"Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony?" (Job 28:29)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Immigrant Children and the Christian Church…

HAVING been assailed by news in recent weeks concerning the plight of children and youth who are detained at the U.S. southern border, I have considered the right task of the church in the matter. The path that we take as a Christian church working across the globe, and specifically within these United States, carries great import for the future of all humanity.
 Within the context of this modern world, we find it no recent news that Christianity is under severe attack. Headlines of atrocities committed in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, North Korea, China and elsewhere, give evidence that the church is now assailed by the minions of both Muslim terrorism, religious pantheism, and assorted atheistic powers. Amid this assault, the church finds itself with a gross lack of foresight. We certainly see that in this great nation, wherein the church is assailed by noxious powers that would slay our young (see my previous comments in http://motorsage.blogspot.com/2013/04/infant-mortality-for-gain.html), we have denominations that pay insurance claims for abortions amongst clergy families. We hear also from many persons how unborn children of select minorities are targeted by the sinful travesties of Planned Parenthood. We see headlines that such as the Presbyterian (PCUSA) recently voted to withhold medical assistance from those infants born alive though abortion was attempted. These trends caution me to thus believe with halted shudder, that we of the church forsake the righteousness of God. We embrace the progressive liberalities of murderous population control.
 Surely we may glean scriptural record to find that our God did indeed slay sinful men, women and even children during the establishment and corrections of ancient Israel. And certainly we find yet such natural events as earthquake, famine and flood take the lives of many children or leave them as orphaned, while we question the power of God to divert disaster. We lamely, but rightly counter, that God being God… is yet laying righteous judgment upon a sinful world.
 But, consider this! As part of a sinful world yet saved by grace through Christ, we of the church are called in scripture to work for the good of our neighbor. Out task is to assist in the preservation of life though proclamation of the Word, even unto eternity.
 It is with this foundation that I call the church to assist the children that have immigrated into this great land. We need realize that “yes”, the government powers may contain persons who allowed their passing across the southern borders for ulterior motive. We may also hear the call of those who say publically that this land does not have inexhaustible resources. These claim that we have not the ability, nor responsibility… to care for the world’s destitute and endangered children. But as a churchman, I refer you to my Lord and his actions…

And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them. (Mark 10:13–16)

 Thus we find ourselves greatly disturbed by our inaction within the church. Are we not called to do as our Lord? Yes, our action may flow against the popular opinion of errant church and state! But did not the Lord who stated such warmth for little children stand firmly against the powers of the temple and the political forces of his earthly days? Yes, they crucified him, but he rose again.
 If nothing else, consider the prophetic possibilities that we Christians in the U.S. shall need the veracity of these young ones. First, we set ourselves to raise these immigrant Latino children in the faith, thus working toward completing the commission which our Lord had already given (see Matthew 28:18). Second, we may find that we shall one day consider the children as a God-given resource. A future may unfold that they stand with us over against terror or war brought about by a radical Muslim caliphate now being sown in the Middle East. We need remember that the survival of the people and message of God has often depended upon a remnant. Those, such as I am of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), need to hear the foundational words of Luther against those who would neglect these young…

“Therefore, I beg all of you, my dear sirs and friends, for the sake of God and poor young people, not to treat this matter as lightly as many do, who fail to realize what the ruler of this world [John 14:30] is up to. For it is a grave and important matter, and one which is of vital concern both to Christ and the world at large, that we take steps to help the youth. By so doing we will be taking steps to help also ourselves and everybody else. Bear in mind that such insidious, subtle, and crafty attacks of the devil must be met with great Christian determination. My dear sirs, if we have to spend such large sums every year on guns, roads, bridges, dams, and countless similar items to insure the temporal peace and prosperity of a city, why should not much more be devoted to the poor neglected youth—at least enough to engage one or two competent men to teach school?  (Luther, M. (2012). Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings. (W. R. Russell & T. F. Lull, Eds.) (Third Edition., p. 458). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.)

 Thus it is so. I believe that the church need pay close attention to this activity and help those who have been brought across the borders, whether driven here by poverty, famine, or the earthquake of devil-ridden governments. Yes, we know that the children who have come from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras may be interlaced with those persons who would take financial and illicit advantage of our benevolence. Could it not be possible then, that this nation withhold foreign aid to these nations based upon the numbers of youth and children from each, and use the monetary resources gained to support them?
  Know this Christians! Our Lord of Righteousness shall defend us in our efforts, and condemn us if we do not serve our neighbor. Remember! We of the church are called to first proclaim the gospel, and then do right acts of social justice. Unlike political powers of the day who hold to borders or break them, let us do these good tasks by the power of the Holy Spirit… and do so without reservation.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Christians and Worldwide Violence...

EACH TIME we watch the news on television it seems that the situation for Christians has become more severe. In Syria, we have heard that Christians are persecuted; clergy and laypersons are kidnapped and killed, and churches are burned to the ground. Women and children reportedly do not receive mercy in this strife, with the former being raped, killed and enslaved. Their children may be beheaded in front of their mothers. The news bears similar tyrannical markings of Herod’s travesty upon children so long ago.
 We cringe as we hear news out of Egypt which mirrors this alarm, as the text of many prominent newspapers reads similarly of persecutions and burned churches. Farther east, in the Orient, the same type of Christian persecutions occur in India, China, and other exotic lands. In Africa, where Christianity has given rise to great spiritual awakenings in Tanzania, Sudan and other lands, we find much to give alarm as well. Assassinations of clergy and laity, burning of churches, and kidnapping of Christian women grasp for headlines. Violence stems from those persons who are selectively called “radical” Muslims. Their deeds rage across the media of the globe as they pillage, murder, and rape in the name of their warring god.
 Certainly the places I mention above are troubled areas of the world where poverty often strikes hard.  Thus societal ills are blamed as having fomented this violent response. But this reason does not hold for all. The cause lay deeper. The fact remains that Christianity is under attack in both these and affluent places.., even in my own “peaceful” American land.
 Be aware however! Not being a dispensationalist theologian, in prophecy I do not ascribe credence to any form of tribulation or rapture sooth-saying. I hold to what may be described as an amillenialist Christian expression. I do contend, however, that through the apocalyptic writings of scripture we are rightly warned. Because of our human sinfulness, history does tend to repeat. Given this thought then, I ask you to view the following excerpt of scripture. This text was given to the early church as it was caught in the politics, economics and violence of the Roman Empire. The vivid mind pictures of Revelation paint a dire picture for us about that which confronted the early church. From it therefore we may take lessons for our own day. By the power of the Holy Spirit, after describing the woes and battles of war from demonic, and the triumph of God… blessed John wrote about more that was to come…
“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city; but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:7-11)

