The following links are additional blogs that focus on other areas of interest to me and I hope you enjoy reading these as much as you have on The Write Time!
Christians have long struggled to find a balance between the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate. Some of this is due in great part to the fact that many Christians are completely unaware of the Cultural Mandate. Others who are aware of the mandate often engage one another with sizeable debate as to just how to go about fulfilling it. On the other hand, the Great Commission is widely recognized throughout Christendom. It is this commission that has kept the kingdom growing across the centuries. Even so, the proper application of this commission also creates sizeable debate as to how to achieve it.
In both instances there are those Christians who tend to gravitate towards one or the other and in doing so become quite overzealous in their application of it. The two “camps” then proceed to emphasize the one while understating the other. Let’s make a quick review of both issues first, before we begin to apply their meanings.
The Cultural Mandate
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)
It is very clear through this passage that God created mankind for a distinct purpose. To restate it in simple terms, we are to have children and properly utilize the resources of the earth. Deviation from this point is where the great debate ensues. Many Christians view this as a directive to mold every aspect of global (and local) culture into obedience of God. This includes aspects of political dominance and social doctrine. Some Christians, on the other hand, view this as a simpler model of living that requires the proper raising of families and a balanced utilization of the earth’s resources. Neither of these views are mutually-exclusive, but in many methods of application they are indeed opposed to each other.
The Great Commission
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
This passage appears to be a very straightforward command, but it too has various interpretations. There have been zealots that have overstepped their authority to “make disciples” and instead embarked on violent missions to subdue people into submission. In this case, those living under a totalitarian regime based upon perverted religious mandates are by no means disciples; they are instead subjects to a brutal master. Because of the many mistakes in our past, many Christians shy away from any activity that would place them in direct opposition to the secular society around them. These Christians tend to move quietly about their daily business unsure of whom to witness to and thus disciple.
Make no mistake, there have been great men and women of both the Cultural Mandate and Great Commission “camps,” who have successfully navigated them both. This, however, is not the norm. All one has to do is pay attention to current news stories to understand there is an imbalance taking place. Well-meaning Christians have long attempted to “overthrow” the processes of government in order to institute their own understanding of submission and dominion. In similar fashion there have been men and women (commonly referred to as “Bible-Thumpers” who demand complete obedience to a law-centered religion apart from the culture.
The end result is a combined misunderstanding of Christianity, by both the secular and spiritual societies of the world. One side eventually grows tired of the other and because they remain at odds, neither are compatible. So just how is a Christian supposed to live out the particulars of a Cultural Mandate AND a Great Commission? Aside from Jesus Christ himself, perhaps one of the greatest examples we have is that of Paul the Apostle.
Throughout the account of Paul’s missionary journeys, there are no examples of him raising up mass demonstrations against local governments in order to achieve the calling God placed upon his life. Instead, Paul’s daily work was the craft of making tents. Through this understanding of the Cultural Mandate, Paul utilized the skills given him in order to provide for the sustainability of families and businesses (while also supporting himself and his mission).
While on mission, Paul did not march to the local magistrate and demand justice for the people. When he visited a city, his typical targets were the houses of worship and synagogues. Here Paul spoke the message of the Great Commission and many believed. Those that did not utilized political forces to usher him out of their cities, but on many occasions Paul simply returned to the Great Commission within that jurisdiction. In doing so, Paul influenced communities by changing the hearts of the people, not by enacting legislation or by forcible submission to the gospel.
By doing things in such a manner, Paul emulated the life of Jesus Christ. He didn’t seek recognition or power for himself or those around him; instead he sought to bring people new life and new understanding. The result was a lasting cultural change and an enduring legacy of disciple making that lasts to this very day. Should we too benefit our culture through emulation of men like Jesus and Paul, or should we continue to falter, trying to understand our own way of doing things?
We’ve probably all been there at one time or another. That place in life where we find ourselves feeling cornered by the many pressures of life. The near breaking point causes many, if not most, of us to “pray for patience” in order to weather the storm. As Christians, we go to the Bible for answers and it can be a frustrating experience when God’s Word simply tells us not to worry. It should be a simple thing to do since there are a number of verses telling us in such plain language not to engage in the activity of worry.
From our own experience we know that worrying is not good for us in many ways and it can often lead to rash decisions that lead to further catastrophe which is then added to our worries. We can verify our experience against what scripture tells us is the inevitable consequence of worry. Proverbs 12:25 tells us that, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Our experience also tells us that worrying honestly does not produce relief and again we can read this truth in scripture, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life.” (Matthew 6:27, ESV)
Whether or not we acknowledge these things in the moment of weakness and worry, we eventually find these truths to be very real. Once we have passed through the times that gave us trouble we can look back and examine how unprofitable the worry was for our particular situation, but it doesn’t resolve the reason why we worried. It also often does not provide us the comfort we need the next time something stressful enters into our life.
