1/17/20

Peace...AND a Sword!


"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." ~Matthew 10:34

This is the second in a three-part series on ‘peace and division’.
 

The earthly reality of peace between people and nations is conditioned on a two-way exchange of peace. This may be in the form of personal reconciliation, a corporate agreement of unity, an international treaty, etc. This kind of peace often has an exit clause, either in hearts or on paper, makes way for separation. Conditional peace is based in (1) a common interest in peace, and (2) common core principles. For believers with a Biblical worldview grounded in the truth of Jesus both their peace and principles are very important. For such believers who embrace the presence of the Holy Spirit, submit to the counsel of scripture, and can discern spiritual dimensions, peace with those with secular, intellectual worldviews is possible. However, agreement on core principles will usually be lacking thus true peace is unlikely. 

This earthly, or horizontal, peace is based upon willingness of two parties to be in agreement with a common interest in peace grounded in common principles and beliefs. Where the principles are not common, the interest is not there, or the motivations are unrighteous, there cannot be real peace between even two people, much less between nations. There will be conflict even if superficial peace rests on the surface. Where there is conflict there is also division.

Scripture also shows us that Jesus also came to bring division. In Luke 12:51 Jesus says, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Where there is division there is lack of earthly peace. In this sense Jesus will be the cause of division, even in families! He caused division in the culture of his day, in the nation of Israel, and in the Roman Empire. His followers were persecuted, mocked, and some sent to the Coliseum in Rome to be killed as entertainment.
 

What a seeming inconsistency for a ‘man of peace’! Jesus also says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:34-37 NIV).  It is clear that the presence and reality of Jesus is not one-dimensional, only peaceful, but is multi-faceted based upon the offer and the receptivity to HIS PEACE. The result can be peace or division! 

He tells the believer to offer peace when coming into another’s presence such as a home. However, the offer of peace may not always be regarded with respect and accepted in Godly fashion.  "As you enter the home, give it your greeting.  If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet." Matthew 10:12-14.  The amplified translation says it this way, ‘Then if indeed that house is deserving, let come upon it your peace [that is, freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin]. But if it is not deserving, let your peace return to you.’ There are beliefs, distresses, sin, worldviews, and world systems that simply will not understand, believe, or receive the peace that lies within the believer in Christ. In the global sphere we know that Islam and Christianity can exist together, but the offer of real peace, through Jesus is usually rejected and often met with persecution and even death to those who offer it. We cannot expect peace, no matter how sincere the offer, when the demonic realm undergirds those who hear the offer.


In America we are seeing deep chasms of division, some of which have been obscured by superficial peace for many years. Now we are seeing these divisions surface openly and lead to tangible fractures and separations. A Methodist denominational committee's recent recommendation to separate the denomination into two separate groups comes following almost two decades of conflict over gay and lesbian issues in the church. If approved by the full denominational conference later this year, one Methodist group will follow scripture by not conducting gay or lesbian marriages nor the ordination of openly gay/lesbian leaders. The other group will follow the culture and embrace both the gay/lesbian marriages and ordination of gay/lesbian leaders. The offer of peace by the scripturally adherent group has been repeatedly rejected due to divergent values, worldviews and motives within the gay/lesbian activists.


Such divisions are necessary and will become more common in the coming years to bring clarity of values and make Biblical worldviews vividly apparent. Things are shaking! But, Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27NIV) for Jesus is still the King of Peace for those who embrace him fully and walk in His ways! Hallelujah!
 

Part three in this series coming soon!



Click here to read part one of this series, Jesus Came To Bring Peace, Right?

1/15/20

Jesus Came To Bring Peace, Right?



Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. Luke 12:51-52 NIV

As I celebrated the season of Christ’s supernatural birth in December the Holy Spirit showed me how common the word ‘peace’ is used in both secular and Christian environments.  He also showed me how misunderstood and shallow is our use of the word and the concept of peace. Today, as we enter 2020, I begin a three-part blog on this topic.


Throughout the New Testament there exists dichotomy, and seeming inconsistency, as to the concept of ‘peace’.  We hear and see slogans regarding ‘peace on earth’, but there is little peace on earth. We see more strife and division than peace and unity.  As we enter 2020 we can expect a great deal of global conflict, battles with weapons and words, and deep chasms between belief systems. Peace, as we commonly think of it, will seldom be evident around us. So, what did Jesus accomplish through his death and resurrection regarding peace?


It is clear from scriptures Jesus came to bring peace, primarily between God and mankind. He leaves a deposit of peace for those who will exercise faith to receive it.  Jesus reveals and offers a deep personal, emotional, and soul condition of peace that he will not take away. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27NIV).  It is not man’s version of peace. It is not a short term armistice.  It is an immutable, eternal covenant of peace offering inner stability, calm and steadiness in any situation. 


