justice

Does it matter?

In the last 5 years or so I’ve been intrigued by the research done by groups such as Barna, Pew, Gallup and others. While statistical analysis is not 100% accurate it is interesting to consider what the numbers say about the views and values of our nation. Such data is especially interesting when studies are repeated year over year for a decade ore more. Earlier this month Pew Research released the findings of their “Trends in American Values” study; a survey which they’ve conducted and expanded for the last 25 years. Although I’ve only skimmed the overview and have not read the full 164 page report, the trends are interesting, to say the least; and particularly so for the Church. For instance, on page 5 of the overview we read.

Republicans and Democrats are furthest apart in their opinions about the social safety net. There are partisan differences of 35 points or more in opinions about the government’s responsibility to care for the poor, whether the government should help more needy people if it means adding to the debt and whether the government should guarantee all citizens enough to eat and a place to sleep.

[…]

Just 40% of Republicans agree that “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves,” down 18 points since 2007. In three surveys during the George W. Bush administration, no fewer than half of Republicans said the government had a responsibility to care for those unable to care for themselves. In 1987, during the Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62% expressed this view.

Later the report reveals Republican and Democrat value shifts graphically.

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Is this an issue?  Does it matter? I think is and does.

In chapter 2 of his book “Preaching & Preachers” Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones writes briefly of early 20th century British church history.  He cites the rise of a “social gospel” in Western countries prior to the First World War and explains that the same was happening in America at the time of His lecture series, which ultimately became the book “Preaching & Preachers.” Lloyd-Jones’ purpose in doing so was to highlight the importance of keeping the preaching of the gospel central to the work of the church.  He argues that this “social gospel” was “largely responsible for emptying the churches in Great Britain.” I do not question Lloyd-Jones’ assertion, nor do I disagree that preaching should remain primary within the Church.  The social concerns that Lloyd-Jones addresses are ones of ethics and morality, which he rightly argues are nothing without godliness; his points are actually well made .  My concern however, which I believe is represented in the above data from Pew Research, is that American Evangelical Christianity in the last half century, or more, has neglected its social responsibility.  This shift is certainly not because of Lloyd-Jones, but rather a position that seems to say “the purpose of the church is preaching, and we should vacate the social sphere.”

Yes, the proclamation of the gospel is the central work of the Church.  It is essential that we “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15).  But are there not aspects of the gospel that require the activity of the Church in the sphere of social issues?  Throughout it’s history, the Church has been the body which addressed humanity’s social ills.  Health and welfare are the responsibility of the body of Christ.  Be that as it may, somewhere in the middle of the last century, the American Evangelical Church withdrew from that sphere, leaving a vacuum.  Since nature abhors a vacuum, someone or something had to fill it.  Enter the Government.  What once was the ground held by the church is now occupied by federal, state and local government agencies.  What once was provided for by the loving charity of God’s People is now—out of necessity—funded by ever increasing taxation.  So, it is no surprise that Republicans, who are far more “religious” than Democrats, and who count themselves “socially conservative” would agree that It is not the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves, or meet the needs of the poor.  My question is, are we, the Church, ready to move back into the sphere that is rightfully ours and gladly meet the needs of others via our loving, compassionate charity?  What good is social conservatism’s push for prayer in schools and the Ten Commandments back in the public arena, if we’re unwilling to practically display the love of Christ through gospel demonstration?

To political pundits like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage,  “Social Justice” is a catchphrase for Communism.  But it is elementary in Christianity that “I am my brother’s keeper.”

Inner Struggle

The Lie of the “Good Girl”

“She’s too innocent . . . she doesn’t do that. I don’t think she even knows what that is.”

“She’s a good girl and that’s not like her to do that.”

I believe these can be some of the most harmful words overheard by young girls. I was that oh-so-put-together, organized, on every academic team in school, over achiever, got good grades girl. I overheard as others labeled me by saying things like, “She’s so mature.” “She knows that’s wrong, so she won’t do that.” “Look at that godly girl and everything she’s balancing in her life.” “She doesn’t struggle with that.”

