Jesus Shared His Father’s Wrath


Jesus_and_Children019Progressive Christians dismiss the part of the Old Testament that reveals God’s wrath. For instance one writer at Pathoes, in explaining the views of Progressives says they do not believe God wrote the Bible and therefore do not see it as infallible or inerrant, which leads to this:

While we’re aware of the many inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible; and while we’re abhorred by, and reject, the various instances of horrible theology that appear here and there within the texts (e.g., passages that posit God as wrathful, vindictive, and condoning of slavery, and even “ordering” rape and genocide, etc.), they don’t cause us to reject the Bible, rather, they endear us to the Bible.

There’s so much error in that statement, but setting all else aside, I wonder in light of their rejection of God’s wrath what they do with Jesus Christ’s anger?

Sunday my pastor Mike Erre preached about Jesus’s anger. He started with the account of Jesus healing a man’s withered hand recorded in Luke 6, but he expanded to include Mark’s account which adds a key detail:

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:1-5, emphasis added)

According to Pastor Mike, there are two words in the Greek that mean anger. The one used here is not the one that would equate with a sudden flare of emotion. Rather, according to Strong’s Concordance, this word, orgē, means

I. anger, the natural disposition, temper, character

II. movement or agitation of the soul, impulse, desire, any violent emotion, but esp. anger

III. anger, wrath, indignation

IV. anger exhibited in punishment, hence used for punishment itself

A. of punishments inflicted by magistrates

The King James Version translates the word wrath 31 of the 36 times it appears.

I admit, I’ve overlooked this instance of Jesus being angry. Yes, I knew He was pretty ticked off at the money changers and the people buying and selling in the temple those times He turned over tables and chased out those who didn’t belong, but I thought that was pretty much it in the anger department.

How silly.

Here Jesus became angry at the Pharisees because they would rather have seen Jesus honor their definition of work, which they’d made up, than heal the man who had a useless arm. They loved their religious pretense more than they loved the needy.

And this incident was not the only one of its kind.

Pastor Mike pointed out Christ’s “indignation” at His disciples for turning away the children instead of letting them come to Him (Mark 10:14).

And then there was His . . . scolding, I guess would be the best term, of the Pharisees. Some might call it an extended warning, and that seems right, but in the process, Jesus was calling them names: blind guides, sons of hell, hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, foolish ones. And He was accusing them of things they understood to be horrible: complicit in the death of the prophets, worse than those destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah, full of robbery and wickedness and lawlessness.

Yes, I think this passage qualifies as an instance when Jesus was angry. And what prompted His reaction? A Pharisee had invited Him to eat at his house, but when Jesus sat down without going through the ceremonial cleansing the Pharisees had added onto the Law, His host was surprised. The rebuke was Jesus’s response.

In some ways it seems disproportionate to the offense, but not when we take into account the fact that Jesus was reflecting God’s heart. We see God’s attitude toward religious activity that is void of a heart of compassion in Isaiah 58. God tells the prophet to declare to the people their sins. They were fasting, He said, and crying to God, asking Him why He wasn’t paying attention to their spirituality. God says through Isaiah that they missed what He wanted:

“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (vv 6-7)

Isaiah 1 gives another instance of God telling His people He doesn’t want their religious activity when they aren’t doing what He’s told them He wants:

What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
Says the LORD.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
“When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
“Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
“I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
“So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow. (vv 13-17)

Pastor Mike wrapped up the sermon in a powerful way. He pointed out two key things. God’s wrath is actually a positive. It is His declaration that there will come a time when He says enough to all that should not be: murder, envy, greed, abuse, illness, betrayal, fear, rape, self-righteousness, slander—all of it.

What’s more, God’s immense love which caused Him to send His Son into the world, collides at the cross with His wrath. Wrath meted out to stop sin, to say, the evil in this world isn’t going to win. Love given to satisfy His wrath.

Praise God for His love and for His wrath. Not, either-or, but both-and.

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Published in: on June 30, 2014 at 6:54 pm  Comments (4)  
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Ambiguity, Thy Real Name Is Doubt


solid_rock_1751729Clearly I should have written this post before yesterday’s “Ambiguity, Thy Cousin Is Relativism” article, but when I started, I hadn’t realized what all I wanted to say about the topic. The more I think about it, the bigger the subject gets.

Here’s the bottom line: Satan wants to call into question what God has said. He wants us uncertain.

God, on the other hand, wants us to trust what He says. He wants us confident.

That’s why God’s word is compared in Scripture to a rock, why over and over passages in both Old and New Testament say God’s word is sure, tried, and everlasting.

Why, then, do Christians buy into “ambiguity”? Why opt for the sinking sand when a sure foundation is there for the taking?

Here are my best guesses.

* Today’s Christians, though we have access to excellent Bible translations in our own language, are ignorant of much of Scripture. We’ve fallen into the trap of letting the “professionals” do our Bible study for us. So we listen in church and maybe even read a devotion online, but we aren’t digging into Scripture for ourselves.

* We start with false presuppositions. One such idea is that God’s inspiration of Scripture didn’t mean the Bible is actually His Word. Rather, humans wrote it and copied it and interpreted it, so undoubtedly it’s changed over time and isn’t really an accurate reflection today of God’s heart (it has nasty things in it such as God’s wrath and judgment). Of course, that view completely hangs on the idea that God didn’t miraculously transmit His word to us. It requires a small view of God.

A careful study of Scripture uncovers the position which the Church has held down through the centuries—God spoke through His prophets and those to whom He gave His word in the first century, He has preserved and protected it, and His Holy Spirit continues to guide us into all truth. In short, the Bible is a miracle. This view requires an expansive view of God.

God wants us to know Him and chose, therefore, to reveal Himself to us. Otherwise, we could know about Him through what He has made, but we wouldn’t know Him since the finite cannot reach the infinite. Therefore to know God requires His initiative, His miraculous intervention.

* A third possibility is that we’ve heard people yank a verse of Scripture out of context and parade it before the world as “a sure thing,” only to end up disappointed. This kind of treatment of Scripture has happened for centuries, so it’s not new, but perhaps because of our technology, the claims of these charlatan’s or misguided teachers have reached a wider audience. The kinds of promises range from a date set for Christ’s return to miraculous healing to untold wealth to sinless perfection.

When someone believes they’re going to get a new car, like the evangelist tells them, and they trust with all their heart, but no new car comes their way, what do they do with those dashed expectations?

Even promises of a happy life if you remain sexually pure, marry, submit to your husband, might be dashed by a drunk driver plowing into your van on the way to the church retreat. Where’s the happy life now?

The problem isn’t God or His Word; it’s the false expectations created by someone reading a passage of Scripture and not plugging it in with the entire message of the Bible.

Those who have suffered know God is true though all men be liars. That’s right—those who have suffered. Suffering is often the dividing line. Some suffer, then curse God and die, as Job’s wife urged him to do. Others turn their eyes to heaven and ask God to forgive those tormenting them as Stephen did when he was stoned to death.

What’s the difference? Those who suffer and turn to God understand they don’t have to know why and their rescue doesn’t have to be now. They embrace the One who embraces them and allow Him to carry them through the valley of the shadow of death.

Those who shake their fists at God and turn from Him in anger want to rest in their happiness or their stuff or their healthy bodies, not in the arms of Him Who rescues from the dominion of darkness.

They want to walk on water, not because they want to come to Jesus, but because they want those in the boat to admire them for their ability to do what’s remarkable. Relationship? How cliche, they say. God isn’t knowable like that. He’s to be found by looking within and experiencing Him through the mystical meditation of contemplation.

Which is another way of saying, I don’t believe God is actually a person—he’s too other, too out there.

Well, yes, and no. God is Other, but because He is so much more than what we can imagine, He is also simultaneously Imminent. He is out there, but He is also near, even in our hearts. Which does not mean He is some kind of impersonal panentheistic deity.

Rather, He is very personal which we know because He came into the world as a person—a baby who grew to manhood, lived, loved, cried, died. And even in His resurrected body, He demonstrated His personhood—the marks in His body from His suffering, His repeat miracle of multiplying fish for Peter and his crew, the meals He shared, the bread He blessed.

So here’s the fact: if God sent Jesus, and if Jesus rose from the dead, then God is powerful enough to do anything and good enough to trust. Where’s the ambiguity in that? If I need to see the why or understand the wherefore, then God will show that to me. But if not, I still can trust.

And yes, trust can be scary at first. I think it gets easier the longer you go, snugged to the chest of the Good Shepherd who is gathering His sheep.

– – – – –
Photograph by Rudi Winter via Wikimedia

Ambiguity, Thy Cousin Is Relativism


A_starry_sky_above_Death_Valley

I haven’t heard a lot about the emerging church lately. According to one source the eulogy has been given and only one hold-out pastor remains. I suspect the disaffected who identified with the emerging church have been swallowed up by Progressive Christians.

Nevertheless, the emerging church movement had an impact on traditional churches. The tell of their influence is in the buzz words that crop up in radio programs, print articles, Internet sites, and sermons—words such as truth claims, missio or missional, conversations, contextualize, and mystery. There’s a concept, also, which I’ve heard, though not necessarily stated so bluntly—ambiguity.

The thinking is, God is a mystery, life is a mystery, and there really aren’t any definitive answers.

I admit—I get a little cranky when I hear people espousing these views.

First, God is NOT a mystery. He is transcendent. The two are quite different, a topic I explored in the post “Transcendence vs. Mystery.” That God is not a mystery becomes clear when we read passages in Scripture such as Jeremiah 9:24:

“But let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. (emphasis, here and throughout this post, is added)

The New Testament also affirms God’s “knowability.” For example, Paul says in Colossians 2:2b-3

attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Yes, the mystery has been revealed. Paul stated this clearly in the first chapter of the same book:

that is, the mystery which had been hidden from past ages and generations, but has now been revealed to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

On the other hand, that God is transcendent is also clear. Isaiah 40:12-14 sets the stage for a beautiful declaration of God’s transcendence by asking a series of questions:

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?
Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge
And informed Him of the way of understanding?

The conclusion is powerful. In part it reads

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And the storm carries them away like stubble.
“To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One
.
Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.

The Apostle Paul brings together God’s transcendence and his “knowability” in 1 Cor. 2:12-16:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.

In that last verse, Paul quotes from Isaiah, showing that God’s transcendence is unchanged, and yet, because of Christ’s work on the cross and God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to believers, we have the mind of Christ.

In other words, Christians can know, we do have answers, we don’t need to walk around in a cloud of doubt.

Granted, the answers may not be what people want to hear. More often than not, our “why” will be answered by God’s “I’m working out my will in the world.” For some, that’s not good enough.

For others that’s too spot on. That sin and suffering, pain and heartache, have a purpose seems too unambiguous. That God is sovereignly in charge over things we wish He would eradicate makes us uncomfortable. How can we trust a God whose answer to our questions is, Trust Me?

We want more, or we want to say, more isn’t attainable. For some reason, a segment of the religious find satisfaction in a declaration that things are ambiguous. Some readily belittle faith that claims to be the assurance of things hoped for. Faith, in these critics’ way of looking at things, is actually doubt.

What I find interesting is that this embracement of doubt, of uncertainty, of ambiguity, seems to mirror the rise of postmodernism’s version of relativism. Essentially, the idea that we cannot know—because history changes facts and redefines terms, because we are constrained by our culture and our experiences to understand only within our own narrow framework, not that of the broader context—shatters the idea that there is an inerrant, infallible Word of God upon which we can rely for Truth.

The problem in all this is that those who say we cannot know, rule out the possibility that God did in fact give us a written record of what He wants us to know, that He preserved what He told us down through the ages, and that He gave us His Spirit to understand it apart from and beyond our own cultural constraints.

And why do they rule God’s transcendent work out?

They would rather believe in mystery, I guess, rather than transcendence. But in so doing, they are, themselves, drawing the conclusion that they KNOW God could not work in such a transcendent way. It’s another way of putting Man in God’s place.

Living For The Weekend


night_clubLiving for the Weekend or the summer or vacation or the next holiday… I’ve been there, even lived there you might say. 😉

But I’ve been thinking about the culture in America that can’t wait to be away from work, that can’t wait to do the Next Great Fun Thing. For it seems that the race to leisure time actually means a race to fast-paced, adrenaline-rushing, heart-pounding Entertainment of some sort.

Not too many people talk about looking forward to the weekend so they can have a nice chat with their spouse or so they can clean out the garage as they promised last week. Not too many kids talk about looking forward to the weekend so they can play board games as a family or read the novel they checked out from the library.

And does anyone talk about looking forward to the weekend, the summer, an upcoming holiday so they can have a longer, more relaxed, uninterrupted quiet time alone with God?

Somehow, this cycle of enduring the workweek in order to get to the Fun Times seems off to me. It strikes me that moms don’t live by this cycle. Their families still need to eat, still need clean cloths, still need the hurt of bumped elbows and skinned knees kissed away.

The difference seems to be that moms don’t live for themselves. But what about everyone else? Is selfishness what drives people to live for the weekend?

I don’t think it’s that simple. From my own experience, I can say, living for the weekend has more to do with medication than it does exhilaration.

So much of our American culture finds normal life wanting. Work isn’t satisfying, problems exist at home, the news is always bad, and the government is a mess. What good thing can we look forward to on a Monday morning?

Better to grit my teeth and survive until I can get to the weekend when I’ll be able to immerse myself in sports or shopping or movies or parties or … something, anything mind-numbing.

Except, that worldview is the world’s, not the Christian’s. God gives us plenty to look forward to on Monday and every day. He Himself is new every morning. He gives us purpose and joy in fulfilling it. He puts a song in our hearts and invites us to “offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy.”

Christians, of all people, have life to celebrate, because we’ve been born and reborn. Even if we sit in the doctor’s waiting room or at the bedside of a dying loved one, we still have available to us the peace that passes understanding, the fruit of the Spirit, and His comfort. We have forgiveness in Jesus and the hope of Heaven. We have a Savior who will never leave us nor forsake us. We have His unending love.

Yet we find Monday too wearying? Too mundane? Too tedious?

Perhaps the problem has more to do with where I’m fixing my eyes which reveals my true worldview, no matter what I say my perspective is.

Here’s what Scripture says:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory …

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

– Col 3:1-4, 15-17 (emphasis mine)

Nothing in there about a separate focus for Monday through Friday.
– – – – –
This post originally appeared here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in June 2010.

Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 5:12 pm  Comments Off on Living For The Weekend  
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2014 Christy Awards


ChristyAwardLogo[1]

Congratulations to the winners of the 2014 Christy Awards, announced yesterday at the awards dinner held at the International Christian Retail Show.

* Book of the Year: Burning Sky by Lori Benton (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

* Contemporary: Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish (Thomas Nelson, a division of Harper Collins Christian
Publishing)

* Contemporary Romance/Suspense: Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing
Group)

* Contemporary Series: Take a Chance on Me by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers)

* First Novel: Burning Sky by Lori Benton (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

* Historical: Burning Sky by Lori Benton (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

* Historical Romance: Harvest of Gold by Tessa Afshar (River North, an imprint of Moody Publishing)

* Suspense: Outlaw by Ted Dekker (FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group)

* Visionary: Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing
Group)

* Christy Award Hall of Fame Inductee: Davis Bunn (4 Christys)

My Thoughts
Before I heard about Lori Benton’s struggle with cancer, I thought her novel Burning Sky had to be strong to win the first novel award, the historical award, and book of the year. What an amazing trifecta. Add in the poignant element of her personal struggle, and I so want to read this book!

The finalists in the visionary category received some awesome comments from the judges.

Numb by John Otte:

    “Otte seriously launched himself onto my list of favorite authors. His stories are deep, thought provoking, fast paced and fun.”

A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr:

    “With complex, authentic characters, a fascinating plot, a moving redemption story, Cast of Stones was the standout of the year.”

Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, this year’s winner:

    “Very few books compel me to stop midway through and track down and buy the author’s backlist. Dragonwitch did.”

I found it ironic that the keynote speaker, Marcia Nelson associate religion editor at Publishers Weekly, said, as part of her alphabetical rundown of the industry, “C…..children…YA fiction is VERY hot.” Why ironic? Because there was no YA category at the Christys this year.

When will the Christian publishing industry go all in and really try to sell children’s books? Or at least YA?

And here’s another thought: is it good policy for ACFW to announce their finalists on the day that the Christys announce their winners? It seems like one or the other will get watered down.

Finally, I really get a kick out of “attending” the awards dinner via live blog. It’s done very professionally, complete with pictures. Highly recommend!

Published in: on June 24, 2014 at 6:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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Finishing Strong


US_men's_soccer_team_trains_in_NJ_2010-05-20When I coached, especially basketball, I often talked to my team about finishing. It’s great to jump out to a big league, but if you let down, if you start to go easy, your lead can evaporate and you end up in a close contest which you can easily lose. I’ve had teams lose by any manner of lucky shots, such as the three-pointer which ricocheted off the backboard and into the net.

Even more certain that lucky shots can win games is a sport like soccer or hockey. Ask the Anaheim Ducks who lost to the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the LA Kings. They gave up a goal in the closing seconds of regulation and eventually lost in overtime.

Or ask the US World Cup soccer team who just yesterday gave up a goal in the closing seconds of extra time—time added on because of delays during regulation. After 94 minutes and 30 seconds, playing in the heat and humidity of the Amazon jungle, the US led 2-1. After 95 minutes, they were tied.

Some players, to be sure, were playing to finish, but others appeared to be going through the motions. The ESPN radio announcers accused Portugal of going through the motions. In fact, he said they already had their bags packed. Yikes, I thought. I didn’t see it that way. They were still playing hard, still challenging for the ball in midfield, and winning it far too often. All the US had to do was possess the ball for one minute. All they had to do was play keep-away. All they had to do was finish.

How like life games are. I’ve thought of that many, many times, even calling sports a microcosm in which much of the human experience is played out: success and failure, team work, integrity, discipline, attitudes toward authority, toward an opponent, jealousy, contentment, hard work, trust, obedience, humility. And finishing.

I hadn’t thought about finishing until yesterday’s tie. But how interesting to realize that sports teams don’t reach the end of a game and retire the way chess players do. A team losing badly still needs to play. A team winning big still needs to play. Those ahead in the score can’t assume they know what the final score will be simply because they’re up big at half time.

Painfully I recall my Denver Broncos being up big against the Indianapolis Colts at half time, then losing that game.

Those losing can’t assume they have no chance.

Just this hockey season, the Kings were down 0 games to 3 in a best-of-seven series. The San Jose Sharks couldn’t finish. The Kings took the next four games and advanced to the second round. In their game seven against Chicago, they fell behind by two goals, but they didn’t stop playing. They finished. And their efforts put them into the Stanley Cup finals.

So why does our society say people reaching sixty-five should pack it in and go on an extended vacation? Why should people who have gained wisdom and understanding and knowledge and experience not be expected to finish and to finish well?

To those who have been given much, much will be required—except apparently not of older folk. But why not?

Oh, sure, the hockey player will one day need to step aside from the game he loves and has excelled in. And so shall all retired folk. The day will come, apart from the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we will all step aside from this life. But up until that moment, ought we not to be giving life our all?

“Our all” might be little more than serving as a prayer warrior for others on the front line of our faith, but that’s a significant role and ought not be disparaged. I would love to see every retired person more involved in prayer than in daytime TV.

We can finish and we can finish well. And the difference between going all out and easing up as the seconds tick toward the final whistle just might be significant.

Published in: on June 23, 2014 at 4:00 pm  Comments Off on Finishing Strong  
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Hitler Should Not Have Been


Adolf_HitlerA good many people seem to have forgotten that if we don’t learn the lessons of history, we’re doomed to repeat them. There’s a lesson we should have learned from Hitler coming to power.

Hitler’s coming into being is not at issue, but the phenomena over which he presided—the creation of the Third Reich; Germany’s invasion of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland; World War II; the Holocaust—should never have taken place.

At the end of World War I, known at the time as the Great War, Germany underwent a revolution which brought to power a moderate government that walked the line between socialists and communists on one side and extreme right wing forces that believed democracy would weaken the country on the other. The new government took the form of a parliamentary republic system and became know as the Weimar Republic.

As the government was being set up and a constitution written, fighting continued between the extreme forces inside Germany.

A Soviet republic was declared in Munich, but was quickly put down by Freikorps and remnants of the regular army. The fall of the Munich Soviet Republic to these units, many of which were situated on the extreme right, resulted in the growth of far-right movements and organisations in Bavaria, including Organisation Consul, the Nazi Party, and societies of exiled Russian Monarchists. Sporadic fighting continued to flare up around the country. In eastern provinces, forces loyal to Germany’s fallen Monarchy fought the republic, while militias of Polish nationalists fought for independence (“Weimar Republic”)

You might liken these circumstances to the sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shi’a in Iraq along with the Kurds who want their own homeland.

The fledgling German republic faced problems from outside, too. The conquering Allies presented them with a repressive peace treaty which limited the size of Germany’s armed forces, took away land, and required impossible war reparations payments. In addition they maintained a blockade which stifled trade.

Soon the value of the new republic’s currency fell. Inflation grew along with unemployment, and the extreme elements, both left and right, blamed the moderate Weimar government for signing the Treaty of Versailles and for not solving the enormous problems it created.

For a short period, as America extended some financial aid that alleviated some of the pressing problems of the reparations debt and France worked with Germany to solve the land disputes, the Weimar Republic stabilized to a degree.

Then came the Great Depression. With unemployment soaring, the Nazi party gained enough votes in the German parliament to foil attempts to create a working coalition which would allow the government to function. Instead through the use of the emergency powers granted to the president by the constitution, a chancellor was appointed to operate independently of the parliament. Eventually that body was dissolved and new elections took place, bringing a shift away from the republic idea of government.

For three years the chancellor tried to reform the Weimar Republic, often ruling by decrees issued by the president. His policies were unpopular. A new chancellor brought some change, including a second dismantling of the parliament and more elections.

The Nazi party doubled in size but still no party held a majority in parliament. Political maneuvers continued for a year, but in the end, the president appointed Hitler to be the chancellor of Germany.

By early February, a mere week after Hitler’s assumption of the chancellorship, the government had begun to clamp down on the opposition. Meetings of the left-wing parties were banned and even some of the moderate parties found their members threatened and assaulted. Measures with an appearance of legality suppressed the Communist Party in mid-February and included the plainly illegal arrests of Reichstag [parliament] deputies. (“Weimar Republic”)

Late in February the parliament building was set on fire. The following day, using the state of emergency as motivation, Hitler had the president suspend parliament. With the new elections, the last multi-party elections and the last under the Weimar Republic, the Nazis took control.

But where were the Allies?

During all the unrest, the war-weary, depression era governments adopted an appeasement stance with Germany. So when reparation payments stopped, nothing happened. When the military began to rebuild and munitions once again were churned out from German factories, nothing happened.

Having taken a repressive stand early, the Allies now took a permissive approach, letting Germany solve Germany’s problems.

Hitler would not have come to power if the Allies had not treated Germany like a continuing enemy after the war ended, humiliating them and forcing their new government to agree to things that were bad for the country.

Hitler would not have come to power if the Allies had done more to alleviate the economic plight of the country, before the Depression.

Hitler would not have created the havoc he did if the Allies had not appeased him for so long.

So here’s the history lesson. Yes, we are war-weary in the US. Yes, we can say it was a mistake to go into Iraq in the first place, especially when we hadn’t actually won the war in Afghanistan yet. But as one veteran of Iraq put it, if you break it, you buy it.

If the US doesn’t “own” the new democratic government in Iraq, it is destined to go the way of the Weimar Republic. And who knows what Hitler is waiting in the wings to rise to power.

Published in: on June 20, 2014 at 6:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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Disappointed Or Disappointed With God?


Forgiving_Sins031I’m reading a book that, in part, discusses the Psalms, pointing out that some are laments or psalms questioning God, asking Him for answers, for change, for help, but in the end, the psalmist finishes in the same place as he started—with the same doubts and sorrows and fears.

In thinking about the various things that could trigger a lament, I realized there are human experiences that are disappointing—which is just another way of saying, we expect one thing to happen and it doesn’t. In fact, sometimes, the opposite happens or a different thing which looks worse than the circumstance we’re in, happens.

Take, for instance, the lame man who’s friends lowered him on a stretcher through the roof so that Jesus would heal him. Instead, Jesus says, Your sins are forgiven. How disappointed might that man have felt? He wanted to walk, expected to walk, but Jesus gave him a different kind of healing than he anticipated. Was he disappointed?

Scripture doesn’t say, but it wouldn’t be surprising if initially he felt disappointed.

Many other Jews were clearly disappointed with Jesus. They expected Him to be their Messiah coming to conquer and to set them free from their enemies. Of course He did those things—but the enemy He conquered was death, not Rome, and the freedom he gave was the freedom from sin and guilt and the Law, not political freedom from a repressive government.

Abraham’s descendents, enslaved by Pharaoh, were also disappointed with God though Moses led them out of Egypt. They wanted to escape, no doubt . . . until they were in the desert, with the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them. Or until they had no water. Or until they saw giants in the promised land. Clearly, God wasn’t doing things the way they expected, and they decided a return to Egypt was in order. Some wanted to pick a new leader and some wanted to pick a new god.

On the opposite end of the spectrum stand Joseph and Gideon and Samuel and David and Daniel and Jeremiah and Paul and Stephen and John and Martha and the widow with her last mite, and many, many others. They were at the end of their options and didn’t see God. They were in prison or oppressed by a foreign power, exiled, running for their lives, impoverished, alone, facing death, and they couldn’t have looked at their circumstances and thought, Yep, just as I planned it.

But their unmet expectations were not, in their eyes, more than a light, momentary affliction. They were not disappointed with God. He hadn’t failed them or forsaken them. Rather, He was the One passing through the waters with them, holding their hand through the valley of the shadow of death, gathering them in His arm and carrying them in His bosom when they had wandered on their own.

The point is clear. I can have my expectations foiled, even shattered, and still accept the fact that God’s way, different from what I’d anticipated, is good and right. I can seize the opportunity to praise Him, or I can shake my fist at Him, mouthing silly phrases such as, “He’s big enough to handle my anger.”

I’ve been disturbed for a number of years with the “it’s OK to be angry at or disappointed with God” attitude in the Church. Now I’m beginning to wonder if this unwillingness to bow to His sovereignty might not be behind some of the false teaching that seems so prevalent in our day.

It’s in the presumption that God is supposed to make me rich, that God is not supposed to be wrathful, that God is supposed to keep me healthy, that God is not supposed to mean it when He says, All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

In the end, such attempts to shape God into the image we want for Him are not so different from the Israelites fashioning a golden calf and calling it Yahweh. That generation of people who shook their fists in the face of God, wandered in the wilderness for forty years, then died.

Talk about disappointment.

Except, God never let them down. Not once. He gave them food miraculously, every day; kept their clothes and shoes from wearing out; protected them and led them with His presence, manifested as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. And yet things weren’t as they’d hoped. Their disappointment had nothing to do with God and everything to do with what they thought how God was supposed to be and what God was supposed to do.

Instead of seeing God as a great provider who would surprise them with the unexpected and care for them in ways they hadn’t imagined, they groused and complained and ultimately said they’d had enough.

Disappointment with God led them to death.

In contrast, disappointment that yields to God’s plan instead of our own, results in things like Paul and Silas singing praises in jail after they’d been beaten, which in turn provided an opportunity for them to preach Christ to their jailer and see unbelieving people converted.

Christians Dying For Their Faith


Christian_child_sufferedwithburnwoundsThe news doesn’t carry reports of Christians dying very often, but believers are facing persecution in all kinds of places. Sudan hit the news some years ago, but believers in Nigeria have also faced attack. Coptic Christians in Egypt have been targeted, and reports came out of Iraq months ago that terrorists were targeting Christians. I can only imagine that things are worse now for believers, not better.

In fact, The Catholic Herald has called upon us to provide sanction for persecuted Iraqi Christians.

One organization, Prisoner Alert, has identified 40 countries in which Christians are being persecuted:

In more than 40 nations around the world today Christians are being persecuted for their faith. In some of these nations it is illegal to own a Bible, to share your faith Christ, change your faith or teach your children about Jesus. (“Persecution Worldwide”)

This is not some fabrication by extremists or by an organization with an ax to grind. Media outlets as diverse as Fox News and the Huffington Post have recently reported the atrocities committed against Christians.

Perhaps the most straightforward report, however, was the recent article in the Christian Post:

For at least three reasons, the contemporary persecution of Christians demands attention: It is occurring on a massive scale, it is underreported, and in many parts of the world it is rapidly growing.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that Christians are suffering persecution in more places today than any other religious group; between 2006 and 2012, Pew says, they were targeted for harassment in 151 countries-three-quarters of the world’s states. Similar findings are reported by the Vatican, Newsweek, the Economist, and the 60-year-old Christian support group Open Doors.

These numbers dwarf the ones put out by Prisoner Alert, and the incidents of persecution are well-documented, though not well-known here in the West.

The question is, what are we to do once we know about how our brothers and sisters in the faith are being treated? Some advocate putting pressure on our government and the other governments of the world to censor these countries practicing religious intolerance. Others want to see the US implement economic sanctions.

I have yet to read a report that says we should pray. That, I believe, is the most powerful thing we can do, and it is the most effective and immediate. In so doing we are interceding on behalf of those who are members of our body. What’s more, we’re taking their situation to the One Who can actually do something for them:

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
(Isaiah 40:21-23, emphasis added)

Besides, Scripture can guide us to specific ways we can pray for those facing persecution. Here are just a few which I posted earlier in a comment to friend Mike Duran‘s Facebook update which spurred these thoughts:

* That Christ shall even now as always, be exalted in their body, whether by life or by death (Phil. 1:20).

* That they may be delivered from perverse men (2 Thess. 3:1).

* That they might not fear intimidation and not be troubled (1 Peter 3:14).

* For physical protection and deliverance (Rom. 15:30-31).

* That they will love their enemies (Luke 6:27ff).

* That they will be comforted (2 Cor. 1:3-5).

Here are some others:

* That they might grow in grace and the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

* That the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in them (2 Thess. 1:12).

* That God will protect them from the evil one (2 Thess. 3:3).

* That God will strengthen them so that they may attain steadfastness and patience (Col. 1:11).

* God will equip them in every good thing to do His will (Heb. 13:20-21).

* That they will not enter into temptation (Luke 22: 39ff).

* That they will rejoice that they are considered worthy to suffer for His name (Acts 5:41).

May God raise up a mighty army of prayer warriors to shoulder the burden of those who appear helpless to the world. They are not. God can, if He chooses, intervene with legions of angels. He can shut the mouths of lions, stop rivers, calm storms, blind the eyes of the enemy, rout thousands and thousands with a few hundred men. God is mighty to save, and for some reason, He delights in including us in His work. May we faithfully be on our knees.

Gun Control


AutomagVI grew up in a home that didn’t have any guns. My parents were pacifists. But that didn’t stop us kids from playing as if we had guns. Broken casters made perfect revolvers for little hands. I loved playing over at my cousin’s house where I could put on a gun belt and learn to quick draw a revolver.

We spent a lot of time in the mountains at our cabin site, and my dad even went so far as to carve wooden rifles for us—much to my mom’s disgust, I might add.

Some of my favorite memories are water fights and rubber band fights and pine cone fights and Christmas wrapping cardboard tube fights, usually with my brother, but sometimes with my sister and me ganging up on him.

During one of our play gun battles, I remember my brother telling me I was shot, and dead, and had to stay down. I couldn’t get back up and keep playing. I thought about that for a while, decided it was no fun to play dead, and I’d find some other game. But what he said sank in—in real life, when someone got shot, they stayed dead. It made a huge impression on me.

All this to give you a bit of my personal background which forms my attitude toward guns. Honestly, I hate them. My nephew is part of a law enforcement unit, and I remember the first time he took out his gun to put it away. I’d never been that near a gun before, and frankly, it made me nervous.

But here in the US the second amendment to the Constitution ensures the right of the people to bear arms:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Couldn’t be much clearer. And until that amendment is changed, the citizens of the US will continue to own guns—all kinds of guns.

March_on_Washington_for_Gun_Control_051But with each new crime involving guns, there’s a louder cry for more gun control, as if the proliferation of guns is the problem.

If that were the case, then the failed car jacking that happened the other night here in SoCal, in which a 17-year-0ld stabbed his victim three times, should not have happened. After all, no gun was in play.

Come to think of it, the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 shouldn’t have happened either because that mass murder didn’t involve a gun either.

If guns were the problem, then we could eliminate violence against one another simply by taking all the guns off the streets. But the reality is, people with hatred in their hearts who want to do bodily harm to others are not reliant upon guns.

I hate guns. But I hate more the empty diatribe against guns after a shooting, as if removing guns will magically fix the animosity inside each of us.

Nobody seems to ask why twenty people can be the brunt of bullying and never retaliate by shooting at someone or why hundreds can lose their job and not return to gun down their co-workers. The fact is, each of those people had access to guns in the same way that those who turned into killers did.

My point is, we have a far bigger problem than the presence of guns. We have a culture that no longer values forgiveness. Revenge is the response we approve. If in doubt, play back the news coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death. People cheered. Some danced in the streets and celebrated, the way people in Muslim countries did after 9/11.

We are more an eye-of-an-eye nation than we are a turn-the-other-cheek people. Plus we tell kids they DESERVE . . . pretty much whatever they want. So when they don’t get it, they respond just like Scripture tells us in the book of James: “You lust and do not have so you commit murder” (4:2). Sometimes that “murder” is the hatred in our hearts and sometimes it’s the actual physical act of murder.

But who is addressing that issue after the latest shootings? I don’t hear anyone saying, we’ve become a nation of greedy, selfish aggressors bent on making people do what we want them to do. Or that we’ve become hyper-sensitive to offense or short on love toward our neighbor or too insulated from each other or too demanding.

At the same time, we’re doing a poor job dealing with mental illness. We don’t know what else to do but medicate and hope the ill person keeps filling prescriptions.

How easy it is to shout for gun control when horrific mass violence takes place, but that’s the problem. We’re looking for easy fixes which means we are OVERlooking the real need—we’ve lost our moral compass and do not treat others the way we would want them to treat us.

Until we realize the enormity of our problem, no change in our gun laws will make a speck of difference in the inhuman treatment of one person against others.

Published in: on June 17, 2014 at 7:11 pm  Comments (2)  
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