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Keeping The Faith

Keeping The Faith

Bio

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, blogger, and author. His books include “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus” and “The Jesus Tribe.” Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

A Journey to Paradise

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Jesus never described the gospel as an escape hatch, whereby we can exchange his current world for a spiritual retreat far away. Never. Rather, his gospel was: “God’s kingdom is here! It is now! Heaven has come to earth!” So […]

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Back to the Original

posted by ronniemcbrayer

It all began in 1980 when the executives of the one of the largest companies in the world, secretly commissioned a scheme named “Project Kansas.” The commission had the most daunting task any group of business people could be given: […]

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God Said It…And That Unsettles It

posted by ronniemcbrayer

“God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” This slogan is one of today’s all too common bumper sticker defenses of the Bible. The phrase is sometimes amended to read, “God said it…and that settles it,” to reflect […]

“Servanthood:” A Definition

posted by ronniemcbrayer

The word “servanthood” is not recognized by my computer’s word processing program. Whenever I type the word it shows up with little red underline marks and a half-dozen other suggested words to put in its place. I don’t think we […]

Hard Grace

posted by ronniemcbrayer

It was extremely important for the church of my youth to prove that every single miracle in the Bible be proven as an historical and scientific fact. A literal seven day creation, the plagues on Egypt, the parting of the […]

Have a Little Chutzpah

posted by ronniemcbrayer

There were four rabbis who had a series of ongoing theological arguments, and three were always in alignment against the fourth. One day, the odd rabbi out, after the usual “Three to One” vote, decided to appeal to a higher […]

Putting the Pieces Together

posted by ronniemcbrayer

English scholar N.T. Wright uses a powerful example of how our lives fit into the big picture of what God is doing in the world: It is that of a stonemason working on a great cathedral. When these architectural wonders […]

Love May Not “Fix,” But It Never Fails

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Our dryer was in a thousand pieces scattered across the laundry room floor, and I had a huge lump on the back of my head the size of grapefruit. Yes, I am ashamed to report these two seemingly unconnected things […]

Some Last, Some First, All Equal

posted by ronniemcbrayer

There’s an old joke about a man who arrives at the gates of Heaven. St. Peter asks, “What is your denomination?” The man says, “Methodist.” St. Peter says, “Okay, go to Room 24, but be very quiet as you pass […]

You’re Going to Lose Your Marbles

posted by ronniemcbrayer

The following was sent to me by my friend Felton Floyd who lives in a beautiful place called Sugar Valley, Georgia. He holds an amateur radio license, and it was in that amateur radio world that this story originated: “The […]

More Than We Can Stand

posted by ronniemcbrayer

In the previous generation there were at least three great Southern-born prophets: Martin Luther King, Jr., Clarence Jordan, and Will Campbell. Campbell is the only one still living. He is nearing his 90th year, and is a self-proclaimed prickly, “bootleg […]

“Minimum Protection…Maximum Support”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Tony Campolo retells an incident involving William Sloane Coffin following the death of his son, Alexander. Alex, as he was called, was killed in a car accident in 1983 when he was only twenty-four years old. His father, William, who […]

Answering the Call

posted by ronniemcbrayer

When my friend Scott was young, he began to experience a stirring deep in his heart that some Christians refer to as “a divine calling.” How could Scott ignore such a thing, conditioned as he had been to hear God’s […]

Decisions, Decisions: A Guide

posted by ronniemcbrayer

A farmer hired a man to work for him. He told him his first task would be to paint the barn and said it should take him about three days to finish. But the hired man worked very fast, and […]

Check Your Own Pockets First

posted by ronniemcbrayer

In these days when it seems everything has become angry polarization, it’s not uncommon to hear someone in the heat of an argument invoke the familiar words of Jesus: “Judge not, so that you are not judged.” These words are […]

Monkeys…and Mercy

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Gary Hamel tells about a science experiment involving four monkeys in a room. In the center of the room, researchers had placed a tall pole with a bunch of bananas suspended at the top. One particularly hungry monkey eagerly scampered […]

Some Assembly Required

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Do you know the three most frightening words in the English language? “Some assembly required.” You order something online; a toy or a bicycle for your children. Or you go to a big box store to get a grill or […]

A Little More Light…A Lot More Direction

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Leo Tolstoy once compared religious rules to the light given off by a lamp post. It is a bright light. It dispels the darkness. As long as man or woman stood in that light, he or she could see. But […]

It’s Time

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Imagine that tomorrow morning I deposit into your bank account $86,400. This money is all yours to do with as you please, no strings attached. Now, not only am I going to deposit this amount into your account tomorrow, I’m […]

A Bitter Cup

posted by ronniemcbrayer

A few years ago I traveled to Virginia to visit friends and see a few sites. On one of our road trips I made the drive from historic Williamsburg, Virginia to Charlottesville.  It is only a couple of hours drive […]

“Get Out!!!”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Churches are peculiar places. I’ve had the opportunity to serve a few of them. Some of my pastoral experiences have been overwhelmingly rewarding: Baptisms, weddings, the transformation of individuals and families. Some other experiences have been about as much fun […]

Patches of Green

posted by ronniemcbrayer

His name was Charles. I sat by his bedside as, for all practical reasons, he was dying. I couldn’t begin to recount for you all the things that had gone wrong, medically speaking. Physically, he was a train wreck, as […]

Oh the Tangled Webs We Must Unweave

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Here I am, twisted up in the same desperate situation again this year. It’s not my fault – I swear it’s not. Anticipating this jumbled mess, and having been stuck in it many times before, I planned carefully to avoid […]

Muppets…and Hope

posted by ronniemcbrayer

When I was a kid, one of my favorite television shows starred Kermit the Frog. No, not Sesame Street, though I loved that program for a time as well. It was the Muppet Show. Jim Henson, God rest his soul, […]

In the Arms of Love

posted by ronniemcbrayer

While in Central America earlier this year, I visited the Mayan ruins at Tazumal, El Salvador. Tazumal is one of the best preserved ruins in that country, and I learned from my guide, that it was a central religious site. […]

A Prayer for Sandy Hook School and Newtown, Connecticut

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Rev. Joseph P. Monahan offered this prayer after the violence at Virginia Tech several years ago. I offer it here again, this time, in wake of the senseless shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Lord, we don’t have words for what we’ve […]

“This Is Really Going to Teach Me a Lesson”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

One of the world leading talents today is a young man named David Garrett. He is youthful, handsome to the point of absurdity, and rich. If you have ever seen him, you are accurate to conclude that he has spent […]

Where Love Begins

posted by ronniemcbrayer

According to the Pew Research Center’s recently released report, a full one-fifth of Americans are now unattached to religion, and the Protestant majority is no longer that; Protestant Christians now make up less than 50% of the population. News agencies […]

“Woodpeckers on the Wall”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

On the afternoon of August 12, 1961, leaders of the German Democratic Republic, better known as Communist Eastern Germany, signed an order to close the border between East and West Berlin, and erect a massive Wall dividing the city. Later […]

No Substitute for the Real Thing

posted by ronniemcbrayer

There is an old story told about Augustine, the early church father, and a little boy on a beach. At the time, Augustine was writing his book on the Trinity and was walking along the seashore, deep in thought. Augustine […]

For 10,000 Hours…Or More

posted by ronniemcbrayer

When I watch my children skim-boarding in the surf, I remember what it is like to be blissfully young, oblivious to danger, and as flexible as a rubber band. I am none of those things now. That is why you […]

God: Man’s Best Friend

posted by ronniemcbrayer

My friends have a new dog. His name is Chowder. Chowder is a globe of fuzz and fun with one ear that points due north and another that falls like a floppy patch over his right eye. Full-grown but not even […]

The “Little Way”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

One of my favorite Brennan Manning quotes is about heaven, but only indirectly. It’s more about how to best live our lives today. Manning says, “Heaven will be filled with preschoolers. No adults will be allowed admittance.” Brennan’s quote duplicates […]

“Thank You…One More Time”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Jesus once healed a man suffering from leprosy. Overwhelmed by what had just happened, he fell at Jesus’ feet in gratitude. Outside of other crusty lepers, Jesus is the first person this man would have gotten close to in years. […]

His Love Endures Forever

posted by ronniemcbrayer

When my youngest son hopped on an airplane for his first foray into the friendly skies, it didn’t take him long to shake off any fear he may have brought down the tarmac with him. He loved it, his favorite […]

Twenty Years From Right Now

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Last week I made a purchase at the supermarket: A bottle of wine and a bit of coffee. Staples, you know. At check out I was asked to show my identification. It made me proud. I was still relishing my […]

For Overachievers Everywhere

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Scientists have a name for it: Ergomania. It is a word composed of two Latin roots. “Ergo,” meaning work, and “mania,” which means passion. Ergomania, thusly, is a “passion for work.” In contemporary society we use a different term for […]

“But After All, He Was Only A Clown…”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

A few months ago I was sitting outside of a café in Orlando, Florida. As much as anywhere, Orlando is a crossroads of the world. Watching and listening, we saw European tourists who were speaking German, French and Spanish. A large, […]

“Vote for Jesus!”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Not far from my home is a Baptist church. I suppose it’s like most Baptist churches that dot the highways of the south. They have a modest sanctuary. The former worship space has been converted into the “fellowship hall.” I’m […]

Some Things Are Better Left Alone

posted by ronniemcbrayer

There is an ancient story from the Cherokee Nation that was used to illustrate the danger of getting too close to something dangerous. I first heard it as a child, though variations of the tale are found in most all […]

To Walk in Simplicity

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Some of the largest steam locomotives every built were produced in the 1930s by the Lima Locomotive Company of Lima,Ohio. The granddaddy of them all was named the “Alleghany,” and only two models of the dozen or so built survive. One […]

For the Long Haul

posted by ronniemcbrayer

For those who grew up in the revivalistic tradition, we heard the same basic sermon every Sunday: “You are sinner. Repent or you’re going to hell. And you better get to it, because Jesus could return at any second and […]

Back to the Future

posted by ronniemcbrayer

I’m no prophet. I don’t spend much time worrying about the end of the world or fretting over apocalyptic calendars. But I do think about the future, and sometimes I venture a calculated guess about what might be lurking over […]

Good All The Time

posted by ronniemcbrayer

I heard humorist Jack Handey say that you should never criticize someone until you walk a mile in his or her shoes. Then, when you do criticize them, “You are a mile away and have their shoes.” That’s not bad […]

A Notorious Savior

posted by ronniemcbrayer

There was a time when Jesus could be found eating with the religious leaders of his day. No longer. They quit inviting him to their cocktail parties when he would not conform to their standards of doctrine and conduct. This […]

You Never Know What Will Grow

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Bishop Desmond Tutu celebrated his 81st birthday this past week. The accomplishments of his eight decades are well-known and many. We know the story: For most of his life he has labored in the racial tension and trenches of South […]

When Rules Prevail

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Question: Why won’t some people go to church? Answer: Because they have been to church. Even Jesus fell into this category. After a “bad church experience” he left the establishment and never returned. The incident is recorded in Luke 13. Jesus […]

Grace Fills The Empty Spaces

posted by ronniemcbrayer

In her book Gravity and Grace, the late Simone Weil wrote, “Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it.” With those words she emphasizes a spirituality which for the most part […]

A Walking, Talking, Resurrected Powder Keg

posted by ronniemcbrayer

The Gospels show that nothing seemed to stir Jesus more than religious oppression, because where it was found, he began pushing back against it with a vengeance. And when he pushed, the religious professionals got angry. They condemned him for having […]

In the Mix

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Many years ago I wrote an article that one of my newspaper editors entitled, “The Beautiful, Blended Family of God.” It was a delightful little piece that I scribbled down while watching my two young sons play together. My boys are […]

