Clinging To Wilting Flowers — A Reprise


Eight years ago, before the 2010 mid-term elections, I heard about a book by Wayne Grudem, Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture. Mind you, I haven’t read the book, but I heard him speak on Family Life Today. As part of his talk, Mr. Grudem “debunked” the idea that some Christian teachers express—namely, that the Christian should not focus on the political arena because the way to change culture is to make disciples.

Both guest and hosts chuckled at this view, apparently because of the reality, that no matter what we do to present Christ, not everyone will accept Him. The implication clearly was, This view is not a practical way to impact the culture. Interestingly, Mr. Grudem made no effort to portray this position as unbiblical.

And how could he, for it seems to me to be thoroughly biblical, perhaps the only biblical approach to politics. Yes, we should vote. Yes, we should be informed. Yes, some Christians will be called by God to serve Him and others by holding elected office, which necessitates involvement in politics. But what about the rest of us? Should we be manning the picket lines, attending the rallies, writing our congressmen?

I don’t think any of that is wrong, but we believers need to be sure we aren’t clinging to wilting flowers. What do I mean?

James 1:11 says

For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

And Isaiah 40:7 says

The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.

Life here on earth is as wilting flowers. Later James says our lives are like fog. So why would we put an overemphasis on holding on to that which is so temporary?

Paul spells it out in Philippians. In talking about false teachers, he says in 3:19-20

whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Emphasis mine)

So I wonder if too many of us Christians don’t have our citizenship status mixed up. I wonder how many of us are actually eagerly waiting for Jesus.

I first got a glimpse of what citizenship in heaven would look like in comparison to citizenship on earth when I read C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. Here’s a sample.

I got out. The light and coolness that drenched me were like those of summer morning, early morning a minute or two before the sunrise, only that there was a certain difference. I had the sense of being in a larger space, perhaps even a larger sort of space, than I had ever known before: as if the sky were further off and the extent of the green plain wider than they could be on this little ball of earth. I had got “out” in some sense which made the Solar System itself seem an indoor affair …

At first, of course, my attention was caught by my fellow passengers, who were still grouped about in the neighbourhood of the omnibus, though beginning some of them, to walk forward into the landscape with hesitating steps. I gasped when I saw them. Now that they were in the light, they were transparent—fully transparent when they stood between me and it, smudgy and imperfectly opaque when they stood in the shadow of some tree. They were, in fact, ghosts … I noticed that the grass did not bend under their feet: even the dew drops were not disturbed.

Then some re-adjustment of the mind or some focussing of my eyes took place, and I saw the whole phenomenon the other way round. The men were as they always had been as all the men I had known had been perhaps. It was the light, the grass, the trees that were different; made of some different substance so much solider than things in our country that men were ghosts by comparison. Moved by a sudden thought, I bent down and tried to pluck a daisy which was growing at my feet. The stalk wouldn’t break. I tried to twist it, but it wouldn’t twist. I tugged till the sweat stood out on my forehead and I had lost most of the skin off my hands. The little flower was hard, not like wood or even like iron, but like diamond.

No wilting flower, that. So why would I cling to the passing-away kind?

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Christians And Social Justice


A number of things that have become causes in the general populace here in America actually stem from teaching found in the Bible. For instance, the Apostle Paul wrote more than once that there is no Jew nor Greek in the Church. Clearly he was not supporting nationalism. He also said that in Christ there is no slave nor freeman—no economic barriers that separate believers. Finally, he also stressed that there is no distinction between men and women when it comes to believing in the good news of the Messiah’s coming.

In truth, Christians should lead the way in such social matters.

Once upon a time, here in America, we did. Christians were at the forefront of providing literacy for all, dealing with sickness and injury, freeing the slaves.

Of course, not all Christians got on board with such causes, but the fact remains—there likely would not be a Harvard, Princeton, or Yale; a Red Cross or a civil rights movement if Christians had not stepped up.

Throughout the Old Testament, God reiterates more than a few times that His heart is for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the oppressed.

Sometimes God gave a command to the people of Israel to care for those in need: Exodus 22:22 ““You shall not afflict any widow or orphan,” and later Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do good; / Seek justice, / Reprove the ruthless, / Defend the orphan, / Plead for the widow.”

Sometimes the direction came with a promise: Deuteronomy 14:29 “the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

Sometimes there was a particular command to make those on the fringe of society welcome in their religious ceremonies: Deuteronomy 16:14 “and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the =orphan and the widow who are in your towns.”

Sometimes God gave strict warnings about the judgment He would bring on those who did not treat the needy as they should: Malachi 3:6 ” ‘Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,’ says the LORD of hosts.”

