Sunday, January 25, 2009

Warren invocation: Inclusively exclusive!

For those of you who watched Rick Warren's invocation at Obama's inauguration, I wanted to add my two cents. And publicly thank Pastor Warren for praying in the name of Jesus.

Too often, Christians have shied away from praying in this way, not wanting to offend members of other faiths. While Christians believe it is proper to approach God in prayer in the name of Jesus, that concluding phrase is often left out, another nod to being PC. If we pray in the name of Jesus, we are thought to be exclusive of followers of Judaism or Islam. We don't want to offend, so instead of praying in the name of Jesus, we don't want to mention the name above all names and so we just fast forward to "amen."

But Rick Warren didn't shy away from the PC crowd and avoid the controversial phrase. He prayed specifically in the name "of the one who changed my life" and then followed it by using the Jewish name for Jesus, the Muslim name for Jesus, and finally the Christian name.

This was brilliant. No one can say anything against personal experience. And millions heard the bright testimony. Warren believes and proclaims to all that Jesus changed his life. And then he uses Jesus' name (exclusive, huh PCers?) but reaches out to Jews and Muslims by using the name of Yeshua and Issa (inclusive). So he was inclusively exclusive. Smart as a serpent, gentle as a dove, that purpose-driven pastor.

I applaud Warren for his words. When we pray, we do not seek to offend. But we cannot deny Christ. Thank you, Mr. Warren, for your prayer IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

Remember today to pray for Mr. Obama. And remember the one who opened the way to God through his cross and in whose name we pray.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Race you to the bottom!

I read something today from the book, "Gospel Transformation." "Christianity is a race--to the bottom."

There is a lot of depth (pardon the pun) in that statement. But what a great reminder for me as I start out in a new year. The kingdom that has captured me is a kingdom of paradoxes. My weakness is where I find his strength. In self-reliance, I find frustration and lack of fruit. There is no room for the pick-me-up-by-the bootstraps gospel when the cross is in focus. Remember, the real gospel of grace says, "you don't have any boots!"

Let me share something with you from my book, "Breathing Grace":

"Have you ever heard of a “café coronary?” It is medical slang for a person dying of an airway obstructed by food.

Pride is the spiritual café coronary.

When I was in high school, my family took a trip to see my grandparents. I liked taking trips because it was a chance to eat out in restaurants. On this Sunday afternoon, my family was eating together in a Howard Johnson’s. I wanted dessert, but my father nixed it, saying I didn’t need it. “And money doesn’t grow on trees.”
How many times have I used that same line on my kids now?
A few moments later, I looked up to see an elderly man stagger to his feet, clutching at his throat. I pointed. “That man can’t breathe!”
The next second, my father, a family physician, was on his feet. He reached around the man from behind and performed a Heimlich maneuver, popping the offending pickle from the man’s trachea. The man’s life was saved, and I remember the pride I felt after watching my father in action.
When my father went to pay the bill, the manager refused. My father had more than paid our debt by preventing a death in the restaurant.
What was my response? Looking back, I can see the gospel debt in my words.
“Since it was free, you should have let me get dessert.”
Amazing. I went from thankful for a saved life to thinking about my own stomach in light-speed. I’d like to say that was typical teenager behavior that I’ve outgrown, but the truth is, I can still slip from living in the sufficiency of grace (where I extend grace to others because I am living in acknowledgement of my own need for grace) to gospel debt in seconds.
But thankfully, just as quickly as a Heimlich maneuver can open an obstructed airway, acknowledging our need is the first step in opening up the floodgates holding back God’s grace."

You see, I think walking in humility is a key to walking in grace. And as quickly as a blocked airway precipitates a physical crisis, walking in pride sets us up in a dry position, thirsty for grace.

Anyway, just my thoughts. Walking forward in grace begins with humility and repentance.

I'll race you to the bottom!