Wally Wonders Why

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scripture

Seek his face

Evergreen’s scripture for today is one of my personal favorites; God speaking about how our prayers can effect healing in our land.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2Ch 7:14)

s2s Sadly, I’ll be missing service this morning, however my day will most assuredly be filled with much prayer. And God willing, praise, for his hand in the safety of our canoe, and 400+ others, traveling down the Nooksack.

**evening update**  While rising rivers leading to a canceled canoe leg is not what I was expecting; I can only praise God, who in his own mysterious ways, delivered safety for all racers.

Engaging in Politics Without Losing Your Soul

Happy EasterOften, being a Christian comes into conflict with blogging; especially blogging in the political realm. My aim, as always, is to be a Christian first, and everything else second, third, fourth… Part of the nature of being human is that this isn’t always easy to live a Christian life. It takes constant effort. Truth be told, the Corinthians passage, in the upper right of this blog, is not for readers, it is for me. I must constantly remind myself to be on my guard, stand firm in my faith, be a man of courage, be strong and do everything in love.

From time to time I get asked how I come up with things to write about. Well let me expose another truth; there is no shortage of ideas. I have stacks of notes and dozens of drafts of post that will never be. Because, perhaps the biggest struggle in being a Christian blogger is determining what not to write. I could increase traffic with sensationalism and gossip. But for what purpose; to feed my pride?

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
(Mark 8:36 KJV)

That one scripture weighs heavy on the mind of this blogger. It is the one that makes me question my motivation for writing any particular post. It is what helps me to determine what not to write. So, imagine my delight when I opened an email from Andrew Jackson of SmartChristian.com and found his teaching newsletter, also based on Mark 8:36, and also about this exact struggle. Andrew Jackson also posted this on RedBlueChristian.com and after contacting him last night, he has allowed me to also post it here. Based on scripture, I believe his guidelines would serve all Christians, not just bloggers.

HOW TO ENGAGE IN POLITICS WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL

by Andrew Jackson.

I titled this post based on Jesus’ statement found in Mark 8:36, What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” The reason that I chose this convicting passage is because over the years I have watched many Christians who became zealously active in partisan politics actually “lose their souls.”

That is, they lost their unique public witness as a Christian; they began to act contrary to the character of Christ and the fruit of the Holy Spirit; and they became agents of division within the church itself.

Below I offer 10 biblical guidelines on how Christians can engage in politics without “losing their souls.”

  1. Christians must never allow ourselves to equate the biblical Kingdom of God with any human political party or nation (John 18:36; Isaiah 9:7; Matthew 6:33, Philippians 3:20, Revelation 11:15). As Christians we must be diligent in maintaining and perserving the distinctiveness between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. We must never fuse the two. The great “utopian illusion” that easily enters our politics is that peace, harmony, and prosperity for all can be brought about in the world through human political means.
  2. Christians must never allow ourselves to elevate a specific politician to a messianic or savior status (1 Peter 3:15). In our entertainment and celebrity culture, it is becoming more common for people to infuse politicians with almost a messianic or savior status. In other words, people begin to believe a politician’s extraordinary promises and that they actually can single-handedly produce almost supernatural social results. As Christians, we have one Lord, and we must resist all attempts to exalt any human politician to unrealistic heights.
  3. Christians must not just vote, but more importantly, we must pray for our government and the leaders of all political parties (Matthew 5:44, 1 Timothy 2:1-2). In our polarized political society, many Christians are tempted to bless the politician or political party they support, and curse the other one they don’t. How unbiblical! The Bible is clear, we are to pray for all political and government leaders, even our political enemies.
  4. Christians must always remember that our ultimate security is in Christ and in the unshakeable kingdom of God, no matter what presidential candidate or party wins (Hebrews 12:26-29). One of the dangers that many Christians seem to often fall into is that we begin to elevate the outcome of presidential elections to an apocalyptic status. In other words, if our presidential candidate or party does not win, we begin to see it as the end of the world. This is what I call the “Y2K complex.” When we allow ourselves to understand politics in apocalyptic terms, we at the same time express an unbelief in the sovereignty and Lordship of God over his creation and human history. Yes, elections have real consequences for people, but in the larger scheme of history, don’t worry, no matter who becomes our president, God is in contril and will take care of things.
  5. Christians must never allow ourselves to bring the divisiveness and polarization of political parties into the church, the family of God (Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 1:11-12). We cannot allow partisan politics to divide the body of Christ. Invidual Christians have freedom of conscience before God and the Bible, and as a result, we must accept the fact that there will be diversity of political opinions in the church. We must never allow diverse political perspectives cause conflict and divisions in the church.
  6. Christians must never allow ourselves to demonize or dehumaize another person – no matter what politician it is – because every single human has been created in the image of God (Colossians 3:8, Matthew 7:1, James 4:12). Christians must not engage in demeaning and judging other people, no matter whether we agree with them politically or not.
  7. Christians must never engage in angry confrontational arguments, instead of being open to learn through civil debate and dialogue (James 1:20, Philippians 2:14-16, 2 Timothy 2:14). When we interact with other people with hard-core dogmatic positions, we demonstrate an ugly pride that demeans the character of Christ. As Christians we must humble ourselves, understand that as humans we are limited in our understanding, and that we all can learn more about the very complex issues that face our nation. Christians must always engage in politics through a path of reason and civility.
  8. Christians must never allow ourselves to become so intertwined so closely with one political party that we forfeit our independent identity as followers of Christ. When we do, we lose the prophetic voice to speak and clarify biblical truth to all politicians and political parties (1 Timothy 3:15, Ephesians 4:15, Romans 3:4).
  9. Christians must never allow ourselves to engage in partisan politics by supporting divisiveness between races, between male and female, between rich and poor, and between the young and old (Matthew 5:9, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Electoral politics is all about dividing society into specific voting blocks. And as a result, politics usually divides our society, instead of uniting it. Christians must always function as peacemakers and reconcilers in the public square, and resist every temptation to join the political tactics of dividing people for political gain.
  10. Christians must not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of simply cursing the darkness through negativity, instead of constructively engaging our world as perserving salt and illuminating light (Matthew 5:13-16). The cultural and missional mandate of kingdom Christians requires us to stop cursing the darkness and start lighting more candles that reflects God’s truth, compassion, and love.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Koshyk

A tree grows

I woke up early and cold this morning after losing a blanket battle to my wife and our 100 pound weimaraner. And after rolling out of bed, cold shoulder and all, I looked out the window at the cloudy sky and briefly thanked God for the awesome world we live in. Awesome…would we expect anything less from an awesome God?

Now warming and somewhat waking by hot coffee, I glance down at our new, Democratic Party improved, property tax bill and think about money growing on trees. I thank God for the coffee bean which does grow on trees, or shrubs.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
(Genesis 1:11 KJV)

greenland churchThoughts of trees and God’s creation tragically brought the thought of Joe Teehan into my head. Now starkly awake, I was reflecting on the 3 or 4 minutes I heard of Joe this week ranting about polar bears, seals and receding ice shelves. He ranted how, as sea ice melts, seals will have no place to live and breed; I remembered how many docks in the world are overrun with seals living and breeding.

We sometimes refer to our world as fragile, but I haven’t really seen evidence of that. In fact, I continually see evidence to the contrary. Take a look at plants popping up in an old dump or abandon strip mall; life continues. We may kill ourselves and murder each other, but God’s robust world keeps going. Can His world cope with the warming temps and the rising CO2 levels that many attribute to mankind?

Whether we did or didn’t cause, or are or aren’t still causing, the warming and raised CO2 levels is kind of irrelevant. No, I’m not advocating a pro-pollution lifestyle. Rather, I am advocating that we are good stewards, but also stewards who trust that God has a better idea of the workings of the world than we do. Every spring we are reminded of the self renewal built into our world. Snow melts, watering the land, sun shines and plants grow. (Sometimes I can hardly wait for some of the ice to melt from Greenland so alarmist will have to deal with hard physical evidence of Greenland’s previously warmer climate.)

Did the God who built summer, fall, winter, and spring into this world, also consider our current global climate condition?  While keeping in mind how much treeless landscape will be exposed as ice melts; consider the message of this study.

What was learned
Davis et al. report that “under hot and dry conditions, elevated CO2 increased soil water levels in unweeded plots and enhanced oak establishment (survival and growth) in weeded plots,” so that “in 2006, after eight growing seasons, seedling survival was [an amazing] five times higher in the elevated than ambient CO2 plots.”

What it means
In the words of the six Minnesota researchers, “the results showed that under hot and dry conditions, elevated CO2 can act like a nurse plant for tree seedlings growing in bare and unshaded areas, increasing seedling survival and growth, and thereby expanding the establishment window for trees encroaching into a grassland environment.” In the specific situation investigated in their experiment, for example, they concluded that “increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 may be able to kick-start oak establishment into Cedar Creek’s old fields.”

CO2 Science

So warm temps expose more land and raised CO2 levels accelerate the growth of trees. More trees scrub more CO2 from the atmosphere and provide shade for the earth resulting in moderated climate temperatures. Remember? Awesome God!

Man sees ‘mark,’ cuts off hand

The CNN headline read “Man sees ‘mark,’ cuts off hand” or in the Seattle PI, “Man cuts off, microwaves his own hand.” The headlines were both pretty eye catching but is was the same sad story regardless of which version you read.

HAYDEN, Idaho — A man who believed he bore the “mark of the beast” used a circular saw to cut off one hand, then he cooked it in the microwave and called 911, authorities said.

The Book of Revelation in the New Testament contains a passage in which an angel is quoted as saying: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury.”

The book of Matthew also contains the passage: “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

It’s pretty rare that I see biblical references in AP news stories. It is also pretty unfortunate for the world that when the Bible is referenced, it is in this type of story rather than the overwhelming number of charitable acts that are done everyday as a result of God’s word and in his name. That being the case, I didn’t expect any interpretation or explanation and I was not disappointed. So here’s a look at the references and my shot at an explanation.

And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
(Matthew 5:30 KJV)

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
(Revelation 14:9-10 KJV)

Two things come to mind when I read these passages: first that Revelations is allegory and symbolism and second, that Jesus had a penchant for hyperbole. Anyone recall this passage?

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
(Matthew 19:24 KJV)

An alternate interpretation has this as a rope rather than a camel through the eye of a needle. But either way it is not about stuffing anything through the eye of a needle. It is about love and worship of wealth. It is about not getting into heaven because you love and worship wealth more than you love and worship Christ.

In a weird and sad way I can admire this man for his conviction. He believed so strongly in what he was doing that he both cut off his hand and he microwave cooked it, presumably so it couldn’t be reattached. But did this man really have to cut off his hand to please Christ? I’d say probably not, although he and Christ may be the only ones who know that for sure. I do feel that our message from this scripture is that we must make whatever sacrifices and take whatever risks necessary to gain eternal life. It means that if you continually sin when hanging out with certain people then quit hanging out with them. It means that if you get satellite for football, but can’t stop watching the porno channel then ditch your dish and suffer along without football. Do whatever it takes to put Christ in the forefront of your life.

And the mark? Again, Revelations is symbolism, but whether or not the mark is physically there doesn’t really matter. The message is the same. If you prefer living in an ungodly manner and worshiping ungodly things then you will be in trouble.

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
(Matthew 10:32-33 KJV)

Christ is the bouncer at door to club heaven. If you spend your life disrespecting him then don’t expect to be on the VIP list. And you don’t necessarily have to cut off your hand to get on the list. You do however have to acknowledge your sins, believe that Christ died to forgive your sins, and confess Christ as your savior.

Agōnizomai

I am pleased that my two of my popular posts, The meek shall inherit the earth and Does a pre-birth baby feel pain? Should you care? are on subjects that are important to me; God and family. Most often people arrive at these posts from searching the web and I find it a hopeful note that people are searching the web for God’s words. While I am glad they arrived here, I pray their search for His words takes them further than my small blog.

Another prayer is for Christians to understand that Jesus was meek before God and strong in his faith and actions before man. In fact when facing Pilate’s questioning He used the word fight to describe a potential, but not required course of action by his followers. (more…)

The meek shall inherit the earth

Around the world, Christians are being pushed into a corner by an increasingly sinful society, who ironically attempt to blame us for the ills of this world. Go read the newspaper, watch the news or visit a blog and you will know what I mean. I am not so much concerned for myself, but rather I am saddened by how difficult it will be for our next generation to raise Godly children.

My heart tells me to push back and fight for our morality and our rights. But I keep running into people who remind me that God will take care of us and that we are called to be meek. I remember the verses about the meek inheriting the earth and think to myself that I need to really try and be more meek.

  • But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
    (Psalms 37:11 KJV)
  • Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
    (Matthew 5:5 KJV)

OK, so if I am to be meek, then it’s fair to ask just exactly what does it mean to be meek? As always a good place to start is with a definition.

meek (me-k) pronunciation
adj., meek·er, meek·est.

1. Showing patience and humility; gentle.
2. Easily imposed on; submissive.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. Answers.com 09 Aug. 2007.

So I am to be patient, humble, gentle, easily imposed on and submissive? Now I understand why meek doesn’t sit too well with me; it sounds too close to my definition of a doormat. In spite of how I feel though, I am still called to be meek. However, it’ll take some work. So if I am be meek, I’ll need a few examples of how meek people carry themselves.

  • (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
    (Numbers 12:3 KJV)
  • Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
    (Jesus in Matthew 11:29 KJV)

Well until I looked for meek people in the Bible, I wouldn’t have pegged Moses, nor Jesus as meek. I would say they were assertive, confident and strong. But apparently they are meek. So it must be sort of a Chuck Norris meek, or a Teddy Roosevelt, “speak softly and carry a big stick” meek. I can relate to that kind of meek.

  • Moses stood up to the Pharoahs of the Egypt and demanded freedom for the Israelites. How meek was that?
  • Jesus very confidently tells the rich man to “Sell everything, give the money to the poor, then follow me.”
  • Jesus stood toe to toe with the Romans and Jews to do what needed to be done. He didn’t back down even though it caused him immeasurable pain, suffering, sorrow and eventually death.
  • And what about the meek prophets? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar’s big fire and said, “We will not worship your golden idol.” or chocolate bunny in the Veggie version. These guys were either amazingly strong or amazingly stupid.

Why are these Biblical heroes not acting meekly? Is God pulling a do as I say, not as I do? No He isn’t, absolutely not. He is being true in his word, but we are confusing today’s “meek” with the original word that was written. I am by no means a scholar when it comes to languages, but here is what my bible software says about the word translated to meek in Psalms 37 and Matthew 5:

depressed (figuratively), in mind (gentle) or circumstances (needy, especially saintly): – humble, lowly, meek, poor`

mild, that is, (by implication) humble

I don’t see that the original word means that we are to be easily imposed on or submissive. And based on examples of Moses, the prophets and Christ himself, I believe that the scriptures are only encouraging us to be humble, meek etc. before God, not meek before our fellow men. That I can live with.

I can work at being humble and meek before God as long as I can be strong and Christ-like assertive among men, even if it could mean being thrown in the fire, incarcerated, crucified, or even teased in a blog.

So if you are a Christian like me, go and be meek like Moses with the comfort of knowing that God is your big stick.

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