Refuge

Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Counter Revolution in Politics


The events of last month surrounding the confirmation by the US Senate of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, revealed a new low for the respect of America’s government, of the people, by the people, and for the people.  
The two major political parties seem to be as far apart as they have ever been.  The written document called the party platform shows the difference of key issues facing the present health and future of our country.  But the dangerous divisions lie even deeper.  We seem to have lost respect and dignity for the process that keeps people on track in assuring virtue and honor are attached to the ideas most valuable for the good of families and communities who make up America.  The biggest problem of all is our distance from respect for God’s ways, and  importance in keeping us on track.  So political power seems more imprtant than it really should be.
This power hungry trend showed up strongly in the confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh had gone through the vetting process already a number of times (for the lower court positions he served in), had a proven record for fairness and responsible decision making, and his qualifications were impeccable.  A group of people driven by the ideology of one of the political parties mounted a coordinated effort of falsehoods, character assassination attempts, physical violence, and other tactics demonstrating the lowest level of moral character ever in the history of our political system.
Perhaps most troubling is that this trend downward is encouraged by the top party leadership. Published reports of Hillary Clinton’s comments on 9th of October quote her as saying there should be civil unrest until their party gets it way. This party’s  Congressional Representatives have made public statements wishing physical harm on political opponents. Other party leaders have made statements that are code words for things like, “lying is okay,” “hurting people is okay if they don’t agree with you,” “whatever it takes to win is justifiable.”  Followers and the sources donating to these political figures are encouraging and  financing mobs to stir up division and unrest, taking forms of racism, sexism, and the like.   
Civil societies must rely on rules of engagement.  Playing a sport is a good illustration of how this works.  Imagine the fans response to a referee who seems to make up the rules as he goes.  From the players perspective, knowing the rules and how they will be interpreted by the referees, is vital to success on the field.  Competent execution of teamwork can only be possible if all the team members are familiar with the rules, and interpreting them as one unit.  Declaring a winner in a game is predicated by both teams playing by the exact same rules.  The referees job is to ensure that happens.   
If our elected officials are the players, then we the voters are the referees.  We are endowed with the task of insisting that these players play by the rules.  Each individuals vote counts toward keeping the elected officials honest in governing so the best interests of the people are served, and not the elected officials themselves.  To vote intelligently, we must make judgment calls regarding actions performed by the players.  In this process truth becomes a vital concern.  
Truth is the foundation for all moral judgment, but truth does not always line up with public opinion.  Public opinion is largely formed by the traditional journalism media. This has become a problem because about 93% of the media endorse one particular political party. This is a serious conflict of interest.   For decades, the media have shown more and more favoritism towards so-called liberal ideology.   The so-called fake news of recent years proves to us that media cannot be trusted for unbiased information upon which to base judgments regarding the best candidates in elections.  Moreover, the party they choose to favor is the party trying to create the most division in our social structure.  
            Several years ago I quit watching network television news for many reasons. It shapes public opinion, one mind at a time.  I realized I could not stay clear of their bias without totally abstaining from their influence on my mind.  I don’t want the negative narratives of the media to influence how I think and respond to life events.  Much of their spin on the truth is designed to create a negative emotional response based on fear.  At best this amounts to manipulation, but at worst this amounts to propaganda and the rapid spread of evil.  Mixing this dynamic into the political arena (for example the way Mr. Kavanaugh was treated), is one of the most dangerous threats to the well-being of our nation.  
