Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween and All Saints Day – Part II

For more on the origins of Halloween, please see Part I in an earlier post.

All Saints Day

Do you know which Christian holy day comes the day after Halloween? All Saints Day comes on November 1, the day after Samhain. Early in the Christian era, a day had been set aside to honor believers who had gone before and who were good role models of faith. During persecutions, many of these early Christians had died for their faith or held on to their faith despite torture and the threat of death. There were waves of persecutions against Christians in the Roman Empire during the first 300 years before Constantine legalized Christianity (Edict of Milan in 313).

This Christian day of remembrance of the departed believers originally took place in the spring. As Christianity spread to northern Europe and the British Isles, it encountered the Celtic celebration of Samhain. The early church leaders had a practice of establishing the date of church holy days to correspond with various competing pagan celebrations (we get the English term “holiday” from “holy day”).

For example, not knowing the date of Jesus’ birth, church leaders decided to celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus on December 25, the time when the Romans celebrated a festival called “Saturnalia.” The intent was that early Christians would celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25 rather than a pagan holiday. Of course Christmas took on some of the outward practices of Saturnalia, such as gift-giving, just as Easter took on some of the practices of pagan spring festivals.

To suppress the practice of Samhain in newly-converted northern Europe, church leaders decided to move All Saints Day from its earlier celebration in the spring to November 1. The eve of a holiday had importance in those days (as it does even now to some extent – such as Christmas Eve). The church leaders hoped that the celebrations on the eve of All Saints Day, called All Hallows Eve, would result in Samhain dying out.

Hallowed (or hallow) is an old English word for “holy” or “sacred” such as in “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” (from the Germanic heilig and the Anglo-Salon halig, from which we get hale, holy and hallow). So the term “Halloween” means “Holy Evening” although it isn’t particularly holy now. Many of the practices of ancient Samhain have been incorporated into Halloween, making it something less than holy.

The ancient practices of Samhain remain, but their meaning is no longer relevant to most people. Today it is just a time for kids to dress up in costumes and get candy from their neighbors. Unfortunately, All Saints Day has become a minor Christian holiday. So we are missing the good aspects of the season while retaining some of the ancient Celtic superstitious practices.

Victory over Death

Since this is the week of All Saints Day as well as Halloween, we should take a look at the positive aspects of our faith in contrast to superstition. We should always proclaim the supremacy of Jesus Christ and the Gospel over superstition and erroneous beliefs. I’m amazed at how many people believe that ghosts wander the earth, yet have serious doubts about the Holy Ghost.

As Christians,
·we believe in a real God, the one true God of the Bible;
·we believe in Jesus Christ, his Son, a real person who lived among us;
·we believe in the Holy Ghost, who lives within us and guides us;
·and we believe we get to heaven because of our faith and trust in Jesus, not thru various acts, rituals, or superstitions.

Atheists and agnostics often believe religion is superstition, and unfortunately Christianity degenerated into superstition in medieval (and even later) times. However, true Christianity is not at all superstitious, but is in reality a relationship with the Living God. We have rites and ceremonies, but they are outward signs of inward grace. If we place our faith in rites, rituals, and sacraments, then our faith is misplaced. For Christians, our faith should be focused on Jesus Christ, not on anything else, no matter how worthwhile it may seem to be.

Eternal life is offered to all as a free gift for those who choose to believe that Jesus died on the cross on our behalf to reconcile imperfect people to a perfect God. We may not completely understand how it all works, but we do believe it. We know we have nothing to fear from death, because Jesus promised us eternal life. And once we have passed away, we will be with Jesus in glory, not wandering the earth looking for some sort of relief.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween and All Saints Day – Part I

I prepared the following as a simple discussion of Halloween for youth. I hope it is helpful to you.

Back in pre-Christian times, there was a celebration in Northern Europe called Samhain (pronounced sah-ween). Samhain celebrated the end of the harvest season, the beginning of their new year, but it also had a “spiritual” aspect. It was believed that on the night of Samhain the veil between the present world and the world beyond was pierced. It was a common belief in northern Europe that the spirits of those who died during the past year could not go to their final resting place until they were properly prepared. Therefore, the tradition was to placate the spirits of the dead by “treating” them with food, drink or other items on Samhain. It was believed that until these spirits were properly “treated” they would “trick” or haunt those who had neglected to provide them for their trip to the world beyond.

These spirits of the dead would wander around the area where they had lived and died until they could go on to wherever Celtic spirits went. Since all these spirits of the dead were wondering around on Samhain, it was also believed that demons, witches, and elves were released on that night to harass the living. These demons, witches, and elves sometimes assumed bizarre appearances, according to legend. The Druid priests would dress up in costumes to disguise themselves, and thereby protect themselves from attack by these otherworldly creatures. There was also the belief that one way to ward off these spirits and otherworldly creatures was to carve a grotesque face into a gourd or root vegetable, and put a candle inside it to light it up. That’s the origin of the jack-o-lantern.

Proper Celebration of Halloween

What do you think about celebrating Halloween now that you know its pagan origins? Since Halloween has become a secular holiday with no real meaning, do you think it is wrong for Christian children to go trick or treating, or to have a Halloween party? Parents may not want children going around to strangers’ houses these days for other reasons, so parties are becoming more and more popular.

In my opinion, what is inappropriate are some of the Halloween decorations you see, especially in private homes. What turns me off the most is to see straw-filled human effigies hanging from trees in people’s front yards. If people want to decorate, I think a fall theme is nice (such as pumpkins) but witches, ghosts, fake gravestones, and dead bodies are not suitable in my opinion. It is interesting that one school district in Connecticut has said that if the kids want to wear a costume to school on Halloween, it is OK as long as it is a consume of a positive role model.

