The power of prayer

I have recently rediscovered something; the power of prayer. When we feel distant from the Lord, seeking the Lord causes us to draw near to him and the Lord to us. I have been seeking the Lord through the book of Psalms. The word for today that is encouraging comes from Psalm 27:1, 4, 14,

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. 

If you are struggling with your relationship with the Lord, I encourage you to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and start seeking the Lord in Psalms and through prayer. Start on New Year’s Day. 

Start reading Psalm one. Sometimes prayer can be unfocused, which is why I use a prayer journal. I focus on telling the Lord how much I love him, and then spill my heart, and make my requests. Then I ask him to work in my heart as I open up the word of God. The Lord usually has something to say through the daily reading. This heals the heart. My encouragement to you is to pursue the Lord in the same way this New Year.

GODSPEED 

Why we worship

I was reading this book called Total Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. The book is challenging and helps the average person re-think why we do what we do. One of the challenges of the book this past week is about the mission of God (missio dei) and the mission of the church (missio ekklesia). The point made was,

“The New Testament speaks of church in two senses. First, the church is the heavenly congregation continually gathered around God’s throne. Second, it is local congregations showing the reality of that heavenly church. We each have a part to play in helping our local congregation model increasingly more that heavenly congregation. We do that by extending love and grace to one another and by reaching out to others with the gospel.” (Total Church, p. 104)

The conviction for me from this quote is worship is all about GOD, gathering people to lift up the name of the Tri-une GOD in praise. Since we will be worshiping eternally, it would make sense that we would get a taste of heaven together when we worship as a local church. This inspires me to long for worshiping together. I long to worship with you Sunday.  Merry Christmas

GODSPEED 

What is the “Alt-Right”?

It has been said that Pastors should not talk about politics.  Except when Christians are being drawn into an ideology that is anti-GOSPEL.  Should Pastors in Nazi Germany have remained silent when Nazi ideology began to poison Christianity? Of course not.  But many Pastors and Christians remained silent as their neighbors were taken away never to be seen again.

Last Sunday I took my children and sister to the Museum of Flight.  In the WWII room the Museum had a section describing Hitler’s ideology and how different people groups were marked out for prison camps (see below, the key on the right explains the symbols).

Nazi racism.jpg

I explained that if we lived in Nazi Germany, my half-sister would have had to wear the Jewish star (my step father is Jewish) and she would have eventually been taken away and put in a camp unless courageous men and women would have hidden her and smuggled her out of the country.

Now, we look back and think, “How awful! What were the silent Christians thinking?” Many of them were fearful of speaking out.  But in the beginning, with the rise of Hitler and Nazism in the early 1930s, Christians could have done more to understand and identify the Social Darwinian ideology of Nazism as racism, and therefore spoken out against it instead of enthusiastically embracing White Nationalism.

There are similarities as we analyze the Alternative Right.  And if we are not careful, we are potentially doomed to repeat history.

For those unfamiliar with exactly what the “Alt-Right” is, let me explain.  When I am finished, you will understand that Christianity and the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ is incompatible with Alternative Right ideology.

Alternative Right Defined

The Alternative Right, commonly known as the Alt-Right, is a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. Characterized by heavy use of social media and online memes, Alt-Righters eschew “establishment” conservatism, skew young, and embrace white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value.

Background

The Alternative Right is a term coined in 2008 by Richard Bertrand Spencer, who heads the white nationalist think tank known as the National Policy Institute, to describe a loose set of far-right ideals centered on “white identity” and the preservation of “Western civilization.” In 2010, Spencer, who had done stints as an editor of The American Conservative and Taki’s Magazine, launched the Alternative Right blog, where he worked to refine the movement’s ideological tenets.

Spencer describes the Alt Right as a big-tent ideology that blends the ideas of neo-reactionaries (NRx-ers), who advocate a return to an antiquated, pseudo-libertarian government that supports “traditional western civilization”; “archeofuturists,” those who advocate for a return to “traditional values” without jettisoning the advances of society and technology; human biodiversity adherents (HBDers) and “race realists,” people who generally adhere to “scientific racism”; and other extreme-right ideologies. Alt-Right adherents stridently reject egalitarianism and universalism.

[For more, read the entire article here: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/alternative-right%5D

I don’t know if you caught the language used here, but it is essentially a White Nationalist, neo-Nazi, and racist ideology.

A year ago, the rhetoric I heard after the San Bernardino terrorist attack was, “Muslims are infiltrating our country and changing out culture,” and “We need to elect Trump, because he’ll deport them,” and “America is based on white European culture, and our way of life is being destroyed.”

At the time I thought is was completely implausible that Trump would be elected.  But hey look, now he is President-Elect Trump.  And the rhetoric since the election is amazingly divided:

After watching those videos I have three points to make:

First, everyone needs to calm down.  Take a breath.  Remove bias.  Be reasonable.  Look into all sides and don’t have a knee jerk reaction.  We need racial reconciliation, not rhetoric that induces bigotry and hatred, from the Left and the Right.

