As the World Changes It’s Course

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“‘When a nation is made a god it becomes a god’. It becomes the worship of the nation itself, and when this is absolutized it unleashes a mass devotion that is false, idolatrous and truly demonic.” OS Guinness, Impossible People – Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization.

As the current history of US and the world is changing its course I noted the following two brief reflections on my Facebook page.

We Have Offered a Strange Fire, Friday, January 20, 2017

What shall I say at the end of the day? Let’s put it this way. Some of you might know the feeling: you are watching the inauguration and listening to President’s speech, and this quiet voice within keeps on telling you that something is very wrong, despite the fact that the name of the Lord has been invoked multiple times.

This blend of nationalism, craving the greatness and power through physical strength, exclusivism that borders with superiority, and all of these mixed together with claims that “God is with us”; and with the fervent prayers and supplications to God to make America into “the shining city on a hill” – all of these are something that cannot have the approval of Heaven, regardless of all the prayers uttered today.

The Lord will not let us turn Him into a mascot of our private or national pride, ambitions and interests. He will not let us treat Him as if we owe Him. Today we witnessed a big act of worship, but I fear that we “offered strange, unacceptable fire before the Lord” Lev. 10:1.

No, my friends, these are not the words of someone bitter towards America. These are the words of someone who empathizes with a multitude of Americans who know that our God is not a tribal god, and that He has only one “nation” on this earth – his Church redeemed by the blood of Jesus; which is not geographically, ethnically or racially defined.

President Obama Deserves a Few Words of AppreciationThursday, January 19, 2017

Today is the President Barack Obama’s last full day as president of the US. Let me share a few thoughts at the conclusion of his presidency. Those thoughts are coming from someone who has been fighting hard not to be caught up in the paradigm of divisive political partisanship that has penetrated deep the soul of American society.

This is what I’ve observed. From the first day of the President Obama’s two terms in office he was continually, deliberately and systematically obstructed in everything he laid his hands on. His political opponents worked relentlessly to nullify, undermine or destroy all his efforts. His political enemies were determined to see President Obama fall and his presidency ruined. Assisted by many radio talk-show, TV and social media pundits they were creating the atmosphere of confusion, antagonism, hatred, even hysteria towards President Obama.

The most cynical thing was that the most vocal politicians and pundits who were endlessly productive in creating the climate of paranoia towards President Obama bragged about their “Christian” faith and values. They yelled that he was not an American citizen. They labeled him as “dictator”, “communist”, “Muslim”, “fascist”, “traitor”, “the Beast”, and “the Antichrist” from the book of Revelation, and much more.

I admire President Obama for the strength of his character and the courage that enabled him to receive all the blows with dignity and integrity. I do not know if any American president was mocked and humiliated as much as President Obama. There are some areas of his actions and policies, domestic and international, with which I do not agree. In fact, with some of them I disagree very strongly. Nevertheless, I believe President Obama was a good president and a leader of quality, and a very decent man.

It won’t be long before people will reflect on the days of the presidency of Barack Obama with nostalgia. Call me whatever you like, but I believe President Obama deserves a few words of appreciation.

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Wake Us Up, Lord

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“Wake us up, Lord! Wake us up!” This is how I pray at the beginning of the year 2017.

As we reflect on the world state of affairs at the beginning of the New Year I see that we haven’t got much reason for optimism, except our eyes are firmly set on Jesus Christ. The prospects that the New Year will pleasantly surprise us in the coming days, weeks or months are very slim indeed, considering the inherited geo-political alignments, and overall moral and spiritual climate.

What is the year 2017 inheriting from the year 2016?

The cruel wars soaked with the blood of innocent children, women and men. Brutal persecutions and killing of many (especially Christians) who did not want to convert into the faith of the captors. Exportation into the world of the ideology driven terrorism with demonic suicidal flavor. And the multi-players proxy wars, all involved in the conflict in which it is still hard to distinguish enemies from allies. These were some of the features that dominated the Middle East region in 2016.

At another level, international relations looked more like international political prostitution that was adding more fuel to the fire rather than bringing about constructive solutions, stability and peace into the world. Moreover, Europe continued toying with the lives of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, while allowing the right-wing extremism, even some forms of soft fascism to grow unchecked. In the US a disgraceful presidential election helped a new America emerge, one that is potentially dangerous to itself, and hazardous for the rest of the world.

In 2016 we also witnessed the Orwellian age coming out of puberty. Today, as the post-truth age advances, shameless lying and deception are treated as educational, political and media virtues. The increase in the fake-news, pushed forward by some alternative media, was not the only face of the emerging post-truth paradigm. The more serious problem was that often it was hard to distinguish the factual truth from manipulated or half-truths, or agenda driven reporting in the mainstream media narratives. Moreover, the characters of leaders did not suddenly matter anymore.

These, and more, contributed to the making of 2016 as the year of increased hopelessness, apathy, and spiritual and moral confusion. So, it looks like the party is over. Shouts that there is a fire in the house might be for real this time. It will certainly not be ‘business as usual” for much longer.

