Set free in Christ: the fullness of religious liberty

carmen blog“For freedom we have been set free …”  Galatians 5:1

In this week of celebration of our national independence from tyranny it is appropriate to reflect on the Biblical concepts of freedom, liberty and liberation.

Some would argue that from the days of God’s intervention through the plagues in Egypt and the insistence by Moses to Pharaoh to “let my people go,” God has demonstrated His will that people should be free. But the value that God places on human freedom goes back much further than that.

The origin of religious freedom

It was in the Garden of Eden that God first extended the grace of religious freedom. God gave Adam and Eve the full freedom to believe, trust and obey Him or, to doubt Him.  What some call the God-given and God-blessed “freedom of the human will,” is God’s gracious extension of religious freedom to every person in every time and place.

The Bible records that in exercising their religious liberty, Adam and Eve sinned. That first fall has led to all kinds of evil, but God was more interested in our freedom than in conformity to His will. That’s an amazing reality. God loves us enough to let us “have our own head,” as an equestrian might say. No bit in our mouths, no oppressive yoke; in fact, in Christ, the yoke of God is easy and the burden light.

So, real freedom begins in the Garden, and that freedom is then restored on Golgotha. In between is the reality of slavery to sin that cannot be escaped. God, by grace, gives His people the Law as a counselor, tutor and guide, but ultimately there is no effective or lasting righteousness achieved. Atonement was only possible through One perfectly submitted in perfect sacrifice. And only God could do that. So He did.

Freedom is not free and never has been

The all-sufficient atoning sacrifice of Christ for freedom from sin and liberty from the Law is what Paul is talking about in Galatians 5. For liberty we have been liberated; for freedom we have been set free. Nothing need be added to Christ for salvation: no deeds, no circumcision, nothing but Christ. To add anything of our works to Christ is to put ourselves again under the unbearable yoke of slavery to the Law — and ultimately slavery to sin.

When we celebrate our independence as a nation, we do so as those who know and acknowledge that freedom is not free and liberty is not to be turned into license. Our ultimate freedom in Christ, and our national freedoms in the United States of America, are freedoms won through the shedding of blood. We dare not take those freedoms for granted but use the liberty won by others to, in turn, become people who are benefactors of freedom for others.

That calling is to evangelism, declaring the freedom from sin’s penalty and sin’s present power to everyone regardless of the particular circumstance of the government under which they live.

But that calling is also to engage in declaring and living into the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom from tyranny in our own nation. It is for freedom from sin and death that you have been set free in Christ, and it is for freedom and liberty that you have been set free in America.

Threats to religious freedom and to people of Christian conscience are real. Defending the freedoms for which others died is imperative if we hope for future generations to live with the freedoms we enjoy.  Even enduring ideas like freedom need defenders, champions and advocates. It is time for the Church to arise and shine that others might know the heritage and hope of the freedoms found only in Jesus Christ and a life governed by Him.

Freedom, within bounds

Current examples of using freedom for license abound as our culture has devolved into moral relativity. We are not accurately described as “one nation under God” as too many pledge their allegiance to identities apart from God.  To our own peril we have disconnected the independence as a people from our dependence upon God. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes. We have forgotten that to be liberated from the tyranny of sin also means we joyfully submit to the full authority of the Lord who died that we might live. The yoke of Christ is real not burdensome, but real. He is our King and our Lord, and He has very real expectations for our lives. That is the nature of discipleship: a person set truly free by Christ and freely enslaved to Christ. So we are called, so let us live.

 

Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage

90 leaders respond to Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage.

A joint statement, released June 26, 2015

Signed by Carmen Fowler LaBerge, the president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee.

As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court’s ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image. We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot. The outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage represents what seems like the result of a half-century of witnessing marriage’s decline through divorce, cohabitation, and a worldview of almost limitless sexual freedom. The Supreme Court’s actions pose incalculable risks to an already volatile social fabric by alienating those whose beliefs about marriage are motivated by deep biblical convictions and concern for the common good.

