Archive for the 'Linked Articles' Category

Slavery is nothing new.  Check out this blog post by Michael Bird on the early church and slavery.

Slavery is also not just something that happened in the past…. or something from third world countries.

Click to go to their website and read details on each report of human trafficking.

Yes, that’s Richmond, IN with a report. As well as Cincinnati, Dayton, and Indianapolis. Think of all the occurrences that haven’t been reported on that website. I recommend checking out NotForSaleCampaign.org as they have some powerful stories of human trafficking in the U.S. (and around the world).

I love this question from Bird’s post I linked above, “So what the smurf did you do after church last Sunday? Go out to a restaurant for lunch, went home for a nap, did some light shopping, or mounted a rescue mission for slaves?”

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Peter Enns: “Show me someone who expresses in anger his views of God, and I will show you someone who is deeply afraid of losing control of God.”

Here is the entirety of the article from which that quote comes.

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NOTE: This is a repost of an article written by Len Winneroski, a friend of mine. You can see the original at his blog, here.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18

Have you ever looked up the meaning of your name?  Names are important to God.  For instance the Bible tells us that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), Sarai’s name to Sarah (Genesis 17:15), Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 32:28), and Simon’s name to Peter (Matthew 16:18) to signify important events or roles that each of these individuals would play in God’s plan for humanity. The Bible also tells us that God has new names awaiting those who belong to Him.  Revelations 2:17 promises “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”

Recently a friend told me to check into the Hebrew meaning of the names in the lineage of Adam to Noah (Genesis 5).  In the Hebrew language the number ten symbolizes absolute completeness.  For instance God gave man Ten Commandments, ten plagues were inflicted on Egypt, ten adults are the required quorum for a prayer service in Judaism, and there are ten generations between Adam and Noah.  So what do these ten Hebrew names mean?

According to Chuck Missler (1):

Adam means “man,”

Seth means “appointed,”

Enosh means “mortal,”

Kenan means “sorrow,”

Mahalalel means “blessed God,”

Jared means “shall come down,”

Enoch means “teaching,”

Methuselah means “His death shall bring,”

Lamech means “despairing,”

Noah means “to bring relief or comfort.”

If you put these meanings together you get: man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the Blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing rest.  Amazing.  The plan of salvation in names that I have read over multiple times without much of a thought….

Dear Lord thank you for giving us everything that we need in your Holy Word.  I stand in awe of your wisdom and mercy.  May your will be done now and forever.

(1) www. khouse.org/articles/2000/284/

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The following article is a guest post from a friend of mine, Len Winneroski at Manna and Coffee. Enjoy!

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11 (NIV)

Some of my friends are crazy about sushi. Sushi is vinegar flavored rice that is usually topped with fresh, thinly sliced raw seafood. The raw seafood is called sashimi, which is a Japanese word that means “pierced body.” Sushi is usually eaten with soy sauce that is mixed with wasabi paste. Not all sushi contains raw fish, but this is what normally comes to mind when people think about sushi. To be safe, raw sashimi should be frozen for at least 24 hours before it is thawed and prepared. It takes some skill to prepare raw seafood and it is best when it is eaten within a few hours after preparation.

As I was thinking about the fresh, raw appeal of sushi I couldn’t help but think about how truth is a lot like sushi. There is something so fresh, raw and real when someone speaks truth into your life. For me the Bible is spiritual sushi. Hebrews 4:12 says, “for the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” There are many times that I have been reading the sacred and living Word and felt like God has literally grabbed me by the back of my neck and reached down into my soul.

When you are really looking, you can find God’s truth all around us. There is truth in the sunrise and sunset. There is truth is in a baby’s smile and in a lovers embrace. There is truth in tears and there is truth in laughter. All of these truths point to ultimate Truth. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Isn’t that what we are all looking for, direction, truth and real life?

When God speaks a truth into our lives we should rejoice. How many times has God spoken truth into my life and I did not eat it immediately? I let the truth sit on the plate and just stared at it until I convinced myself that it smelled bad and that it was just not really that appetizing. God doesn’t want us to be afraid of truth. Jesus told us that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Next time that you think about sashimi and sushi, think about Christ’s “pierced body.” Spiritual sushi.

Dear Lord, please forgive me when I am too full of myself to hear your Word to me. Please help me to be courageous enough to love the truth and humble enough to listen, trust and obey.

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As I’ve been working on a piece with Christian P on a Tom Wright from a talk  of his last February, I came across another one of his discussions & lectures – this one at Wheaton college last month – on the historicity of Jesus and the kingdom of God.  There was some good stuff in it that I didn’t want to get lost, so here’s a particular excerpt I thought to be interesting:

The Jesus story is precisely about this world, this creation – not about the private life of one private group of people. The canonical story is the public story of the real Jesus and the real world.

And to live within the gospel story – all its wonderful stuff about what it means to “be people of the story” and so on – I fully embrace that as I sure a lot of you know. But to live within the gospel story is not to enter a private world separated off from the story of the rest of the world; it is to enter the same public space, time and matter world with all of its risks. To imagine that by saying “story” we escape the public world’s risks – or are immune to it – is to fail to see which story it is.

