Morning sun rising
There’s sleep in our eyes
And echoes of nightmares
Taunt us with lies
But this is a new day
This is the dawn
There is a new way
Calling us on
Hunger and hatred
War and disease
The debt of the devil
Is never appeased
Truth is the weapon
Faith is the shield
Love is the power
For those who will yield
Don’t trust in armies
There’s no hope in guns
Don’t count on missiles
That block out the sun
For nothing below us
And nothing above
Can ever extinguish
The fire of His love
We have won this war
We have won this war
The fight may not be done
But the war’s already won
– From “We Have Won This War,” by John Fischer
Carole, a loyal Catch member, has an amazing story to tell about how God saved her from an armed attacker who forced his way into her home and held her at gunpoint in her own kitchen. I would tell the story, but it is so compelling that the story would become the point when it is not the point. The point is that God is in control. We are powerless against the forces of evil. To think that training, weapons, pepper spray, and self-defense can protect you is to put your faith in the wrong place.
“But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! Matthew 5:20
In other words: Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the most holy people you know, don’t even try.
This was one of the main things Jesus accomplished in the Sermon on the Mount. He established a new order. He put the law on a new basis. He made the law harder (indeed, impossible) to obey, but easier to fulfill. If that sounds like the same thing, it’s not. Think of it this way: If you are setting out to make yourself righteous on the basis of following all the laws of God … forget it. But if you want to know the point of the law — the reason behind it — so you can know why God gave it in the first place, and what to focus on, because you want to please Him and align your life in close proximity to His will … then you can do that by following only one law: the law of love.
Faith alone will not protect you in a house of God. Dylan Roof, who fatally shot nine congregants in a Bible Study in a Charleston South Carolina church, didn’t start shooting until the parishioners closed their eyes to pray. So keep your eyes open when you pray. Closing your eyes makes you a target. If you do not have an armed presence in your church, you are simply not ready. Here are some tips for keeping your churches safe: Lock the doors (presumably after everyone is inside); study every person who enters; watch the parking lot; have Sunday school and day care teachers carry pepper spray; and teach people to throw projectiles at attackers. Oh, yes, and don’t close your eyes when you pray.
Such were some of the messages delivered to a roomful of mostly men at a seminar on church security in a prominent evangelical church in southern California recently by a pastor and retired police officer and members of the California Rifle and Pistol Association. The overall message was: should we come under attack in a worship service by a deranged shooter, WE WILL NOT GO QUIETLY!
There is a movement afoot to prioritize the words of Jesus over the rest of the Scriptures. That is not what we are talking about here in our Red Letter Review. We’re not talking about the words of Jesus to the exclusion of everything else. The Bible claims that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness …” (2 Timothy 3:16). (In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter refers to Paul’s letters as “Scripture,” so we know that even the early church considered these epistles Scripture, and all of Scripture is necessary.)
Having said that, however, I also must say that I don’t think you can focus too much on the words of Jesus. Jesus is the focal point of all of Scripture and His words are unique and unlike the words of anyone else in all of history. It’s why the people always said that no one spoke like He spoke. He spoke with authority and not like the other teachers who spoke in cliches and borrowed phrases. They sounded like each other. Jesus sounded like no one else.
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:6-7
Jesus does not force His way into anyone’s life. He puts value on our free will. He treats each person with dignity, even those who reject Him. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.
Just think about that a minute. The God who made us is asking if we would like to have a relationship with Him. The God who made us — who could just as easily snuff out our lives by shuffling His feet (the earth is His footstool) — has issued a challenge for us to seek out a relationship with Him. He invites us to ask, seek and knock.
Well, I’m overwhelmed. I am awash in kind words and well wishes. I’m so enjoying reading all your stories and comments. So much so that I’m going to need another day to respond to them all. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment.
I remember when Mark Heard died there were hundreds of comments — many deep, and personal — on his Facebook page, and I couldn’t help but think how sad it was that he never got to read them. I feel like I’m getting to read some of mine without dying!
- a chance to go to a ballgame and see your name on the jumbotron.
- a chance to celebrate being born. Being born is a big deal. It means you were thought up in the mind of God. You have a unique identity. You have gifts. You are written on the palm of God’s hand. You have a mansion in glory. The Son of God died for you. The angels rejoiced when you came into God’s kingdom. It means you have a personality and a soul. You count. You are loved. You will live forever as a display to God’s glory. Your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
- a chance to find out how many friends you have online that you didn’t know about.
- a chance to hear from friends you did.
- as Robert reminded me, it’s a free trip around the sun.
- a chance to find out who God has touched through you.
- a chance to blow out candles (1 candle per decade, please).
- a chance to get a free dessert.
- a chance to do something for yourself guilt free.
- a complimentary discount card from the hardware store.
- a chance to go back to bed for 40 minutes which I am going to do right now.
If you care to send a gift, a donation to the Catch would be much appreciated.
Oh no, John has another birthday! How many is that now?
We ended yesterday’s Catch with a quote from this passage; today we start with it because it shows us the Jesus no one was expecting.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” Matthew 11:16-19
Ever been around people you just can’t please? No matter what you do, they’ll find something wrong with it. Well that was the Pharisees, as it is with anyone who lives by the law. The law makes you sour. It makes everyone else your business. It always makes you the judge, because if you are going to live by the law, you must show that you are following it, and that is most easily done by pointing out those who are not. Enter the judge.