Again, these were some of the worst things for me to have heard growing up and in high school. Since I knew others didn’t recognize me as the struggling sinner that I was, trying to figure out this life and what it means to be sanctified and justified by Christ’s blood, I was not able to be open and honest with my struggles, and seek the help I needed. I was overburdened with my sin: sexual temptation and lust of the mind. I was everything but mature in my walk with Christ, put together, being sanctified, and seeking after God, and hearing that people thought highly of me only added to the façade I had to keep up, and the guilt and shame I was carrying. I was identifying myself more with the list of those who won’t inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) than I was with Jesus and my new life in Him.

God designed a girl’s heart, mind, and body to be protected and pure. When she hears others talking about how well she’s doing at that, even though they are really only referring to the outside, then her only fleshly worry is keeping up with appearances, despite addictions hiding in the closet, in old relationships, on her computer, on her bookshelf, or in any other area of life where idolatry is an issue. It doesn’t matter how filthy her eyes are from the porn she’s watching but can’t tell anyone about, or how disgusting she feels from the boys she’s blamed herself for sleeping with, or how unclean her mind and thoughts are from the unstoppable, lustful thoughts she has, or how broken hearted she is from male after male that can’t fulfill her in her life. Her flesh craves to maintain the perfect image that has been being portrayed to others, despite the common knowledge provided from the Bible that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s level of perfection (Romans 3:23).

I feel like sexual sin is also harder for girls to admit to because of this idea of them always being pristine and holy. In an article on helping women with addictions, author Rob Jackson put is very well when he said, “Female addicts often suffer a greater social stigma and inner shame than do male addicts. Society promotes the stereotypes of ‘boys will be boys’ and “’good girls don’t,’”[1]. The Bible tells us that there is neither male nor female before the Lord (Galatians 3:28), so there is no sin common to just man, or just women (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sin is a human struggle, and a girl is going to feel even guiltier when she’s struggling with something that no other girl seems to admit to struggling with. I saw this in my experience, but I also see it the more and more I talk with girls who are willing to be open about their struggles, and the more I see this as being a barrier to their honesty about their struggles, and their willingness to seek help.

So, how do we fix this problem? Parents, I think it starts with you and your most powerful tool: the gospel. The parents in the church youth group where I serve are no longer surprised to hear me tell them, “Don’t be surprised that your children are sinners.” The shock parents sometimes exert to their children for not upholding Jesus’ level of perfection only breeds more hypocrites into the church. Let your kids be real with you and don’t shame them for their struggles with sin. When your children are sharing their sins and struggles with you, you should view that as a God ordained opportunity for you to actively share the gospel with them, through your words and actions. Shame is not the gospel. There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1), so don’t be a tool in the enemy’s hand to burden your kids with more guilt. Share with them the freedom found in Christ’s love displayed for us on the cross. Their sin is horrific, bad, ugly, and it’s why Jesus had to die, but He also rose again to defeat sin, so that your children can be sanctified in Christ, having access to God’s power living in them, to help them have victory over their sins.

We also need to be warned and aware that girls do actually struggle with porn.  It may start in a more subtle way with women. Virtually every young adult novel these days includes very explicit sex scenes, which is nothing but straight up porn, or erotic literature. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal which shares about the rise in women reading erotica on EReaders due to its easy access, one reader admitted that, “. . . the digital format helped her get over the embarrassment[2].” The Bible says to think on things that are pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8), and I know from experience that reading those things only add to the embarrassment and weight of sin, and the lustful, evil thoughts. It is not lovely and pure to gaze into a fictional vampire’s love life, I don’t care if they waited until they were married. It’s not lovely and pure to worship and idolize the marriage relationship between two characters in your book, even if it has the genre title “Christian fiction” on the side of it. It is not lovely and pure to read pornographic literature, even if nobody else knows that’s what you’re doing because they can’t see the book cover on your new EReader. It’s only lovely to worship the one true God.

The more I talk to girls about the dangers of reading literature that is not only too mature for their age, but also downright pornographic and sinful, the more girls I am finding who admit to struggling with this. For some reason this form of pornography is more tolerated than visual pornography, which girls struggle with as well. Parents need to be aware of this and closely monitor what their young girls are reading. And older girls and women, you need to take it upon yourself to decide if what you’re reading leads to pure and lovely thoughts, or if it feeds your flesh with lustful, adulterous, disgusting thoughts. You need to be able to recognize your responsibility to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1), in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

About the Author

Lexy Sauvé grew up on C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, and Hans Christian Anderson, pursuing her love of literature and writing since kindergarten. Her love of poetry grew through middle school and is still her genre of choice. Lexy rededicated her life to Christ at the age of 13, and has since been growing to understand and walk in the ministry of reconciliation that she has been entrusted with. In the summer of 2011 she married her high school lovebird, whom she occasionally collaborates with artistically. They enjoy reading, espresso, and old book shops together. In 2012 she graduated from Weber State University, in Ogden, Utah, with a degree in Creative Writing.

