Understanding our History: How Imperfect Patriots Changed America for the Better

Some reflections on divine providence.
GABRIELLA SIEFERT

Understanding our History: How Imperfect Patriots Changed America for the Better

Historians have spilled much ink since America’s founding over one single question: Is the U.S. a Christian nation?

Many believers today find comfort in the notion that their country was founded by many men and women of great faith. Others might prefer to scratch out references to God found in the Declaration of Independence and not just one, but all fifty of the state constitutions in our country.

Whatever side of this debate one lands on, the importance of accurately understanding and interpreting our nation’s history remains all the same. We live in a complex world where people often try to bend and twist historical truth to suit their needs. And where our ability to appreciate people’s great contributions to our country’s story may be hindered by their own imperfections.

As Dr. Tracy McKenzie of the Wheaton College History department writes, human beings “will be tempted, subconsciously at least, to distort what we see in order to find what we are looking for.”

This includes what we are looking for in our nation’s own founding.

Some choose to make gods and others make villains out of the founding fathers and those that followed after them as leaders of this country.

But what if today, we remember that history isn’t quite so black and white? What if instead of looking to question our founding ideologically or praise the founders themselves, we chose to see God’s protective hand over these imperfect patriots who shaped our nation?

If we believe God is active in history, then we can believe he is active in our nation’s history.

Ben Franklin’s prayer

If there’s anything Scripture teaches us time and time again, it’s the importance of prayer. Even Ben Franklin—a committed deist—commented on the value of such prayer.

It was the year of 1787 and a group of over 50 men were gathered in the city of Philadelphia to craft what would become our nation’s most important document: the Constitution. There was conflict and much clashing of ideas as one could surmise. But it occurred to Franklin who was there for the proceedings that the group might look to Someone greater for help.

Notes kept by delegate James Madison during the Constitutional Convention have Franklin rising one afternoon to say: “How has it happened that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?… I have lived a long time,” he goes on, “and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probably that an empire can fall without his aid?”

While many question what happened after this was shared—whether the delegates at the Convention proceeded to pray or not—none can doubt the truth behind Franklin’s statement.

Prayer changes things—although it might not always be the challenging circumstances we face. God uses prayer to shape our hearts and help us trust in the good work he is doing even if we don’t see it yet for ourselves.

Franklin and the dozens of others gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 couldn’t have possibly known what would come of their work—that a nation which started off thirteen colonies large would later become a global power.

It is always a good day to thank God for guiding and protecting our nation’s founders.

Roddie Edmond’s courage

Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds served the U.S. army during World War II in Europe. He was taken prisoner by the German forces alongside hundreds of other American POW’s—some of which were Jews.

One particular day in January of 1945, because of their hatred of the Jews, the Germans singled out the Jewish POW’s and announced that they would be separated from the rest of the group and taken somewhere else the following morning.

Master Sergeant Edmonds heard these orders and, as a man of great faith, knew he couldn’t follow them.

The next morning, Sergeant Edmonds ordered all the POW’s—1,275 men strong—to stand together. When the German Commandant emerged and saw them there, he said “All of you can’t be Jews.”

To this, the Sergeant Edmonds replied: “We’re all Jews here.”

Even with a gun dug deep into his forehead with threats being spoken to him from the German Commandant, he replied: “…You can shoot me but if you do, you’ll have to kill us all.”

Few could question the courage displayed by Edmonds which, in the end, spared the lives of many Jewish soldiers. This act of bravery is one of many stories we want to honor on this special day.

But beyond this, we should also hope to emulate Sergeant Edmonds and those like him who’ve lived like Christ amidst unspeakably challenging circumstances.

It is always a good day to thank God for people of courage throughout our nation’s history.

Displaying gratitude

Today is Memorial Day. We recognize the sacrifice of so many who gave their lives in the defense of freedom. It’s also a patriotic day and begins a patriotic season for many Americans, thinking about their nation between Memorial Day and Independence Day.

So, it is also worth remembering that God has guided this nation, and prayers and bravery are part of that story. So, on this day, we remember those who sacrificed and we begin a season of thankfulness for the guidance of God in our nation’s history.

For this we are thankful.

Gabriella Siefert serves as an Editorial Assistant for The Exchange. She just graudated from Wheaton College where she studied Political Science, Spanish, and Biblical and Theological Studies. Outside of her work as a writer and communicator, Gabriella enjoys volunteering with Juvenile Justice Ministry.

 

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VIDEO God and Our Money

April 26, 2019

 

When you consider your finances, what comes to mind? What you have or don’t have? Whom you owe or what to buy? Do you feel stress, or are you at peace? God’s Word offers much wisdom for our financial decisions. In this message, Dr. Stanley covers common concerns, discussing what God thinks, says, and promises regarding personal finances—and what we can expect if we are obedient to His principles. Discover the path to generosity and provision as you learn how to trust Him with this important area of life.

