Christians and Culture

Palm Sunday: Christ Cannot Be Cancelled

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:39-40; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Last week, Evangel University1 in Springfield, MO, announced it will change its mascot. The athletic teams will no longer be “the Crusaders.” The university’s interim president, George O. Wood, wrote that the image contradicts the school’s mission. The name refers to medieval Christians who waged holy wars against Islam in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, often slaughtering Middle Eastern Muslims, Jews, and Orthodox Christians. Since this can offend many of the people to whom Evangel alumni minister and the crusaders’ tactics contradicted many of Jesus’ teachings, university leadership felt it was time to change.

Wood wrote, “Ultimately, this decision was made because I am convinced that our Christ-centered focus requires it. This is not a cultural response to political correctness, but simply the right thing to do.”

Figurine depictions of medieval crusaders in Plassenberg Zinnfiguren Museum, Plassenberg Castle, near Kulmbach, Germany. Photo by Thomas Quine, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Evangel is not the first Christian organization to abandon a “crusade” name. In 2011, Campus Crusade for Christ (a college-campus ministry that played an important role early in my walk with Christ) shortened its name to Cru. While Billy Graham referred to his evangelistic events as “Crusades,” his son Franklin prefers the more celebratory term “Festivals.”

Some Evangel alumni support the decision. Others are accusing the school of surrendering to “cancel culture.” It can be difficult sometimes to distinguish between wise caution and surrender to society.

Cancel culture—a movement to ostracize and silence people and institutions that do not support liberal politically correct ideas about morality, race, etc.—has affected both sports and Christians. The Washington Redskins football team recently dropped their nickname (they are now the Washington Football Team); the Cleveland Indians will follow suit after the 2021 season. Some Native Americans felt the names promoted negative stereotypes. Being of Irish and Canadian descent, I wonder when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will drop their nickname. Will the Vancouver Canucks drop their nickname? What about the Yankees, Patriots, Braves, Chiefs, etc.? When will it end?

Perhaps some of the nicknames, mascots, and logos have negative connotations and should be replaced. On the other hand, maybe people are reading their own fears into an image.

Christians have also been “cancelled” for biblical beliefs. Celebrities, ministers, or politicians who believe in traditional heterosexual marriage or that there are only two genders face hostility or censorship in the media.

In 2021, we act surprised by these developments, but followers of Jesus have faced cancellation and censorship since before the crucifixion. The Pharisees tried to cancel Jesus for three years, eventually having Him crucified. On Palm Sunday, as Jesus’ followers shouted His praises while He entered Jerusalem, they ordered Him to silence His disciples. Jesus said, “If these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

Six days later, Jesus was dead and buried, and His disciples were silent. However, on Easter Sunday, the stone that blocked the entrance to His tomb cried out by rolling away, proclaiming His glory by clearing a path as He rose and walked out of the tomb. Before long, His disciples could no longer remain silent. Seven weeks later, they began to fulfill His mission to “be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Although Caesar and the Sanhedrin tried to silence them, the disciples could not help but proclaim what they had seen and heard (Acts 4:20). Eventually, the Roman Empire fell, the Jewish nation was scattered, and the Gospel spread to every continent. Despite all opposition, the gates of hell have not been able to prevail against the church of Christ, and they never shall.

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, icon from the Nativity of the Theotokos Church, Bitola, Macedonia. Photo by Petar Milošević, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Satan will always seek to silence the Word of God. The world’s system will try to cancel it. However, God’s Word will not return void. Our mission remains the same: to proclaim the Good News that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God-become-man, and His Kingdom will endure forever. He died to bring forgiveness of sins to all who will receive it. He will come again. No matter who tries to cancel us or how hard they try, we will be victorious.

Holy Week reminds us that we are in a spiritual battle. We proclaim that Jesus is Messiah and King. The world tries to silence this message, but Jesus cannot be contained, stopped, or silenced. His followers will not be silenced either. Yes, we must fight His battles, proclaiming His Gospel instead of the social and political agendas we are often more eager to choose. We must proclaim Him with the same enthusiasm as His earliest followers, who shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9).

Hosanna! Save us, we pray, O Lord! Renew and empower us by Your Holy Spirit so that we may be Your witnesses now and always.

1Evangel University was formed by a merger of Evangel College (an Assemblies of God liberal arts college, which my wife attended), the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS, where I earned my master’s degree), and Central Bible College. Since Evangel College and AGTS were separate entities when I attended, I do not have a strong emotional attachment to the Crusader mascot, but I can see where the Crusades often conflicted with Christ’s teachings and historic Christian “just war” doctrine.

Do you have anything to add or any thoughts that come to mind about cancel culture, evangelism, etc.? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Current events | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christ Is King: Are You Certain?

“Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Today is the last Sunday on the church calendar for the liturgical year. Next Sunday, we will begin Advent, which commences a new year for the church. In some denominations, the last Sunday of the church year is the Feast of Christ the King.

Statue of Christ the King in Świebodzin, Poland. Photo by Rzuwig, under a Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Feast of Christ the King (or Christ the King Sunday) is relatively new. It was introduced in 1925 within Roman Catholicism by Pope Pius XI and was later adopted by Anglicanism and some other Protestant traditions. The feast was proclaimed in response to the growth of secularism, nationalism, and other world views that could draw people from full devotion to Christ. When introducing the feast, Pius wrote:

“If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.”

In other words, since Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He is the king of everything, and we must yield our entire lives to Him. 2020 has challenged many to wonder if He is really in control.

On January 1, I encouraged readers to view 2020 as a “year of vision.” For many of us, our vision has been diffracted, distorted, and blurred this year. Christians who are willing to ask “Where is God in this situation?” have learned from 2020 that we need to put our faith in God. The coronavirus pandemic, followed by violent protests in response to instances of police brutality, mingled with one of the busiest hurricane seasons in memory, etc., have brought crises that test human wisdom. It is easy to criticize government responses to these issues. It is harder to offer viable solutions.

This year is culminating in a disputed presidential election. Almost three weeks after Election Day, Joe Biden has claimed victory (most media outlets agree with him); however, Donald Trump has not conceded the election but is contesting vote counts in several states.

A few weeks before Election Day, my brother-in-law John Cancemi asked on his Facebook page, “Will God allow Biden and the Democrats to win to teach us not to depend on Trump and the Republican Party?” (This was on his personal Facebook page; interested readers may want to check out his ministry page, “Deeper Word & Greater Power.”) It was a challenging question, but he made some important points:

“It seems like many of us Christians have subconsciously taken refuge in Trump and the Republican Party. We see them as our protectors from the anti-Christian leaning Democrats. Could it be that God will remove that protection in order to teach us to depend on Him?”

Some may not like to hear that. Many conservative Christians view the Democrats, especially with their pro-abortion and anti-traditional-values platform, to be agents of Satan. Many Christians will exalt a conservative prolife President, who at least verbally acknowledges some biblical values, possibly giving him the honor that should belong to Jesus alone. How many Christian leaders have called Trump “God’s chosen man for the office”? (Note that the words “Christ” and “Messiah” come from Greek and Hebrew words, respectively, meaning “the chosen one.”) How many will justify and defend him when he speaks in aggressive, hostile terms against his opponents as if he is exempt from Scriptural teaching how to speak to those with whom we disagree?

Image via pxfuel.com.

Do not get me wrong. I am proud to be an American. I was a member of the America First Party (its national press secretary, in fact) long before Trump adopted that slogan and announced his plan to Make America Great Again. I do not support the Democratic Party.

However, we have to ask ourselves hard questions: Do we allow the Bible to define our political positions, or do we try to reinterpret Scripture so that it matches our party’s platform or our favorite politician’s values? Are we willing to admit that a beloved leader makes mistakes, or will we make godless excuses when he or she does wrong? When we disagree with a politician, can we acknowledge that he or she may have some positive attributes? Perhaps they sincerely want to do what is best for our country and their constituents, but they are misguided about what is right.

Who is your God? Who is your Lord? Who is your Savior? Scripture tells us that God has given Jesus the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9–11). Let us give Him the honor He deserves. Too many Christians have assumed God cannot work without the Republican Party. That is idolatry, and God will not share His glory with anybody else.

Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christians and Culture, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Election 2020 Thoughts: Part II of II

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4; all Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise indicated).
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority…” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Photo by Harley Pebley, published under a Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons.

This post continues my comments from a post earlier this week.

3. No matter who our President is, we have a biblical obligation to pray for him. Until further notice, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are on my prayer list. I may not agree with them, but they need the prayers of the faithful. I pray that God will stir their hearts and give them the wisdom to do what is best for the American people. I pray that He will draw them to seek His wisdom and strength.

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Romans 13:1–2).

Remember, Paul wrote this under the direction of the Holy Spirit while the Roman authorities were persecuting and killing Christians. If God expected first-century Christians to submit to Nero Caesar and pray for him, we can do the same for Biden and Harris.

God’s Word commanded Christians to pray for persecutors like Nero Caesar. We have no excuse for refusing to pray for our President. Photo by Helen Cook, published under a Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons.

