Free Indeed 2020

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” — Jesus, John 8:36
 
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” — Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
 
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” — Paul, Galatians 5:1
Come celebrate freedom in Christ! In Afikomag’s first annual young adult conference, we’re looking forward to worship, teaching, sports, line dancing, film, food, fireworks, and fellowship!

Fear, Credibility, and the Threat of a Police State

“Make no doubt about it: COVID-19 is a dress rehearsal for a police state. Dennis Prager is taking a bold stance on the coronavirus because he is dedicated to truth. He also addresses the left’s contempt for working people, the growing threat of a police state, and the danger of putting our health above our rights and freedoms.”

Dennis’s columns mentioned:

On Facemasks … Who Are We?

By Bob Walters

Before we ask every American who goes out in public to wear a facemask “just in case”…

A treasure of the American experience is our historically unique and individually tenacious dedication to that most striking declaratory characteristic which forms our lives, our communities, and indeed our very definition of humanity. 

And that American treasure is the sanctity of our individual human identity.

That is what is different about America; it is what America introduced to the entire world when the people—not the government, not the strong-arm bullies, not kings or emperors—were bequeathed with the righteous power of self-determination and the moral imperative of government of, by, and for themselves.

It would require Americans to function cooperatively, peacefully, and honestly together as citizens. Government would exist for the common defense and the common good. It would consist of representatives of the people, and would break “ties” when competing interests required arbitration, settlement, adjudication, or restitution.

It was novel. For the first time in human history government would serve the people, not the other way around. America’s greatest strength was the freedom its citizenry enjoyed to form interest groups and both pursue individual aspiration and serve the common good. This would be our identity not just as a nation or tribe—those are common all over the world—but the identity I have, you have, each of us has as active and free agents in shaping our own lives, families, communities, and indeed, the nation.

Identity. What is that? In America I believe it is the inviolability of our belief that we—each one of us—was uniquely created by God and will be uniquely judged by God: I will, you will, we all will. America is socially weighted to that proposition that all are created equal. I believe that divine identity to be universal to global humanity, but America puts a special twist on it because of the many qualities we embrace.

The first quality is freedom. Imperfect as we may be, we are nonetheless free to be who we want to be and aspire to achieve what we want to achieve.

Then, responsibility, which freedom requires. We are responsible to and for ourselves, family, neighbors, communities, nation … and all humanity. The binding agent in responsibility, ultimately, is our responsibility to God, though some would remove God from the list. Unless we understand our Creator, we will not understand our creation or purpose. In America we truly see each other with an at least visceral and at most resolute belief that each us was uniquely created for a unique life’s purpose and will be judged for the life we lived. That informs and mandates our responsibility to each other in the here and now and to God in the hereafter. Some folks hate that truth.

Our American identity—our individual identity as Americans—I believe begins with freedom and responsibility. After that … I think we are free and perhaps even duty-bound to construct our own list; to think about what our identity means. I propose a cornucopia of virtues. Following closely after freedom and responsibility, I’d tout opportunity, aspiration, creativity, industry, motivation … and hope. Hope of the possible; hope of the good; hope of life and love and joy and accomplishment.

I believe God loves to see his kids play and loves to see us prosper. He’ll help.

And I also believe that Americans like to see each other; we live face to face. Some cultures—especially in the East but also among communists, socialists, totalitarians everywhere—attach no such significance to individual identity because their identity is either defined elsewhere (by government), culturally diminished, or non-existent. Sadly, it seems, their faces don’t matter … not even to themselves.

Most of what a common surgical facemask is going to hide is our identity. There is debatable prophylactic effectiveness for the loosely-fitted cloth masks we see on most people, and yes we might avoid some risk for some time by “locking down” our faces behind N-95 medical grade masks. But that is not who we are; nor who I want to be.

Risk is an American value, as are freedom, responsibility, opportunity and hope. We will not fully function as Americans when externally instilled fear overrides our legitimate questions about reality. 

As I believe in the critical importance of American individual identity, so I am also convinced of darker forces within our nation dedicated to diminishing that foundationally and morally proper human characteristic of self. The “you-me-us-we” Americans freely and joyously expressing our individual, responsible, proper God-given identities works against the dark forces desiring our fear, submission, and the evisceration of self-worth.

Before we don masks and berate those who would both question their efficacy and note their deleterious effect on community esprit dé corps—“What!!! You Want People To DIE!!!???—let’s instead consider who we are as a nation and assess our identities as individuals created in the image of the living God. Yes, we live in a fallen world, but with the divine promise of God’s truth and brighter hope for tomorrow. Jesus said so.

Not everyone believes that, of course. I do, and I want to be prudent towards and considerate of others because it’s my American responsibility to respect their health, well-being, hopes, and aspirations. That’s what Americans do because we know it is the right thing. But we also have to know when a right thing becomes a wrong thing; when someone declares something to be a “new normal” … and it’s not normal.

Put on a mask … ?

Let’s not make a habit of this. Soon we won’t know who we are. 

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) is a writer in Fishers, Indiana USA, and publishes a weekly Christian short essay at CommonChristianity.blogspot.com. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Support David Benham

Entrepreneur and pro-life advocate David Benham was recently arrested outside a Charlotte, NC abortion clinic—even though he and the organization he co-founded and was serving with (Cities4Life) were providing essential social services to abortion-vulnerable women while following CDC guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Arrest

Mr. Benham’s arrest was recorded; even while being handcuffed, he remained calm and reminded officers of his Constitutional rights:

“This is wrong and you know it. You cannot tell us to leave… You know I am well within my Constitutional authority to be here.”

David Benham

The Response

“We see on the one hand a true threat to our Constitutional liberties as Americans. It’s real. This thing is happening. As well as, on the other side, it’s an awakening for Christians to really consider the unborn and what we see right now is that Christ tells us to love our neighbors, born and unborn, right?

“…We have, with this COVID-19 crisis, drastically altered our behavior to preserve ourselves. But as Christians, we should drastically alter our behavior to be a voice for the unborn as well. Now what does that look like in the middle of the COVID laws? We’re not asking people to all go and protest at a clinic… We weren’t doing that and that’s not what we’re encouraging people to do.”

David Benham

This is what Mr. Benham is encouraging people to do:

Pray

Go to LoveLife.org

Sign the Petition

Free Indeed 2020

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” — Jesus, John 8:36

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” — Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” — Paul, Galatians 5:1
Come celebrate freedom in Christ!

In Afikomag’s first annual young adult conference, we’re looking forward to worship, teaching, sports, line dancing, film, food, fireworks, and fellowship!

For My Sake

Jesus Christ on the excruciating cross of human salvation is a frightening image, one upon which only the very crassest among humanity would gaze and ask: “What’s in it for me?”

Fact is, none of us wants exactly that – the cross of Christ – as Christian life’s promise.  Believe in Jesus, be Christ-like, do Godly things with a Godly attitude, love God, love others, read the Bible, go to church, be selfless, kind, obedient … and what do we get?  A horrendous and humiliating public death?  No thanks.

That’s not the deal anyone is looking for.

We must be especially wary, then, in our Christian witness and preaching, to be very clear what it is exactly that Jesus did on the cross.  The world sees punishment, shame, payment, retribution, and maybe feels a little (or a lot of) personal sin and guilt.  The neurotic Christian may wilt with remorse: “That agonizing passion on the cross is my fault!  That bloody end is what I deserve!”  The arrogant libertine may be repulsed and dismissive: “How can a good God allow that to happen to His son?  I don’t believe any of it!” A devious theologian may see a means to control people with fear and guilt.

What we see on the cross is less a picture of God than of what a perfect human will do to glorify God. In that sense a little neurosis about our fate is quite apt.  The wrathful God of the Law is the same loving and sacrificial God of the New Testament.  God never changes, but the enormous gift we are given through Christ is to see the true nature of a Godly human: Jesus is our example of what a perfect human in God’s eyes actually is.  Our fallenness makes it hard to see that.

We are – each of us individually – a great mess of conflicts, fear, aspirations, hope, and pain-avoidance.  The sneaky truth of Christ that takes a while to truly see is that our greatest human joy – and our highest, most God-like humanity – is the picture of Christ humbly sacrificing himself for others.  Seeing the cross as God’s love and mercy for us, rather than seeing it as God’s anger and wrath for our sin, changes everything about what kind of Christian we can be: loving? … or judgmental?

Our greatest joy, then, is in serving others in freedom, freedom not just from sin but freedom to be all that God created me to be… what He created each of us in His own image to be.  I get that the cross is a picture of humanity’s gross failings and sinfulness, but more importantly it is the picture of God’s love, Christ’s humility, and the Spirit’s illumination of truth.  In this picture are glory, love, self-sacrifice, humility, restoration, forgiveness, repaired relationship, covered sins, eternal life, the conquering of both sin and death… and overwhelming peace that exceeds all understanding.

As much as we fallen humans focus on “being forgiven,” in Jesus’s entire last prayer – indeed His final teaching we see in John 13-17 including foot-washing, the last supper, the vine, His relationship with God, the Kingdom as life, God as Father, Jesus as Son, the Spirit as comfort, plus persecution, glory, faith, and perseverance – there is not one word about forgiveness of sin.  Instead, there is assurance of God’s truth.

When the chips were down and His own end was near, Jesus prayed humbly for God’s glory, His own restoration, and for our faith.  So should we.  It’s part of the deal.

That’s the best thing I can do for my sake; that’s what’s in it for me.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) notes that humility frees us from pride. Duh. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Feet to Dance: Doris’s Story

“You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” (Psalm 30:11-12)

When you talk to Doris, you can’t help but see the joy beaming out of her. She’s a petite, demure lady with an irrepressible sense of humor.

From her calm, gentle ways, you might think that she’s always lived a comfortable life free from cares and heartache.

That impression could not be farther from the truth. Childhood abuse had broken her spirit and the pressures of life and drug addiction had so beaten her down that the only “solution” she could think of was death itself.

On the day she’d chosen to take her life, a surprising thing happened. She went to a place she’d never been before and a friend she’d never met before gave her a hug and told her, “I love you and God loves you too.”

That friend had no idea how powerful those words were in that moment, but they literally saved Doris’s life.

In the months and years that followed, the Lord bound up Doris’s emotional and physical wounds and poured His loving balm of Gilead into them.

Today Doris is a mighty woman of God with a heart for the lost and hurting. She uses her wit, humor, and dynamic musical and artistic abilities to share the love of the God who saved her.

She will be sharing her testimony of God’s love and redemption at 11:30 Friday, May 13th at Criterion Water Labs, LLC (329 E. Firmin St., Kokomo). Join us for lunch, encouragement, and fellowship!

You’re welcome to join us for future Firstfruits gatherings as well! If you would like to receive updates about these events, email us at info@afikomag.com.