A World Fit for Prayer II

Angels and Demons

Some classical artwork portrays strange worlds where angels and demons pull people toward their destiny. But at the time, that wasn’t strange at all. We are more affected by the scientific worldview than we suspect.

Generations ago, we believed that spiritual forces caused crises. If crops failed, there was a spiritual reason for it. Suppose an extraordinarily cold winter froze a lake solid. In spring, the lake liquefied. Dead fish rotted everywhere. But blame the fish for polluted waters? Nope! Fish don’t curse waters; those fish died because those waters were cursed already!

Challenge those ideas and you might well hear Paul’s word on ‘earthly powers’ and ‘world forces of this darkness’ and ‘spiritual wickedness’ [Ep 6:12]. Or you could get a reference to the four horsemen of the apocalypse — war, famine, pestilence and death [Re 6:2-8].

Rubens, The_Consequences_of_War
The Consequences of War [1638] by Peter Paul Rubens depicted the horrors of the Thirty Year War. Marked also by pestilence and famine, this protracted conflict drew most European states into its orbit between 1618 and 1648. It was concluded by the Peace of Westphalia.
The previous post saw 1Co 15:3-4 used to sum the Gospel in terms of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Peter harmonizes kingdom action with Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. So does Paul, but his strategy differs. Paul relates Jesus’ resurrection to our own; this in turn leads toward the kingdom consummation [1Co 15:24-28]. Then, Jesus will:

  • Deliver the kingdom to his Father
  • Bring all rule/power/authority to an end
  • Reign to the extent of subduing his enemies
  • Abolish death itself.

Or as 1 John 3:8 puts it:

‘The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.’

Gospel word and kingdom life serve together and interpret each other. Word explains life; and life reveals the power of the word. Whenever Jesus appears, illness, demonic oppression [Ac 10:38] and demonic powers [1Co 15:24-28] must fall. For if the devil’s power and works are not broken and destroyed, then there is no deliverance from sin.

“Pray, then, in this way …’And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ [Mt 6:9, 12-13].

Pray for the World

Grace for a Broken World I

Pray for the World

Christie Thomas makes a spiritual practice of something I’ve long thought should be a spiritual practice. And while it isn’t my own practice, I wish it had more exposure. Ms. Thomas’ days begin with newspaper reading and prayer over world crises. There is plenty for which to pray. Ms. Thomas lists these points.

We have unstable world leaders with fingers too close to weapons of mass destruction.

We have terrorist cells scattered everywhere, caring for no one except their need to destroy others and bring in their own versions of “heaven” with them as kings and rulers.

We have grinding poverty shoving hard-working people face-down to the barren ground.

We have an over-sugared world exploding the epidemic of metabolic diseases, the most common being diabetes.

We have political leaders who have no concept of the common good, driven instead by personal ambition and a need to take down the “other,” whomever that may be.

Ms. Thomas’ post also observes that:

And we have a Christian church that . . . well, it does do a lot of real good, but primarily turns inward on itself, arguing over minutia, seeing its own power plays and back-room dealings.

Poverty [including food insecurity and public health] and political failure [the erosion of democracy and rise of militant extremism] are grave issues. They work injustice and havoc worldwide.

And the church? It does do much good. Years ago, I learned that the Seventh Day Adventists maintain a world-class flying hospital that can land anywhere on earth within 24 hours.

Yet many church bodies do spend reserves on minutia. Others deem kingdom life as a distraction or heresy. Darrin Yeager notes that 1Co 15:1-4 sums the gospel in terms of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Then he adds:

‘Strange. No mention of social justice, or regulating inputs and outputs; Paul must have been negligent in failing to mention the heart of the Gospel.’

1Co 15:3-4 was a very early church creed. With resurrection being denied, [1Co 15:12ff], Paul very reasonably replies with 1Co 15:3-4. Does that make Jesus’ death and resurrection a case against kingdom justice? Hardly. And what Mr. Yeager says Paul ‘neglected’ to ‘mention,’ Peter proclaims freely in Cornelius’ house:

“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him’ [Ac 10:38].

Peter weaves kingdom life with Jesus’ death and resurrection into a seamless narrative [Ac 10:39-43].  It is bookmarked on both ends by the Spirit’s presence and power  [‘anointing with the Holy Spirit…God was with him’ (v. 38) cf. ‘the Holy Spirit fell on them’ (v. 44)]. There is no Gnostic kingdom/gospel dichotomy here. Nor should there be with us.

