Only good girls are welcome
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A persistent church disease is that congregations behave like country clubs instead of field hospitals. The spirit of the Pharisees has never died. Good boys, i.e., respectable achievers with money, are desired. Bad girls, not so much.   Those quiet visitors to your church, who sit in the back and try not to be noticed, are there not because they are really successful and are looking for a wider audience to appreciate their life performances. They are much more likely to... Read More
But he's just a kid!
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Long ago I taught middle school music for two semesters. One student's parents asked her how the class was going. "Well, he's okay, but he treats us like children," she replied. Her mom and dad had to look away as they suppressed their laughter.   Children need to be treated as though their opinions and thoughts matter, which, of course, they do. Even the prophet Samuel, as he was sent to anoint the next king, guessed wrong, very wrong, at which... Read More
Brotherly hatred
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We might wish to think that our families are bulwarks of strength against the hostility of a cruel and heartless world. Ah, if only 'twere so. The sad reality of our existence is that families can harbor as much or even more conflict. Some of the worst damage to people's bodies and souls is done by their own relatives.  "Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached... Read More
They will come streaming in
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It's hard for the old guard when they realize that the ethnic group that founded their community/congregation/school/whatever is drifting away and being replaced by "people not like us." It's easy to criticize the insularity of the first generation of Jewish Christians, who were dismayed about letting Gentiles into their congregations. Realize, however, that for centuries the Jews had thought they were the only believers (and would always be the only ones). They were the chosen.   Two dysfunctions arise from such... Read More
Persians need a Savior too
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Everyone in the ancient world assumed that religion was regional. Each nation and tribe had its own deities. And while you were loyal to yours, you would probably accept the existence and power of the gods of others.   The one who was born in Bethlehem is the One. The only One. There is only one Creator; in his great love for mankind, he ordained only one rescue plan. His Son was incarnate and born as we all were, born to... Read More
Itching to fight
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When New York mobsters decided to retaliate against rival gang members in all-out war, they would "go to the mattresses," i.e., they left home and lived in secret locations to launch their attacks, hoping to avoid detection by their enemies. In Old Testament times, angry civilians who were ready to become warriors would "go to the tents."   The nation of Israel had north/south tensions as bad or worse than America in the 19th century. Even during the reign of such... Read More
What are THEY doing here?
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Poor people always make well-to-do people uncomfortable.   It's not just the huge income gap. There can be a big difference in people's value systems and behaviors too. There's a reason why some people want to live in gated communities with an ex-marine security officer at the guardhouse. There's a reason why many social gathering places are members-only.   Christians can't control private clubs and exclusive suburbs. But they can control how people are treated in their congregations. The Bible teaches that... Read More
You're talking with a woman!
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Jesus' disciples were steeped in a male-only religious environment where women's input was neither needed nor wanted. One day they returned from a trip into town for provisions to find a sight that amazed and disturbed them. They "were surprised to find [Jesus] talking with a woman" (John 4:27).   God's creative design for humanity was to create male and female in his image. Adam was made from dirt, and Eve was made from Adam. Men and women are gifted, both... Read More
Avoidance
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Thanks to Jesus' famous parable in Luke 10 about highway bandits and an amazing rescue, the word Samaritan today always connotes compassion and generosity. The term has become a compliment.   Ironically in Jesus' time, it was the opposite. To call someone a "Samaritan" was to insult him. The Jews viewed their "middle neighbors" as racial half-breeds and renegades to their religious tradition. They showed their disapproval and fear by avoidance: "Jews do not associate with Samaritans" (John 4:9). When riding... Read More
Unity in the community
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"Rugged individualism" is a phrase Herbert Hoover often used; it became a theme of his presidency. It refers to a feature of Americans that he cherished and wished to foster-that people work hard and take care of themselves, not dependent on others or begging for handouts.   That admirable quality can become ragged individualism, however, when people think only of themselves, when they look to their relationships only for what they can get. God himself loves a diversity of viewpoints-after all,... Read More