“The New Man . . . The Old Strife”

“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” – Colossians 3:8-11

Seems to me that in these days we need to be meditating on this lesson from the Apostle Paul. Of course, the call to good behavior is always “in season”; all of us – often – could stand to hear a regularly-scheduled and delivered exhortation to do the right thing. But consider the context in which the exhortation is given: that of our putting on “the new man”. We all might have been born this or that, racially, socially and according to class, but in Christ, those distinctions, washed in the blood of the Lamb, disappear. None of it matters. Not in Christ!

The past few weeks we’ve heard a lot of hateful speech on radio and television. People picking one side or another and stoking the fires of malice, incinerating any hope of reconciliation before all the facts are clear. I’ve heard and read things said by people on both sides of the Michael Brown issue that, I believe, break our Father’s heart. When people say such things, they walk in the path of the Old Man, who cares little for love and unity – and even less for Christ.

But that’s not who we are called to be; not in Christ. We are “New Man” people. And the New Man doesn’t talk like that. The New Man doesn’t act like that. We have put off that Old Man – and his deeds. Christ has purchased our pardon. Christ died so that we might live. Christ took the stripes that were due us. We are healed by those stripes, but not only healed; we are also made a part of one body – His body. And we are a New People, united, not by birth, but by New Birth – in Him. The New Man, one with His brethren in Christ, does good to those who hate him.

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“Go and Tell My Brethren . . .”

“Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door,and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

“But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

“And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’ So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.’” – Matthew 28:1-10

I love this. The women (and, no doubt, the Apostles as well) had been enveloped in fear; anger; and, finally, despair; for a while now. And the women who came to anoint the body of their Master had every expectation that they would find a dead body.

But they didn’t.

They saw “an angel of the Lord descended from heaven” sitting there on the stone he had rolled away from the door. They saw the guards paralyzed and unconscious by their fear at the sight. They heard the voice of the angel telling them to “quickly tell his disciples that He is risen from the dead . . .”

And finally, they saw Jesus Himself, who met them on the way. And He repeated the command: “Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

What an exciting day! What a great day! All of their hopes; all of our hopes; are wrapped up in the Resurrection, because in His Resurrection we have the hope of attaining to our own.

But did you notice? Before Peter preached on Pentecost with signs and wonders confirming the message; before the other Apostles preached; before Saul had his vision on the road to Damascus and became the apostle to the Gentiles; before John wrote the Revelation from the island of Patmos; the news of the Resurrection of our Lord came first to the women? Who brought it to the others?

Isn’t that interesting? That the Almighty, in His wisdom, before letting the men get involved, made sure to tell the ladies first? And, of course, men being men, they didn’t believe the women until they received confirmation for themselves. Not so sure that’s the men’s fault. I mean, were the roles reversed and the men had to persuade the women, I doubt the men would’ve had any better success with the women than the women did with the men!

At any rate, it happened as it did. And it happened as it did because that’s how the Almighty wanted it. And it has to mean something.

Maybe this?

“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,that no flesh should glory in His presence.” – I Cor. 1:27-29

No. I’m not asserting by the choice of this passage that women are foolish compared to men; nor are they necessarily “weaker” in every respect (though most men have more muscle mass than most women). However, particularly in those days, women generally were on a lower social footing than men. And yet God chose to give the message of the Resurrection – first – to the ladies, proving once again what Christ said several times in His earthly ministry – that “The last shall be first and the first last.”

So – glory in the Resurrection. Praise the Lord that we all, looking to Christ, will attain to the resurrection of the dead. Be faithful until death. And thank God, who has brought, and will bring, the mighty down and will lift up the downtrodden. He came to do this. He died to do this. And He was raised to do this.

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“Hurry!”

“Pray without ceasing” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” – Luke 18:1

“Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:’” – Daniel 9:20-23

I’ve often been drawn to Daniel 9. Not so much because of the dramatic “Seventy Weeks” prophecy which follows this passage; not so much because of the beautiful prayer of penitence and confession which precedes this passage and teaches us to humble ourselves before God; but because of the section excerpted above. It is, to me, a source of great comfort, especially when I’m confused and alone.

Did you notice when the answer to Daniel’s prayer was sent? “At the beginning of your supplications” we read. Previous to this, Daniel had been praying for some time; confessing his sin for some time; confessing the sins of Israel – for some time. But the answer had already been determined and sent “At the beginning of (his) supplications”. It just hadn’t arrived yet. God being God, we know that the answer would have been there had He intended Daniel receive it right at the beginning. God being God, we know that the answer could have come to Daniel even before he began to pray. But God, according to what we read here, chose to send the answer at the beginning of the prayer and have it arrive later.