The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman. From Genesis to Revelation, the authority of Scripture witnesses to the nature of biblical marriage as uniquely bound to the complementarity of man and woman. This truth is not negotiable. The Lord Jesus himself said that marriage is from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6), so no human institution has the authority to redefine marriage any more than a human institution has the authority to redefine the gospel, which marriage mysteriously reflects (Eph. 5:32). The Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage demonstrates mistaken judgment by disregarding what history and countless civilizations have passed on to us, but it also represents an aftermath that evangelicals themselves, sadly, are not guiltless in contributing to. Too often, professing evangelicals have failed to model the ideals we so dearly cherish and believe are central to gospel proclamation.

Evangelical churches must be faithful to the biblical witness on marriage regardless of the cultural shift. Evangelical churches in America now find themselves in a new moral landscape that calls us to minister in a context growing more hostile to a biblical sexual ethic. This is not new in the history of the church. From its earliest beginnings, whether on the margins of society or in a place of influence, the church is defined by the gospel. We insist that the gospel brings good news to all people, regardless of whether the culture considers the news good or not.

The gospel must inform our approach to public witness. As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:

  • Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
  • teach the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
  • affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
  • love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
  • live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
  • cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper.

The redefinition of marriage should not entail the erosion of religious liberty. In the coming years, evangelical institutions could be pressed to sacrifice their sacred beliefs about marriage and sexuality in order to accommodate whatever demands the culture and law require. We do not have the option to meet those demands without violating our consciences and surrendering the gospel. We will not allow the government to coerce or infringe upon the rights of institutions to live by the sacred belief that only men and women can enter into marriage.

The gospel of Jesus Christ determines the shape and tone of our ministry. Christian theology considers its teachings about marriage both timeless and unchanging, and therefore we must stand firm in this belief. Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus. While we believe the Supreme Court has erred in its ruling, we pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women, and children. We promise to proclaim and live this truth at all costs, with convictions that are communicated with kindness and love.

A.B Vines
Senior Pastor
New Seasons Church

Afshin Ziafat 
Lead Pastor
Providence Church – Frisco, TX.

Alistair Begg 
Senior Pastor
Parkside Church

Andrew T. Walker 
Director of Policy Studies
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Bart Barber 
Pastor
First Baptist Church of Famersville

Bruce Frank 
Senior Pastor
Biltmore Baptist Church

Bruce Riley Ashford 
Provost
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Bryan Carter 
Pastor
Concord Church

Bryan Chapell 
Senior Pastor
Grace Presbyterian Church

Bryan Loritts 
Pastor of Preaching and Mission
Trinity Grace Church, Kainos Movement

Bryant Wright 
Senior Pastor
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church

Carmen Fowler LaBerge 
President
Presbyterian Lay Committee

Christine Hoover 
Author

Christopher Yuan 
Speaker, Author, Bible Teacher

Clint Pressley 
Pastor & Former VP of SBC
Hickory Grove Baptist Church

Collin Hansen 
Editorial Director
The Gospel Coalition

D.A. Carson 
Research Professor of NT
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

D.A. Horton

Daniel Darling 
Vice-President of Communications
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Daniel Patterson 
Chief of Staff
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Danny Akin 
President
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

David E. Prince
Assistant Professor of Christian Preaching
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

David French 
National Review

David Jeremiah
Senior Pastor
Shadow Mountain Community Church

David S. Dockery 
President
Trinity International University/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

David Platt 
President
International Mission Board

David Uth 
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Orlando

Dean Inserra 
Lead Pastor
City Church, Tallahassee

Dennis Rainey 
President
Family Life Today

Eric Teetsel 
Executive Director
Manhattan Declaration

Erwin W. Lutzer 
Senior Pastor
The Moody Church

Fred Luter 
Pastor
Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

Gabriel Salguero 
President
National Latino Evangelical Coalition

H.B. Charles Jr.
Pastor-Teacher
Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church

Heath Lambert
Executive Director
Association of Certified Biblical Counselors

Hunter Baker 
Associate Professor of Political Science; Dean of Instruction
Union University

James MacDonald 
Pastor
Harvest Bible Chapel

J.P. Moreland 
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
Biola University

J.D. Greear 
Pastor
The Summit Church

J.I. Packer 
Board of Governors’ Professor, Theology
Regent College

Jason Allen 
President
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Jeff Iorg
President
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary

Jim Daly 
President
Focus on the Family

Jimmy Scroggins 
Lead Pastor
Family Church, West Palm Beach

John Bradosky Presiding Bishop North American Lutheran Church

John Stonestreet 
Speaker and Fellow
The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview

Johnny Hunt 
Pastor
First Baptist Church of Woodstock

Jonathan Leeman 
Editorial Director
9Marks

Juan R. Sanchez, Jr. 
Senior Pastor
High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas

Justin Taylor

Karen Swallow Prior 
Fellow, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Convention Fellow
Professor of English, Liberty University

Ken Whitten 
Senior Pastor
Idlewild Baptist Church

Kevin DeYoung
Senior Pastor
University Reformed Church

Kevin Ezell 
President
North American Mission Board

Kevin Smith 
Teaching Pastor
Highview Baptist Church

Mark Dever 
Senior Pastor
Capitol Hill Baptist Church

Marvin Olasky 
Editor-in-chief
WORLD Magazine

Matt Carter 
Pastor of Preaching and Vision
The Austin Stone Community Church

Matt Chandler 
Senior Pastor
The Village Church

Matthew Lee Anderson 
Lead Writer
Mere Orthodoxy

Mike Cosper
Pastor of Worship and Arts
Sojourn Community Church

Mike Glenn 
Senior Pastor
Brentwood Baptist Church

Naghmeh Abedini

Nancy Leigh DeMoss 
Revive our Hearts

Nathan Lino 
Lead Pastor
Northeast Houston Baptist Church

Owen Strachan
President
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Paul Nyquist 
President and CEO
Moody Bible Institute

Phillip Bethancourt 
Executive Vice President
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

  1. Albert Mohler, Jr. 
    President
    The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Ramon Osorio 
Hispanic National Church Mobilizer
North American Mission Board

Randy Alcorn 
Director
Eternal Perspectives Ministries

Ray Ortlund 
Lead Pastor
Immanuel Nashville

Richard D. Land
President
Southern Evangelical Seminary

Richard Mouw 
Professor of Faith and Public Life
Fuller Seminary

Robert Sloan 
President
Houston Baptist University

Roger Spradlin 
Senior Pastor
Valley Baptist Church, Bakersfield, CA

Ron Sider 
Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy
Palmer Seminary at Eastern University

Ronnie Floyd 
President, Southern Baptist Convention
Senior Pastor, Cross Church

Rosaria Butterfield 
Author and Speaker

Russell Moore 
President
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Sam Storms 
Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision
Bridgeway Church

Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver 
President
Union University

Samuel Rodriguez 
President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Thomas White 
President
Cedarville University

Timothy George 
Dean and Professor of Divinity
Beeson Divinity School

Todd Wagner 
Senior Pastor
Watermark Church

Tommy Nelson Sr.
Pastor
Denton Bible Church

Tony Evans
Senior Pastor
Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship

Tony Merida 
Pastor for Preaching
Imago Dei Church

Tory Baucum 
Rector
Truro Anglican Church

Trillia Newbell 
Director of Community Outreach
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Trip Lee
Rapper, Author, Pastor

Vance Pitman 
Senior Pastor
Hope Church, Las Vegas, NV

 

Standing firm while the sand shifts on same-sex marriage

On Saturday, June 20, the constitutional language of the Presbyterian Church (USA) will officially change allowing for same-sex marriages to be performed by PCUSA ministers in PCUSA churches. The Supreme Court of the United States is expected to issue its ruling on the matter this month as well. “Where do you stand on same-sex marriage?” has become the modern day litmus test and the answer results in a delimiting of many relationships.

Fueling the cultural confusion is the failure of the people of the Church to stand with compassionate conviction on the unchanging truth of God’s revealed Word. Even those who historically have regarded the Bible as the final authority on issues of moral behavior, self-described “evangelicals,” are not all answering the question in the same way.

Just this past week a particularly influential “evangelical” shifted allegiance and aligned with the pro-same-sex marriage movement. His name is David Neff and he served in recent years as the Editor of Christianity Today. CT has issued a statement distinguishing itself from Neff’s position and illuminated the ongoing challenge same-sex marriage poses for “evangelicals.”

