Engaging the Culture

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Posted 3/18/14 at 10:58 AM | George Sarris

New Messenger. . . New Message

Last Thursday marked the one year anniversary of an event that gave Christianity a new messenger and a new message.

The messenger, of course, is Jorge Mario Bergoglio – a former janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher. He wasn’t really new. He had been around for decades, making an impact in his home country of Argentina. It’s just that the rest of the world had rarely seen or heard him until he was elected the 266th Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013.

For most of this past year, Pope Francis was in the news almost every week . . . surprising both conservatives and liberals with what he did and what he said. TIME magazine named him Person of the Year for 2013, and a week later the LGBT magazine The Advocate did the same.

The “New” Messenger

Throughout his public life – as an individual and as a religious leader – Pope Francis has been noted for his simple lifestyle, his love and concern for the poor and marginalized, and his personal morality. His motto as Bishop and as Pope is “Miserando atque eligendo,” which loosely translated means, “lowly but chosen.” FULL POST

Posted 12/24/13 at 9:51 AM | George Sarris

The Pivotal Event of History

Did you see it when you turned on your computer this morning?

Did you see the notice prominently displayed on your home screen declaring that Jesus Christ is the greatest Person who ever lived . . . and that His life had a greater impact on the world than any other person in history?

If you didn’t see it on your computer screen, did you notice it on your cell phone? Or when you picked up your mail?

Interestingly, a similar notice was prominently displayed at the top of this morning’s home pages of the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.  In fact, it was posted in several places on the home pages of The Freethinker – the voice of atheism since 1881, The Eloquent Atheist, and on the copyright page of god is not Great – the 2007 bestselling book by author and journalist Chrstopher Hitchens.

By now, you’ve probably guessed that each one of those items have a date on them. FULL POST

Posted 12/11/13 at 2:31 PM | George Sarris

Who Got It Right . . . Calvin or Arminius?

The centuries-old debate between the followers of John Calvin and Jacob Arminius has surfaced again on the pages of ChristianPost.com. This time, each side claims to offer absolute PROOF that they are right . . . and, by implication, that the other side is wrong.

Dan Delzell began the exchange with his article, Proof that God Wants Everyone in Heaven. That was responded to just a day later by Robin Schumacher’s, Proof That God Chooses Who Will Be Saved, and then about a week and a half after that with a follow-up article, Why Isn’t Everyone a Christian? .

As would be expected, they both succeeded in accomplishing their primary goal – to prove their point. FULL POST

Posted 12/3/13 at 3:43 PM | George Sarris

Who Got It Right . . . Reformers or the Pope?

It’s been repeated so often . . . by so many people . . . on so many different occasions that its truth is no longer questioned. It’s simply assumed.

I recently heard it mentioned in a sermon, with most of the congregation nodding approval as if it came straight out of the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve seen it referred to in print as an unquestioned fact. And I’ve even stated it as an assured truth myself on several occasions.

What I’m talking about is the answer to the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Question: What is the chief end of man?

Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

That certainly sounds profound. In fact, it’s almost poetic in the way it’s phrased. It even has two parts . . . as if it’s highlighting aspects of the two great commandments.

But when I heard it this last time, something wasn’t quite right.

It’s not that glorifying God and enjoying Him forever is wrong. It certainly isn’t. It’s just incomplete.

Two . . . Not One

The problem is that there are two great commandments, not one. FULL POST

Posted 9/26/13 at 11:30 AM | George Sarris

It All Started With The Shack

When was the last time you read a book that literally changed your life? For me, it’s happened twice – at the end of my junior year of college and in my last semester in seminary. And I’ll never forget them.

Last week I got a phone call and three emails from a friend who was so excited to tell me about two books . . . both novels . . . both written by the same author . . . both books that changed his life! But he was also angry and frustrated.

A Publishing Phenomenon

The first was The Shack by William Paul Young, a completely unknown author who wrote a book for his children about a man – Mackenzie Allen Philips (Mack) – who lost his daughter under tragic circumstances that challenged his faith. Then, Mack met God . . . really met Him!

The novel was unorthodox, to say the least, in its portrayal of God. He’s called Papa, but appears to Mack as a “large beaming African-American woman” who “engulfed him in her arms,” exuding love! Mack also meets a “small, distinctly Asian woman” who “seemed almost to shimmer in the light” . . . and a man who “appeared Middle Eastern and was dressed like a laborer” and whose “eyes and smile lit up his face.”  The love Mack experiences in Their presence helps heal him and changes his life forever. FULL POST

Posted 9/5/13 at 11:32 AM | George Sarris

Judge . . . Not!

