Category Archives: Faith

Music Outside of the Church Liturgy

No, I’m not talking about whether Rock, Pop, Christian Pop, etc., are evil. I’m thinking about music written using Scripture passages for the libretto but was condemned as mere entertainment. Anything come to mind? Right! Handel’s Messiah. Today marks the anniversary of Handel’s death. And in a way, what is now considered Handel’s masterpiece died shortly after it was written.

It was denied success in London. Many believers were appalled because the “Messiah” was not music for a church service but a “Grand Musical Entertainment” (Jennens). They considered that these Bible passages should only be heard in a liturgical setting. The Bishop of London forbade any performance in an Anglican church.

https://www.crescendo.org/download/_JYjOh4VJLA/MESSIAH%20Text%20for%20small%20groups.pdf

This was when the regulative principle went too far, in my opinion. The issue for me is not the music (though I deplore those who try to jazz it up with a pop style.) I have had the privilege of participating in The Messiah’s performance several times. What bothers me most is that some people believed that the Scripture passages were debased if not heard in a liturgical setting. How could it be performed in a church when the Bishop of London forbade it?

Give the Bishop some credit, though, because he believed that the composition was inappropriate for liturgical worship. However, it could have been performed at another time than a worship service. (I realize that the Anglican Church thought the Sanctuary was a holy place reserved exclusively for liturgical worship.) Today, churches allow many things to be done in a “sanctuary” that are probably inappropriate. We have swung quite away from the old tradition when we suggest that the church is just a building and the Sanctuary just a meeting space. Such an attitude is reinforced by churches making an auditorium with a stage for a sanctuary.

Anyone I know who has entered a grand cathedral or one of the many large Roman Catholic churches has come away with a sense of God’s awesomeness. When you speak in one of these churches, you drop your voice to a whisper because it feels like God’s presence surrounds you. We don’t need a cathedral to make a holy space where God is worshipped. But churches usually are structures anyone can recognize as the place people go to worship the one God. Add to that the absence of the symbols of a church within the Sanctuary. When did we throw out great pipe organs? What about the pulpit that reminds us that the preaching of the Word is authorized by God himself?

Sorry. Back to Handel. The music to which the Scriptures are set wells up within the soul and lifts us up. The Scriptures chosen for this piece tell the gospel story of the life of Christ, our Savior, from the prophecies that promise a way prepared for God the Son to enter human life. He is presented in all of his humanity and all of his deity. So, even if the oratorio is “Grand Musical Entertainment,” it presents the Gospel of Christ to those who do not know or believe the story. For those of us who can hear Scriptures presented individually and as a whole in such a way that we can be opened to deeper understanding.

When I began in the pastoral ministry, I thought I had to do something unique and different for Christmas and Easter sermons. Now I am older, and I have become convinced that following the church calendar is not mere tradition. Instead, it is an annual re-living the Gospel. Christmas is to remember and experience what the shepherds saw, what Simeon and Anna experienced, what the magi traveled so far to see and worship. We need to hear this story every year. We need to remember the story of the resurrection of Christ. For that matter, it is good to hear of Christ’s baptism by John, his ascension to the throne of the universe, all of the gospel. I believe that Christmas is kind of empty if I can’t start the day with morning worship. When did we lose that awe of hearing the multitude of angels singing? When did Christmas become a private celebration for feasting and opening presents? Handel’s Messiah helps us restore the gospel, for, in it, we relive the life of Christ, which in whole, it is the foundation of our faith.

I looked back at my life, and I realized that when I was closest to my Lord, I attended Christmas Eve and Christmas morning worship. It was when I led Ascension Day services, poorly attended because it is always a mid-week celebration. When I was a participant every year within the gospel.

Life outside the Church has become all too important. We don’t want to miss a thing. We use day planners and “smart” phones to keep our day on track. What have we done? What is more important than Christ. Jesus is present with us in the Church and in the Church’s worship. Why is it so hard to go to church more than once a week (excluding non-worship activities)? I think that is why being with the elderly is important. Those old Christians can’t wait to enter the permanent presence of Christ.

So, hat’s off to you, Georg Friedrich Handel. May you enjoy the blessings of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for you gave the world one of the most magnificent works of art that keeps the gospel before us.

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Filed under Faith, Gospel, Worship

Free Will

Free will is a topic over which there has been much debate both in Christian and non-Christian spheres. The one side claims free will means we are free to choose any or all options. If I want to be saved (in Christian terms), I choose to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. If I am male but want to be female (or any of the other genders), I choose it. Reasonably speaking, this is at the heart of many cultural debates today. I have read and heard many times that because I am white, I am racist. This argument speaks against free will or the choice to be racist. If I have no choice but to be racist, then how can I be culpable for racism? This kind of argument is used by the gender issue. “I am a female in a male body. I did not choose this. It is who I am.” Thus, we are expected to accept the argument and those who claim to be some other gender. They can’t help it. They cannot, therefore, be culpable on a moral level.

Such reasoning is self-contradictory. If it is true in one case, then it must be true in every case. And in that case, why are people losing jobs and, moreover, apparently racist comments (this is a wholly different topic)? Obviously, they can’t help it. To hold someone culpable, the activity they become involved with must be a free choice. The extreme application of the argument against free choice is fatalism. Think of Doris Day singing, “Que sera, sera.” The argument against fatalism is that no one can truly live that way. There are no choices, only the illusion of choices. There is no right or wrong because what will be will be. The consequence? There is no culpability. In that case, we might as well disband the police (and military, border patrol, etc.).