“In Scorn of the Consequences” – Remembering Clarence Jordan, Part 3 of 3

posted by ronniemcbrayer

I am speaking this weekend at the Clarence Jordan Symposium at Georgia Southwestern University. It is a celebration and reflection of the life and words of Clarence Jordan who would have turned 100 years old this year. To commemorate this event, and […]

“Help Us Ship the Nuts Out of Georgia” – Remembering Clarence Jordan, Part 2 of 3

posted by ronniemcbrayer

I am speaking this weekend at the Clarence Jordan Symposium at Georgia Southwestern University. It is a celebration and reflection of the life and words of Clarence Jordan who would have turned 100 years old this year. To commemorate this event, and […]

“A Demonstration Plot” – Remembering Clarence Jordan, Part 1 of 3

posted by ronniemcbrayer

I am speaking this weekend at the Clarence Jordan Symposium at Georgia Southwestern University. It is a celebration and reflection of the life and words of Clarence Jordan who would have turned 100 years old this year. To commemorate this […]

Don’t Define Your Neighbor…Love Them

posted by ronniemcbrayer

A religious leader came to Jesus with a question. “If loving God and loving my neighbor is the totality of religious and spiritual requirement, then tell me Jesus, who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with a parable. Jesus’ response is his […]

Revolution Required

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Kim Il-Sung began his military and political career when he was a young man living on the Korean Peninsula. A decade later, he was the despot over North Korea. The “Great Leader,” as he was named, succeeded in holding power […]

“I Don’t Even Know Where He’s Going”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

The weightiest lessons of life, spirituality, and faith have been taught to me by my children. I’ve learned more about human nature, unconditional love, trust and patience from the three children who live in my home than all the sacred […]

An Apple Pie Can Change The World

posted by ronniemcbrayer

When my wife’s boss first moved to our small town it was more than a little culture shock. Raised on the slick windy streets ofChicago, he had mastered the ways of the urban jungle, but this experience had done little […]

Doctor, Doctor

posted by ronniemcbrayer

It was that time of year once again, time for my annual physical; and I had been dreading it as badly as one can dread anything. But my dread was for reasons beyond the obvious. You know, those backless gowns, […]

Small Solutions and Big Problems

posted by ronniemcbrayer

“Love thy neighbor” is wonderful as a heavenly theory. But it is hell on wheels to practice. Oh, it sounds good, but when you start thinking about the implications of what this means, it is hard to swallow. Sure, loving “people” […]

Pew Potatoes

posted by ronniemcbrayer

My grandmother lived her entire life on a farm. First, it was cotton, then it was soybean, and finally it was cows and chickens. I spent every summer of my childhood and teen years on that farm, working in my […]

God Is In The Goulash

posted by ronniemcbrayer

“Do you believe that God is in total control of this world?” Someone asked me that question the other day. We had been discussing the difficulties of life and the trajectory our planet so dishearteningly seems to be headed. Being […]

Some Fears Aren’t All They Are Cracked Up To Be

posted by ronniemcbrayer

In August of 1871 a man sent a letter to his wife claiming that he had been swindled by employees of the Wells Fargo Company and vowed to pay them back. So, he began robbing their stage coaches in northernCalifornia. […]

Keep Pushing

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Have you ever heard of a fellow named Sisyphus? I know. His name sounds like a communicable disease or something like that. But in Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a great king and founder of the ancient city of Corinth. In […]

The “Why” of Falling Towers

posted by ronniemcbrayer

My father-in-law turned six on the morning that the Japanese Air Force destroyed the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor. As a child, it was a day of expectation.  For the rest of his life it has been a bitter-sweet […]

A “Hollywood” Revival

posted by ronniemcbrayer

When I was a young college student I had the opportunity to go with a friend to a “revival” in the town of Hollywood, Georgia. That’s right, there is such a place: Hollywood, Georgia. “On a clear night you can […]