KEY PASSAGE: Proverbs 3:5-10Luke 6:38

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURES: 1 Chronicles 29:12 | Psalm 50:12 | Haggai 1:5-6 | Malachi 3:8-12 | Luke 12:16-21 | Luke 18:28-29 | 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 | James 1:17

SUMMARY

When you consider your finances, do you feel emotional turmoil and stress, or are you at peace? What thoughts come to mind?

Do you focus on how much you don’t have, how much you’d like to have, what you could do to increase your income, or what you would do with more money? These are common concerns for all of us, but there’s another spiritual aspect we should consider when we think about our finances—what does God have to say about it, and what would He have us give away?

SERMON POINTS

When it comes to our personal finances, it’s important to understand that we must follow God’s principles and not human advice or reasoning. We need to know what God thinks, says, and promises regarding financial decisions and what we can expect if we are obedient to His principles.

  • Proverbs 3:5-10 provides divine guidance that applies to financial matters as well as every other area of life. We are told to trust God and not rely on our own understanding. This means we honor Him with our wealth by giving Him the first part of what we receive. If we follow this advice, the Lord promises to supply our needs.

The Basic Teaching of Scripture

• God owns it all. “For the world is Mine, and all it contains” (Ps. 50:12). This is a difficult truth for many people to accept because from a human perspective, we’ve worked to earn all that we have. However, we are not the owners of anything but the caretakers, managers, or stewards of whatever God has entrusted to us. He is the source and giver of our money and possessions.

To illustrate what happens when we forget this truth, Jesus told a parable about a rich man whose land was so productive that he had to build larger barns to store it all (Luke 12:16-21). He foolishly said to himself, “You have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry” (v. 19). But God rebuked him, saying, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” (v. 20). Then Jesus concluded the story by saying, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (v. 21).

We are all only one heartbeat away from losing all our earthly goods. Then we must stand before the Lord to hear His evaluation of our lives. The time to live wisely according to God’s instruction is now.

• God wants us to give. Malachi 3:8-12 shows us God’s perspective on tithing. The Lord equated the people’s withholding of tithes and offerings with robbing Him. Then He told them, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows’” (v. 10). Although this was spoken to the nation of Israel, the reasons for generosity still apply to us today.

  1. To provide for the Lord’s work.
  2. To provide for the needs of others.
  3. To prove to us that God is faithful.

• God wants us to give cheerfully. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Our heart attitude is very important to the Lord. He wants us to give voluntarily and happily out of love and gratitude.

• God warns about disobedience in giving. Since we are commanded by the Lord to give Him a portion of what He’s entrusted to us, there are consequences if we choose to disobey Him. In Haggai 1:6, the Lord reprimanded the people of Judah for their disobedience saying, “You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”

Giving to God is not just a demonstration of appreciation, thoughtfulness, and generosity; it’s an act of obedience. He has provided us with every good gift, but if we neglect Him, everything we earn or acquire will not give genuine satisfaction. That only comes with obedience.

God’s Plan for Our Giving to Him

  • His Motivation. God loves us and wants us to understand that He is the one who enables us to prosper financially. “Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone” (1 Chron. 29:12).
  • His Promise. “Your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Prov. 3:10). The Lord blesses those who trust Him enough to give as He desires.
  • His Protection. “Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes” (Mal. 3:11). When we follow God’s guidelines for our finances, we don’t have to fear deprivation because He leads us to make wise financial decisions according to His will.
  • His Generosity. “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38). The Lord gives us more than we expect or deserve.
  • His Sufficiency. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor. 9:8).

Our willingness to follow God’s financial principles is a matter of trust in His Word. If we are confident that He will do what He has said, we’ll be generous, knowing that He will be faithful to supply our needs when we give Him a portion of all He’s provided for us.

RESPONSE

  • Is it difficult for you to trust God with your finances? If so, what are you afraid will happen if you begin to give a portion of your income to Him?
  • What attributes of God reassure you that He can be trusted to supply your needs if you will obey Him in the matter of giving?

https://www.intouch.org/watch/god-and-our-money

VIDEO On Oaths and God

By Dr. Jerry Newcombe – May 19, 2019

The attempt to remake our country into a secular wasteland continues unabated.

Even the U.S. House of Representatives has begun leaving God out when swearing in witnesses.

For example, a video of such an omission is beginning to make the rounds.

Graham Ledger, the host of “The Daily Ledger” on One America News Network, showed the video of this purposeful omission of God at a swearing in; and he commented, Democrats Delete God:

 

“So God is gone now. Poof. No more God in the people’s House. This is not about a religious test. This is about the founding of this republic. We are a country built on a core belief in God and Judeo-Christian values. Thus, the Declaration of Independence is now under de facto assault by this crew. One nation under God, divisible by one political party that seeks to attack liberty and justice for all.”

In the video, we see Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen from Tennessee, who is the chairman of this particular committee, swearing in guests. Cohen is perhaps best remembered as the congressman eating KFC on the Congressional floor in a publicity stunt recently.