We know this cannot be reasonable because we all make choices, and there are predictable consequences to our choices. If I choose to skip school, I will not be able to use my intelligence. Some might say this is where about half of our country is. If I don’t have such a choice, then welfare programs make sense because I can’t get a job. But do they? Why would we choose to give our money away when there is no choice. Even to choose to create such programs. This becomes survival of the fittest, which makes many scientists and teachers very happy. They would have evidence of evolution.

No. To make me accountable for racism, you must identify the action that is racist and demonstrate that I had a choice in my action. I may not be thoughtful or reflective about my choice. I still have the power to not do racist things. Thoughts don’t count unless they are acted upon. No one can read my mind, and only I can judge my thoughts. Unfortunately, humankind wants it both ways. You can judge my thoughts, but I cannot judge yours. And now, the real punch to free will. There is nothing that scientifically explains gender beyond two: male and female. If I say I am a homosexual, it can only be a choice of my free will. The choice may have been influenced by many things, but in the end, it is still a choice. Let me be clear. I believe that those who claim to be other genders or homosexual still deserve respect due to every human being. However, I do not need to approve of forced programs telling me that this is morally good. This especially goes for our children.

Free will is something we all have and human beings. Yet, how free is our free will? If I am offered a slice of cherry pie or a slice of apple pie, I will always choose cherry. Why? I don’t know. The choice is free, but at the same time not absolutely free. The choice I make is freely made. I can choose the apple. However, my choice is influenced by something within me that prefers cherry over apple (or anything over pumpkin). What is that thing? I believe it is something tied to my personality, which, together with many of such things, makes me a unique human being. I also believe that my personality, my personhood has a source which is the Creator.

Free will has limitations because we are created beings, finite in all aspects of our being. We cannot have unlimited choices because we are not unlimited. This brings me to a man named Pelagius. Pelagius lived during the fourth and fifth centuries when the church had developed significantly but was still young. Pelagius was a diligent scholar and committed to the Christian faith. As such, he soon realized that many Christians were not living as the Bible told us to live. Faithful as he was, he sought the reason for this and concluded that people were choosing to live the way they did. The reasonable answer to his conclusion is to teach people that they had the ability to live holy lives if only they would choose to do so. Pelagius became know for his asceticism when he lived in Rome. No one is a true teacher if they do not live the life.

There was another devout Christian man who lived in North Africa. His name is Augustine. You may have heard him called Saint Augustine, though you have never heard of Saint Pelagius. Through the efforts of Augustine, Pelagius, and his teaching called Pelagianism, were declared heretical by the church in 418 A.D. (B.C.E.) and excommunicated. The fundamental disagreement was over the nature of free will and went all the way back to the Garden of Eden and the first sin (original sin). I will save you from what I consider to be a thrilling debate. But the conclusion is foundational to all debate over free will.

I remember that Jesus claimed that he did nothing of his own will but by the will of the Father. “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.’” (John 4:34, ESV) “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38, ESV) A part of that work is the call of the gospel.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16, ESV

The gospel is offered to everyone. Anyone who believes shall have eternal life. The offer, though, does not imply that I can choose to believe. So, John also wrote that the belief is not of our will.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

John 1:12-13

So, we are all bound to the death of sin from our birth. There is no such thing as an innocent newborn child in terms of original sin. All human beings wrestle their entire lives with sin. We all do wrong, and we are culpable for the wrong that we do. Anyone who does not think racism is evil is a fool. Likewise, everyone who sees racism where there are no acts of racism is a fool. The name has changed over the years. Systemic racism. Institutional racism. Sadly, when one focuses on others’ perceived racism, they are blinded to their own racism. When we use epithets like homo or homophobe, we are focused on others. And to be honest, I’ve got too many of my own problems to get all tangled up in yours.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:3-5

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Filed under Faith, Gospel, Truth

Welcome Home

Sunday I returned home from a vacation to California. It’s good to be home, so much so that I drove 15 hours with only two stops for gas. When I go away from family and church, even for the best reasons, I get to a point when I can’t wait to get home. “Home is where the heart is.” This is a common saying that sounds good. There is truth to that. However, getting to see my granddaughter’s first steps captured my heart. So did seeing long missed family and friends. Yet, I still was not home. I missed my wife and son. I missed my own bed and shower. I missed being able to go to the fridge for a midnight snack. I missed everything about being home.

There is a pull deep down inside that draws me toward home. It is the place we can be ourselves, let our hair down, so to speak. Home is a place where we feel secure, safe, and warm. When anything disrupts the home, we are cast into a sea of chaos and confusion. If anyone has experienced a burglary in their home, there is a sense of violation. Something is not right and it takes a long time to readjust equilibrium.

Once, early in our marriage, my wife and I came home after dark and found the front door open. We called the police to enter the house first. Yes, we were scared! Everything was fine and I gained a new appreciation for the women and men who serve and protect. The best I could guess is that I did not close the door completely. I went from afraid to the fool quickly. I also decided I would rather be the fool than afraid.

In most of our cities today, you can barely drive anywhere without encountering many who are homeless. I know there are many reasons for this situation and I don’t want to try to analyze them now. Instead, I feel the sense of fear that comes over me when I try to put myself in their place. Longing for home can lead to methods of dulling the senses. I can understand the pain one would want to cover over with alcohol or drugs. The cycle that begins often tends toward death, unless there is some form of intervention. This is the nature of sin.

Our culture tosses around words without consideration of their meaning. Sin is a desert item on a menu or a quart of Rocky Road ice cream in the freezer. Evil is saved for people who see things differently or for political parties. These words deserve more than that.

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all the day. Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit. You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue.

Psalm 52:1–4, ESV

There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.

