Thoughts about the Church and State (in the aftermath of Houston)

Well it is finally happening. For quite some time I have been saying that the time is fast approaching for churches to renounce their 501(c) 3 status and stop making themselves “wards of the state.” The First Amendment is becoming a laughable matter as it is being diffused more and more by the arbitrary application of “hate speech” bookends. It is clear that in its rabid pursuit of the separation between church and state, the state is bound and determined to silence the church.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the freedoms the United States of America affords its citizens. I love its rich tapestry of history and its fame as the “melting pot” of races and civilizations. At least in the realm of the theoretical, it is a magnificent nation. However, in the practical reality of today things have gone off the rails. The most recent abuse is the passage of HERO in Houston earlier this year and its most recent subpoena of sermons from pastors concerning the subjects outlined in the HERO laws. Regardless that they “backed off” from this in light of public protest, it is a clear violation of the First Amendment and we will see this happen with increasing frequency over time. Let me be clear, my argument is about one group of people trying to intimidate another into silence and, more importantly, the fact that the other group has opened the doors to permit this intimidation to occur.

Freedom of speech extends from the right of freedom of thought. If they are curtailed in any way, both speech and ideas become captive to some other person’s ideology. The expression of the “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is in the individual’s freedom to think and express thoughts in words. When expression goes beyond the realm of words and into activities then the First Amendment is no longer in play. While foolish people might permit their thoughts and speech to create barriers between them and others, that is their right. It is that right that countless have fought for and they paid the price in the shedding of their blood. Which makes for a good segue back to the plight of the churches.

When Christ established His church, He never indicated that it was to become beholden to the governments of this world. The church is built upon the Great Confession, that Jesus is “the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” (Matt 16:16) It is upon Him that the Church is constructed and upon the solid rock of His Godhood that even Hell cannot prevail. (Of course, Catholic theology will take umbrage to this point…sorry about that). In Paul’s speech to members of the Ephesian church, he stated: “…take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28) I think we can all agree, Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant that it is clear that the church is God’s through Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross.

Until Constantine sucked the church into the realm of the state in 4th century, she grew and functioned within society. She dealt with times of plenty and times of persecution and depended upon her Head for sustenance. Things changed when the church became an arm of the state. For one, she learned the subtle art of diplomacy instead of resounding with the words of God’s truth. She allowed herself to become a kept object and wove intricate webs of self-preserving deceit. In many ways, she lost sight of God’s mighty call upon her – the call of the Great Commission. She sought to use the force of the state to “convert” instead of using a compelling and vibrant witness of Christ’s transforming grace. The might of the state made the church into a bully and made it take the word “make” of the Great Commission into a word of force rather than a word of convincing.

Jesus’ mandate to the church is: “All authority has been given Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18b-20 NKJV) The church is His and thus inherits His authority. Nowhere there did He call the church to bind itself together and become a New Israel with an established statehood! The church is not a place. It is not an institution. The church is each person who, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, goes forth with the gospel of peace marking every one of his or her steps (Ephesians 6:15).

The Protestant revolutions (Lutheran, Calvinist, etc.) broke the church away from the state. In fact, in many cases the state-sponsored church persecuted these believers for they demonstrated the lie that a state-sponsored church actually is! In order to be the mouthpiece of her Lord, the church must have an unbridled ability to speak the “word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) In spite of the persecution, the new Protestant movements grew in numbers and made a tremendous difference to the world around them. The Great Commission broke forth again and those who were caught up in their sin and flesh heard the clear, fresh sound of the gospel message. Lives were profoundly affected and positively changed. This continued until, once again, the Protestant churches began to be sucked into their respective states and grew diplomatic, silent, and cold.

One of the few bastions of Christian freedom is found here in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Yet, even here the tentacles of state-sponsored complacency have begun to wrap themselves around the hearts and mouths of the churches. While there is no state-sponsored church in the US and there is much ado about the “separation of church and state,” there is still a way that the state can gain a stranglehold on the church’s neck. Ever since 1894, when the first federal income tax exemptions were granted to churches, the tentacles have been closing in. First the churches were exempted from federal taxes, then the preaching staff could claim housing subsidies, parishioners can claim tax-deduction on their tithes, and more and more aspects of the church’s functioning are becoming beholden to its governmental taskmaster through 501(c)3 exemptions. When you consider this in the stark light of truth, you can come to realize that these exemptions are really a way that Caesar pays the church. As long as this state of affairs exists, Caesar can argue a right to demand the church to be silent. And Caesar is waking up to this idea!