Lexy also has some background in journalism. She wrote for Weber State’s newspaper, The Signpost, in the area of Arts and Entertainment, as well as serving as a student editor of poetry for their literary magazine, The Metaphor. She is currently working with Calvary Chapel Magazine, as well as pursuing side projects in editing, publishing, and teaching workshops.

 


[1] Pure Intimacy.org, 2004, “Help for Female Sex Addicts,” http://www.pureintimacy.org/piArticles/A000000574.cfm

[2] “Books Women Read When No One Can See the Cover,” Katherine Rosman, March 12, 2012, The Wall Street Journal

Mission Minded

Last night my family and I along with our small group served dinner at the local homeless shelter. It is something that my wife and I have been wanting to do for several months now and the planets finally aligned and it was a great experience. It was really cool! Four families from our small group along with ten children (four of which were ours) stormed the place. We served BBQ hamburgers to 35 homeless or transitional people in Lompoc. The people were so nice and appreciative and seemed to enjoy the “life” that our group brought. It is something our group is going to do a monthly basis and our church does on a weekly basis.

Now my city doesn’t have a large homeless population. We are twenty miles off of the nearest freeway and kind of secluded. To be honest that is that way that most of the people in my town like it. They want to remain a small town (even though there are 65,000 people in the area). That presents a problem of inward focus. People, like most everywhere else, tend to look after their own and are almost vigilant about not exposing themselves or their families to anything that might adversely affect it. They use excuses like business or such but in reality, in their gross fear, they don’t want to be bothered. I find this most apparent in my church which is located in a upper middle class bedroom community right next to a country club. Here the focus is on forward advancement and anything of service must serve that cause. Sadly, because of so much inward focus, there is a lot of hollowness and exhaustion.

We are doing things to change that. We have created a campaign that is focused on reaching the lost and hurting of Lompoc. Do I expect the whole church to jump on board? No, but I do want to take that core group of people in our church who are being moved by the Holy Spirit and have a hunger to reach people and give them an opportunity. In the process I also think that those who are on the fence might give it a try. I am not worried about consensus or even who is not there, but out of the conviction that God is putting on my heart, ministering to those God is giving us.

To augment this process of making our church more mission minded I started teaching through the Gospel of John last Sunday. You can’t teach through this book without realizing your role in reaching your community. Even in the prologue of John he mentions “light”, “witness”, and “believe” several times. In fact the whole purpose of John is wrapped up in John 20:31 which says “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John wrote the whole book with the purpose of reaching the lost Jews in the Diaspora.

While I would not join what is called the Missional movement I am trying to lead our church to be more missions minded. I have always had a heart for the lost and hurting and that got lost in my attempt to disciple and equip the church that God has blessed me with. I don’t think you can come to a complete balance but I definitely want to correct the lopsided wobble. We are all called as Christians and churches to reach those who don’t know Jesus. The question we need to ask is “How mission minded are we?”

spiritual

Unspiritual Christianity

Today is one of those articles that I am going to try and say something that I don’t really know how to say. I really have struggled over the years to articulate this reality and find myself struggling today again to find the words to express something of value.

My pondering began with a simple question, “How is it possible for Christianity to be perceived as unspiritual?” The gospel is simply the Lordship of Jesus. When a person believes in Jesus, they are indwelt by the Spirit of God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity.There is no Christianity without the Spirit. Yet, as I look around the body of Christ, there seems to be way more examples of unspiritual Christianity then there are spiritual ones. Now when I speak about the need for Christianity to be spiritual, I mean “of the Spirit” in the simplest of terms. Not even necessarily the expression of spiritual giftings. I am talking about the basics of love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, patience, goodness and self control (Galatians 5:23). I am talking about lives that are lived out in the simplest aspects of agape love and service. I am talking about the ‘shalom’ of God being at work and being outworked through the body of Christ. Concepts such as agape, simplicity, service, unity and peace-making are in my mind.

