Shine, Church, Shine!

A week ago today, the governor of Ohio announced that all K-12 schools would be closed for 3 weeks. The announcement came the day after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. Even though we’d been hearing news reports about the virus for a few months, those 2 reports got my attention in a way that others hadn’t. Ohio is a neighboring state which had just 5 coronavirus cases at that time, and the announcement brought the concerns much closer to home. By the next morning, we learned that schools in our area of southwestern Pennsylvania were considering a 2-day closure. That same afternoon, the governor of PA declared that all schools in the state were required to close. Each day since the closure of schools, coronavirus diagnoses and deaths in the U.S. have increased and the situation has become more alarming.

Today is my fourth day off work from my job at a school in a local youth shelter. I spent all morning and part of the afternoon shopping for the items on a grocery list for my parents who are in their upper 70s and who are following social distancing recommendations. Toilet paper, Lysol disinfectant spray and Lysol wipes were included on the list. 5 hours, 15 stores and 30 miles later, I delivered their groceries. It wasn’t until the 11th store I visited that I found toilet tissue. Up until then, not one of the 10 stores I had been in had a single package of toilet tissue. In store number 11, I found a shelf with a small number of individual rolls of toilet tissue with a limit of one roll per customer. As for the Lysol items, there were none to be found.

I began thinking about those folks in our community who might not have had 5 hours to spend going from store to store or who might not have a reliable vehicle or gas money or who might have difficulty getting in and out of the vehicle 15 times in search of a package of toilet tissue. If really needed, I could have spent more time or driven farther, but what about others? Could they? Could my neighbor? 

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Don’t those words from Romans 13 apply to this situation? Aren’t we to be thinking of our neighbors when we choose to fill up our grocery carts and vehicles with package after package of toilet tissue or carton after carton of eggs? Shouldn’t it occur to us that others may need those supplies for their homes as well? Could my hoarding make life more difficult or inconvenient for another person who might be elderly or ill or without the means that I have to search for them?

Interestingly, crises like the one we’re facing now seem to bring out either the best or the worst of humanity. For those who claim Christ, we should expect to see the best. We would expect to see sacrificing, giving, kindness, compassion, empathy and service towards our fellow man. Christians should have no part in greed, selfishness, arrogance, and self-centeredness. Simply stated, we are to love our neighbor as ourself (the second greatest commandment, according to Jesus).

Fortunately, there has been a lot of good being done. In our community, churches have voluntarily cancelled worship services in order to help curtail the further spread of the virus. Some churches have been preparing and donating free meals to those in need. Others are offering virtual Sunday messages being given by their pastors which could in turn be shared on social media to potentially many more people than would normally be in their Sunday services. Two friends of mine are doing virtual Ladies Bible studies which I’ve joined and am looking forward to attending. A high school friend who is a church worship leader will be taking the time to regularly share a devotion, prayer, and a youtube link to a favorite praise song. The adult Sunday School teacher from my church will be continuing our Sunday School class by video so that we can still have class “together.” What a blessing and what excellent and creative ways God is giving His people to continue as the Church!

Many Christians, including me, will not be worshiping in our church buildings for the time being. I’ve heard it said several times over the past few days: Don’t go to church. Be The Church. This is our time to shine, Church. Let’s do it.

HOPE NUGGET: The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light [Romans 13:12].

The Authentic Church

You can revoke our tax exempt status. You can attempt to silence us. You can try to pressure us into rejecting long-held and orthodox teachings of Christianity which are woven throughout the Bible. You can try to force our doors to be closed. But The True Church, God’s Church, will never be stopped; it will never be quieted. Why? Because God can’t be stopped. He will preserve His Church and He will preserve His word until HE declares that the end has come.

Around the world and throughout history, many attempts have been made at shutting down Christianity, but to no avail. Currently in China, there has been a severe crackdown on Christianity by the Chinese government. The police have confiscated Bibles, Christian schools and a seminary have been shut down, hundreds of house churches have been closed, and pastors have been detained and threatened with imprisonments. Some Christians have gone into hiding. The government has even gone so far as to rewrite the Bible, saying that they will establish a “correct understanding” with their new state translation. It’s an all-out war against Christianity. History has repeatedly shown that when The Church faces persecution, growth occurs. The official figures from the Chinese government state that there are about 44 million Christians in the country. According to Freedom House, a U.S. human rights group, this number is closer to 100 million if those belonging to “underground” or “house churches” are included. Despite the severe crackdown, the number of Christian converts is increasing.

