Dorothy Sayers used her Oxford education in languages and literature to disrupt religion in the United Kingdom during WWII. When the dust settled, Jesus emerged as more human and more accessible to a threatened people in search of hope.

J. W. Welch with the BBC commissioned Sayer, in her 40’s at the time, to write a series of plays on the life of Christ, originally intended for children. She agreed to the project if she could write the dialog in modern language.

After a press conference in preparation for the first broadcast of “The Man Born to be King,” the storm broke out. Fake news reports called the effort blasphemous and vulgar. Protests began. The House of Commons investigated. The BBC’s Religious Advisory Committee convened. Welsh later wrote, “This was, for me, an unforgettable meeting, and ought to go down in the annals of Christian cooperation.” The plays were broadcast.

Her great “crime” was to expand the account of Jesus’ life using modern dialogue. Here is a sample from Luke 24, a post-resurrection appearance.
JESUS: What are you afraid of?
JOHN: Oh, my dear! Forgive us for being so stupid! Is it really you?
JESUS: Feel me and see. Take my hand.
JOHN: Your hands are warm and strong, and wounded.
JESUS: I should like something to eat. What have you in the house?
MATTHEW: Why, this is like old times!

After the broadcasts, the BBC received grateful notes such as, “People don’t want Christ as somebody in a book, gentle, kind, and charming as Cinderella, but a real person who can give them strength and courage to love God.” Perhaps a modern version of this idea is the 2002 film “Joshua,” which portrays Jesus stepping into an American small town. When His humanity is evident, Jesus is more approachable and the human response is more spontaneous.

Jesus made himself accessible to people despite His fatigue and hunger. He grieved over the death of His friend Lazarus. He rejoiced with His friends when they returned from their first mission trip. He interrupted His travels to heal a blind man, help a sick woman, and touch a leper. He brought wine to a wedding. He brought food to a preaching event. He turned Zaccheus’ house into an Airbnb. He enjoyed the company of people who had yet to embrace His true identity as God the Son. God made himself accessible as a human walking on this earth, and we continue His presence as we function as the visible body of Christ.

Without realizing it, you can relegate Jesus to a character in a dusty book, or shade him with static stained glass. You come to know a person as you interact with him or her, and with mutual friends. Same with Jesus. He is real and accessible, and no one loves you more.

Flamethrower or Fireman?

What happened in the congressional hearing this month with FBI agent Peter Strzok is a sad commentary on our times and culture.  A fire is out of control.

The hearing began to degenerate when one congressman told Strzok, “I don’t give a d— what you appreciate.”  But chaos ensued when another congressman described Strzok lying and cheating on his wife.  The room erupted into chaos with shouts of “insane asylum,” “shame,” and one yelling about taking medications.

Once politicians, comics, and protestors realized they could make headlines with shock value, it was only a matter of time before politeness became a quaint notion.  Southern belles don’t get the vapors over an affront to their sensibilities, gentlemen use crass language in front of women and children, and polite company is hard to find.  Our culture has coarsened considerably, and it’s a consuming fire.

It’s even in the church.  Mark Driscoll has been called the “cussing preacher.”  He lost his Mars Hill Church, but sadly not because of his potty mouth.  Pastor Ed Young countered his influence on young preachers.  “If we have to lower our communication to the level of scatological (think animal scat) humor, then we aren’t thinking through how to communicate.  We want to be very careful not to offend anyone with bad language.  The gospel is offensive enough without throwing in such words.”

Jesus was full of grace and truth, and did not use gratuitous and crass words for shock value.  But He did find occasion to call certain religious leaders hypocrites, sons of hell, blind guides, fools, whitewashed tombs, sons of murderers, and brood of vipers (Matt. 23), all candid descriptions of elitists supplanting God’s eternal truth (think Jesse Duplantis).

We’d do well to follow the “Three Gates of Gold,” Beth Day’s antebellum poem.  Is it true?  Is it needful?  Is it kind?  The Bible warns, “See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, and sets on fire the course of life, and is set on fire by hell” (Jas. 3:5-6).  It also urges, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification” (Eph. 4:29).  Jesus’ words are quite telling: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good…for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:45).

It is no virtue to speak whatever is on your mind. (“A fool uttereth all his mind” Prov. 29:11, KJV).  But when we do speak truth, even if it’s corrective or adversarial, the words of a follower of Christ Jesus are to reveal good treasure from a loving heart.  With the words you use and the thoughts you convey, you can be either a flamethrower or a fireman.


Found and Rescued

Every once in a while a non-political event grasps the world’s attention.  For two weeks, 12 boys and their coach were trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand.  Our prayers (hopes or thoughts if you prefer) were with them and those trying to extract them from subterranean danger.

The boys, ages 11 to 16, are the Moo Pa (Wild Boars) soccer team.  The older boy is a friend of a team member.  They bicycled to the cave in the Doi Nang Non Mountains as a team-building exercise.  After they entered, water began to rise, forcing them further into the six-mile deep cave.  Many can’t swim.