At this time, I am especially concerned about American evangelical Christianity, at least about a significant part of it, because it seems it’s long awaited spring has come.

Too many Christians are becoming too literal about the meaning of the phrase “the church militant”. Their Christianity is painted with the vivid colors of nationalism, even racism, and questionable political loyalties. Too many Christians are now flirting with the political brands that offer greatness, power and control, convinced that their love affair with hazardous political choices are of the Holy Spirit. A friend told me the other day that she is in peace with herself over her choice for the new US President because she received a “strong conviction from the Lord” about her decision. At this moment, too many share similar convictions that their current political allegiances have received a heavenly endorsement.

I pray for my Christian friends who believe that “making America great again” is on God’s priority list. It is a dangerous thing to embed the Kingdom of Christ with the kingdoms of this world, regardless of their political flavor. It is dangerous for the world and degrading for the cause of Christ to equate the mission of His Kingdom with the ambitions of the kingdoms of this world. The vision of the Emperor Constantine, that he would win militarily and politically under the sign of the cross was never given to him by God, because His Kingdom would never be fought for with swords. Even if the entire Cabinet of the President-Elect gets filled with the “born-again” and “Spirit filled” Christians, this should become a cause for concern much sooner than the cause for jubilation. Surrounded by a government of “godly men” could soon lead to a false notion that all its decisions are anointed by and pleasing to God.

While it is true that the followers of Jesus are called into the political service, and various forms of public service by the means of political leadership, so that they could be “the light and salt of the world” in the political arena, the Lord has never appointed his followers to be the cheerleaders for different party ideologies or cherished personality cults. Neither is Jesus calling his followers to claim the militant barricades or strongholds of the world. If in the coming weeks and months we decide to “trust in the multitudes of chariots, and the strength of their horsemen” (Isaiah 31:1., Psalm 20:7.) to lead us into the political victories, even if claim them from Heaven, our hopes and dreams will be crushed, and the name of Jesus will be dishonored.

So, I pray, “Wake us up, Lord. Wake us up!” May we see with clarity that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ will never endorse any kingdom of this earth. Indeed, God does have His people on the earth. They are His Bride, His Church, His Body, His Remnant, His “7000 whose knees have not bowed down to Baal” (1. Kings 19:18), His “salt and light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). However, God does not have his government or his superpower on earth. His kingdom is made of a different substance, placed above and outside of what we call our civilization and our culture. Our presidents, kings and dictators do not advise the King of the Kingdom of God. Nor our monuments, temples and institutions decorate its greatness.

If we ever needed the strength and discernment to draw the line between the two kingdoms, and to rise high above the expectations of our culture, our civilization, and the political, social and nationalistic pressures, we surely need to do it now, at the beginning of 2017. The only culture, the only civilization, the only Kingdom that will completely defeat the civilization of death, together with its culture of greed, hatred, racism and nationalism, enslavement, lying, deception, and destruction – is the civilization of the Kingdom of God. And the only King worthy of our trust, undivided loyalty and love is the King Jesus.

Imagine the world in which Jesus Christ reigns? It is coming. Soon. And without help of macho Christianity. The cynicism and unbelief of many will not change the certainty of its arrival. Let us decide that through the working of the grace of God and His Spirit in our lives we will unashamedly give our allegiance to Jesus Christ, the only Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Let’s seek Him to wake us up entirely, and equip us to make a difference in this world in the ways that count in His Kingdom: by loving our neighbors, refugees and immigrants; and pursuing justice and righteousness; and easing the suffering of the poor, homeless, sick, elderly, and otherwise neglected and rejected – for the “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” James 1:27.

Yes, wake us up, Lord! May we truly pledge our allegiance to the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords alone. May we seek to be Jesus’ ambassadors in the year that will surely put our faith in Him to the test even further.

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One Day It Will Not Be a False Flag

Advent Reflection

 “In the last days scoffers will come…  and say, ‘Where is this ‘coming” he promised?’” 2. Peter 3:3.4.

There was a time when believing in the soon return of Jesus Christ defined the lives of many of my generation. I grew up in a church culture that believed in and proclaimed the imminent return of Jesus. As a child I had a dream in which I saw Jesus coming in the clouds of Heaven.

Today we are embarrassed even to mention that we are looking forward to His soon appearing. We don’t want to look like fools in the eyes of the scoffers, spiritual nihilists, and those who possess an overly optimistic view of human progress. Plus, we have ourselves become uncertain too. What if we cry “wolf”, and nothing happens, again?

It is out of fashion today to believe in the Second Coming of Jesus. We plan to conquer Mars in the next 30 years or less. We fantasize about what will our human life look like in 20 years from now. We dream about extending the length of our lives indefinitely with the help of modern science and advanced technology.

Frankly, it is not an in thing to believe in the imminence of the literal coming of the Lord Jesus at the time when many are intoxicated with the utopia of a gradual ushering in of the lasting earthly kingdom, which is to become a heavenly one through a guided process of social, spiritual and scientific evolution. We have not finished dreaming about our tower of Babel yet.