Psalm 38:3, ESV

We all make mistakes in our lives. Errors are common, but evil and sin are not in the same category. Neil Plantinga was one of my theology professors when I was in Seminary. He wrote an excellent book called Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin. The explanation for the book on Amazon reads, “This timely book retrieves an old awareness that has slipped and changed in recent decades. The awareness of sin used to be our shadow. Christians hated sin, feared it, fled from it–and grieved over it. But the shadow of sin has now dimmed in our consciousness. Even preachers, who once got visibly angry over a congregation’s sin, now speak of sin in a mumble.”

There is evil in this world and it wants to remain hidden or obscured. With every good lie there is some truth. Our sin is the result of the lies we believe. Deception rests within our hearts and it has since Eve and Adam ate from the forbidden tree in Eden. All of us are affected and sadly, all of us fail to fight for the Truth. The Truth is that Eden was created to be our home. Ever since we were banished from the garden, we have longed to return. It is our home. It is “the way it’s supposed to be.”

So, what do we do? We attempt to rationalize the evil we do because we know it is evil. We build lies upon the lie. And we fall farther from home, farther from the Truth. The Hebrew King David became our example. He saw the beautiful Bathsheba bathing on a roof top and lust rose up within him. Evil lied to him saying that as King, he could have anyone he pleased, so he had her brought to him and he laid with her in sin. Bathsheba’s husband was an important warrior in the palace and a confidant of David’s. The King’s righteousness stripped away the lie and made David aware of his sin. But this was not in a good way. David deceived himself again thinking he could cover things up so no one would ever know.

King David had Uriah assigned to the front lines in a military campaign hoping he would not return. When Uriah did not return, David had committed a worse sin: murder. David had fallen far from home. He added lie upon lie and fell farther. Most of the time, our compounding sins are more subtle even though just as evil. We continue to freefall until something or someone intervenes. (Please, I am NOT equating homelessness with sin. I am suggesting that the angst felt being far from home or hope is what we feel when we are far from God.)

Our home, our life is connected to God our Creator. Out side of Eden is being apart from God, or better, in the state of death, bound to our sin. There is an answer! There is a solution! There is hope!

A MASKIL OF DAVID. 

      Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, 
                whose sin is covered. 
      Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, 
                 and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 

      For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away 
                through my groaning all day long. 
      For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; 
                my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah 

      I acknowledged my sin to you, 
                and I did not cover my iniquity; 
      I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” 
                and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah 

      Therefore let everyone who is godly 
                offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; 
      surely in the rush of great waters, 
                they shall not reach him. 
      You are a hiding place for me; 
                you preserve me from trouble; 
                you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah 

      I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; 
                I will counsel you with my eye upon you. 
      Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, 
                which must be curbed with bit and bridle, 
                or it will not stay near you. 

      Many are the sorrows of the wicked, 
                but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. 
      Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, 
                and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! 

Psalm 32, ESV

Glory to God in the Highest! Peace on earth, good will to those who please him. (My loose translation of Luke 2:14.) In other words, all of our desires, all of our longings drive us toward home. No human can be fulfilled with anything short of God, for whose glory we are created. Home is with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and there is only one way to get there. The path home is humble repentance. When we are at home with Christ, we can be anywhere. Yet home is our security, our protection, our salvation. That is because home is truth, righteousness, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and more. No matter our location, we can all come home.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:1–6, ESV

Hear these words. Heed these words. And, welcome home.

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Filed under Comfort, Faith, Gospel, Truth

Who Are You?

But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”” (Acts 19:15, ESV)

The answer to the question is of great importance today. Why? Because we are being told that we can be anyone we want to be. We can choose who we are. Unless, that is, we want to defend our choice. Then we can claim we were “born” that way. Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again, but I don’t think he meant that we can choose to be reborn as whatever we want.

Genetic testing has become very popular. You send off a sample and a chunk of change to some lab that will send back to you how much of what area of the world you are from. I have loved watching the You Tube videos of people trembling as they open their results and their sudden dejection in discovering they are primarily European. People want to be African, Hispanic, Asian, anything other than white. White is the new group against which Americans hate. After all, it was whites who enslaved blacks. It was whites who formed America as a racist nation. It is whites who have all the advantages today.

I am white. I am not ashamed of being white. I don’t need a genetic test to prove it. My mother’s parents were born of Norwegian immigrants. After taking a trip to Norway in 2000, I have become rather pleased at this part of my heritage. My father’s parents were born of a long line of English that arrived in America before it was America. I’m happy about that too because my family participated in the American Revolution fighting for liberty. Whether or not any of my relations were involved in the purchase or use of slaves may be a part of my history, but it is not a part of who I am. It is the same about those whose name I bear who courageously fought to form an Independent nation. If I have any courage, it is not something genetically passed to me.

However, because I am white, I am naturally the object of racist oppression. I doubt I need to offer evidence for this because it is freely accessible on the internet, in universities, in news reporting, on television, in professional sports; this prejudicial mantra is everywhere in America. Why, even our Vice President, who is Jamaican/white and Indian claims she is black. One of the candidates for President claimed to be Native American when she was nothing of the sort. And recently, on her AppleTV program, Oprah demonstratively said that if you have any white blood at all, you have an advantage over everyone else. I guess Kamala had an advantage?

Race is not the only place people try to claim what they are not because they are ashamed of who they are. Gender is another. Bruce Jenner decided he was Katlin because he felt that way. He took the ultimate rout undergoing surgery to make his dreams come true. Yet they didn’t. Why is it that genetics matter so much with race but not at all with gender? My education taught me that science was objectively based on controlled experiments consistently producing the same results. Science could be trusted. Weeeelllll – not really. The scientific method can only confirm male and female genders. It cannot confirm any deviation from these two options. That is because there is not other option. Everything passed off today as LGBTQ+ falls under the realm of behavior, not identity. (I know that this is not popular to say, but facts can’t be manipulated in a universe of Truth).

