Monthly Archives: December 2014

Past – letting it go

The PAST is closer than we sometimes imagine.  “Our estate seemed to me the finest in the world, for it was so near the city that we enjoyed all its benefits, and yet could come back home and be rid of all its rush and worry.”  Sound like the 2014 suburbanite?  A rich suburbanite did write it, but in 539 B.C, not A.D. 2014.  And the city was Babylon, not San Diego, Chicago or New York.

The PAST.  It has always seemed more peaceful and less rushed than the present, no matter when the present is.  In the 1840’s a railroading boom changed the face of America.  The boom brought wrecks, greater speed and frequent death.  One man decried the 25 MPH speed of the trains and the “haste” in which everyone moved.  “O,” he cried, “for the good old days of heavy post-coaches and speed at the rate of six miles an hour!”

The PAST.  We cannot live in it, as Somerset Maugham’s story Red so ably dramatized.  Nor can we change it.  “Stare out the window,” Doug Collins wrote after being recaptured, trying to escape in W W II.  “Think about bad luck and bad planning.  But nothing changes what is past.”  We must also forget its mistakes, since their remembrance only brings more trouble.  As the Duke in Othello says, “To mourn a mischief that is past and gone is the next way to draw more mischief on.”  And Paul adds:  “Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

The PAST.  It’s a wonderful place to visit.  But isn’t it nice to be living in the PRESENT?  Isn’t it even nicer to have a Sure and Secure FUTURE in Christ Jesus?

Christ – our example in caring

That night the Sea of Galilee swallowed the violent wind that funneled into it, choked it half-way down, and coughed it back as menacing waves that threatened death to all on its waters.  The disciples, exhausting every alternative to sinking, kneed their way to Jesus and screamed a fear known only to frightened mariners, “Master, don’t you care if we drown?” Mark 4:38

Another day, as Jesus walked towards Jairus’ house, a woman weak from persistent blood loss sneaked through the crowd and touched him in a desperate act of faith.  The Master wheeled, piercingly surveyed the shoving, pushing throng and demanded to know:  “Who touched me?  I can tell that power went out from me.” Luke 8:46

The second incident answers the question of the first.  Of all the fine compliments paid to Christ, one of the finest is:  he cared.

Power went out from him, and he felt it diminish him as it went.  He gained that power by intensive meditation in the Old Testament Scriptures and from sleepless nights spent in prayer.  Then, characteristically, squandered his Niagara-like energies on all who sought his help.  He carried the penalty of sin to the cross.  He also carried throughout his ministry, in his body, heart and soul, the consequences of sin.  Isaiah presciently forecast this often overlooked aspect of our Lord’s life.  “Surely he has borne our griefs,” the prophet said, “and carried our sorrows.”

Jesus cared.  He got involved.  And it cost him plenty.  Involvement always does.  It takes time; requires effort; demands sacrifices.  Pain often accompanies it and hurt is its bosom friend.  Tears and exhaustion are often its by-products.  Care never comes cheaply or easily.

Maybe that’s why most of us don’t get involved.  We like to do whatever pleases us.  And what pleases us most is what we like to do, not what we must.  The call to duty, to responsibility, has never had the agreeable sound of the call to indulgence.

Jesus makes liars of us all.  He came as the greatest—and served as one of the least.  He came as the most highly honored—but ministered as the most humbled.  Sovereign of all, he seemed but a slave to our every need.  We cannot, under any circumstance, argue with his example.  But may God help us stop disgracing it by refusing to get involved in his service.

God – sovereign over life’s contradiction

Both Jacob and his son Joseph, pampered in their youths, would mature into spiritual giants under stress and persecution.  Jacob, who loved tent-living, not the pleasure of the fields, would make his livelihood in the fields, bereft of comfort in tents.  Joseph wore a technicolor coat in his youth as a sign of his father’s favor; and prison stripes in his maturity as a sign of God’s.  Jacob/Israel would live long, appropriate as the last of his class of patriarchs.  Joseph would die young, among the first of his family, appropriate as the one saving Israel from famine and the first to inherit its fruits.

God sent Israel to Egypt to keep them intact as tribes, so 40 years later he could deliver them from Egypt as an incipient nation.  In that regard, God freed his few people from extinction by enslaving them to Egypt.  Then heavy-handedly smashed his way through multiple levels of Pharaonic arrogance to free Israel from the threat of Egyptian religion.  And Moses…that splendid Man of God…would be so willingly led by God, only to be so fractiously followed by the Israelites.