But the writing on the wall is ever more clearly upon our civilization – “You have been weighted on the scales and found wanting” Daniel 5:27. How much worse could it get? How much longer could it go? The generation of Noah was horror stricken when the day of reckoning came upon them. So will be many living today as they suddenly come to a sober realization that God is not an old full to be played with forever.

When that day arrives, suddenly and unscheduled in the calendars of the powerful, no remorse or repentance will be of any use. “For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not.” C.S. Lewis, The Business of Heaven

It will do us well to realize now that one day soon it will not be a false flag. The shouts will be real, “The King is coming! The King is coming!”

First released May 2014 as “God Without Disguise”

 

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Come, Lord Jesus

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Advent Reflection

 

 

When Jesus Christ came for the first time, as a powerless baby, it seemed as if the whole world was asleep. Only a few anticipated His birth. Many more could have known about His gentle arrival if the leaders of faith had only paid attention. How was it possible that a group of Wise Men from the East knew that the King of Kings was about to be born while the leaders of the Jewish religious establishment didn’t have a clue?

We are now living in the anticipation of the Second Advent. The Nicene Creed summarizes well one of the fundamental Christian beliefs: “I believe that He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.” As Jesus was returning to his Father, soon after His resurrection, the angels promised his followers: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” Acts 1:11. But this time no one will be able to pretend to have missed His Coming. “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him” Revelation 1:7.

At this season of Advent, like at any other, the anticipation of the Second Coming is mentioned, here and there, in the planned Scripture readings or sermons in our churches. But the enthusiasm seems to be missing because the urgency is not there. We have heard the message of Advent so many times, packaged gently into the message of Christmas, that we hardly notice it’s importance any more. And even when a pastor dares make a more serious attempt at reminding us that Jesus Christ is coming back again, this message always comes with an added disclaimer – “but we do not know the day or the hour” Matthew 24:36. We never miss pointing out that there are too many charlatans around busily putting forward one apocalyptic date after another, lest someone confuses us with one of those “date setting sects”.

No wonder the message of Advent sounds as a fairytale, or a not-obliging metaphor when we hardly dare declare it with the urgency it deserves. Could it be that the Advent call to “wake up from our slumber” (Romans 13:11) sounds to us more like the warning Lot gave his sons-in-law-to-be about the imminence of the destruction of Sodom? Lot appeared to them that “he was joking” Genesis 19:14. Could it be that we too have fallen for a self-soothing lullaby that “our master is taking a long time in coming” (Luke 12:45), hoping that if the Second Coming ever takes place in the literal wrappings of the Biblical announcements it would take many hundreds of years or more before it happens?

And yet, just as surely as Jesus surprised us the first time, He will surprise us the second time too. His second appearing will not look like a slow-motion evolution of the kingdom of this world into the Kingdom of our God. “This time”, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature.” (C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity) One day, as surely as this day exists, the history as we know it, with all our achievements and big plans for the future, will collapse in response to the sudden appearing of the presence, power and the glory of the coming King of Kings. One day “the rock cut out without a help of human hands” will struck the statue of human history, and become “a huge mountain” that will “fill the whole earth” Daniel 2:31-35.

True, we should not manipulate with the date setting. But dare we ask the question, nevertheless – what if that day is not far off? What if the rapidly concentrating distressful events, wars and rumors of wars, accumulating spiritual and political deceit, and other overwhelming global circumstances that radiate with hopelessness are the actual signs that, in the words of the Bob Dylan’s song “Slow Train Coming”, the day of the Lord’s appearing is just “up around the bend”? What if the day of “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) is shockingly more imminent than what we are ever ready to believe? What if Jesus’ invitation to “stand up and lift our heads, because our redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28) is meant for us living in the first quarter of the 21st century?

Let’s us not dare ignore those questions at this Advent season. Instead, with the awaken hearts let us declare: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20.

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The Night Jesus Wept

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Yes, Jesus is the King! But this is not so because the choruses of Trump’s supporters are saying so as they are celebrating his presidential victory this morning. That “Jesus is the King” is even more true in the face of the fact that millions of declared followers of Jesus in the US are to blame for the unsavory victory of Donald Trump.

To examine the value of Donald Trump one does not need to listen to various conspiracy gossips. His words, gimmicks and actions speak volumes. They demonstrate that he is a habitual liar, racist, nationalist with fascist overtones, hate monger at multiple levels, bully, fake Christian, a spiteful, revengeful and unpredictable man, as well as a sexual predator.

It does not surprise me at all that Donald Trump won. We are increasingly living in a valueless world. The most humiliating and shaming thing is that he won with an overwhelming support of the very people who claim that Jesus alone was their King. Christianity Today reported today that 4 in 5 white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. “More than 80% of white evangelical and ‘born-again’ Christians voted for Mr. Trump”, stated the Wall Street Journal today too. And they did it in company with all kinds of extremists, white supremacists, racist and Nazi groups, such as Ku Klux Klan and alike.

In a surreal atmosphere intoxicated with deception too many Christians in America are celebrating today the victory of Donald Trump. Self-styled prophets, teachers and evangelists are prophesying about “God’s special purpose in choosing Donald Trump”. One of them declared today that “God has sovereignly raised up Donald Trump”. Various Christian leaders have called Donald Trump “God’s wrecking ball”, “God’s anointed choice”, “God’s choice” to “prepare America for Christ’s return.”  In the next several days we are to witness numerous church services and other faith-based occasions that will celebrate the winning of Donald Trump through the waves of thanksgiving and praise.

On the other hand, thanks God, there are still many sober followers of Jesus who are very much concerned about the soul of America, and the world at this hour. We cannot agree that Heaven is celebrating too at this moment. Instead we believe that last night Jesus wept with many in the US and the world who are concerned about the state of delusion and deception that is engulfing the world today, many Christians including.

We cannot believe that there is anything that we have seen in the candidacy and the life of Donald Trump that is compatible with the life and values of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. We are finding it hard to believe that “America is going to be made great again” through the ministry of cynicism, threats, unpredictable actions, bulling, insults, character assassinations, humiliation, and promotion of hate and division which we have repeatedly witnessed in the life and actions of Donald Trump.

Instead we hope that the words of Tony Campolo, the American Christian writer, might come true: “His victory is likely to get evangelicals to do some soul searching as to who they are, and why they were swept up in supporting a man whose rhetoric played upon fear of immigrants, fear of Muslims, an anti-scientific disbelief in global warming, overt racism and sexist attitudes that are contrary to scripture.” Christianity Today, November 9, 2016.

Meanwhile, with embarrassment and shame in our hearts many of us will have to continue to live with the consequences of the fact that so many millions of American Christians have actually paved the way for Donald Trump to become the next President of the US. “They have”, in the words of a friend of mine, “created September 11 of another kind”. They have made last night Jesus weep again. And they will make us all pay for it, one way or another.

Let’s brace ourselves for a bumpy ride with increased turbulences, as we are wishing goodbye to the world as we know it. A saying goes: “As you make your bed, so you must lie on it”. Or in the words of Paul: “Whatever one sows, that will one also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

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Recommended Reading and Watching at this time:
Glenn Greenwald talks to Democracy Now: Donald Trump’s public persona was consecrated and constructed by one of the most powerful media organizations in the world….
Proclaiming “Christ is Lord” is NOT Declaring “God is in Control
This is Why I’m Crying ….
Three days of hate in Donald Trump’s America
To My Southern Baptist Brothers Who Voted For Trump
Christianity Today: Global Evangelical Leaders Concerned that Trump’s Win Will Harm the Church’s witness
The New Nationalism, The Economist
How the 2016 Election Reminded Me of Growing Up in a Cult
Sorry, Evangelicals, You Can’t Play the Trump Card and the God Card at Same Time

Let the Record Show, John Pavlovitz

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My Statement On the 2016 Election

I have been placed under much pressure and intimidation lately. This would happen every time when I shared a link on my Facebook page expressing a concern about the presidential fitness of Donald Trump. The same happened, even more forcefully, when I shared a couple of articles, written by friends, with favorable views of Hillary Clinton. Although I’ve never myself written an affirming article about Hillary Clinton I was repeatedly labeled as the Hillary’s promoter.

So I have to say the following: I am not endorsing any of the two leading candidates. I do not endorse Donald Trump because everything about him radiates with nightmare and insult to any sense of human decency. With all due respect for my friends who might think otherwise, I cannot find even a single thing about him that would attract me to approve of him as the next President of the US.

I find Hillary Clinton less troubling. However, I am hesitant to endorse her either because I believe that freedom of religion and conscience, and respect for human dignity and sanctity of human life do matter profoundly. All of those, plus gender clarity, are fundamental pillars of our freedoms and moral stability of our society; and all of those are very likely to be manipulated under her presidency.

I am not yet eligible to vote in the US, but if I were, I would not have voted for any of the two. Instead I would have selected a third candidate as my personal statement that I do not approve of the system that does not allow the best among the best to advance to the top of the presidential electoral ladder; regardless of the fact that the third candidate would not stand a chance in the election. I do not believe, as many Evangelicals do, that running away from Hillary Clinton must lead one by default into the lap of Donald Trump.

Finally, whoever wins, we have to brace ourselves for a bumpy ride. The 2016 presidential election will be followed by the unpleasant consequences of deepening disunity, political spite, and very likely the atmosphere of retaliation. America should have never allowed itself to come to the point of cornering itself with the two current candidates. Much prayer and eyes wide open will be needed, for none of the two leading candidates, whoever becomes the President, will be a genuine friend of the core human values, rights and freedoms.

For more insight into my concerns and views read my article “Specks and Planks” released two weeks ago.

