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Showing posts from June, 2020

The Story of Sophie Scholl Pt. 3

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Sophie Scholl was a college student in Nazi Germany in 1942 who was executed along with her brother and one other friend for passing out anti-war leaflets.

At one time, she and her brother Hans were ardent supporters of the Nazis and members of the Hitler Youth.  But they began to realize how oppressive and brutal the Nazis were, and how that conflicted with their Christian beliefs.

Instead of turning a blind eye to all of the horrible actions of the Nazis like far too many Christians around them were doing (including church leaders, I might add), Sophie and Hans resisted.

And it cost them their lives...

Before she was captured, tried, and executed, Sophie kept a diary and was an avid letter-writer.   As she thought about the many Christians in Germany who, by their silence, were complicit in Nazi atrocities, Sophie wrote this:
Just because so many things are in conflict does not mean that we ourselves should be divided. Yet time and time again one hears it said that since we have been put…

The Story of Sophie Scholl Pt. 2

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Today I'm continuing a little mini-series in the Daily Devo that I started after reading about Sophie Scholl and the story of the White Rose Society during World War II.  

Sophie and her brother Hans joined with other German university students and at least one professor in 1942 to take a stand against Hitler and Nazi fascism.  She would eventually be executed for it. 

I've been thinking about the amount of courage it would have to take to do what they did--printing anti-war leaflets and distributing them during a time when devotion to the Nazi party and unwavering nationalism permeated all of German society. 

This is what Sophie Scholl had to say about her motivation: 
Isn't it bewildering … that everything is so beautiful, despite all the horrors that exist? Lately I've noticed something grand and mysterious peering into my sheer joy in all that is lovely — the sense of a Creator whom innocent creation worships with its beauty. Only man can be hateful or ugly, because he…

The Story of Sophie Scholl - Pt. 1

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Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were young, eager students in 1942 Germany. They had both been members of the Hitler Youth and were enthusiastic supporters of the German renewal promised by Hitler and the Nazi Party. 

But when they were confronted by the inhuman and barbaric way the Nazis were acting, and the widespread effects of fascism on their society, they became disillusioned, and then outraged.  

They formed a small group of like-minded friends, which included two medical students, a student of philosophy, and a fifty-year-old professor. 

They were all Christians from various traditions--Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox--and they called the name of their group The White Rose

They began printing eloquent and persuasive anti-Nazi leaflets, which they ingeniously spread throughout Germany but were finally apprehended by the Gestapo, tried in a mock trial, and then were executed moments after their trial ended.  

In a letter that she wrote before her trial, Sophie confessed the f…

The Sin Of Certainty

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There was a time when my faith got shaken so hard that I began to wonder if I had any left.  

It's not easy to have doubts about God, religion, and even the Church for any of us, but it's especially hard when you are a pastor.  

I remember driving to church early in the morning on Easter Sunday seven years ago when all that I'd been struggling with in terms of my own personal theology, world view, and vocation came home to roost.  

I was practicing my sermon in the car, which is what I did every Sunday back then during my 45-minute commute.  All of a sudden, I stopped in mid-sentence and said in a hoarse whisper... 
I don't know if I believe this anymore.  I managed to pull myself together enough to carry on that day.  I changed my sermon a bit so that I felt more authentic in what I was saying--a bit more true to the doubt, which had settled in my chest like a stone. 

The next few months were a trial. I decided to let myself sink to the bottom of my wondering, and allow th…

The Myth Of Winning

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I've been thinking about winning today.  So I decided to do what most of us do when we start thinking about some big idea or another. I went to the interwebs. 

When I  started searching on the interwebs to help me think about winning more deeply, all I discovered was a series of odd quotes, strange images and lots and lots of articles and links having to do with politics and sports.  

There were all kinds of articles about how winning isn't as important as doing your best, and just as many more about how you learn more from losing than winning.  

Those kinds of quotes are nice to have in your back pocket when you are consoling your kid after she lost a soccer game, or didn't get a part in the play.  You'll have to give me some grace for what I'm about to say next...  

We may use those quotes to console other people, but deep inside we pretty much think that they're bulls**t.  We might learn things by losing, but we sure as heck would rather be winning because that&…

Focus Week Two: The Only Thing To Fear

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Today we are going to continue the sermon series that we started a few weeks ago entitled "Focus: Take A Closer Look." 

The idea behind this sermon series is pretty simple---sometimes it's hard to see Jesus at work in the world, especially when things are uncertain and frightening. 

