RELIGIOUS RACISM

I am ashamed to admit it; I was raised in bigotry.  My upbringing was in Mountain Home, Idaho, where there is an United States Air Force Base.  The result of which our town was probably the most racially integrated in the entire state of Idaho. Yet, my recollections of the language and references to people of color in my home were nothing less that bigotry.  It was easy to believe that people of color were inferior, lazy and suitable targets for jokes and slurs. It was what I heard over and over again.

As I got to know “those people”, however, I discovered that all of the presupposed beliefs were unfounded.  The Hispanics were funny and hard working people with dreams and goals like everyone else.  Getting to know the African-American students was more strained, but once ice was broken, the same thing applied.  The difficulties between the whites and blacks was due to racial tensions that were more pronounced due to the civil rights activities and the backlash of a bigoted community.  Many of the black students did not trust the white kids, reluctance on both sides was a natural part of the landscape. I don’t blame those who were victims of hate.

The most disturbing thing that I see today is that such little progress has been made with regard to racism. Even more disturbing is that way in which Christianity is brought into the equation.  Careful inquiry into the New Testament reveals that bigotry and racism have absolutely no place in any Church that professes to be Christian.  I concede that racism is often justified on Old Testament passages.  Time in this blog cannot permit a thorough discussion of the misapplication of the Old Testament by racists who claim Christianity condones such hatred. No Christian, however, that bases their faith in the New Testament could ever justify racism to any degree.

The gospel is the greatest power on earth to eradicate racism entirely. Religion, on the other hand, is the greatest power to ensure racism will continue to flourish. No more harm has been done on this earth to the cause of Christ than that which has been done in the name of Jesus Christ despite the fact that those who made such professions paid no heed to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. No more damage has been done to people than that which was done in the name of Jesus. I understand the difficulties people have in believing the gospel when the examples of those who claim allegiance to Christ have been the most unchristian of all.

I pray that as the Spirit of God in me continues renewing my mind and heart, that never a thought, word or deed shall ever be entertained by me that disparages another for any reason. Jesus Himself said, “Love your enemies.” People are not my enemies by virtue of their ethnicity, though there may be those who hate me for any number of reasons, including my faith. Regardless, I have one command that must be foremost in my heart and actions, “to love my neighbor as myself.” That means any neighbor regardless of color, citizenship or religion. This is the command of God. It trumps any racist’s rationalization for hatred.

 

 

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NO MONEY OR NO CASH

I have recently heard that several big box stores are going cashless, in that they will no longer receive cash for purchases on sight.  I may make sense for several reasons that are obvious.  One, security.  Without cash, the chances of robbery drops significantly, at least from a cash register.  Second, the speed of checkout.  No more lines waiting for people to write checks or count out cash only to have “cashiers” (I wonder what they will call them since there will be no cash) not know how to count change, even if the computer tells them how much to give back.  Third, more capability of online shopping where the customer can order remotely and either have the items delivered or picked up at the store without having to walk the aisles.

Buying and selling remotely is nothing new.  I do it.  About one tenth of my purchases are online now, and obviously cash is not used to do so.  Paying at the pump is convenient, and with the smart phone, all this is done so seamlessly.  Whether or not it is secure remains to be seen.  Hackers are daily making inroads to devices and servers which is always going to be an issue.

When we read the Bible, particularly the Revelation of Jesus Christ, as given to John, the Lord’s servant and apostle, this may have seemed completely impossible.  We are as a society completely conditioned to it now. It is hard to argue with convenience and even harder to argue with the fact that like it or not, this is the trend and it is not going to reverse.

Culture in the West has already become biblically illiterate, and antagonism to Christianity is growing.  It is not an antagonism toward religion per se, but toward one religion, that which espouses Jesus Christ as Lord. This is where the book of Revelation finds its greatest relevance.

In the first century, the conflict was with God or Caesar.  The Romans finally determined to allow the Jews exemption from declaring Caesar as Lord as long as they submitted to him as Emperor.  When the followers of Jesus came along, they were not afforded the same courtesy.  They were seen as traitors for the state for declaring no other Lord but Jesus, and they were promptly killed for their refusal to compromise.

In our day, the same conflict is growing.  Jesus or the state, Jesus or society, Jesus or this world.  Caesar may not be identified as one person, at least not yet, but Caesar is clearly represented in the values of this age, and there is no place for Jesus or truth in that society.

