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Civil Rights and/or Following Jesus…

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:
29  Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30  For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 (TEV)

7  Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8  He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross. Philippians 2:7-8 (TEV)

413         Aspire to have no more than one right: that of fulfilling your duty.

I often hear fellow believers and even those who are ministers of the gospel talking about our civil rights being infringed upon, and even warning us that they are being taken away.   Our freedom of speech, our freedom to assemble, our freedom of religion, our freedom to own guns.

They are being stripped away we are warned, we have to rise up and defend these rights.
I have to wonder what would happen if the church instead rose up to love, to serve, to sacrifice for others, to follow the path that Jesus walked, living life as a servant.  A servant who has no rights, whose focus is on pleasing His master, fully assured that His master will care for him.

Ask yourself this morning, which are you more attached to, your civil rights, or the yoke of Jesus?  Which are you more likely to fight for, your ability to have free speech or the eternal life of the one who would hinder your free speech?   Which will matter at the end of the day, having your voice heard in Washington D.C., or having your voice heard as His by those crying in grief, or those struggling with sin?

It’s a hard question, and like me, you are probably lining up a list of “buts”.  Thoughts like, “if we don’t defend our freedom of speech and freedom of religion then we won’t be able to share Christ’s love…”  Here’s the harder question, with all these rights, and with our focus on them, are we sharing His love, is our money and time going to that, or to fighting for the rights, funding and working for those we think will defend them?

A hard question indeed.

Will we ask it?

Will we take up the right we have as Jesus’s co-workers in the ministry of reconciliation? Will we see the wonder of shattered relationships healed,  of the guilt and shame being washed away?  Will we see our burdens lifted, our anxieties fade away as we see the glory of Christ revealed?  These are the things Jesus fought for, our access to the Father, our knowing His love and mercy, our being transformed into His likeness as the power of the Holy Spirit is at work.

Will we trust in God, depend on Him, walk with Him,

The Lord is with you!  May He be revealed in your life, and may His glory and love bring you joy, as it shatters the darkness!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1856-1857). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What is “Freedom?” Specifically, what is “religious freedom?”

Devotional Thought of the Day:
36  If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free.
John 8:36 (TEV)

423         Under the pressure and impact of a materialistic, pleasure-loving, faithless world, how can we demand and justify the freedom of not thinking as they do, and of not acting as they do? A son of God has no need to ask for that freedom, because Christ won it for us once and for all. But he does need to defend it and practise it whatever the circumstance he finds himself in. Only thus will they understand that our freedom is not bound up in our surroundings.  (1)

This morning on the way to work, I heard a man complaining about the necessity to pay that his children could pray in school. He prattled on about how unfair it was that this wasn’t truly a free country, that it cost to have his kids raised by those who would teach them to pray. ( By the way, I know “Prattled” isn’t used much, but it fits the sounds he was making)

I think in this country we have made freedom an idol. Certainly we consider free speech a right, as well as the vague term “freedom of religion” or as some would have it, “freedom from religion.” We get upset when those “rights: are taken away, or limited.  We get even more upset when others use those “rights” in a way that threatens, disagrees or demeans us.  I’ve even heard the verse in red above used in discussions about the freedom of religion as if the Americanism – that Jesus gave us freedom, and anyone who would take it away should be damned.  (Or at least, mocked and embarrassed behind their back on Facebook)  The idol of freedom or even the freedom of religion does nothing long range for mankind.  It is an illusion, and it is not Christian freedom.

Our freedom is part of the peace that God gives us.  It is, as St. Josemaria says, freedom of not thinking as they do, or acting as they do.  It is not a freedom the world can give.   It is not a freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights or the Magna Carta.  It is the freedom Peter and Paul knew, as they were prisoners in Rome.  It is the freedom and peace that Stephen knew, as men laid their coats down at Saul’s feet, and picked up stones to crush him.  It is freedom martyrs longed to share with their tormenters.

It is a freedom that, like the peace we are given, is divine.

Hear the rest of Jesus statement, the context of the discussion on Freedom:

34  Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35  A slave does not belong to a family permanently, but a son belongs there forever. 36  If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. 37  I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are trying to kill me, because you will not accept my teaching. 38  I talk about what my Father has shown me, but you do what your father has told you.”
John 8:34-38 (TEV)

Here is our freedom.  The freedom from guilt and shame that breaks us down as we realize the consequences of our sin.  The freedom to see the relationships shattered by sin.  The freedom from resentment, the anger and hurt we store in our memories, as if we can protect ourselves from further injury, further hurt.

It is a freedom that is part of our faith, part of the trust and dependence we have in God.  Dependence on His fulfilling promises like that in Romans 8 that everything will work out for our good, that nothing can separate us from Him.  Promises like Genesis 50, that what others plan for evil, God will use those things for good.  The promise that is revealed as we look to Jesus, the author of our faith, and the one who makes it perfect.

This is freedom, true freedom.

Let us treasure the Lord, who frees us, more than the illusion of freedoms that would leave us oppressed and bound to sin and unrighteousness.

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1893-1897). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Whose Side is God On? The Battles to See Who is Right?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

 *While Joshua was near Jericho, he raised his eyes and saw one who stood facing him, drawn sword in hand.h Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you one of us or one of our enemies?” 14 He replied, “Neither. I am the commander* of the army of the LORD: now I have come.” Then Joshua fell down to the ground in worship, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” 15 The commander of the army of the LORD replied to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.  Josh 5:13–15

“..what difference is there between philosophy and the teaching of Christ? If we merit the forgiveness of sins by these elicited acts of ours, of what use is Christ? If we can be justified by reason and its works, what need is there of Christ or of regeneration?”  (Apology of the Augsburg Confessio; Article IV

I have a friend who still contends that the Dallas Cowboys are still America’s Team.  I will concede that in his presence, noting that Bill, Tom and the rest of the New England Patriots are God’s team.  Another friend declares that God is surely a fan of the Nebraska Cornhusker’s while demeaning the Oklahoma Sooners to be cheered on by someone a bit south of God’s abode.

Most of the time, I think such revelry and rivalry is fun, as we claim which side of a battle is holy and righteous.  Except around the college bowl season – or the NFL playoffs.  It is then that such discussions take on a more serious form.

We do this in other arenas as well, such as the political arena, as those who are pro-gun rights seek a verbal “trial by combat” with those who are for taking care of refugees and immigrants seeking solace.  Or those who are pro-life take the field against those who want universal healthcare. Republicans versus Democrats, Tea Party versus something called being progressive.

We also do this in the realms of philosophy and theology, as if who wins in the public debates of blogs and podcasts determine where there is truth, and who is correct.  Lutherans versus Reformed, Catholics versus Protestants, Pentecostals versus Baptists, Liberals versus Conservatives, Traditionalists against those who prefer Innovation.   Everyone, absolutely everyone attacking the Muslims.  Oh, and we are all on the defense against the JW’s and LDS.

Even within denominations we see this, and it tears the church apart.

Listen, folks, Melancthon nailed it.  You are not saved by your pure theology or the logical supremacy of your philosophy.  It is not what you think or what those thoughts cause you to do that saves you.  What Joshua realized as he talked to Jesus, was simple.

It isn’t about whether God is on our side.

It isn’t whether your blog or mine has more followers or hits. It’s not whether my Patriots can again intercept a pass on the goal line.  There are political positions on both sides of the aisle that need to be listened and heeded.

But what is important is whether you find yourself in the presence of God, with other broken sinners, finding the healing that you need.   That the Holy Spirit will bring you to life spiritually, whether you will be transformed, and live in peace.

The desire to win so divides us if our definition of winning is causing the other person to submit to our view.  But a desire to see God’s love win is one where humility reigns, not bravado.  It is where sacrifice and service take on more meaning than statistics and trophies. It is where hanging in there with that person who others would give up on matters more than attracting the stars, and the crowds.  It is where truth matters more than our opinion, and, therefore, the journey is mutual, not combative.

We seek fellowship, with all, based in our relationship with God.

This is life, in Christ.

May we seek it in the next year, and lovingly work with all.  AMEN.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 109). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

 

The Only Right That Matters

The Only Right that Really Matters

John 1:1-14

†  I.H.S.

 I pray for you my friends that you would grow to realize even deeper this truth.  Because Jesus was born, lived, died and rose from the dead, you are the children of God!

It seems we are always talking about our rights.  In the Constitution, it talks about inalienable rights, and its first ten amendments were the Bill of rights.  People talk about human rights; there have been numerous civil rights movements.  We talk about water rights, mineral rights, the right to assemble, the right to education, the right to medical care, the right to arm bears, o wait, bear arms.  Theologians and philosophers talk about the right to basic human dignity. Heck, I even remember one old rock song from 30 years ago that encouraged us to fight for the right…to party!  (yeah 30 years ago!)

But what if all but one right were taken away.

What if every right people claimed and demanded were stripped of them, but they could choose one….

I would hope we take the one that we heard a moment ago in the gospel.

It is the only right that really matters.

And to receive it, to trust that we have that right, means that all other rights are diminished, that all other rights are revealed to be something less.  They become like idols of wood or stone; that lose their luster and their importance.

Rights, or Self-idolatry?

While I am one who often speaks about making sure others are treated well, I think that we often make what we demand the right to, into an idol, a God that serves us.  We can’t think of life without that “right”, and we will fight to protect that right.

I’ve even heard of some people who indicate they will fight for that right, even to the point of death.
I am not talking about trying to serve others, and ensure they have what most would consider basic things in their life. I am talking about when those things or things not so basic or necessary become idols, where we think life must have them, or it isn’t really living.

It is then we have taken something good and turned it into something bad.  It is like the Israelites, taking Gideon’s armor and worshipping it, rather than the God who directed Gideon.  Or the staff with the snake, that God had Moses fashion, to heal people of the snake bites they received when they were unfaithful.  We do it to, when we take the things that remind us of Jesus, from buildings to people, from crosses to music, and say that’s what matters.

Or even when we take a day like Christmas, and make it more about the presents and food than about the Lord, who came to us.

The Lord, who laid aside his rights as God, to come and live among us, to serve, even to the point of death, and that death on a cross.

The Right

So what right do we cling to? What right is the one that makes the difference in our lives?

This one…

12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

You have been given the right to be a child of God.  His son, His daughter. The child whom He loves.

So has everyone else on the planet.  Everyone in history,

This is why we are here.

It is not just for the brunch; it is not because of the music, or my eloquence. It’s not because of tradition, or because someone forced you to wake up and be here.  (although they might have!)

It is because God drew you here, to remind you of the right He gave you.

That He purchased for you by sending Jesus here, to be born and laid in a feeding trough, to wander around as an itinerant prophet without a home, to be mocked and brutally beaten and hung on a tree to bear every curse your sin earned.

So you would have the right to be a child of God.

To share in His love, His mercy, His glory, His peace……

AMEN.

Something More Important Than Political Issues

Devotional Thought of the Day:
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14  To Greeks and non-Greeks alike, to the wise and the ignorant, I am under obligation; 15  that is why I am eager to preach the gospel also to you in Rome. 16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek. 17  For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.” Romans 1:14-17 (NAB)

3  I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; 4  that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (TEV) 

You are powerful over Your creatures.   You can do all things in me.  Give me a right mind, give me the wisdom that you promise to all who ask for it.  Covert my heart and let me glorify you to the utmost till my last breath and through all eternity.  I ask this in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen! Amen! Amen!  (1)

There is a civil war going on right now.  It is not one where blood has been spilt;  it is pretty much a social media war.  It is a cyber artillery match as people engage in battle with quick witticisms, with cartoons, with meme’s, with stories.  It is brother and brother, sister against sister, and families are being ripped apart.  Both sides accuse the other of ignorance, and of wanting to deny their rights. Both sides have been barbaric, as they take sides on a political and legislative action.

Several have tried to get my point of view on it, and a few others have presumed to know where I fall on the issue.

Apparently they haven’t seen my FB “about me” section, where I declare my political views as apathetic.  Matter of fact, I would say I am actively and decidedly apathetic.    See Psalm 2 for why, but simply put, it isn’t that important.

Here is why I am apathetic.  There is something more important at stake, for all involved.  Paul talks of it above. Salvation.  That Jesus Christ died for sinners, was buried and rose again.  We can also add ascended into heaven and intercedes on our behalf at the right hand of the Father.

He died for sinners.

Now before you go pointing your finger over the barricades, and tell me to look at Indiana, or those trying attacking Indiana, realise this.

All people are sinners.

Every person on both sides of the issue is a sinner.  Matter of fact, many demonstrate it pretty clearly, as they condemn, judge, mock, and issue hate-filled statements against each other. Both sides of the issue are behaving badly, no, not badly, sinfully.

Repentance is needed. Reconciliation, not just to each other, but primarily to God is needed.  For only reconciled to Him can we find what we need to be reconciled to each other.  For we need a grace that is strong enough to be merciful, while at the same time identifying and calling for healing where sin has wreaked havoc. Not sin as in a singular incident, or a particular sin.  Sin is where we have decided we are God, where we choose what we want, where we give up loving Him and loving each other to get it.  It is part of our brokenness, the unnatural natural thing to do as humans.

But we can’t… on our own, fix what is broken.

Jesus can, and indeed, did.  That is the message of the gospel.  He died so that all of OUR sins can and will be forgiven.  So that healing can happen.  So that people won’t see each other as the enemy, as the opposition, but instead love each other and urge each other to draw close to God.

So both sides will now probably attack me, saying, you don’t know how evil they are, they have to change before any of this can happen.

My friends, that change can’t happen in them, and it can’t happen to you, until God transforms you, until He takes that heart of stone out of each of us and replaces it with a heart of flesh, and the Holy Spirit resides in us.

So let God lead you to repentance, don’t shy away… don’t wait for the other side to go first. Don’t wait for your anxieties to be settled.  Instead come find hope, come find mercy, come find His love.

and learn to dwell in His peace.

Both sides may hate me for this.

(1)   From Celtic Daily Prayer, devotion for 4/1 Finian Readings.

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