Category Archives: Theology and Ethics

Heavy Burdens and Hard Battles

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Many of you are hurting. Many of you are carrying heavy burdens. Many of you are fighting hard battles. Remember that God loves you. Remember that Jenny and I love you. Remember to love yourselves and one another. In God’s grace there is strength for any struggle and forgiveness for any failure.

Blessings, John

P.S. If you’re wondering whether or not I’m writing to you, then I am.

On Immigrants, Migrants and Asylum Seekers

I haven’t yet responded to the recent headlines on immigrants, migrants, and those seeking asylum, nor the actions taken along the border between the United States and Mexico because I have simply been too heartbroken. Over and over again, the Bible tells us that we are to welcome the stranger and treat the alien among us as a neighbor. The gulf between what we are doing and what we should be doing is like that between the rich man and Lazarus. I have heard the protestations, objections, and difficulties involved in doing what the Bible tells us we are to do, but above all that din, I can still hear the voice of God, and we are not heeding it.

If you want some examples of what the Bible says here are a few highlighted in The United Methodist Book of Resolutions: Leviticus 19:33-34; Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Deuteronomy 10:19; 24:18-22; Matthew 2:13-18 (in which the child Jesus himself is the one seeking asylum); and perhaps most importantly Matthew 25:31-46 (in which the nations of the world are judged).

Homophobia is Contagious

Yesterday Jenny and I and a few other people went over to the Bishop’s town hall meeting in Salina. There were non-affirming people there, and some of them were quite vocal. I returned home even more convinced that while homosexuality is not communicable, homophobia is contagious. (And I’m not saying that everyone who is non-affirming is homophobic, but some of these folks definitely were.)

God Comes to Us

“In the story of God’s relationship with humanity, the answer is always grace—God approaching us. In the final analysis, we don’t go to heaven; God brings his heavenly abode down to earth, having re-created the universe so that there is a new (that is, radically renewed) heaven and earth. We do not go to God, but he comes to us.”
— Matthew W. Bates [1]

This is true not only of the life to come but of our lives here and now. God grace is forever reaching out to us.

[1] Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017), 139-140.

Evil Being Done in Our Name

I’m sorry for bringing it up, but sometimes I experience a deep, burning, fire-in-my-bones need to be on the record about an issue (see Jeremiah 20:9).

The Trump administration has released a 68-page report on international human trafficking. This report stated, “Removal of a child from the family should only be considered as a temporary, last resort.” [1] At the same time children as young as three years of age are being forced to appear in immigration court by themselves, without their parents. Not only are the children there without their parents, according to NBC, “They are not entitled to an attorney but rather are given a list of legal services organizations that might help them.” [2] How does a three-year-old make use of a list of legal services organizations? How do we expect justice to be done when there is no one present to advocate for the child? How do we expect them to make their case when they are not yet old enough to comprehend the dangers that prompted their parents to take them and flee? This is wrong. This is insane. This is evil and it’s being done in our name. There may not be much we can do, but we must do that much. I urge you to call and/or write your representatives.

P.S. According to other reports I heard, this occasionally happened under previous administrations. It was wrong then, and that doesn’t make it right now. Taking a wrong practice and making it far more common, does not make it right.

[1] Noah Bierman, “Ivanka Trump Helps Unveil Administration Report That Decries the Effect of Separating Children from Parents,” Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2018, accessed June 29, 2018,

[2] Christina Jewett and Shefali Luthra, “Toddlers Are Having to Appear in Border Courts All Alone,”, June 28, 2018, accessed June 29, 2018,

You Already Believe

Do you ever worry that you don’t believe in God? Dallas Willard has a keen, insightful response:

“I never worry about someone who wants to believe, because I know they already believe enough to want to believe more. If they did not already believe a great deal they would not even want to believe.”

Dallas Willard, Life without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2018), Kindle.

God is Like Jesus

I think this one speaks for itself:

“The historic Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ does not simply mean that Jesus is like God [the Father]. It is far more radical than that. It means that God [the Father] is like Jesus.” — Elton Trueblood

Elton Trueblood, cited by Rachel Held Evans, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again (Nashville, Tennesee: Thomas Nelson, 2018), 55-56.

Of Aid for Immigrants and Romans 13

Yesterday, a parishioner asked Jenny and me if there was a United Methodist Organization working with the refugees and asylum seekers who are being detained and separated from their children. Indeed there is, please see the link below.

On the related issue of the interpretation of Romans 13, which has been cited to defend the current administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, I’ll just follow the lead of another pastor and point out that the man who wrote Romans 13 was executed by the state for his steadfast refusal to submit to the governing authorities when doing so was in conflict with his obedience to Christ.


Some Things That Need to Be Said

Last Thursday (May 24, 2018), a diverse collection of older clergy (they refer to themselves as elders, but that’s a bit confusing because it’s often a technical term meaning different things in different churches) put out a declaration at a public worship service and the website I recognize that said declaration is not perfect and that it represents only one perspective on our current situation. Nonetheless, it contains many things that I think need to be said. I don’t want to stray into partisan politics and I fear that sharing this link will be seen as doing just that, but I feel that my position as a preacher compels me to offer this as a much-needed affirmation of some core gospel teachings.

Here’s the link:

If you prefer to read things when they are printed out there is a link to the declaration in PDF format at the bottom of the page.

What do you think? Feel free to let me know what you think at