Repost: The cross bids me come and die…and find I may truly live

photo by Michael Wray

photo by Michael Wray

I would normally add commentary but with a photo this wonderful, this beautiful – only Scripture will do.  So I add these inspired words for your contemplation:

“It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:13-18, NIV)

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One True Identity, One True Community

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26a; 27, NASB95)

Photo by Laurence and Annie

Photo by Laurence and Annie

Within these two very first verses speaking of man’s creation so much applicable insight is found to our one true identity and one true community.  Here we see the Godhead Himself as the plural ‘Us’ and further creating man in ‘Our’ image and Our ‘likeness’.  Without attempting a comprehensive analysis of image and likeness here, it will suffice to point out that there exists a sense of community acting in harmony for a creative purpose within God and that that image and likeness was intended to be reflected in created man (comprising both male and female).

That image of God as community, inherent to man, has been fractured as a result of the fall and has resulted in an alienation and separation (death) that spread throughout all of man’s relationships.  The first relationship fractured is with God and then secondarily with all other members of the human race.  While fractured and distorted, all members of the human race, still bear the image of God.  Although broken, God still loves His creation and though under no obligation to His creation, He continues to rebuild our broken relationships and to rebuild a new community rooted and built up in Christ.

In the final analysis, says the Christian ethic, every man must be respected because God loves him.  The worth of an individual does not lie in the measure of his intellect, his racial origin, or his social position.  Human worth lies in relatedness to God.  Whenever this is recognized, “whitness” and “blackness” pass away as determinants in a relationship and “son” and “brother” are substituted.

– Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the defense of a philosophy of integration, 1962

God loves each and every one of us.  We are all members of the one race – the human race.  But the fall makes us prone to identify ourselves first and foremost by whatever we perceive separates us, whether it be color, ethnicity, culture, class, or country, rather than by what unites and unifies us in community.  Rev. Howard Thurman goes further in his reflection on identity and identifying beyond man’s natural distinctions:

To experience oneself as a human being is to know a sense of kinship with one’s total environment and to recognize that it is this structural relationship that makes it possible for one to experience himself as a human being.  Being white or black becomes merely incidental and is of no basic significance….

The impact upon the individual when he experiences himself as a human being is to regard himself as being of infinite worth…

It is total, it is unified and unifying.  It is not the experience of oneself as male or female, as black or white, as American or European.  It is rather the experience of oneself as being.  It is at such a time that one can hear the sound of the genuine in other human beings.  This is to be able to identify with them…

When I identify with a man, I become one with him and in him I see myself…

The religious experience as I have known it seems to swing wide the door, not merely into Life but into lives…Through the years it has driven me more and more to seek to make as a normal part of my relations with men the experiencing of them as human beings.  When this happens love has essential materials with which to work… a man comes into possession of himself more completely when he is free to love another.

– Rev. Howard Thurman, excerpts from The Luminous Darkness (1965) found in A Strange Freedom.

Mark Deymaz in his book “Building Healthy Multi-Ethnic Churchs”, insightfully points out that Christ is exalted when we transcend diversity in our love for one another.  When we transcend the separation and alienation which divides and segregates fallen man and are truly able to come together as one body, one ‘brotherhood’, through the Spirit and love of Jesus Christ, God is glorified.  Deymaz points out that Jesus’ own prayer for the church emphasize this unity as being key for His future witness in the world:

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20-23, NASB95)

We must learn the discipline of distinguishing between learned relational culture and true identity.  As one with some cross-cultural experience, I have learned that cultures are like clothing within a wardrobe.  The more exposure to cultures that we experience, the larger our wardrobe becomes.  But in the end, the saying is true, clothing does not make the man.  Culture should not make the identity.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB95)

Through Christ we share One true identity, we share One journey, we share One destination – One true community.  It all begins with a restored relationship with Jesus Christ.  To restore right relationships with other human beings, man must first enter into a restored right relationship with God, His creator.  It is freely available – all one must do is repent of sin, receive forgiveness, and walk in reconciliation (more on that to come).

For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:19-20, NASB95)

Forgiveness – the battle of cutting free

photo by trying2

photo by trying2

Why do certain past events or circumstances seem to pull us backwards.  There can be many reasons, but in my experience it means something has been left unresolved, some hurt, some wrong dealt with, or dealt out.  Forgive and forget is the saying – but it seems we often try opting only for the latter.  But to do so is simply allowing a scab to form over an infected wound. As time goes on we may actually tune it out, assuming the problem is in the past.  But covered wounds get bumped and we feel the pain all over again.

