Will God Still Bless America?

The other day a friend of mine sent me a message asking me if in light of recent events, do I think God will still bless America? Here is my response.

That’s a loaded question. I’m concerned about writing a novel in order to answer it. I think the belief that God has been blessing America because it’s a righteous country that honors him is misplaced. Basically, that holds to the idea that the U.S., like Israel in the Old Testament, is a covenant nation. God chose Israel to be His holy people and He issued commands saying that if they did certain things they’d be blessed and if they did certain other things they’d be cursed. That’s because they were under the law. The way the law functions is on blessings and curses. If you do good you get blessed but if you do bad you get cursed. This was a burden Israel couldn’t even carry. They failed miserably. But see, Christ ushered in a new era when He came. He fulfilled the law (meeting all of its requirements) freeing us from its demands. So now we no longer live under the law, we live under grace. God no longer “curses people” for doing bad or “blesses people” for doing good. The whole point of the cross is we no longer have to try to earn points with God because He’s not keeping score. Yes, there are the natural consequences of reaping and sowing. (i.e. if I spend too much I’m going to run out of money and bad things will happen.) But there is also no longer one nation that is God’s chosen people. Rather He has a spiritual holy nation made up of people from every tribe tongue and nation who love Him.

If America was blessed for following the law then when has this nation ever upheld the entire law? We don’t get to pick and choose which parts of the law we’ll follow and which parts we won’t. Paul was clear that if you fail in one part of the law, you’ve failed in all of it. This nation is guilty of FAR more egregious sins than gay marriage. The oppression and murder of numerous people groups through out history, just to name one. Yet, the country continued and eventually repented (changed its mind) about those things, without incurring any wrath from God. This nation has been called “a Christian nation” but when has the government ever looked anything like Christ who told His followers not to wear titles or exercise top down authority as the gentiles do? When has this nation ever “turned the other cheek” when its been attacked? This nation was even birthed out of bloody violent rebellion to authority from a nation that ALSO believed it was God’s chosen nation. When did Jesus ever take up the sword to end oppression? He never led Israel to stand against Rome. (Something many of His Zealot followers really wished He would do.)

Actually, what we have here in this country is a weird mixture of Christianity and the world. We see America and Christianity as being one in the same when they are actually in opposition to one another. I think God is much more concerned about how His people have bought into a strange mixture of Christianity and the world that has caused them to lose their love for one another and the lost while trying to gain worldly political power so they can be over others and dictate to them their wishes. That’s something that runs completely the opposite direction from Christ. This is why the church has been powerless to change this country. Not because she doesn’t pray enough, or doesn’t read the Bible enough, isn’t active enough; but because she is not placing her hope in the Kingdom that is not of this world. Though most will never admit it, they think America is God’s holy nation. They have turned to political power and attempts to lord over others rather than placing their hope in Christ. We are not called to make America great. We’re called to love others as Christ loves us. America is not our hope, Jesus is. I believe with all my heart the body of Christ will see judgment long before America will. But when I say judgment, I don’t mean that in a condemning way. God’s judgments are always an act of love, to set things right. That’s why it’s almost humorous to hear Christians say, “God is going to judge America!” You mean He loves us so much He’s going to set things right? AMEN!!! The church in America is largely out of order. We all know that. But it’s not out of order because of it’s views on “gay marriage” or its lack of morals. It’s out of order because it’s lost sight of who Jesus is, His love for them, and His love for the world that He DID NOT come to judge, but to save. Christians so often sound like James and John asking Jesus to rain down fire on those who oppose them. Jesus told them they didn’t even know what spirit they were of. Much of the church in America has FAR more in common with the Pharisees of Israel than it does with the Son of God they claim to follow.

I think what looks like a mess right now is actually Jesus bringing his church to the end of themselves so they’ll finally give up and let Him be Lord. I can almost hear Him saying to His people, “Have you had enough yet? Are you ready to quit?”

