DARKNESS

Is it not possible that we as Christians are subject to the groaning of this world just as anyone else? While we may not fear evil, the ultimate loss of faith, we do need to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

There is, in all of this, a type of abandonment. Some feel abandoned by God whose oft-repeated promises seem to insulate believers from earthly trials. But the God we have come know and trust in Christ subjected himself to the worst the world would offer, to the point of crucifixion. The true sign of the faith is trusting the crucified Christ – the pioneer of our faith and our own journeys. Pioneers lead the way through the worst to discover the best. Even those travellers in long ago America had their share of fear, anxiety, and doubt but they knew to keep their eyes on their leader. (See Hebrews 12:2)

Sometimes even the firmest of believers have to experience what the ancient writer called the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ As we walk blindly through this, God extends his hand to guide us beyond the grave circumstances of earth’s bounds. It is only through this ‘dying’ that we truly encounter Christ. The disciples discovered that truth.

In 1939 amidst the Nazi rise to power, King George VI of England, gave a speech in which he quoted the poet Minnie Haskins, entitled “The Gate of the Year” (1908):

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’

And he replied, ‘Go into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God – that shall be better than light and safer haven than a known way.’

GRACE AND PEACE UPON ALL

 

CRACKS IN THE WALL

Well, NFL play is upon us. I am not a fan of football and in fact am reading a Christian doctor’s opinion that children should never play football again. But that’s for another time.

There is uproar coming in the days ahead, I suppose, over the ‘kneeling’ issue as pertains to players making their protest about injustice towards African-Americans

I have heard from many how this is most disrespectful to the country, the flag and our military. In light of the death of a great servant of our country, John McCain, I share his thoughts on the subject, “’That’s their right to do what they want as citizens,’ McCain told TMZ Sports when asked about the Dallas Cowboy players who took a knee then locked arms in solidarity before playing the Arizona Cardinals ..” Perhaps I digress. Probably it would be most respectful for people to shut off their cellphones, stop talking, eating and drinking and give their full attention to the honor of our nation.

This all begs the question. Is there, in any way, a problem in our nation with criminal justice bias towards African-American people?

I am writing as a white pastor who wants to address the cries of those in our community who feel that Jim Crow is still alive. The below reference is from Wikipedia:

In the early 1830s, the white actor Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice was propelled to stardom for performing minstrel routines as the fictional “Jim Crow,” a caricature of a clumsy, dimwitted black slave.

Now I want to share an illustration. That’s what pastors do.

A man hires a worker to repair some cracks in the wall of his home. Later he hires the same worker to come and repair more cracks that have appeared. Finally, and I am making this short, the worker says, ‘Sir, I can keep coming back and taking your money but the real problem here is your FOUNDATION. It needs repair. The cracks in your walls are due to ‘structural’ damage.’ (The end)

Some folks say there is no more racial oppression in our country. OK- let’s assume that in the worst sense that might be true. However let’s go back in time even as recently as 1981. The KKK lynched a black man. And most people are aware of times before that with issues of slavery, Jim Crow, civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr., etc.

Our current walls that appear to some to have cracks are built upon a damaged foundation. Trust me. It’s all recorded in history. And while the cracks may have been patched here and there they are still going to appear because the foundation, which is many hundreds of years old, is damaged. That may not be the fault of the current homeowner but it is nevertheless true.

We current owners of this home, and now stay with me, this household of faith, to which we all belong, need to walk around the foundation and check this out for ourselves. We need to admit there are problems that go deep.

Yes, in 2008 there was a congressional apology for the 246 years of slavery and subsequent Jim Crow era but with repentance there is always action to be taken; changing how to live now. We are still working on that by the grace of God. God’s forgiveness always leads to better lives.

I have been attentive to the words of the Pope recently who is receiving much negative sentiment because the church is not suggesting ways to stop the evil of child abuse. Now there is a foundation that needs to be repaired.