Forgiveness can be a prolonged process.  Often we must scrape off the scab and look at an issue again. Difficult because there is still the instinct to leave it in the past, forget about it, man up and move on.  But that is like ignoring cancer.  No, we must dig deeper and apply Christ’s healing balm of forgiveness at the deepest most painful source.

I mentioned that the forgiveness can go both ways – sometimes we must forgive an offender, other times we must seek forgiveness for ourselves.  The first step is confession.carrying

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV)

While no one apart from Jesus, can truly comprehend and feel our pain, we are not called to walk alone.  Allowing others to come alongside can be an essential healing step.  Often a brother or sister in the faith can provide the added strength to get you to the foot of the cross, where the true healing occurs.  It also allows others to witness God’s grace at work in our lives, even through our failures.

There is an incredible scene in the movie ‘The Mission’ where Rodrigo Montego (Robert De Niro) plays a man overwhelmed with guilt from having killed his own brother.  It is ironic that in the film God uses the indians that Montego had hunted and enslaved for profit – to be his instruments of grace, assisting Montego break free from the burden.

Pennance will not do. It is essential to spend time at the foot of the cross, laying it all out before the One who already paid for the sins, regardless of whose sins.  He will remove the burden from you.

photo by Michael Wray

photo by Michael Wray

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV)

But there is a spiritual insurgent. One who even though disarmed will use every thought and every emotion to convince you that the territory still belongs to him and that true forgiveness cannot be achieved.  But the insurgent is a liar who only seeks to kill, destroy, and to steal (John 10:10) what Christ has freely granted. For this reason we are commanded to take every thought captive and put it in submission to Christ, and Christ alone.

While forgiveness itself is obtained immediately, this battle to align our own thoughts and feelings with that spiritual reality often takes both time and diligence.  But with steadfast dependence upon Christ, the victory is assured.

Only after we have brought our wounds to the light are we able to cut free.  Leaving us finally freed for the journey with the true lover of our souls, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NASB95)

Faithfulness, forgiveness, and freedom

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’” (Matthew 18:15-16, NIV)

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22, NIV)

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me. … I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother.

-Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a letter from a Birmingham Jail

I have still been contemplating the deep words Rev. King wrote and found an interesting intersect with the message Pastor Jeff preached to Cornerstone last weekend on forgiveness.  Rev. King as I have asserted elsewhere was first and foremost a minister and servant of God.  His letter was one prompted by the printed criticism by his peers of his recent actions.

I cannot fathom the daily humiliations he had been subjected to during those dark days of segregation and overt racism in our country.  It is enough to find yourself alone in a jail cell for standing up and doing what your convictions tell you must be done.  But to add insult to injury, other ministers criticism of his actions were being publicized.  I suspect that these blows, delivered not by political opponents, but by brothers in the faith cut much deeper.

Rather than launch an attack, Rev. King modeled the exhortation found in Matthew 18:15.  He wrote a very long letter detailing not only the rationale and biblical justification for his actions, but his painful disappointment in the criticism they had made publicly against him.  Having made his points he concludes with tremendous insight.  If he was wrong and had overstated his case against them – he asked for their forgiveness.  If he had come up short – he asked for God’s forgiveness.  He was simply trying to be an obedient servant, faithful to God’s Word.

Their words of criticism not only hurt him personally, but also undercut the momentum gained by the sacrifices made by him and so many others.  He did not allow that to eclipse his view of them as fellow brothers and followers of Christ. He pointed out their sin against him at the same time demonstrating forgiveness.

Far too often as Pastor Jeff pointed out – we don’t even take the first step of love towards those who offend us.  We go directly to step two but not seeking others to aid in correcting and forgiving a brother or sister, but rather to build a coalition against the offender.  I know I have done this far too often to the detriment of the body.  This must change.  Another’s sins against us never justify our own disobedience to God’s commandments.

photo by Meltwater

photo by Meltwater

If we are to demonstrate true loving correction to the lost of this world, we must first be able to demonstrate the same to those within the family of Christ. As you contemplate these words, Rev. King’s example, and that of Jesus, I urge you to take some time and consider those who have sinned against you.  If you find some hatchet handles sticking out of the ground – it’s time to make amends.  It’s never too late for repentance and healing.  Remember, it has less to do with them as it does with you.  You must be faithful and obedient – and who knows, they may surprise you.  Either way – it’s a burden Jesus never meant for you to carry and forgiveness frees us from our own self-made jail cells.