It was about 40 years ago that I had the privilege of hearing her speak – and it definitely was a privilege! I had heard of her, but had never actually heard her before.

My wife and I were on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ at the time, serving at their then headquarters at Arrowhead Springs in San Bernardino, CA. Well-known people within the Christian community would often stop by, and it was not unusual for them to speak at Staff Devotions. She spoke three times, and I can still remember the main point of each of her talks.

Corrie ten Boom, along with her father and other family members helped Jews, Gypsies and others in the Netherlands escape the Nazi Holocaust in World War II . . . until a Dutch informant told about the ten Boom’s work. The family was arrested. Corrie’s father died ten days later. And Corrie – with her sister Betsie – was eventually sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany. FULL POST

Posted 3/24/13 at 6:29 PM | George Sarris

Bell and Whistles

I was saddened to learn of Rob Bell's decision to affirm Gay marriage.

 It was particularly disheartening for me because I believe in God’s never-ending love for all. Bell came out as a sort-of-spokesman for that view with his book, Love Wins. His support for Gay marriage, however, adds fuel to the idea that all who hope for an ultimate restoration of God’s entire creation are "liberal" and don't base their beliefs on the true teaching of Scripture or find support for it in the historic teachings of the Christian Church.

I don’t fault Bell for his desire to promote more love . . . more fidelity . . . more monogamy . . . and more people who are committed to each other. Those are clearly Biblical themes that should resonate with all those who call themselves Christians.

I don’t fault Bell for questioning the “teaching of the elders” in his desire to awaken a lethargic Church to its true mission of reaching out to needy people with the message of God’s love for all. That is a message that Jesus communicated to those in authority in His day who arrogantly boasted of how they alone knew what God really wanted. Jesus told them to “go and learn what this means – I desire mercy, not sacrifice!”  FULL POST

Posted 10/23/12 at 3:21 PM | George Sarris

Hope & Change

Yogi Berra once famously said,

It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

That is definitely true when it comes to politics. Things often change very dramatically in a very short period of time. However, I’m still going to make a prediction about the outcome of the current presidential election that I think will prove to be true.

Mitt Romney won the election in last night’s debate.

Most of the media coverage leading up to the debate predicted an all-out fight, with both of the contenders in attack mode. After all, this was a foreign policy debate. Romney would certainly assail President Obama on his handling of Libya . . . and Afghanistan . . . and Iran. But, that didn’t happen. Romney didn’t attack. He pointed out differences. And, he also pointed out areas of agreement. He did something that this country has not seen in a very long time.

The Real Issue FULL POST

Posted 9/25/12 at 2:30 PM | George Sarris

View From A Blue State Independent

I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I am a registered Independent.

I voted for John McCain in 2008, but I was not unhappy when I learned that Barack Obama won the election. I was glad that the country made the historic step of voting in an African American to the highest office in the land. I was hoping that he would succeed in providing a good role model as a husband, father, and wise leader – especially for many in America’s inner cities who don’t have strong male role models in their homes.

I listened to some of the speeches given at this year's Republican National Convention, and I listened to some of the speeches given at this year's Democratic National Convention. As expected, some in each were powerful and delivered well. Others fell flat. They occurred at political nominating conventions, so I expected them to be partisan.

As I look out at the landscape of this country right now and try to understand what is the best course for us to take in the future, three things really concern me. FULL POST

Posted 8/8/12 at 11:42 AM | George Sarris

In The Beginning . . . How?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth!

That is not a very controversial statement among Christians. Whether they believe in Special Creation or some kind of Theistic Evolution, most sincere Christians agree that God did it. The controversy, of course, revolves around questions relating to how He did it. Did He create by divine fiat? Or, did He use the mechanism of evolution to bring the universe and all of its complexities into being?

I have discussed this issue on numerous occasions with friends I consider sincere, dedicated, thoughtful Christians who disagree with me – and often with one another – on the “how” question. Most of those discussions have been civil dialogues where we have been free to state our cases clearly and challenge one another directly. Perhaps the most amazing outcome from these conversations is that we are still friends! FULL POST

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