Same sex (meaning gender) marriage is a cultural acceptance of a deviant lifestyle. To make such things culturally good has only two purposes. First, it allows people to do whatever they want and second, it allows them to feel good about it. I have laughed and cried over those who call others who oppose this behavior as haters, Nazis, and Fascists. Then they apply fascist tactics to force them to comply with the new morality. Just ask the baker who was not allowed to practice free enterprise and choice when baking wedding cakes.

Fascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a form of far-rightauthoritarianultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Fascism

…a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascism

The point in all of this is that who you are is not who you choose to be. It is who you are, and no one can claim superiority or inferiority because of it. However, who you are has become confused with what you believe and what you do.

Acts 19 presents the truth. Imposters attempted to advance their reputations and their pockets by attempting an exorcism in the name of “Jesus who Paul proclaims”. There is irony in the fact that it is an evil spirit who calls them out on their charade. “But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”” The exorcists wanted to be something they weren’t. What they missed is that not even Paul claimed any special power. “And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,” (Acts 19:11, ESV). Paul was not performing miracles, God was. Paul knew who he was, a vessel used by God for the establishment and furtherance of the Kingdom of Christ.

What you do comes from what you believe. Despite what the world says, there are only two possible belief systems, faith in Jesus Christ or faith in yourself. The latter, by the way, is what John called anti-Christ. Right now, there are those who object to any white legitimacy and every effort is to gain advantage, power, and control over them. This is racism. And it is the same way many deny Christ. They will do anything to present Christianity as illegitimate, a false religion needing to be expunged from society.

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

1 John 2:18, ESV

Many antichrists had already come in St. John’s lifetime. Many exist today. What a shame when so many people are looking for one individual to call antichrist as a prelude to the end of the world. The end of the world has come. The world that passed away was the world of the Old Covenant. It was replaced with the New Covenant (see Jerimiah 31). The new world is the Kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem. “He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”” (Matthew 13:33, ESV) The Kingdom is being worked by God throughout the world.

Who are you? An enemy of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? or a child of the most high who is blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1)? Remember, even the demons and evil spirits know.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,  
     the world and those who dwell therein,  
for he has founded it upon the seas  
     and established it upon the rivers.  
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  
     And who shall stand in his holy place?  
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,  
     who does not lift up his soul to what is false  
     and does not swear deceitfully.  
He will receive blessing from the Lord  
     and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  
Such is the generation of those who seek him,  
     who seek the face of the God of Jacob. 
                                                                         (Psalm 24:1–6, ESV) 
 

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Filed under Faith, Hate, Humanism, Racism, Truth

The Law of Laws – Thou shalt not steal, reprise

Having spent a week reflecting on the 8th commandment, I think I have more to say. I hope it is not a waste of time.

Many years ago, I would watch “judge” shows. I know, they may be real cases but there is nothing on TV that is not in some way fake. Nevertheless, there is one episode that has stuck in my mind and I cannot let go of it. Judge Joe Brown was explaining ownership to a defendant by saying that you (in the broad sense) don’t own your car. The pink slip is nothing more than permission for you to use that car exclusively. I have some problems with this.

First, if I don’t own my car, why am I paying so much money to the bank every month? Why do I have to have insurance? I pay an annual licensing fee to use the vehicle on public roads, but aren’t those other things the responsibility of the owner?

Second, if I don’t own my car, who does? If anyone has trouble answering this question, let me give you a clue; it is the government. I believe that the changes we are seeing in government these days are because thee governing individuals and groups actually think this way – for us. This is the heart of Socialism. I am not saying that the government does not have the right to levy certain types of taxes. We do have to pay for things we want like police (though it seems that is on the chopping block), fire departments, rescue, and paramedics. However, the thing I want to take issue with is the arrogance of local, regional, state and Federal government all operate on the principal that the government owns everything, and we own nothing.

Think about it. How many people have turned down a pay raise because moving up to the next tax bracket would mean that getting the raise, they take home less than they had been. Who can do remodels on their house without having to get multiple permits from multiple agencies. Where I live now, if you want to build on your land, you have to pay for someone to come out and see if you have a certain bush growing anywhere. Why? Because pocket gophers like those plants and someone decided they were an endangered species. But it is the property that a family purchased. They own it. The true test of ownership is whether you can do what you want with it or not.

This is theft. In these cases, the government steals things you own and holds them for ransom. The list of what we are told we do not own involves land, buildings on the land, income, buying almost anything and again when selling. You get taxed when you live, and heaven help us, you get taxed when you die. Why should anyone benefit from the property someone spent a lifetime to gain other than the heirs? Why does the government think it owns your inheritance? All of this, and more, have been, and continue to be stolen from us. And we have reached a time when at least half of the citizens in the country want the government to take it all because they want the government to take care of them.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

(1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV)

I don’t want to over-generalize things, but I believe most people are willing to work for what they get. And they work hard for themselves and for their families. Children need to be cared for. When to eat, what to eat; when to sleep, how long to sleep, etc. As children grow and mature, they begin to seek more and more independence (however they still want mom and dad to pay for it). Mature women and men eventually leave their homes to make their own way in life. (I am not speaking of going to college because that is quite a sheltered life as well.) This is part of taking responsibility for self, and also for their possessions.

There is a growing desire for the individuals to want the freedom to do what they want, but they want someone else to take the responsibility of taking care of them. We should have seen this coming when we found more and more “kids” living in their parents homes in their twenties and thirties. They are not there to take care of their parents who are by now aging. No, they still want to be taken care of. It’s a scary thought that you need a serious job to pay for your life.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness…If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.