Cohen asks some witnesses about to testify:

“Do you swear or affirm under penalty of perjury that the testimony you’re about to give is true and correct, to the best of your knowledge, information, and belief?”

Congressman Michael Johnson (R, LA) politely interrupts with a “parliamentary inquiry.” He states:

“I think we left out the phrase ‘so help me, God.’”

Cohen replies directly to Johnson, “We did.” Johnson asked if the witnesses could swear in again, but this time with the traditional phrase, “So help me God,” added. Chairman Cohen shakes his head and says, “No.” And he adds, “If they want to do it…but some of them don’t want to do it.”

Johnson states:

“Well, it goes back to our founding history. It’s been part of our tradition for more than two centuries, and I don’t know that we should abandon it now.”

Cohen looks at Johnson, and his face seems to communicate:

“What planet is this guy from?”

Johnson adds:

“Could I ask the witnesses if they would choose to use the phrase?”

Then Congressman Jerome Nadler (D-NY), shuts this discussion down, saying:

“We do not have religious tests for office or for anything else, and we should let it go at that.”

I once interviewed Michael Johnson for Christian television. As an attorney, he specialized in religious liberty. He told me:

“Can the government acknowledge the role of God in human affairs? Now we know that the founders have always done that since the beginning—the founding of the nation.”

So the answer is yes.

Johnson also added:

“Americans intuitively have an appreciation for absolute truth and justice.  We were programmed that way by our Creator, and that’s what the founders acknowledged from the very beginning….The enemies of the faith would have us remove all vestiges of Christianity, all vestiges of the God of the Bible from the public square; and that’s not what the Constitution says, and that’s not what we’re required to do.”

Another Republican Congressperson weighs in on this issue. Liz Cheney from Wyoming says:

“It is incredible, but not surprising, that the Democrats would try to remove God from committee proceedings in one of their first acts in the majority….They really have become the party of Karl Marx.”

When my brother-in-law saw this clip, he responded:

“If you think about it, our rights are inalienable because they are endowed by our Creator. If we no longer believe in a Creator, how soon will our rights no longer be inalienable?”

Exactly. That is what at stake in this debate on a seemingly arcane subject.

The founders followed the classic tradition of swearing in on the Holy Bible and in the name of God. Why are oaths taken that way? Because they recognized that we are accountable to God who sees all and who will one day judge us all.

I remember in seminary, one of my professors said:

“It’s not what we (professors) expect that matters. It’s what we inspect.”

Inspection means accountability. It means we have to do the assignments, which they will then inspect.

In his Farewell Address, George Washington said:

“Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?”

Take God out of oaths, and they have no real meaning.

Thomas Jefferson asked:

“Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”

Acknowledgment of God is another victim, it would seem, of today’s culture war. And with Him goes any assurance that the witness is telling the truth.

Swearing in without reference to God at a House Subcommittee (February 28, 2019)

 

Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is an on-air host/senior producer for D. James Kennedy Ministries. He has written/co-written 31 books, e.g., The Unstoppable Jesus Christ, American Amnesia: Is American Paying the Price for Forgetting God?, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (w/ D. James Kennedy) & the bestseller, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (w/ Peter Lillback)   djkm.org  @newcombejerry      www.jerrynewcombe.com

 

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A Time of Altars

By Jack Hayford

 

Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South. – Genesis 12:6-9

…to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord… Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the Lord. – Genesis 13:4, 18

Altars are a memorial of the places where God meets us

Altars represent the occasion and place where we have had a personal encounter with God. We may not always be able to make a physical altar, but there can be one established in our hearts. When we celebrate communion, we are celebrating the grandest altar of all, the Cross of Calvary. The Son of God was the ultimate sacrifice, and His work on the Cross reconciled all humankind to God, made possible for our lives to be infused with meaning, for our sins to be forgiven and to give us the promise of eternal life.

Altars appear throughout the Bible in many different forms. Some of them are:

A place of encounter – The Lord met Jacob in a crisis and the next day he built an altar at that place (Genesis 28).

A place of forgiveness – The brazen altar of the tabernacle sacrifice was offered as an advance testimony that there would be a once-for-all sacrifice in God’s Son.

A place of worship – The most common altar built by people to acknowledge their praise to God was the altar of incense, the holy place where priests would offer worship to the Lord on behalf of the people and themselves.

A place of covenant – An altar was built where the covenant was made between the Lord and Abraham, and the land was sealed as a timeless promise to Abraham and his offspring (Genesis 15).

A place of intercession – The prophet Joel called for intercession by leaders on behalf of the people and their devastated economy.

God has a place of “altaring” for us

There is a place of “altaring” and a price of altering. Altars have a price–God intends that something be “altered” in us when we come to altars. To receive the promise means we make way for the transformation.

Have you ever felt that the Lord put in your heart an expectation of promise? Such aspirations come from the Lord (Psalm 62:5). You sense anticipation of something God has put in your heart and underwritten by promises in His Word. You look at the promise and begin to picture in your mind what it’s going to be like. The fact is, we often visualize things that have nothing whatsoever to do with what God wants to do with us.

