Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In the Storm

The year was 1991. A lot was happening. I was 14 years old and I was changing in many ways... and the world around me was also changing in big ways. South Africa had repealed Apartheid; the USSR was no more (Russia even elected a president in free elections); and the Persian-Gulf war ended... well, sort of. Recalling certain times in my life always brings to mind a flurry of different images. In this case, an important one I see is the flickering of the green & black nightly news images reporting tracer fire in the sky and explosions of scud missiles on the ground in Iraq. 

As a teenage boy, these things were infinitely fascinating and made a lasting impression on my imaginings of warfare and the military. I even proudly wore the pins seen here to school; at the time thinking I looked all serious and into world events or something.

I mention all of this because I think I will be looking back on 2014-2015 in a similar fashion. I'm not certain what it will be that will bring the images rushing back to my mind, but it might be if or when someone mentions the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, or Hobby Lobby, or some form of religious freedom legislation already present in something like 19 of our 50 states. We were clearly at war in 1990-1991, and we are clearly at war today. The difference being that the war to which I'm referring is one that has been waged for thousands of years by now. There have been significant battles dotting the timeline of this war, many people lost, ground gained and lost, and this is looking to be one of the more memorable battles fought during my lifetime.

Of course I'm talking about the spiritual war being waged all around us. In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul makes reference to this spiritual battle, and calls the Christian to "take up the whole armor of God" and stand firm against the enemy and his schemes.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12)
I understand the blessings that I experience in this country. Specifically, I'm referring to having been spared from military service. I have the utmost respect for those that took that mantle on themselves and have sacrificed their own safety and lives on my behalf. One of the many things that they defended is my right to express my opinion in this form, as well as the right to possess and actively hold to and live out religious or spiritual beliefs. This country was founded on those, among other similar principles. Yet, I do believe that while most if not all of those rights can be clearly drawn from the tenants found in the Scriptures, we are seeing the clear effects of a steady erosion, and even a blatant disavowing of those values in exchange for a human-centric and explicitly anti-theistic morality. 

Please understand me clearly, the battle waging today is not a 1-on-1, person-on-person, or horizontal fight, but is in fact ideological warfare that has been strategically orchestrated over great swaths of time, and this recent thrust requiring all citizens to bow before the god of "sexual orientation" has met with a parry (admittedly a weak one) in the form of RFRA. 

This is not the campaign as a whole, mind you, but just a few "localized skirmishes". No, the greater campaign is Operation Tolerance. Of course, by "tolerance" I mean something in line with the HOA (Home Owners Association) definition of tolerance: 'we tolerate any kind of mailbox you desire, as long as it's the same as all of the other mailboxes in the community'. In the social spectrum of "live and let live", not everyone gets to live. Oh sure, it makes total sense, if you think about it. We tolerate the lion and his right to eat, albeit that means the gazelle has to die. You see, the lion is on the social agenda this year - we hate gazelles, they're so insensitive to the lion's right to liberate himself from hunger! Next year, we'll be all about the gazelle - then the lion has to die... a slow painful starvation. One gets their "rights", but at the expense of another group. Someone has to be on the bottom or no one is on top, right? 

At the street level we daily see the effects of this successful assault on a sense of an objective morality and normalcy in society. We're taught that all viewpoints are good, acceptable, and equal, even when there are blatant contradictions in those viewpoints. 
  • Society has bred generations of people that have been told that their desires and dreams are the most important thing - don't let prior commitments and obligations hold you back, you're entitled! 
  • Conformity is shunned, be yourself! but don't be too different - you know, don't have opinions and beliefs that are different or unpopular. You should conform to the non-conformist view.
  • Be open-minded, except for the ideas we tell you are wrong. Check back often - there will be changes.
  • Think what we want you to think, but do it your own way - be creative! Just not too different though, remember? 
Confused? Yeah, everyone is. That's the plan. Try explaining to a child why Facebook has 30+ definitions for gender. Confusion reigns from the seat of our constitutional republic down to the smallest classroom in our schools. The schemes of the devil are colored as "alternatives" and "progressive", while commitment to a single truth is relabeled as "bigotry" and "closed minded".

For over 200 years, there has been in this country a generally accepted (or was it just tolerated) view of this Judeo-Christian ethic - at some level, an agreement that right and wrong could be defined objectively. As a result, it was relative easy-going for any citizen that subscribed to at least some aspect of that community. If you chose to wholly rebel against that, and define your own "right & wrong", there were consequences. Hey, it's a free country - it's just some choices have more unpleasant consequences than other choices. 

Sure, of course there were abuses; it is still a system managed and operated by imperfect beings. I'm not defending by any means the many extreme outgrowths that resulted from twisted and heretical interpretations of a pure message. I simply mean to say that adhering to an objective moral code and operating as such in society was a relatively safe lifestyle to lead. It was unique, this American experiment, if one studies history, and we had a good run. But I believe that tide is clearly going out, and the true Church is going to get a good taste of John 15.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’  (John 15:18-25)
The apostles experienced this and throughout history it has the been rule, not the exception, that the true followers of Jesus Christ were persecuted for their belief. We have prayed for an awakening of the Spirit of God to move in this country, and while some might have imagined it would be in some kind of Lee Greenwood singing "God Bless America" movement, I believe we're going to see God work in us much like He did with Israel time and again. He has been so very patient.

I'm not a prophet by any means, but I don't believe we need one either. It's been so clearly explained how this will look. At the one-on-one, we continue to live and share the good news proclaimed by Jesus and His disciples since. No one is removed from having the need to hear and receive this message. It is a message of grace and of love, but also a warning to be heeded. It's not a pleasant experience to deliver the prognosis to a dying person, but when you are able to offer the cure in the same instance... isn't that amazing!? That's the daily "boots on the ground" reality for the Christian. 

Bearing that in mind, we must remain cognizant of the theater in which we live and breathe. I'm talking about the "big picture" - keep your head up! Don't get so distracted looking down at your every footstep that you forget about the truths given to us, and especially the hope we have that this is not news to our Lord and our God. We may be tempted to duck and cover, or camouflage our selves and our family, so as to ride out the storm. No, please! 

Our call is to be out in the storm, saving those that cannot see the danger they're running head-long into.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6)
While He has called us for such a time as this, He has not left us unequipped.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:13-18)
What is this "evil day" referenced above? How do we know it?
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)