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From Tragedy to Triumph:  Facing Life when We Lift Our Voice in Pain and Suffering

By Will Honeycutt

In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God that was immune to it?

I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross.

These powerful words come from the late John R. W. Stott who is now RIP (Rejoicing In the Presence!).  Dr. Stott, though I never met him, had a tremendous impact on me and my life and thinking.  His book, The Cross of Christ, and more particularly the chapter “Suffering and Glory,” from which the above quotes come, did more to give me perspective on suffering, and I believe a healthy one, than any other book I think I have read.  Why?  Because our God, mystery thought it is, is the God who did not remain in heaven in the comforts of his glory, but took upon himself human form and flesh and with a body of flesh and blood came to the “vale of tears” to experience death.  We all know the “passion” of Christ in terms of his Passion Week; those last days before He died.  We also know of the brutal scourging and crucifixion He went through at the end of that week.

We appreciate the sacrifice He made for our redemption, and truly, the cross of Christ, as Stott indicated, makes God a lot more accessible to us in our suffering.  He is not the aloof Being who remains in the heavens and looks down upon us in our suffering and pain.  I remember talking to a young man in the hospital when I worked in mental health who said that God is like the kid with the magnifying glass hovering over an anthill, burning us and enjoying it.  How did He come to this conclusion?  Why would he say such a thing about God?  Because he did not really understand the biblical God and the cross of Christ.  Even if the metaphor had truth in it, and that God delighted in our suffering, like the kid with the magnifying glass, the God of the Bible would still be the one that became an ant and suffered with us.

But what I want to reflect on is how Jesus was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” as we learn in Isaiah and this is referring, I think, to his entire life, not just that last few days, or particularly the crucifixion.  Let’s not limit our understanding of our suffering Savior to Passion Week.  Let’s walk with him through a few of the times in his life that he, like us, most likely suffered emotionally due to life’s stresses, hardships and tragedies.  I think if we do this, we will appreciate that our God, in human form and flesh, identified with our pain and suffering throughout his life.  This realization over the last few years has given me a deeper love and appreciation for my Savior and a confidence that when I talk to Him about my suffering, he really does understand, and not just because of the cross.  I have come to the conclusion that the more deeply I understand the suffering of Christ, the less often I will question the love of God.

Our Lord’s suffering began when He chose not to embrace His divine prerogatives and position, and, as John says, “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).  What a shock this must have been for God, in all of his holiness and splendor,  Who is of much purer eyes than to behold iniquity (Habakkuk 1:13), to plunge headlong into this dark and depraved world filled with sinful, prideful, greedy, self-absorbed, lecherous, drunken, rebellious people.  To experience suffering that comes from an evil that was not even His own making!  This world causes us loss, pain and suffering as well, even when we are making the best of choices and living rightly, as did Jesus.  For 30 short years Jesus endured this sick depravity in a way that we never could understand.  That is love; to intentionally intersect with corruption to bring redemption to the fallen.  Jesus’ suffering was not because of his own sin, but He still shows how to graciously endure pain as One who was the very definition and source of the Right and the Good.  He took on him what he never deserved.  If Jesus, who could not be accused of any sin suffered in life as He did (and this means much more than what He endured on the cross as we will soon consider) how can we, sinners by choice, expect any better?  As good a life as we might live, we still sin, but Jesus suffered deeply, though morally perfect and free from sin.

Another thing is that Jesus was born of a virgin.  You may not think this is necessarily suffering, but consider this.  Our Savior took to Himself a situation that was of great scandal and ill repute.  It would be an utter shame in those days for a young, unmarried girl, such as Mary was, to be pregnant!  It was a shame and honor culture, so we can imagine that Jesus was not necessarily welcomed into the family.  Consider why Mary, a young pregnant woman due to deliver anytime, was on a 100 mile trek on a donkey’s back to give birth to her first-born child in an animal’s feeding trough, amidst the dirt and feces.  Where were her parents?  Where were Joseph’s?  Why do we not hear of Jesus’ grandparents having anything to do with him and the family?  Could it be that the couple and Jesus were rejected?  These scandalous, embarrassing and terrible conditions were embraced by our Savior, who would, in a sense, never live it down.  We see indication that the scandalous events surrounding his conception and birth were never forgotten when the Jews called him one “born of fornication” (John 8:41).  This tells us that people in His time were as skeptical about Mary being pregnant while a virgin as many are today.  It wasn’t any easier to believe  then than now; that’s why Jesus got the reputation of being a bastard child.  Jesus loved us enough to embrace ridicule and shame; He identified with us.  Who hasn’t been hurt by name calling?

Jesus was born into poverty.  His family was not one of means as indicated by the offering of turtle doves, rather than sheep or goats, given by his parents.  Paul says, explicitly, that he “became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9).  I have never experienced the pain and deprivation of abject poverty, but I have seen it, and the suffering it can cause.  Jesus chose to embrace poverty rather than wealth and renown when he came to earth.

Jesus’ “step” father, Joseph, died.  We don’t know how, we don’t know when, but it seems that Joseph is not on the scene very long after Jesus’ 12th birthday, when the family made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover.  We do not know how long Joseph lived, but he does not appear in the Gospel narratives beyond this story, and he is not present at the cross since Jesus has to commit Mary to John to care for her.  At one point Jesus’ beloved “father” Joseph was taken from him, and this loss of a parent, a caring parent, is something many have experienced.  Jesus is no stranger to this kind of suffering.