I am not saying all this to be alarmist, or to attack specific individuals.  I wish I had more space to share more thoughts and evidence.  Here are some books I’ve read recently, or have on my reading list to reveal the truth.  I encourage the reader to check them out.  A great short book is Andy Andrew’s book called,  “How Do You Kill 11 Million People:  Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think.”  Another book is Eric Bolling’s “Wake Up America: The Nine Virtues That Made Our Nation Great--and Why We Need Them More Than Ever.”   Another is Tucker Carlson’s “Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution.”   Another is Howard Kurtz’s “Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War Over the Truth.”  Former White House spokesman Sean Spicer wrote, “The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President.”  Writing from a faith perspective, the well known journalist Joe Bartaglia has written, “The Politically Incorrect Jesus: Living Boldly in a Culture of Unbelief.” Another is Erwin Lutzer’s “The Church in Babylon.”  Authors Eric Metaxas, George Barna, Josh McDowell, and many others are warning of trends that need to be reversed for our nation to survive.  Of course the Bible is the greatest source of truth and books like Proverbs share wisdom that transcends all peoples, places, and times.   
God is the source of all truth.  Respecting God is the beginning of all wisdom (Proverbs).  There was a time in our nation when our leaders showed much more honor for God (and his guidelines for living) than we see presently.  In our system of government, each individual has the responsibility of helping referee our leaders’ commitment to truth.  Our voice (whistle) is a vote in an election.  God followers must pray, engage, and vote for candidates who are demonstrating actions which honor God and honor his created people.  Speech doesn’t cut it. Many candidates say the right words without  actions consistent with a true meaning of their words.  We are called to pray and seek God’s guidance.  
Sometimes it is difficult to discern who is telling the truth.  Seeking out voter guides from reputable organizations who monitor positions valued by people of faith is helpful.  It has become necessary to drastically limit exposure to media with negative narratives to deceive and divide.  We hear a lot of talk about how divided we are, but I think we are more deceived than divided.  We are seeing more and more good-willed people being decieved and believing things that simply are not true.  Don’t allow yourself to be one of them.  
Regardless of political party affiliation (or non-affiliation), we must take seriously our responsiblity to engage our system of government.  We must hold those in office and seeking office to standards of truth.  A quote by Edmond Burke I heard many years ago still rings true, “The only thing necessary for the evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.  History has proven this over and over again.  In the Germany of the 1930’s and 40’s, Deitrich Bonhoeffer also had it right when saying, “Not to speak, is to speak.  Not to act, is to act.”  Hitler’s lies deceived multitutdes because truth was treated casually. Speaking up and taking action are essential.  A person can only be a friend of truth by applying the truth in his or her own life, AND in everything touching their life.   Truth requires participation, or the foes of truth may win.  There is no middle ground. Truth and passivity cannot co-exist.
Prayer is important.  Uniting in prayer with others is also important (see PrayinUnity.org).  But prayer is not a substitute for action.  Becoming informed takes action,   A great source Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), has just launched a 24 hour news channel (see CBNNews.com).  Voting is a necessary action. I heard prayer warrior Cindy Jacobs say, Voting is a spiritual act because, we are called to steward our nation.  Some may be called to further action through service in elected or non-elected government offices.  
When I hearChristians say, “politics is not the answer, but Jesus is the answer,” I am in agreement.  However, politics is part of an answer that cannot be avoided.  Living out the Truth in all areas of life is commanded by Christ himself, in order to be called a follower of Christ.  Christ did not come to this earth to bring political revolution, but he did come to bring a counter revolution to political systems.  Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  The political arena is yet another sphere where the glory of God is meant to shine on the earth.  Let’s do our part in making it happen.  Pray, seek the truth, and take action!

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Revelation


The last book of the Bible is called Revelation.  As a Christian who has been around for a while, I’ve heard a verse from chapter 3 quoted many times. It reads like this, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20; NIV).  In Bibles that use red ink, these words are printed in red, signifying that Jesus Christ himself actually speaks these words.  When preachers or teachers quote this verse, they most often speak of this statement from Jesus as an invitation to the nonbeliever to take an initial step toward belief in Jesus as the Messiah who came to save all who believe and put their trust in Him.  
But there is so much more truth here to be grasped.
This statement is a daily invitation to have an on-going personal relationship with God that transforms your life beyond initial conversion.  Deeper love, greater peace, and unending happiness are not automatic for the Christ-follower.  Allowing God to change our hearts from the inside out on a continual basis is the primary message of, “I stand at the door and knock.”  Our inner person is the door keeper.  Our mind is used to hear his voice, and our heart is used to open the door.  Our thoughts control what we focus on, and our will determines our actions.  
In order to hear, we must learn how to listen.  To hear God’s voice, we must separate from distractions, and focus on listening (and not listen to other voices).  Hearing the right voice can be a challenge of its own, but that isn’t enough.  We must “open the door.”  Opening the door always involves some degree of surrender.  Surrendering thoughts, wishes, hopes, dreams, desires, judgments, etc., not begrudgingly, but as an exchange for the better food at the table of the Lord.  The Lord will “eat with that person,” who has heard his voice, and opened the door of welcome into his soul.  The food is great at the Lord’s table (see Psalm 23).  Picture yourself eating at the table with a king in his palace.  It doesn’t compare to the feast of the Lord.  No earthly feast can come close to what it means to eat in the presence of God.   Life with God takes us beyond our natural experience.  
This understanding of the Revelation 3:20 is made even clearer by reading several verses in context before it.  “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!   So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent” (Revelation 3:14-19).  Then it is said, Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20).  We have a stern warning here against thinking we are “rich.”  What is meant here is not so much in terms of rich in material resources, but the condition of mind and heart.  Rich may mean a wealth of knowlege.  Knowledge of the Bilbe, theology, and sound doctrine do not equate to ability in hearing the voice of the Lord and opening one’s heart to Him.  Hanging out with Christians or being raised in a Christian family also doesn’t qualify as rich in the kingdom of heaven.  Good works and community service also doesn’t count.  Nothing in terms of human effort with save us from our “wretched” condition.  Our assurance of victory over this condition can only be based in the work of God’s Son Jesus coming to earth as a man, dying on a Cross, ascending back into heaven, and leaving us with the Holy Spirit to live inside us.  The Holy Spirit enables and empowers us to hear God’s voice and open the door to nourishing meals of God’s blessings.  
God’s counsel is to “buy from me gold.”  That is, we must “buy into” (as the saying goes) God’s ways, and forsake our own.  Becoming poor may mean giving up some long held beliefs that simply aren’t true.  We all have blind spots to our own selfish ways.  Continually surrendering our thoughts, emotions, and actions to God is a refining process that burns away the impurities and results in a life more deeply devoted to seeing God glorified in the world.   Anything that keeps us from embracing this process of inner person change must be thrown into the fire.  Surrender to the flames the demand to control our own fate.   
Today, Jesus is saying, be honest and repent.  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20).
The two verses following Revelation 3:20 read, To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:21-22).  It may seem a little backwards, but surrender is actually the way to victory.  And the more we surrender, the greater victory we have available.
Where might your “wealth” of knowledge, self-will, or accomplishments be keeping you from feasting more lavishly with God?  Are you hearing God’s voice?  What might be keeping you from hearing his voice more clearly than you are right now?  Have you opened the door?  Are you willing to leave the door open for him and give him unlimited access?  Do you want more of the King’s food in your diet?  My prayer is that you are able to feast and enjoy the table of the Lord in greater measure each day he has ordained for you on the earth.

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Pain Evangelism as Discipleship


The previous article focused on esteeming Jesus by not only trusting him to make right our sin problem, but also to give Jesus the pain of the consequences of sin.  Some think that pursuing healing of the inner person and becoming a more devoted disciple selfishly puts the follower of Christ at odds with the commission to evangelize the world.    The loss and pain (everything from failures and disappointments to serious abuse) are experienced as a result of the broken world we live in. Loss and pain is common to both the new believer, and  the most seasoned disciple of Christ alike.
Healing is part of Jesus’ ministry of evangelism.  Jesus says of himself,  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus spoke these words in reply to religious people accusing him of hanging out with people of undesirable social status and the needy.  God wants to meet people in loss and pain.  Whether in small losses, moderate failures, or full blown hopelessness and despair, hope for healing is available for the asking.  
The best way  to help people recover from their losses and find freedom from their pain is the way Jesus himself helped people when he walked on earth.  He found people in loss and pain and offered salvation to them. We must be like Jesus, and offer Jesus as the only true Savior.  Generally speaking, people who responded in greatest measure, were people in the greatest need, with the most losses, and most ready for change.  
We must also be people who are open to admitting our own needs.  If we wish to recover from loss and pain, we must stop trying to hide it, and allow it to be found by Jesus.  Breaking through denial and positioning our hearts for healing involves the following three considerations.  
Consider the purpose of pain.  Physical pain in the body is meant to signal a warning of disrupted functionality.  If a carpenter accidentally hits his thumb with a hammer, the physical pain he feels tells him something bad is happening to his body.  A physical injury to a body may need treatment and a time of healing for functionality to be restored.  Mental, emotional, and spiritual hurts need to run a healing course as well.  
Second, consider what governs out actions. Reaction of the  physical or  tangible (outer man) is determined by the non-physical or intangible (inner man).  Jesus taught us that the sinful actions we take part in have their source in our heart (see Mark 7:20-23).  If the heart is at rest, a person’s behavior will reflect peace and calm.  If the heart is unrestful, the person’s behavior will reflect frustration, dissatisfaction, and all sorts of emotional pain, and all sorts of unpleasant, undesirable, or harmful behavior.
Third, consider what lies at the root of painful feelings.  From our conception in the womb, our own brokenness and the brokenness of people around us, creates  critical judgments,  bitterness, injustices, and  wounds of soul and spirit.  More about this is explained in other articles on this blog site.  Also see my book, Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart.
So  if, 1) our bad behavior is undesirable or destructive (sinful), which is, 2)  caused by a heart full of pain, which is 3) caused by unresolved bitterness and woundedness, then doesn’t it make sense to go after the “bitter root” to bring healing to  the problem?  This is actually commanded in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that … no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile.”  Why is this so difficult?  It is hard because it cannot be done with mere knowledge or sheer will power.  It requires surrendering to the power of God for transformational healing.
Only Jesus can truly redeem the broken  condition of the human heart.  He has given us the gift and power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this in our heart.
Healing is a process. We must embrace the process.  As John and Paula Sandford (founders of the Elijah House ministry)  teach in a book called The Transformation of the Inner Man, healing is the process of evangelizing the soul.  It is evangelizing believers in unbelieving areas of their lives.  Everyone is in need of some kind of healing and many times healing is painful because of the weakness of our flesh (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Healing involves transformation.  The Sandfords define transformation as "that process of death and rebirth whereby what was our weakness becomes our strength."   Transformation is still needed after our initial conversion experience (Philippians 1:6 and Hebrews 12:1-2).  Knowing our problem does not set us free, but only the Cross of Jesus (applied to our problem) can set us free.  Our goal then is to discover unbelieving areas of the heart and invite God to minister to them.  Hebrews 3:12 says, "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God."
Continued evangelism is necessary for discipleship, and discipleship thrives on pain evangelism.  The healing we receive also makes us better evangelists.  The more of Christ’s salvation we receive into our own being, the more we understand and identify with others. Compassion and empathy for loss and pain are more effective tools than condemnation of  people for sinful behaviors.  Again, as Jesus taught, the being (heart) supersedes the doing (behaviors).
Pursuing God’s help for  healing  your own setbacks, losses and hurts, can be one of the best ways to help others.  By becoming a better person on the inside, others around you will surely be blessed.   
Let me encourage you to take inventory of your heart.  What might be remaining lost (and waiting to be found by Jesus) in your life?  Is there a behavior, habit, or pattern of reaction, that may indicate some degree of unrest in your soul?  Is there a root of bitterness and unforgiveness you already know about, but haven’t surrendered it to God for him to be the Judge?  If you think there’s nothing, let go of your denial and start feeling. Let the pain surface.  It wants to be your friend.  Let the ashes of loss,  failures, discomfort, uneasiness, unrestfulness, confusion, doubt, and worry be turned into beauty of pain-free circumstances (see Isaiah 61:1-3).   
Repentance and forgiveness is the path to freedom.   Psalm 32 blessings!

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry