After the Conneticut shooting, everyone is advancing theories and explanations and blame. Well, the truth is in there somewhere, but I am disheartened by some things I've heard. I want to touch on two perspective in particular that caught my attention and concerned me. One is Dr. Dobson's contention that this shooting was perhaps related to God's jugement on America for the country's abandonment of Biblical morality in many areas. The second is a certain Rev. Susan Russell who takes issue with Dr. Dobson.
Let's start with Dr. Dobson's theory. Now I like and respect Dr. James Dobson. He has done a lot of good. But on this point, I am left really scratching my head on this comment. There are two ways we see God deal with the disobedient in the Bible. One is through judgement and the other through consequences. When we see God actively judging nations, it is usually through the overthrow of that country, either supernaturally, or through another country. The punishment is usually aimed at the leadership, who God has given authority and therefore holds accountable for the people. To say that a superstorm, a school shooting, or other terrible event is evidence of God's judgement rather stretches our understanding. I fear that without realizing it, these fine men are allowing themselves to sound like the detestable Westboro Baptist Church which see every calamity, every death, as a sign of God's punishment on America. I could go much further with this, but I will sum up for now by saying that the #1 verse we have for understanding how God deals with nations is, "I will bless those that bless you and curse those who curse you." How our nation treats Israel and the Jews is the #1 route for God's blessing or cursing.
That is not to say there aren't consequences. As our society makes choices that ignore God, there will be consequences. Human life that isn't cared for or valued hurts us all. Trying to unravel how that played out in the very troubled young man who shot those kids is too hard for me. I just know we live in a fallen world and bad things are going to happen, and trying to find the immediate fault is sometimes too hard. Blame is not the answer. Christ is.
So, on to the Rev. Susan Russell. In an article in the Huffington Post, she takes strong exception to Dr. Dobson's theory and goes pretty far in the other direction. I feel she ends up missing the point as well in her eagerness to rebut him. She says in part, "That [Dr. Dobsons's] God has nothing whatsoever to do with the God of love, justice and compassion who "came down at Christmas" incarnate in the Prince of Peace who became one of us in order to show us how to love one another." Her point in her article is that God is not angry and does not cause these things. Now while I agree that we must be careful in assigning any particular event like that to God's direct judgment, she mischaracterizes God and why He came down at Christmas.
You can't have the manger without the Cross. Jesus didn't come down to show us how to love each other. He did mention that, but His primary purposes were to demonstrate God's love to us and to do so by dying for our sins. Dying was required because we had incurred the wrath of God which is powerful and fearsome and deadly. We cannot ignore that clear teaching of Scripture. God IS a God of justice, as the good Reverend states, and sin/injustice makes Him angry. His anger/wrath is as powerful as His love. He's a powerful God. Because He also is a God of mercy, he sought to satisfy His justice and His love both by offering to pay for our crimes Himself. The cross shows that fierce wrath being poured out on Christ.
If we ignore Christ and reject this offer of mercy, the wrath remains. Jesus did not come merely to illustrate a point, Jesus is the point. He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
We do need to love one another. We also need to love and accept the Love of God poured out in the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Here are the two articles cited in this post.
This has proved to be one of those weeks. Actually, it started last week and has continued this week. By this I don't mean it has been a bad week. Things have actually been going well. But I am tired, on the inside. I'm one of those people who don't need a ton of sleep. I can get by for days on some sleep and catch up later. Getting older has diminished this capacity a little, but not too bad. Functioning while physically tired and functioning when tired inside are two different things. I've been feeling tired on the inside lately. So I thought I would go look at some verses. First up I found this one.
Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. (Psalms 37:7-8)
It would be tempting to use this verse and write a little devotional here about not worrying or fretting. After all, the Bible does mention in the New Testament about being anxious for nothing. The problem with using this verse is, that's not what it says. The english translation fret may give us the wrong impression. The word literally means "to glow". It has the idea of a hot ember. It might be better to translate that sentence, "do not get yourself hot & bothered [by evil doers]. So, while a good thing to remember, this doesn't go directly to my inner tiredness. This one though hits the spot.
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
Weary and heavy-laden. Heavy-laden can be translated overburdened and one of the flavors of that can mean by spiritual anxiety. Now we're talking. Two different words are used for the two "rest"s here. One means "repose" or "refresh" and the second means "intermission". I like those words too. This whole verse reminds me that if I am finding the ministry a burden, it means that I am doing it in my own strength, not in the Lords. Too often pastors and other ministry leaders talk about the "burden" of ministry, but this directly contradicts what Jesus says here. "My yoke is easy and My burden is light." He doesn't mean it might not be physically demanding and exhausting, but when I start to feel the cirosis of the giver, it means I am giving out of myself, not out of Him.
That's easier to talk about than to fix. I seek to always serve out of my fullness in Him, but sometimes it is hard to know when you have transferred to your own strength until those warning signs of burden appear. And maybe it is ok to be spiritually tired (not anxious). Jesus was pretty stressed in the garden ("And He *said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch." (Mark 14:34) ). "Deeply grieved"="intensely sad". Well, that's good to know too. We can't accuse Jesus of sin nor of operating in his own strength not God's, but we can accuse Jesus of being human. You can accuse me of that too.