A good guideline for Halloween as well as for anything in life is that we should not do anything that would compromise our faith or bring dishonor to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Communion – Part IV

In earlier posts I did a three part series on the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This post goes into more depth about the sacrament, if you want to understand its meaning better. Much of this information comes from the United Methodist study of the sacrament called “This Holy Mystery” which is referenced in this post. While “This Holy Mystery” looks at the United Methodist/Wesleyan understanding of the sacrament, I believe most of what it contains applies to the majority of denominations.

The Six Aspects of the Eucharist

In studying the Bible and church tradition, we can discern six aspects of the Eucharist. We clearly see these aspects in many communion liturgies. Let me summarize those six ideas about Holy Communion, with the focus on the United Methodist liturgy:

1. Thanksgiving

The first aspect of the Eucharistic feast is thanksgiving. The word “Eucharist” is derived from the Greek word for thanksgiving. The Eucharistic liturgy is called “The Great Thanksgiving” in the Methodist hymnal and in other denomination’s liturgies.

What are we thanking God for? Everything: God’s mighty acts in history, and his mighty acts thru Jesus Christ, especially our salvation. “This Holy Mystery” tells us:

“The Great Thanksgiving is a recitation of this salvation history, culminating in the work of Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. It conveys our gratitude for the goodness of God and God’s unconditional love for us.”

2. Fellowship

After thanksgiving the second aspect of Holy Communion is fellowship. “This Holy Mystery” says:

“Holy communion is the communion of the church – the gathered community of the faithful, both local and universal. While deeply meaningful to the individuals participating, the sacrament is much more than a personal event.”

Like the Last Supper in the upper room, the Lord’s Supper in churches today is a communal event. You can’t have communion alone: communion is a sharing by God’s people gathered together around the table. Note that in the Roman Catholic Church, the priest can celebrate the Eucharist and have communion alone.

3. Remembrance

After thanksgiving and fellowship, the third aspect of communion is remembrance. Holy Communion is remembrance, commemoration, and memorial, but it is more than just recalling. Communion is, in the words of “This Holy Mystery” “a dynamic action that becomes a re-presentation of past gracious acts of God.”

The one thing we must understand that communion is a lot more than just a remembering of the Last Supper. Jesus established communion at the Last Supper, using bread and wine as visual means for us to remember what Jesus did for us: die, and then rise again in glory. The Last Supper is also important is because, as a Seder, it looked back to the first Passover. We as Christians believe that the events of the first Passover pointed to the future acts of Jesus. You really can’t separate the Last Supper, the crucifixion, and the Resurrection.

From the fellowship, thanksgiving, and remembrance aspects of communion, we can think of it as similar to the Passover Seder or the American Thanksgiving Day meal.

4. Sacrifice

The fourth aspect of Holy Communion is sacrifice. In Protestant understanding, it is a re-presentation, not a repetition, of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross. In communion we remember the body of Christ, given for you, and the blood of Christ, shed for you. Note that the Roman Catholic belief is that the Mass itself is some sort of repetition of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, hence the name “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

Not only do we recall Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross, but communion also reminds us of the sacrifices we are called to make for the sake of Christ. As part of the liturgy, we present ourselves as a sacrifice in union with Christ so that we can be used by God in the work of redemption, reconciliation, and justice in the world.

5. Action of the Holy Spirit

The fifth aspect of communion is the work of the Holy Spirit. Many Christian churches believe that the sacrament of Holy Communion is a means of grace. The Holy Spirit works through the sacraments to impart grace to us, grace being God’s unmerited favor that helps us in the world in various ways. In Protestant belief, there are many means of grace besides the sacraments, but the sacraments are powerful means of imparting grace to us that go back to the time of Christ.

Our communion liturgy invokes the Holy Spirit, saying: “Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine.” The Great Thanksgiving goes on to ask: “By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” By this prayer, we are asking to be formed into the image of Christ and to be made God’s instruments for transformation in the world.

6. Eschatology

The sixth aspect of Holy Communion is that it is also eschatological, meaning that is has to do with the end times and heaven, the outcome of God’s purpose in the world. “This Holy Mystery” tells us that: “We commune not only with the faithful who are physically present, but with the saints of the past who join us in the sacrament.” In other words, we are joined in the sacrament by those who have already left this world and are in glory as part of the Church Triumphant.

We believe that in celebrating the sacrament, heaven and earth come together for a time in some mysterious way. At that time we are one in Christ, one with each other, one with all believers in the world, and one with those who are in the heavenly realms.

In communion, we receive a foretaste of the future, a pledge of heaven “until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.” When we participate in the Eucharist, we are anticipating the heavenly banquet celebrating God’s victory over sin, evil, and death. In other words, we become partakers of the divine nature in this life, while looking forward to life eternal where we will have everlasting fellowship with Christ and see the ultimate fulfillment of the divine plan.

This may have been more than you ever wanted to know about Holy Communion, but hopefully it will put the sacrament into better perspective for you and give you an appreciation for what it means. May God bless you in your journey of faith.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Communion – Part III

See parts I and II for more on the sacrament of Holy Communion. Every Sunday in some churches, and once a month or once a quarter in other churches, there is this mysterious ritual that takes place involving bread and wine (or grape juice). The purpose of this series of posts is to try to give a better understanding of the sacrament and how it is meaningful to Christians.

In many communion liturgies this statement of faith is said: “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.” If we look at each of these, we get a good understanding of the sacrament.

“Christ has died”

In part, Communion is a time to remember Jesus’ death, his self-giving sacrifice on our behalf. As I mentioned earlier, our Communion has it origins in the Passover Seder. The Passover is a remembrance and celebration of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from certain death by of the shed blood of the lamb. Communion, having its roots in the Passover, is a remembrance that we have been delivered from spiritual death by the shed blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus.

“Christ is risen”

Communion is a celebration of the Resurrection, recognizing and giving thanks for the Risen Christ. The bread and wine are visual reminders of the living presence of Christ among us, the Living Bread.

