How Jesus Helped Me See Discrimination

Diversity HandsI am Caucasian.

Growing up Caucasian, I never experienced discrimination because of my race.

I was raised in a fairly conservative home, politically speaking, and by the time I was starting law school I believed race discrimination was a thing of the past in America.

By the end of my first year of law school I had joined the most diverse church I had ever known and made a lot of friends in the church who were not Caucasian.

The year was 1988, an election year, and because Jesse Jackson ran for president, race was part of the discussion during the election. Continue reading “How Jesus Helped Me See Discrimination”

Joy To The World

(c)iStockphoto.com/AmandaLewis

Joy To The World has long been my favorite Christmas hymn, in no small part because of its Kingdom message, which praises King Jesus for coming to earth, reigning and turning back the effects of the curse.

Here are some highlights. Verse 1 “Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King.”

Verse 2: “Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns.”

Verse 3: “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found…”

Verse 4: “He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love…”

Good Kingdom stuff. I get goose bumps every time I sing it.

Joy To The World was written by Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98, and has been the most published hymn in North America. Continue reading “Joy To The World”

The Real Saint Nicholas

St. Nicholas was born in 270 A.D. in the city of Patara in Lycia (modern day Turkey).  His parents died when he was a young man, leaving him a substantial inheritance, which he determined to devote to works of charity.

Not long thereafter, Nicholas learned of a man in Patara who, because of his poverty, could neither support his three daughters nor find husbands for them.  As a result, this man was considering giving his daughters over to prostitution.

When Nicholas heard of this, under cover of darkness, he went to the man’s house with a bag of gold, which he threw into an open window.  Nicholas then slipped away undetected.  Now having a dowry, the oldest daughter was soon married.  Thereafter, Nicholas repeated his charitable act for the other two daughters, who also married. Continue reading “The Real Saint Nicholas”

Kingdom Hero: Vladimir I Of Kiev

Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/ly-ly

Vladimir Sviatoslavovich was born in 958 A.D. near Pskov, a city in Northwest Russia, about 12 miles east of the Estonian border.  As the son of Sviatoslav I of Kiev, a warrior prince of Kieven Rus, Vladimir was the 10th century Rus equivalent of royalty.  By the time Vladimir ascended to power he was a committed pagan, boasting multiple wives and eight hundred concubines.  Yes, eight hundred, which probably makes him second only to Wilt Chamberlain.

Vladimir erected many pagan statues and shrines and in 983 A.D. , after a military victory, decided to show his gratitude to his pagan deity benefactors by way of a human sacrifice.  A young Christian named Loann was chosen, and when Loann’s father Fyodor protested and preached Christianity to Vladimir and his army, the multitude was so incensed they rushed on Fyodor and killed him and Loann.  Fyodor and Loann would later come to be considered the first Christian martyrs in Russia.

The whole incident with Fyodor and Loann left a lasting impression on Vladimir, who, whether driven by his guilty conscience, a desire for truth, or responding to the beckoning of the Holy Spirit we do not know, in 987 A.D. sent out representatives to those nations around him to inquire about their religions.  They inquired of the Jews, Muslims and Catholics, but Vladimir was not inspired by what he found until his representatives returned from Constantinople and a visit to Hagia Sophia and reported the following:

“We knew not whether we were on heaven or earth.  For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss to describe it.  We only know that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations.  For we cannot forget that beauty.”

In 988 A.D., Vladimir converted to Christianity.  He then began removing pagan monuments and building churches throughout his kingdom. Although there were Christians in Rus before Vladimir’s conversion, he is rightly credited with paving the way for the kingdom of God to take root in what would become Russian, and for that, the GOTK blog grants him the appellation of kingdom hero. GS

 

The Kingdom’s Dirty Harry

Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character has always been one of my favorites because he is all courage and cool.  He’s famous for many one-liners, but the most famous is, “Go ahead, make my day”–pure ice in a Depends moment.  Long before Clint Eastwood, Christianity had its own Dirty Harry in the person of Polycarp. 

Polycarp was born in 70 A.D. and spent the latter part of his life as the Bishop of Smyrna.  He was one of the most famous Christians in the world at the time.  He had been discipled by the Apostle John, making him only one step removed from Jesus–pretty good credentials. 

In 156 A.D., during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Polycarp was called before the local sheriff in Smyrna, ordered to declare Caesar Lord and make a sacrifice to him or be put to death.  Polycarp refused. 

Polycarp was then taken into a stadium where the Roman governor of Smyrna waited along with the locals, and a number of Christians who had come to see what would happen to Polycarp.  The governor demanded Polycarp denounce Jesus and swear by Caesar or be put to death.  Polycarp replied, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me wrong; and how can I now blaspheme my King that has saved me?”

The governor then said, “I have wild beasts at hand. I will cast you to these unless unless you change your mind.” 

Polycarp replied, “Call them.” 

The governor said “I will cause you to be consumed by fire.” 

Polycarp replied, “Why do you delay. Bring what you wish.” 

The governor then announced, “Polycarp confesses that he is a Christian.”  Polycarp was then bound to a stake and the fire lit.  As the fire roared around Polycarp the stadium of onlookers were amazed because a wall of fire surrounded Polycarp but became like a sail filled with wind blowing away from him so that he stood unharmed.  Seeing his body could not be consumed by fire, the executioner was ordered to plunge his sword into Polycarp.  When he did, so much blood gushed forth that the fire was extinguished.  The multitude, who had seen many executions but had never seen anything like this, marveled.

We know of the account of Polycarp’s martyrdom from eye-witnesses who were in the stadium that day and contributed to a letter written to the church in Pontus recounting the event.  Eusebius, known as the Father of Church History, notes in his Ecclesiastical History written in 325 A.D., that the account of Polycarp’s martyrdom was passed down in writing “still extant,” and he quotes directly from the document.  

So there you have it, the original Dirty Harry. “Call them” and “Bring it on,” he said.  Courage and cool for the ultimate cause of the kingdom of God.  And people are still talking about him 1,853 years later.  As much I like the Dirty Harry character, I bet no one remembers him 100 years from now.  GS