18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son ship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 12:18-28, New International Version).
The Supreme Court makes a decision that the court house can no longer display the Ten Commandments. Christians across the country cry out at the loss of their rights. They do little beyond crying out about the loss
The Supreme Court makes a decision that bans prayer at high school football games. The Church rallies in support of prayer. School boards across the country search for ways to keep constituents happy and abide by the Supreme Court at the same time.
A group of people want the national motto, “In God We Trust, “removed from our money and get up in arms when it seems to happen. It wasn’t removed but simply moved from the face of the coin to the outside edge.
Still another group would take the words, “Under God” and remove them from the Pledge of Allegiance. They are quick to point out that the words were never a part of the Pledge until 1954. While that might be true, the majority of Americans have never known a time when “Under God,” was not part of the Pledge. That would mean, as far as they were concerned, it had always been there because during their lives there had never been a time when it was not a part of the Pledge of Allegiance.
I have not even begun to address things that seem to have little to do with the government. Football players sitting on the bench or on a knee during the National Anthem or flag burning are sure to grab the anger of most Americans.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. There are those who would remove the words “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance and from our money. A friend who is a Baptist preacher has said, “Some people want to take “Freedom of Religion” and are attempting readers to turn it into “Freedom from religion.” I learned recently that there is a foundation and removal of God from everything in the public sector is their mission. They call themselves “The Freedom From Religion Foundation.” This same Baptist preacher friend told me that the president of the foundation is a former Baptist preacher, turned atheist.
Here is a question for you. What did we expect?
The rise of nationalism in the 1950’s came as a result of the spread of communism in eastern Europe. Because communism was, and still is, atheistic, the rise of Christianity was part of that defense. However, as often happens, that rise in matters of faith, gave way to a decline of the same. It is a decline we still feel today.
Opinion polls show most Americans still claim themselves as Christians. But in truth, most are secular Christians at best. They make claims to faith but live their lives without giving much more than a passing nod to faith and the Church.
In his book, To Spread the Power: Church Growth in the Wesleyan Spirit, George G. Hunter III says that we have become people who live as we want during the course of the week, then go to Church on Sunday to get our booster shot. The problem, according to Hunter is, such thinking has left us immune to a full dose.
Secularism is the trend today. The Church has less and less influence in people’s lives. The Church has given way to either individualism or other institutions (sports activities, shopping, etc.) as the prime influence. This can be seen, at least in part, in church’s changing their worship time because the football game kicks off at noon.
Then we have places where the government seems to enter the realm of faith. In the Supreme Court decision Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, the majority of the court voted to strike down laws and rules allowing prayer on school property at school activities. In his opposing opinion, the Late Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote a scathing response to the majority. He wrote that the majority opinion, “bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life”.
Once again, what did we expect? When we read Scripture, there are many stories told of the persecution of faithful people in both the Old and New Testaments. Noah was ridiculed for building an ark. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the furnace because of faith. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for the same reason. Stephen was stoned for his faith in Jesus. Jesus himself was persecuted and killed as a matter of faith.
That names only a few instances in Scripture. Then we can look at Church history and see the persecution of many.
The point is, we should expect these persecutions. The prophecies of Scripture tell us they will happen. Paul reminds the early Church and us that the Spirit helps us in our weakness. When the world seems to crash-in around us, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. When yet another law protecting matters of faith is struck down, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. When a Bible or the Ten Commandments are forcibly removed, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. Further, if the overwhelming majority of Christians in the U.S. believe you have been persecuted for faith, we have no idea what persecution really is. Even today, Christians in other parts of the world are beaten and killed for nothing more than being a person of faith.
Does this mean we should remain quiet and let the world run over the Church? Of course it does not. And, we should speak out about the wrongs of the world. What it does mean is, we should know it is coming. It should not be surprise to us when it does happen. The Bible tells us it will happen. When it does, and it has happened and will happen again, our voices should speak but they should speak in love, not in anger.
What is first, last, and always, there are two things, well really just one, that are of central importance. Love God, love each other. Those are the two things. We are called in all things to love, that is the one. If we can respond in ways that demonstrate love, we might not win the battle, but with the Spirit’s help, we will win the war.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
With a Thankful Heart
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