In the material presented by Jesus in the Sermon on
the Mount, He teaches us critical characteristics of the citizens of God's
Kingdom. Matthew 5:8 states,
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of
God." Some believe this verse
teaches that Christianity and military service are incompatible. In response to this verse, I heard a man say
it is hard to be a peacemaker if you are pointing a gun at someone. I guess that is true, but I would not say
that military service is incompatible with Christian faith. However, the
pacifist position toward military service from a biblical perspective has
There are many important teachings in the Old
Testament that suggest military service is a common and necessary part of human
society. Numbers 1:3 refers to the
enrollment for military service.
Deuteronomy 24:5 instructs the Israelites to exempt a newly married man
from military service. The fierceness in
battle of David's mighty men is highlighted in 2 Samuel 23:8-ff. That God used warfare to set things right and
secure land for Israel is clear. The
idea of military service is not incompatible when you look at the big picture
of God's dealing with humans. If there
was something inherently wrong with military service, the New Testament writers
could have made that point. We have
several references to soldiers in the New Testament. Paul parallels the Christian life to that of
a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4). He also
refers to military equipment and weapons as a parallel for the spiritual
warfare we face (Ephesians 6:10-17.)
A nation's armed services (and police force) is a
necessary part of the responsibility of human governments to protect the
citizens and enforce the laws (Romans 13:1-7).
Christians involved in the armed services bring honor and respect, as
they seek to fulfill their responsibilities in a manner that is just and fair,
humane and professional. It is that
which we honor today. The military is
made up of people who put their lives into harms way for the sake of others;
you and me. Many have been wounded in
body and soul and struggle to find a new normal in the far world from the
battle. Many have acted with boldness
and courage, and have carried out the mission, no matter the cost. Some have paid the ultimate price for
freedom. It is this commitment to high
ideals and self-sacrifice that is worthy of our honor.
Some have said that the recent armed conflicts in
the Middle East are wars about the supply of oil. While petroleum is a factor, the root cause
is deeper. The events in Boston and the
arrest on Friday of a man in Idaho remind us that an ideology of hate is at
work in our world and the only thing keeping the forces of evil at bay in this
world are the brave men and women who wear the uniform and put their lives on
the line. It is those men and women we
honor today. To the greatest generation,
the veterans of conflicts in Asia, those who fought and won the Cold war, and
to the veterans of the Gulf Wars and those currently on active duty; thank
you. May God protect you as you walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, and may you know His peace and
receive His comfort in your time of need.
Here They Go Again
In Acts 4, we read about the opposition that the Christians faced. They were told to stand down when it came to practicing their faith. This was really the first act of discrimination against Christians practicing their faith. After Peter and John and the man they had healed were set free, they went back to the group of believers and reported what had happened. After that, they prayed a prayer that was powerful and purposeful. They began by quoting Psalm 2:1-2. It says, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed…” This is a great question, because in reality, when people oppose Christians, they are opposing God. That is why the Apostles said, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!”
I think we are fast approaching this sort of scenario in our country when we are going to have to choose. It has been easy up to this point, but we have a central government that has created policy and handed down rulings that are going to put followers of Christ in such positions, if things continue to track as they are. This time, “the Nations” is our own military. An atheist organization known as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is calling on the Air Force to enforce a regulation that they believe calls for the court martial of any service member caught proselytizing. President Mikey Weinstein and others from his organization met privately with Pentagon officials on April 23. He said U.S. troops who proselytize are guilty of sedition and treason and should be punished – by the hundreds if necessary – to stave off what he called a “tidal wave of fundamentalists.” “Someone needs to be punished for this,” Weinstein said, “Until the Air Force or Army or Navy or Marine Corps punishes a member of the military for unconstitutional religious proselytizing and oppression, we will never have the ability to stop this horrible, horrendous, dehumanizing behavior.” It is a “here they go again”, because people like Weinstein continually misrepresent the Constitution when they call proselytizing unconstitutional.
The founders never intended to separate church and state in the way it is being communicated today. The founders intended to keep the government out of religion, not religion out of government. The establishment clause of the First Amendment refers to the practice of a country or a state to have a recognized or established church; but they keep pounding the drum of religious bigotry until even believers think it is true. You have the right to express yourself religiously in the affairs of state, even if you are a member of the military community. It is a “here they go again” because the people who don’t know about God, will continually “rage” against their Creator until they get their way. We live in a post-Christian country, so be on your guard. It may cost you to stand firm, but when you do, you can be assured that you are not alone.
Did God Apply For An Environmental Impact Statement Before He Flooded the Earth?
This question may seem insulting at first read; it also may seem absurd, but it also might ask an important question in a sarcastic sort of way. The question has more to do with us than it does God or the bureaucratic requirements. The question may be insulting, because God doesn't have to ask anyone to do anything. He is Sovereign over His creation. It is absurd because God isn’t accountable to the regulations of the bureaucracy. He is the Lord Almighty and indeed calls the shots.
The question speaks to our connection with God and because of that relationship, the power and authority we have. The reason this is important is we have a charge as the people of God, to live out “on earth as it is in heaven.” God desires His will be done, “on earth as it is in heaven.” This is our charge. This has application to our personal lives and our public lives. Too often we limit this to our personal lives, and don’t misunderstand and think this is being undervalued. Personal application of the Kingdom Ethic is the key to faithfulness, but God has a view larger. He really means “on earth.” He wants us to take the Kingdom Ethic seriously and in a personal way. He also wants us to live out that ethic in public, and be an influence for good, and this we can do without thinking we have to have the government’s permission.
Some kids are told that they can’t take their Bible to school or wear a Christian messaged t-shirt, but that is not the case. If you want to be involved in evangelistic efforts where individuals are being invited publically, you can. When the Jewish authorities told Peter and John to no longer preach in the name of Jesus they said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). You have the right and the obligation to live out God’s will in your life, public and private. You may indeed suffer in some way. Hopefully, we will not see a time when it would be illegal to do so, but even if it was illegal, what would God want you to do?
You never know the good you can accomplish when you boldly live out your faith. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38).
- A Proverb A Day -
A Drowning Person Will Clutch at a Straw…The general idea of this proverb is that you will do whatever is necessary to get yourself out of a desperate situation, even at the risk of failing. An Italian version of this proverb suggests a more drastic action – they say he will clutch at a razor blade. In the English version, the clutching won’t achieve anything; in the Italian version, it will do damage. Either way, this person is running out of options.
Perhaps it does explain some of the actions of desperate people, but desperate actions don’t happen in a vacuum. God designed humans with brains that allow us to process what is going on. We can adjust our thoughts and have a different outcome.
Another version of this proverb was given by Mike Armor. He said, “You can tell how hungry a person is by the garbage they eat.” He was speaking about the philosophical garbage that people consume. He was talking about the things that people believe. Today this is truer than ever. What is good is seen as bad and bad is good.
In light of this, the Christian message becomes very important because it gives people a solid option when it comes to core beliefs. The knowledge of God gives me a frame of reference, not only for what happens to me, but why I do what I do. Knowing and following Jesus takes the desperation out of life and replaces it with faith and hope.
Ephesians 2:1-3 offers a good explanation of desperation. Paul refers to Satan as the ruler of the kingdom of the air. I thought this was a strange way to refer to the enemy. (This is the only place where Satan is mentioned in this way.) Maybe he is referring to the substance of the philosophy of that kingdom. There is no substance, nothing solid. Nothing you can really grasp or hold on to; only air. By contrast, God’s Word is substantive and life-altering. The Hebrew writer said, “The Word of God is living and active, sharper that any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).
When you read on in Hebrews 4, you see that God’s Word challenges us and probes what we think and feel. It is a continual process of give and take, of being brave and allowing God’s Word to speak and have authority over our deepest needs and strongly-held beliefs. When our life is built on the solid ground of God’s Word, we will not result to desperate actions to get us out of our problems. Indeed, we will be able to move past our problems to helping others make the journey from desperation to hope. Reaching out to God is a lot better than grasping for straws.
There are proverbs and sayings that people quote to help us think about practical wisdom when making an important decision or facing a challenge. An example of one of these is, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Simple, yet profound and it rings true. There are others that seem to be wise, but they don’t have universal appeal. One of those would be, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” In other words, don’t put all your hopes and effort into a single venture; spread the risk. This may seem wise when it comes to mutual funds, but when it comes to faith, putting all your hope and effort into this one single focus is the best way to go.
“When in the 1980’s, the pharmaceutical company Glaxo launched the antacid drug Zantac, observers worried that it was not following this maxim and was definitely putting all its eggs into one basket. What, they asked, would happen when the patent ran out and Glaxo’s competitors could start producing a similar and possibly cheaper product? Answer, by the time that happened, Glaxo had merged with a couple of rivals, more than doubled the number of research scientists working on new products, and kept moving along very successfully thank you.”
The marketing campaign was aggressive and it became possibly one of the best-selling licensed pharmaceuticals of all time. Zantac became a brand name that identified the product, like Kleenex and Band-Aid. The point is that if you do put all your eggs in one basket, make sure you take very good care of the basket. The success of Zantac is a good idea to follow when it comes to faith. Putting all your effort into faith is really what the greatest command is all about. Jesus tells this to “the expert of the law” because he knows the cost of double-mindedness. If you don’t love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, you will not experience half of what God want for you. If you put your eggs into several baskets, some might survive the chaos, but you will likely lose the one that represents your soul. That is the way it normally works (Matthew 22:37-38). But if you put all your hopes and dreams in the basket of faith, take care of that basket, and you will be rewarded (Hebrews 11:6).
Perhaps a wise man will coin a new proverb, “Put all your eggs in the one basket and-watch that basket.”
"Most people are bothered by
those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand. The Scripture which troubles me the most is
the Scripture I do understand." -Mark
This anecdote reminds us of the
importance of knowing and applying the Word of God. Two activities recently undertaken at
Lakeview are the Christ's Ambassadors Workshop and Walk Thru The Bible
Seminar. Both of these are important
because they get our heads into the Scripture.
I want to encourage the Ambassadors Class to keep up the good work. The pace and amount of material you are
covering is staggering. When you are
done, you are going to have familiarized yourself with what you need to know to
share the message of Grace with other people.
The effort will reward. I also
want to encourage those who attended the Walk Thru Seminar. All the books are in so everyone is able to
review and practice. (make sure to pick
yours up today!) It is surprising to be
able to remember the story of the Old Testament and the detail and overview
that comes with the 77 words. The
"Walk Thru" Manual referred to the Teach-Test Principle that Tom
spoke of. In the manual it said,
"Knowing what to do must be translated into doing what you
know." (see James 4:17). May God Himself give the increase as we apply
His Word to our lives. And may we be
ready when God sends seekers. "Jesus traveled
through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the
Good News about the kingdom, and healing all kinds of diseases and sicknesses.
When he saw the crowds, he felt
sorry for them because they were hurting and helpless, like sheep without a
shepherd. Jesus said to his followers,
“There are many people to harvest but only a few workers to help harvest
them. Pray to the Lord, who owns the
harvest, that he will send more workers to gather his harvest.”
The Old Testament Was Jesus’s Bible
The importance of the Old Testament cannot be minimized. While we do not find doctrine for the New Testament Church, we do find truth. Paul says the Old Testament Scriptures were a tutor intended to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Jesus himself said the Old Testament Scriptures testified to Him (John 5:39). When the New Testament writers referred to Scripture, except for 2 Peter 3:16, they were talking about the Old Testament. During the first twenty years of the Church, the only parts of the New Testament that existed were fragmentary accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus. “During this period when a vital church was extending its influence into Syria, Asia Minor and North Africa, the basis for preaching and teaching was the Old Testament as reinterpreted by Christ Himself.” (Sanford, et al, Old Testament Survey, Pg. 1).
That is why we hosted the, Walk Thru The Bible seminar yesterday. The Old Testament is crucial to the life of faith. In addition, the Old Testament is where the story of God’s love and redemption begins. We see the beautiful place in which He gave humans to live and to work. We learn how humans violated the boundaries given by God and the consequence of those violations; yet God did not give up and He continued to love and care for those who love Him. We see His faithfulness over and over again. This fact gives hope to us, even up to this day. God has always had a plan and we can decide if we want to cooperate with that plan or reject it. If we reject it, we are still created in the image of God and we will have most of what we need. However, something will always be missing, and in the end, you will have lived your life in vain. That is the strong and relevant message of the Old Testament today. It is not old fashioned, but it is a message from the days of old, and a message that endures.
If your family only received one of the books for the Seminar yesterday, more will be ordered and you will receive it by next Sunday. The books are important because they are a tool used to follow up and reinforce what you learned at the Seminar. It is important for the next 30 days that you review and study the book, in order for the Seminar to accomplish the intended goal.
Let us know what you thought of the Seminar.
Tom Washburn will be the presenter at the Walk Thru The Bible Old Testament Live Event. He is excited to be with the Lakeview Congregation and loves being a part of the energy that the Walk thru the Bible events creates. Presently, Tom serves as Pulpit Minister at the North Garland Church of Christ in Enid Oklahoma.
Leadership Training For Christ Convention in Richland, WA.
Our students have attended this convention for the last several years and have had success in presenting things they had prepared. They have also done well in the Bible Bowl. This year’s Bible Bowl will be over the book of Matthew. Visit ltcnw.org for information about LTC and what this good program is doing for the church in the Northwest. I appreciate the good leadership that Allen and Kristi Finley are providing for our program. I mention the LTC program here because on April 7th, we are having our annual LTC Showcase and Fundraiser to help the students raise money for the trip to Richland. Part of the fundraiser will be a meal that will be served by the students and parents involved. Donations will be accepted for this. The meal will be gourmet soup with a tossed salad, rolls and desert. We sometimes go out for lunch on Sundays and spend our dollars on the economy. This gives a chance to support the work of our teens, have a good meal and a time of fellowship. The Drama Team, Puppet Team and Choir Team will present what they have been working on which will be a joy to watch. We also will “auction off” our teens who will offer their specialized or general services. Last year Lanita and I bid and won for several meals and deserts that were prepared by the students. Others got yard work or other services that helped around the house. It is really an important event for our church family and the participation of our students in LTC is making a positive impact on their lives. The date for the LTC Showcase and Auction is April 7th, 2013. It will take place at the Lakeview building following the morning worship assembly. Thanks in advance for your help!
What Do We Do About Evil?
I think it is fair to say that we live at a time when too many people don't know the difference between good and evil. Even some of our leaders struggle with knowing the difference. Historically we can demonstrate that, as this trend continues, societies breakdown to a point that evil prevails in the actions and thoughts of a people. This is Paul's point in Romans 1:18-32. If we are brave enough to accept it, this is the ultimate cause behind suffering and evil.
Most people who hold an atheistic worldview struggle with the ultimate cause of suffering and evil. To them it proves there is not a God. To me, it proves that people don't consider that there just might be a standard for human behavior higher than human reason. Human reason is not duplicable. We are too fickle and often break our personal standards. When we do violate our personal standards, we justify the violation to protect ourselves. I say this to establish the fact that when humans ignore the built-in standard given as image-bearers of the Creator, chaos is always the result. A society may start out well, but in the compulsive quest for freedom, the rules, laws, values, and traditions are steadily removed.
History tells us this cycle has happened many times already and some would say that we are seeing such a cycle play out in our day. There are several examples of this recorded in the Old Testament. Sacrificing babies to false gods and unbridled sexual practices as a form of worship, just to mention a few. The words of Genesis 6:5 make the case plainly; "The Lord saw how great humanity's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil all the time." Because of this fact, God has acted in anger and violence toward the peoples of the earth, who suppress the truth by their wickedness. God is obligated to act when evil prevails in society. It is when one fails to act that injustice is allowed to reign.
The God of the Old Testament is not a petty tyrant who fails to have His way. He gave people laws and punishments. His goal was to establish harmony and justice in society. When humans reject these, He allows the consequences to follow, and ultimately He will act in judgment, when things demand such action. He will act in judgment one more time. May He find us watching and waiting on the day He returns.
Human Tradition and Basic Principals of This World
I encountered a contemporary example of how "human tradition" shades a person's understanding of truth. I was watching an episode of Biography that dealt with the life of Pontius Pilate. The episode included interviews with theologians who believed that the biblical statements about Pilate were not factual. The specific statements that were deemed nonfactual were those that implied that Pilate had tried to set Jesus free. When you read the gospel accounts, it is hard to come to any other conclusion. A common tradition in human thought today is this; anything that looks like anti-semiticism must be rejected. We can agree that anti-semiticism, discrimination against Jewish people, is wrong. It is proposed that Roman-centered Christianity crafted the wording of the Bible account to slant it in a way to blame the Jews and not the Romans. The Biography episode exonerated the Jews and made the trial of Jesus be a simple case of sedition and treason against the Roman Empire. Human traditions can be subtle, because they stem from human experience. Life experience can be more powerful than words in a book. That the Jews had a hand in the crucifixion of Jesus is clear from the Bible accounts. It is bad practice to make scripture agree with cultural norms. Instead, our goal should be to make culture reflect biblical values. There are limitations in what we can accomplish in influencing the culture, but I can lead my family in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That the Jews pressured the Roman government to kill Jesus is clear. Does that make them worthy of the holocaust? Of course the answer is no; but do we change the Word of God, so that Jewish sensitivities can be considered? The answer to that is also no. We uphold every word in Scripture and we resist the temptation to build a philosophy that is a mixture of human tradition and the teachings of Christ. That is what Paul means when he says we take every thought captive and compare to the teachings of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). When we do this we are discerning between things of the kingdom and the things of this world. It helps us to live out the words of Jesus when He says to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. As we do this we can build our lives around kingdom priorities and kingdom ethics. That is the goal of the Christian life. May we be more intentional in living out the philosophy that is based on the teachings and the life of Christ.