But back to my reason for writing this. Better lives, more loving lives, neighbor loving neighbor in tangible ways. Jesus told us many times that the strongest foundation for a good life was to listen to him and then PUT HIS WORDS INTO PRACTICE. You can find this in the Sermon on the Mount.

And please know that my writing and intention is all about JESUS, how to respect and honor him in all I do. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, not judge another person, and to look deeply into our human heart. There’s that foundation again. According to Jesus we are to address the disparities in life and make sure that those who know and feel themselves to be marginalized are brought back into the household. (Ok…I admit that there is a sermon in here somewhere).

If Americans, especially us Christians, are going to build a better foundation we need to address what is termed ‘racial bias’ which simply and profoundly means attitudes within us that perhaps are reactions or beliefs we grew up with, about African-American intelligence, ambition, honesty, violence, aggression, etc.

I think that’s what the protests are about and folks are asking how we are going to address that. In the town I grew up in there was an ‘anti-bias task force’ and I am sure we weren’t the only town to realize that bias exists. Perhaps there are injustices that need to be attended to. (And yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition.) I am not an expert in these areas but I am alive and well aware that this goes on in our society. In fact my own foundation could use some repair. I can be faulted for my own silence in addressing the foundation and the cracks.

So I am hopeful that the Evangelical community of Christians as well as our government can hear from the Black community and implement changes whether it be in our criminal justice system, our educational system or generally how we relate to our brothers and sisters of another color within our community.

I heard the President say that he would meet with leaders to consider pardons from prison. But I have not heard anything since that statement. I am sure there will be more ‘kneeling’. I don’t have a personal opinion about the ‘disrespect’ part but I know about protest. I protested the Vietnam War back in the day.

Anyway, the white folks need to invite the black folks to walk together through the house and see how best to repair the foundation. This is a wonderful country and part of what makes it so is that we can listen to and love one another and work together and live together. So in that spirit while conversations are going and injustices are corrected we can ask for a ‘moratorium’ on ‘kneeling’. Except in cases of prayer.

SPIRITUAL DOLDRUMS

It’s been a hard couple of days for me as has been the last month or so. I’m the spiritual doldrums. In nautical terms that the place near the equator where the winds are really too calm to fill the sails of a ship. For me it’s where I am not ‘feeling’ the wind of God’s Spirit. Cranky, tired, prayer-less, and sometimes just want to quit the whole faith thing.

Then I feel guilty as though I am not pleasing God by faith and actions. I want to crawl up with a good book, not necessarily the Bible, and just hide. Maybe you have known that feeling. Oh, I have a few good friends who are supportive, even loving me unconditionally but sometimes it’s not enough.

So I think, ‘what’s God’s take on me at the moment?’ That’s where Grace comes in. And by grace in these circumstances I don’t mean that I win the lottery or that things change a whole lot for me. Grace is something different.

Grace is God’s love for me when I was spiritually dead, lost, and out of touch with God. Jesus didn’t wait for me to ‘get it together’ before he went to the cross. I read in the Bible that Christ is even at this moment praying for me before God. (Romans 8) “Father,” I can just hear him, “here goes Gaffga again.” Then God’s loving action kicks in to remind me I am loved even when I am lost.

It’s like Mackenzie in THE SHACK saying to Jesus, “I feel so lost” and Jesus answers, “Don’t worry. I’m not lost.”

So today I am trusting Jesus to be the pioneer of faith. Yeah, I am way back in the procession following him but he won’t let me go. As people say, ‘it’s not my faith that saves me. It’s the faithfulness of Jesus.’ I remember that and I am held in hopefulness.

Listen, you don’t have to be an ‘on top of the world’ person to be a believer. Lots of people who follow Christ are depressed and even despondent at times. Like Job they don’t necessarily blame God but they don’t like life either. It’s good then when a friend comes along side to just ‘be’ there. Sometimes the silence is good. It’s in that silence that God can speak. Sometimes we just wait for a gentle wind to inflate our sails. That’s where we trust the faithfulness and love of Christ for us. It’s not a happy go lucky trust but rather a calm inner sense that God is ‘for us’. That God will work things to the good.

