“In most popular Christianity, “heaven” (and “fellowship with God” in the present) is the goal, and “sin” (bad behavior, deserving punishment) is the problem. A Platonized goal and a moralizing diagnosis—and together they lead, as I have been suggesting, to a paganized “solution” in which an angry divinity is pacified by human sacrifice. The zealous theological Boy Scouts have gotten it wrong. Humans are made not for “heaven,” but for the new heavens and new earth.
“The human problem is not so much “sin” seen as the breaking of moral codes—though that, to be sure, is part of it, just as the headaches and blurry vision really were part of the medical problem—but rather idolatry and the distortion of genuine humanness it produces. These two mistakes go together, reinforcing the basic heaven-and-earth dualism that continues to haunt Western theology.”
“The church is never more in danger than when it sees itself simply as the solution-bearer and forgets that every day it too must say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner,” and allow that confession to work its way into genuine humility even as it stands boldly before the world and its crazy empires. In particular, it is a problem if and when a “Christian” empire seeks to impose its will dualistically on the world by labeling other parts of the world “evil” while seeing itself as the avenging army of God. That is more or less exactly what Jesus found in the Israel of his day. The cross was and remains a call to a different vocation, a new way of dealing with evil and ultimately a new vision of God.” ~ N. T. Wright
….Who keeps covenant promises, Who defeats the Powers of Darkness, Who establishes His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven not by force but with love, Who gave His life as a ransom for many…
Crucifixion – Nicolai Ge
“What I handed on to you at the beginning, you see, was what I received, namely this: “The Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Bible;…”” the Apostle Paul writing to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 15:3)
Viewed from the six lane highway, the structure appears to be a brick fortress surrounded by acres of treeless grass and a vast moonscape of parking lot. The function without form building inspires no awe, no upward glance and no transcendent thought. The surrounding barren landscape contains no greenhouse, no food or flower gardens, no observatory and no animal shelter. There is nothing of nature’s bounty in my view, only the requisite shrubs to offset the stark landscape. Behold, another mega-church built to feed the souls of six thousand; another unadorned mega-church in a far western suburb of architecturally savvy Chicago.
Every other Saturday I visit someone several towns away. As I do I pass this mega-church going and coming, typically between 10 and 11:30 am. This Saturday, like all the other times before, I saw, again to my astonishment, that there were no cars in the parking lot. There was no activity whatsoever. I wondered at a stewardship that builds a Scripture fort surrounded by acres of asphalt parking that is to be filled only periodically by the six thousand. The transmutation of creation into an austere block complex hurt my soul to see. And, what about the transmutation of the six thousand?
As a child, I first attended a Baptist church and later, Bible/Free churches. Beauty was a no show at these churches. There were, of course, colorful Sunday school materials – what is considered Christian education resources – for the kids. And with a constant pamphlet diet – a three point sermon with alliteration – there was no hunger for intellectual activity. I observed, as did Mark Noll in his book “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind“: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” I saw extreme resistance to obtaining knowledge. The pews were there to be used, but scholarly books, not so much. It would not be too far off to say that understanding was gained by and strictly limited to what the Bible ‘teachers’, self-help pablum and popular seminars say the Bible says.
Over some fifty years I have heard the same bad theology passed down from generation to generation. Not once in the Bible church did I ever hear a sermon or a class talk about the Kingdom of God being here and now – a major thrust of the four Gospels. The sermons, to an Amen, were, “You need to get saved so you can get to heaven. If you are saved then you need to come forward to rededicate your life. Then you must think seriously about becoming a missionary. Everyone must get to heaven because this world will be judged harshly.” Imagine how our world would change if we prayed for and practiced “on earth as it is in heaven”, and prepared for the return of our King? He will be bringing heaven down to earth to join them together.
There was and is also the highly profitable Rapture fantasy series based on a mis-reading of the Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. And, of course, there is the teaching of a literal six-day creationism. Science must be eschewed as being antagonistic toward God and His Word. I learned otherwise on my own.
And, there is the constant reiteration of the mis-understanding of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Sadly, Romans, since the Reformation and the Enlightenment, has been reduced to a quirky systematic theology – all about us. Paul’s circular letter to the Christians in and around Rome speaks of God’s plan to redeem his creation. The letter is a well thought out dissertation reminding Jewish and gentile Christians in Rome of God’s covenantal faithfulness, his righteousness. It was meant to reinforce an Old Testament understanding of God’s plan for redeeming his creation that was in place all along.
I never heard this at church. Instead, I heard the four spiritual laws imposed onto Romans. And with this I was taught that God imputes – gives – his righteousness to me, sinner that I am. But, this thinking has no basis in Romans given its Scriptural context of Genesis 15 and the Abrahamic covenant. Regarding my righteousness: I am made righteous in the law court of God by God’s exercise of His covenant faithfulness and his desire to put the world to right.
I don’t recall anyone over those years, except for a few visiting professors, who seriously studied theology, N.T. Greek or Hebrew to understand the context of what was written. Often, the visiting seminary professors would reassert the same bad theology using highfalutin terms and out-of-context proof texts.
I have heard countless sermons based on poached verses to create a ‘relevant” topic to preach on Sunday mornings. Relevance and accommodation are apparently key to mega-ness. The mega-church I’ve mentioned offers two services: traditional and contemporary worship. As such, this church divides the Body of Christ into sects for mega-accommodation.
Am I jaded about the Evangelical church? After many years of being involved with these Bible churches, in some sense I am. That is perhaps why I can see the six thousand continuing to come back to the mega-church because it looks… bigly: “There has to be something for me inside this Yuge Assembly of Bricks Church.”
If the election of Donald Trump, supported by the many Evangelicals who voted for him tells you anything, and if the existence of the mega-church tells you anything it is that the Evangelical assembly line approach to Christianity must go onward. And, Bible fortresses must be built.
A coincidence? I found this audio link on Twitter this morning:
Reflections on horrible preaching
“The day-to-day services of the Christian churches are embarrassing reminders of the fact that religion is losing its sublime godwardness, and turning instead towards the world of mass production.”
― Roger Scruton, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture
“Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as though it did not matter.” ―Roger Scruton, Beauty
What is revealed to me in the experience of beauty is a fundamental truth about being – the truth that being is a gift, and receiving it is a task. This is a truth of theology that demands exposition as such.” ― Roger Scruton, Face of God: the Gifford Lectures
“The point of Christian scholarship is not recognition by standards established in the wider culture. The point is to praise God with the mind. Such efforts will lead to the kind of intellectual integrity that sometimes receives recognition. But for the Christian that recognition is only a fairly inconsequential by-product. The real point is valuing what God has made, believing that the creation is as “good” as he said it was, and exploring the fullest dimensions of what it meant for the Son of God to “become flesh and dwell among us.” Ultimately, intellectual work of this sort is its own reward, because it is focused on the only One whose recognition is important, the One before whom all hearts are open.” ― Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
“Let all things be done decently and in order” I Corinthians 14:40
The above verse was repeated so often by my father that it became a joking family rejoinder to whatever was askew at the moment.
My Dutch grandparents epitomized the verse. Their tiny two-bedroom bungalow in Bellwood, Illinois was immaculate. The bungalow’s smaller yard was well-manicured and well-guarded by a chain link fence against intruders of all kinds including rabbits that munched on Marigolds.
My father, before I was born, left the Dutch Christian Reformed church and what he considered its old-country austerity, an austerity that seemed to be reinforced by his hot-tempered foul-mouthed truck-driving father, who “cleaned up” for the Sunday Morning service.
My Swedish grandparents and my mother belonged to a Swedish Evangelical Covenant Church in the Andersonville area of Chicago were they also lived. Like Dutch immigrants, Swedish immigrants were very concerned about cleanliness and presenting a proper and well-kept image to their neighbors. These two immigrant groups were thrilled to be in the New World. The Old World had become too unyielding to make a decent living.
At one point my parents met (in a decent and orderly fashion, of course) and my father aligned himself for a time with the church my mom attended. They would soon marry and later attend the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. That is when and where I was born. The word became flesh and was placed in a crib over a Chinese take-out restaurant.
Fast forward to eleven years after my birth and I am sitting in a Bible church hearing the Four Spiritual Laws for the thousandth time, during a Vacation Bible School assembly. I decided then and there that I would ask Jesus into my heart. My friend did so at the same time. We both received a new Bible after we came forward. The New Bible was the draw for me at the time. A kid will take anything that is free, except peas and carrots.
Now, why am I telling you this? Everything in life emerges from relationship. Everything!
When someone considers God, they view God through a lens of their worldview or weltanschauung. Most, I suspect, view God through the relationship they have or have had with their parents. The parental relationship may be one of ‘happily ever after’ or one of rancor, division and divorce. A child’s view of God may become skewed when only one parent cares for him or her and the other parent is out of the picture most of the time or all of the time.
The person considering God may also have their view of God reinforced by whatever authority is in their lives, whether it be benevolent or malevolent. He or she may further view God as distant or absent or a non-issue. He or she may view God, as I believe most do, as himself or herself projected. Much of what is called social justice today is a projection of “what would Jesus as me do?” And, he or she may view God as “values-adjusted-God” to reflect one’s compromised ‘ethical’ life, as many Christians do.
But, what about God external to all rational thought and emotional bonding? Our limited minds, our limited reasoning can only summon the past to outline what it is we think we know in the present. And then such determination is a matter of interpretation, whether affixed on atheism or on theism. I suggest that relationship is key to knowing what it is you know and to what you don’t know. And yes, not knowing (meekness, teachableness) is a matter of acquiring humility in today’s Post-Enlightenment world. For a Christian worldview, holding rational thought, paradox and mystery in tension is, I believe, essential. Truth-seekers require both left and right brain hemispheres to be put to work. Why?
The Left-brain does not know what it does not know. The right-brain looks at the big picture and sees that there is mystery. It receives the paradox and supplies the left brain with context the Left-brain doesn’t see. The left brain sees detail and seeks certainty to manipulate the world. The right brain sees the big picture and hands off the context to the left brain for processing.
The Enlightenment has pushed thinking including the consideration of God, into the realm of black and white “certainty” and away from paradox and mystery, away from big questions. The media’s constant barrage of images, of ad-hoc fantasy overwhelms the right-brain, hindering its imagining of a cosmos greater than a tweet or 1440 x 2560 pixels.
Truly, the medium is a message evangelist. The perverse rapid-fire images that we view daily in anonymity enjoin us to paganism.
And as reflected, today’s Epicureans say the gods are distant and so I’ll surround myself with friends who will let say what my truth is and I’ll find sensate pleasure to offset any questions or concerns.
