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In this past weekend’s message we read Jesus taught that we are not to resist an evildoer and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:38-44). A logical and timely question then becomes, “Is war wrong?”

  This question has been debated throughout the history of Christianity. Until around the 4th Century—when Christianity became legalized in the Roman Empire—most Christians were pacifists, meaning they were generally against war.[1] As Christianity became more aligned with Rome, then more Christian theologians began supporting war … in certain situations. In more modern times, evangelical Christians have tended to be highly patriotic and very supportive of the military. Some find support for war and military engagements in the Old Testament war stories of Israel and in the allusions to war found in Revelation. We must never read Scripture in isolation or without reading it through the lens of Christ, understanding that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17); therefore, what is found in the Old Testament must ultimately be interpreted through Christ … and clearly, Jesus valued the peacemakers, called them “blessed” and “sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Pacifists find support for their position in Jesus words and His own example of not resorting to violence (John 18:10-12). And I can honestly respect their position. However, ultimately I find the pacifist position naïve and utopian. The world we live in is fallen, broken, and evil. This means there are times when war can save lives and limit the spread of injustice. Pacifists are right to call war tragic; I would add that war is a tragic necessity (tragic because war results in casualties and loss of life yet necessary IF it restrains evil). For example, Paul taught that government had a responsibility to use the “sword” to stop wrongdoing (Romans 13:4). Here we find reason to support the times when police and the military must use force.[2] Here we also understand that there is a difference between killing someone under the authority of government in order to stop wrongdoing and what the Bible calls murder, which is a sin.

As Christians, we should long for peace, pray for peace, work for peace, and see war only as a last resort.

  The most helpful thinking on this comes from Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) who developed the “Just War” Theory to help explain both when a nation should go to war and how to actually conduct warfare. Augustine taught that war should be entered only when options for peace had been exhausted, for a just cause and that war could only be conducted by a legitimate authority (i.e.-a properly established and recognized government). In conducting war, every effort should be taken to minimize casualties, force should be used proportionally and not in excess, and care should be taken in the methods of war and the conduct of soldiers (i.e.-soldiers should not engage in rape). Finally, Augustine taught that the aim of a war would be the “restoration of peace and a more just social order.”[3] What does the mean for us today?
  • Pray for our military and police.
  • Pray for leaders who must discern when to authorize military force.
  • Always see war as a tragic necessity (The tragedy of war can never be minimized and care should be given to avoid glamorizing warfare; for example, a political leader threatening to “carpet bomb” people is concerning.)
  • Loss of any life is always tragic.
  • Long for, pray for, and labor for the full realization of Jesus’ Kingdom when war will cease forever and the ailments of the human heart that cause wars and thus the need to tragically fight war will be gone forever.
    [1] John Davis. Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today. (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2004), 242. [2] Scripture never mentions or commands a soldier to leave the Roman legions when they converted to Christ. Additionally, history shows that when a Christian soldier did leave the military, the reason was to avoid the idolatrous traditions practiced by the Roman army. [3] Davis. Evangelical Ethics, 247-248.

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The Advantage of Weakness   We are not accustomed to embracing weakness. In our culture, being strong (or appearing strong) is the goal. Additionally, our pride whispers the idea that strength is what matters. Yet in Jesus’ Kingdom we encounter the radical and “contrary to popular belief” concept that God blesses and uses those who are weak and dependent on Him. There is no escaping this truth. Paul said it this way, “… I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” [2 Cor. 12:9-10, NLT].   God will not compete with our pride but He will exploit our weaknesses for His glory and His purposes. Have you ever thought of letting God use your weaknesses? Have you ever considered that the reason God won’t take away that struggle, that temptation, or that difficult person in your life is so His power can “show up” through your weakness without encountering your pride or your sense of self-sufficiency?   Consider a specific struggle you have with “X”. “X” is what bothers you, troubles you, frustrates you. “X” is what you wish God would just remove from your life and then you’d be happier. Yet “X” remains; “X” lingers; “X” just will not go away. But in God’s Kingdom, “X” is a gateway for God’s grace, a portal for His power, and a platform for His purpose. “X” is where we are forced to depend on God’s love and look for His provision from the Holy Spirit. So what is “X”? “X” could be a lot of things but consider …
  • “X” is singleness and through singleness you learn to be content in Christ and with Christ;
  • “X” is an illness that forces you to push past a circumstantial faith and learn to depend on God’s promises and anticipate the new Kingdom;
  • “X” is a difficult person that allows you to consider forgiveness and loving your enemies all while learning more about the depth of God’s love for you.
  Remember God reduced the size of Gideon’s army before sending them into battle. Remember the shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath? Remember Jesus was arrested, beaten, unjustly accused, and died … all in weakness. Remember when you discovered you were a sinner—helpless and hopeless apart from God’s grace and mercy? You were weak so He could be your strong Savior!   The rest of your story and mine will be no different. Sometimes God will weaken us; sometimes God will not take away the “thorn” (“X”); and sometimes God will keep asking for us to depend 100% on Him. Each time, remember, that if dependence on God is the objective, weakness is an advantage.   I Peter 5:6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.

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God is always moving; yet we tend to drift.

  The Bible and history show us that God is always moving. He moves to save, to bring justice, to restore, to form a people for Himself, and to exalt Jesus. However, we tend to drift … and we never drift toward God or good things. Think about it—your house does not drift toward cleanliness, your body does not drift toward being in shape, your marriage does not drift toward vitality, and you will not drift toward God’s purposes either. Here are 3 “Drifts” to resist this year:
  • Toward SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS: we were created to be God-conscious and then Satan made us question God’s goodness and want God’s glory (Genesis 3:1-5). Then after sin entered the human race, we became ashamed … which is being conscious of our shortcomings. We must realize that it is very hard for a self-conscious person to move consistently or powerfully with God (James 4:6).  A church can easily drift toward self-consciousness too. This occurs when we become more concerned about ourselves than reaching people far from God or serving people outside the “4 walls” of the building.
  • Toward MAINTENANCE: how easily inertia sets in and we start maintaining what we have instead of moving to where God is going. You know you are in maintenance mode if you are saying any of these 3 words, SOMEDAY, SOMEONE, or SOMETHING:
    • SOMEDAY I’ll get to that…
    • SOMEONE should do something about that…
    • SOMETHING needs to be done about that…

A church can easily drift toward maintenance too. When this happens, the church becomes a monument to what was, instead of moving with God toward what will be and what should be.

  • Toward AVOIDANCE: this occurs when we know God has touched something in us or brought us to a redemptive crisis, but we avoid moving with God. We are aware of the call, the invitation, the issue … but we avoid doing anything about it.
When I was in middle school, Beth & I went to a Youth Conference on Jekyll Island. During the final service, I knew God was talking to me and I needed to move with Him. The preacher asked us all to close our eyes, bow our heads and then raise our hands if God was dealing with us about something. My hand shot up. Then he asked us to walk to an area to meet with counselors; I sat still. I was self-conscious, I was going to be a maintainer (not a mover) and I was drifting toward avoidance. Thankfully, Beth had ignored the preacher’s request to keep her eyes closed and she saw my hand go up. She whispered to me, “If you want to go talk to someone, I’ll go with you.”  

What God was doing IN me couldn’t be finalized until someone moved WITH me!

  Christianity is a “WE” movement. Church is “WE”, not just me. We need each other to move with God and avoid drifting. As we begin 2016, I want to encourage you to be part of God’s WE!
  • RETHINK what church membership means and why small groups are so important.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…

Hebrews 10:24-25 {NLT}