I watched with a broken heart as scenes of the futility in Haiti were being flashed across the screen after the latest hurricane, Matthew, had devastated the country.  Then to see the flooding in North Carolina and other places in this country and hear of the loss of life was painful.  After such times and all kinds of other natural disasters, one question invariably arises.  “Where is God in all this?”  In some ways it is strange to me that when everything is going great and the sun is shining all around, no one asked, “Where is God in all this?”  Quite frankly, in those times God is usually not mentioned at all.  It is almost as if we look at times of beauty, warmth and flowers blooming and think, “That is as it should be” but when the storms arise and problems are galore, we begin to raise questions about God in it all.

But, if God loves us and wants what is best in our lives, why must there be times of storms, tragedy, hurt, pain and death?  There was a time for humanity when it truly was beauty, flowers, fruit and blessing every day and no storms ever arose.  It was called the Garden of Eden which God planted and placed Adam and Eve in it.  The climate was so good they didn’t even need clothes.  They had no need for locks on doors because the animals were friendly to the humans.  That was the world God wanted for the people that He formed in his own image and likeness and to whom he gave authority over His creation.  Amazingly, in that garden they were told they could freely eat of every tree in the garden.  There was even the tree of life that they could eat of to give them youth and life forever.  There was just one tree in all the garden that God said to them, “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  In the day you eat of it you will surely die.”  Why would God put even one such tree in the Garden that would tempt people to sin?  Because people were made in God’s image with the ability to choose right from wrong, good from evil.  If there had been nothing they could have done that demanded a right choice then people would have been nothing more than animals with instinct or robots programed by God to do what he wanted.  He made us with the ability to choose right.  Anytime there is the ability to choose right, of necessity there must also be the ability to choose wrong.  God longed for us to choose to love and serve Him and to have the amazing blessings He offers.  Adam and Eve chose to eat of the one tree in all the garden that God told them not to eat of.  The results were fatal.  They were driven from the garden and death passed on humanity and everything else.  Since then only one person, Jesus, has faced the temptations of life and not given in to sin to follow the pattern set by Adam and Eve.

Now we live in a world of both good and evil.  It is both influenced by God in heaven and Satan in hell.  There are spiritual forces of evil and good that are all about us.  Ultimately, the choices we make in this life where we can clearly see the results of bad choices in the evil of the world and the results of good choices in all the beauty and wonder of the world, will lead to an eternity of either all that is good, beautiful and full of wonder or to an eternity where all is negative, ugly, evil and devastation.  God doesn’t force anyone to go either way.  He so longs for us to choose to live for him now that we may live with Him eternally in glory that He willingly paid the price for our sins through the death of Jesus on the cross.  But even with that demonstration of love He made the offer and sent the good news into the world for people to hear of God’s love and grace and decide for themselves if they would live for Him or not.

Today we live in a time and situation where we are shown both through the evil deeds and through natural disaster what sin and evil in the world has produced.  Every act of terror.  Every murder.  Every theft.  Every act of genocide.  Every abuse of a child or a wife.  And every disaster shouts to us that the choice of evil has had devastating results.  In a world that is affected by both evil and good both aspects have to be obvious for people to see the difference and to choose how they will live.  Too often we look at the evil and determine the only way to stand against it is to attack evil with more evil, which never produces good but only multiplies the evil.  With every disaster that takes place in the world, whether natural or from the evil hearts of vengeful people, there also stands an opportunity to demonstrate good and show what God longs to see in all of us.  “If possible, so far as depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, if you enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18-21).

Where is God in it all?  He is all around us.  He is hurting with those who hurt.  He is working through every effort to help the helpless.  He is longing for everyone to see what evil in the hearts and lives of people produce in the world.  He is working to change us for the better.  Our choices in life have effects.  Sin and evil in the world has tragic effects.  In times of despair be one that God uses to help someone else and show some of the beauty that is there all the time.