Peace between God and mankind comes to us through our faith in Jesus. We have vertical peace, i.e. between the believer and the Father.  Sin can no longer separate us from God’s peace because our justification (i.e. the judgement for sin) is complete through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand (Romans 5:1-2 NIV).  Our faith in Jesus and our believing He has justified us, rendered a verdict on our behalf, activates that inner peace with God. We are not at odds with God because we have the righteousness of God within us. Jesus in us is our righteousness! Therefore our vertical relationship with the Father is secure and peaceful! It is part of the New Covenant!


But God also desires peace between people at the earthly level. The Word says to us; If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18 NIV). It is possible (but not guaranteed) to live at peace with anyone, to the extent it depends on you.  Hebrews supports this premise, Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14 NIV). There is an expectation in scripture to make efforts to live at peace with others as a core principle of the faith, to the extent that living in peace with others depends upon us personally.  But peace may not be dependent upon you only


More on this in my next post.






10/16/19

The UK - DNA That Cries For Freedom


Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! Revelation 19:5-7a 

Our local church has dedicated the month of October to intercede for England and the UK on behalf of the good fight for freedom. Nations have specific callings and purposes for the Kingdom of God. This nation has greatly impacted the world with the gospel, including parts of East Africa where 80% of the population is now Christian. As encouragement to our believing friends in the UK, know that many in the church in America are standing with those who desire to break from Brussels. Your plight does not go unseen by the Father or by those who have a Christ Kingdom worldview.

As we have been worshiping and interceding for your nation, there has been prophetic impartation for you; those who see from a heavenly perspective, hear the Spirit of God calling to you, and discern the times. Your weapons are not of the flesh but they are mighty to pull down strongholds that hold and restrict your nation from greater things. Your melody, your declarations, your intercession and your voice are releasing a clarion call that is two-fold. In one dimension it is warfare against principalities and powers allied against you. As you release sounds of the Kingdom of God, there is a breakthrough in the spiritual atmosphere that is leading to a breakthrough in the government of men. There are sounds that are of heaven and not of earth. The Lion of Judah is roaring to declare dominion and you are partnering with Him. You are in the midst of a clash of kingdoms, but the light of Jesus is piercing the darkness. The principalities and powers of the air are in fear. They are frantically clinging to what has been their territory, trying to enslave. They fear losing territory to another king, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But they will be defeated. 

There is another dimension to what you release that will directly affect the natural ears and eyes of your government and other nations. When you voted in 2016, you sent shock waves throughout the earth. Only the prophets and a remnant of the church could perceive that God was using your nation as a catalyst to cross over into a new dispensation. The voice of people in England/UK was as rocks crying out to praise the King, and to move the dial toward being a sheep nation. The rocks were not just some in the church but the many people outside who would not understand such spiritual concepts, though they have a spiritual DNA from the roots of the nation that continually cries for freedom. It is time to compete and not to comply. Your voice has encouraged America, Hungry, Poland and other nations to a hope of possibilities and fulfillment of Kingdom purposes. As we have been worshiping and interceding for your nation, a prophet declared that as England/UK becomes free, a gateway will be opened for many to follow. 

Be courageous, take courage. I say take courage and release your Kingdom sounds in this day and hour for you are called and commissioned to again bring the freedom of the Gospel of the Kingdom to nations. You are called to release the captives and set prisoners free. You are called to rise above that which surrounds you. You are a Kingdom Gateway. As you break from Brussels you enter new territory as Joshua did in crossing the Jordan River. The miracle of crossing over will require perseverance in the battles that lie ahead to possess the land. Contend for the land. It will be from battle to battle and victory to victory. Be assured brothers and sisters of the remnant, Christ always leads you in a triumphal procession!!! “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty Reigns!

9/17/19

God's Timing for Taking New Territory

Above - The Jordan River During Flood Stage as published by
Tell the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’” Joshua 3:8 NIV
The account of the Nation of Israel crossing the Jordan River contains many lessons and Kingdom principles that we can apply today, more than 3000 years after the event. The account gives us insight and wisdom into God’s way to accomplish significant advancement when He is calling us to cross over into new territory, new levels of faith, greater levels of responsibility, and more secure and stable walking of His plan on earth.

We must know God’s timing. Joshua’s decision to cross into Canaan was in sync with God’s timing. It was specifically given by Yahweh after the older generation had cowered in fear when they approached the Jordan River 40 years before. God said He would give them the land. But, at that time the majority considered the giants and the opposition to be more powerful than God’s promise and His word. But 40 years of desert living, eating manna, fighting battles with local tribes, and following a cloud and a pillar helped transform the next generation into highly anticipating the second chance. This second chance reflected two aspects of God’s perspective. First, God demonstrated grace for Israel as a whole, even though the adults of the first chance would not enter the land. Second, God demonstrated and insisted on the fulfillment of His own sovereign plan through His chosen people.
 
