How Should Christians Resist Evil

I just finished reading (for the second time) the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during the time of Hitler and World War II.  As the Nazis came to power and took control of the church, he faced a real dilemma.  He could not continue to stand with the church hierarchy who supported Hitler’s regime yet he found it hard to speak out against the church.  Along with several other pastors and theologians he founded what was called the Confessing Church.

A group called the German Christians (Deutsche Christen) created a pro-Nazi Reich Church.  They wanted the church to conform to Nazi ideology.   In opposition to this, many Christians formed the Confessing Church taking a clear stand against Hitler and his agenda.

However, in time Bonhoeffer became discouraged by the Confessing Church because although they opposed the Nazi regime they said nothing about the persecution of the Jewish people.

As the evil of Nazism became clearer Bonhoeffer faced a difficult decision.

Should he just look the other way as many German Christians were doing?

He had already spoken out against Hitler and his government.  Should he do more?

He knew many of those who were conspiring to kill Hitler and free Germany from the nightmare that was afflicting the nation.  Should he join them in their effort?

What does a Christian do when faced with such evil?

Bonhoeffer, after much soul-searching, joined the effort to get rid of the monster in charge of their country.  For that decision he paid with his life.

He was originally charged with conspiring to rescue Jews and using his foreign travels as a pastor to share the situation in Germany with other countries hoping for help in staging a coup.  His connection to the broader resistance movement was uncovered after a failed July 20, 1944 coup.

He was taken to the Gestapo prison in Berlin and later moved to the Flossenburg concentration camp where he was hanged April 9, 1945 just weeks before the Germans surrendered to Allied forces.

As I look at the divisions in our country – liberal vs conservative, Democrats vs Republicans, pro gun control vs anti-gun control and the list goes on and on, I wonder what a Christian should do.

Please understand I am NOT suggesting that anyone is like Hitler (don’t you go there) or that our country is like Germany in World War II.

But I do wonder how much Christians should get involved in the political debate.  I remember that famous quote which has been attributed to Edmund Burke (although there is debate on who really said it first):

The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Do we remain silent when we see bad laws enacted and evil triumphing?

Yet I look at Jesus and his disciples.  They lived under a dictatorship that was evil.  Their fellow Jews were taxed heavily by their oppressor.  Even their worship was controlled in many ways by the Romans.  The Roman ruler, Pilate, kept the garments the High Priest needed to wear on the Day of Atonement.  Each year they had to wait for him to surrender them to the priests so they could perform that sacred sacrifice.

Not one time did Jesus or his followers address that issue.  They were focused on sharing the good news that Jesus had died and rose again for their eternal salvation.

The Apostle Paul even wrote that we should obey those in authority and that God had placed them there.

On the other hand we see throughout the Bible when people disobeyed the laws that were in conflict with God’s commandments.

  • Rahab hid the Jewish spies that came to her in Jericho.
  • Daniel continued to pray to God when the king ruled no prayers were to be said to anyone but him.
  • The three Hebrew children refused to bow down to the statute and were thrown into the fiery furnace
  • When told by the Jewish rulers not to speak about Jesus, the disciples said:

Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God.  For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.

In my own time I think of Martin Luther King Jr who lead the non-violent civil rights protests that led to the end of Jim Crow rules that had been in place since the Civil War.

As I see and hear all the debates in our country today on so many issues:  the wall, gun control, abortion I cannot help but think of that over used phrase from a few years ago:

What would Jesus do?

Wish I had the answer but I also wish that Christians would really think.

  • What issues are worth fighting for because they are evil and against God’s Word?
  • What issues are worth fighting for because we personally believe in them?  Because we believe we have a “right” to certain things?
  • What is our basis for our beliefs – the Bible or the Constitution?
  • Are any “rights” worth fighting for to the point that they become our battle cry instead of the cry for people to know Jesus?
  • Are we Christians first ready to die for the cause of Christ – or Americans first ready to die for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
  • Where in the Bible did Jesus said he came so that we could have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

I still struggle with these issues.  My prayer is that the church will take a stand against real evil, but also be willing to let their time and energy (and Facebook comments) promote the cause of Jesus Christ over their desire for their rights.  I have angered friends – and some have even unfriended me on Facebook – but I will continue to say we must not become so obsessed with our “rights” that we forget our mission is to love the world and share the message of Jesus Christ.

 

Faith vs Reason

Throughout my life I have read arguments for and against having faith in the Christian God – or any god for that matter.

Some say to question our belief is wrong.  To express any doubt will definitely displease God.

Others say to believe without positive proof of a god is simply showing a lack of intellect.

I have always found myself in the middle.

I do not believe God gave us a mind and then did not expect us to use it.  I do not believe that God cannot handle our questions, our doubts.

At the same time, to assume that anyone who believes in God without being able to “prove” His existence lacks knowledge is so unfair.

In this back and forth argument I read this week from the book “Deliver Us From Evil” by Ravi Zacharias and found this quote expresses so completely how I personally feel about faith vs reason.