Methodists also believe Christ is with us in some unexplained way (there is a Real Presence), but we don’t try to speculate on how that happens. Not only is Christ joining us for the holy meal, but the Holy Spirit is at work in the sacrament, imparting grace to us. Our response to the Risen Christ, then, is one of thanksgiving, joy, and celebration.

“Christ will come again”

In Communion we also celebrate the final victory of Christ, when we will all feast at his heavenly banquet. We anticipate God’s coming reign, which is God’s future for all of creation. As Jesus said, “I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

Communion is an act of worship, and worship is very important to God, as I mentioned in my earlier posts about worship. While Holy Communion is a mystery in many different ways, it was given to us by Jesus himself and should be observed. We should receive it with a sense of awe, expecting Jesus to be with us and the Holy Spirit to work in us, and for us to be transformed by God’s grace. Let us also remember that billions of Christians around the world and in heaven are celebrating with us whenever we join in this preview of the heavenly banquet.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Holy Communion – Part II

See Part I for more on Holy Communion.

Historical Overview-Roman Catholic Understanding

Over the centuries, various understandings of Holy Communion emerged. Roman Catholicism teaches that the substance of bread and wine are literally changed (although not visibly) into the actual body and blood of Christ. This is generally referred to as transubstantiation.

The Roman Church takes completely literally the words of Christ: “This is my body” In Latin it is “Hoc est corpus meum”, from which we get the expression hocus pocus, which is obviously a put-down of the Catholic Mass. Transubstantiation had been the dominant but one of several possibilities for centuries, but it became official Roman Catholic doctrine at the Council of Trent in the mid-1500s.

Historical Overview-Reformation Understanding

Protestant Reformers in the sixteenth century unanimously rejected transubstantiation, but had diverse ideas among themselves. Much of their differences centered around what has come to be called the “Real Presence” of Christ in the sacrament. In the Lutheran belief, coming from the Reformer himself, the elements don’t become Christ’s body and blood, but Christ is present within the bread and wine when they are consecrated.

On the other end of the spectrum is the belief that the sacrament is a memorial (or reminder) of Christ’s sacrifice, and nothing more. Christ can’t be present in any way because he is in heaven. In addition to being a remembrance, it is also an affirmation of faith and a sign of Christian fellowship, but not necessarily a means of grace.

A sort of middle position is taken by Churches in the Reformed tradition. They believe that when Holy Communion is received with true faith, the power of the Holy Spirit nourishes those who partake. This Reformed Church belief affirms that communion is a means of grace, but also takes the position that Christ is not present.

Wesleyan Understanding

In the Wesleyan tradition, we believe that in the partaking of communion, we open ourselves to the divine love that’s already there, and through grace we become more ready to receive it and to respond to it. Methodists believe that communion can be a means of prevenient grace, which refers to that aspect of grace which encourages nonbelievers to come to Christ. Thus our communion is open to nonbelievers, allowing prevenient grace to work in them. Communion can also be a means of sanctifying grace, that aspect of grace by which we grow spiritually and become the kind of disciples Jesus wants us to be.

Methodists believe Holy Communion is a family meal, and all Christians are members of Christ’s family. Therefore, in each congregation, when we receive the bread and cup, we join with millions of brothers and sisters across the ages and around the world. We recognize that Holy Communion is a mystery, and its meaning will be different for each of us. But three essential meanings are in this proclamation in our Communion service: “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.”

More on Holy Communion in a future post.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California Fires

I am saddened when I see those fires in California. I also think it is a view into the future. There is no question that climate change is taking place, and at an incredibly rapid rate. Nobody knows exactly why, but I think the most reasonable explanation is a combination of effects, mostly natural cycles being terribly exacerbated by all the carbon we are pouring into the atmosphere. We have far exceeded the earth’s God-given ability for the atmosphere to clean itself. As a result, we are seeing calamitous results: polar ice caps melting, severe regional drought conditions, and those terrible wildfires. Hurricane seasons vary, but the trend is towards more disastrous hurricanes as well.

While the US has always been the bad guy when it comes to air pollution and energy usage, China is building coal-fired power plants at a rapid rate. Both China and India are polluting the air at levels that will make them worse than the US in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, we support those economies by buying their goods, which used to be made in the USA. So we have sent our jobs overseas, we are sending our treasure overseas, and now we are sending our pollution overseas. China and India couldn’t care less about the ecology, and the West does nothing about it. Why?

Looking just at US air pollution, the sad thing is that it might take a century for any changes in our behavior to start positively affecting the climate. Much as we like instant gratification, it isn’t going to happen. Of course if we had taken bold steps back in the 1970s when we had the famous oil scares and people became more ecology-conscious, things might be a lot different. But we lacked the will to act (and still do). We could have been leaders in a brave new (good) world that was freed from the shackles of petroleum, but now we will be also-rans at best, and it will cost much more to make up for lost time.

Why do I say a century for any positive effects on climate? Because it will take billions of dollars and decades for us to switch over from a petroleum-based economy to a different way of doing things. We won’t be able to build nuclear reactors and wind farms fast enough, and it will take a while for conservation to fully take effect. Then it will take decades more for carbon levels in the atmosphere to decline and the climate to be affected. One of the reasons it will take a while is because the “not in my backyard” types will bring lawsuits that will delay construction by years, if not decades. Then we still have China and India to worry about.

Overall I feel Armageddon may not be too far away, and we have only ourselves to thank. It sort of reminds me of the end of the movie “Planet of the Apes” when Charlton Heston comes across a destroyed Statue of Liberty and realizes that our civilization destroyed itself, allowing the apes to gain control of the planet. He cried out to that disappeared civilization, “Damn you!” as he pounded the ground in anguish over their foolishness. Yes, I think we will be damned, not by some angry god, but by our own foolishness.

