Every Tribe, Language, People, and Nation
every tribe language people and nation

Do you remember the song, Jesus Loves the Little Children, written by C. Herbert Woolston? Even if you don’t know all the stanzas, you probably remember the refrain:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

While Jesus does, indeed, love all children regardless of ethnicity, the problem of discrimination and inequality continues to taint our culture. Which brings us to the federal holiday we will celebrate next week.

January 20, 2020 is the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Why is this day a holiday? Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He was both a pastor and a director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Sadly, he was assassinated in 1968 for inspiring our nation to persevere in opposing racial inequality. For exhorting us to love all people: red and yellow, black, and white.

The irony in these continuing discussions of racial reconciliation is that every conversation begins with an inaccuracy. How can we reconcile the races when only one race exists: the human race. We have a variety of ethnic groups, tribal identities, skin colors, and national affiliations, but only one race.

And the Bible tells us that in the eyes of our heavenly Father, everyone within this single human race who comes to Him through faith in Jesus Christ receives the right to become His child (John 1:12).

Someday, all His children will be worshiping around His throne, a diversity representing the creativity of our wonderful God:

And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God   persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

~ Revelation 5:9-12 (NIV)

Physical characteristics that divide us on earth will enhance the mosaic of praise before God’s throne. Until then, let’s remember Jesus does, indeed, love all God’s children. And let’s be intentional about practicing that love today.


 
Allow Children to Be Children
Children

It seems children’s entertainment is becoming darker. Movies and video games seem to be pushing children to embrace adult situations. And it’s all in the name of being resourceful—of not needing adults (especially parents) to help them solve their problems.

On the other hand, maybe kids today don’t really have a choice. After all, we’ve done a poor job of protecting them. Molestation and child trafficking abound. Laws supposedly meant to protect children have the opposite effect. For example, in the name of progress, California revised its sex education guidance for public school teachers, giving kindergarten children the burden of determining if they’re identifying as the correct gender. Yes, in kindergarten!

The news this week makes the California policy look tame by comparison. A Dallas jury ruled a mother is free to transition her seven-year-old son into a girl via hormone treatments. The mother confirmed she is acting on her son’s desires and choice.*

Yet, at the same time, even though the boy’s first choice for his new name was Starfire (a cartoon character), his mother encouraged him to choose a different name. Did you catch that? He’s supposedly capable of choosing his gender, but not capable of choosing his name.

Is it any wonder childhood depression and suicide rates are increasing at an alarming rate?

Or that children are being told they shouldn’t be required to have parental involvement in their abortion decisions?

Children and teenagers are dressing like adults, behaving like adults, and sinning at adult levels. Alcohol and substance abuse, as well as promiscuity, are as much in the domain of children as their parents.

Culture’s ruling philosophy is to cast off all restraint. The Bible is no longer our plumb line. Standards of right and wrong spring from preferences rather than biblical convictions. Everything else flows from this corrupt foundation.

And so our culture is hastening children out of childhood in the name of freedom from biblical morality. The result is that we are rushing children into a distorted adulthood.

Oh, that we would return to the Father who created us. To His Son, Jesus, who died for us. And to the Holy Spirit who brings conviction and comfort.

Could it be the enemy of our souls is determined to damage our children so we lose the example of faith Jesus told us to follow? “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3 NIV).

If this breaks our hearts, how it must grieve the heart of the One who longs for us to choose the redemption and reconciliation He offers. The One who longs for us to come…as little children.

What are your thoughts?

*Addendum: The judge in the gender transition case ruled the parents will have joint conservatorship over their seven-year-old son, giving the father a say in joint medical decisions.


 
Sin and Cancer Both Start Small
Cancer and sin both start small

It was just a tiny spot recognized by the scan—a little more than a centimeter. But as soon as it was identified, the medical community sprang into action. More scans, tests, chemotherapy, radiation. Months of treatment based on the knowledge that this one spot was small but dangerous. It had to be stopped.

On the other hand, it was just a tiny sin. Perhaps it was a small lie—a fib, really. Or a curse that slipped through your lips—just once. Maybe it was a tv program or movie you saw because, well, everyone was talking about it. No one even noticed. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that all too often we don’t view sin in the spiritual realm with the same sense of urgency we view cancer in the physical realm.

I wonder why?

Perhaps it’s because the spiritual repercussions are not as obvious. Or maybe it’s because we’ve bought into the lie that consequences are not real. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because we’ve decided it doesn’t matter. After all, if God is a God of love, He’ll let these things slide. Especially since they’re not big sins.

