Tuesday, June 30, 2015

True Freedom—Nothing but the Truth!

Without question, Americans are never more dialed into the subject of freedom than on the Fourth of July.  We talk about it, sing about it, consume mass quantities of food to commemorate it, and, as a nation, hit the collective pause button to celebrate one of our greatest attributes.  We are free…and we want the whole world to know it.  Accompanied with fireworks, parades, big concert events, and as much noise as we can generate, we pound our national chest, so to speak, and declare to the global community that we are different.

Most of us can tick off rather quickly a laundry list of freedoms we enjoy, including speech, religion, assembly, the right to keep and bear arms, a free press, etc.  Not a bad starter kit for any nation. Ours is the land of opportunity, we say.  And once again we affirm our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  But what is it that makes us free, and more importantly, what will keep us free?  Many would argue that the foundational tenets that helped construct such a nation are no longer commonly shared. They would contend that the gap grows greater between the original vision of our forefathers and what we have become: an emerging society of individualists with an ever—increasing demand for personal rights. We the people has become Me the person.  

Many of the statesmen who were “in on the ground floor” believed freedom to be 
God-given and that an acknowledgement of this fact was critical to our nation’s survival. Those “voices” are now being drowned out by cries for personal liberty at any cost, devoid of any absolute moorings.

Listen to just a few of those early patriots:

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here.

Patrick Henry
________________________________________

God who gave us life gave us liberty.  And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure 
when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?  That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.

Thomas Jefferson
________________________________________

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity… to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” 

James Madison
__________________________________________

God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.

Benjamin Franklin
__________________________________________

The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.

George Washington
________________________________________

We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.

 Samuel Adams (at the signing of the Declaration of Independence)
________________________________________

We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!

 John Adams and John Hancock, Founding Fathers
________________________________________

The laws of nature are the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth.

George Mason
________________________________________

The great enemy of the salvation of man, in my opinion, never invented a more effective means of limiting Christianity from the world than by persuading mankind that it was improper to read the Bible at schools.

Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence

For all their careful engineering of a lasting union, it is clear that these architects, at least, could not conceive of such liberty apart from that nation being under God.  For anyone wishing to challenge this, merely consider the inscriptions on many public buildings and government institutions dating back to the country’s beginnings.  References to the Bible—Old and New Testament—abound.  And yet some examples of such scripture usage are taken clearly out of context.  It reminds me of a church in the Midwest which posted scripture quotations above the entrances to its many departments.  I’m sure with tongue planted firmly in cheek, they had chosen this verse for over the doors of the nursery: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”  1 Corinthians 15:51

I remember a Bible quote from the gospel of John on the main building of the University of Texas years ago while attending college in Austin.  It said simply, “YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.”  My initial reaction was, “cool, a Bible passage on a state university building.”  But it only took me a moment to realize that it had been lifted significantly out of context to imply that knowledge, learning, education—that kind of truth—was the key to freedom.  In fact, the verse that was quoted was from John 8:32. 

In certain translations, that passage actually begins with the word thenThen ye shall know the truth…  Dropping the word then was not a small detail.  Usually, a phrase beginning with the word then is preceded by a condition, starting with a word like if or when.  And in this case the if is a biggie.  Verse 31 of John reads: “If you continue in my Word (or hold to my teaching), you are my disciples indeed.  It is followed by the famous [then] “you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”

Four verses later, Jesus makes another audacious statement. “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.”  Free indeed?  This would suggest a type of freedom which isn’t real freedom. How can He make such a statement?  The answer is simple. He is not just a truth-talker. He is truth.  Later in John’s gospel, Jesus made this claim: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  What is He saying?  Jesus=Truth=True Freedom.  We have two choices:

Receive Him.  Trust Him.  Follow Him.  Know freedom. 
Reject Him.  Trust yourself.  Follow anyone else.  No freedom.

Those responsible for inscribing a verse from John’s gospel over the entrance of a public university chose to omit other key verses which would make its meaning clear.  Maybe they had a limited budget and could only afford so many letters.  Maybe there wasn’t enough space for more verses. Or maybe they chose to take advantage of a respected holy book to add weight to their own ideology, and purposefully left out what the one being quoted really meant to say?  Think about it.  What is more audacious than to selectively choose what part of a particular quote we will use simply to perpetuate our own philosophy?  If we are to be a free people, free to think and free to choose, shouldn’t we at least start with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?