In the immortal words of Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

Monday, October 22, 2007

Holy Communion – Part I

I recently wrote several posts on worship, and how important it is. I would now like to focus on one particular act of worship given to Christians by Jesus Christ himself. It is, of course, the sacrament of Holy Communion. For more on worship in general, see my two earlier posts on the subject.

The sacrament of Holy Communion is a mystery to most people, even lifelong Christians. Let me mention a few things about Communion that you might find helpful. This is a very simple overview, so for more information, do an Internet search for “This Holy Mystery”, a study of the sacrament done by the United Methodist Church.

Holy Communion has its origins in both the Jewish Passover Seder and in the Last Supper (which was itself a Seder meal). As a sacrament, Communion is the “outward and visible means of our inward and spiritual grace.” We know this holy meal by a number of different names.

Different Names

Some churches refer to it as the “Lord’s Supper,” recognizing that it was Jesus who presided at his last meal with the disciples. For many it is called “Holy Communion”: “Holy,” meaning of God, or sacred; and “Communion,” meaning sharing or coming together in Christian fellowship. Holy Communion literally is a “Sacred Fellowship” as we gather together with Christians all over the world, with the saints in glory, and with God.

The Eastern Orthodox Churches generally refer to it as the “Divine Liturgy,” with the word “divine” indicating its sacred and holy nature. The term “liturgy” refers to its prescribed pattern in words set forth by people and priest as “the work of the people.” In the Roman Catholic tradition, the high point and whole purpose of the Mass is the consecration of the elements and the receiving of Holy Communion. You can not have a Mass without Communion, and the Mass is often referred to as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, because of the belief that it is in some way a re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross (a concept, by the way, that the Reformers found repugnant).

In all churches, the sacrament is often referred to as the Eucharist. Eucharist means giving thanks to God, not just for the gifts and mercies received, but for the gift of salvation in Christ. The sacrament of the Eucharist both unites and divides Christians.

It unites Christians because all Christian churches celebrate the sacrament in some form or another. Most churches believe that communion is an important act of worship. Many churches use a similar liturgy that would be familiar to other Christians.

Different Qualifications

Unfortunately, Communion divides because every church has its own view of it, and who is able to receive the sacrament in their church. Some churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church, exclude those who don’t view communion as they do. Some churches limit communion to baptized Christians, or to professing members of that church or denomination, or to those who have had their First Holy Communion, or to those who have been confirmed.

Still other churches, like the United Methodist Church, open their communion to anybody, with no restrictions other than what it says in the invitation at the beginning of our communion liturgy: “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.”

The United Methodist communion is open to unbelievers, young children, the mentally handicapped, and any others who may not really understand what it is all about. The reasoning is that God’s grace is not limited in any way by us, but God can and will act despite our limitations. This is the same reasoning behind infant baptism.

Different Elements

Less of a divisive issue, but still a difference among church, is the form the elements take. Some churches use small round wafers, others bread cubes, others pita bread, others matzo, and others some sort of regular bread. Some use altar wine, others unfermented grape juice. Some offer the cup to sip, others dip the bread into the cup (called intinction), and some put the wine or juice in small plastic cups. The small cups started being used for sanitary purposes when churches went from wine to unfermented juice because of the temperance movement in the 1800s.

In a future post we will look at the history of the sacrament.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Worship – Part II

For more on worship, see Part I in an earlier post.

New Testament Teachings

Worship changed under the New Covenant in Christ. Although Christian worship is different from what we find specified in the Hebrew Bible, we are still told in the New Testament to gather together to worship God. Worship is communal, with private prayer and devotions being a supplement to the main worship event on Sunday. Both are important, and neither should be neglected. We should keep in mind what Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 (NRSV): “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 says this about gathering together for worship:

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. NRSV

Gathering together is a source of encouragement, fellowship, and mutual support. The Apostle Paul exhorts the congregation in Ephesus in his letter to them (Ephesians 5:18-20):

Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among your-selves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. NRSV

In this passage we see the elements of joy, praise, and thanksgiving, which come from worshipping from the heart, which is pleasing to God. Worship is to be from the heart, with God as its focus. It should be all about God, not about us.

However, we also benefit because we are blessed whenever we worship. Worship is a means of grace, and we learn more about God and ourselves through Scripture reading and sermon. When we leave a worship service, we should be uplifted in our spirit, strengthened by God’s grace, and challenged by what the Scripture and the exposition on the Scripture (the sermon) tell us.

Moreover we see other kinds of blessings that the early church experienced, and we also can enjoy (Acts 2:46-47):

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. NRSV

We don’t know exactly what heaven is like, but we do know that worship is an important element when we go on to glory. So our worship is a rehearsal for heaven, as well as a little piece of heaven on earth right now.

Let me ask: Do you view worship as a duty and drudgery as many do, or as a joy and a blessing? Do you have to be dragged out of bed to go to church? If so, then hopefully this post has helped you by giving you the reasons why we worship God.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Worship – Part I

Unfortunately (from my perspective) some people will attend church only if there’s nothing else to do on Sunday morning. About 60% of the American people rarely, if ever, attend a worship service.
If only they knew what a privilege it is to worship the living God.
If only they knew how many people in this world can’t do what they can easily do – worship freely without interference from the authorities or hostile neighbors.
If only they knew how important worship is to God, who is worthy to be praised. As the psalmist says in Psalm 96:1-5 (NRSV):

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

If worship is important to God, it should be important to us. As the following quote says:

“True worship is not an obligation or a burden, but rather a total spiritual recognition of God’s grace and lovingkindness.” –Charles Stanley

How do we know worship is important to God? It is obvious from the Bible and also from human nature.

