Category Archives: Politics
We must pray for the Ukrainian Church:
Churchmen were tortured and murdered the day after they were captured.
Jonathan Merritt and Kirsten Powers (though only Jonathan’s name is at the bottom of the article) wrote on the 23rd on the subject of Christian businesses who desire to not serve the requests of homosexuals. Nothing like a bit of red meat for the masses. If you haven’t read it you should before continuing simply to have the context. Interestingly it is a short article causing me to wonder how much serious thought went into it since so many see it as something far more complex. Regardless, here are some of my thoughts on the whole thing.
First, the interaction of the Christian with his culture is bound to create nasty, uncomfortable tensions. Just ask those Christians who had to make decisions regarding fleeing Jews during WWII. Or parents who are opposed to the evils of Common Core for their children who are in public schools. Every day Christians are making decisions that are simply are not clean and easy. Consider the server at a restaurant who finds out the new uniform is more risqué than they believe is proper. Or a mid-level manager who is told to give even more of his time to the corporation rather than to his family. The challenges are endless with some being rather small and others quite big but all of them with consequences, at least eventually.
The essence of the article’s argument is that Christians are not being consistent. Here is some of their position stated:
Before agreeing to provide a good or service for a wedding, Christian vendors must verify that both future spouses have had genuine conversion experiences and are “equally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) or they will be complicit with joining righteousness with unrighteousness. They must confirm that neither spouse has been unbiblically divorced (Matthew 19). If one has been divorced, vendors should ask why. Or perhaps you don’t even have to ask. You may already know that the couple’s previous marriages ended because they just decided it wasn’t working, not because there were biblical grounds for divorce. In which case, you can’t provide them a service if you believe such a service is affirming their union.
I find myself agreeing with them here, to a point. But of course the powers-that-be have already decided on some of these. I won’t even try to answer all of the ways a Christian business may find themselves in a quandary. Instead I will write that in a nation that screams “freedom” we have become instead a nation that restricts freedom. Whatever group is the flavor-of-the-day in the eyes of the courts, legislators, and law enforcers get a free pass and the full power of the state and federal government. If you are not any of those flavors then you are pushed to the side as being small-minded, puritanical, or racist. Why, if you are illegally in this country you are afforded all sorts of protections that legally don’t exist. You can be locked up in a prison and make all sorts of demands and if you are in California you will likely even win! What would be nice is to see businesses truly having the right to refuse service whenever they want to. And, of course, the public having the right to refuse a product or business as they wish, mind you that this won’t happen or the Affordable Care Act would be toast. A bartender is not allowed to serve a drink to an obviously drunk person but Lord help the baker who refuses to give a obese man his doughnut. I would love to see a person with excellent qualifications go into Planned Parenthood to apply for an advertised position but prominently wearing a “Choose Life” pin. Somehow I don’t see that job opening up. For me, this issue is not as much a biblical/Christian issue as a broader issue of freedom. But that is not the aforementioned article’s point so I shall continue.
The hard reality is that to follow one’s conscience is something a Christian must do. But this does not mean that they will be exempted from the consequences doing so. Frankly this applies to all people. Rosa Parks followed her conscience, our Founding Fathers did as well. Agree or disagree I personally respect it when I see a person driven by their conscience and conviction, even when I think that they are utterly wrong. However, they should be prepared to accept the consequences. Relationships shall be broken, jobs will be lost, and even reputations will be sullied. There is no way around it in the age we live.
On an aside, it is interesting how often our Lord is seen with those who were described as “tax collectors and sinners” which meant that they were really bad people who did really bad things (cf. Mark 2:15-17). He would eat with them, drink with them, relax with them, heal them and feed them. They flocked to Him and yet he had no problem calling them to repentance. Ultimately they, along with most of the religious folks of the day, crucified Him. But even upon the Cross He asked His Father to forgive them. I think this must come into our conversation in some way when a person who qualifies as a “sinner” comes into our lives seeking our services or help.
In this age a Christian lives in constant discomfort in one way or another if they are living as a Christian should live. The bible is not just uttering nonsensical musings when it calls the believer an alien and stranger (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). When we are called to be salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-14) should we be shocked when there is a reaction and push-back? Every Christian is clearly warned that they will suffer but are admonished to suffer for doing what is good and right before the Lord (1 Peter 2:16-20). When they are treated harshly and are abused they are to love those who persecute and pray for them (Matthew 5:44). When they believe their rights are trampled on they have the right to appeal to the authorities (Acts 25:11-12; Romans 13:1-3) but they should not be shocked when the final decision goes against them. Every Christian is to live in this age recognizing that it is passing away and to look to the perfect hope of their Redeemer’s return and the final resurrection where all things shall be made right and all things made new (Revelation 20-21).