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Reformation Without Strings Attached

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499 years ago to date a German monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. This event set in motion the unstoppable wave of Protestant Reformation in Europe, and led to the departure of the churches identified with the Reformation from the Roman Catholic Church.

In the heart of the big split was how the two sides understood the centrality and role of grace and faith in the lives of believers. On the one hand the Roman Catholic Church claimed that she was the God given means of deciding the conditions under which the grace of Christ was to be administered in the lives of believers. The Reformers, on the other hand, understood that if the grace of  Jesus Christ was to be grace, it had to be the gift of God with no human strings attached. Thus the well-known tag lines of the Reformation came into being: Jesus alone, grace alone, faith alone, Bible alone.

Today, almost 500 years later, we are hearing the loud choruses of Christian leaders and scholars on all sides declaring that the Reformation was a big mistake, and that all theological differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants were the consequences of “a tragic misunderstanding”.  “Our differences are only the question of semantics. After all we all believe that we are all saved by grace, aren’t we?”, they argue.

But, has anything really changed over the centuries in our understanding of the Gospel of Christ to justify such bold claims?

Have we finally come to a clearer understanding of the meaning, centrality and all-sufficiency of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in our salvation? Have we finally stopped turning our denominations and churches into the ‘dens of robbers’ by selling in them our own brands of saving supplements? Have we all, after many debates, commissions and joint declarations come to share in the transfiguration experience of Jesus, when his disciples finally “saw no one else but Jesus”? Matthew 17:8.

I am not convinced that we have. And I am saying “we” because all kinds of self-saving placebos are on the market across the entire spectrum of Christendom today. The examples vary from the outrageous and extreme self-molestations of Catholics in Philippines during the days of Easter, to the superstitious veneration of relics and deceased human intercessors and co-redeemers, still very much alive even in the most liberal circles of the Roman Catholic Church.

By the same token, have we Protestants moved forward “ever reforming” when many of us are relying on our subjective forms of mysticism (listen to the most of the contemporary praise and worship music and you will discover that we praise our emotions more often than Jesus the Redeemer)? Or when we rely on the subjective prophetic and charismatic gifts for the assurance of our standing with God rather than on the firm promise that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved?” Romans 10:13. Are we truly reformed and “keep on reforming” when many of us have lost any appreciation for the uniqueness of Jesus as “the only name given to men to be saved”? Acts 4:11.

In other words, wherever a Christian culture exists that encourages its followers to believe and act as if their salvation, or sense of God’s approval depend on our works (whether they are the works of the Law or our own rules); or on our subjective inner feelings and notions; or wherever we are encouraged to look for the revelation of God in the inner workings of our consciousness – through it all we are demonstrating that we are not sure if trusting in Jesus alone is enough to keep us in the saving relationship with God. Thus the grace of Christ, as the supreme and all-sufficient agent of our salvation is compromised, diluted, even lost.

As long as something is being added, whatever that may be, to which we give even partial redemptive attributes, we have not grasped the heart, meaning and continuing urgency of the Reformation. Instead of “always reforming” we are continually deforming.

Today many are praying for unity, quoting the prayer of Jesus “that all may be one”. Unfortunately, they are forgetting that the only legitimate unity shared among the followers of Jesus is the one with Jesus firmly occupying the throne, and deciding the rules of the game. “That all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You”’ prayed Jesus. John 17:21.

Jesus never prayed for unity at all costs. Unity that does not have Jesus-plus-nothing in the center is a hijacked unity.  Cosmetic unifications are not based on the truth but on compromises that always sacrifice the Gospel. There where Jesus Christ is not on the throne, some other “Christ” will be enthroned. This is why the warning of Paul the Apostle sounds so urgent and so uncompromising: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned”. Galatians 2:8.

The 16th century Reformers understood that the heart of the Gospel was the gift of Jesus Christ without human strings attached. This was the landmark which they did not dare compromise or subject to improvisation. Neither should we today.

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PS. The late Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer, who dedicated his life to working towards the unity of the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches, said that “Luther’s protest is over”,  namely that there were no more justifiable reasons for the separation between the Protestant world and the Roman Catholic Church since “now we all believe that we are all saved by Christ alone”. The current visit of Pope Francis to Sweden, where he is meeting with the top leaders of the Lutheran World Federation to commemorate 500 years of the Protestant Reformation, seems to be suggesting that Pope Francis too believes that the end of five hundred year long separation is almost over. As we are becoming more and more aware of the claims and statements delivered by the prominent faith leaders we need to continue to ask: Is justice being done to the Gospel of Christ through the processes that are diligently working at the high levels to bring the Christendom together under one tent? I know this is one of those unpopular questions in the age of political, social and spiritual correctness. But it needs to be asked nevertheless.

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Our Only Hope

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The roots of anger that is increasingly overloading the world are not to be found in the endless list of scapegoats that we are so quick to blame for everything today – for moral, economic, social, political, national and personal downfalls. The roots of anger of the peoples, nations and groups of peoples today are to be found in the fact that we are the last generation of people living in the leftovers of borrowed values.

Two or three generations ago the intellectual elites of the world decided that God was dead. Still, most of the people continued to benefit from the spiritual and moral fruit of the preceding generations. Our fathers and grandfathers knew very well that they were accountable to someone bigger than themselves.

Then it dawned on us that if ‘God was dead’, man created in the moral image of God had to be dead too. Finally, we have reached the stage of human history when nothing is left of man, but a worthless zombie. There where God is dead humanity disappears too.

So, it is not surprising at all if we see today that human life is treated as worthless or as a disposable commodity – from the slaughter-fields of Syria, across the sophisticated medical institutions and scientific laboratories of the West, to the cruel battlefields of American elections. Leaders, from the powerful states to some tiny banana countries, are more than eager today to lead consistently with their no-god-no-man philosophy.

It is no coincidence at all that the Book of Revelation (chapter 13) describes the leaders of the world in the apocalyptic times as beasts. This is what happens to the cultures and societies where humanism is denied its only legitimate reference point – God. It seems that Adolf Hitler was born only a moment too soon.

The anger that we see on the raise today comes out of the overwhelming hopelessness of the nations and peoples who are realizing, consciously or not, that their world has reached the point of no return. Millions feel deceived, misled, abused and lost as they are bombarded by the choruses of lying voices promising a new, bright future. In the state of panic, frustration and confusion they are now after anyone who they believe are the source of their hopelessness; foolishly believing that if they get rid of this one or that one their lives would somehow make sense again.

But, it is a delusion to think that another revolution or upraising, a new war or unrest, or a new radical movement on the left or the right would change the world into a better place. Our only hope and real assurance is in trusting Jesus Christ, the only real and legitimate King of Kings. He will soon put everything to rights again. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of Lord our God” Psalm 20:7.

Preachers, teachers, pastors, people and friends let us lift up the name of Jesus Christ with clarity and distinction, and without any apology or shame. The “stumbling block” (1. Corinthians 1:23) that offends so many is our only hope, the way, the truth,the  life and our only salvation. In the challenging days that are ahead of us let us identify with the family and movement of Jesus’ followers, and be away from any movement that justifies lies, anger and abuse of our fellow men and women as the means of changing our world.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 11:15.

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Specks and Planks

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“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The current US presidential race looks more like the gladiators’ game, where savagery reigns and all decency has vanished. Too much is at stake as the election nightmare draws nigh, and the hour might be late already to repair the damage, regardless of who wins the race. When the ball is over will we all be paying the price? So, how can one be silent?

One is yet to see what the presidency of Hillary Clinton might bring to America, and to the world? There are things about her that concern me indeed. Her emails are not among them, nor the ancient sins of her husband Bill. I wish the zealots who are today so generously forgiving all Donald Trump’s blunders, gropings and other sexual and non-sexual escapades, would extend only a portion of that grace to the Clinton Family.

I am much more concerned about the further advancements of gender and marriage confusion, that was aggressively advanced under the current administration? Let me share a recent, eye-opening experience as a metaphor.

As I recently entered a local branch of otherwise well know national brand of a coffee outlet, my attention was drawn to a new sign posted next to what used to be the male bathroom. It was quite a sight and surprise to see, through the open bathroom door a male urinal, and next to the open door a new sign declaring that from that day onward ladies were welcome too. Already I’ve heard comments uttered by some concerned women who complained that before the female and male bathrooms were turned into the “gender-neutral” sanctuaries at least the ladies’ toilets were clean. Since the renaming of the bathrooms, no clean toilet is to be found around. These are some of the first consequences of the gender equality wrongly applied.

Sounds cynical? Not nearly as much as the whole social and political construct that drowns us all deeper into moral confusion under the hijacked concept of advancing human equality.

Will we have more of those, and alike, if Hillary Clinton occupies the Oval Office?

Moreover, will we witness more assaults on religious freedom, at least on some of its aspects? Will we be a part of further devastation of human dignity through the application of quasi science, and under the implausible excuse that human progress and liberation cannot be stopped? Will we be fed more wild interpretations of the US Constitution, especially those that twist the freedom of religion into the freedom from religion? Will the aggressive atheism continue to grow into the state favored religion in the years to come? These are some of the legitimate questions one should ask before deciding to cast his or her vote for Hillary Clinton.

Sadly, the US has not yet devised an electoral mechanism by which the best of the best and the most accountable would grace the finals of a presidential race. A few potentially better choices, candidates with more upright characters, were dismissed long months ago by the people who wanted a messianic figure; one who would look more like Barabbas, and less like Jesus. Could it be that the words of the Old Testament prophet Amos speak also to us who are expecting that some kind of miracle will rescue America on the November 8? Amos warned: “It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear.” Amos 5:19.

But, come what may, I will not join the crowd of ideologically driven zealots who are calling Hillary Clinton an evil woman. She is not a witch or an antichrist, regardless of all the claims of the numerous YouTube self-styled prophets.  And it is a total misnomer for Donald Trump to call her a “crooked and criminal Hilary”. May he behold himself in the mirror of truth before he continues to cast the rocks of wild accusations and labels against her. I will have nothing to do with the gloating shouts of many calling Americans to do away with Hillary Clinton.

And while I am still trying to make up my own mind about Hillary Clinton, under no circumstances, as a follower of Jesus, could I vote for Donald Trump. Everything about him resonates with the total absence of common sense, sound judgment, and decency. The idea that he could become the next US Commander in Chief is a nightmarish and dangerous one.

Let me be clear. His mistakes, shortcomings and sins do not upset me. Everyone has “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23. Everyone needs repentance and forgiveness. The redeeming blood of Jesus washes the sins of Donald Trump just as thoroughly as the sins of Bill Clinton, or any TV evangelist. I could care less about the things that happened in his life ten or more years ago, provided Donald Trump has repented for his sins; provided they were buried in the past.

But this is the point: with Donald Trump everything suggests that his sins are very much alive and well. He seems to be taking pride in the lifestyle soaked in lack of humility, malice, revengefulness, spite, narcissism and promiscuity. Miroslav Volf is right when he states that the video in itself is not a problem. It “simply puts a terrible icing on the unsavory cake that, if we are wise, we the citizens of the United States will not inflict on ourselves and the entire world after Nov. 8″, said Dr. Miroslav Volf.

And we all know it very well, if we only want to have our eyes open, that Donald’s “unsavory cake” is made up of the perpetual and blatant lying, lavished threats, arrogance, meanness, humiliation of others, bullying and verbal abuses, people trashing, womanizing and more. Moreover, he excites his supporters to the acts of hatred, racism and violence. Some of his mesmerized supporters are even promising an armed revolution should their idol lose the 2016 presidential election.

Donald Trump is a loose cannon, another Pandora box that should have never been opened, a presidential candidate with dangerous intentions. He is the stuff of which fascism and brazen dictatorships are made. Through his political birth we understand better the political evolution of Adolf Hitler, or Mussolini. The problem with Donald Trump are not his long-forgotten sins, but his character; or to put it more clearly – the lack of it. The tragedy is that he calls it “being smart, being successful”.

Donald Trump is a fake leader. One of the examples for it is the ways he fakes his Christian faith. He discovered the benefits of being a Christian only a few months ago; when he calculated that he had to be one if he were to attract the evangelical votes. Anyone who knows anything about Christianity can detect his pretense immediately. Only an unrepentant man, living in the state of spiritual delusion, could claim that he “will not have to be asking God for much forgiveness”. A man whose favorite Bible verse is “an eye for an eye” is ignorant of his Lord Jesus Christ. Donald Trump is yet to learn that love and empathy, rather than retaliation, are the language of the applied Gospel of Christ. He does not know yet that the heart of Jesus’ message and example is his summon to his followers to love one another, enemies included. Moreover, if Donald Trump knew anything about the Christian faith as it is revealed in Jesus Christ, he would speak more kindly about the poor, women, disabled, immigrants, his political rivals, and yes – Muslims and Mexicans too. Donald Trump is not a follower of Jesus.

Irrespective of how many evangelical hands have been piously laid over his head in the past few months, or how many “anointed prophets” have declared him to be the “chosen one” (check the YouTube, google about it); and regardless of all kinds of gymnastics that so many Christian leaders have been applying to Christianize him somehow, Donald Trump is not a contemporary David, or Sampson or John the Baptist. He certainly is not a modern-day Constantine or King Cyrus of the Old Testament. The prophetic blessings uttered over him are those of the false prophets, warned about by Jeremiah the prophet: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:16.

While Hillary Clinton is yet to prove if she is a friend or a foe of the followers of Jesus, Donald Trump has already demonstrated amply that his lifestyle is an insult to anything called Christian. It is shocking indeed to see so many misguided Christians and Christian leaders (evangelical mostly) who, while never ceasing to demonize the US President and Hillary Clinton, are remaining deliberately blind to any and all character blunders of Donald Trump.  In their views he remains the God’s anointed, almost a messianic figure, a liberator who will “make America into a great Christian nation” again. It does not bother them at all that he has no credentials whatsoever, moral or otherwise, to claim for such a monumental task. And while some are still remaining concerned about the state of religious freedom under Hilary Clinton, a more realistic concern should be if Donald Trump and his followers would turn the freedom of religion into a mockery and disgrace, only selectively applied, if given a chance?

Sadly, and dishonestly, their veneration of Donald Trump is the agenda, and not the truth-driven. Mistakenly they believe that, if surrounded by godly men, Donald Trump would grow to be their champion in the noble fight for the restoration of the very values his lifestyle mocks so profoundly. At the same time, they cannot stand any “speck” in the eyes of Hillary Clinton, while they are deliberately swallowing and excusing multiple “planks” in the eyes and boastful mouth of Donald Trump. Many who should have known better have already bowed down in the attitude of worship and adoration of his gold-coated image. But by God’s grace I intend to remain standing. I will not prostitute my faith under the false pretense that he is the God’s choice for America at this time when everything about him demonstrates otherwise.

