Coming out of the recent pandemic that saw a near complete shutdown of our society along with critical shortages of many essential items, I am struck by the things we now seem to have an abundance of.
Anger comes to mind as something we have in abundance. And hatred, let’s not forget the overflow of hatred in America. Oh, and I don’t want to forget one other thing we have in great abundance today; finger pointing. Can’t forget that now, can I?
Almost beyond belief, it would seem that the cataclysmic virus that had doomed us all to certain death really wasn’t the apocalyptic event prophesied by the media after all. How could it be, when hundreds of thousands are marching side by side not wearing a mask? Imagine that would you?
Things were so bad that we were strictly forbidden to go to church for fear of spreading this death defying virus, yet somehow or another congregating in crowds of tens of thousands doesn’t pose any health risks at all.
I mean, who knew?
Honestly, I’m thinking the wrong crowds are filling the streets of America. I’m thinking we awful, disease spreading, unenlightened Christians ought to be the ones pouring out into the streets of America to protest the theft of our Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of worship. 
Speaking of pouring out into the streets, I have lived on this earth for just over 65 years, and in that time I have seen many instances where people took to the streets out of frustration and anger over issues beyond their control.
I was just a boy of eight years of age when Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
I was thirteen when the infamous “Chicago Seven” were arrested for their anti war activities during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Just two years later when I was a 15 year old, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of Vietnam War protestors, killing four and wounding nine. Living just a couple of hours from Kent State University, it seemed like it was in my backyard.
Since those tumultuous times of decades past, there have been several other noteworthy examples of citizens taking to the streets to protest for one reason or another. Abortion, LBGTQ, Environment, Guns, Women’s rights, Anti-war, and the Million man and Million woman marches have all made their mark on the fabric of American society.
Today, as our nation once again seethes with anger in the wake of the brutal, heinous murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, millions are again taking to the streets in a show of indignation and defiance of the status quo.
Of course, the violence that has erupted during the peaceful marches is the result of a well planned and well funded attempt to destroy the fabric of American society from within. There is only one word that most aptly describes what is being played out before our eyes: EVIL.
We can dress it up any way we like to, but it’s still EVIL. We can call it racism or bigotry or any number of other names, but it’s still EVIL. And this is what those marching and protesting in the streets do not understand. This is NOT an issue of race. It is an issue of EVIL. Even those violent criminals that have been unleashed upon our society are completely misguided. The issue here is not one group hating another. It goes much, much deeper than that.
What we’re dealing with here is of the spiritual nature. Don’t believe that? Read what the Apostle Paul had to say about the subject of EVIL.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (emphasis mine)
Did you understand what Paul meant? Our battle, your battle, is not with mankind. It is NOT with your neighbor who is of a different skin color than yours. It is NOT with those whose belief system differs from your own. No, the battle is against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
In other words, the battle is against the spiritual forces of darkness that exist in high places. Who is leading the charge of these forces of darkness at play in our society? Why, it’s none other than Satan himself. That’s right, and every person storming the streets today is being played by the devil. Not a popular sentiment, is it?
Why do you suppose racism still exists at the level it does today? Why haven’t supposedly educated, enlightened individuals been able to come up with a permanent cure for racism? The answer is so simple that its almost too simple. The reason racism still exists at its current level is because the cure for racism is the love of God, and the world has largely rejected the Source of this love.
It’s like the old adage about taking a knife into a gunfight. You can be the very best at using a knife, but against a gun you have virtually zero chance of success against your adversary. Fighting systemic racism by protests, even violent protests does nothing to address the root of the problem! To be sure, these marches have gotten the attention of the entire world. They have no doubt spawned new discussions (or soon will) on how best to deal with the problem.
But not one thing is being done to address the root of the problem: we have forsaken God.
And that, dear readers, is not something that can be corrected by marching down Main Street USA. It can only be corrected at an altar.
Have a blessed day,
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? Psalm 2:1
Although the priest argued for forgiveness, the message was lost on students
The Archdiocese of Boston forced Daniel Moloney to resign from his chaplain role at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after students and alumni complained that Moloney brought up George Floyd’s past criminal history in an email to students.
Although Moloney, a Catholic priest, was making an argument that Floyd’s past should not justify his death, the fact that he brought up Floyd’s rap sheet at all prompted some to protest the chaplain’s message to campus officials and file bias complaints over it.
“George Floyd was killed by a police officer, and shouldn’t have been,” Moloney wrote in his June 7 email to the Tech Catholic Community, a group of Catholic students on campus.
“He had not lived a virtuous life. He was convicted of several crimes, including armed robbery, which he seems to have committed to feed his drug habit. And he was high on drugs at the time of his arrest. But we do not kill such people. He committed sins, but we root for sinners to change their lives and convert to the Gospel,” the priest wrote.
“ … In the wake of George Floyd’s death, most people in the country have framed this as an act of racism. I don’t think we know that. Many people have claimed that racism is major problem in police forces. I don’t think we know that.”
The e-mail was republished in its entirety by New Boston Post.
Although Moloney’s argument aimed to promote justice and forgiveness, that message seemed lost on many of its readers.
An article in The Tech campus newspaper reports that MIT’s dean for student life, Suzy Nelson, said administrators and the bias response team received reports about Moloney’s email.
In an email to student and faculty leaders June 12, Nelson wrote Moloney’s message “contradicted the Institute’s values” and “was deeply disturbing” and that “by devaluing and disparaging George Floyd’s character,” Moloney did not “acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism” on “African Americans, people of African descent, and communities of color,” The Tech reports.