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” Matthew 5:3 (The Message)

Loren Rosser

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A new episode of our podcast is up! This time we discuss friendship. Friendship was clearly a big deal to Jesus. He even called his disciples friends. Today words like “family” and “friends” are constantly tossed around the body of Christ, yet sadly, many discover after belonging to a congregation for years they really don’t have any true friends. Activities, programs, expectations, and performance end up proving not to be the building blocks for genuine friendship. Why is that the case? What can we do to make friends with others? This is what David and Loren discuss on this episode.

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A good friend was sharing his heart with me concerning his parents who were under going a major crisis touching several areas of their lives. After describing their situation he made a comment that I’ve heard hundreds of times. “You, know,” he said, “they don’t have one friend.”

Oh, yes, they’re part of “the family of God” and they’ve been in the midst of many Sunday morning “church” services for years. I’ve met them on a couple of occasions and found them to be friendly folks. But when it comes to finding friends they might as well be Cyclops with with contagious life threatening diseases.

It seems like friendship was pretty much near the top of the priority list for Jesus. Even though he was God in the flesh, he put others on equal status with him in one sense by calling them friends. In the Greek and Roman cultures in which Jesus lived, friendship was defined succinctly in two ways: one who loves and who speaks honestly. Jesus told his disciples that he no longer called them servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing, but he revealed to them all that the Father had shown him. He then took it further and said that no one had greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.

The religious system sets up an institutional format in which spiritual growth is measured by church attendance, tithing and enthusiastic participation in services. It is important to keep up an image of spirituality during these gatherings. If spouses fought like cats and dogs and screamed at the kids while trying to get ready for church in time, they must be all smiles, and God bless yous when they walk through the door of “God’s house.” Confessing faults to one another when asking for healing is extremely rare if nonexistent in such environments. Some do create accountability groups where you can open your life to a stranger, but organizing friendship is never a good idea. And somehow, the need to perform keeps folks from really knowing one another.

My Australian friends call these models Christian clubs. One becomes a friend, even called family, by being a member of the club. Yet it is not at all uncommon when one leaves the club after having served faithfully for a number of years to find they have no friends. Of course, that shouldn’t be surprising in light of the fact that they had no true friends in the first place, for the club recognizes neither sacrificial love nor honesty as the basis for friendship.

My sister was telling us about her daughter and her circle of friends. She mentioned that they weren’t necessarily a Christian group, but that their love and care for one another was remarkable. They accept one another with their differences, are there for each other when a need arises and love to be together as often as possible. She hasn’t seen that in the “church.”

The same thing is true of my daughter’s non-Christian friends. Love, acceptance and making allowances for one another seem to be the norm for them. Rachel and I enjoy spending time with them and others among our friends that don’t yet know Christ because they’re fun to be with and have few measuring sticks or hidden agendas.

It’s a shame that those who don’t yet know Christ often turn out to be more genuine friends than those who are Christians. But Jesus did not find his friends in the synagogues either. He found that tax collectors and fisherman didn’t have religious duplicity standing in the way of genuine friendship. They traveled together, ate together, sometimes competed with each other and ultimately followed Jesus to the cross.
In the end, most, if not all of his disciples laid down their life for their friend.

David Fredrickson

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Results Oriented

We’re back! Believers often measure their effectiveness in the Kingdom of God based on the results they see with their own eyes. People look for things they can measure to determine whether or not they are doing God’s work. They look for large crowds, numerous books being sold, popularity, and so forth. But is this what Jesus was talking about when He said that His followers would bear fruit? This is what David and Loren discuss in this episode of Untangled.

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Shame, Religion, and the American Dream

The kingdom of God and the American Dream are not one in the same. In fact they are in direct opposition to one another. The American Dream is actually a counterfeit religion that has sunk it’s talons into Christianity and polluted it, turning it into an extension of its self. Just as the pagan religions of old were established to support the cultures in which they existed, so also has the majority of Christianity in the United States been mutated to undergird the empty philosophies and carnal desires of most Americans. This is predominately seen in the common thread of shame that runs through them.