At the time of crossing over the priests took the first steps of faith as they carried the Ark of the Covenant.  "Now, the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet, as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho." Joshua 3:15, 16 NIV.

They stepped into the edge of the river, a river at spring flood stage. The Word of the Lord declared that those steps would activate the stoppage of the river flow. And the river stopped! There are times in our lives when we must simply step into new territory even when the rivers of life are rushing at flood stage.  If we have discerned God’s timing; if we know in our hearts and have heard from His Spirit on how to do it His way, then...then we step into the water. But we step with others watching, a risking step forward!

Consider Joshua’s situation. He told everyone that God was going to do this incredible thing. He told them when God would do it. And, He told everyone what they had to do to partner with God in crossing over into the land of promise. He, as leader, carried the burden and took the risk to believe God. If it didn’t happen, the people would grumble, complain and start looking for another leader. It would be a replay of what they did with Moses after leaving Egypt. Many in Israel simply wanted a leader who would keep them comfortable and risk free. Leaders, beware of this hindrance to going forward!

In today’s world we have an industry built around ‘risk management’, also known as insurance policies. Much of western civilization has developed a ‘minimal or no risk’ mentality. This minimal risk mentality has created a comfort zone within the church. Many leaders won’t risk preaching and teaching Truth because it may offend some in the church. Many will not confront hard issues in the culture of a nation. They either accept or tolerate the cultural currents. Some who do not accept the lies of the culture choose silence to avoid being marginalized or shamed by those who go with the flow. We must realize that if we choose not to ‘go and stand in the river’, even when it is at flood stage, we are choosing to stay in the desert of the culture. And that is not the Promised Land!

9/11/19

God's Promises, Processes, and Punctuality


The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. Genesis 13:14-15 NIV

God makes prophetic promises to His people.  Such promises offer greater understanding, more responsibility, new territory and expanded kingdom influence. Time, and discernment of the times, is crucial to understanding and how to partner with God toward fulfillment of His promises. Scripture states that God’s promises are ‘yes and amen in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 1:20), fulfillment of promises seldom yield to our demands and perspectives of time.


In western culture we measure time based upon a 12 hour clock. The clock has a second hand that reveals time moving forward second by second. It has a minute hand depicting time minute by minute. It has an hour hand showing movement through the day, hour by hour. And some clocks document time from day to day. This western perspective of time is based upon watching the hands of the clock moving quickly across its face. From this we often expect fulfillment of a prophetic word or promise is based upon the clock.  We develop the impression that God is using the same clock and marking time and fulfillment the same way. Wrong!


God’s perspective of time is much more based upon seasons, dispensations, and kingdom perspectives. God is never late; He’s always right on time! But, are we on time? We can only be on time if we perceive time from His perspective which is higher and greater than ours. We will be on time if we are intimately in relationship with Him and are infused with a level of discernment that perceives God’s view of timing, i.e. His perspective.


God reveals and offers opportunities in our earthly life to partner with Him to fulfill His prophetic promises. He will help and reveal to us how and when to cross into new territory. As we do so we also possess new dimensions of stability, strength and trust in Him.


Abram received a promise from God:  The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring[a] forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” 18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord. Gen. 13:14-18 NIV   Abram (later became Abraham) did not live in the time of fulfillment for that promise. When God made the promise there was no Isaac. There was no Jacob. There were no 12 sons of Jacob. There was no nation of Israel. However, Abram chose to believe God and partnered with Him to produce Isaac. While the Lord said ‘I am giving it to you’, the process of ‘I am giving’ was much longer than you and I would expect. The clock was not a good measurement of time! Isaac carried the promise generationally through the lineage to the 12 tribes and ultimate Joshua taking possession of the Promised Land.


When we get personal prophetic words of a future promotion, increase, or something greater in the Kingdom of God, we must be careful not to assume the timing of fulfillment or the process leading to fulfillment. Timing, and discernment of timing, are critical to successfully crossing into new territory.
 

For example, God called me into pastoral ministry in the late 1980’s. While this was not a promise, but a call to fulfill His call it automatically caused me to look at the clock!  I was active in ministry of various kinds in our local church at the time, but I knew there was a greater level of engagement, responsibility, and authority for me in the future. But, when?  I was in a financially and circumstantially prosperous career and life. I placed the timing of fulfillment beyond myself. Over the next few years I grew comfortable with my level of secular employment and local church volunteer ministry. Then suddenly, about 10 years after God’s call, a prophet spoke that I was called into full time ministry.  He, again, did not give a specific time, but I discerned that after 10 years it must be close at hand. It was then that I became anxious and started to yearn for crossing over into that new territory. I became less satisfied with my current situation and more anxious to move forward. I considered taking action that, in my view, would make fulfillment happen. Then I talked to a wise man in our church and he counseled me to be patient and allow the Holy Spirit to prompt me on the specific timing and circumstances to move forward. After about three more years, the Holy Spirit prompted me to plant a church NOW…while I was still in my current employment. My financial provision was in the secular. My ministry gifting was in the planting. I was 50 years old. 