 

Remembering the Family Rhoden

If Death Comes, You Deserved It

Steven L. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona is no stranger to us. Registering in the extremist/insanity category, Anderson’s screeds and conspiracy theories have amused and abused many. Today, we surmise that death comes to those who deserve it. Given how they lived, what could those who died in the Paris attacks expect?

But Piketon, OH hosted no Eagles of Death Metal concerts. Yet eight Rhoden family members died in their sleep. Perhaps this family will be linked to the marijuana plants found in the vicinity. One supposes that would certainly offer Mr. Anderson a tidy explanation of their demise.

Another Response

But then, suppose that God isn’t like that at all. Suppose that when his children in France or Belgium or Ferguson or Boston or Charleston or Piketon are snuffed out, God’s own heart grieves. Recognizing that this is indeed the case, United Methodists prepared these resources for lament. Nor are Methodists the only people to recommend community laments.

The Boston Catholic website has uploaded this document. There, we find such statements as:

‘The scriptures provide us with ways to express our hope that God’s intervention will change our feelings of emptiness, fear and sadness while we become even more aware of the events and how they occurred. We need to place our losses and the losses of the French people into the context and framework of faith.’

And…

‘There is a need to come together for prayer.’

And…

‘Safety and stability is given when communities respond in prayerful ways.’

There is a tremendous need community instruction from the perspective of Christian faith in God. But providing it will require courage. Such issues as these and other documents name will not go quietly into the sunset. But on the other hand, the conditions that give rise to tragedy make this response by the church all the more imperative.

The Rhoden family tragedy is yet another call for church to remember who she is, to whom she belongs, and for what end she exists in the world. Mr. Anderson is a good example of what we are not to be. Can we now find grace to minister positively when tragedy strikes?

Friday Challenge — Caption Contest

Friday Challenge -- Caption Contest
Trolls debating the best way to cook dwarves… OR using Jedi mind-tricks on the American public?

Friday Challenge: Caption Contest!

Towering intellect, unassailable convictions, unimpeachable policies, unequaled integrity, unmatched service, upholding civilization’s banner, vanishing evil and vanquishing injustice — America, behold your leaders!

Today’s Friday challenge: Submit captions for our SFL photo! An honorary mention for all submissions with an IFB slant…

May all your politicians reek with evangelical sincerity!

Rules of Play!

Submissions may address either of these illustrious figures, or both of them.

You may address their differing insights on some civic issue[s].

You may suggest what they’re thinking/saying about each other.

You may put words in their mouths and make them say whatever you want. They’re politicians. They understand that game …

If this is no fun, invent your own rule[s] and offer your captions accordingly!

In short, you MUST have fun! After all … this is politics.

Who really believes anything they say anyway!

‘America — The BEST politicians money can buy!’
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No post yesterday. Hopefully, somebody noticed! The keyboard I was using died. Anyway, I was able to acquire another. While still strange to me, this one moves the magic cursor across the pixel screen without complaint.

Blessings!

Blessed Christians

Blessed Christians
Christlikeness — receiving with one hand to give with the other…

Christians are Blessed

Christians are a blessing. They are a blessing because having received freely, they give just as freely. In this way, Christians follow Jesus’ teachings who taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

God lavished his grace upon us. God in Christ reconciled the world to himself. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world. Therefore, when God sends us into the world, it is not to condemn the world. That is why Christians everywhere are known for passing on God’s grace and forgiveness as lavishly as God gave it to Christians themselves!

Christians are a Blessing

So it is that Christians are known to forswear all hatreds and bigotries. Instead they speak grace and peace in a world torn by war and strife. They are not warriors but healers. Just as Jesus stood above the fray, so do Christians. And when caught in the crossfire, they accept wounds without offense or retaliation. Like Jesus, they answer with blessing.

Christians recognize the brokenness and weakness of the little people of the world. Christians bind their wounds, stand by them and defend them. But Christians stand far from slander. They know slander is the Satan’s work. And when prejudices do lead to slander, Christians are the first to stand beside the afflicted to bear Satan’s lash with them. Christians take seriously Jesus’ admonition to love their enemies, and to do them good. Moreover, Christians do this in consistent, loving and concrete ways.

Counter-Cultural Living

Christians do these things all the time. They expect nothing in return. They live simple, sacrificial, counter-cultural lives for the good of others. Christians have no scores to settle because they keep no record of injuries received. They just do their deeds and are blissfully unaware that they are doing them. As followers of Jesus, this is the only way they know.

This is why Christians are highly regarded in our society.