If that’s how God worked with Daniel, is it possible that He works with us in the same way? To let us pray – to send the answer – and to have us wait a while before it arrives? Why wouldn’t He, sometimes, do that?

We all have had the experience of praying; and praying; and praying; and sometimes whining and complaining; all the while our answer is withheld. We all have had the experience of praying for things we haven’t yet received. I’ve prayed for things, sometimes for years, before I’ve received them. Prayed for my wife for many years before I knew who she would be. Kimberly and I prayed for our children before they were conceived. We prayed for our ministry for years before being given the privilege to do what we get to do. We are still praying for things we haven’t yet received.

And this process; this process of praying, working, trying to remember to trust, praying some more, waiting, waiting some more, wondering if perhaps the prayer needs to be changed, and praying some more; can sometimes test one’s faith. Yet, as you just read in Luke 18:1 above, “. . . (We) always ought to pray and not lose heart”.

God is eternal. His ways are not our ways. His approach to our requests is not always what we’d expect it to be. And His approach to time is certainly not ours. He hears our prayers. The answer might be on the way right now. But you might have to wait a bit before it shows up. And since the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27), our request might have been revised a little (or a lot) by the time the answer reaches us.

In our culture, steeped as it is in consumerism, where we place the order and expect it to arrive on time and exactly as we requested, this waiting (for how long?) for something that might be different from what we requested might be frustrating.

But it is good. Because God not only knows what we need better than we do – He also knows when we need it.

Lord – help us to be patient! And to trust You when we’re waiting for the answer.

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“Haiku? Gesundheit!”

I’ve had a terrible time coming up with an article this week. Probably because I’ve been writing a lot of haikus (those of you who are my friends on Facebook already know this).

What’s a haiku? It’s a Japanese form of poetry that doesn’t rhyme, but sticks to a very consistent meter: 5-7-5; meaning five sounds in the first line, seven in the next, and five in the last. Basically, if you can write; and count to seventeen; you can write a haiku.

It’s all my daughter Madison’s fault: I was congratulating her on her being selected to read a poem at a literary event down at Harding and asked her if she’d be reading her “award-winning poem”; the one that won First Place in the Jo Cleveland Poetry Competition (Yeah, I know: I’m bragging about my kid. I’ll be bragging about Daniel soon, too; as well as Phoebe and Hannah. You don’t have to read it!).

She sarcastically replied that she’d be reading a haiku about donuts. After doing a little research (I had to find out what a haiku was!), thus was born my first foray into Japanese non-rhyming poetry:

I like Krispy Creme.
Doughy Sugary Sweetness.
Blood Sugar Rising.

Thereafter, I wrote one a day until today (Decided I’d take a Sabbath Day’s Break from poetry), much to the amusement of some of my friends; and to the annoyance of all of my children, as well as Billy Hudson (I probably shouldn’t go out of my way to annoy a Marine Sniper).

Anyway, I’ve been having some fun with all that and therefore I’m thinking I overworked the muse to such an extent on poetry that the “prose” part of my brain is kind of loopy. That’s my story anyway. Could be that I just haven’t been disciplined enough. Happens sometimes.

We’re told in Proverbs 4:25-27 (Which, by the way, is Hebrew Poetry; which doesn’t rhyme either):

Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.

The passage seems to be warning us about the danger of being distracted from our primary purpose; that of glorifying God and obeying His commands. And no – I don’t think amusing myself with a newfound (to me at least) literary form is participating in evil. But it can, sometimes, bring with it unwanted consequences.

The thing is, we have a primary – and only purpose – to bring glory to Him. And many things – even wholesome amusements – can, if allowed to, “crowd out” our Lord, keeping us from doing the things for which we were born – and reborn. Eventually, it’s just time to say “No” and resume the task of being about my Father’s business.

And so, having duly chastised myself for once again having a little too much fun with words and getting distracted, I return to my duty: writing this week’s Article.

I guess I just did.

(c) 2014 Daniel K Campbell

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Who Was He?

Who was St. Patrick? And why is March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, such a big deal?

For years, I didn’t know. I mean, I knew it had something to do with being Irish – and Catholic. Beyond that, I didn’t have a clue; I don’t think I even wanted a clue.