Problem is, both cancer and sin have a lot in common. Both start out small. Both are progressively more difficult to address the longer they’re allowed to grow unchecked. And both will result in catastrophic consequences.

Our culture has sanitized sin. Think about it. How often do you even hear the word sin used today? And when we do hear it spoken, it’s often used as a compliment. This chocolate dessert is sinfully delicious. That cashmere robe is sinfully soft.

Sin is not a compliment. It’s ugly.

Years ago when the movie, The Passion of the Christ was released, many criticized the graphic scenes leading up to and including the crucifixion. Even Christians complained the scenes were unnecessarily severe.

But we forget how severe and ugly sin is—even the smallest sin—in the sight of a holy, perfect God. Sin is serious business to God. Serious enough to require the torturous death experienced by Christ when He took the entire penalty of our sin on Himself.

The Stoning of Stephen

I recently taught on a passage from the book of Acts about Stephen’s stoning at the hands of the religious leaders of his day. I’ve taught this passage several times before, and always identified with Stephen the Spirit-filled Christian who spoke truth to a crowd who did not want to hear truth.

But this occasion was different. For the first time, I saw myself in the crowd of religious leaders who thought they were experts on truth. People who refused to face their own sin.

Of course, I’ve never stoned anyone. Or as Acts 7 describes, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him” and “they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him” (Acts 7:54, 57 NIV). 

No, I’m much more civil about it.

How many times have I excused and rationalized “little” (and big) sins? When have I conveniently avoided certain passages of Scripture because they struck a little too close to home? Or avoided certain people because I didn’t want to hear what they might have to say?

How many times have I been so sure I was right, that I refused to even listen to another perspective? Or when have I ignored the whispers of the Holy Spirit’s prompting because I’d have to respond with a change of mind and a change of behavior, otherwise known as repentance—another old-fashioned word we don’t hear used much today.

I’m ashamed to say, all too often, I bear a closer resemblance to the prideful, self-righteous crowd than to Stephen – a man who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, was simultaneously humble and bold.

How about you? Will you join me in addressing even our “small” sins with the same focus and intentionality we use to address cancer cells in our bodies? Who knows what God might accomplish in and through us if we do!


 
Is Peace with the World a Reasonable Goal?
Prince of Peace

By now you may have heard about Christian celebrities who have either renounced their faith or are in the process of losing their faith.

The most recent celebrity to do so is Marty Sampson, a lyricist long associated with Hillsong and whose songs many of us have sung in our churches. Sampson wrote:

“I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy.”

He has since deleted the comment and qualified it by saying he was “struggling with many parts of the belief system that seem so incoherent with common human morality” and his faith is on “incredibly shaky ground.”

Struggling with doubts and questions is not unusual. Of course, few Christians have the kind of public platforms that people such as Marty Sampson and Josh Harris have.

But as Sampson tries to figure out how to get his spiritual life back on solid ground, it’s worth asking about his goal. Is his goal peace with the world, as he mentioned? Because if it is, then Christianity will never give him what he’s seeking, as these Bible verses attest:

  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
    ~ Romans 12:2 ESV
  • “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” ~ James 4:4 ESV
  •  “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
    ~ I John 3:13 ESV

With growing animosity, our culture has set itself against the God of the Bible. Yes, to the point of hatred, including hatred of those who identify as Christ-followers. Even so, Christians are not to respond with hate in return. We are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

But loving our enemies is not the same as being at peace with the world. For the foundation of a Christian’s faith will always put us at odds with a world system that has declared itself too wise to need God and too independent to be accountable to Him. A world which, at best, mocks our faith and, at worst, kills Christians who profess to belief in the God who sent His Son to die for those who hate Him.

Is Sampson, along with others, willing to obtain peace with the world at the cost of compromising or renouncing his Christian beliefs? Does he understand it’s those beliefs that engendered the hostility to begin with?

What about you and me?

  • Is peace with the world worth losing peace with God (Romans 5:1)?
  • Is acceptance by our culture worth giving up the acceptance we have in Christ (Ephesians 1:6)?
  • And is the temporary approval of the world worth losing our eternal identity in Christ (Galatians 1:10)?

Peace—real peace—is found in a relationship with the Prince of Peace. A relationship with the world apart from Jesus Christ can only provide a poor imitation.

The Christian life is the sum of more than just singing emotional songs and quoting Bible verses. It includes a willingness to endure suffering and the loss of the approval of others. Jesus Christ showed us what that looks like:

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Easier said than done? Yes. But not impossible, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Still, the choice is ours to make.

What will you choose?


 
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