For the Other World

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14.

Times looked dark for Esther and her people. She had become queen, but all Jews were marked to die. And she was a Jew.

Our days seem dark too. In America, Christians’ freedom to speak truth is under attack. In other places, Christians, as well as Jews, are marked to die as Esther and her people were. Many die for their faith.

“For such a time as this” is a phrase that’s been repeating itself. Why are we here? And why now?

It’s a question that perhaps a Nazi’s brother also once asked himself.

In Germany of the 1930s and ’40s, Hermann Goering was a terror. As Hitler’s right-hand man, he held the power of life and death in his hands. For Jews, his word meant death.

His brother Albert risked all to undo Hermann’s work.

Albert Goering was in his place for such a time as those days. He was once arrested for helping a Jewish woman whom SA soldiers taunted and beat before a jeering crowd. Upon learning his identity, the arresting officers immediately released him.

So Albert wrote letters and demanded that prisoners be freed. He used family stationery and signed his missives simply “Goering”. The singular name alone held the power of freedom.
He became bolder. He saved many.

But he died in poverty. Allied forces didn’t believe he acted honorably. Just recently, a documentary filmmaker learned about Albert’s work to save Jews and tells his story.

Many Christians in America are downhearted. Our culture’s decline continues. But we can ask ourselves. Why are we here and why now?

We are here because we are meant for “such a time as this.” We are here for this day to work in our time. In this day. In this place. And, like Albert Goering, our work may not provide a result we see on this side of heaven.

Such a possibility occurred to Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the same period. The Gestapo had hounded Bonhoeffer’s ministry into virtual oblivion, so he got a job with the Abwehr, a rival Nazi organization that dissenters had infiltrated. (Eric Metaxas compares the rivalry to what we might see in the United States today between the CIA and the FBI (369).)

Undercover as an Abwehr agent, Bonhoeffer had the freedom to travel and conduct ministry, albeit much more privately than he would prefer. In the meantime, he continued his work as a member of the conspiracy that would twice attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler.

But also in the meantime, the circle where he could share his true views and the work he was doing (that would not fully manifest itself until after his death) had shrunk to very few people.

Many of Bonhoeffer’s faithful associates could only infer that he had sold out to the Nazis (377). Metaxas says the situation “represented [a] ‘death’ to self for [Bonhoeffer] because he had to surrender his reputation in the church (376).

Imagine that. We Christians pride ourselves on our testimonies. We consider it crucial that others perceive us as faithful Christians.

Perhaps we might admit we do so to a wrongful degree of pride. Bonhoeffer sacrificed what other people thought of him for the sake of how God (and history) would ultimately view his work.

He gave up his place in community to secure a right conscience toward eternity.  

The early Church had the same view toward maintaining a right conscience. Roman society knew Christians by their love and trampled them in persecution because they spoke truth without compromise. But it was those very Christians who turned the world upside down.

How would we act if we found ourselves in the throes of persecution? What if our world suddenly became dangerous for us and even for those we argue with–over culture, over politics, over faith?

Whom would we be willing to sign our names to save? Whom would we love enough to help? How much would we care what others think about us?

We work in this world. But the work we do is for another one.

“You know plain enough there’s somethin’ beyond this world; the doors stand wide open. ‘There’s somethin’ of us that must still live on; we’ve got to join both worlds together an’ live in one but for the other.'”
Sarah Orne Jewett, from “The Foreigner

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

When the Basics Become Bizarre

“When the Roman Empire collapsed, the loss of basic knowledge of how to do ordinary things was immense. The Oxford historian Bryan Ward-Perkins told me that it took western Europeans something like 700 years to relearn how to build a roof as solid as the Romans knew how to build.” Rod Dreher~

When my husband retired from his office job, he leaped into a full-time vocation that he was already doing part-time–roof and chimney repair. And he added a ministry aspect.

When he needs a crew, he goes to a local drug rehab program and recruits workers for the day. A couple of them turned into long-term employees. They arrived with a new outlook and got a new set of skills.

But most of them don’t. After all, not everyone belongs on a roof. Not everyone can traverse a housetop in a mild degree of comfort. And not everyone is willing to do the hot sweaty work required to finish the task at hand.

Some move on to other work. Others go back to the old way of life.

My husband sees two ways of thinking. One accepts responsibility for the past and doesn’t want to return to the old life. Those workers show promise and are willing to learn. They revel in a sense of accomplishment. They find success in fixing something that had been broken.

The other perspective shifts blame for the past. The shifting means they don’t move forward. They realize no great moments of accomplishment. Without accomplishment, there is nothing to pass on. There is no once-broken-now-fixed thing to see, to point to. And no set of skills attained to pass to others. They can only pass along blame.

That is how we forget.