The current Editor-in-Chief of CT, Mark Galli, posted an editorial responding to Neff’s reversal. Galli’s response illuminates the ongoing challenge this issue poses for “evangelicals.”

“At CT, we’re saddened that David has come to this conclusion,” Galli wrote. “Saddened because we firmly believe that the Bible teaches that God intends the most intimate of covenant relationships to be enjoyed exclusively by a man and a woman.”

Galli added, “We at CT are sorry when fellow evangelicals modify their views to accord with the current secular understanding on this matter. We’ll continue to be sorry, because over the next many years, there will be many who will similarly reverse themselves on sexual ethics.”

The issue becomes how do evangelicals find a unified voice on other issues of mutual concern if their mind and voice are so divided on the issue of same-sex marriage.?

As CT editor, Neff served in prominent leadership posts in other organizations. Notably, Neff served in leadership in the National Association of Evangelicals which seeks to provide a unified platform for evangelicals to impact culture.  Does Neff’s same-sex marriage advocacy now put him outside of the definition that the NAE uses to define itself? Asked another way, by the NAE’s own definition of what it means to be an evangelical, is Neff still one?

The NAE’s statement of faith begins by acknowledging that “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” So, having disregarded the plain teaching of the Bible on the subject of same-sex sexual expression, is Neff still an evangelical?  

neff on nae endorsement page

Neff’s endorsement of the NAE appears prominently on the organization’s website between Russell Moore, Steve Moore and John Ortberg. Where does each of these men stand on this issue? Therein may lie the larger question.

Like it or not, the answer to the question of “where do you stand on same-sex marriage?” is becoming a litmus test for Christians in the culture today.

I agree with Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Ky., observes that:

This is a moment of decision, and every evangelical believer, congregation, denomination, and institution will have to answer. There will be no place to hide. The forces driving this revolution in morality will not allow evasion or equivocation. Every pastor, every church, and every Christian organization will soon be forced to declare an allegiance to the Scriptures and to the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexual morality, or to affirm loyalty to the sexual revolution. That revolution did not start with same-sex marriage, and it will not end there. But marriage is the most urgent issue of the day, and the moment of decision has arrived.”

The sands of time and circumstance and public opinion are always shifting. But as Christians, that is not where we find our footing nor is sand where we take our stand. In fact, God has something to say about all this.

Ephesians 2:1-20 (ESV) is worthy of consideration as you decide where to stand.

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodya and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.b 4Butc God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,d but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God bye the Spirit.

 

 

Frank Wolf asks ‘What is Caesar’s? What is God’s?’

Former Congressman Frank Wolf pondered “What Is Caesar’s, What Is God’s?” with attendees at the 2015 Petrie-Flom Center Annual Conference “Law, Religion and Health in America,” held May 7 at Harvard Law School.

Wolf, a tireless defender of the religiously marginalized around the world, opened by quoting James Madison, who “once opined, ‘Conscience is the most sacred of all property.’” To which Wolf added, “And as it relates to our discussion today, I maintain that conscience is most assuredly God’s.”

Wolf’s address weaved together his own story of standing for conscience on the House floor, current rulings related to religious liberty and the reality that the definition of tolerance and the protection of conscience are shifting dramatically in the United States.  He concluded that “the space for dissent is daily shrinking” as “our national narrative” which once upheld “the preeminence of religious freedom as the cornerstone of all other human rights” is actively undermined.

The question ultimately comes down to whether or not the state — or God — is Lord of the conscience.  People of faith will answer that God alone is Lord of the conscience. Wolf noted that as the increasingly powerful and politically persuasive progressive secular lobby demands that the conscience be “allegiant to the state,” people of faith are paying the price.

That is a perversion and yet it persists. “Quite simply, our conscience is not ultimately allegiant to the state, but to something, and for many people, Someone, higher. And this truth is important to protect, because if our conscience belongs to the state, the state can choose to violate it or compromise it at will,” Wolf argued.

Where does that leave us and where are we headed?

If the current trends continue, Wolf expects that some who refuse to sacrifice their conscience on the altar of tolerance will find themselves on the wrong side of civil authority. But that leaves them in good company, Wolf notes. Company like Joseph, Daniel, John the Baptist, Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther King Jr.

As he told me once in his Capitol Hill office before he retired from Congress, “some of ya’ll are going to have to go to jail” before the nation wakes up to the reality that religious liberty and freedom of conscience are under assault in America. But Wolf fears that many will simply abandon the public square and allow culture’s continued course of devolution.  He is seeking to raise the alarm and encourage the convicted to take a stand.

Wolf said, “Rather than retreat from the public square, I am hopeful that Christians and other people of faith will boldly stay, regardless of the cost.  I am reminded of the rich Christian tradition of civil disobedience in the face of unjust laws. The Reverend Martin Luther King’s letter from a Birmingham jail, is an exemplary defense of this approach. It was intended to convict his fellow religious leaders for being more ‘cautious than courageous’ in the face of segregation.”

 “You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws… one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all. A just law is a man-made code that squares with moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”

 “We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that, if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

King’s namesake, Martin Luther, took a similar stand for conscience in 1521.

Luther had said things that the civil authorities of his day didn’t like. In fact, both the church (Catholic) and the Emperor (Roman) wanted him to recant. But that was contrary to Luther’s conscience, informed by the Scriptures.  The showdown was set to take place at the Imperial Diet of Worms where Luther would be afforded a hearing before being excommunicated. Luther appeared twice before the Emperor where he “took his teachings” but on Luther could not see any proofs offered by the court that would lead him to recant. That is to say, his conscience continued to convict him. Luther’s statement to the authorities is a fair summation of Wolf’s position. It is safe to say that with both of them, here I stand:

 “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” – Luther

Hillary Clinton’s Adult summer camps now open

The report from the Daily Caller on March 19 read:

In a paid speech before the New Jersey chapter of the American Camp Association, former Secretary of State Hillary Cinton told the audience that America really needed to implement camps that adults could attend. 

As I have gotten older, I have decided we really need camps for adults,” she said to laughter. “And we need the kind of camps you all run.”

“None of the serious stuff, not of the life-challenging stuff; more fun!” Clinton continued. “I think we have a huge fun deficit in America.”

And now, as enrollment opens for summer camps across the country, Clinton’s call for adult camps is realized.

Self-described as “booze soaked” with “alcohol at every turn,” these adult only distractions from everyday life are designed for an elite clientele. The six adult camps featured by NY Time-Out are for those who can afford not only the time to getaway but the on-average $500/day price tag. There’s one especially for “the queer exhibitionist,” “the Walking Dead superfan,” an all-inclusive booze camp with co-ed dorms for the “nostalgia-thirsty partier.”

Is it too early to raise concerns about the possible uses of Camp David?

Clinton, who is aptly described as “a social gospel Methodist,” might call these well-healed, presumably single Americans with time and money to burn to something more civic-serving than weekends of adult camp debauchery.  Her Methodist women forerunners, hardy abolitionists who helped to transform America from a nation of drunkards in the mid 1800’s would likely not approve.

Is fun not possible without alcohol?  Have we so disconnected from the beauty and truth of creation that we cannot be intoxicated with awe when we turn aside to see the burning bushes of our day?  Must we instead indulge in Sodom and Gomorrah-like activities at Burning Man-style adult camps?

You were made for more than this, my fellow American. You are better – wiser, smarter, and more fun – than these camp-planners imagine. Do not descend into the debauchery they have planned for you. Instead, rise above the expectations of those who would have us entertain ourselves to death.

Natalie Portman recognizes her Oscar as a false idol

There’s no more coveted a prize in Hollywood than an Oscar. Portman has one. Where is it? She hasn’t a clue.

 

When the interviewer asked if her Oscar was with her in Paris, Portman said:

“I don’t know where it is,” she says. “I think it’s in the safe or something. I don’t know. I haven’t seen it in a while.”

Why?oscar

“I was reading the story of Abraham to my child and talking about, like, not worshipping false idols. And this is literally like gold men. This is lit­er­ally worshipping gold idols — if you worship it. That’s why it’s not displayed on the wall. It’s a false idol.”

This beautiful, wealthy, influential, politically complicated, intelligent Israeli born American actress-writer-producer is also a mom who reads to her child from the Torah.

She’s teaching him to have a Biblical worldview and to live as a God-centered person in a very me-centered world.

At the conclusion of the article in The Hollywood Reporter, the interviewer admits that he still considers Portman a stranger.

In response to a question about missing L.A. (she now lives in Paris), Portman revealed that while those around her might covet being known, she isn’t.

“I like being a stranger in a place. You’re kind of an outsider, and I think that’s what makes you. It’s the only way I’ve ever known.”

Those who have ears to hear will recognize the Biblical allusion. Most will miss it. Living as aliens, foreigners and strangers in the world is the reality of those who know that ultimately their home is not one built by human hands. I don’t know if that’s what Portman intended in her comment, but if it is, I don’t want us to miss it. In Hollywood as an Oscar winner who regards the gold statue as a false idol, in Paris as a Jew amidst rising anti-Semitism, a dual citizen in the kingdoms of the world and a dual citizen in a Kingdom yet to fully come, Portman is a complex living demonstration of God’s people.

Where she would likely turn to the stories of Abram who becomes Abraham, Daniel and stories of faithful living in the midst of exile, I would turn to First Peter for instruction on how to live as God’s person in an ungodly culture. Consider today how God is calling you to live authentically as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven first, sojourning in this world that He so loves. What’s the “Oscar” in your life that needs to be forgotten in order that God can be more fully honored?

gods-at-war

Divine appointments and discerning the leading of God

To Do List

Some days do not go as I plan. Nowhere on my calendar did a call with my Coptic friend appear. Nor had I scheduled time with an Assyrian American Christian seeking to provide aid for Iraqi Christians now living in refugee camps in foreign lands. Praying with a Pakistani Christian about the bombing of churches there was not on my agenda.  Nor was time with a Arab church planter committed to God’s calling to build a church in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem.  My calendar reflected none of these appointments – but each and all of them had been set by God who is sovereign over all time and all things.

What does a life structured to accommodate the divine appointments of the Lord look like? It is a life that expects always the unexpected, anticipates miracles and knows that God will provide all the time and resources necessary for the accomplishing of His will today. Now, that does not mean that everything on “my” list always gets done. But the priority remains discerning and responding to the Lord’s agenda, not obsessing about my own stuff.

Had I only taken the calls scheduled I would have never spoken to Nader. Had I only answered the emails on my agenda I would have never helped Juliana. Had I blocked all calls from unknown numbers I would have never prayed with the representative from the United Presbyterian Church of Pakistan who feels bereft of hope in the face of continual persecution of Christian minorities in that country. Had I stuck to my plan for the day I would have missed the opportunity to hear about the growth of the Church and the spread of the gospel in Iran; the challenges of planting a church in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem with the goal of winning Muslims to Christ; the invitation to assist my Christian brothers and sisters who have nothing and no home to return to as ISIL continues its scourge of Iraq and the Levant.

I didn’t get my taxes filed. I didn’t get my nails done. I didn’t pick up my dry cleaning. I didn’t get to the grocery.  But I didn’t miss any of the divine appointments God set for the day.

I’m a list maker and I like to check things off the list. So today as I peruse the list which now contains several carry-over items from yesterday, I pray. “Lord, use me for your purposes and make me anxious for nothing other than your perfect plans.”

There is enough time to do all that God has planned. May your day be populated with the divine appointments He has set and may you find joy in keeping each one – fully present in the moment as an agent of God’s grace in the world that He so loves.

 

Join Christ Church and the Dalton, Georgia community to hear from Carmen Fowler LaBerge at the 10:30 Worship Service on:

“Resurrected Living: ‘There He is again!'”

CCP

 

Date: April 12, 2015
Time: 10:30 AM
Event: Sermon at Christ Church Presbyterian Dalton, GA
Topic: "Resurrected Living: 'There He is again!'"
Venue: Christ Church Presbyterian
706-529-2911
Location: 510 South Tibbs Road
Dalton, GA 30720
Public: Public