Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer came under intense pressure this week to veto a bill to protect religious freedom. It was inspired by cases of business people being sued for refusing to provide services for same-sex weddings that violated their religious beliefs. To be clear: they said they were fine with serving gay customers, they just didn’t want to be forced to participate in gay marriages. There’s been a media frenzy over the Arizona bill, depicting it as an attempt to legalize anti-gay discrimination. – Mike Huckabee
Lord, I pray for those struggling today. Please help them know your comfort and love today. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. - Mark 14:44-46
The Voice of the Martyr’s magazine sits on the arm of my chair. On the cover, Vietnamese believers hunch over the Bible with flashlights. The walls are dark and gray. Their seats aren’t pews or chairs, and their church isn’t some big cathedral. It’s an underground church. Next to this magazine is a book called, “Tortured for Christ,” by Reverend Richard Wurmbrand. Wurmbrand was turned in by an associate to the Communists and spent a torturous eight and a half years in prison. What caught my eye were the words, “an associate turned him in.” How can a church member turn on another church member?
I realized, of course, it’s easy to do. We do it all the time in a country where free people don’t have to hide their beliefs. C.S. Lewis has a quote that pertains to justification. It is from God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology):
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
I wonder if the associate who turned in Wurmbrand disagreed with how the underground church was run? Was that his justification? Of course, this wasn’t Wurmbrand’s first experience with torture. During World War II, he and his wife attempted to evangelize the occupying soldiers. Wurmbrand and his wife were beaten numerous times. They were trustworthy church leaders, but in World War II, not all pastors or reverands were safe.
In Russia, a pastor turned in his Jewish friends to be shot, tortured, and imprisoned in Russia’s own Holocaust. That pastor escaped prosecution with little or no consequences to his actions years after World War II ended. In occupied Europe and in Germany and Russia, many people turned in their Jewish neighbors for less. In one instance, the people living next door to a Jewish person envied what that Jewish person owned. They turned him in and took over his apartments, stealing his rich furnishings. The warnings of our past history are ignored. If it can happen to Jews, it can happen to Christians. Christian persecution is very real today. It’s not something that happened in the past, or made up to make Christians a more sympathetic people group. People who say this purposely turn a blind eye to the truth.
I’m not done reading Reverand Richard Wurmbrand’s book. I’ve just begun. Several other books have amazed me with what God is doing in closed countries, but I am grieved by what I see in my country. According to George Barna, “American morality is no longer synonymous with Christian morality. The new agenda is about individual independence instead of issues threatening family or country.”
Many churches exist that do good work, whose people stand in solidarity against the secular world. But there are those in church who fall into C.S. Lewis’ version of tyranncy; they kiss their church friend on the cheek and let the soldiers come and take them away, like Jesus’ Judas. Only its not soldiers that come; just our own avarice and gossip, leaving that church friend out in the cold like an orphan. If we ever became a closed country, I have no doubt that tyranny will be the undoing of some underground churches not used to unifying together against a greater threat.
As I sit in my chair, I am watching Billy Graham’s, My Hope America. I am surrounded by access to God’s Word. I listen to stories of changed lives, but haven’t seen that lately. God is doing something in my life now, and I am waiting to see the outcome. I am learning to be brave, to act and speak, and to live in God’s purpose; build His kingdom, not mine. While I sit here, children and widows in India starve, underground churches in closed countries meet in spite of the danger of death or imprisonment, and I know I am blessed. In many ways, I think American churches have it hard, too. We don’t go hungry, but our job is harder to reach the unsaved because prosperity has made them comfortable or entitlement has made it easy to stay unchanged. They don’t feel they need God. Individually, I think as a Christian we are in danger of falling into a rut. We could get too comfortable in that rut, and blind, be unable to see the damage of our inaction to ourselves and to the people we could have impacted for Christ.
So when you go to church ask yourself as I will, “Am I making decisions for someone because I think its in their best interest without knowing the harm it causes? Am I choosing my words with care so as to empower someone to go forward in Christ or are my words truth devoid of love or a lie to manipulate someone to go our way? Would I give a Judas kiss to someone, and turn around to speak against them?”
That last should sting. Because how many times have I given a Judas kiss, and in my ignorance and blindness of the moment, became an enemy? James says the tongue is evil.
Romans 7:15 says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
If, God forbid, our country becomes closed to Christianity, I pray for myself and for other Christians that the temptation to turn in a church member in the heat of the moment never comes, and that if it does, we pay careful attention to our consciousness, the Word, and to history. As Billy Graham says, “I’ve not given my life to a dead Christ, but to a live Christ!”
Have you ever forgotten, while you were attending church, why you were put on this earth and why you became a believer?
A missionary friend once said he doesn’t use the word, “Christian,” in his field to identify his biblical belief because of how internationally re-defined it has become and how religions have made it all-inclusive. I came across Ravi Zacharius’ Youtube video on the word Christian and Cult. I love Ravi.
Remember the reason for the season. If you don’t know the Jesus of the Bible, let me tell you about Him.
The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression is an education into the culture war and dispels the myths man has created from Christmas.
While some tire of the phrase, war on Christmas, its no less a reality for Christians who seek to celebrate a holiday that is theirs to celebrate in the first place, but find Christmas challenged in the court and school systems. Christmas to Christians is like Hanukkah is to the Jewish in that Christmas is a Christians celebration of the birth of Christ. Some have paganized much of the Christian holiday with Santa Claus, elves, and reindeer. In The War on Christmas, even Black Friday is picked on a little. I echo what Charlie Brown said, “Doesn’t anyone know the meaning of Christmas?”
The War on Christmas explores the truths behind common misunderstandings of Christmas, like the Nativity set. The Three Wise Men didn’t actually come to see Christ until Christ was nearly two years of age. The book also talks about the star and how the book of Genesis plays into the Christmas story. The book talks about how Jesus had brothers, how Mary wasn’t a perpetual virgin, and other things. All of the details of the Christmas story are discussed in this book, even to the smallest detail of the “Inn.”
My husband and I chose to keep this book in our library as a reference for re-reading as it is a testament to God in every small detail of the Christmas story even before the beginning of time. I am ever amazed at God’s attention to detail. Why should I be surprised though when God also created the human body, DNA, and even the atom? The archeological and spiritual truths in this book is what I would expect from Ken Ham and the people at Answers in Genesis.
For anyone who wonders how to keep the Christmas Story in focus over the other distractions and commercialization of the holiday, this book is a great book, laid out in full color and nice, thick pages. It’s a teaching tool for parents, and towards the end shows how we can still play the Santa Claus game without lying to our kids about whether Santa Claus is real, and instead, focusing on the historical figure behind the mythical man. I gave this book five stars. It’s on my re-read list.
*Book given by publisher to review.
Written Sunday, November 10, Evening
It gets dark early in Kayenta. Perhaps it’s the beautiful mesas towering above us, blocking the sun, but at 9 minutes to five it already feels late. The clouds are thin, spreading like gossamer across the sky, and the sunset is turning colors, blinding us as we drive back to Mesa View Baptist Church where we are sleeping for the night.
Once again, I am left unplugged from the internet, from the rest of the world.
We are sitting in the fellowship part of the church with our blow-up mattress made up after a visit to McDonalds for coffee, feeling cozy and warm next to the still warm wood burning stove. What I love about coming here is how I am forced to be unplugged from the world and all it’s allure.
Even the signal is weak at McDonalds (19 miles away). My phone’s internet can’t grasp anything except a hazy wi-fi. So I turn it all off and sit here to reflect on the day, read, and enjoy the relative quiet of being four hours from home.
I am reading another chapter of Carla McDougal’s, “My Prayer Chair.” Her statement on page 52, “But what if we changed our thought life into a prayer life,” resonates with me. It’s not a new idea. I pray via my thoughts, having a regular conversation with the Lord throughout the day. I thought-prayed this morning all the way to Kayenta. I wanted what I would speak at their church to be from the Lord.
Today, I spoke to Mesa View Baptist’s English speaking Sunday school class about how being a believer changes you. I talked about my testimony, of false religions, and how there is only one way to Christ—through the cross. I reconnected with friends I had met on my last visit here and enjoyed more of the pastor and his wife’s company at lunch. I thought-prayed for old and new prayer requests. Once again, the people I met taught me more than I taught them.
Like how telling testimonies at church are powerful and life changing, and how you don’t need music to feel God move in a congregation. The naked Word is a powerful elixir. I mentioned to them how James 1:2-3 reminds me of them. They “count it all joy” when they endure trials. The veterans shared their testimonies today, and I am reminded of how they suffer. I heard amazing stories from the battlefield of God’s rescue. Carla reminds me how God may not always rescue us in our situations. But there’s something to be said about suffering—suffering grows a believer.