As I survey much of the Christianity around today, I don’t see much of this. So I started to wonder why. Why is so much of Christianity look so little like the life of Jesus? I see much personal politics, attack-dog disagreements, sin cloaked in religion, bickering, jockeying for position, niches and cliches. It is so common for people to rise up in churches if they are charismatic or sychopantic rather than having a Jesus-formed character.

So I am going to list a few reasons why this may be the case. Instead of commenting on each of them, I will simply list them and let you all have fun with them.

1) When information is king
2) When theology is not translated to the street level
3) Classic Self-salvation plans
4) Cultural Idolatry
5) A lack of any focus on spiritual formation (true biblical discipleship)
6) A western individualistic focus rather than community formation
7) Prayerlessness
8) The Curse of Affluence
9) The Influence of Business Practices upon Church Leadership
10) Tax-exempt status
11) Church as entertainment

Article - Josiah

One Last Revival?

I’ve been thinking about and praying for a revival. For years. Specifically, and more so even lately, I’ve been praying and hoping for a Josiah revival.

What’s a Josiah revival? It’s a last ditch kind of revival … one more mighty move of God before judgment falls. And fall it most certainly will.

Consider the sin of Sodom. Usually, we equate the sin of Sodom with overt and aggressive homosexuality. Yet those were only the final symptoms of their sin. God Himself describes what they in Sodom had done:

“Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. {50} And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.” (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

First, Sodom was proud. Pride is a reflection of self-sufficiency, that somehow we have accomplished or gained what we have on our own. President Abraham Lincoln ascribed this meaning of pride to the United States, mired at the time in a brutal Civil War which would ultimately take the lives of as many as 750,000 Americans. In his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation, Lincoln wrote of the untold blessings that our nation had received. After citing what he called the choicest bounties of heaven, he mourned:

“…We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” 

That is precisely what Sodom had done. They were a successful city-state, rich with agricultural and commercial success, wealthy and prosperous. But they thought they’d done these things themselves. They were proud, fat, and with much discretionary time on their hands. Their work week was short, they were materially satisfied, and so they turned their attention to pleasure and the lusts of the flesh. And because the flesh can never be satisfied, they devolved further and further from Divinely ordained sexual relations between a husband and wife. They ended up with total sexual confusion and perverted expression of their sexuality.

We (in the United States) are much like Sodom. Our lust and will to live without truth and accountability to the God who made us has led us to unimaginable national sin.

At the top of the list of our national sins has been the holocaust of abortion. This holocaust has claimed the lives of at least 54,000,000 innocents since 1973. How large is this number? It represents 1,367 million babies per year that have died. That number is far greater than ALL casualties of war from every war in which the U.S. has been involved since 1775.

President Lincoln believed that the Civil War was God’s just judgment for the sin of slavery. A former professor of mine once queried our class, “If the blood atonement for the sin of slavery was the Civil War, what do you suppose will be the blood atonement for the sin of abortion?”

It is evident to many that judgment is on its way (remember the Billy Graham quote, “If God does not judge America, He owes an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah”?).

But … perhaps … there can be one last mighty move of God prior to that judgment falling. A Josiah revival.

Josiah was the grandson of Manasseh, and the son of Amon. Manasseh reigned in Judah for fifty-five years, and Amon for two. The spiritual wickedness that accumulated in those years is unimaginable. Even though Manasseh repented and was forgiven, the damage had already been done. The LORD spoke through Jeremiah to say that judgment was inevitable, and that it would be horrible.

Then the LORD said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth. {2} And it shall be, if they say to you, ‘Where should we go?’ then you shall tell them, Thus says the LORD: “Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.”’ {3} And I will appoint over them four forms of destruction,” says the LORD: “the sword to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. {4} I will hand them over to trouble, to all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem.”

After Manasseh and Amon, Josiah became king when only 8 years old. Somehow, by the sovereign grace of God, he was cut out of a completely different bolt of cloth. At age 16 he began to seek the God of his father David, and at age 20 he began to aggressively purge idolatry from Judah and Jerusalem. And at 26 he was exposed to the Word of God through Hilkiah the priest and Shaphan the scribe.

What happened then was amazing and incredible. Covenants were made, purging and repentance continued, Passover was observed, the Word of God spread. All told, Judah experienced the effect of Josiah’s reign from the time he was twenty to the time he died at thirty-nine.  The land which had been so full of sins and idolatry of every kind was now a nation under God. Such a drastic change could only be produced by God Himself, using His Word and anointed leadership.

