Archive for the ‘freedom in christ’ Tag

Sent   1 comment

This is part of a series. Check it out.

My look at politics in the run-up to the March primaries does not mean I’ve lost sight of my main topic. I’m still looking at how Christianity ought to interact with the world.

On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his Father in John 17:14-19:

I have given them your word (or message), and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world (or “because they are not of the world”),  just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe (protect them)  from the evil oneThey do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. Set them apart (consecrate or sanctify)  in the truth; your word is truth. (Jesus had already introduced the idea of practicing the truth in John 8:32)  Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart. (see John 10:36, Exodus 40-13, Leviticus 8:30 and 2 Chronicles 5:11 for more discussion).

In a real sense Christians are aliens in this world. Accepting Christ’s salvation sets us apart from the rest of humanity. We are no longer dead in sin, but made alive through Christ. That changes how we see the world and it should very much change how we interact with the world. If it doesn’t, we may need to go back and look at that time when we “accepted” Christ’s salvation. Did we … really?

Jesus was pretty clear here that He doesn’t not want His followers to be “of the world”. He wasn’t and we should follow His example.

But Jesus was equally clear that He wasn’t asking God to take His disciples out of the world. He prayed for them to be “sent” into the world.

In a very real sense, we are not of this world, but we have been sent into this world with a mission to the world. In other words, we can’t disassociate from this world. While it is not our job to save the world (that is far too God-like for our puny humanity), we are ordered by the Great Commission to do certain things in God’s name. We are sent into the world on mission to advance the advance the gospel through disciplemaking.

Jesus’s true followers have not only been crucified to the world, but also raised to new life and sent back in to point the way to freedom for others. We’ve been rescued from the darkness and given the Light not merely to flee the darkness, but to guide our steps as we go back into the world to rescue others.

Culture of Evangelism   1 comment

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Evangelical Christianity used to mean Christianity that reached out and evangelized the world around the churches.

I believe in evangelism. Evangelism lies at the heart of all missionary activity. Which why it is important that we do evangelism right.

Embedded image permalinkI’m not a professional missionary. I have a life here in Fairbanks and I don’t really want to go somewhere else to live. I don’t think God has called me to full-time professional evangelism or missionary work. I do think God has called all Christians to be ministers for Christ in our world and to obey the Great Commission, which is all about evangelism.

I’ve done some short-term mission trips. I’ve gone to a couple of foreign countries and a lot of Alaskan villages. I know some people who do the short-term mission trips all the time and I know some people who reject the concept altogether.

Evangelism done badly—by the wrong people in the wrong way at the wrong time—can be detrimental, no matter how well-intentioned. Yet, there is absolutely no question that Christians must evangelize and that commission from Jesus may have some of us considering cross-cultural evangelism.

Alaska is the most ethnically diverse state in the United, by the way, so I’ve had opportunity to view multicultural evangelism in many guises. Basically, here we don’t have a language barrier, but there are all sorts of cultural barriers.

Understanding culture is key. The logical presentation of the gospel presented as the “Four Spiritual Laws” works well for conceptual, linear thinkers in the West, but does not necessarily work with intuitional thinkers in the East or concrete relational thinkers in Latin America. In working with the foreign-born in my church I learned that eastern thinkers believe that nothing worth proving can be proved. On a mission trip to Columbia, I learned that my passable Spanish was of less importance than my ability to tell stories to illustrate ideas. Although I do not speak German, a mission trip there showed that my forays into logic were more important than my ability to speak the language, primarily because most Germans speak English better than I speak Spanish. Among Alaskan Natives knowing things like sitting at the corner of a table, not talking for long periods of time, and not looking an elder in the eye have allowed me to share the gospel with folks in the villages. Effective evangelism is contextual evangelism. While the message does not change, (Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord), the methodology of doing evangelism must change from culture to culture. Jesus Christ is still Savior and Lord, but how I communicate that must change depending on who I talk to.

Relationships are built on trust and relationship opens channels of communication. Without relationship and the resultant trust it is difficult to evangelize effectively. Building cross-cultural relationships take time and that’s one of the problems with short-term missions. You can’t build trust with another person until they feel like they have been accepted by you and they feel you value them as human beings. After trust is established, there is a greater likelihood that people will share important information. The relationship between persons defines communication and is, therefore, the most important part of the process.

Which is why I am a supporter of long-term missionaries. Nothing speaks so loudly for Christ as Paul mending tents in the Corinthian marketplace. I couldn’t build any relationships with the people I met in Colombia. I hope I acquitted Christ’s gospel well during my 10-days there, but I doubt that was really a long enough time, so I have to hope the long-term missionaries who were our hosts and the native Christians who were already there could water any seeds I managed to plant. I can go back year after year to a Native village and establish friendships, especially in this age of email where we can stay in touch during the months I’m not there. Maybe the day will come when more missionaries will return to the Alaskan bush to evangelize, but truthfully, if the Alaskan villages are to see a second great awakening, the work will likely need to be done by Native folks who accepted Christ back then and are now finally realizing that it is on them to reach their own culture.

But it is also on americanized Christians to recognize and accept that Native Christianity may not look exactly like American Christianity. It may have a lot more dancing in it … inside the churches (gasp)… and songs might be in Koyokon Athabaskan rather than English and maybe they’ll meeting in living rooms around the woodstove rather than in a red-painted building with a cross. Will we be able to accept that version of Christianity as valid within that cultural context? If Raven takes on an Aslan-like quality in the stories instead of being the Trickster will he have a place in the Native Christian churches?

I don’t know, but I do know that cultural context is critical to Christianity because God deals with Christians as individuals and individuals live within a culture. Just as I bristle when my Wendat cousins try to tell me that I shouldn’t do certain things because I am an Indian and not a white person (I’m both!), I bristle when Christians say I shouldn’t dance the Indian dances because it is not “Christian”. Sometimes, some dances are dishonoring to Christ and I don’t participate. Sometimes it’s telling a story of an ancient hunt that doesn’t invoke pagan gods and I participate. The stories of Turtle can be tricky because Turtle can be viewed as a god or simply as the earth. I am capable of judging what is acceptable to my Savior far more than some white person who doesn’t understand my culture.

On the other hand … sometimes we go too far in wrapping Christianity in culture. Watch for the continuation of this series.


Instructional Letter   1 comment

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The first-century followers of Christ faced several difficult challenges. Among the most problematic were the cultural differences separating the Jewish Christians from the Gentile Christians. Due to their deep respect for the Law of Moses, many of the early Jewish Christians felt that a faithful follower of God must believe in and obey Christ, but also keep certain aspects of the Mosaic Law, like circumcision. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, adamantly opposed this idea, maintaining that the Law was nailed to the cross and was no longer in force. The other Bible writers concurred. But many Christians in the early church were confused on the issue. Due to this confusion, Paul and Barnabas, along with the elders of the Jerusalem church and the apostles, convened to discuss the issue (Acts 15). During the discussion, the apostle Peter recounted the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 15:6-11). Paul and Barnabas then testified to the miracles that God had worked among the Gentiles through their ministry (15:12). And James, the Lord’s brother, explained that the Old Testament prophesied that the Gentiles would be allowed into the church. From reading the text, it is clear that purpose of the meeting in Jerusalem was not to vote on a policy, but to discover the Holy Spirit’s position on the issue.

The council concluded that God had opened the door of faith in Christ to the Gentiles, apart from any adherence to the Law of Moses. The council then wrote a brief letter to be circulated among the Gentile churches in which the council stated: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well” (Acts 15:29).

The inspired statement from the Jerusalem council presents point of discussion for Christians in the 21st century. Do these rules even apply today? Were they for the Gentiles then, and adjusted afterward by later revelation to the inspired Bible writers? If they still apply, how would a 21st century Christian practice obedience to the command to avoid “things strangled,” since the details of the slaughter and preparation of store-bought items such as chicken, beef, ham, and turkey are virtually unknown to the general public? In my consideration of what the gospel should look like in the context of the 21 century, an intense, honest look into the inspired council’s letter and its ramifications for today became necessary.

Most Biblical historians feel the Jerusalem council meant pagan, idolatrous feasts when issuing the statement in Acts 15. Pagan worship often included sacrificing and eating animals. Occasionally, the drained blood was offered as a “course” in the meal. These festivities also generally included sexual participation by the guest in various ways. Although the Jews had certainly worshipped at high places in the past, they generally recognized these practices to be immoral and the Jewish Christians recognized these practices to be counter to what they had been taught by Jesus. Remember, it’s been less than two decades since Jesus was crucified and resurrected. Many of the council attendees had known Jesus personally. James was his half-brother and Peter had traveled with him for three years. There was therefore no doubt in their minds what Jesus would have done. Therefore, in order to understand the context of the four prohibitions of the council, it’s important to understand their connection to pagan idolatrous practices.

The New Testament is abundantly clear in other places that such was sexual immorality  is uncategorically condemned by God (1 Corinthians 5:9-11; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:8). There was never a time when faithful followers of God were permitted to engage in sexual immorality. Yes, the pagan cultures surrounding the early churches considered such immorality to be part of life, but it was not to be permitted or tolerated in the life of a Christian, regardless of his or her cultural background.

The Council’s letter, meant to be circulated among the Gentile converts, also included the instruction for Gentile believers to “abstain from things offered to idols.” This is a clear reference to the meat that pagans would sacrifice to an idol and then eat as a part of their feasts. Such meat was not inherently sinful. We know this because the apostle Paul qualified and elaborated on the instruction to abstain from meat offered to idols in other others written only a few years after this. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul explained that there is nothing inherently sinful about eating meat offered to an idol. “Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one…. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse” (verses 4-8). He explained to the Corinthian Christians that if an unbeliever invited them to his house, they should have no problems eating the meat that the unbeliever served them, asking no questions about whether the meat was offered to an idol (1 Corinthians 10:27). Thus, it is clear that to eat meat that was offered to an idol was not inherently sinful. Paul clarified in the same passage that if a Christian was informed that the meat was offered to an idol and though their consumption might offend those believers who had a problem with such practices, they should avoid eating it (1 Corinthians 10:28; 8:10-13; Romans 14:21). The mindset, attitude, and intent of the one eating meat offered to idols were the pertinent factors involved in the actions, not any inherently sinful qualities of meat offered to idols. The prohibition to abstain from things offered to idols was not a blanket condemnation of an inherently sinful practice, but was conditioned on circumstances, attitude, and intent.

I don’t think we have a lot of meat offered to idols in our marketplaces today, but given this discussion, it would be permissable for Christians to eat meat offered to idols today, if their attitude were right and there was no one around who objected on Biblical grounds. More on that issue in a later post.

So within this one short letter, the Jerusalem Council prohibited Gentile Christians from the inherently sinful practice of sexual immorality and from the conditionally sinful practice of things offered to idols. They then moved onto “things strangled” and “blood”.

Why? The answer is in the letter.

Jewish Christians were horrified at the thought of eating or drinking blood, so the Council asked the “Gentile Christians to respect this feeling and refrain from eating blood and from undrained meat for motives of brotherly love. Why did Jewish Christians abhor consuming blood. The prohibition against eating or drinking blood predated the Law of Moses by several hundred years. Following Noah’s exit from the ark, God explained to him that he and his descendants could eat animals. God said to him: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:3). God provided a single regulation regarding the consumption of animal flesh. “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (9:4). Thus the command to avoid the consumption of blood was given several hundred years before the Mosaic Law was instituted.

Later, the Law of Moses instructed the Israelites to avoid eating or drinking blood. “Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.” (Leviticus 17:14) Moses also wrote that the Israelites could eat animals like deer or gazelle, but “Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it on the earth like water” (Deuteronomy 12:16).

If the prohibition against eating blood in Acts 15 is binding, then it shows that in every age—the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian—eating blood has been forbidden and is inherently sinful.

If eating blood is inherently sinful, how can it be differentiated from eating meats offered to idols, which was not inherently sinful, since they appear in the same list? One response to such a question would be that we only know that eating meat offered to idols was not inherently sinful because New Testament passages such as 1 Corinthians 8, 10 and Romans 14 shed further light on the practice. If these passages were not included in the New Testament, then we would be forced to conclude that eating meat sacrificed to idols was inherently sinful and still prohibited for Christians. Since there are no passages that add information to the prohibition against eating blood or things strangled, and it is included in every age (Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian) it’s logical to conclude that the prohibition is still binding on Christians today.

In other words, Christians shouldn’t be consuming blood sausage, but pork shops and shell fish are okay.

Grateful for Antioch   Leave a comment

Jesus was a Jew, born among Jews, who lived His life among Jews. His followers were all Jewish. All the early Christians were culturally Jewish.

My ancestors are mostly from northern Europe (my Wendat blood aside). They were Gentiles, worshipping nature gods and the Celtic pantheon under Roman occupation when Jesus was born.

If Jesus’ followers had conducted themselves the way the Jews always had in the past, my ancestors never would have come to Christ … but a curious thing happened in the years following Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jewish persecution of Christians drove the Jewish Christians out of Palestine.

A man named Barnabas (a Hellenistic Jew by birth who had become a Jewish Christian), who was from Cyprus, ended up in Antioch where a Christian church was just getting started. The members of the First Church of Antioch were mostly Gentiles with a smattering of Hellenistic  Jews. Barnabas soon recognized that these young Christians needed guidance. They didn’t know anything Judaism. Perhaps he worried they would continue to practice their pagan ways even as Christians. So he went to Tarsus and found Paul, who had trained as a rabbi under one of the greatest Jewish scholars of the era, but had had to flee Jewish life after becoming a Christian.

Together, these two men provided the Antioch Christians with a foundation theology. Peter checked it out and agreed with what they were doing. Non-Christians first called Jesus’ followers “Christians” at Antioch, because they recognized a unique culture growing within that community.

Around AD 46-47, the church at Antioch committed itself to the Great Commission. They wanted to tell the world beyond their sphere of influence about Jesus Christ. They elected to send their teachers, Paul and Barnabas, on this first-ever mission.

It was a fateful decision that really truly changed the world. Humbly, working for their passage, without use of the sword or political power, these men and the men and women they discipled carried the gospel throughout the known world.

When the missionaries came back from Asia Minor, the church at Jerusalem was presented with a problem. They were Jews who had become Christians. Their culture was very important to them. But there were all these new Gentile Christians. Should the culture of the church in Jerusalem force them to give up their Gentile culture to become Christians or were they already Christians who were not Jewish.

At the first ever catholic (little c intentional) council of Christian churches in Jerusalem in AD 49, it was decided that Christianity did not have a prescribed culture. We could believe the same things about God without having to eat the same foods or hold the same annual events.

This is important to me because I’m posting this on Christmas Eve, when my family celebrates Christmas. There are a lot of naysayers about Christmas who try to insist that Christians ought not to celebrate it because it is the result of paganism tainting Christianity.

I’ve been posting an education series on that, hoping to show that isn’t so. Christians come from a wide variety of cultures and we are not required to all look the same and act the same in our practices. Our theology must be in line with the Bible, but that doesn’t mean our cultures must be ignored.

I applaud the men (and women, as well, for there were some) who thoughtfully considered this issue 2000 years ago and came to recognize that God approaches us within the context of our culture, not devoid of it. Certainly there are doctrines that are clearly defined within the Bible that we should not deviate from, but that still leaves a lot of room for personalization and freedom in Christ.

Check out to see what my fellow authors have to be grateful for this Christmas Eve.

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Don’t Go Over the Fence   Leave a comment

I used to love it when my dad would watch us when we were little because he was pretty much of a pushover. He let us get away with a lot of things. We’d spend all day pretty much making messes and then he’d clean up just before Mom got home.

Dad didn’t have a lot of rules. The big one was “I give you a big yard. Don’t go over the fence.” Dad took that one very seriously. Inside the fence, there weren’t a lot of rules and they mostly involved not hurting others. Don’t kick the dog, don’t drink drain cleaner, don’t climb on two chairs and break into a locked box to get to the home defense gun, don’t touch the stove without adult supervision. Even if your playmate says it’s okay, don’t hit one another. Otherwise, we could climb trees, bang pots, and slide down the stair bannister into a mattress we pulled off a bed.

Dad gave us a lot of liberty and the rules inside the fence made sense, but Tommy used to chafe at the fence. How dare Dad limit our freedom to just our back yard! Dad had reasons — years later the guy behind us was sent to prison for sexually molesting children. I suspect Dad sensed what was going on. There was traffic in the street. There were moose wandering the neighborhood and an occasional dog running through. But we kids didn’t know that. We were just having fun … until we got to the fence and then Tommy would whisper that we were being denied our due. Other children were allowed to play in the street, to go to other yards. Why was Dad being mean?

Tommy eventually decided to test Dad’s resolve and go over the fence. He spent all day sitting in a corner with a spanked bottom while the rest of us had fun. He muttered that Dad was mean. It seemed so. After all, nothing bad had happened to Tommy except what Dad had done to discipline him.

Then the neighbor kid, who was allowed to go to other yards, got hit by a car. He ended up with a broken arm and we came to understand why Dad said “Don’t go over the fence.” It wasn’t that Dad was mean. It was that he was trying to keep us safe in a world that isn’t really safe.

Eventually, I grew and left the fence with my dad’s full blessing, but there is a part of me that misses that Dad-created circle of safety … of having almost limited liberty within definable bounds.

There are a lot of things in this world that are unsafe. Some of those risks we humans are not aware of. God, having a Big Picture view of the world, is. He gives Christians a few rules inside a big yard and tells us to obey those few rules and not go over the fence. Within that context, we have incredible freedom to truly enjoy life as it is meant to be. There are occasional risks within the bounds of God’s liberty, but those are definable and discoverable — could you hurt someone with this activity? Even if they say it’s okay, don’t do it. As long as we stay in the yard, we may never know the harm we are missing. But when we decide to test the limits of His liberty, then we expose ourselves to many risks. We may be having so much fun exploring forbidden territory that we don’t even realize what danger we’re in. It could be that we’re incapable of recognizing the danger, but God knows and He tells us to get back inside the fence — not to be mean, but because He loves us more than we love ourselves.

Allure of Power with Becky Akers   6 comments

Christian AnarchyLELA: Becky Akers has returned for more discussion on how Christianity aligns with anarchism, which is not a mainstream notion among Christians, although you will find elements of it in anabaptist traditions. Welcome back, Becky.

BECKY: Thanks, Lela. Last time we closed on a note that should utterly damn the State for every Christian: our arch-enemy, the one who mocks our Lord and gloated over His agony on the cross, who accuses us to God while seeking our destruction and eternal damnation, is the driving force behind political government. Satan owns the State. And he not only brags about that, but our merciful God recorded the conversation for us. Clearly, He wishes us to understand the State’s true nature lest political slavery ensnare us, as it has so many Christians over the centuries.

LELA: I think I know where you’re headed with this.

BECKY [smiles]: And here I consider myself a woman of mystery.

Political power is very, very alluring. Any power is, of course: strength, influence, the ability to get things done—all immensely flatter our fallen natures. “Look what I can do!” we say, whether it’s bench-pressing 500 pounds, chairing a meeting, or forcing people to do things our way. That last is particularly intoxicating, and I think it explains the State’s appeal, not only for politicians and bureaucrats but for their multitudes of victims who admire and, worse yet, cheer their depravity.

The Biblical prescription for changing the world relies on persuasion, reasoning, setting a Christian example, and, above all, waiting on the Holy Spirit to work, one heart at a time. This is slow, tedious effort. It’s often overlooked, usually unappreciated, and hardly glamorous. We don’t make headlines when we tell the cashier, “Here, you gave me back a dollar too much in change.” We don’t earn a Nobel Prize for remaining faithful to our spouse. Visiting shut-ins and prisoners, caring for widows and orphans, doesn’t make for scintillating press conferences. And the results of such patient example-setting, persuading, etc., are frequently obscure or, when noticed, disappointing. You teach boys in Sunday School for 15 years; you don’t know that one of them would have died of AIDS, three would not have attended seminary, and another 14 would have divorced but for the Scriptural precepts they studied with you. But you do learn that the kid who mouthed off in class any time his family bothered attending church becomes a serial killer when his mug-shot stares at you from Newsmax.

LELA: Christian work is a slow, labor-intensive process of loving rather than forcing. And it is a very voluntary process, with all the difficulties associated with a volunteer process.

BECKY: Exactly. Contrast that dissatisfying, boring method with the dramatic results that government—i.e., organized, physical force—achieves. Politicians pass a law, and bingo, behavior changes overnight. Bureaucrats begin regulating a new industry and entrepreneurs ten times cleverer than they must now obey them. A cop stops you at a checkpoint; you smile nervously and kowtow because the consequences of his displeasure can ruin your day or even your life.

That’s intoxicating stuff. Who doesn’t want results from his effort? Who doesn’t want all and sundry acknowledging his authority, even cringing at it? Compulsion achieves, and quickly. It succeeds where persuasion, reason and prayer fail, or seem to.

LELA: Which explains the rise of the Religious Right in the 1980s and onward … feeling like they were failing to influence society sufficiently by voluntary means, they sought the aid of government to achieve their goals.

BECKY: Yep. Like so many otherwise devout Christians, they fell into Satan’s trap of statism. Such believers tragically, inexplicably ignore the devil’s clear announcement of ownership in Matthew 4.

We’ve all heard or read this passage hundreds of times. Satan appears to a Jesus weary and weak from forty days of fasting in the wilderness. He famously tempts Him with three different ploys; let’s consider the final one:

 (Verse 8) Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; (9) And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

Lela, when you offer to give me something, you must own it first, correct? Now of course, you could proffer your neighbor’s cat or his boat—but I’d certainly protest, “Hey, wait a minute, you can’t give me that! It isn’t yours!”

LELA: The old saw that the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale? Yeah, you would hope people wouldn’t fall for that … at least nobody rich enough to afford it.

BECKY: Ah, but notice that our Lord doesn’t contest Satan’s ability to “give” him the “kingdoms of the world” (and the word “kingdom” in the original Greek is the same one for “government” that was so conspicuously missing from the passage in Romans 13. Its root is “basileus,” meaning “king” alone, unlike our use of “kingdom” for a whole country, including the people over whom a king rules. Our vernacular would better translate it as “politicians” or “government.” Satan is referring here specifically to the various political rulers over the terrain he and the Creator are surveying).

LELA: Strong’s says it’s the authority to rule not the kingdom itself.

BECKY: Exactly. Christ here tacitly agrees that Satan reigns in and through the world’s governments when He refuses to buy them by worshipping the devil.

This isn’t our only proof of government’s Satanic overseer. Let me ask, Lela: who tortured our Lord to death?

LELA: We did.

BECKY: That’s right: our sins nailed Him to that cross. But what was the actual agency of His death? The Roman government. Indeed, the Gospels emphasize that only government had the requisite force and legal authority to commit this murder. The religious establishment, much as they hate Christ and crave His death, is impotent: it takes the State to torture and impale an innocent Man.

And as it does so, its utterly demonic, hellishly brutal nature is highlighted for anyone with eyes to see. Pilate admits that Jesus is entirely innocent—yet he condemns Him to flogging. The kangaroo trial, the ridicule and degradation, the unconscionable cruelty of forcing the condemned to carry his own cross: these reveal the State in its true form, stripped of the fancy rhetoric, the flag-waving and appeals to “patriotism,” that usually cloak its horror. (I further explore the Crucifixion’s testimony of the State’s Satanic possession here.)

Christians ought to despise political government solely for crucifying our Lord. My gracious, if the State falsely accused our child, our parent, or our spouse and then electrocuted him (a quick and merciful death, compared to crucifixion), we would loathe the politicians and bureaucrats responsible, would we not? Would we ever trust government again, let alone pledge it our allegiance? Yet we prattle about God’s “ordaining” government and our “Christian” duty to “honor” the State when it fiendishly tortured our Savior to death. Where is our loyalty? Where is our decency? Where is the love, let alone worship, we owe our God? What unspeakable ingrates most Christians are as they cede the adoration and obedience due Christ to the very entity that crucified Him.

Lela, the State violates the Golden Rule, flouts the Ten Commandments, and infuriates our Lord by preying on the poor. It savagely murdered the Son of God while its owner laughed; it is the devil’s dominion. We should long ago have declared eternal, relentless war against it. Instead, Christians venerate the satanic State. They justify their idolatry with faulty translations of two Scriptural passages while deliberately ignoring a host of others, preaching and practicing subservience despite “the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” Why?

LELA: Honestly, I think Christians like the idea of liberty, but we’re afraid of too much liberty. We know human nature is not a lovely thing since the Fall, so we believe that government is necessary to prevent human nature from riding society off the rails. It’s what James Madison said about “if men were angels, government would not be necessary.” I think we also realize that while many Christians could live under the authority of Jesus Christ and get along without government rules, many of our neighbors live outside the law of God and we fear they would take advantage of freedom to oppress those around them, including us. I admire anarchism for the message of liberty, but I hesitate to fully embrace it because I’ve seen the hearts of human beings. So I invite you to come back for more discussion on the subject.


Becky Akers is a free-lance writer and historian who has written two novels about the American Revolution, Halestorm and Abducting Arnold.

The Elephant in the Churches   3 comments

Matt and Molly had a huge truth to consider. 

Sexual immorality in the church is a symptom of a root issue. Matt and Molly and countless other Christian couples who are having sex without benefit of Christian marriage are suffering from something other than the enjoyment of sex. (And, yes, suffering from something you enjoy is a paradox, but an important one to recognize).

Our society has lost the concept of giving ourselves to a concept greater than ourselves. The churches have been affected by that. We no longer see the incredible adventure of serving Christ with all of our passion as a good thing. We no longer see Biblical rules as existing for our ultimate benefit. We think we’re being denied physical pleasure, which is held up by our society as a primary goal, because God is mean rather than because God wants what is best for us.

The divorced couple, the teenagers on a date, the homosexuals, the partners of two marriages who feel themselves attracted to one another, the adult who finds him or herself attracted to a juvenile — all these people want the enjoyment of intimacy in the way that they define ultimate pleasure and none of them will ever successfully say “No” unless they have a higher reason to claim their allegiance.


We sin because we don’t have anything better to do. I’m not just talking about sex. There’s a whole panoply of evil inclinations and behaviors that capture our attention when we’re bored. We will justify anything we can think of simply to keep ourselves occupied. David sinned with Bathsheba because he didn’t have anything better to do at the time (read 2 Samuel 11 before you disagree). We focus on the adultery, but the real issue was his boredom. My husband Brad drinks when he’s bored and he becomes bored when he stops doing what God has called him to do. He’s got time on his hands, so why not fill it? (Because he becomes a jerk when he drinks). The same goes for the churches and the collective individuals who make up the myriad congregations. We have time on our hands; how can God deny us some pleasant distraction from our spiritual boredom?

Because Christians are called to do something greater than the world. Be honest! The world is dying around us. Terrorists are lopping people’s heads off in the Middle East. About 10% of the American population is addicted to alcohol and about 25% are addicted to some other substance. Our kids are committing suicide. We are aborting babies. How many wars in the United States involved in now?

The world needs Jesus and it needs Christians to bring the gospel to hurting people. Instead, we kick back in our comfortable homes and watch the latest cool television show while the world is dying. When we get bored, we scratch that itch, thinking it doesn’t matter because the world says sex outside of marriage (or gluttony, or cheating on one’s business partners, or looking at pornography, or … name that sin) is normal, but on a much deeper level, it matters so completely. What you do impacts your walk with God, your relationship with one another, the standard you set for your children, and — OF GREATEST IMPORTANCE — your testimony to other believers who may be struggling in the same area of sin and the world, which is indeed watching to see if what we believe makes a difference in the way that we live.

If we live like the world, how will the world ever see the life-changing power of Jesus?

Matt and Molly got married some weekend last summer. They spent their honeymoon working with Worldbuilders in Alaska. They were able to afford to do that because they sold Molly’s house and thereby eliminated those “financial considerations”, but more they were able to it because they eliminated the previously unrecognized (but still felt) Holy Spirit’s conviction in their lives by aligning their own interests with God’s will.

Ignoring Conviction   3 comments

Our unmarried adult friends were having sex with one another and they wanted Brad and I to give them the Good Housekeeping stamp of approval. They wanted to know why they didn’t feel convicted by the Holy Spirit for their behavior but that they felt judged by others, except for some reason, Brad and I, who had been unaware of their affair prior to it coming up during the salad course at our dining room table. Since sex is not usually a spectator activity, we figured others were as uninformed as we were and that the “judgment” they felt was conviction by God, but that they didn’t want to admit it because then they would have to do something about it.

First, Brad and I are borderline anarchists who don’t think a marriage license makes a couple “married”. We don’t particularly care if you have a state-issued piece of paper in a file that says you’re “married”. We do care that a man has covenanted with God and a woman has covenanted with God to form a godly marriage and that they have contracted with one another before a congregation of like-minded believers to marry for life.

In our friends’ circumstance, neither of their former partners were Christians and both of them had been dumped by their former spouses, so they were free to marry according to New Testament standards. They were delaying the ceremony for “financial reasons,” living in separate homes and having sex.

God often speaks to us through the witness of the church. If there were really people judging Matt and Molly (not their real names), it might have been because God was speaking to them through the “judgers”. Matt and Molly had asked Brad and I for our opinion and we gave it freely.

Generally, when we do something that is outside of God’s will and we feel that people are judging us because they “just know” what we’ve been doing, that’s really our own consciences prodding us. That they brought it up to us — Christians with reputations for being ideosyncretic and brutally honest — suggested (to us) that they were looking for approval. We didn’t give it. Instead, we spoke for God and from His word.

Matt, Molly (we said), if you’re really in love, get married. Have a ceremony in the church. Get a license if you want. Marriage is a common rule of Christian community. Just because lots of people break the rules doesn’t mean they don’t still exist. Money issues are not an excuse for violating God’s will. In fact, chances are good that if you combined households (as part of marriage), you’d have more money to settle your debts. Money troubles are not a reason to delay Christian marriage.

Brad and I thought the problem ran more deeply than financial considerations.

More on that topic in my next post.that.


Fruit of the Spirit   Leave a comment

A lot of things in the Bible require a God-centered perspective to truly understand. The Trinity, for example, is a concept that develops through a Christian’s experience with Jesus. A non-Christian may acquire a head knowledge about it, but they will never truly ‘get’ it until they’ve spent time with Jesus, in the Bible and in prayer.

Other concepts can be explained by Christians and, I believe, this is one.

If you’ve ever tried your hand at gardening, you should be familiar with the following concepts.

You reap what you sow.

The branches are defined by their root.

If you plant tomatoes seeds, you won’t harvest peppers. If you are growing tomatoes under the conditions for cabbage, your  crop will die rather than produce.

Here in Alaska, apple trees do not grow naturally. The ground is too cold for too much of the year. But we have hybridized crab apple trees and graphed regular apples to that root stock so that we can grow small, edible apples here. The root must be adapted to our conditions for the rest of the tree to grow.

Christians are like God’s hybridized seeds. He has transformed us (with our permission) to serve His will. He plants us where He needs us to be and we are there to serve His purpose. We draw our spiritual sustenance from Jesus, the root of our faith.

As the apple trees here can produce fruit because their roots are adapted to our conditions, Christians produce fruit because we are nourished by Jesus.

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

This is not ala carte Christianity. A faithful Christian will produce these fruits.

Remember what I said about growing tomatoes in conditions fit for cabbages?

Plants respond favorably to treatment that suits their needs and unfavorably to treatment that is harmful to them. Christians who choose to disobey God (and it is always a choice) won’t produce the fruit of the Spirit in any appreciable quantity, because we’ve chosen to divorce ourselves from the root of our faith and land ourselves in conditions that favor the works of the flesh.

Freedom in Christ   1 comment

Paul the apostle wrote a letter to the Galatian churches, hoping they would choose freedom in Christian faith over slavery to a dead religion.

Freedom in ChristCircumcision would save the Gentiltes and doing good works won’t save us now. Only accepting Jesus Christ as Savior will do that. It’s a simple process that is, because of human nature, oh-so-hard to do. Believe in your heart that Jesus is God and confess it aloud and you are saved.

Of course, if you still want to be in charge of your life, God knows your heart and all the magic words in the world won’t outweigh what He sees in your soul. Believing is not just a head knowledge, but an all-embracing gut level faith. It’s stepping out onto that bridge, into the fog, not entirely sure what is on the other end and accepting that there’s no going back.

Hey, it’s His house. He gets to set the standards for entry.

Galatians was meant to be read as a letter, in its entirety, but there are some high points. Chapter 5, Paul explains that Jesus set us free so that we could be free. Seems self-evident, but the Galatians had lost sight of that important understanding. “Stand firm, then,” Paul wrote. “And do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.” Don’t be circumcised, he warned, because if you choose that route, you will become reliant on your own righteousness – your morality – rather than on Jesus’ grace.

It’s all about what God did for us, not what we did for ourselves. All we have to do is wait and God will provide us with the righteousness we can never achieve on our own. All that matters if “faith working through love.”

The whole law can be summed up in a single commandment: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”  Paul urged the Galatian Christians to live by the Spirit and not carry out the desires of the flesh. The Spirit and the flesh are opposed to one another, so that it is often hard to live a Christian life.

Paul then balanced the attributes of the two ways of living – the flesh and the Spirit.

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