Through it all God’s predictive will couldn’t be changed or thwarted, let alone defeated by any contradiction.  Indeed, human contradictions as his hand-maidens would repeatedly prove God’s singular harmony as ruler of all.

Christ – birth not wanted by all

The angel’s message to the shepherds could have stirred, and should have stirred, admiration, delight and freedom to everyone in Israel.  Still, as history would demand, and as the author’s book, Their Own Best Defense, details, not everyone welcomed the Child.

King Herod couldn’t rejoice with news of another king.  Intemperately jealous of his position, he resorted to the sword, seeking to kill him.  His response represented Satan’s oldest and most useless response to God’s will.

The Jewish leadership couldn’t have cared less either.  In fact, they didn’t want another king, because it would have threatened their vested interests.  Having achieved their positions under Herod, they hardly wanted to surrender them to a new and unknown sovereign.  In addition, they would be among the first Herod would suspect of conspiring with another king against him.  To say nothing of the STAR’s appearance that drew the Wise Men to Judea.  As a heathen believing in astrology, Herod would be convinced of the portent.  As leaders of a monotheistic faith that denounced astrology, the priests would never pursue such a portent.  And so on and so on.

The Christmas message remains the greatest possible news the world could receive.  But many have no time for it, have put their hope elsewhere, consider it simply a good idea for those without the grit to live free and clear of restrictions.  It’s no different today than the night God came to us in his baby Son.  Not everyone—sadly, mournfully, and for them catastrophically—welcomes him.  Jesus will not go where he isn’t summoned.  He won’t stay where he isn’t welcomed.  But, what an irretrievable loss we experience when we turn him away!

Christmas – God’s choice of Joseph

Who’s the overlooked person in the Christmas story?  Not the baby, lying and crying in the manger, wrapped tightly in his swaddling clothes.  Not Mary, with all the nonsense attributed to her.  No, Joseph is “old-overlooked.”  Yet, his response to God’s summons proved him worthy of being Christ’s step-father.

Consider God’s Priority in His Life:  When he learned of Mary’s pregnancy, he had three alternatives before him.  One, public denunciation of Mary.  Two, private divorce of Mary.

The first alternative came from the Scripture; the second from Jewish culture.  The Old Testament despised immorality and demanded reprisals against the offender.  (The Pharisees, who brought to Jesus the woman “taken in adultery” knew very well that the Law demanded her execution.)

Joseph had a third alternative that many in his day, and most in ours, would have chosen.  He could have ignored the Bible’s teaching and married the girl anyway.  He could have said:  a) I love Mary, but I know what the Bible says; b) I know what the Bible says, but I love this girl!  (Adam faced that very problem when Eve ate the fruit.  And he let his love for Eve betray his faithfulness to God.)  Many have followed Adam, making their feelings the basis of salvation and discipleship.

The difference in wording is minimal—but the difference in the attitude revealed is monumental.  The first approach makes the Bible the basis of Joseph’s actions; the second makes his feelings for Mary the basis.

If Joseph had followed his feelings, he would have taken the second approach.  He deeply loved his betrothed and could have allowed that love to affect his decision.  He didn’t let his feelings set the Word of God aside.  Whatever struggle he had in reaching the decision we’re not told.  The Bible isn’t concerned when we struggle to obey.  It knows the scale of conflict surrounding us.  It appreciates Satan’s titanic powers.

God does want us to finally will obedience, whatever the struggle.  However fiercely the flesh wars against the Spirit, God demands the Spirit’s victory in us.  He won’t settle for less.

In Joseph he found a man who wouldn’t give less.  For, in the end, he overcame his own feelings for Mary and his desire to love her, regardless, to let God’s Word rule his life.  He decided to sever his relationship with Mary.  But, even there, in such a compassionate way, allowing Mary a private divorce.

Why did God wait until Joseph made that decision?  After all, he was equally involved, and where Mary received the news of her conception by revelation, he heard it by rumor. She first‑hand; he by the grapevine.  After…and only after Joseph made the decision did God intervene in the good dream that explained everything.  Why did God wait?

I can think of one overriding reason:  God wanted to test Joseph’s priorities.  What would Joseph do in the conflict between divine truth and human emotion?  Would Joseph follow the Bible, whatever it cost him personally; or would he refuse to obey God in order to follow his feelings?

One necessity loomed large:  the man who would serve as step‑father of God’s Son would have to be first, last and foremost a man of God’s Word; who would obey God, regardless. Mary had shown that willingness.  To have a spiritual family, each parent had to possess spiritual values.

Remember, too:  four other sons and at least two daughters were born to their marriage.  To be a holy family—not in the nonsense of halos around their heads but in their pursuit of spiritual values—Joseph would necessarily lead in imparting spiritual truth.  It would be a home where he would always ask:  “what does God say?”

Is that the response to the moral choices and decisions facing our families?  Fathers ask, “What does the doctor say,” “What does the psychiatrist say,” “What does the principal say?”  Isn’t anyone ever going to ask, “What does God say?”  If our Christian men and families don’t say it, who’s going to?  And if we’re not going to do it now, when will we start?  Hasn’t our American civilization nearly collapsed in ruin because we haven’t asked at all the question we should have asked first of all:  “What would God have us do?”

Consider Joseph’s Ready Obedience:  We have three references where God commanded Joseph to obey, and his response.  In Matthew 1:20 God said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife.”  In response:  “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (1:24).

In Matthew 2:13, God commanded, “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.”  In response:  “So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt” (2:14).  In 2:19 God ordered, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel.”  In response:  “So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel” (2:21).

God called; Joseph listened.  God commanded; Joseph obeyed at once, completely.  Without debating, or arguing or stating an alternate possibility, Joseph obeyed God’s Word.  How we need to learn from him!  For many of us intend to obey God…sometime; or we known we should…but.  Joseph knew he should and did!

Joseph has never really been honored for his spiritual excellence. Perhaps this message can help redress that oversight.

But simply honoring and admiring him isn’t enough.  Only emulation of his example is sufficient.  Joseph had a cause worth living for and a faith worth living by.  That enabled him to be a presence, not just a body, someone felt and influential, not just seen and ignored.

Only emulating Joseph’s commitment to God’s priority and instant, complete obedience to his will enable us to share in the fame he has rightly earned, but has so seldom received.

The late Jerome Hines would understand Joseph’s decision.  A Metropolitan Opera star, Hines was asked the purpose and goal of his life.  He replied, “If you had asked me that before I became a Christian I would have said I want to become a great opera singer and I want to find happiness.  But now that I’ve become a Christian I have but one purpose, and that is to do whatever the Lord wants me to do.”

There, my friends, is a 20th century counterpart to the first century example.  Joseph obeyed God’s Word and Jerome Hines follows

Christmas – Story in stories

We have sayings that indicate our surprise, delight or shock.  One such is “things aren’t always what they seem.”  Another is “dynamite comes in small packages.”  And a third is “you never know how a thing will turn out.”

The saying this blog repeatedly refers to is “things aren’t always what they seem.”

You wouldn’t think it, but:

‑‑Very little snow falls in the heart of Antarctica.  The temperature is so low that it contains very little water vapor.  The heart of Antarctica is not unlike the Sahara in terms of precipitation.

‑‑The Battle of Bunker Hill in the Revolution, where colonial soldiers soundly thrashed British veterans, was for a long time considered such a disgrace for America that no one would accept responsibility for it.

‑‑An American defeat in the Revolution assured French recognition of our infant nation.  The Battle of Germantown first brought together the massed armies of Britain and America.  When the French Foreign Minister heard the details of the battle, he felt elation.  Having previously advised against supporting the Americans, he now changed positions.  “Nothing has struck me so much as General Washington attacking and giving battle to General Howe’s army,” he wrote.  “To bring troops, raised within a year, to do this, promises everything.”

Things aren’t always what they seem .

You wouldn’t think it would turn out this way, but:

‑‑The land that gave Christianity its birth—and those in which the apostles labored so diligently and fruitfully—are now the most closed mission fields in the world.

‑‑While Hitler was incarcerated in Landsberg prison, all he did was write a book‑‑a harmless enough avocation—or so his jailer said, for it kept Hitler out of mischief.  WRONG.  As Robert Payne wrote, he didn’t know the danger in the book.  For in Mein Kampf Hitler outlined his plans to conquer the world.

