On Immigration and The Gospel

 

The Resolution below is from the Southern Baptist Convention Resolution on Immigration and The Gospel. See http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/1213

WHEREAS, The Kingdom of God is made up of persons from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language (Revelation 7:9); and

WHEREAS, Our ancestors in the faith were sojourners and aliens in the land of Egypt (Exodus 1:1-14; 1 Chronicles 16:19; Acts 7:6); and

WHEREAS, Our Lord Jesus Christ lived His childhood years as an immigrant and refugee (Matthew 2:13-23); and

WHEREAS, The Scriptures call us, in imitation of God Himself, to show compassion and justice for the sojourner and alien among us (Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; Psalm 94:6; Jeremiah 7:6; Ezekiel 22:29; Zechariah 7:10); and

WHEREAS, The Great Commission compels us to take the gospel to the nations (Matthew 28:18-20), and the Great Commandment compels us to love our neighbor as self (Mark 12:30-31); and

WHEREAS, The gospel tells us that our response to the most vulnerable among us is a response to Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:40); and

WHEREAS, The Bible denounces the exploitation of workers and the mistreatment of the poor (Isaiah 3:15; Amos 4:1; James 5:4); and

WHEREAS, The United States of America is increasingly diverse in terms of ethnicity, language, and culture; and

WHEREAS, Approximately 12 to 15 million undocumented immigrants live and work within our borders; and

WHEREAS, The relative invisibility of the immigrant population can lead to detrimental consequences in terms of health, education, and well-being, especially of children; and

WHEREAS, Recognizing that Romans 13:1-7 teaches us that the rule of law is an indispensable part of civil society and that Christians are under biblical mandate to respect the divinely-ordained institution of government and its just laws, that government has a duty to fulfill its ordained mandate, and that Christians have a right to expect the government to fulfill its ordained mandate to enforce those laws; and

WHEREAS, The governing authorities of a nation have the right and responsibility to maintain borders to protect the security of their citizens; and

WHEREAS, Undocumented immigrants are in violation of the law of the land; and

WHEREAS, Many of these persons, desiring a better future for themselves and their families, are fleeing brutal economic and political situations; and

WHEREAS, The issue of immigration has prompted often-rancorous debate in the American public square; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 14-15, 2011, call on our churches to be the presence of Christ, in both proclamation and ministry, to all persons, regardless of country of origin or immigration status; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we declare that any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we deplore any bigotry or harassment against any persons, regardless of their country of origin or legal status; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we ask our governing authorities to prioritize efforts to secure the borders and to hold businesses accountable for hiring practices as they relate to immigration status; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we ask our governing authorities to implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country; and be it further

RESOLVED, That this resolution is not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we pray for our churches to demonstrate the reconciliation of the Kingdom both in the verbal witness of our gospel and in the visible makeup of our congregations; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we affirm that while Southern Baptists, like other Americans, might disagree on how to achieve just and humane public policy objectives related to immigration, we agree that, when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to His church, the message, in every language and to every person, is “Whosoever will may come.”

 

Is "Doing" = "Being"?

wedding cake 2.jpg

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuchasks the question, "Is "doing equal to being". The answer will be key to the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case. 

The article below was written by Jeremiah Keenan and was published online at the Federalist.com

The Supreme Court’s decision on Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop is expected in the next two to three weeks. While the outcome could surprise us all, the result both sides of the political spectrum predict is a substantial win for the Left packaged as a favorable verdict for the Right. That is, the court will rule “for” Phillips but against his cause.

The reason is pretty simple: Justice Anthony Kennedy is the swing vote, and in the oral arguments last December, his mind seemed made up. Kennedy knows that if Phillips’ speech as a cake artist is protected, then the speech of creative designers of every kind in the wedding industry must also be protected.

“It means there’s basically an ability to boycott gay marriages,” Kennedy said, an outcome he made clear was not acceptable. “The problem for you,” Kennedy explained to Phillips’ attorneys, “is that so many of these examples—and a photographer can be included—do involve speech.” Protecting such speech would be “an affront to the gay community,” which Kennedy thinks is concerning, perhaps illegal.

At the same time, Kennedy is likely sensitive to the fact that Phillips has won his case in the courts of popular opinion, by a two-thirds majority. In the December oral arguments, Kennedy appeared to be exploring a clever legal loophole to escape this dilemma. Most likely, he will write a narrow fact-based decision that will leave the judicial framework that prosecuted Phillips in place, but excuse the baker personally from any further punishment, on the notion that some of the judges involved in Phillips’ case were biased against religion.

Such an opinion would tend to leave folks like Phillips guilty by implication without forcing the court to explain, head-on, why Christian bakers are obligated to design cakes for same-sex weddings.

Does Sexual Orientation Really Compare to Race?

But obligated they would be, and the reason, whether SCOTUS records it or not, ought to be publicly examined. It begins with the following question: If Phillips’ First Amendment rights allow him to break Colorado anti-discrimination law with respect to sexual orientation, then why couldn’t somebody else do so with respect to race?

This question has dominated media arguments against Phillips, and was the issue for liberal justices during oral arguments. Justice Sonia Sotomayor harped on Newman v. Piggie, Justice Stephen Breyer brought up Ollie’s Barbecue, and Justice Elena Kagan asked point-blank: “Same case or not the same case, if [Phillips] instead objected to interracial marriage?”

Of course, Phillips’s attorney replied that was “a very different case” because the “objection would be based on who the person is, rather than what the message is.” “Mr. Phillips,” she explained, “is looking at not the ‘who’ but the ‘what’ in these instances.” To which Justice Neil Gorsuch replied, in arguably the most important question of the entire case:

Well, actually, counsel, that seems to be a point of contention. The state seems to concede that if it were the message, your client would have a right to refuse. But if it — the objection is to the person, that’s when the discrimination law kicks in. That’s footnote 8 of the Colorado Court of Appeals’ decision. I know you know this. So what do you say to that, that actually what is happening here may superficially look like it’s about the message but it’s really about the person’s identity?

You see, in the Supreme Court, neither the Left nor the Right believes that religious freedom trumps anti-discrimination law. Neither claims practicing homosexuals are just automatically entitled to any service they happen to demand. The law forbids just one thing: discrimination on account of sexual orientation (or race, religion, etc.). The objection must be “to the person,” as Gorsuch pointed out: “that’s when the discrimination law kicks in.”

The footnote Gorsuch mentioned is a great illustration of this. Several Colorado bakeries turned down orders from a Christian for a Bible-shaped cake with Leviticus 18:22 on it. They were not guilty of discrimination because their refusal was based on the message the Christian wanted his cake to convey, not the simple fact that he happened to be a Christian. Le Bakery Sensual had no problem serving Christians in general, and in fact would have been willing to make that Christian pretty much any cake but the “traditional marriage celebration cake” he ordered.

This is common sense, and courts have been quite capable of using it regarding Christians as a protected class. The problem is that the lower courts haven’t been willing to apply this common sense to homosexual anti-discrimination cases.

Instead, as I have noted previously, they decided that when it comes to homosexuality, anti-discrimination law automatically covers any activities “engaged in exclusively or predominately” by members of the protected class. For religion, this is not true. For sex, the idea was rejected. For race, maybe. But for homosexuality, doing is being, and being is a sacred right.

Anti-Discrimination Law Protects Being, Not Doing

Behind Gorsuch’s question lies the understanding that this conclusion ought not be taken for granted. Anti-discrimination law is designed to protect being, not doing, and it isn’t fair to arbitrarily decide for one class that their particular doings are all beings. Nobody has a right to a Leviticus 18:22 cake for his traditional marriage gala even if such celebrations are engaged in “exclusively or predominately” by some brand of Christian.

In the same way, nobody has a right to a wedding cake topped with two men kissing, even if only “gay people” would want such a cake.  Unless, of course, it really is true that for “gay people” doing is being.

You see, Christians like Phillips think it is natural to distinguish between the act of “sodomy” and the propensity called sexual orientation. They condemn the act but do not hate or discriminate against those who happen to be tempted to commit it.

When I first started following Phillips’ case, I sent a simple question to his legal team: Many people with persistent same-sex attraction choose to marry a member of the opposite sex. Would Phillips be willing to make a cake for a man and a woman who wanted to marry each other even though they revealed to him that they were both gay? Their immediate and unequivocal  response was “Yes – Jack would do the proposed cake.”

This was no surprise. After all, Christians see homosexuality as on a par with your average sexual impulse, no different from a desire to have a one-night stand instead of going home to your wife. Sure, you might have these desires without looking for them, but they don’t define your essence or lay out a blueprint for the “natural” use of your sexuality. They’re just part of the smorgasbord of impulses that we all have to sift in order to choose what is right.

SCOTUS Liberals Think Doing Is Being

But the liberal wing of SCOTUS, which has dominated this issue 5-4 for decades now, does not view homosexuality as comparable to other sexual impulses. Instead, they have argued that homosexuality is to romance what race is to skin-tone: an inborn biological type.

From this point of view, doing really is being, for, as Kennedy puts it in Obergefell v. Hodges, homosexual’s “immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path” to profound romantic commitment. Phillips’ offer of a heterosexual wedding cake to homosexuals is thus an empty one, because no one with a history of exclusive same-sex attraction could want such a cake.

But is the liberal view on the issue factual? Is homosexuality an immutable condition written in one’s DNA? Or is it really just part of the vast spectrum of human desire properly governed by moral precept and choice?

The Research Solidly Finds Sexual Orientation Malleable

Many may be inclined to say that this is a matter of opinion, and that the leftist view on the court is as scientific as the view on the Right. Most liberal judges might agree, since they assume immutability of sexual orientation without bothering to state or defend it. Kennedy, an exception to this rule, cited an American Psychological Association (APA) brief which, though it contains much information designed to support redefining marriage, does not assert that sexual orientation is immutable.

There is conclusive scientific evidence that most people who experience exclusive same-sex attraction end up developing an interest in the opposite sex over time.

The reason is very simple. There is not only no scientific evidence that sexual orientation is immutable, there is conclusive scientific evidence that most people who experience exclusive same-sex attraction end up developing an interest in the opposite sex over time. The stats on this have been printed out in tables and discussed matter-of-factly in the technical journals for decades, but they have a curious way of never quite making it out of the Archives of Sexual Behavior into CNN’s evening news.

Consider what researchers found in 2007 when they examined a representative sample of more than 10,000 American youth, following each individual from the age of 16 to 22. Rather than rely on an individual’s reconstruction of his or her past based on current identity, researchers met with people three times throughout the six-year period. The first time, when subjects were 16, researchers asked subjects whether they had ever been romantically attracted to a member of the opposite or same sex. In each successive interview, they were asked about their romantic attractions since last interview.

For instance, 17-year-old males were asked if, in the past year, they had a romantic attraction to another male or female. About 1.5 percent reported only having a romantic attraction to other males. Five years later, when that 1.5 percent of young men were asked about their romantic attractions since the last interview, the overwhelming majority of them (70 percent) reported a 180-degree flip in their sexual orientation—they only had romantic feelings for women.

Similarly, among females, about 40 percent switched from exclusive same-sex attraction (SSA) to exclusive opposite-sex attraction (OSA). Most of the rest (45 percent of total) reported that they had feelings for both men and women. Only 1 percent of women who at 17 reported a full year of exclusive same-sex attraction reported a similar experience in the five years that followed.

Leftist Judges Assume What the Evidence Shows Is False

Leftist judges have based their legal analyses on the assumption that if an 17ma-year-old woman has exclusive SSA, some form of same-sex commitment is her only path to “marriage” because her condition is immutable. But her “condition” has only a 1 percent chance of lasting five years!

On the same factually uninformed assumption, courts argue that businesses that refuse service to such a 17-year-old’s same-sex marriage (you can marry as young as 16 in most states) are discriminating against her for a condition analogous to race. The courts are ready to punish Christian businesses—fine them, re-educate them, and close them down.

Yet there is no question, on the facts, that exclusive same-sex sexual orientation (unlike heterosexual sexual orientation) is extremely unstable, especially among young people. According to hard numbers, by the time the courts are done reeducating a Christian business on a male plaintiff’s immutable homosexuality, he’s probably going to not only be having heterosexual feelings (about a 80 percent chance), but having sex with his girlfriend or wife (about a 50 percent chance).

It’s Not Just Young People, Either

Now, one might argue that this extraordinary instability of sexual orientation is only true for young people. This is a weak objection, since the courts’ ruling must apply to people at least as young as 16. Besides, an immutable characteristic does not fluctuate wildly in early adulthood: “Oh, at 17 I was white; by the time I was 22, definitely black, now quite settled into brown.”

‘Being homosexual’ is rather like ‘being Democrat’ or ‘being Hindu.’

But such objections can also be answered by empirical data on older populations. While no study I am aware of can come close to the Cornell-led study cited above for rigor and sample-size, the data that exists on older populations excludes the possibility that sexual orientation is truly immutable. A 2011 study, for instance, found that a little under 30 percent of those who identified as homosexuals at 40 identified as bisexual or heterosexual by the time they were 50.

Such a high rate of change in self-identification at such a late stage in life indicates that exclusive homosexuality barely enjoys the stability one finds in clearly mutable preferences like religious identification or party affiliation. “Being homosexual” is rather like “being Democrat” or “being Hindu.” The probability of change before your mid-twenties can be quite high. The probability of change in later adulthood is around 40 percent.

Overall, roughly half of those who have identified as homosexuals in the past no longer do, and roughly half of those who currently identify as homosexual used to identify as something else. This rule of thumb (noted, in part or in whole by multiple scholars) indicates homosexuality is about as stable as religion: roughly half of Americans have changed religions at least once.

Doing Is Therefore Not Being

So, on what basis do the courts claim that homosexuality is inborn and “immutable” so that, for homosexuals, doing is being? The only evidence which, to my knowledge, they have brought to bear on the issue is the APA’s vague statement that homosexuality is “highly resistant to change.” The best evidence the APA could muster for this idea was their conclusion that so-called “conversion” therapies—as practiced primarily by a dying breed of Freudian psychologists and a handful of self-appointed counselors—are “unlikely to succeed.”

Homosexual behaviors, including same-sex marriage, are no more inborn or immutable than Hindu veganism.

In point of fact, “conversion therapy” despite its sometimes bizarre methods, tends to enjoy “success” rates similar to other “kick-your-addictions” or “heal-your-sex-life” programs: maybe 15 percent. For comparison, Alcoholics Anonymous has a “success” rate between 5 and 10 percent. The low rate of success such groups enjoy does not by any means prove that homosexuality (or alcoholism, for that matter) is an immutable characteristic. The stats on that question are directly and easily accessible: homosexuality is hardly more immutable than religion or political party.

This brings us back to Gorsuch’s all-important question. Is Phillips’ refusal to make a ‘gay’ wedding cake actually a sly way of discriminating against people with same-sex attraction? The answer is no, in much the same way that Le Bakery Sensual’s refusal to make a traditional marriage celebration cake was not a sly way of discriminating against Christians.

Homosexual behaviors, including same-sex marriage, are no more inborn or immutable than Hindu veganism or Christian abstinence from “sodomy.” A refusal to make two homosexuals a cake for a gay wedding, when paired, as Phillips’ refusal was, with an offer to serve them in any other way, is not some sly strike at an individual for his identity. It is a good-faith objection to a practice, a doing which, as Gorsuch so aptly pointed out, is quite appropriately not the object of laws to protect being.

Jeremiah Keenan is a pro-life activist and freelance writer. He recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he argued with leftists and wrote for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He also earned a bachelors in mathematics and assisted the sociology department researching religious opinion trends on eugenics, race, birth control, and homosexuality. Jeremiah grew up in China and lives, at the moment, in Ohio. He can be contacted at JeremiahJKeenan@gmail.com.

 

Building For Eternity by Oswald Chambers

Building For Eternity

By Oswald Chambers

Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it… —Luke 14:28

Our Lord was not referring here to a cost which we have to count, but to a cost which He has already counted. The cost was those thirty years in Nazareth, those three years of popularity, scandal, and hatred, the unfathomable agony He experienced in Gethsemane, and the assault upon Him at Calvary— the central point upon which all of time and eternity turn. Jesus Christ has counted the cost. In the final analysis, people are not going to laugh at Him and say, “This man began to build and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:30).

The conditions of discipleship given to us by our Lord in verses 26, 27, and 33 mean that the men and women He is going to use in His mighty building enterprises are those in whom He has done everything. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple ” (Luke 14:26). This verse teaches us that the only men and women our Lord will use in His building enterprises are those who love Him personally, passionately, and with great devotion— those who have a love for Him that goes far beyond any of the closest relationships on earth. The conditions are strict, but they are glorious.

All that we build is going to be inspected by God. When God inspects us with His searching and refining fire, will He detect that we have built enterprises of our own on the foundation of Jesus? (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). We are living in a time of tremendous enterprises, a time when we are trying to work for God, and that is where the trap is. Profoundly speaking, we can never work for God. Jesus, as the Master Builder, takes us over so that He may direct and control us completely for His enterprises and His building plans; and no one has any right to demand where he will be put to work.

 

A Fresh Start by CS Lewis

Now before  I  became a Christian I was  under  the impression that the
first thing Christians had  to believe was one particular theory as  to what
the point of this  dying was. According to that  theory God wanted to punish
men for having  deserted and  joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered
to be punished instead, and so  God let us off.  Now  I admit that even this
theory  does not seem to me quite so immoral and so silly as it used to; but
that is not the point  I want  to make. What I came to see later on was that
neither  this theory  nor any  other  is Christianity. The central Christian
belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us
a fresh start Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many
different theories have  been held as to  how it  works; what all Christians
are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like.
All sensible people know that if you are tired and hungry a meal will do you
good. But  the  modern theory  of  nourishment-all  about  the  vitamins and
proteins-is a different thing. People ate their dinners and felt better long
before  the theory  of  vitamins was ever  heard of:  and  if the  theory of
vitamins is some day abandoned they will go on eating their dinners just the
same.  Theories  about   Christ's  death  are  not  Christianity:  they  are
explanations  about how it works.  Christians would not all agree as  to how
important these theories  are. My own  church-the Church of England-does not
lay down any one of  them as  the right one.  The Church  of Rome goes a bit
further. But I think they will all agree that the thing itself is infinitely
more important than any explanations that theologians have produced. I think
they would probably admit that no explanation will ever be quite adequate to
the reality. But as I said in the preface  to this book, I am only a layman,
and at  this point we are getting into  deep water. I can only tell you, for
what it is worth, how I, personally, look at the matter.

 

Decreasing for His Purpose by Oswald Chambers

He must increase, but I must decrease. —John 3:30

If you become a necessity to someone else’s life, you are out of God’s will. As a servant, your primary responsibility is to be a “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29). When you see a person who is close to grasping the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been used in the right direction. And when you begin to see that person in the middle of a difficult and painful struggle, don’t try to prevent it, but pray that his difficulty will grow even ten times stronger, until no power on earth or in hell could hold him away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we try to be amateur providences in someone’s life. We are indeed amateurs, coming in and actually preventing God’s will and saying, “This person should not have to experience this difficulty.” Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom, our sympathy gets in the way. One day that person will say to us, “You are a thief; you stole my desire to follow Jesus, and because of you I lost sight of Him.”

Beware of rejoicing with someone over the wrong thing, but always look to rejoice over the right thing. “…the friend of the bridegroom…rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29-30). This was spoken with joy, not with sadness— at last they were to see the Bridegroom! And John said this was his joy. It represents a stepping aside, an absolute removal of the servant, never to be thought of again.

Listen intently with your entire being until you hear the Bridegroom’s voice in the life of another person. And never give any thought to what devastation, difficulties, or sickness it will bring. Just rejoice with godly excitement that His voice has been heard. You may often have to watch Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it (see Matthew 10:34).

Identified or Simply Interested? By Oswald Chambers

I have been crucified with Christ… —Galatians 2:20

The inescapable spiritual need each of us has is the need to sign the death certificate of our sin nature. I must take my emotional opinions and intellectual beliefs and be willing to turn them into a moral verdict against the nature of sin; that is, against any claim I have to my right to myself. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ….” He did not say, “I have made a determination to imitate Jesus Christ,” or, “I will really make an effort to follow Him” —but— “I have been identified with Him in His death.” Once I reach this moral decision and act on it, all that Christ accomplished for me on the Cross is accomplished in me. My unrestrained commitment of myself to God gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to grant to me the holiness of Jesus Christ.

“…it is no longer I who live….” My individuality remains, but my primary motivation for living and the nature that rules me are radically changed. I have the same human body, but the old satanic right to myself has been destroyed.

“…and the life which I now live in the flesh,” not the life which I long to live or even pray that I live, but the life I now live in my mortal flesh— the life which others can see, “I live by faith in the Son of God….” This faith was not Paul’s own faith in Jesus Christ, but the faith the Son God had given to him (see Ephesians 2:8). It is no longer a faith in faith, but a faith that transcends all imaginable limits— a faith that comes only from the Son of God.

 

The Surrendered Life

By Oswald Chambers

I have been crucified with Christ… —Galatians 2:20

To become one with Jesus Christ, a person must be willing not only to give up sin, but also to surrender his whole way of looking at things. Being born again by the Spirit of God means that we must first be willing to let go before we can grasp something else. The first thing we must surrender is all of our pretense or deceit. What our Lord wants us to present to Him is not our goodness, honesty, or our efforts to do better, but real solid sin. Actually, that is all He can take from us. And what He gives us in exchange for our sin is real solid righteousness. But we must surrender all pretense that we are anything, and give up all our claims of even being worthy of God’s consideration.

Once we have done that, the Spirit of God will show us what we need to surrender next. Along each step of this process, we will have to give up our claims to our rights to ourselves. Are we willing to surrender our grasp on all that we possess, our desires, and everything else in our lives? Are we ready to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ?

We will suffer a sharp painful disillusionment before we fully surrender. When people really see themselves as the Lord sees them, it is not the terribly offensive sins of the flesh that shock them, but the awful nature of the pride of their own hearts opposing Jesus Christ. When they see themselves in the light of the Lord, the shame, horror, and desperate conviction hit home for them.

If you are faced with the question of whether or not to surrender, make a determination to go on through the crisis, surrendering all that you have and all that you are to Him. And God will then equip you to do all that He requires of you.

What do we mean when we talk of God helping us? by C.S. Lewis

Yes, but what do we mean  when  we talk of God helping us?  We
mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little
of His reasoning powers and that  is how we think: He puts  a little  of His
love  into  us and that is how  we  love one another. When you teach a child
writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the
letters  because you are forming them. We love  and reason because God loves
and  reasons and holds  our hand while we  do it.  Now if we had not fallen,
that would be all plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God's help in
order to do  something which God, in His own  nature,  never does  at all-to
surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God's nature corresponds
to this  process at  all.  So that the one road for  which we now need God's
leadership most of  all is a  road God, in His own nature, has never walked.
God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not.
     But supposing God became  a  man-suppose  our  human  nature which  can
suffer and  die  was amalgamated  with God's  nature in one person-then that
person  could help us. He could surrender  His  will, and  suffer  and  die,
because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and
I can go through this process only if  God does it in us; but  God can do it
only if He becomes  man. Our attempts at this dying  will succeed only if we
men  share in God's dying, just as our thinking can  succeed only because it
is a drop out of  the ocean of His  intelligence: but we cannot share  God's
dying unless God dies; and He cannot die  except by being a man. That is the
sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not
suffer at all.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, www.lib.ru/LEWISCL/mere_engl.txt 

If God made the world, why has it gone wrong? by C.S. Lewis

If a good God made the
world why has  it gone wrong? And for many years I simply  refused to listen
to the Christian  answers  to  this  question,  because  I  kept on  feeling
"whatever you say,  and however clever your  arguments are,  isn't  it  much
simpler  and  easier to  say that the  world was not made by any intelligent
power? Aren't  all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to  avoid the
obvious?" But then that threw me back into another difficulty.
     My argument  against  God  was  that  the universe seemed so cruel  and
unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does  not call
a  line  crooked  unless he  has  some  idea of a straight line.  What was I
comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If  the whole show was
bad and senseless from A to Z, so  to  speak, why did I, who was supposed to
be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against  it? A man
feels  wet  when he falls into water,  because man is not a  water animal: a
fish would not feel wet.
     Of course I could have  given up my  idea of justice by  saying it  was
nothing but  a  private idea of my own. But  if I did that, then my argument
against  God collapsed too- for  the argument  depended on  saying that  the
world  was really unjust, not simply  that  it  did not happen to  please my
private fancies. Thus in the very act  of trying to  prove  that God did not
exist-in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless-I  found I was
forced to assume that one part of reality-namely my idea of justice-was full
of sense.
     Consequently atheism turns  out to be too simple. If the whole universe
has no meaning,  we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just
as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no  creatures  with
eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.


C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity        http://www.lib.ru/LEWISCL/mere_engl.txt


 

Reality is not simple and neither is Christianity

The excerpt below is from the book Mere Christianity by CS Lewis (pages 40-42) 

Very well then, atheism is too simple. And I will tell you another view
that is also too  simple.  It is the view I call Christianity-and-water, the
view  which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is  all
right-leaving  out all  the difficult and  terrible  doctrines about sin and
hell and the devil, and the redemption. Both these are boys' philosophies.


     It  is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are
not simple. They  look simple, but they are not.  The table I  am sitting at
looks simple: but ask a  scientist to tell you what it is really made of-all
about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and
what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain-and, of course,
you find that what  we  call "seeing  a table" lands you  in  mysteries  and
complications  which  you can hardly  get to  the end of. A  child saying  a
child's prayer looks simple.  And if you are content to stop there, well and
good. But if you are  not-and the modern world usually is not-if you want to
go on  and ask  what  is really  happening-  then you  must  be prepared for
something difficult. If  we ask  for something  more than simplicity,  it is
silly then to complain that the something more is not simple.
     Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted  by people who are
not  silly,  but  who,  consciously  or   unconsciously,   want  to  destroy
Christianity. Such  people  put up a  version of Christianity suitable for a
child  of six and make that  the  object of  their  attack. When you  try to
explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an  instructed adult,
they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and that it is
all too  complicated  and that if there really were  a God they are sure  He
would have made "religion" simple, because simplicity  is so beautiful, etc.
You must be  on  your guard  against these people for they will change their
ground every minute and only waste your tune. Notice, too, their idea of God
"making religion simple": as if "religion" were something  God invented, and
not His  statement to us of certain  quite unalterable facts  about His  own
nature.
     Besides  being complicated, reality, in  my experience, is usually odd.
It is not  neat,  not obvious, not what you expect. For instance,  when  you
have grasped that the earth and the other planets all  go round the sun, you
would naturally expect that all the planets were made  to match-all at equal
distances from each other, say,  or  distances that regularly increased,  or
all the same size, or else getting bigger or smaller as you go  farther from
the sun. In fact, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either
the sizes or  the distances; and  some of them  have one moon, one has four,
one has two, some have none, and one has a ring.
     Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That
is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not
have  guessed. If it  offered us  just  the kind  of universe we had  always
expected,  I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is  not  the
sort of thing anyone would have  made up. It has just that queer twist about
it  that  real  things  have.  So  let  us  leave  behind  all  these  boys'
philosophies-these over-simple answers. The problem is  not  simple and  the
answer is not going to be simpler either.
     What  is the  problem? A universe that contains much that  is obviously
bad and apparently meaningless, but containing creatures like  ourselves who
know that it is bad and  meaningless. There are only two views that face all
the facts. One is the Christian view that this is a good world that has gone
wrong, but still retains the memory of what it ought to have been. The other
is  the view  called  Dualism.  Dualism means the belief that there are  two
equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and
the other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight
out an endless war. I personally think that next  to Christianity Dualism is
the manliest and most sensible creed  on the market. But it  has  a catch in
it. You can read the rest online at
www.lib.ru/LEWISCL/mere_engl.txt  
      
Friends, it is time that we put simple religion behind us. When Jesus was asked, "What is the greatest commandment" part of His response was to "love God with all our mind" (Matthew 22:37-42). Mere Christianity helps us to do that. 



 

Taking the Initiative Against Despair

By Oswald Chambers

Rise, let us be going. —Matthew 26:46

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples went to sleep when they should have stayed awake, and once they realized what they had done it produced despair. The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair. We say, “Well, it’s all over and ruined now; what’s the point in trying anymore.” If we think this kind of despair is an exception, we are mistaken. It is a very ordinary human experience. Whenever we realize we have not taken advantage of a magnificent opportunity, we are apt to sink into despair. But Jesus comes and lovingly says to us, in essence, “Sleep on now. That opportunity is lost forever and you can’t change that. But get up, and let’s go on to the next thing.” In other words, let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him.

There will be experiences like this in each of our lives. We will have times of despair caused by real events in our lives, and we will be unable to lift ourselves out of them. The disciples, in this instance, had done a downright unthinkable thing— they had gone to sleep instead of watching with Jesus. But our Lord came to them taking the spiritual initiative against their despair and said, in effect, “Get up, and do the next thing.” If we are inspired by God, what is the next thing? It is to trust Him absolutely and to pray on the basis of His redemption.

Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step.

 

from Oswald Chambers Utmost.org

https://utmost.org/taking-the-initiative-against-despair/

Christianity, Religion and Comfort by CS Lewis

The words below are taken from Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.   

"The Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth - only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair. Most of us got over the pre-war wishful thinking about international politics. It is the time we did the same about religion.

Note: "Pre-war wishful thinking" refers to the wishful thinking of Great Britain about Germany prior to WWII.  Mere Christianity is a collection of the Radio Talks of CS Lewis to the British people in 1942, 1943, and 1944.  Stay tuned for more!  


"C.S. Lewis is the ideal persuader for the half-convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way" NY Times Book Review    

 

 

Loving Like Jesus In A fractured World (by Pastor Rick Warren)

 

Last year was a very difficult year in many ways.

Our culture has been battered by one crisis after another: scandals, shootings, angry protests, and a constant barrage of mad pundits shouting at each other in the media 24 hours a day. Our nation is deeply polarized and fractured into splinter groups that demonize each other on the internet. And, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in violence in our streets, schools, theaters, and now even in churches.

We’ve seen the rise in vile bigotry, hateful racism, and ignorant prejudices against different cultures and immigrants—in a nation that was built by immigrants! I imagine the Statue of Liberty is weeping. And we’ve seen the videos and heard the voices of people genuinely hurt by injustice or poverty, or by having their job shipped overseas.

How should followers of Jesus respond to all the anger we see erupting today? How can God’s family, the church, be the “peacemakers” and the “ministers of reconciliation” that Jesus commands us to be? How do we build bridges to each other instead of walls around our hearts and homes? We can begin by loving like Jesus loved.

Here are five important ways to do just that.

Dignity

Psalm 8:5 says, “God made people just a little lower than the heavenly beings, and he crowned us with glory and honor” (NIV). That means God created every person with dignity. To love others, we have to realize that we all have been given the same dignity. You can’t give it to someone. It comes from God. You can only deny or affirm it in others.

“Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity” (1 Peter 2:17 The Message).

Diversity

God intentionally created everyone to be unique. You’re not one in a million, you’re one in seven billion. If you’ve got a problem with people who are different from you, you’ve got a problem with God. Racism, prejudice and bigotry are like telling God he messed up because he didn’t make everyone like you.

While people in the world are divided over their differences and diversity, the church is one place where people should get along. God doesn’t want us to be color blind, he wants us to be color blessed. We should celebrate diversity because it makes us stronger. If you don’t like diversity you’re not going to like heaven!

Community

We need each other and we’re better together. God never intended for us to go through life alone, lonely, and without the support of other people. God wanted a family, but he wanted it to reflect diversity. “Jesus, who makes people holy, and those who are made holy are from the same family” (Hebrews 2:11 NCV).

The church should be the place of unity and community where we model the love of Christ for the world. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are brothers and sisters. Our primary identity comes from God, and all other affiliations will not be carried into heaven. We only carry our relationship with God and each other into eternity.

Love

We were put on this earth to learn how to love. As Jesus says in the Great Commandment, it’s all about learning to love God and learning to love people. If you don’t learn that, you’ve missed your purpose on this planet. We can be agents of love with people who are completely different from us when we listen to them, look them in the eye, learn from them, and laugh with them.

Reconciliation

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be facilitators of reconciliation. If we’re not helping people reconcile, we’re not the church. Mathew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (NIV).

If you want to hear more about any of these topics, I invite you to watch my interview with the founding father of the Christian reconciliation movement—the great pastor, civil rights leader, and best-selling author of a dozen very influential books, Dr. John Perkins! John has 86 years of wisdom working with these very issues.

My prayer is for spiritual revival and awakening for all of us. Society can’t keep heading the direction it is going right now, because it leads to a dead-end. Eventually, we’ll either have a spiritual breakthrough or a social breakdown.

Personality by Oswald Chambers

…that they may be one just as We are one… —John 17:22

Personality is the unique, limitless part of our life that makes us distinct from everyone else. It is too vast for us even to comprehend. An island in the sea may be just the top of a large mountain, and our personality is like that island. We don’t know the great depths of our being, therefore we cannot measure ourselves. We start out thinking we can, but soon realize that there is really only one Being who fully understands us, and that is our Creator.

Personality is the characteristic mark of the inner, spiritual man, just as individuality is the characteristic of the outer, natural man. Our Lord can never be described in terms of individuality and independence, but only in terms of His total Person— “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Personality merges, and you only reach your true identity once you are merged with another person. When love or the Spirit of God come upon a person, he is transformed. He will then no longer insist on maintaining his individuality. Our Lord never referred to a person’s individuality or his isolated position, but spoke in terms of the total person— “…that they may be one just as We are one….” Once your rights to yourself are surrendered to God, your true personal nature begins responding to God immediately. Jesus Christ brings freedom to your total person, and even your individuality is transformed. The transformation is brought about by love— personal devotion to Jesus. Love is the overflowing result of one person in true fellowship with another.

 

 

Still Human! By Oswald Chambers

…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
   1 Corinthians 10:31

In the Scriptures, the great miracle of the incarnation slips into the ordinary life of a child; the great miracle of the transfiguration fades into the demon-possessed valley below; the glory of the resurrection descends into a breakfast on the seashore. This is not an anticlimax, but a great revelation of God.

We have a tendency to look for wonder in our experience, and we mistake heroic actions for real heroes. It’s one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us. If we are not looking for halos, we at least want something that will make people say, “What a wonderful man of prayer he is!” or, “What a great woman of devotion she is!” If you are properly devoted to the Lord Jesus, you have reached the lofty height where no one would ever notice you personally. All that is noticed is the power of God coming through you all the time.

We want to be able to say, “Oh, I have had a wonderful call from God!” But to do even the most humbling tasks to the glory of God takes the Almighty God Incarnate working in us. To be utterly unnoticeable requires God’s Spirit in us making us absolutely humanly His. The true test of a saint’s life is not successfulness but faithfulness on the human level of life. We tend to set up success in Christian work as our purpose, but our purpose should be to display the glory of God in human life, to live a life “hidden with Christ in God” in our everyday human conditions (Colossians 3:3). Our human relationships are the very conditions in which the ideal life of God should be exhibited.

The Unrivaled Power of Prayer

By Oswald Chambers

We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. —Romans 8:26

We realize that we are energized by the Holy Spirit for prayer; and we know what it is to pray in accordance with the Spirit; but we don’t often realize that the Holy Spirit Himself prays prayers in us which we cannot utter ourselves. When we are born again of God and are indwelt by the Spirit of God, He expresses for us the unutterable.

“He,” the Holy Spirit in you, “makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27). And God searches your heart, not to know what your conscious prayers are, but to find out what the prayer of the Holy Spirit is.

The Spirit of God uses the nature of the believer as a temple in which to offer His prayers of intercession. “…your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit…” (1 Corinthians 6:19). When Jesus Christ cleansed the temple, “…He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple” (Mark 11:16). The Spirit of God will not allow you to use your body for your own convenience. Jesus ruthlessly cast out everyone who bought and sold in the temple, and said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer…. But you have made it a ‘den of thieves’ ” (Mark 11:17).

Have we come to realize that our “body is the temple of the Holy Spirit”? If so, we must be careful to keep it undefiled for Him. We have to remember that our conscious life, even though only a small part of our total person, is to be regarded by us as a “temple of the Holy Spirit.” He will be responsible for the unconscious part which we don’t know, but we must pay careful attention to and guard the conscious part for which we are responsible

 

  •  

The Authority of Truth By Oswald Chambers 

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. —James 4:8

It is essential that you give people the opportunity to act on the truth of God. The responsibility must be left with the individual— you cannot act for him. It must be his own deliberate act, but the evangelical message should always lead him to action. Refusing to act leaves a person paralyzed, exactly where he was previously. But once he acts, he is never the same. It is the apparent folly of the truth that stands in the way of hundreds who have been convicted by the Spirit of God. Once I press myself into action, I immediately begin to live. Anything less is merely existing. The moments I truly live are the moments when I act with my entire will.

When a truth of God is brought home to your soul, never allow it to pass without acting on it internally in your will, not necessarily externally in your physical life. Record it with ink and with blood— work it into your life. The weakest saint who transacts business with Jesus Christ is liberated the second he acts and God’s almighty power is available on his behalf. We come up to the truth of God, confess we are wrong, but go back again. Then we approach it again and turn back, until we finally learn we have no business going back. When we are confronted with such a word of truth from our redeeming Lord, we must move directly to transact business with Him. “Come to Me…” (Matthew 11:28). His word come means “to act.” Yet the last thing we want to do is come. But everyone who does come knows that, at that very moment, the supernatural power of the life of God invades him. The dominating power of the world, the flesh, and the devil is now paralyzed; not by your act, but because your act has joined you to God and tapped you in to His redemptive power.

From Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest", which can be found online at
utmost.org  
 

The great challenge to the person on Mission with God...

By Oswald Chambers (from Utmost.org)

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… —Matthew 28:19

Jesus Christ did not say, “Go and save souls” (the salvation of souls is the supernatural work of God), but He said, “Go…make disciples of all the nations….” Yet you cannot make disciples unless you are a disciple yourself. When the disciples returned from their first mission, they were filled with joy because even the demons were subject to them. But Jesus said, in effect, “Don’t rejoice in successful service— the great secret of joy is that you have the right relationship with Me” (see Luke 10:17-20). The missionary’s great essential is remaining true to the call of God, and realizing that his one and only purpose is to disciple men and women to Jesus. Remember that there is a passion for souls that does not come from God, but from our desire to make converts to our point of view.

The challenge to the missionary does not come from the fact that people are difficult to bring to salvation, that backsliders are difficult to reclaim, or that there is a barrier of callous indifference. No, the challenge comes from the perspective of the missionary’s own personal relationship with Jesus Christ— “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28). Our Lord unwaveringly asks us that question, and it confronts us in every individual situation we encounter. The one great challenge to us is— do I know my risen Lord? Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit? Am I wise enough in God’s sight, but foolish enough according to the wisdom of the world, to trust in what Jesus Christ has said? Or am I abandoning the great supernatural position of limitless confidence in Christ Jesus, which is really God’s only call for a missionary? If I follow any other method, I depart altogether from the methods prescribed by our Lord— “All authority has been given to Me….Go therefore…” (Matthew 28:18-19).

The Key of the Greater Work

By Oswald Chambers

…I say to you, he who believes in Me,…greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. —John 14:12

Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work. Yet we think of prayer as some commonsense exercise of our higher powers that simply prepares us for God’s work. In the teachings of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working of the miracle of redemption in me, which produces the miracle of redemption in others, through the power of God. The way fruit remains firm is through prayer, but remember that it is prayer based on the agony of Christ in redemption, not on my own agony. We must go to God as His child, because only a child gets his prayers answered; a “wise” man does not (see Matthew 11:25).

Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, “I am of no use where I am,” because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him. And He promises, “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do…” (John 14:13). Yet we refuse to pray unless it thrills or excites us, which is the most intense form of spiritual selfishness. We must learn to work according to God’s direction, and He says to pray. “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38).

There is nothing thrilling about a laboring person’s work, but it is the laboring person who makes the ideas of the genius possible. And it is the laboring saint who makes the ideas of his Master possible. When you labor at prayer, from God’s perspective there are always results. What an astonishment it will be to see, once the veil is finally lifted, all the souls that have been reaped by you, simply because you have been in the habit of taking your orders from Jesus Christ.

 

Regeneration!

The Nature of Regeneration

By Oswald Chambers

When it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me… —Galatians 1:15-16

If Jesus Christ is going to regenerate me, what is the problem He faces? It is simply this— I have a heredity in which I had no say or decision; I am not holy, nor am I likely to be; and if all Jesus Christ can do is tell me that I must be holy, His teaching only causes me to despair. But if Jesus Christ is truly a regenerator, someone who can put His own heredity of holiness into me, then I can begin to see what He means when He says that I have to be holy. Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into anyone the hereditary nature that was in Himself, and all the standards He gives us are based on that nature— His teaching is meant to be applied to the life which He puts within us. The proper action on my part is simply to agree with God’s verdict on sin as judged on the Cross of Christ.

The New Testament teaching about regeneration is that when a person is hit by his own sense of need, God will put the Holy Spirit into his spirit, and his personal spirit will be energized by the Spirit of the Son of God— “…until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). The moral miracle of redemption is that God can put a new nature into me through which I can live a totally new life. When I finally reach the edge of my need and know my own limitations, then Jesus says, “Blessed are you…” (Matthew 5:11). But I must get to that point. God cannot put into me, the responsible moral person that I am, the nature that was in Jesus Christ unless I am aware of my need for it.

Just as the nature of sin entered into the human race through one man, the Holy Spirit entered into the human race through another Man (see Romans 5:12-19). And redemption means that I can be delivered from the heredity of sin, and that through Jesus Christ I can receive a pure and spotless heredity, namely, the Holy Spirit.

From Oswald Chambers Utmost.org  
https://utmost.org/the-nature-of-regeneration/