The Fish Wars

I know it is tough to be a Christian today. These days, in polite society, one gets the impression that no decent person with even a shred of intelligence could believe the non-scientific, backward, even hateful things that Christians purportedly believe.

Game over? Are Christians just waiting for the clock to run out, wondering if, like youth sports, there is a mercy rule in religion? I see many Christians, in a hurry to get to their cars and leave, hustling out of the stadium of religion, heads hanging in grief, guilt or shame.

I get it. I understand both sides. People genuinely misunderstand Jesus. They think they have heard the Gospel. They say they know Christians. But they reject both the caricature of Jesus they have heard and the un-Christian Christians they have met. Christians feel judged too—rightfully protesting: “We don’t hate gay people! We are not all in bed with politicians! We don’t think that everyone who disagrees with our denomination is going to hell!”

This is all real. But the instinct to fight back in a kind of PR war will not work. Remember The Fish Wars—the Truth fish eating the Darwin fish? That went well…for sellers of trinkets. But I’d bet my last dollar that millions of pieces of plastic of the back of cars did not change many minds. No one ever converted to Christ because they lost a bumper sticker war.

But, standing tall in the middle of human history, behind all the ups and downs of two thousand years cultural religious tension is the person of Jesus Christ. He is the most amazing being to ever walk, talk or do deeds of love, power and justice. He can handle some bad PR.

Jesus stands through his moments on the cross. At the cross Jesus stepped upon the stage of world history, where he has remained up to the present. As he said at a crucial turning point in his career (John 12): I, when I am lifted up from the earth [in crucifixion], will draw all people to myself. We need to see clearly the profound wisdom of his chosen path toward his goal.

Jesus very purposively rejected opportunities to be a political or military leader or a king. With his incredible power and attractiveness, had he wished to do so, there were many ways he could have avoided the cross. But, as he clearly told his followers at the time (John 10): I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.

In his death on the cross Jesus revealed both the depth of human sin and brutality and the unlimited reach of God’s love and power. Jesus lifted up on the cross is the turning point in history that consistently makes itself seen and felt in every generation—even generations in which church, Christians and religion are not popular. How? Two things:

First, as Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, we preach Christ crucified…the power of God and the wisdom of God. And second, we live as if we believe this wisdom is true. We don’t, in frustration, merely point to doctrine. Rather, being partakers of the life of the risen Christ, we announce, embody and demonstrate a cross and resurrection-enabled life. We do so not just for our own piety, but also for the sake of others, that others would experience our followership of Jesus as for their good.

– Todd Hunter

Simple Spiritual Practices for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday! It’s a little less cluttered with material goods than Christmas and can (if we let it) exert a unique influence on our development of a Kingdom life, an eternal kind of life. We’ve found this happens best when we build in some basic spiritual practices around the holiday to create an ongoing, daily spirit of thankfulness to our Lord.

We start our own thanksgiving practices early—the first of the month! On November 1st, we hang a Thanksgiving Calendar in the walkway and divide up 30 index cards evenly between us and begin thinking and writing down the events, people, or blessings over the past year for which we’re genuinely grateful. Once we’re done we put the cards (randomly) into the pockets of the calendar. Then, before dinner each day, we pull out the index card for that day and read it together. We’ve found this turns our meals (and month) in the direction of genuine thankfulness—which a great thing in and of itself, of course, but is also an especially appropriate way to end the Christian year, before the first Sunday of Advent (the first day of the Christian calendar) rolls around!

In the evening we also try to make time for at least two minutes of thanksgiving—two minutes we intentionally free up for spending in silence or thanking God aloud for anything that comes to mind. This practice focuses us not just on the past year’s events, but also on the little events of our day. Sometimes John will have more to share, and sometimes I will. The only rule is: no requests of God during these two minutes are only words are to be words of thanksgiving.

It’s also worth considering giving a gift, in Jesus’ name, to someone you know who is in need, as a thank offering to the Lord for how He has blessed you or your family. If you have children—especially pre-teens or teenagers—you might want to consider having a family discussion about some person, family or organization that you as a family might be able to bless this season. We’ve seen families who do this watch their children catch the gift of worshipful thankfulness from an early age, and even begin leading the way in living it out once they’ve caught it!

As the year comes to a close, may the LORD bless your remembrance of His gifts!

– John & Erika Saladino