So what is the answer? Just the thought of not worrying about something can evoke feelings of worry itself. What is really happening and how can we find the patience to handle these tough situations without sinking into worry and impatience?
The answer is self-denial. This is a hard thing for most of us to comprehend much less incorporate into our busy lives. We have bills to pay, meals to purchase, housing to maintain and so much more. How can we possibly deny ourselves when so much is depending on what we do?
If we can read words in scripture that identify the causes and symptoms such as those above and know them to be true, then perhaps we should take the scriptural solutions more seriously. Unfortunately we often fall into a false belief during times of trouble that God has “forgotten us” and that we are all alone in our struggle. That simply is not true for, “…if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you…” (Matthew 6:30, ESV).
No, God has not forgotten you. His love for you is not an earthly, temporal love based on conditional elements. We may not understand what is happening and we may never wholly understand these things here in this life, but if you are a child of God, He is never going to forget you or your needs.
We, on the other hand, can forget God and we do it more often than we may even consider. We become so full of our own desires and comfort that we forget the life God has called us to. We put aside our service to others for our own personal gain. We stop being content with what we have and begin to seek after worldly things.
The only way to “fix” this is to follow the examples in scripture. God gave us a roadmap for personal peace, if we will only follow it. The bible has much more to say than these three verses, but these are three basic steps that, if incorporated into our daily life, will serve as protection against those things that would otherwise bring us worry:
1) Seek first The Kingdom of God
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33 ESV)
2) Exercise humility
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)
3) Rejoice and pray
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)
I, like so many others visit Facebook frequently each day to keep up with family, friends and current events. Lately though I am increasingly troubled by what I’ve been seeing there, especially among my Christian brothers and sisters.
I realize of course that it is, well, Facebook, so I get it that everyone wants to be engaged in popular topics of discussion. What I find disheartening is the message that I continue to see being propagated by my Christian friends about the Zimmerman/Martin case. It is disheartening because, my Christian friends, we should know better. We should know better than to scour the internet trying to dig up dirt on anyone in order to validate our own opinion. Perhaps some people may not even have an opinion, but are inclined to engage in debate of a situation in which they have very little tangible, first-hand information and are only being engaged as pawns by others who would sit back and stoke up the fire while simultaneously stirring the pot.
I don’t have an opinion about Trayvon Martin OR George Zimmerman. Why, because I don’t know either one of them. To assume that I am familiar with their “kind” is pure foolishness. To assume “this” kind or “that” kind of human being is a matter for unwise people.
God has not put us in a place to spread rumors and hatred about one group or “kind” of person and in turn heave praises and words of honor upon another “kind.” There is only one “kind” of person and that God sees.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. “ Psalm 139:13-16
How can we go about our daily lives engaged in discussions about any “kind” of person being justified or unjustified in taking the life of another of our “kind.” No, brothers and sisters, Trayvon Martin was not made inferior to you and George Zimmerman was not made superior to anyone else. God did not place either of these two lives on this earth for your purposes, but rather for His.
How can any of us look in the mirror, remember our lives before Christ, and then sit at our keyboard and engage in vitriolic fervor to justify and/or condemn? No, we are called to love and to make peace. Not a weak and meaningless pacifism, but a real and honest effort to enter into the lives of both the Martins and the Zimmermans of this world. We are not to engage is the wickedness of this world and become slanderers, bigots and snakes.
“A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,
but righteousness delivers from death.
The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry,
but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.
The wise of heart will receive commandments,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
Whoever winks the eye causes trouble,
and a babbling fool will come to ruin.
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
Hatred stirs up strife,
but love covers all offenses.
On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,
but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.
The wise lay up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
A rich man’s wealth is his strong city;
the poverty of the poor is their ruin.
The wage of the righteous leads to life,
the gain of the wicked to sin.
Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,
and whoever utters slander is a fool.
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
The lips of the righteous feed many,
but fools die for lack of sense.
The blessing of the LORD makes rich,
and he adds no sorrow with it.
Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool,
but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.
What the wicked dreads will come upon him,
but the desire of the righteous will be granted.
When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
but the righteous is established forever.
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so is the sluggard to those who send him.
The fear of the LORD prolongs life,
but the years of the wicked will be short.
The hope of the righteous brings joy,
but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the blameless,
but destruction to evildoers.
The righteous will never be removed,
but the wicked will not dwell in the land.