It took over a week for rescuers to locate the lost team almost two miles from the entrance.  While planning the rescue mission, parents sent a message via divers for the coach not to blame himself.  One Thai diver died when his oxygen was depleted, and received a hero’s memorial service.

Authorities feared the monsoon rains bearing down on the Indochina Peninsula would overwhelm the emergency pumps.  That, and the boys’ physical and emotional health added acute time pressure.  The plan was for two divers to escort each one to safety.

The international community responded with manpower and equipment.  British cave divers located the boys.  Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, offered to send drilling equipment or to build a small rescue submarine.  The U.S. President sent American military personnel.

This was an intense event.  It involved helpless children, real danger, and maximum effort.  You try to imagine the pain of parents who could lose a child.  Instead, an entire nation erupts in celebration when the boys are extracted safely and returned to the land of the living.

Jesus explained that this natural human reaction is how God feels about finding you.  He told stories about a shepherd leaving 99 sheep to find the one, and a woman who finds a lost coin.  Both rejoiced with their friends.  Then He says, “In the same way there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

How is it that each one of us is lost, and needs finding and rescuing?  The Bible says that Jesus rescues us from “this present evil age” and “the wrath to come” (Gal. 1:4, 1 Thes. 1:10).  Our place of safety is clear.  “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).  The land of the living, indeed!

Just as parents rejoice today in Thailand over their rescued boys, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels over newcomers in the Kingdom of God.  You are safe in the arms of Jesus, by grace through faith, found and rescued.

MTV Truth

Chris Pratt made news last month because cultural icons don’t usually speak about matters of faith in a venue like MTV’s Movie and TV Awards.

I’d never heard of him, nor his movie “Jurassic World.”   So, please don’t take this as an endorsement of the actor or his work.  I invite you to consider, though, a few of his Nine Rules offered as he was accepting the Generation Award in front of his peers and fans.  His Rules speak about the relationship between God and man.

You have a soul. Be careful with it.”  It might be more correct to say that you are a soul that lives in a body, for now.  The Hebrew word often translated “soul” means “living being.” Your soul is who you really are, and you are worth protecting.

 “God is real.”  You don’t have to take a “leap of faith” to believe God exists.  Evidence abounds.  Dallas Willard said, “We live in a culture that has cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes.  You can almost be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt.”  Many intelligent people accept the evidence that God exists.

“God loves you, God wants the best for you.”  The Bible says, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.  God is love” (1 John 4:16).

“Learn to pray. It’s easy, and it is so good for your soul.”  E. M. Bounds said, “Prayer is the language of a man burdened with a sense of need.”  If the burdens you carry aren’t enough to warrant your prayers, ask God for more burdens.  Not really.  Don’t you have enough already?

“Reach out to someone in pain.  Be of service.”  Jesus calls you to love “your neighbor as yourself.”  A lawyer asked Him, “Who is my neighbor?” He replied with the well-known story of the Good Samaritan who showed mercy to a stranger.  Then He said, “Go and do the same” (Luke 10).

“You are imperfect…grace is a gift. Like the freedom that we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget that.”  Wow, did he really say that on MTV?  Americans memorialize our war heroes who died for our freedom. But far greater is our eternal freedom from the power and penalty of sin, our “imperfection.”  We have Jesus to thank for that freedom, offered to us by His grace, free and unmerited.

Here’s the takeaway.  Mr. Pratt has his venue, and you have yours.  Use it, as he did, in a courageous and appropriate way to share truth about God and people.  Isn’t this how we can apply Jesus’ words, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13,14)?  MTV, no less.  Just wow.



Is America Christian?

On July 4, 1776, did the signers of the Declaration of Independence pledge their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to found a Christian nation?  Is America Christian?

We know they were motivated by liberty, a Christian theme.  But the answer depends on how you assess the question.  Is it about the Founders and the Constitution?  Is it about our current leaders, law, and policy?  Is it about the religion of the citizenry?

The Christian faith motivated many of the Founders.  Noah Webster, Revolutionary War veteran, lawyer, and educator wrote in History of the United States, “Our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion.” He wrote in a letter to James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, “I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of Christianity have not a controlling influence.”

Madison led the adoption of the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment.  In plain language it says that Congress cannot establish a national church, Christian or otherwise, nor can it prohibit you from freely exercising your faith.  Yet it took another 74 years to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, ending slavery.

Despite its flaws, God has preserved America through wars, depression, and scandal.  Ronald Reagan said, “There was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage.”  Yet we struggle against recurring racism, legalize the termination of vulnerable human life, and steal from the future with a burgeoning national debt.

A country can’t be Christian in the plain sense that Christ Jesus came to change the world one person at a time, by saving sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).  The Christian gospel is that by faith you are accepted into the life of Christ and the community of believers.  It is true that polls consistently show that a majority of American citizens identify with the Christian faith.  But do they actually know and follow the Lord Jesus, or are they cultural Christians?

Martin Luther’s “Tower Experience” was quite personal.  Reflecting on the words of Romans 1:17, he said, “The righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”

Unless you’re making an argument about public policy, the question, “Is America Christian?” may be moot.  But this one isn’t:  Are you?  If you have entered those open gates, America is more Christian than it might have been.