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Common Slaves

Common Men; Uncommon Master

Racism, Marxism, Guilt, Government and the Bible’s Prescription of both the Problem and the Solution

Wednesday Evening, June 24, Lifespring Church hosted a Zoom Q&A with Drs Ardel Caneday and P Andrew Sandlin on discerning the current cultural crisis tearing apart both our society and sadly, many churches.

How do we understand the current cultural divide (and conflict) going on, related to both our common heritage and our cultural divides and to racial and political tensions? What is the relationship between our current struggles and a shifting cultural worldview below the surface?

Topics included:

What is racism? Is racism a sin? What are the roots of the riots and protests? What is Cultural Marxism? What worldview is behind the monument toppling? Should we leave conservative churches that have embraced “wokeness?”

Ardel Caneday and  P. Andrew Sandlin are two men who have taught in academia and the church for many years, from the same consistent foundation: That the Bible is God’s authoritative Word and applicable to every difficult issue we face in life, including racism and political conflict. (II Timothy 3:16-17)

The Lordship of Christ: Christians, Government and Culture…in a time of COVID-19 Crisis audio

On Sunday, May 17, Lifespring Church of Crosby, MN hosted a Zoom conversation with questions principally directed to with Drs. Ardel Caneday and P. Andrew Sandlin concerning Christian thinking, Spheres of Sovereignty, Church, Worship, business, politics and COVID-19.

This was a 90 minute discussion and has been Re-formatted into an MP3 file, which is linked below.  It is worth taking the time to listen to these seasoned Christian Leaders and theologians discuss these topics and address audience questions, beginning with a short refresher by Dr. Sandlin on the three spheres of God’s ordained Sovereignty over life in this world (Church, Family and Government)

The conversation ranged from discussing proper uses of the Apostle Paul’s instruction for Christians and the church in Romans 13, radical two-kingdom theology, the role of the church within society, whether churches should ever cancel public worship assemblies, whether the civil magistrate is bound to God’s law, America’s Founders’ view of human nature, the diabolical basis of coronavirus fear, and more.

The Lordship of Christ: Christians, Government and Culture…in a time of COVID-19 Crisis.  (thanks to Joe Bancks, Joe Reed, Corban Noah and Isaac Ohman for helping with discussion and audio re-formatting)

Alice in the Palace

Alice, did you know your Daddy loves you?” 
“Yes!” 
“Alice, do you know Jesus loves you?” 
“Yes!” 
“Alice, pretty soon Jesus is going to send some of his friends to get you so you can go visit him, ok? They’re really nice and you don’t have to be afraid.” 
“Okay.” 
Then she looked up at me with a smile and a twinkle in her eye and said, “But you can’t come with!” 
Not yet. But soon enough.
- Alice in the Palace

Today, June 8, marks the second anniversary of Alice’s death. Two years since we’ve gotten to hold her; two less years until we see her again.

To mark the day, I want to make her story available to as many as possible, so this week it’s available on Amazon for $5.99, which is about as low as Amazon will allow. If you buy the print edition, you can get the kindle version free.

It gives me great delight to know Alice’s brief life continues to be used by God for the good of his people. For my part, I read Alice in the Palace again over the course of a couple nights this week, and it was sweetly painful and pleasurable to relive that journey. After all, remembering her always makes me happy, and if her death didn’t still hurt a little bit, that would just suck. I had some memories I’d quite forgotten about jarred loose, and it was fun to hear her voice in my head once again.

I was happy to discover that the things I was thinking and writing about God then are the same things I’d write today. I might be able to say it better, but wouldn’t say it and different. I am happy to offer no regrets or retractions. His promises have not failed us.

What I wouldn’t give to go back to this moment however so briefly.

To buy Alice in the Palace, click here. If I was good at marketing I’d say leave a rating and a review, but I’m not.

To read an article I wrote for our church newsletter about some of the way Alice’s death has impacted my life, see here

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This evening several of us were blessed to be able to visit with Drs. Ardel Caneday and P. Andrew Sandlin as they worked through biblical teaching concerning matters of the relationship between church and state.

Nowadays it’s like life’s autopilot is broken, and so much of what we used to do automatically we now have to figure out all over again. I’m thankful for these two brothers God has gifted with good minds and courageous hearts to help us think through this, um, what shall we call it, brave new world?

Watch the conversation here

You’ll need this password to access it: 1j$@^=S#

Essential, pt. Deux

When I get to heaven, I plan to make two requests: First, and for obvious reasons, I will file for an exception to the no-marriage policy for Michele and me. Second, Vasiliy, “my Russian friend,” and I desire to be next-door neighbors for all eternity.