This tragedy in life led to Jesus having to help his single mother raise his siblings.  It appears in the Gospels that Jesus was never really respected or accepted by his younger half siblings.  They called him crazy and such, and this no doubt emotionally affected Jesus and added to his “sorrows.”  Having to take on adult responsibilities and help a single mother raise younger siblings.  I am sure that someone reading can identify.  Jesus knows this kind of hardship.

Having to stay home with a single mother and help raise ingrates is probably why Jesus did not begin his public ministry until he was thirty.  This is kind of late to start a Rabbinical ministry, which is usually preceded by an apprenticeship with another Rabbi.  This, as far as we can see, Jesus never had. He was thrust into a ministry, which would not get a whole lot of recognition, later in life, only to live three more years, or so, and die at a relatively young age in a most miserable way, falsely accused of crimes he did not commit.

Jesus took on homelessness as well.  He told would be disciples that “the son of man has nowhere to lay his head”   He was dependent on others to feed and care for Him, and probably needed handouts to make it through the day at times.  Yes, he could create food, as with the fish and loaves, but remember, he chose not to exercise His divine powers most of the time so he could experience life was we know it more.  He loved us and identified with us in our need.  He suffered thirst, and hunger, and was often sleep deprived.

Jesus had a relative, named John (who baptized Jesus).  He may have been a second cousin, because Mary and Elizabeth, whose pregnancies overlapped, were cousins themselves.  After Jesus and John met at Jesus’ baptism, there seemed to be a real bond between them.   Jesus hailed John with words like “there has never been a greater man born from woman.”  He obviously thought a lot of John, and respected his ministry.  It must have been very hard for Jesus, emotionally, when he got news of John’s tragic and seemingly senseless death.

As you may recall, John was beheaded by a reluctant yet cowardly king because the king just wanted to save face and please a woman.  He even respected John, but was a weak man, and went through with the brutal execution; the violent removal of his head.  This tragedy apparently hit home with Jesus because Matthew tells us that when news of this horrible situation came to Him, He departed to be by himself.  Now, yes, Jesus could have prevented John from being beheaded, and it is easy to think that God could have intervened to prevent this.  But remember, Jesus did not come to make our lives easier; he came to experience the evil that our sin had created in this world in its full force to identify with us in our suffering.  Jesus experienced personal tragedy when he lost a respected and beloved family member.

One might conclude that Jesus did not love John or his disciples, to have allowed such a tragic event to occur when he could have prevented it altogether.  We deal with tragedies that do not make sense to us, when people are torn from us in their youthfulness and prime.  God had used John greatly, as we know, but he died, tragically, before we might think was a good time.  In His wisdom, God knew of this, in His wisdom, which He does not necessarily reveal to us, He has a plan.  We cannot even see what immediate good this horrible death led to, as it is not recorded.  John’s disciples, who came and respectfully buried the body and reported the death to Jesus, no doubt suffered from this tragedy in their lives.  So we are tempted to ask, did God not love them? How could God allow these disciples, who no doubt loved and depended on John, take John away like this?  That is an unanswered question, but we can be sure that God’s, Jesus’, love was not absent in this situation.

One of the things we need to realize is that suffering like this occurs because of human sin and depravity, even the tragic events that did not stem from human choice, necessarily, because the whole creation was, as Paul said, “subjected to futility” into the “bondage of corruption” and thus now “groans and labors with birth pangs” (See Romans 8:18-25) until the final redemption when the curse is reversed, and God “wipes away all tears from our eyes” (Revelation 21:4).

Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” and this must include these life situations and events, some of which we can all identify, and some of you may be able to identify with all of them.  The man of sorrow is one who is no stranger to suffering; One Who embraced this futile world, wrapped tightly in “the bondage of corruption,” full on when He came to it.  He did some healings, but not everyone was healed, he raised some from death, but not all were raised.  He came to be with us, to learn obedience through the things that He suffered; He came to embrace the human condition and show solidarity with us in our sufferings and thus bring a sense of hope for redemption.

Jesus’ suffering continued.  He dealt with unbelievers who rejected Him and He wept over this; it wasn’t easy for him.  He dealt with dense disciples who never seemed to learn the things he was trying to teach them, he dealt with the betrayal and denial of close and personal friends, as well as their abandonment in His time of need.  He also suffered through unanswered prayer when He asked if there could be an alternative to the “cup” of suffering He would endure.   In anticipation of His death, He was overwhelmed with great sorrow.  He was brought to trial falsely and accused of things He had not done and His words were deceitfully twisted to criminalize Him.  So if you have been betrayed, thrown under the bus, denied and “lied on,” falsely accused and mistreated, you have Someone who has been through it too, and can sympathize with you in your sorrows.

And then, finally, came the suffering we know best, His scourging and crucifixion.   But think on this.  Jesus became a victim, and even though He allowed it and chose it, it did not diminish the reality of the physical pain he endured when evil men would take his body and do with it as they pleased.  Jesus was violently molested and abused, so He knows this horrific experience as well.  Those of you who may have had to endure a senseless outburst of violence or molestation, or both, have Jesus to come to, who experienced the same.