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I’m sure you’ve seen the posts declaring that if either Clinton or Trump is elected as the president of the United States it is all over for us as a country.  Of course, there have been the doomsday theorist as long as I can remember.  It changes with regard to what will bring it about but there are always people who believe one way to the degree that they think that if things don’t go the way they believe it should then it is the end of society as we know it.  It is amazing to me that the ones who prophesied doomsday with a previous election are still around to say it really is doomsday if we vote wrong this time.

Nations rise and nations fall, but it is seldom, if ever the politics of the nation that lead to its fall.  Sometimes nations are conquered by other nations that have become stronger or hungrier than them.  One lesson through the Old Testament is this, that every strong nation, eventually fell, but not because their military became weak.  They fell because they begin to think they were the ones who made themselves strong.  They forgot God and believed that their destiny was under their own control.  Assyria was a mighty nation, who conquered the northern tribes of Israel.  But it wasn’t because they were so strong.  It was because the sin of Israel were so great that God allowed the enemy to destroy them.  But it wasn’t long before Babylon the great destroyed Assyria and took on the mantle of the strongest nation of the time.  They were allowed by God to conquer the nation of Judah.  Again it wasn’t because they were so strong but because Judah had turned away from God and trusted in their own righteousness that they fell.  After seventy years God allowed the Medo-Persian Empire to conquer mighty Babylon.  Then the Greek Empire led by Alexander the Great conquered the world, but Rome followed and thought they were impregnable.  But Rome fell.  If you read the series of books called “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire” it becomes obvious the fall of Rome came from the inside as their morals fell apart, integrity died out and rulers thought they were gods to be worshipped.

I have no doubt this country, like others, will fall at some point.  But I don’t believe it will have anything to do with who wins or loses the coming election.  It will have to do with the heart of the nation.  It will relate to the people becoming so engrossed in their own pleasure that they stop caring for anyone other than themselves.  It will tie to the loss of faith in God who made us.  When faith in the Lord is lost, it doesn’t mean that people stop worshiping or stop putting their faith in some god.  It just means they replace the God of the Universe with a self-made god that has no power.  No matter how mighty the army may be if God turns his back on the nation it will crumble and fall.  If God is for us then what does it matter who is against us? I am not saying at all that the nation shouldn’t have strong armies to defend itself and help others who can’t defend themselves.  I’m just saying that no army can defend itself against the God of the Universe.  I’m far more concerned about the moral, spiritual, and lack of integrity problems of the present candidates than I am about their politics.  The leader of a country should be someone you can admire even if you disagree with them.  Neither of the present candidates have shown much to be admired.

My hope is that this nation will rise higher and stay longer than any other nation ever has. I think it matters who is elected as president.  But don’t put more eggs in that basket than it will hold.  The security of the nation will always be tied to the righteousness of the people.  When Jesus looked at the people and said, “You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses it’s taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:13)  Salt serves to both give taste and to preserve.  When the influence of Christians become so weak and tasteless in the world that they aren’t making a difference for good and God then the earth and all that is in it will be destroyed.  Why not put your interest in something that is really lasting and will make an eternal difference, instead of in something that will pass on rather quickly?

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I think it is built into us as humans that our thoughts quickly turn from whatever is going on around us to “What now?”  Spend a little while trying to keep a child happy and entertained and it quickly becomes obvious that whatever they enjoyed ten minutes ago is now worn out and their question, either asked outright or implied, is “What now?”  But it isn’t just with children.  When things are going great in our life, we are looking for what new adventure we can have that will be even more exhilarating.  When things aren’t going so well and we have problems our thoughts tend to be “Well, what now?”

I was reading the Gospel of Mark this morning and thinking of the twelve with Jesus when they entered Jerusalem for the final Passover with Him.  Can’t you just feel the excitement they must have felt when Jesus had them to bring the donkey and he rode it into Jerusalem with people laying their garments along the way and singing “Hosanna in the highest” and “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  They must have felt this was finally the day they had been anticipating.  Jesus would be made king and they would be his loyal servants.  But when he simply entered the temple and left for Bethany it had to have been confusing.  When he, the next day cursed the fig tree for having only leaves and no fruit it likely caused them to wonder what in the world was happening now?  But when they showed him the beautiful temple with its massive stones and ornate drawings only to have him say, “I’m telling you not one stone will be left on top of another” they must have thought, “What now?”  Jesus explained to Peter, Andrew, James and John that Jerusalem would be destroyed before that generation had passed.  He told them they would be persecuted, but if they endured to the end they would be saved.  In that discussion he also foretold the second coming that only the Father then knew when would take place.