Then…the day that I was ordained, a prophet prophesied I was also called to be an apostle. What!!??? I had only taken my first steps into pastoring and doing some international ministry, and now God declares this new mantle upon me???  I was so shocked I just put that word into the back of my mind. I did not try to make it happen. I focused on the now, and let the future take care of itself. It would be four more years before I retired from secular employment and moved more fully into ministry. It would be several more years before I began walking into apostolic ministry. And today I am still walking into it and walking though the apostolic with the Holy Spirit. But I am allowing the Holy Spirit to bring fulfillment, first inside of me, then outside of me.
 

The point…there is a process for crossing into fulfillment of God’s promises personally, corporately, and nationally. The process includes God’s timing and our transformation. Discern the times in order to stay in time with the Holy Spirit. Agree with His process and His timing will unfold unto fulfillment and you will cross over into that new territory. 

8/20/19

Crossing Over

Landscape in the land of Jordan.

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:4-7 NIV
Ministries, churches, and leaders experience certain seasons and times of particularly powerful manifestations of God. In such times, the miracles and the victories seem to come easier. There seems to be little effort or faith needed except to follow the cloud. But these same ministries, churches and leaders must enter new depths of faith and relationship with God. The Holy Spirit will nudge us to cross over into territory where more participation in faith and action is required from us, the believers. As the times change, the miraculous may be less obvious, the victories less poignant, and the methods and manifestations different.  You are in new territory.  You are in territory where greater levels of faith and action are required.  You must leave some things behind in order to possess that which lies ahead. You remember what God did in previous times to help you trust Him in current times. But...you must move forward!

Israel experienced this kind of crossing over. They had a miraculous 40 years of following the presence of God and God providing for them in the wilderness. After the supernatural crossing of the Jordan River, the Lord told Joshua to build a memorial at Gilgal. This was to be a remembrance of God’s role in stopping the flow of the Jordan so that the entire nation could cross into the Promised Land.   ‘Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’  For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4:22-24 NIV.  God knew the nation would need a new level of faith to contend for and retain the new territory. That faith would be passed on to future generations as the territory was possessed. 


While the people rested and memorialized the crossing of the Jordan River, Joshua was contemplating the challenge of Jericho, the first city-state that stood before them.  They had never encountered such imposing walls in the wilderness! Battles were different there! But Joshua had made the mental transition to contend for what stood before him, not lingering on what stood behind him. The manna stopped flowing from heaven and the people harvested food from the land they now entered. It was a new way of provision. God’s provision of food would now come from the land He promised rather than from heaven. Something had changed in how God would be involved in the life of the nation. They had crossed over.


We know from the rest of the Book of Joshua that Jericho was conquered as Joshua partnered in faith and action with the Lord. We know city after city fell to the nation of Israel as they went from battle to battle and from victory to victory. Each battle was different. It took years to accomplish the first phase of dominion in the Promised Land. Israel could remember, but they could not return to the other side of the Jordan River. It never dried up again. They could only move forward into new territory, a land of promise. 


The lesson for us is that we must remember the past, participate in the present and anticipate the future. The Lord will be with us always, but how He operates and partners with our faith changes as we cross over. He expects, and even demands, a level of faith and action not needed before the crossing.

6/17/19

Freedom in Christ Month!


Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. John 8:36 NKJV
In America, the month of June that has been declared ‘Gay Pride Month’.  This declaration was made by former President Clinton and expanded by President Obama. The impact has led to progressive destruction for the nation.  We have moved from gay pride to pride in all forms of non-heterosexual behavior. The month is now recognized by some as pride in a plethora of sexual choices under the banner of LGBTTQQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual).

Whatever sexual expression these letters represent, the operative word for the recognition is ‘pride’. The underlying agenda of activists is to be prideful of what they believe is their identity, and what Biblically is their choice of free will. The activist agenda is to be proud of their sexual identity. Scripturally, pride is a major issue with God. Pride is a form of self-exaltation, justification and affirmation.  Proverbs 13:10 tells us through pride comes nothing but strife. A study by the US Center for Disease Control (2015) found that LGBTQ individuals experience far more violence from each other than non-LGBTQ individuals. For example 44% of lesbian women experienced physical and sexual violence from their partners.


Biblical history and scriptural context of right and wrong have never affirmed, approved, sanctioned or endorsed these particular choices for the human race. The fact that activists proclaim their pride reveals a root source of the problem.  Pride is a form of captivity to self. Under the New Covenant of faith and grace, Jesus can set people free of pride and false identities.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36 NKJV). When we are ‘free indeed’ we choose the identity of Christ and are set free from the inside out to walk in righteousness in our choices. Through Christ, captives can be set free from pride and choose to walk in humility. 