But Jesus’ story, although of one tragedy, loss and pain after another, is not only this kind of story.  It is one of ultimate triumph because he came to deal with death and put an end to it by embracing it.  Like Frodo could only overcome the Ring of Power’s dark and deadly grip by bearing its burden, carrying it up a mountain and, by great sacrifice and risk, destroying it, so it is with Jesus.  He endured the burden of the full effect of a sinful and fallen world, with all of its darkness, pain and suffering, to eventually overcome it by carrying it up a mountain to destroy it!

Hebrews puts it best.

14 Inasmuch then as the children (we humans) have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham (we humans). 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation (full satisfaction) for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being put to trial, He is able to aid those who are put to trial. (2:14-18).

Hopefully, you will remember that “put to trial” means not just dying on the cross, but experiencing the full force of a world wracked with pain and suffering throughout His entire life.  Jesus did not choose a cushy life, when He could have, but rather one of great sorrow and grief.  Hebrews also tells us that because of this choice and His experience He is able to identify with (literally “sympathize” which means “suffer with”) us and we can come boldly to Him and find “aid” and “grace to help in the time of need.”   His suffering is what makes it possible, for Him to identify with us in ours, and for us to even talk about ours to Him.  When we appreciate His true “sympathy” we are better in position and perspective to “hold fast to our confession” and not lose faith when we are put to trial and face great times of need in our lives, because we know that “He was in all points put to trial as we are yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

But as our tragedy became His, His triumph will be ours!!  For those of us who know Him, even in the midst of the tragedy of death, we “sorrow not as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) because He has “begotten us again unto a living hope, by [His] resurrection from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).  We can trust that in the end, all will be put to rights and sorrow and pain will be swept away.

I was encouraged, recently, when re-reading Genesis.  In the beginning, when our first parents chose to disobey and partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they, as we know, brought evil and death into God’s good world, and where there is evil, there will be pain and suffering and tragedy.  Tragedy hit the first family immediately and hard as Cain murdered his brother out of jealousy and anger.  But thankfully, by the end of Genesis, the precedent for the rest of the human story is set; God will turn human evil into good for salvation.  Joseph, who suffered much, acknowledged evil, but told his brothers that what they “meant for evil, God meant for good” (Genesis 50:20).

No matter what evil we may face, and the suffering that it leads to, God can and will eventually bring good out of it. This is vividly displayed in the life of Christ, who came to live amidst the painful consequences an evil not of His own making, and we will suffer in this world because of the evil of others as well, to deliver us from its enslavement by defeating it at the cross, and then raising from the dead to give us hope and promise that tragedy will give way to triumph to those of us who believe.

I began this blog with the words from Stott; I end it with them as well, agreeing with Stott, that Jesus is

The God for me! He laid aside His immunity to pain.  He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.  He suffered for [and like] us.  Our sufferings become more manageable in light of His.

I added the “and like” because, as we have seen throughout this discussion, Jesus knows all of our suffering, because he drank of it fully because He loved us.

Blessings in Christ,

Doc H.

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Human Trafficking at the Super Bowl!!

Posted: February 3, 2012 by whoneycutt in Human Trafficking

Yes! Human sex-trafficking at the Super Bowl!  Until yesterday, I had never heard about this, nor even thought of it as a possibility, and it is not be design (at least ours) that we are talking about Human Trafficking this Friday before the Super Bowl.   I guess a Mightier Hand has put this together for us.  The information in this particular article may astound you.  It did not shock me, as such, but it did surprise me a little and saddened me – a lot.  Unfortunately, though, it makes sense, in a disgusting kind of way, that the Super Bowl is one of our country’s national and annual events that sees the most sex-trafficking of young slave women.   As floods of visitors descend on Indianapolis for the big game, and as I am writing this blog and you are reading it, the corrupt and depraved desires of men and women are being satisfied with the coerced sexual services of young slave women abducted throughout the world and from our own streets.  Read the article here – http://theresurgence.com/2012/02/02/sex-trafficking-at-the-super-bowl 

Sex and Human Trafficking is an issue which is the underbelly of society and one of our world’s most outstanding problems.  Slavery is by no means eradicated in the world.  In fact, more human beings are slaves today in our world, than at any other time in its history; an estimated 27 million souls!  Please be sure to read Andrea’s excellent post below for detailed and graphic information on this matter.

As we have always heard, the first step to overcoming a problem is to become aware of it.  Pray for the oppressed girls and listen to our show tonight (Friday, February 3rd, 2012) form 9pm – midnight.  We will have students active in the International Justice Mission (IJM)  chapter at Liberty University lifting their voices to inform us of the serious problem that human trafficking is here in our country, right under our noses.  I am sure they will have good insights as to how to spot and even stop sex trafficking.  We will also try to tackle the difficult issue of what the Bible says about slavery. 

See the IJM website here –  http://www.ijm.org/ – for more information.

Lift Your Voice airs as a life streaming program at www.wamvradio1420.com (click the microphone to join the program).  We will also have an ongoing live chat through our facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=55709366#!/groups/295403217143748/) throughout the program for all our listeners to lift their voices on this issue.

Get informed, get inspired, get involved!

For The Truth,

DOC H

Too Soon to Celebrate and Too Good to Be True?

Posted: February 3, 2012 by whoneycutt in Uncategorized

Dear Listeners and Fellow Bloggers,

Just yesterday I was singing the praises of the Susan G. Komen Foundation for their bold decision to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood.   Just today, I have to sigh in sadness and frustration as I actually remove the blog I posted because of their decision to renege on that decision. 

Their reasoning is that they do not want to succumb to political pressure!  They need to get their head out of the sand!  If Planned Parenthood and the pro-choice advocates do not have a political agenda, I am Mickey Mouse!  

What is really boggling is that the very problem that this foundation advocates and works for the prevention and cure of, breast cancer, has been linked to abortion in numerous documented studies (http://www.abortionbreastcancer.com/The_Link.htm) – enough to be of serious public concern and outcry.  But now we have seen that in many cases like this, it’s more about the money; or “the Gs,” as the kids say these days.

I emailed them again today at news@Komen.org and sent this message:

Dear Susan G. Komen Foundation,                  

Shame on you.  You say you are not going to kowtow to political pressure?  That is exactly what you are doing.  You don’t think PP has a political agenda?  Goodness!  Get your head out of the sand. 

 Also, your refunding of  Planned Parenthood is philosophically inconsistent!   The very thing you are seeking to cure has been linked to abortion in enough studies to make it a significant point of concern!  ANYTHING that poses a threat to women’s breast health is something the public hears about and ample warning is posted.  It’s all about the money, I guess. 😦

This does not mean we jumped the gun, though, or celebrated too soon.  Our effort was to send them enough positive and encouragement and response to know that there were millions who supported their choice, but apparently, the pressure from the other side, and the financial support they were threatened to lose, spoke sooner and louder.

Saddened,

DOC H

MAKE THE CHOICE TO LIFT YOUR VOICE!

Posted: February 1, 2012 by whoneycutt in Uncategorized

MAKE THE CHOICE TO LIFT YOUR VOICE . . .

For Love

For Joy

For Peace

For Freedom

For Faith

For the Good and Right

For Holiness

For Praise

For Righteousness

For Purity

For Integrity

For Hope

For Equality

For Compassion

For Wisdom

For Justice

For Mercy

For Human Life & Dignity

For the TRUTH

For CHRIST!!

Speaking Truth in Love: A Call to Christian Humility and Civility

I am concerned with the lack of love with which Christians, or professing Christians, so often seem to speak.  In Scripture we are repeatedly told to speak truth, but while that we speak truth is important, how we speak it is just as important.  This is the part which we as Christian leaders often neglect when we teach our youth to be committed to truth and speak up and speak out without shame for what they believe.  Consequently, we have discerning young people, who can identify error, and will be bold in speaking up, but not speaking in love.  They will then spew, in their spoken and written communication, obscenities, malice and hate all in the name of Christ and truth!  We cannot neglect this matter, for to do so is to fail to teach what it means to speak truth and it shows a lack of understanding of what it means to grow into maturity in Christ.  Let me give you the passage out of which I am working here.

Until we all come to the unity of the faith . . . to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, that we no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, . . . but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him, Christ-Who is the Head, in all things” – Ephesians 4:13-15

Unity in faith is a good thing, growing in our understanding of Christian truth so as not to be easily drawn away into false doctrine is a good thing, but as good as these are, we cannot claim to be anywhere near maturity in Christ unless we are doing so “in love.” I will go far as to say that if we do not speak the truth in love we are WRONG and disobedient to the Lord, no matter how much our words conform to His Truth.

Now here is why this is on my mind.

In the last year (2011), in Cranston, Rhode Island, a self-professed atheist student, Jessica Ahlquist, acted on her convictions to get a prayer banner removed from the walls of her high school which calls on  “Our Heavenly Father” to bless the school.  She said this verbiage makes her feel excluded at school because, “I am an atheist, I don’t believe in a heavenly Father and I wouldn’t like to see that posted on a wall in my school.”  The ACLU, of course, rushed to her aid and helped her win her case.  As of January, 2012, the banner has been ordered to be removed.  This, of course, set off a firestorm and upset many people who are “Christians,” or who were glad the prayer was posted in their school and saw no harm in it.  The atheist student, however, took the matter to court and the ruling was for the school to take it down.  You can read about the case and watch videos here http://www.theblaze.com/stories/fed-judge-sides-with-teen-atheist-orders-public-school-to-remove-prayer-mural/

What we are seeing is a battle of worldviews and, I admit, a misinterpretation of the original intent of our nation’s first amendment.  There are non-theists and even anti-theists, who want not just freedom “of” religion in our country, but freedom “from” religion, vying for a completely secular public space where there is no mention of deities or supernatural forces; which includes the elimination of “In God We Trust” from our money.  The secularist desires that we focus on the here and now, what we have in “This world” (the root meaning of “secular”) and not look to any divine guidance in human affairs because it is meaningless or at best irrelevant.  This, of course, is not at all what our founding fathers were seeking when they wrote those ten famous words; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  That discussion, however, I may save for another post, because to appreciate these ten words, we have to consider the historical background of the entire amendment, and what Thomas Jefferson meant, several years later in referring to it, by his metaphor concerning “a wall of separation.”  For those interested in this whole matter, I recommend that you read, Ten Tortured Words by Stephen Mansfield.

