Category Archives: Religion

Let Justice Roll Down As Waters

But let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Amos 5:24 (ASV)

One of the most moving tributes I’ve ever seen is the the Civil Rights Memorial dedicated to forty-one people who died in the struggle for the equal treatment of all people, regardless of race, during the Civil Rights Movement between 1955 (Emmett Till) and 1968 (Martin Luther King, Jr.). The LGBT Rights Movement has had its own martyrs. The Civil Rights Memorial Center lists Billy Jack Gaither, a 39-year-old gay man, was brutally beaten to death in Rockford, Alabama, simply because he was gay. But there are many others: the thirty-two people who died when an arsonist burned the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, Harvey Milk, Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard, Barry Winchell, and so many others who were killed because they were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The list is further expanded when you add in the number of LGBT suicides, especially of teenagers, because of bigotry and hatred often fueled by religious fanaticism.

The Civil Rights Memorial may only list the names of those who died because they believed in equality for African Americans but it also stands as a testament to all those who have died because of differences perceived by others. It is to remind us of the fight for equality. The concept of Maya Lin’s design of the Civil Rights Memorial (Maya Lin’s most famous design is the Vietnam Memorial) is based on the soothing and healing effect of water. It was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s paraphrase “… we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. …”, from the “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963:

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

No matter who is fighting for rights and equal treatment, the message is basically the same. The Supreme Court gave us marriage equality, but we cannot be satisfied with that. We need to end discrimination of any kind and for those who claim that they can discriminate because it is their religious right and they are only fighting for their religious freedom are in reality fitting for their own bigotry, no different then the white supremacist of the 1950s and 60s. Amos is a very appropriate prophet to look at when discussing equality. Throughout the Book of Amos, Amos voices prophetic rage against the injustices of the day. The entire book is given to denouncing the excesses of eighth-century B.C.E. Israelite life and reminding people of their true covenantal obligations. Those who are “at ease in Zion” and “feel secure on Mount Samaria,” who “lie on beds of ivory” and “eat lambs from the flock,” will “be the first to go into exile” (Amos 6:1-7) because they have forgotten the plight of the poor and mistaken religious observance and piety for moral responsibility.

If Amos were alive today, what might he say? Perhaps the most famous line from the book is the one King paraphrased from Amos 5:24: “But let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” The context of this powerful statement is a prophetic denunciation of the “sacrifices and meal offerings” of a people who have failed to keep the covenant, which is constituted by justice and fairness. Throughout Amos 5-6, the prophet lashes out against those who have become rich at the expense of the poor and against public—but hollow—displays of piety. According to Amos, God says, “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies” (Amos 5:21). Religious devotion is meaningless if it is accompanied by unfair taxes on the poor, backdoor bribes, and working against those in need (Amos 5:11-12).

Because of these sentiments, this passage has become an important source for some observers of contemporary American religious and political culture. I think Amos would disapprove of the concentration of wealth and the corresponding increase in poverty, and he would rage against the displays of self-importance and exceptionalism in some quarters of American life.

According to Amos, a nation is exceptional by the measure of how it cares for the lowest members of society; and a nation of religious hypocrisy and injustice is one that will perish. John Winthrop expressed the message of Amos in his famous work “A Modell of Christian Charity” (1630); he knew that for the Puritan legacy to be a “light unto the nations” and a “city upon a hill,” the community would have to be based upon principles of justice, fairness, and regard for others, “that every man afford his help to another in every want or distress.”

No matter what religious fanatics and bigots say, God is on our side, and one day, truth, justice, and equality will prevail throughout the United States, and instead of the death and destruction that the bigots proclaim will happen, God and His peace and love will be there instead.  On that day,  justice will roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Adapted from a post originally posted on August 9, 2015 and reposted today in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9

Peter continues to answer the mocking of the false teachers working among the Christians in the early church. They ask, “Where is this coming Jesus promised?” They teach that it’s been too long; Christ is not coming. Don’t resist immorality; there will be no judgment. In verse 8, Peter urged his readers to remember that the Lord is not bound by human time. For God, a thousand years is like a day and vice versa. Peter’s point is that God does not suffer the limitations of time, or confusion about it, the way human beings do.

Here in this verse, Peter insists that we cannot apply human demands about time to the promises of God. He is not slow in keeping His promise. God is the one who made the schedule: He cannot be “late.” Instead, God keeps every promise at the perfect time for His glory and for the good of those He loves.

In this case, Christians should view the delay in Christ’s return as evidence of God’s patience, not of His tardiness. In His love-driven patience, God is willing to give more time for more people to come to repentance. This is God’s plan to allow more people opportunity to place their trust in Christ in order to enter into eternal relationship with Him.

God doesn’t want anyone to perish or die. Peter likely refers to eternal death following God’s judgment on the day of the Lord. The overall message of Scripture is that God does not desire anyone’s damnation. That is, He would prefer that all would be saved. However, in His sovereignty and power, God decided not to demand—force—all people to actually be saved. If God is truly sovereign, He can sovereignly allow us to choose things He does not prefer, for His own reasons. Here, Peter shows us God’s heart for the people He has created: He wants them all to be saved, but He will not force them all to be saved.

As Peter tells us, that’s one reason God allows more time—the very time mocked by the false teachers—prior to the return of Christ. He is mercifully creating more space for more people to repent and turn to Him.

https://www.bibleref.com/2-Peter/3/2-Peter-3-9.html


Crucified with Christ

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. — Galatians 2:20

I am crucified with Christ,…. Not literally, for so only the two thieves were crucified with him, but mystically; Christ was crucified for him in his room and stead, and so he was crucified with him, and in him, as his head and representative. Christ sustained the persons of all his people, and what he did and suffered was in their name, and on their account, and so they were crucified and suffered with him, as they are said to be buried with him, and to be risen with him, and to sit together in heavenly places in him. Moreover, their old man was crucified with him; when he was crucified, all their sins, the whole body of them, were laid upon him, and he bore them, and bore them away, destroyed and made an end of them; they received their mortal wound by his crucifixion and death, so as never to be able to have any damning power over them; and in consequence of this the affections and lusts are crucified, and the deeds of the body of sin mortified by the Spirit and grace of God, in regeneration and sanctification, so as not to have the dominion over them; the world is crucified to them, and they to the world; and this is another reason proving that justification by Christ is no licentious doctrine. This clause is, in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, put at the end of the preceding verse.

Nevertheless I live; which is to be understood, not of his natural, but of his spiritual life; the life of justification he lived, by faith, on the righteousness of Christ; and the life of sanctification which he had from Christ, by the quickening influences of his Spirit, by virtue of which he walked in newness of life. The believer is a mere paradox, he is dead to the law, and “yet lives” to God; he is crucified with Christ, and yet lives by him; yea, a crucified Christ lives in him.

Yet not I; not the same I as before, but quite another man, a new creature: he did not now live as in his state of unregeneracy, and whilst in Judaism; he was not now Saul the blasphemer, the persecutor, and injurious person; nor did he now live Saul the Pharisee: or the life he had was not of his own obtaining and procuring; his life of righteousness was not of himself, but Christ; his being quickened, or having principles of life and holiness implanted in him, was not by himself, but by the Spirit; and the holy life and conversation he lived was not owing to himself, to his power and strength, but to the grace of God; or it was not properly himself, or so much he that lived,

but Christ liveth in me: who was not only the author and maintainer of his spiritual life, but the life itself; he was formed in his soul, dwelt in his heart, was united to him, was one with him, whence all vital principles and vital actions sprung, and all the communion and comforts of a spiritual life flowed.

