June 26, 2012
The commentary I am about to share with you was originally written approximately one year ago and posted on another site of which I was an occasional contributer. The article drew quite a bit of interest so I want to share it on this site …. It all started when I had submitted a previous commentary, and as we do now, when something new is posted, we “blast” it to our mailing list … but when we did it that particular time, something interesting happened. Somehow, an address was inadvertently added to the list that was not supposed to have been. .. Upon receiving our ‘encouraging’ prompting, the person attached to this address immediately responded with this comment, and I quote: “I don’t appreciate your beliefs being broadcast to my email. I am not a follower of your faith, nor do I intend on joining. I don’t believe in your God, nor do I believe in any god. Religion is the cause of too many wars and untimely deaths. I am not a part of it. Take me off this email list immediately.” (going forward, I will keep this person anonymous).
Upon receiving this, I, of course, responded by saying I was sorry for the confusion and would comply with his wishes. What the person probably didn’t intend to do was send his comment to the entire list of contacts! ….. Needless to say, he and I received several responses from other folks … mostly witnessing to and encouraging this non-believer. ….. So now I will share the commentary that was triggered by all of this … and I will start off with one comment that I want you to see, which happens to be from my own brother, Denton, followed by the full article …………….
“Hey bro, I saw a response from (anonymous) today that kind of hit home with me. I’ve had the same feelings for years that too many people have died/murdered in the name of God(s). All my life, history and non-fiction have been where my reading interests have been with attention towards political/social issues, trying to figure out what makes us all tick. Up until the 20th century, religions played a major role in governing and directing the actions of the leaders which were usually generals. They would go to battle with symbols of their faith proudly displayed which always justifies the killing of the innocent, you know, in the name of their god, including Christians. As the 20th century rolled around, we started seeing man implement the teachings of a utopian/socialist/atheist agenda that would eliminate man’s dependency on a god, which in turn would create peace and harmony amongst man. … End result? Joseph Stalin … 30-50 million murdered, Adolph Hitler … 52 million, Mao Se Tung … 80 million and counting, all godless men. …. So I say to the email writer of protest and all the rest who feel like him in this world … like a gun, God doesn’t kill, man kills, and we will use any excuse to justify our actions. I’ve been very confused, and to be honest, depressed the last few years over all the things I see and the fact nothing makes any sense anymore. WHAT THE HECK IS IT ALL ABOUT – and I kept searching, everything I read left me feeling worse, and the more convinced, no matter what, man always, left to his own devices, would ‘muck it up.’ — One day I picked up the Bible my mother bought me in the 70’s (OK, I’ve been confused for a long time – get off my back! God gave Noah 900 years)! … I opened it to nowhere specific and found verses that pertain to what’s happening today more than anything currently being written or said and when I’m done, I feel better, no matter what I’ve read. So I suggest to everyone out there that’s searching for answers like myself … by yourself …pick up a Bible, open it to nowhere in particular and just read. You may not come away with all the answers, but like myself, you just might feel better.” … Sincerely, Denton Mark
The comments from both Denton and ‘anonymous’ trumpet the feelings of many souls around this troubled planet. In fact, it is not unlike my own “awakening” that brings me to the point of this commentary. … I promise not to go into a complete life story here for the sake of time, but allow me a few minutes of your time to walk through the brief highlights of what took place just 11 short years ago. … Like my brother and the other fellow, I, too, struggled with the same dilemma … and being a Christian only complicated the issue.
Like many others, my journey started in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. At that time, my wife and I were living in Sunriver and I was working in the Willamette valley. (I know you must think us crazy – what a commute)! … Anyway, this commute took place on Tuesday afternoons and very early friday mornings. This way I was able to spend three nights at home each week which really helped the somewhat undesirable situation. On Tuesdays, I would always leave as early as possible because my wife and I attended a small group meeting just outside Sunriver, and we both loved it very much. We were, at the time, getting our lives refocused on God and this was an important part of that journey.
Some of you may recall that 9/11 took place on a Tuesday morning. Needless to say, I needed to go to this meeting in the worst way! As most all were, I was deeply troubled by what had taken place and just wanted to be with some fellow Christians to ease the anxiety of the moment. … But what happened that evening started me on a brand new journey into the word of God. ………. When I arrived at the meeting, the reactions of all in attendance was predictable … anger and retaliation were the buzz words of the moment. … Me too, right? It certainly should have been. After all, I was somewhat right-of-center politically, voted for most all conservative issues, and am a veteran of the armed forces. In fact, I served for well over a year in Vietnam. So yea, I’m angry and want revenge right now!!! … But somehow, something wasn’t right. It just didn’t seem to fit into what we’d been studying and professing in our gatherings. …. So why? …………………..
