I Have A Dream

I have a DREAM that one day every unsaved person will one day come to know the colorblind Christ who has the supernatural authority to turn every earthly tribe from tribulation to truthfulness, from transgression to liberation. Whether red, yellow, black or white it makes no difference, because we’re all precious in His sight.

Will you dream with me that service and salvation will combine to bring about redemption and renewal among people of every color of God’s family? After all, we’re created in His likeness.

I have a DREAM that our holistic human services will meet the total needs of society’s downtrodden who suffer from homelessness, substance abuse, hunger or any other social impediments that strike without regard for cultural background. Our warfare is against the social plight of the land, not to endorse a hand out but to extend a hand up that reaches to God’s highest heavenly height.

Will you dream with me that suffering humanity will experience the holy humility embodied by weariless warriors of Jesus Christ, and see that the bliss of the Master is our strength?

I have a DREAM that our soldiers and officers will serve in unity with no regard for rank. Our readiness to serve the needy and our like–mindedness in Christ will be the spiritual glue that holds us together. From Cadet to General, let’s unite as one and march into the enemy’s camp and take back what he has stolen from the Creator.

Will you dream with me that the mind of Christ will overtake the trials of the tainted one who comes to delay our salvation, destroy our life and derail our walk with God the Father?

I have a DREAM that compassion will overshadow the deep-rooted pain of ethnic misunderstandings that has caused men, and women, boys and girls to be blinded by to the richness of our giving God. His compassion is as high as the heaven,as deep as the sea, and is for all kinds of people. His endless love and faithful forgiveness is there for you and for me.

Will you dream with me that love be our theme song, grace our tune as we sing all day long as a mass choir to our loving Lord?

I have a DREAM that this will be the day when all God’s people from every culture, every creed and every color will stand as one consecrated populace under God, with spiritual liberation and supernatural impartiality for all. Then we will join holy hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!”

Will you dare to share this dream?

By Major K. Kendall Matthews

The Christian Mind

A white building stands near my home. Heavy oak doors guard the entrance. Stained glass windows adorn each side. A cross rises from a single bell tower at its front, and the cornerstone still declares the date this particular structure was dedicated, over a hundred years ago, “to the glory of God.”

But it’s not a church. Not anymore. It’s called “The Choir Loft,” and it houses a business that sells fabrics and craft items. The structure looks like a church, but it is no longer Christian because it no longer functions Christianly.

That building symbolizes what has happened among Christians in the past century. Most of us still look, act, and speak like Christians, but inside— in our minds—we function no differently from our non–Christian colleagues and coworkers, acquaintances and antagonists. “There is no longer a Christian mind,” wrote Harry Blamires forty years ago in his classic, The Christian Mind. In other words, we may think as Americans or Canadians, Kenyans or Laotians. We may have a midwestern or southern frame of reference. Our thinking may be colored by our race, ethnicity, or gender. But with few exceptions, we do not think Christianly; we approach issues from a thoroughly secular perspective.

“But we have the mind of Christ,” Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 2:16). Those who have experienced new life through faith in Jesus Christ possess a great and transforming gift: the ability to think differently. “To think secularly,” Blamires wrote, “is to think within a frame of reference bounded by the limits of our life on earth… To think Christianly is to accept all things with the mind as related, directly or indirectly, to man’s eternal destiny as the redeemed and chosen child of God.”

The Marks of the Christian Mind
What does it mean, then, to think Christianly? What are the distinctives of the Christian mind? There are many, of course, but five are most significant.

1. An Acknowledgment of the Supernatural
A fundamental characteristic of the Christian mind is the perspective of eternity—not just life after death, but the understanding that there exists a reality beyond this world and this life. As Mr. Blamires states:

“The Christian mind sees human life and human history held in the hands of God. It sees the whole universe sustained by His power and His love. It sees the natural order as dependent upon the supernatural order, time as contained within eternity. It sees this life as an inconclusive experience, preparing us for another; this world as a temporary place of refuge, not our true and final home.”

Thinking Christianly means viewing life and labor, politics and pleasure, from the perspective of the supernatural.

2. A Holistic View of Self and Service
“Most conservative Christians today,” says Gary Sweeten, author of Rational Christian Thinking, “operate with a dualistic view of life and the universe, a view that is rooted in Gnosticism and Eastern thought. They separate their thinking into sacred and secular, spiritual versus material.” But the Christian view is that of Romans 12:1-2, in which Paul urges Christians to offer their bodies “as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God”—which, he says, is their spiritual worship, and to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. J. P. Moreland, professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and author of Love Your God With All Your Mind, adds, “Following Christ is not just a little compartment of my whole life, and as long as that compartment called piety or spirituality is in line, I’m doing a good job; following Christ affects every part of my life, including my mind, my intellect. There is no room for a sacred/secular separation in the life of Jesus’ followers.”

3. An Affirmation of Truth
The secular mind asserts the individual as the judge of truth; “you must decide what’s right for you,” it says, “and I must decide what’s right for me.” The Christian mind affirms the nature and character of God Himself as the measure of truth; “I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus said (John 14:6, NIV). As Mr. Blamires wrote:

“The marks of truth as Christianly conceived, then, are that it is supernaturally grounded, not developed within nature; that it is objective and not subjective; that it is a revelation and not a construction; that it is discovered by inquiry and not elected by a majority vote; that it is authoritative and not a matter of personal choice.”

4. An Awareness of Evil
The Christian mind is aware of evil in the world. The man or woman who is thinking Christianly will consciously acknowledge the fall of the human race, and the continuing battle between good and evil, right and wrong, remembering (in the words of Aleksander Solzhenitsyn) that “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being”—including ourselves. To quote Mr. Blamires again:

“The Church would have us turn to the world in judgement, with the utmost clarity and power in our identification of evil, yet in full acceptance of our common guilt— and, finally, with a deeply moving message of hope. For the Christian mind cannot separate from its judgment upon the world and its judgment upon the self, its realization that the world and its inhabitants are nevertheless God’s, by Him created and by Him redeemed.”

5. A High Regard for the Person
The person who is thinking Christianly will not fail to consider the human element in every equation. In contrast to the claims of Darwinism, human beings are not animals, to be exploited or engineered. In contrast to secularism, human beings are not cogs in a social machine. They are immortal souls, fashioned in the image of God. This concept, of course, will necessarily influence a thinking Christian’s view of issues regarding life and death, science and health, and race and ethnicity (among others).

These hallmarks—an acknowledgment of the supernatural, a holistic view of self and service, an awareness of evil, an affirmation of truth and a high regard for the person—are by no means exhaustive. But they do sketch the basic outlines of the Christian mind.

The Making of the Christian Mind
The development of a Christian mind cannot be accomplished merely by reading an article, or even a series of articles. Nor is it accomplished by reading an entire book, or enrolling in a course. “A mind that is learning to function well,” writes J.P. Moreland, “is both part of and made possible by an overall life that is skillfully lived…. You must order your general lifestyle in such a way that a maturing intellect emerges as part of that lifestyle. If you want to develop a Christian mind, you must intend to order your overall form of life to make this possible.”

The first step in the learning to think Christianly is prayer. Make the development of a Christian mind a matter of regular, focused prayer. Enlist the prayers of others in your efforts, and pray for the development of a Christian mind in those around you— your spouse, your children, your friends, your pastor.

Second, try to approach Scripture with “unfamiliar eyes.” Wade Bradshaw, former director of the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary, suggests, “pray for a new sense of unfamiliarity whenever you open God’s Word. Ask Him to let you read it, not for what you think is there, but to read it with unfamiliar eyes, to catch the surprising perspective, the new insight that might challenge your worldview.”

Third, acquire the habit of examining your own life. “The life which is unexamined,” said Plato, “is not worth living.” And Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves.… test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NIV). Regularly examine your thought and behavior, your opinions and statements, in the light of Romans 12:1-2, and in the light of the five marks of the Christian mind above.

Fourth, cultivate new habits that encourage the development of a Christian mind. J.P. Moreland suggests the following:

“Often, when our energy is low… we go into a passive mode and turn on the television. I believe that an intellectual life is easier to develop if a person learns to limit television watching and spends more time getting physical exercise… Learn to use low-energy times, or moments like after work or dinner, as occasions to engage in physical exercise. Try something. After dinner go for a walk instead of turning on the TV. When you get back, sit down for thirty minutes to an hour and read an intellectually challenging book. The important thing here is to get out of passive ruts, especially those passive couch potato moments, and replace old habits with new ones that create energy to read, reflect, and be more proactive.”

This will take effort, of course, but it will quickly become energizing, not draining. Active lifestyles encourage active minds.

Finally, set some goals that will encourage the development of a Christian mind, such as reading a book like The Christian Mind or Love Your God With All Your Mind every six months. Team up with a friend from church and hold each other accountable to read and discuss challenging books and periodicals, tackle specific issues, and develop new habits. Be alert for conferences, seminars and classes that will stimulate your intellect and help you to think Christianly on various topics. Discover some of the recommended resources that accompany this article, and discuss them with your friends and coworkers.

“If we are going to be wise, spiritual people prepared to meet the crises of our age,” writes J.P. Moreland, “we must be a studying, learning community that values the life of the mind.” We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We must reflect the mind of Christ to our families, our friends, our churches, and our world. And we must pray, in the words of the hymn writer Francis Ridley Havergal:

“Take my intellect and use every power as Thou shalt choose.”

By Bob Hostetler

You Can’t Make Me

It’s easy to recognize the strong–willed child. Difficult to discipline, seemingly impossible to motivate, strong–willed children present unique, exhausting, and often frustrating challenges to those who care for them, notes Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, M.Ed., founder of Applied Learning Styles and author of You Can’t Make Me, Strategies for Bring Out the Best in Your Strong–willed Child. In the following excerpts the author discusses how to interact with the strong–willed child (SWC) so he or she will grow closer to you… and to God.

Frustrated parents around the world are searching for ways to discipline and direct their stubborn– willed children without breaking their children’s seemingly indomitable spirits. In fact, Dr. Dobson writes in his book The Strong–Willed Child: “It is my firm conviction that the strong–willed child usually possesses more creative potential and strength of character than his compliant siblings, provided his parents can help him channel his impulses and gain control of his rampaging will.”

“If a person doesn’t care about me, I don’t care what he or she does to me” goes the thinking of SWCs. If you have cultivated a loving and healthy relationship with each of your children, they will care very much about preserving it. If there is no benefit in keeping the parental relationship intact, your efforts to discipline and motivate may have little to no effect.

This principle can be challenging to the parent of a SWC because we SWCs (I was one) don’t make it easy for you to love us. You say, “I’ll love you no matter what.” And the SWC might say, “Really? How about this? Will you love me now? How about this?” Sometimes, as fellow SWCs experiment or make mistakes or even do outrageous things, we find out you don’t love us no matter what. You love us if we do things your way and if we follow your rules. We don’t expect you to let us get by with bad behavior, but we count on the fact that our relationship with you will stay intact no matter what.

When your SWC resists doing something you want or require, don’t react in anger, and don’t force the issue. Try to find out why your SWC doesn’t want to go along.

Eleven–year–old Kelsey made an announcement calmly at the breakfast table one Sunday morning: “I’m not going to church anymore.”

Her mother’s reaction was swift and disbelieving, “What? You most certainly are, young lady. Your father is the pastor, for heaven’s sake!”

Kelsey’s dad looked at her thoughtfully before he spoke, “Kelsey, Why don’t you want to go to church?”

She shrugged, “I just don’t. There’s nothing to do. It’s boring and I’m tired of it.” “Sometimes I feel that way too.” At his daughter’s look of surprise, Kelsey’s dad continued, “We all get a bit tired of the routine sometimes. What about going to church today and, instead of listening, you write notes about what you think might make things more interesting. There are probably other kids who feel like you so, and you may be able to come up with some great ideas for making church better for everyone.”

Kelsey was intrigued in spite of herself. “Well,” she said, “I think I know some things that would make Sunday a lot more fun.”

Make a concerted effort to listen to your SWC’s responses. The answers will almost certainly reveal more than you anticipate. Your SWC needs to feel he or she has input. The more you can involve your SWC in coming up with the solution, the better your chances of avoiding the problem in the first place.

SWCs and God
When I ask SWCs who are dedicated Christians what motivated them to surrender their lives to God, I get one consistent answer: We are motivated by the relationship God offers us, not by the punishment we can avoid. What attracts the SWC to God and to Christianity is the opportunity to be set apart, to be unique. The SWC will often choose not to cross the line between right and wrong. But the SWC must make that decision on his or her own.

Many parents are justifiably concerned about the eternal wellbeing of their SWC. It may seem like their child is trying to get as far away from God and the established corps or church as possible. In spite of good intentions, parents may put too much pressure on their SWC to conform to what they know to be true. Unless the SWC finds a way to be valuable and unique in serving a God who is not presented merely as punitive authority, the parents’ best efforts may fail. These children respond better to this good news: God wants each of us to come to Him and to serve Him in a way that enhances the very personality He created within us.

Every SWC needs to know that God is not a narrow, dictatorial authority who offers no choices or alternatives. God does, however, demand obedience. And He certainly has drawn a clear line between right and wrong. In Proverbs 3:5, the Bible states that we should “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on you own understanding.” I believe that means I don’t have the corner on understanding. There may be many approaches, many styles, many ways besides mine. But the very next verse gives me my accountability: “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” As long as I’m using my style and unique personality to bring honor and glory to God, it’s okay. If, on the other hand, I use it in a way that does not acknowledge or bring glory to God, it doesn’t matter what style I am—it’s not okay. That’s the bottom line. That’s the line that can’t be crossed.

I love hearing Steve Green sing one of my favorite songs, “Find Us Faithful.” As a SWC whose greatest motivation has always come by way of love and inspiration, I find the words in the chorus meaningful:

May all who come behind us
Find us faithful;
May the fire of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe—
And the lives we lead
Inspire them to obey.

There it is in a nutshell. For the SWC:
If you want to motivate me, inspire me.
If you want to direct me, lead the way.
If you want to encourage my ambition, ignite the fire with your enthusiasm.

Priceless Promises

For centuries, three times a year all Jewish males who were able travelled to Jerusalem for one of the great feasts. Women and children frequently went as well. There was nothing of grudging service. These were joyful celebrations of magnificent worship coupled with unparalleled fellowship as hundreds of thousands gathered in Jerusalem, spilling out to the surrounding hills. The gleaming Temple with its white marble and gold trimming literally shone in Palestine’s sun. The feast times were the moments of grandeur amid otherwise difficult and unremarkable living.

Then Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, not leaving its gates until it fell. Although the first time he left the city largely intact, he returned home with tens of thousands of Jewish captives. These were the brightest and best the little nation had. Among these were Ezekiel, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Left behind in Jerusalem were the poorest of the land along with the prophet Jeremiah.

The captives longed for the day of their return to Israel while the ones left behind yearned for their missing loved ones. A lively correspondence continued between the captives in Babylon and the struggling survivors in Israel. But what they wanted was not in line with God’s plans. The prophets continued to warn that Israel’s punishment was not over and that the captives might as well get comfortable in their new surroundings. The great feast days, at least for now, were to be memories only. The captives needed to focus on serving God in their present circumstances, in the place where they were found instead of looking to the horizon for a deliverance that was not to come.

Through the prophets, the people were told to forget about their wishes. But they were not forgotten. God graciously spoke a promise to them. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Three times the word “plans” is used in this Scripture. The plan of God scattered the stars across the void of space, organized them into spectacular galaxies and set them spinning and moving and slicing darkness with glorious light. The plan of God created the lumbering elephant and the tiny flea that hops across his back. The plan of God scooped out the valleys and piled the mountains into place. The plan of God takes dirt and water through the roots of a tree and into its limbs to offer an apple to the passerby. The plan of God set the laws of physics in motion so that eclipses can be predicted with pinpoint accuracy and rockets can speed through space to a place chosen decades before. This God who planned so much proclaims, “I know the plans I have for you.”

What are those plans? To prosper us. What He purposes and the means to make it so often vary greatly from our ideas of it. If you said one day, “I believe I would like to eat ears of corn that I grow myself,” there would be a multitude of things that have to happen from that wish to its to bring it to fulfillment. The sharp edge of the plow has to violate the earth, digging deep, casting aside as it rips through hardened ground. Seed must be pressed down deep to safeguard it from the animals that would steal it and to give it a chance to germinate. Efforts would have to be made to ensure that adequate water is available. When weeds would try to crowd around the fledgling plant, they must be uprooted without destroying the shoot. And though the corn stalk is green and lush, going to it too early will not give you the corn you want. Even when the ears appear, opening them too soon will destroy any hope of the corn ever being ready. Prosperity comes on the day when the corn is ready to be harvested. The process to get to that point is hardly easy. In the same way, prosperity for us is not so much found in a supermarket aisle as it is in a garden that is hot and dirty, demanding our sweat to enjoy our harvest. When God says He wants to prosper you, do not take that as an all expense paid ticket to Wonderland. Prosperity is as much in the process as the end product.

The plans are to give us a hope and a future. He is moving us somewhere to be something more than what we are right now. Our feet are not stuck in a concrete trap. That is our hope. But we can be distracted. Aging with its relentless reminder that we cannot do what once we did mocks the idea of a hope for something better. The constant pull to the side from nagging temptations underscores persistent weakness. These things remind us that we are ill fitted for the world in which we now live. We were meant for something better, a place where all things align with God’s full intent for His children. Hope comes by abandoning the notion that this world in its condition can offer hope. We must seek elsewhere. We must seek Him.

There is a future. We will catch snatches of it, like when we hear the faint music of a band in the faraway distance. Turning our heads toward it, we strain to listen for more. We know that as we move closer, the melody will become clearer, the lyrics understood. It is the music of home.

Child of God, you were designed for eternity. Your future ultimately lies in that place where time is no longer a tyrant, where your glorified body no longer needs pills and crutches and devices to help it move. Your future is standing with the One you have loved, but not to pepper Him with questions about why this or that happened to you. In that moment of untethered love for Him, you will look to see that all that took place was the unfolding plan He had for you.

By Major Allen Satterlee

Where Are You?

On our crowded planet with close to seven billion fellow passengers flying on it, one can easily feel insignificant and alone. Who am I that anyone would notice whether I am here or not? Does anyone know where I am? Does anybody care?

My family would, as would my relatives and friends along with my boss and a few others. And certainly the tax people would know where to find me. Yet on those days when I feel lost and alone, I have a place where I can find exactly where I am.

I stand by the directory at the mall or by the elevator and find the big red dot. Those nice people have located me more accurately than a satellite uplink as the dot reads, “You are here.” Thank you. That makes me feel better.

When our daughter was little, we had a little ritual we would do when I would come home from the office. I would walk in and call in a loud voice, “Where are you?” to which I would hear a tiny, angelic voice respond, “Daddy’s home!” as she ran to greet me. Her joyful response always made my day.

In the Book of Genesis God asks the same question right after Adam and Eve tasted both the sweetness of the forbidden fruit and the bitterness of sin and rebellion. Immediately knowing how profoundly they had messed up, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God covering their nakedness with a botanical wardrobe malfunction of poorly connected fig leave as God came through the Garden calling, “Where are you?”

But rather than joyfully shouting, “God’s home!” and running to spend time with their Creator, there was nothing but awkward silence.

When the Lord confronted the wayward pair, they answered, “We did not answer because we were afraid and naked, so we hid.” But God already knew that for He did not ask the question for information. He knew exactly where they were and what they had done. Moms do the same thing on many occasions because they already know when you have misbehaved. They just want to make sure you know that they know and fear them for their maternal gift of ESP. God asked Adam and Eve where they were in order to teach them about what had happened and to be there to meet their need for forgiveness and grace. For His question, all He got was a weak explanation and a lame excuse for deliberate disobedience passing the blame back and forth.

There have been other occasions when the Lord called and people responded in the positive. When apprenticed to Eli the high priest, Samuel heard someone calling his name in the middle of the night. He thought the priest was calling and went to ask the old man what he needed. After this happened a couple times, Eli advised the boy to respond, “Here I am Lord,” ready to do whatever the Almighty commanded

. Isaiah had a similar encounter in his vision of the Lord in His temple, seated on the throne, “high and lifted up” 9see Isaiah 6: ff.). In this case Isaiah was in fear for his life… “Woe is me. I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” He knew beyond any excuse, rationale or explanation that he was a sinner condemned in thought word and deed—all of his own doing.

But rather than receiving condemnation, an angel took a coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips and burned away all of his sin and foulness. Then when the Lord asked, “Who will go for us?” Isaiah could respond in the positive, “Here am I Lord. Send me.” He did not have to discover where he was, for he knew exactly where he was—right where the Lord needed the erstwhile prophet to be. Clean, forgiven and ready to be put in the lineup for whatever God had in mind.

Isaiah knew where he was and what he needed to do to for the Lord. Where are you? God knows and He will ask to see if you know too. And you won’t need to red dot to tell you.

By Major A. Kenneth Wilson