Declare

If you read this blog, you are familiar, at least on a passing level, of the text of the Declaration of Independence.  You are also likely familiar with history as it progressed from that point until now.  I have written about the God-given rights espoused in that inspired document (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness), but I elected at that time not to dive into the “injuries and usurpations” part of the Declaration for a variety of reasons.  I have been forced to rethink my own rationale for not tackling that subject in the past.  I find myself compelled to write about the need to live a Christlike life, and yet I shrink from this confrontation because of how murky it can get as we muddle away from unconditional truth into areas made much more murky by politics and the less-than-unbiased lens of personal opinion.

I have been pushed over the edge though.  There comes a time when you have to call a spade a spade, point at the hypocrites and call them out on the mat, or label and define the usurpations and injuries.  For example, modern-day examples of just such violations abound:

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. (Refusal to enforce Congressionally-passed federal law).

He (and His administration) has obstructed the Administration of Justice (New Black Panther Party Voter Intimidation Case).

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. (Unconfirmed “Czars” under the Obama Administration: 33 of 38 appointed)

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent. (Illegal taxes being levied by Presidential directive)

Will enough eyes and minds be opened and realize these affronts to our founding?  I do not know.

Will people recall that the underpinnings of our founding were not intrusions and oppressions foisted on the American people by a foreign power, but by those that they called their own countrymen?  Our history is replete with people recalling the greater of those past abuses and examples of tyranny, but few recall that while the British people and ourselves are different now, back then, we were all British (or Englishmen as it we would have been labeled at the time).

What I do know is that the spirit of independence will not go out quietly… not everywhere.  Darkness can drop on all of the world and yet the light of Truth will shine like a beacon in the darkness.  The American spirit that binds us as countrymen, the one shared by patriots from Maine to California, from Minnesota to Texas, will not be extinguished by one man, ten men, or ten million men.  Liberty will endure because it is from God, not men.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

It’s not that liberty is the easiest thing in the world to master.  In fact, I would even assert that liberty itself directly opposes any attempt to impose a master, whether one man or a body of legislators and therein lies the deepest foundation of many of the political divisions that split our country.

Stray Thoughts

The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.

Soren Kierkegaard

Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:

– I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
– I shall fear only God.
– I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
– I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
– I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.

Mahatma Gandhi

And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

C.S. Lewis

Wrath

A few weeks have passed since the election.  As much as I was invested in it’s outcome as an American and wanted to see the right man win, the end result really won’t matter much ultimately.

Mathematically, we are toast… the debt has grown too big, the deficits add to it daily, and we have been propping up our economy with inflated government spending for far too long.  When the prop is removed (and it must, either by inflation or by maxing out the country’s credit card) the veneer will be stripped away to show the ugliness beneath.  Yet, this itself is just dust when all is finally settled.

Since the founding, America has been divided.  Small vs big government. Liberals vs conservatives. Right vs left.  Federalist vs anti-federalist. There have always been some things where we have agreed in the past – liberty is good, the family is good, God is supreme.  With these commonalities, we could look past our philosophical and economical differences and come together, but has that time passed?

Has the separation reached it’s apex yet?

Liberty is encroached on by both parties, but fewer and fewer people push back.

The family is attacked via invented social rights, the replacement of the father-figure by ever-growing larger government largesse, and the over-sexualization of our culture.

God Himself is openly mocked and spat upon in our courts, in the halls of government, on the street corner, and in our living rooms.  He was openly mocked and booed in the middle of one of the major political parties’ national conventions this year.

None of the previous is all that bad compared to mocking God openly as a society.  Recall what happened the last time that God was so openly mocked as he hung on a cross.

The earth shook, the rocks split.

Matthew 27:51

Christ was judged after He died carrying all of our sins.  The paradox of the Holy Son of God and the blackness of sin was too much and creation literally shook as a result.  The rocks came “undone.”

We, as the creation, play will a terrible fire every time we fail to live up to the righteousness expected of us through Christ.  Entire peoples have been wiped off the face of the Earth (Sodom, Gomorrah), governments have fallen (Rome, Byzantine), great men allow themselves to start believing the hype – that they are the greatest, the saviors of their countrymen before they are crushed by their own pride (Petraeus).

In the pride of your heart
    you say, “I am a god;
I sit on the throne of a god
    in the heart of the seas.”
But you are a mere mortal and not a god,
    though you think you are as wise as a god.
Are you wiser than Daniel?
    Is no secret hidden from you?
By your wisdom and understanding
    you have gained wealth for yourself
and amassed gold and silver
    in your treasuries.
By your great skill in trading
    you have increased your wealth,
and because of your wealth
    your heart has grown proud.

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

Because you think you are wise,
    as wise as a god,
I am going to bring foreigners against you,
    the most ruthless of nations;
they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom
    and pierce your shining splendor.
They will bring you down to the pit,
    and you will die a violent death
    in the heart of the seas.
Will you then say, “I am a god,”
    in the presence of those who kill you?
You will be but a mortal, not a god,
    in the hands of those who slay you.
You will die the death of the uncircumcised
    at the hands of foreigners.

Ezekiel 28:2-10

I pray for my country and the people living here as seemingly half of the country votes to mock God openly.   As Matt Barber wrote a few weeks back, the sins of the Romans are being openly committed and condoned more than ever.

The path we are on has already been decided.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1:18-32

Now stop your mocking,
    or your chains will become heavier;
the Lord, the Lord Almighty, has told me
    of the destruction decreed against the whole land.

Isaiah 28:22

He stood, and shook the earth;
    he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
    and the age-old hills collapsed—
    but he marches on forever.

Habakkuk 3:6

Where do you stand?  What will you do?  Will you look out for yourself and your family?  Will you stand in defiance of those that mock God?  Will you tell them that they are wrong?   Will you point to Christ and shine His love on the world and hope that those souls lost will come to Christ?

We are not called to be part of this world, but to be salt and light within it.   It is time for all good, righteous men to stand and declare, “THIS FAR. NO FARTHER.”

For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.

John Winthrop

Happy Thanksgiving

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.

Thomas Jefferson

Give thanks as you enter the gates of his temple.
    Give praise as you enter its courtyards.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.
The Lord is good. His faithful love continues forever.
    It will last for all time to come.

Psalm 100:4-5

What More Can We Do?

I have tried to focus on persecution this week and hope to have sufficiently shined a spotlight on how the modern church is not immune from persecution, but rather that it has evolved and adapted to attack the church effectively, but not necessarily violently as is the most easily recognizable form of persecution.  I think this is an often neglected topic because of how depressing it can be to see fellow believers, fellow humans, suffering at the hands or words of other human beings who either believe in a different religion or none at all and choose to attack the faithful.

As a man who lives in the freedom and liberty of the United States, I have the opportunity to look out at the world and see these atrocities, and like Peter, am prone to think first of the “sword” rather than God when I hear of them.  Rather than trusting God and having faith that His will is being played out, I think of protecting those that cannot protect themselves.  While this is not Biblically wrong as we are called to offer ourselves as a shield of protection for those that are unable, my myopic view fails me often.  I, aside from prayer, cannot impact what happens in Nigeria, Iran, or Malaysia any more than they can directly impact the persecution that may befall believers here in the United States.

I want to bridge the gap from the spiritual to the practical now.  Prayer is the best weapon to combat persecution as we hope to turn our persecutors into believers themselves and may need to suffer in order to accomplish this goal.  That is great in theory, but from a day-to-day perspective, we need to heed other teachings of Christ as well.

Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

Luke 22:36

And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

Luke 22:38

We are not called to sell our lives cheaply.  We might be a speck in terms of all things, but we are precious to God, which means we should consider ourselves as precious to Him.  This is where the concept of moral, lawful, and rightful self-defense originates.  Christ did not preach pacifism, nor militarism, but something contrary to both.

So back to the upper room, when Christ asked if there were swords present.  Christ, as God incarnate, knew there were swords there.  Now you could extend the story out to include the events at Gethsemane when one of the disciples used, presumably, one of those swords to sever the Priest’s servant’s ear so Christ could admonish them for it, but if you look at the context of the command, He is directing them to arm themselves if are not already armed.  By indicating that two swords were enough for their small group, you could also extend that out into modern thinking as not a force of arms (which would be the case if all were armed), but rather as a deterrent against force.

Now let’s take this scenario and fast-forward it to the modern day.  Your church is a ripe target for persecution in the form of a religiously-targeted attack.  When I wrote this, I cited statistics which show that religiously-targeted attackers are on the rise in the United States and violent crimes within churches as an whole are on the rise as well.  We need to be aware of this growing threat to our fellow believers and take deterrent measures, as I explained above.

Credit: Oleg Volk

What those measures are lie with you, your family, and your church.  Some may carry concealed as they are permitted, some may elect for pepper spray, some may reconsider where they attend church based on the neighborhood, some may ask their church to consider starting a security team or if there is already one in place.

Christ called the believers in His time on Earth His flock, implying sheep.  He is the Good Shepherd.  To steal a Toby Keith lyric, “when the wolf growls at the door” sometimes you need a sheepdog to scare the wolf away.

This mindset may be uniquely American, but by virtue of being an American and having the liberty to be that sheepdog for not only my family, but also my church, and the community at large, I can look out at the world and recognize the very real threats.  The very real persecutions just waiting to happen, but they will not happen needlessly or without cost.  We should not sell our lives cheaply for our faith.  The price for our lives is high, it is Christ’s blood.

Deterrence is the art of producing, in the mind of the enemy, the fear to attack.

Sterling Hayden

 

What Can We Do?

Yesterday, I wrote about persecution.  I’ll admit, this is not your typical Thanksgiving Week topic, but I think it is prescient to cover because how can we be truly thankful unless we have a crystal clear picture of the world we live in and the blessings we have received.

If you accept the premise that we all face some form of persecution, whether it is violent in nature (like those subject to Sharia law in Islamic countries or violent crackdowns in countries like North Korea or China), cultural, or personal, then the question that begs to be asked is how should we respond?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

It is hard to love your enemies.  They hate you. They want to destroy you in some capacity.  This is a pretty steep command.  What context should we apply to this?  How should we love them?  Should we hug our own executors?

They will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.

Luke 21:12

Christ is hinting at something in the passage from Matthew and he elaborates more in the passage for Luke.  Christ is saying that persecution, decidedly not a good thing for those afflicted by it, is something that God uses for good.  If we were to respond wrongly in these circumstances out of prideful arrogance and self-worth rather than humility and Christ-likeness, we would short-circuit God’s subtlety in these circumstances.

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

John 15:20

Persecution is explicitly allowed by God to further His influence throughout the world.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Romans 12:4

So we are to not only called to endure persecution in order that we might exemplify the Truth through our actions, but also to actively bless those that persecute us.

In theory this is great, but how does this work in practice you might ask?

Let’s lay out one crucial basic then.  I have written of how we have nothing to fear, that the victory itself has already been delivered for those of us that believe.  So in those beliefs lies the answer – that nothing human hands or words do ultimately can hurt me.  Yes, they will cause temporary suffering.  Their words will cut.  Their threats will haunt.  Their violence will cause pain.  It is all for the glory of God.  If you remain steadfast in your faith and continue to stand up in the face of persecution, you will begin to wear them down.

This won’t be a boxing match. You won’t go punch for punch with them, but you will upper cut them and knock them to their knees eventually (metaphorically that is).  See, you are invincible.  They will eventually come to realize that everything that they throw at you is futile.  Then the door will be opened because they will ask “How can this be?  How are they able to just take this?  I would have given in long ago.”

That is when you get to be the blessing.  Your willingness to suffer, to die, for Christ is a more potent tool and weapon than any that they can use against you.  You will show not only obedience to Christ, but love for your fellow man.  Whether he slanders you, curses you, spits on you, strikes you, or kills you…. HOW you receive it and respond matters more than anything else.  Respond with love.  Respond with mercy.  As Christ said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

When the local atheist activist chapter attacks your Christmas Nativity scene, respond with love.  When someone scoffs at you reading your Bible in the library, say a quick prayer for them.  When you are struck either physically or verbally because of your faith, do not respond in anger and confront them harshly, but with an open heart.  Do not argue with them, but show them your inner confidence and your faithfulness by refusing to stoop to their level.  If you are arrested for Christ, go willingly and be like Paul – openly praising God in your prison cell – His design may be that you are to witness to a fellow prisoner,  a guard, or even the warden.  If you are to be tortured or executed, look with mercy on the men who live in darkness and ignorance.

You see that you are truly free.  Free of anything that the world can hurl at you.  Christ’s blood shields you completely.  Be confident.  Be strong.  Be courageous.  You have nothing to fear.

If you respond out of love, you never know who might be listening or watching.  Your persecution may be their first brush with the Truth.  If you let Christ work through you in that moment, amazing things will happen.

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
    to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
    I have not been rebellious,
    I have not turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
    from mocking and spitting.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.
He who vindicates me is near.
    Who then will bring charges against me?
    Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
    Let him confront me!
It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
    Who will condemn me?

Isaiah 50:4-9

 

 

 

Persecution

What is persecution?

Simply, persecution is oppression and war waged against believers either openly or privately with the sole purpose of punishing the believers’ faith in Christ.

There are many in America that are blind to persecution because of our open and tolerant society where all religions and faiths are accepted and practiced.  It also helps that we are a majority self-identified Christian nation and founded based on Biblical principles as I have written about before.  Does this mean that we are immune from persecution here?  Not at all.  Persecution will always exist.  If you are willing to profess belief in something radical, and Christ’s promises and challenges for us are definitely radical in the eyes of the world, then you will be attacked for this belief.

When lots of Christians think of persecution today, they think of Christians being herded into coliseums in the Roman Empire for slaughter.  They think of missionaries attacked in the field by the very people they came to teach the Gospel.  They think of things that have happened in the past where the lens of time provides a clear picture of how and why something happened so we can easily label it persecution.

You can look about a list a host of countries where Christianity is not just scorned, but openly attacked.  Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, China, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, Russia, India, Cuba, Tanzania, and Indonesia are just a few of the examples where being a Christian can open you up to public ridicule, public arrest and punishment, or even death.

With Christmas coming soon, I think you’ll see a form of persecution in this country, and possibly in your own town.  Put up a manger scene.  Will it be defaced?  Will it be burned to the ground?  Will it be stolen?  Will it be protested?  If it is on public land, will it be the target of a lawsuit?

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:11-12

I even heard a ministry team member state yesterday that he was thankful that we are safe in this country from attack while we worship.  I don’t often disagree with the pastoral staff at my church, but on this point I disagree. Christians are not safe anywhere while they worship and to think otherwise is foolish and short-sighted.  The statistics say that it doesn’t matter how you worship in the US – the illusion of safety within a church is just that, an illusion.

I plan on diving into this topic all week because how thankful can we really be unless we have the right perspective?  Tomorrow – in the face of persecution, what can and what should we do?

 

Food for Thought

Virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone that renders us invincible.  These are the tactics we should study. If we lost these, we are conquered, fallen indeed.  ….so long as our manners and principles remain sound, there is no danger.

Patrick Henry

The diminution of public virtue is usually attended with that of public happiness, and the public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals.

Samuel Adams

No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.

Samuel Adams

Can the Republic be restored?  Are you willing to look within yourself for the answer to that question?    What have you done today to deserve the blessings of liberty and freedom?

Twisting in the Wind

Have you ever found yourself riding high? Everything is going well, success, popularity, fame, fortune, etc are all just coming to you easily (ok, maybe not quite that high, but you’re well off in some aspect of your life).  Has God ever let the one thing that had you riding high to force you back to your knees?

I can’t help but to think of General David Petraeus and his extramarital affair with Ms. Broadwell, his biographer. I could focus on the political aspects of how the affair may have impacted his judgment, or national security, or even the aftermath of the Benghazi incident and Petraeus’ role in it.

Petraeus had built an extremely successful career in the U.S. Army – he was a four-star general, he had been successful as the commander of the armed forces in Afghanistan, at Central Command, and had been elevated to being the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  His name was even floated about in a number of circles as a possible running mate for Governor Romney against Petraeus’ boss, President Obama.  He was definitely riding high.  He probably felt like the world was his oyster and his pride in his own accomplishments was likely soaring in the clouds.  When he was approached to put together his biography, it probably occurred to him that such a maneuver could parlay quickly into an upcoming political career where he would be instantly thrust into the forefront of many Americans’ minds as a possible future Commander-in-Chief.

God, in His ultimate wisdom, knew that pride is the ultimate downfall of man because we ultimately have nothing to be truly proud of as everything we do is just barely better than the accomplishments of dust.  Petraeus’ affair was found out, investigated, exposed, and has resulted in his resigning as Director of the CIA.  For all intents and purposes, this could be the end of his renowned career.  I think he knows this.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

I have a theory, and it is based on nothing more than conjecture at this point, but let me float it so we can see how accurate it is.  For a breakdown of why I think this, please read about the incidents in Benghazi (linked here).

David Petraeus is no longer bound to follow President Obama’s orders.  As CIA Director, the Administration was able to exercise some modicum of control on him, especially if knowledge of this affair was floated as a way to keep him quiet about what really happened.  I’ve heard on the radio that some conservative talk show hosts think Obama fired Petraeus effectively (asking for his resignation) after the election since it wouldn’t be politically damaging, but consider that other public officials have survived extramarital affairs without having to leave their posts.

One simple question – is Petraeus willingly falling on his sword career-wise in order to ensure that truth of what happened in Benghazi sees the light of day? This brings us back to that passage from Romans.  Could something so personally damaging be used ultimately for good?  Absolutely.

Edited to Add (May 13, 2013):

Rumor has it that General Petraeus will testify this week to the House Oversight Committee regarding the Benghazi scandal that exploded in the President’s face last week.  His testimony could be particularly damning.

The question that we will have answered potentially is whether the President and his cabinet were incompetent in their response and subsequent coverup of the events in Benghazi or if they were complicit in it by disallowing reinforcements or rescue missions.

Pick your poison – either one is a surefire path to impeachment proceedings.

Beauty

What is beauty?

It is such a subjective thing really.  What is beautiful to me could be offensive to someone else.

A baby’s smile.

A sleek horse at a full gallop.

The sun gleaming against the clouds as it sets.

A perfectly manicured lawn.

An ice cold beer on the hottest day of Summer.

The first tulip of Spring.

An eagle soaring above the tree-tops.

What do you find beautiful?

Thank the Lord for beauty.  This world may be fallen, but these little blessings are there for us to see and experience.

Just a thought on this Wednesday to help remind everyone that it is all just a matter of perspective.

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