Tag: Jesus

Will mere Civility be Enough?

Will mere Civility be Enough?

We elect and send our leaders to Washington to lead and govern on our behalf. I’m saddened however by the lack of constraint, professional discourse and basic courtesy expressed by our chosen leaders. Constant accusations of racism, ridiculous comparisons to Hitler and foul language of the worst kind are becoming the norm. Is this really who we want to be?

Free Speech has become “freedom to insult”. To hate. To Judge. It’s an excuse to slander one’s neighbor, whether truthful or not. To demonize others for political gain is increasingly common-place. But at what cost?

There’s an ever-increasing call for civility within our public discourse, and we’d be wise to adhere to such a call. Those from both sides of the isle are calling out their own for inappropriate calls to action and violence. President Trump should lead the way toward civility. However, if others fail to show respect for one another, that’s on them, not President Trump. Every adult is responsible for their own actions.

As our country waxes towards polarization, division and the politics of personal destruction, I’m reminded of the unifying words of Thomas Jefferson.


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I wonder though, is the call to civility enough? Can someone show civility and still harbor animus, even hatred? Of course. Therefore, we need our leaders to do much more than be civil, we need them to actually get along, and to become friends. To find common ground, even when they disagree. They are colleagues for crying out loud. And they have important work to do. We need our leaders to grow up.

What if President Trump arranged to have dinner with Maxine Waters, for no other reason than to just honor her and her office, get to know her, hear her story and try and understand why she believes the ways she does? He doesn’t have to agree with her, and it may not change a thing, but what a powerful example that would be.

What if Nancy Pelosi invited Sarah Huckabee Sanders to lunch for the same reason. What if Chuck Schumer reached out to those across the isle in order to seek out genuine friendships, and in an honest attempt to work together. Not as opponents, but as colleagues.

What if other leaders from both parties took radical steps to form friendships with those who often oppose them, if not only to demonstrate that the person is always more important than one’s precious political ideals. And to maintain some kind of friendship amidst the political battle. This would not only set the right example for us watching at home, it just might calm things down to the point of getting more done.

If they did, civility might be more common in D.C. After all, it’s hard to despise someone when you’re having a meal with them and hearing their story, even if you disagree with them. When you see their humanity, discover both the victories and the pain that has shaped who they are. In the process, one may discover more common ground than previously thought. And they might foster more willingness to work together. We need this to occur in Washington. And I’m challenging our leaders to do just that.

Underneath the shell of every soul is a person with convictions, personal struggles and a desire to find the right path in this confusing and difficult life. We could do more to help each other in this regard. But it’s easier to dehumanize from a distance than to draw close and honor others as fellow Americans, fellow human beings. I pray this type of spirit comes back into our country, and in our public debate.

Two thousand years ago, a man showed up on the planet and commanded us to love one another, even our enemies. Maybe Jesus knew the misery we’d find ourselves in if we didn’t.

Preston Rentz

 

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Alzheimer’s Took Mom, not Jesus’ Presence

Alzheimer’s Took Mom, not Jesus’ Presence

It would be one of the last conversations I would have with Mom. It was 2016 and she was now succumbing to Alzheimer’s unrelenting grip. As we sat together in her small but comfortable living room, I tried to communicate with the woman who had been my Mom for half a century. Her fading into the unknown was unsettling, for she was only a remnant of her full self, but she was still Mom.

My wife had gone outside to look after our kids and to give me some time alone with my dying mother. Dad joined them. There was an awkward silence in the room as we sat, unable to really communicate, broken only by the sound of my kids playing just outside the sliding glass door. I asked Mom questions, if she remembered this or that, hoping to break through the wall the disease had built around her. I wanted to make a connection, but it wasn’t happening.

Occasionally, something would get her attention and she would respond, mostly with garbled speech that reflected a misalignment of mind and tongue, one of the debilitating affects of Alzheimer’s. In spite of our lack of cognizant communication, I felt centered to be in her presence, for she had sacrificed so much for me and my four siblings, for our whole family. The unseen connection came through loud and clear, at least in the form of an inner peace. Still, I longed to connect verbally somehow, visually, on the surface I guess. It was as if my senses of sight and hearing needed confirmation of what I believed to be true, but wanted to know with certainty; that Mom could hear me, understand me and know full well that it was me sitting just across from her.

