God’s Weight Loss Plan – Day 2

Get out your pencils and paper and I will begin to outline God’s Guaranteed Weight Loss Plan. With this plan you can lose the weight of bitterness and anger caused from lack of forgiveness. If you are carrying around an unforgiving spirit it is weighing you down spiritually and emotionally. Forgiveness may be the most unnatural thing that the Lord asks us to do. Forgiveness flies in the face of all the inborn sense of justice that we possess. A man once commented to theologian John Wesley, “I never forgive.” Wesley responded, “Then, sir, I hope that you never sin.” The Gospel of Mark seems to set the forgiveness bar at an impossible height to clear.

“Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.”

Really now. Maybe I could manage once or twice, but doesn’t continually forgiving make me a fool? Maybe the writer misspoke there a little bit. Isn’t it interesting how we will subconsciously wrestle with God about what He really meant? The text seems pretty clear in all of the translations. There are no exceptions. How about this little challenge.

Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

The “as quickly” part is hard enough. The “as thoroughly” clause is nigh to impossible. And it can be almost as hard to accept second place as it is to be quick to forgive. That is another downside of being an American Christian. We are not rewarded in this society for being content with second place. I am very competitive. I love to win. But the desire to be first can be destructive. Jesus told us the “first shall be last,” making the point that harboring a spiritual attitude of superiority had its own consequences. Your success in nailing down the committee leadership position or the politicking to teach the Bible study will likely be your only reward. Don’t be surprised when the one who humbly deferred to you will be rewarded in the heavenly bonus program.

Do you see a pattern in this sampling of verses on forgiveness? Do you see any way around the obvious command to forgive? Me either. And that causes me a bit of concern. Just like the average Christian, I want all of the benefits of forgiveness without that annoying requirement that I actually have to forgive others. But the Bible is very clear about my responsibility to forgive. Forgiveness is a constant and, quite frankly, irritating theme of the New Testament. There do not appear to be any loopholes in these verses. I don’t think we have a super-species of unforgivable sins that have mutated since the days of Jesus that require a special dispensation. I would imagine that Enoch at the tent making shop was just a big as jerk as Bob in accounting.

Bottom line: We are commanded to forgive as we have been forgiven. Straight up, no excuses. Forgiveness may well be the missing ingredient to true revival in the church. Clearly our lack of forgiveness is a major impediment to growth. I believe that we attract people to Christ when we behave in a way that is supernatural. I’m not talking about performing miraculous healings or speaking in tongues. I’m talking about the supernatural behaviors radio host Steve Brown referred to when he said this: “We can claim to have supernatural love, but it’s only supernatural when one would expect hatred instead. We can claim to be forgiving, but forgiveness is supernatural only when there is no earthly reason for one to be forgiving. Compassion is supernatural when the smart thing to do is look out for number one. Joy is supernatural when circumstances don’t warrant it.”

What would be the result in our communities if we demonstrated the supernatural aspects of Christ living through us outlined above? I suspect the unchurched would be clamoring to “get what we got.” Forgiveness may be the singular act that convinces an unbelieving world that Christians really can be different. (Different good, not different weird.)

God’s Weight Loss Plan…Day 1

I have to admit that Joni and I are not teary eyed to see 2006 slip into history. It has been a hard year. Don’t most of us see next Monday (New Years Day) as a fresh start? Don’t most of us hope and pray that the  New Year will be better? We make steadfast resolutions of how we are going to do better next year. The reality is that January 1st is just another day. We could just as easily resolve on May 18th or August 3rd that we are going to change how we live. But there is something psychologically powerful about the New Year. January is named after the Roman god Janus. He was unique because he had two faces…one to look into the past and one to look into the future. Today Janus the two faced would be a very successful politician. Someone once accused me of being two faced and I won the debate by asking this question. If I were two-faced do you think I would be using this one?

Pondering the post-Christmas letdown

Greeting cards have all been sent
The Christmas rush is through
But I still have one wish to make
A special one for you
     Lyrics from ‘Merry Christmas Darling’ – The Carpenters

Yesterday I braved the day after Christmas shopping throngs with the lovely Mrs. Burchett in search of sale priced Christmas ornaments and other half-priced treasures. Actually I found the shopping frenzy to be only slightly less dangerous than the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. So I spent a fair amount of time in a nearby Starbucks while she braved the frothing throngs. But I was with her in spirit.

Merry Christmas!

No day of the year has generated more written material than Christmas. I thought I would collect a few thoughts from people with bigger brains than me to share as a Christmas gift to you.

  • Those who know me realize that I must start with humorous thoughts on the day. The first comes from one of the greatest comic strips ever produced.

Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special!  How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…. Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously?  ~ Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

Grading CNN’s After Jesus…

I must begin with a brief disclosure.

  • I am a member of the media and I am an Evangelical Christian. Both effect how I view a program like After Jesus. While being in television sports production makes me a lightweight to many who deal with hard news…the principles of journalism are the same. Being a member of the media causes me to be both sympathetic and suspicious when I evaluate a project like After Jesus: The First Christians. I am sympathetic because I know how impossible it is to cover such a sweeping topic to the satisfaction of all. I am suspicious because I believe that even the best journalists can allow a bit of bias to creep in…sometimes without even realizing that it is happening. So I was curious about how CNN would handle this topic.

Our zeitgeist reveals a sad cultural malaise

I love to learn new words. So when the term zeitgeist cropped up in a recent news story I immediately sought to find the meaning. Dictionary.com defines zeitgeist as a German noun that means the spirit of the time; general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time. Google has adopted the word to title it’s ongoing charting of the search patterns of internet users around the world. Each calendar year produces the “Year End Google Zeitgeist” which, according to Google spokespeople,  speaks to our collective consciousness. After reviewing the list I would suggest it reflects our collective cultural unconsciousness. I am not sure whether to laugh or cry or alternate the two responses.