Political High Places?

When I was a new Christian back in the 1970’s, the term ‘Jesus freak’ became associated with those who were excited about Jesus. According to one of the definitions on vocabulary.com, a freak is “a not-so-nice noun that refers to a person who expresses such an intense obsession with something that it resembles addiction”. Obsession is defined as something about which one is constantly thinking about or concerned. So although Jesus freak was meant to be derogatory, I along with many others embraced it because it described our obsession with our God.

Today I am becoming increasingly disturbed with an obsession in our country that has nothing to do with God. When I listen to press conferences, news reports, and commentaries, no matter what’s being discussed, it seems Trump is pulled into it, giving him credit or blame depending on which side of the Trump-fence the speaker is on. It seems the whole country, even the world, shares this obsession. Maybe this is normal and temporary as everyone adjusts to the new president, but there are indications that it might not be going away anytime soon.

Other people have noticed the same and I’ve heard lots of name calling on both sides. I think it would be fair, at least in this blog (since it’s mine and I can say what I want), to call them all Trump freaks. Trump freaks who support him, wanting him to return to power and save our country. Trump freaks who hate him to the point fearing even the possibility of his return. Both groups seem to spend an equally amount of time talking about him.

Being a Trump freak might be fine, if that’s what you want to be. Everyone has the right to obsess over whatever they desire, as long as their obsession doesn’t include harming others.

However, being a Trump freak might not be okay if you call yourself a Christian. By definition, there’s room for only one thing in an obsession, and God makes it clear that the “one thing” should be Him.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:5-9)

Think of it this way. God wants to be the sun in our hearts, minds, and life. He wants everything we do and think to revolve around Him. He wants His light to shine on every part of our life. The result would be that we’d be constantly talking about God, interacting with God and relating life in terms of God.

An obsession on something other than God replaces Him as the sun in our hearts, minds, and life. Everything we do and think revolves around what we’re obsessed with. It penetrates every part of our life. We constantly talk about our obsession, interact with what relates to our obsession, and relate life in terms of our obsession.

Another word for this is idolatry.

It’s easy to see the idolatry of Trump-worship in the scores of people who are glorifying him beyond normal support. The media loves to show how crazy and irrational some of these people are. What’s not so easy to see is the idolatry in those who worship the idea of taking down Trump, everything he did, and everyone connected with him. They are consumed by thoughts of saving the country from his influence and proving how terrible a person he is. The media ignores how crazy and irrational some of these people are.

As I was thinking about all this, I thought about the high places that are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. They were areas set apart, usually on a hill or mountain, to worship and sacrifice to pagan gods. God hated those places and warned the Israelites to destroy them. Instead, the Israelites used them to worship God along with the pagan gods they adopted from the nations around them. God called this practice an abomination, and made it clear He didn’t want to share the worship due to Him.

While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. (Ezekiel 43:6-8)

In the United States today, what is higher than the presidency? Could it be that presidential politics is the western culture’s high place?

We need to make sure we are not involved in idolatry on high political places. We need to make sure we have not replaced God with Trump, or equate the two. We need to make sure God is the only sun in our lives, and that everything we do and say revolves around Him and His ways. And that includes any thoughts about Trump – whether they be thoughts of love or of hate. We don’t want what happened to Israel to happen to us.

For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their idols. When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel. (Ps 78:58-59)

And lest we think He was talking only to Israel…

Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the LORD God be a witness against you, the LORD from his holy temple. For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. (Micah 1:2-4)

If, when we examine our hearts, we find an obsession has taken up residence there, we can take it down just as the Israelites were told to do to the high places they found. To not do so would to disobey God, which is evil.

