Are We Free?

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (Peter, the Apostle)

One of the most disconcerting features of our society is the “celebrity culture” into which too many Christ-followers have bought. Mega-church pastors, television evangelists, or best-selling authors (or bloggers) all beguile us into thinking, “Oh, if so-and-so said it or did it, it must be right.”

But when one of them falls from grace, the message of Jesus gets blamed as if HE was the culprit. Paul warned the Romans, “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.‘” But this is not just a problem for prominent religious leaders.

If any of us who name the Name of Jesus as our Lord hate our enemies and only love those who look like us, act like us, talk like us and vote like us, we will embarrass our Lord. If we fail at the most basic principles of living in the Spirit, the Name of God will be blasphemed.

In our current time, the election of our president is pressing us to take sides, to declare if we are Trumpers or Bideners. Will Trump’s legacy be one of lying, cheating, and disgracing the Constitution or will Biden’s potential presidency be one of destroying the Republic and advancing communism against half of the country?

Let me suggest we are FREE. We who call ourselves Christ-followers are free from the politics of the Democrats or Republicans because our citizenship is higher and more secure than anything either party can offer. I am not proposing that we ignore political issues, and some may be called specifically to follow Jesus into the fray of civic rivalries. However, most of us are needed on a different “front” of battle: the contention for the souls of our families, neighbors, friends and colleagues.

Unless God has called us to join a political party, we are commissioned to a much freer and better task than merely getting a temporary “master” elected. We must trust the Maker that He has chosen our next president (see Daniel 2:21) and we will still be called to live as free men and women under whatever earthly rulership He has chosen for us.

This was true of Paul when he was in prison for The Name. It has been true for many martyrs and believers throughout history since Jesus ascended. And it may even come true for some of us if we hold to His call with grace and composure, refusing to obey men rather than God.

No one is truly free unless he is free in his spirit. It never ceases to amaze me that some foolish people think conversions to ideas can be forced.  No heart or belief is changed by holding a gun to one’s head and demanding the victim to say words.  However, “if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed!”  If our citizenship IS in Heaven, then no power on earth can constrain us from doing what is right for our Master.

And His call is clear, one by one we must persuade, inform, and demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  It is for freedom that He has set us free, “for you were called to freedom. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14)

So I challenge you (and myself), are we free?

HOW Are You Praying FOR Your Enemies?

How do we pray FOR someone evil or with whom we thoroughly disagree?  This is an important corollary to Jesus’ command to love your enemies.  Matthew 25:44 tells us this and to “pray for those who persecute you.”  Now, don’t go all Pharisee on me and say, “It does not command me to pray for all my enemies, just those who persecute me!”

Let me summarize with a quote and then expand, so if you fully understand C.S.Lewis’ quote you can quit reading and do something more important.

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”  C.S.Lewis, The Weight of Glory

First, it is important to realize that person with whom you so thoroughly disagree is most likely deceived.  He or she does not realize they are not acting in their own best interests.  Like the phantoms in Lewis’ Great Divorce, there is something they want more than Heaven, not realizing Heaven would provide for them so much more than the meager trinkets to which they are clinging.  “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

These blinded individuals are to be pitied more than hated.  “Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13)  Once deceived, they encourage others to join in their destructive behavior (Proverbs 10:17), not realizing they are accumulating corruption and chains that bind them ever more tightly until one day they will have become so entangled there will not be any escape.  Like adding one tiny strand to a rope, each occurrence of mischief entwines layer by layer until they simply are beyond hope, but it is never for us to make that determination while they are still in the land of the living.

Secondly, Father’s heart is to do what is best for them.  That is right, the Creator loves your enemy and wants what is good for them!  2 Peter 3:9 affirms this in the New Testament as does Ezekiel 33:11 in the Old Testament.  The whole Bible is Father’s love letter to a world that chose to ignore His simple direction in the Garden of Eden, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

His intention, His heart was to give us each and all the very best with very little restriction.  But with Adam’s and Eve’s narrow and short-sighted choice, they brought disobedience, deception and death into the world.  And without His loving provision there would not be any hope for any of us.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only born Son . . .” (John 3:16). Notice, NOT that He loved those who would choose to obey Him; not that He loved people of a certain geography or genetic line; not that He loved the ones who would learn to abide in Him.  NO, He loved and loves the whole world!

  • That includes the guy who raped a 16 year old girl the day before he shipped off to Vietnam and left scars in her life so she never learned how to develop good relationships with men.
  • That includes the dad who, drunk again, hit his son so hard up the side of his head that he could no longer think straight in school and now has a hard time holding a job.
  • That includes Dr. Levatino (https://www.abortionprocedures.com/about-dr-levatino/) as he performed 1,200+ abortions of babies at every stage of development.
  • That includes a president who may be a misogynistic self-aggrandizing narcissist.
  • That includes a Speaker of the House who may have so little respect for the Constitution or Office of the President that she would tear up his SOTU speech on national view like a child throwing a tantrum.
  • That includes the idiot who drove 60mph up Nicholasville Road and killed a pedestrian.
  • That includes the drug addict who has made a thousand choices that were foolish.
  • That includes the pusher who sells him the drugs.

There is NO ONE excluded from the love that took Jesus to the cross.  “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:6-8)

  • That includes me!! And yes, that includes YOU!

So now, thirdly, my problem is to align my heart with Jesus’ and pray FOR my enemies the way Jesus would pray for them.  How would you pray for a coworker who spreads cruel information about you to prevent you from getting respect at work?  How would you pray for a wayward son who refuses to have anything to do with following Jesus?  How would you pray for a spouse who has walked away from faith and wounded you so deeply you do not know if you will ever recover?

Think of how Jesus prayed for his crucifiers while he was dying on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)  Some have said this is one of two prayers of Jesus to which Father said, “No.”  But Father’s answer is not our concern here.  What we need to examine is our hearts to see if we share Jesus’ desire for our enemies.

His Heart is broken for those you find too smelly, degraded or offensive to associate with.  He loves your enemy and makes His expectation of us very clear: “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

So now, how will you pray FOR your enemy?

 

 

Who Are You Praying FOR During This Wuhan Virus Crisis?

2020-04-04 Rosenberg Survey 2
This is a time that people all over the world are becoming more aware of spiritual realities than at almost any time in my life.   Why?  Because we are facing a global health crisis unlike anything since the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920.  Infecting over 500 million people, that pandemic caused between 50-100 million deaths! (50,000,000-100,000,000)

In the current crisis, as of April 4 reliable reports are that more than 1.2 million (1,200,000) have been infected and more than 65,000 have died.  If there is a silver lining, it is that over 250,000 have recovered, meaning the death rate and toll will likely be much smaller than the Spanish Flu, but it is still a life-changing event in our generation.  And the numbers of those infected and deaths are suspect, even though from “reliable” news sources.  The media can only report what governments give them for data.  They could be much higher.

2020 -04-04 Roseberg SurveyAt Joel Rosenberg’s website, he reports on a survey his organization commissioned for McLaughlin and Associates to conduct here in the USA.  To summarize a couple of points, almost half of the respondents see this global health crisis as supernatural intervention in world affaoirs, just shy of the number who believe God has nothing to do with it.  Most interesting is that of the non-Christian respondents 22% of them acknowledge looking for answers in the Bible or online Christian/spiritual resources. (See above bar chart.) You can view the details of the survey here:

https://www.joshuafund.com/learn/news-article/coronavirus_pandemic_is_a_wake_up_call_exclusive_joshua_fund_poll

It is vital that the Church seize this opportunity to invite, educate and guide the spiritually hungry.  But what of the 63% of non-Christian respondents who say this crisis has not changed their interest in spiritual things?

We must pray for them, also.  And note, we must learn to pray FOR them, not against them.  In the words of Jesus, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:44-45

This is not an easy thing for many of us to get our minds around, but praying FOR our enemies is on Jesus watch list to see if we are becoming sons and daughters of our Father.  More on loving your enemy can be found at .

But this is not just a New Testament idea.  Jesus prefaced His command with, You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” (Matthew 25:43)  We have no Scripture that uses this dictum, but it was likely a saying of the Zealots.  The Dead Sea Scrolls show the Qumram community was taught to “love all the sons of light … and hate all the sons of darkness,”

However, the God of the Old Testament made the same demand on the Jews of history as Jesus was calling His disciples to.  Leviticus 19:34 called on them to love the stranger among them as they love themselves.  And in the Law, Exodus 25:4-5 called on the Hebrew to help his enemy, even though it was someone he hated.

Then Solomon came along and penned this poetic advice regarding one’s enemy:
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
    and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
for you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and Yahweh will reward you.” (Proverbs 25:21-22)

For a long time, I thought this meant that if I was kind to an enemy, heaping coals of fire on his head would mean I reeeaally “got him good!”  By being kind, I was going to make him so miserable, he would see the error of his ways.  You know, really stick it to him!

But then a wiser man than me pointed out that fire was a valuable commodity in Solomon’s day.  No pilot on a gas stove; no matches from the Safeway store; no camp-fire lighters at Dick’s Sporting Goods.  When you finally started a fire with sticks and twigs and lots of elbow grease, you kept it going as long as you were home.  You saved embers each day so the next day the fire could burn bright again for cooking food or purifying your knife or warming yourself and family against the next night’s cold.

The movies make it look so simple as though anyone could start a fire to mount on a catapult and attack an enemy.   But I challenge you to go outside when the weather has been nice and dry and try to start a fire the way Solomon’s servant would have.  Fire was a precious product, not one you would likely share with an enemy.

When you gave some “fire” to someone, it likely would not be a burning stick, but embers from your fire pit.  Carrying it in front of you would result in the sparks flying into one’s face, so they would load the precious heat into a pot or basket that could be carried on one’s head.  Now, if that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is!  “Heap burning coals on his head!”

So Jesus reaffirmed the love of God in the Old Testament, and told us to pray FOR our enemies.  Now, who is your enemy?  Muslim terrorists?  Hindu nationalists?  A superstitious shaman?  How about Nancy Pelosi?  Donald Trump?  Chuck Schumer?
Bring it closer to home, the guy who cut you off at the light?  A rude neighbor?  A boss?  A smelly coworker?  A family member?

We are to pray FOR them, not against them.  So I wonder, who are you praying FOR during this crisis?  Next week we will look at HOW do we pray FOR someone evil or with whom we thoroughly disagree.