After Josiah died, they lived once again with no fear of the LORD. It was only a matter of time before the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity.

A Josiah revival.

One last time when someone … when many some ones … begin to seek God with all their hearts.

One last time when idolatry and sin is purged.

One last time when the Word of God is discovered, preached, taught, believed, and obeyed.

One last time before the inevitable judgment of God falls upon America.

Can we pray for revival? Should we hope for revival? Is it possible that one last Josiah revival will come?

Mission_Impossible_01_highres

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Last night, my wife, Dianna, and I saw the latest Mission Impossible film. The Mission Impossible franchise is based on an orginazation called IMF (Impossible Missions Force) that embarks on the kind of missions that nobody else can do. Ethan Hunt and the other agents are presented with missions using the phrase “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” If they accept that mission, then they set out to do the impossible. They set out to do what no other group can do. They are missional. They are on mission.

If you want to sound hip and cool, just tell people that your church is missional. Actually, I like the term missional. In fact, I really like it. It’s fresh sounding and provocative. It also implies that the church has a mission. But unfortunately it seems that there are numerous definitions to this term. In telling our church that we are called to be “on mission”, I must underline what we mean by mission, lest I fail to clearly communicate our mission.

For many when they hear missional, they think social, you know soup kitchens, taking care of widows, stopping sex trafficking, helping people become better stewards of their finances… This is not what I mean by mission. This isn’t to say that these things are unimportant. I would say that these are important, even commanded in Scripture. But when we make these things the mission of the church, we then define the mission ourselves.

To help us gain an understanding of biblical mission, we need to understand the word mission. “Mission” is from the Latin word missio which means “sending”. It is a sending. In other words, if we are on mission, then we are sent, and the question is who sent us? Jesus’ words in John 20:21 are a clue; we are sent by Jesus, as Jesus was sent by the Father. In other words, Jesus defines our mission. After Jesus commissions his followers, he begins to reveal to them what the mission is. The mission is the forgiveness of sins (John 20:23). We know Jesus is the one who saves. Jesus isn’t implying that we go on our own rescue mission. We join him in his rescue mission. The mission of God is to bring people into a right relationship with God. Our mission then is to serve his mission.

When we make the mission social, we strip away the distinctiveness of God’s saving work. The mission God gives the church is unique. It is our Mission Impossible. The mission has to do with declaring God’s saving work to a lost world. If the mission were social, there is nothing unique about God’s mission. The church’s mission becomes just like anyone else’s. Here’s a question. If it can be done without Christ, can it be God’s mission for the Church?

The fruit of a people in alignment with God’s heart, being changed by his grace will be love for neighbour and pursuit of moral purity. These things are not the mission, but they spring forth from missionaries (people on mission).

We are not on Christ’s mission, if our mission is soup kitchens. But, it must be said that if we are on Christ’s mission, we will care about hungry people. Why? Is God’s great plan to feed people food? No, Jesus rebuked the crowd that followed him for physical food (John 6:26). But because God’s mission of salvation is fuelled by his love for those he created in his image, so too, we should actively love people. So our social action is not the mission, but accompanies it.

For some, this may seem like semantic chicken and egg stuff, but we need to get this right. The particular mission of Jesus for the church is to preach the forgiveness of sins (Acts 13:38). No charity, no club, no philanthropist can carry forth this mission. However, if we are on Christ’s mission, we are going to love people in their deep needs (social) as well as their deepest need (spiritual). But if we lose the cutting edge of Christ’s mission, we are no different from any other charity or club. Our mission is impossible for man, but possible from God.

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Connecting thru Culture

“And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.””

 

Last night, I took my three oldest boys to the California Center for the Arts for a performance of the 1st Marine Division Band. We arrived a little early, and at 6pm there was a performance by a local Jr. High Drum Corps…and then a High School Drum Corps. Big difference in tightness, dress and performance…

There was a half an hour break before the main performance. Jonathan (6) was nodding off, the air seemed to be turned to a comfortable 80 degrees…

Then the Marines took the stage.

What a great time and an amazing performance of a wide range of Musical arrangements. Very adept, very emotional, very powerful. And I may be partial for a couple of reasons.