I was reading Charles Spurgeon the other day. Let me quote him here:

“May I therefore urge upon any who have no good thing about them- who fear that they have not even a good feeling, or anything whatever that can recommend them to God- that they will firmly believe that our gracious God is able and willing to take them without anything good to recommend them and to forgive them spontaneously, not because they are good, but because HE is good.”

So today I trust in the goodness of God. My trust is small but the faithfulness and love of God are great.

But that’s all I can write today. “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” That’s grace.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

I lead a men’s Bible Study at our Church in Colorado. The other night we were discussion the 23rd Psalm and how God provides for us as our shepherd. The question arose concerning places in the world where it does not seem that God is providing the same way for them as for us in this first world country.

We wondered aloud why that is, and talked some about human responsibility, one for the other. And then I came across a piece in this month’s Sojourner’s Magazine, a Christian monthly about Christian responsibility with regards to justice issues. Anyway, here’s the quote:

“We live in a country where 250,000 people die from poverty each year. According to the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, more that 45% of black children are poor; 54% of African Americans make less than a living wage. Here we are, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and we have 400 families in this country that make $95,000 an hour while we are locking people up who simply want $15 an hour and a union.” P.19 (Rev. Dr. William Barber II)*

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t make money if they can. I am addressing the concern in our group wondering how it is that we are being good stewards of God’s provisions when there is much poverty in this first world nation of ours.

The country is so big that I am not sure churches can by themselves make the appropriate assistance. So maybe it’s our responsibility as Christian citizens to elect people who can do more for the ‘least of these’. Just sayin’.

How do the little hungry children say the 23rd Psalm in the evening? I am not even answering the question I am posing. (Is that a rhetorical device?) I am just asking, ‘What can we do as God’s people?’ What can I do?

And, I am still waiting, as of this writing, for Nebuchadnezzar to say something of sympathy for women who are sexually abused. That’s just me, a Christian citizen, speaking for myself.

 

*Dr. Barber is President of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: a National Call for Moral Revival.

THE BICYCLE LESSON. LOVE AND GRACE. A DISTINCTION.

In the Bible the words love and grace are perhaps used interchangeably as in 2Cor. 13:14 ‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ Here we get the sense of the all-encompassing presence of God.

BUT in Biblical Theology grace and love are different. Here’s an example. I love my children very much and want the good for them in their lives. When they were little they wanted to learn how to ride their bikes without the training wheels. Now, I could express my love by saying to them, ‘Oh, I want very much for you to be able to ride your bike. And here, here is your new bike. I wish you well. Go for it.’ That’s love. On the other hand my best move would be to assist them in this training exercise. And so I did. I got them on their bikes, and held the bike for them and went even further by running along side of them as they got the hang of it. And there were times when I let them go that they fell. I was right there to pick them up, dry a couple of tears, maybe apply a band aid and sent them on their way again until they said to me, ‘You can go, dad.’ That is the meaning of grace; love in action, the influence of love, the direction and empowering of love.

In Biblical Theology the grace of God is God’s action. The trinity of God doesn’t need to express grace among themselves. Grace is for those who have fallen from God and who don’t have the ability to get up and get back to God. Grace is God’s moving in their lives to give them that ability.

In the example of the bike lesson my children, by their very connection to me, somehow merited my helping them. But with God, humanity was dead to God until God, by God’s own love, decided to do something to help the creation and us. See, the Bible tells us that while we were sinners and helpless Christ died for us to fulfill the covenant promise of God to bless the whole creation.

I hope this helps to distinguish between love and grace because for a long time I have misused the terms and thus loss much of the meaning of how God in God’s loving character relates to God’s world.