And the life which I now live in the flesh; in the body, whilst in this mortal state, whereby he distinguishes that spiritual life he had from Christ, and through Christ’s living in him, both from the natural life of his body, and from that eternal life he expected to live in another world; and which, he says,

I live by the faith of the Son of God; meaning, not that faith which Christ, as man, had, but that of which he is the author and object, by which the just man lives; not upon it, for the believer does not live upon any of his graces, no, not upon faith, but by faith on Christ, the object; looking to him for pardon, righteousness, peace, joy, comfort, every supply of grace, and eternal salvation: which object is described as “the Son of God”; who is truly God, equal with his Father; so that he did not live upon a creature, or forsake the fountain of living waters, but upon the only begotten Son of God, who is full of grace and truth: of whom he further says,

who loved me; before the foundation of the world, from everlasting, prior to his love to him; and freely, without any regard to worth or merit, and though he was a blasphemer and a persecutor; and him personally, and particularly, in a distinguishing manner, of which he had a special knowledge and application by the Spirit of God; and was a reason and argument constraining him, and prevailing on him to live to him who loved him, and died for him, or, as he adds,

and gave himself for me; his whole self, his soul and body, as in union with his divine person, into the hands of justice, and unto death, in his room and stead, as an offering and sacrifice for sin, and which he did freely and voluntarily; and is a strong and full proof of his love to him. Now though Christ gave his life a ransom for many, and himself for his whole church, and all the members of his mystical body, yet the apostle speaks of this matter as singularly respecting himself, as if almost he was the only person Christ loved and died for; which shows that faith deals with Christ not in a general way, as the Saviour of the world, but with a special regard to a man’s self: this is the life of faith; and these considerations of the person, love, and grace of Christ, animate and encourage faith in its exercises on him.

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible


New Year

The New Year can mean a fresh start, some much needed change, or a continuation of success and happiness. No doubt this new year will bring some changes in my life. I just pray that they are good changes.


The Meaning of Christmas

Luke 2

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.


The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

– Luke 1:26-38


If the Lord Wills

Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”James 4:15

I talked about this a few weeks ago, but I thought it needed reiteration and elaboration considering I am going on my final interview for the Chicago job this week. “If the Lord wills.” “If the Lord wills.” There are times when we really want something in our lives, but we wonder if it is the right move, if we even get what we want. In those circumstances, we must pray. We must pray that God’s will be done. We have to have faith. Faith in that whatever happens, happens because God wills it.

God has a plan for every one of us. Many people go through life without ever thinking about it, but that doesn’t change the fact that God put us here for a purpose. We aren’t here by accident; we’re here because God put us here. And He put us here for a reason–so we could come to know Him in a personal way, and then live the way He wants us to live.

That’s why you can pray and seek God’s will when you face decisions, and it is why you can know God is with you every moment of the day. The Bible says, “Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path” (Psalm 27:11).

When he says, “If God wills we will . . . do this or that,” he teaches us that the activities and accomplishments of our lives are in God’s hands. God governs what we accomplish. Not only are our lives in his hands, our success is in his hands. “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” “If the Lord wills . . . we will do this or that.” And if the Lord does not will, we will not do this or that.

If the Lord wills, I will get this job in Chicago. It doesnt mean that I won’t be praying that I get the job, it just means that if it is in God’s plan for me, then it will happen. Maybe its not the right job for me or God doesnt want me to bite off more than I can chew. I will do my best to get the job, but I know it is ultimately in God’s hands.


The Great I Am

And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.Exodus 3:14

If I say “I am,” I say what is not true of me. I must say “I am something — I am a man, I am bad, or I am good, or I am an Englishman, I am a soldier, I am a sailor, I am a clergyman.” — and then I shall say what is true of me. But God alone can say “I AM” without saying anything more. And why? Because God alone is. Everybody and everything else in the world becomes: but God is. We are all becoming something from our birth to our death — changing continually and becoming something different from what we were a minute before; first of all we were created and made, and so became men; and since that we have been every moment changing, becoming older, becoming wiser, or alas! foolisher; becoming stronger or weaker; becoming better or worse. Even our bodies arc changing and becoming different day by day. But God never changes or becomes anything different from what He is now. What He is, that He was, and ever will be. Many heathen men have known that there was one eternal God, and that God is. But they did not know that God Himself had said so; and that made them anxious, puzzled, almost desperate, so that the wiser they were, the unhappier they were. For what use is it merely knowing that God is? The question for poor human creatures is, “But what sort of a being is God?’ Is He far off? Does He care nothing about us? Does He let the world go its own way, right or wrong? Is He proud and careless? A Self-glorifying Deity whose mercy is not over all His works, or even over any of them? And the glory of the Bible, the power of God revealed in the Bible, is, that it answers the question, and says, “God does care for men, God does see men, God is not far off from any one of us. Ay, God speaks to men — God spoke to Moses and said, not “God is,” but “I AM.” God in sundry times and divers, manners spoke to our fathers by the prophets and said, “I AM.” But more Moses said, “I AM hath sent me.” God does not merely love us, and yet leave us to ourselves. He sends after us. He sends to us. But again: “I AM hath sent me unto you.” Unto whom? Who was Moses sent to? To the Children of Israel in Egypt. And what sort of people were they? Were they wise and learned? On the contrary, they were stupid, ignorant, and brutish. Were they pious and godly? On the contrary, they were worshipping the foolish idols of the Egyptians — so fond of idolatry that they must needs make a golden calf and worship it. Then why did God take such trouble for them? Why did God care for them, and help them, and work wonders for them? Why? Exactly because they were so bad. Just because they were so bad, His goodness yearned over them all the more, and longed to make them good. Just because they were so unclean and brutish, His holiness longed all the more to cleanse them. Because they were so stupid and ignorant, His wisdom longed to make them wise. Because they were so miserable, His pity yearned over them, as a father over a child fallen into danger. Because they were sick, they had all the more need of a physician. Because they were lost, there was all the more reason for seeking and saving them. Because they were utterly weak, God desired all the more to put His strength into them, that His strength might be made perfect in weakness.

(C. Kingsley, M. A.)


Patience

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.Romans 12:12

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6

I am generally a patient person. When in a restaurant, I never get impatient with the wait staff when it takes a while to get my food. I might get hungrier, but not impatient. When waiting at a doctor’s office, I’m patient and know that I will be seen as soon as possible. When everyday things happen, I am patient. It’s when the extraordinary happens that I become impatient. It’s been two weeks since the lady in Chicago told me she’d make the arrangements for me to come to Chicago. She said she’d get to it “soon.” After a week, I emailed her and was told she was working on it. This is one of those extraordinary things that make me impatient. It could be life changing. I just don’t know what will happen.

I do have hope and the Lord says to rejoice in hope. My need to be patient is a mere tribulation. Prayer will soothe my worrying mind. Philippians. 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” For someone who suffers from anxiety disorder, this is hard, but prayer and supplication can help. At this time of thanksgiving, I will just have to let my requests be known by God.

We can all learn from these two passages. Patience is a virtue. When we feel impatience growing, we need to turn to God in prayer. Only he can soothe our minds and help us to truly be patient.


Shall We Gather At The River?

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. – Revelation 22:1-2

Shall We Gather at the River?
By Robert Lowry

Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God

At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

If you know his song, you most likely know it’s title as “Shall We Gather at the River?” or simply “At the River.” These titles are the popular names for the traditional Christian hymn that is actually titled “Hanson Place,” written by American poet and gospel music composer Robert Lowry (1826–1899). Robert Lowry (1826-1899) was a professor of literature, a Baptist pastor of several large churches and a music editor at Biglow Publishing Company. He wrote close to 500 hymns, including “I Need Thee Every Hour” and “Low in the Grave He Lay.” “Shall We Gather at the River?” was written in 1864. The title “Hanson Place” is a reference to the original Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn, where Lowry, as a Baptist minister, sometimes served.

The song’s lyrics refer to the Christian concept of the anticipation of restoration and reward, and reference the motifs found at Revelation 22:1-2 – a crystal clear river with water of life, issuing from the throne of heaven, all presented by an angel of God. One hot afternoon in July 1864, as Lowry was resting on his sofa, visions of heaven pervaded his senses. He saw the bright golden throne room and a multitude of saints gathered around the beautiful, cool, crystal, river of life. He was filled with a sense of great joy. He began to wonder why there seemed to be many hymns that referenced the river of death, but very few that mentioned the river of life. As he mused, the words and music to “Shall We Gather at the River” came to his heart and mind.


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