know how to react to me…or I’m just really bad at blogging. 

So some guy new reader can’t get all the personal info he wants just by reading my blog, so he sends me an email asking what my “stance” is on the “millennium,” which seems about as out of place as asking what kind of underwear I prefer, and I didn’t even know I was required to be standing on it.

Sometimes when people say “acquired taste,” it’s sort of a nice way of saying, “hard to stomach.” (lol) I’ve noticed, as well, that some people/Christians ask those types of questions hoping to size others up to plop them in a category, maybe it’s “wicked or good,” or “of the devil or of God,” or doctrinally like them or wrong etc. (and their belief HAS to be the one that’s spot on, of course). It’s almost like they don’t know how to figure anything out, unless they figure you out first, and “discern you.” It’s funny to me, because if you know who God is, and are walking with him, the bulk of the rest of it falls into place. Those questions have (at least) a streak of fear in them I think.

What do you wish Christians would understand better? 

 
Lots of times, I’m writing about the ridiculous things we as Christians and people just accept at face value. That’s the problem with people I think. Lucky for me, it creates a lot of blog fodder. 

I guess that’s a good lead in to pop in your blog address again, here.

What ministry is closest to your heart? 

My house church. (www.levishousechurch.com) I guard it closely. It’s the best dang little group of people I’ve ever been a part of. We’re sending a missionary from our own little congregation all the way to Sudan next month to preach and find a site to build a school, designed and funded by us. (saveafrica.com) 

Most people would never give a house church a chance. I call it an experiment in doing more…with less. And it’s working. 

I just love hearing that. It’s great for people to remember that serving God as a church body, being missional, or being the hands and feet of Jesus does NOT take a big church budget, a large facility, or hefty church membership rolls.

I think Levi’s House is just ahead of the curve on this one. I’ll be checking in to see how you are doing things, and what you are doing over there, and I hope others will be inspired by your updates as well.

Well, this whole time, we’ve been awfully serious. I simply love your sense of humor. Your guest post on stuffchristianslike.net had me rolling on the floor laughing, (or for those readers only familiar with text-speak: ROTFL!) What I really want to know is, if you had the chance, what VeggieTales character would you be? 

That’s a tough one. Which one is the best arm wrestler…because that would not be me. Well, I guess none of them have arms. Wait, how do the vegetables do anything without hands? No, no, this can’t be right. Okay, I guess I’d be one of the Rapscallions. That’s a name that inspires fear and respect, right?

Matt, you are a man of many layers. This has been really nice. Thanks for participating! Now is your mug of cocoa ready for a refill? …