Revelation 21:1-4

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”

The False Gospel of Legislative Reform

I was reading just this week a pamphlet that I received in the mail urging Christians to get involved in the political process for the good of our nation.  Here’s one quote:

Many Christians are praying for and expecting revival.  While it is true that God has already given America three national revivals in the past, we desperately need another one today.  Personally, I’m not sure we can have one without legislative reform, because we have strayed so far from our Biblical foundations.  You cannot pollute the minds of a nation with ten billion dollars of pornographic literature annually and murder one and a half million unborn babies and have a revival.  We must have legislative reform, but we will never have legislative reform until we elect enough leaders who are committed to that reform.

Would a righteous God give us revival while we murder 4,000 babies every day?  Will He bless us while we legalize pornography and remove Him from the respectful position He has had traditionally?  I think not.

This raises a fundamental question about our Christian faith: which came first, our goodness or God’s grace?  Does God give us His grace in response to our goodness or is our goodness a result of His first pouring out His grace?

Or, to put it in political terms, should we only expect God to give revival once political reform has already happened, or is it more likely that God would give us revival which would lead to legislative/political reform? 1

In both cases, I would argue the latter.

Or think of it this way: Did God not give Jesus Christ to an apostate Israel after 400 years of deafening silence and that during a pagan Roman occupation?  There was little good to be spoken of in Israel or Rome at the time, yet God sent His Son, the One through whom He was going to make “all things new” (Rev. 21:5).  The greatest gift we have ever received in the history of the world, God’s Son, was not given to us in response to our goodness, or because we had the right people in power, or because we were pursuing legislative reform, but simply because God loved us.  God gave us His Son Jesus, because “he so loved the world” (John 3:16).  “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Take John 3:16 for instance.  “World” or cosmos in the Greek, is a almost like a dirty word for John.  When John says world, think “bad.”  For example, John, the same John who wrote the gospel of John,  says in 1 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world (same word in Greek as is found in John 3:16), the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

The world is bad.

Paul gives us another depressing picture of the world in Romans 3:10-18.  “There is none righteous, not even one.  There is none who understands, all have turned aside… There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

So then why did God send Jesus?  Why does anything good ever happen to us?  To anyone in the world?

Love.

And God’s love (or blessing) does not depend upon our pursuit of legislative reform, or because we attain it.

Revival is possible in this nation, and I do pray and hope that God gives us a wave of revival like never before seen.  I do see the vast array of problems that only seem to multiply and continue to grow in power and influence here in what used to be a great nation.  I do fully understand as well, that as we grow increasingly hostile in this nation to God and to His truth that it will become harder for Christians to live as they please.  That grieves me unspeakably.

But I do not think that the way to pursue revival is by banging on the doors of the White House or by changing any laws.  That may be necessary.  But where there are cold hearts, no law(s) will ever warm them.  Only the gospel will warm the heart.

That is what we need more of, not legislative reform.  Christians should, in my opinion, focus more on living and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and less on enshrining our values in the laws of our land.  There may be overlap there, but they are not one and the same thing.

  1. I’m not going to address the very real issue that many Christians do not feel that we need significant reform.

Church Families Connected

This Sunday we will be rolling out a new ministry at the Red Door called “Church Families Connected.”
At the Red Door Church we are a multi-generational community with an understanding that it takes the entire church community to ensure everyone is well informed and cared for.
Many in our church family are without internet access, which means that email or website news does not reach them. “Church Families Connected”, is a ministry designed to keep these people up to date with all of the exciting changes going on at the Red Door Church.
The ministry is simply this – church members that have internet access and are able and willing to navigate our church website, “adopt” one person in our church family that does not have this ability and dedicate themselves to keeping them up to date on news, events, and other business of the church. How this communication happens is up to the individuals and should be designed to meet both of their needs. Suggestions include printing off pertinent news and either calling or mailing the information to the person, or others may decide to do a home visit to share the news. It really is a case by case basis and what the two individuals find the most rewarding.
For more information on this simple, easy and rewarding opportunity, or to find out who in our church family could benefit from your help, please contact Cheryl Morrill at camorrill@myfairpoint.net.

Ratio Christi Conference in CT this Weekend: Is Christianity The Only Way?

Ratio Christi is putting on a conference in Middlefield, CT this coming Friday and Saturday (the 6th and 7th of June).  The event will be hosted at Victory Christian Church.  Our pastor, Josh Moore, who is a Ratio Christi chapter director will be attending.

What’s the conference about?  Here’s a blurb taken from an event flyer:

What is truth and can I know it? Does God exist and is there evidence? Is the Bible reliable or is it just made up? How is Jesus different? Aren’t all religions the same? Was he just a good teacher? Why use philosophy? Does that stuff really matter? Is the resurrection a historical fact? What do we know for sure? Is Christianity really the only way?

There will be several speakers including Mike Licona, Alex McFarland, John DePoe, and Randy Everist.

Believers, seekers and skeptics are all welcome.  $0 admission.  Register early, because seating is limited.  860-346-6771.

 

“My Very Dear Friends”

My church has been going through 1st Corinthians since late January of this year.

This week we found ourselves in the middle of a text warning the Corinthian church that their actions were dangerously reminiscent of Israel’s during their wilderness wanderings (1 Cor. 10).  Paul says even though Israel enjoyed a unique relationship with God their position did not shelter them from all the consequences of sin; “God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (verse 5).

Apparently some of the Corinthians thought that their Christian liberty was so great that there was no need to be mindful of the peril their actions might represent to themselves, or the “weaker” believers in the Corinthian fellowship.  “Therefore,” says Paul, “let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (verse 12).

As I was studying this difficult passage I stumbled across the words “my dear friends” in verse 14 (as in the NIV).  The New American Standard renders this phrase “my beloved” because the word here for “dear friends” (or “beloved”) comes from the Greek word agape, which means love, or “Christian love” (as the Aland Greek New Testament dictionary, 4th edition has).  The King James has a combination reading of the phrase: “my dearly beloved.”  The author of the most definitive commentary on 1 Corinthians I’m aware of to date writes that the popular translation “my dear friends” should be strengthened a bit; he suggests “my very dear friends.”

In the midst of a firm warning, there is tenderness.

Too often we read our definition of love into many Biblical passages and the result is either a distrust of the Bible itself, or a skewed theology and practice.

Our culture here in America largely defines love as affirmation.  While love may at times need to be affirming, it also sees a place for warning and even rebuke.  The Bible never condones truth without love (Ephesians 4:15).

But the reverse is true as well.  Love shares truth.

Next time we read a difficult biblical passage in the Bible, we need to remember the loving God that stands behind them.  We need to remember that often the words of warning or rebuke are preceded by words like “my very dear friends.”

 

1 Corinthians 10:31

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (NIV)

Rogation Sunday

Tomorrow marks a special day in the Christian calendar known as Rogation Sunday.  Rogation means “asking” (derives from the Latin rogare).  The four days before Ascension Day (May 29th this year) are marked as rogation days.

In Agrarian societies many Christians once gathered together on these days to ask God for a blessing upon the crops that were being sown.  There would have been prayers for rain and a good harvest, usually said while marching around the boundary lines of the church property.  Families too would often take opportunity to recite prayers while walking around their homes and fields, stopping in corners and at the main entrance, asking for God’s blessing upon the home and family.

A prayer might go something like this:

 Lord the earth belongs to You and all the fullness of it, and although we are pilgrims and strangers upon the earth ever looking for that city not made by human hands, still You have granted to a haven of Your safety to be our dwelling upon earth; therefore let Your gracious favor rest upon our lands and fields that they might bring forth their abundance in due season so that we might lack for no good thing according to the promises which You have given to us in Your Son; and grant to us thankful hearts that might always acknowledge in both word and deed the marvelous love that You have set upon us for His Name’s sake.  Amen.

Disney’s Frozen: A Glimpse at the Human Heart

A couple of months ago my family sat down at home and watched Disney’s new hit movie “Frozen.”  It landed in stores not long ago in March and made a splash for its divergence from the standard prince-saves-princess romantic story line everyone has come to expect in Disney princess films.  Nadia Ali writes in an interesting article at the Washington Post online “What Disney’s Frozen Can Teach Us About Mental Illness“:

I also love the updated themes of today’s Disney movie: The message of empowerment and the healing power of love for others. The focus on sibling love rather than romantic love. Unlike those in “Cinderella” and fairy tales, several characters in this movie actively advocate against getting engaged to someone you’ve just met. And finally, of course, the strength of the princess saving the day herself rather than waiting for a man to do it for her.

Many Christians are applauding the movie’s more realistic depiction of love and the serious attempt it makes to contribute to cultural moral discussions.  There are also very obvious redemptive themes in the movie.  Trevin Wax writes at TGC blogs:

It’s not hard to see the redemptive sketches in this movie. If you believe that love is more than just a feeling, that true love is expressed in self-sacrifice (which flows ultimately from Christ’s willingness to give His life for the world), and that true change can only take place through redemption not self-discovery, then you will find this movie delightful. More importantly, you will find ways to connect this movie’s theme to the gospel. We loved it.

For example, one song is titled “Fixer-Upper.”  The idea of the song is that everyone has flaws and love is the only real medicine that can change them:

Everyone’s a bit of a fixer upper
That’s what it’s all about
Father, sister, brother
We need each other
To raise us up and round us out

Everyone’s a bit of a fixer upper
But when push comes to shove
The only fixer upper fixer
That can fix a fixer upper is
True
True
True
True
Love

But even more stunning for me is the picture of just how deep our depravity as humans goes and our utter powerlessness over it.  Elsa, the queen and older sister of Anna in the movie, has magical powers to freeze things.  The problem is that she cannot control these powers; and the more intensely she feels emotion, the more violently and destructively they are unleashed–even on those she loves most.  In effort to deal with her problems she isolates herself in the middle of nowhere, builds and ice castle, and tries to convince herself that everything is okay.  The theme song of the movie, “Let it go” is sung by Elsa in the movie right in the midst of her vain attempts to deal with her uncontrollable problems:

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

This is truly a picture of our fallen, sinful nature which we are all born into.  Our sins are so deep, and such a part of our core being that there is no human device which can shake them loose, in fact, most often our attempts only deepen the hurt for ourselves and those closest to us. It is only when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ that true and lasting healing can take place.  Just as the song above, “Fixer Upper” suggests, only love, God’s love can truly fix us up.

John 18:36

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”