Finally, take a look at this verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (good to read the whole chapter for the best context).

Chapter 2:

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (NRSV)-Bold and underlines are mine.

 

 

 

 

WAKE ME WHEN WE GET THERE

Hope, as translated in the Message version of the Bible, is ‘keeping alert to what God will do next’. (Romans 5:5) We know that God is involved in our lives. Jesus was and is God’s loving presence making his home among us (John 1:14) He came to prove that God is ‘for us’ and not against us. (Romans 8:31). He came find those of us who have been ‘lost’ and bring us home. He comes not to judge but so save. (John 3:17)

All this and much more leads to ‘hope’ because the same God who was in Christ is in us by his Spirit (Romans 5). It is an organic and intimate hope. It’s in our DNA as believers and those yet to be.

Sometimes when we were kids our families would go on car trips with my parents, dad being the designated driver. And as could happen we’d get a bit lost but dad always said that he knew or could find the way. And it’s because we trusted him that we knew everything would be okay. But, as I still felt a tad uneasy with these ‘strange’ journeys, I would decide to go to sleep in the back seat trusting that when I awoke all would be well. Our dad was good to us. He could be trusted. Even asleep I was alert to the good that would eventually happen. HOPE.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.” And every day is a journey with God. Hope is keeping alert to where God is taking us even in the most daily routines and into the darkest of nights. And it is only God’s goodness to us, his children, that gives us any certainly even in uncertainty, that the journey will be blessed.

Bonhoeffer being in a prison cell had hope that he would be released. But as time went on he began to realize that his death was inevitable. But even in that realization he did not lose hope. His last words were hope-laden. “This is the end but for me it is the beginning.” These words are a mirror of Jesus’ prayer on the cross, ‘Father into thy hands I give myself.” Paul reflecting on his dark days wrote, ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gaining even more.”

These are all statements of hope, not naïve positive thinking. They have a foundation in the promise and person of God. They are borne of experience with God and through redemption by Christ.

So we never give up. But if you have to for a while (like falling asleep on a trip) know that ‘while scary uncertain stuff comes at night, joy always comes in the morning.’ (From Psalm 30:5)

Remember this. Hope always contains a bit of uncertainty because we still live earthbound and in the flesh. See faith is saying yes to following Christ- hope is the anticipation of the good in the journey.

Hope can be like the man who is asked by Jesus if he, the father, really believes that his son can be healed. The man responds ‘I believe, help my unbelief, my doubt.’ Sort of like saying, ‘Jesus I trust you and I know what you can do but there is reservation within me, a feeling of doubt about which I must be honest and even with that doubt I will trust you.’

That would be like my dad saying to me, ‘Son do you believe I can find the best route on this trip?’ ‘Sure dad, but would it be okay if I took a little nap back here and then you can wake me when we get there.’

RELIGIONLESS CHRISTIANITY

I have taken up readings by and about Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) once again.

He was a Lutheran pastor who gave his life in resistance to the Nazi Reich of the 30’s and 40’s. And what he observed in Germany was a piety that pushed God away from the center of a person’s life. In this way God was safer.

This marginalization of God was done by language, ceremonies, and even church sacraments. One could be a Nazi and still give allegiance to God through the label of ‘Christian’ and even go so far from the center to have a ‘God blessed baptism’ without the effects. (It reminds me of a scene from ‘The Godfather’.) The same people who received the church sacraments could be the same persons who were anti-Semitic and executed their own citizens for the security of the Reich.

It’s hard to imagine how the German Nationalists could live with themselves. The reason perhaps is that they pushed God to the periphery of their lives, A God to whom they were only accountable for their religious observances and not their day to day lives.

We do and have done the same in America, myself included. We use our religious labels like ‘born again’ or ‘evangelical’ as ways of aligning ourselves with the God of religion. We get baptized, carry large study Bibles and join churches as a means of attaining an acceptable righteousness with God.

