Jesus is Better than a Band Aid!

The Power of Love versus the Love of Power is the perennial problem of our world, as stated by British Bishop N.T. Wright of the Anglican Church. He is an excellent author whose book Simply Good News just came out. It is amazing. Its message is similar to his book How God became King. Both books are so accessible and add such clarity in a world that sees more gray than black and white. His premise is that Jesus has been made King through the power of love, not the love of power.

He makes salient points about the contrast between the split-world understanding of creation by neo-Deists who want to promote the relegation of a powerless God to the nether regions of some far-off heaven, and the “Sweet Jesus” theocrats who not only want Jesus on the throne of their hearts, but in every sphere of life as well. The former group is so earthly minded that God is left out of all decision-making, while the latter group is so focused on having Jesus in their hearts and getting to heaven that they’re so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good!

Tom Wright wants us to see Jesus and his Kingdom as a present reality that is truly Good News, not just the pabulum most churches offer through “good advice.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ turns the kingdoms of this world on their heads, defeats evil, death, and oppression, and asks all Christ-followers to join this grand project of deliverance in the here and now. Secularists are more than willing to believe in progress even though anyone with good sense knows that we’re heading in the opposite direction.

“Gress” is the Latin word for “step,” so “progress” means to “step forward,” “digress” means to “side step,” or go in at least two directions, “regress” means to step backwards, and, interestingly enough, “congress” means to “step together.” How’s that working for the US Congress? The US congress hardly ever steps together on any one issue. Our red state vs. blue state world pits people against people, along with religions, ideologies, theologies, and about every other divisive matter.

Tom Wright writes in a most pithy way about the bifurcation that we all experience in this world of opposing opinions. Two perspectives are central in our world conflicts. One either claims God has “left the building,” or one is only interested in the things of earth enough so that we’ll get our ticket punched for heaven. Wright splits the difference between these opposites, and proclaims a Jesus who radically alters our current lives for his Kingdom here. Certainly, he doesn’t give up on the Biblical claim of an after-life, but declares that real “Good News,” the kind of Good news that forever changed the course of human history, did so not because of its otherworldly focus but precisely because it lived the real power of Jesus’ love in the mire and muck of humanity’s existence!

Listen to his statement that says it much better than I can attempt, “Part of the good news in our own culture is that this split-level world doesn’t have the last word. There is an integrated world-view, and it’s available right now. The trouble is that both the secularists and fundamentalists are committed to not noticing it. The secularist lives downstairs and has locked the door at the bottom of the stairs (to keep God out). The fundamentalist live upstairs, though he constantly shouts down the stairs to tell people they should be coming up to join him.” Oh, too accurate!

Jesus, the God who has become King, is not dependent on human progress. So-called human progress gave us two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and more efficient ways to communicate our disdain for each other. Videos of beheadings and fiery deaths remind us that we humans cannot solve our own problems. We can make advances in medical science and educational instruction, but one cannot root out our core problem through progress. If we expect the Lord’s Prayer to come true, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” then we need to confess and believe this extraordinary news: His kingdom has come. At least it has been inaugurated until its ultimate and complete fulfillment. In the mean time we cannot think that being civilized people will save us from self-destruction. Using good advice is helpful, but who believes that “playing nice” will bring justice for all and make the world “a better place?” No, we believe that Jesus alone conquered sin and death and that reality redirects, sets right, transforms, and redeems the people and institutions of this world. Through Jesus the whole creation finds an answer for its groans.

The question raised by N.T. Wright’s Simply Good News is whether we will be a church that offers good advice to people on how to live, behave, and get along or whether we will embrace the sheer glory of Jesus Christ, our only Savior, and not only ours but the Savior of the world. If we do the latter we will experience the birth pains of God’s kingdom, the already and not yet, his mighty will done on earth. The church hands out good advice all the time like a band aid on a gaping mortal wound when it is high time for it to proclaim GOOD NEWS: Jesus wins! Not this side, that side, progressive or traditional, red state or blue. Until this planet reflects Isaiah 11:1-10 and trumpets Psalm 96 we will flounder after this and that “solution” to what ails us when the Good News has already dwelt among us. Let him who has an ear, hear! Good news that depends on us and what we do or think is neither good nor news. It has been tried before and found wanting. I think that it’s time to believe and live the statement, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” Jesus is better than a band aid!