This fourth of July, let us gratefully acknowledge once again the rare privileges and freedoms we enjoy as Americans.  Let us resolve to leave this great country a better place upon our departing. But let us resist any movement to rewrite our history to make it more closely resemble our current definition of freedom.  The Truth, indeed, will make us free.” Nothing but the Truth. And you know His name.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
tad

Monday, June 29, 2015

A failure to communicate…

It was one of the most memorable lines from a classic Hollywood movie called, Cool Hand Luke, starring the legendary Paul Newman.  “What we have here, gentlemen, is a failure to communicate.”  The irony is that the line was delivered by a cruel, stubborn prison guard who didn’t lack for communication at all, but for basic human empathy and compassion. 
Sometimes our inability to communicate can take on almost comic overtones. Consider these poorly worded signs in
various locations, attempting to be helpful:

In a Laundromat:
AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT.

In an office:
WOULD THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE STEP LADDER YESTERDAY PLEASE BRING IT BACK OR FURTHER STEPS WILL BE TAKEN.

In an office:   
AFTER TEA BREAK STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD.

Outside a secondhand shop:
WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING - BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC.  WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?

Spotted in a safari park:
ELEPHANTS PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR. (a little punctuation wouldn’t have hurt)

Seen during a conference:
FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN'T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE 1ST FLOOR.

Notice in a farmer's field:
THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE, BUT THE BULL CHARGES.

Message on a leaflet:
IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS.

On a repair shop door:
WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR - THE BELL DOESN'T WORK)

These actual miscommunications remind me of the time I was serving a church in Dallas which posted a large (huge, really) banner outside on a busy highway announcing our upcoming Christmas Eve services.  Included on the advertisement was the enticing but unfortunately misspelled byline: Special Children’s Massage.  Imagine my horror when I drove past the church shortly after it was posted and realized our mistake.  That can happen in one-way communication, especially when one fails to proofread!

Unlike one-way communication, two-way communication actually involves listening as well as voicing our ideas and values. And not just listening with our auditory sensors to another’s words.  It’s reading a person’s body language, listening for voice inflection, observing facial expressions, watching for heightened emotion or passion.  This is why so many current forms of communication fall short of really connecting with another person and their points of view.  Think of just a few: 


  • a text message
  • a voice mail message
  • a posted announcement on Facebook, twitter, or on a public bulletin board,
  • an email blast,
  • a zealous “prophet” booming TURN OR BURN” into his bullhorn on a crowded street or from a moving vehicle),
  • a letter to the editor of a local newspaper

I find it almost sad that people can often boast of hundreds of friends on Facebook or twitter and yet lack even one true friend of the heart.  Maybe it’s because we have come to rely too heavily on technology to feel connected, and have lost some of the basic elements required for true communication. 

I try to imagine how much Jesus would rely on technology today if we were physically among us.  I think he was really big on connection.  Lots of listening, touching, eye contact, making time for others.  I’m not sure his personal brand of ministry would have allowed for substituting non-stop tweeting or texting for genuine one-on-one conversation.  Not to say it never happens in these newer forms.  Just proposing that we not neglect the precious gift of “in-person” human interaction in favor of merely growing a network of contacts.

Who in your life today needs you to be literally present with them, listening to them and caring about them just as they are?  You can ‘like’ them on facebook, or love them in person. Your choice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                tad

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Caution:  Possible Memories Just Ahead (reprinted)

Ah, the family vacation.  Take any set of humans out of their normal habitat for an extended period of time, drop them into a strange, foreign land, and, well, stuff happens.  On the way there, on the way back, and everywhere in between, stuff happens.  You know, stuff like leaving one of the kids back at a gas station, because you forgot to count all six of them before departing.  Or having to shorten an extended camping trip because one of the little guys gets the mumps.  But in truth, these special times, these “parentheses” in our lives often become some of the richest treasures in our memory bank.

For me, it was my first trip to Six Flags over Texas, which, as a ten year old, seemed like another universe from my normal life.  Talk about sensory overload.  Terrifying roller coasters and log rides, pulsating music, scenic boat excursions, spending the day on a constant sugar high—what’s not to like? But in looking back, what really made it extraordinary was that my mom and dad actually seemed relaxed and, as a family, we were all focused on just having fun.  Removed from all the usual stress and routine of life, their personalities seemed to morph before my very eyes.  Who were these people, and what had they done with my parents?

In a way, it’s kind of sad that as a culture we are so reliant on “getting away” to slow down, to relax, and to focus on the things and people that really mean the most to us.  Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the ability to savor our surroundings and treasure our loved ones in the moment. We say things like “where did the time go?” and “they grow up so fast.”  Truth is, we get so distracted with the urgent that we miss the important.  And before we know it, the kids are grown and gone, and we wonder where did the time go?  Well, in fact, no one stole it.  We gave it away.  To other things… lesser things.  And other people...from someone else’s family.