But what truly matters is very little of any of this. What matters is Christ, not religion. Christ is the understanding of Bonhoeffer was the epitome of ‘giving ones life for another’. In Philippians 2 Paul writes that we are to have the attitude, the mindset, the character of Jesus who ‘gave up power’ and his equality with God to become a servant to humanity even to the point of dying on the cross. That’s the center where Jesus lives and to where he calls us. In the vocation of salvation, to which we are called, we are to be a people who are for ‘all the others’ not just the few who belong to ‘our group’. Jesus didn’t die for only the Jews. He died for everyone, for all people. He was/is the Lamb of God who takes away ‘the sin of the world’. (John 1)

So if I am called to be Jesus’ disciples whom do I get to exclude in the name of nationalism, politics, the economy or even safety. Jesus did not call us to be ‘safe’ in this world. Rather he said we should carry a cross and deny ourselves, which is the only real way to discover who we really are.

‘Religion’ keeps us thinking that this is what we have really done. I Tithe. Wow, what a burden, a cross to bear. Jesus said that the very people who tithed were the same ones who neglected weightier matters of just and mercy.

Here’s the Message Version of Luke 11:42 “I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God’s love. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.

And now one of our states has a ‘good Christian’ man running for the U.S. Senate. His past is questionable with several allegations of sexual abuse. He has been compared with Joseph the carpenter who married a young virgin, Mary and bore a son, Jesus. So what’s the problem? And it was 40 years ago. It’s not relevant, some say. And he’s good for the country, a quality that outweighs any past behavior.

See what Bonhoeffer means by pushing God to the peripheral even while using God to condone our own character.

Remember Paul in 1Cor. 13 writing that we can ‘do’ or ‘perform’ all the right acceptable and seemingly moral behaviors but with love it counts, in the salvation vocation to which we are called, for nothing.

God did not send his Son to only save our personal souls to go to heaven when we die but to establish once and for certain His Kingdom, the beachhead for a reconciling of earth and heaven. In Luke 4 Jesus tells about his own presence on earth.

God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
to set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”– Message Version

We are called to follow Jesus in the center of all life, loving others, those on the fringe of life, needing to know the love and blessing of God for everyone. We are called to be the light of the world- the whole world.

And as Jesus taught, ‘not even the powers of hell can stop that kind of church’.

We are the bride, getting ready for the Bridegroom to meet us, to feast with us and to restore this creation to a new heaven and new earth. That cannot happen with God on the periphery of our lives. We are not looking for a Christian State but rather the state of Christians to make Christ the center.

And listen- I’m no pillar of virtue when it comes to all the above. I have performed many religious acts and ceremonies that I have thought appeased God and even after 60 years of being ‘a Christian’ I need Christ more than ever at the CENTER, the center of all I am and do. Thanks be to God for his grace in all of that.

Maranatha

 

 

 

 

MY PRAYER

Lord Jesus I come to you because I need some good serious learning from my God.

I am thinking about violence today, Lord. It’s overwhelming. It’s ubiquitous- in families, on the streets, in churches, at concerts and against all kinds of people. It’s on an international scale. We are fearful, anxious and angry.

I am thinking of you Lord who had every reason to be violent against your enemies, against those who were so set against you. Paul wrote somewhere that vengeance belongs to you but you never exercised it. Oh maybe against a few tables in the Temple but not against your adversaries. You wept over those who resisted you. You forgave a thief in his dying moments. You pardoned all your accusers and executioners. Somehow you are even going to restore your whole creation, the good, bad and ugly. Please give us some of your spirit to know how you are doing this.

When we consider your life it doesn’t seem that you were afraid. If anything, you looked evil in the eye and took it to the cross with you. You even let it take you to the cross. That was your own loving scheme to destroy the power of evil to hurt us. With just a word you drove the demonic powers to their ruin.

How is it that we have moved so far away from you? We’ve taken to protect our own little kingdoms instead of trusting yours first. Fear has caused us to amass more weapons of violence than ever. How did things get so bad?

