Editorial

Editorial: Election Day, Rallies, and the Death of Secret Ballots by Michael Nichols

I hate politics. I really do, but alas, here I am, feeling a need to talk about them.

Of all things for society to hate, along with the discussion of religion, we had danged well better be talking about them. Living in the democratic republic in which we do, it is our responsibility to take seriously the role we stole back from the king of England in the 18th century.

To gawk at voting, rigged or not, is to shirk responsibility. If you have the power to change something bad or preserve something good, but do nothing, you are as guilty, if not more guilty, than he who executes injustice. I hate to judge, and I don't mean to do so, but we need a sense of urgency to execute justice, now more than ever. Also, note that this is an editorial. These are my thoughts, opinions, and their reasons. So, that being said, let's begin.

(Note: For those of you who read internationally and aren't familiar with how the government of the United States of America is structured, here's the basic gist. Citizens vote to elect people into power with secret ballots. The branches of government are three: executive (the Presidency and his Cabinet), legislative (Congress and Senate, two groups of representatives for each of the States, who vote on laws, passing them to the executive branch to be approved or vetoed), and judicial (meaning the people who interpret the law to judge court cases). Despite the fact that citizens vote for people based on what they're stated policies are, citizens do not directly vote on the laws. This leaves a gaping hole for political hypocrisy and corruption to fester. Those are the basics.)

I hate political yard signs. I despise political yard signs. On my way to work this morning, I passed at least ten signs, spaced no more than ten feet apart, for the same candidate, across from (and probably set up by) the same company. This would not be the only instance. No, every neighborhood I've driven or walked through in the past two or three months has been the same.

I'm also a first-amendment advocate. I like to talk and write and publish and do these things frequently and in large spats. That being said, we have something called "secret ballots," meaning simply that you have no business knowing who I voted for unless I don't mind you knowing. Apparently, a lot of people fall into that category. Fine. That's your business. Personally, I don't care who you vote for--well, I do care if they're a poor choice, and I do care if your choice comes back to bite me, and I really care if my choice comes back to bite me. (Like, "Did I really just vote for that?")

Secret ballots, though, were meant to be secret for a reason. Voting autonomously and anonymously ensures that our mutual desire to execute liberty, though it may be on different terms and by different means, is not threatened by the diverse nature of humanity, not conspired against by its governors. That's why I value my political privacy very much, just as most of us value our digital privacy. That's a whole different topic, but is it really? So much of what we do these days is digital. Not that we should worry about our secrets being divulged (what are we guilty of that requires secrecy?) but what if they were? Whose business is my transaction history? Whose business is it who I talk to or refuse? Who but God should have any say in the words of my conscience?

Speaking of private things becoming public, what is it about our desire to attend political rallies? I mean if yard signs weren't enough, let's go gather a bunch of like-minded people into the same room and listen to a person shout about the things that we want to shout about, then let's shout about them, too! Again, mind you, I love that we have that right, but does it really help? Let me restate. If any of you have received counselling, therapy, or psychiatric help, you will understand. What if all you did when you went to your therapist was yell mutually into the air about problems, then agree on an improbable and impossibly impractical and slow means to end the mutual suffering? How divisive that would be! How little would actually be accomplished! How much hate would we develop for people of opposing views, and how unwilling would we become to talk things out, and give credence to other ideas after thinking through our own and realizing they may not be as merited as they seem. Isn't that political rallying?

But wait...

That's also western church more often than not.

It's great to be able to speak freely about things that matter to you, but how far do we take that freedom, and in what direction? I have seen this so often in churches, and I've only just begun my life. How often do we take the scriptures that talk about a compassionate God and His laws, yet twist them to fit our own destructive worldviews, omitting passages about grace, forgiveness, compassion, unity; why is it so difficult to bend our will to meet His when we know that it's exactly what we need most? Yet we continue to serve ourselves first. Freedom. Is it a blessing or a curse? Or is it better to have the ability to fail and repent rather than to only know goodness, but have no freedom to grow into it? Is that even genuine goodness?