One of my favorite modern song writers, Chris Rice penned a commentary on this issue a few years back, entitled “Life Means So Much.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZbEAZ5KUM0

“Life Means So Much”

Every day is a journal page
Every man holds a quill and ink 
And there's plenty of room for writing in 
All we do is believe and think 

So will you compose a curse
Or will today bring the blessing 
Fill the page with rhyming verse 
Or some random sketching

Teach us to count the days 
Teach us to make the days count 
Lead us in better ways
That somehow our souls forgot 
Life means so much 

Every day is a bank account 
And time is our currency
So nobody's rich, nobody's poor 
We get 24 hours each

So how are you gonna spend 
Will you invest, or squander  
Try to get ahead  
Or help someone who's under

Has anybody ever lived who knew the value of a life 
And don't you think giving is all 
What proves the worth of yours and mine

Every day is a gift you've been given
Make the most of the time every minute you're living

I was introduced to this song in a most remarkable way.  A few years ago, my kids surprised my wife and me with a wonderful sampling of photos they had collected or taken over several years.  The video began with our own wedding picture, then each of theirs, and then pictures (for several minutes with accompanying songs) highlighting the early stages of our grandchildren’s lives.  Not posed pictures with hands folded.  These were the true stuff of life.  Swinging in the park.  Blowing bubbles.  Bedtime stories.  Opening Christmas presents.  The last song on this original video was Life Means So Much, and both my wife and I ended up in an emotional puddle!  We were so thankful for the incredible blessing each of our children and grandchildren had and have been in our lives and that these moments had actually been captured on film! 

In truth, every day is a gift we've been given. It takes intentionality to make the most of the time every minute we're living.  It takes making good choices.  Saying yes to some things and no to others.  I think one reason we so freely give our time away to lesser things is pretty simple.  For most of us, our natural default is not to place a high value on time…on now...on today.  Moses prayed in Psalm 90 for God to “teach us to number our days and to apply our hearts to wisdom.”  Chris Rice simply paraphrased it in the modern vernacular:  “Teach us to count the days; teach us to make the days count .”       

The One who has ordained the number of our days has to teach us to live in the moment.  Left to ourselves, we tend to live as if time will never run out.  Much like the makeup opportunities we have for everything from missed piano lessons to college entrance exams, we assume that we can always do just about anything later.

As you hopefully look forward to a slower pace in the coming weeks and spending time with those ones most dear to you, also begin now to anticipate creating special memories.  Make these moments less about random sketching as Rice calls it, and more about a kind of rhyming verse, intentionally finding more opportunities for beauty and harmony in your own little world.  Believe me, those whom you love the most will not soon forget it.
tad

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

PONDERISMS (adapted)

If you agree that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, why not ruminate on a few of these for a while.  You may find yourself using brain cells you didn’t even know you had.  On the other hand, I hope nothing seizes up on you…


I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes.

Gardening Rule:  When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement.

Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.

There are two kinds of pedestrians: the quick and the dead.

Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.

All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

How is it that one careless match can start a forest fire, 
but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these dangly things here, and drink whatever comes out?"

If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about him?

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs!

If Wile E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that Acme stuff, 
why didn't he just buy dinner?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, 
then what is baby oil made from?

Do illiterate people get the full effect of Alphabet Soup?

Does pushing the elevator button more than once make it arrive faster?

Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets mad at you, 
but when you take him on a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?


Now you have to admit, if you spend a lot of time pondering these things, you either are taking life way too seriously or you are just of a superior intellect, and most of us can’t relate on your level. But either way, because this ministry is trying to be a “safe place” for all types, we’re going to keep you.  Now that’s something to really ponder.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             tad  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Memorial Day 2015 - A tribute in praise of the fallen

He cried at the grave of one he loved.  Fully God, and yet as a man, Jesus chose not to bypass the valley of grief which we all experience at the loss of one dear to us.  And how much more profound is the loss (and love) when that one has chosen to sacrifice his own life for others...specifically for us.  Jesus said it best:


Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  - John 15:13

This weekend, our nation pauses, if ever so briefly, to honor just such persons. In America, much of what we have come to appreciate about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” has come at the expense of others far nobler than ourselves.  These heroes, even in death, stand head and shoulders above the rest of us.  The rest of us, whose main instinct is self-preservation, often live for that which benefits us, for that so-called American dream which can be viscerally experienced right now. It is the rare few who choose cause over comfort, the greater good over self-gratification.  It is for those we pause and offer praise and thanks this weekend.