The Archdiocese of Boston told Moloney to resign from his role as chaplain at the school on June 9, according to the Boston Globe. The move came after more than 60 people attended a forum hosted by Tech Catholic Community on June 9, according to the school newspaper.
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, told WBZ-TV “While Fr. Moloney’s comments should not reflect on the entirety of his priestly ministry, they nonetheless were wrong and by his resignation he accepts the hurt they have caused.”
Moloney told the Boston Globe on June 16, “I regret what happened, I regret it was misunderstood, I regret that [it] became difficult for me to be a voice for Christ on campus.”
Moloney is a published author at First Things, The Wall Street Journal and National Review. He used to work at the Heritage Foundation as a senior policy analyst for the DeVos Center for Religion and Society. His doctoral dissertation focused on justice and mercy, the subject of a recent book he published as well. He also maintains an active Tumblr page but has not explicitly addressed the controversy on it.
Two historic women, one old and one young, were the first to welcome and praise the Savior of the world. And two glorious paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events.
Dec 23, 2019
If quizzed “Who was the first person to welcome Jesus and announce his lordship?” how would you answer? It’s an important question when we consider that this man from the nowhere town of Nazareth is the most consequential individual ever.
His teaching and followers across the globe radically transformed world culture, toppled great powers without ever firing a shot, established the world of humanitarianism and accessible medical care for commoners, inspired the scientific method, and enlivened the world movements for justice, human dignity, and individual freedom. He literally divides history and is responsible for the founding of the largest, most diverse collection of people around some basic ideals.
This all started with two women no one had ever heard of, whose life-altering experiences are now illustrated in two exquisite works of art. Mary, a humble, young virgin, by tradition about 14 years old at the time, is told by an angel she will give birth to the very Son of God. At this striking news, she “arose and went with haste” to see her cherished relative, Elizabeth, some 90 miles away.
Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her own miraculous pregnancy, for she was well past child-bearing years. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.
The beauty of this part of the Christmas story is the miracle that happens the moment Mary enters Elizabeth’s home. Christ is recognized, received, proclaimed, and worshiped, and Mary and Elizabeth are not the only two involved in the divine drama here. We read in Luke 1:41-44:
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
This is a major event in Jesus’ story and thus the Christian church, but we seldom appreciate it as such. It is the first time Jesus is both proclaimed and worshiped as God! This was done, we are told, “in a loud voice.” And Christ the Lord is worshiped by two people at the same time — one very old, one super young.
The First to Proclaim Jesus’ Lordship
Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Jesus and his mother. The simple but world-changing confession, “Jesus is Lord,” was the first and most basic way Christians began to proclaim their faith and greet one another in the church’s early years. It was the first Christian creed, and Elizabeth was the first to proclaim it, long before Christmas morning. Think on that for a moment.
The second greeting is even more incredible and speaks to an intimate relationship in the Savior’s life. Baby John leaps for joy, literally, at the coming of the Savior. He does so as a child in the darkness of his mother’s womb. (Yes, Christianity has profoundly strong words for the humanity and dignity of the unborn child in John and Jesus’ remarkable in utero contribution to the good news.)
John did not start serving as the forerunner of Christ when preaching about his coming in the desert. It was here, in the womb. And it was two very common mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, who experienced this remarkable, history-changing event. It happened in distinctly womanly interiors of their hearts and wombs, and in the humbleness of Elizabeth’s home. Humble motherhood and the intimate bond only mothers can share is the human font of the Christian story.
To be sure, the Christian church, which is often incorrectly charged with being sexist by people who know little of its actual story, is founded upon two women being the first to welcome and praise the Savior. (Remember as well, it was a small group of women who announced the “second birth” of the Savior, if you will, at his resurrection.) What other major faith or philosophy has women playing such a significant role in its founding? I cannot think of one.
Two famous paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events, “The Annunciation” and “The Visitation.” The first African-American painter to achieve significant critical acclaim, Henry Ossawa Tanner, created both. He is a remarkable man and one of my favorite artists.
One of the things I like best in Tanner’s two works here is that he shows us the simple humanness of Mary and Elizabeth. They are not supernatural, other-worldly, saintly subjects in the typical sense. Tanner’s images show us the regular, everyday women they were.
He will not allow us to miss the youth, innocence, and commonness of our Mary. Tanner doesn’t give her a facial expression communicating anything obvious. Is she scared? Stunned? Joyful? Solemn? His Mary is more complex than many artists’ as is undoubtably true of the actual event. Tanner has her communicating all these feelings and struggles at once.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this most startling news, he found a teenage girl living a typical teenage girl’s life. The greatest royal announcement in the history of the universe takes place in this teen girl’s humble bedroom, illuminated by the majesty of God’s oracle. That is precisely what Tanner gives us, and it’s just stunning. Also, his technique in presenting the folds and flow of her gown and bed coverings is nothing short of magnificent.
As wonderful as Tanner’s “Annunciation” is, his “Visitation” is even more striking.
Just look at it and consider what’s happening here.
When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Tanner allows us personally to witness this event. Elizabeth most likely did not have any notice that Mary was coming or the grand news that prompted the visit. She sits at the table on an ordinary day, when she hears Mary possibly utter what any of us likely would as she comes to the door, “Liz, you home?”
Elizabeth’s divine surprise and wonder is dramatically communicated simply in her uplifted hands. It’s a glorious device. Are they hands of praise or surprise? Certainly both at the same time.
