An Exemplary Response

Follow this link to a public response of the faculty of Covenant Theological Seminary to the sad and frustrating attention being given to one extreme “evangelical” pastor calling for the burning of the Koran.

Apart from the content of the response which is dispassionate and sensible, we can learn a great deal from the APPROACH taken. Two things stand out:

1. The authors of this response have shown great respect to the pastor and his flock by actually READING and interacting with what he has written and said, and not relying on the media distortions of what he MIGHT have written or said. This should always be our policy. Listen before we speak.

Christians have, for example, taken President Obama to task for his ‘support’ of the proposed NYC mosque. But how many took the time to READ what he actually said? (You can do so here.)

This is an important principle. If we are going to be critical, we should exercise great humility in doing so, especially if we have not directly interacted with what we criticize.

2. The authors practice a principle of gospel peace by finding all they can to affirm before they turn their guns to critique. This is so rare, and sadly rare among Gospel believing Christians. There is truth to affirm in a bad movie, in an awful hymn, in a questionable pastoral position, and yes, in a president with whom some have frequent disagreements. To affirm what we can before we critique is merely to practice what we have come to know as the Golden Rule. How many of us want to burn Terry McCoy as viciously as he wants to burn the Koran? We must always find what we can affirm before we criticize.

So, this is an important statement not only for its content but also for its approach. I hope we, at least, learn from it.

Of Precious Brownies and Tire Swings

Life is out of sync, so things I may have wanted to say weeks ago are only now being said. Forgive me, therefore, if this post seems painfully out of date.

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The joy of coming to know students was one of the great privileges of ministry in the Bradenton/Sarasota area. In addition to the commuter based State College of Florida and the Sarasota campus of the University of South Florida, there are three small but prominent residential schools: Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ringling College of Art and Design, and New College of Florida. Students we have met from each school have become friends we will treasure forever. And of all the expressions of gratitude we received before leaving Bradenton, two from students were especially touching.

For the past year, I had the delight of meeting with a few students from New College for prayer every Friday morning. This was nothing dramatic, and the crowd was always small. But the time was something I looked forward to every week.

On the last day of prayer for the semester, and the last Friday that I would be in Bradenton, having accepted the call to Oviedo, the students made me brownies and a cake. I was expecting nothing and looking for nothing. But this was something.

The brownies may not have meant much to the students – they apologized for their quality. But as they were a gift to me from the heart of these students, they were the most precious brownies I ever ate.

Thanks, guys!

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One of the friends we have made is Jenny, a graduate of Ringling still living in the area. Having artists as friends has its unique charms.

In a sermon preached not too long before I left Bradenton, I made reference to the tire swing behind our house and that our ‘faith’ in the rope is what enables us to put our weight in the tire.

Before leaving, then, Jenny presented me with this drawing in her own gentle style. The inscription, if you cannot read it, says, “Faith is like a tire swing.”

Thanks, Jenny.

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I was touched by both gifts, and many others which came our way. To all, please know, you have showered upon us evidences of God’s grace to those who don’t deserve it.

We are humbled and glad.