Countless words of wisdom have been penned to give voice to the dignity of such giants and the nature of their task.  Here are but a few:

On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes 
of a mighty nation.
Thomas William Parsons

This nation will remain the land of the free only so 
long as it is the home of the brave. 
Elmer Davis

Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, 
the spines of others are often stiffened. 
Billy Graham

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to 
something bigger than oneself. 
Joseph Campbell

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, 
but he is brave five minutes longer. 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Who kept the faith and fought the fight; 
the glory theirs, the duty ours.
Wallace Bruce

Aspire rather to be a hero than merely appear one. 
Baltasar Gracian

So as you go into battle, remember your ancestors 
and remember your descendants.
 Publius Cornelius Tacitus

If our country is worth dying for in time of war, 
let us resolve that it is truly worth living for in time of peace. 
Hamilton Fish

It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero
 to be one of those men who goes into battle. 
Norman Schwarzkopf

The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: 
their courage nerves a thousand living men.
Minot J. Savage

Peace to each manly soul that sleepeth; 
rest to each faithful eye that weepeth... 
Thomas Moore

The patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's tree.
 Thomas Campbell

Cover them over with beautiful flowers, 
Deck them with garlands, those brothers of ours, 
Lying so silent by night and by day 
Sleeping the years of their manhood away. 
Give them the mead they have won in the past; 
Give them the honors their future forecast; 
Give them the chaplets they won in the strife; 
Give them the laurels they lost with their life.
Will Carleton

They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation.
 Henry Ward Beecher

We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them. 
Francis A. Walker

Scripture teaches us that as bad as war is, and as great its distortion of God’s original intent for humankind, there is a time for it.  A wise king once wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:

There is a time for everything, 
and a season for every activity under the heavens: 
a time to be born and a time to die, 
a time to plant and a time to uproot, 
a time to kill and a time to heal, 
a time to tear down and a time to build, 
a time to weep and a time to laugh, 
a time to mourn and a time to dance, 
a time to tear and a time to mend, 
a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
a time to love and a time to hate, 
a time for war and a time for peace. 
I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 
He has made everything beautiful in its time. 
King Solomon

In fact, there are things worth fighting for…worth dying for.  It is no accident that Jesus led the greatest battle ever fought against the dominion of darkness, sin and death, and willingly laid down his own life so that we could be truly free.  Sometimes battles must be fought, wars must be waged, and, yes, lives laid down.  This weekend, as we remember those who gave their lives up for us, let us resolve to not let their sacrifice be in vain.  And let us be reminded that as costly a price as Jesus paid for our liberty, it is trampled afoot if we choose not to accept His grace and follow our truest Hero.       
tad  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Power of Words (quotes from this article adapted from other sources)

A wise king once wrote: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” It seems a direct contradiction to a perhaps more familiar proverb which says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Oh, really?  Words don’t hurt?  Try telling that to the families of children who have been bullied into isolation, depression, even suicide.  In fact, words are very powerful and carry with them the potential to render great harm or good to the recipient. 

I once had the misfortune of squandering an entire semester in an English Lit class, simply because of poor choices to procrastinate and avoid reading the material. The result: failing a college English course in my sophomore year—and English was my minor!  As a junior, I transferred to a new school, retook the course I had failed, and met a new teacher.  Personally, I struggled with whether or not I was really as unintelligent as getting an F would normally suggest. You can imagine the shock when I got back my first paper in my new class with a big red A atop the page and this simple comment from my new prof:  “Your superior talent is quite evident.”  In six simple words, I shed my shame of being a loser to really believing something was working upstairs after all.  I never forgot it, aced the class, and went on to teach English for ten years upon graduating from college.

Do words matter?  Consider the thoughts of greater minds than mine…

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. -Jesus

Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it. -Robert Frost

There are two types who say very little: the quiet type and the gabby type. -Unknown

Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.
 -Plato

Do not be quick with your mouth; do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.  As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. -King Solomon

Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness. -Margaret Millar

Women speak because they wish to speak, whereas a man speaks only when driven to speech by something outside himself; like, for instance, he can't find any clean socks. -Jean Kerr

After all is said and done, more is said than done. -Unknown

The words we say will teach if we practice what we preach. -Unknown

When you are arguing with a fool, make sure he isn't doing the same thing. -Unknown

If it takes a lot of words to say what you have in mind - give it more thought. -Dennis Roth

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. -Mark Twain

Don't speak unless you can improve on the silence. -Spanish Proverb

Never miss a good chance to shut up. -Will Rogers

Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. -C.S. Lewis

Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them. 
-Adlai Stevenson

One half the troubles in this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough. -Josh Billings

If you think little of a person, you ought to say as little as you think. -Benjamin Franklin

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. 
-Harriet Beecher Stowe

Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. -Colossians 4:6

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. -Ps. 19:14

Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Speak life into those around you today.  You never know when it just might be a lifeline. 

tad

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

You say tomato...