‑‑ President Abraham Lincoln was the single personality in the North during the Civil War who insisted that the South be defeated.  When John Wilkes Booth took the President’s life, he thought he had done the South a favor‑‑ridding it of its most ferocious enemy.  Yet Booth’s violent act irreparably harmed the South.  For, while Lincoln proved the South’s inveterate foe in war, no one in the North was more conciliatory towards her in peace.  With his removal, no one stood between the South and the radical politicians who wanted her brutalized.

Things aren’t always what they seem.

I know this is hard to believe but:

‑‑Czar Alexander III of Russia had such powerful shoulders, arms and hands that he could take iron pokers and bend them double—and take horseshoes in his hand and twist them apart.

‑‑There once was a little duck—a Japanese duck.  But this Japanese duck happened to be in an American POW camp in Ofuna, Japan.  The POW’s shared their food with the duck.  At one time it had broken a leg and a POW splinted it.  The duck survived, though it thereafter walked with a limp.  At every morning roll call, the prisoners would stand at attention in a straight line, and find their duck limping along to get in formation too, always at the end of the line. When the POW’s bowed to the Emperor, the duck would watch their heads bow—and then it would bob its head in obeisance.  It seemed incredible to the POW’s that a birdbrain like a duck could have such intelligence.

But things aren’t always what they seem.

It’s hard to understand how small things can have enormous consequences, but:

‑‑No more than 5,000 men on each side fought the Battle of Quebec on the plains of Abraham, yet the outcome of that battle decided the political, economic and religious fate of hundreds of millions in North America.

‑‑In the battles of Lexington and Concord only 72 out of 2,000 British soldiers died. But those small‑scale engagements marked the end of one way of life and the beginning of another for our nation.  They were indeed shots heard “round the world”.

‑‑One cold December night in l955, a black named Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  That single refusal, by that one lady, led to the active boycott of the bus company, to the emergence of the civil rights struggle, to fame for Martin Luther King, Jr. and an awareness of black power that didn’t get the name for l5 more years.

‑‑Luther  nailed  95  theses  for  debate  on  the  church  door  at Wittenburg, Germany, October 3l, l5l7.  He wanted a debate with scholars.  Instead he got a complete spiritual revolution.

‑‑Dante nearly wrote his Divine Comedy in Tuscan, an obscure dialect that few understood.  Instead he wrote in Latin, a language universal in Europe at that time.  By that small margin his work escaped oblivion and became a classic composition of Catholic theology and philosophy and of contemporary European history.

‑‑In the fall of l94l German and Russian forces fought a small scale, really accidental, battle at Mga, in northern Russia. But the consequences were enormous.  For that single engagement precipitated the encirclement of Leningrad, leading to a disastrous 900 day siege.

‑‑On the morning of July l, l863, outside a small Pennsylvania town, Confederate scavengers went looking for food and clothing. They encountered a Union patrol and engaged it.  This small skirmish catapulted the two armies into a full scale conflict that neither wanted just then.  The Battle of Gettysburg proved the key battle in the South’s struggle for independence.  From that point it was obvious it must fail.

‑‑In San Antonio, Texas is an old adobe mission called the Alamo.  It’s unpretentious and unlovely. “There’s nothing to it,” one visitor said, having seen it firsthand.  The place itself isn’t important, however.  What happened there immortalized it. l83 men chose to stand by, not surrender, an idea.  That stand electrified the country, galvanized opposition to Mexico and inspired 900 soldiers as they attacked Santa Ana’s army at San Jacinto.

Things aren’t always what they seem.

I know this takes faith, but:

In the unlikeliest place, in the unlikeliest way, God came to earth one night‑‑from a virgin’s womb, in Bethlehem of Judea.  Now…we say Bethlehem as if it were the obvious choice, but only because of Scripture.  To many at the time, Jerusalem the Golden, not Bethlehem the non-descript, would have been the obvious choice.

To add impossibility to incredulity, his mother gave birth in a stable.  He didn’t enjoy a warm house, with a mid‑wife standing by to offer assistance.  No…not even in the best home of the village did he have his nativity, but out in the barn where cows lowed, donkeys brayed, chickens roosted, dogs slept‑‑manure smells in the air, straw for a bed, the night air cold against his tiny body.

Precious few knew that anything unusual had happened that night.  The next morning life went storming on its way, people about business as usual and travelers underway to their native villages to register for Caesar’s census.  Precious few would have considered that anything earth‑shaking could have occurred right under their noses, without their knowledge.