So in this particular post my issue is not with the atheist student, or the ACLU or the public officials who sided with her and had the banner removed, or the gross misinterpretation of the first amendment; my concern is with how the Christian, or professing Christian, students handled themselves once the prayer was removed; in short, it was not loving at all.

This became grievously clear to me when reading the blog written by atheist Jen McCreight, posted on January 13, 2012, which she wrote after the ruling, and more importantly the response by students opposed to Ahlquist.  McCreight sarcastically entitled her blog, “That Christian Compassion.”  Ouch!

In it she observes,

“Jessica Ahlquist may have won her legal battle to remove an unconstitutional prayer banner from her public school, but that doesn’t mean she can finally resume her everyday life. No, now she’s receiving horrible comments from fellow classmates, community members, and other angry Christians who are very, very offended . . .”

There’s the general anti-atheist remarks:

  • “May that little, evil athiest teenage girl and that judge BURN IN HELL!”
  • “yeah, well i want the immediate removal of all atheists from the school, how about that?”
  •  “Jessica Ahlquist may have won her case, but she’s going straight to hell. #Godovereverything”
  •  “I hope there’s lots of banners in hell when your rotting in there you atheist f**k #TeamJesus”

And worse, the threats:

  •  “U little brainless idiot, hope u will be punished, you have not win sh..t! Stupid little brainless skunk!”
  •  “F**k Jessica alquist I’ll drop anchor on her face”
  •  “definetly laying it down on this athiest tommorow anyone else?”
  •  “Let’s all jump that girl who did the banner #f-thatho”
  •  “literally that b**ch is insane. and the best part is she already transferred schools because shes knows someone will jump her #ahaha”
  •  “”But for real somebody should jump this girl” lmao let’s do it!”
  •  “Hmm jess is in my bio class, she’s gonna get some s**t thrown at her”
  •  “I want to punch the girl in the face that made west take down the school prayer… #Honestly”
  •  “hail Mary full of grace @jessicaahlquist is gonna get punched in the face”
  •  “When I take over the world I’m going to do a holocaust to all the atheists”
  •  “gods going to f**k your ass with that banner you scumbag”
  •  “I found it, what a little b**ch lol I wanna snuff her”
  •  “if I wasn’t 18 and wouldn’t go to jail I’d beat the s**t out of her idk how she got away with not getting beat up yet”
  •  “lol I wanna stick that b**ch lol”
  •  “nail her to a cross”
  •  “We can make so many jokes about this dumb b**ch, but who cares #thatb**chisgointohell and Satan is gonna rape her.”

The full list can be found here. http://jesusfetusfajitafishsticks.blogspot.com/2012/01/ahlquist-screenshots-if-by-christian.html

McCrieght then states,

“I feel ill after typing these up. . . Not only does this make the threats toward Jessica very real, but it just depresses me. How are teenagers so full of violence and hatred?”

She answers,

“Oh right. Religious brainwashing by their families and communities.”

You can read McCreight’s full, uncensored blog and follow her links here – http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2012/01/that-christian-compassion/

I am sorry if the list above offended you, but you, whether you are a Christian youth or a Christian parent, or leader need to see it, and I hope you are as appalled as I am with this outflow of utter meanness and hatred pouring from alleged Christians.  I, along with the atheist blogger, McCreight “feel ill” after reading these horrific comments. To be honest, I am offended more at these responses than the ruling!  How can anyone who names the name of Christ feel comfortable with such degradation of a fellow human being created in God’s image (which Jessica is, whether she believes or acknowledges it or not)?  I have to point out the greatest irony of all this which is that these malicious posts of students objecting to having the prayer removed demonstrate that the prayer itself, which called on the “Heavenly Father” to help them “grow morally [and] be kind to our classmates,” seems to have meant nothing to them; having little to no effect in their lives. What, really, are they fighting for?  Did they ever really pray it, or just once meditate through it?  What’s the point in fighting for something that is obviously quite meaningless to you?

I realize that McCreight listed only negative comments in her blog, and there may be positive ones.  I also realize that the ones professing Christianity may not really be Christians at all, but is it possible that some were? I know, personally, that I have heard genuine Christians seeking to follow Christ be less than Christ-like in their speech, especially toward those whom they consider liberals, secularists and unbelievers.

For sake of argument, let’s say that some were genuine Christian young people who posted those hateful comments.  Not only is it inconsistent with the prayer itself, it is completely incompatible with a Christian posture in society.  I do not understand where our young people are getting the notion that such malicious and obscene language is acceptable.  McCreight talks about “religious brainwashing by their families and communities.” Perhaps she is correct, but I think more to the point is the lack of solid and deliberate biblical instruction on this matter of speaking the truth “in love”  from parents and leaders.

McCreight mockingly and sarcastically entitles her post “That Christian Compassion” because she is right, we are showing anything but.  A love for Jesus and truth does not justify unloving speech toward our fellow humans.  Again, I say; that we speak the truth is important, but how we speak it is JUST AS EQUALLY important. It is not optional, but mandatory, and this kind of spewing is not consistent with being truly “Christian,” which means “belonging to Christ.”

For those who claim to belong to Christ, I want to place before you, and comment on, several biblical passages in which we are admonished in various ways to “speak the truth in love.”

Of course, there is the Ephesians 4:15 passage, perhaps the most famous for this principle, which says we are to “speak the truth in love.”

In 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Paul instructs his protégé, Timothy.  Here we see that the Lord’s servant MUST NOT be quarrelsome, BUT in sharp contrast have opposite qualities. He says,

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

In Titus 3:1-5a Paul instructs the following.  Notice that while Titus is the leader receiving the letter, he is told to “Remind” the people of his church (thus all Christians), certain things.

1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us,

In Colossians 4:15 Paul tells these Christians:

5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside (non-believers), redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Emphasis Added)

Peter tells the persecuted believers to whom he is writing, in 1 Peter 3:15

15 But sanctify the Lord Godin your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

Finally, James instructs us not to be verbally abusive towards our fellow humans because humans are created in God’s likeness.  James says in James 3:9-10,

9 With [the tongue] we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude [likeness] of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

Let’s make several observations about these passages:

First, we should realize that every one of them were written to Christians living as minorities in a world of paganism; persecuted minorities with no “inalienable” rights.  Christians were minorities and had no Declaration of Independence, Constitution or First Amendment to think about, let alone appeal to!  This is not to say that we should lay down flat and let the secularists have their way for truth demands that we make sure the First Amendment is properly understood and taught. But our country is still under more Christian influence than the Greco-Roman world in which the Apostles moved and ministered (and effectively so, I might add).  We seem to think that the Gospel will die if the US becomes a secular state.  Whatever happened to, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”?  If you think about it, the first church’s days were more dark, anti-Christian, and far more dangerous than our own. (By “our” I mean we in the U.S., for there are plenty of Christians experiencing horrendous opposition, persecution and death in other countries as you read this).  Yes, Paul would appeal to his Roman citizenship to get some legal leverage, and we should use the laws in place to our advantage to continue to freely practice our faith, and publicly express it, and even fight for our rights (whatever they happen to be), but this does not need to, nor should, be with hatred and malice.  Based on the passages above, which is God’s authoritative word to us, we are, as believers, to:

(From 2 Timothy 2:24-25)

  • Refrain from quarreling (Lit. – be non-combative; elsewhere, Paul tells us that the weapons of our warfare are NOT physical, but spiritual;  2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
  • Be gentle to all (Lit. – affable or pleasantly easy to approach and talk to, friendly, cordial; showing warmth and friendliness to ALL, not those we like or agree with.  Remember that our Master told us to “love your enemies.”)
  • Patient (Lit. – patiently enduring evil, patient with wrong-doing; we have to endure, not necessarily seek to eliminate, what we consider wrong or evil to some extent, besides, if we are going to overcome evil, Paul tells us to do so with “good” by which he means acts of kindeness to those who persecute us – Romans 12:1–21)
  • Be humble/meek (have a mildness, not madness, of disposition)

(From Titus 3:1-5)

  • Be subject/obedient to rulers and authorities (We are not generally to be lawbreakers, even if we might think it is for a good cause. We should, as a rule, operate within the bounds of the law.  There is a limit, of course, if our authorities should demand that we explicitly disobey God; then we must “obey God rather than man” but it is generally the case that our authorities do not ask this and we must obey them).
  • Be ready to do good (Doing good means to be, as much as possible, a benefit and blessing to others, especially those in opposition – again, refer to Romans 12:17-21)
  • Refrain from speaking evil of anyone (Lit. – blaspheme; yes, we can blaspheme fellow humans, because humans are created in God’s image. The implication here and more so in James 3 (see below)  is that blaspheming humans is equivalent to disrespecting God).
  • Be peaceable (Lit. – to refrain from brawling and contention)
  • Be gentle (Lit. – moderate, equitable, civil)
  • Be humble/meek toward all people (same as above – mildness of disposition)

Notice in this passage WHY we are to take this posture in our interactions with all people, especially those who do not know Christ; because we remember where we came from and what we are still capable of.  We did not save ourselves through our own goodness, for we have none.  God, in His rich mercy through Christ gave us, who deserve nothing, His wonderful salvation.   Christians forget this too frequently and take a posture toward the world as though we are better than them.  We are not better, we are only better off, and that is not because we deserve it.  We are failing to show them the real difference that being Christ’s follower makes in our character.

(From Colossians 4:15)

  • Our speech (notice speech) should be “with grace, seasoned with salt.” This means that our words, particularly towards those “outside” the faith, should not be hateful or hurtful, but filled with “grace” (unmerited kindness) and “seasoned with salt.” We should be kind, even when not receiving kindness, and we should use speech that makes people thirsty (like salty food does), giving them something to think about in a non-threatening manner, guiding them toward the truth by using reasoned argumentation, not emotional hate-speech (which will never work anyway).  With the tools of reason and logic we should seek to be persuasive, and we will not be persuasive as long as we are abrasive.

(From 1 Peter 3:15)

Peter tells his audience, who are persecuted and oppressed Christian minorities scattered around Asia Minor, that in this context we should be:

  • “Ready to give a defense to anyone who asks a reason for the hope you have.”  We as Christians like this part, and emphasize it. This is our stock verse to call believers to “defend” the faith!  But let’s remember, ours is a message of HOPE not HATE.  We often come across in our defense as too hateful, rather than hopeful, I’m afraid. Remember, there is no hope, no real hope, for the atheist (Ephesians 2:12 – the word “without god” is literally a-theos – or atheist).  Christianity offers hope, and we should joyfully live like we have it, especially when persecuted.  Peter says earlier in the same letter that this is a “living hope” for eternal life and reward because of Jesus’ resurrection.  Part of our defense for our hope is to clearly and logically argue the truth of the resurrection. If Christ is truly raised from death, He is the Savior and Lord of the world; He alone is the world’s ultimate and only hope.

Notice that Peter does not stop there, but tells us how to give the defense, “in meekness and fear.” Again I say, speaking and defending the truth is NOT enough.  HOW we speak it is just as important.  If we are not going to speak the truth in love to those who oppose God, we may as well just shut up!

  • Meekness/humility (we saw this before in Paul’s words above, the meaning is the same here)
  • Fear (meaning in this case respect toward God and even others to whom we speak; humans are created in God’s image, even if they do not acknowledge or believe it, and we must show them due respect in our speech.  James says this in 3:8-13, as stated earlier.  Reverence for God is demonstrated in respect toward those created in His image.

(From James 3:9-10)

  • It seems to be James’ main point that we must keep constant watch on our tongues (what we say and how we say it) because of our inclination towards evil, hurtful. bad, speech; it comes so easily, and must be reigned in like a wild stallion.
  • He gives the example that we will praise God with our tongues, and then, turn around a moment later, and with that same tongue, verbally abuse His image in people.
  • He says these things “ought not to be” which is clear moral instruction. Our praise of God, and even our fight for Truth, is meaningless when we speak in an unloving – that is a hateful, spiteful, malicious ways, even to those who mock and deny Him.

As you consider these passages of authoritative instruction to those who call Jesus their Lord, there is NO WAY that the speech coming from supposed Christians and directed at Jessica Ahlquist can be justified; absolutely NO WAY.  When we use such hateful, hurtful, threatening speech, whether we are talking or writing, because someone is attacking our beliefs, we are very far afield of those beliefs. Our beliefs do not merely supply us with content for our creed, but with characteristics for our conduct, and communication.  If we say we believe the Gospel and Jesus and the word of God, we are lying to ourselves when we spew forth hate and threats in our own writing and talking in defense of that truth!  This is ungodly behavior in the name of God.

Let us from here on out summarize our public presence and posture, whether we are speaking or writing, in these two words: humility and civility.

Humility is the quality of recognizing that I do not have all the answers and can be mistaken.  It means I recognized that I am where I am because of the grace of God.  Being humble makes me teachable, not defensive and hateful.  Civility means that I treat others as equal citizens with a right to believe what they do and fight for those rights.  I have the same exact rights, and fighting for them, especially as a Christian, does not mean spewing hate and malice toward those I perceive as threatening them, or taking them away. I must graciously and humbly seek to persuade others with reason and logic.  If I fail and they win, I may continue to try, but I am never justified in doing so maliciously or hatefully.

In this blog space, we will sometimes raise very volatile and emotionally charged issues, like that of abortion.  I must say that, on that issue, I am proud of the way my former students have been behaving toward those who may disagree with them.

If you ever want to write for our website, please know that humility and civility are required.  We will accept no hate-speech or malicious and hurtful writing.  We want you to express your hope and convictions in the kindest possible words.  This does not mean that you  refrain from rigorous logic and argument, for this is how we are to combat falsehood, but remember that everyone who posts here is created in God’s image and likeness, and that they matter and God cares.

If we fail in the areas of humility and civility, we fail, epically, to speak the truth in love.

Doc H

A Better Place?

Posted: January 17, 2012 by whoneycutt in Heaven

“Well, we know _________’s in a ‘better place’.”  Oh, how often we hear these words spoken at funerals; words that are intended to comfort those who have just lost a loved one to the “last enemy” which is death.  I fear that sometimes (not always) people take a false comfort in this idea which is actually, if you really think about, missing the point.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Heaven is a place, and I do believe it is a better, much better, place than here.  I do not think it is a place, however, that any technology devised by humans, no matter how sophisticated we may get with it, will get us to, though, because it is in another dimension, and you must be in spirit to arrive there, in that place.

I have a funny little story about when I asked someone once about how to get to heaven.  It is humorous upon first read, but then, when you think about it, is a most profound realization.  Once, when trying to explain the Gospel to my 6 year old daughter (who is now 18 and in college!), I asked her, “What do you have to do to get to heaven?”  So the little child, in her childlike innocence and concrete thinking, said “die.”  You see? Perhaps you chuckled; I laughed out loud (LOL) when I first heard it!  But upon further reflection, she is so right.  Paul even makes this quite clear when he writes,

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 . . . we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.
(
1 Corinthians 15:50-54).

You see, we have to be “changed” to experience our eternal and immortal inheritance.  Paul also says in 2 Corinthians 5,

1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, . . .   from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Notice what Paul says here.  He acknowledges that in our flesh, “this earthly tent,” we are “absent from the Lord” but when we are “absent from the body” we are “present with the Lord.”   Paul here not only indicates clearly that we must have a different form when we reach heaven (that is, I would venture to say, why people who report NDEs, like Colton, do not disappear, but their physical bodies remain in front of us, while the true person has an ‘out of body’ experience), he also makes a most significant observation about being in heaven; and this is what it is all about, I believe.  He says, “to be absent from the body [is] to be present with the LORD!”  There it is; the most glorious truth of heaven.  Not so much that it is a better place, but what makes is such a “better place” and that is because the best Person is there.  People who focus on the “place” of heaven miss the important point that heaven is really about a Person; and that person is the LORD Himself.  For Paul, this reality was what made death such “gain” for him (Philippians 1:21).  Read again what he says to the saints at Philippi,

21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . .   23 For I [have] a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
(Philippians 1:21, 23)

It seems clear that Paul’s anticipation of heaven was not the better place, but being “with” the best Person, and this is what makes heaven “far better” indeed.  To die is gain not because we will be in  “a better place,” but be in the very presence of the very best Person – our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  This brings a whole new meaning to RIP – Rejoicing In the Presence!

Colton’s testimony about heaven had two powerful ideas, Jesus told him, a four year old, that He died so we could “be with His Daddy” and later, Colton told that dying man that he had no need to worry because the first person whom He could expect to see when he arrives to heaven is Jesus!

Frankly, I do not know, nor do I really care, what heaven is as a place, the most important thing to me is the Person that awaits me there; the One, and only One, who, because of His love, left his royal throne and glory and came into this dark, sin-infested world and willingly suffered its pains and shocks, to experience the ultimate humiliation of death by cross in order to, as Colton said, as well as Peter the Apostle,  “bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

Do we really understand  Heaven if all we anticipate about it is its being a “better place” and are not wanting with all our soul, to be with the  Best Peron? For that matter, do we really understand the Gospel, if all we are concerned about is what kind of “place” it is, and what kind of “mansion” we will have (which I do not think Jesus taught) and we are not focused on being “with” the Person that paid the necessary price to make the way for us to get there?

Blessings In Christ,

Doc. H.

 

P.S. –  Jesus said ““You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:23-24).    Understanding this, Peter tells us clearly, “18 For Christ also suffered once and for all for sins, . . . that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).  You  will die, and when you do, as the Scripture says, “the body returns to the dust from which it came, and the spirit returns to God, who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).  You have an eternal and immortal spirit, the real you, and if you die without having come to Christ for the forgiveness of your sins for which He died, you will not be with Him for eternity.  Trust that He is the one who died and paid for yours sins now and heaven will be your home, and Jesus will be the first one you will see when you awaken in that new dimension after your death.

 

Help Us With the Show!

Posted: January 12, 2012 by whoneycutt in Uncategorized

HI!

If you have been listening to Lift Your Voice (LYV) you know that we have dealt with some rather intense and relevant issues like self-harm, body modification (tattoos and piercing), addiction, bullying, toxic relationships, spiritual doubts, eating disorders and such.  We are confident that these are the real issues that our listeners are dealing with in one way or another, whether personally, or knowing friends or family gripped by them.

We want to continue to be relevant.  After all, this program is about “your music, your issues, your voice.”  Well, we are honestly soliciting your assistance.  Below you will find a list of issues we have already discussed, ones that are scheduled for discussion and ones that we have not.  In time, as our listening base increases, we will revisit previous programs for sure, but we also want to look into issues of significance that we have not yet addressed.

What we would like you to do is email us with the issues of interest to you, and we will build programs around what appear to have the most interest.  So here, we really want you to “Lift Your Voice” and let us know what you think we need to research and discuss.

Sincerely, Doc. H. of Lift Your voice

 

ISSUES DISCUSSED ALREADY

Bullying

Addictions

Toxic Relationships

Bodily Mutilation (cutting)

Bodily Modification (piercing and tattoos)

Spiritual Doubts

Eating Disorders

Misfits

Blue Christmas (Depression)

Heart of Christmas

Forgiveness

COMING SOON

Heaven (Is it real, if so, so what?)

Abortion

Worldliness

Human Trafficking

SUGGESTED PROGRAM SUBJECTS (This is where we need your voice!)

Beauty/Self Image

Binge Drinking

Cheating

Credit Card Debt (Finances)

Date/Acquaintance Rape

Depression/Suicide

Violence

Gambling

Gangs/Gang Activity

Homosexuality/Gender Identity

Media (TV, Movies, Music)

Gaming

Online Relationships

Prescription drug Abuse

Pre-marital Sex/Teen Pregnancy

Profanity

School Drop Out

Raves/Clubbing/Partying

Running Away

Sexual Abuse/Harassment

Shoplifting/Theft

Street Racing

Vampirism

Wicca/Occult/New Age

Email us at LYV@wamvradio1420.com to submit your suggestion.  They can come from this list or you can give us an idea not here.  Please note that we do have plans for programming and may not get directly to your suggestion, but all suggestions will receive serious consideration.

As always, Remember – You Matter and God Cares

Doc. H.