Jesus lived out those Old Testament instruction. He did not turn away the poor and needy. He fed the hungry and healed the sick. He touched the leper and drove out the evil spirits from the demon possessed. He didn’t make a distinction between needy women or needy men. He came to the Jews, but He included Gentiles who came to Him.

I think the Church today continues to care for the needy in many ways. I know of people serving in pregnancy centers, people who have been involved in prison ministries, others who serve among the urban poor.

But surprisingly, the politics of Christians doesn’t seem to follow suit. I’m thinking here specifically of globalism. I mean, the Church of Jesus Christ, made up of Jews and Greeks, also has Italians and Chinese and Puerto Ricans and Egyptians and Irish and Kenyans and Guatemalans and Brazilians. Why should we care if America is great again? Or great at all?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my country. I’ve lived in a few other countries and visited far more, and I do not see a place I would rather live. America is abundantly blessed—with natural resources, an ideology that has been informed by Scripture, and a people united most by our humanity. It’s a unique place, and I am happy to call the US home. For now.

But my greatest allegiance lies with God who is the Sovereign Lord. His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, according to Psalm 145, and His dominion endures throughout all generations.

As such, it seems logical to me that Christians should be far more globally minded than the average American. We should be far more concerned about the oppressed and the strangers and the widows. It seems to me that those issues should drive our politics, more than those who don’t know God.

In some ways, it seems to me that we who consider ourselves to be conservative, who believe in life for the unborn and that God didn’t make a mistake when He created a Man or a Woman with the gender parts He gave them—it seems to me that we ought to be leading the way when it comes to advocating for the needy, welcoming the stranger. Instead, it seems we have let those who do not believe in God usurp those causes.

What do we stand for? Merit-based immigration? Walls?

Again, I want to be clear. I believe our government should not be so naive or cavalier as to allow terrorists and criminals to move in. It’s not easy to discern who is in need and who wants to take advantage of our open hand.

But I think that’s the principle which should drive our politics. We should want leaders who will treat all people well—rich and poor, natural born and naturalized and strangers.

And by “we” I mean Christians. We should not allow American politics or the American dream or any other factor to override God’s heart for people in need.

Think about it. Ruth—King David’s great grandmother—was a Gentile. And a widow. And Boaz, a kinsman redeemer, came to her aid when she was most in need. What a picture of Jesus Christ.

Should Christ’s Church be less than a living example of His love and care for the orphan and widow, the oppressed and alien?

Immigration


President Donald Trump is getting a lot of flack and coming back with his own defense over his comments in a meeting several days ago. The media conclusion is that “Donald Trump is a racist.” Meanwhile, the “gotcha” form of reporting that goes on these days missed the real story.

The real issue is not what particular vile word the President used. Rather, the real issue is his belief in and support of merit-based immigration. Essentially he has said more than once that America should open our boarders to the best and brightest of other countries so that we can use their knowledge and skill for our own advancement. In other words, we should take the people who could best be an asset in their own country.

In all fairness, this is the kind of thinking of an entrepreneur—take what benefits you no matter who it hurts—and that’s exactly who Donald Trump is.

But that’s not what America is, and that’s not what made America great, as Mr. Trump so often likes to say.

Instead, our country became a desirable landing place for immigrants because of the attitude expressed on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

These words come from a poem by Emma Lazarus (1849–1887) entitled “The New Colossus.” She donated the sonnet in 1883 as part of a fund-raiser for the construction of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the whole poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level.

These lines are also part of the poem:

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome

None of this attitude is remotely similar to merit-based immigration.

Simply put, America has been a land of opportunity in which a poor person, with nothing but his good name and a will to work, could make something of himself. So why now should we become something else? Something resembling a robber baron or a corporate raider?

Is that what America wants to become?

Yes, President Trump uses vulgar language. He’s done so on the campaign trail and he’s done so in private moments that made their way to the public airwaves. Once again he’s said something vulgar. Big deal. This is not the story. No one has to read into his comments something about his attitude toward countries made up predominantly of people of color.

What President Trump wants is rich people or smart people or talented people who can bring their assets to America. He doesn’t want people who are trying to escape poverty or tyranny or ignorance.

But those are the people who make up America: Irish people escaping famine, Jewish people escaping pogroms, English people escaping religious persecution, Mexican people escaping poverty, Vietnamese people escaping Communist oppression, and even African-Americans escaping slavery. I’m not sure there’s ever been a wave of immigration that has involved people who weren’t looking for something better, who didn’t see America as a land of opportunity, instead of a land in desperate need of what they have to offer.