“For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10-12)

Seeking peace does not always mean being a pacifist, and doing good might involve standing up for what we believe in, so removing a political obsession doesn’t necessarily mean removing politics from our lives. It means we don’t put our political activism alongside God in our hearts. It means we spend more time praying than we do reading and commenting on social media platforms. It means seeking God’s truth instead of repeating lies. It means keeping our tongues from returning insults or condemning people Jesus died for. It means we listen to God for our marching orders rather than jump on anyone’s bandwagon. God may say jump, or He may have something different for us do, which may or may not be what we think we should be doing. Only He can see the big picture. Only He can see through all the deception permeating both sides. Only He knows the future and how one action will impact another down the road. Only He can coordinate everyone for maximum effectiveness. And He will only empower and equip us to do what He calls us to do, not what others call us to do. Otherwise we will be working in our own strength, and possibly in the same manner of those we call enemies, which won’t do much good and may even backfire on us. Joshua learned about following God’s directions when facing Jericho.

As Joshua was sizing up the city of Jericho, a man appeared with a drawn sword. Joshua strode over to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “I am the Commander-in-Chief of the Lord’s army,” he replied. Joshua fell to the ground before him and worshiped him and said, “Give me your commands.” “Take off your shoes,” the Commander told him, “for this is holy ground.” And Joshua did. The gates of Jericho were kept tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelis; no one was allowed to go in or out. But the Lord said to Joshua, “Jericho and its king and all its mighty warriors are already defeated, for I have given them to you! Your entire army is to walk around the city once a day for six days, followed by seven priests walking ahead of the Ark, each carrying a trumpet made from a ram’s horn. On the seventh day, you are to walk around the city seven times, with the priests blowing their trumpets. Then, when they give one long, loud blast, all the people are to give a mighty shout, and the walls of the city will fall down; then move in upon the city from every direction.” (Joshua 5:13-15; 6:1-5)

I believe only God can heal our country. Let’s tear down our high places and give God our whole hearts.  Let’s turn from following our own ways and accept Him as our Commander-in-Chief. Let’s do things His way which will allow Him to answer our prayers. Let’s watch Him do what only He can do.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet live, godly and dignified in every way. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior. (1 Tim 2:1-3)

You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. (Matt 5:43-45)

For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:6-8)

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)

Do you be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 15:5-6)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Rom 15:13)

A Bus Full of Angels

“Is that what I think it is?” she asked the girls next to her, pointing up at the sky. “Is that a … foot?”

They looked up and smiled.

“No, not really. It’s a hand.” they said together.

She looked again. Sure enough, now it looked like a hand. “That’s weird,” she said shaking her head. “I could have sworn it was a foot. Jesus’s foot.”

“No, not at all,” they answered together again.  They waved at the hand which waved back.

She tentatively waved also and watched the hand wave back at her as it descended through the sky.

Lower and lower it came until it reached the ground.

She decided better safe than sorry and ducked inside a nearby doorway. She waited a moment, then peeked around the door frame. She saw two angels and Jesus, all smiling as if proud of something. Or maybe very pleased about something.

Jesus?  Jesus! Feelings of love and want rose up in her. Jesus was there! But how could that be?

A girl pushed past her and ran outside, giving a big hug to the nearest angel.

She wanted to go outside also, but was afraid that all of this was in her head. She thought if she went outside, they would all just disappear like a puff of smoke. So she continued watching from behind the door frame.

The angels and Jesus just stood there, one angel with an arm around that girl. What were they waiting for?

Curiosity overcame her fear, and she emerged from the doorway. One of the angels got so excited seeing her that he gave Jesus a hug. It reminded her of when contestant winners who get so excited they hug anyone within arm distance.

As she slowly walked towards them, her attention was on Jesus. She noticed His medium brown hair and clear brown eyes. He looked young and beautiful. He watched her as she watched Him, and when she got within a few feet of Him, He pointed to something to her left. She turned and saw a huge bus.

Bus? She felt confused. First a hand descending from the sky, then Jesus and some angels standing in front of her, and now a bus? Did they want her to get on it or something? Why? Where would it take her?

Jesus motioned to her to follow Him. Sure enough, He led her to the bus.

OK, so He did want her on that bus. Well, she had trusted Him enough to approach Him. She was also going to trust Him now. And if He wanted her on the bus, she would get on the bus.

She climbed up the steps and sat down next to the girl that had run past her in the doorway.

