Friday, November 2, 2018

Living Between Two Worlds

     Being a Christian has never been an easy assignment for those of us who love our Lord. Walking through temptations, being persecuted  for our faith, and facing the same tragedies in life as those who do not believe can, at times, cause us to wonder why God allows this.  However, Jesus made it very clear that if we are to follow Him we must be willing to take up our cross and to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23).  This means putting aside our self centered plans and demonstrating a willingness to obey God's commands and leading.  Living between two worlds is the challenge that all Christians must face.
     Walking in this secular world some days feels like trying to navigate a mine field especially in our current political environment.  I am reminded, though, of the Scripture that assures us of our identity in Christ.  During His high priestly prayer for His disciples and those who would come after them, Jesus said:  "14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it."  We learn in the Bible that we are present in a world that Satan has dominion over.  Nevertheless, we no longer share the values of this world system we are in so we know there will be clashes.  Our worldview has changed but so has our citizenship.  The Apostle Paul in the third chapter of the letter to the Christians at Philippi referring to the false teachers among them (vs. 18-21) states:  " For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself."  In this passage, Paul makes a distinction between those outside of Christ (the false teachers) and those who are believers.  One will face destruction, but Christians will enjoy the presence of the Lord in heaven.
     While we are on earth, God uses us for His glory that we may enjoy Him forever.  We no longer share the values of the fallen world under Satan's rulership.  This is why we find ourselves the brunt of persecution or at odds with those who do not share our worldview.  In addition, we are God's ambassadors sent to tell others the Good News of Jesus Christ that they too might be set free from sin and death.  We are in this world but no longer of it.  We are co-heirs with Jesus Christ and have an inheritance that no one can take away.  At times, this may make us feel like an alien as we interact with the world system.  Yet, we have some important take aways to encourage our hearts.
     First, though we may face the same heartaches and tragedies that non-believers share, we have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us to carry us through whatever we face.  We are not alone.  We are not hopeless.  Jesus said there would be tribulations we would face but He told us that He had overcome the world.  We have that ability to overcome hardship when we put all our trust in Him.
     Second, we have to realize that when we meet opposition whether political, spiritual or in our jobs, we are not struggling against people but as Ephesians 6:12 tells us:  "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."  Right now, in this nation, there is a lot of hatred, animosity, tension, and fear over all the events taking place.  Look beyond people and see who is behind it.  The Father of lies, murder and deceit is none other than Satan.  But he is a defeated foe.  Therefore, step back and trust in the Lord who is always with you and remember where all this dissension is coming from.
      Finally, remember that we are on a journey.  God is working on us and through us to fit us for heaven.  We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  This means we are to grow day by day in obedience to our Lord.  Yes, we live between two worlds while we are here on earth, but the joy comes in knowing that our citizenship and home are in heaven.  Therefore, spend time in prayer and read God's Word.  This is the lamp to our feet and the light to our path.  Remember Jesus told us to let not our hearts be troubled for He will come again for us.  Selah!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Knowing When to Speak

     Growing up, our family entered into many discussions and debates.  In fact on the almost daily trips to my grandfather's house with my dad, I would sit and listen to them argue politics and the current events of the day.  Being an attorney, my grandfather was quite adept at scoring points in the many discussions they had.  This is perhaps why I chose communication as my major in college.
     Unfortunately, today, people are not able to discuss issues in a civil manner or frequently take offense to anyone who disagrees with them.  I think too much social media, 24/7 T.V. news and lack of skill in one on one conversation may be contributing factors.  It is easy to throw punches at someone behind a keyboard.  So with this in mind, I turned to the Bible to look at the life of Christ.
     Our Savior came for a specific reason...the salvation of those whom God the Father had chosen from before the foundation of the world.  His life would be laid down that our sins might be forgiven.  He also came as the Bible says in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4).  God's plan was perfect in sending Jesus when He did.  The Romans controlled the area where the Jews lived so there was a good deal of political unrest.  In addition, the Pharisees exercised a good deal of influence over how the Jews practiced their faith.  Their effort to keep people from breaking the Commandments resulted in an additional six hundred fence laws so a person would not violate a commandment.  Their yoke upon the people was very burdensome.  Thus, Jesus took an approach to challenge the status quo, and he warned people to beware the "leaven of the Pharisees" which He called hypocrisy (read Luke 12:1-3).  He confronted them and called them "white washed sepulchers full of dead men's bones" rather than the spiritual leaders they claimed to be.  Needless to say, He was not winning friends among these elites of the day.
     Jesus also drove out the money changers from the Temple area because they were cheating the people in the House of the Lord.  His anger was based on a righteous response rather than out of pure hatred and enmity.  We know our Savior experienced the ups and downs like we do, but He never allowed animosity to win the day.  When He was arrested and Peter cut off the ear of a guard, Jesus healed him and rebuked Peter.  He went silently before His false accusers, and did not seek to defend Himself because He was fulfilling what God had sent Him to accomplish.  So what does this tell us about how our Lord handled things?
     Jesus had a balance in all that He said and did.  He confronted wrong, rebuked sin, had compassions on the hurting, healed the sick as a result of His holy character.  He showed anger but He did not sin.  His purpose was to correct and point to God the Father.  Yet, He was meek, humble and tender.  When I read Scripture, I see a perfect man, Savior and Lord.  One who was not afraid to challenge and speak up in defense of truth...for He was the truth.
     We live in turbulent times right now with much upheaval as elections loom before us.  I have never, in all my years on earth, seen as much vitriol, hatred, foul language and violence towards others as I have witnessed at present.  Some in the Christian community feel that we should be silent and not speak up against things that we see happening around us that are not just or fair.  Others (myself included) believe that we need to address issues in a civil manner and stand up for what is right.  Of course, when we speak up concerning issues, we will be attacked for our position and we need to expect that.  Jesus said we are to be light and salt in this dark world, and we cannot be if we
do not engage the culture in which we live.  Our purpose is to serve as an ambassador for Christ, and as we know, ambassadors have to be ready to speak to many issues: spiritual and in our political environment as well.
     If we are to be the feet and hands of Jesus, then we also need to be someone unafraid to speak the truth in love.  We are the voice of the unborn who die by abortion.  We are to speak to perversion and sins which we know God hates.  Likewise, if we wish to keep our freedoms intact, we need to speak truth
to our fellow citizens when misinformation abounds.  I remember reading somewhere that during the Revolutionary War a pastor after giving an impassioned sermon ripped off his robe to reveal a revolutionary uniform and called his congregation to follow him to fight for freedom.
     Everyone needs to pray before they speak and pray after they speak that what they said might be right in the eyes of the Lord.  Each day I pray like David did:  "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).  We aren't going to bat 100 all the time because we are sinners saved by grace, but we do not need to be afraid to speak when the Lord urges us to say something or intervene to correct injustice.  May He give us the courage of a Corrie Ten Boom who was obedient even in the face of tyranny.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Only One Judge Who Knows the Truth

     At the age of 23, I made a commitment to Christ that would radically change the course of my life.
I had gone to church, been confirmed and was active in my youth group, but it wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I really made Christ the Lord of my life.  This commitment was serious and real for me.  My worldview changed and I saw everything in life from a different perspective.  My sins were forgiven by God’s grace and for that I am thankful.  That is why all this hullabaloo over the SCOTUS nomination has troubled me.  People hurling accusations, labeling others and rushing to judgement has not produced answers.  Instead it has divided us even more.  Why?  The Bible has the answer.
     Romans 3:23 tells us:  “...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Then earlier in the chapter vs. 10-18, we read:  “ it is written:  ‘None is righteous no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.  Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.  The venom of asps is under their lips.  Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.  Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known, There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”  In these passages, the Apostle Paul makes it perfectly clear that there is no one who is not a sinner in the eyes of God.  With this in mind, why are people quick to point the finger of accusation at others?  Are they somehow exempt from sin themselves?  Not according to God’s Word.
     This past week, I watched as two people were examined by our Senate Judiciary Committee , and the entire hearing made my heart break.  Here was a man accused of a crime he says he did not commit.  His name, reputation and livelihood are threatened by an unsubstantiated accusation.  Likewise, here was a woman who looked disturbed and perhaps was attacked at some point in her life but had only vague recollections.  So where is the truth?  Only God knows for certain and I am praying diligently for answers as I hate injustice for anyone.  Yet there were people out there certain he was guilty just by accusation alone.
      As I looked at the circus going on in the committee hearing, I wondered to myself if anyone there ever thought about what Jesus said to the woman who had been caught in there very act of adultery.
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7b).  Those that had brought the woman to Jesus thought they would trap him because the Law of Moses said she should be stoned.  However, after Jesus said that, they all walked away.  He told the woman that He did not condemn her and that she should go and sin no more.  What a different approach!  Jesus was perfect but we are not.  Therefore, who are we to judge someone else’s heart?
     This past week on Twitter was rather brutal to say the least.  I rarely do much tweeting but I was interested in the news so I went on.  I engaged in several conversations being as civil as I could be and was called a “fool”, unchristian, and ignorant.  Of course, none of these people know me personally nor my character.  How can they be so quick to judge me?  Disagreeing does not need to include name calling which is the lowest form of argumentation.  But the heart of the matter is that we are not to judge one another.
     In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us these wise words of instruction:  “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-7).
How careful we need to be in what we say to one another and how we respond when disagreements arise.
     Since we live in a day and time of vile language, false accusations and political correctness, we need to think on these things.  Only God can judge a man or woman’s heart and I believe He will reveal truth.  If we have a relationship with Him, we then can have a healthy relationship to one another through Christ.  Without the Lord in our lives our relationships can be rocky at best and toxic at their worst.
     Let us strive to remember a few important things:  Only God can change a heart, attitude or beliefs, we cannot.  We must remember that even as Christians we still carry the flesh around with us and we can fall into sin.  Therefore, we need to be careful not to judge others or name call.  It does not improve relationships.  Along with King David, my prayer is that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart may be acceptable in the sight of the Lord.  Won't you join me in this prayer?