In the coming days when they gathered for the last supper and saw Jesus institute the Lord’s Supper as a way to remember the sacrifice he would made on the cross they had to be wondering, “What now?”  But their wonder would soon be answered when Judas led the mob to arrest him and the disciples were scattered.  Peter followed from a distance but his cowardice got the best of him when he denied he knew Jesus three times.  After one false and misleading charge after another Jesus was condemned to be crucified.  The one who came to save the world was rejected by the world.  Religious leaders who had taught the prophesies of the coming Messiah, now led the mob to take him to Pilate the Roman Governor where he would be crucified.  Religious leaders cried out for his death instead of holding him up as Savior and Lord.  It wouldn’t have been unreasonable at all if Jesus had simply said, “These people aren’t worth dying for” and have come down from the cross.  But he stayed on the cross, willingly paying the price for our sins with the agony of the crucifixion.  “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”  Surely that day when Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus and buried his body in his own new tomb the disciples were asking, “What now?”  Jesus had informed them over and over again what was coming but they hadn’t been able to hear and understand.

On the first day of the week it was some women who came to the tomb early in the morning, not any of the twelve who had walked with him so long.  Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome brought spices for his formal burial.  On the way they wondered who would roll the stone away so they could reach the body.  But there was no need.  The stone was rolled away.  Jesus’ body wasn’t there.  An angel sat in the tomb to point out the place where they body had laid.  These godly women rushed back to tell the disciples about Jesus being raised, but they didn’t believe their witness until Jesus appeared to them as well.  Even then some doubted.  I suspect when that day came when they stood with him on the Mt. of Olives and watched him ascend back to the Father in glory the question was still on their minds, “What now?”

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring for any of us individually.  But I know ultimately the “what now” is that Jesus is coming back, not this time to pay the price for our sins again but to receive those who through faith have lived for him on this earth.  He will come to judge the world of sin, righteousness and judgment to come.  Ultimately the what now will be eternity either in glory with the Lord of glory or eternity away from God with the devil and all his angels.  Only when we are with him in glory will there be no more concern for “What now?”  Then all the things we have gone through will pass into insignificance and we will focus all our thoughts and glory one the one who paid the price that we too might be saved.  Praise God, this “What now” is available for all people everywhere.


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You can tell a whole lot about a person by noticing who they respect and how they treat the ones for whom they have respect.  When God had Moses to give the Israelites the Ten Commandments the fifth one was, “Honor your Father and your Mother that your days may be long in the land.”  He had already noted that one must respect God and keep his very name as holy.  But part of the respect for God was demonstrated in respect for ones parents.  Think about this question: “Did God think that all parents were deserving of respect?”  No, he didn’t think that at all.  There were then as now many parents who were not respectable at all.  Yet it wasn’t God’s charge for us to try to determine which parents deserve our respect and which ones don’t so that we can respect the ones who deserve it but not the ones who don’t.  He simply declared that we should honor our fathers and mothers.  Paul later will tie that command to another when he said children were to obey their father and mother.  Now it is certainly true that he turned immediately to say to the Father, that he wasn’t to provoke his children to anger but bring them up in the training and discipline of the Lord, so it wasn’t a one way street.

