The Supreme Court nomination battle will begin to heat up. Sandra Day O’Connor has retired, opening up new battle grounds for “conservatives” and “liberals”. Liberals, of course, want someone to interpet the Constituion their way. Conservatives, astoundingly, want the same!

What is atrocious is the thought that the Supreme Court is supposed to “unite us”. Yet, that is the claim of Senator Patrick Leahy when he declared he would stand with President Bush in selecting a nominee who can unite Americans.

In a cursory reading of the United States Constitution, I cannot find anywhere in the document where that is a JOB REQUIREMENT!

Then again, I’m not a “Constitutional Scholar”. It must be in there somewhere…just like the “right to privacy”.

While I was visiting my parents this past weekend, we enjoyed being in their church. It is also the church Terri and I planted back in 1989. During the worship service they actually sang a hymn! (This is rare in that church these days, as I understand it.)

They were having a great time singing, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”. It’s one of my favorites. However, reflecting on Bonhoeffer, I noticed a line in a verse that was sad. It said, “If I falter, Lord, who cares? None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.”

That is supposed to be comforting. “It’s you and me, Jesus.”

I don’t find that very comforting. That’s not the Church. If I falter, the CHURCH should care! If I hurt, the CHURCH should feel that hurt.

A young children’s pastor and his wife tragically lost their two year old daughter recently. It is incredibly painful. If that man had to rely on just him and Jesus, he would be in a world of hurt! Instead, Christ moves through the Body to be with that dear brother and his wife. Maybe words cannot be spoken, but the PRESENCE of the Body of Christ is so crucial. If I lost one of my sons, the PRESENCE of the Body of Christ would be so meaningful to me. Maybe there would be meaningless words spoken. There always are. Yet, the PRESENCE of Christ in his Body would be so real and so needful to me.

“If I falter, Lord, who cares?”

I hope the Church cares! If another falters, I hope I care!

The issue of eminent domain and the recent Supreme Court decision has a chilling effect on non-profit organizations and their property.

If a city needs to increase their revenue and a developer would like some land, what better source than property that currently does not pay any taxes? Some churches with “prime locations” are not very protected with this Supreme Court ruling.

As a side note, I find it interesting that my hometown newspaper, the StarTribune, has not commented on their editorial page concerning this recent ruling. They were very quick to support the latest ruling on the Ten Commandments in the Kentucky case, but they have balked at any opinion concerning the right of eminent domain. I find that interesting.

What marks us other than the very presence of God?

When Moses intereceded on Israel’s behalf in Exodus 33, he told God he would not move any farther unless the presence of God went with them.

“For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Ex. 33:16, ESV)

It is being the people of the presence of God that separates us from all others. We should not live lives satisfied with moving on without the presence and blessings of God. We should be obstinate, like Moses! If we sense God is not directing, we need to hold off until we know what HE is up to in our lives!

What distinguishes US from all other people on this earth?

What does a life centered on Christ look like?

If Christ IS my center, what DOES matter?

I can think of things that would probably matter LESS. However, what really does matter in Christ-centered living?

Dallas Willard’s goal is a good one, I think. The question is not so much, “What would Jesus do?”, but one of “How do I live my life in a such a way that I know what Christ would do in my situation if he were in my spot?”

Different question.

“What would Jesus do?” may answer some things very quickly, but it does not take into account who WE are individually. Living my life in such a way that I discern the mind of Christ to know what he would do if he were I DOES ask a more fundamental question.

It also means I must be tuned in to the voice of the Spirit. I must have my spiritual sails up to catch the wind of the Spirit. Spiritual disciplines are key in this area. They prepare me to hear better. They put me in a place where I know Christ is forming me. The disciplines do not form me. They position me so I CAN be formed!

Here is our rub. Evangelicals, reformed, Lutherans, and many more from all kinds of Christian traditions just SHUN the thought of “Disciplines”. Many traditions scream, “WORKS RIGHTEOUSNESS!” Many scream, “NEW AGE MYSTICISM”.

It’s funny. We know we desire the hand of God in our lives, and then we argue as to WHY something as biblical and wonderful as FASTING (for instance) just doesn’t work in our lives. We long for something more, to hear the direction of God, then argue as to why we don’t need anything more!

It’s not more. It’s just using the tools already at hand. It’s not about more of salvation. It’s about utilitizing the power already put there for us.

Through spiritual formation, we can know more fully what it is to have Christ as center.

The question still IS, in my mind, WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE?

In a Supreme Court decision today, the Court ruled in favor of cities being able to condemn property for more “advantageous” development. For instance, in our own Twin Cities area, Best Buy corporation wanted to relocate to Richfield. To do so, the city of Richfield bought out several businesses and houses to make room for Best Buy. Why? Greater property tax revenue. Right of immanent domain used to be reserved for cities and other government entities to take blighted areas and improve them, or make way for roads. Not any more. If a city gets wooed by a major developer, they can go ahead and bulldoze any existing property.

This is not good government. Small cities, or landlocked cities who have fully developed their land now have permission to move out homeowners and existing businesses if some bigger corporation wants to relocate to their area. It raises revenues for cities, gives corporations major advantages, and the rich get richer…

While I would say we need to raise a prophetic voice to say when a Court makes a bad decision, there is also the current debate among “right wing” Christians about HOW to return the judiciary to its “proper place”. (Here is where you read “proper place” to mean, “We want them to rule in a way that is in OUR favor.”)

A recent Christianity Today editorial gives some stimulating thought.

I think have figured out theological education.

The goal is to bash any opposing views. Humiliate them. Don’t worry if they might be “brothers in Christ”. Just bash them. If you hold to Reform views, make sure you bash the living daylights out of evangelical beliefs. If you hold to evangelical views, make sure you take down those “liberals”. Oh, and be sure to be as nasty as you possibly can about it.

One professor I have in seminary once remarked, “I want to be known for my center, not my boundaries.” In other words, the goal is to be known through Christ. Too often we want to be defined by our boundaries.

That’s a nice sentiment, but I don’t think those in theological education really know what it means to LIVE by it. I doubt too many in the Church know how to live by it as well.

If I am known by my center, and that Center would be Christ, just how would that look? What does the Center of Christ in ME look like?

I would need to avoid those “boundary issues”. Abortion. Gay rights. Environment. Political bent. All that.

What is CENTRAL? Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Loving my neighbor as myself. Being able to speak the TRUTH in love. Knowing biblical truth and communicating it with love, yet not holding back. Walking in true freedom would mean I would not manipulate others to my opinion, nor would I allow others to attempt to manipulate me. The opinions of others would not sway me in making a difference on how I view them, or worrying about how they view me.

Christ my center. Is it being formed in me? That is the question.

I love talk radio. It has been an addiction of mine for several years. Lately, however, I have become aggravated. Left wing, right wing, no wing, there are talk radio stations for every stripe. The aggravation is in this: there is a lot of talking and very little listening.

And on the bizarre news side, a tale of a very polite bank robber. In Winona, MN, and man offers a note to the bank teller saying he is going to rob the bank. He begins the note by stating his name! It is the ultimate “Minnesota Nice” robbery!

The heat of rhetoric only increases when it comes to politics and religion. Cal Thomas often offers a very reasoned voice on the views. He once served with Jerry Falwell in the Moral Majority and is now a columnist. He has shied away from politics and power and for good reason. A commentary I saw in the Washington Times gives some great thoughts on political might and the religious right.

What have we come to in the United States?

Unreal real estate!

When it comes to my own personal search for views on the world situation today, I find only conflict. Quite honestly, I have grown up conservative and Republican, but the more I view the world and talk to different people, even with “evangelical Christianity”, I have hesitations about how some things are being done.

A book review in the Washington Times recently interested me. The problem is when a “conservative” sounds off with doubts, they are castigated pretty quickly. The “good news”, if there can be any in that scenario, is the same thing happens when a liberal sounds off, too!

A professor at Luther Seminary once said, “I want to be known for my center, not my boundaries.” What defines us? Are we known for Christ being our center, or for what divides us politically or theologically? If we are truly Christ centered, there will be issues that will alternately tick off “liberals” and “conservatives”.

The more I want to be an apprentice to Jesus, the more I find issues that do not seem to have clear cut answers.

I miss my Dad’s generation.

When it comes to work around the church, I miss my Dad’s generation.

His generation has a fierce loyalty to place. When a church work day was called, you would show up and actually work. There were always those who came to drink the coffee, eat the donuts, and talk to the ones working, but with my Dad, he came to work.

Not so these days. Call for a work day at church and you get the crickets chirping. No one shows up. They are “unavoidably detained” or some other such thing. Some may show up, but only to pick up something they left at the church last Sunday, then sit and talk to you while you work.

A few years ago my Dad went through triple by-pass heart surgery. At the time their church was in a building project and the men of the church were finishing out the interior. About six to eight weeks after the surgery, my Dad was up on scaffolding holding 16 foot pieces of sheet rock in place. While I do not advise this as a recovery process from heart surgery, I wish I had more men with my Dad’s true “heart” for serving!