Jesus laid out the principle of taxes when he was asked by a shrewd scribe, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” His response was to request a Roman coin which He held up and asked, “Whose image and inscription is this?” The response was that it was Caesar’s and Jesus then announced the principle by which His people should live: “Render (give) to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:15-22) In other words, those of us called by His name are to yield every aspect of our lives to Him for our very life belongs to God. Likewise, we are to be good citizens and to pay our just taxes to the state. Then, and only then, are we free of all encumbrances to speak His Word.

The day is fast approaching when our churches and each believer will have to reconsider what they will do. We will all need to cut loose the chains of the government dole by refusing to accept any tax-deductable “freebies.” We will need to decide to trust God to make up the difference in finances because He is able and willing to do so. We will need to decide if we will speak God’s clear and true Word (in love, of course) or allow ourselves to be bullied into silence by bullies in elected offices. And we will need to understand that, if we are truly God’s possessions and we are rendering ourselves to Him, we may even have to face imprisonment and even death for His cause. We won’t be the first and certainly will not be the last to do so.

In the meanwhile, in Houston and elsewhere, may the church stand strong and keep the faith.

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How Does The Regulation Movement Affect Us Today?

TheRegulatorsAdvertisingPosterFor the most part of 2014 it seems that I have been “missing in action.” My blogs and photo journals, and even Facebook have experienced a fair amount of neglect. It has been (to say the least) an extremely busy year as I embarked on filming, editing, and producing my first feature length Independent film. I have been striving to tell the story of the Regulators who were politically active in the colony of North Carolina between 1765 and 1771. I say “politically” as if there were some sort of democracy in action under British rule but I really mean that they initially used whatever avenues legitimately existed to express their desires to the government and slowly ramped up into a realm of civil disobedience. See the bottom of this article for some links to the documentary, if you are interested.

So who were these “Regulators” and what did they want to regulate? In the latter half of the 1760s, a movement began in the backcountry (today’s Piedmont area) of the colony of North Carolina which focused on requesting the government to merely follow the published laws in terms of fees and taxes. The landholders and tenant farmers who inhabited the area were victims of abusive practices by the courts and by tax collectors.

One of the problems in colonial North Carolina that fed this corruption was that the counties were vast tracts of land that took days to traverse. The courts were housed in the seats of these vast areas and anyone who had business with the court had to make the long and treacherous journey to attend. It did not take long for the denizens of the courthouses to form into what became known as “courthouse rings” and they arranged among themselves ways to postpone cases and manipulate people to pay bribes to have their cases heard when scheduled. Additionally, they overcharged for their services and the poor yeoman farmers had to comply with the fees or face repeated wasted days travelling to and fro for cases that would not be heard.

The courthouse rings also looped in the sheriffs of their respective counties. Since the office of sheriff was responsible for the collection of taxes and for administering ballots for voting for representatives to the North Carolina Assembly, it was an easy target for misuse. Thus, the system was rotten from the top to the bottom. If the tax collectors, the sheriffs, the judges, the prosecutors and court clerks, to whom could the yeoman farmers of the North Carolina backcountry appeal? The only recourse for them was to band together and appeal to the Governor and hope for redress of their issues. If this failed, they could hope to elect representatives to the General Assembly who would bring their needs to the forefront. Thus the Regulation Movement was started.

The Regulators began sometime around or after 1765. They were serious individuals who wanted to impress their concerns upon the government. Their meetings prohibited the sale of intoxicating beverages because they refused to allow themselves to be criticized for a lack of sober and sound deliberation. They chose to take a legal and orderly approach, that which had been espoused earlier in 1764 by George Sims in his Nutbush address in Granville County. Many leaders bubbled up to lead this group, most notably Harmon Husband, William Butler, Rednap Howell, and James Hunter among others. They met and composed letters to the Governor called Regulator Advertisements in which they demanded that the laws merely be followed properly.

In all fairness to Governor Tryon, he did initially try to address the complaints of the backcountry residents and the Regulator demands. He did investigate some and he did discover that there was corruption going on. He requested that fee schedules be posted and hoped that things would quiet down. However, the culture that undergirded the courthouse rings proved to be resilient and in the end, nothing really changed. In some respects, they may even have worsened.