Think of that charge when you look at another given by the apostle Paul in Romans 13.  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.  Would you have no fear of the one who is the authority?  Then do what is good and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.  For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:1-4)  Who was the Roman ruler during the time that Paul wrote this charge?  Was it some really good king that was respectful of Christians and supportive of good causes?  NO, it was a man named “Nero” who was one of the worst rulers of all time.  Did Paul believe that all the policemen or soldiers who represented the government were good, honorable people that deserved respect because they were respectable individuals?  NO, that wasn’t the case then or ever.  As in any other profession there are really good, honorable people that work extremely hard to do the right thing and treat all people in the right way, but there are those who use the office and the authority in the wrong way and actually take advantage of others using that authority.  But notice, he didn’t say to the Christian that they should examine each policemen or each soldier and see if they were honorable and if they were honorable people then show them honor and respect.  He simply said that they were set apart by God as His servants with the purpose of punishing evil and upholding the good so they were to be honored and treated as God’s ministers or servants.

Later when Peter wrote to Christians that they were to be strangers and pilgrims on the earth and to live in a way that caused those who longed to say something bad against them to be ashamed because they couldn’t think of an evil thing to say about them.  In that context in I Peter 2 he then challenged the people to “Honor the king.”  This is still Nero.  He wasn’t honorable.  Yet God’s charge to the Christian was to honor him.  Notice that along with that charge were these as well.  “Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

Then consider the fact that Paul in writing I Timothy while in a Roman prison awaiting the time when he would appear before Nero and be executed for his faith in Christ wrote in I Timothy 2:1-4 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  Think about God leading Paul to tell Timothy in working with the church in Ephesus to pray for the king and all those in high positions.

When followers of Christ determine that some ruler in the land is so awful they can’t pray for them or show them respect or when they think that the policemen or soldiers shouldn’t be respected by us all, they aren’t following Jesus or the teachings of Scripture.  I know the pleas that are made on all sides.  But I know that one of the things that should distinguish the Christian is their respectful behavior and attitude toward all people, even the ones with whom they disagree.  If God looked at a Nero and declared that he was a servant of His because all authority is from God, then we certainly need to be careful how we react to anyone in a place of authority.  Does that mean that we overlook all the ways they are mistaken or in things that we believe they are wrong about?  No it doesn’t mean that, but it does mean that you disagree while showing respect and honor for the person and the office they hold.

If there was ever a time in the history of the world when people needed to learn to show respect to each other, even when you disagree, it is now.  If you claim to follow Jesus, then strive to act like him.  What is amazing to me is that while Paul was in that Roman prison he wrote the letter to the Philippians and tells the people not to be overly concerned for his welfare since what had happened had turned out for the furtherance of the gospel of Christ.  Among the reasons he said that was that many of those in Caesar’s household had heard from him the good news of Jesus and had turned their lives around so that when Paul concluded the letter he said the saints in Caesar’s household sent their greetings.  You don’t gain the opportunity to lead a person to Jesus by being disrespectful of the person.  You open the door to help another person to learn and grow by respecting them where they are already.

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I suspect there are multitudes of times in life when God gets the blame or credit for things that he didn’t do.  It has always amazed me when people refer to a tornado or earthquake as an act of God.  But there is no doubt that God does do lots of things in this life for which he doesn’t get the credit.

In the Book of Genesis one of the longest stories it tells is of the life of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob.  He was the first son that Jacob fathered with Rachel the wife he loved dearly and for whom he served her father for fourteen years.  Because of jealousy for Joseph, due to Jacob’s favoritism for him and due to Joseph’s dreams that he told with glee to his brothers that pictured them bowing down before him as his servants, they sold him as a boy of seventeen as a slave to a band of Midianite traders.  They sold him to a Egyptian soldier named Potiphar. He did well as a servant for Potiphar, but Potiphar’s wife developed a crush on him and tried to get him to have sex with her.  When he refused and ran away from her she made up a story accusing him of attempting to rape her that led to Joseph spending somewhere between ten and twelve years in an Egyptian prison.  Even as a prisoner he gained the trust of the jailer who put him over the other prisoners.  There he interpreted the dreams of two servants of the Pharaoh and asked the one who was to be released to remember him to Pharaoh, but the man forgot him.  Two more years passed before Pharaoh had two dreams that no one could interpret, then the servant remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about him.  He was brought from prison and interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh to tell him that God was revealing to him his plans to send seven years of plenty on the land, followed by seven years of famine.  The years of famine would be so horrible that they wouldn’t remember the years of plenty.  Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph and his wisdom that he put him in charge of gathering grain for the seven years of plenty so they would be prepared for the seven years of famine.