So my first big problem about not really doing history properly is that we shrink the story of God and God’s kingdom in Jesus, and the story of Jesus bringing Israel’s destiny to its climax – those two stories joining up to become one – we shrink that to the abstract categories of “divinity” and “humanity”. It is much “safer” and less risky to do that, but much less like the actual Gospel – both of the canon and of Jesus.

The second point is about the kingdom and the cross. I was at a conference a couple of days ago […] we were talking about this a lot, and I made the point that in my diocese there are many churches which are basically “kingdom churches” that don’t know what the cross is there for; and many that are basically “cross churches” that don’t know what the kingdom’s all about.

There are many Christians (in my church, at least) who see in the Gospels, Jesus healing people, feasting with outcasts and sinners, bringing a new way of life. They say “that’s the man for me. I’m going to follow him. He’s the person. I’m going to really want to be like that. I’m going to go do that stuff as well.” And there are many noble people who have given their lives to kingdom work in some of the toughest parts of my country and your country and so on.

“Follow Jesus…” and then they get this puzzled look and say “what a shame that his public career was cut short so soon. He was on a roll with that stuff. He could have gone on doing that for years…”

[audience laughter]

The fact that we feel that is funny is a measure of where we are, because there are many people for whom that isn’t very funny at all, actually.

But then you see, the opposite of that is that there are many churches for whom it would have been totally sufficient for Jesus to have been born of a virgin and then died on a cross and never done anything in between.

And then you think, “so why did Matthew, Mark, Luke and John bother to write all that stuff up?” And then we’re back to what [earlier speaker] Nick Perrin said “chips, and dips and pieces of stuff that are just nice, optional hors dourves” before the main course of Pauline theology which we hook on to the story of Jesus death and resurrection.

No.

The gospels – the canonical gospels – are quite clear that the kingdom and the cross go together. But much later western church tradition has manifestly found that conjunction very, very difficult and has often played kingdom and cross off one against the other. Because it’s had one version of reality off making the world a better place by doing kingdom work and another version of reality that is about Jesus dying for our sins so we could go off to heaven – and never the twain seem to meet.

Good stuff. Check it out here.

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[The following is a guest post by our friend, Rick Frueh, on the topic of Christianity of Just War, from a Biblical Pacifist point of view. Chris L has written a similar post from the point of view of a Christian's support of the notion of Just War.]

Biblical Pacifism

Blessed are the peacemakers…

A Short Introduction

If I may borrow from the language of Dickens, “There is no doubt that the Old Testament has passed. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing good can come of the truths I am going to relate”. The way God did things in the Old Testament are decidedly different from the way God interacts with man in the New Covenant. The writing of Hebrews distinctly informs us that “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds…”. It is disingenuous and self serving to cull out portions of the Old Testament and suggest that they are life patterns for followers of the Lord Jesus. The Old Testament Scriptures are mainly revelatory shadows that speak of the coming Christ. The horrific violence that took place in the Old Testament must remain a mystery, but it cannot be dragged into the gospel of grace.

Christ Himself laid out principles that helped us place the Old Testament in its rightful context. “You have heard it said…but I say unto you” is one of the teachings that awaken us to the superiority of the Words spoken by the Incarnate Christ, and they clearly indicate a difference. Abraham, Moses, and Solomon are just a few of the Old Testament figures to whom Christ openly claimed to be superior. I do not believe it is necessary to present a litany of things that God did in the Old Testament that are a mystery and outside our present understanding of God through the perfect prism of the Incarnation.

If you see the Old Testament dealings by God as a partial template for us today, well then you not only have carte blanche for almost any kind of violence and revenge, you have a colossal problem with the teachings of Jesus. The Old Testament must be seen as transitional and we must by faith trust that God in His wisdom was always moving toward Christ, even though many things were violent and without mercy. How could God do what He did in the Old Testament and yet now reveals Himself in Christ? As Hammerstein once observed, “Fools give you answers, wise men never try”.

So here we are, firmly planted in the New Covenant and with the perfect revelation of God in the Person of Jesus Christ. It is His life and teachings that are foundational, and the recorded teachings of the apostles must be viewed as ancillary and a further unfolding of those same teachings. But let me suggest on the outset that any reading of all twenty-seven books of the New Testament in one continuous reading will present an overwhelmingly non-violent message. Give a New Testament to a brand new believer who has no nationalistic allegiances, place him for one year upon a secluded island, and after one year ask him if he sees Jesus’ teachings as supporting violence in any form.

So why do we as believers make allowances for violence, even violence on a massive scale when it comes to some scenarios upon this world? Again from Hammerstein,

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, you’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid, of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade, you’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate, you’ve got to be carefully taught!

Of course those words refer to racism, but the principle is the same. The reason we modern believers have made a space for violence in certain situations is because somewhere in the past decades the concept crept in and we have been taught the same since birth. Violence is appreciated and lauded in our western society and somehow the church has adopted that as well.

