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Knowing Me, Knowing You

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house.  And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.”  Hebrews 3:6

“Jesus, you know every single thing about me.  I cringe at times that you know the parts I try to keep hidden.  When I realize you still love me and want the best for me it brings me great joy.  I know your thoughts are higher than mine and your ways can be mysterious but I want to know you as best I can to bring up my end of this relationship.  Help me to get as close to you as I possibly can so that when I am faced with standing for your Name, I can fully glorify You. Amen”

I asked them what they would do if an acquaintance or stranger told them something horrible about another member of our little Bible study group.  That this sweet, kind woman we know from meeting with her each week had been terribly unkind to a child.  And without hesitation they all were willing to stop this gossiper in their tracks.  “That doesn’t sound like her.”  “That’s not the friend I know.”  “Are you sure you have the right person?”  They responded.  I asked how they knew their friend would never be unkind to a child.  And they all said because they know her character from spending time with her.

And then I said to them, “Now, a family member or friend comes up and says to you, ‘Jesus would be ok with an abortion.’  What would you say? “  Some hemmed and hawed a bit.  Another said firmly, “No He wouldn’t.”  For the former I asked them why they wouldn’t be so sure.  They didn’t want conflict.  They were a bit unsure if scripture was thrown at them what to do or say.

For the later, I asked how she could be so sure.  And her response was perfect.  “Because I know Jesus.”

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’"  Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus recognized that there will be plenty of people who call themselves followers.  Who attend church and appear to be in a relationship with Him.  But He knows who is making a real effort to know Him as much as He knows us.  For my friends who struggled a bit with my question they work hard at knowing who God is and His character.  They KNOW the answer to probably every false statement said about Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes it just takes practice being able to stand up for what we know to be true and good.  And that’s exactly why we meet weekly to talk about God – who He is, what He has done and will do and how much He loves His creation.

Friends, the next time you are at church take a moment to look around.  Is your church one that encourages everyone to bring their Bibles, open them up and take notes?  One that makes Bible study a priority?  A church whose focus is squarely on getting to know God – not being your personal counselor?  Because I don’t know about you but when I was in college and even high school, that’s how I learned the subjects well.  I studied, diligently.  And when we are given the gift of having someone either ask us a question about God or the chance to correct a falsehood about Jesus we need to be prepared so that we can speak of the glory of God, of how He knows us and loves us.  

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Brain Power

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26

It’s a sad state we find ourselves in where you can get more sympathy for killing cows than human babies.  According to the American Life League more than 61.8 million children have been aborted since 1973.  The elevation of animals over humans sees countless protests for using animals for food as “good” yet protests in front of an abortion clinic as “bad.”  Any Christian who has submitted themselves to the Word of God can easily read God’s directives in Genesis where He has given man, not only caretaking responsibility but also the use of animals and plants as sustenance.  

To be placed in this position by God required making humans unique.  Not only did He give us the concepts of right and wrong along with various emotions but also higher brain power.  While I dearly love my dog Tucker, he will only ever reach a certain level of intelligence.  He’s pretty smart —  kinda like a two year old child.  Which makes him smart and dopey at the same time!

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15

Even someone who we might consider to be the least intelligent among us or someone  with a mental disability excels in mental capacity from the beasts of the earth.   As humans we can be ever thankful for God giving us brains that create and understand justice, morality, empathy, love, anger, sadness, our mortality and beauty.  Our ability to not just dream of the future but to create a path to that future, be it a new building,  a new method for delivering products, designing a rocket, or figuring out how to explore the  depths of the sea, sets us on top of the list of the living things on this planet.  God created a brain so unique in this world that it even knows how to analyze itself!

What a great gift He has given us humans!  I’m so thankful for the responsibility He has given us because with it comes the tools to be great stewards of His creation.

