Monthly Archives: December 2015

Rights… Privileges… or Both Part 2

Last time I wrote, my topic was the Syrian refugee event and the call to immigrate a large segment of that war displaced population.  Without revisiting those thoughts, I’d like to simply add just one more.

Some have chosen to argue for immigration of Syrians because …’after all, Jesus was a refugee’.  The argument goes that Jesus was displaced by violence, forced to flee hostile forces and seek safety in foreign lands.  And if Jesus was just a man being bandied about by other men, then I suppose that rationale is plausible and emotionally compelling.  But, is it true?.

When Jesus was introduced to the world, His name was ‘Immanuel’ which means ‘God with us’.  Jesus was both God AND man with us.  And as such, He could never have been a refugee.  And here’s why.  The scripture says of Him…

‘…I (the Lord) have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.  If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.’  Psalm 50:9-12


‘…He (the Lord Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.  He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.’  John 1:10-11

That being so, then Jesus was not a refugee, because He was in the world He created and was sustaining by the power of His own word.  He wasn’t out of control, a mere pawn, before a more powerful monarch.  He wasn’t without the resources to fight back, for even a thought could have marshaled the legions of angels to destroy the world.  No, He wasn’t a refugee.  But, if we change just one letter in the word, we can then see the truth.  Let’s change the letter ‘g’ to the letter ‘s’, for the sake of clarity.  I realize that that change won’t be phonetically correct, but it will be doctrinally right.  Jesus was not a refugee.  He was a ‘refusee’, One that was rejected by all that was His own!  What a thought…Jesus, Our Creator (Colossians 1:16),  our Sustainer (Colossians 1:17), our Redeemer (Colossians 1:13) and our Comforting Hope (John 14: 1ff) coming into a hostile environment to free us from our bondage.

The issue was not that Jesus was a refugee.  It was that Jesus was a ‘…despised and rejected Savior…’  Isaiah 53.

Actually, we are the ones who are being dominated by a hostile force.  We are the ones with a great enemy that we cannot defeat on our own.  We are the ones under hostile aggression by the enemy of our souls.  And our only hope of salvation comes from the One who ‘loved us, came to us and gave Himself for us as an atonement for our sin’ in order to set us free.

If we celebrate anything related to the Syrian refugee issue, let’s not celebrate how philanthropic and benevolent we would be to welcome Syrians to America, but rather,  let us celebrate our Savior Who came to rescue and deliver those who were lost.  John 14:3.

Rights…? Privileges…? or both?

Currently, much national attention has been directed toward the world wide plight of refugees, especially those in war torn areas like Iraq or Syria.  Depending on your own personal or political persuasions, your reactions to our common conversation could be quite varied.  Certainly our hearts go out to those overwhelmed by violence, persecution and the results of aggression.  Our civil compassions tend to create in us a desire to help–and rightfully so.  Yet, one part of the refugee dilemma is not being discussed.  It is that oversight that I’d like to high-light here.

Listening to the main stream of thought, a person could be persuaded to conclude that we, America in general and Americans specifically, are somehow obligated to offer ‘carte blanche’ admission to our country and its resources to those affected by political, economic or personal trauma.  We, so goes the reasoning, the recipients of such blessings as we enjoy, must allow others with less opportunity to gain unfettered access to all that the United States has been allowed to accrue.  And though that view carries with it plausible arguments and laudable  emotional assertions, public agreement is far from unanimous.  Indeed, even in the church, many disagree with the open access precept and are often vilified for holding such a contrarian view.

To me, the discussion would be better served and more biblically advanced by asking one simple question:  ‘Is access to the United States a RIGHT or a PRIVILEGE or BOTH.’  If it is a ‘right’, then US authorities should never restrict access to our Country.  ALL must have unfettered use of the United States and its resources.  But, if access to the US is a granted ‘privilege’, then it must be asserted that no one has an inherent right to live in our country and require use of its resources.  How we answer this ‘rights vs privilege’ question will greatly affect our choices.  And how we answer should be significantly impacted by our understanding of how God functions.

As we discuss this issue, let’s ask ourselves a few questions about how God views Heaven.

Now, most of us would agree that Heaven is a marvelous place where God is Supreme, all things are good, resources are abundant beyond our imagination, trauma doesn’t exist and love and peace perpetually flourish.  As He sovereignly oversees Heaven, God decides who gains access to Heaven based on a person’s response to Jesus:  the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one gains access to Heaven except through the Lord Jesus.  Fail to fulfill the Lord’s will regarding Jesus and access will certainly be denied.  NO ONE has a right to Heaven until God grants that privileged right.  As He teaches in John 1:12, ‘AND TO ALL WHO RECEIVED HIM, TO THEM THAT BELIEVED IN HIS NAME, TO THEM HE GAVE THE RIGHT TO BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD.’  Some might argue that they have a ‘right’ to Heaven because they go to church.  Others say that they have a right to it because their name is on a church membership roll somewhere.  Many conclude that they deserve to be in Heaven because they have been morally good, philanthropic or compassionate.  But that is just not true.  None of those people, so labeled, has any right to access heaven.  That right is reserved for those who have received and faithfully acted upon God’s prescribed plan.  There will be no exceptions.

In a way, at least figuratively speaking, the US is somewhat like heaven on earth to some.  Those of the most impoverished among the world’s nations could conclude that life in the US is good almost beyond description.  And, relatively speaking, we live an almost ‘palatial’  life style here.  By comparison, even the most ‘down and out’ among us live far better than even the most prosperous in some other countries of the world.

So I ask, ‘Does any and everyone deserve the right to be in America simply because they see us as well off and see themselves as in need?  Do they deserve access because they are in need of it and want it?’  Or should access be based on someone’s willingness to adhere to a prescribed set of non-negotiable rules?  Should those rules be set and administered to the best of our ability, for the most certain security of those granting the privileged right and for the most compassionate expression of concern for those less blessed among the world’s needy?

As for me, let us offer to anyone access to America who has as a life goal to lift America up to be the best she can be for the Lord, who is willing to pay any price for that privileged right and who is fiercely passionate about protecting the genuine spiritual heritage of America, our national security and the Biblical/Godly mandate of Almighty God.   And, let all others be asked to remain away and be required to wait until they are ready to assume the responsibilities that accompany the privileged right of access to America.




A Business…?

‘Rich in Faith’, a new reality show appearing on Wednesday evenings, is a program developed for Oxygen Media by MTV executive, Rod Aissa.  Serving a targeted audience of an 18-34 year old female demographic, ‘Rich in Faith’ seeks to turn the viewer spotlight on young media type pastors.  One episode features Rich WilkersonJr. and his wife DawnChere and follows them as they grapple through decisions faced as they balance family and home life, during the process of starting a youth-oriented, celebrity Miami church plant.

“The Wilkersons are appealing”, said Aissa.  “And the fact that their ‘business happens to be religion‘, brings an added dimension”.

Hmmmm…Their ‘business happens to be religion‘.

Is that the way the world is now perceiving the church?  Do they see the ‘Gospel Bearing Ambassadors of Jesus’, the church, as a business venture bringing the goods?  Really…?  Dave Johnson, Parents Television Council Advisory board member commented that TV executives are now beginning to produce a mixture of reality TV and faith that appears to be more like the ‘old circus, with a sideshow tent’ than it does the real church.

But, can we hardly blame culture?  They simply read our actions and react to our preoccupations.

We say that we are all about the Person of Christ, but we seem to be preoccupied with marketing a package to consumers.

We say that we are all about adoring Jesus, but we seem to be preoccupied with advertising Him–the greater the shock factor the better.

We say that we are all about faith–how Jesus is proclaimed, but we seem to be preoccupied with focus groups–how we are perceived.

We say that we are all about giving compassion, but often we seem to be preoccupied with gaining contributions.

Let’s consider our Lord’s words, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me’.  Matthew 16:24.   A good call is that, if we are to be more than a business in search of customers…



One of my favorite Bible prayers is one of Paul’s recorded for us in Philippians 1:9-11.  There Paul says that he prays for the Philippians’ …’love to abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, that they may discern what is best and be pure and blameless until the Day of Christ Jesus…’.  (NIV)  Paul wanted, among other things, for the Philippians’ love to abound in order that they may discern what is best and be pure.

This virtue was one that was not only essential for genuine spiritual life, but one that could be tangibly verified.  Some Bible versions translate the word for pure as ‘sincere’, ‘unalloyed’ or ‘genuine’.  If we translated it literally, we would say it was ‘judged by the sun’.  Now what does that mean?

For some time now, I have been looking to find a good used washtub.  I used one as a kid, before indoor plumbing came to our region of Southern Illinois.  (Yes, I am that old.)  (And no, we didn’t walk to school without shoes, in the snow, uphill both ways…)  And until 1963, Saturday evening bath time found me making the most of soapy water in an old wash tub that the rest of the week was used mostly for washing clothes.  Call it nostalgia, if you will, but I’d just like one.  A few years ago I filled one with ice and put canned soda in it to keep the pop cold for our use at a harvest parade in our village.  But, it has long since become useless because of holes in the bottom.

I haven’t been picky in my search.  But, I have wanted the tub to have two good handles, little or no rust, no sharp edges anywhere and most of all NO HOLES.  A wash tub isn’t much use for anything but decoration if it has holes in it.

Recently, on a birthday trip to Door County, Wisconsin, my wife and I shopped–more like poked around–in a second hand store that had more than it’s share of antique type utensils and old shed stuff in a lower level.  As it happened, the owners had a couple wash tubs to choose from.  As I looked them over, I found myself instinctively walking over to an open garage, loading bay door.  Once there, I put the tubs, first one then the other, over my head and turned toward the sun to see if there were any holes in the bottoms or seams.  The sunlight would soon reveal any holes, even pin tip sized ones.  Unfortunately, though both tubs looked very serviceable, neither passed the sunlight test.  So the search continues.

Spiritually speaking, we daily go through this same process.  But this time, our lives take the place of the tubs and Jesus, the Son, takes the place of the sunlight.  We measure the ‘purity’ of our spiritual lives by lifting them up and placing them in the light of Jesus, through prayer, Bible study, fellowship and service to Him.  Those areas that reveal weakness become our areas of concern and sanctification.  We seek the Lord’s grace to grow in strength beyond the weaknesses that His light reveals.

This is what Paul was praying for with the Philippians.  He wanted them to grow in genuine love so that they could discern any areas of spiritual impurity that would be holding them back in their walk with the Lord.  As they found and addressed those areas, they would then become ‘pure’ and ‘blameless’ until the day of Christ Jesus.

As God mentions through Peter in I Peter 1:22:  ‘…now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for the brethren, love one another deeply from a ‘pure’ heart…’.

May we seek the Lord, today, to become more like Him–full of purity.  And may we resolve to not shrink from the task of seeking the light in order to reveal those ‘holes’ in our spiritual lives that hold us back from the spiritual maturity that we all want.