Have you ever heard of King Jehoiakim? His story can be found in the Bible, in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. God had commanded the prophet Jeremiah to write down the words that He gave to him on a scroll. When Jehudi, Jeremiah’s scribe, read the words from the scroll to King Jehoiakim, the King used his knife and began cutting off pieces from the scroll and throwing them into the fire. Eventually the entire scroll was consumed in the fire. It didn’t end well for King Jehoiakim who ultimately faced judgment from God… “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity” [Jeremiah 36:30-31]. As for the lost scroll and the words of God? They were re-written by Jeremiah’s scribe at the command of God and were preserved. 

At a recent event in the United States, this question was asked of a Democratic presidential candidate: “Do you think religious institutions, like colleges, churches, charities…should they lose their tax exempt status should they oppose same-sex marriage?” His answer was stunning, yet was not a real surprise to those who have been paying attention to the cultural shift: “Yes.” Is this what the citizens of the United States of America want for our country? Will it be okay with our population if the First Amendment is trampled upon? Do the citizens know and understand the words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?  [Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances].

The authentic church will not surrender to the demands of the government when those demands are in direct conflict with the teachings of the Bible. The authentic church will not be silenced in sharing the truth of the Gospel of Christ. The authentic church will remain obedient to the commands of Christ even if it becomes difficult. Even if it is financially difficult. Even if broken relationships result. Even if hard times come, like they have in China for followers of Christ. The true and authentic church of Jesus Christ will remain, without compromise, in obedience and in steadfast service to Him.

HOPE NUGGET: 

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. [1 Corinthians 15:58]

To Christian Supporters of Tax-Payer Funded Abortions and Abortion Rights…

Every single one of the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates supports the current policy of abortion on demand. Additionally, each of those ten also believes that all tax-paying Americans should fully fund abortions in the U.S. and around the world. One would think that taxpayers, including liberals, conservatives, non-religious, (and especially Christ-followers) would join together in opposing such propositions. Instead, when conservative Christians state our opposition to this type of use of (what I actually believe to be misuse of) tax dollars, we are accused (even by liberal-leaning Christians) of being one-issue voters who are “cherry-pickers” when it comes to being pro-life. We are accused of loving the death penalty, endless wars, putting kids in cages, etc. HUH?????

I won’t take the bait when it comes to equating abortion with immigrant children being detained at the border. Do I though think that the border situation is worthy of discussion? Yes, of course. Do I know that current border practices have occurred under and been accepted by both liberal and conservative administrations? Yes. Even if we agree that changes should be made at the border to improve conditions for the children and adults entering there, and even if we don’t agree on the death penalty or war or government-funded contraception or minimum wage, or other social issues, does that mean that we cannot agree that hard-earned tax dollars should not be used to fund abortions in America and around the world? 

Lila Rose, founder and President of Live Action

When pro-lifers assert that abortion is the killing of innocent human life and that the government should have laws against it and that the practice of abortion should not be funded by tax dollars, questions like these are fired back at us: “Have you adopted any children? If you’re really pro-life, shouldn’t you support all proposed government programs which pay for every need of the children of single mothers? Why is it that you only care about babies before birth, but not after they’re born? Why are you in favor of enforcing U.S. immigration and border laws?

In spite of all of the pro-choice arguments I’ve heard, my personal experience and ministry involvement over the years have shown me that conservative Christians have, more often than not, been the most generous and most consistent pro-life individuals of any. They donate their time and resources to support local food banks, youth shelters, juvenile detention centers, prisoners, families of prisoners, pregnancy support centers, children’s hospitals, needy families, and a host of other local needs in the community. Not only do they care for the needs of women and children and families locally, but they do so throughout the state, across the country, and abroad. The argument that pro-lifers stop caring for children after they’re born is complete and utter nonsense and a lie which can be easily debunked. I have been witness to the exact opposite on more occasions than I can remember.

The pro-choice movement, on the contrary, devalues life and dehumanizes the individual, thereby making it very dangerous. It is not a movement rooted in the best interests of women, and certainly not of children. When pro-choice activists oppose laws which require a pregnant woman to have the option of viewing a sonogram before her abortion or when they’ve opposed having adoption resources available at abortion clinics, it is obvious that the pro-choice movement is wicked.  It is a movement of death. It is impossible for Christians to consistently follow Christian teachings while supporting abortion rights. To claim to do so is making a very serious moral and scriptural error.

Live Action is a pro-life advocacy movement whose mission is to end abortion by leading the culture to embrace the rights and dignity of every person. Recently, Live Action produced an extremely informative and interesting video series in which Pro-Life Replies are given to Pro-Choice Arguments. Please watch this very worthwhile series….

Live Action video series: Pro-Life replies given to Pro-Choice arguments

HOPE NUGGET: Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself [Isaiah 44:24].

Stepping Out in Faith

Nearly 2 months ago, I tentatively stepped out in faith and created a blog. I would like to say that I boldly stepped out in faith, but that wouldn’t be true. I’m not sure when the idea first came to mind, but I awoke one morning, and then another, and then another, with the inspiration for the theme of the blog. Another time-consuming venture that I would get myself into. Even when trying to ignore the idea, I couldn’t shake the thought that I should begin the process. So after some research into how to set up a blog and in spite of my reluctance, I finally took the steps to join.

I had grown increasingly frustrated and disheartened with the negativity that I was seeing and hearing from media sources, in the news, on social media, and in conversations. Bickering and arguing. One-upping. Name-calling. Snarky comments. Criticism and finger-pointing. Rudeness. Attempts to prove one’s cleverness. And no, not just from politicians. From Christ-followers, at least from those who referred to themselves as such. And from some: the affirmation of sin, by means of agreement.

I’d had more than enough. My focus needed to be on the hope of Christ. The hope that no matter who’s in office in our great land that Jesus is still The King. The hope that no matter what laws are passed, whether they are righteous or moral or immoral, that my righteousness comes from God through faith. The hope that as the numbers of those who remain true to the teachings and cause of Christ appear to diminish, that greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world. 

Sometimes when God prompts you to take on a new responsibility or challenge, it is for your own benefit. Sometimes it’s for the benefit of others. Sometimes it’s both. I just knew that I was in need of encouragement and hope. Discouragement had set in, along with disappointments and frustrations. In my intro post, I wrote that it can be easy to lose sight of hope. I knew that if I felt this way that I wasn’t alone. There were others out there just like me. 

🎵 “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim…” 🎵

So, as long as I receive inspiration to write blog posts, I’ll be committed to the responsibility. I’ll seek to offer hope – through encouragement, through truth, through the Scriptures. I’ll seek to help other Christians to do the same. I’ll especially seek to glorify and honor God through my words.

Hope nugget: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [Colossians 3: 1-2]

The Least is the Greatest

When the names of Jerry Sandusky, Jeffrey Epstein, Theodore McCarrick or Larry Nassar are mentioned, what comes to mind? What feelings do those names evoke?

Terrible abuses of children have taken place within the walls of the church, on a university campus, in a doctor’s office, in Hollywood, on a Caribbean island. 

Unfortunately, abuses against children have not been limited to just those places or only while in the presence of those specific men. Every day across our land, thousands of children are harmed physically, emotionally and sexually by adults – by both men and women. Abuses perpetrated against the most innocent and defenseless among us. A horrific travesty. A war against children.

It is easy to become disheartened when hearing disturbing news stories day in and day out… Sex trafficking, Abortion, Pedophilia, Abuse, Neglect, Violence. How did we get here? How has our society fallen to such lows? Why are there such assaults against children? Is this a culture of violence and of death?

We know that mankind is fallen and that every generation has been sinful. There are though some obvious differences between the past and where we are now. Violence is widespread. Sin is openly flaunted and paraded. All over the media. On television. On the internet. Women are objectified. Men are presented as helpless fools. The family unit has broken down. Women “shout their abortions.” According to polls, euthanasia is acceptable to most Americans. Life has been devalued.

Yet, we are desensitized to much of it. Something is wrong. Terribly wrong. 

Is there still hope? Is it possible to right these wrongs? At the mention of the names listed above, most of us responded appropriately with disgust and anger. And rightly so. That is a sign of hope. A sign that not all is lost. A sign that there are plenty of us who still value life, who still know right from wrong, who will still fight against injustices.

Life is good. It matters. All lives matter. We must view each person’s life as valuable. We have a responsibility to protect and defend life, especially of those who are the weakest and most innocent. 

God places a high value on life. “Thou shall not kill” is one of the Ten Commandments, along with commandments for how to treat others. The Bible teaches that we were created in God’s image and for a purpose. We learn that God values our lives so much that He went above and beyond to save us from ourselves, from sin. He did so by sacrificing the life of His precious Son. That’s how much He values life. That’s how much He values us. 

Let’s be champions for life. Let’s value life. Let’s protect and defend our children, the most innocent and defenseless among us. Let’s help children to find safety in their homes, in their schools, in their churches, in their mother’s wombs. Let’s not allow injustices to harm or destroy them. Let’s be active in embracing our God-given responsibility to care for them.

Hope nugget: An argument started among them [the disciples] as to which of them might be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”  (Luke 9: 46-48)