Ah, the beauty of the human race.  Like snowflakes, God has not made one of us a copy of another.  And like an inexhaustible catalog, it was His design that we come in all shapes and sizes, different colors and temperaments. It’s what makes clunking around on this planet together so challenging and yet, at the same time, so rich and rewarding.

But how much energy is devoted to trying to persuade others to be like us—think like us, feel like us, to like what we like and hate what we hate.  If you don’t agree, just try listening to 10 minutes of most talk shows (there’s a reason they’re not called listen shows).  It’s “I think blah, blah this and blah, blah that.” Unfortunately this pursuit of group think is not restricted to the world out there…you know, the secular world of education, politics, and entertainment.  It can also be found rearing its ugly head smack dab in the middle of the body of Christ.

One of our core values in the worship and arts ministry of our church is pretty simple: Celebrate diversity. Just two words.  One a verb, an action word.  The other a noun, a person, place or thing. Put them together and they give us a compelling, God-pleasing formula for building up the body of Christ through the arts.  For the purposes of this article, let’s limit our focus to style rather than substance. No one is advocating a watering down of systematic, Biblical theology to accommodate alternatives to orthodox Christianity. Jesus never proposed an expansive highway leading to His kingdom but rather a narrow path.

But in our life together as God’s people, in what areas might we celebrate our diversity? Start with the word celebrate. It suggests an act of intentional affirmation, to hold up or play up in a public way, to honor or value in a deliberate way. What it does not imply is tolerating or observing in a token, even patronizing way. It is, as we have said, intentional, deliberate, positive, and public.

Then there’s the current cultural buzzword: diversity.  Try obtaining a corporate or educational grant these days without a boatload of evidence that you are culturally diverse, and you may as well try to convert the pope.  But how does one define diversity?  I know the government must have a definition.  But what is helpful in constructing a ministry which reflects the heart and mind of God? 

Paul writes to the church at Corinth: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all people.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)  Our first clue as to what will characterize a healthy church is that it recognizes and allows differences.  God isn’t into cloning.  He likes originals, not copies.  In musical terms, He knew unison gets old, so He created harmony. 

So what are some examples of diversity in the church which we should be witnessing to celebrate the diverse nature of God?  Start with the obvious in the contemporary church in America.  How about different styles? I remember the days when what separated us from the church down the block was mainly doctrine.  Today, we have created niche churches to appeal to a plethora of style preferences. 

A recent church sign I passed actually bragged “We Still Sing the Good Ol’ Hymns.”  So who is right? The traditionalists or the contemporaries?  The Bible actually mentions very little about the “how-to’s” of corporate worship, choosing to use descriptive language rather than definitive.  Check out Psalm 150, I Corinthians 14: 26ff, Ephesians 5:19-21, and so on.  Paul’s summary statement that “there are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all people” suggests that God can actually be expressed through more than one style or language.  We needn’t fight over it or form new fellowships around it.

Other forms of diversity in the body which can find expression through the arts:

·         cultural history (also usually associated with musical styles)
·         how we dress (Before you complain about the casual dress of the contemporary          
      church, don’t   forget how upset your grandma got when you stopped wearing hats 
      and suits to worship.)
·         different types of instrumentation (Do you know that when the organ was first 
      introduced to the church in Europe, it was considered a godless, secular instrument?  
      So also, the drums, guitar, keyboards in our day)
·         use of the body in worship (clappers, hand-raisers, kneelers, those who prefer a more 
      stoic, if not statue-like aspect)
·         expressions which speak more to the thinker 
·         ditto for the feeler
·         people who like to sing
·         people whose gift to the world is not to sing
·         artsy types who love pushing the envelope
·         traditionalists who get nervous when everything appears to be changing
·         the lovers of the loud
·         the root-ers of the reverent
·         and on and on it goes.

Can we begin to hold a big enough view of God and a loving enough attitude toward one another that we actually can celebrate our differences.  It will say to the world that the God, in whose image we are made, has many facets to His beauty, and we who reflect His glory desperately need each other.  At the end of the day, if I say tomato and you say to-mah-to, let’s just keep listening to each other.  The world has enough talk shows.
tad