Why I Am Against War

U.S. 23rd Infantry fighting in France during WWII

Authors Note: This was written in 2011. I have made no changes except editorial ones (grammer and spelling).

Romans 12:18-21

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Upon reading the above passage, the phrase “heap coals of fire on his head” strikes us as a violent outcome. If we are peaceful we heap flames upon them and they burn. However it is not. It could refer to the act of the enemy “burn[ing] with pangs of guilt and remorse” (Laymen’s Commentary). However the Jewish encyclopedia states this:

“The word “coal” is often used in a metaphorical sense: 2 Samuel 14: 7 speaks of the “quenching of the coal” of a man, meaning the complete annihilation of his issue; while in Proverbs 25:22 kindness bestowed upon an enemy is called “heaping coals of fire upon his head,” since it tends to waken his deadened conscience and help him to realize his wrong. Ecclus. (Sirach) viii. 10 compares the smoldering and easily roused passion of the godless man to the coal that is easily lighted and breaks forth into flame.”

So in being peaceful the act is of a revival. The act is healing. The reason we should be peaceful is so that we can stand next to God when he says that he delights in goodness and kindness to all men (Jeremiah 9:24).

In the scripture above, Paul makes a very strong case for peace. In the current war atmosphere, I think it is very important to visit the reasons for peace and the reasons against war. I want to first place theological reasons from the Bible and from Christian authors, then place “secular” reasons why war is undesirable and should be avoided at all costs.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Peace

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian. He wrote a very famous book called The Cost of Discipleship (Which I would highly recommend). In this book, among other subjects, he wrote three chapters on peace and our response to evil. He writes in his chapter Revenge citing Matthew 5:38-42:

“The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a standstill because it does not find the resistance it is looking for. Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames. But when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match”

Here Bonhoeffer creates the image of a peaceful christian. In a practical sense, if someone is harming us, it does no good to do the same. God could have waged war with us and surely wiped us out. But instead he came to earth to discuss peace terms. He came to give life and peace to our souls that are at enmity with Him. We are to now shew forth His love and grace to other men. All men. Also Bonhoeffer writes in the chapter The Enemy-the “Extraordinary”, referring to Matthew 5:43-48:

“Here Jesus goes further and bids us not only to bear with evil and the evil person patiently, not only to refrain from treating him as he treats us, but actively to engage in heart-felt love towards him.”

Once again we see the same principle stated. We are to patently endure the evil, for this comes as a shock to the evil. It has not meet the resistance it is looking for. Bonhoeffer makes a call to love, peace and prayer. We are to pray for our enemy; to plea to God for them and that He would protect us. War is certainly not in the disciples mind. The disciple should take great measures to ensure peace. Finally my last quote from Bonhoeffer:

“Our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility… As a Christian I am called to treat my enemy as a brother and to meet hostility with love. My behavior is thus determined not by the way others treat me, but by the treatment I receive from Jesus.”

Bonhoeffer in Practice

Unfortunately Bonhoeffer did not live fully up to his ideas. I want to include that the actions of the messenger does not change the truth of the message. We should expect the messenger to abound by his laws, for who else has greater understanding of the message than the messenger. However Bonhoeffer’s action does not change the truth of the message and he does redeem himself. Bonhoeffer, after careful consideration, found it necessary to assassinate Hitler. He participated in a group that wanted to achieve this cause. I believe that his action is a result of a lack of faith in God. His involvement in this group led to his arrest and imprisonment. During his imprisonment he behaved much like Paul. He did not resist. He was executed at Flossenbürg concentration camp by direct order of Heinrich Himmler, April 9, 1945.

Bible Verses on Peace and Anti-War

This list is by no means exhaustive because it was compiled by myself based on the verses I know. The verses listed relate to my overall message.

