Monday, January 23, 2017

532 - Let it Rain

Spirituality Column No. 532
January 24, 2017
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary

Let it Rain
By Bob Walters

“In the Bible, it says rain is a sign of God’s blessing.” – Franklin Graham’s well-timed adlib at the slightly damp 2017 U.S. presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.
 
There is a Saul of Tarsus quality to Donald Trump’s surprising ascendency to the U.S. presidency.  It is a true monument to cosmic unlikelihood.
 
Saul, of course, might be the New Testament’s leading bad guy if not for Pontius Pilate, King Herod, Judas Iscariot and Satan.  Saul was a Jew, a high-ranking Pharisee, a Roman citizen, educated in Greek and a most vigorous persecutor of Christians in the early years following the crucifixion of Jesus and the beginnings of the Church.  We meet Saul in Acts 8:1 supervising the stoning of St. Steven, the first Christian martyr.
 
Then in Acts 9:1 as Saul is still “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” Jesus shows up, knocks him down, blinds him, challenges him and all Saul can say is, “Who are you, Lord?”  Next thing you know, Saul is preaching Christ, traveling widely and is himself severely persecuted by the Jews.  By Acts 13:9 he is known by the familiar name St. Paul the Apostle, writer of nearly half the New Testament and bedrock of the early church.
 
How did that guy become that leader? How did he get from there to here?
 
Are we not wondering the same thing about President Donald J. Trump?  From his bully pulpit the tough talking, free-tweeting, thrice-married New York real estate and global construction billionaire, TV celebrity, and cultural icon of extraordinary proportion – “You’re Fired!” – somehow jiu-jitsued the entire American political system to capture a barely-believable but unmistakably controlling interest in truth, justice and the American Way.  Disingenuous politicians, agenda-driven media, snooty academics, crazy cultural fascists, politically correct doctrinaires and self-righteous faux-philosophers of the entertainment industry were all pounded with a very large and consequential hammer of common sense, American reality and appropriate supplication to the divine.
 
To these bullying modern Pharisees of “correct” but dissembling thought, Trump – once approximately one of them – is now loathed; the “bad guy.”  He is the threat, promise and unlikely messenger of restoring a central truth to our American consciousness: that our nation exists for “We the people.”  And if you really heard the inaugural prayers, “We” – each person – exist for the glory of God.  Shocking, and true.
 
Friday’s ceremony reportedly set a record for the most prayers in a U.S. presidential inaugural.  Fine.  What is undeniable is that scripture was quoted accurately and sincerely, Jesus Christ was invoked by name and station, and God was honored before the attending throngs, a divided nation and the entire world.
 
All I can say is, let it rain, Lord.  Your truth is marching on … regardless.
 
Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) mentions that on Saturday there were in D.C. both a syncretistic pray-to-whatever-you-want prayer all-call and a “women’s rights” anti-Trump march closed to pro-lifers.  O, for the Dr. King days when marches were God-fearing calls for human rights, not self-righteous demonstrations in support of human wrongs.
Monday, January 16, 2017

531 - When Christ is New

Spirituality Column No. 531
January 17, 2017
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary

When Christ is New
By Bob Walters

Fifteen years ago I couldn’t have predicted how I’d feel, now, a decade and a half into a life with Christ.  At least I couldn’t have predicted this.  I had no idea.
 
And here is what surprises me: it’s still all new, every day, this life with Christ.  I’m more interested in Jesus now than I was 15 years ago on that November Sunday evening in 2001 when East 91st Street Christian Church pastor Dave Faust in Indianapolis so graciously spent extra time after our final Walking with Christ class in leading our group to the E91 sanctuary baptistery where three of us buried our sins and came alive in Christ.
 
Coming up out of the water, with the peace and joy of salvation washing over me and a sense of the adventure before me, is so very vividly and forever in my memory.  I can still feel the moment; I can see it.
 
Yet today I have so much more.
 
What I have now is assuredness in Jesus, in the Bible and in the fellowship of believers I’ve been so blessed to come to know, trust, lean on, learn from and love.  In the baptismal pool there was the blossoming bud of faith and the expectant sapling of curiosity, but no way could I anticipate the life-altering depth of the journey ahead.
 
And that depth is the depth of Jesus.  What a world-confining mistake it is to think our lives consist of our daily routines, successes, failures and challenges; our “overcomings” and our “underwhelmings.”  The life-altering nature of Christ is in realizing real life only exists in Him.
 
I’ve heard “change” preached from pulpits in the profane sense of changing our daily habits and “being a better person.”  When Christ altered my life, it has shown itself over the years in having blown the lid entirely off of what I thought “life” was all about in the finite realm of the daily habits of this world.
 