I hope to bring Vasiliy to Lewis Lake soon and ask him to recount how, in his younger years back in the Soviet Union, he used to wake up in the middle of the night (a different night each week), make his way down dark streets and alleys for a mile or so, careful to not rouse the dog stationed outside every house, sneak into a dimly lit, tightly shuttered home where he’d find a small group of Christians slowly assembling. To minimize suspicions they spaced out arrivals and departures, since being found out by the KGB could mean years in a Soviet prison, and believe me, that was no picnic. Finally assembled, a few songs were quietly whispered, prayers would be offered, someone would read the Bible, someone share a few words, then he’d slip silently back home, crawling into bed around 4AM, only to get back up at five to begin a grueling day of labor under the cruel, corrupt communist regime.

Continue reading “Essential, pt. Deux”

Church Worship (and other livelihoods): The Duty to use our Citizenship

Church Worship (and other livelihoods): The Duty to use our Citizenship….

or….Paul did not intend in Romans 13 to promote absolute submission to human authorities

Citizen:The native of a city, or an inhabitant who enjoys the freedom and privileges of the city in which he resides; the freeman of a city, as distinguished from a foreigner, or one not entitled to its franchises.
– Webster’s 1828

A couple of pre-emptive statements:

  1. I am not arguing against the reality of COVID-19 virus nor the degree of prevalence of the spread COVID-19, whether in Crosby, Colorado, or in California, etc, etc.
  2. I am not arguing that our church, in retrospect, should not have suspended regular worship. As my friend Joe Reed says, “If someone knocks on your door and says your roof is smoking, only a fool would not go outside and check to see if the thing is burning down.” God is sovereign, we are not; yet we are called to make decisions based upon commandments, convictions and calculated risk every single day. We are guided by obedience to God and love of others, and we act by faith because we do not have foresight. We are, after all, flesh and blood. That’s why, at various times in the winter, we have canceled our church programs for snow (or even on the basis of a forecast) based upon the limited knowledge we have while calculating risk/reward. I do not regret, for our church in our area, the decision to suspend worship for a time, the same decisions that almost all were making, upon the forecasts of COVID–19.

That said…

I am deeply concerned about this now popular notion among-st Christians that Romans 13 argues for absolute submission to the human Governing authorities for seemingly whatever length they suspend the assembling of the church.

Truth: Our attitude should always be one of humble submissiveness, and our actions should be in submission to proper authorities, unless the government goes against the clear directives of Christians as laid down in God’s Holy Word.

What are those clear directives?

Gathering together personally and publicly as a local church for worship (Colossians 3, Hebrews 10:25). The Holy Spirit brings isolated sinners from death to life, through the preaching of the Gospel, and into a local family, the church, as we run together towards heaven (Hebrews 12:1-2) The church is certainly more than Sunday worship, but it is also certainly nothing less than Sunday Worship – together, in person. Virtual meetings are a mirror of gathering, but there are many “one-anothers” which cannot occur through a video screen, and much participation by the whole is lost while watching the performance of one. Virtual worship is something, but it is certainly not “the church.”

Let me give an example from Scripture which I think is quite applicable today, showing us how and when to properly interpret scenarios where submission to Government applies.

In Acts 16 as Paul and Silas are preaching the Gospel, the rightful governing magistrates of Philippi, being influenced by some upset and angry citizens, arrested and beat the evangelists, throwing them in jail. They were then released by a divinely sent earthquake. Their jailer and his family, in fear and awe of God’s power and the kindness of his disciples, hear and are converted by the Gospel to Christianity. Here is the relevant text for us today, in our current situation: Christians who are also American Citizens:

But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” (36) And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” (37) But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” (38) The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. (39) So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. (40) So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
Act 16:35-40

Do you see it in v. 37? Paul uses the rights of his Citizenship, as (evidently) understood by All Romans, to challenge the authorities, that they, not he had violated the law and needed to repent, to change their course. Paul was actually demonstrating proper and legal submission to the government by reminding them of the rights of Roman citizens that Roman magistrates were expected to honor. The Magistrates had violated the law, not Paul.

Paul disobeyed the magistrates by not leaving town, but his dis-obedience was not moral, it was not a sin against God. The magistrates were out of line, according to their own oath of office. But confronting them, he was both helping himself and doing them a favor.

Each nation, of course, is different, so let me appeal to Americans.

In the USA the rights of citizens are recognized in the Constitution. It is the right of citizens to free, peaceful assembly: “Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

We obey God and God commands us to gather together bodily for worship (Colossians 3, Hebrews 10:25). It is what the pastor/elders/leaders of your church will be held accountable to God for. Did they obey God, even in the face of opposition? We can suspend worship, related to common sense reasoning (weather, pandemic, etc), but it is the church’s government, not civil government’s responsibility and sphere of authority. If, we as church leaders, make a wise or foolish decision, that is on us, not our civil government. Our American Constitution itself recognizes the very fact. Thank the Lord for this reality. The Governor can make recommendations and pleas to the church, but the church leadership are delegated to make decisions on Worship.