  • Matthew 5:9
  • Romans 12:9-10;18-21
  • Ephesians 6:12
  • Matthew 5:43-48
  • 1 Corinthians 6:20
  • Romans 13:14
  • Genesis 1:27
  • Acts 5:29
  • Philippians 4:8
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:15
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15
  • 1 Timothy 4:7-8
  • 1 Peter 4:15-16
  • 1 Peter 5:10
  • Romans 13:9-14
  • Psalms 37:1-2;7-8
  • Psalms 20:7

The Muslim Religion

Before I go into the “secular” reasons why war is unacceptable (esp. the current wars) I want to address the issue of the Muslim religion being violent. First off, the Bible commands us to be peaceful to all Muslims. As explained earlier this Muslim hate will do nothing good. However when one looks at the Quran, you can not but see the violence that is commissioned. I found this webpage listing various verses of the Quran and giving anti-violence commentary. The link is http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/023-violence.htm. After reading this I am convinced that the Quran is inherently violent. However we are not to have a hate or even a distaste for Muslims. My opinion of Muslims have not changed. I believe them to be respectable people. I still call us to be at peace with them at all costs.

Conclusion To The Theology Section

If we truly have a love for the truth and a longing for peace, we will find that war is essentially unnecessary. We can not reach lost souls by killing them. We are not glorifying the name of Christ, nor are we showing forth the end of this world, by taking part in violence and warfare. If we truly care about evangelizing to lost souls and we claim to never rest until the whole world hears the gospel, then warfare is not compatible. If all men are created in the image of God, then why kill our brother and even potential fellow Christian? If we claim that grace is by God and “not of our own works lest any man should boast”, then there is no man more deserving of death than us.
Resolved, peace is the ultimate good and can even proclaim the gospel of Christ, and war is never an acceptable thing.
We should be more concerned about sending missionaries overseas rather than soldiers.

Pacifism Not Passive-ism

I want to say that my views are not passive, rather I am calling for peace at all costs. Bonhoeffer rights in the chapter Revenge

“Patient endurance of evil does not mean a recognition of its rights…the shameful assault, the deed of violence and the act of exploitation are still evil. The disciple must realize this, and bear witness to it as Jesus did, just because this is the only way evil can be met and overcome.”

I still say murder is evil. I still say that torture is evil. However It is not my duty, or any of my business to punish people thousands of miles away from me. And it is certainly not the government’s responsibility. I am against evil, but in fighting wars we exchange bullets for bullets. Look as this quote by the historian Howard Zinn:

“It was a war against an enemy of unspeakable evil. Hitler’s Germany was extending totalitarianism, racism, militarism, and overt aggressive warfare beyond what an already cynical world had experienced. And yet, did the governments conducting this war—England, the United States, the Soviet Union—represent something significantly different, so that their victory would be a blow to imperialism, racism, totalitarianism, militarism, in the world?”

Obviously the answer is no. Obviously World War 1 was not “the war to end all wars”. That very title is laughable. I was reminded of the quote by Bonhoeffer:

“By refusing to pay back the enemy in his own coin, and by preferring to suffer without resistance, the Christian exhibits the sinfulness of contumely and insult.”

By not fighting evil it runs out of “coins” and it is seen as truly evil. Are the jhadists in Iraq and Afghanistan evil? I’m not sure. Our troops are doing exactly what they are. bombing, maiming, torturing, and killing.

Therefore, by being peaceful, we still have a duty to declare evil and bear witness to atrocities. We do not turn a blind eye, and we do not sink into isolationism. The pro-war rhetoric promotes a excluded middle argument: we must go to war to protect ourselves or sink into isolationism. Well no. There is a middle. How about “Opening ourselves up to friendship, honest trade and diplomacy” (Ron Paul)? How about refusing to exchange bullets for bullets? In the 90s, the U.S. put war embargo’s upon Iraq, killing an estimated 1.5 million children. The number of U.S civilians killed in 9/11? 2,996 people. Now yes 9/11 was a great tragedy, and I abhor any loss of life. So why do we mourn the loss of 2,996 people, when a decade ago 1.5 million children (not including adults) were killed and most responded the same way one would hearing about the loss of pawns on a chess board?

The Struggle of “Defending our Country” Vs. History

The most common last word on american wars is that statement, well don’t we need to protect our country against its enemies? Yes we most certainly do. As stated above, I am not advocating a “play dead” strategy. However as also stated above, how can we mourn our three thousand dead, yet shrug at their 1.5 million dead?

American history is one filed with imperialism and interventionism. From the Mexican war under Zachary Taylor to the Iraq war under Bush, they are all atrocities that were un-just. The list goes on. The Mexican-American war, the Philippians war, the Spanish-American war, the annexation of Hawaii (which was essential a military coup), the Platt Amendment, and a list of interventionist policies that existed from Taft onward.

In the current war, and the past one (Iraq), great atrocities were committed on behalf of the U.S. government. Just take a quick look at U.S. history in the Middle East (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WVtpao0KSM). Upon this understanding, and an understanding of other Imperialist history touched on in Lawrence Vance’s book Christianity and War (and reading chapter 12 entitled The Empire and the People in Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States which is available online), it become difficult for me to say the wars we are fighting are defensive. Certainly the past wars mentioned above were not defensive. The question raised by history is this: are we really protecting ourselves from an unforeseen, unprovoked enemy? History seems to be shouting, no we are not. Until we adopt the getting-our-tentacles-out-of-foreign-affairs policy, we will not be able to say we are acting in self-defense.

The Costs of War

I read a book last year called Lethal Warriors by David Philips. I would recommend this book to just about anyone. It’s a book about soldiers overseas who come home with untreated PTSD. It’s mainly meant to be a critique of the army’s handling of PTSD. In general it explains, point-blank, the horrors of war. It fully embodies the quote by William Tecumseh Sherman:

It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”

Honestly I find this quote to be very ironic considering the horrible actions of Sherman, but none the less his quote is true. War is a nightmare. In Lethal Warriors, soldiers give multiple accounts of terrorizing civilians:

“‘I’m all about spreading freedom and democracy and everything,’ said Josh Butler, another soldier in the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. ‘But it seems like the Iraqis didn’t even want it.’

Soldiers said discipline started to break down.

‘Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,’ Freeman said. ‘You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley.’

If soldiers were hit by an IED, they would aim machine guns and grenade launchers in every direction, Marquez said, and ‘just light the whole area up. If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ’em.’

Other soldiers said they shot random cars, killing civilians.

‘It was just a free-for-all,’ said Marcus Mifflin, 21, a friend of Eastridge who was medically discharged with PTSD after the tour. ‘You didn’t get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong. And that was hard. So things happened. Taxi drivers got shot for no reason. Guys got kidnapped and taken to the bridge and interrogated and dropped off.’

Unfortunately that’s just a taste. War leaves a country with huge scars. War leaves troops wondering what they even fought for. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. once said:

“Almost every war ends, properly, with its veterans feeling deceived and pointless and gullible, with their being persuaded that all participants were equally vile.”

War is never a great thing. To me it is detestable and it always has a great cost. Again from Lethal Warriors:

“In June 2005…his platoon was walking across a field when a sniper’s bullet smashed through his best friend’s skull under the helmet.

The platoon circled its guns and grenade launchers, Marquez said, and ‘tore that neighborhood up.'”

Lesson from Lethal Warriors

PTSD is the acronym for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It usually happens when a person suffers a serious traumatic event or comes across traumatic events repeatedly. Soldiers are trained on instinct. It should come as no surprise that most people don’t want to shoot other people. It was found that most soldiers don’t shoot during combat (Read On Killing by David Grossman). To fix this, the army implemented a training exercise that teaches soldiers to shoot upon seeing the enemy. This made shooting an instinct and it was found the number of soldiers who shoot went up.

The problem with this is the soldiers brains “ethic part” shrunk (literally) and the instinct part of the brain grew. That is what trauma did to the soldiers. They began to be very jumpy and stressed. The instinct part of their brain took over. Also the brain freaks out with the overload of stress and they begin to have nightmares and flashbacks and even hallucinations.

All the soldiers knew to do was kill. They had this instinct drilled in them. Animistic behavior works in some contexts (war) but it cannot work in society. That’s exactly whats happened. That is one of the many costs of war.

Against the Current Foreign Policy

We cannot be the policemen of the world. In truth we don’t have the resources or the energy to take on such a task. And such a task will certainly procure enemies who wish for us to get our nose out of other people’s business. I believe this explains our situation today. Do not by into the lie that they hate us for our freedom. This is by far the dumbest reason to attack someone and it covers up the past. We have established a military presence in their neighborhoods! Are we so surprised that they don’t like our soldiers? It should come to no surprise.

And the whole idea of us liberating them is pure fantasy. In taking down “the enemy”, we have killed countless civilians, destroyed buildings and other property, and have demolished their economy. You can never expect a war to happen, and someone not be affected by it. We do not wage war in a vacuum. Countless lives over there are being affected.

The thing that is laughable to me is we went to Iraq looking for “weapons of mass destruction”. Less than two years later it was found that there are none. So why are we still over there? We are wasting our resources and our men (Fathers, sons, brothers, workers) and we are destroying their resources and men. We have convinced ourselves that the men over there are all “Islamic extremists”.

I stand by Ron Paul and others (esp. Lawrence Vance) by saying we need to remove our troops from all of our 160 countries that we find some need to be in all in at once. Our warfare needs to be purely defensive.

In Conclusion

In conclusion we should have peace at all costs (war≠peace). Albert Eisenstein once said:

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, science for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable an ignoreable war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

As Christians we should strive to show the love and peace of Christ to all men. We should strive for peace with all men. I would defiantly argue that the current wars are unjustifiable and will do a lot more damage in the long run than we expect. Finally I want to quote Charles Spurgeon:

“The great crime of war can never promote the religion of peace. The battle, and the garment rolled in blood, are not a fitting prelude to “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” And I do firmly hold, that the slaughter of men, that bayonets, and swords, and guns, have never yet been, and never can be, promoters of the gospel.”

Further Reading

  • Christianity and War by Laurence M. Vance
  • Lethal Warriors by David Philips
  • On Killing by David Grossman (recommended by David Philips)
  • War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges
  • What About Hitler? by Robert Brimlow
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Rebellion Vs. Peace

Russian Riot

Riots in Petrograd, July 4, 1917

Authors note: This essay was written five years ago. I cannot fully establish at what level the opinions expressed therein are current (i.e. I’m not entirely convinced that I am a orthodox pacifist), but I cannot simply scrap the writing as I think the biblical applications are decent and worth considering.

1 Peter 2:13-24

13Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 17Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. 18Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 21For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I am a pacifist. I believe that violence, on any scale is wrong. However I am a Biblical restorationist first and foremost. I believe if a viewpoint can not be supported with scripture, it is not logical. If scripture and discipleship is practical then it seems clear to me that all our viewpoints should be involved in scripture (Deuteronomy 32:46). We should not hold viewpoints that are “outside” the Bible, for this is not theologically logical. No part of our lives cannot exist “outside” of Christ and His Word (Galatians 2:20). However I seem to be bringing the cart before the horse. Let me explain using an anecdote.

This topic came to me during a discussion in my AP US History class. We were talking about the legitimacy of violence to free the slaves in the context of colonial times. You can see the typical rhetoric that sprung up. Fight fire with fire, it’s the only way to get attention, the masters wont change their evil ways without a violent upheaval to their world, etc. However I proposed a different solution that was subsequently dismissed.

I stated that peace was the ultimate means of resistance. In peace, you place yourself on a higher level than the aggressor. You passively resist. You do not fight back or use any form of violence. This will get the masters attention, because it places him at such a different level than the passive slave. In that situation the slave is more human than the master, but a rebellion makes the violent slave not much different from the cruel master. Of course my argument was declared invalid.

The question this discussion raises is one of authority vs. rebellion. When do we obey, and when, if ever, do we resist and overthrow? This is a great question and is one I hope to address. As following my modus operandi, I will turn to scripture first and then turn to secular reasons why I believe passive resistance rather than aggression is right. I will be primarily focusing on the passage quoted above.

Looking to Jesus

Jesus Christ is declared to be the center of our life. Discipleship is the practice of taking on the imitation of Christ. The question is, what did Jesus do?

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23 ESV)

Right there is a very practical example for us to follow. We are given clear instructions on what to do. Lets split this apart. Jesus did not revile in return to those who reviled Him. To revile is to harshly insult, or even abuse. Jesus never showed any sign of anger towards anyone in the Gospels. In fact He took people’s criticisms very passively. The Bible says He patiently endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). He did it out of love and compassion for us, and a hope for the future. He knew violence would not save us, nor would it bring peace to a people. He looked to God and desired the true will of the Father and not His own will¹ (Mark 14:36)

This is the example we should follow. When undergoing an aggression, we are to passively endure (in using the word resist, I feel it implies aggression) looking always to the judge of our souls.

So I Just Roll Over and Die?

Well…I suppose if it comes to that. There is no “death on my feet than on my knees” in the life of a disciple. We do not seek glory or revolution except Christ’s kingdom, which is not earthly. We die with Christ on our minds, not death or rebellion. This was not on Jesus mind when he was being arrested:

Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:53-54)

Jesus did not even wish for revenge! Remember the cried out words of Jesus: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”? Jesus had compassion upon us even upon his death at our hands. Rather than wish death upon the aggressor we should earnestly pray that their soul might be secured and that ours would be as well.

Authority and Submission, Not Rebellion

No it is not easy. In fact I believe it take the power of God to accomplish this feat in us. Every part of our being screams out rebel and fight back, but Christ whispers peace, be still. Yes I am stating we should submissive, because in being submissive we recognize that the authority will be judged by God.If all authority is given by God, then the authority will be judged accordingly.

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12 ESV)

Bonhoeffer also talks about how when we “tumble with the world”, we give witness to its judgement. he is writing in the context of 1 Corinthians 7:20-24

[Paul’s] real meaning is that to renounce rebellion and revolution is the most appropriate way of expressing our conviction that the Christian hope is not set on this world, but on Christ and his kingdom…to stay in the world with God means simply live in the rough and tumble of the world and at the same time remain in the Body of Christ, the visible Church, to take part in its worship and to live the life of discipleship. In so doing we bear testimony to the defeat of this world. (The Cost of Discipleship pg.260)

We are showing the world that it’s over. God is the true peace, and nothing we do with our human hands can bring peace. Rebellion and revenge is certainly not in the disciples mind.

In being submissive we are also bearing witness to the fact that God will judge us all. He will judge me and my response to authority, and he will judge authority. He will judge authority even more if we are passive in their aggression, because they are misusing a gift of God.

What of Civil Disobedience?

So is it right to disobey the laws of the state/authority? Well hopefully you would resist if the state told you to murder your friend! But do we always resist the laws we find unjust? What is the criteria?

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:27-29)

Here the authority of the day had commanded the Apostles not to teach in Jesus name, however the Apostles had a higher authority to which they answered to. Throughout history, the Church has always resisted authority in such a manner; preaching the name of Jesus and suffering persecution for it. The criterion is such

1) They only resisted² when the State impeded the spread of the gospel or when the states passed a law contrary to the gospel

2) They suffered passively for their crimes rather than resisting the States punishments

Today there are countless Christians and converts who are breaking the laws of governments to spread the gospel of Christ. Despite persecution, the underground churches are growing. There are some who say that these things are bad, for we need to obey the state. But this was not the attitudes of the Apostles. They held the spread of the Gospel to be the highest worth. Today there is a group called Voice of the Martyrs who help persecuted Christians all around the world.

But these persecuted Christians never called for rebellion, but rather a passive endurance and even a love for their captors. They acted just like Jesus did in the verse at the beginning of this article. They were peacefully spreading the Gospel, and taking the shame like the apostles did in Acts 5:

And when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. (Acts 5:40-41)

This is the only time a Disciple resists is when he finds his authority is impeding his walk with Christ.

Evils Greatest Threat—Our Faith

No evils greatest threat is not rebellions or people who try to overthrow them. Their greatest threat is the fact that God is behind all we do for Him. The famous verse “If God be for us, who can be against us?” rings true in all situations. If were doing God will, nothing can stand against us. Our faith in God cannot be defied.

Scripture commands us to have faith in God. Isaiah 41:10 states:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (ESV)

God has His hands upon us. A verse that comes to mind is Romans 8:28 and Deuteronomy 31:6:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. (ESV)

I can quote plenty more verses that explain how God is for us, and His plans cannot fail. God is truly sovereign and nothing can frustrate His plans. We are all in His hands, and part of His plan. No God is not some vengeful God who exists to exact retribution upon evil doers or the un-churched. He delights in the destruction of no one (Ezekiel 18:32). Hear John Piper on the sovereignty of God:

But when God looks at a painful or wicked event through His wide-angle lens, He sees it in relation to everything leading up to it and everything flowing out from it. He sees it in relation to all the connections and effects that form a pattern, or mosaic, stretching into eternity. This mosaic in all its parts—good and evil—brings Him delight. (Christian Hedonism pg.39)

Here we see that God truly has a bigger plan than we do. We see things on a first person view in a huge spanning world, and we only see the present. God sees the whole world, and He knows exactly how the pieces will come together. It could be in an adverse situation that we are struggling through, God is shaping good qualities that we cannot see coming together. God is like a novelist, who sees the characters at the end, and knows how he wants them to end us. However he is less like a novelist in that, or course, we have free will. While we are not moved around by God like chess pieces, He does move the “chess board”, if you will, to help the “pieces” (us) to move into advantageous circumstances.³

Conclusion

I hope the central point that you grasp is that God controls all things and He knows all. All things work together for good, even the painful experiences. Clearly God knows what He’s doing; He loves us and has our best interests in mind.

As stated above, the Disciple’s responsibility is to be a peacemaker. We are to be peace in situations where there is turmoil and pain. We are to act as Jesus acted, because He is our template.

Notes

1: That is, the man Christ Jesus, not the spirit of God in him…Pentecostals tend to believe that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human at once. For if this was not that case, why would he pray in such a way as he did in Mark 14?

2: Remember the resistance is one of peace (passive), and never violence, physical or otherwise.

3: For more on Gods sovereignty (not to mention a better explanation) see John Piper’s The Pleasures of God, or visit desiringgod.org to find free resources on God’s sovereignty.

Spiritual Physicians

Matthew 9:12

12 But when Jesus heard[ that], he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

1 Corinthians 3:1-2

1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal,[ even] as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able[ to bear it], neither yet now are ye able.

In the medical field there is a something that is hammered in. Treat the patient like a human being and not a disease. They’re not a lab subject. They are a real person with a real problem. As a doctor is it important that we touch both the disease and the person. It is easily comparable with the church. Jesus basically said the church is a sanctuary for the sick. One guy said it this way: “Religion is not a crutch for the broken, but a stretcher for the dead”. That’s what this is all about. They are the lost sheep, and when we find them, they are going to be broken and traumatized. They are going to have massive tumors of sin in their souls. Now let’s refer to a doctor. Would he walk up to a man who got badly injured because he was driving drunk and slap him around and say “See? Because you drive drunk you’re going to die.”? I would hope not! Rather the doctor notices the man is hurt, and could possibly die and runs to stitch that wound. What a parallel to the church! Look at what Jesus said in John 9:3:

3 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. (The Message)

Isn’t that incredible? Jesus said don’t blame him, but look for what God can do. As I look at people who call themselves Christian and I read how they treat unbelievers; the atheist cusses Christ, and being the loving Christian they are the Christian cusses back and adds a “your only making your self a place in eternal damnation”. Oh praise god! Let’s curse and tell people they’re going to Hell cause that’s what Jesus did right? No, Jesus always responded with peace and understanding and love. But in the midst of all these pseudo-Christains, I sometimes find one guy who tells the atheist “I pray God gives you the right answer” or “I respect your thoughts, but let me tell you what I believe God has done for me”. That is peacemaking.

