Loving Your Neighbor

~ Radical thoughts to follow. ~

So many Christians these days are stuck in thinking of God as the almighty Creator of the universe, the final judge and authority on everything good, and they fear this powerful deity enthroned in unfathomable power.  They get so caught up in the God who utterly crushed Sodom and Gomorrah, caused the ground to swallow up disobedient men whole, and sent bears to maul dozens of “youths” in response to a curse by His prophet after their “teasing” of him.  If that is the God you know, you are missing Him… essentially in a forest for the trees moment.

Now let me get this straight – the God I’m talking about did all of those things, but He is so much more.  The God I’m talking about is not vengeful and destructive – He is creative, He is merciful, He is loving.  He is not hovering somewhere up in space ready to cast down lightning and hurl giant hailstones at you if you stumble and fall in trying to serve Him.

This is why the concept of God the Father is so important.  Think to your own children if you have them.  As a father, we only want the very best for them.  We teach them, guide them, influence them, discipline them, and love them as much as we can before we turn them loose on the world.  God the Father is no different, except that He doesn’t want us to ever get turned loose, but rather to turn back to Him – to love Him in return and to become not just His child, but rather also His friend.

Few men in the Bible were ever credited as friends of God – Abraham, Moses, David. These men didn’t go on and do measly things either. Abraham is the forefather of two great peoples – Jews through Isaac (by extension Christians) and Muslims. Moses became the first civil rights leader the world has ever seen – he led an entire nation from slavery to freedom.  David established Israel as a nation-state and also provided the family lineage for the Son of God to be born with a royal bloodline.  These men also give us a stark contrast though because of their friendship with God – Moses talked God out of destroying the idol worshiping Israelites, but He also repeatedly angered God as well to the point where he was forbidden from entering the Promised Land at the end of the decades-long journey to freedom.  David had a man killed because he thought his wife was smoking hot and wanted her for himself.  Neither of these men were perfectly moral, but they sought and loved God for who He was and unconditionally on their parts.

It is friendship with God that brings with it God’s unconditional mercy.

Instead of fearing God because of His righteousness, power, and judgment, we should strive to befriend God because He is right there waiting for us to do just that.  It’s all that He wants as our Father…. the absolute best for us.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Matthew 22:37

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Night of Long Knives

Quick history lesson first before we get into the here and now.

The Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) occurred more than 70 years ago.  This was a German move against members of their own society – Jews.  Jewish-owned stores, buildings, synagogues, homes, hospitals, and schools were attacked – windows broken, demolished, ransacked, vandalized, and burned to the ground.  91 Jews were killed. 30,000 Jews were arrested. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned. Over 7,000 Jewish businesses had their buildings destroyed.  Up until this point in time, Jewish persecution in German-held territory had been limited to politics, social status, and economics.  Following this night, that persecution shifted to physical violence – beatings and murder.  Kristallnacht is considered the very beginning of the horrible evil that has come to be known as the Holocaust.

Now, why would I bring this up today?

Because we, as humans short on perspective and wisdom, are so prone to revisit the mistakes and evils of the past.

Following nearly a week of church burnings and Islamist attacks on Christian sites, the targeting of Christians in Egypt continued with reports of nuns being paraded in the streets, two Christians killed, a statue of the Virgin Mary decapitated, and two Christian female siblings being groped by a mob.

Many Islamists Fault Egypt’s Coptic Christians

In Egyptian village, Christian shops marked ahead of church attack

Islamist mob parades nuns in Cairo as prisoners of war after six hours looting church school and replacing cross with banner resembling Al Qaeda flagThe tremors in Egypt threaten to engulf the region and the world as an whole in a conflict unseen on this planet for a generation.  Christians make up a small minority of the population in Egypt and they are a likely scapegoat for the troubles in that country, the question we have to ask ourselves is who the Egyptians will blame when all of the Christians have been bled out or fled the country.  Israel is next door.History has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

Same-Sex Marriage – A Message to Supportive Christians

I am appalled and saddened by the so-called Christians who are openly supporting that which is identified as sin time and time again within the Bible, of which you supposedly assert is the true word of God.  How can you honestly expect to stand before your Creator at your judgment and say that you believe that sinners deserved the right to continue sinning?

Are we not called to eliminate the sin from our lives and to not be stumbling blocks for others?  By enabling further sin and the further defiling of the Godly structure of marriage, do you not become complicit in the very sin itself?

Do you take an alcoholic to a bar?

Do you send your children over to play at a known pedophile’s house?

Do you invite a compulsive gambler to your weekly poker game?

No, because you are enabling the sin.

Now, as an enabler of sin, are you showing love for the person or love for the world?

Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:10-11

Christ did not hate the woman in this passage.  He saved her from a stoning.  She was living in sin, but Christ did not save her so that she could continue sinning, but rather so she could leave her sins behind and live a new life in the glorious truth of His Righteousness.

So what will it be?  Enabler of sin or freedom from sin?

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1:28-32

By enabling the sin, by validating it and supporting a so-called “right” to the blessing and privilege of the defined title of marriage, you show a callousness toward sin that should shake you to your soul.  Look at the words Paul penned above… the people he is talking about were professing Christians!  No understanding!  No fidelity! No love!  No mercy!  Does that description offend?  Good.

Christ did not die to enable sin, but to destroy it.

 

 

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?

 

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