This simple scene of a surprise family visitation and domesticity is the first scene of Jesus being worshiped. Reflect on this a moment. The event we are witnessing right here in this kitchen is the initiation of what the rest of history and eternity will be about, the worship of the second person of the divine Trinity: Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son.
The interchange between these two women in this domestic setting is unspeakably profound. We typically move over it far too easily, wanting to get onto what we see as the center of the Christmas story, the manger.
This exchange is also vitally important because it is the first revelation of Christ beyond Mary’s heart and womb. It is the precise second and scene that commenced the worship of the Son of the God that will continue without end into eternity, the story that encapsulates a Christian’s whole reality.
P.S. Tanner Lived in Philadelphia
I knew Tanner lived in Philadelphia for some time, so on a business trip there some years ago, I wanted to see if his house was discoverable. It was, and I found it, right around the corner from John Coltrane’s home. How cool is that?
Glenn T. Stanton is a Federalist senior contributor who writes and speaks about family, gender, and art, is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and is the author of the brand new “The Myth of the Dying Church” (Worthy, 2019). He blogs at glenntstanton.com.
“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8
I hate peer pressure… I mean I really do. Does anyone like it? We’ve all faced it but it seemed incredibly strong for me in grade school.
Peer pressure is like waves in an ocean trying to move you off course. A boat has to make constant adjustments in order to stay on course. Waves and wind will constantly try to disrupt the navigation flow of the vessel.
So it is with peer pressure, we have our convictions, but we become convinced by a stronger voice in our life to settle or to do something that we would not have chosen on our own. I’m only talking about negative peer pressure here; there can be positive peer pressure too.
Comparison kills contentment and it weakens our conviction. I have been a Christian all my life and in grade school and high school, there was a constant barrage of voices trying to get me to question my faith, to try a drug, watch a mature movie, be in a relationship that wasn’t good for me, and the list goes on.
Even something as relatively innocent as clothing can cause others to size you up based on the latest trends or name brands. I remember around 5th grade, I was completely happy with my socks and shoes. I had no clue about fashion or name brands that is until this one kid in particular made it known to me how much I was lacking in this department.
Every day this kid would berate me and call out, “generic socks and generic shoes.” I don’t even remember what I would wear but it wasn’t good enough for the social criticism in the late 1980’s. This kid was nonstop with the generic comments every single day. I finally pressured my Mom into buying me Nikes, but not just Nike shoes, but Nike socks which visibly had the black swoop on the top of the sock in order to be seen by all. No one would again say that I had “generic sock and shoes.” I had won.
I was perfectly contented with my situation before this peer pressure occurred. I was oblivious to the need to put on a show for others in order to not be ridiculed. Sometimes it’s just easier to give in to quiet the noise around us, to lower our convictions for a moment’s peace. How often have we compromised our walk with Christ for the easy, the popular, the pleasurable, or whatever THING that is demanding of our time and attention?
Peer pressure isn’t as in my face as it was in grade school, but then again my phone is literally in my face every day. I see on social media a non-stop list of what I “need.” what others have, what I don’t have, how others are so happy, how well behaved their kids are, how many vacations my friends are taking, what God is doing in other ministries, and the list goes on. Social media is more subtle form of peer pressure but it may be just as strong, if not stronger, of an influence in our life than a physical person.
Discernment will allow us to ask, “what is God asking of me?” I can’t worry about what anyone else is doing or what God is calling them to do. God measure success based on faithfulness not based on achievements. I am longing for the day that Jesus says, “well done good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:23).
People often will want the results without the work it takes to get there. You see that successful Pastor with a vibrant ministry? You don’t see the two failed churches, the multitude of sleepless nights in prayer, or the constant stress he faces by those that have a critical spirit about them. Actually the stress, the failure, the pain, and prayer have gotten him to this point, he had to learn to fail in order to succeed. He had to learn the lesson of when he did not rely on God so that he would never go down that path again. He had to learn the importance of prayer when he couldn’t do it on his own so that he would be able lift up those around him in a powerful covering so that Satan never gains a foothold in his ministry.
But you see him and you want to be him without any of those steps or God’s calling on your life to do that…
It’s like someone that idolizes a celebrity and wants to be them while never seeing the depression they face, the loss of true friendships, never feeling like they are valued apart from their talent, or the desire they have just to “be normal” again.
What is God calling you to do? Where is God calling you to go? If you can’t answer that, you need to pray. God is always looking for a willing vessel who can say, like Isaiah, “here I am God, send me!”
Read 1 Kings 13, seriously stop and read the chapter before you continue…but if you didn’t I’ll do my best to summarize.
Jeroboam was a wicked king (there seemed to be no shortage of them when you read the Old Testament). God called a prophet out of Judah to go to Bethel (Jewish historian Josephus called him Yadon and I will too for the purpose of this story).
God called Yadon for a purpose, to travel to another city and to boldly rebuke the King, facing a probable death for doing so. When he got there not only did he miraculously prophecy about King Josiah (which wouldn’t happen for about three centuries later) but he also destroyed the pagan altar through an earthquake (13:5)! When the King pointed at him to have his guards seize him, instantly his hand became paralyzed and he couldn’t pull it back (v4).
Now the evil King Jeroboam asked the man of God (Yadon) to pray for his hand to be restored and it was. The King then tempted the prophet to come and eat, drink, and stay in his palace, but Yadon was strong in his conviction since the Lord told him, “you must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came” (v.9).
This was a powerful confrontation that Yadon had; almost as powerful as Elijah calling down fire on the prophets of Baal. I don’t know the mindset of Yadon but I would have breathed a sigh of relief, not only was I not killed by the wicked King, but God showed up in miraculous signs and the King actually wanted to treat me to a royal dinner. I can imagine he was pretty famished; the long journey with no food and water now was the time to relax… or was it? Yadon resisted the pressure and remained true to what God was asking him to do.
But that was not the end of this story. The rest of this story is about an “old prophet” who is unnamed who sends his sons to find Yadon. Once he was found, the old prophet rode out to meet Yadon. He asked “are you the man of God who came from Judah” (v.14)? No doubt word of his confrontation with the King spread like wildfire through the town. He invites him back to his house to get some food and drink, but again Yadon replies about how God told him not to eat or drink anything until he returns to his hometown. The same answer he gave the King.
Now this part is fascinating…
“But the old prophet answered, ‘I am a prophet, too, just as you are. And an angel gave me this command from the Lord: ‘Bring him home with you so he can have something to eat and drink. (v18)’” The next verse even says the old man was lying, but the peer pressure, the fatigue, and/or the camaraderie of another prophet got to Yadon and he went back with the old man to eat and drink.
Now think about this for a minute, God called Yadon out of his hometown to go to Bethel to deliver a mighty message to the king. Why didn’t he call this old man? He was a prophet, conveniently located in the same town as the king… We know this old man had no problem lying and God knew his heart as well.
So back to the story, the old man and Yadon were eating a meal back at the house and the Spirit of God speaks through the old man, aka the liar! “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have defiled the word of the Lord and have disobeyed the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back to this place and ate and drank where he told you not to eat or drink. Because of this, your body will not be buried in the grave of your ancestors” (v21-22).
I feel bad for Yadon, after this meal he saddled his donkey and rode off to an awaiting lion that killed him (v.24). A mighty victory for God turned into a crushing defeat because he did not obey the word of God; he listened to a false prophet who got him to sway off course. He fell into peer pressure from a fellow prophet. A prophet who said he heard from God nonetheless!
I find it interesting that God still spoke through the old prophet at the dinner table, you see, God can use anyone and anything for His glory, but that doesn’t mean the prophet was trustworthy or following the will of God.
God can speak through anyone, but that doesn’t mean you need to go to their church, to read their books, or follow them if they are not fully obedient to the Word of God. There’s a lot of truth out there being mixed with deception. God can reach people even among prosperity preachers and twisted denominations.
We need to have discernment to align all things against the Word of God and hold fast to what is true.
But on a personal level, if God is calling you to do something, don’t be swayed by what another preacher, teacher, pastor, or priest tells you. God wants you to hear his voice so clearly you don’t need a second opinion.
I’m not saying that we can’t ask for wisdom from others, but I’m saying if God tells you something; don’t listen to someone who hasn’t heard from God for your life, who has a conflicting message.
There are other examples in the Bible of this same thing. Micaiah faced off against 400 other prophets in 1 Kings 22. I love this story and I write about it in detail in my book on the chapter about counterfeits. All the prophets were ‘yes men’ and prophesied success for the King while Michaiah prophesied defeat. One of the prophets came and slapped him saying, “Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you” (v.24)? What Michaiah prophesied came true despite 400 voices claiming to hear from God.
Another example is Hezekiah and the siege on Jerusalem from King Sennacherib of Assyria (Isaiah 36). An envoy of Assyria came to taunt Israel and said a number of insults outside the city including, “Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it” (v.10). Obviously a blatant lie.
Satan can be disguised as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). We have to be very careful when even someone in ministry tells us a word from God that does not align with truth. I do believe God gives people words of knowledge today, but I also believe that Satan can plan deception in people’s minds that allow them to say something that is just a little off and get you to question what God said. Just like with Eve in the Garden, “did God really say?”
God would rather you be faithful to what He is calling you to do, than to chase after dreams and aspirations that don’t align with that calling. After all, are you building your kingdom or God’s?
Maybe being faithful to the job you dislike means that you can bring life into that environment and others can see Jesus through you.
Maybe being faithful to your family despite the frustrations means that your kids will be the first generation to know of the goodness and love of Christ without having to survive an abusive parent.
Maybe being faithful to your spouse despite your feelings means that you need to subject your feelings to the will of God and not your own; your faithfulness will be a witness to other couples with the same struggle.
Maybe enduring the pain and heartache that comes with fostering children means that the children you are pouring your heart and soul into will be able to know about Jesus simply because you are being faithful to that call despite all the garbage that sometimes comes with the foster care system.
This all comes back to discernment. Seek God for yourself; stand fast on the path He is calling you to take. Don’t be swayed by the lies of the enemy, even if it comes to you under the guise of a “friend” or someone that supposedly hears from God.
Be bold, be courageous, God can use you to accomplish His will on this earth if we are faithful and obedience for the glory of God and God alone. Amen!
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:13-14 NIV
Most Christians will agree that forgiveness is the right thing to do, after all there are over 100 verses in the Bible that talk about forgives or forgiving others. And yet, forgiving other people can be extremely hard to do. It seems to come easily for children, I know that my children will quickly forgive each other and move on about their day. They never bring up infractions from a week, month, or year ago! Why does this get harder to do as people move into adulthood? As you become adults, the wrongs levied against you become more severe, we build up walls over time, and we can analyze a scenario to judge if someone is deserving of our forgiveness.
A recent Barna study (1) among practicing Christians said that:
76% offered unconditional forgiveness to someone else
55% received unconditional forgiveness
27% identify someone they don’t want to forgive
23% identify someone who they can’t forgive
22% struggle to receive forgiveness for something
We can learn a lot about forgiveness in the Bible. Let’s take a look at the story of Jacob and Esau.
Jacob had God’s favor but he was not a good brother to Esau in the least. He took advantage of Esau when he was weak and traded him some stew for a birthright (although Esau was not very smart to have agreed). Jacob also betrayed his brother by stealing the blessing from his father by dressing up like his brother, with his mother’s help nonetheless! This was a double betrayal for Esau from his brother and mother.
Jacob brought about division against him and his brother and he had to flee for fear of repercussion. The interesting thing is that the brothers meet up again, many years later in Genesis 37. Jacob is justifiably scared of this encounter. He does not know if Esau will attack him and steal everything. Jacob separates out his wives and children into groups so that if one group is attacked, the other can flee safely. Jacob also prepares a generous gift for Esau when he arrives.
Surprisingly to Jacob, Esau embraces his brother and even rejects the gifts that Jacob brings saying, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.” (Gen. 37:9) The brothers are reunited despite the past. God blesses both of them as they grow in livestock and wealth that they eventually have to split up because the land cannot support both groups.
Esau made a decision to forgive his brother. Jacob did not ask for forgiveness before it was offered. Esau had every “right” to stay bitter and even steal from Jacob his possessions. Esau chose the high ground.
Esau was betrayed by his own flesh and blood, how often does family betray their own? This hurt can be harder than others to recover from. If a stranger hurts me, it may make me sad but I can move on. When family hurts you, it sometimes makes the relationship irreparable and can cause devastating psychological damage.
The same can be said for our church family. Too often I hear and have experienced fellow Christians who hurt and betray their own, either through difference of beliefs or petty arguments. This can result in unforgiveness and someone choosing to not go to church or not let another Christian brother or sister close to them again in case of a future hurt. If an effort to control your surroundings, you end up taking extreme measures that hurt you in different ways such as the lack of fellowship and community. We are meant for relationship with fellow believers and to meet together regularly (Heb. 10:25).
Forgiveness does not forget the past. It does allow you to keep the past from controlling your future.
Forgiveness does not excuse or condone previous actions and it does not mean you have to sign up to get hurt again.
Forgiveness should be given even when it is not asked for. The person you forgive does not even need to be present in cases of death or abuse. You can still forgive them before your Heavenly Father.
Forgiveness is more an act of release for YOU than the other person. We hold on to unforgiveness because it gives us power, but it also destroys us in the process and steals our joy. They say power corrupts, I would say that unforgiveness corrupts our spirit.
There’s an old saying that says, “Harboring unforgiveness or bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
But we only forgive those who deserve it right? After all there are some actions that are reprehensible, that cannot be forgiven even if I wanted to? I don’t want to judge but I also can’t forgive because of what this person did to me…
If anyone “deserved” to hold on to unforgiveness it would have been Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. She tells of an amazing story of one of her captors after the war, coming to a camp where she was preaching about Jesus. She chose forgiveness there on the spot when he told her who he was and what he had done.
Corrie ten Boom then told of not being able to forget this incident. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest.
“His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor,” Corrie wrote, “to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks.” “Up in the church tower,” he said, nodding out the window, “is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness.
When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.” “And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force — which was my willingness in the matter — had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts.”(2)
What unforgiveness in your life do you need to let go of today, like letting go of a helium balloon? Let unforgiveness float away from your life and allow the Holy Spirit to heal broken wounds like only He can.
Discerning Reflection: What areas of my life do I have unforgiveness? Do I forgive as quickly as Jesus commands? Who do I need to pray about forgiving today that God is placing upon my heart?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your immense gift of forgiveness that you gave us through your Son’s sacrifice on the cross. Help me to not hold on to unforgiveness which can lead to bitterness. Reveal to me today who you would like me to forgive, even if they are not asking for forgiveness.
Throughout the Trump presidency but with increased frequency in the days and weeks following the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, the term “Christian nationalism” has littered newsfeeds, and “Christian nationalist” has become a ubiquitous insult hurled broadly at those on the religious right.
We can’t say Christian nationalism doesn’t exist; it does. But what does it mean? Who are the Christian nationalists? Much like the irony of the racism label, when religious folks fight the Christian nationalist tag, their foes seem to take that resistance as further proof that they are indeed Christian nationalists.
Part of the problem with the label is that it is ill-defined, meaning it’s hard to know what exactly Christian nationalism is, how to identify it, and thus hard to counteract or refute it. This makes it a convenient and effective rhetorical grenade to launch at faithful Christians.
Rachel S. Mikva, writing in USA Today, seems to think Christian nationalists are “Christians who plan to take the country for Jesus,” while Amanda Tyler, writing in Religion News Service, describes the phenomenon as “Christianity wrapped in an American flag.” It’s “a fusion of God and country,” explained Jack Jenkins in the same pages.
The Rev. William E. Swing, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, defines Christian nationalism as “those who believe that God is partial to Christians, that Christians are God’s chosen people in this country. They are convinced that America has always been a Christian nation and always will be.”
While Christian nationalism predates the Trump era — critics hurled the same accusations against George W. Bush for his policies — some authors have fused this idea with the 45th president, saying “the most extreme corners of support for Mr. Trump have become inextricable from some parts of white evangelical power in America,” as Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham wrote in the New York Times.
In The New Republic, Matthew Avery Sutton takes it a step further, claiming that “fear, anger, and anxiety remained as central to the lives of evangelicals as any practices of forgiveness, love, understanding, or compassion,” and that Trump “stoked evangelicals’ terror of state power and brought their deep-seated racism and sexism to the surface.”
Christian Nationalism Defined
David French zooms away from Trump to help articulate a clear explanation, which he takes from Thomas Kidd quoting Matthew McCullough: Christian nationalism is “an understanding of American identity and significance held by Christians wherein the nation is a central actor in the world-historical purposes of the Christian God.” It offers an “exaggerated transcendent meaning to American history” and can “undergird American militarism.”
The first part of French’s analysis is spot-on. He notes that this problematic worldview is ahistoric and anti-biblical, and thus can lead to dangerous applications. So-called Christians who believe their identity as Americans is equal to their religious identity and that their earthly citizenship is central to God’s divine plan and promises do so at the expense of scripture. Patriotism is not the central message of the gospel.
French is also right that “the pervasiveness of Christian nationalism as an academic or theological concept is greatly exaggerated.” Even most patriotic pastors believe Christians must devote themselves to God above nation.
Also, contrary to how corporate media actors have crafted the riot narrative, the number of “religious” people who forced their way into the Capitol on Jan. 6, allegedly taking it over “in Jesus’s name,” was numerically insignificant compared to the number of Christians who rallied peacefully in the capital city that day, concerned for their country and the integrity of our institutions.
Most of French’s subsequent analysis, however — which also wades into anti-American 1619 absurdity and white guilt — is instructive about the myriad ways opponents of Christian Trump supporters (and of Christianity generally) use this label to smear Christ-followers trying to faithfully live out their beliefs. French’s NeverTrumpism taints his analysis of patriotic white Protestants and shines through in his knee-jerk disdain for anything resembling an America-first outlook.
It’s the same sentiments you can find in The New York Times and The New Republic, but unlike most corporate writers spouting off about religion, French, as a Christian himself, has all the right language to effectively smear the faithful believers whose voting records and civic engagement he finds distasteful. In his world, Christians who love their country differently than French loves it run the risk of being tossed into the “Christian nationalist” basket.
When Love Becomes Militant
French rightly notes that an incorrect view of God and his purposes for America can lead to militarism, which he seems to believe is what’s wrong with white, Christian freedom-lovers and Trump voters now. But he fails to note that even a correct love of God and country can lead to aggression.
Of a virtuous love for country — which includes love of home, familiarity, and family — French quotes C.S. Lewis, saying: “Of course patriotism of this kind is not in the least aggressive. It asks only to be let alone. It becomes militant only to protect what it loves.”
His argument is self-defeating, however, because it ignores our present reality. What does righteous patriotism become, then, when people are not “let alone” and when their institutions begin to directly attack what they love? Lewis said it right there: It becomes militant.
The pandemic offers a fresh example. Citizens aren’t being “let alone” when they are subjected to sweeping and partisan orders that dictate how they must cover their faces and whom they are permitted to allow inside their own homes. When government authorities qualify worship as nonessential and dangerous, fracturing church bodies into rotating services or relegating them to internet “fellowship,” that surely qualifies as an attack on “what they love.” Therefore even in keeping with so-called pure patriotism, aggression becomes warranted.
This seems to be a popular sentiment among left-wing media and politicos, that Christians ought to be polite, silent, and unconcerned with the affairs of government. Any peep out of them, even when their rights are violated, amounts to extremism and a desire for theocracy.
Oh, you Christians don’t want gender propaganda forced on your kids in schools? You’re a bigot who wants religion written into law. You want Supreme Court justices who value life even in the womb? You’re a hateful theocrat. You think Big Tech and bureaucrats rigged an election that will result in your rights being infringed, so you fly to D.C. with your family and your flags? You’re a Christian nationalist.
The Gospel According To…
The fact is all people have some sort of religious belief to which they passionately cling. As the late novelist David Foster Wallace noted, “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”
For some people, it’s Black Lives Matter or so-called reproductive rights, and for others it’s climate activism. For some, it’s nationalism parading around as orthodoxy, and for others it’s biblical Christianity.
Each has a certain moral code, a requirement for repentance, some method of worship, and leaders that they follow. BLM disciples hosting struggle sessions and following the teachings of Ibram X. Kendi while they praise the doctrine of “equity” have the same religious fervor as true Christians. Elevating Kamala Harris, the social justice warrior and “equity” preacher, to the vice presidency is evidence that followers of that secular religion want their beliefs written into law as much as Christians want to be free to follow their own.
The laws and policies in our country aren’t neutral; they reflect someone’s “religious” beliefs. When lawless actors set fire to a courthouse or vandalize a national monument in the name of Black Lives Matter or Antifa, it doesn’t differ much from a rioter wielding a cross and a Bible as he storms the Capitol. Both could be considered religious extremists; they just worship different gods — neither one the true God. Violence and tribalism are the natural result of false religions that prize the temporal over the eternal.
It’s here we must realize that when patriotism becomes violent nationalism — when it elevates country to the same status as God and believes America, rather than Christ himself, to be central to God’s plan — there’s nothing “Christian” about it.
True Christians condemn idol worship. They hold fast to what is good. They expect to be persecuted strangers and exiles. They believe vengeance and judgment belong to God alone, not to vigilantes bearing cross necklaces and flags. Rogues who invoked Jesus’s name while smashing windows and barging into the Capitol did so in vain. That isn’t what following Jesus looks like.
Bullied into Apathy
None of this is to say Christians ought to embrace apathy or be pacifists. The anti-religious newsrooms pushing cover stories about so-called Christian nationalism would love nothing more than to shame and bully faithful disciples into sitting down and shutting up.
The Capitol riot was a convenient hook for their narrative, but they don’t just believe the people who showed up in Washington that day were religious extremists. They think all Christians are. It isn’t that they don’t want you in Statuary Hall. It’s that they don’t want you on the school board, in journalism, or on campus. They want to chase you out of churches, out of public office, and even out of political conversations.
Believers, however, know faith without works is dead and that our faith isn’t confined to Sunday morning services. What we believe about God and man and redemption ought to affect every decision we make, including our civic engagement.
If we love God, love our neighbor, and wish to steward our resources and lead our families well, sitting on the sidelines of the political and culture wars is really not an option. Contrary to French’s assessment, it isn’t about making ourselves more culturally comfortable; it’s about being consistent in our beliefs and doing what’s right.
As long we remain on this Earth, Christians will be assailed as bigots and nationalists. This evergreen dynamic of Christians being not “of the world,” but striving to be faithful while they’re “in it,” is way bigger than Jan. 6, Donald Trump, David French, or America. Don’t confuse true believers who rightly fight for both faith and freedom as Christian nationalists. They’re just Christians.
Kylee Zempel is an assistant editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter @kyleezempel.Photo Pikist
Dr Jereth Kok was investigated by the Medical Board of Australia last year after they received two complaints about posts he had shared on social media.
Dr Jereth Kok and family.
Despite not knowing Dr Kok, the complainants allegedly searched through ten-years of his personal feed before taking exception to his views about a broad range of political topics, including abortion, sexuality, “LGBT” issues, and gender “transition” treatments.
“It includes posts and comments I’ve made on my own personal Facebook page, and ‘memes’ and articles that I’ve shared there; including articles by the American political commentator Matt Walsh, and the satire site Babylon Bee,” Dr Kok explained.
“I never dreamt that publicly sharing a Matt Walsh or Babylon Bee article would be career-ending; hindsight is a wonderful thing,” he said.
Dr Kok’s list of offences also included sharing a Facebook post from National Pulse, Editor In Chief, Raheem Kassam, which highlighted the evolution of the arguments used to justify abortion over the last half-century.
Also in question was an opinion piece Dr Kok had penned on the subject of transgenderism for Christian magazine Eternity back in 2015.
“This one stands out from the others,” Dr Kok explained, “because it was public and has me wearing my doctor hat.
“All the rest was written in a personal capacity, for a small audience of friends and family.”
It wasn’t until nine months after the initial complaints were made that Dr Kok learned he was under investigation and that the Board had hired a private investigator to run a dragnet over the internet for content he had written.
On a Friday afternoon in 2019, while consulting with patients, Dr Kok was suddenly given notice that he was to be summarily removed from practice to protect “public interest.”
The following week, Dr Kok attended a 15-minute hearing where he was informed his registration was suspended, meaning he could no longer provide care or speak to his patients.
Dr Kok has said despite there being a legal obligation to provide regular updates, he hasn’t heard from the Board in over a year – not a single update during the 30 months of investigation.
During this time, Dr Kok has not been provided with an opportunity to properly respond to any of the allegations that led to his suspension.
Significantly, the allegation that Dr Kok was providing compromised healthcare to “LGBT” patients was not brought forward by any of his patients or colleagues.
“I’ve practised medicine for over 15 years,” Dr Kok said. “I’ve looked after many people who would identify as ‘LGBT.’ None of them has ever complained about rudeness, discrimination, etc.
“When you are a professional, rule number one is you treat everybody the same regardless of what you might personally think of their background, life choices, habits, political affiliation, criminal record, and so on.’
“I’ve never had any difficulty doing this,” he said.
Dr Kok said it wasn’t his intention to insult anyone, but rather to speak the truth, truths which are foundational to civilisation, namely, the value of human life, the structure of the family, and our existence as male and female.
Following his suspension, Dr Kok was left without a job, and his family without his income. Many of his patients who had come to trust and depend on him as their GP for over a decade were suddenly left without his care.
Since his suspension, Dr Kok has been made aware of more than half a dozen doctors who have been in trouble with the Medical Board for expressing their personal opinions about similar topics away from their practice.
“They have been after a doctor for speaking at a pro-life event, a doctor who campaigned against ‘Safe Schools,’ several who have said things on Twitter against abortion and gay marriage, one who left a comment about euthanasia on a website, one who said that gender transition therapies are damaging for children,” Dr Kok said.
According to Dr Kok, each of these doctors have been put through similar investigations, been given warnings, had conditions placed on them, or forced to undergo ‘sensitivity training.’ At least one other has had his medical career effectively ended.
Dr Kok went on to say, it’s clear that tolerance for traditional religious views about things like sexuality and gender are rapidly vanishing.
“The worrying thing about what happened to me is that it shows you do not have to be famous to get in trouble—even nobodies can be targeted for ‘cancellation’, for decade-old conversations on an obscure religious blog…
“It is getting increasingly costly to hold unpopular religious beliefs,” Dr Kok added.
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The greatest love letter ever written was the one from God to humans. It is called the Bible. Sadly, it is one of the greatest love letters that people do not read. The Bible contains some of the most wonderful love stories ever told. One that is an inspiring story of love between a husband and wife is that of Jacob and Rachel. In fact, it is one of the greatest love stories of all time.
Jacob is the father of the twelve tribes of Israel and is a significant figure in biblical history. God latter changes his name to Israel from which the nation finds its name. Jacob’s name means “supplanter” or “one who grabs.” In the case of Jacob, he grabbed his brothers heal when we was being born. His brother’s name was Esau and he was born first but Jacob grabbed onto his brothers heel when we was being born. Esau was the first born of Isaac but he lost his birthright to Jacob. Esau is the father of the Arabic speaking peoples today. There was a natural, bitter rivalry between Jacob and Esau and today there is a natural animosity between Israel and the Arab nations surrounding her.
He met Rachel at the well and for him, it was love at first sight.
Love at First Sight
Jacob was sent by his father Isaac to find a wife from a relative‘s family. He met Rachel at the well and for him, it was love at first sight. He went to the well and when he single-handily moved the great stone cover off of the well, perhaps trying to impress Rachel. You can tell that Jacob didn’t take long before he knew that he loved Rachel as recorded in Genesis 29:10-11: “When Jacob saw Rachel, daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.” Interestingly, it wasn’t Rachel that cried but Jacob. He seemed to know with certainty that Rachel would be his bride. Rachel ran to her father and told him about the young traveler. Rachel’s father, Laban, ran out to meet Jacob and invited him to stay with him.
Jacob stayed with Laban’s family and within a month, he had fallen deeply in love with Rachel and determined to marry her. In order to marry her, Rachel’s father convinced Jacob to work for him for seven years and he could marry Rachel. Jacob agreed. Jacob loved Rachel so much that he labored for her for seven years, “but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Gen 29:20). Love sometimes makes things in life more bearable as it did for Jacob.
After the seven years of labor, Laban agreed to allow Jacob to marry Rachel. In Jewish wedding ceremonies, the bride usually have their entire face covered with only a small opening for the eyes. After Jacob married the woman and spent the night with his new bride he woke up in horror to discover that he had been tricked. Jacob thought that he had married Rachel but he had instead married Leah. Jacob was outraged and when he confronted Rachel’s father Laban, the father told Jacob that it was customary to have the eldest daughter marry first. Laban said that Jacob could also marry Rachel if he agreed to work another seven years for him. Jacob, smitten by Rachel, quickly agreed and worked another seven years for Laban. Another seven years wouldn’t stop Jacob because “his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah…and he worked for Laban another seven years” to secure Rachel for his wife (Gen 29:30). Jacob had once deceived his brother Esau and had tricked him out of his rightful birthright. Now it was Jacob turn to be tricked.
Jacob’s other wife, Leah, had several children but Rachel remained barren. Rachel once said that if she didn’t have children that she’d die (Gen. 30:1) but ironically, she died after having her second child, Benjamin. Rachel’s first son, Joseph, would end up being critically important for the people of Israel to survive after he would bring his entire family into Egypt to survive a devastating famine. This is relevant because by this time God had changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means “prince of God“.
When Jacob and Rachel’s family moved on from Bethel, “Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty….and as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin” (Gen 35:16-18). Ben-Oni means “son of my trouble” but Jacob, now called Israel, named him Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand.” This may have been due to Rachel’s being Jacob‘s favorite wife or his “right hand“ to him and so Rachel‘s son was given the name of Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand.”
“So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb” (Gen 35:19-20). Rachel had died but Jacob’s love for her never did. Death does not end a person’s love for another, in fact love is said to survive even death. Jacob loved Rachel at first sight and at last sight. So much so that he erected a pillar to mark the place of Rachel’s tomb. A pillar that may have been a memorial for him to remember her…and a place for him to return to visit much like a gravestone today in a cemetery. Today, they are together again – in Paradise; together forever and to never die again.
Did you know that there are a lot of Christians who have become codependent on man’s approval? They always are seeking people’s affirmation. It devastates them to be rejected and this codependency has limited God from working in their lives. God’s plan will lead us to do things that are unpopular and if we are dependent on what people think of us, we will never do them.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
2 Timothy 3:12
Christians will suffer persecution. There are some who teach this avoidable if we have enough faith. The only people who are not persecuted are ungodly people.
If we are going to serve God we will be led to do things that are unpopular. This is not a popular message but it is truth.
“The economy is collapsing and coronavirus is causing chaos!”
We can repeat this mantra or we can speak the Word of God.
We can speak the situations or we can speak the truth of God’s Word.
And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
We are especially in a time where our focus must be on the Word of God. There is a pandemic sweeping the globe, the world economy is collapsing, and it seems as if anarchy is becoming the norm.
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.
2 TImothy 1:12-14
Do you know in whom you have believed? This is not a time to be hesitant in our answer to that question. We will be though unless our attention is focused in the Word of God every day.
Jesus said to “lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh”. If you choose to do this it will draw prosecution.
When we step out into the plan of God we will encounter people who speak their unbelief and fears. A man pleaser will join in and the fear of man will keep you from accomplishing what God has called you to do.
If you are dependent on another man’s approval you will not be pleasing to God. If you have to be reinforced constantly with other people’s affirmations, you will not fulfill the plan of God for your life.
There are a lot of weak Christians today that are more dependent on man than God. They value the word of a family member or pastor over the Word of God. This is the reason why the Church is weak and powerless today.
We need to realize that people will let us down. Jesus never will though!
We need to come to the place where we love people because of how it will benefit them not for their affirmations. People will let disappoint but Jesus will always lift us up.
So is it enough to just know that God loves you even if everyone else turns their back on you?
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