Worship is Built In to Human Beings

One of the interesting things is how widespread worship has been in history. We see worship from early in the Bible: Cain and Abel, and Noah, for example. We also see worship in just about every ancient culture in every part of the world, from the Americas, to Europe, to Asia, based on archaeological evidence. God put into the human heart the desire to worship, even if other cultures didn’t have a good understanding of the one true God.

Not having the divine revelation of the Bible as a guide, these ancient people still instinctively knew that worship was important, and practiced it. St. Paul alluded to this innate knowledge of God when he wrote in Romans 1:20a:

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. NRSV

God’s Instructions to the Israelites

Another way we see worship’s importance to God is how involved God was in setting up Israel’s religious observances. We read in Exodus 40:16: Moses did everything just as the Lord had commanded him. NRSV

Much of the first five books of the Bible have to do with God establishing Israel’s religious practices in excruciating detail, and Moses implementing them. One could think God is a little obsessive-compulsive when you read how God gave Moses comprehensive instructions about the tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the religious festivals, the sacrifices to atone for sin, the various offerings, and other observances such as the dietary laws. I believe God was making a point in laying out such detailed instructions. The point was that worship is important to God, and must be done in the way that God wants.

See a future post for part 2 of this series on the importance of worship.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Signs of a truce in America’s divisive culture war?

From the Christian Science Monitor, 10-11-07

For far too long, say many Americans, extreme partisanship and polarization have stymied the country’s political process. The chief culprits? Some blame the strident voices of the culture war. Now, calls for a truce are coming from a group of leaders from the Evangelical and progressive communities, long at odds with each other. They’re pointing the way toward common ground on the most polarizing issues, with aims of a new civility and concrete progress. After more than six months of discussions involving dozens of people across the spectrum, the group released a joint report Wednesday – “Come Let Us Reason Together.”

Changing climates in both communities make a joint initiative possible, they say. The report bolsters that view by outlining specific principles and proposals on hot-button topics such as abortion, gay and lesbian issues, and the role of religion in public life. “There’s new movement within both communities to call for the beginning of the end of the culture war,” says Rachel Laser, director of the culture project at Third Way, the progressive “strategy center” in Washington that initiated the effort. “We actually want to be in the same room and find ways to move forward together.” Much of the American public has yearned to see a search for common ground on culture-war issues. For example, a 2006 Pew poll found that 66 percent of adults say the country needs to find “middle ground” on abortion.

As reported in The Media Roundup, © 2007 The Interfaith Alliance Foundation, October 15, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sinful Humankind Messes Up Everything

If you don’t believe that humans have a sin nature, you are either na├»ve or not paying attention. I am reminded of the sinfulness of mankind when I see how every good invention is misused and abused.

The telephone: a wonderful and revolutionary invention in its day. Now it’s used for prank calls, annoying telemarketing calls, and scams. Things are so bad that many people have unlisted numbers and we have to have government “do not call” lists.

TV: another beneficial development, but the quality of network shows has gotten so bad that network viewership continues is long slide downward. Even the family hour is sex-saturated with innuendo, potty humor, and other inappropriate programming.

The Internet: another revolutionary development, but now it is a major source of hard core porn, kiddie porn, scams, stalking, computer viruses, adware, spyware, and other bad things. What scares me is that it didn’t take very long for the Internet to be abused, while it took a lot longer for the telephone and TV to get to that point. What does that tell you about the state of society?

Cell Phones: this is becoming the instrument people are beginning to hate. Rude people talk loudly on their cell phones in public places, and incredibly rude people talk on their phones while out with other people, often in a restaurant (what does that say about his or her opinion of those he or she is with at the moment?) People don’t bother to turn off their phones when they should, so they ring when they should have been turned off.

Cars: they are abused (and become lethal weapons) by reckless or drunk drivers.

Even God-given natural things are abused when they are not used as God intended, such as sex and food. Just about every good and beneficial thing has been abused by a sinful human race. So my point is that because we are so sinful, we need a Savior. As a Christian, I believe that Savior is Jesus Christ. As a follower of Christ, a person is not perfect (remember the church is full of hypocrites!), but at least we are trying, with the help of God (we can’t do it alone). No matter what your religion, why not start attending church, synagogue or mosque? We are all sinners and we all need God. Our behavior proves it!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ann Coulter’s Remarks

Ann Coulter said recently that she wishes that Jewish people would become perfected by converting to Christianity. This was interpreted by some as anti-Semitic. One of the purposes of this blog is to explain things like this when they get in the news. You might not agree, but at least you will be informed. I found the following site that also expresses some of which I’m about to say on the subject:

I’m not justifying what Ann Coulter said or the way she phrased it, because it could certainly be taken wrongly, as we have seen. Moreover, I don’t know much about her religious beliefs. I know she is conservative politically, and many conservatives are evangelical Christians (the dreaded “Religious Right”). So I’m assuming she is coming from an evangelical Christian point of view.

The New Testament teaches that Christ is the fulfillment of the Jewish Law as contained in the Torah. This means that the observances (such as animal sacrifices and offerings) required by The Law to atone for sins and find favor with God are no longer necessary. Christ, the Messiah, eliminated the need for all of these. Under the “New Covenant”, all that is required is faith, as the Apostle Paul put in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (NRSV) In other words, Jesus did it all, so all we have to do is accept what he accomplished for us.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (NIV) Simply put, Jesus’ death on the cross eliminated the need for The Law that God put into place earlier, which Christians believe pointed to (or prefigured) Christ. The Book of Hebrews, a letter written to Jewish Christians, explains much of this. It was written during a time of persecution, when Jewish Christians were tempted to abandon Christianity and return to Jewish practices (the sacrificial system was still in place since the letter was written before AD 70). The writer (never identified) devoted much of the letter to convincing them that Christianity is the way to go.

