Be Encouraged

Happy (Ascension) Friday:

Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who
mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.
If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.

Jesus, Luke 6:27f

Most know that Christ commands us to love our enemies. Less attention is paid to the ways he told us to do so. Some of the specifics seem reasonable – i.e., Do good to, bless, pray for, etc. These don’t cost much, and they likely make us look magnanimous, so we can comply. But, turn the other cheek? Are we expected to ask the person that just punched us in the left jaw if they’d like to take a swing at our right? Walk a second mile? Give them the shirt off our back? We’re talking metaphorically here, right? No. Christ’s life suggests he was serious. Has it cost you anything to follow Jesus lately? Are you ready to pay a higher price tomorrow?

BTW: Though I think Dorothy Sayers was on to something suggesting that God has endured three great humiliations – the stable, the cross, and the church! – the Bride of Christ has done more right than she gets credit for. Because my defenses of the Church have used contemporary examples, let me direct you to two from the early church. In The Epistle of Diognetus, a 2nd Century writer said this of Christians, “They are evil spoken of and yet are justified; they are reviled and bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honor; they do good yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life.” There is also Emperor Julian’s famous 4th Century rant. Furious at the number of Romans deciding to follow Jesus, he complains that Christians are winning people over by “serving strangers, especially the poor.” He later says, “It is a scandal, that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans (his term for Christians) care not only for their own poor but for ours as well.”

Be Encouraged: 1) Dr. Molly Worthen – PhD from Yale, noted scholar at UNC/Chapel Hill, and culture and religion contributor for the NYT – recently came to faith in Christ. In this 90 minute interview with Collin Hansen, she shares her ironic and encouraging journey to Christ; 2) I recently heard from a pastor who had a moral failure and had to step away from ministry ten years ago. The pain and fallout from his sin was significant, but his repentance was real, which allowed the restoration process to work. His note of thanks to those of us involved in his restoration is one of the more encouraging things I’ve received recently.

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Without Comment: 1) According to Google Analytics, 32% of internet porn is viewed by women; 2) 20% of American 30-year-olds have damaged their hearing, thereby fueling steep growth in the sales of hearing protection and hearing aids; 3) Studies out of Denmark suggest that cannabis now causes 20% of the new cases of schizophrenia in young men; 4) According to Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, loneliness poses health risks as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes/day; and 5) In spite of investing $200B on prenatal policies between 2006 and 2021, South Korea’s birth rate fell from 1.1 to .81.

Resources: Last weekend I opened my sermon – which was preached at High Point Church in Madison, Wisconsin – with a 90 second clip from Top Gun (the one filmed when Cruise was 24, not the one filmed when Cruise was in his late 50s but looked and acted like he was 24). I did so to argue that the Church should resemble an aircraft carrier not a cruise ship, battle ship or floating hospital. You can listen to the sermon here. Click here to listen to my interview with Gerard Long about his journey with suffering (as always, his energy, hope and joy are infectious); and click here to listen to my interview with Chris Ganski on the Day of Ascension.

Quotes Worth Requoting: 1) If natural selection means the survival of the fittest and the sacrifice of the weakest, Christianity is about the sacrifice of the Fittest (Jesus Christ) for the survival of the weakest (us). George Scrivener; 2) There is a lot of practical atheism out there. That is, people who say they believe God exists but behave as if he does not. Scott Chapman

Prayer for a Leader: A friend ran across this prayer in his father’s papers. His Dad – an Episcopal priest – had drafted this prayer to pray at the installation of the church’s bishop in CA in the 80s. I suspect you know someone you could pray this for. Keep him in good health. Sustain him through times of testing. Sharpen his mind to cut clearly and cleanly through complicated issues. Enlarge his patience to deal with fools. Quicken his appreciation for genuine sanctity. May his wisdom be appreciated, and his mistakes not counted too heavily against him. Preserve his integrity so that even his mistakes will be honest errors. Reward his efforts with successes, and may he be honored for them. Keep him humble, despite success, and everlastingly grateful for your merciful love.

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WOTW: A reader made a “Coronation Day” nomination of spiffingly splendid. While it sounds like something HRH might say – and while I am aware that C.S. Lewis argued that “Where men are forbidden to honor a king, they honor millionaires, athletes or film stars instead.” – I think spiffingly splendid is spiffingly awful. I’m also dismissing wimmin – which a policy guide at the University of Texas (Austin) briefly advanced as a preferred way to refer to women (it allowed you to mention women without mentioning men). I am giving honorable mention to CUD (Cannabis Use Disorder), which seems like something worth making note of. And I’m giving actual WOTW honors to book banning. FWIW, I am not selecting book banning because the American Library Association issued their annual shout out against censorship. I am listing it so I can remind everyone that book banning is what happens when the government makes it illegal to own certain books. It is not what happens when parents argue that certain books are not age appropriate for children. Finally, bespokemakes a return appearance. In an apparent effort to join Fifth-Third Bank and Ruth’s Chris Steak House for enterprises with baffling/bizarre/quirky names, I saw that Bespoken Cuisine recently opened in Chicago. One can only hope that their food is more tasteful than their name.

I stand corrected: I have long maintained that the word retirement is not in the Bible. It turns out it is. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.’” So, Levites over the age of fifty are invited to step down. The rest of us – including those who no longer need to work to support themselves – are encouraged to find ways to serve others.

Closing Prayer: O gracious God, I am fully aware that I am unworthy. I deserve to be a brother of Satan and not of Christ. But Christ, your dear Son died and rose for me. I am his brother. He earnestly desires that I should believe in him, without doubt and fear. I need no longer regard myself as unworthy and full of sin. For this I love and thank him from my heart. Praise be to the faithful Savior, for he is so gracious and merciful as are you and the Holy Spirit in eternity. Amen. (Martin Luther 1483-1546)


Happy (Ascension) Friday: Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Jesus, Luke 6:27f Most know that Christ commands us to love […]