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Jesus Would Not Approve of the Cancel Culture

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John [8:12]

A Twitter follower wrote me saying, I am amazed at the state of our country. Each day I hear about something so strange, I wonder if it is real. Now, what he was talking about are the strange events that are happening to our country. Events so illogical, they make you think and wonder, now why would they do that?

The cancel culture mob has emerged as a driving force in American life. A dark and marauding group that seeks to eliminate any and all that disagree. American’s are losing their jobs, statues are tumbling, and corporations are giving in, afraid of backlash. Freedom is under attack.

University of Chicago’s famed economist Harald Uhlig recently came under attack after saying; Don’t defund the police, train them better. Uhlig was placed on leave after a blistering attack by the cancel culture mob.

Reason Magazine senior editor, Robby Soave, came to Uhlig’s defense by saying; There was nothing discriminatory in what he said because he has some different views from the protesters, he must be a racist.

In turns out Uhlig views were right. Violent crime is remarkably up. In Milwaukee, crime is up 132%. New York, as well is seeing crime increase to levels not seen since 1997. And this is not the exception but has become the norm. Police funding is being reduced and with the low morale in many of our police departments throughout our country has caused this increase. Some will tell you otherwise, but they aren’t talking to law enforcement officials.

I believe that most local police officers want to a good job and humanely protect their citizenry. For instance, I recently heard from a pastor friend that accompanies local police who have the job of telling next of kin the loss of a loved one. He told me about their incredible compassion and professionalism. I have seen the same. However, I also know there are some who take their job too far and target black men.

The cancel culture mob is calling to cancel or defund police departments? Is the solution to make the police disappear? And is the solution to maintain the status quo? My answer is no to all.

A recent poll by Associated press confirms my view. Ninety-five percent of all Americans want police reform. Also, most police departments do as well. Overwhelmingly Americans want solutions, not cancellations.

Americans want better training for all police and better identification methods of those who step beyond the bounds of decency. And in the same poll, few wanted to cancel or defund the police.

Likewise, the cancel culture mob has begun destroying statutes. In fact, a Fredrick Douglas statue was recently torn down. Why? no one really knows. But it canceled a great African American leader from our past.

Aunt Jemima has been erased by the cancel culture mob, to the dismay of her family and many black leaders. It seems Quaker Oats, who benefited from Aunt Jemima was too quick to listen to the cancel mob. Afraid of the backlash they canceled her. In doing so, they erased her efforts as the co-founder of the largest church in America, as of 1900. They eliminated the first black corporate spokespeople and one of the first female spokespeople as well. They canceled her years of hard work as one of the early civil rights activists.

In Seattle, all the white city employees have been gathered together to learn how to get rid of their Whiteness and are being instructed that they have all participated in some form of racism. In fact, white employees were instructed to practice self-talk that affirms their complicity in racism. Making me wonder, who decided all white people are racist? And isn’t that assumption in itself racist?

David Shor, an analyst from Civis Analytics, stated in a report; riots alienate voters. For this, he was fired. Even though his analysis is supported by facts.

A Boeing executive was even forced out for opposing women’s service in the military—30 years ago. A thought he long ago changed.

The new dark and angry totalitarians called the cancel culture mob, demand that no one criticize their view of the world. Otherwise, they will attack.

We all need to become better at thinking things through, instead of quickly resorting to canceling. If this is our new way of solving problems, we will all eventually be canceled. No group or community is free from mistakes and all have fallen short.

Instead, we should build on what’s good and not resort to quick fixes like canceling. Despite our flaws, we are a country that generally wants to do the right thing. And the rest of the world knows this, despite what we might read. Every year the most desired country to immigrate to is the United States. In fact, in 2017, over one million people immigrated, by far the largest amount for any country.

There are very clear abuses that go on in our country and they need to stop. But canceling and portraying entire groups based on some individual actions will not solve the problem. Rather, we should follow Jesus and his lessons. And this is why Jesus said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

A simple message to live life with Jesus in mind. He is the light of the world. For us all to work a little harder to see the good in all people. To not jump to quick solutions that fail to recognize all the facts. Jesus wants us to love and not blame. It is too easy to curse the darkness, but much harder to light a candle. And this is where we all should get better.