Abraham knew there was a place for him, and God has a “place” for you. There is a longing in every human heart for where we are meant to be, but we get caught up in our notion of how it’s going to be fulfilled. When the Lord told Abraham he had a place for him, Abraham probably imagined a verdant valley, flowing stream, lovely mountains. But the Scripture says he came to a place were Canaanites were living in the land. The Canaanites were the most perverted, corrupt culture in human history. They were the Satanists of that time.

Abraham’s building of the altar represents his saying: “I’m accepting a promise, understanding that this is different than what I thought it was going to be, but it’s also something that I believe God can bring to pass. I trust You, Lord, that You will make it work.”

Be encouraged to let your heart receive the promise and embrace wherever you are right now, even if it seems much different that what you hope for. If the Lord is there with you He can make it work, but it will require the building of an altar on your part to say, I’m willing and to trust that God is greater than your preconception of how it’s supposed to be.

Abraham calls on the Name of the Lord

When the Bible says that Abraham called on the Name of the Lord, it was more than prayer. The word “name” contains the concept of character.

Our perspective of God is on this side of the completion of the Old and New Testaments. But in Abraham’s time, God was just beginning to rework His communication with fallen humanity. Abraham answered a call because he believed in God and sensed Him drawing Abraham’s heart to a promise of something that he could not be or do in himself.

Abraham believed that there was a true and living God in the midst of the pagan culture around him. Now the Lord says to him, “I want to teach you about Me.” Abraham was coming to know the Lord and he called on the name—and character—of the Lord.

Abraham leaves and then returns to where God met him

When a famine strikes, Abraham decides to take matters into his own hands and moves his family to Egypt (Genesis 12:1-12). That only creates a bigger problem than if he’d stayed and remembered the promise the Lord gave him. The Lord met him in Egypt anyway, helped him through, and Abraham returned to altar he’d made and called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 13:4).

We all fall for that. God’s really busy and He may not notice what I need right now. But if God has a place for you and He’s showing you Himself in that place, provision will never ultimately be your problem unless you try to figure out how to make it for yourself.

There are people who launch out on their own and distanced themselves from the place the Lord says He has for them. Our Father says, “You know Me differently from the way you are acting right now.” Just as surely as He met Abraham and brought him back to the altar of promise, so He wants to meet you today. You’ve got to decide to come to that altar, and that altar is the Cross of Jesus.

Whatever you have done to violate trust with God (and that usually constitutes having violated trust with other people or making compromises you knew were not right) the Lord calls you to come back. Abraham wanted to move on in knowing God, so he came back to the altar he had built and called on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13; Zechariah 13:9).

Redemption means fulfillment of God’s purpose in you

Following the episode of stress between he and Lot over territory, Abraham graciously offers Lot his choice of the land, saying he will take whatever remained beyond it (Genesis 13). Abraham may have wondered if in doing that, he’d given away the store. But the Lord appears to him and says, “I still have the land for you, and I want you to pace it out and see its dimensions.” As a result of that, Abraham built an altar.

Have you ever wondered if what you thought your life was going to be will never be realized to the degree it might have?

I believe it’s a very clear statement from God’s heart saying that ultimately, you don’t need to worry about the things that seem to encroach on the realization of God’s purpose in your life. There are some things that are irrecoverable. You can’t go back and scrape up all the pieces of everything. But our life is not constituted only of those pieces. There are issues over which the Lord promises to bring about the fulfillment of His purpose in you, notwithstanding the thing that’s happened. That’s what redemption is about (Joel 2).

The Lord is telling Abraham that the loss is not irrevocable as far as His purpose in him is concerned, and to that, Abraham built an altar.

There are some who need to come today and say, “Lord, I’m going to decide that You have not called me to lead a second-rate life because I allowed second-rate things to cut in on what was Your first-rate plan.” Let the Lord work His redemption fully and thoroughly as you come to the altar.

The price of altering

What it takes to build an altar are rocks, broken things. The geological application is relevant, there are volcanic explosions in our lives, seismic events, the grinding of life. You can take hard things and arrange them before the Lord or you can drag the rocks around and be burdened by them. Or when you’re frustrated at lugging them around, you get mad and throw them at somebody else. The way you build an altar is to bring those hard, broken things before the Lord and put them there.

The price of altering is that you have to pour your life out over it saying, “Lord I come and present myself to You!”

At the altar, the price is paid for renewal when we’ve been at a distance, for securing hope we may have thought was lost and for receiving promise, even if it’s in an unpleasant environment. Come to the ultimate altar and receive the ultimate promise and provision made offered in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

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My Son Needed the Love of the Church. I Wasn’t Sure It Was Possible

Including the cognitively disabled in ministry is a chance to live in a cross-shaped way.

May 8, 2019 by JENNIFER BROWN JONES

My Son Needed the Love of the Church. I Wasn’t Sure It Was Possible.