And let us be perfectly clear; nationalism and national allegiance alters everything we think about being followers of Jesus Christ. The church lives with divided loyalties and that dualism distorts our view of many things in Scripture and indeed dilutes the teachings of Jesus and makes them compatible, if not subservient, to the dictates of our national perspectives. Please do not think that non-violence will make sense in this present world, and many times if the teachings of Jesus do fit nicely into this western culture then they are bastardized versions.

It isn’t just our view of violence that has been diluted and made palatable to the church, it is almost all the teachings of Christ, which if we haven’t softened them to accommodate our western lifestyles, we teach them in purity but compromise them in practice. The teachings of Jesus are without question non-violent if we receive them according to the understanding of language. The only way we can suggest exceptions is to interject nationalism which is usually under the heading of “self defense”. The theory is that when it comes to self defense, either personal or national, violence can be God’s way in some situations. And I will readily admit that principle seems reasonable and even logical, especially when you project a spirit of restraint and using violence as a last resort.

For a moment, let us examine how the early believers thought and behaved. There are statements from the the Didache (AD 60-130), as well as from Ignatius (about 110) and Polycarp that have been used to support pacifism, however the statements are more direct warnings against hate than they are dealing with non-violence. Justin Martyr gives more substantive statements that seem to support non-violence, including,
“We who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness … have changed our warlike weapons – our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage.”

That still is not a significant treatise on pacifism. But there were many pagans in the first two centuries who castigated Christians for refusing to enter the military and for their pacifism as well as their allegiance to Christ at the expense of patriotism. The early Christian writer and theologian Tertullian, considered the father of the doctrine of the Trinity, taught that converts to Christ should immediately resign from the military. That was probably a mix of pacifism as well as a more clear manifestation of one’s allegiance.

Origen, another early Christian theologian, wrote that Christians do not serve as magistrates or soldiers; rather they fight by prayer. They refuse public office in order to keep themselves “for a diviner and more necessary service … the salvation of men”. He did exhort prayers for soldiers that fight in a just cause. Augustine and Luther both accepted the notion of just wars. So to be accurate, the issue was a mixed bag. However it is apparent that there were many believers who were unashamed pacifists.

When Constantine comes upon the scene, he sees an apparition of the cross in the sky and interprets that in many ways. Two Constantinian interpretations are that God will be with believers in war, as well as his refining of the doctrine of anointed earthly empires. This teaching in several forms has continued until today. Most of American evangelicalism espouses the notion that God birthed the nation of America for a special purpose, in addition to the truth that God uses all things to accomplish His will. In short, the overwhelming majority of Christian schools teach that America was formed as a Christian nation and that patriotism is part of being a good Christian. Portraits of Washington, Jefferson, and others are common in evangelical schools, even though Washington was a slave owner and Jefferson was a heretic.

The concept of divine favoritism manifested in certain nations has pervaded the American church and over the many decades it has become an important tenant. Hidden and overt in this teaching is the acceptance of war and violence as God’s earthly instrument of justice. To be sure the nation of America has war and violence in its constitution and practice, but our mission is to compare that with the teachings of Christ. And the teachings of Jesus must have superior status and they must be authoritative over any and all other teachings and practices. This is difficult within a culture that thrives on viewing their nation as superior in many ways, including a tortured divine favored status.

This is a short background and partial history of pacifism as viewed and practiced in Christianity. There are many teachers throughout church history who reject pacifism and teach different levels of divinely accepted violence and even war. But both sides must withstand the scrutiny of New Testament teachings. . I do want to express my appreciation for Chris Lyons allowing my point of view to be posted on his blog; his posts will be on my blog, and I also want to shred myself of any judgment of believers who sincerely disagree with my views. I believe there are very committed followers of Jesus who see things in this area differently than do I.

You Cannot Serve Two Masters

And now I am going to address my views as I understand and interpret Scripture. At the outset, in order to suggest that Jesus allows and supports violence of any kind, you must have a dual kingdom view. What I mean is that almost all believers who support certain kinds of violence due to circumstances, do so in the context of a national kingdom. These believers support war because they have an allegiance to a certain nation, usually the one in which they live.

In order to support some wars you must believe that some wars are “just”, or in other words, justified. And that view emanates from an earthly kingdom view that believes that God favors different nations, depending upon the war. This just war opinion must always be formulated through the conduit of second hand information and usually through secular sources that are almost always slanted by allegiance or political bias. So we receive information from a biased secular source through the television, magazines, the internet, and the general chit chat of public discourse. And wholly based upon that information, we are to form an opinion about the whether it is God’s will for men and women to die on both sides because the nature of the conflict is just, at least from our view?

It is true that governments have the power to punish criminals and declare war, but that should not be the business of God’s church. Let us not forget that we are the collective body of Jesus Christ and collectively we are to minister life through Christ to the uttermost parts of the world. When Jesus speaks about doing good to our enemies and blessing those who curse you, He never gave a caveat that suggested you could abrogate those commands if the nation in which you were living decided a war was necessary. That is the dualistic view of which I formerly mentioned.