But then one day I heard a TV Preacher (I believe it was the late D. James Kennedy of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church down in Florida) telling St. Patrick’s story. It got my attention; and after reading a few books on the topic and reading the only surviving writings left that were supposedly written by the old guy, I’ve got to admit that the story of St. Patrick is one worth knowing. Herein a few of the headlines:

First of all, St. Patrick was not Irish! He was, apparently, raised on the western coast of Roman Britain about 1600 years ago. And he wasn’t Catholic! At least not a “Capital C” Catholic. The term “catholic” is often found in Early Christian Writings, used to describe the universal practices of the church (“catholic,” coming from Greek, means “universal”). The system we call the “Roman Catholic Church” wasn’t fully developed during his lifetime (387 A.D. – 461 or 493 A.D.) And Rome, though competing for “headship” of the church among many prominent cities, hadn’t completed the conquest.

He wasn’t very religious as a child; he didn’t take the faith of his parents very seriously. But one day he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and enslaved to an Irish “king” (more of a warlord than a king).

In slavery, he rediscovered the faith he had neglected in the home of his parents; especially prayer. According to his Confession, he prayed as often as 100 times a day.

One night, he had a dream in which he heard the words “. . . your ship is waiting.” He left the soon thereafter, traveling 200 miles on foot as a fugitive, reaching his ship and finally the home of his parents years later after many difficulties on the journey. He was, most likely, 22 years old.

Then, not too long after returning home, he had another dream; to return and preach to the Irish. He began training in his church, finally receiving approval to go as a Bishop to Ireland after many years. He was at least forty years old when he returned.

Having returned to the land of his enslavement, he endured many hardships, always believing he was under God’s protection. He baptized thousands; established Christian communities all over Ireland; suffered persecutions, slander and hardship; and died in Ireland, having trained many to preach, teach and live the Gospel.

In subsequent generations, descendants of those who had been converted by St. Patrick went back, first to Scotland, then to England. And from there they reintroduced a by-then backslidden Europe to the Christ they had been neglecting. They were uniquely equipped for this task because when Europe descended into chaos and darkness as the Roman Empire collapsed, believers in Ireland (at that time pretty much “the end of the earth” and ignored by Europe) were busily copying and re-copying the Scriptures, as well as many ancient philosophical works that had not survived in Europe.

Thereby, as Thomas Cahill asserts in his 1995 book, the Irish saved civilization.

So – what was St. Patrick? Was he a Catholic? No. Too early in time and remote from Rome for that. Was he a Protestant? No. He came along more than 1000 years before Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church at Wittenburg. A Baptist? An Evangelical? Of course not. Not sure he’d even recognize them – or us.

He was, simply speaking, a Christian; perhaps one of the last of the Primitive Christians. He was a missionary, living a simple life, traveling from town to town, preaching, teaching, baptizing and, perhaps without realizing it, laying the foundation for Medieval Europe and, indirectly, the phenomenon we call “Western Civilization.” Everything I know about him leads me to believe that he was, in his times, simply trying to follow Jesus. No doubt imperfectly; yet in such a profound way that we still remember him more than a thousand years after his passing.

We don’t always know how the good (or bad) we do will be used in subsequent generations. We have no idea the cultural waves that may emanate tomorrow from the pebbles we throw in the water today. What might followers of Christ, inspired by our actions here in Virginia, do somewhere else centuries from now?

Walk with Jesus. And do good while you can.

(c) 2014 Daniel K Campbell
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Trouble in Richmond

I just received a telephone call from Riley Ingram, my State Representative, and he is very frustrated.

He informed me that, even though SB 236, which would protect the rights of our children to pray and express themselves religiously in the Public Schools, had passed both houses, Governor McAuliffe planned to veto it. At present, there are not enough votes to override.

He also informed me that the Governor does not plan to sign the budget without an expansion of Obamacare in Virginia.

Many of you know that I oppose Obamacare on moral and religious grounds. It is not right for the government to take money from the governed to pay for morally objectionable things, such as abortion and abortion-causing drugs. Obamacare does this. Organizations such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate orphanages, are being taken to court by this (tyrannical?) Administration because they object to participating in abortion.

This is not right. And we, as followers of Christ, need to do all we can to stop it.

I have a few suggestions that I hope you will consider:

  1. Pray for the Governor. As we are commanded. He should receive our love and prayers.
  2. Speak to the Governor. Politely. But firmly. Tell him that as one of his constituents, we believe he should change his mind and sign SB236 (Religious freedom in schools) and sign a “clean” (unencumbered by Obamacare) budget. Tell him (again, politely – there is no call for the Christian to be rude) that you will remember his actions come the next Election Day.
  3. Contact your State Representative and politely remind him/her that these issues are very important to you and your future votes will be influenced by his or her actions on these matters.

Some believe it unseemly and even sinful for the Christian to involve himself in “politics”. We need to remember that the crucifixion of our Savior was not only a wicked but a political act, agitated for with Pontius Pilate (a political lealder) by the Pharisees and Sadducees who ruled over the people not only from a religious, but a political, point of view as members of the Sanhedrin.

John the Baptist – rightly – spoke out to Herod because of his adultery with his brother’s wife.

Christ – rightly – criticized the Pharisees and Sadducees for the ways they abused their power.

If you wish (and I hope you do), contact the Governor’s office today: 804-786-2211

God bless!

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“In His Time . . . On His Path”

Love This Picture

While still in college, I spent the summer of ’82 in New York City. Fell in love with the energy and the people. It’s the kind of place to which people with big dreams gravitate, and though I’d always been “small potatoes,” I’ve always dreamed big.

After college, after trying “this & that” in my hometown in Arkansas, I decided to move to New York. The insurance company I had been working for was planning to expand into the New York market and I wanted to get there early; make connections; get to know people; build a business; and build a life there.

However, in a business sense, things didn’t go well at all. Being a relatively “small-town” boy; being incredibly naïve; having a great deal more ambition than common sense; my business dreams just didn’t take off. Oh, I made a living, thanks to the fact that I was a fast typist and learned WordPerfect and Microsoft Word “right off the bat.” But my big business dreams never materialized, and when I finally “chucked” the day job to try to make a go of it on straight commission – without a viable business plan – in the big city – with a big fat rent check due every month – with a young wife and child, and another on the way – the predictable happened.

We ran out of money.

And so, in August of 1994, we did the only thing we could do. We went home. We started over. Me, my wife and our two small children lived in Mom & Dad’s house for two years before we could afford to move out. I was 34 years old, and I was not happy. In fact, I was downright depressed.

From what I understand, you’re not considered to be “suicidal” unless you have put a plan together to do yourself in. And, for a moment, driving along U.S. Highway 64, between McCrory and Augusta, Arkansas, all alone in my car, I thought about, and then dismissed, the idea of driving off the road and running into something, just to get it over with. Don’t know if that moment fit the clinical definition of “suicidal,” but I was pretty low. And though that moment passed, the other moments, mostly revolving around my feeling like a failure, lingered. For years.

But what I didn’t realize at the time, was that I was going through the sweetest time of my life. Because of the wife God had given me; because of the children that God had given us; and because of our extended family, who loved me far more than I deserved.

I had heard it all my life. And I would have told you had you asked me that I accepted the idea that, compared to being a good husband and a good father, there’s not much else that matters in this world. However, I had to learn that lesson from the heart. And I learned it through difficulties and suffering in my home town.

See, it was in Searcy, Arkansas – a place that I couldn’t wait to leave and a place that I never wanted to return to – that we began training our children.

It was in Searcy, Arkansas – a place that my wife, when she agreed to marry me, made me promise never to make her live – that our kids learned to love, not only us, but my parents, who grounded them in faith, sang songs of praise with them, showered love and affection on them and taught them that home was a secure, safe and wonderful place.

It was in Searcy, Arkansas – a place that I never really appreciated until I had attained a few gray hairs – that I learned what was really important.

It was in Searcy, Arkansas that my wife learned how to be a preacher’s wife – even before I started preaching.

It was in Searcy, Arkansas that I found my mission, even before I realized I had found it.

Funny how God had a plan that was a whole lot better than mine.

Joseph, after his years in slavery and captivity had melted away into freedom and authority, as he looked back on what God had done – even as he suffered – was able to say to his brothers, who had done him great harm:

. . . But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good . . .”

I’m no Joseph. And when I think about my given name, “Daniel,” I know all too well that I’m not him.

But one thing I do know: Even in the difficult days, God is there. And He’s doing something good.

And that’s why, Christian, we hang on!  Not because we know what we’re doing.  Not because we know what God is doing.  But because we believe that His plan is better than ours.

(c) 2013 Daniel K Campbell

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