Second, for those on the Left painting people on the Right as racist, you need to stop.  There are some outlier groups that are racist, which supported Trump.  But this doesn’t mean everyone on the right is part of the “Alt-Right.”  Not everyone on the Right is White Nationalist.  In fact, I would argue that it is a small percentage.  But the Left is crying “racism” and trying to pin conservatives in a corner (this is why the Left lost the election, because this outlandish rhetoric is inflammatory).

Painting all conservatives, or even a majority of conservatives as racist bigots is an overreach.  As Ben Shapiro put it (who is a Jew, a former editor Breitbart, and an energetic critic of Steve Bannon and President-Elect Trump), he said that to suggest White Nationalism will be brought to the White House by Trump and Bannon is “overstated, at the very least.” [http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/12/02/opinion/sunday/what-the-alt-right-really-means.html?_r=0&referer=]

[I highly recommend you listen to the Ben Shapiro podcast daily, as he has been anti-Trump from the get go, and he is pointing out the bias of the Left and the Leftist media, and he points out the hypocrisy of the “Alt-Right” and biased conservatives who have a double standard – click here: http://www.dailywire.com/podcasts%5D

The media and the Left need to chill.  They need to stop overstating their case.  And at the same time, Christians need to separate themselves from the “Alt-Right” and White Nationalism.

This is my third point.  For the “Alt-Right” to suggest that white people and white European culture is responsible for the “American idea” is a half truth at best.  The GOSPEL of Jesus Christ and Judeo-Christian values heavily influenced the writing of our constitution.  One point among many at which the Alternative Right goes wrong is they assume that White Nationalists came up with Judeo-Christian values.  As if Christianity and Judaism is the “white man’s race.”  And this is the narrative of the Left, a narrative that needs to be rejected by Christians [listen to this NPR piece confusing Christianity and the Alt-Right: http://www.npr.org/2016/11/29/503620409/in-montana-an-unease-over-extremist-views-moving-out-of-the-woods]

In summary of the NPR piece, Kirk Siegler makes some good points, and some not-so-good points, which we Christians need to shirk and work that much harder to overcome.

  • Good points: the woman being interviewed is shocked by how okay people are with racism.  In other words, this article is a rebuke of the “Alt-Right” and White Nationalism.  This is a good point because this rebuke I agree with.
  • Not-so-good points: the article paints the community as Christian (which is probably is), but it associates the positive aspects of being Christian with White Nationalism by pointing out billboards in that county have the Ten Commandments and that radio is dominated by Christian conservatism.  This is a not-so-good point in that the article is confusing Christianity with the Alternative right [pay special attention to Siegler’s tone as he talks about this, he makes the Commandments and Christian radio sound like a real downer, almost as if it is the basis of White Nationalism].

The first time I heard this article, I was angered.  It paints Christians with a broad brush, including them in a group to be rejected.

The devil has a plan, he has a strategy.  He wants to divide us.  He wants to make Christians look a fool.  He wants to make conservative Christians look like Right-Winged Nuts.  And sadly, it’s working.  Which means we need to work that much harder to overcome this perception.

How is Satan’s strategy working? I have relatives who think that because I am a Christian, because I am a conservative, and because I am a pastor, then-therefore I must be a racist bigot.  They hear NPR and watch CNN and hear the words of Jenifer Palmieri as she attacks the Trump Campaign and Kellyanne Conway for running a campaign supported by “White Supremacists,” and then the average viewer of that CNN program (or listener of NPR) forms an opinion about Christians and the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ.

Satan’s strategy has driven my family members to the far left, and they don’t listen to anything Christians have to say about the GOSPEL because their views have been shaped by the media.  And so when Christians and secularists (especially family) get together, or talk on the phone there is an explosion of vitriol against White Nationalism and Racism, and Christians become the Straw-man to knock down, unjustifiably so.

What can we Christians do about it? First, draw near to Jesus.  Second, separate yourself from the “Alt-Right” and White Nationalism.  It is one step short of Nazism.  It is not the vision of the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ.

The GOSPEL of Jesus: is “good news,” that Jesus is  KING of the Universe and He has come to save us.  Salvation in Jesus means two things: saved from the consequences of sin and hell; and saved to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ that is eternal in heaven.  And therefore Jesus Commissions Christians to, “Go make disciples of all nations…”

All Nations: the word in the Great Commission translated as “nations” is the word “ethnos” meaning “ethnic groups.”  The vision of Jesus is multi-ethnic, people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.  The Christian vision levels the playing field, gets rid of racism, and unifies people instead of dividing people (conversely, White Nationalism, the “Alt-Right” and the Left are dividing our nation).

The Christian vision was that of a Jewish man who walked on water, healed people, forgave people, died for the world, and raised from the dead.  And His vision is that His message would spread from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the outermost ends of the earth.

The “Alt-Right” and White Nationalism is incompatible with Jesus’ vision.

May you separate yourself from anti-GOSPEL “Alt-Right” ideology and instead, draw near to Jesus.

GOSPEED