“He who wins souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30). We have got to be wise about this stuff. In the passage above, Paul talks about giving them spiritual milk and not meat. We have got to be spiritual physicians. We need to treat the disease, yes. But our main concern should be treating the patient. If a patient doesn’t trust the doctor, why would they let the doctor work on them. We’ve got to establish trust. And growth. If people get a prosthetic limb, they go thorough a lot of physical training to learn to use that limb properly. And even then I can imagine it’s a tough adjustment. Same thing with the church. We’ve got to start that process. We feed them milk, not meat. We’ve got to be by them, step by step. Teach them to make this life with this new heart. Lest the new heart fails. It’s a slow process, and we just come right out and demand they follow everything we agree to. Now of course, you would expect a ten-year old to be able to eat meat and talk fluently. Likewise in a spiritual sense. Don’t cut people off by plopping a big spiritual steak in front of them. That’s what turns them off. They can’t handle that. They must be fed milk. That’s what the hospitals do. If they work on your intestines, they don’t want you to start eating burgers! They give you like liquid and if you pass that then they now the digestive system is working properly. They start a slow process of getting your digestive system back in the swing of things. Anytime something is replaced, the doctors watch closely to make are your body doesn’t reject it and makes sure the body will grow with that replacement. It should be the exact same in the church.

Above all we are Spiritual Physicians, not Judges and Juries.

Grace and Discipleship

Ephesians 1:3-5 (MSG)

3 How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him.4 Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.5 Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (MSG)

1 It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin.2 You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.3 We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.4 Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love,5 he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!6 Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.7 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.8 Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!9 We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!10 No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

When I read Ephesians I get this sense that that Paul is trying to hammer something in. Gods grace. Gods grace is all-powerful and ever reaching! He never lets you go! He has such great plans for you. You may not feel it with all the spiritual attacks we keep getting. Maybe you feel like God cant love you with all you’ve done. Maybe you feel like God doesn’t love you. You can’t feel Him. Or you have attitudes and thoughts that you know a Christian shouldn’t have. But I am here to tell you, I know He loves us and I know His grace is enough. Through His love and mercy we have favor with Him. He loves us. You’re here aren’t you? He wants to show His grace and power. His grace will reach to you in the darkest comer. Just look to Him. He will grab you and pull you out of the hands of the enemy.

So what’s the solution? We must fight the enemy. Reach out to God. All He wants is to hear you say, “I’ll give it my all”. He wants your love. That’s why he loved us in the first place! While sin was keeping us in the muck and filth, Gods hand reached out and, while suffering scars Himself, grabbed you and said “I’ll pull you out.” God did so much to get to us. Take heart! He has over come the world! He has loved us with an undying and ever-reaching love! Let’s pray that God will impart this grace and love into our hearts everyday! When the enemy surrounds us, stand and fight!

Ephesians 6:10-13 (MSG)

10 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong.11 So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.12 This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.13 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.

God has provided us weapons to fight the enemy. We are not created to struggle, but to live in victory through the power of the Holy Spirit. If we have the spirit of God in us, we have nothing to fear. The passage above is the manual to spiritual warfare. God has called us to be separated from our old lives; we don’t have to lug around our struggles and face them for the rest of our lives. His grace covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)

So be vigilant, and consistent. The apostle Paul told Timothy, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV) In other words, without spiritual disciplines, you would be helpless.

Discipleship is a two fold process. It is God power plus your efforts. God alone cannot save you. He calls for your efforts, like faith and pray and submission.

With Gods grace and our discipleship, we have the ability to conquer our sins.

A Holy Discontentment

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” -Thomas A. Edison

Romans 9:1-3 ESV

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

I have recently been touched by all this talk of revival. Joe Stuart once told a group of guys from our church that he felt a heavy sorrow from God for Austin Texas. Since then I have praying quite frequently for God to give me a sorrow, a discontentment. Revival will never happen unless will feel Gods desire for the world to be saved. We must pray and fast for this holy discontent! It is a must! Listen to what Jesus said.

And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:16 ESV)

Jesus declares that he must bring these lost sheep! This “must” in this verse is the most beautiful word in the Bible to me. Jesus just had to have us! He endured the cross for us,for the joy set before Him. That joy was seeing us a part of His flock. How much is God’s sorrow for the lost, even in one city in the middle of Texas? I pray He would impart that sorrow to me and it would shake me up. I pray a holy discontentment would fall upon my entire church like a waterfall! I pray that a sorrow for the lost would befall us and would not let up. Yea, may we endure a holy torture for the lost ones! A desire for change brings forth progress.

Jim Elliot was a young missionary of 25 years old to Ecuador in the 1950s. He had a fiery passion ignited by God. Here is a quote from the book Though Gates of Splendor by his wife:

“‘He makes His ministers a flame of fire.’ Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be a flame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul–short life? In me there dwells the Spirit of the Great Short-Lived. whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him. ‘Make me Thy Fuel, Flame of God'”

I am putting forth a call that goes out to any who may hear. Pray and fast for revival. Pray this verse:

Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;
let the earth cause them both to sprout;
I the Lord have created it. (Isaiah 45:8)

Let it all be so! By the authority in Jesus name!

Moving Water

A rock in a rapids at Estes Park, CO
Photo Credit: Myself

“Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

One truth that is essential to Christianity is this: Discipleship is a journey with the end being heaven. We are ever moving in a positive direction. As Christains the common thing we can say is oh I’m good, I’m going to church, I pray once a week, I’m good to go. We convince ourselves we are good. Oh I’ll get on fire for God when I get older. Oh I’ll pray and fast later. We become stagnant. We don’t have any bad things flowing in, but no good things flowing in. Your spirit just rots. It rusts. The thing we need to realize is discipleship is a pursuit of righteousness. Its not simply a line we don’t cross. Its a walk! Everyday we need to remind ourselves we are in a war between our flesh and our spirit.

John Piper talks about a wartime mentality and what it means:

“I need to hear this message again and again, because I drift into a peacetime mind-set as certainly as rain falls down and flames go up. I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth “home”. Before you know it, I am calling luxuries “needs” and using my money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I dont think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached peoples drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mind-set that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness. And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mind-set.”

Bonhoeffers famous passage from Cost of Discipleship in chapter 1, where he describes the relationship between cheap and costly grace:

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, greace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the feild; It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man wil pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the diciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son to dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Here Bonhoeffer lays out what true discipleship is. It is a walk that is ever moving and ever growing. We don’t no set up camp. We don’t even take rests. It is a continuous journey toward Christ. Let’s fight stagnation. Let us put on the armour of God and stand against the wiles of the Devil. Let us chase after Gods glory. Let us desire Him from the depths of our being. Let us strive for costly grace.

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Restrictions and Struggles

In Praise of Pain

by Heather McHugh

A brilliance takes up residence in flaws—
a brilliance all the unchipped faces of design
refuse. The wine collects its starlets
at a lip’s fault, sunlight where the nicked
glass angles, and affection where the eye
is least correctable, where arrows of
unquivered light are lodged, where someone
else’s eyes have come to be concerned.
For beauty’s sake, assault and drive and burn
the devil from the simply perfect sun.
Demand a birthmark on the skin of love,
a tremble in the touch, in come keep reading

Peace and Joy

Isn’t it a mystery, this fruit of the spirit, peace? God calls us to be content in all things. Peace is a deep rooted satisfaction in knowing Jesus Christ. Not rooted in the current situation, but in knowing that no matter the current situation, I know God. It’s in his hands. Isn’t that a impossible command? That when I stare in the face of death, I am to be at peace. Better yet that I am even able to be at keep reading

God Adopted You

Posted on FB on 7/11/09
“Some people think that good deeds alone will get you into heaven. But, you see, good deeds and the Holy Ghost go hand-in-hand. Let me put it in metaphorical terms. My sister was living with us for about 4-5 months, but I could not truly call her my sister untill we adopted her and she took on the family name. It’s the same with God. You can’t live with God, and take on the family name, and all the inheritance that comes with it untill God adopts you. The Holy Ghost is the adoption process. God loves you and he wants to adopt you! Dont it ever be said that God doesn’t love you, cause if God is love, then its impossible for him not to love you. Moving back, but you don’t get adopted and then run away from the family, you stay with Mom and Dad, follow the rules, and enjoy their fellowship. You can not survive without your Mom and Dad, and its the same with God! No wonder he’s called the Father!”