Meditating on the Commands of Christ (29): “Stand Forth”

If we can do nothing else, we can at least stand up! That’s what Martin Luther had to do back in April 1521 when Emperor Charles V demanded that he recant. Luther was unable to disavow the pile of books on the table in front of him (which he had authored), because Luther sincerely believed they were true, and so it is often reported that he finished his defense with: “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.”

In today’s account, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on a sabbath day and saw a man with a withered hand. I suppose he could have ignored the man’s weakness to avoid confrontation (since he knew the scribes and Pharisees were just looking for a chance to accuse him of doing something “wrong”), but Jesus’ compassion for the man obviously outweighed any human desire to avoid conflict. Without flinching, the great teacher took time to heal! He told the man to “Rise up and stand forth in the midst.

Even the scribes and Pharisees hadn’t added any regulations denying a man the right to stand up on the sabbath, so Jesus wasn’t asking the man to do anything the religious leaders could condemn, although I’m sure the man with the withered hand would have felt both fear and joy at the prospect of Jesus singling him out. Why was Jesus asking him to stand up in the middle of everybody? Would Jesus heal him? If so, how would Jesus heal him? Would Jesus require anything from the man that would make the religious leaders persecute him or kick him out of the synagogue?

In our lives, no matter what our problems, Jesus is able to heal us. But, he will often ask us to take a stand, the way the man with the withered hand had to make a public “spectacle” of himself, and the way Luther was required to stand up for what he believed to be true about God and the Bible. Do you need healing? Do you want Jesus to heal you? Are you willing to “Rise up and stand forth in the midst” ?

I have a friend who is a Messianic Jew (that means he is Jewish by birth and by religious conviction, but he does believe that Jesus is the Messiah who was prophesied to come as the Savior of the world). Because he was a member of his synagogue from childhood (and before his conversion to Christ), the leaders didn’t kick him out of the synagogue until . . . until the new rabbi (who was a female) had an agenda to support abortion. When my friend took a stand against abortion, he was summarily kicked out of his synagogue.

How tragic that religious leaders sometimes stand against the way of mercy and truth. If you are part of a church where the Bible is not revered as Truth and the God of the Bible is not worshiped as the one and only true God, please be willing to take a stand! You might not get thrown out. (The man with the withered hand did not, although my dear brother in the faith did.) You might not get burned at the stake. (Martin Luther did not, although I’m sure he feared that, because he was so influenced by the work of John Huss, who had been burned at the stake exactly 100 years before Luther posted his 95 theses.) Any time we stand against false doctrine, we are very likely to be persecuted, but that is part of the cost of discipleship: “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Let’s be willing to take a stand!

“The Stand” (Hillsong United)

You stood before creation
Eternity in your hand
You spoke the earth into motion
My soul now to stand

You stood before my failure
And carried the cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon your shoulders
My soul now to stand

So what can I say?
And what can I do?
But offer this heart, Oh God
Completely to you

So I’ll walk upon salvation
Your spirit alive in me
This life to declare your promise
My soul now to stand

So what can I say?
And what can I do?
But offer this heart, Oh God
Completely to you

I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I’ll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is yours

Hillsong United singing “The Stand” Live in Miami
Words and Music by Joel Houston © 2005 Hillsong

Texts for this study: “And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth” (Mark 3:1-3).

And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.2 And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth” (Luke 6:1-8).

Cathédrale Notre-Dame: The Broken Heart of Paris


Built through centuries;
Burnt in hours. We cry, “Dear God,
Please restore your Church!”

“He restoreth my soul;
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

We stayed under the shadow of Notre-Dame last time we were in Paris and visited twice.

We sat in solemn resonance through a service.

We climbed the 387 steps to the bell tower.

We breathed in the ethereal air above the Parisian landscape.

And, we gazed in rapture at the dazzling stained glass windows. But, it never once crossed my mind that it might be the last time I would ever have such a rare privilege.