The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.” – (Proverbs 10 ESV)
It is not an offense to have an opinion about either George Zimmerman or Tayvon Martin, but our opinions should be tempered by the love that God Himself has shared with us. Both of these men have needed the love of our Savior in the past and now there is no chance for any of us to love Trayvon Martin. However, we CAN love his parents and friends. We CAN love George Zimmerman. I say it is way past time to stop hating one “kind” of person and lifting up another “kind.” All of us are the SAME kind without Jesus Christ and none of us have the right to vilify anyone because we know who we were, who we ARE, without the love of Jesus Christ. If any of us had loved both of these men with the love that Christ has shown us there is a great possibility that the evil of this world would not of had the opportunity to use this instance to penetrate our lives with the amount of added hatred that has been spewing about for the past several months.
I do not say these things without seeing the log that is in my own eye, but simply want to encourage myself and others to come back to the feet of Jesus and see others from His point of view. I know it will do me a great amount of good and believe it will benefit the kingdom more than sitting idle without a word of reproach and encouragement from the Holy Spirit.
The advent of Social Media saw a huge number of entries onto the world stage, but most of those attempts ended in failure. The internet public obviously has certain desires for their consumption of Social Media and up to now FaceBook has been the industry leader in this fierce battle.
That said, eventually even giants can falter.. The last couple of years there have been a multitude of changes with the way people can now interact on some of the leading Social Media sites and the responses have been lackluster. Add to that several high profile attempts at censorship on the part of these media powerhouses which have led many people to drop from the Social Media scene altogether. Others are quietly waiting out there trying to find somewhere new to call their "home on the web."
Zurker might just be that new place! Imagine a site that is owned mostly by those people who use it. Yes, new members to Zurker currently have the opportunity to earn credits that will eventually turn into shares of ownership. To think that just by being a member you actually have some level of say in how the site is developed is a giant leap forward in the Social Media spectrum. On top of that, Zurker promises no censorship of your contribution to discussions which is, for many, the real power behind Social Media in the first place.
I've become a member on Zurker and can say that I like what I see so far. The navigation is a little tricky at first, simply because we have all become accustomed to a single way of doing things. It only takes a little while though to overcome this small challenge and once you do, you will enjoy this new and exciting "world."
If you, like me, arent convinced that what you've been using so far is your ultimate Social Media destination, consider a move over to Zurker and give it a spin.
In the process of obtaining a college education I know that I am not the only Christian who has come up against ideas and teachings that are absolutely contrary to the tenets of our faith. Take one of the classes I am currently enrolled in, Issues in Environmental Science. One of my reasons for choosing this course is my firm belief that we as a people are not living up to God’s desire for proper stewardship of this planet. I wanted to learn more about the real issues facing our environment and how each one of us can play a part in being better stewards.
We are, of course, only part way into this class so I am hopeful that my goal will be fulfilled. That said, thus far the class has been little more than an indoctrination into the world of evolution. This isn’t the first time I’ve “ridden this bus” as anyone who has taken a natural science class, especially at the college level, can attest to.
The ideas and science of evolution do not bother me. These theories and conclusions are based upon the best means available to scientists. What does bother me is the growing animosity between the “people of faith” and the “people of evolution.” Everything, it seems, is polarized through political and social barriers which are only growing in strength and complexity.
Both camps spend a great deal of energy and determination in effort to demonize and ridicule anyone who falls on the other side of the discussion. The current prevailing thought is that the two ideas are so incompatible that the people who hold to them are no longer worth the effort to engage in civil discussion. The end result is a biosphere careening out of control faster than we can lay blame.
I even read a book for this class, The Creation: an Appeal to Save Life on Earth, written by Edward O. Wilson. The book is billed as a persuasive “letter” to a fictitious Southern Baptist Pastor in attempt to highlight the need for people of faith to join in the battle against environmental catastrophe. Without going into great detail about the book itself, I will say that I admire Wilson’s attempt. The problem with the book is its approach. The book is indeed full of great and valuable information about nature and mankind’s effects upon it. Where the book falls short is in its actual attempts at persuasion.
Wilson’s failure to persuade is the same failure I have seen and heard more time than I can count. The problems we face are real and it is powerful to bring to light the real and true scientific data that back up those facts. It is true that too many people are avoiding or downright ignoring their own impact upon our shared planet. Attempts at bringing these things to light are admirable, but knowing that the audience a person is addressing very likely has deep, personal beliefs that are contradictory, it just doesn’t make sense the wave that red flag in their face and tell them they are wrong. There is no persuasive power in that tactic whatsoever.
I believe it IS possible for people of faith and people without faith to work together on real and tangible goals without having to engage in a political battle of wits. We CAN agree to disagree on many of the processes which got us to where we are today. What we have to agree on is that humankind is making a drastic impact on the environment and we must ALL take action to reverse these troubling trends. One does not need to be a biologist to understand their own personal impact.