The many atheists (they call themselves “atheists”) I have engaged in conversations all at some point demand certainty. They will ask, “How can any rational mind accept that there is a God?” Well, a purely rational mind cannot know that there is a God. The Left-brain hemisphere will always seek certainty and never find it. The Left-brain hemisphere will always see fragmented pieces of data that mean nothing in themselves. The right-brain ‘sees’ the whole picture including what it doesn’t know and is OK with what it doesn’t know. The right-brain intuits that there is more that can be known while the left-brain balks at such ambiguity.
In my debates with atheists I say that I cannot prove that there is a God but that there is a very high probability that there is a God based on the design of Creation and the extreme fine-tuning of the universe. I mention the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, the electromagnetic force, and gravity. All four finely adjusted constants make life on earth possible.
I go on to say that we only are aware of 5% of the universe and there is 95% of it that we don’t know about, including dark energy and dark matter. I ask them that “if they can accept the mystery that light is both a wave and a particle why can’t they accept the mystery of a God beyond their understanding?” They are held in check for a moment. They expected me to “blather on about what the Bible says”. I go on then to tell them that I have a personal relationship with the Infinite-Personal God that is reinforced by my reading of Scripture and my knowledge of the universe and prayer. (This is experiential knowledge that is at least equal to any atheist experiential knowledge). At this point, the atheist will often resort to calling me names and dismissing me out of hand. Out of these many conversations I have come to see that these same folks reject any notion of a relationship with God. Their worldview blocks all other light. So, I try to present a reasonable doubt for the case an atheist presents to me
I didn’t know it at the time but my eleven-year-old acceptance of Jesus would become an intimate relationship with Jesus. The big thrust in those days was to get saved and get your ticket to heaven and be ready to get raptured out of here. Sure, there was mention of Jesus as your personal Savior, but the personal part seemed to be that “Jesus died for you and you better behave before you leave this earth on the day of rejoicing”.
As I recall those days, the rigmarole surrounding being “saved” seemed artificial and trite. I heard the same salvation message week after week after week. I was starving for more than the reduction of the get-saved-and-get-the-hell-out-of-here salvation-gospel into 140 characters. As an eleven-year old the only big-ticket ‘certainty’ I had was the intuition that there was a Creator God who loved me. And, my intuition told me that the Eucharist was where to find the immediate reality of Jesus. After all of the twists and turns and sinful trajectories of my life I found a church where the Eucharist provided me the True Reality I sought.
Years later, I have learned to trust the Lord’s covenant faithfulness, which is the righteousness of (not from) God:
God’s covenant justice comes into operation through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah, for the benefit of all who have faith.” Romans 3:22
What is faith then?
I observe God working in my life daily and in the lives of others I pray for. I see and wonder at the intelligent design of the universe as unfolded over 14.8 billion years. Prayer, mediation and contemplation through music, art and literature informs and strengthens my relationship with the Lord. I hear God speaking to me. My worldview, once colored by projections, has become less opaque, less cloudy, as I am led by the Spirit.
You see, faith is an eye-opening relationship in the absence of logical certainty.
“I pray that the God of King Jesus our Lord, the father of glory, would give you, in your spirt, the gift of being wise, of seeing things people can’t normally see, because you are coming to know him, and to have the eyes of your inmost self opened to God’s light.” -the Apostle Paul writing to the churches around Ephesus, 1: 17
My parent’s life verse speaks of relationship, of covenantal faithfulness, of things working out decently and in order in God’s purview:
“We know in fact, that God works all things together for good to those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Open thou mine eyes
Open thou mine eyes and I shall see, Incline my heart and I shall desire, Order my steps and I shall walk In the ways of thy commandments.
Open thou mine eyes and I shall see, Incline my heart and I shall desire, Order my steps and I shall walk In the ways of thy commandments.
O Lord God, be thou to me a God And beside thee let there be none else, No other, nought else with thee. Vouchsafe to me to worship thee and serve thee According to thy commandments In truth of spirit, In reverence of body, In blessing of lips, In private and in public.
“Two particular details about Roman crucifixion are of special interest to us in this book. First, it would not be much of an exaggeration to say that Jesus of Nazareth grew up under the shadow of the cross…The Galilee of Jesus’ boyhood, then, all knew about Roman crosses (Antiquities 17.286-98; War 2.66-79)…When he told his followers to pick up their crosses and follow him, they would not have heard this as a metaphor…The second point of special interest for us is the way in which the Romans sometimes used crucifixion as a way of mocking a victim with social or political pretensions. “You want to be high and lifted up?” they said in effect. “All right, we’ll give you ‘high and lifted up.’” Crucifixion thus meant not only killing by slow torture, not only shaming, not only issuing a warning, but also parodying the ambitions of the uppity rebels. They wanted to be move up the social scale? Let them be lifted up above the common herd…”
– from the chapter The Cross in Its First-Century Setting, N.T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began
Let’s begin with a few quick scenarios – reflections on life in 2016 into 2017:
The mayor of a major city publicly welcomes illegal immigrant “dreamers,” under the rubric of not seeming unwelcoming. The mayor wants to appear humane and magnanimous as he freely gives out the keys to our city, much like German Chancellor Angela Merkel has done (to the regret of the women molested and raped by the welcomed immigrants). In so doing the mayor and the city council has and is welcoming into our city a group of people who are not all like Rahm Emanuel’s sentimental sop would have us believe: parents and grandparents just like his or just plain students. Rather those ‘welcomed” in our city include the likes of fleeing felons, ambitious drug dealers, hiding sexual predators, indoctrinated jihadists and territorial gang members. Included, also, are those with mental health issues.