Joseph became the second most powerful man in Egypt.  When the famine came it was all over the world and not just in Egypt.  Jacob’s family were without the food they needed so Jacob sent ten of Joseph’s brothers to buy grain in Egypt.  Only Benjamin, Joseph’s younger brother stayed home with Jacob and the rest of the family.  When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but they didn’t recognize him.  Through lots of turns and twist Joseph ultimately revealed himself to his brothers and they were deeply worried about what he would do with them because of what they had done to him as a boy.  Listen to Joseph’s message to his brothers, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.  And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.  For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.  So it was not you who sent me here, but God.  He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.  Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt.  Come down to me; do not tarry” (Genesis 45:4-9).

Later, after they had been in Egypt for several years, Jacob died and those brothers were again deeply afraid that with Jacob’s death Joseph would seek revenge against them for what they did to him.  He had to reassure them once more that it wasn’t just some human action, but that God was the one at work that led to them selling him into Egypt so that he might save their lives and the lives of multitudes of other people.

Think about this whole thing.  Joseph was 17 when sold by his brothers.  He was 30 when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream.  He was also 30 when he was put in charge of the nation’s food supply and gathering the grain to save the multitudes when the famine came.  It was after the 7 years of plenty and 2 more years of famine when the brothers first arrived in Egypt to purchase grain.  So Joseph was 39 when they first arrived.  We aren’t told how much time passed between the first time they came to Egypt and the second time when they brought Benjamin with them but I would suppose at least six months to a year later when he revealed himself to them and had Jacob and the whole family of 70 people brought down to Egypt.  Jacob was 130 years old when he came down to Egypt.  Jacob lived in Egypt for 17 years before dying at 147.  So at Jacob’s death Joseph was 57 years old.  It had been 40 years since the time when his brothers sold him into Egypt.  Yet, they were still haunted by what they did and couldn’t forgive themselves for their actions.

The huge point that stands out in this whole series of events is the reality of God’s plans and God’s actions among people.  Because God wanted to save the people from a famine that would take place 20 years later he led the brothers to sell him into Egypt.  From their point of view it was all about their jealousy toward their brother.  But God had a plan in mind and brought it about, even though it involved horrible actions by these brothers toward their brother.  We tend to think of things that may happen today or tomorrow or perhaps a year or two from now.  God’s mind is capable of looking far down the line to see what will happen and to raise up the one who can be the savior for the people when tragedy occurs.  Neither the brothers, their father, the Pharaoh, or the people of Egypt could have seen God’s hand in what was happening.  One has to wonder when it occurred to Joseph that God was working to bring about something special through him.  I sincerely doubt it was while he was at Potiphar’s house or even while he was in prison for all those years.  It could have been during the years of plenty when he was gathering the supplies for the future he knew was coming.  But I suspect he only realized it was God that was moving and controlling the actions after the famine arose and perhaps after he saw his brothers bow before him seeking food.

One powerful lesson that should rise to the top is that in the toughest times of life, it may be that God is behind what is going on to prepare us for something ahead.  He needed Joseph to be ready to save the lives of his own family and of multitudes of people in Egypt and around the known world.  He couldn’t do that as a spoiled young man walking around in his coat of many colors.  He prepared him for the job with service, with disappointment, with prison and being forgotten by ones he loved.  The next time we are going through tough times, let’s remember that it may be the hand of God preparing us for a bigger job than we can now imagine but to get us ready means putting us through some tough times so we can do the job when it arrives.

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There are all kinds of things going on in our world that are absolutely astonishing.  Many of the things said by the different political candidates astonish me.  You have to wonder where their advisors were when they came up with some of the things that are said.  But I want to notice a occasion when Paul was astonished.  In Galatians 1:6 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel.”