My question: In our Governor’s executive order to not allow churches to “meet for public worship”, is he, within the rights of his office and the laws of the land, according to the Constitution, or are we?

When we gather peaceably, we are exercising our rights as citizens and indirectly reminding others that this right is protected. If we do not remind the government of our place and their place, according to our own laws, who will? My primary goal in re-staring public worship is not to remind the government of anything. I am obeying God’s command. But, as an American Citizen, it is within my rights to do so. Period.

All things considered, such as the issues of risk, health, and love, it is crazy for the church right now to not at least read the constitution and wrestle with our American rights, our duties as the citizenry, as Paul did in Acts 16 when his rights were violated.

End Notes:

*We must differentiate the authority of civil magistrates and the authority (oft too much) of public opinion. Fear is a powerful weapon to wield, and it can enslave those who succumb to its influence. How often do we surrender our call and obedience to God because of the fear of who will shame us or hurt us?

*Similar principles and rights apply to businesses and other livelihoods in our nation. Where in the constitution is my right to make honest and peaceable commerce not protected right now….by what standard?

*A helpful video on the purpose of Church worship (Governmental Authority and the church) is found at https://www.facebook.com/aomin.org/videos/247003543025946/

Essential

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Psalm 122:1

Now that we are, for better or worse, temporarily but intentionally shuttering certain businesses, activities, and institutions, and I have my fingers crossed that the civil liberties taken from the American citizenry will be handed back to us as freely and quickly as they were taken, we find ourselves categorizing certain kinds of activity as “essential” and others as “non-essential.”

The concept of essential is simple enough: In this particular pandemic, the value of certain activities continuing outweighs the progress made against the coronavirus if they were stopped. The societal value of getting your hair cut and colored is less than the value of spreading COVID-19 to everyone at the salon, so let’s just all suck it up and deal with being and looking at uglier people for a while. In our purest moments, we admit that good looks are a luxury, not a necessity. On the other hand, if we, in the name of public health, quarantine the guys who feed the gerbils running the wheels at the electric company, we’ll quickly discover the tragedy of thousands dead from COVID-19 is a picnic compared to the catastrophe of world in blackout. You think life is hard now.

A hierarchy of essential is emerging. Doctors – essential. Theaters – not essential. Grocery delivery trucks – essential. Elective surgery – not essential. Dismembering the inconvenient unborn – essential. Liquor stores – essential. Eggs over easy, bacon, and white toast, served with a smile every Wednesday morning by Lois, my favorite waitress, who hasn’t bothered to take my order for a year because she already knows what I want – not essential. Lois and I, not to mention the café owner, might disagree.

Churches are now wrestling to find their place in this hierarchy – how essential are they? This is the question I want to explore for a little bit.

Continue reading “Essential”

Luther & Whether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague

Keeping in mind that 1527 is not 2020, Wittenberg Germany under Charles V (if memory serves – and it may not) is not Central Minnesota under Trump and Walz, and the Black Death is not COVID-19, basic human nature remains identical across the ages, medical mysteries still persist, the need for careful thinking and wisdom remains as persistent as ever, and the voices of the past whose value is proven by the fact they continually echo down the corridors of history nearly five centuries later are still worth hearing.

To that end, I encourage you to read some Luther as he wrestled through the advice he would offer to those seeking for a wise course of action during a time of plague. Basically the question was “stay, or flee?” I give you a sample here, at no expense to me, and hopefully great benefit to you:

We must pray against every form of evil and guard against it to the best of our ability in order not to act contrary to God… If it be God’s will that evil come upon us and destroy us, none of our precautions will help us. Everybody must take this to heart: first of all, if he feels bound to remain where death rages in order to serve his neighbor, let him commend himself to God and say, “Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast kept me here; thy will be done. I am thy lowly creature. Thou canst kill me or preserve me in this pestilence in the same way as if I were in fire, water, drought, or any other danger.” If a man is free, however, and can escape, let him commend himself and say, “Lord God,
I am weak and fearful. Therefore I am running away from evil and am doing what I can to protect myself against it. I am nevertheless in thy hands in this danger as in any other which might overtake me. Thy will be done. My flight alone will not succeed of itself because calamity and harm are everywhere. 

Martin Luther

Read the entire piece here (and I say this more by way of command than information).

The lazy may check out Dr. Steve Nichols’ treatment of it in five minutes, with a little Cranberries intro music thrown in here. Your indulgence will be smaller, but something is better than nothing.

Three in Coronavirus, One in Christ

But if you bite and devour one another,
watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Galatians 5:15

We’re living through a bit of a national nightmare right now. Maybe I should call it a bad dream, leaving room for it to get worse and then call it a nightmare. And it’s rather unsurprising that in this particular rough patch, when the pressures are mounting, some pretty deep fractures are beginning to appear in our society.

The sides being drawn up, and look roughly something like this:

Continue reading “Three in Coronavirus, One in Christ”

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