We must lift up the many great people from all walks of life that have lifted up our country. Instead of canceling and living darkly, we need to become followers of the light. Looking for those who do good. We should honor our heroes more widely, those who make us great. We need to gather up the great doers of good and let them lead. Not this angry mob that trolls the internet to seek people to cancel.

We won’t agree with our neighbor on every point of view. Jesus asks us, however, to still love all our neighbors.

Jesus wants us to walk in the light and not the darkness of judging others. Jesus wants us to listen to learn and not prepare our next attack.

Jesus wants us to love and forgive. As Jesus did when he went to the Cross.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by ev on Unsplash

The Lord Is Merciful

The Lord is merciful and compassionate; slow to anger, and giving of kindness and love……”

Psalm 145:8

Saturday was one of those typical Jersey summer days; humidity and temperature about equal, and the sun adding a bit to help bake.  I received a notification early of a fatality in one of the communities where I serve as a police chaplain and arrived at the scene a short time later.  Praying for the young man was about all that I could do as we all were waiting for the investigation to run its’ course.  While there, we received word of a fatal car accident and it was felt by all I could be of more service there.

I knew many of the officers and firefighters on scene, and had prayed with the NJ State Police Sergeant and crew at a diner in the past.

As we waited for the painstaking and thorough investigation with multiple agencies involved, I observed this Psalmist’s verse being lived out.  God was working through everyone on scene in so many ways.  Here are just a few.

The main concern was for the family of the deceased: it was imperative to be 100% certain of the young man’s identity.  The secondary concern was for everyone on scene:  I lost count of how many times I heard “Pastor Lou, you ok?”  Or “_______ is having a tough time; can I have him talk to you?”  Do you need water?  We have some coffee if you’d like… and on and on.   Kindness

And finally when we went to the parents’ home, the officer showed a tenderness and compassion that only comes as a gift from God in sharing news that turns a family upside down.

God was present through all the events that day; and I wanted to take this time to say “Thank you” to all our first responders. You will always be in my thoughts and prayers; and I wish you peace and safety!

Pastor Lou Strugala

Lou Strugala

Lou Strugala

Pastor Lou Strugala has a wonderfully deep background in ministry. Lou is more of a “Street Preacher” and has dedicated his life to helping Jesus and those in need.

Finding The Truth

Then Pilate said to Him: ‘So you are a King?’  Jesus answered: ‘You say that I am a King. For this purpose, I was born and for this purpose, I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.’  Pilate said to Him: ‘What is truth?

John [18:37]-38

We are living through unique times, perhaps like no other in history. Yet the other day when I heard the announcement of Senator Harris’ nomination; so much conflicting information came out that I felt like Pilate and wondered: What is the truth?

We often hear the phrase “God is Love”.  What would happen if we heard “God is Truth”.  Would that cause us to be more responsible in our information gathering as we make decisions? Would we not take allegations at face value without deeper knowledge of the facts and most importantly? Would we strive to live into the truth knowing that we are living into God’s Love?

If we strive for the truth in whatever we do, we strive for a peaceful harmony.  We can disagree, have our own views, and discuss our perspectives without harming anyone in the process.  We just need to search for the truth with love.

Praying for our country….

Pastor Lou Strugala

 

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

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1st Timothy: An Inside Look at The Development of the First Christian Churches

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer

1st Timothy 1:3

1st Timothy is one of the three Pastoral Epistles in the New Testament, attributed to the Apostle Paul. The letter was written to Paul’s protégé, Timothy. Tradition states that this letter was written in the mid first century. Most scholars doubt that this is the case and assign it’s writing to the mid second century. As such, most scholars don’t believe Paul wrote this letter. I take a different view; I believe both tradition and the scholars are correct. My view is that it is likely that Paul originally wrote this letter, and that it was later heavily edited up until the mid-second century. My research and reasoning for this position explains the value of the letter. In other words, both points of view are right, and this combining of ideas that spans almost one hundred years, make this letter an extraordinary addition to our Bible.

1st Timothy is about the standards of conduct for the early church. For both those who have oversight and for the attenders. The early church in Ephesus, which Timothy was placed in charge; is used as the example by Paul. Paul originally wrote this letter to his protégé, Timothy, to help him keep the church in Ephesus on track.  There are three important themes arise out of the letter;  to avoid false doctrine, the qualities needed for those who run the church and  godliness for all.

The value for us in the 21st century, is that in this letter we get a first-hand look into the growing pains of the early church and the issues that these pioneers had to deal with in creating the church we know today.