Paddles and Principals

posted by ronniemcbrayer

John Steele was my first principal. Broad-shouldered and tall, he was the kind of man you might see in football pads on Sunday afternoon, not one walking the hallways of an elementary school. To go with his massive frame, he […]

“Leaving Salem”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Roger Williams arrived in theMassachusetts Baycolony ten years after the first Pilgrims. He was part of that Puritan effort to build a “city on a hill,” to prove to the nations of the world how God’s people were to live. […]

Of Fog And Faith

posted by ronniemcbrayer

A parishioner walked up to me after a recent Sunday meeting and gushed, “I wish I had half as much faith as you!” I laughed in his face. Quickly I tried to explain that while I may serve as a […]

Love in a Grocery Bag

posted by ronniemcbrayer

When I was a child my family lived hand to mouth. We were loved and we were cared for, but the cupboards were often bare. We ate a lot of Hamburger Helper in those days, with only the Helper. My […]

On A Tinkle And A Prayer

posted by ronniemcbrayer

As worshippers entered the sanctuary there were smiles, hugs, handshakes, and laughter. Pews and heartd were filled to capacity before the service of worship was even begun. And what a worship service it was! In our non-denominationalism we had elements […]

“Maybe I Outgrew the Church…”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

I waited beneath the funeral canopy with drops of perspiration collecting in the small of my back. It was warm, but not particularly hot. Still, my dark suit and nerves were conspiring with the weather to suffocate me. Funerals, neckties, […]

“I Know It When I See It”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Some concepts are almost impossible to define; words like hope, love, happiness, or faith. And while these are terms we are all familiar with – we use these words every day – we sometimes struggle to say what they really […]

“Get Out!!!”

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Churches are peculiar places. I have had the opportunity to serve a few of them. Some of my pastoral experiences have been awesome and rewarding – baptisms, weddings, the transformation of individuals and families. Some other experiences have been about […]

Love and Leapfrog

posted by ronniemcbrayer

There’s a proverb that says if you love something, let it go. If it returns, it’s yours. If not, well, it never belonged to you in the first place. But had my son written that little ditty it would go […]

Hating the Haters

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Several years ago, on the courthouse steps of the town in which I lived, there was a rally.  A homosexual couple in our community was seeking to become foster parents. You can imagine the kickback that erupted in a small […]

Shake the Trouble Tree

posted by ronniemcbrayer

Alfred DuPont came to the Florida Panhandle in the 1920s looking for a vacation home. He found and acquired a little bit more than that. After a few years of exploration DuPont owned nearly 100,000 acres of forest land stretch […]

Previous Posts

A Journey to Paradise
Jesus never described the gospel as an escape hatch, whereby we can exchange his current world for a spiritual retreat far away. Never. Rather, his gospel was: “God’s kingdom is here! It is now! Heaven has come to earth!” So when Jesus ...

posted 5:41:57am Mar. 11, 2013 | read full post »

Back to the Original
It all began in 1980 when the executives of the one of the largest companies in the world, secretly commissioned a scheme named “Project Kansas.” The commission had the most daunting task any group of business people could be given: ...

posted 5:34:32am Mar. 07, 2013 | read full post »

God Said It...And That Unsettles It
“God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” This slogan is one of today’s all too common bumper sticker defenses of the Bible. The phrase is sometimes amended to read, “God said it…and that settles it,” to reflect that personal ...

posted 5:15:18am Mar. 04, 2013 | read full post »

"Servanthood:" A Definition
The word “servanthood” is not recognized by my computer’s word processing program. Whenever I type the word it shows up with little red underline marks and a half-dozen other suggested words to put in its place. I don’t think we ...

posted 6:06:50am Feb. 28, 2013 | read full post »

Hard Grace
It was extremely important for the church of my youth to prove that every single miracle in the Bible be proven as an historical and scientific fact. A literal seven day creation, the plagues on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, Joshua making ...

posted 6:01:14am Feb. 23, 2013 | read full post »

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