Many believers will suggest a difference between murder and killing, and they will say that when God said “Thou shall not kill” that He meant murder. Of course to those who are murdered and to those who are killed the difference is moot – they are all dead. But again, the exception is made through a nationalistic prism, and in fact, if a believer has no allegiance to an earthly nation he cannot make that argument. The conundrum goes further when you realize that many times believers are killing believers in wars. Which side is God on in those cases?

I will openly admit that being a pacifist is revolutionary and radical, especially when you realize how culturally entrenched are our thoughts on the subject. I am 57 years old and I had never met or heard a pacifist until this last decade, although I know there were many. The conscientious objectors were the closest thing to pacifists I had ever known. And since becoming a believer in 1975, not only had I never met a Christian pacifist, I had only heard and believed that violence was sometimes God’s design to solve international disputes. The classic argument went something like this, “What would have happened if we had not stopped Hitler?”

There are a couple of things wrong with that theory. The foundational fissure for the believer is that we can never subscribe to the end justifies the means formula, and we must obey God outright without the thought of consequences. This applies in our personal lives as well. Along the same line, could it be possible that we missed an incredibly opportunity to shine a light amidst great darkness? Sometimes the “what ifs” compromise a remarkable commitment to God’s Word.

The Hitler question also illuminates how we as believers have come to think. We think as Americans and many times not Christians. Because we are politically active, and because we salute the flag and say the pledge of allegiance, we have become Americans who happen to be Christians. We must think as followers of Jesus Christ, or at least aggressively attempt to think as one. There are many wars that have been fought since WW II and many wars continue today. Why are we not fighting in some of those wars since many people are being killed at the hands of evil aggressors? The reason is obvious – they are not killing us, which is a larger form of the American walking past the man who was robbed in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Do you see the unchristian and duplicitous nature of such things? In essence, let the Angolans die, it is not a national security issue for us.

I do not wish to belabor the point, I believe you can see my perspective. I will leave you with many passages of Scripture that when taken literally are in stark contrast to the nationalistic violence promoted by western evangelicals. I have yet to hear a believer who lives in American say that violence is approved in some cases, but his reasoning is not in any nationalistic vein. It is always tethered to nationalism, which is another deceptive compromise on many levels. But if we are followers and imitators of Jesus, we are presented with a mountain of teachings that fly in the face of what we have been taught. In this New Testament context, it seems to me that Jesus and His teachings are clear, albeit counter cultural, about how we should live among the darkness.

Many times Jesus did something that was astounding to His followers since it seemed to go against the vision that they had for the Jewish kingdom. You can read about an account in Matthew chapter eight when a Roman centurion, one who was over one hundred men, came to Jesus interceding for his sick servant. Now this soldier was part of the occupying Roman Empire which was one of the most brutal forces in any time. Jesus offered to go to this man’s house but the man refused because he considered Jesus a rabbi and felt it was inappropriate for Jesus to enter his home. It was a sign of respect.

Remember this man was the enemy of the nation of Israel and of God’s people, and he did not come to hear Jesus, he wanted something that would benefit him. He desired his servant to be healed. Jesus did heal the servant with His word, but he also made these interesting statements:

Matt.8:10 – When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

What? What kingdom did He mean when He said they would be cast out? And what kingdom would come from around the earth and sit down with Abraham? It doesn’t take much thought to realize that Christ was speaking prophetically about the coming kingdom living in the church. In the context of a “just war” the Jews would be justified in killing this centurion, but notice how he dealt with the earthly, nationalistic, and ethnic kingdom. Instead of directing the Jews to kill this enemy combatant, Jesus dealt with him in a supremely gracious way – He healed his servant.

This might have been the same servant that polished and took care of his sword and garments of war. So not only did Jesus not lead His followers to kill this aggressor, He indirectly helped that centurion in his mission to occupy Israel.

One man who followed the “just war” principle was Barabbas. He was active in a “just war” by being involved in attempting to overthrow Rome. And Barabbas had killed Romans and was described by Mark as a murderer. And yet, when one of Jesus’ followers attempted to murder a Roman, Jesus rebuked him.

Look no further than the Garden of Gethsemane in which Peter picked up a sword to defend Jesus and surely himself. Peter even cut off one soldier’s ear and Jesus healed this man who was a violent and butcherous tool of Rome. And Jesus addressed Peter with these words:

Matt.26:52-54 – Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

Although the words are couched within this unfolding redemptive event, the overall principle should be striking to us. Jesus indicates that He could provide enough power to kill them all, but God’s will is not accomplished by violence through His followers. In fact, to suggest God’s will can sometimes be accomplished through violence smacks of Islam. But in a spectacular paradox, the Prince of Peace presents Himself to the crosshairs of the Prince of Darkness, and Satan’s violence crucifies the sinless and passive Lamb, and redemption is accomplished and the violent king of demons is defeated through his own violence.

I Cor.2:7 – But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Selah.

Let me close with a listing of Scriptures that openly suggest humble pacifism that is self sacrificing and is in direct contrast to the human aggression that the church has surreptitiously united with the teachings of Christ. Perhaps the Spirit can lift your heart above the trappings of this world and you will be set free from the teachings of men.