One of the most startling things about life is that it does not start with reason and end with faith.  It starts in childhood with faith and is sustained either by reasoning through that faith or blindly leaving the reason for faith unaddressed.  The child’s mind has a very limited capacity to inform it of the reason for its trust.  But whether she nestles on her mother’s shoulder, nurses at her mother’s breast, or runs into her father’s arms, she does so because of an implicit trust that these shoulders will bear her, that her food will sustain her, and that these arms will hold her.  If over time that trust is tested, it will be the character of the parent that will prove that trust wise or foolish.  Faith is not benefit of reason.

That pretty much describes my faith journey.  Born into a home where I was taken to church every week and taught about God from my parents, I believed in the Christian God and committed my life to Him at a very young age.  No questions asked.  Simply the faith of a child running into her father’s arms.

As a young adult I experienced some difficult times.  At the same time as these problems arose I was also attending college at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.  In one of my classes the professor was advocating strongly that creation by God was not true.

I reached the point where I began to question if all I had believed all these years was really true.  Was God real?  Sitting on my front porch one night I looked up into the sky and said, “God if you are truly real, if what I have believed all these years are true, I need you to reveal yourself.  I need you to help me out of these difficulties.”

There was no lightning or thunder or a great voice of God.  But slowly over the next few weeks I began to see drastic changes in my circumstances that reason alone could not explain.

I also began to research my Bible, read books on archaeology, evolution and Christian apologists.  Slowly, but surely, my belief in God was increased by what I learned.  It was during the next couple of years as I studied, prayed and learned that my faith was made stronger by my questioning.

As the years have gone by and I have seen both good times and bad, I have also found myself running into my heavenly father’s arms and the character of God has proven my trust to be a wise one.

If you have doubts about God, do not deny them.  Do not be afraid to express them.  But do more than that.  Read, pray, research.

But also don’t be afraid to be that little child and run into His arms.

He said “You will seek me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart.”

I have found that true.

 

 

More Thoughts on Complaining

A few days ago I wrote about how easy I find it to complain instead of being thankful.  A friend responded some of the problem might be all the input we get today from media.

I thought about that and realized much of the information we get is geared to the negative.

  • We call a traffic light a “stop” light even though it is green as often as it is red.
  • The weather man says we have a 40% chance of snow instead of telling us we have a 60% chance of no snow.
  • The news channel reports the kids who commit a crime but seldom report all the many kids who make the honor roll, who help the elderly across the street, who visit the kids in the cancer ward, who teach the children on Sundays or participate in the worship team.
  • Most of our news is about the negative events taking place in our community instead of the multitude of good acts being committed every day.
  • And to wade into the dangerous area of politics, our political candidates run less on the positive things they have done or will do than on telling us how terrible their opponent is and all the negative things he/she has done or will do.

As I admitted I complain too often and I am too quick to see the negative.  I told my friend that when I get too carried away on the negative I found singing or listening to a good praise song really helps me get my focus back on the many positive things in my life.

These words from the prophet Habakkuk have helped me often when in a complaining mood:

Though the fig tree does not blossom
And there is no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock is cut off from the fold
And there are no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord;
I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation!
The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army];
He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet
And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my [a]high places [of challenge and responsibility].

I’m Good at Complaining

My husband and I are reading through the Bible this year in our devotions.  Right now we are working our way through the book of Numbers.

This morning I was thinking how the Israelites complained their way through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.  They would face a difficulty, God would intervene and meet their need, then when the next problem arose, they started complaining again.  My first thought was:

“How could they keep complaining?”  Had God not met each need?  What was wrong with them?

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Then I thought of how easy I find it to complain.

Example:

We have had a few weeks of bitter cold and lots of snow.  What is my first response?

Complain:

  • I can’t get out in this bitter cold
  • I’m afraid I’m going to fall on the slick side walks
  • The cloudy days are depressing

But why not be thankful:

  • I have a warm house with warm clothes, warm car
  • My backyard is beautiful – like a winter wonderland
  • I’m retired so I don’t have to get out in this terrible weather

Example:

We recently moved from a nine-room house to a five-room house wanting to downsize as we age.

Complain:

  • The closets are so small there is not enough room for our clothes
  • The bedrooms are so tiny
  • I don’t like electric stoves

But why not be thankful:

  • Having everything on one floor has meant not having to cope with stairs
  • Thank God I have so many clothes
  • Thank God I have a modern stove and other modern appliances

Why is it so easy to see the negative instead of the positive?

Looking at the story in Exodus and Numbers I think they complained because they were so quick to forget what God had done.

Is that my problem?  I quickly forget what God has done for me.

“Lord I know you have saved me from the consequence of my sins and you have promised me your presence and guidance in all circumstances, but it’s cold outside, the sun is hidden behind the clouds and my favorite TV show has been cancelled for tonight.”

Let me remember:

  • the wonderful children you have given me
  • a husband who is also my best friend
  • I’m still living almost 17 years after being diagnosed with advanced, aggressive cancer
  • you protected me when the car I was driving was hit head-on by a young man driving way too fast
  • how many friends you have given me through the years
  • how you provided financial help when my husband was out of work
  • how you allowed me to be born in a family where I was taught about God at an early age
  • that you loved me so much you gave your only son that I might be saved

How about you?  Do you see the glass half full or half empty?

