Thursday, January 31, 2013

Violent Love - Rights

This is the definition of rights:  “In accordance with what is just, good, or proper.“ The problem is that our world is often confused as to how to decide these things. If you throw out good, and only focus on just and proper—well, many people differ on this. Some of the hot button issues for Christians are:  abortion or co-habitation. These issues have people who approve a view opposite the Christian stand insisting that this is more proper or just.  The term just is most often defined as fair. Fair is something different all together. Because fair is not really that obvious.  Regardless, people stand on both sides fighting and getting offended.  While the fight for life and marriage is nothing to gloss over, how can we speak to people so against us and so adamant about their view of right, just, proper, or even good.

            Don’t worry! We aren’t going to get political, but we can’t deny what our people and world are facing. The recent shootings have propelled us into discussions about the value of life, and gun control. It also has brought our kids into more awareness for their well-being. All of a sudden more safety precautions are taking place, and because of that, people are asking questions. So what do we do? Do we stand by idly while our Facebook, email, and television get bombarded with the question or should we address it? For the next four weeks we will talk about Violent Love.

            Violent Love is a response to how, in the last several weeks, we have discussion after discussion on gun violence. How do we show Violent Love, an extreme or intense love to people struggling with a truly violent world? How do we respond to tragedies we can’t explain? How do we deal with four different areas that might be on our minds like rights, fear of death, protection, and evil? These will be the topics in the next four weeks as we learn how to respond to this violent world in love.

            This week we focus on rights and what is good or proper. All of this plays into our view of love.  We begin in 1 John 1 as we see God define us, and help us to love others. Jesus’ true rights belonged in His true home—Heaven. Yet He gave them up to be with us and to love us in a way that would rescue us forever. Jesus’ violent love changed this world forever because of the way He took on the earth’s violence, and showed His intense love to people. Violent Love means growing in the intense love of Jesus.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Facing Opposition

I had a former boss who was great at spontaneous accountability. This may be a new term to you, but trust me if you have ever faced this, it is not fun. Let me explain. I would work for days, and my boss would tell me I was a great guy. I was a rock star, actually. I would feel great, and everything seemed to be going well. Then he would come in and raise some issue that I had no clue that I did anything wrong. He would bring me into the office and then go off. This was so hard for me to handle. Since I love people, displeasing them is tremendously tough for me. I would spend hours trying to figure out how to respond to my boss. I have better ideas of how to handle situations like that now, but at the time it was challenging.

No matter how it happens, we all face opposition. Sometimes it comes from our enemies, but generally it is from people with whom we are in daily or weekly contact. The challenge is that when that opposition occurs, how do we handle it? Do we respond with anger? Do we walk away? Do we stare it in the face and deal with the conflict before us? What does Jesus want us to do?

In college I worked for a woman as her administrative assistant. Some of you might be laughing right now. It’s ok! Go ahead. It definitely wasn’t my best fit. Every day it seemed like I discovered something I missed for her. It was a tough first year listening to her critique me, but we made it through. Another friend of mine felt the same pressure, and he decided to leave, but I stuck it out. I was diligent in the fact that I wanted to get to know her, and to figure out how to best handle this situation. After four years of working together, we found jobs that fit me best, and we also started to become friends.  I would write long blog type emails joking about the guy jobs I had for the day. Let me tell you, I brought this quiet computer world to life. I would even joke with my boss that I would sign all the Christmas cards. She would gracefully decline-- considering my handwriting. I learned a lot about opposition in those four years, and about dealing with it diligently.

This week we discuss what it means to face challenging situations. How do we care for others and still respond in the best possible way? Jesus teaches us in His Gospel how He stared His opposition in the face, even though these were people from His hometown. Jesus dealt with it in a unique way, by walking away. Since opposition comes in different forms to all of us, it is good to address it, and then move forward. It is also great to observe how our Savior was able to display love to those who hated Him.


Sometimes being sheltered creates issues. I remember the first time I heard the word hickey. I had no clue what the word meant. So, like a dummy, I asked. This only created more issues. Kids in my class started saying, “You don’t know what a hickey is?” I think I was in fourth grade. I said, “No.” Thus began the nickname Willi Hickey.

When I got to college my neighbor asked if anyone had ever called me “Hanke Spanky?” I answered sarcastically, “No, you are the first person to rhyme my last name with anything.”

Nicknames were important in a long line of Karl William Hankes. My grandpa grew up being called Sonny. When my dad came along he was called Fritz. And when my mom agreed to name me Karl William Hanke IV, she was particular about my nickname. I grew up being called Willi until I entered college; at that point I decided to change it to Will. 

Names are important and I am sure you have a preference of what you want to be called. I would imagine that you have had someone call you something you didn’t appreciate. It’s possible that you know someone who always calls you the wrong thing no matter how many times you correct them.

This week we talk about nicknames and how God has named each of us. No matter what the world calls us, Jesus came to rename us and claim us as His children. We call Him Lord, which indicates that He is the One who has power not only to create this world, but to re-claim it from sin. We will touch on the many names of God, along with the reminder that He has the love and power to change our names to Children of God.  Because we know that He is our Father, we rejoice in the fact that we will be with Him forever. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Most recently we rejoiced at the birth of Jesus, and got to celebrate the gift of God that He is to you and me. This weekend we reflect on the men commonly known as the Wise Men. I remember being in seminary and being shaken from my traditional view of these wise kings who came to visit Jesus. The term Magi was the spoken word that brought more to my attention. After looking at Scripture I could see that Magi was the word commonly used. In some ways the traditions of everything I had grown up were shaken. But in another way a fact was revealed in a way that did not affect the Absolute Truth that Jesus is my saving grace. Whether Magi or Wise Men came to visit Him, it doesn’t matter.
            Over Christmas I got an email discussing potentially historical corrections in the birth of Jesus versus the traditional view. Thoughts were given that the meaning of the Greek word “inn” was more like “home.” There were points made that suggested that it was possible that the family member’s house was full, so they had to stay in the stable with the animals. The details went on and on about differences in how the story is portrayed. I won’t go on about all the details, but I will say this: often this uncertainty fires Christians up.
            We want to say, “Who are you to question the traditional view of how we celebrate Christmas? You think you can change my view of my Jesus lying wrapped in cloths in a manger? “ I have seen many people become defensive about topics like this. Growing up, I’ve watched my family debate issues like this one. Sometimes they wanted to make them theological when they were really just insignificant details.
            Remember a few weeks ago we talked about how details just help us to see the whole story. They help us refocus, and make the story new to us every year. That is the power of God’s Word. Hebrews calls it a Living Word. The details bring back the life of Scripture, but the whole point of details was to enrich and develop the story.
            When I get emails like this I first look at the content and evaluate what the person is saying. I check their information and see if it fits with Scripture. And most importantly I check it with 1 John 4. Does it speak about my Jesus and His death and resurrection? If all these things check out, it becomes just information for me to think about.
            Sometimes we are so worried about things like this, which allows the devil to do his work. Then the devil can get us all fired up about some point where someone has just looked deeper into something new about the history of Scripture. When you think about it, what harm comes from someone looking into the details of Scripture? Lee Strobel wrote A Case for Christ, in which he dug deeply into Scripture trying to disprove it, and became an advocate of the faith instead.
            Our naïve nature about our traditional view of how we celebrate Christmas or some other historical or detail point can distract us from seeing how the power of the true Message of Jesus impacts people. This weekend we will discuss why they were not Three Wise Men but Three Naïve Men who never should have ended up worshiping Jesus. But God showed in the power of that story that He could, in fact, use unusual ways to not only see Jesus, but believe Him so much they would listen to His angels. Because of that, I am willing to allow some of this naïve detail to be altered-like the story of Jonah being in a whale instead of a Big Fish; or the story of my Savior being born in a relative’s house instead of in an inn whose keeper said there was no room. I want to look deeper into a life-changing story for me and for this world.