As I began praying and over the next few days, God began to show me what I must do to walk through this confusion. For now, let me just briefly give a quick glimpse of what began to take place. First, I started to realize that I really didn’t know very much at all about what the scriptures really taught. In fact, it became apparent that I was just a clone of all the previous and current people in my life. I simply was a mixture of Uncle Harley, mom and dad, several mentors from the secular world, and so on ….. So where do I start?? …………
After prayer and meditation, it became quite clear to me that I needed to study the words of Jesus, and nothing else … at least to start. It quickly evolved into what I now call my “Red Letter Study” … and the key verse is in Matthew 18, verse 3 where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” … So I asked the Lord, ‘is it possible to totally cleanse our minds of all the preconceived teachings of all who have influenced us over the years?’ … Not impossible, of course, but very, very difficult. … Simply stated, studying Jesus’ teachings has shown me that most everything I had learned through all the different paths, walks, and influences of my life were not accurate.
For the sake of the length of this posting, I will touch on just a couple of the issues it has brought forward. First, the comparison of war under the banner of God has, and always will, confuse most of us. How can we justify the teachings of a loving God and then tie it to military aggression? It can only be attributed to the lack of knowledge of the spoken words of our Savior. America’s conservative evangelical movement has certainly taken scripture out of context. They justify war by saying that it is our responsibility to ‘conquer’ all enemies of God. Here’s just a couple of scriptures that totally refute this position. First, Romans 12:19-21 says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” … Another is 2 Corinthians 10:3 which says, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.” … I remember once, while visiting many different churches and having discussions with their pastors, I became friends with one in particular that was of this militant position. Over a breakfast muffin, he one day asked me why I wouldn’t attend his church on a full-time basis. … By this time, I was beginning to see what I believed to be the full purpose of this “Red Letter” study. … My response to him was that had considered it for a time but had decided that it wasn’t quite right for me in that one day when arriving at church, I would find a ‘tank’ on the front lawn. … Somehow, I have a difficult time envisioning Christ sitting in a tank with an ammo belt over His shoulders and an M-16 in His hands.
What I have learned theologically through prayer and study these past 11 years is amazing and, besides my ‘watchman’ role as to prophecy unfolding, I have a burning desire to share Christ’s teachings to as many as possible. The confusion that permeates the church ranks today is simply because of the lack of understanding of The Word Of God! No wonder people like the responders in the e-mails are confused. We who profess to be Christians are their role models and when we confuse them with the double standards that are taking place in our churches and our personal walks today, who wouldn’t be confused!! ….
Let me use just a couple of examples: This ‘war’ thing … we use the Old Testament (an eye for an eye) when it’s convenient to suit our desires. But didn’t Jesus bring us a new covenant? Hebrews 7:22 states, “… Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” Also, Hebrews 8:6 says, “But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which He is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.” (Read all of Hebrews, chapters 7 through 10 for a more complete understanding … specifically 9:15 & 10:9). … Doesn’t Jesus teach us in the new covenant to love our enemies and to turn the other cheek? Read the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ in Matthew, chapters 5-7. … Also, Jesus teaches us that we are not really of this world. I strongly suggest that you spend a good amount of time in the Gospel of John, chapters 14-17 where Jesus explains how we are to be while in this world. Also, you can look in Acts, chapters 4 & 5 for examples of how the Apostles responded when ‘called on the carpet’ concerning world affairs. … John Roberts, in his ‘Thesis on Seven Mountains’ said it well when he stated, “Whereas the Gospel of Jesus Christ spreads despite persecution and by the power of its truthfulness, satan’s false religions are typically spread by terror and the power of the sword. Therefore, satan uses military might to impose his will on mankind.”
I would like to use one more example to refute this modern American Christian attitude toward retaliation and war. … If we go back to the first century and look at how those early Christians responded to their worldly enemies, you will see nothing like we see today. For example, every one of the writers of the New Testament was horribly persecuted: Matthew was beheaded; Mark was dragged through the streets of Alexandria by a team of wild horses until he died; Luke was hanged in an olive tree; John was banished to the remote Island of Patmos to spend his old age in isolation and hardship. When released from Patmos after writing the Book of Revelation, he died in Ephesus. Paul was beheaded; Peter and Jude were crucified; James was battered to death with a club …. and during all of this turmoil, never once did we hear a call to arms … never once did we hear the words of rebellion or a call for an uprising. Jesus taught a different message than this and these brave Saints followed it to the letter.
What it comes down to in simple terms is that either we believe what the Bible says, or we don’t. … I see nowhere in scripture where we have the authorization to change ANY part of it, regardless of where our society or culture is going. … Was, or is it easy for me??? Lord no!!! I’m still struggling with some of it. Many of the things that I still battle I’ve lived with for many, many years. … The one thing I do know for sure … even though nations and rulers come and go, even though cultures and societies evolve, God NEVER CHANGES!
So my anonymous friend, how can I not understand why you feel the way you do …. and I apologize for the behavior of our churches and individual Christians who say one thing but live another … for the inconsistencies that surround and confuse you. … Our God is NOT a God of war! … He is a God of love and His Son was the living example of how it should look. Please … give it one more glimpse. It will mean the difference between eternal life or eternal damnation.
Until next time,