But things aren’t always what they seem.  Somewhere in that dusty, hot, sun‑baked village, and if we walk in Bethlehem today, we would somewhere walk over the spot, somewhere there Almighty God stuffed himself into a human‑form in the life of a baby called Jesus.  There have been great benefactors and gifts in history:

‑‑George Peabody, a generous American philanthropist of the last century, gave away 9 million dollars without the benefit of tax deductions.

‑‑Peter Cooper, American businessman, in pursuit of fine arts and science, contributed $900,000 to the construction of Cooper Union in New York.

‑‑John Hopkins left 7 million dollars in his will for a university and a hospital.

But the greatest gift of al, the gift incalculably more significant because it makes more of a change for more people forever, is God’s gift of Christ in Bethlehem, reconciling the world to himself.

‑‑He would alter, not only history, but the eternal destinies of billions already born and dead and more billions to come.  Back to Adam would his birth reach, and forward from Calvary would it extend, until it had brought hope to all seeking it and salvation to those embracing it.

Something small happened in Bethlehem that night long ago.  A baby was born.  Not an unusual thing then or now.  But things are not always what they seem.  For this baby would be different.  he was born:

‑‑A King

‑‑God in the flesh

–To reign in us forever

–To serve his brothers, yet to reign over all

‑‑To die in their stead and for their sins—yet

‑‑To be raised again from death the third day, to die no more

‑‑To return to heaven as the Word of God and

‑‑One day to return to earth as Son of God.

It was small—but large with magnificent consequences.  And it can have magnificent consequences yet today in anyone’s heart who is willing to say, “there is room in my heart, Lord Jesus, for you.”

Things aren’t always what they seem in this world.  But one day Jesus will return from heaven…and then…when he does…everything will be exactly as it seems, for Reality will displace the illusions we all now experience.

The Lord’s Supper – and Christ’s prayer of thanks

For at least 60 years I’ve known that Matthew 26:26-27 recorded Christ’s prayer of thanksgiving when establishing the loaf and cup as the Lord’s Supper.  Yet, only when our friend Mike Brown read the passage last week for his communion devotional did I wonder:  of what did the Master’s thanksgiving consist?  Have you ever wondered?

To be sure, hearing God the Son preach astounded listeners with its jaw-dropping originality and authority.  And hearing God the Son pray to God the Father proved equally impressive and astonishing.

Beyond being sure that Christ’s thanksgiving was specific and particular, as his teachings and prayers always were, can we approximate its content on this occasion?  Perhaps a short study of other examples of prayers of thanksgiving, not necessarily in order of appearance, will answer the question.

We know, for example, that Jesus thanked God for the loaves and fish before feeding 5,000 and 4,000 men, Matthew 14:19; 15:36.  We can surmise he thanked God for the Twelve that he and God chose as the kingdom’s nucleus, Luke 6:12.  This is clarified when he commended the Eleven for sharing his trials, Luke 22:28.

We know that he praised God in prayer for revealing kingdom secrets to little children (people of faith), and hiding them from the “wise and learned” Matthew 11:25 (Which the little children in the temple after the Triumphal Entry embodied, Matthew 21:15-16).

Jesus also delightedly praised God after the 70 disciples returned from a preaching tour, Luke 10:21-24.  That thanksgiving forecast the change coming to the religious life, made clear only in Acts 6:3-4.  God empowered laymen, not priests, not even preachers, to embody the kingdom.

Jesus thanked God for always hearing him when he prayed before raising Lazarus, John 11:41-42.  When invited by the men of Emmaus to share their hospitality, he “took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.”  The Master’s action may have focused on what the loaf-breaking would cause—the opening of their eyes to his presence, Luke 24:30.  And when, during the last week, in the struggle between his destiny and its cost, he undoubtedly thanked God for helping him fulfill his destiny, despite its cost, John 12:28.  In addition, his entire prayer in John 17 embodied Christ’s appreciation of the men God gave him to mature as disciples, accompanied by God’s need to protect them as they served.

With millions of other Jews, from age 12, Jesus gave thanks at each Passover for Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.  And he gave thanks for the Passover Lamb in the three previous Passovers he and the disciples shared.  And again, on this Thursday night, he again gave thanks, but with a new emphasis, consecrating the bread and cup as HIS SUPPER.  Of what, then would his thanks consist?

