Heard a great sermon today on the principle of authority and respect. Pastor mentioned three sources of authority we can choose.
Our own authority. We can say “No one is going to tell me what to do. I am going to do what I want. I have my rights”
Other’s authority. We can decide to do what everyone else is doing, what is popular, what our crowd believes.
God’s authority. We can choose to follow the teachings of Jesus.
Hmm. You mean things like “pray for those who persecute you” or how about “But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice against him shall be guilty before the court; and whoever speaks [contemptuously and insultingly] to his brother, ‘Raca (You empty-headed idiot)!’ shall be guilty before the supreme court (Sanhedrin); and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fiery hell.”
Or, how about “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus spoke these words to His disciples as they had their last meal together just before He went to the cross. He said it was a new commandment. Yet He had told them before that they should love others. He had said that all the Law and the Prophets could be summed up in two commandments: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.
What was new about this commandment?
It appears to me that Jesus was giving us a standard by which we could judge how we love our neighbor. It was more than just how we love our self. It was as He has loved us.
As we listen to the social and political world right now, we see little of love and kindness. But what disturbs me is that many of our evangelical Christian leaders are as guilty as non-believers in this battle of words.
Following the authority of Jesus is not easy. I am afraid I have failed a lot on that one. My prayer today is that God will help me put a watch on my tongue.
And I pray that those who claim to speak for the church will also return to following Jesus rather than following the example of the rest of society.
Hard to believe that it has been less than 100 years since women were granted the right to vote. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920, granting women the full rights of citizenship.
What is ironic is that four years before women were granted the right to vote, a woman had already been elected to the United States Congress. Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman to serve in Congress. While most of the USA did not allow women to vote until this amendment was ratified, some states had permitted voting by women.
Montana granted women the right to vote in 1914 and they soon elected Rankin to represent them in Congress. Rankin declared “I may be the first woman in Congress, but I won’t be the last.
She was right. Today there are 24 women in the Senate (24%) and 121 (27.8) in the House of Representatives.
While in Congress, Rankin proposed the formation of a Committee on Woman Suffrage, of which she was appointed leader. After WWI ended and her committee had issued a report for a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote, she asked the congressmen:
“How shall we explain to them the meaning of democracy if the same Congress that voted to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?”
While serving her first term in Congress, she voted, along with 49 men, to not enter World War I. After serving two years in Congress, she did not run to be elected for another term. Some historians believe her vote against the war led her to realize she could not get reelected. Her brother, Wellington Rankin, who was a prominent Republican in Montana, advised her not to run. He said “I knew she couldn’t be elected again if she did vote against the war. I didn’t want to see her destroy herself.” Many of the suffragists leaders felt she betrayed their cause by her vote.
Although she opposed the war, once we entered the battle, she voted for war-time appropriations to fund the troops and supported the government taking over the mines to gain resources for the war effort.
After leaving Congress, she continued to be active working for pacifism and social welfare issues. She worked for better health care for women and children. She became a speaker for the National Council for the Prevention of War and attended the Women’s International Conference for Peace held in Switzerland. She purchased a small farm in Georgia that had no electricity or plumbing and worked with others in the state to organize a study group on antiwar foreign policy. This group eventually became the Georgia Peace Society.
In 1940, at age 60, she returned to her home state of Montana and ran again for Congress. This time she was not alone – there were six other women in Congress.
After America was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. When the House opened debate on the resolution, Rankin tried to speak. Speaker Sam Rayburn declared her out of order and members of the House began calling for her to be silent. Members pressured her to vote for the war or abstain. She refused to do either. She said “As a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.” She was the only vote against the war.
After the vote she huddled in a phone booth in the Republican cloak room until security could escort her to her office. She did not run for reelection but she said “I have nothing left but my integrity.”
Leaving Congress, Rankin spent time on her ranch in Montana and her cabin in Georgia. She continued her stand against war leading a 5,000 person protest march on Washingtn in 1968 where she offered a peace petition to House Speaker John McCormack.
The House honored her on her 90th birthday with a reception and dinner. In 1972 she was named the “World’s Outstanding Living Feminist” by the National Organization for Women.
When she died in 1974 she was thinking of running again for the House so she could protest the Vietnam War. Today there is a statute of Rankin in the Montana State House.