Of course, we must all start with asking forgiveness of Jesus.  He paid the highest price that can be paid, His life, for our sins.  And He now offers His forgiveness freely, to any and all who will humble themselves enough to ask.

“Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”” (Acts 10:43, NASB95)

Refugees like me…

photo by mindgutter

photo by mindgutter

O Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me. O Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands— if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe— then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust.Selah Arise, O Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice. Let the assembled peoples gather around you. Rule over them from on high; let the Lord judge the peoples. Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day. If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows. He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head. I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” (Psalm 7, NIV, emphases mine)

What a great reminder that when we cry out for judgement – we must seek it for ourselves first. It is not a ‘me against them’ or ‘us against them’ – it is us against the Lord. It is easy for pride to drive us to to respond wrongly (sinfully) both in situations where we are innocent and the more common case where we are also at least partially guilty. I long for the day when my kids will respond rightly to the ‘sins’ of their brothers or sister against them – by the time  their cases come before me – there is rarely an innocent party anymore!

This psalm puts it in perspective. When wronged, anger and self-righteousness are the usual byproducts. When another’s sin is so clearly in view, it is easy to forget or minimize our own. It is easy to desire punitive punishment and to be the means of it rather than true justice from the Lord. But we are not the measuring stick or plumb line – the Lord is. For me those cries for justice when combined with honest self-evaluation end up tempered with a desire for mercy. Mercy of course is meaningless without a clear understanding of justice. Lord, help us to do justly, love mercy, and to humbly walk with You.   You are our refuge from wickedness and evil.  Help us to see injustice as opportunity for Your fire to purify us first, as we also remember to make room and opportunity for other refugees – like me.

Where is the hope?

photo by KM&G-Morris

photo by KM&G-Morris

“Where is the hope? I meet millions of people who feel demoralized by the decay around us. The hope that each of us has is not in who governs us, or what laws we pass, or what great things we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people. And that’s where our hope is in this country. And that’s where our hope is in life.” – Charles Colson

In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.” (Psalm 11, NIV)

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? This is a question that has not left my mind in sometime. With an all out assault being waged on the sanctity of life, the determination on the part of our government officials to become the indebted servants of China, and the recent judgement handed down by the Iowa Supreme Court redefining marriage, it is clear that the foundations are indeed being destroyed.  A big temptation is to respond in the flesh and seek political solutions to these political problems.  Satan would love for us to devote all of our energy and focus there in a futile attempt to bring about righteousness through political action.  But as a follower of Christ, I know that these are spiritual problems being expressed as political problems.  We mustn’t focus on symptoms, we must go deeper to the disease.  So what can the righteous do?   The best answer I know:

1. pray – pray that God’s people would radically align their lives to Jesus Christ and that God would turn the hearts of our leaders towards righteousness;

2. purify – no more ‘tolerance’ of sin in our own lives; we must search our own camps and cast out all idols – idolatry is as subtle as it is seductive and it has permeated even the church.  A genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, the creator and lover of our souls, and a radical alignment to His will is attractive to those His spirit has prepared.  We must focus less on being attractive to the world and more on a authentic following of the Christ.

3. proclaim truth and repentance – now more than ever we must have the courage to stand boldly and speak truthfully to all those around us, with everyone who will listen.  We must speak as those who know full well the fury of God’s wrath and also as those who know full well the fullness of His mercy.  What we are seeing now is both the hardening of hearts AND a failure of God’s people to make true disciples even within our own families.  There is no such thing as cheap grace as we will soon see.

As citizens of a free country, we do have civic responsibility to engage and seek just laws, that uphold human dignity and protect human life.  We should not neglect these duties, but our first priority must be to proclaim God’s truth with encouragement towards repentance and reconciliation with Jesus Christ.

When asking what can the righteous do – the quote from Charles Colson is excellent grounding.  If we want to restore the foundations, if we want real change, we must be God’s instruments to change hearts.  Church, it’s time to get praying, purifying, and proclaiming like never before!  It is true that “our hope is in God working through the hearts of people.”  Let’s give Him permission to move through our hearts to those of others.  And remember, no matter how ugly it gets, in the end…Jesus wins.

You have made known to me the path of life

A miktam of David. Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips. Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16, NIV)

May we Bless the Lord and choose the path of life for ourselves and those who cannot choose it for themselves.  Choose blessing and life today!