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1–4).

(I wish I was exempt from praying for Biden and Harris, but if they win the election, I have no excuses.)

4. Finally, we must avoid allowing hatred and wickedness to rule our government and society. Both Biden and Trump voters need to hear that.

I have heard many Biden supporters—or, perhaps more accurately, Trump opponents—who accused Donald Trump and his supporters of being “haters.” Yet, many of them speak and write in hateful, nasty tones that make Trump’s Twitter feed sound like an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. At one rally, pop singer Madonna said she had thought of blowing up the White House. Comedienne Kathy Griffin posed for a photograph of her holding a mock severed head of Donald Trump. (You may click on the link to view the picture if you want. I refuse to force my readers to view such garbage.) Those are just two examples. Seriously, people: Where is the hate? If that is not hateful, what is? What is the difference between calling a group of people “deplorables” (Hillary Clinton’s word for Trump voters and other conservatives) and “subhumans” (Hitler’s word for Jews)? Many of the people who criticize Trump’s personality commit the same sins.

Some people voted for Trump because the hatred on the left troubled many conservatives and Christians. We have endured a summer of riots, looting, and violent “protests,” often supported and even encouraged by Democratic mayors, governors, and politicians. Trump’s opponents in the media and the Democratic party use all kinds of hateful language against his supporters. While Trump’s mannerisms may be rough, he has supported religious freedom and traditional Judaeo-Christian values.

Looking at current events, I wonder how long we can continue in a climate of hate. In the 1920s and early 1930s, far-right and far-left political activists protested and rallied throughout Germany. Eventually, one of those sides won: The Nazis gained power; the Communist Party was outlawed, along with every other party; and millions of Jews and others were slaughtered. Do we want to reach that point in our own country? How many emergencies and crises can our nation endure until we slip into tyranny?

We need less hate. We need more love. We need more communication. We need to work together to improve the lives of all Americans. Finally, my fellow Christians, we need to live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

May God have mercy on us and bless and heal our nation.

Feel free to share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below. Keep it cordial.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Election 2020 Thoughts: Part I of II

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4; all Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise indicated).
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Presumed President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Photo by Gage Skidmore (Peoria, AZ) under a Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons.

The Associated Press projected on Saturday, November 7, that Joe Biden has won the 2020 election and will be the next President of the United States. Many of his supporters are rejoicing. Many of Donald Trump’s supporters are mourning. I am using mild terminology here since, for some people, more extreme descriptions are in order. “Gloating” and “furious” are more accurate words in some cases.

I want to avoid the nastiness that prevails throughout social media and some other corners of our culture, but at the same time, I would like to share a few thoughts and comments.

President Donald J. Trump. Photo by Michael Vadon, published under a Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons.

1. The election is not officially over yet. According to the Constitution of the United States, the election occurs when the Electoral College meets. They send their votes to Congress, who certifies the Electoral College vote (Article II, Section 1, paragraph 3; Amendment 12). Until that occurs, nobody has officially won the Presidential election. At this time, Joe Biden is the projected winner, not the President-elect. Congress declares the winner of the Presidential election—not the Associated Press, CNN, Fox News, New York Times, etc. The mass media are generally negligent about reporting this important detail.

Donald Trump plans to continue his legal challenges regarding possible vote-counting irregularities and suspected fraud in several states. If any of those challenges work in his favor, the results can change. Those who have been praying for a Trump victory may continue to do so until his legal options run out and/or the Electoral College vote is certified.

2. Christians must remain committed to their primary loyalty—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Far too many Christians have spent too much time extolling the glories of their lord Donald Trump and not enough time proclaiming Jesus Christ, our true Lord and Savior. We have a Great Commission from Jesus, and we have cast it aside in recent years:

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18–20).

Great Commission stained glass window at the Cathedral Parish of Saint Patrick, El Paso. Photo by Lyricmac at English Wikipedia, published under a Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is Jesus’ command to us. That ministry has not ended and will continue until He returns in glory. Too many of us have spent our time glorifying President Trump—sometimes in a most ungodly tone—so much that we are incapable of drawing people to Jesus. If we rant against those with whom we disagree or insult politicians we do not support, we may have no standing to share the Gospel. What does it profit anybody if we gain a political victory and lose the souls of our neighbors (or our own souls)? Ephesians 6:12 should remind us that the Democrats, Joe Biden, and the liberals are not our primary enemy: our fleshly sinful nature, Satan, and the godless worldview that permeates our culture and even infects the church are our real enemies. We fight them with the spiritual weapons of our warfare like prayer, Scripture, worship, and evangelism: not with insults, ridicule, and hatred.

I will share a few more thoughts about this election and lessons we can learn from it in my next post.

Feel free to share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below. Keep it cordial.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chaos and Pentecost: A Christian Response to George Floyd’s Murder and the Public Outcry

Yesterday afternoon, two astronauts lifted off in a SpaceX rocket, the world’s first commercially-operated spacecraft, for a trip to the International Space Station. Today, I continue to quote the words of an old Randy Stonehill song: “Stop the world, I want to get off.”

The last few weeks have been an emotional whirlwind. On a personal level, my family has mourned the death of my uncle, who succumbed to cancer about two weeks ago, about 25 years after he was first diagnosed. We have also celebrated the birth of my fourth grandchild. There have been other ups-and-downs in our lives recently. It has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

But then, there is the global scene. Probably most Americans are riding through a cultural house of horrors. Our lives have been upended for about two months by the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to slow the disease’s spread. Now, as things are settling down and communities are starting to return to normal, we hear of an all-too-familiar tragedy: an unarmed African American man named George Floyd died while being arrested by a white police officer, who restrained him by forcing his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck. For a few days, the vast majority of Americans spoke out against Derek Chauvin’s actions, mourning Floyd, who was being arrested for allegedly buying merchandise with a counterfeit $20 bill. (Take note of the charge: Floyd died over a small amount of money, and we may never know if he even knew the bill was counterfeit.)

The news over the last few days has shown horrific footage of riots, including people setting fire to police vehicles and buildings, looting stores, etc. What started as protests to demand justice for Floyd’s murderer has been overtaken by rioting, thuggery, and insurrection. On the third day of rioting, an African American federal security officer was murdered in a riot-related shooting. Apparently some people think “Black Lives Matter,” “Blue Lives Matter,” and “All Lives Matter” cannot all be true. This is no longer about justice or the value of human life.

This travesty occurs while Christians should be celebrating Pentecost. On the fiftieth day since we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection, we commemorate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It should be a time to remember the fact that Jesus sent His disciples to preach salvation to all nations:

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age'” (Matthew 28:18-20; all Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible).

This Gospel should create unity, removing cultural and ethnic boundaries of hostility. For Jesus’ first disciples, the clash between Jews and Gentiles was huge, perhaps as serious as the conflicts between Americans of different racial backgrounds. One outgrowth of the Gospel was to tear down those boundaries:

“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household…” (Ephesians 2:14-19).

Christians need to recognize that the horrific images splattering across our television scenes are visible reflections of the spiritual state of our society. When we look at the news reports, what do we see? Racism; hatred; vengeance; greed (nobody sincerely makes a statement about police brutality by stealing a flat-screen TV from a ransacked electronics store). Much of what we see in the media reports should remind us of those sinful attitudes which St. Paul referred to as “deeds of the flesh”:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

I highlighted a few terms that seem especially apparent in this case. As I mentioned in an earlier post, “idolatry” can refer to greed, covetousness, or putting things before God. Some of the other highlighted sins can be seen on both sides of the cultural debate. While most Americans agreed a few days ago that Officer Chauvin committed a crime and should be published, Americans are now arguing: Some blame Democrats who govern in the riot-riddled cities and states; others blame President Trump and his policies; others blame institutional racism by white people; others blame African American leaders. Many Christians are tempted to rationalize their political stance even when it conflicts with Scripture.

The blame, violence, and hostility will not bring healing to our nation or justice for Floyd’s death. The only true antidotes are the fruit of the Spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Christians must remember Pentecost as we see tongues of fire engulfing our cities. The earliest Christians shook the world with the power of the Gospel and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Having come through their own whirlwind (the Triumphal Entry, Last Supper, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension), they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and immediately began preaching the Gospel. The Church has always had its greatest impact when it relied on spiritual weapons to fight spiritual battles.

The Holy Spirit has torn down the barriers which divide us. As Christians, it is our responsibility to step across the demolished barriers and share the love, mercy, and righteousness of God with a sin-sick world. We have the weapons to conquer hate and bigotry. Let us use them while we share the good news of salvation with people of all nations.

Please share your thoughts about the recent events by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below and letting me know what you think.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

[If you do not have a place to worship, you may visit Cathedral Church of the Intercessor at http://live.intercessorchurch.com; services stream at 9:30 and 11:30 AM on Sundays, 12:00 noon on weekdays, and 6:00 PM Saturday evening (all times ET).]

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events, Holidays, Spiritual Warfare | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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