Monthly Archives: June 2012

When Social Justice is Unjust

With the recent ruling on Obamacare and people’s attempts to declare mandated government action “compassionate” and “just”, I felt I would post this article again.  It was orginially posted in the summer of 2010 on Dale Tedder’s blog.  Thanks Dale for not deleting it.  I hate retyping things. – Mike

 The phrase “social justice” is thrown around these days like a buzz word on steroids.  Almost every problem faced in society from poverty, health care, environmental concerns, homelessness, etc are now labeled as “social justice” issues. 

 Now don’t get me wrong.  I am all for justice in a social setting.  But what exactly does this phrase, “social justice” mean?  Ask ten different people and you will get ten different definitions.  Ask them what the difference is between justice and social justice and you are more likely to get blank stares.  Why, then, with such ambiguity about what social justice is, do we use the term like a trump card?

 The term “social justice” has only been around for the past 75-100 years.  I believe people use this term because we can demand justice.  If something is unjust, we have a right, a moral obligation, and a duty to God to change the unjust situation.  There is power with a phrase like “social justice.”  And that is where the danger lies.

 Think of what we call social justice ministries today and you will most likely think of working with the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and taking care of the poor.  All of these ministries are essential, but they are not justice ministries.  They are, in fact, mercy ministries.

 People have confused justice and mercy.  Those who confuse justice and mercy would look at the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and surmise that Jesus is being unjust.  How can the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in the kingdom of God?  How can there be such inequality in talents given from the outset?  Is Jesus being unjust when he takes from the servant with one talent and gives it to the servant with ten?  No, the lazy servant did nothing, contributed nothing and therefore received nothing.  Justice was met.

 The classic definition of justice advanced by Thomas Aquinas is “the habit whereby a man renders to each one his due by a constant and perpetual will.” (Summa Theologiae II-II, q.58,a.1.)  To “give a person their due” is the broad definition of justice.  It works on all levels.  If the worker is due wages, the employer should pay.  If the criminal is due punishment, they should receive it.  If the employer is due satisfactory work, the employee should give it.  In short, justice is something that is earned.  When a person receives what is owed them, justice has been met.

 But by calling merciful acts “social justice” we run the risk of injustice.  When we mandate acts of charity, they cease to be charitable.  When mercy is demanded or owed, it is no longer mercy.  It becomes oppression.  We cannot force people to be loving.  Mercy and love must be freely given if it is to be mercy and love.  It cannot be coerced or required by men.  Only God can require it because mercy comes from the heart.  When we can demand mercy, we become tyrants and “social justice” becomes unjust.

 Micah 6:8 says, “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  In order to function properly, society needs both justice and mercy.  God has judged what is just and unjust.  He has determined the standard for right and wrong. We walk with humility by acknowledging that and obeying Him. 

 Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16.  In it the landowner is both just and merciful.  He pays the workers the agreed upon wage.  That is justice.  Those who worked less were not owed the same wage but received it.  They would be unjust to demand equal pay for unequal work.  They received it because the employer was generous and merciful. 

 We are to be both just and merciful.  To confuse the two takes a society towards oppression.  If we cannot define justice correctly, we won’t have any.

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Appeal to Heaven

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare has left me, quite frankly, forlorn.  I feel like tearing my clothes and sitting in ashes as I watch personal freedom disappear.  The Supreme Court, being the highest court in the land is the final arbiter and what it says goes.  There is no other court in which to appeal.  Or is there?

I am reminded of a flag from the Revolutionary War.  It was flown by naval cruisers commissioned by George Washington in 1775.  It is a white flag with a green pine tree on it and the words, “Appeal to Heaven.”  It was and is a call to prayer.  If you know anything about the Revolutionary War and America’s Navy, you’ll understand why this was on the flag.  The modern day comparison of a British war ship and an American Cruiser would be like an M1 Abrams tank verses a pick-up truck with a machine gun mounted in the bed.  Appealing to Heaven was the only option for the American Patriots.

But it was the option that worked.  Our nation once again faces government oppression, this time in the name of “care”.  Now that the government is in charge of healthcare, do you think it will be long before they regulate what you eat, what you play, where you live, how many kids you can have and when you are too old to be affordable?  Already we get a glimpse of what is to come as New Yorkers are facing new laws about the size of soda they can buy.  Freedom is in danger and the appeals to the highest court in the land have failed.

But we would be mistaken and neglecting our heritage if we thought the Supreme Court had the final say.  There is a higher court still and you do not need a law pedigree to have your case heard in it.  Our forefathers were in the same position we face today.  They had exhausted their appeals to King George and Parliament and freedom had been denied them.  So they appealed to Heaven.  And Heaven heard their cry.

Now is the time for their descendants to cast their appeal heavenward and ask the Judge of Heaven and earth to deliver His children and restore their freedom.

Psalm 28

To you I call, O Lord my Rock;
    do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
    I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
    as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
    toward your Most Holy Place.

