while the world is falling apart…

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46

We live in a time of cultural seismic change. In society, including the church, certainly in politics. And if you’re not on board, then you’re not welcome.

Christians need to hold steady, just as the psalm tells us. Not be taking sides in the culture war, or whatever war is going on out there. But standing steady in the faith, come what may. On the truth of the gospel, and as found in Scripture.

We need to appeal to reason, but no matter what we say, we will face opposition. Of course we need to listen well, too. We can learn from those who oppose us, since they might have some truth in what they’re saying. After all, we have our blind spots too.

When it’s all said and done, we still hold steady to the truth as it is in Jesus and in Scripture. And we stake our lives on that, and nothing else. Confident in the God who has made himself known in and through Jesus.

the culture war and what’s come of it

Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.

Acts 24:24-26

Usually this blog doesn’t touch on anything political in the worldly, partisan sense, and I have no intent that this post will be an exception. And if it does, then I hope not to tip my hand as to where I might be in what essentially is a spectrum in which good, intelligent people differ.

I am a “baby boomer” and I remember well the rise of Moral Majority. I think in large part it was a response to the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v Wade, a stand against abortion, but also a stand against immorality, particularly against the rise of open homosexuality.

It is my opinion that the church involved in such pursuits as Moral Majority, largely lost its way to the extent it was involved in this. I am thinking of the conservative part of the church, evangelical, in which I was raised. There is the liberal or progressive wing of organized church, which lines up on the opposing side. And the Roman Catholic Church as a whole, on the conservative side, particularly against abortion, though many of its adherents depart from the church on issues such as birth control and homosexuality.

I believe the part of the church which has gone on this path, the path of the culture wars, regardless which side (though, like Christ’s letter to the seven churches in Revelation, there are numerous ways the church can become unfaithful to Christ), has frankly gone off on a side path, and in doing so stumbled, at least as far as its witness goes. We are present for one reason and one reason only: Christ and the gospel. When we give something like supreme allegiance to anything less, then we not only endanger our souls in the process, but the souls of those we are to be a witness to of the gospel.

Paul lived in a different time. No representative democratic republic such as we live in here in the United States. Roman rule was essentially totalitarian, and the Christian message was a direct affront to it, though the gospel had no intention of a rule like that which God has actually ordained in the world. It is a rule based on Christ, and the good news in him, someday to take over the earth in the new earth, but present now by the Spirit in the church.

But Paul cared about one thing, and that was his calling, and by extension, ours today as well: the proclamation and witness by word and deed and life, of the good news in Jesus. Of the world’s need of that good news. And what it means for everyone today. Including all who serve in government.

Interestingly, Paul’s message did impact people in government, and even members of the emperor Caesar’s household. And the impact of the church’s witness was exponential growth, God’s hand in it. Not, I would argue, what we’ve seen in my lifetime.

We need to get back to the basics. Yes, as US citizens we can and should, to whatever extent we’re led, participate in the political process. But we must not compromise our identity in Christ and what that means for the world. In terms of the good news in Jesus which can only begin to be fully understood and appreciated through the pages of all of scripture.

not crossing certain lines

…train yourself to be godly.

1 Timothy 4:7

I think one of the most important things even we older Christians can do today is to train ourselves to be godly. What godliness means might to some extent be up for grabs, since different theological schools will emphasize different things. Really godliness is beyond us, both in really understanding it, and certainly in applying it. We have the Spirit along with scripture, the word, and the church, particularly those who are examples to us in this. Only God can give us light in both helping us see, and be changed, as we are enabled to walk, or live in the light in Jesus as found in scripture.

Here in the United States, we live in a precarious time. Much division and even some hate seems to more and more embed itself and even mark our culture. And we Christians are not above being taken into it and yes, becoming a part of it. It is hard, because there are certain issues that we feel strongly about. Abortion, and then depending on our views, other matters as well. We need to apply scripture and the gospel to critique our views. There are some matters that people will end up disagreeing on, including Christians with each other.

What we need today is the discipline to stay on track, and not get off onto rabbit trails which end up not helping anyone at all. Addressing certain matters such as injustice, and being “pro-life,” along with other contentious issues like environmental stewardship, even government, the church and state, etc. We also need to determine that there are certain lines we simply won’t cross, along with the discernment to know what those lines are.

More often than not the best wisdom is simply to remain silent (Proverbs 17:28). To listen, to gather our own thoughts, and above all, to seek God’s wisdom with others. And to keep doing that. To learn to be reticent to speak. Then God can help us to know better just when we should and must speak out. But our emphasis must always be on Christ and the gospel and never on anything less.

the curse of the culture war

There is no doubt that there are some heavy duty issues on the board nowadays, although it will depend on which side of the culture war you’re on as to which are important or how much. We in Jesus need to take a stand for the poor and the helpless. And the desire to be good stewards of the earth. We will always and forever be considered backward by the world. We don’t buy into the sexual revolution that anything goes. But we do buy into Jesus’ promise that all can come.

The curse of the culture war perhaps most simply put is that Christians on either the left or the right get caught up into an agenda which at best is only partly of God’s kingdom, but is more or less of this world. I notice that Christians on either side march pretty much in lock step with either the Democratic or Republican Party or their ideal of that. And while everything is important in its place, it seems that this is front and center, often the ready topic of conversation for any day.

Again, I am not suggesting that Christians can’t have political leanings with regard to the world scene. And perhaps some are called to a political endeavor. The politics we as followers of Jesus should be engaged in is the politics of witness. Our witness as the church is in terms of the good news for us and for the world of God’s grace and kingdom come in Jesus. The difference that makes in our lives together and individually. Although realized only through Jesus and in his church, a light even for nations. So that for example instead of learning and training for war and building up their military (war machines), nations can learn and train for peace. Using violence strictly as a last resort to protect the innocent from evildoers. Even while we in Jesus continue to live out the ethic of the kingdom spelled out in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the way of the cross, the way of nonresistant love even against our enemies.

However this plays out for us and for our church we need to hold steady in  living out something of the answer and refuse to get caught up into an agenda which is something other than our calling in the grace and kingdom of God present even now even as we await its fullness for all things– in Jesus.

the lose lose of the culture wars

The United States for some decades now has been engaged in what has become known as the culture wars. If I look at the New Testament alone, the foundation Jesus laid and the work that went on from that, I really can’t make heads or tails about what is being said and promoted today by Christians. The failure is on a number of fronts. One of the key problems is the failure to rightly divide or handle accurately the word of truth. We fail to read the Bible in a way that while appreciating the whole understands where we’re at in the story in it. Another key misstep is our failure to keep the gospel front and center. Instead we go off on this and that tangent. And we arguably end up spot wrong on some issues, especially when it is politically heavy. We fail to keep the gospel and proclamation of Christ front and center.

Professing Christians are involved in this war left and right. Both are swallowed up into the vortex and in the end have little or nothing to show for it. Sadly sometimes those Christians who seem to be sidestepping the issues, and seem to be giving society a blank check for morality also seem more Christ-like. So many who are battling this have lost something vital, I’m afraid. How about this? The gentleness and humility of Christ. How about some brokenness over our own sin as well as the sin that is around us? How about a passion for the good news of Christ which plays out in compassion for our world? Instead* we opt to save America, bring America back to God, etc. I think we need to get back to the Bible and specifically the gospels and from that into the rest of the New Testament, while praying that the Lord will show us our place in today’s setting as we seek to live out our calling in Jesus for his sake and the gospel.

*I would have liked to nuance this better in the post. Many who want to “take back America” also have ministries of compassion to those in need. They may be wrong on the culture war front (I think they are), but it’s not like they’re not living for Jesus and the gospel at all.

the problem with the culture war mentality

I don’t like to dwell on problems, although I have an unhealthy propensity to do so. I would much rather dwell on the solutions and try to live in terms of that. Here in America there is a strong sentimental divide between the “left” and the “right” over a host of issues, ranging from moral to economic to political, etc. The problem with being caught up in this, as I see it, is that we end up not being able to see straight. We are bent on looking at things from a certain vantage point. And this is true from whatever point that is, including the “moderate.” Unless by moderate you mean the more helpful ideal of being willing to step back and try to consider everything as fairly as possible.

While I have certain positions on controversial subjects like abortion, homosexuality, climate change, science and faith, etc., I don’t care to get caught up in a war which amounts to defense of a turf which is of dubious value at best. As a follower of Christ it’s not to be about anything less than God’s grace and kingdom come in him. However the more difficult part comes in realizing that this occupation is not beside the point of where we live, even politically, as well as across the entire gamut of life. So it’s not like we’re absolved of the mess going on around us as we go off into our work of the kingdom. Quite the contrary. But that’s what in large part makes this challenging. We’re to be stepping into the land littered with land mines, but we do so in the way of Jesus with an agenda entirely different.

Does that mean we don’t deal with specific issues, and take a stand with regard to them? No, of course not. The whole difference though is in why we’re doing that and what our goal is. It is not to “save America,” or at least that can’t be among our main goals, even if it is a subsidiary activity for us. I think of Daniel’s faithful service to pagan governments even as a faithful Jew. It must be about God’s calling to us in Jesus as his people and kingdom on this earth, no less.

This is why unless you’re a political junkie (and maybe there’s a time for some of that), most talks about politics are surely a waste of time. You either have a debate going on that will likely not be much of a debate, or you have a lot of backslappers also slapping up the enemy. It is as bad on the left as it is on the right. Since I come from the right (not that I consider myself that), I mostly see the problems on that side.

The call here for us, I think, is to keep our attention on God’s will in Jesus, nothing less. That is an exercise in itself, regularly praying and looking into the Book, meeting with God’s people regularly for mutual edification, and being out and about our Father’s business in and through Jesus for the gospel and as a witness of the life change that is occurring through the new creation and kingdom come in him. From that we may be given some creative approach to help with the problems in the here and now. Especially for those who are poor and in dire need. We need to find that course and hold steady to it.

the culture wars

Last evening I watched a deeply disturbing, troubling, but I think insightful documentary, regardless of which side you’re on in the creation/evolution debate. I don’t like to frame it that way since I am an evangelical Christian who believes the Bible is the word of God, and that God is indeed the Creator of heaven and earth. But I also accept evolution. Most of the time I lay low on this, knowing the ire, even contempt that can come against those who hold this view. I know the other side too can experience that, though I think it often is more in terms of incredulity as people are astounded by the lack of science, or how the book of God in nature, called general revelation, is not accepted on its own terms. Of course in the end all truth is God’s truth. The heart of that truth is the good news of Jesus and God’s grace and kingdom come in him. All of scripture for the Christian is fulfilled, and therefore seen in light of this gospel.

Here is the blog of a website of an organization committed to the Christian faith, working through the issues of faith and science.

I can’t identify with today’s culture wars. I just don’t line up on the Christian side, even though I’m not on the other side. In issue after issue I find myself questioning our stance in reference to following Jesus, and to truth itself. That being said, the world would consider me a conservative Christian. And I would not be surprised to see some serious issues coming to a head over our faith in the coming days in reference to law and society. I can only hope that freedom will remain for us to live by the dictates of our conscience in accordance with our faith.

In the meantime, I think we need to stay in the word and prayer in community in Jesus, to the goal of fulfilling our missional calling to the world. What that looks like with reference to the hot button issues of today we pray will be Jesus-like. And true to God’s calling and the truth as it is in Jesus.