Piled on top of all of this corruption was also the problem that there were currency restrictions and taxes that squeezed the colonists. The Currency Acts had called in money and worked to prevent dilution of the currency in the colonies. The Stamp Act threatened to introduce more taxes and led to a widespread revolt throughout all the colonies from Boston to Brunswick-town (near today’s Winnabow NC). The Anglican privilege taxes affected all and violated the agreement the Crown had with Protestants who settled the American colonies. And in an act of abject defiance to the struggling populace of the North Carolina colony, Governor Tryon instituted yet another tax to cover the building of his dream mansion in Newberne (today’s New Bern).

Something had to give! The backcountry farmers were losing their shirts through the corrupt practices of the tax collectors and courts. Their livestock was being confiscated, without which they could not continue farming. There were even illegal wranglings concerning the deeds to their land. The government refused to follow their own laws and the officers in charge of enforcing the rule of law bent it every which way to suit themselves. The Regulators found themselves ratcheting the pressure against the government to hopefully get some attention.

First, they refused to pay taxes unless they were properly published. When this did not work, they rebelled and revolted. And finally, they ended up facing down the Governor and his militia troops militarily. All of this was to no avail. When the Battle of Alamance broke out on May 16, 1771 the Regulators hoped to be able to press their cause to Governor Tryon. The result was that they were defeated and the movement was broken.

However, what the Regulators had set out to do was not dead. The colonial resistance movements heard about what had happened at Alamance and latched on to it as an example of British tyranny. While their movement was not Revolutionary in nature, their cause did fuel Revolutionary causes. When it came time to participate in the American Revolution, the powers in North Carolina ensured that many of the Regulators’ demands became a part of the new State Constitution. This was done to “sweeten the pot” and coax many of the former Regulators to fight against the British. Some did but others remained fiercely Loyalist.

TheRegulatorsMoviePosterToday we benefit from the blood they shed on Alamance’s field. Our counties are much smaller and more numerous than they were back then which permits us easier access to the courts that serve us. Our fair taxes are posted and we tend to take this for granted. Corrupt government officials may still exist but there are systems of checks and balances that tend to root them out and deal with them properly. We have ample representation in the House and Senate of both our State and our Federal government and we have access to these representatives through many means in order that we may bring petitions to them.

It is important to understand that (and let me stress that this is meant in as apolitical a way as I can) we who live under the Constitution of the United States of America are certainly privileged. This is not to say that there are not other countries in the world that live under the same umbrella of protection as we do here, but I am focusing with a very “national” lens. This is true only because the Regulation Movement was born, executed, and shed its lifeblood on the soil of this nation. Much of the world’s population still lives under the conditions experienced by these brave souls wherein they have no voice in setting the course of their government, experience taxation without representation, and who have no power to move things “in a right direction.”

Again, written into the Constitution of the United States of America and in most of its states’ constitutions, are many of the things that the Regulators requested. It is sad that we take these hard-earned freedoms so lightly in our nation and are willing to forfeit them (by not participating in every voting cycle) or even give them away (by espousing a desire for a centrist government)! The Regulators, along with many other Patriots, died fighting for the rights that we have.

Unlike the state of affairs of their times, “We the People” do not live under a static government. We can freely exchange ideas. We can vote our consciences. We can change our government. We even have the right, within the constraint of a fuzzy line, to engage in civil disobedience. While it is certain that such a line is drawn near to where there is danger to life, limb, and property, our nation has experienced popular protests that have changed the course of the government. Civil rights, women’s rights, suffrage, and many other critical issues have been and continue to be affected by those who work within the system at the polls and those who work outside of them through peaceful protests. If the government is deaf to the voice of the people, the people will exert political, editorial, and even civilly disobedient pressure to open its collective ears or to change it out.

We need to be like the Regulators, sober-minded and sober in judgment in all we do. We must also seek to be good citizens and participate actively yet respectfully in our political processes. Only then can their blood be properly avenged.

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“The Regulators” Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/RegulatorsDocumentary
“The Regulators” 30-second promo: http://vimeo.com/claforet/theregulatorspromo30

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Goodbye Premiere Pro! Hello Sony Vegas!!

