July 2 Independence Day?

According to John Adams, July 2 marked the birth of a brand new nation, the United States of America. Two days later, July 4, the Declaration of Independence was signed, but on July 2 the Congress had voted to approve the independence of the thirteen colonies from Britain.

Writing to his beloved wife, Abigail, John Adams wrote:

“I am apt to believe that [July 2] will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

So, go ahead and tell you’re boss you’re taking off work today, to commemorate the birth of a nation on July 2, 1776.


What is the Spiritual Meaning of 9/11?

[originally posted Sept. 2011]

I find this week’s cover of Newsweek magazine for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11chilling. It is simply a brilliant blue sky and in the upper right corner the underside of a jetliner frozen in a moment of time before calamity.

People are starting to tell their 9/11 stories to each other again. Where were you? What were you thinking? How did it affect you?

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So Wrong: Words on Today’s Tragedy

As I sit in an airport watching on television the unfolding horrific story of the shooting at the school in Connecticut, I overheard an airport worker say to someone else: all those children, all those families–and now, at Christmas time.

Immediately what came to my mind was one of the most troubling Scripture verses associated with Bethlehem. That awful, horrible, unspeakable crime of a megalomanic named Herod who had all the boy babies in Bethlehem murdered just so that he could eliminate the one whom people were calling a newborn king.

How can a man do that? How can a man try to assassinate the Messiah?

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What the Bible Says About Storms

Natural catastrophes are times to take inventory of life.

Hurricane Matthew has wrecked parts of Haiti and now bears down on the U.S.

Big storms are ominous. They arrest our attention. They remind us how small and powerless we are.

In the Bible the storm is a symbol of many different things.

Non-destructive wind is an apt picture of the presence of God because God is powerful, yet unseen (John 3:8; 4:24). When God’s Spirit came at Pentecost the accompanying sign was the sound of “a mighty rushing wind” (Acts 2:2).

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A Reluctant Hero

Imagine you could go to any expensive restaurant any day and the owner would insist that you didn’t have to pay. Imagine you could pick any new car on any lot and it would be given to you. Imagine you could decide in a day to run for the U.S. Senate, and you were guaranteed a win. Or that you could offer to give a speech to any audience–to thousands in an auditorium or tens of millions on television–and the microphone would be handed to you. Imagine you could ask to meet with any head of state at any time to offer your opinions, and the door would fly open. Imagine fame, power, and wealth.

No exaggeration here: that is the life that one of the most famous men of the 20th century could have had, if he had wanted it. By being the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong did something utterly unique. None of the other eleven men who walked on the moon captivated the attention of billions of people from virtually all the nations of the earth. That first step, the “small step” Armstrong spoke of, only happened once, by one man.

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Violence, Scripture, and the Sikh Temple

A chill went up my spine when I got home from church on Sunday and heard about the shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, just miles from where I live. I was stunned because the shooting was taking place at the very time I was preaching at Elmbrook Church on Psalm  46:9: “He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” I had said in the message: imagine if today the suicide bomber’s detonation device shorted out, all tanks and artillery stopped working, all AK-47’s in the world (75 million of them!) suddenly jammed. All M-16’s and M-4’s turned to dust. In the light of the future judgment when God brings all violence to an end, how can we not commit ourselves to being peacemakers in whatever ways we can?

At times like this we ponder (or at least we should) what Scripture says about violence. Much, of course.

But today I find myself going back to a foundational truth in Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”

This is basic, essential, core. We instinctively know senseless  murder is wrong, but besides our instincts, there is a real reason: if we violate the image of God we are violating God. Human identity is centered on being made in the image of God. Human dignity is an unalterable truth because we are made in the image of God. Reverence for God compels us to respect our fellow human beings. Reverence and respect. Those two principles keep us on track in life.

And respect for people because they are made in the image of God not only makes murder wrong, but hatred of every kind. That’s why Jesus said “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21).

As prayers are said around the world in response to the shooting, may God compel us to have reverence for God and respect for those made in his image.

Sunday Morning Bombing in Jos, Nigeria

I just received this email from friends about a bombing of a church in Jos, Nigeria just this morning. Nigeria remains a hot spot of religious conflict today. CNN is reporting multiple casualties in the suicide bombing. Here is the email:

Once again, today’s was a Sunday blast, this time at a church compound where many were meeting for the 7 am morning worship.  We did not hear how many were injured or killed besides those who drove the vehicle in that caused the explosion.

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Lessons from Argentina

The definition of what we are trying to do with this network we’re calling “The Brook Network” is “sharing ideas, pursuing wisdom.” There are so many great ideas in the world today regarding Christian life and Christian leadership. And, more than that, there is wisdom from God available to us–if we care to seek it. If we pursue it.

I’ve been in Argentina for the past week and a half meeting with different folks and leading seminars on “renewing spiritual leadership.” I’ve appreciated what I’ve learned in this part of Latin America, and I wanted to share some of it with you. I’ve spoken in different churches: Anglican, Brethren, Pentecostal–a pretty wide range. I’ve had quality time with some key leaders from Latin America and spent time at one of their theological seminaries. Worship and seminars, conversations and consultations.

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Bumper Sticker Wisdom

Not a good idea to pursue wisdom via bumper stickers. But then again, if you just need to smile today… (thanks to Michael Duduit).

1. Save the whales. Collect the whole set.
2. A day without sunshine is like night.
3. 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
4. Half the people you know are below average.
5. He who laughs last thinks slowest.
6. Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.
7. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the

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Egyptian Christians at the Crossroads

Christianity Today has several pieces helpful in understanding what is unfolding for Christians at this historic turning point.

Egypt’s Christians After Mubarak (They were protesting a church attack when the Tahrir Square demonstrations began. Political change likely won’t undo deep tensions with Muslims.) Egyptian Christians Reflect on Moment in History (Born and baptized in blood, the Church in Egypt is hardly a newcomer to hardship, notes Egypt’s Anglican bishop.) And The Muslim Brotherhood and the Gospel of Christ (Why Egypt’s Christians might actually be safer if the Muslim Brotherhood were a part of the ruling government.)

Ten Things Good Winners Do

I remember the speeches of my coaches who told us how to react to losing a game to an opposing team. An honorable person knows how not to be “a sore loser.”

But the spectacular victory of the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl yesterday raises the important question: what does it mean to be a good winner? Any of us can handle an accomplishment, a success story, or a “win” in ways that are helpful and honorable–or the opposite.

1. Good winners are generous. They look up, wide-eyed at what they have accomplished, but they know that the win happened only because of many others who have contributed.

2. Good winners have gratitude. They view the “win” as a gift that would not have been possible without the people in their past getting them to this place. They have gratitude for what parents, or past coaches, or good friends and colleagues did for them to help them get to a place of success.

3. Good winners give glory to God. Every human accomplishment you can think of points to that higher intelligence, that master designer, who is God. How does a wide receiver leap in the air at full run, moving dozens of muscles in perfect and slit-second coordination, coming down with the ball in the end zone? How is it possible for a master pianist’s fingers to fly across the keyboard, striking keys thousands of times in perfect coordination and intensity? How does a composer invent the music in the first place? How can men and women ride atop a controlled explosion which sends them into earth orbit? How does a surgeon cut flesh, and yet healing is the result? The evidence of God’s existence abounds–and oftentimes our “wins” show what God has done.

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