Certainly there are ‘bad’ people out there but it seems that your goal was not to destroy them but to create a community that would be able to influence them, be agents of change for good in this world.

How often, Lord, did you tell us ‘fear not’ even for the people out to kill our bodies but couldn’t harm our souls. I’m not sure that assurance is planted in my own soul never mind taking it to the world. Have we gotten to the pointe of protecting ourselves so well that we think or act like we don’t need you?

And Lord, what about all this family abuse, sexual and otherwise. It’s rampant and now every day someone is being accused of assaulting others. Can we not find loving ways to combat this and other forms of evil? Is your church become impotent, prayer less, and loveless?

You know, Lord, that much of it starts with anger- plain ole simple egotistical anger. It’s in my own heart so I’m not judging others. Even conversations about violence bring anger to a boil in conversations that become heated arguments.

I feel like there are two kinds of people going into the Temple again to pray. One is standing and praying. Thank you Lord that I have this all figured out. Thank you for my righteous ways of violence against those who are my and your enemies. And the other person is simply praying, ‘Lord Jesus have mercy upon me, a sinner.’

Jesus, wasn’t there a time when you could have called 10,000 angels to come and rescue you and destroy your enemies but somehow you would rather trust you life to your Father. How did you do that? Can I do that?

Lord you could have come and taken the world by storm and simply destroyed your enemies but instead we are told you gave up all you power, your equal standing with God and humbled yourself to the point of becoming a servant and even further- to the place where you gave up your life. And in that same place we are told to have YOUR attitude, YOUR mind. Why does that make so many of us afraid? Why are we ruled by fear? Have we needed to replace the crucifix with some sort of gun or a tank or a nuclear bomb? That would look ridiculous and maybe that’s how it does look to you.

I fear Lord that you will leave us to ourselves with our greed, our boasts and guns and you will go to the poor, the vulnerable, the people who most trust you. Maybe you have already? Please don’t abandon us. There are many trusting people right here in our own nation, in our communities of faith who really want to know you and know your ways and know how you love so well. You are our fortress, our rock.

And Jesus, you tell us not to try to overcome evil with evil but rather with good. How can such good infiltrate the masses of terrorists seeking to destroy us? Maybe, just maybe we’ve not tried the good enough. The loving way seems weak and we have to entrust its results to you. Please help us towards that way, to beat our swords and egos into plowshares and instruments of peace and righteousness. It’s not about being strong is it? It’s about the power of love, isn’t it?

Jesus, I fear we have created a culture of violence that is hard to reverse and our little attempts seem so futile and risky. Violence seems to be our choice to resolve conflicts everywhere. Please help us all, perpetrators and victims to see this is not the way you set before us. We are to choose life, not death.

Lord, we need you grace to be sufficient in our weakness. I want to trust you more, be more expressive of your world conquering love, seek you more, plead with you more to be present to those involved in violence.

And all the while I want to pray for those who mourn, those who are too weak to even speak for themselves, like the little 18-month-old child and the unborn, those whose countries are on the brink of annihilation because the big nations are preparing for war.

And Lord please have mercy upon all your people in all your creation that they may have a resurrection to eternal peaceful life with you that they couldn’t have on this earth.

And Jesus, my own confession is that I am not all that peaceful. I think to live in your love but my first impulse at any kind of hurt is to be angry inside and on the outside. Please help me to establish your life in my life that I may speak and act as one who walks with the Prince of Peace.

WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE?

Forget the tweets and twitters. Never mind the election scandals. And fear not the terror that stalks by day or night. There is only one power and authority that is holding this earth and we its inhabitants together. That power is love. And love has a name. Jesus.