Why change now?

We shouldn’t.

The only thing we need to do is enforce the rule of law.

And therein lies the problem—both sides of the immigration question are right and wrong at the same time.

Mr. Trump is right to want immigration to be safe (vetting those who wish to live here in such a way that we aren’t bringing in terrorists, drug dealers, and other criminals; doing away with “sanctuary cities” and states; clamping down on illegal immigration; stopping serial immigration). He’s wrong to believe that stealing the best and brightest from other countries is the right way to proceed.

The Dems are right to want a solution for the children of illegal immigrants and to make people from all nations welcome. They’re wrong to do so without putting safeguards in place.

We need real immigration reform, but now there’s talk of the Dems dragging their feet so that they can win more seats during midterm elections. And there is the giant problem in our government—politics. Too many elected officials care more about retaining their position and carving out their own little power pedestals than they do serving the American people, as statesmen did once-upon-a-time.

What we’re seeing is human nature at work. We can have the best form of government on earth, but sadly, it’s still dependent upon sinners to execute their responsibilities faithfully. It’s not going to happen.

Too many people are holding out for the perfect government to solve all the problems, to answer all the questions. Not going to happen.

Our faith is misplaced if we expect a President to be better than we are.

Our greatest need is to look at ourselves and deal with the sin in our own hearts.

The Election From Hell


electoralcollege2000-large-bushred-goreblueI thought it was bad when Florida was re-counting their votes for President back in 2000. For days we saw video on the news of election officials holding up ballots and trying to determine if an indentation or a puncture with a hanging chad was sufficient to indicate a vote. The networks all inappropriately called Florida for Vice President Gore while their polls were still open. There were accusations of voting rights violations and of biased state supreme court action, of “butterfly ballots” that caused confused voters to mark their ballots incorrectly, and assertions that attempts had been made to suppress military mail in ballots.

That’s the tip of the iceberg, but all of it pales in comparison to this year’s election. Not because the voting was so close but because the results were so unpalatable to many on the losing side. As time passes, things have become worse, not better. Yes, the protest marches seem to have died away, but the legal wrangling may have just begun. First the Green Party candidate demanded a recount in Wisconsin, then in two other states. Next Sec. Clinton joined in—just to make sure the process was up and up.

Mr. Trump responded—which he seems sure to do whenever he feels attacked—by accusing three states of wide voter fraud that denied him “millions” of votes. He has given no details. But others have—suggesting illegal immigrants may have voted and that people who have died also (miraculously) voted.

Some have once again taken up the call to do away with the Electoral College and go with a straight popular vote. Others say that some states voting electronically were hacked.

Above—or more accurately, below—it all are supporters of Hillary Clinton who have unfriended people on Facebook, and worse, broken relationship with actual friends and even family members. This after thousands of students (including high schoolers too young to vote) took to the streets, blocking traffic and vandalizing businesses. Sandwiched in between marches were attacks on individuals and on mosques by those using racial or religious slurs.

The point is, people don’t seem to be calming down. They seem to be intent on making the transition from President Obama’s administration to the Trump-Pence administration as rocky as it can be.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m pretty sure breaking relationship isn’t a solution.

Christians above all should work toward reconciliation, not division. Christians should openly and loudly decry verbal or physical attacks on others—which this election has seemed to unleash. We should be at the mosques and synagogues helping to paint over the slurs. We should be telling those involved in racist behavior that there is no place in America for that kind of treatment of anyone.

When I grew up, we were taught that America, imperfect though it was, was a melting pot, benefiting from the people all over the world who came here at great risk because they wanted freedom and a chance to work hard and become more.

That “American Dream” is really the reality of the Christian Church. We are believers from all over the world who are part of a family. We have freedom in Christ, and all we want is to work for His kingdom. We are rich and poor, persecuted and free, of African descent and Asian.

Christianity Today recently had an article about the flourishing of Christianity in India, for example:

Christianity Today circled India from north to south and back again for two weeks in order to witness the innovative and successful mission efforts of Indian evangelicals—this, despite rising persecution from Hindu nationalists. In fact, evangelical leaders across India agree that their biggest challenge is not restrictions on religious freedom, but training enough pastors to disciple the surge of new believers from non-Christian backgrounds. (“Incredible Indian Christianity”)

Christians here in the US most certainly can play a part in breaking the divide between the two political extremes here in our country. Ideas might be harder to overcome than ethnicity, but if we are to live as Christ did, I don’t think we have any choice but to love your “enemies”—those who persecute or abuse or disagree with us. It’s the Jesus way.