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Do you find it easier to complain than be thankful?

 

 

My Greatest Love

It’s Valentine’s Day.  A day we are supposed to celebrate our love.  I imagine it can be a painful day for those who do not have a “special” someone to celebrate with.  After my first husband died, I dreaded that day.

But although I have been single, then widowed and spent Valentine’s Day without a boyfriend or husband, I have always had a great love to celebrate.

I met Him when I was six years old.

 

My earliest memories were hearing my parents talk about Him.  Finally, at six I realized I wanted Him to be my special love.

So I asked Jesus to come into my heart/my life and I would love Him too.

I asked – He said yes.

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Being baptized after making a public commitment to follow Jesus

We have been sharing our love ever since then.

 

 

I could share so many stories of how my love has been there for me over these 65 years since I accepted His offer of friendship and love, but one of my blogs from 2014 tells it the best.

Hope you will take time to read it and see why I celebrate this love, not only on Valentine’s day but every day of the year.

Coincidence or An Act of God?

Does God Really Demand Obedience?

Most of us grew up seeing the Ten Commandments posted on walls of our schools, courthouses and churches.  Many have claimed these principles are the basis for our Judeo-Christian society.

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My husband and I started 2019 by reading through the Bible – starting with Genesis.  The story was interesting at first as we read about creation, the flood and the beginning of the Israelite nation with patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Then we got to the end of Exodus and the beginning of Leviticus.  Here, Moses was given detailed instructions on how the tabernacle should be built and how the priests should conduct offerings used in worship of God.  There are rules about what to eat and what not to eat, a lot of rules regarding sexual relations and how to deal with skin diseases.

To be honest, this is difficult and somewhat boring reading.  But one thing I noticed throughout that portion of Scripture that over and over it was said that Moses did “just what the Lord had commanded.”

Throughout the Old Testament we read the story of how the Israelites did like we still seem to do today – sometimes obeying God – sometimes not.  The Old Testament ends with the nation of Israel exiled because of their failure to obey God’s commands.

Then we enter the New Testament.  We see Jesus who came to pay the price of our disobedience.  We live in what we call the period of grace.  What a blessing to not have to live in fear of breaking a command of God, of knowing that we are saved not by what we do, but by faith and acceptance of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

grace

So, does that mean we are no longer required to obey?  The loving picture of Jesus in the New Testament is certainly much more appealing than the demands of obedience in the Old Testament.

But a closer look at the words of Jesus shows He also demanded obedience if we would claim to be following Him.

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

“The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”

Jesus summed up the commandments when He told his questioners:

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

This all sounds pretty simple.  Really not too demanding.  Much easier than living under the Law.

Right?

I don’t think so.  I think the requirements of Jesus are much more demanding – and something we cannot do without His help.

Think about it:

  • The Law said not to murder.
  • Jesus said if you are angry and curse someone you are in danger of hell.  He said to not bring any sacrifice to Him until you made it right with the one you were angry with.

 

  • The Law said not to commit adultery.
  • Jesus said a person must not look at another with lust in their heart.

 

  • The Law said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
  • Jesus said to love your enemy and to even pray for them.

 

  • The Law was concerned with our outward appearance.
  • Jesus is concerned with our heart.

 

My heart grieves today as it seems many Christians feel they no longer have to obey the words of Jesus when it comes to loving and praying for their enemies.

But I note that He said He would love us and make Himself plain to us (in other words have a relationship with Him) IF we obey His commandments.

Without love for others, I fear we will, like the Israelites, find ourselves without God’s protection.

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Lord God, thank you for loving us.  Help us to remember that as we experience your love and mercy we just give that love and mercy to others.  Even to those who disagree with us.  Even to those who hurt us.  Help us to love as you love and remember that you not only love us, but you love our enemies.

Is It Spring Yet?

cold

After a record-setting week of cold temps – it is great to be above freezing once again – even into the 40’s.

Last Sunday I came home from church and did not go out again until this past Saturday.  My husband took me to Applebee’s for lunch.

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I have been to Applebees many times to eat.  It is always good food and I enjoy it.  But somehow the food seemed to taste better than normal.  My drink was more refreshing.  As I sat and enjoyed just talking with my husband and savoring being out and about again, I realized it was somehow better because of the days spent cooped inside.

Life I think can be like that.  We go along just taking things for granted until we hit a rough spot.  While going through a difficult time is not easy or something we would willingly choose, maybe those difficult times help us appreciate the good times we have.

I know after my battle with cancer I cherish just being alive – seeing the sunset, the leaves turn colors in the fall, hearing the laughter of my grandchildren, or my husband say “I love you.”

After spending time as a missionary I appreciate running, clean hot water, refrigeration for my food and electricity 24/7.

After a couple of days of warm weather it appears we will return to winter temps.  But I have hope.  Spring is only 26 days away.

spring

And God’s Word has promised us:

“As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter,
day and night will never cease.”

If you are in a tough time right now, I want to encourge you to hang in there – spring will come.

If life is going great for you right now, don’t take it for granted.  Take time to just stop, look around and be thankful.