What do you think these ‘dreamers’ dream of doing? And isn’t violence, not relationship building, their modus operandi? The mayor and the city council of Chicago have naively (?) welcomed in the lawless with their penchant for violence, including violence with stolen guns. It should be noted by all that those who would break the law do not register gun ownership as law-abiding citizens do. Those who would break the law do not want to be caught. This common-sense thinking is not something one finds in the ways and means of Chicago’s mayor or city council. Instead we find that nothing has changed except an increase of violence due to the promotion of the lawlessness of illegal immigration.
I see the local news every day. The news reports detail the fact that the south and west sides of Chicago are permeated with violent types. The news reports show mothers weeping over children being shot and killed. The news reports show community marches demanding the violence be stopped. Enter the gun control meme pushed by the media’s talking heads – “Gun Violence Erupts Over the Weekend.”
Nothing, of course, is said in the media about the kinds of people found on our city’s streets. Instead, the media’s headlines distract from the illegal immigrant problem and so many other inner city social issues such as mental health and the dehumanizing effects of being on welfare long-term. Often, idle hands do tend to the devil’s work.
The hyped solution for those in positions of political power: the promotion of “gun control” laws, including a gun registry rather than an illegal immigrant registry. Again, who signs up for a “gun registry”? Only those citizens who obey the law sign up. The bad guys ‘know’ better.
“Gun control” is the mayor’s and the city council’s ‘means’ to deal (read: redirect attention from their own actions and to pacify the crying mothers) with the unintended consequences of placing a “Welcoming City” banner over our city. It is now open season in Chicago. By the way, “Welcoming City” hokum is meant to maintain Federal government subsidies for a city and state struggling to make ends meet during the mass exodus of its citizens.
When a drunk driver kills someone, does the media call it “car violence”? No. Does the registration of all drivers and cars mean that drunk driving will not occur? The pols and media pick their opportunities to control the narrative surrounding their existence in a place of power.
Are you a libertarian who demands legalized drugs and the “right” to do drugs like marijuana, cocaine and even heroin but has no thought as to how in the future you or others will pay for and obtain those drugs without using violence once addicted? Are you a citizen who is OK with a citizenry addicted to drugs and that uses society via robbery and violence to feed addictions? Do you believe that taxpayers should subsidize your drug addiction?
Presented above are three real time scenarios. If you watch the news you are aware of what is going on and what is going on is much more than what I presented above.
As one walking around on resurrection ground in the Kingdom of God on earth, I have wrestled with the notion of owing and using a gun for self-defense. Here are some of my thoughts. You can share your thoughts in the comment section…
Recently, I listened to a discussion about guns on a Moody Radio program called Up for Debate. The title and bylines are as follows:
Should Churches Hire Armed Guards?
Violence is increasing not only on the streets but also in the sanctuary. We only have to look to the headlines of last year’s shooting of parishioners during a Bible study in Charleston and this summer’s slaying of a priest in France during church services. The violence has some in the clergy wondering whether they should arm their security teams. This Saturday, on Up For Debate, Julie Roys will explore this issue with Rev. Mark Woods, a pastor who believes that arming churches sanctifies violence and Carl Chinn a Christian security expert who believes churches and their parishioners are safer when their security team is armed.
You can listen to the program>>>
Here are some questions that came to mind while listening to this “debate”:
Is it OK for a Christian to own a gun for sport and for protection?
Does arming a church “normalize and sanctify violence”?
Are you not trusting God for your safety with armed guards around?
Do we need a specific threat to arm ourselves or can we act preemptively?
What is the difference between local police protection provided by the state and armed and trained Christians being present?
Does the difference between local but not present police protection provided by the state and armed Christians being present matter in the moment of life and death circumstances?
Does “turn the other cheek” imply passivity or a type of non-retribution self-denial?
Is Christianity a “new ethic of non-violence”?
Due to the acted-out intent of evil doers such as gang members, drug traffickers and thieves, a constant scapegoating phrase is heard in Chicago’s media: “gun violence”. To come to a Kingdom understanding about guns and their use and especially since the populace is constantly barraged by the media’s lockstep negative annotation of guns I believe that we need to separate those two words – “guns” and the ubiquitous media modifier “violence”. I believe we also need to discuss the matter of guns outside of the political hothouse where opinion grows out of proportion to reality by constant emotive watering.
Consider the following from Morissette v. United States (1952): “The contention that an injury can amount to a crime only when inflicted by intention is no provincial or transient notion.””
The obvious: Guns are inanimate objects. Guns require intent to be used. A gun can be used as a weapon of violence when the user’s intent is to aggressively attack another with a self-serving purpose. The intent of such an aggressor is similar to another person who drives their truck into a crowd with the objective of running down people down. Intentionality aims and pulls the trigger or points the knife or the car or the…, whether for benign reasons or for malevolent reasons. The intent of a person using a knife may be to slice some bread for dinner or to deliver a death wound into someone’s gut (knife intifada). Beyond an individual’s rationale, of course, some objects do reveal their intended use – a pipe bomb, for instance. And, as you must know, the media reveal’s its own intent, its own agenda daily.