Today will stay with me again as long as the last visit stayed, and I want so badly to find a way to simplify my worship life. I love the service here. It’s powerful in its simplicity. And staying the night at this church forces me to remain still—something I don’t do very well. There are no radios or television. No internet.
But this week, it’s what I needed.
I needed to get away and to be still; to listen to what God is trying to say; to rest.
Oh, Lord, how holy and wonderful You are, and how small I am.
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In Clear, Winter Nights by Trevin Wax, Chris breaks up with his fiancee and stops participating in a church plant. The novel takes us on a journey through Chris’ questions from doubts stemmed by his religious studies professor.
Most of the novel takes place during Chris’ visit with his grandfather over New Year’s weekend. Some novels of this ilk come off as preachy and contrived, but not Clear, Winter Nights. I thought it eloquent in its delivery of Christian beliefs, bringing us back to the grace of Christ on the cross. The novel explores a common theme found in college life these days–doubt. Chris began to doubt his faith and his love for Ashley. Most of his doubt comes from the anger he doesn’t know resides inside of him for what his dad did, and in Clear, Winter Nights, Chris begins to face his demons.
Clear, Winter Nights gives us a novel filled with warmth, family values, and general acceptance of those who have questions. I gave this novel five stars and recommend it for doubting Christians.
*Book given by publisher to review.
Dangerous by Caleb Bislow is a book that will challenge the nominal American Christian into action.
Much like The Insanity of God by Nick Ripken, Dangerous isn’t the usual dry missionary letter aimed at filling an obligation. Caleb demonstrates a fearlessness in writing of his experiences in getting to his missionary program, “Unusual Soldiers.” Endorsed by legendary Bear Grylls as, “A book for aspiring heroes, about real heroes, by a quiet hero,” Dangerous is a how-to book in becoming a missionary.
Dangerous begins with Section One: In Search of Unusual Soldiers. I wouldn’t have begun the book this way when the description on the back of the book says, “In 2005, Caleb Bislow decided safety was overrated.” The first section speaks about Caleb’s program, Unusual Soldiers. While this wasn’t uninteresting, it certainly slowed down the book. In Section Two, the tension escalates and never slows down until the last sentence of the book.
Caleb writes about his experiences. He drained his savings and quit his job to go on a short term missions trip to Africa with just a backpack, Bible, and a few changes in clothing to sleep in a mud hut with a local and visit dangerous and unreached villages in Africa. In returning home, he felt that a short term missions trip wasn’t enough. People were brought to Christ in these villages, but no one stuck around to disciple them. So he worked with another ministry while living in his parent’s home as he and his wife began a family. Eventually, their financial situation improves and Caleb lands a job with a ministry who enthusiastically takes on his vision.
The rest of the book speaks about Caleb’s work with an African people and the raw work of a missionary. I like how he outlines the different ways both domestically and internationally how a Christian can turn from living the nominal Christian life as an American to living a die-hard life of a believer serving God’s purpose. Caleb also speaks about his program, Unusual Soldiers, as he trains people to survive in the most dangerous places on earth. He speaks about the amount of unreached people groups and on follow-through. This means not just popping into someone’s life to change it, but making sure the person or people changed get discipled and connected with proper teaching.
Dangerous has haunted me since closing the book. I gave this book four stars only because of the slow beginning, It starts slow and becomes very quickly an intense and resource-filled book.
*Book given by publisher to review.
Most people who put down blogging are people who don’t blog. Blogging is part-journaling and part-networking. It has purpose, and not just selling points.
I invite you to take the time to read my blog from when I began three years ago. If you want a picture of Jesus transforming a life, take your proverbial magnifying glass on my life. I invite you.
Jesus changed my life both physically and spiritually.
But I am not perfect.
Sometimes, I annoy people.
Sometimes, I care too much.
Sometimes, I am way too OCD about things.
But God is my Daddy. He is my Savior, my friend. Jesus is the reason I breathe, laugh, cry, and live. He is the reason for my change, but remember my humanity. I am not Jesus. Therefore, I cannot be Him. So if you are looking for perfection, it is not here. If you are looking for love, He loves perfectly. I may judge you or get annoyed at you, but I still love you.
Because Jesus loves you.
And you can learn a lot from re-reading your own blogs as well as see the transformation Jesus has done in a person’s life by reading someone else’s blog or journal.