Paul is traveling to Macedonia when he writes this letter and asks Timothy to stay in Ephesus to help the church with its growing pains. One of the issues the church was dealing with was false doctrine. Like any new organization that starts to grow quickly, the new arrivers begin to add their own ideas. Sometimes good and sometimes bad. Paul knew that getting this right at the start was important, both for the church to grow and to stay sustainable.

An example of this false doctrine was how to view the law and specifically the Ten Commandments. When taken very literally the law didn’t leave room for the spirit of the law and Faith. As such, could easily be manipulated. In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is very specific that following the law without a spirit of loving God and your neighbor, the law will be of little value. Some from the Jewish background or newly minted Jewish Christians desired more emphasis on the law. In effect, bringing their comfortable background into the new church, but not really understanding the importance of the spirit of the law and Faith .

This directive is best summed up in 1:4, where Paul states; Not to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.

It isn’t that Paul didn’t believe in the law of Moses, it is the added emphasis of the spirit and faith that Paul sought.

Others from the Gentile world sought to bring previous pagan practices to the church. Keeping the purpose of Christ free from false doctrine, dominated the church for well over four hundred years. This letter provides a look into this struggle.

The letter also gives a strong message of the importance of the leader’s faithfulness. In 3:2 Paul states; Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. Paul’s point here is to assign leadership to people who have the right attitude about how to live a Christian life. For even if leaders have strong organizational skills, without proper Christian conduct, they would weaken the church. Today, many ministers and priests are evaluated on these principles in 1st Timothy.

One of the more interesting aspects of this letter is the use of the word godliness. Godliness only appears in the New Testament eighteen times and not one once is the four Gospels, Acts or any of Paul’s first letters. In 1st Timothy Godliness appears twelve times. The reason I point this out is that Godliness is a critical theme to the book. As well as, it is one of the reasons scholars do not think this letter was written by Paul. For me, its inclusion is part of my support for why I believe the letter underwent heavy editing.

The Godliness concept applies both to the leaders of the new church and to the congregation. In the Bible; Godliness is mainly used to describe a positive way of life influenced by God, and inspired reflection in the tenets of the Christian faith. A person with Godliness was faithful, kind, generous, pious, and committed to Christ.  In 1st Timothy, this standard is the aspirational goal for all Christians.

With these three themes in mind, I encourage all to read this book/letter. The total time to read is no more than fifteen minutes. In doing so, you will discover the issues that had to be resolved for the early church to grow. A wonderful gift for that helps us understand the struggles of the early church. A ministry centered on three things; adherence to the true message of Jesus, the right people to have in leadership and a commitment to godliness.

I also strongly believed that the basis of this letter was Paul, as tradition suggests. However, I understand why scholars don’t feel it was Paul. Examples include; the use of the word godliness, and there are another 353 words that Paul never used in his other writings. Also,   the literary flow is different than in other of Paul’s writings. I see these discrepancies as the editing from the first and second century’s church leaders to fully capture the struggles of the emerging church and not just the church in Ephesus. But I also strongly believe Paul was the original author

I believe this is part of the beauty of this letter. And the reason it is included as one of the twenty seven books of the New Testament. What was created from this one hundred year process of writing and editing is a capturing of how the early church struggled. The resolution of these issues are so skillfully captured in 1st Timothy, we in the twenty-first century are given a ring side seat to the how the early church grew and emerged. And we also are provided a basis to evaluate ourselves and our own church.

We don’t have to overthink this message; only remember to stick with Jesus’s teachings, strive to be above reproach and focus on our personal Godliness. Three simple messages!

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by John Cafazza on Unsplash

All of Us Can Make A Difference

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone upon the waters to create many ripples….”

Mother Teresa

When I was a young man, I was under the impression that wisdom came from status, title or other tangible factors. Over the years I’ve learned that wisdom, true wisdom, comes from the simplest and most basic sources.  You see, I’ve learned that true wisdom originates in the heart.

Think of Mother Teresa’s statement.  None of us can change the entire world; but all of us, with God’s help, can make a positive difference. We all can help to change something; which will change someone, who in turn will change someone else: and eventually, the whole world can change.

Go ahead and say a prayer as you drop your pebble in the pool of humanity.  You CAN make a difference for the good of all….

I’ll be praying with you….