Activists, and many who are caught up in the LGBTQ  movement, strongly proclaim all such people are ‘born this way’.  Even some activists question the assertion of being ‘born this way’.  Gay activist and history professor John D'Emilio once stated, "'Born gay' is an idea with a large constituency, LGBT and otherwise. It's an idea designed to allay the ingrained fears of a homophobic society and the internalized fears of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. What's most amazing to me about the 'born gay' phenomenon is that the scientific evidence for it is thin as a reed, yet it doesn't matter. It's an idea with such social utility that one doesn't need much evidence in order to make it attractive and credible." In addition Camille Paglia, a social critic, academic, feminist, and lesbian, stated in her book Vamps and Tramps, "Our sexual bodies were designed for reproduction .... No one is born gay. The idea is ridiculous ... homosexuality is an adaptation, not an inborn trait."


However thin the science is, activists have convinced a large portion of America, especially in corporate and government institutions, that sexuality is a ‘born this way’ fact. A recent survey found that about 42% of adults believe people are born gay. This group of 42% was found to be primarily whites, females, political liberals, high-income earners, and those who seldom or never attend church. As a ministry leader I am somewhat encouraged that lack of church influence is part of the reason for such beliefs. That means there is hope that the church and courageous ministry leaders can and will counter such beliefs with Truth. 


I challenge ministry leaders to speak Biblical truth to this cultural issue and to pray for the captives to receive the freedom Christ purchased for all of us. There are thousands of testimonies of men and women who have been set free as they chose Jesus Christ to transform their chosen identity into His redeemed identity. You won’t find these testimonies published in the mainstream media or in corporate or government institutions. I recommend Charisma On-Line as a good source of encouraging testimonies during the month of June. As we move through this month let us declare and intercede for freedom for the captives. Let’s proclaim June to be Freedom in Christ Month!!

4/2/19

Dispelling the Murk of Immigration Theology


“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. Matthew 25:31, 32
Much debate surrounding immigration within evangelical churches focuses on compassion as the spiritual motivating force to accept most, if not all, people desiring to enter the USA.  According to a recent international Gallup poll (2013) there are more than 138,000,000 people who desire to live in America. We know there about one million people that immigrate legally each year and another one million or more that enter illegally. A recent study estimates at least 22 million currently living here illegally (Yale University 2018). So how do we approach the immigration and national borders from a scriptural perspective? I posted my scriptural perspective of the Biblical principle of national borders and sovereign nations previously.  Now I move to another aspect of this issue.

A centerpiece of scriptural debate around the subject of compassion toward people, especially in the immigration context, is Matthew 25:31-46. This section of scripture is often cited by proponents of open national borders to advocate we embrace and bring in any and all people who may have fewer material possessions or more difficult life circumstances than found in Western culture, especially American culture. So, let’s focus on that issue today.


This section of scripture in Matthew is the closing piece of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount; a powerful message primarily focused on end time events.  A key point in His sermon is found in verse 31, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory." The majority of Biblical theologians agree this verse establishes the time frame context for the rest of the sermon…the return of Christ after the seven years of tribulation. This event is on earth, not in heaven; therefore it does not take place during the time of the final judgements that occur in heaven, i.e. the judgement seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:12-15) which is only for believer’s rewards, and the white throne judgement (Rev. 20:11-15) where the lost are judged.  The timing is immediately at the end of the tribulation and the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ on earth. This is a specific judgement of nations/peoples existing during the tribulation. Therefore, applying this scripture specifically to immigration policy today ignores the context of Jesus’ message and the whole counsel of scripture


Next Jesus says in verse 32, "All the nations will be gathered before Him." The context is that the nations existing on earth at that time will be gathered before Him upon His arrival. This will be a mega-event, not a conference room meeting! The nations will be primarily gentile since that is the common understanding throughout the New Testament, i.e. non-Jewish nations. In those nations will be the saved and unsaved people living at the end of the tribulation. But the nation of Israel will be also be present and, most believe, will have accepted the returning Messiah who appears in glory. Israel will declare Jesus as Messiah before Jesus appears in Jerusalem. They will do this in accord with Luke 13:34, 35 when Jesus spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem, ‘I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ’blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord'.


Then Jesus goes on to say in verse 32 and 33, ‘He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.’ Now begins a judgement that separates those in the nations before Him. He already knows which ones are sheep and which ones are goats. The sheep will be the saved ones and the goats the unsaved. 


Now Jesus declares a basis for this specific judgement, ‘Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’  He is separating them based upon the evidence of their faith in Him, even though they did not physically see Him when they did good things for the ‘stranger’. They were already ‘blessed of My Father’ indicating a relationship with Him before this event. Because of faith in Him the sheep displayed compassion toward the ‘stranger’.  