“NO! I NOT QUIET!” The meltdown began—of course—just as the prayer was starting. My husband grabbed our son Mischa’s hand and left the sanctuary, as quickly and quietly as possible. It wasn’t quiet. I have no idea what the worship leader was praying, but my own desperate cry had become almost rote: “Lord, I can’t do this. Help. I’m so tired. I don’t remember not being tired. I can’t do this.” The lights came up and people began greeting one another. I took a breath, preparing to apologize. Again. We wouldn’t be able to come back to this church.

Church. It’s where we should be most loved. It’s where my son should feel most loved, accepted, and wanted. But it isn’t. And the very idea that I could bring my special needs son into an actual worship service was a joke, even if it was just for the music and prayer. I don’t even know why we tried. “God, you’re moving us here, but there aren’t any churches with special needs programs. How are we going to make this work?” This time, though, God’s answer wasn’t “wait and see” but “look and see.” We weren’t going to make it work. He was going to show us how people who don’t just tell his story but also live his story are not just transformed themselves but become agents of transformation in the lives of those around them. God and his people would make it work.

Most Christ-followers will agree that God’s church isn’t really a building. It’s the people that God has called and redeemed; it’s a community of people that he is transforming into the image of his Son. Sounds good, but how many of us are actually being transformed and how many of us have experienced the fruit of our own transformation or that of those around us? What does it look like to be transformed into the image of Jesus?

Living cruciform lives

Throughout the New Testament we see a portrait of Jesus that, if we allow it to, will force us to rethink our understanding of God. Jesus subverts our expectations, just as he did 2,000 years ago. He shows us that true divinity, God himself, is fundamentally self-sacrificing, self-emptying, self-humbling, and self-giving or what New Testament scholar Michael Gorman calls “cruciform” (cross-shaped). In Philippians 2 Paul uses a hymn to describe Jesus’ character, calling believers, then and now, to share in it:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

It sounds beautiful, poetic even. For many this passage is familiar, but when was the last time we allowed ourselves to be confronted by its call? These verses include what Gorman describes as the pattern of Jesus’ life and character. Although Jesus had a certain status (“equality with God”), he didn’t choose selfishness (“his own advantage”) but rather selflessness (“made himself nothing” and “humbled himself”).

It is sometimes too easy to simply marvel at what Jesus has done and miss the call to do likewise: have the same mindset; don’t look out for yourself; humble yourself; put others first. Don’t just tell Jesus’ story, live it. Don’t just narrate the gospel, embody it. Like Jesus, our lives are to be cross-shaped, demonstrating a sacrificial focus on the needs and well-being of others. When we, as members of God’s church, take Paul’s instructions seriously, focusing on others and forgetting about our own power and achievement, we not only truly reflect the image of the God that we worship, we become people that he uses in the lives of others here and now. We don’t have to wait for the new heaven and the new earth.

Such a community sounds beautiful, or at least the concept does. But if we’re honest—if I’m honest—too often we aren’t like Jesus. We are more like that old Dostoyevsky quote: “The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular.” So how do we live a cruciform life? While it may seem obvious, the first part of the answer is to be involved in the community of believers; Paul assumes believers in the Philippian church have relationships with one another. He’s instructing them on how they are to act in these relationships. Yes, this way of life will spill over beyond the church, but it starts inside of it.

Just building relationships with other believers isn’t enough, though. The church isn’t a social club. It is a community of people who are cross-shaped, retelling and reliving the self-giving and self-sacrificing life of Jesus. They are enabled to do so as each individual and the community as a whole are molded by the Holy Spirit into Christ’s image. Believers are being transformed into cross-shaped individuals through the work of the Spirit. Christ-followers have to cooperate with the Spirit’s transformative work, though, by reflecting on and identifying with this pattern: Although we may have rights, we are called not to take advantage of them. Instead we are to place the needs of others ahead of our own. Here, in our death to self—our death to personal priorities and our death to personal ambitions—we experience the paradoxical way that God brings life out of death.

The challenge of L’Arche

While he doesn’t use the words cruciform or cruciformity, Jean Vanier’s life and writings gave us a vivid portrait of what such a cross-shaped life looks like and prepares us for our own journeys. In 1964 Vanier founded L’Arche, an organization that creates homes where people with intellectual disabilities live together in a covenant community with typically abled assistants. While L’Arche itself is not explicitly Christian, Vanier’s life and work have been fundamentally motivated by his desire to follow Jesus by living out the gospel as a source of healing, love, trust, friendship, and reconciliation in a world of injustice, pain, and brokenness. Here, in Vanier’s life, we see the way in which a cross-shaped life that relives Jesus’ story spills over into our wider communities.

For Vanier, the beatitudes are at the heart of L’Arche, pointing us to the sometimes-hidden beauty found in the intellectually disabled, a beauty that can be seen in their capacity for life and growth, as well as in their openness to God. He believed that they have the gift of better understanding the Beatitudes and more closely living them out. In The Scandal of Service and The Challenge of L’Arche, Vanier described the roles of the assistants who live in L’Arche communities as not only offering physical support but, more importantly, loving those whom Vanier describes as weak, helping them to grow, to develop, to discover their beauty, and to find the meaning of their lives. Vanier believed God has a prophetic call on the lives of those who are differently abled, one that is often seen in their very ability to live life more simply, in humility, and with love and receptivity to God.

Like Paul’s portrait of Jesus in Philippians 2, Vanier’s portrait of life with the cognitively disabled is heart-achingly beautiful until we get into the nitty-gritty of what it looks like on the ground. Living with those who are differently abled requires us to let go of our self-focus and self-reliance. We have to grow in our willingness to understand people who are different, to share with them, and to sacrifice on their behalf. It is a life that confronts us with our own brokenness and poverty of spirit—our impatience, our self-absorption, our anger, and our insufficiency. In life with the intellectually disabled, we learn that we are the weak ones. Those who are supposedly “disabled” are our teachers. It is here, when we finally welcome our weakness, need, and shortcomings, that we meet Jesus.

Not everyone is called to daily life with the intellectually disabled, but they live around us and among us, as do their families. How do we engage with them on the street and in our churches? Our responses matter, because they hold the potential to embody the healing and love of God’s self-sacrifice. When we tell a parent their autistic daughter is no longer welcome in our youth group because she is too disruptive, are we living out Jesus’ love and sacrifice? Are we focusing on the needs of the “able” and “strong” at the expense of another one of Jesus’ children? Perhaps this beautiful—yes, beautiful—young woman is a crucial part of God’s transformative work. As she learns of her inherent value and beauty, finding love and acceptance, she may also help those around her to be transformed into the self-sacrificing, cross-shaped image of Jesus that is more concerned for others than self. Perhaps this young woman is there to teach the rest of us about who we really are (the broken) and what we really need (the transformative work of the Spirit).

Being confronted with weakness and failure isn’t for the faint of heart. We have to choose to cooperate with the Spirit’s work, staying in the difficult places and relationships. But when we recognize, accept, and then integrate our own weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and brokenness into our lives, God brings healing. It is here where we meet Jesus, for it is only when we welcome our own weakness, need, poverty, and insufficiency that we are able to welcome him. Then, as we encounter Jesus, we become agents of healing for those around us.

Becoming a little more like Jesus

“I’m so sorry!” I told the people around me. They just looked and smiled, telling me not to worry about it. I froze for a moment. One lady commented, smiling, “You’re doing the best you can; so is he.” What? I wasn’t being judged, condemned, and found wanting? And then someone we had met on our way in came up to me. He gently placed his hand on my shoulder and asked, “What can we do to make things easier for him and for you?” Tears welled up. No one had ever asked me that unless they were being paid. Maybe we couldcome back to this church.

Less than a year later, we had not only become regular attendees but also involved members. As we have taken steps to support others in our new community, sometimes sacrificially, we have seen how God works. We’ve seen it when we’ve gone to what was supposed to be a small group meeting and were told that we had a night free to go out to dinner while fellow church members watched our son. We’ve seen it in the way that our campus pastor has stood singing while holding Mischa, who knows without a doubt that he is not just accepted; he is loved. We’ve seen it in the way that one of the regular greeters made Mischa an official member of the welcome team with his own nametag. Each of these acts may seem small, but the sum of many small acts is far greater than the individual parts.

We don’t bear our burdens alone; our joys and sorrows are shared. We have no doubt that our son is welcome. We are welcome. In this place where we are supported and loved. God has enabled us to begin serving others instead of merely trying to survive. Our family has found love, acceptance, and healing. But perhaps the moment where God taught me the most was when a visitor walked into the sanctuary carrying a dandelion. She was beaming and smilingly told me that this beautiful boy outside had made her feel so loved and welcome; he’d given her this flower and a great big smile.

Yes. That was my son. The one who still occasionally has meltdowns during the music or prayer. The one who knows he is safe and loved. And I’m still the mom who struggles and who needs to welcome her own brokenness. But we’re all making progress. We’re each becoming a little more like Jesus and seeing how God brings life, healing, and love among people who not only tell Jesus’ story but relive it in their everyday lives.

Jennifer Brown Jones is a PhD candidate in Christian theology (Old Testament) at McMaster Divinity College and adjunct faculty at Ecclesia College. Her research focuses on the Psalter, the Minor Prophets, and the intersection of Christian life with disability studies. She attends Capital Church in Park City, Utah. You can learn more about her personal journey and read her recent reflection about Jean Vanier on her website: https://jenniferbrownjones.com

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/may-web-only/cross-shaped-living-with-cognitively-disability-vanier.html

VIDEO Born Debate Very Much Alive in Left – Abortion Attempt Survivor

May 2, 2019 by Tony Perkins

 

“No, we’re not — you are!” So far, that seems to sum up the far-Left’s best defense against President Trump. In the infanticide debate, where the White House is leaning into one of the greatest areas of American consensus in years, Democrats are scrambling for some foothold — any foothold — to explain away their extremism. And their latest attempt — accusing the president of “inciting violence” — just might take the cake.

It takes a powerful dose of cruelty to stand at the table of a newborn baby and argue she has no right to live. Democrats have been making that case for the last four months at every level of government, and the wear and tear is finally starting to show. With even their own party lined up against them, liberals have been desperately looking for some way to justify the horribly inhumane agenda they’ve been pushing. They’ve trotted out nurses to say infanticide doesn’t happen; moms who testify that some fetal abnormality gave them no choice; and even politicians like Hillary Clinton who say the “one percent” of children isn’t enough to worry about.

A quarter of a year into this debate, nothing the Democrats are selling seems to stick. So, they’re doing what they do best: attacking Trump. Over the weekend, when the president made his pro-life plea to Congress a centerpiece of the Wisconsin rally, he didn’t miss an opportunity to point out what the Left is advocating. Taking on the latest governor, Tony Evers (D-Wisc.) to buck 82 percent of voters, the president reiterated what these politicians are standing for. “The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor, they take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby. I don’t think so. It’s incredible.”

In the handful of days since Saturday, liberals have seized on the president’s statement, sending bogus fact-checkers to parse the meaning of the word “execute” as if that somehow changes the reality of what Democrats are defending. In the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg actually made the astonishing accusation that President Trump — not the party lobbying for the killing of newborn babies — was the violent one.

“Besides their potential to inspire violence,” Goldberg argues, “Trump’s words are a cruel insult to parents who have to make agonizing decisions about end-of-life care for babies that are born extremely prematurely, or with serious anomalies. Doctors and mothers don’t choose to ‘execute’ newborns. They are forced to decide, in excruciating situations when to forgo medical interventions…” So it’s not an execution — it’s a “forgoing of medical intervention?” The president’s word choice makes people uncomfortable — and it should. It forces them to confront the barbarity of the situation. But like difference between a firing squad and lethal injection, the result is still the same. There’s nothing “bizarre and dangerous and insulting” about it — unless you’re the innocent child.

Goldberg insists the words of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) — who confirmed that infanticide happens — had been mischaracterized. That’s interesting, since even he has stood by them. At times, NRO’s Alexandra Desanctis points out, even doubling down on the horror. And while he didn’t say anything about “executing” infants, she writes, the reality is he’s “clearly condoning allowing at least some infants to die after birth if they were meant to have been aborted a few minutes earlier.”

Like a lot of extremists, Goldberg suggests that the point of these bills is to put Democrats in a “no-win situation.” Actually, the point of these bills is to save lives. She thinks that voting in favor of Born-Alive legislation that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has refused to bring to the floor 33 times is to “concede the premise that these bills address something real.” Liberals certainly thought infanticide was real enough in 2002, when protecting infants was so uncontroversial that it passed without a single Democratic opponent. Since then, the CDC’s data only confirms these atrocities — as do mountains of eyewitness testimonygrand jury reportssurvivors’ own stories, and admissions by doctors like Northam himself!

Even if it weren’t common, as the Left would love everyone to believe, what’s the harm in addressing it again? None. The real harm is in not addressing it and leaving a 17-year-old law in place that’s powerless to stop the killing.

To make your voice heard, click over to our End Birth Day Abortion website and send Nancy Pelosi a newborn baby hat!


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

 

Original here

God Reveals More Of Himself To Those Whose Faith Is Immovable

APRIL 29, 2019 BY SPANIARDVIII

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness

Numbers 12:4-8

4 Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “You three come out to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the LORD descended in a pillar of cloud, stood at the entrance to the tent, and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them came forward, 6 he said:

“Listen to what I say:
If there is a prophet among you from the LORD,
I make myself known to him in a vision;
I speak with him in a dream.
7 Not so with my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my household.
8 I speak with him directly,
openly, and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the LORD.

Miriam was the instigator who got Aaron their brother involved against Moses because they didn’t like his wife.

Miriam didn’t realize that messing with Moses was like messing with God Himself which is extremely dangerous. God called all three into the tent of meeting to deal with Moses’ accuser. If you look at verse 8 which says,“I speak with him directly, openly, and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD.” It was in reference to having more knowledge. Let’s focus on the word “form” which gives the meaning of more insight or understanding of who God is which is revealed only to the faithful.

In Deuteronomy 4:15-17 which says, “15 “Diligently watch yourselves—because you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you out of the fire at Horeb— 16 so you don’t act corruptly and make an idol for yourselves in the shape of any figure: a male or female form, 17 or the form of any animal on the earth, any winged creature that flies in the sky…”

If you notice, God didn’t show the Israelites His form, more revelation about Himself, because they didn’t have strong faith like Moses and would eventually fall into idolatry, making an image of God’s form and end up worshipping that instead of the Living God.

The reason God showed Moses His form was that his faith was solid, being completely dedicated to the LORD.

When our faith is strong, steadfast, immovable, and completely devoted to Jesus Christ, He will reveal more of Himself through His Word to us.

http://spiritualminefield.com

Are Your Standards Right?

April 26, 2018 by ManofProverbs

 

Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him–Proverbs 26:12

Our Hearts

Pride and self-importance cause people to seem wise in their own view, which leads them to be arrogantly confident in their own ideas. Wisdom comes from God and is not formed by human reasoning, but accepting what God has said and revealed in Scripture. We have to understand that that there is potential deceit within our hearts and we must not assume that our standards of right and wrong are God’s standards. Jeremiah 17:9 states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

The heart is the inner being of a person that includes our desires, feelings and thoughts. The heart is extremely evil and corrupt, as a result people turn to selfishness and evil rather than to God. This cannot be cured and cannot be changed by itself. Only God’s grace can cure it. We need to ask God for wisdom.

Seeking Wisdom

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. We need to be asking God to give us wisdom in dealing with and coping with our trials. Wisdom means the spiritual ability to see and evaluate life and conduct from God’s point of view.

In 1 Corinthians 2:16 Paul says, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” To have the mind of Christ means knowing God’s will and his plan and purpose. It means seeing things the way God sees them, valuing things the way He values them, loving what He loves and hating what He hates. This is how we should be setting the standards in our life.

Setting Standards

Many times we set our standards based on our own understanding, preferences, and how we were raised. There have been many times as I’ve got older that I have realized that some of the standards I was setting were based on my parents preferences. We also set standards to what we think is right, which is flawed. We need to be seeking God’s wisdom when setting our standards. As a whole, we need to also realize that our standards may work for us, but may not work for other people. For example, dressing up for church, I personally feel that I should dress up for church, because I’m going to worship God. Other people do not feel that they should dress up for church. I should not apply my standard to other people. In reality, I don’t think God cares what I’m wearing, it’s my heart at that time when I’m worshiping Him.

When we set our standards in our lives, seek God’s wisdom. Our ways are deceitful, God’s are pure and just.

Are Your Standards Right?

Bible Verses On Loving Others

  • Matthew 5:43-44 NIV
     “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
  • Mark 12:29-31 NLT
    Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
  • John 13:34 NIV
    A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
  • John 15:12-13  NLT
    This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
  • Romans 13:8 NLT
    Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
    If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV
    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
  • Ephesians 4:2 NLT
    Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
  • Ephesians 4:31-32
    “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
  • 1 John 3:18
    Dear children, let us not love with words or speech b1john4ut with actions and in truth.
  • 1 Peter 1:22 NLT
     You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.
  • 1 John 4:7-8 NIV
    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
  • 1 John 4:11 NIV
    Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
  • 1 John 4:19-21 NIV
     We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Bible Verses on Loving Others

A Country That Honors God

What truly protects a Nation

July 3, 2018 by Charles F. Stanley

 

As you look at the state of our nation today, what do you see? The Bible says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12), but this is not a popular belief in our society. However, it’s the only way our nation can flourish. Further support for this truth is found in Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Abandoning the Lord leads to disgrace and the loss of His blessings.

Contrary to popular belief, what actually protects a nation is not military strength but the righteousness of its people and government. When the Lord is honored in a nation, He is exalted, and the people are protected. Therefore, we should look at our nation today and ask ourselves whether we as a country are honoring God. Our future depends on the answer.

Freedom doesn’t come cheaply, and it’s always under attack by our enemy, the devil. His ungodly and unbiblical influences fight against our beliefs, but the Lord gives us courage to resist.

As believers, we are under the divine guidance of our Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ, and we do not fight with weapons but with the Word of God—the only message that can transform lives and influence the world for good. Christ’s church will not be overpowered, and He will be faithful to raise up believers in every generation. We have been commanded to proclaim the gospel throughout the world, and this commission is not just for those trained as missionaries but for each of us in our own places of influence.

However, this means we must be willing to stand firmly for our convictions when they are challenged. Convictions are unaffected by the times, the values of the culture, or the popularity of current ideas. Christian beliefs may be unpopular presently, but the Lord is our defense as long as we exalt and obey Him as Lord and honor His Word as our compass for life.

As followers of Jesus, we are His representatives, and there is no room for compromise with the immoral, disrespectful, or self-indulgent aspects of our culture. So, how are we to respond to this world in which we live? Others may criticize and stand against Christianity, but we who love the Lord must stay true to Him. We can’t afford to let ourselves be lulled into thinking that because we live in a free and prosperous nation, nothing bad is going on or could happen to us in the future.

Despite the sinful condition of our culture, we should not be discouraged. Our God is greater than the world’s knowledge and wisdom, and His purposes are not thwarted by sin. He is sufficient and adequate to guide us through whatever we face—our responsibility is simply to believe, trust, obey, and follow Him, modeling the Christian life for those around us.

 

This article is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message“Standing on Your Convictions” which airs this weekend on TV.

https://www.intouch.org/read/blog/a-country-that-honors-god