Today, Tomorrow and the Next Day

Trust

Gentle Reader,

Over the last month, there have been scores of articles written, stressing the importance of voting. This midterm election has taken on a weight, an importance, that I don’t recall seeing before. We are all Chicken Little, but instead of the sky falling, we fear, and even believe, that our country is coming to pieces.

I look out my front window. We have new neighbors. They’ve been here since early September. I’ve yet to get up the courage to go and introduce myself. They’ve been busy getting settled, anyway, running loads to here from whence they came. When I do cross the street and extend my hand, my first question will not be, “Who did you vote for in 2016? 2018?”

Because who wants to start off a relationship like that?

Politicians have sold us a great lie: The neighbor is the enemy. This simply isn’t true. Unless you live near a Neo-Nazi, chances are pretty good that those in the homes within shouting distance want the same things you do. A job, good schools, safe neighborhoods. Chances are also pretty good that everyone up and down your street disagrees on how to achieve those things, and just what role the government should play in the achievement, but down at the base level, where it really matters, people are just people.

We forget that. All of us, so tuned into what our leaders have to say, find our sinful, baser natures rising to the forefront. Fears of “the other” and “the different” and “the invader” have been stoked, and blatantly. It behooves those in power to stir us up and create suspicion. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, the house that is divided shall not stand. He uttered these words in 1858, on the eve of civil war, when brother took up arms against brother.

Do we want to repeat this history?

Yes, I believe that if we do not check ourselves, we will wreck ourselves. Violence is the natural, logical conclusion when people feed on fear and hate. Perhaps not tomorrow. Maybe not even next year. But eventually.

I won’t tell you who to vote for. I won’t even tell you to vote. As I write this, the polls open in less than 24 hours and I have yet to decide if I will be among those waiting for a ballot. Not because I think voting is pointless – I don’t. It matters a great deal. A couple of weeks ago I was sure; now, I feel a heaviness knowing that, once again, it will come down to choosing the “lesser of two evils.”

Is that a choice that a Christian can or should make?

Wrong is still wrong, isn’t it, even if varied by degrees?

You’ve read here of my love of politics. Long have I been fascinated by the history, the personalities and the processes. Today, I am sickened instead. Waves of nausea wash over me as I ponder what lies before us. Nobody knows exactly what tomorrow holds, but it is not too far a stretch to make an educated guess. More anger, more division, more trouble.

Unless we choose differently.

We legislate morality. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Murder, robbery, abuse – all sinful, all penalized. What we cannot do, and must stop attempting to do, is legislate Christianity. This marriage of faith and politics, this reckless and futile attempt to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, right now, in the United States, as a distinct physical and political entity (read this as a jumping off point), must stop. There will be no utopia before the return of Christ. And His return certainly isn’t going to be forced by us.

Before you go to sleep tonight, examine yourself. Take a good, long, hard inventory of your heart and mind. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal both cherished and hidden sins. Ask Him to grant you the strength to repent. If you choose to vote tomorrow, be sure that you do so with His agenda squarely in focus.

Because that’s what we are to be about. Today, tomorrow and the next day.

Let us choose differently. Vote, don’t vote – that’s not an answer I have. What I can tell you is that, whatever the results are, we have to learn that sanctification is a process meant to change all parts of our lives. Nothing is to be held back from the refining fire of the Spirit’s touch. For some of us that might mean choosing to listen to the stories of an immigrant family (legal or otherwise). For others that might look like turning off the obnoxious cable news and reading the Bible a little longer than usual. I don’t know what God is asking of you, but I know it’s something, because that’s what He does.

Listen. Oh, please, let’s listen. Let’s choose Him, over and above all else. Like Hannaniah, Azariah and Mishael. Let’s not go with the flow. Let’s not allow ourselves to be manipulated. Let’s not give into fear and hate.

Today, tomorrow and the next day.

Mediate on these words:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

– Psalm 20:7 (NKJV)

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Five Minute Friday: If

Repent

Gentle Reader,

So I was asleep on the couch before 6:00 p.m. last night and woke up long enough to wash my face, throw on some sweats and drop into bed.

Kate says: if.

Go.

Like all human beings, there are moments when I intentionally stir the pot or poke the bear because I want to see what happens. It’s like when you fight with a sibling; you know what buttons to push to really drive him crazy. And it always ends with everyone in angry tears.

But when I write about serious issues, it is not my intention to just throw a fire cracker into a circle of people so I can watch them freak out. It’s because I’m observing and participating in what’s happening in our churches, in our country, and it’s all disturbing. Deep, soul-roiling disturbing. I don’t pretend to be the smartest or to know the most, but I know enough to be able to confidently assert that faith and politics, whether of the conservative or liberal variety, have been conflated to the degree that party/ideology is seen as the savior.

We’ve very much become “Jesus, and…” people. Defending abhorrent actions of leaders, believing that the end justifies the means. Jesus and the Supreme Court appointee that we want. Jesus and the passage of this law. Jesus and us in a position of power. 

If we don’t step back and critically, even mercilessly, evaluate our actions, positions and words, we are in danger of truly destroying our witness in this country. People who are far smarter and wiser than I bluntly say that we need to repent. Those who don’t follow Christ need to see us, hear us, repent.

God, forgive us, forgive me, for focusing on the temporal. You tell us that we are strangers and aliens. You tell us that this world isn’t our home. You tell us that we are to be servants, that we don’t have permission to oppress others. You say that if we love You, we will show it by obeying Your commands – to love others, to speak truth, to do justly, to walk humbly. Empower us, Father, to make the choice that we cannot make on our own, which is to be about Your business. To prioritize Your will over and above all else. Help us remember that Your church spans the globe and encompasses all nationalities, ethnicities and languages. Our identity is found in You, not in the soil upon which we were born or live.

Forgive us for turning a blind eye to sin or attempting to justify it because we think we can get something out of the person or the decision. Forgive us for remaining silent in the face of evil. Forgive us for ignoring the bleeding man on the road. Forgive us for our pride and our complacency.

Holy Spirit, lay Your hand of conviction heavily upon us. Show us where we, where I, have gone wrong. Grant us eyes to see and ears to hear. Cleanse us, Jesus. Renew our hearts. Fill us with holy love and zeal. In the Name of Christ, Amen.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Comfort

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

It’s easy to block out what’s going on beyond the boundaries of our homefronts. It’s easy to get wrapped up in silly little things. Petty jealousies, pointless disputes.

God sends timely reminders.

Earlier today I read this month’s newsletter from Voice of the Martyrs. The Sudanese government is attempting to wipe out people in three separate regions – Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Dictator Omar al-Bashir wants to force out and/or wipe out the non-Muslim, non-Arab population. Government forces continually bomb hospitals, schools, churches and fields of crops. Anything to keep the area destabilized and prevent people from getting what they need. Children are forced to dive into foxholes, speckled throughout every village and town, in hopes of surviving the aerial assaults. In South Kordofan there are 2 doctors, 2 clinics and one mobile unit (a tent) for 1.1 million people. The government has made all humanitarian and medicalaid illegal. Voice of the Martyrs team members have been arrested for attempting to help.

And yet our brothers and sisters cling to hope and joy. They are glad that their Muslim neighbors are open to the Gospel as never before. All they ask of us, swaddled in our Western comfort, is that we pray – and that we remember them.

Remember them.

Reading those words stole my breath and broke my heart.

Linking up with Kate and the usual suspects. We ponder: comfort.

Go.

Dear Lord,

So many of Your dear children are not safe tonight. They don’t know when or if the next meal will come. When or if there will be clean water. When, not if, the persecutors may yank the door open, tearing apart the family, dragging loved ones off to jail and death.

Mothers cradle malnourished children.

Fathers try to protect them.

Those children are kidnapped, forced into military service.

Bombs explode, tearing homes, hospitals, schools, churches, whole villages to bits. Tearing apart bodies. Bringing life to a swift, painful end.

I know You see them, Father. I know You love them.

Please, dear Jesus, grace these, the ones who carry the bright light of Your Gospel into the darkest places, grace them with the comfort of Your tangible presence. Grant them spines of steel and knees that bend only to You. Protect their minds, their hearts. Guard their faith. May they be a brilliant testimony of Your power and mercy.

And us, Holy One, who doze so comfortably – wake us.

For our brothers and sisters need our prayers.

Our love.

Our practical aid.

If it is Your will, please bring this madness to an end. Let those in power hear and be transformed by Your word, flowing from the cracked lips of Your faithful ones. If not, if for reasons beyond my understanding this evil must be allowed room to roam – fill your children with such love and passion and joy that, though they be killed, they cannot be denied.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Stop.

My husband is the human resources director for a local hospital. Before retiring, my mother worked in doctor’s offices, oversaw the medical records department at the same hospital and ended her career doing something called credentialing (I know nothing about that). My brother and I owe much to the doctors and nurses who have cared for us, far beyond monetary debt. I am, without doubt, pro-medicine.

So I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I won’t sit idly by while people – Christian or not – suffer at the hands of a violent, corrupt government.

We can’t give much, but we can give something. I have a feeling you can, too.

Go here to donate.

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Photo credit: Voice of the Martyrs

What Now?

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I have no idea what to do now.

I’ve written and rewritten and edited. The in-text notations are formatted. The bibliography is finished.

Ten months of work (in fits and starts) completed.

What are you supposed to do when you reach the goal?

At age six I knew I wanted to be one of three things: a writer, a teacher or a gardener. Occasionally I flirted with the idea of becoming a lawyer, but for the most part the dreams stayed the same. Wonder of wonders, the Lord has seen fit to grant me the desires of my heart. Oh, not in the ways I imagined. There is no dust jacket (yet). I don’t stand at the front of a classroom. I’m not a master horticulturist. Still I get to pound on the keyboard and lead people through Bible studies and dig in the dirt. The path has been anything but straight, but I am fortunate to be able to do exactly what I set out to do.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m bewildered that I’ve written a book.

It’s almost…embarrassing. Perhaps the sense that I should feel…ashamed?…for seeing it through. There’s a feeling I can’t quite describe associated with the completion of this project. I can’t quite believe it’s really done. That I, this person whose faults and failures I know all too well, did the thing.

I’m not searching for compliments or reassurances. I’m aware that defeat snatched from the jaws of victory has its source in the Enemy of my soul. He wants me to stay down and stay hidden. He’s madder than a hornet that I’ve finished. I get it.

Stupidly I am more comfortable with that then the sense of the Lord’s pleasure at my obedience. Yes, I am hard on myself. I know. But this is the battle. Getting that last word on that last page was the easy part, and I sweat plenty of buckets in the process. Now, figuring out what to do next, that’s the truly hard thing. I could quite easily let this manuscript sit in the netherworld of the Google cloud for the rest of my life.

People can’t tear apart what they can’t see.

So, dear reader, I seek your prayers. I ask you to join with me in petitioning the Lord to make His will clear. It’s easy enough to know that I am supposed to share this thing others. The how isn’t easy to discern. I would love to have a professional editor hack apart my precious and mine from it the jewel within. That costs money. I would love to find and hire an agent. That also costs money. Even if I go the self-publishing route through Amazon (a viable option), I still need to find someone who would be willing to comb through each page in search of errors. If that’s not a professional, then it would have to be someone who is both a grammar nazi and not easily offended.

You see, I did not write a fluffy book. My words are going to make people angry. This isn’t my intention, to inflame tempers, yet it is an inevitable consequence. I know that I’m going to be attacked in a vicious and highly personal way whenever the words go live. Pray for me on that account as well. Ask God to make me strong and brave. Ask Him to help me remember the words He’s given me over and over:

God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people. Tell them, ‘If I bring war on this land and the people take one of their citizens and make him their watchman, and if the watchman sees war coming and blows the trumpet, warning the people, then if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and ignores it and war comes and takes him off, it’s his own fault. He heard the alarm, he ignored it—it’s his own fault. If he had listened, he would have saved his life.

“‘But if the watchman sees war coming and doesn’t blow the trumpet, warning the people, and war comes and takes anyone off, I’ll hold the watchman responsible for the bloodshed of any unwarned sinner.'”

– Ezekiel 33:1-8 (MSG)

Not that I am a prophet. By no means. Certainly I have not been given some extra-biblical revelation. I fully understand the historical and theological context in which these words were spoken and who they were meant for. Nevertheless, every time I have questioned, doubted, wondered, in the process of writing, the Lord has brought me to this passage. I would be a fool not to pay attention.

I don’t ask you for money or for you to abuse any contacts or friendships you might have. I ask only that you cover myself and this book in your steadfast, hearty prayers. I ask that you join with me in seeking Him. It may be that He’ll have me release the book as-is, on this site, for free. That’s fine. It might be something different, something harder. That’s fine, too. I want to follow where He leads.

Thank you, friend.

I won’t bring this up again until the way forward has been revealed. We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging about everything and nothing.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo credit: Patrick Tomasso