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When The Gospel Becomes a Tool for the Oppressor: Lessons from the Life of Nat Turner

slave

I recently watched the film, “Birth of a Nation” and was struck by one of the themes in the film. The story seeks to tell the story of Nat Turner and the slave revolt that he led in the year 1831.The story is an adaptation of the real account of Nat Turner, a slave, and  a preacher who in retaliation against his unjust treatment snaps and led a rebellion that resulted in the deaths of over 50 white men, women and children. It was a horrible event, one that would eventually spur both sides on the slavery debate to bolster their arguments; the abolitionists pointed to the evils of slavery that would cause such a response, while the southerners reacted by issuing even harsher laws against slaves and fighting against the education and rights of the slaves to engage in church services.

One of the more moving themes in the movie centered around the use of Nat Turner to suppress any agitation or frustration that the slaves had against their master. The movie depicts Nat Turner as a traveling preacher who is called upon by other slave owners to encourage the slaves to submit to the cruelties and obey the commandments of their slave owners. Nat was shocked to see that in some plantations many of the slaves were treated worse than those in his community. He saw many slaves who were, maimed, broken down, both mentally, spiritually and physically. He was told by the slave owners to specifically preach on passages of the bible that focus on service and obedience and submission, neglecting passages that speak about cruelty, the evils of slavery, and the evils of turning a blind eye to such atrocities.  It became difficult for Nat to reconcile his message for obedience and submission when he and those he loved were being brutalized. In the film, Nat’s wife was gang raped, and he ends up being beaten for resisting his master’s increasing attempts to dehumanize his slaves. In one instance Nat’s master allows one of his guests to rape the wife of his fellow slaves. The dissonance between the gospel that Nat read in the Bible and the failure to apply that gospel by his “christian masters”was one of the chief driving forces that caused Nat to snap. Nat Turner saw himself as a biblical prophet whom God would use to inflict his judgement on the slave owners.

Though the movie was an adaptation, it did carry true themes. During those times there was often indiscriminate killing of slaves, raping of women, and brutal violence that was perpetrated by “god fearing” men.

In many places slaves were forbidden to meet and worship, even though one of the justifications for slavery was for the christianization and civilization of the heathen.

In 1834 the Presbyterian Synod of Kentucky wrote:

“Slavery deprives its subjects, in a great measure, of the privileges of the gospel. The law, as it is here, does not prevent free access to the scriptures; but ignorance, the natural result of their condition,does. The Bible is before them. But it is to them a sealed book. Very few of them enjoy the advantages of a regular gospel ministry.” *

Again another account

In 1800, South Carolina declared: “It shall not be lawful for any number of slaves, free Negroes. mulattoes, or mestizos, even in company with white persons, to meet together and assemble for the purpose of mental instruction or religions worship, either before the rising of the sun or after the going down of the same. And all magistrates, sheriffs, militia officers, etc., etc., are hereby vested with power, etc., for dispersing such assemblies.”

WEB Dubois in his work, “The Negro Church” writes the following:

Moreover, the masters clung to the idea that, the chief use of religion among slaves was to make them “obey their masters.” When it was charged that slaves were not allowed to rend the Bible, one naive answer was that it was read to them, especially “those very passages which inculcate the relative duties of masters and  servants.” An intelligent Negro, Lundsford Lane, thus describes the religious instruction of slaves :

There was one hard doctrine to which we as slaves were compelled to listen, which I found difficult to receive. We were often told by the ministers how much we owed to God for bringing us over from the benighted shores of Africa and permitting us to listen to the sound of the gospel. In ignorance of any special revelation that God had made to master, or to his ancestors, that my ancestors should be stolen and enslaved on the soil of America to accomplish their salvation, I was slow to believe all my teachers enjoined on this subject. How surprising, then, this high moral end being accomplished, that no proclamation of emancipation had before this been made ! Many of us were as highly civilized as some of our masters, and as to piety in many instances their superiors…

There was one kind-hearted clergyman whom I used often to hear; he was very popular among the colored people. Rut aft,er he had preached a sermon to us in which he urged from the Bible that it was the will of heaven from all eternity that we should be slaves, and our masters be our owners, many of us left him, considering, like the doubting disciple of old, ‘This is a hard saying ; who can hear it?