Whether or not believers use cell phones or other electronic media to buy and sell, the issue is clear: Compliance with the world’s commercial system will become more than a simple do or don’t, but will become an issue of whether or not Caesar is called Lord, or Jesus.  The outcome is written.  The question is one of what believers value most, their lives or their Lord.

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THE MARK…..

When I first heard the news about a company in Wisconsin that was installing a microchip in the hands of their employees, I like many other Christians wondered if this was a sign of the end.  At least for a moment, I confess.  While the idea is eerie, to be sure,  it is so on many levels.  The issue of personal privacy is one, but then again, how many Christians have smart phones and Facebook accounts.  So much for privacy.

The Biblical implications are there.  I did some research to see what others might be saying about this, and I found many random responses.  Some were certain this was the first step toward the beast worship, others were mocking the fact that fundamentalist Christians would come out with blazing sickles ready to lob off any people who would be willingly in league with the devil.  Suffice to say that there is really not much help there.

Interpreting Revelation has been a controversial issue in the church since John had the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  It was no doubt written for the believers in his day to bring comfort and encouragement to the distressed church undergoing horrific persecution.  Many believe that the 666 antichrist was a specific reference to Nero, and may have been in fact.  Does this preclude a secondary aspect to Bible prophecy, i.e., that there could be a dual fulfillment in the future? What should we think?

Many prophecies can fit that category from the Old Testament.  Isaiah, Jeremiah and the Psalms all speak of the glorious Day of the Lord.  The Day of ushering in the fullness of God’s restored kingdom, and the setting right of all creation. While many in Israel believed the prophecies were about their own national greatness, the New Testament sheds light on the fact that this great Day will come when the Messiah assumes His rightful place of worship and kingship on this earth. Before that day comes, there will be great tribulation such as the world has never seen before, nor will ever see again.   I don’t think any war to date can qualify, from the sacking of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 to the horrors seen in WWII, Viet Nam, or in the Middle East.

Paul speaks of a man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 1.  This prediction was given before John’s Revelation anywhere from 10 to 20 years. Both men, inspired by the Holy Spirit, moved to tell us that there will be a pseudo-Christ that will attempt to bring all mankind under the delusion of the devil.  Paul’s warning is dire, in that even God will send a strong delusion so that people will believe the lie because “they did not love the truth.”  This should stand as a grave warning to all believers that, microchips or not, there will be a day of great testing on this earth, and the only safety is in full surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We would be well off not to speculate on anything, but to fix our hope on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.  If you are in doubt about anything regarding technology or marks or allegiances, make certain of this one thing, devotion to Jesus does not guarantee you will be free from persecution, but just the opposite, it is the guarantee of it.

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Adopted as Sons

The word adoption is a frequently used word in the New Testament signifying the way in which believers in Christ are legally and fully made into the heirs of God and co-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord.  Even in our increasingly secular culture, those who acknowledge God’s existence consider themselves, and all people for that matter, to be “children of God.”

William Barclay, the renowned Bible commentator wrote that in the English, there are two significant words that clarify this issue.  One word is paternity, which means that a man is physically responsible for the existence of a child.  He is the genetic donor.  The other word is fatherhood, denoting the loving, caring, intimate and continuous relationship where the father and the child grow closer together each day.  It is in the latter sense that God becomes a Father to every believer, whereas, he is the progenitor of all people everywhere.

Another sense is vital.  In Roman culture, adoption meant that the son had all the rights of a natural child.  In some instances, natural children were removed from legal status and replaced by adopted sons by authority of the head of household. This is what Paul had in mind, and Jesus as well, when the believers in Christ actually superseded the national Israelites in relationship to God after the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Relationship to God has always been on the basis of faith. But this became far more evident in the preaching of the apostles where those who rejected Jesus as Messiah were not recognized in the New Covenant of grace, and the Old Covenant had been replaced by the New.

God, through the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ, welcomes us into His perpetual family upon receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  1 John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His Name.”

Friend, I pray you are in the family by faith.  If you are not sure, you are likely not.  Consider the claims of God upon you life as your Creator.  Consider your sins have separated you from Him and left you dead in relationship to Him.  He may be your paternal, but is He your Father?  Repent of your sins and turn to Christ now and seek Him until you are found of Him.  On that day there will be no doubt regarding who your Father truly is.

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