“Hi, I’m Susan!” the girl said. “Isn’t this amazing? We’ve been invited to ride with Jesus! This is going to be so good!”

Well, amazing, yes. But good? She wasn’t so sure yet. IF this was real, and IF this was really Jesus, then yes, it had to be good. But what if it wasn’t? What if this was just a figment of her imagination and she was going insane? That wouldn’t be so good.

Not knowing what else to do, she grabbed Susan’s hand for security and waited for the bus to move.

Jesus climbed on and sat in the driver’s seat. The angels climbed on behind Him and sat in the only empty sea, which happened to be next to her. The rest of the seats held other angels. She was on a bus filled with angels! And Jesus was driving! She must be going crazy.

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“Everybody ready?” Jesus calls out. “We’re heading to the High Places.”

“What are the High Places?” she asked Susan. But Susan was not paying attention to her and didn’t respond.

Turning back to Jesus, she saw that He was looking into the rear view mirror towards the back of the bus. “I’m sorry,” He said to whoever He was talking to. “I must take these ladies to the High Places before I take you to your destination.” She turned to see who He was talking to. There were skeletons back there! She hadn’t noticed them when she got on the bus, but she sure did now.

Then Jesus looked at her and Susan. “This is going to be fun!”

“It already is!” Susan responded.

“Good,” he said with a smile. “But I have to warn you. Once there, you will be given a mission to accomplish that might not always be fun.”

She looked from Jesus to Susan and back to Jesus. A mission to accomplish? Not always fun? What did that mean? Did she really want to go there? Was it too late to change her mind?

He smiled reassuringly at her. “Yes, you want to be here. Because that is where I am. And what better place can you be than where I am?”

She had to agree with that. So she settled back in her seat and waited for the adventure to begin. As she waited, she got drowsy and began drifting into a pleasant sleep.

Suddenly a loud jarring noise startled her. She sat up and noticed two things. One, she was no longer on the bus. And two, her alarm clock was buzzing itself right off the side table. Had all that been a dream?

Disappointed, she got up. She wished she was still on that bus no matter where it was going because Jesus had been on it. Her heart hurt with longing to be in His presence again.

“You ARE in My presence, Little One.” She knew that voice. The still small voice.

“It’s not the same,” she told Jesus. “I can’t see You with my eyes. I can’t touch You with my hands.”

“You will one day,”

“What was that I experienced?” she asked. “Was it a spiritual experience or just a dream.” It had to be just a dream, right?  Jesus driving a bus full of angels and skeletons?

“It was neither,” He answered gently. “It was an allegory. A dream with meaning.”

“What did it mean?”

“Can’t you figure it out? Think about it.

So she did. And slowly it dawned on her. It was another way to look at her salvation. Perhaps a bit bizarre but a pretty accurate allegory all in all.

She saw Jesus from a distance and was afraid He wasn’t real. That was before she was saved.

She overcame her fear and approached Him. That would be her seeking salvation.

The angel celebrated when she met Jesus.  Don’t angels celebrate as sinners repent?

Jesus drove the bus He led her on. He was the driver – leader – in her real life, only not with a bus.

Her fear that it was all her imagination. Yes, after her salvation, there had been times she thought all of it was just an imaginary game she and others were playing.

The bus was full of angels. God has placed angels all around His people, which included her.

He was taking her to the High Places. That was most likely representative of when she would be made whole and strong and able to do the things He calls her to do, which would be the mission the dream spoke of. As in the dream, she had not reached the High Places yet so she wasn’t too sure.

And the skeletons? She had no idea. Maybe she would figure that out later. Or maybe, since they had a different destination, she wasn’t meant to figure it out. Maybe the whole point of them was to show there are things in the spirit world she knew nothing about and didn’t concern her.

“OK, Jesus,” she said. “I have to admit. That was a pretty amazing dream. There’s no end to Your creativity, is there?”

“Nope,” He said with a smile. “Ready to have some fun?”

“Ready,” she answered, also with a smile. “Start that motor and let the ride begin!”