It may come as a surprise to many reading this that both American Christianity and the American dream are shame based beliefs. When most people hear the word “shame” they usually think of folks beating themselves up and feeling like worms because of their awareness of their wrong behaviors. So the response to this by many Americans attending their nice, cozy, affirming church services and hanging out in their comfy homes is, “I don’t feel any shame!” Some are thinking, “My church makes me feel great! It doesn’t heap any shame on me!” and “What’s wrong with the American Dream?! Look at all I’ve accomplished!” But what most don’t realize is shame isn’t only manifested by people walking around feeling like guilt ridden scum bags, it is also evident through our attempts to cope with it by masking it through our efforts to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. To put it bluntly, most Americans, particularly Christians, deal with shame by elevating themselves so that they feel superior to most people around them. Through their efforts, hard work, and moral striving at church and on the job they earn bragging rights over their fellow man because of their achievements. They push down their shame by comparing themselves to their neighbors and feeling a notch or two superior.

The sad truth is, most American Christians have not truly embraced the finished work of Jesus on the cross. They don’t know His incredible love for them and don’t live in the reality of what it is to have had their guilt and shame removed. Every smug look of a Christian at a sinner is evidence that shame is still dominating their lives. Every attitude of superiority toward those following other religions is proof they are still consumed by shame. Every push to prove another’s politics is inferior to their own is a marker that shame still has a home in their hearts. Every push for more, bigger, better, to be recognized as the best and the most spiritual is powered by shame. We are so used to being driven by shame in our culture that we’ve even declared such a drive to be a virtue. Politicians have learned just how deep seated these ideals are in our culture that they even craft their speeches telling stories of how through their own efforts they went from a nothing to a powerful somebody. Shame powers both American Christianity and the American Dream. They are mutually dependent upon one another and support each other. Both thrive on striving in your own efforts to be better than others. They exist in securing the bragging rights over others. Whether those bragging rights are that you’ve got the biggest and best house on the block, you’re top dog at the box office, or your church is the most spiritual in the city, it makes no difference. All are controlled by the same carnal drive and therefore all are of this world.

American Christianity supports the shame based system of the American Dream because it is the dominating philosophy of our culture and so embracing it helps to fill church pews. If you give people a way to shed their shame (Jesus Christ) they will find liberty and cease their carnal striving. If instead, people keep their shame and you give people a way to mask it you’ll secure a congregation, workers, and money. Embracing the guilt masking competition of the American Dream causes people to labor and donate their financial rewards to your religion. Religion is all too happy to make those who do so feel good about themselves and shame those who don’t. This is why American Christianity often ties wealth to spiritual maturity. The American Dream supports its goals and purposes. Congregations need people to accumulate more but remain under the thumb of their power. This way they receive the large donations necessary to expand their kingdoms. It is even extremely common to give the wealthy church members important positions within congregations. And the wealthy, more often than not, being materialistic and having their hearts far from God, want to have their shame appeased, so they gladly jump at the opportunity to feel more spiritual and godly than their fellow man.

There is a reason that Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. He wasn’t saying rich people won’t be able to enter heaven. But he was saying that most rich people are not able to enter the joy and reality of the Kingdom of God now because their wealth and/or accomplishments create an illusion of security and superiority. Their guilt is continually pacified by the constant “love,” respect, admiration, and attention of others so that the wealthy can’t see their desperate emptiness and misery. Usually only those who by the grace of God are crushed have their eyes opened to their desperate need for Him, the REAL Jesus, not the pacifying false Jesus of religion.