Matt.5:9-12 – Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Matt.5:21-22 – Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matt.5:38-39 – Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matt.5:43-48 – Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Matt.6:14-15 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matt.6:24-34 – No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
(Pre-emptive war is based on worry and fear that someone might attack first)

** All of the above Scriptures are taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Many evangelicals suggest that the truths in this sermon are abrogated and superseded by national interests and allegiances.

Jn.3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Mk.12:31 – Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Lk.6:27-33 – But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

II Tim.1:7 – For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (Many times war arises out of fear)

I Thess.3:11-13 – Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

Rom.13:9-10 – For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

** The above Scriptures deal with love of the brethren, love of the lost, and love of your enemies. Again, many evangelicals suggest that these truths are abrogated and superseded when national interests and security are at stake. In essence, when it is convenient.

Rom.12:19-21 – Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

** The above Scripture outlines for us how to treat our enemies. But many evangelicals suggest that these commands are only applicable to certain enemies.

I Cor.4:11-13 – Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

Phil.1:29 – For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

** The above Scriptures provide for us an expectation of suffering and persecution. But many evangelicals believe that personal persecution should be endured gracefully, but that national persecution demands a violent response, approved by the same Lord that said the above scriptures.

Either these Scriptures are to be taken literally and applied completely, or their application is to be decided by each individual as to the appropriateness of the situation, the superior jurisdiction of national interests, or just a general situational ethics template. No one fully adheres to the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, but if we limit their pervasiveness we categorically dilute and compromise the divine essence of their teaching and lower the obedience bar to a culturally convenient level. In short, you have created manageable suggestions and lofty sermon outlines that are far more storybook fiction than truth goals that factually represent the Person of Christ living through His followers.

There are many more New Testament Scriptures that clearly represent a pattern of non-violence and behavior that is counter culture, in fact, I could just print out the four gospels in their entirety. Does it seem odd that Paul commands us to suffer persecution for the cause of Christ without returning retribution but many churches teach retribution is God’s design for national persecution? And think on this: If a nation is allowed to go to a “just war” does that still include the support or participation of the followers of Jesus? Again it is imperative that one stakes out a nationalistic position in order to justify a violent Christian and to completely abrogate the clear teachings of the New Testament. Of course no such delineation was ever given in any of the 27 books of the New Testament.

So we are left with this: Are we Christians completely devoted to following and imitating Jesus Christ? Or are we followers of Jesus but somewhat under the direction of many unsaved and carnal men who dictate which wars to fight? We are to obey the law where it does not conflict with God’s Word, but how much allegiance do we owe any government? And if we owe the government allegiance, even to the point of killing for them, where does this allegiance come from? Do we borrow it from the reservoir of allegiance we have for Christ?

We are given no spiritual flexibility to compartmentalize certain aspects of the life of Jesus Christ as it is mirrored in our lives. The writer of Hebrews alludes to the divine communications through the Old Testament, but he openly reveals that in these days God speaks through Jesus Christ alone. Does the New Testament indicate a coming divine judgment upon this world? Yes, but that is God’s business alone while our calling is the gospel. To get entangled with the affairs of the kingdoms of this world, including the suggestion that it is God’s will for us, not only dilutes the power and distinctiveness of our Savior and His gospel, it has led to an unholy meshing that significantly clouds the real message of the gospel.

The same nationalism that blinded the Jews to the mission of the Messiah, has in many ways blinded the church in the same way. But, you ask, what will happen if we as believers withdraw from the systems of this world and America falls to her enemies? Well, we might just be forced to trust God completely, which in this culture, would be somewhat of a spiritual resurrection.

On 2/13/91 – Two stealth bombers flew to Almeria in the Bagdad suburbs and released two laser guided bombs at approximately 4:30 AM.. The bombs went down the ventilation shafts and went deep inside the bunker, just as planned. But over 400 civilians were sleeping in that bunker, many of them children, and most were killed. From every indication this was unintentional, but such is the nature of war which is resigned to “collateral damage”, which is a sterile way of describing human carnage.

In the Old Testament kings went to war with their armies. Today kings watch their men and women die on flat screen televisions; even some kings who previously had maneuvered their way out of direct combat when their time came. In the end, even though God’s involvement in violence before Christ seemed obvious, God did not allow King David to build the Temple since he was a man of war. Interesting, no?

If it is God’s will to violently resist oppression then that is a direct indictment of a long line of martyrs who eschewed violence and willingly chose martyrdom. If it is God’s will to espouse such allegiance to your country that you are willing to kill for it, then all believers should at some point be directly involved with the military. And the church in America should supply the Chinese church, the Venezuelan church, the Sudanese church, and all other churches living in oppressive regimes with arms that will help them violently overthrow their governments, just like America did the British.

If a man was being brutal and killing people in your community, would it be Christian to demand he stop or you would murder 100 innocent people in his neighborhood? That is exactly the construct of the attack on Hiroshima. There is little doubt that overall more lives would have been lost by an invasion, but is the “end justifies the means” the principle that believers should follow when it suits our needs? And are we to make “quantitative” choices concerning death?

Every teaching of Jesus runs counter to what nations do, and with that in mind who do we obey? Is it God’s will that the Russian believer gives allegiance to his government while the American believer gives allegiance to his? Where can the unity of the Spirit be found when believers give their allegiance to different secular governments and are committed to kill each other to forward their particular government’s cause? Can we lay aside the teachings of Jesus when your country calls? Everyone would say “No!”, which is why many have had to make exceptions to His teachings. I sincerely hope everyone would at least give a little thought to what I have shared regardless of how radical it may seem and how it is in direct conflict with what you considered “settled law” within your own heart and mind.

Blessed are the peacemakers…

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Sucking the Public Tit[This post is -possibly, depending on how things go - the beginning of a short series]

Item I

In 39-40 AD, the Emperor Caligula was determined to set up his statue in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and dispatched his Syrian governor, Petronius, to do so. Distraught over these events, the farmers and fishermen of the Galilee region – who provided most of the food in Palestine, including the Roman armies – met Petronius and half a legion of Roman soldiers on the road from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where they laid down on the road, threatening mass-suicide (followed by starvation of the people in the region) if the mission to desecrate the temple continued.

Petronius stood down and retreated, while in the mean time Caligula was assassinated, and the desecration of the Temple was avoided…

Item II

In 1957, Ayn Rand published Atlas Shrugged, considered one of the greatest fictional works of the 20th Century. In it, Rand visualizes a future America, in which the government has intruded on almost all aspects of life, and forcibly extracts the wealth of “producers” to distribute to the masses (who, generally, are not producers), as a moral imperity.

One of the protagonists of the book, John Galt – an inventor and influential ‘producer’ – quietly organizes a strike of all of the key producers in the country against the corrupt masses who use the law and guilt to confiscate the fruits of their labors (thus the image of Atlas – who holds the world on his shoulders – to “shrug”).

For a brief time, the government drastically tightens its grip, which is really just the beginning of its inevitable collapse. With this as a backdrop, Galt emerges as a unifying figure to remake society in a more fair and equitable fashion.

Tytler CycleItem III

Alexander Tytler, an Eighteenth-Century writer, is credited with making the following observation of the historical cycles of government:

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency;
  • From complacency to apathy;
  • From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage.

A number of modern philosophers have studied the “Tytler Cycle”, as it has come to be named, and tend to believe that America is moving into the final stage of the cycle – from dependence back into bondage.

I would agree with them.

Obama Budget BEFORE Adding in Health 'Reform'Item IV

The US government is poised to bankrupt itself in an orgy of spending, by taking over 1/6th of its economy (under the half-baked guise of “moral imperity”) and imposing $300-400 Billion in new taxes on those who can least afford it, along with new fees/taxes on its society’s “producers”. Central banks are dumping the dollar and looking for ways to supplant it with a mixture of other foreign currencies. Smart investors are putting their bets on precious metals and hard commodoties. The Obama administration has placed its bets on grossly obscene spending – like a junkie on a payday coke-bender. And that’s all before we even discuss its upcoming astronomically misguided budget busters – cap-and-tax and a VAT Tax.

Meanwhile, a growing number of conservative/libertarian bloggers lend some support that now may be the time to start “Going Galt”

Item V

In the latter-Twentieth and early-Twenty-First Centuries, the American church predominantly vacates the Democratic parties and moves past healthy support into allegiance with the Republican party, becoming an enabling entity to the GOP, for which it will receive lip service and scraps – much like the monolithic support of the Dem’s by African Americans. Increasingly, moderate-to-liberal Mainline and Evangelical Christians see this support for politics as unhealthy – serving as an appropriate critic to the blind service to the GOP. Then, upon the election of Barack Obama, these groups just as quickly become sycophants of the left – blind to their own equal-and-opposite idolatry.

In the end, it is revealed that far too much of the church – both right and left – have corrupted Psalm 121

lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from Washington,
(left) the guarantor of fairness and redistribution.
(right) the protector of ‘Christian values’

In either case – whether seen as pledging allegiance to the flag on Sunday morning, or blessing our new ‘hope and change’ from the pulpit – the salt has lost, or is losing, its saltiness when it sees Washington as anything more than a necessary evil with a VERY limited purpose.

Where From Here?

I have recently been mulling on all of these “Items” – and their obvious connectedness:

  1. I believe that cycles in human history do repeat themselves – even when recognized
  2. I do believe a crash – a huge one – is on the way
  3. I believe that the current administration could do very little, apart from what it is already pushing, to make this crash come sooner and harder
  4. I believe that, the longer the crash lasts, the longer the period of “bondage” will be, and the bloodier its demise will be. In the Tytler Cycle, the transition out of bondage is historically Revolution – often quite protracted and bloody.
  5. I believe that “Going Galt”, as a strategy, has the ability to hasten the crash, but lessen the period of bondage – because it preserves the underlying mechanics of the market while destroying the mechanics of government. In itself, it can create – and bring to a quick end – the Revolution.
  6. Even so – true “Going Galt”, in its purest sense – will result in a LOT of people being hurt…

The question becomes – how does a Christian deal with this situation? Can we “Go Galt” and show compassion in such a way that the next cyclical step – “Spiritual Revival” – be one rooted in a healthy balance between temporal and eternal emphases in orthopraxy?

