Thursday, August 17, 2017

Two Ways to Change The World

     Watching the news lately I see the world has not changed.  For the most part things are the same, only the issues have changed and the faces of those who are participating.  As of late, "Racism" has once again reared its ugly head.  This time over the symbolism of a past war, its effects on a people, and a geographical region of the United States.  As I contemplate the atrocities of the past, present, and inevitable future I am once again reminded there are only two options available to change the world in which we life.  To change the world you must choose either to change the circumstances or change your heart.
     We live in a world that is as diverse in thought and culture as it is in anything else.  People cling to the things that they hold sacred and can become very emotional when their perceived identity is threatened.  For instance, I would say that someone's identity as an American is something that most US Citizens hold sacred.  Even to the point of being willing to lay down your life for the sake of the cause.  This of course is just one example and for any circumstance this will most likely hold true. 
     Let us say that your identity comes under attack.  How then are you going to respond?  As I have said there really is only two responses.

     First, you can change the circumstances.  This may seem to be a cliché statement.  However cliché it still holds true.  It may seem hard, but truly it is not.  If you live in a society that encourages free speech and the right to self government then there is already a mechanism for this change.  Non-violent protest and voting is a way that the ordinary everyday individual can effect change in the world.  But let us say for the sake of argument this is not an option for you.  There is another mechanism for changing your circumstances, violence.  You may feel shocked that I would mention that violence is a way to change the world.  But, in effect it is and has been the most exploited method to change circumstances throughout history.  All governments, and countries have their past rooted in conflict and violence and it is what has ultimately bond together the current social fabric of our world.

    The second method is something that is most difficult.  In order to change the world I would say you must change your heart.  Also cliché.  Through history there has been only one force that has been able to change the heart in an effective and permanent method.  That force of course is the Holy Spirit.  Mock me if you will, but I tell you that the only way to change the world is to change the heart of humankind. The only thing that has the power to do that is the power of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection.  The Bible tells us in Genesis 8:21 that the "imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth."  This being the case something drastic must happen.  In order for the heart to change our heart must die.  It must be put to death and be reborn by some miraculous power.  Romans 6:4 tells us "we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life."  The mechanism for the change of heart was created through Jesus.  The oly Spirit indwells the believer of Christ and makes the necessary death and rebirth in Him.

    The world can be changed.  When you change it by human hands the world will never be perfect.  You may make it more manageable for a while, but in the end the evil of man's heart will bring its ruination.  If you allow God to change your heart the change is permanent and will require everything that you are. 

    This post was born out of a conversation that I had with someone very close to me.  He was very agitated about the current state of affairs and he stated well you better get ready they are coming for your rights next.  I have clearly made my beliefs known in the past.  I serve Jesus Christ alone.  People cannot and will not ever be able to take this away from me.  I believe what I preach and if it comes to it I will die if that is what God requires of me.  I cannot and will not violate what the Bible says or what my conscience tells me that God's path is for me.  They may take my church, my home, my family, my rights, or my life, but they can never take my heart.  I pray that God will keep me from persecution, but moreover I pray God will strengthen my heart He has changed to withstand the evil one.
     I feel compelled to share a story of a martyr.  His life gives me inspiration and should be a model for anyone who "says" they follow Jesus Christ.

When President Paul von Hindenburg named Adolf Hitler Chancellor in 1933, Paul Schneider was the pastor of the Hochelheim congregation.  Initially, Pastor Schneider believed that the new Chancellor, with the help of divine guidance, would lead Germany into a bright future. It did not take long for him to perceive the true character of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. Schneider did not stand by idly as Nazi leaders ridiculed the morality of the Church. In writing and in preaching, he protested against the attacks directed against the Church by Nazi officials. Pastor Schneider received no backing from his denomination of the old-Prussian Ecclesiastical Province of the Rhineland. On the contrary, in order to placate Nazi officials who complained about Pastor Schneider, his superiors tansferred him to a remote region of Germany.

Early in 1934, Schneider and his family moved to Dickenschied, where he became pastor to the Dickenschied and Womrath congregations. That same year, Pastor Schneider became a member of the Confessing Church, a Protestant organization that opposed Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. On one occasion at the funeral of a Hitler youth boy a Nazi official said in his speech that the deceased would now be member of the heavenly storm of Horst Wessel. Pastor Schneider responded that he would not know if a heavenly storm of Horst Wessel existed but the Lord would bless the boy and take him into his realm. After this, the Nazi leader came forward and repeated his words. Pastor Schneider then responded sharply that he would not allow God's word to be adulterated during a Christian ceremony. As a result he was arrested, told to not preach against the Nazi Party, and then released.

In spring 1937, with the support of members of his church elders, Pastor Schneider began the process of excommunicating parishioners who, because of their allegiance to the Nazi Party, engaged in conduct which violated congregational discipline. Complaints led to his arrest. Following two months in the Koblenz prison, officials released him with the warning not to return to the Rhineland, where his home and parish were located. Pastor Schneider knew if he returned to his flock, it would mean imprisonment in a concentration camp. Yet, the night before his release, he read in his Bible the story concerning the crisis confronted by Deborah. When Deborah summoned the twelve tribes together to confront the common enemy, only Naphtali and Zebulun responded. Pastor Schneider saw in this Old Testament story [Judges 5:18] a parallel to the crisis which the Church confronted in Nazi Germany, and he concluded even if his was a minority voice, he must act in harmony with his conscience, and protest.

As a result of his preaching, Schneider was incarcerated in Buchenwald, near Weimar, on November 27, 1937, just a few months after the camp opened. In the labor camp, Pastor Schneider watched out for his fellow inmates. After being sentenced to solitary confinement for preaching, he preached the good news of the Gospel from the window of his prison cell. He was moved to the cell when he refused to remove his beret in honor of Hitler on the Führer's birthday, April 20, 1938 and to salute the swastika flag. He explained his behavior by saying "I cannot salute this criminal symbol". He also refused, as he had done earlier, the Hitler salute, saying that "you can only receive salvation (Heil) from the Lord and not from a human being". From his cell, Schneider accused his captors and encouraged his fellow inmates. On one occasion on Easter Sunday, when thousands of prisoners were assembled for mustering, despite being severely handicapped by previous torture he climbed to the cell window and shouted: "Comrades, listen to me. This is Pastor Schneider. People are tortured and murdered here. So the Lord says, 'I am the resurrection and the life!'" His speech was interrupted by the guards.  As others had pleaded years earlier, the man who mopped the floors in the solitary confinement building begged Schneider, "Please stop provoking the SS against you... They will beat you to death if you continue preaching from your cell window".

On July 18, 1939, Schneider was murdered with a lethal injection of strophanthin in the camp infirmary. Camp officials notified Margarete Schneider of her husband’s death and she made the long journey from Dickenschied to retrieve his body in a sealed coffin. Despite Gestapo surveillance, hundreds of people and around two hundred fellow pastors attended Pastor Schneider’s funeral, including many members of the Confessing Church. One of the pastors preached at the grave side, “May God grant that the witness of your shepherd, our brother, remain with you and continue to impact on future generations and that it remain vital and bear fruit in the entire Christian Church”. Excerpt from Wikipedia

    Chose right now how you want the world to change.  Through your efforts or through Christ's effort. 

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

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