Yesterday, in a matter of twelve hours, a fire destroyed two-thirds of the roof and enveloped the interior of this iconic 856-year-old bastion of our Christian faith, which is home to more than half a million parishioners.

As of yet, the extent of the damage is unknown, although there have been reports that heat melted the lead holding the panes of some of the stained glass windows, and France’s largest pipe organ, with its 8,000 pipes, has suffered damage.

Nearly 400 fire-fighters battled heroically to save the twin bell towers,

although the cathedral’s spire has collapsed.

The stone exterior of the building has been saved, but so much of the interior was made from wood that there are questions about the basic integrity of the cathedral. Is enough intact for it to withstand rebuilding?

Beyond structural issues, Notre-Dame cathedral was filled with irreplaceable treasures, including seventy-six paintings dating back to the 1600-1700s, along with many other relics, statues, and carvings, some of which have been saved, but many which could not.

This morning, a team will be assessing the damage, and I find myself holding my breath as I await further news.

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has promised the world that France will rebuild Notre-Dame, and two french billionaires have already pledged $339 million towards the restoration. A call has gone out for the those who are artistically gifted throughout the Christian world to offer their help in the restoration. But, will it ever be the same?

The answer, of course, is that it will not! In the Gospel of John, Jesus forewarns his disciples that life will be full of sorrow and troubles, but that we can find comfort, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Even though we suffer great disappointments in this world that change our lives forever, that doesn’t end God’s goodness or his constant work within us.

God will make something new for us, just like He will make us new! As He promised in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. ” I believe God will help the world rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, just as I believe God will give new life to all who put their trust in him!

God is THE God of love and mercy. He is always up to something good, even in the midst of apparent evil: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Our responsibility is to believe in God and do what He’s asked us to do: to accept forgiveness for our sins through faith in the sacrifice of Christ for us, and to surrender our hearts to Jesus as our Lord and Savior. He can make something new from the ashes of our lives, just as I believe He will make something new from the devastating loss of Notre-Dame.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Revelation 21:1-7).

*I took all the above photos on our last trip to Notre-Dame, in May of 2016. If you’re looking for even more photos and information, I wrote an earlier post here: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2016/06/27/the-glory-that-is-paris-cathedrale-notre-dame/

Operation Finale

The most disturbing but worthwhile film from 2018 that I watched was Operation Finale, based on the memoirs of Israeli officer Peter Malkin, concerning the capture and testimony in court of Adolph Eichmann, the “Architect of the Holocaust.” Ben Kingsley did a masterful job portraying Eichmann, and Oscar Isaac was absolutely brilliant as the cunning but compassionate  Israeli intelligence operative who was able to form a positive emotional bond with the man who had been responsible for the murder of his (Malkin’s) sister and her children, along with six million Jews and six million people of other nationalities, including 1.5 million children.Is the movie accurate? Overwhelmingly. According to Director Christ Weitz,“For example, there was a girl in Argentina who was tortured by authorities and had a Swastika carved into her chest. We moved it forward to up the suspense, but we didn’t change any outcome. The majority of the film is accurate to the history.” In an interview, Weitz pointed out that he actually moved his family to Argentina so he could film on location . . . even using the same movie theater to shoot the scene where Eichmann’s son takes an interest in a beautiful young woman (who turns out to be Jewish). So, touches of extra romance (the expedition’s physician was really a man) and suspense (the timing of the plane’s departure), but otherwise distressingly factual.If I were still teaching history, I would definitely have my kids watch this movie, because the issues are (sadly) current within the Neo-Nazi movement today.I have no Jewish blood, so I can say (without feeling biased) that I stood in awe of the compassion and self-control Malkin exhibited. He said he thought Eichmann would be a monster, but when he spent time with him, Malkin realized that Eichmann seemed very human in person. In his memoirs, Malkin wrote, “A monster can be excused for his behaviour . . . The problem is not how a monster could do it, but how a human being did it.” -Peter Malkin ObituaryI also marveled at how humane the 11 operatives were who were involved in the case. They didn’t torture Eichmann or brutalize him. He was fed kosher food and allowed to sleep in a regular bed. All this for the man who had been responsible for executing “The Final Solution” (extermination) for over 12 million people.Operation Finale tells the story of Eichmann’s escape from Germany to Argentina, how he was discovered fifteen years later, and how he was eventually brought to trial. This was the statement he was persuaded (without violence) to sign:

I, the undersigned, Adolf Eichmann, hereby declare of my own free will that, since my true identity has become known, I realize the futility of trying to continue to flee justice. I declare myself ready to travel to Israel and to stand trial before a competent court. It is clearly understood that I shall be provided with legal counsel, and I myself will endeavor to clarify the facts of my years of service in Germany so that future generations may receive a true picture of those events. I am making this statement of my own free will. I have been promised nothing and no threats have been made against me. I desire at long last to find repose for my soul.As the head of the Jewish department, Eichmann had been responsible for orchestrating the deportation of millions of Jews, but he never admitted any guilt: “As far as this question is concerned, I can only say that I’ve never killed anyone . . . I had to obey orders. I had to do it.” “So, it looks like, in those days, behind a desk, you could kill much more than with a pistol, and that’s what he had done. He’d just send them to the camps.” Peter Malkin-Charney ReportThe terrifying question that we all have to answer is: For what are we willing to die? Would we kill others to avoid being killed ourselves, or are we strong enough morally to choose what is right, even when it means resisting evil and most likely being killed as a result? I’m sure (I hope) that all of us believe we should and would stand up against evil and take the consequences, but in reality, martyrs for the sake of truth and righteousness are few and far between. Jesus is the only man I know who willingly subjected himself to death—and the horribly cruel death of crucifixion—for the sake of overcoming evil with good. He knew the night before his capture that he was going to be arrested and killed, and he forewarned his disciples of this. Jesus could easily have slipped away in the night and left the area. No one would ever have found him. Why didn’t he?

Why did Jesus tell Judas, “That thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:37)? Why did Jesus go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he knew Judas Iscariot would betray him? Why didn’t he defend himself when he went to trial? All he would have had to do was deny that he was God, and he could have gone free! Why didn’t he? Why didn’t he call down 10,000 angels to save him?

“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:6-7).

Ten Thousand Angels

They bound the hands of Jesus
In the garden where He prayed
They led Him through the streets in shame
They spat upon the Saviour
So pure and free from sin
They said, “Crucify Him He’s to blame”

Chorus:
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free
He could have called ten thousand angels
But He died alone for you and me

Upon His precious head
They placed a crown of thorns
They laughed and said, “Behold the King”
They struck Him and they cursed Him
And mocked His holy name
All alone He suffered everything

When they nailed Him to the cross
His mother stood nearby
He said “Woman, behold thy son”
He cried, “I thirst for water”
But they gave Him none to drink
Then the sinful work of man was done

To the howling mob he yielded
He did not for mercy cry
The cross of shame He took alone
And when He cried, “It’s finished”
He gave Himself to die
Salvation’s wondrous plan was done

Chorus 2:
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free
He could have called ten thousand angels
But He died alone for you and me

(—Ray Overhalt © 1959 by Lillenas Publishing Co.)

 

 

 

The King’s Choice: What Would You Choose?