Some people use these words,  ‘I was a stranger and you took Me in’ as the primary basis for an ‘open borders’ policy for all nations and acceptance of all ‘strangers’.  The word for stranger is ‘xenos’. From this word we hear the allegation of being ‘xenophobic’ applied to those who support limited immigration. Xenophobic means irrational fear of strangers as it applies to immigration. However, the Church familiar with the Word of God has neither fear nor irrational thinking on the immigration question. To be discerning and apply wisdom to immigration policy is quite rational and reveals a more complete Biblical world view. To endure the scorn of having and declaring a Biblical worldview is to be fearless in the face of persecution!


Now, another pivotal point. Jesus says in verse 40, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ The key question and the foundation upon which He is judging is how His brothers were treated! Who are the brethren? Three reliable resources I consulted for this post agree that ‘brethren’ are His Jewish brothers, the Root of Jessie, the Jews from the lineage of Jacob…Israel! Understanding Matthew 25:31-46 hinges upon this context of the time frame and recognizing the brethren to whom Jesus was referring.


There will be great persecution, executions, and terrible troubles during the tribulation. Some individual gentiles and Jews will choose to believe in Jesus before His arrival, but much of this evil will be directed towards the nation of Israel. Israel will be a target of the massive invasion of Satan’s forces during the tribulation. But Israel will embrace Jesus as Lord as stated above. The judgement in Matthew 25 is based upon how those alive treat Israel in the worst of times; when they are naked, hungry, surrounded, strangers in the world. Who embraced them, fed them, supported them, and took them in when they fled persecution? The goats are the unbelievers who did NOT help the believers, especially the nation of Israel, during the tribulation.  


Jesus then says, "And these (goats) will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous (sheep) into eternal life.”  The end result of Jesus’ judgement is clear. These goats (un-believers) are the first fruits of what other non-believers will experience at the resurrection of the dead at the white throne judgement.


This specific judgement at the end of the tribulation is narrowly defined in context and in timeframe.  We must not overreach the intent of this scripture to create doctrine for immigration, or worse, a new doctrine for salvation. We live in the dispensation of grace. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Rather, let us recognize that how we treat Israel is important to God!


Click here to read more from Harvey on theology and immigration.

3/19/19

Is Jesus The Illegal Immigrant's Ticket to Ride?

"To be clear, the blood of Jesus and the power of His resurrection did not buy a ticket of entry into any sovereign nation in the world."
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8, 9
A Gallup poll (2013) of people in 154 nations found that the USA is a desired permanent destination for over 138,000,000 people. They want to come to America. In this context there is great debate about immigration in America, especially over illegal immigration on the southern border. Between 12 and 20 million people currently live in the US illegally already.

The war for the wall on America’s southern border has both secular governmental and spiritual governmental components. Regarding the spiritual component, one element of the evangelical church sees immigration and refugees the same way as the helpless widow and the orphan.  These evangelicals see governmental policy through the lens of Matthew 25: 31-46. This section of scripture finds Jesus speaking of the judgement of sheep and goat nations. Specifically in verse 35b some people define immigration policy by; ‘I was a stranger and you took Me in’. They see every stranger (alien, non-citizen) as the immigrant foreigner who desires entry into the US. They believe we must accept them into our midst in order to align ourselves with Biblical truth.  In my post last week I articulated Biblical principles found in Israel that clearly rejects such a big umbrella of acceptance, and I will continue in this vein today.


This particular passage is viewed by some to be guidance for national policy, personal policy, and the pathway to salvation. They view the reference to sheep and goat nations as those who do the works found in Matthew 25 (more on sheep and goats next week). Some who self-identify as ‘evangelical’ believe the good works mentioned in this scripture are the dividing line of separation between heaven and hell, eternal life and eternal fire. They believe this scripture represents the primary truth of all Christian theology.  Organizations embracing this far left limited view of scripture include groups such as Sojourners and the Red Letter Christians. Shane Claiborne, a Christian social activist who is co-director of Red Letter Christians, said about this portion of Matthew 25 regarding the sheep and the goats:

"... the goats who did not care for the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned are sent off to endure an agony akin to that experienced by the ones that they neglected on this earth…We build up walls to keep immigrants from entering our country…And the more walls and gates and fences we have, the closer we are to hell."
This political left view among self-identified evangelicals is completely counter to the whole counsel of scripture, and, as such, I wholeheartedly reject it. This does not agree with the core doctrines of faith, grace and believing upon Jesus Christ alone for eternal life.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8, 9)." We must embrace the truths of Biblical counsel and stand on Kingdom foundations. The ‘Red Letter Christians’ see the words of Jesus as their source of all truth, not the rest of the Bible. For example, Micah Bales, a Bible teacher who was formerly an organizer with the radical Occupy movement, blogged about Matthew 25 on the Red Letter Christian site:
When Jesus judges the world, according to this passage (i.e. Matthew 25), he won't care what you think about him. Instead, all that will matter is how we answer questions like, "Did you care for the stranger?"
That is heresy! We must beware of the misappropriation and outright heresy of some of these beliefs!  The far left heretical use of Matthew 25 undermines the totality of the gospel message of salvation by faith alone. It undermines the whole counsel of God. Bales also said in regard to refugees:
"If we turn our backs on the Syrian refugees, we reject as irrelevant the claims of Jesus. We deny the truthfulness of the Bible. We renounce the Christian faith altogether…Let me be clear: You cannot ignore these refugees and be a follower of Jesus in any real sense."
According to such beliefs, if people go to hell for not feeding the poor or bringing in every immigrant, then we must conclude that people who do feed the poor and bring in every immigrant do go to heaven. In other words, they propose the gospel as a gospel of works not a gospel of faith and grace. This is wrong!