1) I was, and will always be, a Marine, serving in Alpha Co.,  1st Battalion, 7th Marines of the 1st Marine Division. (Okay…I’m WAY partial)!

2) I THOROUGHLY enjoy live music, especially classical, period music, orchestras, etc.

All that being said, The boys had a great time, and the performance (particularly the Drum Corps section that was highlighted during the performance of “Shiloh March” was especially incredible) was great. But I had some passing thoughts as I sat there in the midst of the audience that I thought I would share.

Let me begin by saying this; when the Lord gives you a vision of His desire for you and how you could represent Him as His ambassador here on the earth, in the community you have been planted in, all the things you are doing will come to be filtered through that vision, for that season, because you desire to be well-pleasing to Him who gave us that vision. And as we desire to walk in those things that He has prepared beforehand, we are directed by Him (Psalm 37:23, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delights in his way”). The result? He will place us in the paths of those He desires to touch, to speak to, to share a seat with, to speak a kind word to, and as we do this, He is glorified. And one of the real kickers is that it’s all while I am THOROUGHLY taking pleasure in something that would seem to some as “Non-Spiritual”. And yet when Jesus sent out the disciples, He instructed them to be of this mindset; “Wherever you go, what ever you do, know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that My kingdom is effectual and within the grasp of all those that you will come into contact with as My Ambassador.

Case in Point: After the performance, I was standing near one of the exits on the Mezzanine Level with Jonathan, while waiting for my other two boys to return from the bathroom. And who comes walking right by us? The Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division in a plain suit, no uniform. I approached him, stuck out my hand, confirmed whether he was the C.G. or not, told him that I served in 1/7 …upon which hearing, he looked me in the eyes, thanked me for my service, which thanks I returned saying “No…thank YOU sir, for your service.” and we parted.

 

This morning, I couldn’t help but lift up the man, his heart, his life, his great responsibilities as a husband, as a son, as a Commanding General…and prayed that the kingdom of God was exposed to this man last night, once again, whether he is a believer (as there are many High-ranking believers in the USMC), or whether He has heard the gospel many times and not responded…God knows. And I know that the kingdom of God was at hand last night when I shook his hand, as I chatted with the elderly woman who sat next to me and my boys, as we shook hands with a Sergeant thanking him for his service to our country, and thanked a Staff Sergeant.

I also had the passing thought as I looked across the demographics of the almost packed house that most in attendance were Baby Boomers and Builders. Nary a Millennial in sight. And I wondered…will there be a resurgence of live music performances in the future, of this particular type (not just Rock, Trip-Hop and Hardcore shows…ok, jazz sessions, too, Daniel F. :) because of the over-saturation of technology communication and entertainment today? I love the instant gratification of digital downloads or Spotify-ing any kind of artist or music at any time…but there is a whole separate world of sound and community and experience when the Marine Band comes to town, or a world renowned cellist shows up to perform select Bach cello suites…and the Kingdom of God is at hand.

How are you connecting with your community, with leaders, with citizens, with gas station attendants, or library clerks? How do you “preach” saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand?”

 

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Remember The Holocaust – Pastor Jim Stretchberry

Today is April 19, 2012; it is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.  Today in Israel you can hear the sound of sirens all over the land, as everyone stops everything (banks, policemen, cars, buses, trains) It is a moment for remembrance and contemplation.  Every year on this day, I think of my mother, a 91 year old living survivor, and so many of our extended family who perished.  And I remember being a young man, becoming aware of our Jewish roots and our family’s long and rich history. I remember how my mother would tell me, “Never speak about being Jewish. Be silent, never tell anyone about us and, especially, about our Jewish family history. It will happen again.  It happened to my father, his father, and his father’s father. It will happen again.  Let me tell you, Jimmy, what has happened to us Jews. It has happened for as long as anyone can remember, to all of us.”  My thoughts were always the same, such a scared, silly old woman. Never again would man bring such horror upon fellow human beings.  Even as I became a believer and studied the Word in depth, I thought, surely the western world has learned a great lesson from the horror of so much human tragedy brought on by the Holocaust.  Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Today, let’s consider this for a moment. Let’s go back just 70 years. In 1939, before WWII, radio listeners in America heard reenacted on the ‘March of Time’ radio program, a scene that took place in Nuremberg, Germany. Jules Stretcher was the speaker, and he proposed in a speech broadcast to the world that all nations join Germany in exterminating the Jews. In 1941, another spokesman for the Nazi government, Joseph Goebbels, speaking at the Nazi Party Congress held in the same city, declared that Germany would only be satisfied  when its war against the Jews was taken up by all other nations.  Let me say here that I have the highest regard for the German people.  I have had four German interns in the past eight years, and we minister in Germany.  Germany has given us many valuable gifts, and there are some wonderful believers in Germany today, as there were during the entire war.  Dietrich Bonheoffer, a WWII German martyr, is one of my favorite authors.