Jesus Heals

Great News and Responsibility

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I’m a happy Dad right now. Life isn’t perfect but Narcie just called me with her doctor’s report from the latest MRI. Those of you in the loop know that on June 11 of this year she had to have brain surgery on an oligodendroglioma tumor. They didn’t get it all, and we have been waiting with hope for the 3 month check-up on its growth.

In case I don’t pass this on correctly, please check her blog. The tumor HAS NOT grown since the surgery. Something is still there, a fuzzy line, scar tissue, maybe swelling, too, but shout Hallelujah! Now, of course, the best news would be that it wasn’t there at all, but, hey, I’m more than okay with this news. I am next to ecstatic! She will have MRI’s every three months to check the status. The doctor says radiation and chemo are out because of the tumor’s location and type. Suits me, sometimes the treatment can be worse than the illness. She has no negative issues from the initial surgery. Praise the Lord! She will never have a normal brain scan, but I know folks that fit that description and they haven’t had brain surgery. Ha!

So I’m happy, relieved due to this bit of hope, and will keep praying and waiting faithfully until the next test. Please keep praying for her and her precious family, and if you have any nickels to spare: The air conditioning/heat pump went out at The Winthrop Wesley Foundation yesterday, and she doesn’t have $12,000 to get a new one. HELP! The address is Winthrop Wesley Foundation, PO Box 5009, Rock Hill, SC 29733. Look at my last blog for some more incentive if you need to.

I want you all to know how grateful I am for your prayers and encouragement. It’s been tough to juggle the mental and emotional pins of this summer’s saga with Narcie and my brother’s sudden death, but God is so wonderfully present with us. Our Connection has been alive for us more than ever. I am so glad to be a United Methodist! But then I know that there are people hurting all around and didn’t get good news today. I just got an email from a fellow DS who was in Africa for our Worldwide UMC trip a few weeks back. One of the speakers at her Listening Post was Dr. Mirielle, the Director of Nursing at the Lupandilo School of Nursing in Kamina, Congo. In the midst of a C-section for her second child she cried out as the baby was delivered and died. How awful.

How do we handle good news and bad and reconcile them with a God who loves us all? Deuteronomy 29:29 comes to mind: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” So what to do? Give to God all that God we can’t handle or understand and do something about the things we can do something about.

I know this story will muck up the tenor of the mixture of gladness and sorrow that’s on my mind, but those who know me understand I’m a story-teller and especially like humor because it gets me through the tough times. So here goes: There was this golfer who had a miserable game one day. It was such a bad round that he skipped stopping at the clubhouse and went straight to his car. As he approached his car he noticed a police car with its lights flashing. An officer stepped out of the patrol car and hurried up to the melancholy golfer. “Excuse me,” the officer started, “but did you tee off from the 16th hole about 20 minutes ago?” “Why yes, I did,” the duffer replied. “Did you happen to hook your ball, so that it went over the trees and off the course?” the trooper asked. “Yes, it was a terrible shot, but how did you know?” the club member asked. “Well,” said the policeman very seriously, “your ball flew out onto the highway and crashed through a windshield. The car went out of control, running five other vehicles off the road and causing a fire truck to crash. That fire truck was on its way to a fire, and so that building is a complete and total loss. I want to know what you are going to do about this?” “Hmmm,” the golfer mused. “I think I need to close my stance, keep my head down and tighten my grip.”

What are we responsible for and what are we not, and what ties this to everything with Narcie and Wesley? Narcie’s brain tumor is something that I can’t handle, but God and good doctors can. The Wesley Foundation air conditioning is something I can do something about. I can also do something for motherless children, too. Hey, maybe this is a thought for tonight’s Charge Conference where I’ll probably hear several reasons why they can’t pay their apportionments that fund Wesley and help children all over the world.

Taking responsibility for that which is legitimately mine is one thing, and giving the rest to God makes for a centered life that is free from worry and filled with appropriate responses to crises. It moves me from turning my worries into prayers in some instances (Like Narcie), and turning them into action in others (Winthrop and Connectional Giving).