Do not drag me away with the wicked,
    with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
    but harbor malice in their hearts.
Repay them for their deeds
    and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
    and bring back upon them what they deserve.
Since they show no regard for the works of the Lord
    and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
    and never build them up again.

Praise be to the Lord,
    for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
    and I will give thanks to him in song.

The Lord is the strength of his people,
    a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
    be their shepherd and carry them forever.

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To Your Knees!

Continued from How to Start a Revival.

Revivals start with prayer.  That’s a great Sunday School answer.  But what am I to pray?  It is always wise to begin prayer by humbling yourself before the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Creator of the Cosmos.  Confession is always a good thing.  Admit you need revival in your own heart and life.  Repent of whatever sins the Holy Spirit shows you and ask Him to pray through you (Romans 8:26-27).

Once you get yourself revived, you’re ready to pray like Paul.  2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.  We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“We constantly pray for you”.  Not only is Paul constantly praying, he is praying for them.  “Christians must pray for all things, of course, but prayers for people are infinitely more important, just as people are infinitely more important than things.” (E.M. Bounds, The Weapon of Prayer, Chapter 6.)

We are to pray for people: that they might believe on Jesus and be saved, born again. That they might live holy lives, “that God may count them worthy of His calling.”  We pray that people might be filled with God’s power to do good things and fulfill every act prompted by their faith.  And we pray that Jesus would be glorified in them.  That is what Paul is praying for these Christians in Thessalonica.

What do you think would happen in our church if we began praying for each other in this manner?   Can you imagine worship services where people gather in groups of threes and fours and pray for each other like this.  Would God answer these prayers quickly and in amazing ways?  Would lives be transformed?  Can you hear the testamonies?   I think revival would be around the corner.

 “Praying is not child’s play – not a secondary affair, or a trivial matter, but serious business.  Praying for others takes hold of time and eternity and things beyond the grave.  It is a business that involves heaven and earth.  All worlds are touched and influenced by prayer.”  (Bounds, Ibid.)  Who have you been praying for in this manner that Paul shows us?  Start with those closest to you and see how God moves.  He is anxious to answer these prayers.

Praying for others is so important that when Jesus teaches the disciples to pray, He says, pray “Our Father, give us our daily bread, forgive us, as we forgive, lead us, deliver us.”  Jesus teached us to pray in the plural.  When we pray the Lord’s prayer we are praying for others! Our families, our churches, every person that calls God, “Father”.     

What are we waiting for?   “To your knees!” is the clarion call to the church first and foremost!

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How to Start a Revival

I am convinced that the church needs revival. I am convinced that revival is this country’s only hope. So how do you start a revival?

I recently met with a group of men to talk about prayer and revival. God’s will was one of the points of the discussion. How do you know what to pray for? How do you know if it is God’s will? It becomes a stumbling block to our prayers when we aren’t sure what to ask for or how to go about asking for it. We freeze up and our prayers become timid and unsure.

I find this passage inspiring. I’ll share some thoughts on this passage and revival over the next few posts. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“We constantly pray for you.” We best learn by example and so Paul is modeling for them the first thing they should do. Pray! And to do it constantly! E.M. Bounds writes, “The one weak spot in our churches lies right here. Prayer is not regarded as being the primary factor in church life and activity, and other things, good in their places, are made primary.” (The Ministry of Prayer, Chp 7). We do lots of things, have lots of activities, but where is prayer on the list? It’s the formality. It is how we open and close an activity, not the activity itself.

That is not the case with Paul. He is showing them to pray constantly, make it your number one thing you do and do it all the time. Paul has already told them this as he closed his first letter to them, “pray continually” 1 Thes 5:17.

Revivals always begin with prayer. Are you hungry for revival? Do you look at the world and sense in you spirit that we are in need of a mighty wind from God? Then begin to pray continually. Gather others together and pray with them as well. Make prayer THE activity.

Isaiah 62:6-7 “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.”

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Power of Prayer: D.L. Moody

D.L. Moody gives this illustration of the power of prayer: “While in Edinburgh, a man was pointed out to me by a friend, who said: ‘That man is chairman of the Edinburgh Infidel Club’.  I went and sat beside him and said, ‘My friend, I am glad to see you in our meeting. Are you concerned about your welfare?’

“I don’t believe in any hereafter.”

“Well, just get down on your knees and let me pray for you.”

“No, I don’t believe in prayer.”

“I knelt beside him as he sat, and prayed.  He made a great deal of sport of it.  A year after I met him again I took him by the hand and said: “Hasn’t God answered my prayer yet?”

“There is no God.  If you believe in one who answers prayer, try your hand on me.”

“Well, a great many people are praying for you, and God’s time will come, and I believe you will be saved yet.”

“Some time afterwards I got a letter from a leading barrister in Edinburgh telling me that my infidel friend had come to Christ, and that seventeen of his club men had followed his example.  I did not know how God would answer prayer, but I knew He would answer.  Let us come boldly to God.”

That should get us bending our knees a bit more.  The story comes from The Purpose of Prayer by E.M. Bounds. 

 

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Praying For Revival

It’s time for a spiritual gut check.  If we are going to recover our first love for Jesus we need to take an inventory of our beliefs.  Do we believe the promises Jesus makes about prayer?  In Matthew 7:7-8 He promises, “Ask, seek, knock.”  In Mark 11:24 He claims,  “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.”  John 15:7 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.”  Do we believe these words?  Are they real?  If we can’t, if they are not real then we are wasting our time. 

John Wesley said, “God does nothing except in answer to prayer.”  James writes, “You don’t have because you do not ask.”  Have we asked God to restore our first love?  Do week seek His face for solutions?  Do we knock on the doors of heaven for revival?

Isaiah 64:7 laments, “No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for You have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.”  I like how the Amplified Bible says it , “And no one calls on Your name and awakens and bestirs himself to take and keep hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the [consuming] power of our iniquities.”  We must awaken and stir ourselves up for the Jesus.  We do that by prayer. 

This past Sunday 160 people from UM churches across Jacksonville gathered together for that very reason.  We repented of our prayerlessness and asked for revival.  We began to seek it and we are going to push on and bang on the door of heaven until it opens and God pours out His Holy Spirit on us and we have revival! 

We moved into groups of 3 and began praying for 4 specific things.  I hope that you will join us as well.

1) Pray for the Holy Spirit to empower our preachers and leaders.  2) Pray for the lost to be saved.  3) Pray for God’s people to turn from sin and grow in holiness.  4) Pray for revival in the United Methodist Church. 

Isa 62:6-7, “I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem;
    they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the Lord,
    give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
    and makes her the praise of the earth.”

I am asking you to be a watchman on the walls and give yourself no rest until revival comes.  Give Jesus no rest until He pours out His Holy Spirit in power on us and gives us revival like never before.  Pray, pray, pray!  Pray on your own, with your family!  I believe God will answer our prayers and send revival.  But how will we know when revival comes?  What will it look like?  I’ve got a few ideas…

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Some Questions About What We Have Lost

Are you hungry for revival? Can you sense in your spirit that either God is going to bring revival or He is going to bring His wrath? I don’t think I have to convince many Christians that the times we live in are not good. The church is weak from its quest for cultural relevancy. We have lost our first love: Jesus.

The United Methodist Church is dying. The good news is the leadership of the church has begun to talk about it. But do we turn to Jesus for help?

We turn everywhere except Jesus. How many more books and seminars do we need to try before we turn to Jesus? I have not been to a meeting or conference where we actually sought the Lord in prayer. Prayer is the formal opening and closing activity, that’s it. Prayer must be THE activity. Didn’t the Apostles devote themselves to the Word and to prayer? Do we not believe that Jesus is real? That He is concerned about us, our church, the world and has solutions to offer us? Are we seeking Him?

I went to a roundtable discussion group a few years back and we were talking about what the church should be doing. Someone suggested prayer. One of the participants at the table said, “We need real solutions.” When faith and prayer are no longer real solutions for the church, we have more than forsaken our first love.

Are we ashamed of Jesus? Are we embarrassed by His Word? Are we afraid that if we take Him at His Word we will be labeled? The world has many labels that, in our quest for relevancy, we wish to avoid: close-minded, intolerant, fundamental, or God-forbid – Baptist.

Have we forgotten that we will stand before Jesus and give an account of our life? That if we are ashamed of Him and His words in this adulterous and sinful generation, that He will be ashamed of us before the Father? (Mark 8:38) I wonder, as a church, how much of His Word we really believe.

I do know this: When I stand before Jesus He is not going to tell me “Mike, you believed my Word a little too much.” It will be the exact opposite. “Mike, why didn’t you believe my words?”

Not only have we lost our first love, we have lost our heritage. The mission of the early Methodists was to spread scriptural holiness through the land. Can you imagine the reaction that would get today?

John Wesley would ride into town and preach, “Flee the wrath to come!” He preached to save lost souls and everyone who responded he put into a small group called a class to grow in holiness.

When was the last time we heard ministers preach about sin? Or even use the word, “sin”? How about preach repentance? Or scriptural holiness – much less try to spread it across the land? Or how about telling the people that they cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born-again? That would that imply judgment and we can’t have that. It is hard to convert people when we don’t believe they are in danger.

When ministers and the church are satisfied with no conversions we are beyond losing our first love, we are dead.

Revelation 2 records Jesus telling the church in Ephesus, “4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

The church needs to recover our first love! We need to turn to Jesus! We must abide in Him and have His Word abide in us! We need revival!

But how do we program revival? We can’t. Revival only comes when men and women despair at the condition of Christianity and the church and get on their knees and faces before God and pray for it!

And that is what is beginning to happen in northeast Florida. I’ll tell you more in my next post.

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