No, my friends, voting for Donald Trump does not mean voting for God and His Kingdom.

PS: Are we praying honestly that the will of the Lord will be done at this time? How many of us are pushing our cherished political agendas into our prayers? And how many sermons we hear today about how to vote are pure manipulations (not in my church)? And how many modern prophecies endorsing the populist candidate are nothing more than the wishful thinking of the “prophets”? May the Lord give us, his followers, His grace at this time of a great need so that in the days ahead our loyalty remains clearly with Him, and not with Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton.

Take this test.

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Letter to My American Friends

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“A great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was and earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” 1. Kings 19:11.12.

Fifteen years ago to date a group of terrorists shook America and the world. The world has never been the same. I wrote this letter 15 years ago, and have been releasing it every year since September 11, 2001. Fifteen years later this letter continues to speak with a prophetic concern and relevance.

Dear American Friends,

Like you I too am overwhelmed with the tragedy that struck the United States in the form of a vicious terrorist attack. Even now, I cannot help but continue to reflect upon the consequences that are emerging from this incomprehensible tragedy.

I am still shocked by its extent. The pain of the thousands of relatives and friends who lost their loved ones moves me deeply. I condemn the barbarian act of cruelty that had inspired a group of murderers to kill the thousands of innocent people. There is no human or divine justification for such an act of cruelty whatever the motives. I pray that those responsible will be called to account.

But I am concerned, too. When I see the multitudes of Afghani refugees, hungry and homeless, surviving under humiliating living conditions — men, women and children suffering circumstances beyond their control, seeking safety in an unsafe neighborhood, I wonder if our global conscience will be pacified solely with the tones of humanitarian aid. And when I hear about incidents that involve people quick to categorize others on the bases of their race, skin and religion, I pray that God may grant us all minds renewed by the Spirit of Christ, who has embraced everyone regardless of our ethnic, racial, cultural and religious differences. The very character of Jesus speaks powerfully against any jihad or holy war, including those with the Christian overtones.

Only yesterday, I received an email from a good friend of mine, an educator who has worked for the past five years as the principal at a Christian educational institution in Pakistan. Last week, he and his family, like many other Western professionals, had to leave Pakistan abruptly. I believe he would understand my need to share a few lines from the email he sent to a group of his friends:

“We have left Pakistan with mixed feelings. Yes, we had to get out due to the unfortunate circumstances precipitated by the events in the USA. Yet we feel so deeply for the people we left behind. In the process of departing once again the truth about humanity has been confirmed. There are wonderful people, everywhere Christians and Muslims, male and female. We were not prepared for the outpouring of the genuine love and affection (mixed with fears and feelings of insecurity) from the people we have served for the past four years. Many tears have been shed. Written, verbal, and all sorts of other, culturally peculiar, expressions of affections have been given to us. In such a short period of time and in such measure, it is difficult to accept it all and process it though our hearts. Our Muslim friends have demonstrated that there are people who are able to show respect and acceptance no matter what. We said goodbye like brothers. We should never “box-in people” into predetermined categories.”

The events of September 11 will leave long-lasting scars in many ways; not only on global politics, but also on how many understand civil, human, religious and other individual rights and freedoms. I cannot help but think of a question posted at CNN.com last week, which (from memory) went something like this: “Would you be willing to have your personal freedoms limited if doing so would bring an end to terrorism?”

Is this the only alternative we are about to face in the coming days and years?

Ever since September 11, I’ve been asking myself: What have I learned from the many different facets of this until-now unthinkable tragedy? Have I, as someone who had witnessed much of what happened in the former Yugoslavia since 1991, learned enough from our Balkan tragedy so that now I could offer some meaningful insights to our American friends who are going through the stages of shock, pain, mourning, anger and a strong urge to see justice done? How does a vision of Christ who has embraced all, including Muslims, influence the way I relate to other people today? Will I succumb to pressures that are urging me to embrace tribal mentality, or should I stand firm in retaining a sober and discerning judgment?

I have been meditating lately about the zealous biblical prophet Elijah. Hurt by injustice and indifference of people, overwhelmed by loneliness, anger and lack of direction, he ran into a cave expecting to see God unleashing the full extent of his vengeance against the source of the prophet’s frustration. While he was in the cave, a powerful wind tore the mountains apart, a strong earthquake shattered the land and a devastating fire hit the ground, but God was not in any of them. Instead, God appeared in a form of a gentle, calming, sobering, serene, inviting whisper. The ancient prophet learned that even in the midst of the most alarming circumstance, the quiet, gentle and sobering voice has more power than violence, aggression and vengeance.

In the days to come may God help us all to embrace each other more than ever before with an open heart.

Released first on Oct. 5, 2001 from Zagreb, Croatia.

Published also by The Huffington Post

Posted in Crime, Current Issues, Faith, Human Dignity, Human Rights, Law and crime, Life Issues, Reflection | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment