CAN I GET A WITNESS? (AND A BOOK RECOMMENDATION)

By God’s grace in Christ I am a follower of Jesus. The Lord is central to my life here and for all eternity. And as weak a follower as I might be, I trust that I belong to my God.

I want to be a witness for Christ. I want my life to reflect the goodness of God to all God’s creation. The word ‘witness’ originally meant ‘martyr’ and though I have not given my life (literally,) I do want to shed my ego, my selfishness, pride and such to be a more loving example of what following Christ means.

The church as the body of Christ, made up of people wanting to be like Christ in loving and just ways, is a witness too. Like Jesus we want to be loving, compassionate, and just as we care deeply for all people especially the brokenhearted. We want to be fair. We’d like our next generations to grow up with a sense of goodness and love. And we want them to be provided for. I understand all of that.

But something has happened. We have lost our way. We want to be #1. We want our nation to be #1. We want to be strong and make America great. And in the process we have dealt unfairly with the poor, the people of color and the immigrants at our border. Oh, I understand we don’t want too many of ‘them’ coming to America but my own great grandparents came here for the same reasons as others have for coming.

And what grieves me deeply is that we are losing our witness for Christ. Riots in the streets. Lawlessness. Violence. And the example that we are following as Christians is a leader who is lacking in Christian virtue. He is speaking to the basest qualities of our natures. He is a man without a moral compass. His arsenal contains vitriol and incendiary language for those who oppose to him. He is selfish and causes many Christians to take up the sword against those opposed to him and against each other. This can’t be.

Our leader is pharisaical. He aligns himself with religious purposes but inside is full of selfishness. He claims to be pro life but only so he can win the evangelical vote. That is a tarnished witness on the part of evangelicals who side with him on that issue. I am pro life too but pro life for everyone affected by poverty and hunger, oppression and racism and I am pro life for people in other countries that our leader calls ‘shitholes’. That’s not right. It’s not what Christ would do or say.

Some call our leader a ‘Cyrus’ after a pagan that instituted policies on behalf of the Israelites. But as a Christian I cannot be racist, unjust, unloving, and claim that being pro life aligns me with God’s will.

In the world, in our neighborhoods and even inside ourselves our witness is being erased to the point that we even begin to think that what our leaders are doing is all good.  When Germany rose to power in the 30’s the churches for the most part sided with Hitler for strengthening the economy and making Germany a world power to the extreme of rationalizing a take over of the neighboring world at that time. We cannot go in that direction.

We are disciples of Jesus, not of any political leader. We take our cues from Jesus. We are not some kind of exclusive club that determines its membership by allegiance to the current leader. As Christians we don’t make policies. We live by what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments; loving God and loving our neighbor. We are not doing that. We are hating each other, mocking, marginalizing and making it very difficult for others to see Christ in who we are or what we do.

There are serious problems within our country. The prophets of the Old Testament were not afraid to point them out in Israel and ask for forgiveness from God. Jesus saw how law and order along with a lack of love had replaced God and he pointed it out and called for repentance and love. His first words were, ‘Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.’

And no we don’t condone the violence we see in the streets but we don’t condone the injustice that leads to such violence and we don’t condone the language and actions that come from the leader of this country.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that when Christ calls someone, he bids that person to come and die. Not make others suffer and die.

The greatest witness we have for Christ is to love one another, to love the least. Even within our churches today there is such a lack of love and respect as evidenced by churches splitting over politics. This can’t be. Let us speak our minds but let us speak the truth in love.

And finally I need to point out a remedy I see for people on the conservative side. Listen, the Democrats are not going to destroy America in four years. So I say, with a degree of seriousness, get rid of the current leader and then in four years choose someone who reflects the goodness of this land, who represents the best of who we are and not the worst. I know that these words won’t please my democrat friends but it’s my practical solution. And then in 2024 let there be a good contest for the soul of this nation.  

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

And finally, the content of this blog in no way reflects the opinion of the leadership of Eagle Bend Community Church in Colorado.


THE KILLING OF GEORGE FLOYD

As a follower of Christ I must say there is no place in the Kingdom of God life for the unjust killing of George Floyd by the police. And I for one think that Christians must raise their voices as one against such brutal violence on the part of law enforcement. We know all too well that too many black people have suffered violence and death at the hands of those who think they are carrying out justice.

There have always been rationales for the brutality most of us saw on T.V. But as Christians we know better, or should know better.

When the Bible speaks about justice it does so in the context of how the marginalized people were being treated by the authorities of the day. In this instance justice must be brought to bear for those in charge of such brutality against George Floyd. And this is not just on behalf of African Americans. This must be done on behalf of all people. When one someone suffers like this, God suffers and we all suffer.

Christians can’t just read the NEWS. We are part of this NEWS and we may no more turn a blind eye and deaf ear to such horrendous murder than Christians could during the brutality of the Nazi regime.

It’s time again, as it was during the civil rights struggles, to raise one voice, no matter our race, against such violence that surely is contrary to the will of God.

It is up to the followers of Jesus to discern and determine what goes against God’s will and fight against such demonic actions with all the weapons we have at our disposal. (I refer to Ephesians 6) May God help us so to do.

And may God have mercy on the Floyd family and grant peace to Mr. Floyd in God’s eternal peace.

Pastor George Gaffga

 

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.

Guns and the President

My initial reaction to Mr. Obama’s executive actions concerning guns?  Wonderful, amazing, astounding, courageous and in line with the Christian ethic.

Whatever this nation can do to save some of the 30,000 lives that were destroyed last year by guns is a step in the right direction and in accord with everything I believe about what it means to follow Christ in this particular matter.

Gun violence is evil whether done agains oneself or another. It destroys life. There are good and proper ways for people to own guns for the right reasons. With all the other laws and resources we use to make life safer in this nation how can anyone deny the moral validity of doing the same things about guns.

And about the evil people who use guns to destroy the lives of others? More enforcement is in line with why God institutes the governments of the earth. Helping people with mental illness is a noble cause to strive for.

I am not a particularly political person and when I have leanings they are usually on the ‘right’ but this matter has no left or right, only what is good in the sight of the Lord, right along with caring for widows and orphans.

To be pro life means to take action with regards to what the President suggested. I will be looking at candidates who are pro life across the board. I will not have many choices, I fear, and wonder exactly why that is.

But I will, as best a Christian can, support the President in this action. I will do so not because of any political affiliation but because my conscience is held captive by God.