Refugees and Biblical Theology

I’m learning that developing a Biblical theology is hard work; it’s much easier for me to be driven by emotions like fear, anger and bitterness.

But this is NOT the way of Jesus.

To have a biblical theology means that I must have a developed relationship with Jesus- a relationship built on study of, and time spent with, Jesus.

In Acts 17, we read about the Bereans- these people were highlighted because they compared everything that Paul said to the scriptures- they were his accountability. Our task is to be Bereans- to compare the words and actions of others to scripture and then…obey scripture.

I know, these are complicated matters. There are legitimate security concerns and the government does indeed have “the lead” role; because our government is (and ALWAYS has been) run by sinful man, it will make both good and bad choices- the ramifications of which we will not likely know for years.

Individual Christians however, are to be different. The church, is to be different.

When I see my good Christian friends on Facebook labeling refugees as “invaders”, I have to wonder if they’ve ever actually even read the Bible. The way of Jesus was to not only side with the marginalized and the oppressed, but to become the marginalized and the oppressed.

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven”- Jesus, in Matthew 5:43-45.

“You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?
No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the hungry. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help…Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors. Feed the hungry and help those in trouble”- Isaiah 58:5-9.

The people fleeing political or religious persecution are not our enemies. The ones fleeing economic brokenness are not our enemies. The ones fleeing a drug war that is fueled by the brokenness of our own citizenry are not our enemies.

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places”- Paul, in Ephesians 4:12.

Our “what” is simple- We are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

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Screwtape, X-Mas 2015

Dear Wormwood-

I see that your patient has joined the culture war. Excellent work. The more he can post pithy sayings on Facebook about “Keeping Christ in Christmas” the better. This will give him exactly the arrogance he needs to feel better about his own participation in the sins of covetousness and greed in the coming season (no “holiday” for me, we demons know that the word “holiday” is actually another form of “holy day”). And so soon after Halloween! Your patient must have been thrilled to point out all of the supposed sinfulness of his fellow believers.

He is the living embodiment of the New Pharisee, the kind whom that cursed Paul was talking about in his little missive to the church in Corinth! They think themselves so holy by avoiding things. “In the world, and not of it” they say!

Whatever you do, keep him away from the Patheos article about the history of the phrase “X-Mas. When the Enemy stated that his sniveling little followers were to “Love the Lord your God (I tremble just writing that) with all of your heart, soul, and strength”- surely that includes their minds. But, these “believers” have largely checked their minds at the door. Why would they research anything? Isn’t easier to share a Facebook post from yet another uninformed person? Joy to the world!

Keep the pressure on. The fool actually believes he is being persecuted! This is perfect. This prevents him from thinking about the millions of his LOYAL brethren around the world who meet in small, unlit dank rooms, closets and basements. If only we could get into those places, we could really undo the work of the Enemy.

Once the “season” is over, we’ll be working on their political thoughts. There are just 367 days until the Presidential Election. Plenty of time for your patient to wrestle with the fact that his Savior spent his days caring for the marginalized, downtrodden and weak- some of whom were likely immigrants.

Your Beloved Uncle,


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Liar, Lunatic or Truth

A while back, I began reading CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, beginning with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe thinking that I’d do some writing about what I found as it related to Christianity.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe takes place in England during the Second World War, specifically during the Blitz. The main human characters are four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy- they’ve been sent to the house of an old Professor “in the heart of the country” to escape the air raids. One of the objects in the house is an old wardrobe, which sometimes leads to another land, called Narnia. One day while playing hide-and-seek, the youngest, Lucy, hides in the wardrobe and discovers Narnia. She has an adventure or two, then returns with seemingly no time “used up” back in England. She tells her siblings, who inspect the wardrobe to find…no Narnia. In chapter 5, the eldest children (Peter and Susan) decide to tell the professor the story. After listening, he asks them how they know that the story is not true.

Lucy, it turns out, is not typically a liar, which then takes them logically that Lucy is “mad”. The professor denies that she is “mad” and then…

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

This is clearly a reference to what is known as Lewis’ trilemma. In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis writes,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

What then are we to do with the fact that Narnia is not “always present” and the time difference between the two worlds?

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What Does Jesus Do?

This morning during our family devotional time we read the book of Jude from the New Testament. Through much of this short book, just 25 verses long, Jude speaks about the danger of false teachers. He tells his reader/s:

…defend the faith with God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives…these people–who claim authority from their dreams–live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings…When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness…These people are gumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want.


I looked at it again when I got to the office in my new Jesus-Centered Bible. One of my favorite features is the inclusion of Rick Lawrence​’s Jesus-Centered Questions– a nifty little resource that I won at a Group student ministry event many years ago. Here’s the question for this text–

2015-10-06 09.40.09“How does Jesus respond to ‘scoffers’– people ‘whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires’?”

  1. He predicted them- the faithful will be expelled from synagogues, even hunted down and murdered (see Saul/Paul). He did this so that the faithful would not be surprised (John 16:1-4).
  2. He told the truth about them- these “scoffers” act like unbelievers because they are unbelievers (John 8:47; John 10:26). To be direct- false teachers are NOT Christians.
  3. He prayed for them- when He said, from the cross, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34) he was living out his command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mark 5:44).

Jude, in his letter, gives this instruction to those who are dealing with false teachers:

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s live. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

Expect scoffers. Be truthful about who they are. Pray for them. Take your responsibility seriously as a true believer- building up others, praying in the power of the Holy Spirit (not just self), wait for God’s mercy, show it by rescuing people from the judgment sure to come.

This is the way of Jesus.

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Discipleship and Drones

I listened to a fascinating podcast this morning from FiveThirtyEight about the American military, its usage of drones and the sheer amount of data taken in by those drones. The podcast is an interview with William Arkin, the author of “Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare“.

The premise is that when decisions are made based only on information, there is no longer a strategic context or purpose driving those choices- the “how?” and “why?”  of the deployment of power is minimalized.

What’s more, the Just War concept is discussed; the context of which is that Just War always allows for the creation (or re-creation) of a “better” culture and society post-war (was was done after the defeat of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany using the Marshal Plan). Even though we fought “total war”- we still fought with the mindset that there would be a rebuilding- there was indeed, an “end” to the “means”.

As I reflect upon this, I wonder how many churches simply act on information in the moment (and see an immediate tangible result like a new member or baptism or an increase in attendance) rather than actually create a long-term sustainable strategy that will yield fruit for years to come. To use the words from the podcast, is it possible that the church has become “all targeting, no strategy”? And to paraphrase them,

“We’ve become so good at this kind of targeted “discipleship”, and the “programming” (has) become so precise, that we mistake our ability to find “people” and “disciple” them with an actual “discipleship”  strategy.”

Check it out…

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Thoughts on Narnia, Intro

When I was young, I had a few favorite books; The Hardy Boys series, Charles Berlitz’s The Bermuda Triangle, Z for Zachariah (movie adaptation released this weekend) and CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.

I remember writing a paper during my senior year of high school on the analogies between CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and the Bible. I’ve only read a few other things by Lewis- The Screwtape Letters, Perelandra, and just in the past few months, Mere Christianity.

Based on a quote I recently found from The Silver Chair (book 4 in the series) I decided to re-read them- to enjoy, to study and to see how Lewis wove his theology of Jesus into the text. I’ll post some thoughts about this over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

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Belief and Obedience

If you “believe” in Jesus, you’ve been born of God; it’s a package deal. If you love the Father, you love the Son. And “love” is defined by “obedience” (I’ve said that before). You obey His commands if you really love him. And what’s more, these commands are not burdensome. It is not difficult to obey God, it’s not impossible. Why? Because those born of Jesus are overcomers of the world along with him. You are an overcomer every time you find victory in God. The real overcomers are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus came by both water and blood- both of these are necessary. And, the Spirit verifies this, demonstrating true accountability. To the water and blood we add Spirit and these all agree that Jesus is of God. While we can accept the testimony of man, God’s testimony is greater because of who He is and what He has said. If you believe in Jesus, you’ll find that your heart confirms this, and those who deny the WHO of Jesus accuse God of lying. Here is God’s testimony: He, God, has given us eternal life and this life is in his Son, Jesus. Those who have the Son have life, those who do not have the son do not have life.

I’m telling you all of this that you know how to have eternal life. We can confidently approach God and ask Him for all things according to his will. We’ll know that he hears when we receive what we ask for.

We will see our brothers committing sins, some of those sins lead to death, while others do not. We are to pray for him and God will give him life. For other sins, don’t just pray. While all things wrong are indeed sin, all sins do not lead to death.

Those who belong to God do not continue in sins because those born of him are safe from the evil one.

We belong to God, and the world to Satan.

We know that Jesus has come and teaches up all things- his teachings are true.

Because His teachings are true, those who adhere to them also become true. Jesus is the true God and eternal life.

Do not worship idols!

Adapted from 1 John 5.

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