Pastor Lou Strugala

 

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

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Milking Cows is a Good Way to Learn Kindness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentlenesses, and self-control. 

Galatians [5:22]

I usually speak to my mom once a day, by phone. We discuss many things; life, how she is doing, and the Boston Red Sox. Sometimes we ramble about little things, other times we venture into the profound. On a recent call, my Mom unknowingly gave me the clue to the roots of her kind and generous heart. Not in a bravado way, but through her eyes as a young teenager. She said; If you want to be a kind person, learn to milk cows!

My mom grew up during the Depression and World War II. Life was much leaner in those days and both parents sometimes had to work, as was the case with her parents. Each summer to help her parents out, my mother and her two siblings went to their grandparent’s farm to work. Some of mom’s favorite childhood memories come from spending her summers working on their farm.

Life is hard on a farm. There are fields to tend to, chickens to feed, and cows to milk. The day starts at dawn and isn’t finished until after dark. One of the hardest things to learn is how to milk a cow. Now it would seem that you put a pail under a cow’s udder, sit on a stool, squeeze the appropriate spot, and out comes milk.

Before today’s corporate dairy farms, in the mid 20th century, milking cows was not quite that easy. The cow had to know you and be comfortable with you. If you tried just sitting down and milking, it wouldn’t work. What made it even worse, was if you were impatient and surly.

Today’s dairy cows are fed supplements to make them produce more milk and generally, the cows are milked mechanically. Over time they become used to the process or if not, selected out. In the 1940’s, when my mom milked cows, dairy farms were not that sophisticated, and cows had to be milked by hand.

As a young teenager, she had to learn all the nuances of milking cows. Some cows could be stubborn and others easier to milk. Some needed a little pat or maybe a treat, each cow was different. And each cow performed better when spoken to with a calm voice. Today, my mom takes great pride in this past ability. It was her way of helping out both her parents and grandparents; and she became very good at the nuances of milking cows. The most important nuance was kindness.

Many times on our daily talks, my mom will use the milking of the cows as an example of how to deal with people. It never quite hit me, that the root of her kindness was from milking cows those many years ago. I had heard her stories many times, but only on a recent call, I was able to connect the dots. We were talking about the deep polarization in our country, and then she exclaimed;  As a country, we lack kindness and If you want to be a kind person, learn to milk cows! There it was the solution to our national dilemma, kindness!

In today’s verse, Paul writes in Galatians about the fruits of the Spirit. He says; The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. I have always loved this verse. One of the things I try to do is to recite all nine fruits that are listed from memory. It is a long list and invariably I forget a few.

Kindness stands out in this verse and in many ways is strongly connected to the other eight. For instance, you can’t have an attitude of love, without kindness. To have forbearance, you must be kind.  Being gentle takes kindness as well. Try this association with all the fruits yourself and you will see that the critical component of kindness is integral to the other eight.

When I read or hear about the angry discourse in our country, I wonder how much of it would go away if we approached all people with a little more kindness. Certainly, we wouldn’t talk over people. We would listen with the intent of learning instead of rebutting. We would deeply want to know why the other person had their point of view. It doesn’t mean we won’t disagree, and sometimes we will. Instead, we will create a sense of openness and trust.

This may sound a little too simplistic, but when I think about most of my friends and their polite conversations, there is one common denominator, they all have kindness! It doesn’t mean we always agree, rather civility and kindness are very important ingredients in any conversation.

Maybe my mom is right, milking cows will make us kinder!

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

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To Kneel Or Not To Kneel: A Very Personal Decision

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,

Luke [22:41] 

When my daughters were in grade school, I volunteered to be their soccer coach. One of my duties was to not only coach the basics of soccer but also to ensure they knew the appropriate behavior on the field. One of these items was for them to take a knee or kneel when a player became injured. And they would ask, why are we supposed to that?

My reply to them had two reasons. The first, to ensure that there was room for the injured player to receive help from the coaches and any medical staff. The second was that it was a sign of respect for the injured player. Once explained, the players always followed the rule.

When you look up the history of kneeling and its definition, you come up with two standard definitions. The first is kneeling in prayer, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when praying about the events that would occur on Good Friday, which is described in today’s verse. A respectful position when talking with God. The second, is a position of submission, as would occur with a prisoner or someone being attacked. Kneeling became a word sometime before the 12th century.