Ultimately every Christian must entrust themselves to the Father in heaven just as their Lord did when He was infinitely more unjustly treated (1 Peter 2:21-25). This is the example He left us and I suspect that He expects us to follow it.
For other views on this subject to which I can direct you:Russell Moore Douglas Wilson (Warming for those faint of heart, he uses a word you might find offensive)
Yesterday I was on my way to a doctor appointment and I still remember the three young ladies standing bored or forlorn outside the Planned Parenthood building. As the closing days for donations for our local CareNet walk approach I saw this video and saw that value in showing it. Such a contrast.
I watch with a strong measure of disbelief as the scandal/non-scandal of Anthony Weiner continues to unfold. He is running for mayor of New York City after resigning from Congress when compromising tweets of himself were discovered. I could talk about his politics and his positions on issues such as abortion but that would distract from the point of this post. I read a sad, sordid post from HotAir.com that shows show his sin and folly continues to be exhumed as he runs for mayor. What is sad is that he appears to be the front-runner for mayor nonetheless.
So what? Should I be shocked? Should I be traumatized and cry out for the good ol’ days? Once again I shrug. We see the natural outcome of what it looks like when one rejects Jesus, lives in an unconverted state as a slave to sin. This sort of thing can annoy me, but it doesn’t shock me. But this cannot be true for the elder of a church.
The bible is clear that though the people and politics that flow endlessly around a Christian may involve much sin, sordid and otherwise; it is not to involve the office of the elder in the Church. 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 both make clear statements about the man who holds this office. And if I were to take one key quality that both passages declare it is to be “above reproach.” Listen, mayors, presidents and your next door neighbor can sleep around, do drug, embezzle, lie, cheat, and even murder. That is what happens in a broken, fallen world. But for those men who are converted through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who seek to be elders, the standard is unrelentingly high, he must be above reproach in every way.
I won’t go into all the various qualities of the elder. I only wish to point out that we should expect high standards from our elected officials but never be shocked when they fail to even try to attain them. But as Christians we should have no patience and no time for those who seek to be a shepherd of God’s Church who refuses to hold to the standards He has set for those who oversee the Church He bought with His blood.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. And it will come about on the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” ( NASB)
I taught on this briefly in my class on the Pentateuch the other day. As I was teaching I realized that in this passage there is a good illustration of the value of faithful, diligent work. I pointed out to the class that God provided Israel food, known as manna, to eat while they were in the wilderness. (On an aside, it is interesting that God continued to do this for 40 years while He judged the unfaithful, unbelieving first generation—which is called “grace.”) The point I made was that the people had to gather enough for each day and no more. If they tried to get more manna to store up for the next day it would rot. The exception would be on the sixth day, when they would gather a double portion and not work on the seventh day.
Two points to make:
- This is a simple expression of how God values work from His people. They could not gather up a lot on one day so that they could be lazy for one or two days later. Rather, they had to get up and get out and gather enough each day or they would not eat.
- In doing this God also instructed them to gather a double amount on Friday so that they would not need to gather on Saturday. What God was doing was training them for when they receive the command to honor the Sabbath and not do any work.
OK, those are the quick observations, but I think they are good ones worthy of reflection. Let me expand on one of them a bit. Fridays were opportunities to operate by faith. You had to trust that God would not rot the extra manna so that you could eat on Saturday, the sabbath. This worked even among the generation who were faithless. In other words, though they were a ungodly generation who would not believe God’s promises to enter the promised land they would believe the lesser (smaller?) promise that God would not rot the extra manna gathered on Friday. This makes me wonder about those who call themselves “Christians” who don’t believe God in the “big” things, but keep believing Him in small things. Are they truly His? What makes them different from unbelieving Israel? See as a key passage on this point.
As I watch events continue to unfold at an amazing rate in my country I think about the state of the average church in America. There is faith, but is it really faith in Christ as Lord of all? Do we really believe that all authority is His or only “sorta-kinda-maybe-if-I-feel-like-it?” Do we believe that in Him all things shall be judged and do we believe that by Him all things shall be made new? When we say, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness” do we have a clue what that really means as we craft church services that look more like a bad Disney production than a serious encounter with the one True God through the careful, blunt exposition of His Word? Goodness, do we even think it really is His Word?
I think I live in frighteningly revealing times. Times where men are called to work as unto the Lord and they choose to let the government work for them. Times where good is called evil and evil is called good. Not by the world, but by the Church! A time where a cool app is more interesting than reading Leviticus because it seems so old-fashioned and bloody and stuff. I think I could go on, but I won’t because I think I will just read some and then sleep.
Just some random thoughts that came to me as I studied and taught from the Pentateuch. Welcome to my world.
The Supreme Court struck down the DOMA Act today. The news is exploding with the decision, Drudge has his police light on and the Huffingtonpost has a twirling earth with the bold letters “GAY DAY.” I read it all and I shrug.
On a personal side I grieve as I recognize the long term consequences to this decision. But I grieve no more than I do with the decisions related to abortion, immigration, health care, taxation, the so-called Patriot Act, and a myriad of other decisions that has poured like the Niagara Falls from our elected officials over the last 30 decades. We are a sick nation trying to pretend we are not. We are fractured on every side captured by the three deadly sins of 1 John 2:16, a lust of the flesh, a lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.
But as a Christian should I be stunned by this? Should my worldview be shaken and my gut wrenched in every way possible as I see this unfold? My answer is no. It is the “world” in which every Christian lives and therefore wherever they live, in New York City or Atibaia, Brazil or Ndu, Cameroon the people there are controlled by these three driving forces of sin. So is it any shocking thing that every society rises and falls back in on itself eventually? I remember reading a fascinating book that described the way ancient Rome lived. Over and over I said to myself, “This is America.”
I told my congregation the last two major elections that the real reason most will vote the way they will vote is out of a love of money. Even so-called conservatives are sucking lustily at the teats of their government. Threaten to cut out the programs that each of us enjoy? Not on our watch! So too many Christians vote, not with an eye toward justice or true mercy. We do not fill up our minds with the Scripture and allow it to define our lives. We conform ourselves to the lusts of this world and then shout with dismay when we see a decision like DOMA come down and become stridently angry.
I do not agree with the decision, just like I do not agree with the bulk of the decisions coming from our governing authorities. But I do not desire to be known by these things. Consider the very blunt, pastoral words of Peter,
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
(1Pe 4:12-19 NASB)
Any suffering coming our way is not something strange in the eyes of Peter, it is to be expected. So why do we get shocked when we read of the growing number of threats against Christians in our nation? The command in the midst of these sufferings is to “keep on rejoicing” rather than becoming bitter and shrill. We are to fix our eyes on the return of Christ, where true justice will finally flow and we might truly exult for eternity. But all of this presupposes that our suffering is because of the gospel, not American Christianity. It is because you are walking in a manner that is worthy of the name of Christ (that is not the same thing as putting on a “Christian T-Shirt”) and the world hates you for it. But you suffer for being a wicked person then shame on you and you have no reason to rejoice. Note the strong extremes given here, from murderer to a meddler. It is like 1 Corinthians 6 where we have the fornicators and the covetous, neither of when can be such and rightly call themselves “saved.”
Judgment is to first start with the house of God and it begins through suffering in this world. When we are falsely accused, hated for our love of Jesus, reviled in spite of our acts of mercy and humility, then God is pleased and we will endure as we fix our eyes on the end. And part of that enduring is the fact that if God is not pleased to bring our detractors to repentance, that they too shall face judgment who cannot entrust their souls to anything that can save them.
All of this is to say, the DOMA decision is a sad thing but not a shocking thing. It fits the course of this age and for what this age lusts. The challenge for the Christian is to consider how they live within their nation in a way that reflects a different Lord and a different hope. Can the gospel still save people? Does the gospel still save people? Is God’s kingdom somehow stymied due to evil? Did Jesus really receive “all” authority? At some point every follower of Jesus will have to answer these questions in reality rather than in the abstract. And when they are answered, some who say they follow Jesus will stop because they will realize that the God of the Bible is not the god of their hearts.
What the Church must do is continue to call men and women everywhere to repent and turn to the living God. We must build up the people of God in the most holy faith. We must purify the Church through correction and discipline. We must grow in our salvation through rich, dense teaching that flows from the Word. And we must learn to “eagerly await” the return of Jesus (Hebrews 9:28).
I asked my oldest to write up her experience in living in a home where saving and giving were required, alone with work and college happening at the same time. Below are her thoughts. Hope you enjoy it and find some encouragement or counsel within.
My dad took me to pick up my paycheck, then he was taking me to get a haircut, and then we were going to go and open up my own bank account. While I was getting my hair cut, the lady doing the cutting asked what we were up to that afternoon. I told her I had gotten my first pay check and we were going to go deposit it in the bank. She flipped out and demanded that my dad let me go on a shopping spree. She just couldn’t comprehend that he would make me save it, and the rest of the hair cut was spent with her insisting that I spend the money and my dad telling her no. Of course, I was traumatized. I think that was probably the start of my current approach to being trapped in a hair salon – make up stories.
From the time my siblings and I were little, my parents had us saving our money. We were all very much aware that one day we would have to pay for a car and for college and we were very impressed by that ambiguous, looming reality. Because my parents enforced this from the first moment we got money in the mail from a grandparent for a birthday, we hadn’t ever experienced any other thing to do with money besides save it. And if any of us ever suggested that something else was possible, “Car and college!” was always the response.