We don’t now for certain, but we can hazard a likely possibility.  The entire celebration focused on the Lamb Moses had ordered slain 1500 years before by each Jewish family earlier in the day of the midnight hour when blood on doorposts protected the occupants from the Death Angel Passing Over the Land.

Jesus would be thinking of that Lamb slain so faithfully each year by generations of Jews.  But in the Upper Room, thinking not of that Lamb, repeatedly slain, but of HIMSELF, God’s Perfect Lamb come to sacrifice himself ONCE for all to rescue the world from sin, not merely a people from bondage.

Since he had been born for the hour ahead, and since by nine the next morning he would fulfill the purpose for which he came, it’s logical that the completion of his purpose punctuated, activated and empowered the thanks offered for the loaf and cup.  The time had finally COME to be the Sacrifice God ordained; and to become the High Priest his success would provide.  Think about it.

World Events – A Christian’s Perspective on Current– II

(Continued)

Note:  this blog was first a lesson in 2004.  However, its lessons continue to instruct us. (Genesis 15:12-14; Isaiah 37:1-13, 21-28; Habakkuk 1:6, 2:13-14)

No doubt exists God wanted Saddam Hussein removed from power because his wickedness had grown beyond God’s patience.  Remember his word to Abraham about the Amorites.  What America and her allies did was God’s will in Iraq.  It’s even possible to say God wanted Hussein removed in the Gulf War when it would have been relatively painless to do so.  Given that fact, why does the recovery in Iraq continue to be painful and uncertain?  From four mistakes made, the first three avoidable, the other inevitable.

First, our planners underestimated the time needed to recover from a 30 year dictatorship.  Remember, Hitler and his goons survived only 12 years, and fanatical, underground Nazis bound themselves with oaths to indiscriminately kill Germans who co-operated with the Allies and   Allied soldier in isolated areas.  In addition, the German people quickly grew hostile to the Allied occupation of Germany after the war.  All of this was repeated in Iraq.  Some things never change.

Second, the military alliance made Iraq’s compliance with the armistice a U.N. responsibility.  Since the United Nations excels all government organizations in incompetence and corruption, the resulting failure was foreordained.

Third, and by far the more important mistake:  our planners misunderstood the nature of Islam.  Indeed, they judged Iraqi Islam by Iraqi Muslims in America.  A very bad idea, because no relationships exists between the two.  Islam is a 7th century religion at home in a desert environment among tribal peoples, where control of daily life is complete.  It’s much like the dawn to dusk control the Catholic Church exercised over its people in the 14th century.  Every aspect of life was and is determined by both religions, including diet, dress, home life, marriage, death, etc.  This made the religion, not the person, responsible for decision-making.

We cannot accurately judge any religion outside of its natural environment.  The same principle is true of Buddhism or any imported religion.  Don’t judge historic Buddhism by emancipated American Buddhists.  The very religion they embrace restricted their freedoms in their homeland and led to their exodus—yet they pretend equality to Christianity which frees us here and now in our own land and inspires us to never live anywhere else—except at God’s behest!

This is a perspective secular historians and even Christian politicians can’t be expected to understand.  This perspective comes only to the spiritually-discerned.  See I Corinthians 2:14-15.  Christians can judge all events, while secularists can’t even properly judge secular events.

Whatever the future of Iraq proves to be, and in 2014 it’s still unsure, it will not be an American-style democracy, because that concept is alien to Islam.  It doesn’t think in those terms or have such concepts in its religious thesaurus.  We are paying a dreadful price for our spiritual ignorance; the price will increase.

Fourth, and most importantly, our planners couldn’t understand the spiritual nature of the conflict.  Satan had his man in Baghdad and hated to see him removed.  Satan isn’t anything if he isn’t ingenious in attacking those who harm him.  Thus, Satan had been actively at work in Iraq through Hussein; as he’s actively at work through the terrorists anywhere in the world.

But not to worry.  God’s sovereignty exists where God’s word isn’t Satan’s effective jailer.  Luther talked about God ruling ordinary events with his right hand, but employing his left in times of crisis.

As Tennessee Ernie Ford said in his song 16 Tons, one fist of iron, the other of steel:  if the right one don’t get you, the left one will.  Satan can’t win because God can’t lose.  In a sense, God’s word and sovereignty are one—his sovereignty is expressed by his word, as his creation of the world and limits to Satan in Job prove.  But their practical expressions are distinctly seen.

Conclusion:

Remember that there are four reasons God condemns societies—and America is flagrantly guilty of 3 of the 4—immorality, materialism, and spiritual blindness.  It’s innocent only of militarism.

God’s sovereignty in our history and his judgment of nations is bedrock Bible teaching, taught from Genesis to Revelation, and illustrated in the ruins of a 1000 societies that considered themselves superior to God’s presence and immune to his punishments!   – FINI –

World Events – A Christian’s Perspective on Current – I

Note:  this blog was first a lesson in 2004.  However, its lessons continue to instruct us.  (Genesis 15:12-14; Isaiah 37:1-13, 21-28; Habakkuk 1:6, 2:13-14)

Christians must be aware of trends in history, since particular events are important only as they fit trends.  Isolated events are sideshows that can easily distract us or, worse, give the impression of indiscriminate chance in history.  Mortals are always attracted to specific events while overlooking trends.

Since 1967, two specific events have confirmed God’s sovereignty over history.  However, while everyone noticed them, they missed the trend each illustrated.  One, the return of old Jerusalem to Israel, predicted by Jesus in Luke 21:24 and confirmed by Paul as a turning point in history Romans 11:25.  Two, the judgment in 1989 of Marxism-Leninism, symbolized in the fall of Soviet Communism throughout Eastern Europe.  This colossal event achieved God’s purpose, yet its meaning entirely eluded most Americans.

Instead of merely delighting that God exposed communists as charlatans, we should have been sobered.  We learned nothing from the event; we certainly didn’t see it as a warning.  If he judged communism’s atheism, his judgment of America’s materialism-humanism cannot be long delayed.

Other events include D-Day, 6 June, 1944.  It proved an awesome event, but the trend that made it inevitable began with the evacuation of 300,000 Allied soldiers from Dunkirk May 29-June 2, 1940.

The Atomic bombs dropped on Japan August 6 and 9, 1945, focused world attention on the public shock of the blasts.  However, the trend had consumed governmental research world-wide for decades.  Japan itself earnestly tried to develop an atomic bomb.

In that regard, let’s correct a wide-spread error ceaselessly spouted by liberals:  that war never achieves anything.  In fact, war achieves a great deal that wouldn’t be achieved any other way.  Just a few examples illustrate.

The battle of Tours in AD 722 turned back a Moslem invasion that would otherwise have spread over Europe.

Only the American willingness to fight brought Independence from Great Britain.  Great Britain learned from that defeat to let her other colonies peacefully achieve independence.

Danny Glover, one of the blacks objecting to war because “it doesn’t achieve anything” must not know his people were freed from slavery by the North’s willingness to fight rather than let the South secede in 1861.

The Mexican War in 1846 made it possible for us to live in California right now.  Would we even want to live in San Diego County now if it were a continuation of Tijuana?  Or in the Southwest anywhere if it were only a continuation of Mexico?

The liberation of Europe came because Allied peoples sacrificed themselves and their children to destroy an evil Nazi empire.  Would they ever have surrendered to an economic embargo?

Even as war changes everything, it expedites technology in society.  For instance, our Civil War pushed America out of an agricultural into the industrial age.  It would have happened eventually, perhaps in a generation or more, but war accelerated the process.  Without it, and succeeding conflicts, we wouldn’t have our present medical, business and communication advances.

Like Christians, nations must choose their conflicts carefully.  They can’t let every disagreement deteriorate into war, but sometimes they have no choice but to fight rather than surrender.  Otherwise, vicious Satanists uncontestedly occupy territory and human lives.  Such warfare most generally has divine guidance motivating it.  This is obvious in the Old Testament, but clear also in contemporary life.

Think of Sadaam Hussein’s removal from power.  It is a single event, but it complements the trend God enunciated to Abraham in Genesis 15:12-14.  God tolerates evil only to a certain measure, then punishes the evil-doer.  On the aircraft carrier on which President Bush landed, a huge banner exclaimed Mission Accomplished.  And, indeed, the military accomplished its mission—the removal of Hussein from power, a decision God wanted implemented.  Hussein had poured his cup of iniquity full to overflowing, and God finally broke his cup.

A note of mystery exists here.  Hussein’s evil was known by many, including our CIA, State Department officials and business representatives who still conducted business with him.  Which proves that humans don’t determine when God decides to act.  Hussein’s pre-emptive strike against Kuwait in August 1990 serves as an example of God’s sovereignty over the nations.  Had Hussein waited another 2-3 years, he would have possessed atomic weapons.  That would have raised the stakes of war to a critical stage.