(2 Thessalonians 3:6–11, ESV)

Now is a time that needs mature men and women to stand up and show others how they steal by wanting everything for free. It is time that mature women and men get back to telling our children and our government that there is nothing in this world that is free. Ok, salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ is free to those who are called. Property rights need to be restored so that those who do not work, lose their unpaid for property, but those who do work and pay for their property be allowed to use it in whatever way brings glory and joy to God our Father. It is time that we reclaim the right of our history teaching our children the self-sacrificing act that millions in our country did so we all could claim ownership. Where the commandments are violated, judgment reigns. I think our judgment is that God gives us what we think we want, not what good things he wants for us.

It is a sad state of affairs that so many who recently ran for office sought to win by dividing the people. They won, but we have not lost because Christ is our light, not the government. Change can be accomplished by positive action and loving our neighbor. I may possibly get worse before it gets better, but then that is what todays prophets have been teaching. Poppycock! The Lord God makes things better wherever he reigns. Don’t cry out “Come quickly, Lord” if you cant see that he has come already and he is not coming again until his kingdom is ready to receive him.

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

(2 Thessalonians 3:13–15, ESV)

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Peace and Joy

Merry Christmas Eve! and Merry Christmas!

These are words that have been progressively pushed out of our culture. How sad it is that in a land in which so many have lost their lives to purchase the right to speak openly and freely, that the words merry Christmas have become such words of disdain.

The truth is, there would be no holidays if there had not been Holy Days. Our civil calendars have borrowed from the ancient Church calendar celebrating the Christ, Jesus our Lord. The yearly cycles tell the gospel story from a humble birth to a glorious crowning as King of kings and Lord of lords. The world views dominating culture today all take from the truth of Christ and use it for their own ends.

Those who embrace their Creator, his life, death, resurrection, and ascension are, by their faith, declared righteous and promised everlasting life. Why? So the glory of God shines forth as he determined it should through his creation. We human beings are the highest of that creation. This is not because we have earned it or deserved it, but because God ordained it. All who reject their ordained purpose make God a liar and a fraud. He is neither of these things.

Christmas should be merry, full of celebration, and joy. The coming of Christ in the flesh is a momentous event, one that has forever changed the world. To us the change is new. To God it is a change back to the original. However you look at it, giving gifts, eating banquets, decorating festively, and worshipping Christ with joy, music, and laughter are all appropriate for the season. We can be merry because of Christ. If anyone doesn’t like it, they have made their choice. Part of our Christmas celebration should and must be to pray for them. We must seek God’s mercy for them and his judgment upon their rejecting hearts.

The church has been doing things differently for three quarters of 2020 due to a pandemic. Some have rebelled against shut-downs and limitations. Others have remained closed and tried to worship through videos, podcasts, of vlogs. The difficulty for me is that the church is much more than mere communication. Liturgy requires real presence, not electronic connections. A good, short introduction to the concept of Christian Liturgy can be found in Liturgy and Psalter from the Theopolis Institute. In any case, churches, families, and individuals will be celebrating Christmas in disparate ways. The hinderance to celebrations should not stop us from observing the Holy Day.

My church is very small. We do gather on Sundays to worship, but we have been careful to follow the mandates of the state of Washington. Though the people may be limited in number, it is not limited in heart, faith, and creativity. One of the members created a video by going to various members’ homes and filming decorations, carols, and Scripture readings. I recorded a short Christmas Eve message at the end. I invite anyone interested in viewing this video to go here. This was our attempt to gather the family together as best as we can. In the church, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Nevertheless, for a few minutes this Christmas Eve, we will make the best connection we can.

No matter how you choose to celebrate Christmas, do so with a heart of joy and gratitude. Don’t prevent the celebration just because you cannot gather in large groups. Don’t allow football, basketball, or any non-Christmassy activity to hinder your celebration. May the Spirit of Christ be with you all this Christmas Eve bringing peace and quiet anticipation. May he be with you Christmas Day with the joy of the promise fulfilled. The birth of Jesus was the beginning of the gospel’s realization of all God’s promises to his people. The coming of Christ Jesus to us is the assurance of the ultimate perfection of God’s ordained creation marked by the New Jerusalem.

Merry, merry Christmas!

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God Help Us

Several events in the past week or so have brought these three words to my prayers more often than usual. Don’t get me wrong, when I don’t pray this, I am failing in my praying. It was Jesus who taught us to pray saying, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Sadly, Christians often say this prayer but refuse to go the next step.

Faith without works is dead. At least according to James. You might rightfully extend that to prayer without action is a waste of time. Yet we need the biblical action of the church in obedience to God’s Law more than ever. Our Constitution was grounded in it. The preachers in the pulpit preached it before and after the Revolution. The Church of Jesus Christ has an obligation to be politically involved and active.

Without apology, I believe that our obedience to Christ and the moral law God gave us, does not allow us to blindly speak of conscience over righteousness. The time to allow anyone, especially those in power and those who shape the thinking of the rest of us, to lie, cheat, steal, and kill in order to gain what they want must end. And the Church is the leaven in society that was designed to stand against such immorality. Unfortunately, the church seems perfectly willing to act the three monkeys neither seeing, speaking, nor hearing as long as they are left alone.

The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (my own denomination) chose to “remember Breonna Taylor with a vigil for justice.” Every human being should be saddened when another human loses her life. But to claim she was an innocent victim of over-zealous police use of force denies the facts and truth of the incident. Taylor’s boyfriend shot at the police first and in running away to hide used Breaonna as a shield. This is only one example of how the church in this age has bought the lie and thus brought darkness into the world.