But when we take a closer look to truly get to know Jesus, we can learn to trust in what we can't see because of what we can see.

Today we are going to be talking about facing the fear of the unknown... and how knowing Jesus can help us do just that.

But first, we're going to talk about Coulrophobia.

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns.  It's a real thing. 

People who suffer from coulrophobia experiences the following symptoms when they are confronted by clowns:

nausea
panic
anxiety
sweating or sweaty palms
shaking
dry mouth
feelings of dread
difficulty breathing
increased heartbeat
intense emotions such as screaming, crying, or becoming angry at the sight of the object of fear, a clown for exampl…

Taking Down Old Walls

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I remember sitting in a seminary class eighteen years ago listening to a professor teach about what it took to properly "exegete" a passage of Scripture from the Bible. 

She talked about the various forms of critical methods that should be employed to gain the most from our biblical study.  These methods included historical, social, structural, form, textual, comparative, and theological criticism.  

At the time, I felt like someone was doing demolition work on my foundational beliefs.  It felt like an attack on all of the walls I had carefully erected over the years to keep out anything that didn't fit my neat theological blueprint.  

I angrily asked myself, "What about the plain meaning of the text?  What about just reading the Bible just to read the Bible?" 

The words of a former employer rang in my ears at that point.  "Hope you don't lose your salvation while you are at the seminary."  He told me ruefully.  

The funny thing was, I had undergraduat…

An Affirming Flame

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On September 1, 1939, the poet W.H. Auden was in Manhattan at the Dizzy Club on West 52nd Street when he heard of the outbreak of World War II.  

He was overcome by the sadness, uncertainty, and dread that washed over him, and he penned a poem that has become one of his most beloved---even though he was embarrassed by it. 

Here it is in part... 

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame. - September 1, 1939 - W.H. Auden

I've been thinking about this poem for a while, and abo…

Telling The Good News

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I've had this verse sitting in my notes for almost a year, and I read it about every other day, and try to connect with why I wrote it down in the first place.  

There was something about it that just struck me, and I've learned enough after writing daily devotions for the past five years to know that sometimes you have to sit with something until it either sinks in, or the time is right.  

I read the verse again today for the umpteenth time, and it finally clicked.  Here is the verse: 
7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.- 2 Cor 14:7-8, 11      I need to say that the Apostle Paul is talking about the act of "speaking in tongues" in…

Are You An Admirer or a Follower?

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There were a lot of people in the Gospel stories who admired Jesus.  But there were not that many who moved from being admirers to followers. 

Let me share two verses to illustrate this point... 
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. - John 6:66When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Matthew 28:17Aside from the rather ominous reference number for the John verse (6:66!), there's something about these verses that is kind of shocking, but you'd have to read the verses that led up to them to see it. 

So let me fill you in...  

The passage from John comes right after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand on the barren hillsides of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus gives a difficult teaching after the miracle about the commitment that it will take to be a follower rather than merely an admirer, and "many of his disciples turned back."  

And get this... The passage from Matthew comes right after Jesus appears to his foll…

How We Talk About God

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I've written about this before, but sometimes you just have to keep writing about something because it burns inside of you and maybe you didn't get all of it out the first time or two.

Or maybe there are people who still need to hear it, or maybe didn'thear it at all when you said it before. 

Here it is: 

I often will have conversations with people who will tell me that they don't believe in God.  Typically, I will tell them to describe the God they don't believe in, and then they will give me a list: 

They don't believe in a God who is judgemental, angry, and vengeful. They don't believe in a God who lets people die in horrible, tragic ways. They don't believe in a God who prefers some people over others. They don't believe in a God who leads people to ignore Science. There are other things to be sure, but those are the biggies. 

And this is the point where I share with them that I don't believe in the God they just described either.  This usually c…

What It Means To Repent

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When I was growing up, the churches we went to talked a lot about how people needed to repent of their sins and get their hearts right with God.  

I was told more than once during my teenage years that I needed to do both otherwise I was going to be headed down the primrose path to damnation.  

But what did Jesus say about repentance?  What did he mean when he called on people to "repent and believe?"  

In the Gospel of Mark the first words we hear Jesus speak are these:  
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” - Mark 1:15There's a couple of things that we need to note about this verse in order to get to the "thing underneath the thing."  

First, Jesus declares that the "kingdom of God has come near."  

Jesus declared over and again throughout his ministry that his purpose for being in the world was to declare the coming kingdom of God, to embody it, to demonstrate it, to show what it looks like w…