We need to stop fighting these “holy wars” and get down to the business of finding amicable ways of dealing with the very real dangers of habitat and biodiversity loss. Population control is a firestorm of potential controversy, but teaching about the impact of population growth and learning how to make smarter choices is not out of the realm of possibilities. We as a “species” have come so far in such a short time. We have overcome what have seemed to be insurmountable challenges. We CAN find ways to work together if we put aside our petty differences.
It doesn’t take a physicist to plant a tree and it doesn’t take a theologian to know that deforestation is poor stewardship. God has much to say in His Word about stewardship of our planet. None of those words include ignorance or outright hate against those who do not agree with your opinion.
What event or situation is foremost in your mind today? Challenges are a normal part of life, but how we approach each of those circumstances says a lot about who we are and what we believe. There are active and passive approaches to almost anything that crosses our path. It can be challenging just to see through the “fog” of any given hurdle enough to come up with a plan of action. For Christians, the very first step should always be to seek God, no matter how trivial or overwhelming the challenge may seem.
My wife and I have read from 2 Chronicles the past two mornings and within that text is a very important message about seeking God first.
1) The problem:
After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). (2 Chronicles 20:1-2)
2) The initial reaction
Then Jehoshaphat was afraid… (2 Chronicles 20:3)
3) The plan of action
… and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD. (2 Chronicles 20:3-4)
Jehoshaphat could have reacted to the immediacy of the threat with a calling up of the war council to develop an offensive or defensive strategy. Instead, he called together all of Israel to pray and fast. He sought the mercy and protection of the Lord and cast a vision for his people to do the same. He put his faith and hope in God rather than his own strength or that of his army.
4) God’s response
“And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:14-17)
5) Jehoshaphat’s response
And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 20:20-21)
6) The result
And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. (2 Chronicles 20:22-23)
Jehoshaphat took the right first step by seeking the Lord, but he did not stop there. He not only listened to what God had said, he remained faithful, even in the face of almost sure destruction, and obeyed. As a result, his enemies never even approached his army. The enemies of Jehoshaphat destroyed themselves and all that was left for the people of Israel to do was to pick among the vast spoils of their vanquished foes.
“When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped. When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found among them, in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much.” (2 Chronicles 20:24-25)
There is no shortage of problems facing the people of earth today. Whether it be local, regional or global, there are ample troubles needing a solution. As individuals we cannot possibly tackle any of these challenges to a pleasing end, but by seeking God first, we can begin to rein in what at first seems impossible. When we first recognize that whatever faces us, whatever battle is ahead, belongs to the Lord, the plans to approach it become much clearer.
“And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47)
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).
“There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. . . . Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy” (Psalm 33:16, 18).
“Upon this rock of faith in Christ as divine Savior I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18)
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds)” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
“And God placed all things under [Christ's] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:22-23)
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
I have missed posting upon this topic for the past several weeks because God has put something important on my heart to share. I believe it is so important that I have been cautious to jump at writing about it too soon. The fact is, the subject is so compelling and all-inclusive, that I wasn’t quite sure how to put it all in an easy-to-understand format on my blog. That was until I heard a recent message from Chuck Swindoll. His great, Godly words included a que that bridges the gap between the two parts of the message I was planning to share.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
The recent popularity of the followers of Christ coming together in political interest groups for the sake of American patriotism is, in part, a troubling trend for the church. Not because love for country is bad, but because the priority of country is growing in priority over the precedence of Christ.
In recent memory hardly a single month has gone by in which there is some popular, public rally for one political cause or another. Hundreds if not thousands of fervent patriots gather together with signs and megaphones demanding that the government of their State or Nation recognize their rights to this or to that. In many of these instances, the speakers of these rallies summon the spiritual roots of these said rights. They (rightfully) claim the proper source of our rights and freedoms.
What usually follows is where many of these well intentioned speeches go awry. The freedoms granted by our Creator are made plain, but then demands are placed against our government to recognize these things our Founding Fathers preserved in the Declaration of Independence. Why is this a troubling deviation for the Christian?
Where the trouble enters in, is that a growing number of people are petitioning their government for these freedoms, but the number of people petitioning God for the same privileges is ever shrinking. The focus has appeared to shift from our Creator to our government as the source of our freedoms and liberty. This is a symptom of the followers of Christ having forgotten their first love and instead placing demands upon a source not entitled or empowered to make these things attainable.
Christian, government can act in ways that appear to restrict your freedoms, but it is Jesus Christ who came that we should “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). While this freedom is liberty from sin, is it not also a call towards a shift in trust from man-made institutions to a life fulfilled through faith in Jesus Christ?
Are we to live as slaves to a government, making demands and forsaking the time God has given us here on earth to spread His good news? Or are we to take advantage of our God-given freedoms and live at peace, expecting persecution, yet trusting in God’s provision?