Once we got our first jobs and started seeing a bank balance that kept rising, saving got easier. It was pretty exciting – even though we knew it wasn’t ours, it was all going to “car and college.” It was exciting the first time I bought a car and paid cash for it and had money left over. And it was exciting when I started college and was paying for it myself. At that point I had been working 39.5 hours a week since the time that I was legally old enough to and saving the vast majority of what I was making. The moment I hit 18 I grabbed every opportunity for overtime that came along and watched as my savings began disappearing into the black hole I liked to call Carthage College.
Getting through college didn’t happen without sacrifices. I didn’t have a ton of free time between classes, studying, working, and church. I had to leave a college I loved a year and a half in because I ran out of money and had to chose between taking out student loans or going to a cheaper school. That wasn’t a decision my parents made for me either, it was one I made entirely on my own. As I prepare to pay for my last class next week and finish, debt free and with money in my savings account, I have no regrets. I worked hard to get where I am today.
A college education has a lot of value. There are the obvious benefits – a college degree is necessary for most jobs and education is always worthwhile. But there are a lot of soft skills that are crucial to success after college that are driven home much earlier when a student is going to school full time while working full time: time management, budgeting, prioritizing, scheduling, determination, and a do-or-die attitude (none of us died!) Every semester there was at least one week where everything seemed to be due at once and I can remember thinking those first couple of semesters “There’s no way. I can’t get everything done and still take my regular hours at work. There’s just no way.” But at the same time, I knew that if I didn’t take the hours, I wouldn’t be able to pay for the classes and it wouldn’t matter anyway. So I went to work, worked my hours, came home and studied until two or three or four in the morning. And I discovered that I lived.
Today, I use every single one of those soft skills that I picked up during high school and college as I work in a ‘real’ job as a ‘real’ adult paying ‘real’ bills. Just this past December I relived working until two or three in the morning for a couple of weeks to finish a project on time, only this time it was a project for work, not for school. Every adult knows what real life is like. Some adults want to keep their kids from experiencing that realness as long as possible. Others try to prepare them through experience. I know without a doubt that if I ever have kids they will get jobs at a young age, save their money, and work their way through school. It will be my turn to say “Save your money for a car and college!”
I am teaching through the books of 1 and 2 Timothy at my church and one point is constantly being made–the Christian life involves persecution and suffering. There is no way around it and there is no way to truly avoid it and stay faithful to the faith. I have told my congregation over the last few weeks that they must understand that now is the time to store up for themselves the wisdom of the Lord so that when that time comes to suffer they are prepared in heart and soul to do so.
I am not convinced that everyone in my church believes this, but I am convinced that it is true nonetheless. Well, an important article was written that shows how close the time of persecution is for American Christians. It starts with the military, here is a key snippet:
The statement, released to Fox News, follows a Breitbart News report on Obama administration Pentagon appointees meeting with anti-Christian extremist Mikey Weinstein to develop court-martial procedures to punish Christians in the military who express or share their faith.
(From our earlier report: Weinstein is the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and says Christians–including chaplains–sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in the military are guilty of “treason,” and of committing an act of “spiritual rape” as serious a crime as “sexual assault.” He also asserted that Christians sharing their faith in the military are “enemies of the Constitution.”)
Being convicted in a court martial means that a soldier has committed a crime under federal military law. Punishment for a court martial can include imprisonment and being dishonorably discharged from the military.
I leave you with the words of Paul to Timothy which we have been considering for several weeks (emphasis mine):Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us (2Timothy 2:8-12 NASB)
(Psalm 139:14-16 NASB)
I came across a very interesting link the other day that I set aside for my Miscellaneous Monday post that I never got around to posting. Sorry about that (not really). I noticed, however, that there was a vague, undefined irritation that came over me as I looked at the pictures. It was only after a few days of thinking that I realized what the problem was–abortion.
The Gosnell trial is moving along and more and more disturbing information is coming forth. Babies are murdered and the nation shrugs. The new issue out in talking-points-land is what do we do when a baby is born who was supposed to be dead? Baby struggling in the water of a toilet? No big deal. Apparently if you are unsure what to do with parts of a murdered baby the answer is flush them. Of course, that should not even be discussed since the baby isn’t supposed to die by the hands of people at any stage of his life, but hey, I am small-minded that way.
When you look at the pictures of these various animals in utero (never knew this term was two words and no idea why WordPress doesn’t recognize utero as a word) you have to marvel. Amazing photos that testify to the amazing work of our Creator whose wisdom and power is manifest in so many subtle ways. But as you look at these baby animals, who are somehow recognized as animals, not just lumps of tissue, allow a bit of rage to circulate as well. For none of these bear the image of their Maker, while countless millions of little image-beaters are cast into dumps and burn bags.God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27 NASB)