I have served five churches during my ministry. In all but one I have received rebuke for becoming “political” in the pulpit. Why, then, is it acceptable to join the modern Social Justice movement and support such political activity? Moreover, what political positions are non-moral issues? Abortion? Same gender marriage? Homosexual behaviors? Denying God’s determined gender to claim another?

How about publishing “fake news” by either the left or the right. Or violating one’s oath to uphold the Constitution all the while violating it. One of the things that has become an interesting twist in the events of late has been the revelation of the principle “Let him who has no sin cast the first stone.” It is true that our sins will eventually find us out, but not to worry, we can simply deny them or ignore them.

The Church is the institution that has allowed the creation of today’s America. I say shame on us. Shame on me for not being a bolder pastor. Shame on our denominations for allowing the humanism of the world mold and shape us. Shame on us for not listening to our founding fathers and those of the past who warned of such apostasy. And shame on us for allowing politics become free of Christian oversight. It is not true what we are told, that there is an absolute separation of church and state.

The state exists by God’s grant. The state exists to keep order and make society free for the Church to manifest the Kingdom of God. The state is responsible to God. But how does God speak to the state? By those who proclaim the Word of God and those who obey it. We the people are the judge of the government and we should always be skeptical of the motives and manipulations of those who deny our right to do so.

…confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16 (ESV)

Our first job as the Church is to pray. Prayer begins with confession. It seems to be that when we pray for one another in the humility of confession, we can no longer treat one another poorly. However, this speaks about relationships in Christ and not relationships outside of Christ. The world hates us because the world hates Christ. And anyone who thinks such hatred can be appeased simply by helping the poor, the oppressed, and the down-trodden, does not yet understand the world’s hatred of Christ. Are we to help the people living like the description above? ABSOLUTELY! But such help alone will not redeem them. Only Christ redeems, and who can believe if they do not hear, and who can hear if Christ is not preached?

James continues, though, for it is not enough to pray for forgiveness and for the spiritual health, growth, and relationship to Christ. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” I believe this is the prayer we must make for our world, our rulers, our nation, our enemies. Why? Because it is the prayer of a righteous person. Righteousness is obedience to God’s Law. Righteousness is obedience to the commands of Christ. And he commanded a lot more than handouts to the down and out.

Jesus told his disciples that their job was to make disciples. Discipleship in this context was to teach them to obey the commands of Christ. The Great Commandment extends to all Christians. Christian parents are to teach obedience to their children. Allowing children to grow up and make their own decision for Christ is like waiting children to grow up before they choose what food they want to eat. They will starve first.

The same holds true for Shepherds of Congregations. It is our job to teach the sheep to obey Christ. How can the sheep know what they need to know about Christ unless the Word is consistently preached? Saying that the Holy Spirit will lead you to the knowledge and obedience without the need of communal worship which includes the sacraments and the Word. God’s method is to use the Holy Spirit in conjunction with preaching in communal worship.

The key is confession and restoration to righteousness, then righteousness praying for the world, then the prayers of the righteous working by the power of the Holy Spirit through the arms, legs, bodies, and minds of the ones praying. Faith without works is dead. Prayer without action is useless. God can perform miracles and make wide-spread changes in the world. But looking at history, at least the history we have left, God usually does his work through human work.

God help us. Help us from ourselves. Help us from anti-Christianity. Help us to pray, stand, and work for the Kingdom that it may reign on this earth even as it does in heaven. If not, then let’s just go watch sports and movies on TV. God won’t help us do that.

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God Uses All Things

And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Acts 15:36–41, ESV

Sometimes we look only upon the negative side of things. If Christ is the King of the universe seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and if we accept that he created his Church to establish the reign of his Kingdom on earth, then there must be of necessity a positive aspect to everything. I am not suggesting that “every cloud has a silver lining.” I believe that every cloud is a tool in the hands of the King to accomplish his will on earth, even as it is in heaven.

The end of Acts 15 testifies to this, for there a disagreement arises between Paul and Barnabas that ends in the breakup of the team. Luke is careful, though, with his recitation of the event. First, he limits the space in his book to present the situation and its outcome. Second, he does not go into the details of the discussion between them other than that the issue is bringing Mark along on their next journey.

Because we are all tainted by sin, it is normal for us to lean toward sinful things. Gossip is sin, and I don’t think I need to remind anyone that we all want to know all of the juicy details of an argument. Luke refrains from providing for our base desires. We also want to make other people’s troubles greater than they may really be so that our troubles don’t appear to be so bad. This is another attribute of our sin nature. Just because two individuals have a disagreement that leads to a new direction for each does not mean they are split by a fight.

Neither Paul nor Barnabas are presented in any light other than a simple disagreement. We don’t know exactly why they disagreed over bringing John Mark along on this second missionary journey other than Mark left them in the middle of the first. We are not sure why Mark left, but it may be that he became afraid when the journey became too difficult and Paul became quite ill (see Acts 13). Whether this is a correct view or not, It is clear that the events surrounding the conversion of the proconsul at Salamis was not motivation enough for Mark to continue on.

In any event, Barnabas wanted to try working with his cousin Mark on this second journey, but Paul did not want to bring him. I do not deny that the two disagreed sufficiently to go in different directions. I do not believe that the opposition of wills was enough to end a friendship or even their partnership in their gospel ministry. Nevertheless, Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas, one of the men sent back with them from the Jerusalem council. The division of labor was sensible in that Barnabas went to Cyprus where he was from. Paul took the other rout through Tarsus to Galatia and Syria.