To acknowledge that our governmental institutions do no longer provide protection of the Christian journey is a hard thing. It would be much easier to have a faith-friendly government which enables and encourages us to express our beliefs in every corner of daily life. Unfortunately we are no longer under the leadership of such a government and it is time we realize it.
This is not to say that we are to live lives in open rebellion as it is God himself who has placed these institutions over us. There is a point though at which we must seek God’s hand in matters of liberty and freedom through prayer and fasting and that should be done long before any petitions are made against any government agency.
We would do well to study the scriptures and see how those who have gone before us maneuvered through daily life under a repressive regime. Those are the examples we should follow and we should take note of the freedoms they enjoyed. To follow any other gospel is indeed a distortion of the gospel of Christ.
During the Civil War (and perhaps as far back as the Revolutionary War) soldiers recruited for the army often came from rural homesteads. The education these recruits brought with them was often inadequate in such rudimentary military basics such as knowing one’s right from their left.
This was no small thing for a new army unit to deal with. Marching and formation fighting required men in the ranks to know the difference between their front from their rear and their left from their right. Unfortunately for their instructors, there often wasn’t time for detailed education as some units were shipping off to war almost before the ink was dry on the muster sheet. So how were these soldiers trained so quickly?
The answer laid in the things these men were already very familiar with. In order to differentiate between left foot and right foot, the drill instructors came up with a basic, but very effective training aid.
The solution was to bind small bundles of hay to a soldier’s left foot and a bundle of straw to their right foot. During marching exercises, the Sergeant would call out “Hay foot straw foot” instead of “Left foot right foot.”
What I find ironic today is, in our “literate” society, there are probably a very rare few who know the difference between hay and straw. Admittedly, until I looked this up, I didn’t know either. In fact, I typically considered both of them to be one in the same and wondered how the soldiers would know the difference.
Well now it is clear and the two bundles are distinctly and visually different. Hay is the dried cuttings of grass or alfalfa and on a farm is used to feed livestock and it has a green tint. Straw on the other hand is the stalk or remnant of wheat or oats and when it dries it has a golden color tint. (See the picture below)
As you can see, the soldier, especially one raised on a farm, would be able to readily identify his hay from his straw. Thus, the army could get back to the business of marching in unison and making the delicate maneuvers required on the battlefield.
The idea of hay foot, straw foot lasted in the memories of fighting men well into World War II. A popular “big band” song of the era was aptly titled “Hay Foot Straw Foot” and I found a Duke Ellington recording which was sung by Ivie Anderson.
Five miles more
After this tramp there’s a camp cot in store,
Come on, doggies don’t get sore
Get hep hep hep in your step
Four miles more
Then with a smack goes my pack on the floor
Come on, doggies don’t get sore
Get hep hep hep in your step
The sun grins with glee
And I start to shrink
I can’t grin like he
I’m carrying everything, but the kitchen sink
Three miles more
Where in the heck is this mechanized war?
Come on, doggies don’t get sore
Get hep hep hep in your step
On this tenth day of Christmas, we are reminded of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20:1-17:
- You shall have no other gods before me
- Do not make an idol
- Do not take God’s name in vain
- Remember the Sabbath Day
- Honor your father and mother
- Do not murder
- Do not commit adultery
- Do not steal
- Do not bear false witness
- Do not covet
The difference is that the gifts are specific personal qualities given to individuals. The fruits are the outward evidence that the Holy Spirit dwells within the believer. They are the manifestation of living a life that represents the holiness of He who lives within us.
The nine fruits of the Holy Spirit are:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Who likes to pay government imposed taxes? I certainly don’t, and I suspect you don’t either. Of course there are some taxes that we pay with more understanding and charity than others. There are also those taxes we pay that infuriate us to no end. It is no easy thing to work hard each day only to see large portions of our income collected before we ever see the first penny.
The question here is not whether or not it is pleasant to pay taxes in general, but rather, how we as Christians should respond when the money taken from our work is used for actions and purposes that we do not agree with or support.
Case in point is the recent Obamacare legislation that is taking the entire nation by storm. The monstrosity legislation appears to be drilling down into nearly every aspect of our lives and is fundamentally changing the fabric of our society.
The most troubling of these many points in the bill has been the fact that a portion of the tax collected is utilized to support and promote abortion. Christians and many others who strongly believe in the fundamental definition of life and act to support an end to abortion rightly oppose this part of the legislation.
However, in the process of trying to fight this particular provision, many people on both sides of the discussion fail to understand a truth about Christianity and the God that we worship. Arguments are made that this tax forces Christians to act against their own faith, and I believe that is not entirely correct.
There is a difference between a government collecting taxes and using that money in a way contrary to Christian belief and a Christian freely supporting such contrary actions. I am not saying that it is not right and proper to openly oppose and attempt to overturn such things. This is a good and noble fight worth our efforts. On the other hand, when our attempts at overturning such offensive spending fail, it is important for us to realize that it is not our personal actions that are supporting such things as abortion.
