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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Acts 19

Eight years ago I had the opportunity to be a part of a memorable panel at the University of Northern Colorado. The featured speakers on the panel were individuals from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS.

For those of you who may not know, this is the church whose pastor – Fred Phelps – makes a practice of picketing the funerals of US servicemen and servicewomen because he feels the US has brought judgment upon itself for embracing the homosexual lifestyle. In between public protests, Mr. Phelps also operates an infamous website known as www.godhatesfags.com.

As I sat on the panel that evening listening to Mr. Phelps’s two sons represent the church and its beliefs, I was reminded of today’s passage from the 19th chapter of Acts. In this passage, we hear about exorcists who try to use Jesus’ name to cast out evil spirits. In the middle of one such attempt, the spirit cried out, “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” That statement credited to the possessing spirit is a wonderful reminder that just because someone claims to represent God doesn’t necessarily mean they do.

Now I want to be careful and make one thing clear here. I try my very best in life not to go down the path of saying, “So and so is not a Christian” because of their positions. That is indeed a dangerous road to go down. I do, however, think that it is fair to see what sort of things one’s actions accomplish in God’s name. For instance, it’s fair to ask, “Do one’s words and actions increase the loving and healing presence of God – helping usher in the reign of God; or do one’s words and actions decrease the presence of a loving and healing God?” That – I believe - is a fair question.

As you go forth today into a world where many are quick to claim the name of God for all sorts of purposes, remember that it takes much more than a claim to live in right relation with God and God’s creation.

Til next time…

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