As I sat waiting for some kind of sign that she was not fully recessed into the annals of her mind, thoughts of a difficult past rushed my spirit and wouldn’t let go. These were memories, both painful and pleasant rising to the surface. Not just of my history with her, but of her past well before I came into the picture. The many stories she told over the years of her upbringing were circling in my mind as if she had just told them to me the day before. I recalled watching a home video taken in 1942, when she was only about six years old, playing in the backyard, having no idea of the life God had in store for her. Now, she was in her last months and in her eighties. I was trying to celebrate her soon departure from a broken world and a fading body, but sadness took the moment.

Discouraged that I wasn’t getting through, I decided to ask her about her faith, her love for the Bible and Jesus. It would be one last attempt to stir something within her. I started with asking her if she missed reading the Bible, which was important to her for as long as I could remember, but not much of a response. Then I asked her if she still prayed or spoke with Jesus? Without letting more than a second pass after this question, her thin face turned toward me and her warm Hazel eyes locked with mine. In perfect speech and obvious determination, she said; “oh yes, I talk to Jesus everyday.” Her face again then turned back to the wall she had been staring at for the past thirty minutes or so. Stunned at the sudden level of clarity in her speech and focus in her eyes, I sat there speechless. For a few moments, Alzheimer’s had no power. In fact, it didn’t seem to even exist. We finally connected, but on her terms, that of her and her Savior.

Mom was the original witness to me as to the love and goodness of our Christ Jesus, and she had just witnessed to me again, and in such a way I didn’t see coming. I was reminded that Jesus was there the whole time, even in the midst of her debilitating disease. And perhaps there to give me one last wink through Mom, one final witness through the woman that brought me into this world.

Mom went into the arms of God just one week before Mother’s Day 2017. Her witness to his love and ever-presence, even in the midst of her haunting disease, will stay with me forever. Love you Mom. I’ll see you in the age to come.

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Will Judas Iscariot be Forgiven?

Will Judas Iscariot be Forgiven?

This question has come up many times over the three decades I’ve been involved in Christianity, and the answers aren’t easy. Some say that the grace of God will cover Judas’ actions because Jesus died for all sins. Others argue that because he helped bring about the death and resurrection of Christ, a role someone had to play, that he should be forgiven. But to get to the bottom of this mystery, we have to ask a different question; Did Judas Iscariot commit the unpardonable sin?

Jesus points out that there is a sin which will not be forgiven;

“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Mathew 12:31-32 NKJV

I cannot judge whether Judas committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But if Jesus’ words about Judas are any indication of his destiny, it’s not encouraging;

“The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” Mathew 26:24 NKJV

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That doesn’t sound to me like grace will be coming his way. But I hope I’m wrong. “But what if God changes his mind and gives him a break anyway?” I can hear some asking. But to answer this question, we have to understand something about the God of the Bible. While he is filled with love, grace and generosity; God will not be made a liar. In no way will his very own Word contradict him.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7 NKJV

So if Judas did, and that’s a big “if”, commit the unpardonable sin, I don’t believe God will compromise his very own spoken Word.

Some say that Judas expressed regret by returning the 30 pieces of silver and hanging himself. Problem here is that the Word speaks of two different types of regret or sorrow;

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 NKJV

Does this prove Judas knew what he was doing to the point that he committed the unpardonable sin? No! I’m just letting the Bible speak for itself. Which usually keeps me out of trouble.

My hope is that Judas is not guilty of the unpardonable sin, as I’m sure it’s yours. But all of this talk about forgiveness reminds me of something amazing about our God; the latitude of grace to which he extends. He’s willing to forgive just about everything man can throw at him except the unspeakable sin of blasphemy, of which I suppose most of us aren’t even capable.

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