As a young boy growing up as an Episcopalian I never had the opportunity to sing some of the great evangelical hymns like The Old Rugged Cross, The Solid Rock, or Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. These are classic evangelical songs and they taught solid theology. One of my favorite songs that I learned after I joined a Baptist church and found Jesus was Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. I like the song because of the chorus. I enjoyed hearing the deep male singers chanting, “leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus, safe and secure from all alarms.” At the same time, the women were just singing, “leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all.” It was the first time that I ever heard in church the men and the women singing to different parts of blending to form one harmonious song.
From that time in the early 80’s till now I find that song playing over and over again in my mind when confronted by troubling times. There is no doubt that we are currently experiencing very difficult and dangerous times in this world. While in most of the world being a Christian has been dangerous but for those of us living in the Western world we have enjoy a measure of peace and freedom. That peace and freedom is rapidly diminishing as Christians attacked openly and killed on camera our leaders and politicians say nothing.
There has been a shift in the public consciousness in our great nation that is slowly beginning to turn away from traditional biblical Christianity. Christian morality and theology is marginalized while other religions are lifted up. While the United States once founded on Judeo-Christian ethics and morality, we may be seeing the end of that in our generation.
While it turns my stomach to see brothers and sisters in Christ killed in such horrific ways, I cannot say that I am surprised. One of the biggest reasons for this decline is that evangelical church has replaced church membership with discipleship. We are no longer requiring that the members of our church be actual disciples of Christ.
We have cheapened grace and salvation to the point we offer a watered-down easy believe-ism theology built around feeling good, receiving blessings from God, and in essence, a “me” centered faith. This message is heard loud and clear by the world around us and honestly, it sickens them as much as it should sicken us.
Gone are the days were preachers exhort their congregants to pick up His cross daily and follow Him. The idea of suffering and being uncomfortable seems to be an anathema to current Christian teaching. The truth is that suffering and persecution magnifies the true message of Christ.
World is hurting and seeking answers, unfortunately when they turn to the church they get the Joel Osteen response that God is just waiting to meet all of your material wants and desires. Jesus himself says that following him is hard and that if we try to go alone it is impossible. He wants us to cry out to him when the burdens get heavy so he can help shoulder the load. He never promises us easy path just that he will be with us step for step side-by-side.
So how does this play out when we watch things on television like Christians being? What should our response be? What do we tell our children? How do we prepare to live in this ever-changing culture is rapidly turning against traditional Christianity?
The easy answer is to fall the words that old song Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. This may sound like an oversimplification but it is not. The song tells us to lean on Him. Most important thing we can do is to rest behind the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ and let him be our defender. He is our rock, our fortress, and our best defense against the dangers of this world.
This does not mean that he will keep us from harm all the time. There will be times when we will suffer, lose loved ones, chased from our homes, and even lose our lives. However, through it all Jesus will be magnified and we will draw ever closer to Him.
This also does not mean we should not stay involved in our nation and the politics of it. Until laws are passed that prevent us from speaking our minds we should do so. This is not a time to disengage but just the opposite. We first need to find our center, seek to be a true disciple of Jesus and then speak from out of the loving embrace of our master.
My heart goes out to the families of the Christians who lost their lives to Islamic extremists. The only comfort that I can find is that while the enemy thinks they have won a victory the truth is just the opposite. The worst they can do is destroy the body but we know that their souls live for all eternity in heaven. Scripture also says that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. I would not want to be one of those unrepentant and unsaved Islamic terrorists as they stand before the judgment seat of God.
Paul encourages us from the book of Ephesians to pray for our fellow believers and this we should do constantly. For ourselves we should lean on Jesus and rest in his capable arms!
Psalm 4:4 Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still. (NASB)