What was of note in the film and in history  was the political use of preachers to legitimize and authorize a system of economic oppression, corruption and greed. The Bible contains many passages about slavery, but what was interesting is the selective use of scriptures to validate their message. Just as scripture had mandates for the slave to the slave owner, they also had mandates for the master to the slave.These passages were not emphasized by many. In fact it was the silence on slavery’s appalling aspects that allowed  slavery to be  accepted despite the abolitionist’s best intentions.

A gospel that speaks only to individual sins and not against the systematic sins and fallenness in our earthly kingdoms is an incomplete gospel. Christ did not just come to redeem individuals. He came to redeem humanity. 

A church is not a mature church if it fails to speak out against the atrocities of the  powerful against the “least of these”. 

A church is not a mature church if it fails to act in compassion to serve and minister to the broken citizens and sojourners in its midst. 

I believe the evangelical church has lost much of its influence and its prophetic ability to speak against some of the systemic problems that plague our country. Just as in earlier times many leaders focused on certain issues while ignoring others. It happened in Nat Turner’s day, it happened in the Civil Rights Era and it is happening today.

I have often heard admonition to the poor and needy to remain patient and to hold on such as passages in James 5:7-12

 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the doors. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation.

However how often have you heard Elders teach on the judgement on the perpetrators and on the fallen system found in  versus 1-6.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure[a] for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.

Now we have  a host of issues that are plaguing our nation that the evangelical church ignores often to avoid the charge of being political such as

  • Mass incarceration ( The United States has a higher incarceration rate per capita than any other nation)
  • Immigration problem (What do we do with those who are here illegally. What is a way that we humanely deal with families, how do we deal with deportations)
  • Military industrial complex (War for profit)
  • Racism ( Americas primordial national sin)

However many in the evangelical community have no problem getting political when it comes to these issues:

  • gay marriage
  • abortion

These are complex issues and how a church should get involved is tricky. Rather than speak about policies, I think at the least we should speak about principles and values that undergird the policies that are created. How should we treat our neighbor, not just overseas, but the one on the other side of the tracks. How do we treat people whose faith is different from ours. We live in an age of division, and we need to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath. The more we are connected to our neighbors the more understanding and nuanced we will be in our beliefs and in our politics.  The church can never lose its focus on Christ’s work on the cross and our call to biblical fidelity and discipleship. However we do need to at least have these discussions.

Our politics should not limit our ability to be truth tellers. The onus of the church is not to come up with the solutions to these issues because some of these issues will only be dealt with when Christ returns. However, morally awakened men are more likely to create godly legislation. The onus of the church is to call foul, those things that are foul and to be the moral voice and conscience of the nation. It should definitely not be the media.  

Now more than ever we need the church to hear the cry of a divided nation and be able to unite us all not into a political party but unto a kingdom. If we our too entrenched in a political side we will not be able to reach those outside our political ghettos.  Our politics is killing us. It is diluting our ability to be salt. It is blinding us. We need to pray for our leaders. Pray for our president.Pray for those who agree with us and for those who disagree.

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Don’t freak out when the familiar becomes unfamiliar.

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The one thing ISIS got right

ISIS Al-Qaeda Militants Fighting Syrian Civil War

Its amazing to see the phenomenon known as IS or ISIS grow in the speed it has. From a relative unknown faction fighting in a civil war, the group has grown from a local unknown militia, to world wide terrorist group. Fueled by political and religious motivations, the group has been recruiting young, idealistic, frustrated, disenfranchised and confused youth by skillful propaganda. Ironically, its draw; the invitation to take on the wicked governments who are killing women, children and civilians has been the very thing that ISIS has itself turned into. Beheading christians and muslims from other sects is a norm for the organization.  Now with members  in the tens of thousands, the group has been making gains in Iraq, and in Syria, but is now being opposed by coalition forces in Iraq, and by other rebels in Syria.

There are a host of narratives that are intriguing about the religion, politics, and eschatology as it relates to ISIS and its intersection with Christianity but the one I want to address is this question.