Psalm 83:1-8 offers something important for us to consider today.  As we remember the horror of 70 years ago, there seems to be another horror quickly coming upon the Jews.  I suggest that Psalm 83 is a relevant commentary on our current situation:

O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish.  “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.”

Is this language out of today’s headlines?  Are these the countries mentioned later in this Psalm, lined up against Israel?  Are these the inhabited lands of Israel’s current neighbors? Edom and the Ishmaelites were in land occupied by southern Jordan today, while the territories of Moab and Ammon make up the rest of that country. Ahman, the modern spelling of Ammon, is the capital of Jordan.  It all speaks of modern day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia.  So here we have all of Israel’s next-door neighbors, all of them sworn to Jewish destruction, and all of them being whipped into frenzy by Syria and Iran.
The Jews have been persecuted, scattered, scorned, rejected, outraged, murdered, hated and legislated against; the Jews have been without a nation, without a home, without a capitol, without a government, without a temple or priesthood.  They have been the subject of every republic, kingdom, empire and monarchy- and even now are citizens of most nations in the world.

So to Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, to name a few… I would say to you, this Remembrance Day, if you want to destroy the Jews here is what you must do:  Blot away the sun, the heavens, the moon and the stars.  The Apostle Paul very clearly shows us that if the Jew is totally and finally rejected, exterminated, the very foundations upon which our salvation began and rests are obscured and in danger, for the covenant made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was an unconditional covenant.

What a glorious opportunity we have as we remember the Holocaust!  If we reach out first to our Jewish believing friends, encouraging them to share our precious Jesus as Messiah to the many Jews all around the world, then the Holy Spirit will move to change hearts and minds.  Jewish believers will turn to others of their nations and say “Arise shine, for thy light is come.” (Zach. 8:22-23)

So, we must strive to bear witness to the claims of our precious Jesus Christ.  We should remember that it is our witness first, for we will never urge any Jew to consider Christ unless our own life reveals Jesus to him.  The end of Psalm 83 clearly states that those who would attempt to crush God’s covenant people will be destroyed and wiped off the face of the earth.  God’s truth is clearly evident.  Let us all consider our attitude toward God’s chosen covenant people.

 

 

 Jim Stretchberry has been the executive director of the American European Bethel Mission (AEBM) for the last 9 years.  Prior to his tenure with AEBM Jim served as a Pastor with Pastor Rickey Ryan at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara.  Jim’s passion for the lost is evident in his commitment to missions for much of his Christian walk.  He regularly travels throughout Europe and the Middle East ministering both humanitarian aid and the glorious gospel of Christ.  His Jewish heritage has given him a passion to see his Jewish brothers come to recognize their long-awaited Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth.

“I Love Jesus But Not the Church”

There was a recent Youtube video by a guy out of the state of Washington who talks about his hate of religion but his love for Jesus. There have been countless replies and I guess mine is no different except for one… I love the Church.

You see whenever people lop in religion, church, Christianity, politics, etc. they always arrive at the final destination that we are all Pharisees and that Jesus came to rebuke them. Anybody who has studied the Bible for more than five minutes knows that it is not only false but the exact opposite… Jesus didn’t come to rebuke the religious but instead point out their errors in hopes of seeing them repent (which in the end many of them did).

The church, or religion as they like to call it, is the Bride of Christ and it has a special place in God’s heart. You only have to read Revelation 19 to see that Marriage Supper of the Lamb is to the church, and most specifically the New Testament church. Jesus cares for and nurtures his Bride like any man would who is engaged to someone he loves.

We could point out a lot of flaws in the church but if we truly believe that God is sovereign and all knowing then we have to believe that when He created the church he knew it would be a place for perfectly flawed people. I, as a pastor, am comfortable with that. I love nothing more than seeing seriously broken people come into the church and be restored. That is what God designed it for and it is the only place it happens.