It seems like a virtual eternity since I have posted to this blog.  It has been a busy year and I have been tied up working on a feature-length documentary throughout the spring and summer months (The Regulators).  In fact, it is still ongoing as I work the final editing in preparation for submission to film festivals.

It has been a bumpy process with bad news and good news within it which lead to this article.  First of all, I made the gross mistake of falling for the Adobe Creative Cloud upgrade from CS6.  It was tantalizing to consider that it would handle video formats faster in native containers and make a great big difference in the process that I have been working through.  May I admit to you that this was the biggest mistake of my life.

When you port your CS6 Premiere Pro project to CC you cannot go back!  They moved from a nice open XML project format to some sort of proprietary binary config file so after the porting and continued work, I could not go back.  Sure, I could have resumed where I left off with the old config and redone all the work I had completed in CC but that was a major commitment that I was not willing to make in light of the performance of Adobe’s Premiere Pro.

On my WIndows 7 (64 bit), 12 core Intel i7, 12G RAM system, Premiere Pro CC was constantly attempting to re-render and ending up in a deadlock.  After three long sessions with their tech support (which essentially erved only to revert every critical driver to versions that were years old) the problem never was resolved.  CC 2014 is still broken and the most recent update of that still has the problem.  As a seasoned developer, my gut feel is that there is a thread deadlock somewhere in their code.  Things crank up then hang and never move forward again even if left running overnight.  Exiting the process leaves the image running with tons of threads consuming processor power but achieving nothing…only a well delivered coup d’grace makes it exit.

In despair, I did not know what to do.  I gave Adobe weeks of my time to no avail.  I entertained springing for a new Mac and Final Cut Pro, but finally encountered Sony Vegas Pro 13.  This is the good news part of my ordeal.

It is good that I gave this program a shot.  While there was a learning curve, lynda.com got me up to speed quickly.  It took a little while to get used to the nesting of Vegas projects but once one embraces this, it is really good.  The ability to open multiple copies of Vegas and work on different projects (or subprojects) simultaneously is truly wonderful.  Also on the good news front, my Magic Bullet Looks and FilmConvert plugged right in.  I am sorry that Magic Bullet’s Colorista does not work there though but as a developer I can understand their reasoning.

SonyVegas

After taking a couple weeks to retrain and backtrack the project, I was well on my way with producing the documentary.  I am pleased that I followed this path.  So many things make sense with Vegas – like the plug-in chain for effects and adjustments.  I like the jog and shuttle control and actually invested in a Contour Shuttle Xpress to exploit it fully.

In closing, I think that anyone in the Windows environment should consider Sony Vegas and give it a whirl.  With a 30-day downloadable trial, there is nothing to lose.  One lesson that I have learned is to keep multiple options open when producing a film.  It doesn’t hurt to have two or more equivalent production-quality editors at your immediate disposal so that you can have options.  Assuming that a large corporation like Adobe or Sony or Avid or Apple will react to your woes is naive at best. “Trust, but have a backup editor…”

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“D” Day – 70 years later

In my day job as software engineer, I constantly tote around a notebook. I write my daily notes on one sheet and leave its facing page for additional notes or later discoveries to be noted adjacent to the date. As I feel led by a significant moment, sometimes, I doodle out a simple sketch on a facing page. Today I could not help but think of the intense cost my physical freedom, and the freedom of hundreds of millions around the globe, involved.

Operation Overlord is but one of these events but it is significant in my mind’s eye thanks to the old Life magazine photos and newsreels I consumed in my youth. What courage it took to hop out of a landing craft knowing that a hail of bullets were marching towards you! Many gave their lives to conquer a beachhead, to gain a toehold on continental Nazi-occupied Europe. Yet their sacrifice was not in vain. Many laid down their lives so their neighbors, brothers, and friends would not have to go to that God-forsaken place and to suffer their fate.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NKJV) There is not much more that we should do than to say “thank you” to these brave people and to honor their memory in all that we say and do.

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My Learning Experience in Cinematography

In a recent article, Vilmos Zsigmond stated, “I think film is about images. Cinema needs good images. I think that if you don’t have good images, it’s not going to be a film. I think all films should be really visual.” (see Cinema needs good images) I must say that I totally agree. I am a very visual person and I dabble in many of the visual arts, painting, photography, and now cinematography. Of course, this does not mean that story is not important, and sound is not critical, and editing, and so on. However, I have to agree that all of the aspects of film-making are either made by excellent camera work or are broken by shoddy craftsmanship.