I am reminded of the many stories in the Bible in which the people held disdain for tax collectors and the purposes for which these taxes were collected. During New Testament times, the Roman Empire levied taxes against all its subjects, including the Jewish nation. Some of the money raised from these taxes probably went to worthy causes, but much of it was spent on programs inconsistent with Jewish and subsequent Christian beliefs.
The disdain for such immoral taxation even led the Pharisees to attempt to find Jesus in a trap that would lead to his downfall. They approached Jesus with this question, “ Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17 ESV). In response, Jesus took one of the coins from them and asked, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” (Matthew 22:20 ESV).
The Pharisee’s answer was that it was Caesar’s image upon the coin. Jesus’ answer to them was, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21 ESV).
Does this speak to you? What does it tell you about how God views taxation and the Christian’s responsibility to pay it?
Unlike you or me, God knows how each and every penny is spent by our government and He realizes that not only is it now being spent to support the abominable practice of abortion, but that these funds have long been spent in opposition to His plans and desires. Even so, God allows the process to continue and He knows the heart of every man and woman. He admires the efforts of His followers to fight against immoral taxation, but it is God that asks us to obey our government and its laws.
So, does paying taxes to support immorality cause Christians to act against their faith? Absolutely not! Does our heart ache when we know what the money we contribute to an immoral system is being used in ways that abhor us? Definitely! Even so, God can comfort us in such things and He will not let those who pass these unholy laws go eternally unpunished.
Our duty as Christians, when such a fight is lost is to continue to pray for these things we see as unholy. If God pricks our individual conscience in a way that informs us we must minimize the amount we send to the government (in legal ways), then those are the actions we should take. We should be careful not to rebel against the government in a way that would bring shame upon the name of God, the one who holds the very government we detest upon His own shoulders.
In Matthew 5:3-10, Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” records eight specific actions or attitudes in which a Christian disciple can receive blessings. These blessings are known as beatitudes and they were/are strikingly different from the Old Testament teachings of forced behavior. Instead, these eight actions of a joyful spirit focus upon humility and love.
On this, the 8th day of Christmas, we are reminded of these eight beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3-11:
- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
- “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
- “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
- “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
- “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
- “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
On this, the seventh day of Christmas, we are reminded of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are:
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Among all of the controversies which surround our Bible, none is attacked more today than the Genesis account of creation. Volumes have been written both supporting and refuting a six day creation. Even among many Christian circles the creation account is twisted, picked apart and spoken of in ways the early Church would never have considered.
The “six geese a-laying” on this day remind us of the six days of God’s creation.
- Day 1: The heavens, earth, light and darkness (Genesis 1:1-5)
- Day 2: Heaven (Genesis 1: 6-8)
- Day 3: Dry land, the seas, and vegetation (Genesis 1:9-13)
- Day 4: The sun, the moon and the stars (Genesis 1:14-19)
- Day 5: Living creatures in the water, birds in the air (Genesis 1:20-23)
- Day 6: Land animals and mankind (Genesis 1:24-31)
It is tempting, at times, to consider Genesis 1 to be something other than what it appears to be at first glance, but each of the writers of our New Testament alluded back towards Genesis. Even so, there is one man who held to a literal meaning of the creation timeline that should clue us in to the true meaning of the account. That man was Jesus Christ.
On several accounts, Jesus either alluded to or referred specifically back to the first chapter of Genesis. As God made man, Jesus Christ’s literal definition of the six days of creation is a testament to its authenticity.
Among todays many champions of a literal understanding of the Genesis creation account is Ken Ham’s ministry, “Answers in Genesis.” It is one of my favorite sites for my own personal education and encouragement when I face doubts about a literal six days of creation.
On the Fifth Day of Christmas, we recall “Five Golden Rings. While the prevailing image of our modern, materialistic culture would like to focus on these rings as valuable jewels to be owned and worn, in fact, the Golden rings refer to the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Hebrew “Torah,” or also as the “Pentateuch,” which means the “five vessels.” These indeed are precious jewels, not to be worn, but to be cherished as a gift from our Creator.
The books of the Pentateuch are:
The reading of these books not only put on display mankind’s historical sinful failure, but also illuminates God’s graceful response to His creation.
No doubt there are some very hard lessons to be learned in these books, but they are the foundation of our beliefs. Without these books, the “rest of the story” would have little to no discernible context.
The testimony of these four men who walked with Jesus take us through Christ’s birth, life, experience and ministry while upon this earth.
We learn of God’s grace, compassion, love and concern through eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ human and divine nature.