In Colossians 2:10 we read that Christ is the head over every power and authority and holds everything together. (Colossians 1:17)

No matter how it appears the Kingdom of God has arrived in fullness in Christ at his death and resurrection. It’s for all of us. It’s for you folks who even do not believe this. It’s not fake news. It has the highest reliability. It’s news that can be trusted. Listen we’ve had it, most of us, with the current news real or not. We need some good news and here it is. No matter who you are or what you have been or the doubts you have about the world or yourself you can know for certain that you are part of this Kingdom family that God has set up on this earth. God’s grace makes that possible and each step of faith brings us into his realm, where he and no other authority rule.

It’s not escapism. In fact living with Christ will place us solidly in the realm of love in this world. Heaven begins here. God’s influence is here.

Christ’s reign is not a dictatorial power but rather a strong disarming influence over the whole creation. It was love that held Jesus to the cross to remove the blindness of sin from the world so that more and more people would come under the sway of his heart changing love.

Even at this moment, in ways I don’t fully understand Christ is in the process of reconciling this world, this creation back to God. The towers of Babel are falling. Empires are tumbling. The stranded arks are finding dry land. The covenant that was made with Abraham is being fulfilled. Those who have sat in darkness are finally having light shine on them.

Death, terror and heartache abound but these are not the final words for this world. God won’t allow that for his beloved creation. Yes, suffering must be addressed but in the light of Christ not in a faithless void. No earthly power has the final say. No, the final words are from Jesus who tells us to fear not because the Father has given us the Kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Five hundred years ago Martin Luther by the grace of God stood against the earthly powers to proclaim the realm and reality of Christ. He lived amidst danger, emperors, threats and plagues. But give a look to some of the words he wrote from his famous hymn, ‘A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD’.

‘And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.’

SEE NO EVIL??

After the events of the past few days I feel the need to speak out, not as one associated with any political party, but as a Christian.

I am convinced that the President has given tacit approval to hate groups within our country. Groups like the KKK, the neo-Nazis, White supremacists and others sense the Presidents’ sanction for their behavior. I believe this behavior stems from ‘EVIL’, pure and simple. They wish to take back their country. From whom? We have already taken this country, by extermination, from Native Americans and America has built this country through enslavement of African Americans. And now under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’ these white nationalists are threatening Jews and other minorities against whom they will fight with force if necessary.

We do not have a moral leader at the helm of our nation. We have a power hungry egotist. He is doing virtually nothing to protect the rights of those who have been so downtrodden in our history. And now he is equating the protests of ‘the left’ with the EVIL of the neo-Nazis and others like them.

I cannot speak to the heart of the President but a tree is known by its fruit. Jesus said that. I know for myself that my own words and actions speak at times of a heart and will that needs transformation. I believe that for all Christians and if a leader calls him or herself by the name of a follower of Jesus then let the words hold true for them as well. Words that are spoken reflect a certain character no matter how well those words are then reinterpreted by the speaker or spokespersons.

Christians, I believe, must stand, in the strongest way, against any Nazi expression. While it may be ‘free speech’ it is EVIL and what happened at that Rally and especially to the young woman who was murdered was EVIL. The people ‘on the left’ may have their ‘issues’ but the EVIL perpetrated by hate speech must be fought by the expression and prayers of Christian believers, among others. Behind the EVIL of the neo-Nazis is the Satan who desires to defeat faith and the faithful.

The Christians of today who are as complacent as the Christians were in Nazi Germany are guilty for non-action (myself included) against the EVIL we witnessed. Consider the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who spoke out against the Nazis in Germany. These words in his radio address were censored.

“If the leader tries to become the idol the led are looking for–something the led always hope from their leader–then the image of the leader shifts to one of a mis-leader, then the leader is acting improperly toward the led as well as toward himself. The true leader must always be able to disappoint. This, especially, is part of the leader’s responsibility and objectivity. “ (The day after Hitler came to power.)

 If anything needs to be taken back in America it is the courage of the conviction of Christians to follow God and not Caesar.

Read these words from a French sociologist and political theorist:

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
― Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)