This works-based measurement of salvation is centered on man’s perspective of doing good…especially in the context of Matthew 25. But if that is to be embraced as the metric of eternal salvation (the wrong metric I must add!) there would need to be an objective scoring of the nations.  The Charity Aide Foundation uses international data to measure charitable ‘doing good’ to poor and needy. Out of thousands of individuals surveyed in 2018 in over 150 nations, the US scored #4 on their charity index!  The US also scored very high in the ‘helping a stranger’ aspect of the index. Western European nations that push for open borders and unlimited immigration scored quite low. Only the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Norway made the top 20 charitable nations. So, does that mean the top 20 nations get to heaven? These scores change from year to year. Which year are the good works valid for entry to heaven? In a recent budget the President of the US asked for $39 billion for aide to foreign nations. Does a national budget get us all IN? Does the charity index mean the US is a sheep nation? Or does it mean that we individually are sheep? NO! This works-based heresy must be rejected both as a national policy and as a spiritual principle for salvation. It is wrong!


Moving on to another aspect of immigration. When it came to the offering of sacrifices and the worship of the true and living God, Israel, under the Law of Moses, had specific guidance for temporary residents, "[T]here shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you" (Numbers 15:15-16).  The law here is the entire law beginning with the Ten Commandments and all of the details of spiritual and civil law in Israel.  Those who were vetted were welcome in Israel as long as they entered freely into the worship of Israel's God and complied with the law. Such people were foreigners from other tribes and nations. A sojourner is defined as one who ‘stays temporarily’.  They would be like those in America who have long term visas and green cards. Immigration then, as now, was not a right – it was a privilege that was granted only under certain specific conditions. Boundaries were for inclusion as well as exclusion. "Strangers and aliens" were to be received in Israel, and were to be treated with fairness and justice. But they were also to be taught the values and worldview on which the civilization and nation rested.


The biblical fact that we are to care for the unfortunate does not mean we should violate the law or eliminate national borders in doing so. It doesn’t mean every ‘stranger’ or ‘sojourner’ should be allowed into the nation.  What are their motives? Will they assimilate into the culture and embrace core values? Or will they change the values and culture such as what happened to Israel leading up to their exile to Babylon?


Supporting, enabling, and/or encouraging illegal immigration or no-border-immigration is a violation of God's Kingdom principles. Only those intentionally misusing scripture or those ignorant of the Word regarding relevant kingdom principles will drink this Kool-Aid!  To be clear, the blood of Jesus and the power of His resurrection did not buy a ticket of entry into any sovereign nation in the world. We must not invoke cheap compassion to advance a political policy that devalues the cross of Christ!
 

More next week on the sheep and goat nations...


3/12/19

What Does the Bible Say About Borders?

The international border wall between San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico.

"He has made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God ..." (Acts 17:26-27)  
America is in a war for the wall and the womb; a battle for protection of unborn and newly born babies and for a secure sovereign nation.  In my previous post I focused on the war for the womb. In this post I will focus on the war for the wall

Nations were God’s idea. Boundaries for a nation were God’s idea. God created nations to worship Him and express their love for Him through their culture and identity. The Old Testament includes specific laws about non-citizens entering Israel. They were permitted to pass through or stay with permission of Israel. Lacking such permission they were to be refused entry or deported outside the boundaries. While national boundaries may change over the centuries, the central spiritual purpose of a nation, and the concept of a sovereign boundary to define geographic dominion have remained Biblically intact. 


The Church has a role through the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) which mandates that we ‘make disciples of all nations’.  Jesus recognized nations as a target of His great commission to the church. The great commission specifically says ‘go’ to all nations (vs. 19).  He didn’t say ‘come’!  


National boundaries exist to define the limits of governmental authority, the limits of internal legal systems and financial responsibility, the limits of responsibility to protect citizens, and the limits of other peoples and governments attempts to intrude, invade or infuse foreign laws upon a sovereign nation.  Nations create laws and systems to protect and promote the well-being of citizens within their boundaries. Nations can enter into beneficial inter-nation agreements be it financial, social or militarily to the extent such agreements reflect the core principle of benefiting and protecting the nation.