It hadn’t been long ago that Paul and Barnabas had traveled to the area of Galatia preaching Jesus to the people.  Gentiles who had no knowledge of God had turned from the idolatrous way of life they had lived to give their lives to Jesus who had given himself on the cross to die so their sins and ours could be forgiven.  He came, Paul said, to rescue us from this present evil world.  The message they had heard was easily described as “The Gospel or good news.”  It was a means of being saved from all sins through the blood of Jesus as one believed in Jesus as God’s son and committed their lives to him.  But, after Paul and Barnabas left the area and travelled back to Antioch the news came that teachers had come to the area of Galatia telling these new Christians that if they really wanted to be pleasing to God it wasn’t enough just to believe in Jesus and be committed to him, they also needed to obey the law and be circumcised.  In essence the message to them was that to be really right with God they needed to become Jews also.

Here’s the thing about all of that.  It isn’t just something that happened 2,000 years ago and never has happened again.  The problem is that it goes on all the time, that those who follow Christ are too often being told that it just isn’t enough to follow Christ through faith and live a life of freedom in him.  Instead there are always things that someone comes us that we must do beyond what the gospel of Christ teaches if we really want to be right with God.  Their deal was being circumcised, obeying the different food laws of the Old Testament and observing the different days that were part of that law.  The picture that had been painted to them was that they had made a start but to go all the way for God they had to take these extra steps.  Paul’s reaction as the apostle of Christ who had received his message of gospel directly from Jesus by revelation, was that your following these extra rules that are being put upon you, are departing from Jesus Christ.  He called you by his grace and now you are trying to be justified by law.  It just blew his mind that anyone would turn from the freedom in Christ to take on such regulations and going back under the law that had as it’s primary purpose to bring us to Christ and after Christ has come we are no longer under that law.  By the law no one can be justified in Christ.

Now please understand, it isn’t just that one can’t be saved by keeping those particular laws.  If there had been a law by which one could be saved there would have been no reason for Jesus to come into the world and take upon himself human flesh, to go through the same temptations we go through and then to die the cruel death on the cross for us to be saved.  No such law existed then nor does one exist now or will there ever be such a law.  Salvation is only possible through the grace of a loving and merciful God who longed for our salvation so much he was willing to pay the price for our redemption on the cross.

How serious is it for people to just add on a few regulations that a person must follow that really isn’t part of the gospel of Christ?  So serious that Paul would say that if one preached or received any gospel besides the one he preached to them let them be accursed.  It meant that one left Christ behind and that they fell from grace according to chapter 5:1-4.  Too often we aren’t satisfied with helping a person or group of people become Christians.  We want them to be “American Christians.”  Or it may be that we want them to be Christians of the same race or background as us.  Too often we take the cultural things that have been true of us where we live and try to bind them on other cultures so that they look like us more than they look like Jesus.  Paul pleaded with these Galatian Christians to stand in freedom and not allow others to press upon them rules that God hadn’t given.  John would later write, “Whoever goes on and does not abide in the teachings of Christ, does not have God.  He that abides in the teachings of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9)

Freedom, even in Christ, is difficult to live with.  You’ve heard the saying that “good fences make for good neighbors.”  In growing up who in the world would have thought about putting a fence around their yard to keep the neighborhood children from coming into their yard.  We ran and played without thought of whose house or whose property it might be.  We had freedom.  But now we want fences, boundaries, signs and “keep off the grass.” Even spiritually it is tough to simply allow people the freedom in Christ to through faith follow Him and grow more like him all the time.  We want to put up fences to keep out all who disagree with us on the slightest things.  In doing such we astonish the Lord and we depart from Jesus.  God help us!

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There is a bucket full of heat on the topic of illegal immigration in this country right now, but I’m not certain there is a thimble full of light being shed on the topic.  Does the Bible tell us anything on this subject that we should consider?  Is it simply a political issue that we should trust Congress to take care of or even the next president to handle?  First, let me be clear that I don’t care whether you support building a wall along the border or simply opening the borders for anyone to come through at will it is still important to raise the question of what God says on it.  What I do want to see is that God has somethings to say on the topic that ought to be brought into the consideration.  There is no question that a country has a right to borders, their own language and their own laws that one entering is obligated to follow.