Published in: on November 29, 2016 at 6:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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Thankfulness In The Argument Culture


Broncos linebackerI’m a dye-in-the-wool Denver Broncos fan, a political conservative, a Christian. Occasionally I visit some Broncos fan blogs and interact with others who are passionate about the Broncos. Inevitably, though, someone will say something that reminds me, not all these people who love the Broncos like I do, love God the way I do or even like Him. And probably a lot aren’t political conservatives.

Yet if we were in the stands at a Broncos game, we’d be cheering them on as loud as we could. Together. And when the opposing quarterback fails to complete a pass, we’d yell in unison with the rest of the fans, In-com-plete. That’s what you do when your team has the No Fly Zone as your secondary.

The point here is this: football fans lay aside their differences when they come together to cheer for their favorite team. The only differences that count at that moment are between those in orange and anyone wearing the opponent’s jersey.

My guess is, football fans don’t let religion or politics divide them because they don’t discuss the topics. But in the argument culture, our opinions have begun to divide us.

Things are becoming extreme in a land built on the right of free speech and freedom of religious expression. Now when people speak publicly, someone is bound to be offended and to call for a free zone.

The common approach is for someone to express their view. A commenter then tells them how stupid their ideas are. Then a third party will call the commenter a name and the commenter will cuss out both the original writer and the third party. It could go on from there, but it likely will end up with someone unfriending someone else.

Because in all likelihood, people who read blog posts or Facebook updates are doing so at sites they mostly agree with. When someone of a different viewpoint projects a new idea, it rarely sparks meaningful dialogue. Rather, the ensuing discussion is apt to be filled with vitriol and a repetition of talking points which originated somewhere else. Things like, Donald Trump is not my president. Or Hillary (her critics hardly ever use her last name and certainly not her appropriate title) is a liar. And, Black lives matter. Or, All lives matter.

Welcome to the argument culture we have created. What is substantive in the slogans we throw at each other?

Even “reputable” news outlets seem more interested in headlines that will get readers to click over to their site than they are in fairly representing the story or the people in it. Click bait. We’ve apparently proven we’re vulnerable to certain emotive words that will prompt us to action, so the “news” sites use those words with gusto.

First_Thanksgiving_in_AmericaThen along comes Thanksgiving Day.

Suddenly we’re suppose to pause, to relax, to hang out with family, to think about the things we’re thankful for.

In truth Thanksgiving calls Christians to do what we should be doing all year long. Even in an argument culture, we are called to be different. This is what Paul told the Roman Christians:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [Rom 12:14-21 NASB]

These were believers who weren’t simply at odds with others because of how they voted. No, they were living in fear for their lives. They weren’t simply being unfriended on Facebook. They were being hauled off to be part of Caesar’s massacre.

Yet Paul says, weep with those who weep. Don’t celebrate the downfall of your enemy. If he’s hungry, thirsty, serve him. Don’t take justice into your own hands. Make a difference by doing all you can to be at peace with the very people who hate you. Don’t stoop to their tactics, but conquer their vitriol with God’s gentleness.

Are these the features that mark the Church? Is this what the world knows about us?

It should be. We are new creatures in Christ, so we ought not live like everyone else.

One of the ways I want to put this passage into practice is by being thankful. You see, despite the fractured nature of our culture, we still have a great deal to thank God for.

I lost a friend this year—a woman nearly ten years my junior, so her death seems especially wrong. But I am genuinely thankful that I will see her again. It might seem cliché to some, but I can look each of my Christian friends in the eye and say, See you later, knowing that I will, either here or in life after this life in the presence of our Lord and Savior. I am so grateful for that assurance. So thankful that Jesus Christ made it possible.

Politics and hurt feelings and misunderstanding might make relationships hard at times. But death is the ultimate divider. If we think our culture is fractured, that’s nothing compared to the last line, when people stand for or against God. Now that’s a division.

The fact that I can shake hands with the man at church who has terminal cancer and say, see you later, indicates that God through Christ has conquered the divide. He is the great uniter.

Christians And Voting For Donald Trump


anti-trump_protest_san_franciscoHere in California there have been protests up and down the state against President-elect Trump. Worse, on Facebook there’s been blame cast by Christians on Christians for electing a man who has exhibited behavior most like a racist, misogynist, and xenophobic. One particular post, which I found offensive on several levels, said that Christians have “some explaining to do.”

OK, I’ll explain.

First, if I haven’t made it clear yet, I did not vote for Mr. Trump and have serious reservations about his taking the office of President. I hope I am wrong, but I fear for our democracy.

Nevertheless, I understand why some Christians decided to vote for him. I DON’T understand why certain ones supported him early in the primary process when there were good options and candidates who would have turned this election into a Republican landslide in the face of all the scandal Secretary Clinton has faced. That aside, here are the reasons some (including Christians) have given for voting for Mr. Trump.

1, His stated pro-life position. For many, myself included, this is the single most important issue in American politics. How can we stand for justice, for freedom, for rights of the most vulnerable in our nation and then turn around and slaughter millions of unborn persons. I liken it to the people of Israel in the Old Testament choosing to worship a false god that required child sacrifice. Here in America, our false god is ourselves. We promote sex at every turn and treat celibacy and abstinence as aberrations. We do not exercise self-control because we believe we deserve to be self-indulgent—it’s Me-ism on steroids. We want what we want when we want it, and we’re willing to sacrifice the lives of our unborn children in the process.

2. The opportunity to nominate at least one and possibly as many as three Supreme Court justices. This point is actually a corollary of the first issue. In order to meaningfully reverse the cultural changes of the last eight years and of decades of the Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and which continues to prevent states from passing meaningful curbs on abortion, the makeup of the Supreme Court needs to be more conservative. In other words, it needs conservative justices who will honor the Constitution instead of creating law from the Bench. Mr. Trump has pledged to nominate such justices. It remains to be seen whether or not he will do what he said, but believing that his promise was better than a certainty that Secretary Clinton would nominate activist judges, some opted to vote for Mr. Trump.

3. Illegal immigration is illegal. Many people want our federal government to uphold the rule of law. We don’t. Hence, federally it is illegal to use marijuana, but more and more states are declaring its use, medicinally or recreationally, as legal while the federal government does nothing. In the same way, here in California certain cities have taken the status as “sanctuary cities” where illegal immigrants can safely reside without fear of deportation, and the federal government does nothing. In fact, no comprehensive immigration reform has come from the White House in a very long time. Consequently, thousands of unaccompanied minors have poured over the southern border, and no measures have been taken to stem the tide. From the November 22, 2115 Washington Times:

Nearly 5,000 unaccompanied children were caught in October, and nearly 3,000 more had been caught in the first half of November — a record pace for those months — and it signals just how closely smuggling cartels and would-be illegal immigrants themselves are paying attention to lax enforcement in the U.S.

Two years ago the numbers were even more staggering:

The vast majority of 50,000 unaccompanied youths and children who have illegally crossed the Texas border during the last few months have been successfully delivered by federal agencies to their relatives living in the United States, according to a New York Times article.

A second New York Times article report revealed that officials have caught an additional 240,000 Central American migrants since April, and are transporting many of them to their destinations throughout the United States. (From The Daily Caller, as quoted in the Independent Journal Review)

The issue isn’t racism or a fear of immigrants. It’s a desire to return our nation to one that believes in the rule of law. Congress passes laws and the Executive Branch is to enforce them. What happens, then, when the Executive Branch decides simply to ignore what Congress has passed? That’s what’s happened with the “open boarder” policy of these last few years.

4. Economic concerns. Some people have witnessed the sole industry of their town close down, leaving unemployed workers with no hope. Others have seen their jobs discontinued as businesses outsource work to other countries. Then there are the environmental snags that have stopped production of clean coal and the like. A number of people say they voted for Mr. Trump because they want his economic expertise to work for the country.

5. Media influence and the elite. Another group mention that they voted for Mr. Trump as a protest against insider government. They want a President who is not beholden to big money or the “good ole boys” in Washington. They also want to stop the media from telling the everyday person what they should think and how they should vote.

6. A vote against Secretary Clinton. Some people think that the scandals in which Secretary Clinton has been embroiled are indicative of her corruption, deceit, greed, and abuse of power. They do not believe she is qualified to be President.

7. A vote for a worldview, not for a man. Pastor John McArthur took this stand, basically saying that Mr. Trump’s ideas about our culture are more in line with Scripture than are Secretary Clinton’s.

There well could be other reasons, too, but these are the ones I’ve heard most often.

I’ve not heard, “I’m voting for Donald Trump because I share his racist positions.” Are some Trump supporters racist? I am pretty sure they are since the head of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, endorsed Mr. Trump during the primary elections. Do some of those belonging to white supremacist groups self-identify as Christians? I suppose they might. It doesn’t mean they actually believe the Bible, however. In fact, it’s hard to see how they could align their racial beliefs with Scripture’s clear teaching about God’s love for the world!

Nevertheless, the point remains, Mr. Trump was a flawed candidate who by practice and by word took a stand that isn’t consistent with the Bible. But news flash: Secretary Clinton was a flawed candidate who by practice and by word took a stand that isn’t consistent with the Bible.

How, then, can a Clinton supporter turn to a Trump supporter and accuse him of not heeding the Bible by voting for a flawed candidate?

The Church does not have to apologize for Donald Trump becoming president. Last I checked, we the Church do not vote in lock step. We don’t vote with the same reasons in mind. That a flawed candidate won is no surprise. Had Hillary Clinton won, Christians could have been blamed for not opposing her more vocally or for voting for third party candidates or for not working to get out the vote or . . . there’s a myriad of reasons people could have turned on Christians in that scenario too.

In other words, the election is just one more reason some are using to bash the Church. It’s time we say, enough. Christians are not perfect, but we are not the cause of all ills in society as some atheists (looking at you, disciples of deceased Christopher Hitchens) would have us believe.

In fact Christians want very much to proclaim the cure for society’s ills. And that cure is not Donald Trump. Nor is it Hillary Clinton.

The Connection Between Pride And Anxiety


scan-2016-11-8-0002As I stood before a cashier this evening, a woman behind me said how worried she was about the election. Later at home, I heard on TV that people in state X are exhibiting signs of anxiety as they anticipate the election returns.

I don’t think worrying about the results or the next four years of struggle and/or change is the road God wants those who fear Him to take.

Here’s a re-post of an article I wrote three years ago that addresses this issue.

1 Peter has some great “one liners” and lots of people quote various verses from the book, but I’ll admit, I never paid much attention to the context in which those verses appear. I’m talking about ones like, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (2:24). Or how about the last half of 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Then there is 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”

Just before that verse about the Christian’s enemy, though, come two other well known verses, and I realized for the first time how they relate to each other. The first one is this:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (5:6).

The thing is, the next verse continues the thought: “casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (5:7).

The sentence construction, as I understand it, means that casting our anxieties on God is a working out of the previous command to humble ourselves. It would be like me saying, Drive to the store, stopping at all the red lights on the way. Stopping at the lights is a part of carrying out the command to drive to the store.

I never before saw casting anxieties on God as a working out of humbling myself under His mighty hand. Looking at 1 Peter as a letter from an evangelist to the churches he helped to start, however, rather than a collection of quotable Christian sayings, has changed my understanding.

Traffic_lights_red.svgI now think the two ideas fit really well. If I humble myself under God’s mighty hand, I have to let Him be God. I have to recognize Him as sovereign, but then I also have to trust Him, even when things are hard and don’t seem right. I have to be willing to relinquish my concerns and put them in His care. I have to stop worrying, in other words, and trust that He sees the big picture better than I do.

The problem I struggle with is knowing what part I am to play as I trust God. I don’t think it means I take my hands off the wheel (with all due respect to Kelly Clarkson). God has put believers on this earth and keeps us here to be His representatives. Therefore, I can’t sit back and say, I have to trust that God will bring people to Christ without also doing what I am capable of doing.

I can’t say, God will feed me, so I don’t have to worry about working. I need to give myself to my work, understanding that God is the provider, but that He is providing through my efforts and the doors He has opened up for me.

I think contentment is critical in understanding the interweaving of pride and anxiety. If we recognize that what we have is from God’s hand, that He is good and loving, then we can be content in His watch care. If we want more than He provides, we can ask Him for more. He may lead us to more or He may not.

Anxiety sets in, I believe, when we think we have to circumvent God to get the more we asked for. We know MORE is what we need, and God isn’t coming through or He’s too busy. So it’s up to us to figure out how to get MORE.

The problem is, we are the agents through which God works, so sometimes we really do need to do something to bring about the thing we’re asking. The trick is to know when to do and when to stand and watch God work.

Well, the real trick is to cast all the worry about the matter upon our good God because He cares for us. If we give Him the worry, I believe He’ll give us the understanding about what we’re to do.

I don’t think this principle is only applicable to money and jobs. It’s true about anything we humans tend to worry about. Over and over God promises us peace, and yet we seem to rush about so, trying to do and fix and change and make, when we need, first, to hand our worries over to God and trust that He’ll show us our part in due time.

Published in: on November 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm  Comments (8)  
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Clinging To Wilting Flowers


wilting-flowersA few years ago, I mentioned a book by Wayne Grudem, Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture. Mind you, I haven’t read the book, but I heard him speak on Family Life Today. As part of his talk, Mr. Grudem “debunked” the idea that some Christian teachers express—namely, that the Christian should not focus on the political arena because the way to change culture is to make disciples.

Both guest and hosts chuckled at this view, apparently because of the reality, that no matter what we do to present Christ, not everyone will accept Him—at least not now. The implication clearly was, This view is not a practical way to impact the culture. Interestingly, Mr. Grudem made no effort to portray this position as unbiblical.

And how could he, for it seems to me to be thoroughly biblical, perhaps the only biblical approach to politics. Yes, we should vote. Yes, we should be informed. Yes, some Christians will be called by God to serve Him and others by holding elected office, which necessitates involvement in politics beyond the “make disciples” level. But what about the rest of us? Should we be manning the picket lines, attending the rallies, writing our congressmen?

I don’t think any of that is wrong, but we believers need to be sure we aren’t clinging to wilting flowers. What do I mean?

James 1:11 says

For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

And Isaiah 40:7 says

The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.

Then there’s Psalm 103:15-16.

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
And its place acknowledges it no longer.

Life here on earth is as wilting flowers. Later James says our lives are like fog. So why would we put an over emphasis on holding on to that which is so temporary?

Paul spells it out in Philippians. In talking about false teachers, he says in 3:19-20

whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Emphasis mine)

So I wonder if too many of us Christians don’t have our citizenship status mixed up. I wonder how many of us are actually eagerly waiting for Jesus.

I first got a glimpse of what citizenship in heaven would look like in comparison to citizenship on earth when I read C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. Here’s a sample.

I got out. The light and coolness that drenched me were like those of summer morning, early morning a minute or two before the sunrise, only that there was a certain difference. I had the sense of being in a larger space, perhaps even a larger sort of space, than I had ever known before: as if the sky were further off and the extent of the green plain wider than they could be on this little ball of earth. I had got “out” in some sense which made the Solar System itself seem an indoor affair …

At first, of course, my attention was caught by my fellow passengers, who were still grouped about in the neighbourhood of the omnibus, though beginning some of them, to walk forward into the landscape with hesitating steps. I gasped when I saw them. Now that they were in the light, they were transparent—fully transparent when they stood between me and it, smudgy and imperfectly opaque when they stood in the shadow of some tree. They were, in fact, ghosts … I noticed that the grass did not bend under their feet: even the dew drops were not disturbed.

Then some re-adjustment of the mind or some focusing of my eyes took place, and I saw the whole phenomenon the other way round. The men were as they always had been as all the men I had known had been perhaps. It was the light, the grass, the trees that were different; made of some different substance so much solider than things in our country that men were ghosts by comparison. Moved by a sudden thought, I bent down and tried to pluck a daisy which was growing at my feet. The stalk wouldn’t break. I tried to twist it, but it wouldn’t twist. I tugged till the sweat stood out on my forehead and I had lost most of the skin off my hands. The little flower was hard, not like wood or even like iron, but like diamond.

No wilting flower, that. So why would I cling to the passing-away kind?

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in November 2010.

Picking A President: What Matters Most?


zebra_02When a Christian makes a decision, should faith play a part?

I’d say, yes and no. Faith should play a part as far as we’re concerned, but it shouldn’t necessarily be a factor when we evaluate someone else. For instance, when I go to the grocery store or stop at a fast food restaurant, I don’t believe a Christian should interview the check out clerk and produce manager, or the server and cook when deciding which store or which fast food spot to visit. On the other hand, I should be a Christian in how I deal with those people—I should be kind, respectful, a person of integrity.

Like all people, Christians can and should expect others to do what they’ve said they’d do. For example, when we take our car in for maintenance, we shouldn’t expect favors, but we can expect good work and honest dealings. We aren’t holding the car mechanic to high standards because of our faith necessarily. And we ought not expect more or less from someone because of their religious affiliation. Further more, we have every right to change to a mechanic that meets the standard of excellence we expect.

When it comes to picking a President, not so much is different, I don’t think. We should pick a President because we think he or she is qualified and because we think the person will do a good job. However, there are a lot of factors that come into play—not the least of which is that we have no good measuring stick for whether or not a President has done a good job. He might do an outstanding job, but another country attacks us months into his Presidency, and the whole course of his tenure is changed. Or the economy might take a dive because of the policies instituted by a predecessor.

Presidents don’t work in a vacuum, either. They are to work with Congress. In fact, the original idea of those who wrote the Constitution was that Congress would write the laws and the President would make sure those laws got carried out. The Presidency was never meant to be about what this one leader would do. He was not a monarch or a dictator.

You’d never know it these days if you listen to what the Presidential candidates say. They tell how they’ll do this or that to bring more jobs and improve the economy, how they’ll fix the problems of illegal immigration, how they’ll stop ISIS, how they’ll cope with racial injustice. If someone from a different country heard all this, I suspect they’d never guess we had a Congress.