Today, kneeling has become a flashpoint of debate, especially in professional sports. Some players kneel and others don’t. On one side it is a call for improvements in social justice. On the other side is not kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, but standing, which is seen as a patriotic sign of respect for our country. As well as, respect for those who served to protect our country. Both sides will claim they are right and unfortunately kneeling during the national anthem has become a subject of much debate.

Before the Boston Red Sox opening day baseball game this year, their outfielder, Jackie Bradley, opted to kneel. This was a hard decision for Bradley, an unusually quiet and respectful person. He explained his decision as follows; I think about struggle, a lot of pain that a lot of people have been through, and I just think about the next generation behind me as well. We want things to be better and we want more love.

A little background on Bradley, as a Red Sox he has always carried himself with a quiet respectful air. When he makes a great catch, and as one the league’s best defensive outfielders he makes them a lot, there is no showboating. He simply throws the ball back to the infield and acknowledges politely the cheers. He is a good clubhouse person and always the one to lead with a thoughtful remark. Jackie has only played for the Red Sox and has won two World Series.

Bradley is also a good local citizen and contributes his time and money to the local community. So is Bradley showing disrespect? I don’t think so. Rather, I think he is making a statement politely that he wants our country to love all people better. There is nothing in his background to make us fans think otherwise, but he has experienced and seen racism.

Mookie Betts a former Red Sox and now with the Dodgers, also knelt and had another point of view, similar to Jackie, but slightly different. His point of view is; I wasn’t educated. That’s my fault. I need to be educated on the situation. I know my dad served and I’ll never disrespect the flag, but there’s also gotta be change in the world, and kneeling has nothing to do with those who served our country.”

Betts like Bradley is a wonderful young man, whose standard facial expression is a smile. When one of his teammates hits a home run. He is the first to greet them on their way back to the dugout. Despite being one of baseball’s great stars, he takes their bat and helmet and then puts both away in the racks that line the dugout. Betts, like Bradley, doesn’t get into prolonged arguments with umpires, and very seldom do you see anything but a smile.

Betts’s kneel was a statement of support for social justice. A decision that was very hard for him because of his dad. He doesn’t mean disrespect. And most of the time he will stand to honor those like his dad, who served.

Stephon Truitt the star defensive end for the Pittsburgh Steelers, will not kneel during the playing of the national anthem. He states that he is, a proud American and he will always stand. He explains his position based on his grandmother’s life, by saying; My grandmother was an immigrant from the Caribbean and . . . worked her butt off to bring 20 people over the right way. She had no money and educated herself to be a nurse. She is living well now.”

Truitt is a no-nonsense leader, who follows his own mind and isn’t easily swayed by arguments that are fashionable. This is what he believes and is willing to go against the grain.

All three of these athletes have well thought out positions. Each position deeply personal and developed through critical thinking. All three are African Americans.

Three different points of view about kneeling, and for these individuals, very personal decisions. None desire that their actions be taken by others personally. It’s their life experiences and it is how they feel. These three men are not limelight pursuers. They are humble men with conviction.

And that is the point, it is not about taking sides, but knowing the hearts of the people that have taken their individual positions. This kneeling question has no universal answer because it is a reflection of life experiences. Some of us feel very strongly about the value of our flag and what it represents. Others want our country to see that not all are afforded equality of opportunity.

It seems to me both positions have value. We do live in a great country and are surrounded by many who prize and fought for our freedom. As well, our country should constantly strive to do better in providing equality of opportunity. Because we are Americans, both opinions should and can be expressed. This isn’t an issue that can be defined with absolute certainty of correctness. Rather it is an issue that has many facets and listening is more important than taking a side.

For me, I will always stand. The flag represents the opportunities that I inherited by being American. But I also know, others haven’t had the same access to a life of unlimited opportunities. When those who are limited kneel, it makes me want to work harder to fight for their equality of opportunity.

Jesus kneeled in the garden, out of respect for God, and showed his submission. He spoke his famous words in this position; not my will but yours be done. Kneeling is a sacred act when done with an honest and pure heart. And over these many centuries, many have assumed this position to seek the truth and express their desires. And many more will in the future. In each individual case kneeling is a very personal individual decision.

Like many issues, kneeling isn’t an issue with which to take sides. Rather it is one with which praying will help us understand, perhaps kneeling while we do.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Winston Churchill; A Flawed Man Who Saved a Nation

 Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

1st Timothy [1:15]

Winston Churchill would commonly wake up late in the morning. And many days start off with a stiff drink. Usually gruff to the staff and he had a tendency to lose his temper. Many days he smoked four or more cigars, had a bottle of Champagne, and drank Scotch late into the night. His language could be crude, and he could anger easily.

His political and military record was spotted with questionable decisions. He convinced a future king to marry a commoner, which eliminated any chance for the person to become king. During World War 1, his decision to outflank the Turks cost twenty-five thousand lives in Gallipoli. His decision in 1925 to return the British currency to the Gold Standard of valuation helped put the United kingdom into a depression. He also believed in the superiority of the British people, which led to him having an Imperialistic view of the British colonies.

Churchill was a very complicated person, with many flaws. Even today, many will argue his weaknesses. Especially in our current times of judging people solely on their weaknesses. Recently, in London, his statue was vandalized, and word racist was inscribed on his statue.

There is another side to Churchill than just his weaknesses. He had a very rare human quality of being able to stay principled when others pressed for quick solutions.  He stood up when others chose to sit down. Churchill through a mixture of luck and have no one else to pick, became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in May 1940. A difficult time in history, with the Nazi’s invading many Western European countries. In fact, at the exact time, he was made Prime Minister, the entire British army was trapped on the coast of France by the Nazis. As the Nazi’s took over country after country, the British Army was pushed to the sea near Dunkirk, France. Three hundred thousand soldiers looking at certain death or imprisonment.

Most of the politicians who had placed this army in this precarious position insisted that Churchill negotiate a peace deal with Hitler. Churchill said, no! He knew full well that any deal with Hitler would not be honored. Churchill also knew that the British people would rather fight than surrender. Churchill spent days convincing the politicians they were wrong, and eventually, King Edward agreed. Later, Churchill finally received the full support of the government through a rousing speech in Parliament. Any peace deal with Hitler was off the table and the United Kingdom then stood alone against tyranny.

Churchill also pushed the military to not give up on the soldiers trapped in Dunkirk. Inspiring local fishermen and sailors to use their boats to sail to Dunkirk to rescue the trapped army. In a valiant moved called Operation Dynamo; almost nine hundred civilian boats went to Dunkirk and brought home the army. While the military leaders stood by with no offer of help, Churchill inspired a nation to go get the army.

Behind Churchill stood the British people, bravely standing up to a vicious and evil force intent on taking over the United Kingdom and the world. When there was no one left to stand up to Hitler, Churchill and the British people stood alone. The United States scarred by World War 1, desired to stay neutral. This was only the beginning of the difficult days that laid ahead.

Churchill navigated his country through the Battle of Britain, where night after night cities were bombed. He helped his country get through the Battle of the Atlantic when German U boats sought to sink merchant ships delivering desperately needed food and supplies. He encouraged his scientist to develop a radar system that helped the British air force defend their country.

He mobilized the people through speeches of encouragement. He convinced C.S. Lewis to go on the radio each night and offer hope to the British people. People rallied around him because he could get the best out of people and his bravado saved Britain. Today’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson recently said; he saved this country — and the whole of Europe — from fascist and racist tyranny.”

Five years after those dark days and many more difficult situations, the Nazi’s were defeated, and the United Kingdom survived. That July Churchill was voted out of office.

In today’s verse, Paul called himself the Chief of all sinners. But Paul was the great leader who propelled Christianity from the backwaters of Judea to an international faith. Today, his skillfully worded prose, is as meaningful to us, as they were to those from the past. Surely this great advocator for Jesus, Paul, was a good and honorable person. Yet he stilled claimed he was the Chief Sinner. And It is true that Paul could at times be very arrogant and other times less than tolerable. And these actions embarrassed Paul, which is why he called himself the Chief Sinner.

Each of us has had regrettable moments, some of us more than others. However, If we turn to evaluate people exclusively by their weaknesses, the world will not be a better place. For all would be banished. Churchill wouldn’t have saved Europe, nor Paul emerges as one of the great leaders of Christianity.

Humankind is very complicated and judgment that comes to easy will eventually sink us. Jesus died on a cross for a reason. To end the judgment of our sin and we became redeemed. Perhaps forgiveness can be a new fashionable way of life. I certainly know that this is what Jesus would want.