While we were on our North Sea cruise and sailing in and out of Norway’s gorgeous fjordlands, Alan and I watched The King’s Choice, a recent docudrama that tells the gripping story of the Nazis’ arrival in Oslo, Norway on April 9, 1940, and how King Haakon VII of Norway chose to respond to that threat.                       The unthinkable ultimatum? Surrender or die!  Although the movie primarily follows three of Norway’s most historically dramatic days, it is really a lesson in courage, valor, and one family’s anguish over making the right moral choice …not simply for themselves, but for their entire nation.  If you’re not versed in Norwegian history, you might not know much about the events, and actually, this is the first time I understood more of the complexities from “behind the scenes.” As a kid, all I knew was that the king and his family had escaped from Norway during World War 2, and I admit rather sheepishly to wondering why everybody loved the king’s family so well when they escaped and so many Norwegians died.  In Norway, the film was a huge success. In fact, it was the best-selling film in 4 decades of Norwegian cinema and was short-listed for the Oscars in the U.S.  It premiered at Norway’s royal palace with all available members of the royal family attending, so you know it honored not only country, but king!  If you (like me) have ever wondered why countries capitulated so easily during World War 2, this movie will help you understand some of the terror they felt. (I realize being terrified doesn’t give us permission to make wrong choices, but I’m just sayin’! The only way to overcome evil is with good, by God’s grace!) It’s also helped me understand why Jesus taught, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”* We never ever understand all the circumstances around anyone else’s actions, so we should never suppose we can judge another person’s motives We can (and must) judge people’s actions, but even there Jesus cautions us to “judge righteous judgment.”** I aspire to (as in, “I want very much but have not arrived”) being a person who respects other people enough to withhold judgment and exercise a gracious spirit toward them as much as possible.  “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).  *  “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).  **  “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

The 15:17 to Paris

This Sunday is Veteran’s Day, and if you haven’t seen The 15:17 to Paris, I wish you would. It’s a thrilling, very inspirational PG-13, 2018 account of what happened when Ayoub El Khazzani, armed with an AKM assault rifle and 270 rounds of ammunition, opened fire on the Thalys train #9364 running from Amsterdam to Paris at 15:17 on August 21, 2015 with 554 passengers aboard.  One of the unique aspects of this movie is that director, Clint Eastwood, allowed the heroes to play themselves, as well as many of the real-life train crew, medical response team, and policemen!

In particular, the film follows the lives of a group of three life-time friends who had all met as kids attending Freedom Christian School in Fair Oaks, California: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler. As they grow up, they keep connected, and eventually the trio heads out for a three-week trip around Europe while Stone is stationed in Portugal with the U.S. Air Force, Skarlatos has just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, and Sadler is a student at Sacramento State University.  After visiting Rome, Venice, Munich, Berlin, and Amsterdam, they make a rather last-minute decision to catch the 15:17 train to Paris,  and “just happen” to be aboard when the terrorist opens fire.  Mark Moogalian, an amazingly courageous fifty-one-year-old American-born professor, was the first responder to confront the gunman, risking his own life in an effort to save his wife and the rest of the people from disaster. However, it also took every ounce of bravery, training, expertise, and loyalty of the three devoted friends that day to thwart what could have been a terrible mass murder. As Isabelle Moogalian later stated, her husband was a hero, but also: “Thankfully we had the … military guys on the train. Otherwise we’d all be dead.” For their valor, the three heroes (and Chris Norman, a British businessman who joined the fight), received the Legion of Honour from French president François Hollande—which is the highest French order for military and civil merits—as well as other high honors from the U.S. Army and Belgium. Although the film hasn’t received much critical acclaim and only got a 5.1 IMDb rating, but I think it was an A+ story that was beautifully done. I wonder if part of rating had to do with our political climate, which downplays the valor of our soldiers, or is biased against anyone trying to cut into Hollywood business. I hope not. Regardless, it’s a great story with a great message, which is that we all need to take care of each other, even when it hurts!  According to Wikipedia, “All three men are described as sharing “a deeply religious background and a belief in service to their community.” This comes out in the movie, particularly with Spencer Stone, who quotes the Prayer of Saint Francis several times.

I want to thank our military for defending our country, and I am also thankful for military personnel around the world who defend the cause of liberty, justice, and peace for their citizens and throughout the world. Good government is a gift!I’m also grateful for Christians who risk their lives so that others may live.

May The Prayer of Saint Francis be our prayer too:

“Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

“O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life
Amen”

And he [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it‘” (Luke 9:23-24).

What Do You Think of the Viceroy’s House?

Some movies I hear about and await with eager anticipation until they hit the video stores, but sometimes there’s a gem out there that nobody seems to have ever heard of, and I thought Viceroy’s House was going to be one of the latter!  I discovered it at Family Video and rented it because it was listed as a biography, which I especially love! The movie was a highly moving account of Lord Mountbatten, the English viceroy sent to help India with the transition from British rule to independence.

Viceroy’s House stars Hugh Bonneville (of Downton Abbey fame) and was based on the books Freedom at Midnight and The Shadow of the Great Game—The Untold Story of Partition (neither of which I’d read).  It was directed by Gurinder Chadha, an Indian woman who lost family members during the terrible conflict surrounding the partition (2017, not rated but I would give it a “PG”), so I assumed the depiction was fairly accurate.  Until! Until I got home and started researching the movie for this review. One of the harshest criticisms came from an article published in “The Churchill Project” by Hillsdale College, which happens to be a Michigan school with a reputation for scholarship that I admire.  According to the author, Andrew Roberts, “In one way, it is rather like a Downton Abbey of the East, with plenty of below-stairs intrigue—the palace had more than 500 servants—and Hugh Bonneville (who played the liege of Downton) portraying Viceroy Mountbatten alongside a crisp-accented Gillian Anderson as his Vicereine, Edwina.” “When the film concentrates on the melodrama of a handsome new Hindu manservant falling for a beautiful Muslim girl, it combines Bollywood romance with a good deal of period character.”  “But whenever it gets involved in partition politics, it is historically and politically repugnant, promoting conspiracy theories and peddling vile falsehoods.” Roberts goes on to set the political record straight according to his research, which completely convicts rather than exonerates Mountbatten.  Roberts goes even further than the movie in citing gory details of horrifying viciousness and atrocities between the Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus, which makes me understand better how moderate Hindus today in India (at least according to our tour guide last fall) will marry Christians but not Muslims.  After a lot of study and thought, I was not only appalled by what I read, it made me keenly aware how easily I can be misled into believing something that is political fiction when mingled with facts. To me, this is most critical spiritually, where the world has become full of people who tout religious falsehoods as truth…and take in billions of people!

Do you have a source for spiritual truth? I believe the Bible is the only reliable resource for teaching true spiritual realities for many reasons, but perhaps the most important are: 1. When you study the life of Christ, he truly was morally good and wise. (Compare him to the historical biographies of other religious leaders. What did they teach? What did they approve? How did they actually live? Some were really awful! There were a few outstanding religious leaders out there, but no other who was without sin and blameless.) 2. Jesus, unlike every other religious leader, rose from the dead. He alone claims that He can grant us eternal life based on faith in His death to pay for our sins and His resurrection. Therefore, I choose to follow Jesus and believe that He speaks the truth, regardless of what others write or say about him today! How about you?

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

“The number who died in the appalling violence following India’s independence and its partition is still disputed, but most historians believe it was a million civilians or more. What is not in doubt is that they died in the most horrifying circumstances. Arson, torture, mass rape, desecration of temples and indiscriminate murder were commonplace after the Indian Empire was divided in 1947 along religious lines into two separate nations, India (mostly Sikh and Hindu) and Pakistan (Muslim).

“As many as 12 million people were uprooted in the largest human migration in history, as civilians found themselves on the wrong side of the new border and traveled to their new nation state, often encountering—and butchering—those of different religious persuasions heading in the opposite direction. The bloodbath followed a nationalist struggle that had lasted for decades and will forever remain a dark stain on Britain’s colonial legacy, with accusation and counter-accusation being thrown over the question of responsibility” (Andrew Roberts, https://winstonchurchill.hillsdale.edu/fake-history-viceroys-house/(All photos from the movie, Viceroy’s House. In all fairness,  I believe it was the intention of the director to make the public aware of this horrifying historical event, although it appears that her political viewpoint may be quite skewed.)