From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Lord God, We once again give you praise, in thanksgiving, for your wonderful gifts provided daily with abundant love: shelter, transport, food, clothing, medicines, good books, fellowship, and opportunities to help others in their needs. We are truly grateful. Still in the midst of pandemic, we are thankful you have brought us forth. Be with those who have suffered the loss of loved ones and those who have recovered from Covid. We pray for our world, our country, we pray for our state, and local communities. Guide us in our life in Christ Jesus and give us desire to reach out to others and provide for their needs. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen! May this be a day of great blessing for you!
Our Gospel lesson for this Sunday is from the third chapter of Mark's gospel, wherein, Jesus says: "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand...if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand..."
Abraham Lincoln debated with Senator Stephen Douglas in 1858 over the choice prospective states of the Union would have if allowed to be slave states. I would've loved to have been on hand for that series of seven debates in the State of Illinois. Lincoln eventually lost the election, but gained national attention for the first time. He had served a term in congress. Opposing the Mexican War, he lost after one term. He used the quote of Jesus in Mark 3:24-25 to make a point about the eventual outcome of the struggle over the expansion of slavery in the United States. The suggestion was that our country as known up to that time would be dissolved. Indeed, that almost happened, as a result of the beginning of the American Civil War.
It's little known that Abraham Lincoln read the Bible cover to cover a number of times, and, pretty much, knew the Bible well...well enough that studying his speeches as our president, we can easily assume that his use of language and understanding of human interaction, and morality, and government are directly influenced by the Bible...
That is as it should be.
Lincoln's knowledge of the Bible influenced the course of his presidency, without directly imposing religion on others. The lesson we learn from history is that all too often through the years, and the ages, whenever a regime combines religion and government there is always great trouble, ending up in persecution, destruction, and disaster.
For that reason, a letter written to President Thomas Jefferson by the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptists in 1801-1802 seems so important in our understanding of the connection between our government and our faith concerns. The Congregationalists were giving the Baptists a rough time. It seemed the former group thought the Baptists didn't belong in their state, and needed to go elsewhere, or simply, cease and desist.
Did that sense of destiny fuel the imagination of young Abe...Why did Lincoln later on provide us with such an amazing tribute to his mother? These thoughts have often caused me to ponder, and look forward to meeting Mrs. Lincoln in heaven. Perhaps she'll have answers for me...
It also causes me to vision for those I love...my daughters...younger members of my family in former years...certainly the little ones and teens I have walked with and taught in the faith...We sometimes worry about them and the decisions they make presently and will make along the way. Perhaps we can be part of God's plan for those we care about by having the same frame of mind and heart as Nancy Lincoln had for her son, Abraham. Whatever that vision was, decidedly, it was there...and it worked.
We're not called to run the show, Christian Church, but to provide the insight and wisdom to win the hearts and minds of those who rule and are governed. We have all the tools to live fully in God's truth and to use the gifts the Lord has given us to trust in His most perfect timing --- and to know that --- in the most dire, uncertain and scary moments, He is in control.
It doesn't mean that Church isn't allowed to influence the thinking and believing of American government officials or its citizens. It makes the point of declaring that no particular religious group should directly control government or society, and yet, as President Lincoln did, powerfully and greatly, influence political decisions, bolster up society, and improve government...without controlling them.
Faith should influence decisions made in government according to that presidential doctrine, and yet, not demand it... For this reason, it's extremely important to make that distinction. We can worship and practice our faith as we see fit to do so, and yet, not think, that others must be forced to believe as we do. At the same time, President Jefferson wanted to encourage people of faith to make essential contributions to society and government...that was their job!
But how does that affect an evangelical like myself. I want all persons to know Jesus. I'm not shy or ashamed to share His story of great compassion and salvation. The answer isn't in "having leverage" over those souls we desire to reach. I don't want to have legislative or legal power over them. What seems to be a direction for a person like me?
The answer is found in the verb infinitive, "to convince".
One question is --- Do others recognize Christ Jesus in my actions and my words? Saint Francis said, "Preach Christ...and sometimes speak about Him..." Be yourself as a human being...as a genuine person.
But...know your Scriptures. What about worship on a regular basis to uplift the spirit within?
How many of us are in a good solid Bible study these days? If you're not, why not? Do you know your Bible as well as Abraham Lincoln did?
Another question is --- Am I developing the skills to share Christ Jesus naturally, so that, when appropriate, I can provide just precisely what other dear souls need to come to terms with sinful behavior, despair, guilt, shame, defeat in life, and regret?
Do I need to become another Billy Graham? No. Be yourself. Everybody else is taken. When you take it to heart, you will discover the evangelist within...
Does a person have to appear "holier than thou"? No. Be yourself. A number of professional evangelists I am acquainted with need to discover the wisdom of the expression, "You can catch more bears with honey than with vinegar..."
Develop the skill of being a delight to be with...
However, that's not all...really get into worship and the Bible...
Sometimes, recurrently, I wonder about something. Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother..."