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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Word For The Week

It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you
Without a strong thought to step to
Think of how many weak posts you slept through
Time's up, I'm sorry I kept you

With a shout-out to Eric B & Rakim we return to our weekly word. One thing that I have discovered in my time offline is the universal need for a savior. So many people are in distress and looking for the hope of their salvation, yet they neglect the very hope that is freely offered them in the person of Jesus Christ. It has been this way since Jesus first offered Himself to the world - 1st century Jews were looking for a conquerer who would break the Roman occupation of Israel and then rule over Israel as David's son. Even His disciples held this mindset until the Day of Pentecost, but we can not superimpose our wants, our wishes, and our desires over the will of God, and God sent His Son into the world to save the world from its sins - not to give us the hook-up like Christine Agulera's genie in a bottle.

Nonetheless, people want what people want, and if they can't get the material hookup from God then they'll take their wants elsewhere - after all, it's all about them from their perspective, they are the measure of all things. It's their world and all things must cater to their needs, their wants, and their desires, so they will find their salvation elsewhere - in self improvement seminars, in transcendental meditation, in sexual relationship after relationship after relationship, always looking for the hope of their salvation, never finding it. Some will give up on finding their salvation, succumbing to depression or alcoholism or drugs (illicit or prescription) while others will unconvincingly deny their need for salvation. There are many ways that people deal with their need, but I have found the need for salvation to be fairly universal.

The Samaritan woman at the well told Jesus about her expectation of the advent of the Savior, the Christ, the Messiah, and Jesus told her plainly, "I who speak to you am He." Not only did the woman accept that Jesus was the Messiah, she went back to her hometown and told everyone she knew - the same people that ostracized her for being a trifling trick - that she had met the savior of the world, the Messiah, the Christ, such that they all confessed, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."

Who do you believe in?

As I've had time to reflect on the past several years I've recognized an interesting phenomenon that I hadn't really examined closely before - many of Howard Dean's supporters treat him the same way that Christians treat Jesus. Nobody (as far as I know) posits deity in Howard Dean, but the language of salvation is there and the messianic expectation is there as well, likely stemming from the credo of taking our party back, taking our country back, and taking back our rightful place of respect in the world. People don't merely like Howard Dean or believe Howard Dean, they believe in Howard Dean, they place their hope in Howard Dean. Howard himself tried to discourage this mentality when he posted on Kimmy's old site, telling her not to get frustrated since all politicians are human beings and all politicians will disappoint you, sooner or later, even Howard Dean.

My own journey may be illustrative. Coming out of college I realized just how screwed-up the real world really is, so the question that I asked myself is what I could do about it. I looked to politics and got involved with John Conyers' 1992 campaign and eventually worked for the Congressman, serving as a field director for his '94 campaign. One thing that I learned is that you cannot legislate morality. This is true with regards to issues like homosexuality and abortion, but it is also true with matters of economics and foreign policy - without a changed heart depraved men (and women) will always find ways around laws that limit their ability to fulfill their hearts' desires, be that having sex with someone of the same gender, aborting their baby, paying slave wages to workers, filtering criminal activity to only certain neighborhoods, raping the environment, cooking corporate books, or invading foreign countries that pose no threat to the United States. All of these are issues of morality, and none of these can be corrected by creating more laws. As the old cliche goes, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart, so the million-dollar question is this: how do you change someone's heart from a depraved state of mind to a mindset of righteousness?

Jesus.

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

I wrestled with the implications of this for a number of years, maintaining some involvement with politics while I was in Florida, but in 1998 I submitted to my calling to vocational ministry, to full-time ministry, and I applied and was accepted to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. As I was trying to get away from politics and focus on Christ I found myself in the middle of the Clinton impeachment madness in large part because the Southern Baptists were more than a little bit involved in politics. I came to seminary to focus on the Bible and these people were babbling on about a blue-stained dress. Like Michael Corleone said, "Just when I though I was out they pull me back in." Then there was the fiasco of the 2000 election, and then there was September 11th, 2001.

The Bush presidency has necessitated my involvement in politics, especially with people accusing Bush of being an example of what Christianity is about, but politics absolutely can not solve the problems that face this world - politics can not change hearts, only policies. We indeed need to change policies - desperately - but that will not solve the problem because the root problem is people - we have to fix people themselves, and the only transforming agent that can redeem the depraved mind and heal the broken heart is Jesus Christ who said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." Under-shepherds must follow the example of the Good Shepherd - I could be making a lot of money if I simply focused on it, but I am trying to focus on making people all that God would have them to be. The pay is relatively meager in dollars, but the crown jewels are worth it.

I believe that I can make a difference in this world. I believe that from everyone who has been given much, much should be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more should be asked. I believe that the only way to address the human condition is to transform the human heart, and the only hope for our salvation comes from accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Jesus, when asked about the Messiah, told the woman at the well, "I who speak to you am He." Do you believe Him? Will you believe in Him?

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to believe in Him,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM

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