This is an example of the conflict that continues between God and Satan.  Satan uses people but God controls situations and the people in them.  One of two theories explain how Satan uses people, but loses control of them to God.

He hates God so much that he refuses to accept the defeat Jesus mercilessly inflicted on him in the wilderness and on the cross. That refusal keeps alive his opposition.

The ego of the people he uses as willing instruments become their own gods after a certain point. In this way they pass from Satan’s influence to God’s control

The best example of this is Christ’s death.  Satan didn’t want him dead, but the Jewish leadership did.  While he used them, he lost influence when their ego got in the way.

(God’s servants escape this difficulty.  Once we commit our lives to him, both his control of us and influence over us increase and, in the extension, our usefulness to others increases.  This is in accordance with the spiritual principle that only degrees of depravity exist in sin, and only dimensions of excellence exist in righteousness).

Whatever the explanation, God allows Satan’s use of humans to conflict God’s will, but maintains control over all events and the persons in them.  As a consequence, even the evil serve God, despite their opposition.  God’s orders to Satan in Job reflect that reality 1:12, 2:6. – CONTINUED –

Crisis – different responses from pulpits

While many Northern pulpits remained silent on the slavery issue in the 1850’s—and Southern pulpits spoke only in defense of the institution—the Fugitive-Slave Law of 1850 roused protest from many Northern preachers.  Then, in 1854, with the passage of the dreaded Kansas-Nebraska bill, outrage erupted in Northern pulpits.

Conservative editors and politicians—meaning those favorable to slavery, or unwilling to pursue force in eliminating the penitentiary culture—continued to deplore any criticism of slavery in American pulpits.  Henry Ward Beecher, however, championed the outspoken pulpiteers and emboldened the timid by saying that “any topic introduced into the pulpit became thereby consecrated.”  (Impressible Conflict), pp. 260-261)

That may not be true, as shown in the preaching in many black churches today.  Black preachers have honed their pulpits into defiant cries against what they consider unfair treatment by whites and other minorities—particularly Asian immigrants, who have shown a remarkable willingness to EARN their way into American culture.

The cry in such churches today is:  “Don’t judge black men on the streets”; “I can’t breath”; “My hands are up.”  Pro athletes join the chorus, wearing the same messages on their jerseys.  It’s hilarious:  black millionaire athletes have so little in common with working-class blacks, let alone welfare-class blacks.  But it’s a “feel-good” way to show support, since it costs nothing beyond a slogan.  Not many successful black athletes have taken the time and spent the money Magic Johnson has in renewing the economies of their communities.  It’s always easier to let someone else do it, particularly an Uncle Sam represented by politicians who freely trade money for votes.  Black churches today are often little more than adjuncts of the U.S. Welfare Department instead of being submissive to the Holy Spirit by evangelizing their communities.  Little wonder Islam has enjoyed success among American blacks.  God won’t use a church evangelistically that has become a religio-politico organization.

Those black churches also regularly welcome white liberal politicians into their pulpits.  Question:  when have any politicians, let alone liberal politicians, had any message appropriate to pulpits supposedly committed to Jesus Christ’s Gospel?  Of course, those politicians assure the blacks of their continued financial support if kept in office.  But when has it been necessary for independent-thinking people to rely on government handouts?

A point of fact missed in all the protest marches today.  A few exceptions exist to this rule, which only proves the rule:  cops do not chase anyone unless he runs away; they do not use physical force to subdue anyone unless he fights handcuffs and arrest.  And in any physical confrontation, cops are armed to harm or kill violent people; which should force compliance, not more violence, in the one arrested.  And, while cops do not purposefully target anyone on the streets, they now that thugs, drug dealers, prostitutes and other lawbreakers use the streets to ply their trade; which is why most confrontations occur in public, in the raw, not in sanitized interview rooms or courtrooms.

A big change has occurred in America.  In the 1850’s white pulpits railed against slavery.  In 2014’s black pulpits rail against inadequate monies coming from the United States’ Treasury into their churches and supposedly into their communities.  It doesn’t take a genius to know that 1850 pulpits, from a high moral position, attacked a real wrong; while 2014 attacks, from self-centered motives, merely a perceived wrong.