But it is absolutely true that we are a nation filled with people who have immigrated from other countries and we have multitudes of people who were brought here by parents or other family, some illegally, but they have been here all their lives.  Sometimes families were brought here during times of crises in their own countries and were brought to this country as an act of benevolence.  Too often after the crisis is past, the ones who were brought here have no desire to return to their homeland and if years have passed, their children see themselves as part of this country rather than the nation from which they came.  Many came to work for someone but the job has now passed and they are still here but not accepted into the society.  So, where is a Christian supposed to land on all these topics.  And is there a difference between the one who came in legally but stayed after their visa had run out and the one who came into the country in the darkness and constantly hides in the shadows to keep from be deported back to their home country?

There is no question that people on all sides of the issue believe they are conducting themselves as Christians who imitate Jesus in their actions.  One thing stands out to anyone who has spent any time reading the Old Testament and that is that God called on his people to treat the aliens in the land right.  He always placed the welfare of the alien right alongside his concern for the orphan and the widow.  Think about some things that Jesus said with regard to how we treat others of all sorts.  He said the second greatest command is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  James called this the royal law and applied it to how Christians treat the poor who come into their assembly.  Jesus illustrated the point by telling the story of how a man fell among thieves who robbed him, beat him and left him for dead.  While the priest and Levite came by, they passed by on the other side of the road.  It was a Samaritan who came by and saw the man, had compassion on him and cared for his wounds.  He took him to an inn and cared for him there, even paying the inn-keeper to take care of him when he had to leave.  Jesus said he was the one who was neighbor to the man who fell among the thieves.  So, if the illegal immigrant is a neighbor and I’m to love my neighbor as myself, tell me how I’m to treat him.

Add to that Jesus statement that we are to “Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you, do good to those who despitefully use you and persecute you so that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven.” He identified with the least of these in Matthew 25 and said that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick or those in prison, give drink to the thirsty, and take in the stranger that we ministered to him.  “Inasmuch as you did it unto one of the least of these my brothers, you did it unto me.”

At the same time, Paul challenged Christians to obey the rulers of the land and said they didn’t bear the sword in vain.  Unless the laws of the land somehow violate the law of God my place as a child of the Lord is to obey that law.  So, while I’m to be one that loves and cares for the stranger and treats them with respect, that doesn’t mean that I’m to sanction the violating of the law or even encourage people in their disobedience.  Care must be taken as a child of God to be the caring one for anyone who comes our way, I must not become one who is disobedient to the law by encouraging more disobedience to the law.  Remember too, the nation isn’t a church.  It is a government with laws that should be obeyed and if disobeyed that government has the right to punish those who disobeyed.  As a Christian I’m obligated to treat everyone with with love, kindness and respect.  But that doesn’t mean that I have the right to encourage people to disobey the laws of the land when they are just laws.

One thing that stands out for the Christian is that every action toward the immigrant whether legal or illegal should be with view to trying to win that person to Jesus Christ.  Every person that comes into the country ought to be seen as a prospect for Christ and an opportunity to be evangelistic and strive to teach the person about Christ.  As a nation I wish we could find the way to be benevolent and accepting of that one who has been in this country for years, obeying the laws, and striving to do the right thing in life, while not destroying the very borders that make us a nation.  I realize that it is extremely difficult because if you offer amnesty to the ones who have been in the country for a long time illegally, you do encourage those who want to come here anyway to follow the same plan with hopes to being recognized as citizens in the future.  But I know for certain that nothing gives the Christian the right to do anything that isn’t done in love and respect for the other person and in an effort to be salt and light to lead them to God.

Will we ever as a nation reach any kind of compromise that will be acceptable to all sides, benevolent toward the immigrant and uphold the laws and borders of the nation?  I don’t know.  It really seems to me that we move further from any such noble goal all the time.  But whatever the country does, I must make certain that as a Christian I do what God calls me to do personally in how I treat the stranger in the land.

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