What would this look like?

In the next article (tentatively), I will try to examine some underlying precepts on a Christian’s “Going Galt”…

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I thought you might like to read this short article.  When the Poor Die.

Our first day in Swaziland Pastor Gift told us about Maswane and asked if we would be willing to go pray with her. When she was five years old she was raped which is how she contracted HIV.

She was raped again when she was seven and has never once consented to sex with a man. One of the men who raped her has died, and the other is free; he escaped to South Africa. Her virginity as well as her life has been brutally ripped away.
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Here you will find what a few of us have expressed over the past year about how the church should handle the topic of sex.  I think the difference is that this says it more succinctly and more appropriately.  It raises the bar for the discussion and the act.

Because I know there are a lot of lazy people out there like me who can’t even click a link, here’s a snippet:

If the theology of the cross doesn’t affect every aspect of life, it isn’t properly applied.

*Sorry for the rabbit hole, but when something is said well, why change it? Click the link already.

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The Asclepieion at PergamumIn the city of Pergamum, the governing center of Asia Minor, when the Apostle John arrived on the scene in the decades after Paul and Timothy’s work there, he found cities that were intensely religious, though not at all predominantly Christian.

The people in this city worshiped many gods, of whom the predominant ones were:

Dionysus – the son of Zeus and the god of wine and orgy, and patron god of theater. His shrine provided free wine and meat to those who came to worship him there, and he was said to provide life for all, even after death. It was also believed that, during secret rituals, he converted water into wine to give to the people.

Asclepius – The god of healing and medicine. His temple complex – the asclepieion, was, as Dr. Tim Brown puts it, “the Mayo Clinic of the ancient world”. The sick and infirm could come to worship at the asclepieion and receive free healing and medical care.

Demeter – The goddess of grain and fertility. Worshipers at her temple could have their sins forgiven by sacrificing bulls and bathing in their blood. Additionally, they could receive free bread and clean water from her temple.

ConcernAnd then, above all of these gods was Caesar – the “king of all kings and the lord of all lords” in Rome (as Domitian demanded he be called). Pergamum was the first city to deify the Caesars, beginning with Caesar Augustus. At the top of the hill on which Pergamum sits was the temple of Caesar, who provided for all of the gods, and to whom homage must be paid in order to receive the blessings of the gods – wine, food, water, health, and basic welfare (through other minor gods like Hestia, Cybele, etc.).

It is no wonder, then, that the Apostle John chose to emphasize certain miracles of Jesus to provide counterpoint of Jesus’ lordship, with the first three sets of miracles mentioned being 1) turning water to wine (Jesus is Lord and provider of eternal life, not Dionysus); 2) Jesus healing the official’s son and the man at the pool of Bethesda (Jesus is Lord and provider of healing, not Asclepius); and 3) Jesus feeding the 5,000 (Jesus is Lord and provider of our bread, not Demeter).

In short – it is Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who is the provider of all, and not the gods and governments of this world.

The Nicolaitans

In John’s book of Revelation, he twice condemns a group of people called Nicolaitans, who appear to hold to a form of antinomianism, believing that because God had fulfilled the law with Christ, they could be free to live as they wished, and that they could partake in the different forms of temple worship and have their needs met, because they knew that the “gods” of these temples did not really exist.

In Ephesus, it is believed that the Nicolaitans were able to escape persecution under Nero and, later, Domitian, by burning incense to Caesar and accepting his “mark” on their goods and their person. This allowed them to freely buy and sell in the marketplace (agora), to hold public office, and to avoid the punishments of Rome for not worshiping Caesar (see Rev 13:16-17).

So What?

An offer you can't refuseBy now, some of you are probably thinking something along the lines of “Thanks for the history lesson, Chris, but what does this have to do with a ‘Christian’ position on health care?” Others likely see where I’m going with this:

As Christians, we should all be concerned with the gods of this world – particularly the government – taking over the responsibility for the expanded provision of the needs and desires of its people.

I would underscore this by noting that when we forget who our provision comes from – from God, alone – and see it as the product of our own work, our employer or our government, we become idolaters. However, I see the warnings from John to the early Christians as two-fold – don’t seek to have your needs met by the passive gods of the world, but also beware of what will happen when an active, intrusive one steps in to take over.

This is not to say that we should be in favor of maintaining the status quo, or in turning away the poor from life-saving medical treatment. Rather, we should be looking for ways to make such government take-overs unnecessary.

All Things in Common

A few weeks ago, Rob Bell and Ed Dobson taught at Mars Hill Bible Church on the early church in Acts 2:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

They noted that this was a free, loving choice on the parts of the believers, and not something done out of guilt or coercion. Supporting coercive government systems (socialism, communism), they noted, are not the way of following the early church. Subscribing to a “survival of the fittest” or a laissez-faire mindset is not the answer, either. Rather, it comes down to those who have been blessed with abundance to share out of love and those who have been blessed with scarcity to receive out of love (as Peter did, when he allowed Jesus to wash his feet).