It's great to be able to speak the Gospel. It's great to evangelise. It's great to come together to be as one in the presence of the Lord. It's also great, in a much lesser way, to show support for your ideals and your candidates of choice. We need to know where we stand, and we need to be active in offering our worldview to others; but we also need to be wary that our freedom doesn't become pride, because arrogance alienates, and from alienation comes war, and from war comes destruction. Be willing to fight, but be seekers of peace. When you go voting today, when you go to your next rally or install your next sign, understand exactly what you're doing, and be ready to take the fall for what becomes of what you do. Division and unity is on our shoulders. Do not shirk this responsibility. Do not squander this power.

"He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?"

--Micah, a prophet of the Living God, Micah 6:8

Arguing and Outreach by Michael Nichols

I just finished watching the new feature film God's Not Dead with a bro from my congregation. I had preconceived notions about what I would see. Most of those notions were pretty awesome. I expected it to be a well-executed movie. I did not, however, expect as much conviction from it as I got.

God's Not Dead, if you haven't seen it, is about a college freshman who is presented with the fearful challenge of defending his faith in front of his philosophy class. The reason? His philosophy professor required all of his students to write the words "God is dead," sign it, and turn it in. The alternative? Defend the antithesis. Argue/prove the opposing viewpoint.

The main character in the story feels that God is leading him to do this and not back down from it. In standing for his beliefs and for Jesus, he was discouraged by most of the people from whom he sought guidance. His girlfriend, one of them, actually broke up with him over it--to boot, she also professed faith, but was convinced that doing this would somehow wreck their future together.

It was a great example of what good can come out of being able to defend your faith. That having been said, watching the professor, who ardently opposed God in all ways, along with the general use of philosophy in the context of the Christian faith, made me think about philosophy's place in outreach.

Parallel to this story were several others being told throughout the film. Many of the stories had to do with people living with the backlash that comes with following Jesus, or conversely dealing with their own doubts and feelings/oppositions about God Himself. In addition, these parallel stories included the hardships that these people were going through. One person had cancer. Another had dementia. The professor--need I say more? Another freshman was kicked out of her home for following Jesus and not recanting. A minister was struggling with not feeling used.

I realize I've given you spoilers. Sorry. But I want to paint a picture for you. These people had real lives. It wasn't just the things they believed about God. They had lives that shaped those beliefs, and in turn their beliefs shaped their lives. Then there was also so much that was beyond their control! Isn't that true of life!

No matter how comprehensively you argue to defend the faith, no matter how convincing your speech is, no matter how many words you put in the correct order--simply put, a person cannot be convinced to believe. They must choose for themselves. That having been said, they're not going to choose something that they don't know about, or something that they believe is silly or bad for them.

We can argue all we want, but are we loving the least?

Are we lifting up the losers in the hallways of the school?

Are we ensuring that people know they're not alone?

Are we willing to sacrifice a little bit of time, effort, or money, just for the sake of being sure that maybe one person gets a meal for the day, or has proof that they really do matter to someone?

Do they know that Jesus died for you?

Do they know that Jesus' love for you has saved your life and given you the ability to live more fully than ever?

Do they know that the same is true of them?

Do they know that He's more than just some idea, but that He is 100% real?

Convincing people of the truth of Jesus is infinitely important...

...But has convincing people of the fact of it replaced our desire to really live it?

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal..."

--Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 13:1)

God's not dead.

Editorial: New Year, New Modus Operandi by Michael Nichols

Along with the personal aspect of restarting myself, you all know that I've been trying to take a new approach to doing this blog. Up until now, I've treated blogging like a place to vent and to catch you up on my thought life. I've also used it to express what God is doing in me through the scriptures and through my own life. That part isn't going to change.

If you navigate to "The Routine" you will see a number of different articles that I will start to post on a more consistent basis. You'll probably notice that "Entering Rest" and "Renewed Life" sort of go hand-in-hand; they also skip directly over Saturday because it is the Sabbath (not that I personally adhere to that in the old-covenant sense, but I think it helps to get the idea across).  One thing that people will often tell you as a writer is that the most important parts to do right are the beginning and the ending. With a focus on those two thing, the middle tends to fill itself in to a degree.

That having been said, I put "Serial Blogger" in the middle of the week to bridge the gap between the beginning and the end. I'll take different topics, ideas, event, etc. (you get the point), and talk about them. What have been my preconceived notions about it? What do most people say about it? What has changed about my perception of it? How does it affect you and I personally (after all, what good it thinking if it doesn't have some sort of personal significance)?

Like I pointed out in my last article "Restart," this blog doesn't need a gimmick or rigidity on any sort of level. What it need is a purpose, and that purpose can only be drawn from Jesus Christ. I ask you humbly to pray for me, that I would be able to let Him do His work in this blog, and not make it about me. If you like what comes about through this change, I'd also be very privileged if you would share what you've read. Thanks, as always, for sticking around! :)

Honored be the Lord,

-- Michael N.

Editorial: Failed 2011/05/21 Doomsday Prediction by Michael Nichols

Look.

----

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? 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 1:6-10

----1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked.“Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains 9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’[a] spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 29 “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’[b] 30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[c] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[d] 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it[e] is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

~~ Matthew 24

----

Look farther.

----

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZZ3mieX-I4

----

Now let's step back. Let's look at what we know as believers in Jesus Christ if you who are reading are such. According to Scriptures, there are a lot of things that hint around and say, "Yeah, maybe this is going to happen sometime in the near future and you need to be prepared for it just in case," but the Jesus Himself goes so far as to say something along the lines of: "Hey, if someone goes saying that they know I'm here, don't listen to them because they have been deceived!" He never went around saying that He was gonna come back and take us home at such and such a date, nor exact detail, just that eventually it was gonna happen, and that we needed to be prepared for it. Plain and simple. But was that good enough? Take a look below.

---- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_21_2011

----

People lost their money, their property, their basics, thrown away. And for what? Numerology? Trust me, I know, and I believe that numbers hold the key to a lot of things, but this is a Biblical fallacy. If God really is God, and Jesus is His Son, then who deceived the many to believe that Christ's statement that it is not for us to know the times nor the seasons which God has put in His own power is untrue? Well... Satan is the "father of lies" according to the book of Matthew. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that this Camping guy is Satanic, but if the Bible is true, and he believes the Bible, then he obviously either has no clue what he believes and needs to be educated - I speak not as one with the wisdom of God, but with common sense - OR he needs to stop playing this game. A lot of people believed he was right. After all, if that numeric sequence had any sort of presentable value, it might even be valid, and I can see how the presence of a number can resemble closely the face of proof, just as being able to do magic tricks with the slight of hand once gave the illusion of one possessing angelic and/or god-like qualities, invoking their worship. However, these are deceptions. And people believed them. People were let down.

Now, what's gonna happen? How are they gonna survive in the world? Did not Christ command that we go "into all the world and preach the Gospel unto all nations," as is taken roughly from the Gospel According To Mark? If the message of the Gospel has any sort of impact on a believer of Jesus Christ, there will be ONE impression left above all others: you're not the only one who needs Jesus. Remember all those times you screwed up in life? falling off your bike, both literally and proverbially? when you scraped your knee and needed your parents to get you a bandage? Yeah? That's everyone else in the world. To assume that we are the only ones who screw up is to assume that we don't need to tell the rest of the screwed up, two-faced, murderous world we came from and still abide in until He actually does come, and THAT assumes that we somehow are the only ones who fall under the category of "paid for in full by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ".