I have heard it said, and at one time believed that since the church in Antioch sent Paul on his way with the blessing of God’s grace they took his side of the argument. This thinking falls within the fallacy of an argument from silence. Just because Luke does not record a blessing given to Barnabas does not mean it was not given. Furthermore, Barnabas is not mentioned again in the book of Acts which certainly does not mean that God took Paul’s side over Barnabas. All that can be deduced from the failure to mention Barnabas anymore is that Paul is the one whose ministry Luke followed and the rest of the book of Acts records his church planting work including those he discipled all the way to proclaiming the good news in Rome.

This short passage, though, does say a lot about the work of God here on earth. I would not say that the decision of Paul and Barnabas to go separate ways was necessarily a good one. But the worst we can gain from the event is to recognize the frail humanity God has chosen to become vessels of his grace. Every child of God is a minister in his Kingdom. No child of God deserves such a high honor. As Paul wrote,

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’

1 Corinthians 1:25–31, ESV

Repeatedly when we look backward upon events in life, we see God’s handiwork and control. I dare say that when I try to take control, my weaknesses become abundantly manifest by the outcome of my distorted thinking. Yet when I turn to God seeking his will, even those things that I have messed up become Kingdom blessings.

One reason for this, I am convinced, is that I can’t help thinking of myself first and the Kingdom of God second. This is not the priority we are told to observe. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, ESV) Even when I try to seek the Kingdom of God first, I often find that I do so intending to receiving all the things promised to me. How much greater a fool can I be?

God chose the foolish things of this world… For this I am ever grateful. While I was a sinner, Christ died for me. And he died for you, too.

God wastes nothing. He uses all things for his glory. As we look at the confusion of our world we need not fret. God uses all of the mess we have created. There is a thought process that has become more and more popular as humanity has grown farther and farther from God. It is chaos theory and essentially refers to the concept that out of chaos comes order. Chaos theory is necessary if one wants to take evolutionary theory seriously. The experience of life and the world is the contrary: order tends to break down into chaos.

I don’t think I need to go into too much detail to highlight the problem with chaos theory. People do not get better, they get older and die returning to the earth. Environmentalists tell us that we need to take better care of the world to keep it from running down, but the more we try to reverse the situation, the greater the cries for immediate and necessary change. Chaos theory wants to say that sludge became life but it fails to identify the source of the sludge that had within it the capability of becoming life, let alone complex cellular life.

God has chosen the foolish things in this world to confound the wise. The only answers for any questions scientific, social, political, creative, and on and on come from the God who was there before creation, the God who created, and the God who has remained within his creation using all of his word and activity to be glorified.

Whenever you feel frustrated with the way things are, or fearful for the future, or apathetic about the present, be reminded that God uses all things for our salvation and his glory.

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Take Up Your Cross, part two

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Acts 14:8-23 (ESV)

Paul and Barnabas travel from Iconium to Lystra. They are on a missionary journey preaching the good new of salvation in Jesus Christ. Up to this point, the opposition they have encountered has come from those Jews who are loyal to the teachings from Jerusalem. In Iconium, their difficulty from like Jews came to a point when Paul heard they were to be stoned. Wisdom sent them on their way before this could happen. Nevertheless, many other Jews believed along with many Hellenists.

When the two came to Lystra, they had the same kind of success proclaiming the gospel. The people of Lystra included many Greeks who had their own religions. At the end of this record by Luke, we find Paul was stoned by the manipulation of the traditional Jews and was left for dead. He an Barnabas moved on then made a reverse trip back to Antioch. We are told that during this journey, they re-entered each city and established the churches their by ordaining elders. Luke never forgets to keep his theme in mind: the growth of the Church of Christ.

Here in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas face a very different kind of problem which begins with the healing of a man born crippled. Paul sees the man, tells him to get up, and he does. That’s enough for the Greeks who became excited. To understand what is going on I must take you to the Roman poet Ovid who wrote Metamorphoses. It it he tells the story of Baucis and Philemon, an poor elderly couple living in a town in Phrygia (which was the region just west of Lycaonia in which Lystra sat.

The story goes that Zeus and his messenger Hermes descended Mount Olympus and disguised themselves as common peasants. (Ovid tells it better!) They come to a town and began inquiring for a place to stay and to eat. The townspeople were so wicked that every one turned these two peasants away. Everyone, that is, except this poor elderly couple who invited them into their humble cottage and fed them what they had. During the meal Baucis would repeatedly pour wine for the guests. When she noticed that the level of the wine in the pitcher never decreased, she and Philemon recognized they were in the presence of gods.

Zeus invites them to climb a mountain with he and Hermes but the couple are told that they cannot turn and look back until they reach the top. When they do, they discover the whole town had been destroyed with a flood. But their little cottage had become a golden palace.

This well-known story was surely hovering in the minds of the Greeks in Lystra when they saw a miracle that could only have been done by a god. They were right, of course, but they though of the wrong God. They cry out, “The gods have comedown to us in the likeness of men,” calling Paul Hermes and Barnabas Zeus. Their excitement was that they believed Zeus and Hermes had come down just like they had in their neighboring Phrygia. They were determined not to make the same dreadful mistake made there.

So, the priest in the temple of Zeus gathered bulls and garlands that the people might make sacrifices to these two magnificent gods. Now comes the “cross” part. How easy would it have been to get caught up in their popularity? They could live out their lives in luxury. On the other hand, what kind of fear might they have felt knowing they had to put a stop to the situation at probably get stoned by a disappointed and angry mob? How easy might it have been to simply sneak out a back way and never return?

Paul and Barnabas do not hesitate. No matter what the consequences, they will continue to preach the gospel of truth. Paul says to the crown gathered at the temple, “What in the world are you doing!? We are humans just like you. All we have done is proclaimed the good news that you can and should turn away from these vain things and turn to a living God. This God made you and in the past he allowed the nations to wander in darkness. Even then he left a witness in granting rain and good harvests.”

Paul is not having to think too mach about what to say for he knows the Scriptures intimately, “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.” (Habakkuk 2:18–19, ESV) Instead of these dead idols Paul brings them the living God, the one and only God. Even his reference to the rain comes from the prophets: “Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for you do all these things.” (Jeremiah 14:22, ESV)

Now is when I turn from teaching to meddlin’, as a friend in Chicago used to say. How are we like the Lyaconians? Or putting the question another way, what are the gods in your life that prevent you from living in the presence of the Father through the Spirit? You see, to take up your cross is to abandon all that is vain and has no substance or value. Replace those things with Christ Jesus. As I have said, this is hard. No one can accomplish this on their own.

What it takes is the Word of God, the Bible, the Spirit of God, our teacher and guide, and the community of Christ known as the Church. God does not speak in dreams and visions because he has spoken once and then very clearly. “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Reading the Bible is good. Memorizing the Bible is better. Studying the Bible is best. If you do the latter, I can guarantee you will accomplish the former two.

However, study must be guided by the Spirit of God. And the the community of the Saints includes all who have gone before, led by the Spirit and preaching and writing what they have learned. The more you submit to Christ, the more you will be able to identify your idols. Don’t be surprised! Idols come in many forms. But there is only one Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Savior of the world.

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The Power of Ideas

…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, ESV)

In 1948, Richard Weaver, professor of English at the University of Chicago, published a book titled “Ideas Have Consequences.” Weaver’s philosophical approach has been debated over the past 70 years, but I have no doubt in the power of ideas. Ideas, whether true or not, real or unreal, determine what we believe and how we choose to act. The ability to communicate one’s ideas can result in the creation of powerful movements that can change everything. You can debate what Weaver means by the phrase and how he works his idea out in the book, but i don’t know how you can debate the statement that ideas have consequences.

I think this claim can be tied to the words of St. Paul, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV) When he speaks about the fight the Church is in, he removes the individual element. In other words, our fight is not with people, our fight is with ideas that are contrary to the reign of God Almighty, ideas that are evil.

The Church may fight this battle well. It might not. That is for God to judge. However, historically, when the Church built by Jesus Christ wages the battle with ideas well, amazing things happen. You can contrast such battle with the differences between the American Revolution and the French Revolution. One resulted in the creation of a powerful nation consisting of the protection of life, liberty, and prosperity. The other ended in chaos and resulted in the rise of a tyrant who made himself Emperor.

Ideas have consequences, and the current strife today is about ideas. Black people (not all, or even most necessarily, but the most vocal) believe that their lives and the lives of their children are at risk because police are out of control. I am not going to debate whether this claim is reasonable, true, or false. It is accepted as true by many and their words and deeds are the result of this belief.

As the Church, our duty to Christ is not to make this situation into a battle between black and white or any individual people. That is an error being made on both sides. “I don’t like your idea so I don’t like you.” “I am threatened by your idea so I am threatened by you.” The moment we stop reasonable attempts at a common solution, we devolve into crimes against humanity, and this has happened on both sides.

My Christian sisters and brothers, Jesus declared that he would build his Church. That is the reason we are brothers and sisters, no matter what our differences may be. He also proclaimed that the greatest power of evil would not be able to destroy the Church, his body. Do we believe it?

If we embrace the idea of Christ, what do we have to fear? They may tear down statues, we can replace them if we desire. But the statue is not the issue. The hatred toward what the statue seemingly represents is an idea that must be challenged. If we can remove our shock at the action and address the idea behind it, we will demonstrate the truth of the Word of Christ and the power of his Church.

There appears to be no end to the recent attempts to “undo” that which makes “Western Culture.” This is a dangerous and evil idea. It is dangerous because it is an emotional response to a perceived wrong. The consequence so far may not have reached the level of the French Revolution; people are not being ushered en masse to the guillotine. Interestingly, many of the recent statues destroyed have been bu cutting off the head. But it is more dangerous because the perceived wrong has not be defined beyond the most general of terms: four police officers killed a man by the use of excessive force so all police officers are out of control and we must remove the police entirely.

Isn’t it sad that the argument being made is so similar to the arguments made by slave owners? This is the evil. You did it to me so it is right for me to do it to you. Almost no one of any ethnicity would deny the wrong done to so many by slavery and later Jim Crow and other unwritten prejudices. Didn’t our mothers tell us that two wrongs don’t make a right? No matter how things appear, you cannot win a war of fire fighting fire. You can only burn everything to the ground. Then what do you have?

Such is the second reason the attempts to destroy “Western Culture” is evil. Get rid of history that cannot be changed. Destroy statues and monuments that have nothing to do with the declared issue. Go back hundreds of years and prevent the racist music written by racist men. Do it all. What do you have left? Nothing. Emptiness. Waste.

So, we must look for other answers and other ways to address the issues. And as the Church, we have such an answer.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22, ESV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38–42, ESV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:43–44, ESV)

“…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12–15, ESV)

Our battles do not need to become physical. To destroy any property that does not belong to you comes from a wrong idea. To kill another human being comes from an evil idea. But to love one another, if you care for others as you would have them care for you, this is the idea of God who created you, cares for you, and loves you as his creation.

The Church can ill afford to get involved in such destructiveness, whether in actuality or through justifying the sinful deeds of others. There are no excuses for evil thoughts, intentions, or actions. There is only reason to love one another with or without agreement. Stop the destruction of civilization. We are not animals. We do not survive without love, without purpose, without tending to one another and the creation around us.

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11–12, ESV)

That’s an idea we all can live with.

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