Christians and Culture

Faith, Righteousness, Rights, and Hard Times

“For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:37–38; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

When faith is genuine, it governs our lives. When we have true faith, God’s righteousness will grow in us. We will live by God’s standards of righteousness and justice.

While Christians should be eager to see God’s justice manifested, we cannot afford to make our rights our top priority. Americans stand up for our rights. However, God calls us to do what is right, no matter what. Sometimes, we may need to place God’s glory ahead of our rights.

This is one of the main themes of the letter to the Hebrews. The original readers were presumably Jewish converts to Christianity. When persecution hit, some were tempted to return to Judaism. Returning to their former, more “acceptable,” faith offered a better chance of keeping their homes, jobs, possessions, etc., instead of suffering persecution. The author (probably not Paul, but one of his ministry partners or companions) urged them to remain faithful to Jesus. The rewards of everlasting life are far greater than any earthly possessions or privileges.

“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one” (Hebrews 10:32–34).

The early Christians did not expect “your best life now.” While Jesus had promised innumerable blessings to His followers, He said they would not come cheaply. The Christian life begins with repentance. It leads to self-sacrifice. Suffering frequently follows.

“Peter began to say to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You.’ Jesus said, Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first’” (Mark 10:28–31, emphasis added).

How do we measure up? The COVID pandemic has shown how weak we are. People thought some of the restrictions—including mask requirements—were the mark of the beast. Many ranted that we are approaching the Great Tribulation because officials urged us to wear masks in public for the past year and to get a vaccine. Jesus told us that there would be great tribulation in the end times, “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Matthew 24:21). COVID-related restrictions are minor compared to the suffering of Jews in Nazi Germany, Black slaves in the pre-Civil-War south, or countless other oppressed people throughout history. The restrictions of the past 15 months do not qualify as signs of the end times.

The original readers of Hebrews showed us how to respond to difficult times. They joyfully accepted the loss of their property. If they were not the direct victims of reproaches and tribulations, they stood by their brothers and sisters who were. Instead of cowering in fear, they stood with their brethren. When trials came, they accepted them.

Christians today must learn again how to sacrifice. We must learn how to endure trials and tribulations and how to identify and sympathize with those who are suffering persecution or injustice. We should be ready to speak out for justice for all, but we must also be courageous enough to face persecution without a spirit of self-righteousness, rebellion, bitterness, or revenge.

We do not prove our faith by twisting Scriptures to explain why we should be comfortable. Faith is validated when we persevere during trials, tribulations, and persecution. We do not prove our faith when life is easy, claim our blessings, attend church, post Bible verses online, or celebrate our comforts. We show our faith when we remain faithful to God despite hardship.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). If we grow discouraged or turn our backs on Him when things get tough, we do not have faith. The readers of Hebrews were tempted to give up—they had not done so yet—under pressures that would have destroyed most American Christians.

Are we strong enough to stand firm in Christ? Can we follow the example the writer of Hebrews sets before us? If not, what can we do to grow in true faith that can withstand hardship?

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

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

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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