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Contend for the Faith

Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  Hebrews 10:33-35

Our country has become a virtual cafeteria of different religions, cults, and non-Christian world views that are all vying for supremacy on America’s religious landscape.  Our country is also currently confronted by many tough domestic and global issues.  We need Christian wisdom and biblical discernment as never before.  

Ron Rhodes, 5 Minute Apologetics for Today

That phone call that dreary night will never be forgotten, at least by me.  And I wasn’t even the person in trouble.  I wasn’t the one who desperately needed to hear the right words to save a life.  But I was in need of knowing the right words to say.  And because I didn’t have the wisdom, the strength of faith I have now, I must take part of the blame for ending a life that night.  

My friend’s voice was filled with desperation.  She was pregnant.  She was also just 19, a college student far from home, a woman who was having an affair with a married man (who had also gotten another woman pregnant).  I had counseled her before, over and over, trying to get her to stop seeing this man.  He was slimy and untrustworthy.  But of course, he was oh so different with her – a genuine prince apparently.  And so, a life of unwanted, unprepared motherhood was staring at her in the face.  What would she tell her parents?  How could she show her face?  My immediate response? “You must get an abortion of course.”  

This young woman who dreamed of being married one day and having many children was looking for a way to erase her mistakes.  To reboot her dream of becoming a nurse first then having a family.  And I helped her take what seemed to be the easy path.  We washed our hands of it all and moved forward with both our lives.  But I have never forgotten what I did.  And I doubt she has either.

I wasn’t a Christian at the time but I was a member of the human race.  A person that valued fairness and justice.  A person who for the most part thought she was a “good person.”  I had no one in my life telling me different, showing me a different way.  It wasn’t until I drew closer to Jesus that I realized how far from the truth I was really living.  

The problem was I then swung too far in the other direction.  I took up the mantle of “truth” and forgot about the Royal Commandment – to love one another.  And I think when we Christians get ourselves mired in political and social issues we can forget about that place of balance that God seeks for us.  We can forget about what we are really needing to accomplish in God’s name.

In the United States, the Republican/conservative/right leaning parties are automatically associated with Christians.  And yes, there are many of the same values involved.  But to assign our faith to one political party’s platform is a mistake in so many ways.  For one, it politicizes the message of Jesus. For another it assumes that all party stances are within the biblical realm.  It also assumes there aren’t people in other parties that profess their Christian faith.  

And so, when we come personally up against a faith/biblical/moral issue we may frequently pull back from our commission of helping others out of a sin-filled life because we don’t want to be labeled a “right winger,” a “bigot,” a “nut job” or any other derogatory statements.

To be fair, too many of our churches have either abdicated their responsibility to teach their flock about so many hot button issues such as homosexuality and abortion and how to respond correctly.  While others have so politicized their churches you can’t tell the difference on a Sunday between a patriot rally and a sermon.

A new friend of mine told me how she was visiting various churches trying to find a new church home.  One visit took place on the 4th of July – the U.S. Day of Independence.  As she stood for the beginning worship, she noticed all the songs were patriotic ones.  And when the US flag was marched in by worshippers, she got up to leave.  At the door the pastor stopped her and asked why she was leaving.  Her response?  “I came to worship God, not the United States.”  She loves her country but her love of God doesn’t have anything to do with her country.

And so, like the women in my Bible study groups we ask questions that our churches fail to address or in the way they need to be addressed.  We feel safe to dig deep into what the Bible truly says about homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, and more.  But we aren’t theologians – that’s why we go to church.   To hear the Word of God taught to us in ways we can turn around and use them out in the world.  It’s sad, to be honest, to hear Christians desperate for knowledge and yet left unfed week after week.

One of the ladies in my study group recently had a profound breakthrough related to this topic.  She is very sweet and prides herself on creating good relationships.  But she realizes her desire to not “rock any boat” has also been an excuse for not speaking the truth + love when it is needed most.  “I’ve realized that in the past I had the excuse of being naïve as to the expectation of what God wants from me.  But I can’t use that excuse anymore.  I know he wants me to contend for the faith.  I know what is truly at stake.  I’m now struggling to see what that looks like for me,” she said.

I’m not going to take each major issue facing our world today because I am not a theologian with lots of important degrees to back up my words.  But I will direct you to the steps you might take to be better prepared when your friend tells you their daughter wants to start hormone treatments to become a man.   Or, when your co-worker tells you that having a nice house in a nice neighborhood is white privilege and you should be ashamed.  We also need to be prepared to step back and know when a political issue maybe doesn’t have any biblical connection at all and just must be looked at from a “good citizen” point of view.  Because yes, not everything we deal with is a faith hill to die on – but how we deal with those issues is.

You’ll remember at the beginning of this post I referenced the book 5 Minute Apologetics for Today.  It was written in 2010.  But you’ll find most of the issues we face currently.  It’s a great, easy read for giving us biblical perspectives.  In addition, here are 4 steps that were recently explained in my current Bible study on Jude.  

As background, Jude (Jesus’ brother) was writing to a church that was infiltrated by false teachers.  Teachers who were leading lives and encouraging believers to give themselves over to sexual immorality and more.  Towards the end of his letter, before he tells the believers how to confront the false teachers, he gives them these four pieces of advice:

  1. Build up your knowledge and confidence in the Word.  Learn about and study the Bible, God’s character, His promises and the judgment to come.  Be immersed by also finding a good biblical teaching church – not one that just tells you some good stories each week.  Join Bible studies and do the work! Jude 20/Eph 2:19
  2. Pray not in the flesh but in the Spirit.  Go to the Holy Spirit and ask for help in what to pray.  By doing so you’ll show God your dependence on Him.  Ask for help in knowing what issues you should be concerned about and which you should just leave alone. Jude 20/Rom 8:26-27
  3. Keep yourself in the love of God.  Fight to resist your own passions and doctrine that keeps you separated from God.  Lean into God for His promises and His direction. Jude 21/John 15:9
  4. Stay in the hope of the mercy that is waiting for you.  As Jackie Hill Perry says about this, “We have been saved from God’s wrath for God.”  The knowledge and hope of what is to come when Jesus returns should feel like a protection.   We have something better in store for us than man’s approval.  We need to keep our sights on this so the persecution we might face doesn’t silence us. Jude 21/Heb 11:25-26

On a final note, I want to encourage you to do a study on Revelation.  It helps to do it with others.  Don’t just read Revelation.  It’s probably too confusing to be honest.  A good study with people you trust will reveal to you what so many of our churches seem to fail to remind us each and every week – that judgment is coming to all.  We have a greater commission than just being “nice Christians.”  We are commissioned to help God save souls.  We might want to start in our own households.

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Sojourners & Exiles

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:4

We Christians are sojourners and exiles.  This is not where our ultimate allegiance lies!  

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

We certainly aren’t lacking in opportunities to engage in political discourse these days.  From mask wearing to vaccine mandates and budget crises to abortion laws the world around us is in quite a turmoil.  But when, as Christians, are we to engage?  When are we called to join the fight and stand resolutely in our faith?  These next two posts will look at our life as Christians and the political realm.  First, starting with what role the church, and therefore Christians, play in our common citizenry.

But let’s back up a bit.  For those of us living in the United States we’ve seen a serious deterioration from our Christian-held values over the last 70 years or so.  Not long ago almost all businesses were closed on Sundays and you certainly couldn’t by alcohol on that day.  Now, a business that makes the decision to not be open on Sundays because of their beliefs is vilified.  I’ve heard different arguments about whether or not the United States was a special project by God.  Whatever stance you may take on that we can be certain that every single nation was formed by God.  Every single head of state has been placed in their position by God and therefore is subject to His expectations and final judgment.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17

That the United States was founded with God and the idea of His sovereignty at the forefront should not, however, be in dispute.  Besides the federal founding documents, all state constitutions, except one, reference God and His oversight of said government in the beginning of those documents.  It was then left to the citizens, as it has throughout the history of the world, to maintain that stance.

When you get deep in to C.S. Lewis’ great Christian apologetic book, Mere Christianity, you’ll find the concept of a Moral Law.  Through every empire, every phase of human existence we turn to this moral law for guidance.  We know what basically is wrong (ie: killing another human for gain or pleasure) and what is right (ie: helping a widow or orphaned child).  And, as Mr. Lewis argues, no matter your faith or lack thereof those concepts have been placed in our hearts and minds by someone.

But as a society drifts further away from a common faith, as in the case of much of Europe, North America and South America, we create new ways of working around what we know to be right and wrong.  We bend the moral law to fit the desires of our flesh and we seek to be accepted by the world.

You cannot make men good by (man-made)law; and without good men you cannot have a good society.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

And so, as Christians we watch as one of the last bastions of religious freedom, the United States, which also built upon that with many other freedoms, begin to crumble.  And we can so easily misplace our fears on our elected officials and the laws they create. 

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:8-9

At the time Paul wrote this letter to Timothy the Romans ruled with an iron fist.  Anyone that did not submit to their laws was imprisoned, tortured, killed, or pushed out of everyday society.  And Paul reminds not just Timothy but all of us who read this message that we have one commander to whom we must be most concerned – God and His son Jesus Christ.  We are set apart to be holy and live a holy life.

We are reminded that our role in this world is a sort of dual citizenship – to the country we call home and the home that waits for us.  It’s a balancing act that the disciples knew all too well.  We are to obey the laws of our government as good guests yet remembering we have limits based on God’s expectation of our adherence to His moral laws and knowledge of the final judgment.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles,to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12

It may come as a surprise to many Christians in the United States but it isn’t our role to create a “just society.”  It is our role to seek justice for those in need in our communities but we can’t right every wrong.  We need to be comforted that God is in charge and we can, as individuals and corporately do His good works.  But Jesus, time and again, never sought regime change.  He sought heart change. He sought obedience by His followers to God’s expectations.

Being a sojourner did not require isolation from surrounding societies.  Abraham seems to have understood the need to exercise prudential judgment about how, when and with whom to share common activity.  One approach did not fit all cases.

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

So does this mean we shouldn’t try and affect our government’s choices or laws?  No, it’s just remembering who we serve first, resolutely.  It’s remembering the difference between violently protesting a wrong and speaking out within the framework of how God wants us to act.  It’s figuring out where God and the church stands on an issue (ie: abortion) and where something may not be biblical at all (ie: the federal budget).  It’s making sure our heart and mind set firmly with God, not the world.

Believe me, I’ve struggled with these issues a lot.   I’ve stood on street corners waving my country’s flag and promoting a candidate.  I’ve stood up to politicians who have demonstrated a lack of moral character. Neither of which are wrong for a Christian.  I vote in every single election. Which is, in a way, expected as a Christian. But as my faith progresses, I’m taking a new view of my place on this big blue planet.  When I firmly set King Jesus as my authority, as my hope, as the Lord and Savior not just of my world but of every single human that has existed and will exist, my perspectives change.

As Christians we cannot continue to say we trust God, we know God will judge in the final conflict and still scream in outrage at people who disagree with our political opinion.  That message speaks loud and clear to non-believers that we don’t trust God.  That we haven’t set Him as our authority. That we have no concern for eternity. 

It’s time, fellow sojourners, to pull out our passports and remind ourselves of our future travel plans.  To stand resolutely with the one King that will judge everyone for all ungodly acts.  He has not appointed us commissioners of that judgment.  Yet, we are also not called to be passive in our worldly citizenry — sitting back and watching the world fall around us. He has appointed us as soldiers to exhort others to follow Him before it is too late.