There will always be a clucking Nay-Sayers, who seek to destroy.  Forgetting where the world be without Churchill and Paul. And Jesus wants us to be forgivers and not judges. Jesus knows our frailties but also knows our capacity to do far more good.

I pray for the day when we look for the good in people and not just at the bad…

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“I Can’t Speak, But I can Listen”

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.

Luke [10:27]

One of the things I struggle with is helping people standing on corners with cardboard signs asking for help. My problem is that I don’t always give money unless they are older and obviously in need. I have the misguided impression that if you are young and appear to be able, I feel that helping is enabling these folks. In effect, judging them as lazy. My wife, Connie, on the other hand, is always fishing for money to hand over to the people we see on the corner. For years, I have struggled with this, and in my darker moments, I get very judgmental and refuse to help.

Recently, I came across a story about Luke McAllister, that changed my mind. Luke is twenty and lives in Camarillo, California. Each Saturday, he goes to Trader Joe’s with his father and hands out packages to homeless people. The packages are made with Ziploc bags that contain a bottle of water, two-dollar bills, and food items that won’t go bad in the heat of the sun.

Luke is a very different young man. First, he is a non-verbal autistic person. He is twenty years old and attends the Camarillo Church of Christ with his parents. Luke also suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks. As such, the church leaves the back row reserved for Luke and his parents. This allows Luke to get up and walk outside to relieve his panic attacks without being noticed.

Luke got this idea to hand out packets to the homeless during his weekend shopping visits with his dad. He noticed a number of homeless people and wondered how he could help. He explains why as follows; I have been given an incredible support system, and it scares me to think about traveling alone in this world, but that is the reality for so many, If I can ease a scared soul, my trials are not so bad.

While Luke is non-verbal, he can express himself using an Alphabet board and his iPad. His iPad has an APP that allows the computer to speak his words as he writes them. The church quickly found out what he was doing and they themselves began distributing packets and established  Luke’s Ministry. Later other local churches joined in. Using his iPad, he spoke in front of the congregation to explain how he assembled the packets. His father stood next to him to soothe him as he delivered his message.

Luke will tell you; I can’t speak, but I can listen. But he can speak, just not the way other people can. He speaks mechanically through a computer, more importantly, he speaks very loudly through his actions. Luke really does listen, through processing what he sees and understanding what it means. His words are trapped in his mind, and it is hard for Luke to relay back that he is really listening, but he is always hearing. Luke stands as another one of those examples of how God uses humble and ordinary people to be servants.

As I read more about Luke’s story, I got my answers about why I shouldn’t be so narrow-minded about helping the homeless in my community. The first is the gratitude that is expressed by those who receive the packets. In interviews with the recipients of Luke’s packages, to a person they were thankful. The second is Luke’s own words, where he says; I care greatly for the homeless, I care for individuals I see in immediate need. I care intensely about individuals in need who are directionless. 

In many ways, Luke is a modern-day Good Samaritan. Today’s verse comes from the Good Samaritan story in Luke. Which brings us to the Bible verses in Luke [10:27]-37 that describes the story of the Good Samaritan, where it says;

He answered, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply, Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Normally, I don’t post full-length Bible texts, but for me, this is an important lesson. In this story, we find two well education religious leaders who pass by a man who has been beaten. Yet the third, not a religious leader, stops to help.

And this is the point, no matter how much we say we are religious it doesn’t matter unless we put our beliefs into action, much like Luke does. To truly love our neighbor, putting aside our preconceived bias is very important. We are not to judge, but love. Now you can see why I consider Luke a modern-day Good Samaritan. Luke cares intensely about those who are living in difficult conditions and helps, while not judging.

Off to the supermarket, I will go, based on this story. To shop for my packets for the homeless. My packets will include a bottle of water, a five-dollar bill, and food similar to what I carried while hiking the Appalachian Trail last year; Belvita cookies, raisins, and beef jerky. I will leave these packages in my car and hand them out whenever I see a homeless person.

What a valuable lesson from a person who is trapped in his own mind, but through his overwhelming love and desire to help his neighbor he has found a way to speak and contribute mightily to the world.

By the way, the name Luke means, the bright one or light. Luke certainly lives up to his name.