Decades ago, I was among an inaugural class of girls taking woodshop. I still have the finished cedar box I made complete with a crack across the top because I (apparently) hit the hammer too hard nailing the lid on.

The teacher swore he would never teach girls again. I assume he retired shortly thereafter. From then on, girls would work with wood and boys would navigate the formerly female-only domain of the kitchen.

Our more modern outlook did well to invite boys to pursue competence in the kitchen and girls to use tools. We taught skills and children accomplished meals and boxes–even those with cracks.

I read this week of schools eliminating home-economics classes–now named Family and Consumer Science.

And I remember the sense I felt a few years ago at seeing a sack lunch for sale in a grocery store. It’s hard to give that feeling a word. But “loss” comes the closest. Can we no longer even pass along the small accomplishment of packing one’s own lunch?

Think about the exchange so many of us have made. We’ve traded the ability to prepare our own food (let alone grow it ourselves) for going to the store or restaurant, or now to have it delivered.

We have to realize that we are passing along ways to do things. We are showing others how to do things themselves–or how to get others to do things for them. We are always teaching something.

We have to ask if we are losing ourselves in our loss of basic competencies. With such seemingly small losses come even bigger ones hidden under our radar.

Rod Dreher writes about a conversation he had with someone who works with victims of sex trafficking. He calls the conversation “deeply shocking.”

“He said that in his line of work, he hears from fertility doctors — not one fertility doctor, but several — that they are having to teach married couples how to have normal sex. . . . if they want to conceive. These young people have been so saturated in pornography, and have had their imaginations so thoroughly formed by it, that the idea of normal reproductive sex acts are bizarre to them.”

Imagine a world where the idea of having your leaky roof fixed is bizarre. Where the idea of fixing your own sandwich is bizarre. Now imagine the world where the idea of the normal way to make babies happen is bizarre.

That world is becoming our own.

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Photo Credit: Paul Head

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have a material connection to the entity I have mentioned–my husband’s roof repair business. I have no material connection to any other entity mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The City of the Church

“[Pagan] critics argued that Rome fell after it embraced Christianity and lost the protection of the gods. Augustine argued that the pagan critics were defining goodness on the basis of the satisfaction of their own desires, rather than the true definition which sees that the ultimate good is found in God alone.” Justin Taylor
It was the ultimate post-mortem, the Monday morning dissection of a lost civilization.
The unthinkable had happened. Rome had fallen. And the blame could only lie at the feet of one entity–either the old civilization of Rome–or the new civilization of the Church.
Augustine was an eye-witness to Rome’s fall. He wrote to answer the question we so often ask of God when bad things happen: Why? His answer presented two distinct cities–pagan Rome and Christian Rome–two cities intertwined since the first century, no matter which one held power. Continue reading “The City of the Church”

ISIS, Rome, and the Whore of Babylon

I remember the moment it dawned on me. It was probably 20 years ago or more. I was sitting in church on a Sunday evening. The missionary to Germany was showing slides, German culture, German people, ministry in Germany. And then he said it.
“Islam is the fastest growing religion in Germany.”
It was really more like hitting a wall than experiencing a dawning. It struck through my being.
Catholicism is not the Whore of Babylon. Islam is.  If Islam were growing in Germany, it would also be growing all over Europe, which includes Italy, which includes Rome.
I come from a Christian tradition where, especially 20 or so years ago, this revelation would have met with disdain. I suppose that most people who have grown up steeped in the idea that someday Rome in the form of Catholicism would be the great false church of Revelation would find my idea ridiculous at the least and unbiblical at its worst.
But this week, Dale Hurd of CBN News is reporting that ISIS has formulated a plan to take over Rome and establish the apocalyptic Islamic state. The goal is to bring about Armageddon–to fulfill, not Christian prophecy, but Islamic prophecy. Continue reading “ISIS, Rome, and the Whore of Babylon”

Rome, ISIS, and the Prophetic False Church

Be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Yesterday I watched an online news report via CBN about refugees flooding into Europe from North Africa.* Men, women, and children, fleeing ISIS. Some have walked (walked!) across multiple countries to get to escape the terror. Many die in the journey.
The reactions of Europeans is mixed. Some responses mirror early civil rights protests in the 1960s in the American South in their violence toward the refugees. Hungary is building a wall on its border with Serbia to keep refugees out. Italy has built camps to accommodate the influx. Right wing parties hoping to stop the influx are growing all over Europe.
There is another reaction. There is admiration for the heroic quests of pregnant women. Envision another women “great with child” on a long journey.  There are mothers of newborns. Imagine giving birth during an escape and continuing onward. There are men with their wives and little children. Imagine trying to protect those you love the most. Continue reading “Rome, ISIS, and the Prophetic False Church”