DomitianA government-managed system of provision, though, circumvents both ends of this equation – coercing those who have (under threat of law) to provide for those who do not (by the government’s definition) under the guise of “dignity” (i.e. they can thank the government for their provision, not individuals or organizations).

The way of Jesus is for the church to see a need and to be enthusiastic about trying to fill it – not out of coercion or guilt – but freely, out of love.

The problem with depending on the government, though, is that every time the government decides to encroach in an area of “benevolence”, the church sees no need and then retreats. This has happened historically, and is particularly evident in the American experiment of the past 233 years or so. Whether it is education, health, welfare, or the homeless, when Christians have acceded these areas of service to the government, the church has retreated and become further irrelevant.

It is no mistake that fundamentalism arose in parallel with this abdication, as focus on the temporal needs of the masses withered and the focus on the eternal became all-encompassing. It is also no mistake that the predominance of the emerging/emergent 180-degree “flipping” of focus from eternal to temporal will exacerbate the problem just as easily.

From where does my help come? If, slowly, as it has been doing, the Caesar of today becomes the all-giving provider of needs, how quickly will worship of this Caesar become the predominant “religion” of the land – or has it already happened – on both ends of the political spectrum?

If there are members of our churches – brothers and sisters – who must take government assistance because they are not receiving it from the church, it is a crime we in the churches are committing via our lack of love. If these members won’t take the assistance from the church, but prefer the “dignity” of the state, it is a matter of the sin of pride. If our churches exist in communities where people are unable to get the care they need, the provision of the government is an indictment of the faithlessness of those churches.

Why should Caesar coerce and redistribute what the church was designed to give out of love?

The Nicolaitans, Take II

Once the trough opensNow, just as there were Nicolaitans in the first century, there are sure to be some today who would note that the state is a lifeless entity which need not be feared/revered, but only appeased so that it might be used for humanitarian purposes. Where the line is crossed, though, I believe, is similar to the point at which the temple of Demeter became an instrument of Caesar (or more accurately, where the Church became an instrument of Constantine) – where benevolence becomes compulsory and acceptance of the “dignity” granted by the nanny state is mandatory.

Which is what is, inherently, what is being proposed by the US House of Representatives and committee bills in the US Senate. While there is a good deal of smoke-and-mirrors involved in the plans, the long-term trajectory of these plans is a single-payer system in which the health of the citizenry is beholden to Caesar, and 97% of the people have to accept his mark (noting that I’m speaking from a partial-preterist position, not a dispensationalist one…) or go without.

Will we be selling a little bit of our souls to the state by accepting their mandatory hand-out? Will we just be good little Nicolaitans, crossing our fingers and rationalizing that God is providing to us through the faceless entity of Caesar, while our churches fade into further irrelevance?

Or will we be willing accomplices of the state, cheering it on with homilies like “My hope is that the Church will rise up and speak for the least of these who cannot speak for themselves” while supporting its takeover of the church’s mission? Or will we try and shame the Church into selling out to the beast by saying “my hope is that the Church, despite the prospect of having to make sacrifices, some even costly in more ways than one, will stand up and say, ‘This is the way of Jesus’?” Or might we just try and work the coercive shame on individual Christians, making this into an issue of “selfishness” by telling them “I would like to see less of Christians demanding their ‘rights’ and more of demanding justice for all,” as if this were actually an issue of justice, rather than one of mercy and kindness.

Summing it Up

Standing up to CaesarThe bottom line – the government is not a friend of the church or of the people. Its purpose, according to Scripture, is to provide a judicial system, common defense, and societal order. Its mission is completely different than that of the church, and its lifetime is limited.

No matter how much we, like Jesus’ disciples, want the kingdom of God to be a literal, physical, political power on earth, that is not what Jesus came to create. When we abdicate the purpose of the kingdom and hand it over to the kosmos, we are no longer advocates for the kingdom. When we try to make the kosmos the tool of the kingdom – whether from the right or from the left – we are destined to fail. Spectacularly.

In my view, and in light of the roles given to the church in Scripture, I would say that it is no more the place of government to take over the health care system than it is for the church to take over the national defense. That it is even being contemplated is an indictment against the Church and a potentially disastrous overreaching on the part of the state.

Here’s to hoping that sanity will prevail.  Government can play a role within its biblical mandate – particularly within the realm of the justice system and in maintaining order – in ‘fixing’ what is currently broken in the US health care system.  Making health care a “right”, provided by the state, is beyond its mandate, though, and the church should not be its water-carrier.

[A couple of programming notes - 1) I have briefly ended my self-moratorium on political news/discussion, insofar as it concerns health care issues, as I do have some expertise and interest in this area that could be useful for the discussion; 2) I don't plan on expanding it to other areas of politics; 3) While this article fits the demographic of CRN.Info, I may not cross-post later articles which do not deal with issues of the intersection of Christianity and the health care debate.]

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