 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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If You Love Your Enemies, You Will Soon Run Out Of Enemies

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Matthew [5:44]

Each morning I read and create Twitter posts or tweets. One of my favorite things to do is read what the everyday Twitter person has to say theologically. And each day, I get a new insight and become amazed at how astute and thoughtful the tweets are. Recently, I read; If you love your enemies, you will soon run out of enemies. As I thought about this statement throughout the day I became convinced that if  I and others held this attitude, what a better world it would be.

Imagine if we all held this attitude. There would be no Cancel Culture. More people would be forgiven. And certainly, there would a whole lot more critical thinking. Instead of us reacting, there would be far more compassion and thoughtfulness in the world. So, I really appreciated this tweet and let the person know how much his tweet made me think.

On the same day, I came across an article about Julian Edelman. Julian is a former MVP of the Superbowl and is also Jewish. I know that people who know me will roll their eyes because I chose to write about one of my favorite NFL stars, who play on my favorite team the Patriots. But bear with me, this is a great story.

Earlier in the week, DeSean Jackson posted a very anti-Semitic quote on Instagram. So repulsive, I will not quote it, other than to say he defamed our Jewish brothers and sisters using a quote from Hitler.

Jackson’s team, the Philadelphia Eagles, immediately and publicly,  strongly condemned the post. Not only that they had long discussions with Jackson and encouraged him to get to know the Jewish community better. By the way, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie, is Jewish.

Now back to Edelman. Edelman in a response posted on Instagram; This world needs a little more love, compassion, and empathy. Julian also reached out to Jackson privately and then posted on Instagram that he and Jackson have agreed to have a deeper conversation. Edelman and Jackson both agreed to visit together with the Holocaust museum and the National Museum of African American History. Then afterward, both will have a conversation to educate each other and grow together.

Likewise, Mitchell Swartz, an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs and Jewish, expressed his point of view about Jackson’s comment by saying;  Our platforms as athletes are a powerful tool, and with them comes immense responsibility. We can all do better. Yes, I agree, not just athletes, but all of us can do better.

I also especially admire how Jackson’s team, the Philadelphia Eagles, handled the situation. They immediately denounced Jackson’s point of view. While at the same time treated the situation as a chance to talk with Jackson. The owner, Jeffrey Lurie, didn’t immediately fire Jackson, instead, he tried to get Jackson to see his point of view. Since that conversation, to Jackson’s credit, he has apologized twice and agreed to begin working with Jewish outreach programs. As well, Jackson has accepted an invitation to visit Auschwitz.

In a world where it has become so easy to dismiss people when they make a mistake, this is a heartening story. A model for the Cancel Culture Mob to follow. So much of our country’s problems should be handled this way. A deep recognition that we all make mistakes and should be given a chance to hear the other side’s point of view. Being Cancelled only creates more hostility.

Edelman didn’t attack Jackson, instead, he looked for an opportunity to create a friend and ally. He posted the following to explain his position; I have seen DeSean play in his career, make outstanding football plays, we’ve communicated over social media. I’ve got nothing but respect for his game. I know he said some ugly things, but I do see an opportunity to have a conversation.

Edelman, Swartz, and Lurie could have said and done some ugly things to Jackson, like firing him and turning their back to Jackson. Instead, they sought to build bridges of understanding. In a time when it has become fashionable to do the opposite.

Perhaps no group has suffered more violence than our Jewish brothers in sisters, during the Holocaust two-thirds of the entire Jewish European population was murdered or six million people. We should also know that twenty percent of all Nobel prizes have been awarded to the Jewish community. Each year, up to forty percent of the Oscars are awarded to a Jewish artist, director, or producer. Amazing statistics when you consider at close to fifteen million, they represent less than  1% of the world’s population.

I am so amazed that a group of people, who have been so persecuted, produce so much for our society. They don’t seek to play the victim. They instead look to build.

Jesus has told us; But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. These actions towards Jackson are what Jesus was talking about. Jesus is simply asking us to look to build up and not tear down. To treat every person respectfully and when we disagree, disagree with love.

Too often lately, I see how people are quickly dismissed. I see people ending friendship over just one point of difference. Instead of trying to understand and being balanced, too many are easily offended. They cancel friendships and lose the opportunity to know more.

As I thought about this story and Desean Jackson, my Twitter friend is right; If you love your enemies, you will soon run out of enemies. It doesn’t surprise me that our Jewish brothers and sisters gave us an example of what Jesus was talking about. What kind of world would we live in if we followed Jesus’s request and my friend’s advice?

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash