Sunday, June 28, 2015

Daily Briefing for Sunday, June 28, 2015

So What Are We Supposed To Do Now?
(This morning, I led a discussion in my Sunday School class on the issue of what Christians need to be doing right now in the wake of a number of news stories around the world.  I've compiled my notes into a blog entry.  Those of you who are not interested in the confluence of faith and preparedness have my blessing to skip this one.)
Within the Christian community, this has been an extraordinary month.  In the days after 9/11, our nation came together, irrespective of our religious beliefs, sexual orientation, race, political affiliation, or sports team favorite.  Now, some fourteen years later, the media would have us believe (with some reason, I would add) that our nation is more splintered than ever.  That the world around us is crumbling.  And that Christians around the world are being persecuted.

Think about the headlines and blog posts we’ve seen recently:

Man decapitated as severed head is 'covered in Arabic writing' and hung on a fence next to Islamist flag at factory in France after terrorists storm building and set off 'gas bomb' explosions

Kuwait paramedic, rights group: 16killed in mosque attack

Doomsday clock: 3 minutes to midnight – closest since 1984

Isis tortures 14-year-old Syrian boy and films it in graphic video for 'propaganda purposes'

NATO Ups the Ante in the Ukraine Crisis

House Intelligence Committee Chair: US is at “the highest threat level we have ever faced in this country.”

Authorities Warn of Possible ISIS-Inspired Attack Around 4th of July

Church shooting suspect Dylann Roof captured amid hate crime investigation

ISIS executes more Christians in Libya, video shows

Shock vote on terms of bailout pushes Greek banks to the brink of meltdown as long queues form at country's cashpoints

Perhaps the biggest news story for America this week was the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.  Chief Justice Roberts' dissent in that case well summarizes the fears of many Christians regarding the impact of the court's ruling on religious freedom:

“Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage. There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.”  (emphasis added)

It would be inaccurate to say that the only Christians fretting about the state of the world right now are same ones who are concerned with the SCOTUS' ruling in this seminal case.  As more religiously affiliated Americans now support same-sex marriage than oppose it (and consider 33% of white evangelical Protestants and Mormons - two of the more conservative segments within Christianity - support same-sex marriage), and as 65 percent of likely American voters believe the nation is headed down the wrong track, there is enough overlap in those two data points to conclude that even Christians who agree with the Obergefell decision believe we still face serious moral and spiritual problems.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I believe the court reached the correct conclusion in Obergefell as it pertains to the government's scheme of licensing marriages.  Aside from my objection of such government regulation of any marriage, my main concerns regarding the Obergefell decision stem from the majority's failure to adequately address - and protect - the freedom of people with sincerely held religious beliefs which may not condone same-sex marriages.)

Needless to say, the response to this court decision from conservative Christian leaders came swiftly and in volume.  An excerpt from an article in Time Magazine entitled "
Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country:"

“It is time for what I call the Benedict Option. In his 1982 book After Virtue, the eminent philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray, as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said “a new — and doubtless very different — St. Benedict.”

Throughout the early Middle Ages, Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped refound civilization.

I believe that orthodox Christians today are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. How do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions? I don’t know. But we had better figure this out together, and soon, while there is time.”

While written about the Obergefell decision, the guidance offered in the Time article can be applied by Christians to address the myriad of problems our nation faces.  Despite the trending stories on Facebook and Twitter, there are a number of serious issues affecting people worldwide and in our own communities having nothing to do with gay marriage or the Confederate flag.  Christians are obligated to address all of these important issues; merely taking a stand via social media on same-sex marriage and the use of the Confederate flag (irrespective of your position on them) does not begin to fulfill our Christian ambassador obligations.

This morning, I asked my Sunday School class:
  • How do you feel about America’s future right now?
  • What concerns you right now regarding our nation?  Our community?
Predictably, my friends felt the various problems we're seeing in the news as of late do not bode well for our nation.  The human reaction, of course, is to be fearful of the future.  To withdraw.  To not engage in discussion on important issues with others.  To refrain from taking action.

And that's the last thing we should be doing as believers right now.

I started jotting down some notes on Friday - mental graffiti, for lack of a better term - in an effort to help me get a better sense of what Christians who are paying attention to events around the world and in our community need to be doing right now.  I identified thirteen "Ps" that the Bible calls for us to do during difficult times:

PrayPray for discernment, peace, knowledge, understanding, spiritual revival in America, our leaders, our missionaries, unity as a nation, calm heads and resources to remedy the problems around us. 

Philippians 4:6-7  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 34:17  “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.”

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”


Prepare You will need to decide for yourself what you are called to do this regard.  Perhaps it is to pay down debts, get health check ups, make home or auto repairs, save more money, have emergency supplies protection for you and your family, or spiritually equipping your kids for adulthood.  What else might you do?

Hebrews 11:7 “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”

Proverbs 6:6-8 “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.”

Proverbs 22:3 “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”


PonderWhat are the scriptures speaking to your heart and soul? What scriptures should you meditate on?  How often do you ponder scripture and ask the Holy Spirit to show you its meaning?  When the Holy Spirit places something on your heart, do you ponder what you should do in response?

Psalm 1:2 “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.

Psalm 119:15 “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.”