So this has been an interesting study this morning and I appreciate you joining me in it. I know I'll be ok, I will seek to continue to drag my tired soul to the feet of Jesus and learn what true refreshment in the face of weariness means. I will learn, perhaps slowly, what it means to trust Him and rely on Him in ways that are real, not just cliche. In the meantime, I will seek to be honest with you, my brothers and sisters, about my own spiritual journey and my real-life efforts to allow Jesus to live in me.
So after too many ads, debates, heated discussions, passionate Facebook posts, bedtime phone calls (3 in 5 minutes last night), and other heated CO2 expended, the election is over. Americans, always predicable, are either reveling or mourning. Partisan divide is hardly new and these days aren't the worst its ever been. Lot of people were upset when Jefferson was elected to. That man was a threat to the union! That's what you say when your guy loses and the other guy wins.
So what's a Biblical Christ-follower to do? You see things happening that upset and scare you or make you mad, and you worry. Let's consider a few thoughts.
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
Peter tells us here, and we know this, that we are the people of God. He's not talking to AMERICA, he's talking to the church. That is our nation. For too long we have tried to create a theocratic civil society by calling America God's country. We have fallen in love with America given "her" a place in our hearts next to Jesus. This is nationalism and idolatry. We are the body of Christ, a country of our own. Peter goes on to remind us how to act while we are visiting this earthly country.
Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:9-15)
If Peter can call us to obedience while living under the perversion and moral decay of the Roman Empire, what leads us to believe that this doesn't apply to us? Now, that doesn't mean that we bury our heads in the sand when it comes to society. It is good to try to stabilize society. I exercised my right to vote yesterday and I voted Biblical values that are good for society. God told the exiles that it was appropriate to be productive and helpful members of the foreign lands they were sent into.
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, 'Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. 'Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. 'Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.' (Jeremiah 29:4-7)
But this does not mean total submersion in the culture. This is what has happened for too long in America. We were a society at least somewhat based on Biblical values, so we got comfortable and we stopped separating. But we were ordered to be separate.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. "Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord. "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)
Now we are waking up to this "new" truth that the world is hostile to God, and therefore to us. We are suddenly faced with the fact that the world is not going to protect us and our faith. Jesus said it would be this way, yet this morning so many Christians are shocked and dismayed. What did you think Jesus meant when He said, ""If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)? In fact, we were even told, "Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you." (1 John 3:13).
The time is quickly coming when we will no longer be able to count on the world and its government to make witnessing easy. We will not be able to just turn our kids over to the state and assume that they will teach them our Biblical values (as if we thought they were going to anyway). We will not be able to count on the government giving us favorable tax situations and special statuses just because we love Jesus. The disciples didn't have any of these things. The Christians in China don't have these things and their churches are growing while ours are shrinking.
The disciples/apostles lived in a Roman empire that promoted idolatry to a major extent, where homosexuality was not only normal, but where it was considered fun (and legal) to initiate young boys into it. They didn't send IRS agents after the disciples, they sent Roman soldiers. And yet what did these men do?
They preached Jesus.
They spent precious little time preaching AGAINST society, but instead warned the Christians not to participate.
They taught Christians to honor those in authority.
They DIED that others might hear.
THIS is my country. What a country! Those are founding fathers. I'm so proud of them. My thought now is "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3)
To my brothers & sisters in Christ,
I know there are many of you who are motivated, not by fear or by hatred, but by simple heart felt conviction that God means what He says. When you are attacked and maligned as being a bigot and being filled with hatred by people who in their next breath claim tolerance as their highest moral, it can get you angry and frustrated. Understandable. At that point though, we have a choice. Too many of us have answered back in kind. We have turned those who say such things into "those people". We have too often answered with anger, with counter-attack, with defensiveness.
This should not be.
"They started it" is best left to small children. If we are indeed motivated and informed by God's Word, then let the whole Word characterize us.
"Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way. "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. "Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. "If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. "If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. (Luke 6:26-35)
Jesus told us we would be hated, maligned, and abused. He also told us not to be the same way. I am tired of being called names and called a hater, but I am more tired of watching Christians speak without mercy in response, of watching Christians not respond with blessing. We need not ever compromise the clear teaching of God's Word to still be loving and merciful, like Jesus, in our interaction with those who reject God's truth
Today, and tomorrow, I will define and defend "traditional" marriage. Actually, that's a poor phrase, "traditional marriage". After all, is this about the traditions of men?
For me, I have a Biblical marriage, and let me tell you how I defend it.
I work each day, through out the day, to love my wife the way Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. (Eph. 5:25). This means that it doesn't matter if I am too tired, too busy, or focused on my own thing. I try give it up to serve her. I seek to do so with an attitude of joy and service, not grumbling and complaining (Phil 2:14).
I treat my wife as a joint heir, and equal partner, and yet I seek to be gentle with her, treating her with respect and care (1 Peter 3:7; Col 3:19).
I will make sure that she is the priority ahead of work, friends, or my own pleasure and recreation. I will focus on our communication and work to make it better and better by leading the way in example and invitation.
I will be a father to our children and seek to bring them up in the nurture and instruction of the Lord without breaking their spirit or frustrating them.
I do this, not because it is the law, or because it is a tradition, but because for me to live is Christ. The world will define what it likes and our society will do what it wants, but as for me and my house, we will serve Christ.