Let me quote three passages from Hebrews so you can see where Christians get the understanding that Christianity is the fulfillment of what we see in the Torah, and how one could believe Jewish people would become “perfected” by converting to Christianity:

Hebrews 8:5-6
[The priests] offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. NRSV

Hebrews 9:11-14
But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! NRSV

Hebrews 9:26b
But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. NRSV

I know that a history of persecution and forced conversions have left the Jewish people with a legacy of anti-Semitism by so-called Christians. Nevertheless, I suspect that Ann Coulter’s comment was not meant to be anti-Semitic, but rather it was an expression of the belief I just wrote about. Given this history, however, she should have been more sensitive and kept her mouth shut. For more on this topic, see also my posts entitled “Elitist?” posted on 09/20/07 and “The Big Picture for Christians” posted on 09/19/07.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mutual Respect

It is sad that this country and whole Christian denominations have become so polarized over issues and viewpoints that each side demonizes those who disagree with them. The attitude today is that if you don’t agree with me on any issue important to me, I view you as less than human, deserving of nothing but contempt. Whatever happened to compromise? Finding common ground? Mutual respect, even if you agree to disagree?

Any liberals reading this are applauding and agreeing with me, saying that it’s those terrible right-wing fundamentalist types that are so hateful and intransigent. Many of them are. Yet I have seen “liberals” who are anything but (see dictionary definition of “liberal”). They aren’t open to dialog, they are mean-spirited and nasty, they are disrespectful of those who disagree with them and won’t compromise their own principles, and are as rigid and unyielding as any religious fundamentalist. Of course we all know conservatives are guilty of those same sins, but I have also seen some conservatives that are more tolerant and open-minded than those who piously preach those virtues.

As I’ve mentioned before, those preaching the loudest about “tolerance” are the most intolerant of those holding opinions different from them and who won’t fall in line with them. They consider Christians (especially conservatives) to be hypocrites, but their own hypocrisy makes the church people look like amateurs in comparison.

Unfortunately Christians (of all persuasions) don’t live up to the standards Jesus established for us. It is impossible. Hence the label “hypocrite.” It is because we are so imperfect that we need a Savior. Nevertheless we should strive for ever better behavior, with the help of God, so that we can be salt and light to this world as Jesus told us to be.

God, through the Apostle Paul, stated that we should have the same attitude as Jesus, as we read in Philippians 2:3-5:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. NIV

Similar to what Jesus taught about servant leadership, this command to think of others more highly is counter-intuitive and goes against our selfish and self-serving nature. As a matter of fact, society tells us to watch out for Number One (ourselves), and that we are not necessarily our brother’s keeper. On the other hand, God tells us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Which principle are you following? Taking care of Number One? Or having a servant attitude, thinking of others before yourself?

This respect for others should not only be a guiding principle in the church, but a guiding principle for life. Respect begins at home, in the family. It should be practiced and taught. Respect also applies to the community and your neighborhood. And it applies to the workplace, especially for those in supervisory positions.

While we may disagree with others, or we may be different from someone, we shouldn’t demonize them or think of them as deserving contempt. No matter what the differences, we can always find some common ground, or often discover more similarities than differences, if we are open and caring. The biggest similarity is that we are all made in the image of God, are God’s beloved creation, and God loves all of us. So as we go out into the world, let us remember these principles. Let God’s love shine through us, even to those we might consider unlovable, because we have to remember that God loves them too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Doing Your Children a Disservice

I am really saddened when I see so many parents denying their children some sort of religious education. It’s not that the children are clamoring for it, but the point is that religious instruction (whatever your tradition) is an essential part of any child’s upbringing, in my opinion. It doesn’t mean that parents aren’t teaching their children the right values, because many are, but that these children aren’t having those values reinforced outside the home. Aside from parents, all other sources of values aren’t usually what most parents would consider good. Think about it. TV? Violence and sex, even in the so-called family hour. Movies? Sex and violence. Games? More of the same. School? Mixed results, but often not the values some parents agree with. So where do you want your kids learning their morals and ethics?

One lame excuse is that they’ll let their child decide about religion when he or she is old enough. Baloney! So what is that child going to base his or her decision on, having had little or no exposure to any religion? Don’t you want your child to make an informed decision?

Some parents put sports and other activities ahead of church and Sunday school. While playing sports is a worthwhile endeavor, it shouldn’t take priority over God. Some parents put family outings or other events ahead of church and Sunday school. Doing things as a family is great, but why not do something else as a family – come to church? Then go on your outing, blessed by having worshipped God.

I think a lot of the problem is that parents are lazy. They just don’t want to deal with the hassle on Sunday morning, so they give in. It’s that same laziness that is resulting in childhood obesity and other problems. They don’t want to exert their God-given authority over their children, so they let them eat junk. So I guess we’re going to have a next generation of overweight atheists with diabetes. Not a very promising future.

You wonder why society continues to deteriorate, getting ruder and cruder? If children (and adults) aren’t exposed to those transcendent principles found in the Scriptures (of any religion, although I’m thinking mostly of Christianity), then what’s to keep them from degenerating to society’s lowest common denominator? If you are one of those parents who have been staying away from church and not sending your kids to religious education, I implore you to rethink your position. Your child’s future is at stake.

I’ll have more on why worship is important in an upcoming series of posts.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Barna Study of Perceptions by Younger Adults

A new study by The Barna Group, conducted among 16- to 29-year-olds, shows that a new generation is more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than were people of the same age just a decade ago. This age group today exhibits a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did the previous generation, fueled in part by the growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people.

A decade ago, the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Now, just 16 percent of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties have a “good impression” of Christianity.

One of the groups hit the hardest by the criticism is evangelicals. Such believers have always been viewed with skepticism in the broader culture, but those negative views are now crystallizing and intensifying among young non-Christians. Only three percent currently express favorable views of evangelicals.

Christians are aware of this shift. Ninety-one percent of the nation’s evangelicals believe that “Americans are becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity.” Among senior pastors, half contend that “ministry is more difficult than ever before because people are increasingly hostile and negative toward Christianity.”

The study explored twenty specific images related to Christianity, including ten favorable and ten unfavorable perceptions. Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative, including perceptions that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%),
hypocritical (85%),
old-fashioned (78%) and
too involved in politics (75%).

The most common favorable perceptions were that Christianity
teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%),
has good values and principles (76%),
is friendly (71%) and
is a faith they respect (55%).

Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality.

Review the full results of the survey at the Barna Web site at

Article quoted from The Pastor’s Weekly Briefing®, October 27, 2007. © 2007, Focus on the Family, All rights reserved.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Another Athlete Falls

I was dismayed when Marion Jones became the latest athlete to be involved in some sort of misdeed. We have had doping, dog fighting, and other crimes and misdemeanors. It is a shame, because these athletes are often role models for our kids. What messages are these folks sending to our young people?

What’s lost in all this shame is the fact that there are many good athletes who are providing positive role models. We don’t hear much about them, because what they do rarely makes the news. Another fact is that a number of professional athletes are devout Christians. We see this especially in football, but the media does everything it can to hide that fact. You rarely see the camera focus on the prayer circle after each game in which Christians from both teams gather for prayer. I know the media grit their teeth when winning coaches, such as Tony Dungy, and winning players give the glory to God in their post-game interviews. In the last Super Bowl, I loved it when Tony Dungy stated he was proud that both coaches in the game were African-Americans, but prouder still that both coaches were committed Christians.

Moreover, some athletes are not only Christians but heroes. Pitcher Dave Dravecky’s brave battle against cancer is an example. He battled cancer and kept his faith despite enormous difficulties. Because it was good news and because he is a devout Christian, you never heard too much about him in the mainstream media. Too bad, because we need these positive role models in our continuously deteriorating society.

If you are a parent, use these negative news items (such as Marion Jones and Michael Vick) as teaching moments. You have to constantly reinforce your values, and the fall of great athletes, sad as it is, can be a time to do that. Any positive news items can also be used to show what good can be done as well. May God bless you as you try to raise your children in a society in which our traditional American values are being constantly eroded, and the good and decent are either not reported or are mocked by the cultural elites.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Bush’s Veto of Child Health Care

GBCS Responds to President Bush’s Veto of SCHIP
Press Release -- Washington, D.C., October 3, 2007

On October 3, 2007, the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) of the United Methodist Church released the following statement in response to the veto by President Bush of the SCHIP legislation:

The General Board of Church and Society worked tirelessly as part of an interfaith effort to rally support for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The SCHIP legislation, which drew strong support in Congress, would have expanded a children’s health insurance program by $35 billion over five years. We are deeply disappointed that President Bush vetoed this bill which received bipartisan support and which promised to provide health care to 10 million children over this five-year span.

The President’s act of veto of this legislation is contrary to our denomination’s understanding of God’s abundant provision for all God’s children -- including the provision of health care.

The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church calls the U.S. Congress to action to override this veto as an act of moral conscience on behalf of children in the United States.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Banned Books

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the federal government had planned to purge all kinds of religious books from libraries in the federal prison system. Ostensibly this was to eliminate any books that would stir up Muslim militants or put extremist ideas in the heads of Muslims. According to a New York Times article, there was a 2004 Department of Justice report claiming that prisons are recruiting grounds for Islamic militants. Considering that most Islamic terrorists are from overseas, I’m not sure what the DOJ report was based on.

Nevertheless, the government had removed not only many Islamic books from prison libraries, but a large number of Christian and Jewish books as well, most of which could not even remotely be considered inflammatory. Moreover, I’m not aware of any Jewish or Christian terrorists being recruited in prisons or anywhere else. I’m not even aware that there are any Christian or Jewish terrorists threatening the safety of the United States. Enough criticism resulted from Congress and religious groups that the federal government backed down, and at least some of the books will be placed back in prison libraries under a rather ponderous review process. So this is not a complete reversal of a ridiculous policy, but only a very partial one (so don’t be fooled by what you read or hear in the media).

Those prisoners who come to Christ in prison are transformed, and the recidivism rate for them is very low compared to the prison population as a whole. Notwithstanding these statistics, certain prison systems are cutting back or eliminating faith-based prison ministries. So tell me, who benefits from cutting back Christian prison ministries? Not society. Not the prison. Not the inmates. The only ones who benefit are those intolerant bigots who hate God or anything remotely considered religious, the same groups that spend large sums of money trying to keep the Ten Commandments from being publicly displayed.

The reason I am mentioning these actions is because they demonstrate the growing intolerance for any religious activity in this country. We must be vigilant and not let the federal, state, county or local governments do things that discriminate against people of faith and their activities. We can’t be ruled by the ACLU, People United for Separation of Church and State, or various other God-haters whose goal is to eliminate God entirely from our society.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

College Madness

There have been two events in the news recently involving top universities that I would like to comment on. I am telling you about these events so you are aware of how hypocritical academia is, and how prejudiced colleges are against anything that isn’t PC. Diversity of opinions is a thing of the past, yet they piously (and with a straight face) claim to be open and tolerant. If you have a child about to enter college, please warn him or her about what to expect.

I also mention these two events as a warning that if you are in a position of responsibility and authority, you should think about the ramifications of your actions. I’m not just talking about college presidents, but about everybody.

Ask yourself: Am I being fair? Who is my action going to hurt? Does my action reveal prejudice? Am I unfairly judging? Have I acted responsibly or recklessly? Will I bring glory to God by what I say or do, or will I bring shame?

The first event has to do with Duke University, where a while back several athletes were falsely accused of raping a stripper they hired to perform at a party. While I can’t condone hiring a stripper, the way these jocks were treated by the university was appalling.

Finally the president of Duke University apologized and admitted he was wrong regarding how he handled the lacrosse team alleged rape case. Of course his apology comes many months after his inexcusable and unprofessional behavior. What did he do wrong in that situation?
·He immediately judged the jocks involved as guilty, and gave them no support or benefit of the doubt (what ever happened to innocent until proved guilty). The word “alleged” was rarely used.
·He cancelled the rest of the lacrosse season, thus penalizing the whole team for no reason.
·He did not protest when an African-American professor placed a hate-filled ad in the school newspaper (let’s see, what would have happened if a white guy had put a similar ad in the paper).
·He didn’t protest when most of the faculty judged those students as guilty and openly condemned them before due process had taken place.
·In other words, he completely failed to be a proper leader.

What’s sad is that he didn’t resign, which would have been the honorable thing to do. Failing that, he wasn’t removed as any responsible Board would have done. North Carolina removed and penalized the District Attorney (Nifong) who acted so unprofessionally and unethically in that case. But Duke did nothing to a president whose behavior was not befitting a top-tier school. Alumni should have pressured the board to summarily dismiss him.

The second item involves Columbia University. While not as egregious as Duke, Columbia invited the Iranian president Ahmadinejad to speak there while he was in New York. I wouldn’t mind except that it is incredibly hypocritical. They allow a nut case like Ahmadinejad, who denies the Holocaust and seeks the annihilation of Israel and probably all of Western Civilization as well, to have an open forum. While the academics claim a university should be open to diverse viewpoints, I wonder when was the last time they had a conservative speak? If and when a conservative did speak, was he or she allowed to actually finish the speech without interruption, jeering, and other mean-spirited disruptions. I doubt it. So much for diversity of opinion and freedom of expression.

In their defense, the president of Columbia soundly criticized Ahmadinejad in his comments, but I suspect his comments resulted from the criticism the university received once the word got out. I still feel having Ahmadinejad speak there was hypocritical and not a good idea. True free speech, tolerance of diverse opinions, and open forums are rare on politically correct campuses today, which is why I have lost all respect for academia. I no longer contribute to my two alma maters (one of which is Columbia, by the way, where I received a Master’s Degree), because I won’t support institutions that are dominated by politically correct demagoguery.

Just to let you know how PC academia is, my seminary (which will remain anonymous) took grade points off your papers if you used a masculine pronoun for God, as it is considered patriarchal and offensive. You better not refer to God as he, him, or his. Probably she, her, and hers would be OK, although I never tried it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Police Out of Control

Given the sinful nature of humanity, there would be chaos and anarchy without that thin blue line of the police. Just look at what happened (and still is happening) in Iraq when there was no law enforcement. The same could happen anywhere (and has).

However, occasionally the police abuse their power, use unnecessary force, or don’t do their jobs properly. There have been four situations recently mentioned in the news where these happened.

(1) University police repeatedly used a taser on a protesting student who was disrupting a speech.

(2) A police officer was caught on camera repeatedly using his taser on an unruly woman, who was not posing any serious threat to him.

(3) Despite being told there were additional occupants in a car that was in an accident, police failed to search the area. The father of the missing young man had to go out to the scene himself the next day and found his son dead. He may not have died if he had received prompt medical attention.

(4) Despite a husband reporting his wife as missing, the police did nothing and harassed him as a suspect in her disappearance. Finally after eight days, the police checked with the cell phone company and determined the area from which her cell phone was emitting a signal. They went out there and found the woman trapped in her wrecked car, dehydrated and injured. She may not live.

I mention these incidents, rare as they are, to emphasize that we, the citizens, must hold those in power accountable. This not only includes politicians, who can be voted out, but also the police and other government employees (including school administrators). A few bad apples can spoil the reputation of a whole department and city, as we have seen in Beacon. We have to pressure those in charge to remove these bad apples from the barrel.

I also mention this because it is important for anybody in a position of power and authority to use them wisely. You may think it doesn’t apply to you, but you are probably in a position of power and authority in some way: as a parent, in a supervisory position, as a church leader.

We must also support our police in any way we can, as well as support our school administrators and teachers. They are serving us, and we should support them in that effort. If you are a cop and your department doesn’t have a chaplain, talk to your PBA president about getting one.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Buddhist Monks in Burma

As we have seen in the news, people are rising up against the oppressive regime in Burma. Buddhist monks have been leading the peaceful demonstrations against the government. As with most oppressive regimes, the government is brutally putting down these protests. However, once the people are aroused, it is only a matter of time before the government falls. We saw it in Eastern Europe where the repressive communist regimes fell like dominoes. In the cases of East Germany and Romania, the movements stated in churches.

The reason I mention these is because I believe as people of God (whatever your formal religion), we have a duty and responsibility to struggle against oppression and injustice wherever we find them. We do this in whatever way we can, as the Lord leads. Some demonstrate in the streets, some write their congressmen, some write blogs or give sermons to inform and motivate others, some pray diligently. I don’t believe in civil disobedience except in extremely rare cases, and I don’t believe in violent protests. I’m amazed at how antiwar demonstrations can become violent and chaotic. So much for peace and harmony.

At least for Christians, I don’t think we should put these struggles ahead of our relationship with God, no matter how worthwhile the cause. God must come first, and out of that relationship comes God’s guidance and empowerment to do his will. Sometimes God’s will is for us to become actively engaged in such struggles. Other times it may be to do other tasks, but at least we can still write our representatives and pray even if we aren’t called by God to a more active role.

The reason I mention our relationship with God coming first is that I suspect some activists use the Church as the platform for their causes. The Cause is paramount, and God is secondary. That, in my opinion, is the wrong way around. God must be primary, and out of that relationship comes God’s guidance for whatever task God is calling us to.

Please pray for the oppressed peoples of this world, for there are many. Burma, Darfur, and Zimbabwe are three that come to mind, but there are many others. Pray also for discernment from the Lord as to what God wants you to do.