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”


PoseWhen we discuss our beliefs in person and in social media, do we raise questions and comments to others in a thoughtful, respectful, and thought provoking way?  Or do we share inflammatory social media posts or belittle the beliefs of others? How many people are willing to listen to other viewpoints when they are being called sinners, racists, idiots, privileged, and a host of other pejorative terms used by people on both sides of the political spectrum.  Christians can share their thoughts on a subject without ridiculing others who disagree with them. 

good advice here:

“Don't rush directly into the topic of witnessing. Start with some small talk and ask about what has been going on in his or her life lately. Don't expect that anyone would immediately trust you. It will take a while before someone opens up to you.

The Billy Graham Association said that 90% of converts remain in a church when they find a friend there. So if you are in college or school, you can do this experiment: sit with someone in the cafeteria for 3 days and make a friend first, then talk faith on the third day. The results may be startling for you, the student may pour his/her heart out to you, even for hours, with questions.”

PartakePartake of news.  Educate yourself. At the same time, partake of life.  God did not put you here to worry.  He calls us to accept Christ to have an abundant life.  What do you do to help you partake of life despite the bad news/events in society?

1 Peter 1:13 “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Ecclesiastes 5:18 “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment[a] in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.”

John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Perspective Remember the Great Depression, WWII, Cuban Missile Crisis, 9/11, and 2008 crash.  Guess what?  The human race survived those things.  It's important to remember we are a resilient species.  Given that, we should be making longer term plans and aspirations on how we plan to help others and to live a Godly life.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Partner Find like-minded people to help you and for you to help.  Be a mentor to those needing guidance, and seek guidance in those areas of your life where you need help.

Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

Proverbs 5:9 “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” 

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”


Preserve Preserve relationships and family connections.  Don’t let political, religious, racial, or gender differences isolate you from others.  Don't you let your friends’ posts and comments on social media taint your perception of them.  We are all trying to find a way to express ourselves and be validated.

Romans 12:10 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Galatians 5:14 “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”


PioneerRemember the article I mentioned earlier about  the Benedict Option, calling for us to become pioneers? Look for ways to be a leader in thought, citizenship and faith. Don’t be afraid to follow your own course.  Be counted among the rebels.  What might you start doing differently to help the cause?

Titus 1:7-9 “An elder is a manager of God’s household, so he must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money.

Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life. He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong."

Luke 22:37 “For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: 'He was counted among the rebels.' Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true."

Pledge to live by a code as a Christian ambassador and model citizen.  Have you ever thought of living a Christian life as living by a code?

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”


Preach Share the word to those who ask.  Don’t hide your light under a bushel.  Have you thought how you might preach to someone you sense is in need of the truth of the Gospel?

Mark 16:15 “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.'”

Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Purify Find the sins and bad habits in your life and eliminate them.  This isn’t just for self improvement – this is to strengthen you for your efforts as a Christian worker.

2 Corinthians 7:1 “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”


PursuePursue God with all your heart and soul.  Remember God wants a relationship with you more than he wants you “doing” things for him.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”


I'll finish by sharing a couple of posts from Christian leaders regarding the SCOTUS decision, although I would suggest to you that their guidance is very applicable to the host of issues we are facing right now around the globe and in our community.

From the Washington Post:

“Some Christians will be tempted to anger, lashing out at the world around us with a narrative of decline. That temptation is wrong. God decided when we would be born, and when we would be born again. We have the Spirit and the gospel. To think that we deserve to live in different times is to tell God that we deserve a better mission field than the one he has given us. Let’s joyfully march to Zion.

The witness to marriage will be, like the pro-life movement, a long-term strategy that is multi-pronged. This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing. We see that we are strangers and exiles in American culture. We are on the wrong side of history, just like we started. We should have been all along

Let’s seek the kingdom. Let’s stand with the gospel. Let’s fear our God. But let’s not fear our mission field.”

And from Max Lucado:

"Our society seemed to take a seismic shift today. The decision of the SCOTUS regarding same-sex marriage has the potential to leave many Christians anxious and troubled. While those of us who hold to traditional marriage have a right to be concerned, we have no need to despair. What we need is a good dose of this Scripture:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Ph. 4:6,7)

It may seem that the world is changing fast, but is it really? The headlines may announce a decision of the Supreme Court, but the actions of our Supreme God are unaltered.

He is still the Creator, blessed forever. (Rom. 1:25)

He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb. 13:8)

His years will never end. (Ps. 102:27)

He needs no counselor; seeks no advice. He is equally everywhere. He never wearies, sleeps or struggles. He has never been confused, thwarted or contested. He reigns supreme over every detail of the universe. “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dan. 4:35)

God is still God and His word is still sure. His sovereign grace never changes. Everything else may change. But He doesn’t.

So let’s replace our anxious thoughts with prayerful ones. “…in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known…” Now is the time for prayer and faith.

Something good will come out of this. Maybe now we can have this discussion where we need to have it. Face-to-face. In neighborhoods. Over dinner tables. Perhaps the hate-filled words will subside and clear thinking will gain traction; the shouting will diminish and the heart-felt dialogue will increase.

Now is the time for us all to pursue the highest ideals of our Master: to love God, love our neighbors and, above all, be anxious for nothing.”

God put us here
  • on this earth,
  • in this country,
  • in this city,
  • in this time,
  • with these people in our lives

to fulfill his purpose. 

It is time for us to get to work doing so.  If you don't know where to start, pray for guidance on what to do.  Be a good friend.  Be the Christian ambassador you are called to be. And then start taking action.

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