Let’s address some of the issues. The first knock is that the church doesn’t feed the hungry. Hmmmm, I don’t know about your town but in Lompoc the church is the ONLY group that does feed them and I am sure that is true in most cities. To say that feeding the poor should be the main focus, which is asserted by it reference, it shortsighted. No one ever has come to Christ because of a bowl of soup, but because the Holy Spirit was working through the church in their service to Him to move on the heart of the people.

Second, Christians don’t vote Republican because that is the Christian thing to do. They vote against the liberal, progressive, freedom-stealing policies of those politicians who usually happen to fall into the Democratic camp. Sadly the younger generation see politics from a social justice perspective where as older generations see politics from a personal freedom perspective. I grew up in a family that voted for Democrats by default and we rejoiced when Jimmy Carter was elected. What a train wreck! Now thirty-six years later he is seen as a knight in shining armor.

Finally you could say that you love Jesus but hate religion but if you profess to be a Christian then you would essentially be saying that you hate yourself. As a Christian you are part of the church (religion) and thus the Bride of Christ. And Christ laid down his life for you, the church, and all those Pharisees.

angry_man

Whatsoever a man sows…a RANT

This is a rant.  This is my rant.  A rant is a verbal (or written) tantrum.  A rant is not to be reasoned with because the one ranting is not in a frame of mind to be reasoned with.  A rant can be filled with logical mistakes, historical fallacies, and spiritual foolishness and yet serve as a cathartic and can be persuasive in its own right, though filled with flaws because there is the seed of truth in it.  A rant is to be accepted or rejected, but not critically analyzed and debated.  The purpose of a rant isn’t to communicate information, but to express moral outrage.  In parsing a rant and analyzing its logic, its very essence is swept aside.  This is a rant.  This is my rant.

Listening to the radio the other day I heard of the imminent threat that radical Islam poses to America and to our sacred traditions.  The radio host was telling of how these terrorists are intent upon imposing their way of life upon us.  Our life and our way of life matters little to them – they are bent on empire.  They believe it is their destiny to swallow us alive.  They are waiting in the wings with violence in their hearts and murder on their breath to obliterate our great civilization.

As I listened, I began to think about America’s behavior in the past.  Somehow, Wink I was able to lay hold of an old radio broadcast by Tecumesh, chief of the Shawnee Indians.  He had a daily program that aired to the Indian nations in and around 1800.  There was great concern among the various tribes about the imminent threat that the white man presented to the indigenous peoples of this land.  He spoke of the godless Americans and immigrants from Europe who are pushing westward. Let’s listen in –  “Brothers, these men achieve their ends by violence and deceit.  They believe that what has been ours for centuries is theirs for the taking.  And take it they will.  They kill and burn and steal with no moral hindrance.  Their theologians and thinkers have what they believe is a manifest destiny and that it is their God’s will that this land be inhabited by them.  They will kill us in order to lay hold of what is ours.  Brothers, the Great Spirit does not guide them and they are strangers to the way of the Great Spirit.  What God they follow, I know not, but it is not a God of justice and mercy.”  The recording became indecipherable after this.

Back to 2012 – I listened to the radio broadcast of this evangelical decrying the godless, butchering Muslims wanting to invade our land and I got mad – not at radical Islam (and there is enough to be mad and alarmed at here); I didn’t get mad at the radio personality and his myopic vision; I was mad at our American ancestors.  This country was obtained by the shedding of innocent blood.  And the blood cries out.  Much wealth was gained by the oppression of an entire people (my rant has now switched  to how our ancestors enslaved millions of black people).  And the blood cries out.  We are still paying the price for this.

Obviously, we should resist any attempt by any people (radical Islam or otherwise) to invade/infiltrate/defeat our nation.  But let’s not be surprised that it’s happening.

We are being treated the way we treated others.

What goes around, comes around – on a cosmic/historic scale.  There was a famine in David’s day and the Lord told him that it was because of the way that Saul (a previous administration) had treated the Gibeonites.  And the blood cried out.  Their innocent blood was required by the hand of the nation.

I hear today of oppressive American policy practices abroad; of corporate America’s unjust business practices in third world nations.  And the blood cries out.  What goes around, comes around.  The seeds of injustice yield a harvest of hatred and violence.  And the blood cries out.  “O, God, make me a peacemaker.”

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  Galatians 6:7