If you have ever studied American history you have probably heard of Jefferson Davis. He was the president of the Confederate States after they seceded from the United States in 1860 following the election of Abraham Lincoln. Many would have you believe the southern states left the union over the issue of state rights.
However, if you read the statements of Jefferson Davis, it is clear that slavery was the true cause of the conflict.
“If slavery be a sin, it is not yours. It does not rest on your action for its origin, on your consent for its existence. It is a common law right to property in the service of man; its origin was Divine decree.”
“African slavery, as it exists in the United States, is a moral, a social, and a political blessing.”
My own convictions as to negro slavery are strong. It has its evils and abuses…We recognize the negro as God and God’s Book and God’s Laws, in nature, tell us to recognize him – our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude…You cannot transform the negro into anything one-tenth as useful or as good as what slavery enables them to be.
It was one of the compromises of the Constitution that the slave property in the Southern States should be recognized as property throughout the United States.
The whole question was: Can a person be someone’s property? Davis argued that the Constitution recognized the right of protection of someone’s property. To him, the black man/woman were only property and therefore the Constitution’s promise that “every man is created equal” did not apply to them.
Of course, when the Civil War began, Jefferson Davis resigned his position in the United States Congress. Interesting that when the war was over and Mississippi was back in the Union, a black man was seated in Congress.
At that point representatives were not elected by the public, but rather by the state legislature. When the Republican dominated state legislature nominated Hiram Revels to fill one of the two seats, the minority Democrats agreed to the deal hoping this would “seriously damage the Republican party.”
Revels was never a slave. Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1827 his father was a free man and his mother was of Scottish ancestry. Although educating black children was illegal in North Carolina, Revels was able to receive an elementary education from a free black woman and later moved north to complete his education. After attending Beech Grove Quaker Seminary in Indiana and the Darke County Seminary in Ohio, he was ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was able to attend Knox College in Galesburg Illinois on a scholarship and graduated with a degree in divinity and theology.. Revels preached throughout several states inclulding Illinois, Ohio, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee. While preaching in Missouri he was imprisoned for a brief time in 1854 “for preaching to negroes.”
During the Civil War he helped recruit two black regiments and served as a chaplain for a black regiment at both Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi.
When Congress met to certify Revel’s place in Congress, some tried to deny him that position because of the 1857 Dred Scott decision which said no African American could be a citizen. When the 14th Amendment was ratified by the states making anyone born in the USA a citizen, they then tried to deny him by saying he did not meet the nine-year citizenship requirement. However, the 15th Amendment, which passed just days before Revel was sworn in, stated that no one could be denied to vote or hold office on “account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
The abolitionist Wendell Phillips called him “The Fifteenth Amendment in flesh and blood.”
Revels served on the Committee of Education and Labor and the District of Columbia Committee. He pushed for integrating the schools iin the District of Columbia and fought against the banning of African-American mechanics from working at the Washington Navy Yard.
Upon leaving Congress, he served as the first president of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University). He also served briefly as Mississippi Secretary of State. Teaching theology at Shaw College, he also served on the Board of Trustees. He returned to his roots as pastor and died at a church meeting in Mississippi in 1901 at the age of 73.
There is so much talk today about being racist. Many are quick to call others by that name while as many as quick to insist they are not racist and that they are tired of people using the “race card.”
While I have never been called a racist (at least as far as I know) and I would say I was not a racist, I still took a look at what the dictionary said a racist is.
According to Webster’s dictionary a racist is someone who holds “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”
A more complete definition lists: “Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to physical appearance and can be divided based on the superiority of one race over another. It may also mean prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against other people because they are of a different ethnicity. Modern variants of racism are often based in social perceptions of biological differences between peoples. These views can take the form of social actions, practices or beliefs, or political systems in which different races are ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities.”
Using that definition I think I can honestly say I am not a racist. I have never believed that one group of people is inherently superior to another.
But using that definition I must say that I was raised by a generation who were clearly racist. Let me say that my parents and my aunts and uncles were good people that I loved and respected. I don’t believe they realized how racist they were. But looking back at that generation I see it is so clear that prejudices have been passed down from generation to generation. Only within the last few years have many been able to recognize this and to work to break that terrible cycle of beliefs.
As a young adult I had many arguments with my father who insisted that black people’s brains were not as big as white people’s brains. He also had other beliefs about physical differences that I will not even mention here.
For years I thought my father was just a country boy who came up with some crazy ideas. It is only as I have begun to research and read the history of black/white relations in our country that I have discovered this was not some crazy ideas of one man. This was what he had been taught along with many of his generation.
And that terrible lie has been a part of our history going back even before our country was established.
As our country was founded and began growing, there were many physicians and scientists who advocated that there was a difference between the “pure” race (white) and Africans and Native Americans.
One was Dr. Charles Caldwell. Dr. Caldwell visited the Musee de Phrenologie in Paris where he studied a collection of skulls taken from people from all the world. After his study, he determined that the skulls of African people show that they had a “tamableness” that not only made them perfect for slaves, but actually required them to have a “master.” This belief which was shared throughout our nation served to contribute to the belief that slavery was an acceptable part of nature. It contributed to the idea that whites were superior.
Another was Samuel George Morton. Morton’s collection of skulls is today part of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and is one of the most famous collections of human skulls in the entire world.
Morton published a book in 1839. In “Crania Americana” he described five “separate species.
(Excerpt from “Crania Americana” showing the supposed differences between the skulls of different races. Morton claimed similarities between the skulls of primates and African people.)
They were (in descending order) Caucasian, Mongolian, Malay, Native America and Negro. He wrote that these differences were dictated by God. He concluded that Native American minds were “adverse to cultivation, slow in acquiring knowledge.” His book was very popular in America and many believe this was used to justify removing Native Americans from their homeland and taking the land for white settlers.
His book became popular in Britain, France, Germany, Russia and India. Charles Darwin called him an “authority” on the subject of race. Others applauded his work and many in European countries began to also publish such ideas.
You might think the abolitionist would not have bought into this thinking. But many of the renowned abolitionists also believed this. The apparent “tambleness” of the blacks served two purposes. One, it could reassure that if the slaves were set free, they would not take revenge on their masters. Two, if they were naturally weaker and inferior to whites, society had an obligation to help them, not enslave them.
While I am sure today almost anyone would say these studies were ridiculous, I believe that this thinking has been passed down generation after generation.
My parents did not dislike blacks. I saw them often be kind and friendly with blacks we came into contact with at church services. However, without really stopping to think, they had been indoctrinated with that thought that somehow we as whites were superior to blacks. It was an almost unconscious thing – as natural as breathing in and out.
I am not a racist and in tracing my ancestry as far back as I have been able, I find no record of anyone owning slaves. But if I remain silent when I hear or see others making comments that are racist because I am afraid of losing friends, then what does that make me?
Examples of things I have heard from others:
One pastor friend said “We did blacks a favor by taking them from the jungles of Africa.”
One family member moved from one mobile home park to another because a black family moved in across from them and asked me “Would you like living next to a black family?” My response was that I did have black neighbors and they were some of the best in our community.
One family member, when hearing that my husband had found that one of his ancestors was a slave from Ghana said, “Well, that explains a lot of things.” Was she just trying to be funny? Maybe – but still – that is not funny.
Finally, while I do not agree with most of the items on the BLM agenda and I am not in favor of rioting and destroying, I have found it interesting to see the anger of many of my white friends over the restrictions or loss of rights they have experienced with this Covid crisis.
For over a year now we have been told we cannot gather in large groups, many of our sports, our schools, even our churches have been shut down. We have been denied entry to most retail stores unless we wear a mask. And the anger is real. And the anger is right.
But – I have to ask:
If we get so angry for some loss of freedom for almost two years, how can we not see that the history of not only loss of freedom, but loss of life, not for two years but for hundred of years might lead to anger.
And, if you really want to know the history that our black friends know (passed down from grandparents) I recommend the following books:
Red Summer, the Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America by Cameron McWhirter
Forever Free, the Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction by Eric Foner
Wilmington’s Lie, the Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino
Life of a Klansman, A Family History of White Supremacy by Edward Ball
We can say we are not racists and we never owned slaves or we can begin to read and research our nation’s history and try to understand where our black friends and neighbors are coming from.
This past year has been so crazy! And the TV news channels I think have only added to the confusion and division.
Depending on whether you watch CNN or FOX News you usually get a different take on the same story. One evening I just flipped back and forth between the two and I could not believe as I listened to their coverage that they were talking about the same event.
Reporting both sides of an issue and then letting the listener decide what to believe seems to be a thing of the past.
Reflecting on this I recently was given a book to read called “How to Watch TV News.” Written by Neil Postman and Steve Powers several years ago (published in 1992) it was amazing how much the book speaks to our situation in 2021.
The authors share that America is suffering from an information glut. They ask a good question: “Are you watching television or is television watching you?” They point out that the news channel make their money by selling time for commercials. Their purpose is to make money – not report news. Accordingly, they spend a fortune determining what the public likes and does not like.
The book asks a great question: What is news? What makes an event worthy of prime time coverage? Recently Tiger Woods was in a automobile accident. For several days the accident was discussed at great length. What was the cause? How long would he be in the hospital? Would he be able to play golf again? Over and over pictures of his vehicle were shown.
Now I’m not saying that it was not a terrible thing that he was injured. But how many other people were in accidents that day? How many other lives were changed or made more difficult? What made Tiger Woods’ accidents “news?”
The journalist reporting the news will naturally view what is important and what is not important through their own viewpoint. Also, what they can and must report will be determined most of the time, not by them, but by the executives running the network. They will want to report the things they believe their audience wants to hear so that they will keep watching and the network can keep making profits from the revenue received from commercials.
According to Kelly Main of Fit Small Business:
The average TV ad costs $115,000 for a 30-second commercial on a national network.
TV advertising spending in North America amounted to 62.9 billion in 2020.
AMC’s “The Walking Dead” averaged $400,00 per 30 second spot.
Ask yourself: Why is the news mainly about “bad” things? Murders, fires, rapes, riots, unemployment figures, arguments in Congress. Why are there few news stories about the latest novel that has been written, a new symphony recently composed, research being done to cure cancer or other diseases?
The authors of this book suggest one reason is these events make poor television news because there is little to show about them. People watch television. They want to see active, exciting, intriguing pictures.
News executives have found people say they want the latest news presented by people “I can trust and respect.” Accordingly, they spend a lot of money to make their news anchors come across as good-looking, likable people. They work to build up the reputations of their anchors, spend money on makeup and clothing to give them a pleasing appearance. (When was the last time you saw a news anchor who was overweight, and not good-looking?)
My friends on the right side of the political debate love to watch Tucker Carlson. They believe he has the interests of the working class, patriotic Americans. However, he makes $6 million dollars a year from Fox and is believed to be worth $30 million. Of course, if he can share news from a viewpoint that the right wants to hear, he is assured to keep raking in his big salary. How can he impartially share news when his comfortable lifestyle depends on keeping his ratings up?
My friends on the left side of the political debate love to watch Don Lemon. They believe he speaks for the poor and the minorities in our country. However, he makes $4 million a year from CNN and is believed to be worth $12 million. So he too is going to share news that the left want to hear. How can he be impartial when that big salary is at stake?
The authors end by making some suggestions on what you can do when watching television news. One I loved was:
Reduce by at least one-third the amount of TV news you watch….if you are concerned that cutting down your viewing time will cause you to “miss” important news, keep this in mind: each day’s TV news consists, for the most part, of fifteen or so examples of one or the other of the Seven Deadly Sins, with which you are already quie familiar. There may be a couple of stories exemplifying lust, usually four about murder, occasionally one about gluttony, another about envy, and so on. It cannot possibly do you any harm to excuse yourself each week from acquaintance with thirty or forty of these examples. Remember: TV news does not reflect normal, everyday life.
The second one I loved was:
Reduce by one-third the number of opinions you feel obligated to have….Wouldn’t it be liberating to say…..”I have no opinion on this since I know practically nothing about it?”
I have no idea if this book is still in print, but if you can find it, I would highly recommend it. It is so fitting for today’s world.
We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God.
As I look at our chaotic world today with all the divisions as we try to cope with the problems the coronavirus and the recent election season has caused, I am saddened at the response of the church world.
It has astounded me how many in the church have taken to FB, Twitter accounts and other media to call those who disagree with them names, questioning their Christianity if they did not agree on a particular issue. While the fear, the anger, the questions we all have in this time of uncertainty is understandable, our response as Christians call us to a higher standard than those who are not followers of Christ. When the church begins to call our government leaders unkind names and suggest even violence to them, what does the world think of our message?
Have we not always said that Christ loves the whole world, that He came to save any who would call on Him? How then can we let our own emotions, our own political beliefs, our own understanding of the coronavirus bring us to this point? How can we then ask the world to believe in our message of love if our actions are anything but loving?
So what is an ambassador?
The dictionary tells us that an ambassador is an official representative of his/her government or sovereign appointed for a special and often temporary assignment. That person is chosen to act or speak for another, to represent the interests of another person.
So – as a Christian ambassador, I need to realize I am an official representive of Christ. When I call myself a Christian, I am taking on the role of acting/speaking for the interests, not of myself, but of Christ. My words, my actions will reflect on Christ and His church.
The first step in becoming an ambassador is to set aside one’s personal agenda. It is important to remember that God does not come into our lives to help us achieve our goals. That kind of human-centered teaching may be popular, but it is not biblical We are meant to spend ourselves in seeking God’s glory (not our own – or anther person’s or a particular group of people), achieving His eternal purposes (not our own temporal goals) and bearing witness to His truth (not our opinions.) …Cole Richards
When I look at the Early Church, I find a people who lived under the domination of a foreign power. People who did not have to struggle with being told to wear a mask or not to gather in large groups, but people who were told they would be imprisoned or even killed if they shared the message of Jesus. People who were beaten, thrown in an arena with lions. History tells us that all but one of Jesus’ disciples were martyred. Yet they responded with love and their only task was to continue to share the message of John 3:16 – “God so loved the world….”
If we cannot remain a people of love and whose main focus is to share Jesus in this time and situation, how will we survive if, God forbid, we ever face real persecution as the Early Church did?
Will we remain good ambassadors of Christ – or will we be too concerned for our own freedoms, rights to care about our leader’s whole purpose and goals who, hanging on a cross, said “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”?
This past year has been so full of noise. So many voices approving this point of view – attacking that point of view. If the voices had only been speaking of ideas, beliefs, policies, it might have been a good year of honest open debate. Sadly, I have found there was little true debate. It seems we all went into our own corners and listened only to those we agreed with.
The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply….Stephen R. Covey
Everyone has a right to be heard, but only if they are willing to listen to others in an attempt to understand….Eric Overby
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen….Winston Churchill
Know these my beloved brethren, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger….James 1:19
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion….Proverbs 18:2
To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people….Titus 3:2
I have been guilty myself of giving my opinion whether wanted or not, adding my own thoughts to all the posts and articles out there. In my devotion today I really felt convicted in my spirit as the Lord reminded me that my primary focus should be on Him and not the craziness around me.
I know many Christians are afraid of the new administration and what that might mean to the Christian freedoms. But looking at the Early Church I want to follow their example.
In Acts 5 we see where the apostles were put in prison for sharing the gospel and then warned not to do it again. Their response:
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
Note that they did not argue with the Sanhedrin, they did not complain or start a political movement. They praised God they were worthy of suffering for the cause of Christ and kept on proclaiming the good news about Jesus.
Earlier in Acts 4 after being imprisoned and then released the apostles met with the church and told them of the threats they had received. If that happened today – if my pastor was arrested and told not to speak any more about the Gospel – I imagine the prayer meeting that would follow would be for a cry for protection – for justice – for our rights to speak. However that was not where their focus was. Rather they prayed:
Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them….Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. THEY DID WHAT YOUR POWER AND WILL HAD DECIDED BEFOREHAND SHOULD HAPPEN. Now Lord consider their threats and ENABLE YOUR SERVANTS TO SPEAK YOUR WORD WITH GREAT BOLDNESS. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I know there are times when injustice requires us to speak out. I could also post that famous quote “Bad things happen when good men do nothing.” But to me today I have decided to leave all the discussions and comments to others. Going forward in 2021, this song I have attached is my prayer.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight O Lord!
I just finished reading a powerful book about the suffering of a Christian man imprisoned in Sudan for 445 days. While I understand the concerns of Christians here in our country that we might lose some of our religious freedoms, I had to once again see that we have no idea what real persecution for the cause of Jesus Christ looks like.
Petr Jasek,, a citizen of the Czech Republic and an aid worker, made a trip to Sudan in December 2015 to see what Christians could do to help their fellow Christians suffering at the hands of the government of Sudan. After meetings with local pastors and other Christians he was at the airport getting ready to return home to his family when he was detained for questioning by Sudan security agents. They took his computer, phone and camera and charged him with espionage, waging war against the state and undermining the constitution.
After hours of no sleep and repeated interrogation, he was taken to prison and placed in a cell approximately eight feet wide by fourteen feet long. There were already six men in the cell with only one bed. The five men without a bed slept on mattresses on the floor. The only space he had to lay his body down was next to the entrance to the bathroom. The shower was completely broken and the Western-style metal toilet was covered in rust. He saw a hose coming out of the wall for water but soon discovered that the water was only on once or twice a day.
I can’t imagine the stench of the room with seven men crowded together and no real facilities to maintain cleanliness.
Added to that horror, he soon discovered his fellow inmates were ISIS fighters. Although Sudan is an Islamist government, they did not want ISIS to find a home in their country because they were afraid they would win the people’s allegiance and their own control of the country would be lost to ISIS leaders.
He first realized who he was sharing his cell with when he was awaken at 4:30 a.m. by the call to prayer. The men in the cell rose to their feet and began their morning prayers. He was told that when they prayed he had to wake up and stand in the back corner of the room where they would not have to face him.
Since they had no access to news on the outside, they asked him to share the latest news. He immediately thought of the terrorist attack that had taken place in Paris earlier in November. At the mention of the death of 129 people, he was shocked when they at first became very silent, then began hugging one another and shouting with great joy “Allabu Akbar!”
After weeks of imprisonment he was set for a trial. While waiting for his trial he was moved several times to different prisons and different cells. Toward the end of his imprisonment he was able to share a cell with fellow Christians.
After delay and delay he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. A fine of 100,000 Sudanese pounds ($17,000) was also imposed on him.
For most of us I am afraid we would have been crying out to God “why me?” Petr came to the understanding that his time and his life were in the Lord’s hands. With confidence that God was still in control regardless of how hopeless things looked, he began finding opportunity to share the Gospel with other prisoners and with his guards.
One of his greatest joys while in prison was when he was allowed to have a Bible. He said
The Word of God is not chained – even when God’s people are. The Scripture is alive and active, and when I began feelings its activity in prison, I would not keep it to myself. The Lord began prodding me to share the Gospel with my fellow prisoners – nominal Christians, animists, and even Muslims….In prison I truly learned to love my enemies. I still pray for the ISIS prisoners and I pray that many Christian prisoners in Sudan might have the opportunity to share the Gospel as well.”
Thankfully the Czech government and Christians around the world continued to intercede for Petr and he was released in 2017 after 445 days.
This story is one worth reading. “Imprisoned with ISIS – Faith in the Face of Evil”.
The book is worth taking the time and money to read but you can also check out his story at
Next time I hear someone complaining about how we are persecuted in this country for being a Christian, I will just remember Petr’s story and say God help us if we ever really have to suffer persecution.
The last few weeks I have missed a lot of Sunday morning services at my church due to some health issues. Since I hate to have a Sunday without hearing a good sermon I have watched quite a lot of ministers on TV.
Let me start by saying this post is not meant to be a bashing of TV ministers. I have heard several excellent sermons based on the Bible that were challenging and encouraging.
However, there did seem to be a theme running through many of the ministries on the TV which I found not biblical and disturbing.
One recurrent theme seems to be that becoming a Christian means a life of material blessings and nothing but victories in every area of your life.
One service I watched on video had a pastor praying over the offering. I could not believe his words.
Basically he told God because the congregation were tithe payers, they were claiming:
promotions at work, increased interest on savings, great real estate deals, new sources of income.
I could not help but think: really, this is why Jesus died on the cross?
Granted, I believe Jesus has promised to bless those who follow Him and give to others. In my own life I have seen God provide for me and my family many times when we were in real need.
But I think Christians in America have come to think of material blessings as the main part of the gospel. Our country has been blessed with many freedoms and for many years Christian believers have been in the majority. We have experienced little persecution. On the contrary, until recently, our laws protected and even encouraged the Christian faith. Instead of recognizing how blessed we have been to be born in this country I am afraid we have come to think material blessings, freedom to worship as we please and laws that protect our way of life are all the “rights” of being a Christian.
Sadly, that is not what Christians in other countries have found to be true. And that is not what I believe the Bible teaches.
Do not misunderstand me. I am so grateful for being an American. My husband, our youngest daughter and I all spend time in another country teaching in a Bible college. As our plane touched down in Hawaii, I wanted to kiss the ground and thank God for being an American.
But these blessings of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness with all that entails is not what Jesus died for.
Jesus came to set up a kingdom but He made it clear it would not be a worldly kingdom with our own leaders. Rather He would be the one in charge. In His kingdom things would be much different than what we experience here in the USA.
His gave us an idea of what His kingdom would look like in His discourse we call “The Sermon on the Mount.” The things He said would make us “blessed” or “happy” were opposite of what we as Americans have come to think are our “rights.”
As we find our nation becoming more and more post-Christian – even anti-Christian – we are beginning to experience what the first Christians knew, what a large majority of Christians around the world know.
Jesus did not promise us “rights.” Rather, he called us to a high standard of love and commitment.
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.”
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? …
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.”
The early Christians did not demand their “rights.” They were focused on sharing the good news with all who would listen and willing to give up any right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I am not suggesting that we should not work to keep our government committed to the freedoms our fathers died for. My own father fought in the Pacific in World War II and my first husband (now deceased) was a Purple Heart recipient from the conflict in Vietnam. I honor and respect them and others who have given so much for our freedom.
But I am suggesting that we keep our eyes on God and not forget that nations rise and fall, politicians come and go, but God remains forever and His kingdom calls for us to be Christians first, Americans second.
Let us not confuse “success” as the measure of what is right.
“In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. . . . The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought that takes success for its standard.”….Dietrich Bonhoeffer
No offense meant – but as a Christian I cannot proclaim “America first” or even “demand” my rights.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
Those words are from Jesus as He spoke to the crowds about what it meant to be a part of the kingdom of God.
Where are the peace makers?
We are so divided as a nation today. So many divisions.
Democrat vs. Republican
liberal vs conservative
Trump is “God’s Anointed” vs Trump is evil
CNN’s version of news vs Fox’s version
pro-abortion vs. pro-life
“We need more gun control” vs. “You ain’t taking my gun!”
These divisions in and of themselves are not wrong. That has been one of the more amazing benefits of being an American. Freedom to think – and to speak – as you feel. May that freedom always be.
But over the past few years there has entered a very ugly element in our conversations.
Growing up in the America of the 50’s and 60’s it seemed to me when people disagreed the attitude toward the other party was basically ‘ “you are wrong, you don’t have all the facts, your logic is faulty .” But there remained an element of respect for the person with the different opinion.
Today it seems when two sides disagree there is no debate on the reasoning behind the different opinions. There is no trying to understand where the other person is coming from.
The answer to disagreement now is to call the other person names. Names that imply the other person is stupid – or even worse – evil.
I grant you when I find myself debating an issue with someone sometimes that thought of “stupid” or “evil” does enter my mind also.
But what bothers me is how Christians are falling prey to that temptation to call those with whom they disagree names and belittle them instead of debating the actual issues.
I see it so much on Facebook when a controversial post is made. How quickly the two sides end up not really debating the actual issue itself but saying the other person is “crazy” or “evil.”
What ever happened to the peace makers?
No matter what the “other side” does or says, as Christians we must remember who we claim to follow.
Years ago there was a saying “WWJD” (what would Jesus do). It got a little overused, but I wonder if we should not revive it.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In the volatile political season coming on us as we enter into the 2020 election, may I ask my fellow Christians please remember that Jesus said the sign of a true disciple was not which side of the political fence they walked, but rather was
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
By all means share your opinions, your ideas, vote as you please, but remember that Jesus died for liberals and conservatives. He loves Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi both – as much as He loves you!
And also remember Jesus said:
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”