Through Christ we taste the mind of God, not the mere appetites of this physical world.  We encounter this life’s delights and comforts, its sorrows and distresses, and the vagaries attendant to fear and desire.  And Paul tells us they all mean precisely nothing compared to a life in Christ.  Fifteen years ago – even in the hope and promise of baptism – I had no idea what that meant or why I’d want it or if I could even understand it.  But now … I get it.  And I know the more of it I get, the more God is glorified in the continuously expanding love of even one sinner like me who happily entertains every personal doubt of worldly being while reflexively trusting the doubtless goodness, faithfulness and love of the Father, Son and Spirit.
 
Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) adapted this column from his 2016 thank you, faith inventory and update letter he writes to Faust every year marking the November 18 anniversary of Dave baptizing him in 2001. Jesus is eternally new; Walters had no idea.
Monday, January 9, 2017

530 - God is Still Here

Spirituality Column No. 530
January 10, 2017
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary

God is Still Here
By Bob Walters

Perhaps the greatest arrogance of this or any age is the assumption that God’s existence is somehow dependent on the majority opinion of mankind.
 
Let’s remember that God is still here no matter what educators teach, the media reports, pollsters predict, commentators opine or celebrities spasmodically declare.  Neither does a sincere preacher’s sermon nor a humble Christian’s service alter the unalterable divinity of God.  The thing that can be made different is not God, but man’s faithful relationship and love with God and others.  Beware; we live in an age – an arc or history, really – out of alignment with the pedestrian but supernatural truth of Christ.
 
This “arc” is the modernist march of philosophical humanity that for the last 300 years or so has walked Western man’s popular intellect further and further away from the foundational, always relevant reality of God.  While I’m quite convinced man’s modernist inclinations have no impact whatsoever on the three-in-one person of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, or on the eternal kingdom, divine glory and ultimate victory for God’s plan of salvation and love, we are wise to take heed that when we confuse our temporal intellectual fashions – modernism – with the unceasing reality of God, we are compromising our own eternal being.
 
We are electing eternal sides – Heaven or Hell – not fleeting flirtations.
 
“Modernism” doesn’t mean smart phones and driverless cars.  Tracing its roots back to Thomas Aquinas and 13th century naturalism, modernism is the seriously earnest academic trajectory of man taking over the definition and description of God.  Humanity beheld the Age of Enlightenment – great philosophers, brilliant politicians, and revolutions both shedding kings (America) and killing them (France, Russia) – and this modernist Enlightenment “light” man has been trying to steal is the spotlight that shines properly, only, entirely and eternally on Jesus Christ, not human systems.
 
But human systems are what popular culture’s “best and brightest” human minds have been assembling and assimilating ever since in an attempt to replace the simple and traditional truth of God’s ultimate mastery over all Creation.  God gave mankind freedom to concoct all manner of foolish ways to replace God – from the fall in Garden of Eden up through evolutionary theory, social science, reproductive rights, identity politics and on and on.  Bounteous modern day ammo exists to locate, learn about and love God – Church, the Bible, communications’ tools – as does the ever-present, ineffable, stubborn sense human’s possess that “there must be something more.”
 
Yes, there is “something more” no matter the modern or ancient world’s fancy or arrogant arguments against it (Romans 16:18, 1 Corinthians 2:4, Colossians 2:4)
 
God is still here and our faith still counts.
 
He always is and it always does.
 
Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) notes that secularism suggests we don’t need to trust Jesus, glorify God or seek the Holy Spirit.  Those are three pieces of very bad advice.
Monday, January 2, 2017

529 - Is God Mad at Me?

Spirituality Column No. 529
January 3, 2017
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary
 
Is God Mad at Me?
By Bob Walters
 
It wasn’t a sure thing that my wife Pam and I would actually make it to church this past Sunday morning … on New Year’s Day.
 
We visited friends New Year’s Eve and were home well before midnight but Pam was nursing a cold and we both were tired from a full day of tearing down and packing up Christmas decorations.  Our intention had been, yes of course, to go to church on the holiday even if partly just to be counted and see who else showed up.
 
But in the winter dark and the cold and getting up … who would miss us?
 
Virtue won out, and on the way to church I mentioned to Pam that I was glad she felt well enough to go but that I already figured I would go regardless because I had this weekly column to write that afternoon.  Normally I write on Saturdays but Christmas clean-up got in the way and skipping church was no way to start my writing day.
 
"Didn’t want God to be mad at you?” she teased.
 
And there we have today’s subject in the form of a question – “Is God mad at me?” – and an answer, “No, not even a little bit.”  Also please be assured, God’s not mad at you either, not any more, not since Jesus.  God loves us and always has, but we humans routinely underestimate God’s charity.
 
And Satan is all for it.
 
God cuts a fearsome swath through the Bible’s Old Testament.  There is nothing cheerful or hopeful or nurturing about God’s reaction in Genesis 3 to Adam and Eve’s sin, to the world’s sin when God told Noah to build the ark in Genesis 6, and on through the 39 books of the Old Testament.  What we know about God is that He created the world for his pleasure and made human beings in His own image that with their love and obedience, of Him, God in His Kingdom would be glorified.
 
With Satan’s help, mankind screwed that up with disobedience, bad choices, rebellion, misplaced legalism and on and on.  God is perfect, man is imperfect and neither has changed.   What has changed, what is new and what was unexpected was God’s New Covenant in Jesus Christ covering the sin of our disobedience and the Gospel of freeing us sinners to love God in His mercy, not fear Him in His wrath.
 
Satan wants us to fear God’s wrath.  Jesus wants us to know the enormity of God’s love, mercy and compassion.  Jesus, fully man and fully God, saves us – if we let Him – from sharing the certain and fierce hell of Satan’s eternal punishment.  The Holy Spirit is our spiritual comfort in this physical life of occasional horrors, shining the glory of God and the light of Jesus into our lives, freeing us from the doubt, guilt and fear Satan relentlessly preaches into our hearts.
 
Even going to church on a holiday Sunday morning.  And Pam knew it.
 
Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) wishes a Happy New Year to all and the joy of discovering ever-increasing freedom in Christ. Joy is Jesus; fear is Satan.
Monday, December 26, 2016

528 - Good News is Real News

Spirituality Column No. 528
December 27, 2016
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary

Good News is Real News
By Bob Walters

“And the angel said unto them (shepherds), ‘Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.’” – Luke 2:10 KJV

The angels of God deal only in divine truth while the minions of Satan deal only in unholy falsehoods.

Be sure that those awestruck, reverent, simple shepherds on that hill near Bethlehem two thousand years ago knew the truth when they heard it just as surely as, ever since, so many people haven’t, don’t and won’t.

Recognize the truth, I mean.  The good tidings. The Good News.

God’s truth is simple and direct and has but one purpose: to glorify God.  Satan’s lies are complex and clandestine, also possessing but one goal: stealing God’s glory.  Across the great spectrum between these extremes and absolutes lay the temptations, aspirations, frustrations, hopes, fears, wiles, faith, deceits, desperation, pride, sins and love of mankind.  It is so very, very difficult to peel back all those layers of our own humanity and find the core truth; the real, true good news of all existence, which is this:

Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord; the incarnate deity sent into the human world by a loving God to restore humanity’s lost divine image and heavenly relationship in the Kingdom of the Creator God Almighty, for His glory, forever. Amen.

God’s good news comes with a one-question final exam: “Do you believe?”

It is not a question asking for an opinion, because in the face of the supreme truth our opinions are just like our lives: fallen, lost, hopeless and as the poet put it, “nasty, brutish and short.”  It is not our opinion or works or even our faith that saves us; it is the truth of Jesus the saves us.  After all, we can have faith in the wrong things and our opinions generally reveal our pride and cosmic smallness.  We see an exception to this in Luke 2:15, when the shepherds in faith venture the opinion that they should go to Bethlehem and “see this thing which has come to pass.”

The shepherds trusted the truth without knowing what “this thing” actually was.

As we shake the snowflakes off of this year’s Christmas celebration, it rings loudly in my ears how much I heard publicly about “faith” and “belief” with no mention of Jesus.  Due to recent celebrity conversation, whether or not we have “hope” – again, no Jesus – is media fodder.  And the over-riding media theme of the moment is “fake news” amid the dearth of coverage of the Christmas story’s real and truly Good News.

That’s not to categorically condemn modern day secular journalists, politicians, academicians and other culture warriors intent on manufacturing and distributing “truth” – opinions bent to their own un-angelic social, economic and educational agendas. They are sinners like the rest of us whom Jesus came to save like the rest of us.

Satan always puts human opinion squarely in the way of God’s Good News.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) read a Christmas Eve day newspaper editorial about “the magic of Christmas” that, in 800 words, never once mentioned Jesus.  Sigh.
Monday, December 19, 2016

The Cross, Christmas and Freedom, Part 4

Spirituality Column No. 527
December 20, 2016
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary

2016 Christmas Series: The Gift of Freedom, Part 4
The Cross, Christmas and Freedom
By Bob Walters

Reinforcing my great joy in Christ and providing a profound reminder of salvation was the humbug lawsuit removing the cross from the public Christmas tree in Knightstown.
 
It reminded me that my freedom in Christ is overwhelming compared with the spotty smallness of laws and symbols.  It reinforced the joyous truth of the completeness of Christ vs. the dreary intellectual barrenness of the frightened, secular chattering class of the perpetually offended.  They know not what they are missing.
 
Two enormous issues of freedom were attendant to this dance of desolate intentions.  One imperils our constitutional government; the other is pure folly.
 
The danger was not to the “offended” plaintiff or to common decency or even to Jesus, but to our necessary civic freedom to express our faith and opinions.  The folly is in thinking a Christmas tree or a cross has any affect whatsoever on the truth, power, dignity, righteousness and permanence of Jesus Christ.  Christ is sufficient in Himself.
 
In the civic/government/legal/media arena of the Knightstown issue, liberals described the crusading valor of the ACLU while conservatives decried the nauseating infringement of a community’s freedom to express its moral values.  Sadly, too much of public “Christmas” already has nothing to do with moral values and everything to do with avarice and affront avoidance.  “Happy Holidays,” anyone?   Why does their right to remain in darkness outrank my right to express the goodness of Jesus – with a cross –  in this season of light?  A sincere “Merry Christmas” is the nicest greeting we can offer.
 
My friend Peter Heck, a national speaker, media figure, educator on US history and adept Christian apologist, well and succinctly enumerated the very real, serious and dangerous legal lunacy, constitutional impairment and community affront embodied in this “take the cross off the Christmas tree” Grinch-fest (video link below).
 
The folly of the lawsuit is that civic decrees and legal miscreants cannot touch, impair or reduce the promise of Christ.  Look at how the Pharisees and Romans tried to stop Jesus.  Instead they unwittingly fulfilled God’s will, enabled the completion of Christ’s mission and harkened the Holy Spirit into the hearts and minds of humanity.
 
As Christians we have the freedom to be unchained from artifacts and symbols, and even from Christmas if we so desire.  Jesus never mandated any festival or celebration – not even for the incarnation of God – because the freedom of Jesus already is in our hearts.  This is God’s gift.  It is prudent to defend our constitution against twisted “civic” agendas, and crazy to think Jesus can be stopped.
 
We have the freedom to find and be found by Him, to know Him, love Him and to follow His will by loving others (yes, even the ACLU), or to shun, snub and mock Him.
 
Whether we accept the gift is a choice upon which our eternal freedom rests.
 
Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) admires the Knightstown townsfolks’ plucky response of putting crosses everywhere including their cars (much better than reindeer noses and antlers, he observes).  See Heck’s brief video here.
Monday, December 12, 2016

The Gift of Freedom, Part 3

Spirituality Column No. 526
December 13, 2016
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary

The Gift of Freedom, Part 3
By Bob Walters

Say you go to church, believe in God, trust Jesus and accept the Holy Spirit.  Are you…

            A. Shackled to Jesus by your sin?
            B. Spiritually free from your sin through Jesus?
            C. Free to do whatever you want because Jesus loves you anyway?
            D. Expecting a physical, material, monetary or social status reward?

The correct answer here – I hope it’s obvious – is “B.”

Christians go to church for a lot of different reasons.  Some go (A) because of their sin, shame and guilt, which makes church a hospital or jail; something most people want to get out of.  Some (C) take a chunk of scripture about “love” – e.g. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world,” etc., and mistake their own worldly appetites for God’s divine word and build a church full of popular culture but absent biblical responsibility.  The (D) self-directed prosperity Gospel says “Get a blessing” vs. “Be a blessing.”

Most people have some idea that “God exists.”  It takes some prayer, Bible reading, coaching, diligence and discernment to truly understand what God said, what Jesus promised and what the Holy Spirit offers.  It also takes some time, patience and being challenged to discover what it all means.  Freedom is the result of getting it right; bondage is the result of getting it wrong.

When I think back on the times in my adult life when I have cried – I mean really let loose – the only ones I remember were from sadness, fear or relief.  My parents died, my dog was hit by a car.  I lost a job, a career, a home.  My cancer surgery (long before I knew Jesus) was successful.  Nowadays when I pray out loud, especially a prayer of thanks or love, tears easily flow and my voice not infrequently collapses.  All the while I feel the great relief of witnessing God’s work, love and presence.

And I feel entirely free.

Satan is the great deceiver, liar and tempter, and there is no truth in him.  Yet his best trick is convincing humans that their own freedom is in creating a distance from God and in blurring God’s holy word into unholy, prideful blobs of false promises, false hopes, false doctrine and false, temporal “truth,” all adding up to false freedom.

Bondage is believing a truth that God didn’t ordain.

Satan makes real-deal truth hard to find, but Christ’s real-deal freedom is hard to beat.  Satan stands in front of both truth and freedom with camouflage, argument, enticements, accusations and condemnation; fiercely shooting false but deadly arrows of cultural preferences, popular opinion, political dogmas and self-glorifying religion.  The errant, freedom-killing focus, always is “me.”  Freedom’s true focus, always, is God’s love.

Kingdom freedom (B) is God’s glory; hell’s bondage is Satan’s only promise.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) notes that the relief – the freedom – of knowing Jesus is being able to ignore Satan’s lies.

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