Needless to say, this is one of the many areas in which I am struggling to improve. I have been familiar with still images for most of my life but learning to bring a crispness to my skills with video capture is proving to be quite an adventure. From the cinematographic perspective, I am working diligently to master a finite set of equipment and shooting conditions. There are umpteen different devices and processes out there but I feel that I need to become competent in several core items (pan head, shoulder rig, sliders, basic dollying, etc.) before being overwhelmed by all the rest.

Some say that the best way to learn is by observing. Others say that to truly master an art, one must do. So I am covering both bases with my new documentary project called “The Regulators”. I am “doing” a number of different roles and learning by leaps and bounds. I am also observing others who graciously have opted to work with me on this project. I also am observing through my reading. I have a pair of books that I recently read that are hopefully going to help me reach greater heights in this pursuit.

SevenSamuraiThe first of these is a pre-release by Richard Pepperman called “Everything I Know About Filmmaking I Learned Watching Seven Samurai.” (Michael Wiese Productions – publication in November 2014) Pepperman assumes the role of a master teacher who walks his students through Kurosawa’s epic film. After leading his audience through the basic principles of the movie’s structure and story, he then provides “an overview of the screenwriter, cinematographer, editor and director collaboration without overlooking the obligations of the craftspeople.” Each section of the book brackets a section of the movie and goes into depth concerning how these aspects collaborate in producing a memorable segment of film. As the teacher, Pepperman then highlights the essentials under one or more “Lessons Learned” monikers. Section by section, the student is driven to dig deeper into the art of movie-making, and to learn how elements work together to drive the story forwards. The teacher imparts knowledge to the student while teaching that student how to parse movie material and learn lessons on his or her own. I know that this exposure to this book will produce fruit in my work for the rest of my life.

DSLRCinemaThe second of these is Kurt Lancaster’s “DSLR Cinema, 2nd Edition” (Focal Press) which was an eye-opener to me since I have been enthralled with DSLR videography since I first started it a few years ago. It has been especially on-point as I have been working on this new project. The book walks through the process of achieving filmic results with DSLR videography and includes copious amounts of commentary by known experts in the field (Vincent Laforet, Po Chan, Phillip Bloom, and others). Finally, there is a complete section that goes through gear purchases broken down by budgets, something very helpful to the relative neophyte like myself.

As it goes, “the rest is history.” It is my hope that the knowledge gleaned from these books will combine with my experience and produce memorable, filmic images in the finished product. Time will tell!

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Shooting “The Regulators” (and the Nikon D800E)

It has been a busy couple of months as I have been working on a documentary project concerning the Regulation movement in the Province of North Carolina between 1765 and 1771.  On May 16, 1771, the Regulators faced down Governor Tryon and his mustered militia troops and lost the Battle of Alamance.  A whole slew of information can be found on the project notes site.

Anyway, filming began last month and will continue through Summer.  One of our first shoots was at Tryon Palace in New Bern, NC.  I have been reading good things about the Nikon D800E and so I opted to rent one with the excellent Nikkor 12-24 zoom.  Needless to say, it was love at first shot!  I love the fact that this model does not introduce anything in the path to blur my images.  I have been going crazy with my D700 (which I love, don’t get me wrong) and the fact that everything just seems fuzzy.  With its 36 MP image, close cropping is also easier to do but, the downside is having to handle immense RAW files.  Oh well, that is why all that memory is on my machines!

One of the neat parts of being at Tryon and shooting outdoors was that we had been able to negotiate (under heavy insurance, of course) to capture aerial footage with the DJI Phantom Quadcopter/GoPro rig.  I have become a lot more proficient at it and my wife, Sherry, is also getting really good at flying the beast around.  I have also become more familiar with using GoPro’s ProTune/RAW and pulling it through color processing. Here is a frame grab of the processed video from Tryon Palace.

OverheadOfTryonPalace

Returning to the Nikon D800, video capture is very smooth and some additional modes are introduced beyond my D7000’s capabilities.  I really love the fact that one of my pet peeves with the D7000 is no longer an issue.  This camera permits on-the-fly changes of aperture while recording and in LiveView.  The other camera drove me out of my skull in having to exit LV, change aperture, then return to LV to resume every time an aperture had to be modified!  The 12-24 f/28 is a wonderful ultrawide zoom range, which combined with the FX sensor of the D800E, leads to a wonderful filmic feel with lots of headroom.

It was hard to pack it all up and send it back.  However, I only had to say goodbye for a short time…long enough to order one and have it delivered.  I do have to say that if you are looking at expensive equipment, spending a few days with a rental version will either convince you or let you know that it is not a fit.  In the case of the D800, it was a great fit since it mimics the D700 in many respects.  Getting to know where everything is was a minor task and the changes, for me, were good.  Here is an unveiling video shot with my D7000:


The weekend of May 16 will be very busy.  We will be filming the re-enactors at the Alamance Battleground from the 16th through the 18th, then on Monday, May 19th we will be going back to New Bern to film re-enactors in Tryon Palace.  Wish me and the rest of the team good luck!

 

 

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Missing the Opportunity

I just read an article passed to me by my wife, Sherry, on Ravi Zacharias’ site concerning the effect of a simple little letter written by a 6-year-old girl. The article is here and is entitled “The World Without a Story.” Boiled down to its essence, 6-year-old Lulu wrote a short letter to God and gave it to her father, a journalist named Alex Renton. He and his wife are atheist but they decided to not allow their position to answer their child’s curiosity. Thus, he chose to email family, Christian friends, and some expert theologians.

In Renton’s own essay entitled A letter to God, the saddest words to me were that “the Episcopalians and Presbyterians did not reply.” Others responded but either noncommittally or in language that was too theological. The best response was that from the (then) Archbishop of Canterbury which can be seen in the article. I recommend reading both Renton’s essay and Jill Carattini’s article on Ravi Zacharias’ site. However, let me return to briefly discuss the missed opportunities here.

As believers, we are exhorted to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4 NKJV with my italics) I presented the context of this because it outlines the seriousness of the charge that Paul made to Timothy, and consequently to all of us. The times around us are wicked, the clamoring noise drowns out God, and man’s heart constantly seeks to invent evil. All around us are as many permutations of “religiosity” as there are members of the populace and we have to be prepared to lay out the Word of God. We cannot afford to shrug off any opportunity, even if that opportunity is a child’s simple question scratched out on notepaper!

It is shameful to not be able to answer a question about the God Whom we love and serve. Sure, we may not be eloquent but we should be able to articulate the basics of Who is God and why do we love Him. 1 Peter 3:15,16 calls Christians, especially those who are suffering for the sake of Christ, to “…sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” (NKJV and italics are mine) The word is “always” not “sometimes” or “occasionally” or “when the Spirit gets you.” Always be ready, in season and out of season. It is amazing how much effort we put into developing an “elevator pitch” about our work, our current project, our vacation plans, or the state of our kids but we won’t do so for the hope that is in us.

Yet, even more shameful were those in ministry who did not deign to answer. Like the priest and Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan they glanced over and didn’t see anything of interest and passed by the question of this child. These busy people considered their pending tasks too important to consider what seemed to be a silly little letter from a child. However, look at what they missed! They missed their response touching a little girl’s life, moving the hearts of atheist parents, and being published in The Times [of London] (article here) front-and-center in their Faith section for umpteen people to read, contemplate, and maybe even come to Christ! One wonders if their responses would have been forthcoming if they had known that there would be an opportunity for their personal glory?

Thank God for the tender answer of the then Archbishop. He was, quite obviously ready in season and out of it to provide the reason for his hope and his response was properly tailored to the needs of a little girl exploring her first tugging questions about a great God’s existence. Even beyond the answer itself, his actions exemplified the character of Jesus for Whom no-one is too small and insignificant for His ministering grace. “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” (Matthew 19:13-15 NKJV) The Archbishop’s response serves us a reminder to all of us about our central mission and why God chose to keep His people in the world and not to translate them to heaven upon their conversion. We are here to tell others the good news and to share the hope that is in us.

May all of us believers be aware of the seeking and probing questions that we are being asked and may we seek, through God’s Spirit, to provide answers. May we not overlook the young, the downtrodden, and the forgotten of our society. May we never be too busy to not be about our Father’s business.

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