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Militarism and Easter

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On this Good Friday, Christians are focused on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a propitiation for the sins of the world. But on every other day of the year (expect perhaps Christmas), many Christians are focused on some other people in the Bible.

The Bible on several occasions likens a Christian to a soldier (Philippians 2:25, 2 Timothy 2:3, Philemon 2). As soldiers, Christians are admonished to “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). The Apostle Paul, who himself said: “I have fought a good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7), told a young minister to “war a good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Read More→

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Two articles came to my attention today that are well worth reading. The first comes from Judge Andrew Napolitano as an Easter reflection called Hope for the Dead. He suggests an intimate connection between the ideal of freedom and rising from the dead:

“When the government takes away our free will, the government steals a gift from God; it violates the natural law; it prevents us from having and utilizing the means to the truth. The moral ability to exercise free will to seek the truth is a natural right that all humans possess, and the government may only morally interfere with the exercise of that right when one affirmatively has given it away by using fraud or force to interfere with the exercise of someone else’s natural rights.

We know from the events 2,000 years ago, which Christians commemorate and celebrate this week, that freedom is the essential means to discover and unite with the truth. And to Christians, the personification, the incarnation, the perfect manifestation of truth is Jesus.”

Read the full article by the Judge here.

The second is by John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute and is entitled Jesus Lived in a Police State. He finds many similarities between how the Roman state acted around the time of Christ and how the US government behaves today:

“Just as police states have arisen throughout history, there have also been individuals or groups of individuals who have risen up to challenge the injustices of their age. Nazi Germany had its Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The gulags of the Soviet Union were challenged by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. America had its color-coded system of racial segregation and warmongering called out for what it was, blatant discrimination and profiteering, by Martin Luther King Jr.

And then there was Jesus Christ, an itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist, who not only died challenging the police state of his day—namely, the Roman Empire—but provided a blueprint for civil disobedience that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him. Yet for all the accolades poured out upon Jesus, little is said about the harsh realities of the police state in which he lived and its similarities to modern-day America, and yet they are striking.”

Read the full article here. Have any great articles you want to share? Let us know in the comments.

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This article was jointly written by Doug Stuart and Jessica Hooker. See Part 1 here.

Elizabeth Stoker has argued against what she presumes to be the incompatibility of Christianity and libertarianism.  In our first post we examined the first of her three arguments. Here we begin to look at the subject of private property.

2.) Not only does the Bible indicate that God values private property, in it we see God’s desire to see property stewarded for its value to humanity. 

John Locke began his Second Treatise on Government with a comment on property:

“…we must consider what state all men are naturally in, and that is a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit…”

The idea of private property is fundamental to libertarian philosophy and is clearly supported in the Bible.  We find in the book of Exodus the laws God gave the people of Israel as they emerged from Egypt.  This covenant between God and the Israelites ordered justice in their community.  Part of that covenant and establishment of justice included property rights.  Exodus 22 deals solely with laws regarding property—both livestock and land—and also lists the restitution that is required if these laws are violated. While this may be an oversimplification, the concept of property rights was a part of God’s arrangement with Israel in ordering a just society. God expected them to share, yes, but how can one share what is not one’s own? Perhaps the phrase “stewardship rights” is more accurate a description than “property rights.” We each “own” something, which is to say, we are stewards of real property, and God has certain expectations of us. Read More→

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Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV 1984):

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming of Christ. He already had done so in chapter 7, speaking of the Christ-child as a sign, born of a virgin. Instead of a sign in chapter 9, however, we see the child coming as a gift of grace.

Some people seem to interpret the next phrase as a kind of theocratic proclamation. On the one hand, such a view is not altogether wrong. Christ is indeed Lord of all, and even now we ought to echo that classic mantra, “No King but King Jesus.” However, the “government [being] on his shoulders” is not some sort of “Jesus takes control of the state” like Atlas bearing the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Rather, the insignia of kingly office at the time of Isaiah was placed on the shoulders, and, thus, declares the kingly nature of the coming Christ-child.

Still, what kind of king is he? What we understand from Jesus saying that his kingdom is “not of this world” should cause us to reinterpret this passage as prophesying the coming of the Kingdom of God itself – God’s active work in the world that he calls us to join. The rest of verses 6 and 7 show the character of that kingdom-work.

The four names he shall be called ought to frame our thinking, since naming in the Bible is intended to be character-driven. All of the names describe Jesus, of course, but I would speculate that the first three could also be interpreted as allusions to the Trinity. “Counselor” names the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26), “Everlasting Father” obviously names the Father, and “Mighty God” intends to reference Jesus. Perhaps “Mighty God” is significant for two reasons. First, it demands accession to Jesus being fully divine yet fully man. Second, it declares the entirety of his work as mighty. Why is it mighty? True power is not found in power over others, but power under. Jesus’ power is displayed through his unconditional love and service. This makes him powerful. “Prince of Peace” further describes his work of reconciliation of God and man, and of course reminds us that our joining his work brings us peace and requires us to be of peace as well.

In the coming of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God is “at hand” (Mark 1:15), and Isaiah says that his work, bringing peace, shall see no end. The fulfillment of the throne of David is not in a worldwide empire but in a cross that serves the entire world.  The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the focal point of the Kingdom work and message. Justice is thusly satisfied, and righteousness is thusly displayed, from that time on and forever.

God the Father, the Lord Almighty, is zealous for his Son and works to accomplish everything. The excitement in the words of this proclamation is palpable, and for me always brings to mind the glorious Messiah oratorio of George Frederic Handel. These two verses foreshadow our Savior’s work, and how different it shall be than any of the earthly kings and kingdoms that Isaiah experienced in his day. While those who desire earthly power shall pass away, Jesus’ incredible Kingdom is established “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.” (Hebrews 7:16) God has graciously called each one of us into this work, giving us dignity and making us mighty as well, when we live in submissive synergy to his call.

This post is written in honor of my grandmother, Frances Horn.

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Christians carry around much of their theology within the songs that we sing. That is why the content of our church music is so important. You may forget that sermon twenty years later, but the songs we sing have far greater temporal reach.

Consider the great themes of the classic Christmas hymn “O Holy Night”, and what kind of implications this must certainly have upon a Christian’s political stance.

“Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!”

Imagine what Christians would look like if we were to truly believe these things:

His law is love, and His gospel is peace. Are we peacemakers? Do we reflect the love of Christ?

And in his name all oppression shall cease. Perhaps if we did believe in peacemaking, we’d actually be the catalyst for stopping aggression.

We ought to stop and think about those special lyrics every once in a while. This Christmas season, I hope we all reflect on our own place in God’s great work redeeming the world through the Christmas music we sing.

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