Due to an unexpected illness I spent the first two of the 12 Days of Christmas recuperating. But I want now to remind my readers of the fact that the celebration of Christmas does not end on December 25th.
Aside from the fact that we should be thankful for the Savior’s birth all year long, the 12 Days immediately following Christmas are a special time of celebration for the Christian.
There is some thought by some Protestant believers that the traditionally Catholic 12 Days of Christmas should not be “practiced.” If you find yourself among those who do not want to look at these twelve days as something especially significant, that is fine. I find, on the other hand, that taking these days to remember specific things about our faith to be especially beautiful and worth significant reflection.
On this, the Third Day of Christmas, we are reminded of the “Three French Hens” which are the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love.
We find these virtues given to us in 1 Corinthians 13:13; “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Love is perhaps one of the most overlooked virtues of our faith in today’s “modern” society, but it seems that now, more than ever, we should return our focus on love, the greatest of these.”
Writing about a Christian worldview in the face of such a tremendous tragedy, such as the one that took place last Friday is a difficult burden. Although the Sandy Hook shooting, which took place on December 14, 2012, is not even a week past, there is already no shortage of opinions to be found. I hesitate to add my voice to the conversation mainly because it is such a tender and emotional issue which evokes strong opinion and feeling. I tried to write about other things, but could not wrestle away the issue that continues to race in my own mind, thus I will remain obedient and write what God has put on my heart.
I am doubtful that I am the only one who has written on this viewpoint, but I have yet to come across it. While the vast majority of questions being pondered across the country in regards to this tragedy have been: “Where is God?” or “How can God allow such evil to exist” and other variations on this theme,what strikes me in all the coverage thus far is, “Where are all the men?”
Please keep in mind that I am not an authority on the Lanza family, nor am I immersed in the local culture within which Sandy Hook Elementary exists. That said, some questions have risen in my own mind about this situation and I see these same conditions repeating across our country. Also, before passing any judgment upon this writing, please read to the end.
First, my thoughts start with the Lanza family themselves. They appear to be representative of the all-too many broken homes that exist in America today. Whatever caused the split in the marriage between Perry and Nancy Lanza, there is little mention of the father’s continued interaction with Adam or their other son, Ryan. This is not to say that Perry was negligent to this end, it is just simply not mentioned anywhere in any of the articles I have read to date. All that I have read have been details of Adam living with his mother and her protective behavior towards him. The father did provide financial stability for her and their children, which is admirable, but it is not enough.
Did Perry Lanza interact sufficiently with his sons; I do not know and may never know. What I do know is that there are way too many fathers out there who do not interact sufficiently with their own children. Having spent over a decade working in Prison Ministry, I saw the fruit of fatherless homes or homes with absentee fathers. Homes where the fathers knew more about their favorite sports teams than they did about their own children are a breeding ground for the children’s ultimate failures.
Do not confuse what I am saying. I am not accusing Peter Lanza for the actions of his son, Adam. These situations are far too complex to be boiled down to such an oversimplified conclusion. What I am saying is that the details reported about Nancy Lanza are quite numerous, while the information about Peter Lanza is unusually ambiguous. The actual relationship within this family is known only to them, but the symbolism of this disparity is commonplace among men who struggle with their identity as they grow older.
Second, my thoughts are upon the courageous staff at Sandy Hook Elementary. There is no doubt that these brave and selfless administrators and teachers gave their full measure to protect the children in their care. Now, I do not know the full faculty roster at that school, but what strikes me is the complete lack of any male presence mentioned during the events as they unfolded.
This is not a chauvinistic belittling of the courage of women as I honor the service of every woman who gives selflessly of themselves in the education, nurturing, and protection of our children. What strikes me, similar to my first point, is the conspicuous absence of men in the school. I recognize the financial implications and myriad of other reasons why men have increasingly excluded themselves from the education system. But that does not mean that they need be completely absent either.
Schools across our nation have been working hard to find ways to bring men back into the classrooms and hallways of the education system. There are tremendous programs such as Fathers@School and Watchdog Dads, which help dads to be a continual presence in the schools that utilize such programs. Did Sandy Hook Elementary have such a program? I do not know. If they did have such a program, would that have made a difference in the outcome? I do not know.
What I do know is that as the events unfolded in the news, the first entrance of a male figure appears to have been among the first responders. By then the travesty was complete. It was too late. Perhaps one could argue that Adam shot himself only after he heard the presence of the first responders, but in my opinion, that was just simply too late for the presence of male leadership. The teachers and students had already switched into protect and preserve mode (in heroic fashion).
All of this is not to downplay the important role women fill each and every day, but it is instead a plea to men; fathers, uncles and grandfathers to recognize that we are failing to work alongside with the women of our generation to raise, protect and nurture our children.
I do believe that those men who do not hold to a particular faith system will undoubtedly continue to fail to a greater degree in knowing their proper place in the family and their community. Men who do claim to hold to a particular faith system should be able to identify their roles much better than they do, collectively, today.
For the Christian man, God is very clear about that which he expects of men. Perhaps the greatest success men reach to today is in the providing for their families. This is just and noble as described in 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Unfortunately many men do not progress beyond this point. They fail to search God’s Word for additional responsibilities and thus fail to adequately live out the call of God upon their lives. Let us put this to an end!
If you are a man, and you are unsure just what God has to say to YOU about being a man, here is a short list:
How a man is to LEAD
1 Timothy 3:4
2 Timothy 3:17
2 Thessalonians 3:10
How a man is to LIVE
1 Corinthians 15:58
1 Corinthians 16:13
How a man is to LOVE
1 Peter 3:7
I am not holding myself unaccountable in the failure to live up to God’s daily calling as a man. There are many areas I too realize that I have failed to live up to my calling in the past, but it is only by trying to learn from those failures that we can accept the responsibility of the future. What I pray and hope for is for a time when the men of this nation, during such a tragedy as those which have recently befallen us, are not as absent as they currently appear to be. I believe in a world where men lead from the front and are not there simply to pick up the pieces after tragedy has already struck the women and children in our lives.
Once again a considerable amount of time has passed since my last post. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but perhaps the greatest of these is a personal change of heart on a subject I have passionately held for most of my life.
The point upon which I am speaking is the combined subject of politics and a person’s worldview. Some of you may know that for much of this past year I was the Texas State leader for the grassroots wing of the Herman Cain Presidential Campaign. The ride was one of the most intense experiences of my life!
In only a few short months I gained an incredible education regarding our nation’s political system. I also learned much more about the goodness in many people, the greatness in other people, and the bad in a number of other people.
When Herman Cain suspended his campaign, there was a great sense of loss among our Texas team. Each day, as our complex efforts unraveled, a multitude of people began disappearing from the scene. Our leadership group tried to maintain a comfortable transition to another candidate, but it was during that transition which I began to see the very worst of people. Hatred, anger, strife, and dissent grew by leaps and bounds. Some of the very people I had experienced wonderful conversations with just a day before began spouting the most vile insults at anyone they could. It was at that moment I realized the gravity of where we have become as a nation.
God used this experience in my life to teach me much about both mankind’s charity and its depravity. Looking at the political system from the physical and emotional heights I had attained, I realized just how far we as a people, Christians in particular, have strayed from God’s heart.
In general, we have grabbed onto manmade institutions to solve our problems and let our sweaty palms slip away from the hands of our Creator. Trust in the grace and mercy of our Lord is being replaced by trust in man in rapid succession. We have lost focus on what it means to be a citizen of heaven because we have begun to identify with much more fervor what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America.
There came a point during all of this in which I had to make a choice. Leaders for every other candidate were approaching me with requests that I move our efforts to their program. I contemplated the choices available to me, and then made the only choice that I felt I could. I rejected all but one of those offers, resigned my post and informed my team of my choice.
I had given up the opportunity to make a name for myself by deciding to leave my brief, but promising, political career. Instead, I chose to honor God rather than to expend one more minute of energy touting the fallible credentials of another man or woman. It isn’t that I lost respect for Herman Cain, as I still have deep respect for the man who I feel was falsely accused on many fronts.
Rather, I realized I had lost respect for a loving God whose very essence is infallible. Throughout history, God has been maligned, accused and rejected, but He has never suspended his campaign for our redemption. Regardless of the rebellion against him, God sent His son to live among us, to teach us and to love us. Jesus was scorned, attacked, ridiculed, tortured and eventually killed trying to expose the corruption of a man-made system. Yet, even in death, God could not, would not suspend every effort to show us love and compassion.
I realized too many others, myself included, place the blame of failure upon those who fail to deliver promises they were never meant or able to keep. We were never meant to be our own salvation! No, our misplaced hope needs to return to the only place upon which it can be answered, and that is faith and hope in Jesus Christ alone.
A believer in Christ has a citizenship in heaven that can never be taken away. We have a spiritual cause for which to fight for, but we need not use the tools of man to win. That battle has already been won! Our job on earth is to become the best heavenly citizens we can be and as ambassadors of that not-so-far-away land, we are to be the salt and light towards those who have yet to join us in the inheritance of an incorruptible future.
In my haste to bring a man-made desire to fruition, I lost what it means to be citizens of heaven. Yet, in God’s grace, He waited patiently for me to realize that on my own. He waits eagerly for me to sit at His feet and learn what it means to represent Him through His means. This is the choice I have made and my prayer is that you will want to take the same journey. Together we can make a difference by pointing people towards Jesus Christ instead of towards divisive political issues.