In ancient cities the gates and walls constituted a security system. For example, Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem was not only to rebuild Jerusalem's walls but also to restore its gates (Nehemiah 2). Guards watched from towers beside the gates. Elders, or community leaders, sat "in the gates" helping maintain the legal and commercial order of the city. Walls and gates are practical security and prophetic symbolism. They protect the people within and declare to those beyond that what is within is of great value. It is noteworthy that when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to restore the walls and gates the tribes that surrounded Jerusalem ‘were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.’ (Nehemiah 2:10)


God's laws were to be written on the "doorposts" of one's home as well as on the gates to the city (Deuteronomy 6:9, et al.). The values of the family, city, and nation were to confront every "stranger" seeking entry as protection for those within the walls. In every nation the home is the example of a protected border with walls and doors designed to allow entry only to those the owner chooses. Gated and walled communities of the wealthy in the US often have walls and gates to keep uninvited and un-vetted people out.  Many corporate office buildings have security guards and electronic security to determine who enters the building. For example, anyone can knock on my door and request entry, but I do not have to let them in. I have dominion legally and morally over my home. In fact, if I or my family is threatened with home invasion I have the legal right to physically defend my border.


Paul the Apostle told Athenian philosophers that God Himself "made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God ..." (Acts 17:26-27)   Borders and boundaries defining a nation are key to being and remaining a nation. Without borders and boundaries there is no nation. Without a distinct culture and God ordained purpose you don’t need to be a nation!!


Some politicians and nominal Christians believe that immigration bans or restrictions are unbiblical. However, we see in the Bible that when there is open hostility or willful violation of a nation’s law such bans are required. For example, the people of Ammon and Moab were hostile to Israel as Israel came out of Egypt. God then forbade the nation of Israel to accept any immigrants from either of these people groups to "the tenth generation" (Deut. 23:3). Immigration exceptions were made for those who were properly and satisfactorily vetted. Ruth, for instance, was a Moabite but was not only allowed to enter Israel but to become a part of the line that led to the Savior of the world. It should be noted that Ruth was embraced as an immigrant because of her willingness to reject the religious practices of her native land and completely assimilate to her newly adopted homeland. She said; "Your people shall be my people, and your God my God" (Ruth 1:17). Immigration law for Israel included the integration into and embracing of the culture of Israel.


The Bible reveals that "gatekeeping" is a critical component in the theological concept of borders. Gatekeepers watching over the entry to the Hebrews' tabernacle and, later, the Temple, provide a historic example of those who are the sentinels of the nations' core worldview and values: they occupied an "office of trust." (1 Chronicles 9:17-22) Today the civil authority of gatekeeping is within the Customs and Border Protection division of Homeland Security. However, I believe the spiritual authority of gatekeeper for America is in the church. We hold the spiritual office of trust to intercede for, speak to, preach, vote and advocate for Biblical values and worldview regarding national borders and security.


In America we have between 12 and 20 million people living here who violated national laws and boundaries by entering without permission or by staying beyond the terms of their legal entry.  The President has proposed to protect the most vulnerable parts of the southern border of the US with a wall, barrier or other entry proof structure to prevent illegal entry into the nation. In February, 2019 border patrol agents apprehended 66,000 people including more than 36,000 in ‘families’ along the southern border, a record high in recent years. That brings the total number of arrested families over the past five months to more than 130,000. It’s an increase of more than 300 percent compared to the same five-month period in 2018. The Department of Homeland Security now projects that almost one million people will be apprehended this year. That would mean almost one million known criminal violations of national sovereignty and secure borders. Tens of Thousands of others will not be apprehended. And, approximately one million more will immigrate legally. 


A Gallup poll (2013) of people in 154 nations found that the USA is a desired permanent destination for over 138,000,000 people, the first choice among the nations.  The southern border is vast and porous. While many people from Africa, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent may desire to come to American their primary entry port is an airport where security is very high and they must have legal documents to enter. However vast numbers of Central American and Mexican people enter illegally through the land border with Mexico. . In recent months the Border Patrol has apprehended people coming across the southern border from more than 40 nations. It is commonly known that if you desire to enter the nation illegally the southern border is your passage way. Therefore, we have a war for the wall.


Supporting, enabling, and/or encouraging illegal immigration or eliminating national borders is a violation of God's principle of sovereign nations. The Church must not be part of supporting, enabling or encouraging illegal immigration or eliminating national borders. We are spiritual gatekeepers! 


Those seeking to immigrate to another country should always obey the immigration laws of that country. While this may cause delays and frustrations, these reasons do not give a person the right to violate a civil law or God’s principles of national sovereignty.  A wall is only needed if those desiring entry do not respect the rule of law and willfully violate the un-walled borders of a nation.

More next week on this subject...




Click here to read last week's post on the War for the Womb.