Who is this King of Glory?

ps-24

photo by sixsteps

Of David. A psalm. The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.Selah Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— he is the King of glory.Selah” (Psalm 24, NIV)

I loved reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy and enjoyed it even more when leavingtheshireable to see the movies.  As I read this Psalm this morning I flashed back to them and the mixed emotions of the hobbits in the midst of the battle.  They longed for the comfort and security of their ‘shire’.  Within the shire they were free from worries with a sort of childlike innocence, unaware of the impending conflict around them.  As followers of Christ, we have a similar desire.  God has brought us close to Him through Christ.  Formerly, we did not have clean hands nor pure hearts and we were literally at war with God, seeking after many idols and making idols of ourselves.  But through Christ’s sacrifice, we were washed clean, purified, and brought close to dwell with the One true living God.  Our desire is to simply stay with Him on His mountain, experiencing again that childlike innocence free from worry – and He does provide that.  But there is much more to following.

Psalm 24 also speaks of this King of Glory, the one that lifts our heads, as being mighty in battle, yes mighty in battle.  It speaks of Ancient Gates being lifted up.  I first think of the gates of my own heart allowing Christ’s love to come in to dwell and save me.  But I think it is as much a call to go out into the field of battle with Him.

I have wrestled with this tension between the two greatly.  Especially as I write these posts.  Even within my own soul I feel this dual reality happening.  I see so much darkness on the horizon for our nation and I truly expect increasing antagonism and real persecution in the future for those who stand up and follow Christ.  At the same time, I feel tremendous excitement and encouragement by what I sense God doing within my heart and what I therefore anticipate Him doing within His church.

Just as those hobbits were faced with unpleasant circumstance, so they chose to go out into the battle rather than retreat to the shire.  They could not fully comprehend the difficulties they would face, but realized that they and many others would lose all if they did not risk all.  In the end of course, they completed their perilous journey victoriously.

Some preachers would tell proclaim peace and safety, that the church needn’t worry about such trials and tribulations, and that we’ll be out of here before the real battle.  That would be great!  But, I’m not one of them.  No, the hope that seems quite clear in the Scriptures, is not that we will be spared tribulation, but that we will be sustained through tribulation and on the other side emerge victorious alongside our Mighty King of Glory.

To those who have not yet trusted in Christ, it is time to open the gates and let Him come into your heart – that He might cleanse you and bring you to His holy mountain.

Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

For those who know Him and have seen Him on His holy mountain, it is time to follow Him down the mountain.  It is time to storm the gates of hell, following our Mighty King of Glory, into the battle to set the captives free reclaiming them for our King.

Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— he is the King of glory.

Two Great Contenders for the Soul of Mankind

fiery-furnace

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”” (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV)

I have recently been ‘reunited’ with some of my treasured books that had been in storage.  As I was doing some reviewing I came across a great commentary in Charles Colson’s ‘Kingdoms in Conflict’ that I thought worth sharing.  With all of the fanfare of Gen Y, it occurred to me that they have grown up unaware of ‘The Cold War’.  Indeed, GenX and the boomers may well have forgotten it as a thing of the past.  That battle ended when the Berlin wall came down right?  No, that evil philosophy is alive and well.  Perhaps changing its colors and morphing its terminology (Liberation Theology), but far from dead.  It’s actually becoming quite ‘popular’.  But Charles Colson explains the reality:

Why is the conflict between the Christian church and the Marxist state so fundamental, ceaseless, and protracted?

Many in the seculared, tolerant West are offended by terms like “mortal enemies,” preferring to see Communists as a particularly enthusiastic band of social reformers and the church as one of the many social institutions that must adapt to changing political circumstances.  History, however, teaches a different lesson.  Communism and Christianity are at odds for very good reasons.

First, Christianity and Communism are irreconcilable in their basic premises.  The Christian believes that the dynamic of all history is spiritual, that its unfolding reveals God’s dealings with men, that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, and that at the end of history, He will reign over all the nations.

For Marxists, the material realm is all there is.  God and the spiritual order are illusions.  Mankind swims in the current of history, which progresses by economic forces from the decline of capitalism, through the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the earthly paradise of the classless society.  Communists are materialists and determinists; individuals count for nothing, the collective or state for everything…

Marxists claim that their system is scientific, in contrast to the “superstition” of Christianity.

I hope that you were able to recognize at least a few of those ideas that are becoming prevalent in our headlines.  I hope that last line sends a chill up and down your spine.  Even though the blood of so many Christian martyrs of the last century has barely dried, we have moved on and forgotten that there is a spiritual war raging over the soul of mankind.  Colson goes on to explain:

The Christian church and the Marxist state may work out an accommodation for a time, but they will always be adversaries.  The very nature of each makes any lasting accommodation impossible.  They are the two great contenders for the soul of mankind.

As our President vows and many in our nation applaud the ‘restoration’ of science to its rightful place and has commited to remove any hindrance, we surely are moving into A Brave New World.  The objective ‘scientist’ unbounded will be able to determine right and wrong, free from politics (your will and mine).  Of course right and wrong, those are just so passe these days.  Can they even be defined anymore?

auschwitz-track1

photo by vm_ramos

Are you ready to be brave…for the name of Christ?  Will you be a contender for faith in Jesus Christ or will you be a passive bystander as another contender steams forward?  It will march over the defenseless unborn, it will march over the elderly, it will march over the sick, and then it will march over you.  The track to Auschwitz was not built in a day.  The German people did not wake up one day and decide to do atrocious unethical, unthinkable things to other human beings.  No it was a slow substitution of ‘quality of life’  in the place of ‘sanctity of life’.  It was the economy stupid… and they looked the other way… until it was too late.  Then they looked in stunned and ashamed disbelief of what they had done and become.  Do I sound like an alarmist?  I hope so, because I am.  Our current trends run almost as parallel as the tracks shown here.  Will you stand or look for a means of compromise?  After all what does faith have to do with politics?  It’s a private matter right?  No, it is not.  Will you turn a blind eye, justify a simple vote, will you choose a false economic hope over Christian moral conviction, will you shrug off the trend towards the ever-increasing power of a secular State.

Or will you stand up and say enough is enough.  Will you contend for truth in the public square.  Will you put your votes where your Christian convictions are?  Shadrach, Meshack, Abednego and countless followers of Christ in the last century, in the last few decades, in the last day, have taken their stand.  What will you do?  You best get ready either way, because the train is coming.

You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent!

“When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”” (1 Kings 18:17, NIV)

shhh

photo by citizen_poeta

That Phillips, Craig, and Dean song “You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent’ could not be more appropriate today.  For a long time the evangelical church has slowly bought into the idea that faith belongs in the private domain and should be ‘separate’ from the public square.  Biblical convictions are converted to individual opinion and considered irrelevant to discussions about public policy and action.

More in reflecting than in leading the white evangelical spirit of his age, Moody, as if in conscious reaction to the political overcommitments of evangelicals during and after the Civil War, guided his audiences away from external and social duties toward a consideration of inner and personal states of being. Along with large segments of the Protestant world, Moody’s heightened stress on personal piety seemed to entail a decrease of interest in social conditions…The end result from shifting theological emphases toward the turn of the century was that the more conservative and pietistic elements of American Protestantism were neutering the social impact of Christian faith even as many evangelicals continued to find manifold resources in traditional Christianity for private devotion and domestic guidance.

Mark A. Noll, God and Race in American Politics: A Short History, 2008, p 79-80

gag-order

photo by gitgat

May we, at the turn of this century, recover our societal duties, while maintaining fervent in our private piety and devotion.  As we pursue and live out our saving relationship with Jesus Christ, our Risen and Reigning Lord, let us become the salt and light in this world that He has called us to be.  When we rightfully reject the deception that faith is to be relegated to the private realm, we are received with the same warmth that Elijah received from a wicked King “Is that you, troubler of America, this is not a theocracy, keep your morality to yourself and Sunday morning’.  Sadly, we have all too often complied.

It is hightime the church found her voice.  We are heading into perilous times and personal piety and devotion are the starting point, but they MUST NOT be the ending point. When one looks back at Nazi Germany, a common question is ‘Where was the church?’  The church had lost her voice. There were exceptions within her of course who stood boldly for truth.  Their time in the prayer closet led them to also stand and proclaim truth boldly in the public square.  They were willing to learn the true cost of discipleship, their lives.  May we be willing to follow their faithful examples and found worthy of their company in the coming Day of our Lord.

“The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.” (Psalm 37:30, NIV)

In order to do so, we must begin to pray less for comfort and pray more for courage.

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8, NIV)
Lord, as we move our faith from private piety and devotion to the public square, to engage the growing darkness, help us to remember that your cause has already won our righteousness and that it will in the end overcome all the evil schemes of man and that Your sovereignty is even more certain than the shining of the sun. Help us as we seek to speak truth into this fallen world, to not do so in the angry arrogance of ‘what we think’, but in the calm confidence of knowing Who You Are.

“For [You] did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV)

Lord, may Your love  compel us to live our faith boldly and publicly.

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