See, the real poison of religious Christianity is not in making people feel like failures, but rather in rewarding their successes. Wayne Jacobsen so brilliantly illustrated this in His book “So You Don’t Want to Go TO Church Anymore?” as he described a little girl racking up stars on her Sunday School chart for memorizing Bible verses every week. She was being taught well that God is the great score keeper who pours out His affection upon those who work the hardest. The god of American Christianity pushes his people to compete with one another and labor hard to truly earn his affection, just as does his brother Uncle Sam. They call out, “Come work for me and earn your bragging rights so you can mask your shame!” While the living God, Jesus Christ, calls out, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest!” The living God doesn’t mask shame, He completely removed at the cross, allowing you to rest from all your striving for significance, love and affection. In American Christianity and the American Dream everything is earned and your value is based on what you possess. In Jesus Christ everything pertaining to life and godliness has already been freely given to you and your value is based on who you are…the beloved son/daughter of God. – Loren Rosser

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Christianity in Decline

An article published last month in the Pew Research Center observing that fewer people living in the United States call themselves Christians has generated a lot of discussion recently. Atheists and agnostics are on the rise, and ex-Christians now represent 19 percent of adults. Non Christian faiths such as Judaism, Islam and Hinduism have held steady or increased there percentage of the population, Islam being the fastest growing religion of all.

Do these statistics come as a surprise to anyone? People practice religion for a number of reasons ranging from childhood indoctrination to the need for justice. Loyal folks adhere to a particular religion because it’s been a family tradition for generations. Some cling to religion for fear of hell. Religion meets the social needs of many and the solitary tendencies of others who find a measure of peace in asceticism. But probably the most passionate in their practice of religion are those to whom their faith has given ultimate purpose that defines every aspect of their life. I wonder if that’s part of the reason that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. That religion has increased by well over one billion people since 2010.

The Christian religion offers a mixture of most of the ingredients mentioned above with a God of love at the core of its message. Everyone wants to be loved. Added to that is the message of grace. Everyone wants to be forgiven. Islam teaches that Allah does not love those who do not believe or do not do right. Allah gives grace only to those who do right. At the end he will weigh your good deeds against your bad and decide who is loved and given grace.

So why is Islam growing so rapidly? True, the birth rate among Muslims is higher than among Christians. But conversions to Islam began rising dramatically in the U.S. after 9/11 and have continued to rise ever since. Part of the reason could be that Sunday morning among Christians is the most racially divided day of week, while all ethnic groups worship together in Islam. Another may be that Islam teaches that all are equal; there is no priesthood. The doctrine is simple and easily understood.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. There were an estimated 43,000 Christian denominations in 2012. I think they quit trying to count them after that. In too many cases little love is lost between them, and each group thinks their particular doctrine and “spiritual culture” makes them better than the next. They set up kings in the form of priests, pastors, apostles, etc. who rule over them, and they like it that way. They spend untold millions on buildings and salaries and pennies on missions. They teach grace, but reward dead works, expound on love but shut out those that don’t believe the way they do. Money and power rule. And where money and power rule, God does not.

There is only one solution. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “.I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 Co 11:2,3)

Christ taught and lived a simple gospel that requires nothing other than being joined to him through his death, burial and resurrection. Devotion to him is simply living in his love which empowers us to love as he loves us. Jesus did not instruct us to get our doctrines straight, to build churches, or to convert others to our way of thinking. He commanded us to love one another.

But loving as Christ loves is painful and very costly. Sacrificial love is not the hot topic on most Christians’ spiritual radar. The cross is ugly. Blood, nakedness and pain don’t have the ascetic appeal necessary to attract spiritual consumers. The shiny apple of knowledge trumps a sponge soaked in vinegar. So we have a powerless religion that has become the devil’s plaything.

Yet for the true follower of Christ, joy, peace and fulfillment are found only in fellowship with him and one another. Though it is often the fellowship of his sufferings, it is also the power of his resurrection manifested in the joy of overcoming those bondages that once held us captive. It is the awe of seeing a glimpse of his glory in the overwhelming love that floods the soul at unexpected times. And it is the unspeakable privilege of touching a soul walking in darkness and seeing the light come on when they encounter Jesus.

Christianity may be declining. So let it die. Jesus is alive. The only way the world will know he lives is if we return to our first love and let him reign in us.

David Fredrickson

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What is Your Foundation?

What if you came to the conclusion that the Bible is unreliable? How would such knowledge impact your relationship with God? The way you answer that question may identify the foundation of your faith. Although most Christians would agree that Jesus is their foundation, the faith of many has suffered when they’ve been confronted with questions they couldn’t answer regarding the authenticity of the scriptures.

For some who are not theologians, discovering that parts of the scripture have been mistranslated can be unsettling. Inaccurate translation has also led to harmful practices, especially in the area of church leadership. But perhaps the most disturbing consideration for one whose faith is based on the Bible being holy, inerrant and complete in its revelation would involve the process by which it was compiled.

There was disagreement and varied opinions among those who made up the group that determined canonization. When the final vote was cast it appears doubtful that the result was suitable for a book in which every word is thought to be God breathed. For instance, from the birth of the Church to 397AD, the church at Antioch accepted and used The Didache and 1st Clement as “scripture” while rejecting 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. At Alexandria, the church also rejected most of those books, but accepted Jude and Barnabus. When the canon was finally settled, a number of books that the first century fathers and apostles considered scripture were excluded by the Protestant Bible we use today.

Much more could be said about the learning curve the apostles were in when they penned their various contributions to the New Testament. Apparent contradictions in scripture and uncertainty about who actually wrote several of the gospels can also be included on a long list of challenges to the authenticity of the scriptures.

Yet even if one is convinced that the final result that produced the Protestant Bible was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, there’s the matter of correct doctrine. How is one to know what to believe when there are two to four conflicting views of every major doctrine among evangelicals? Furthermore, supporting scriptures and logical argument allow for a strong case to be made for each one!
One of the first songs I was taught as a child in Sunday school went like this:
The B-I-B-L-E,
Yes that’s the book for me!
I stand alone on the Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E!
Of course nowhere in scripture is it written that we stand on the Bible. But for the average Christian raised up in a religion with Protestant Reformation theology at its roots, the little ditty makes an appropriate theme song. It also serves as a disastrous foundation.

Jesus scolded the Pharisees for diligently searching the scriptures thinking that in them they would have eternal life. He went on to say that the scriptures testified of him, yet they refused to come to him to have life. (John 5:39,40) So Jesus spoke in parables to them. He would not be misrepresented by would-be followers of those who lived by their own understanding and wisdom. It’s the same today.

The Bible has no life in and of itself. It is not a holy book. It is a book that points to Christ who is the fulfillment of the scriptures for all those who receive him by faith. If the Bible contains all the answers and can be perfectly understood by our intellect, we need neither faith nor the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the living word, and the scriptures have value for life in him ONLY as they are made alive by the Spirit of Christ within us. They are interpreted through the filter of God’s love and translated into practical living through our relationship with Christ and one another as we offer ourselves a living sacrifice on a daily basis. Being joined with others whose primary motivation is to please God will help to keep us in the way of love and avoid “private” interpretations of scripture.

What then, does it matter if parts of the Bible are mistranslated, left out or if books by spurious authors were included? It’s only that which reveals God in Christ by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that gives life. Yet theologians continue to search the scriptures finding themes that support their particular prejudices. They pour over an imperfect book looking for answers that are not there, that can only be lived out in an experimental relationship with Christ. Some of the greatest minds still live in Sunday school. They stand alone on the Bible while Jesus walks on.

Jesus is the Solid Rock on which we stand. Our faith rests on Christ alone who is the full revelation of God the Father. We are not slaves to our limited knowledge, nor must everything that the Holy Spirit makes life to us pass the Bible litmus test. Our loyalty is to the Living Word who is the same yesterday, today and forever. If our security rests in anything or anyone else, we’re standing on sinking sand.