  Indeed as we study history we find that though Rome did fall, great unfolding events occurred on into the Middle Ages, the Crusades, and the rise of Charlemagne. That latter ruler, crowned “Holy Roman Emperor”, ushered in a period of history where the dual yokes of government and church finally led us to the Reformation, the period of Enlightened Despots and two major World Wars.
 Europe broke into three political factions and World War I erupted. Many died supporting the political aspirations of leaders such as the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar. In that time we note that both names ironically stem from the Roman title of Caesar. We find the church once again hid in catacomb repose while God saw evil roam. In the midst of the conflagration, scapegoats were chosen… but they did not choose Christians. The Jewish people were those who were soon beaten, burned out, and raped by civilizations that were blinded beneath Satan’s deception. In World war II, the demons used nationalism in the heresies of Hitler, and the atheistic and communist ranting of Marxism enlisted by Stalin, to persuade each to try to become more powerful. Each seemingly threw the idiotic theory of Social Darwinism into play. During this era, not only Jews, but those who were Gypsy, or mentally-challenged were targeted. I fear to say, in large measure, that the Christian church’s foolish cowardice splintered them into mixed response. In Germany, if it were not for such leadership as displayed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, my own denomination would yet be crying in sackcloth and ashes. If it were not for Allied forces working for their own survival, even more horrid events would have occurred as atomic energy emerged.
 After the travesty of World War II, it seems that we too easily ignored the warnings contained in General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech at West Point, wherein he spoke of the military/industrial complex. As a nation, we in these United States became involved in a series of “police actions” and wars. We found it more enduringly profitable to make tanks and blow them up, than to make school buses and ambulances. War seemed to be more economically generous than peace, as we now still sell warplanes to such as Egypt.  Thus this nation and its allies have become a world police force touting the cause of freedom, while allowing the dangling of arms and ammunitions before dubious powers. We have bought into “rescue” politics on a worldwide scale, with some wars justifiable indeed… while others are questioned. Our political tactics seemingly vacillate between profitability and righteousness, and voters are hard pressed to discern our future. But the greater problem is… evil hands are working yet. Our best efforts can become demonic.
 In the midst of peaceful chaos demons often work. At present we walk through a world which has bought into the socialistic educational morass of a “one world” vision. Government has taken the reigns of education. In their teaching rests a great lie. It is sometimes said, “If only we can ALL get along, everything will be alright worldwide.” According to this demonic thrust, the problems lay with our political mindset. Recently a thought entertained is that of a “common core” education. In this “common” worldview promoted for youth, we cannot be peaceful on our own, with kings, queens, emperors, presidents, clergy, churches, and various competing religious ways. In this view, proponents say we need to equalize the differences and diminish forces that stand in the way. In this dogma, humans shall progressively evolve into a one world, peaceful governance. I beg to differ, however… we too soon forget that blessed Saint Paul reminded us about ourselves in the days of Rome.
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood, in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)

In this political thought world slanted over against scripture, Jesus’ statements about his exclusivity for the salvation of humanity is suppressed. And the church dwindles quietly. For this reason, we Christians sit sinfully in our bare pews jealously guarding earthly inheritances, attempting by power of positions in failing churches to wrestle for that which is not ours. We feign to support social causes for the sake of wooing the ignorantly oppressed and fill whited sepulchers.
 We ignore our first calling in Christ, to proclaim the “good news” to our neighbors. Therefore our churches shall certainly dwindle in attendance. Minions within the church argue incessantly about the fine points of worship and social works. For this reason we have fallen victim to those across Christian denominations who twist right interpretation of scripture to suit their own agendas. We grovel at the feet of those factions in our midst who would blunt the penalty of God’s Law in order to fill the pews and coffers of failing churches. These rail hot against orthodox Christians who hold to the scriptural fidelity in both Law and Gospel, those who cling tightly and properly exegete that holiness received from our faith ancestors.
 I offer to you that my own denominational allegiance in recent years to the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) has shown me a more proper way. In the NALC, I believe we work to return to our primary calling…. “Proclaim both the Law and the Gospel!”
Across the church, we echo loudly what Saint Paul established…

 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
                                                                                           (Romans 3:21-25)

Thus the Word of God persists in us, and will sustain us… through historical and hysterical hiccups. Across the flow of history for a thousand years and yet a thousand more if needed, we shall profess that Jesus Christ is Lord of All. Whether the gospel shall spring forth in this nation in churches large or small, or be relegated to the recent “house church” movement I do not know. But the way of the Holy Spirit is prophetically certain. Jesus Christ and his gift shall be known, and in the last day the church shall survive triumphant. For it has been prophesied by John so long ago…

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.” (Revelation 20:11-12)

 Know this! Judgment comes upon us all, and we are all found wanting. But we who cling to our faith in Jesus Christ, given to us by the power of Holy Spirit, shall know forgiveness and be lifted up from the ashes for the sake of his blessed gift. In this modern world, therefore, as the future unfolds in this land… the Holy Spirit comes upon us whenever we gather together by the power of our Baptism. We are Christians strengthened in forgiveness by the order of Confession and Absolution. We are forgiven and energized in faith by precious observance of the Holy Eucharist. In that solemn time wherein we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus, from that hallowed place of worship, we are thus called to go into the world. Thus it is that we are privileged to proclaim to you and all that shall read and hear… that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. So it is, so it shall be! Amen