But the last time I checked, human = human. Yes, yes, I understand Michael doesn't = Katie or Frank or Bob, but we are all inescapably human. And we cannot change that. Therefore, every human has the same general makeup, hormones, interactions, reactions, just as an across-the-board generalization, varied according to the person and his or her experiences. Since we are human, we all screw up. Since we are human, we fall under that "paid for in full" category. Since we are human, we have a duty to find our brothers and sisters, and pull them from the same snare Christ pulled us from. It doesn't have to do with judging someone 'cause they're a drinker, or a smoker, or gay, or straight and just overly hormonal and such, or irresponsible, or thieves, or lustful, or murderers, or adulterers, or terrorists, or prideful, or arrogant in areas we shouldn't be because we could all do better if we were God, or acting like we did anything to deserve the world bowing to us as if they owe us for something other than being part of the mess that tangles them. After all, obviously we didn't create ourselves (for cause and effect are separate, entirely). We are not responsible for any of the good things, just for messing them up 'cause we don't have the capacity to be content with living. After all, if we did have that capacity for our entire lives, we'd be God. But we're not. Obviously.

So, all of that having been said... how then are we supposed to be able to help the world as Christ helped us if we sell all our things not to give to the poor but to fund an improbable and unpredictable event that we know one day will happen but have no sound way of pinpointing a date? Yes! Give to the poor! Help the world out in any way possible! But God never said to throw your life away needlessly! He gives us things and opportunities and people for a reason! He made that clear when He gave Himself! So why can't WE? Causing mass panic over potential fatality isn't giving hope: it is stealing it. After all, God knows the heart. He knows if a person is "repenting" for a ticket to Heaven or for real. Souls aren't won by terror but by compassion. Maybe I sound judgmental right now. Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. It makes me cringe to think that we could undermine the world's standing with God like this. I can understand the fact that for some the prospect of the return of Christ and the separation of good and evil once and for all is an awesome thing, and I cannot wait for it to happen, even though I have to by definition. But to believe that you have any clue how God plans on going about His business (though He has made it clear what His business is) is prideful, and impossible on top of that. It is downright blasphemous to believe that you understand the schedule of the person who knew your schedule before you were born. And it is downright scary to think about what that means for the people who are affected by such thinking.

There are going to be repercussions on the church for what has happened.

First of all, we are going to be mocked and ignored as a whole to a higher [though not infinite and unbreakable] degree because not everyone understands that this movement doesn't speak on behalf of all Christians, and that will be detrimental in opposition to our change in ourselves and our ability to change the now more hardened heart of the world, thus preventing the true Gospel to be preached, and causing us to fight harder.

Second, we are going to be divided further amongst ourselves because there will be people who are uncontrollably enraged at this movement instead of trying to reach them and untwist the Scripture of the false gospel that was received.

Thirdly, everything we have and have not done has been recorded in the eye of God. If we are responsible for these first two consequences, we are accountable - after all, we just slapped God in the face and called Jesus a liar and ourselves geniuses.

So please, I'm begging you, don't be like I was at first. We don't have the time or energy to waste being bitter over this (which admittedly I was and still am and need prayer and encouragement and strength to overcome in Jesus' name). We don't even have the time to make a big scene out of it other than to acknowledge and dismiss as falsehood, and return to the task at hand: find those who seek more than themselves. We are the seekers. Stay strong church. In spite of all of this, do not stop looking for His coming, and do not stop praying for one another. Peace. May He come quickly.

Sincerely, with love, in Jesus' name.

P.S.: The verse cited by the movement in question about that states that the "Day of the Lord" will not overtake us as a thief (referencing the book of I Thessalonians) is something I struggled to understand. In light of this new movement, I believe I now understand. It has been used by this movement outside of its original context and made into a Biblical fallacy that implies that the day and the hour can be known. This is not the case. It merely states that, when it does happen, those of us who have been seeking Him for reasons outside of His return will at least be prepared for it in the sense that it won't necessarily destroy us or surprise us entirely. The Bible clearly quotes Jesus in His proclamation that there will be signs of the coming times, but not giving an estimated time of arrival. Preparedness is simply put in one word: surrender. Keep loving people, keep loving God, and put them together. It's not over yet.