What if Christianity was as successful at sending new missionaries to the front lines as ISIS?

There are many different hypothesis that experts are using to explain the growing numbers of recruits. Some call it the perfect storm of propaganda, idealism, disenchantment, adventure and opportunity. We are seeing young people leave their homes, with out any consideration of their future, their families, or even well being to fight what appears to be a glorious fight, against what is being painted as “an evil enemy”. These people with no military background are jumping to the front lines and willing to give up their lives for what they consider an honorable cause. We know that these recruits are falling for a bait and switch, and that the righteous cause that they thought they were joining is really more wicked and depraved than the governments they are opposed to.Yet something has to be said about the undertone, the undercurrent and the narrative to be apart of something more about building a kingdom that has caused so many young people to join.

The words of Jesus come to mind when I think about the willingness to give up everything.

25Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Now, I know the phrase hate his own father, mother and wife will throw people off. Jesus is not telling his disciples to hate their families, because we know that Jesus’ main command is to love God and to love our neigbhors. What he is saying that we cannot let even the things we hold dear keep us from following Christ. In order to follow Christ, we must be prepared to leave the things we consider most precious to us, our family, and even our lives. These things may not always be necessary, but in the event that they do stand in the way Jesus says we should be prepared to give up everything. The invitation to carry the cross, is an invitation to death, its a call that says to follow Christ we must subordinate our dreams, desires, expectations, and plans and hopes for our lives for something greater. We are no to no longer focus on building our own kingdoms, but the kingdom of God. We must be ready to give our lives to following Christ and building his kingdom. My brothers and sisters in Egypt know this well, as many of them lost their lives to ISIS soldiers and recognized that this high cost of giving their lives was worth knowing and gaining Christ.

My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ around the world,

We are invited to the greatest mission in the world. We are also fighting an enemy, a system, a corrupt kingdom with the greatest dictator of them all. He like Pharoah refuses to let his slaves go, and he is willing to fight tooth and nail, not only to prevent his citizens from leaving, but to reenslave those who have left his grasp. Our weapons however are not physical, they are spiritual.

for though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Our primary weapons are prayer, God’s word and disciplined lives of obedience. Their is an evil dictator that we cannot take down with AK47’s antitank weaponry, and bombs. The way we take him out is by our groups of militias (churches) praying , and preaching, and confronting the idealogies and false gods of this world, that are holding the world captive. We must discipline ourselves against sin, and make sure that we do not get carried away with the materialism, secularism, or racism that has imprisoned the world. We must love our enemies, and pray for them. To my brothers and sisters in Lybia, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, India, Pakistan, Russia, and China. Please continue to pray for those soldiers who may be killing your family. Pray that they may come to the light. Pray that they may know the one true savior, Jesus. For my brothers and sisters around the world, let us pray for patience and strength for our family who is being persecuted. Let us also pray for protection and that the forces such as ISIS may be stopped.

There are many things that ISIS errors on, but the one thing that it got right, is it knew it had to invite people into a bigger story, a larger narrative. We as believers must invite people into something bigger, something timeless, something eternal. Its about establishing the kingdom of God and joining in the work of spreading the gospel around the world.

The world is a volatile one, and will continue to be one until Christ comes. In the mean time we must recognize who the real enemy is. Yes there are corrupt government officials, but there is one even more corrupt pulling the strings. The god of this world is using these so called leaders as puppets. I am by no means saying that we should not seek political means to fight, but we should recognize that they can only do so much.

We need more laborers, we need more soldiers in this fight. We fight on our knees. Please join with me in praying that those in darkness may come to the light. Pray for more laborers. Pray for your brothers in the West who have been caught up in living for themselves, and pray that our Lord Jesus may come soon.

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Life in Transition: A short devotion for immigrants, refugees and the unemployed

The world is in chaos. Those of us in the west, especially the states are ignorant of the chaotic effects of wars and fighting that is happening abroad.

No one wants to become a refugee, but there is a moment when a person acknowledges that their best hope of survival, or escape from prison and torture depends on them leaving home in search of a safer place. More recently refugees are likely to be from Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Iraq. Right now  according to the UNHCR there are approximately 11 million people around the world who have fled their countries, and around 4o million people who either have no state to call home, are displaced in their own country, or have fled outside of their country due to violence and threats of physical harm.

Besides this you have millions upon millions of families, men, women who have left their home countries in search of a better means of living.These two groups are different, but they both share a common understanding; the best hope for a better life is to leave their country.

There are many scriptures that speak about being immigrants, and even refugees but the two I want to highlight are these:

Psalms 84:5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage

and

14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:14-16)

Every believer in Christ must acknowledge that they are in a foreign land. There’s an old expression that says this world is not my home, we are just passing through. I love the Psalms 84 verse because it talks about a mindset that we all must have. Our hearts are set on a pilgrimage. We have left everything behind in the hopes of meeting something better. We have our hearts on seeing God, but not just seeing God but on living with God.

What empowers us on this journey is what the Psalmist says in verse five. Blessed are those whose strength is in you. We must hold on to our trust and hope in God. When we understand that God is with us, it empowers us to face the uncertainty, the pain of leaving loved ones and possessions behind, the fatigue, the tired muscles, and tearful and sleepless nights. Draw your strength from God. When you feel you are at your breaking point, realize that God is with you. Peter tells us to cast our burdens on the Lord because he cares for us. God cares for you. You may not know where you are going, but God does. He may not show you everything, but hold on to him, let him take you and carry you step by step.

 

The other idea that this verse communicates is that this life is a journey. We should be prepared to move. The early Patriarchs understood this, because they were nomadic people. Even if they settled down, they had an understanding that they would not be there forever. They were constantly pitching their tents.

Our bodies are our tents, and for many they are wearing down fast. They often are torn, they suffer wear to where they begin breaking down, lose their luster, and get harder and harder to pitch. These bodies are just temporary, so we too should prepare one day to lose them in hopes of better ones.

For those of us in relatively affluent countries we should realize that there are practical elements for us too. Sometimes you lose your job, some family, friends, and even health. This is all part of the journey. We can’t hold on to these things, because their temporal. They don’t last. Yet we know that God has something better prepared for us.

In the event of loss, we should believe that God will provide comfort and blessing in this life, but know with certainty that he has something better for us in the life to come. What I’m saying is that God is a good God, and he often times heals when we are sick, gives us other jobs when we lose them, other homes when our old one’s leave, and a new family when some of our family members pass. There are times when we lose things that God immediately gives us something better or just as good than what we had before. Other times when we leave things behind,  the new place isn’t always as good as the old. Sometimes you have to start at the bottom again, and work your way up. It’s not guaranteed that you will surpass your old condition in this life, but we don’t live for today. We live for tomorrow, for our kids and the next generation. Remember the second temple did not possess the same external glory as the first, but God does promise something better in the life to come.

For believers in your home countries

  • Pray for our brothers and sisters who are forced to leave. They are in Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Egypt, all over.
  • Don’t fear the immigrant, share Jesus with them. Often some of these immigrants are muslim. If you are in a western country share the Love of Christ with them, and the hope that they can know that they can go to Heaven if they trust and believe in Christ.
  • Extend hospitality. Invite someone to dinner. Share a meal with them. Share your life.
  • Teach them your countries language.
  • Volunteer at your local camp.
  • Give money to reputable agencies who are providing assistance

To all of you who have left your homes, remember for those in Christ God is preparing you a better home. My prayers are for you, take comfort in God and may he send his angels to comfort you.

 

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Obama and the Death of the Christian Nation

Its 2012 and its time to wake up. America is no longer a christian nation. Yes our country was founded on judaeo-christian values, yes there are millions of christians in the United States. Yes the American Church still possesses the greatest natural resources of any nation in the world, but politically and socially the influence of evangelicals on shaping policy and culture has fizzled. Did Obama deal a death blow to our idea of a Christian Nation? N0, that ideal has been dying for some time and our understanding of ourselves as a “Christian Nation” which should govern exclusively for christians needs to change. The sooner we realize this the sooner we can stop lamenting the fact that our government no longer caters or actively courts the evangelical voice. In fact to many it may seem that the government actively denies and acts against the concerns of its “christian constituents.” and you know what it might be a good thing.

So lets unpack a little what it means to be a Christian nation. Our forefathers wrote that we are “one nation under God”, and in one sense that is true, God is sovereign over every nation, yet as a country I don’t know many who are in complete submission to his will. In America much of our political talk still contains allusions to scripture, passing homages to “God” but even still this is decreasing at an alarming rate. There are fights to take God out of everything; out of our money, off of the pledge of allegiance, and even out of the court rooms. This has been going on for the past couple of years. There has been a gradual loss in the use of public places such as schools for worship. Christian organizations have had their personal beliefs infringed on by having to provide “abortive” contraceptions to their workers. Abortion has been legal for almost 40 years, though the number of abortions has been declining yearly irrespective of party. Then to add insult to injury the  6000 year old understanding of marriage has suddenly changed to be not just between one man and one women, but any consenting adults regardless of gender.

Wow! But as bug’s bunny would say ” That’s not all folks” Our great country has been a war monger across the world, though thankfully it has slowly ended two wars. Yet there is talk of initiating what would become the third world war that some feel all too comfortable with because it fits in their eschatological framework. Racism abounds in our 50 states, the last four years have unmasked its hidden nature. Immigrants are spoken of as if they were the scum of the earth, corporations infringe on the rights of the most marginalized people, and the charity that binds us has begun to unravel before our eyes.

Where is the love of our enemies whether idealogical, or political? Where is the honor for our leaders? Where is christian charity on the public platform?

Does God really want Obama to be president is not the question we should be asking? The real question is why do we rely on the secular government to fulfill kingdom purposes?

I have seen two major flaws during this election season by christian by both sides. One is a demonizing of the “other” for political purposes, and the other is an over dependence not he government as if the government is savior.  We rely on government to legislate morality, to force tolerance of others, to rescue the least of these.

You can take this to the bank. God will use our government for better or worse to produce in the American Church that which it needs to become the bride he made her to be. Yes the church has lost much of its political clout, but maybe that will force her to depend on God and not man. Who knows if the country will go through an economic uptick or another downturn? I do know that whatever is ahead God will use adverse situations to cause us to trust more in his power and provision.

In political discussion we hear talk about mandates. What will be the next president’s mandate, what will they run on. What about the church’s mandate. What is the evangelical mandate?

It hasn’t changed since the last words of our commander in chief; To preach the gospel in all the nations and make disciples. There are millions of lost people. Our country is in desperate need to see christian love in action. There are millions who are lonely, depressed, confused, orphaned, divorced, displaced, sick, unemployed.  Obama stole our message when he campaigned on Hope.  We as believers know that hope does not come through the government of this world, but only when we place our trust in the king of Kings. We as believers must demonstrate the hope and love of God that points to something beyond this world. This only lies in the gospel. My prayer for our country after a divisive election is for us to pray for our country. Pray for our president. Pray for godly counsel for our elected officials, but more that God would let his love pour throughout us whether our guy won or loss, and that we would ramp up our efforts to proclaim the greatest King of all Jesus Christ. In Love, The Herald.

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Lessons from the Dark Night Rises

With the backdrop of  the senseless tragedy in Aurora Colorado, the constant reminders of the untimely departures for many from this life, I decided to watch the Dark Night Rises. I have to admit part of me in a weird way felt guilty for watching it, as if my participation in the theater was somehow not showing proper respect for the victims. Seeing men slaughtered by machine gun fire by the villain five minutes into the film did not assuage that uneasiness.That uneasy feeling however eventually succumbed to the greatness of the story. Nolan does an excellent job of drawing you into the world of Gotham. Gotham is a powerful city, a city that has been supposedly rehabbed its image, by cleaning up its villains locking them up in mass. The police force develop a pride, a hubris at its new found success in crime fighting only to find out that a storm has been brewing right under their eyes, the likes it has not seen in years. The city’s solution to the problem;The Dark Night, Gotham’s savior has been blamed for the evils of the past, and now with the storm coming it is only the few faithful followers who know that the city’s only hope for survival is to invoke his name that he might fight off their remaining enemies.

The power of movies, and of stories is that they can be seen as windows and commentaries to our own world. Gotham is a dark city, not to far from the fallen urban centers we live in today. Our nation like Gotham served as a beacon of light to the world; a moral, economic, and political model of success. We became prideful and ascribed our success to our own ingenuity and bravado. We began to scandalize the virtues and principles which were foundational for our prosperity, and have continued to blackball and malign anyone who claims our success was due to its savior, and indeed the savior of all creation; Jesus Christ. Today we are in the midst of a crisis; people are scared, children are parent-less, men are jobless, families are falling apart, our idol of economic superiority that brought us comfort and ease is crumbling before our eyes, our political system has proven to be corrupted by greed and tribalism, and our moral fiber has disintegrated to a rubbish heap of relativism.

There is a reason why there are crazed lunatics who kill innocent movie goers. Its called depravity. The effects of sin, in a world that refused to blush at its name. Instead the virtues of rebellion are touted as freedom from religion and superstition, freedom from the tyrant on high and his despotic son who are set to ruin all civilization. We think we are righteous in our own eyes. We don’t need a hero. We have it all under control. Meanwhile the vices of greed, sexual immorality, malice, covetousness, idolatry have been festering under the surface, only to bubble up when our fascade of prosperity was removed.

I am concerned for my country. I pray for it. Our leaders are blinded, our educational system is failing, our churches are dying. We are as divided as we were right before the civil war. We are under threat externally, but it is the internal divide that is at a boiling point. People are frustrated, and angry, like a powder keg waiting to go off, we are one large failure setback away from rioting and internal chaos.

What is the solution to this? The gospel of Jesus Christ. Unlike the Dark Night, however, Jesus knows what is going on, he has defeated his enemies and is aware of all their workings; he is in total control. He has done his work, he has given his gift of salvation, It is available to all those who call on him. He is coming back again to set up and remake our world. That is the hope of all those who trust in him. It is the hope he offers all cities under the grip of sin, the weapon of the ruler of the world; who is the greatest despot of all.

There’s a scene in the movie where all those who try to fight against the villain Baine and stand up for truth; the righteous, are killed. This has been true throughout the history of the church, and disturbingly may be something we see in our own country within time. I want to encourage my brothers and sisters in the faith, to open our eyes and like Jude said contend for the faith which was once and for all delivered unto us. Let us pray for our friends and family who are blind to the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ, and labor in proclaiming that there is only one savior, one name by which all men can be saved and that is the glorious name of Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory, honor, and power. Amen.

There are many who may not see the Dark Night Rises, and many who will see it two to three times. Personally I enjoyed the movie.  I believe Nolan did an excellent job in re-creating the world of Gotham, of telling the story of a lost city in need of its savior. The movie was obviously more layered than that, but regardless of whether one goes or not, I think it is always helpful for us believers to recognize that the fascination for super hero movies is really just the drive to know deeper the super hero that truly lives; Jesus.

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July 25, 2012 · 11:59 am

Freedom Ain’t Free

You ever have one of those conversations where all of a sudden someone says something so simple, and then you get one of those aha moments. In the course of conversing about the ills and perils of America with a very nice young man from Africa, he said something profound; Americans have too much freedom.

Now I know some patriotic folk are going into convulsions and epileptic seizures reading this; “thur aint no such thing as too much freedom, I gots the rights to carry this here musket anywhere; who knows i might just meet a terrorist on a way to the grocery store buyin one of dem, what you call it fa laugh fulls.”

Some of my liberal folk on the other extreme are somewhere parading and protesting down some street or on some media outlets, about their freedom to be able to live with, have sex with, or marry anyone they choose, and though they have the freedom to do these things; you do not have the freedom to disagree. I guess this is the home of the brave, and the land of the free only for some. In a related point, although not in the United States, but in our older brother state the UK, did you hear about the couple who was denied the right to adopt because they stated that they did not agree with the practice of homosexuality? I fear America is not too far behind, after all in only a couple of years I can imagine churches and pastors who refuse to marry same sex couples losing their tax exempt status.

Then there are those who have forgotten that the act of sex though pleasurable was biologically created for the act of reproduction. So in the course of sleeping with eight, five or in reality one too many guys, find themselves with another fatherless child, or an infant who’s life will be snuffed out by a vacuum, forceps or some other metallic prong before he’s ever able to see the light of day; after all a woman has the right to choose what happens to her baby, and you little embryo have no rights at all, not until your able to wear a onesie.

Speaking of choices, what about those who speak about legalizing drugs, and I’m not just talking about marijuana, but cocaine, meth, PCP; I’m sure they had their kids in mind when they thought of that. Billy here’s some money why don’t you buy yourself some candy, and while you’re at it get dad 10 grams of crack. While you’re at it if you feel like becoming a man today, there will be a prostitute around the corner, don’t worry about the cops; it’s all legal now so the prices should all be cheaper. Wow what a wonderful world we live in.

Heh brother, I believe you are getting to political.

Well lets talk about some basic things like dating.

So I guess its okay for me to date six girls in three months, kiss, rub on and touch them in places that only their husband should touch them, tell them I love them, and then break up with them, because they were just crazy and had issues; and heh I didn’t have sex with them, but I sure did lie to them, and heh she wanted to make out just as much as me.

Then for the married folk who are fortunate to get married, after a couple of months of arguments find out you didn’t marry “the one”, divorce him, marry someone else who again turns out to be only about money, divorce him, and then find out I’m just not into marriage, I’ll just live with my boyfriend, who happens to change every 6 months. People marry and divorce like it’s a game of checkers; but heh we have the freedom to, so let’s do  it.

What about the movies and songs we listen too. Lets listen to 2 hours full of profanity,blasphemy, and slandering of the name of God, for a couple of cheap laughs or thrills. Then when we’re finished let’s go online,  illegally download some songs we didn’t buy, because after all that is what technology was made for. Who needs to go to the movies when I can burn or stream it from a million different websites.

One of the passages that never ceases to amaze me is the passage in Exodus 32. The Israelites lived as slaves for over 400 years, during such time they were forced to hard labor, whippings, marginalization, and psychological oppression. They were forced to believe they were less than the Egyptians, had no history, and even worse that their God was just a myth. In one the greatest displays of power and love, their God sends them a prophet Moses, who with his guidance and assistance , performs a series of miracles, that reveal He is the only true God, and that he  has chosen the Israelites as his holy people to worship him, all while breaking the back of the most powerful empire in the world. The people literally walk through the sea, with 50 feet walls of water on the side. They are delivered from slavery, and then only a short time later they are in distress because their prophet has been gone for a couple of weeks. Freshly delivered from their chains, they wallow in their freedom, their prophet is gone, their God who saved them is absent, or not dependable, so they say heh, lets do what we want to do.

So they decide to throw the biggest party ever. They get the drummers, get the dancers, the singers,  and lets not forget the lovely ladies,they pool all of their money together and with assistance of the religious leaders, form a marvelous golden idol. This party is so off the chain, that when Moses hears them coming down from the mountain he pauses while Joshua and himself try to figure out what kind of noise is emanating from below. Its so crazy, that they compare it to it sound of people getting ready for war, with all the drums beating, and the people screaming, and howling. Some scholars point to the fact that there were literally orgies going on. After all 400 years of oppression, means that there will be one hell of a liberation. Literally. This is the picture of freedom. Or let me clarify, a freedom without God. Romans 1 paints the picture like this

What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

24-25So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!

What we end up with is a sad mess, where people who are left to their own devices without God end up destroying themselves.

As Christians the bible tells us we have freedom; but to use it cautiously. Here’s Paul in Galatians.

13-15It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

In conclusion, we have to be responsible with what we are given. When we recognize our limits, or weaknesses we need to continue to seek out help. Think of yourself as a millionaire with a gambling problem in Vegas. You have the money, but left to your own devices you will be broke, homeless, and in jail. God has given us freedom, but let’s not live selfishly, lets live selflessly, and help those still bound in sin. Remember freedom ain’t free, because we were bought with the precious blood of the Lamb.

In Christ,

The Herald

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