David Fredrickson

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Financial Support for Ministers Part 4

Here, at long last, is the fourth and final video in the “Supporting the Equippers” series. Who are the genuine apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in the Body of Christ? What are they like? What makes them tick? And why did Jesus set up His church so that the genuine equippers are supported by His body? These are the topics covered in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHTEoar9SLQ

Loren Rosser

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ISIS, Martys and Western Christianity

In several nations of the world, Christians are facing persecution on an escalating scale. At the forefront in the news are those who have been executed by ISIS. How does this reality impact Western Christians? There are those who take up arms to fight the enemy. Members of the Christian Militia are to be admired for their passion and willingness to risk their own lives to save the lives of others. But for Christ’s church to take up the sword is neither in line with what Jesus taught nor with the example he gave us by dying on the cross for those who murdered him.

What then should be our response? Too often apathy is the prevailing attitude in Western cultures. It seems that the comparative luxury and safety we enjoy has dulled our hearts. Our comfortable lifestyle and “bless me” theology has left many of us feeling unconcerned and disconnected from the majority of the world’s population that struggles to survive from day to day.

Yet if you are a member of Christ’s body, you are intrinsically joined to every other member on the planet. Of course we know only a few of our brothers and sisters on a face to face basis. Yet even the millions we don’t know are more meaningfully connected to us by Christ’s shed blood and through one Spirit than hereditary bloodlines connect us to our natural family. If one suffers, we all suffer. (1 Co. 12:26) We are exhorted to “bear one another’s burdens and in so doing, fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2) If our identity is rooted in Western culture and lifestyle these exhortations will mean little or nothing to us in relationship to our brothers and sisters in other nations. Nor will we know Jesus Christ in the fellowship of his sufferings that he endured for their sake.

A few years ago Egyptian Muslims surrounded Christian churches all over the country to protect them from the threat of militant groups. They offered their bodies as human shields in accordance with their slogan stating that “We either live together, or we die together.” Some question there motives, but what can not be ignored is the fact these Muslims were far from aloof regarding the plight of their fellow countrymen. How much more can we identify with our blood sisters and brothers in Christ who share with us a common citizenship in the kingdom of God?

Perhaps we should consider news of what’s happening to followers of Christ in other lands as a wake-up call. The day may soon be upon us when we will experience first hand what it means to come under persecution for our faith. Those who are being killed for Christ’s sake have said they consider it an honor to be a martyr for him. They understand that Jesus never promised that bad things would not happen to people who follow him. They live and die understanding his promise that “if they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” (John 15:20) And Paul wrote that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2Tim 3:12) Both Jesus and Paul apparently forgot to add “except for those living in Western nations.”

We would do well to ask God how we might respond to news of our family members being persecuted over seas. Many of us may need to repent from being self absorbed and apathetic. He will show us where our faith fails to move our hearts, hands and feet. We can ask for his burden to become ours and take it on in prayer and intercession. “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (He. 13:3) We can also pray that the glory of God will be seen by members of ISIS on the countenance of those facing death at their hands. God can use the testimony of these martyrs to bring revelation of Jesus and the conviction of the Spirit to their persecutors. He may lead us to fast in one or several ways. Praying for those abroad may awaken some of us to the needs of people in our neighborhood or at our places of employment. There are always those in our own sphere of life who are suffering emotionally and/or physically from abuse or disease.

However individual and varied our responses may be, to fail to respond at all is unthinkable for one who lives and moves and has his/her being in Christ. His sheep hear his voice, and there is one thing he is definitely saying to his flock today:
“Wake up, oh sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph. 4:14)

David Fredrickson

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We’re back! A new Untangled Podcast is up! What is worship? Is worship an event we attend? Is it something we do on Sundays to get our “God fix” so we can make it through another week? Is worship how we usher in God’s presence? In this podcast Loren and David discuss the beauty and lies surrounding worship.

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