Our local media’s constant word association -“gun violence”- has, I believe, created a public fear of guns by projecting violent intent onto the object itself. Often, media reinforced fear-driven thinking is taken to the extreme. The demand to ban all guns is pushed under the rubric of ‘we’ don’t know your what your intentions are” and “we are not that kind of people”- a hubristic mélange.
Does arming a church “normalize and sanctify violence”? Maybe a better question is “Does disarming a church “normalize and sanctify violence”?” For those with evil intentions, disarming the public is an effective means to an evil end. “Gun free” signs give the public false assurances that someone with criminal intent will think twice and not enter a gun free zone. Yet, don’t crimes of passion occur without a second thought? Have we not see that terrorist acts occur with malice aforethought and without regard to a posted sign? Do not “Gun Free Zones” in effect “normalize and sanctify (to set apart) violence” as the unrestricted means for an aggressor?
Some general thoughts and questions:
This topic is not a black and white topic. Nor can this topic be confined to a short post. This topic requires knowledge and a lot of introspection about one’s intents. This topic opened up many avenues of thought for me (subject to modification) as you will read:
The spirit of fear
I hear some say that we should trust God and, in effect, do nothing to protect ourselves – God will intervene (or not, que sera sera). There is a spirit of fatalism here and not of faith, it seems to me.
If a bear or a lion or a mentally unstable person attacked, would you not defend yourself and your child? Or, do you accept the attack as God’s will and submit to it without resistance? If a deadly virus was around do you take precautions? Do you vaccinate your child? Are taking precautions a lack of trust in God? Is defending yourself from imminent danger not trusting God? Is defending yourself against evil holding a gun not trusting God? And, isn’t learning the Scripture and walking in the Spirit proactively defending yourself against heresy?
We are told that we have not been given a spirit of fear and also to put on the whole armor of god. A sword is included in the list and in Hebrews 4:12. We are to arm ourselves:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrew 4:12
This verse reminds us that thoughts and intentions matter. The weapon, the word of God, is used to bring out what is hidden beneath the surface by using its finely-honed razor sharp cutting edge. Jesus made sure that his disciples knew that his Kingdom was not about the violent over throw of the Romans. Rather, the world would learn that truth was more powerful than violence. Consider what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in an early church setting (Acts 5:1-11). Truth happened.
“Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was a pacifist”:
Do not put Jesus into your safe space. Put yourself into his ‘unsafe’ hands. To make a false understanding of Jesus (e.g., Jesus as an anti-war hippie guru) the lynch pin of anti-gun ethic is dangerous. As was said of Aslan:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34-36
As the passage from Hebrews would later reinforce, Jesus said that he came with a sword, a divisor. Thoughts and intents would be exposed. Relationships would be severed because of him. There will be those who will reconciled to Him and to others and there will be those who will not reconcile at all. Those who do not want to be reconciled with others often use violence to obtain what could have been gained in relationship.
Jesus wants us to set his kingdom in motion with our peace-making forays before he comes to reign on earth as the Prince of Peace.
Jesus’ command to “love you neighbor as yourself” and to seek happiness in being a peacemaker means, in my estimation, seeking to be reconciled with your neighbor when there is a conflict. It also means to never seek revenge for a wrong done to you. Revenge is a common theme on cable TV and in the movies but it has no part in your Kingdom life. You turn the other cheek to say to your neighbor “the wrong you have done to me is already forgiven by me two-fold. Let us be reconciled.” Forgiveness is not passivity or pacifism. Rather, forgiveness is an aggressive part of loving your neighbor.
Many today take umbrage at the slightest perceived offense. Then they proceed to slander, malign and mock their ‘offender’. Turning the other cheek says I know who I am and what I am about. Your words can come into either ear and do not change what I am hearing from the Lord.
Being a peacemaker: aren’t we told to meet our neighbor on the way to court so as to resolve matters with your neighbor instead of by a judges’ ruling? Aren’t we told not to sue each other in court?
Not once are we telling our neighbor “It is OK to do whatever you want to us.” We are saying, “Whatever evil you do to us breaks our relationship. I am willing to forgive to mend our relationship and to show you the full extent of love.”
I can read the same scripture as you:
Meet your accuser before going to court to settle matters
Seek peace and pursue it.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
As I read these passages I see in each of the statements an equation of relationships. Two or more parties are involved. And the Christian in that relationship is the one who proactively makes amends to resolve the conflict the other has with the Christian.
Violence – doing harm to the other with the purpose of “winning” or gain -is not the Kingdom way of living as taught by Jesus. Of, course doing violence to another also includes bearing false witness, gossip, stealing, adultery and murder with intent to deprive someone of life. Violence done to others also includes abortion, a suctioning off of human life that is now called “a right”, while the right to own a gun is denigrated as violent intent.
What if you neighbor embraces evil? We are told in Scripture to abhor evil and cling to what is good. We can never be reconciled with evil and should never try. This is a situation where the Scripture and the Holy Spirit must inform your decision to defend yourself. Maybe you move away. Maybe you surround yourself with Christian friends and prayer. Maybe you should buy a gun and learn to defend yourself. Maybe do all three. Evil knows no bounds; it knows no “Gun Free Zones”.
“Sell what you have and buy a sword”. I find it interesting that Jesus knew that Peter was armed – with a sword – when they were in the garden of Gethsemane praying. Prior to Peter whipping out his sword to defend Jesus, we don’t hear Jesus ever telling Peter to get rid of that sword. But once Peter pulls out that sword to harm another in an act of aggression (Peter’s intent was to keep Jesus safe for the Kingdom Peter so desired) then Jesus tells Peter to put away the sword because “those who live by the sword die by the sword.” This is no mystical saying.
Consider that if you use violence to get your way you can be sure that what goes around comes around. If your intent is to harm someone to ‘put things right’ then there will be no end to the violence. The other who is harmed will want to ‘put things right’ with violence. Jesus wants us to stop the cycle of violence. That is why seeking to reconcile and forgiving are imperative in his Kingdom.
I do not think for a moment that God intended us to lay down our lives for the sake of laying down our lives. That would be suicide. What is your intent? Hopefully your intent is to stay alive.
We live in a violent universe: Big Bang, Gamma Ray bursts, meteor strikes, floods, hurricanes,… How do we explain the Lord’s “Blessed are the peacemakers” to such a violent world?
Violence forces change through coercive power. Love is not coercion but an offer to redeem and to be reconciled. When violence and love meet, they do not kiss like when justice and mercy meet. So be for-armed.
What is my relationship with guns? After the age of eight-years-old I attended several different Christian camps over several years. These camps are where I first came into contact with an actual gun – a .22 gauge rifle.
At these camps I was shown how to load the rifle and how to aim and shoot at a target. And not only did we use guns, we also learned archery, horseback riding, swimming – all sorts of activities, some considered as “unsafe” by today’s hand wringers.
I now own several guns, a FOID card and a CC card. Contrary to what is often implied in the media, to obtain these licenses my background had been extensively checked by federal and state authorities. To obtain my CC license I was required by the state to take 16 hours of classes: 8 hours of Illinois CC law and 8 hours of gun training. A written and target test were taken after the eight-hour sessions.
As a Christian, I enjoy target shooting at the range. I practice for accuracy. I hope I never have to shoot anyone in self-defense. If I do I hope to be able to shoot the aggressor so as to only disable him or her. God knows the intent of my heart.
As a Christian, I believe we can be ‘unsafe’ and good at the same time, like my King.
Shooting someone in self-defense is no small thing. It is traumatic and it may end up ruining your life with all of the legal ramifications. It is best to know the law and to not think you have any right whatsoever to shoot someone in self-defense. Know the law in your state.
A great legal resource:
The Law of Self-Defense, The Indispensable Guide for the Armed Citizen by attorney Andrew F. Branca
“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
-Screwtape, a senior demon, writing to his nephew Wormwood, also his apprentice. From C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”
Foods for thought?
The package of corn chips found in the health foods aisle noted how not un-good the contents were to eat: “No Artificial Ingredients” “No Artificial Flavors” “No Preservatives” “Certified Gluten Free” “NON GMO Verified”.
The package of drama found on the cable channel noted how not inhuman the program was: “For Mature Audience” “Adult themes” “Adult Language” ….
“Fantasy covets the gross, the explicit, the no-holds barred display of the unobtainable; and in crisis of the display the unobtainable is vicariously obtained.
Hard-core pornography provides another instance. Indeed, modern society abounds in fantasy objects, since the realistic image, in photograph, cinema and the TV screen, offers surrogate fulfillment to all our forbidden desires, thereby permitting them…The ideal fantasy is perfectly realized, and perfectly unreal – an imaginary object which leaves nothing to the imagination.” – from Fantasy, Imagination and the Salesman, Roger Scruton’s “Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture”
The fantasy objects removing the sacred from our view? A short list:
Movies and cable TV programs showing ‘snuff films’, violence, mutilation, slaughter, wanton sex, promiscuous sex, misogyny, the profane.
Video games engaging you in violence, mutilation, slaughter, wanton sex, promiscuous sex, misogyny, the profane.
Movies which employ special effects to convey a larger than life experience titillation while offering nothing of value for real life.
Social media – each media element readily offered and responded to, and obtained remotely, removing one from true community towards self-isolation
Animation – the shadowland of phantom cels
Marriage as a secular convention to secure benefit from another up to and including the commodification of the partner’s wealth, insurance, emotional dependency and sexual organs.
Socialism as Utopia
The Social Justice Narrative of “Diversity” and it cognates, wrought by the iron fist of “equality”
Homosexuality, the phallic and misogynistic, and its associated bacchanalia (e.g., Gay pride parades)
Imagination gathers up the hard-won gold of reality, submits it to the refiner’s fire, allows it to be molded and then offers the higher karatage gold as sincere praise to God.
Fantasy gathers up the hard-won gold of reality for smelting and casting into the golden calf of ephemerality, of likeness, of certainty…
“The contrast here is between the active work of the imagination, which points to a God beyond the sensory world, and the passive force of fantasy, which creates its own god out of sensory desires…”
– from Fantasy, Imagination and the Salesman, Roger Scruton’s “Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture”
The Adoration of the Golden Calf 1633-4, Nicolas Poussin
One wonders: does the left brain seek certainty and see fantasy as that certainty while the right brain is dismissed as flaccid and unreliable?
Psalms 130. De profundis. OUT of the deep have I called unto thee, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice. O let thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint. If thou, LORD, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it? For there is mercy with thee; therefore shalt thou be feared. I look for the LORD; my soul doth wait for him; in his word is my trust. My soul fleeth unto the Lord before the morning watch; I say, before the morning watch. O Israel, trust in the LORD; for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his sins.
Patria o muerte! [Homeland or death] Che Guevara, December 11, 1964, 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.
“Executions?” Guevara told the UN General Assembly in 1964. “We execute! And we will continue executing as long as it is necessary.”
“Guevara was a man whose interest in justice is best summed up in his own words, as quoted by Fontova: “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution. And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.” –The bitter truth about Che Guevara
Che Guevara: “Judicial evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail. We execute from revolutionary conviction.”
Fidel Castro: “Legal proof is impossible to obtain against war criminals so we sentence them based on moral conviction.”
“The terrible damage that Castro has done will long outlive him and his regime. Untold billions of capital will be needed to restore Havana; legal problems about ownership and rights of residence will be costly, bitter, and interminable; and the need to balance commercial, social, and aesthetic considerations in the reconstruction of Cuba will require the highest regulatory wisdom. In the meantime, Havana stands as a dreadful warning to the world—if one were any longer needed—against the dangers of monomaniacs who believe themselves to be in possession of a theory that explains everything, including the future.”
“So don’t worry away with your ‘What’ll we eat?’ and “What’ll we drink?’ and ‘What’ll we wear?’ Those are all the things the Gentiles fuss about, and your heavenly father knows you need them all. Instead, make your top priority God’s kingdom and his way of life, and all these things will be given to you as well. So don’t worry about tomorrow…” – Jesus as recorded in Matthew’s gospel 6: 31-34
“Yes, the gospels affirm Jesus’s divine identity. Yes, they affirm his death on the cross as the climax of God’s age-old plan of salvation. But the purpose of God coming incognito in and as Jesus and the purpose of this Jesus dying on the cross was – so the gospels are telling us – in order to establish God’s kingdom, his justice, on earth as in heaven.” – from N.T. Wright’s “How God Became King”
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
All worshippers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him. Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgements, O God.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!
The Day The Revolution began…
“The modern world has displaced the Christian narrative; it isn’t just that most of our contemporaries profess not to believe in God or Jesus, but that they have in their heads a world narrative in which world history arrived at its redemptive moment in the eighteenth century with the rise of science and technology and banishing of God to a distant realm, to be visited by the pious few like a kind family calling on an elderly relative every Sunday. The western churches have regularly colluded with this absurd diminishment of the Bible and the gospel. But the cross, told as the climax of all four gospels and particularly John’s on which I have focused this evening, leaves us no choice. ‘Now is the judgement of this world; now is the ruler of the world cast out; and if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.’ This is what it means that the Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.”
The early Christian creeds – the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene creed – donot speak of the most important elements of why Christ came to earth. It’s as if the creeds were written for man’s purposes and not for God’s purposes.
The kingdom life of Jesus, between his birth and crucifixion, is missing from the creeds. And, as recorded in the gospels, Jesus came to inaugurate his kingdom on earth as in heaven and not to impart the four spiritual laws and get off earth as soon as possible.
So, then, this is the gospel:
That now at the name of Jesus
every knee within heaven shall bow-
On earth, too, and under the earth;
And every tongue shall confess
That Jesus, Messiah, is Lord,
To the glory of God, the father.
The Lord is King, Let the Earth Rejoice This Thanksgiving!
On January 17th, 2017, the world will witness a peaceful transition of power in the United States of America. And though our country is deeply divided by partisan conflicts there will be not be a violent overthrow of the government or a military takeover such as a coup d’etat. There will not be a slaughter of the innocents by those who embody the Satan. At least, that has been my experience.
Just over 2000 years ago there was another peaceful transition of power and one not brought about by a popular vote of Jews, Greeks or Romans. Instead, the “electoral college” of Father, Son and Holy Spirit decided that a king would be born. The Creator Word would become a flesh tabernacle and dwell among his creation for some thirty years to inaugurate his Kingdom – a kingdom where heaven and earth would be forever co-joined.
Like the workings of dominions and powers throughout history, much of politics today is about gaining power and control over others and then maintaining power and control over others.
But how did the King of the Glory display his power and control?
In this day of the ubiquitous media’s hyperbolic promotion of self-promoting individuals and ego polishing and reality TV narcissism and take-it-to-the-streets identity politics there is One who has transitioned from power and glory… to washing the feet of others.
No one, especially the Jews in Jesus’ time expected a foot washer Messiah. They expected a takeover guy who would abolish Roman rule by force. That was what Judas the revolutionary wanted and thought he “had” in Jesus. But instead, Jesus washed Judas’ feet along with the other disciples. That act was certainly not the macho response expected by angry unsettled Jews like Judas.
Jesus, as a witness of all that his father is and does, revealed to the world God’s “definition” of power and of love and of truth. In a peaceful transition of power, the holy and invisible Creator God became visible in Christ by emptying himself of his glory and power. Jesus submitted himself to the father and to his creation by taking on the form of a servant. This transition is not something anyone on earth expected to happen. Consider this:
Remember what God said to Moses: “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” -Pentateuch, Exodus 3:5
Fast Forward: “Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God. So, he got up from the supper-table, took off his clothes, and wrapped a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a bowl and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wrapped in.” -The Gospel of John 13
Followers of the Way:
“This is how you should think among yourselves – with the mind that you have because you belong to the Messiah, Jesus:
Who, though in God’s form, did not
Regard his equality with God
As something he ought to exploit.
Instead, he emptied himself,
And received the form of a slave,
Being born in the likeness of humans.
And then, having human appearance,
He humbled himself, and became
Obedient to death,
Yes, even the death of the cross.
And so God has greatly exalted him,
And to him in his favor has given
The name which is over all names:
That now at the name of Jesus
Ever knee within heaven shall bow –
On earth, too, and under heaven;
And every tongue confess
That Jesus, Messiah, is Lord,
To the glory of God, the father.”
Ancient church hymn as recorded in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, chapter 2
"When a common culture declines, the ethical life can be sustained and renewed only by a work of the imagination."-Roger Scruton
"Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You . . .” (John 17:3). The real meaning of eternal life is a life that can face anything it has to face without wavering. If we will take this view, life will become one great romance— a glorious opportunity of seeing wonderful things all the time. God is disciplining us to get us into this central place of power." Oswald Chambers
“No power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of God in a human spirit, it is an inner unconquerableness.” Oswald Chambers
To those who have had no agony Jesus says, “I have nothing for you; stand on your own feet, square your own shoulders. I have come for the man who knows he has a bigger handful than he can cope with, who knows there are forces he cannot touch; I will do everything for him if he will let Me. Only let a man grant he needs it, and I will do it for him.” The Shadow of an Agony,Oswald Chambers
“If we wish to erect new structures, we must have a definite knowledge of the old foundations.” John Calvin Coolidge
Atheism is a post-Christian phenomenon.
If social justice looks like your hand in someone else's pocket then you are stealing.
Obama is going after the rich right now. In 2013 he will be going after the middle class ~ he wants to confiscate all private sector money. Be aware. Power corrupts.
He who drinks the King’s wine sings the King’s song...The Obama regime would have us center our lives around materialism and comfort as supplied by government. Don't drink the wine.
Any fool can march and demand fairness. Marxists whine about wealth and corporations and inequality while doing nothing to create prosperity themselves. They do not create wealth. They create primeval noise and rancor. They spend their time stomping their feet and making demands like adolescent grandchildren.
Obama: America in steep decline.
"In Sweden, giving to charity, absurdly, came to be considered a lack of solidarity, since it undermined the need for the welfare state." - Roland Martinsson
Political coercion and political correctness become a hammer and sickle in the hands of those who decide freedoms for others.
"Abortion is the severest form of racism. Pro-choice abortion/racism is part and parcel of the Democrat's pary platform." Sally Paradise
“...to love democracy well, it is necessary to love it moderately." Alexis de Tocqueville
Capitalism seeks to help others through a servce or product it provides. Free Market Capitalism is the most moral and fair economic system available to man. Capitalism augments personal growth, responsibility and ownership. Charity flourishes under capitalism. Charity dies under subjective "fair share” government confiscatory policies. Socialism redistributes ambivalence and greed.
It’s a crime: The Solyndra money laundering scheme took money away from people who really needed it – the taxpayer.
Obama's Moronic Squeeze: consumer price increases and a tax increase with malaise to go before I sleep.
“We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure; it is to be judged, therefore, not by what calamities it encounters, but by what flag it follows and what high town it assaults. The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one's life. But anyone who shrinks from that is a traitor to the great scheme and experiment of being.” G.K. Chesterton
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.
It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction. Albert Einstein
"You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd." Flannery O'Connor
“There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.” C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
God's grace is not about the allowance for sin. God's grace is about the conversation God allows regarding sin.
From the book of Proverbs: We are not to favor the rich or the poor. We are to pursue justice.
"Always keep in contact with those books and those people that enlarge your horizon and make it possible for you to stretch yourself mentally." Oswald Chambers
One goldfish says to another, “If there is no God who keeps changing the water?”
“The truth is always there in the morning.”
From Cat On A Hot Tin Roof script - playwright Tennessee Williams
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
“America's greatness has been the greatness of a free people who shared certain moral commitments. Freedom without moral commitment is aimless and promptly self-destructive.” John W. Gardner
“Men of integrity, by their very existence, rekindle the belief that as a people we can live above the level of moral squalor. We need that belief; a cynical community is a corrupt community.” John W. Gardner
“In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.” Dorothy L. Sayers
"Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere."
G. K. Chesterton
“The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn
This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
-The prophet Jeremiah, 6:16
"…our common task is not so much discovering a truth hiding among contrary viewpoints as it is coming to possess a selfhood that no longer evades and eludes the truth with which it is importunately confronted.” James McClendon, Ethics: Systematic Theology, Vol. 1
Sir, Lynn Forester de Rothschild’s recent column (“Capitalism thrives by looking past the bottom line,” May 21) provides new evidence of the prescience of legendary economist Joseph Schumpeter. Schumpeter’s essay “Can Capitalism Survive?” argued that even successful business leaders would eventually lose faith in the morality of the free market, signalling i […]
It’s about time someone did, right? The College Fix reports. Brown University, Claremont McKenna College join U. Chicago in defending of free speech Two universities have joined the University of Chicago in defending the importance of free speech and of students being exposed to different points of view. As noted by Reason’s Robby Soave, Claremont […]