Listening to what a candidate says he or she will do, then, is really little more than an opportunity to discern their values and character. And do values matter? Does character? I mean, I opened this article by saying faith “shouldn’t necessarily be a factor when we evaluate someone else.”

The key to the above statement is the word “necessarily.” I don’t necessarily evaluate a car mechanic by his character unless I learn that he’s trying to con me into services I don’t really need, or is charging me too much, or says he’s changed a part he hasn’t. Then, of necessity, his values and character will enter into my decision whether to ever take my car to him again. (Thankfully my present mechanics—yes, I have two, which you need when you drive a really, really old car—are exceptionally honest!)

Most of what a President actually does is our of the public eye, so it’s hard to evaluate what kind of job he’s doing until something catches in the media which we either agree with or disagree with. What we end up judging is the over all state of the country. Is it better or worse than when the President came into office?

In the early twentieth century, for instance, President Woodrow Wilson ran his reelection campaign on the slogan “he kept us out of war.” After he was re-eleced, however, the US did, in fact, enter World War I. No surprise, then, that a candidate from the opposing party won the next election.

So what should a Christian look for in a President? For the most part, I think we should look for the same things anyone else looks for: integrity, leadership, the capacity to work well with others—which we used to call statesmanship. If a Christian is running for the office, I think that’s a plus. If someone claims to be a Christian and is not, that’s a huge minus.

I understand we aren’t to judge a person, but when someone says he’s a Christian and then clearly demonstrates he doesn’t understand what it actually means to be a Christian, then it’s not judging to say he’s not a Christian. It’s common sense.

It would be like me saying, I’m Latin American. If questioned about this, because I have no Hispanic features, I’d say I’m Latin American because I attended the University of Mexico one summer and lived in Guatemala for three years.

That’s well and good, the other person might respond, but that doesn’t make you Latin American.

And they’d be right. My misunderstanding of what it means to be Latin American would not alter the fact that I am not Latin American. Same with those who say they are Christian.

The thing is, if a President says it, then acts in a way contrary to Christian beliefs, he brings great harm to the name of Christ.

So what matters most when picking a President? Their stand on gay marriage? Gun laws? Immigration? Abortion? Terrorism? Trade? Taxes? The environment?

We aren’t going to find someone who agrees with all our positions, and even if they did, they are not acting alone ad cannot insure that their policies will be enacted.

What matters most is the person’s values and character.

It’s particularly distressing that the two leading candidates are know for their lack of integrity, bullying, and condescension.

Can any policy statements that we agree with and hold to dearly outweigh who a person actually is? A donkey painted with black and white stripes is still a donkey, no matter how much people say it’s a zebra. Same with an elephant, in case anyone thinking I’m making a statement about the Democratic candidate with that analogy. I’m not. It’s something I read that’s on an entirely different topic. But the analogy fits for candidates who say they’ll do this or that but are mean-spirited, untrustworthy, and egotistical.

No, I suggest we keep looking for a real zebra instead of settling.

Published in: on October 3, 2016 at 7:53 pm  Comments (4)  
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Election Choice For The Christian


2016-debate1

I find a lot of irony in the upcoming US Presidential election, particularly because the two candidates take such extreme positions.

On one hand Sec. Clinton, who was a left-leaning liberal during her husband’s presidency, has moved further left in her determination to defeat socialist Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

On the other hand Mr. Trump advocates for a fascist type government in which he calls the shots—about trade and treaty-breaking and immigration policy and . . . well, just about any subject he addresses—ignoring what the Constitution says about the powers of the President.

The irony in all this is that Germany in the aftermath of World War I also faced the same kind of polarizing forces, which played a part in Adolf Hitler becoming the powerful dictator who initiated such inhumane policies and led Germany into the second world war. For the purpose of the discussion about what Christians should do in the upcoming election here in the US, I think it’s important to note that the church was especially divided and unsure what to do about Hitler.Not just in Germany:

In August [American evangelical leader Frank] Buchman made his tragic remark: “I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism” . . . it did not reflect his wider thinking on the subject. Still, it illustrates how easily even the most serious Christians were initially taken in by Hitler’s conservative pseudo-Christian propaganda. (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, p. 290)

Hindsight is always so clear. We know now that Hitler needed to be stopped, that his abject racism was deadly.

But what would have happened if Communism had won the day? What if the German industrial-military complex had joined forces with a Joseph Stalin-ruled Russia? In other words, were there any good choices?

Some people found their choice in leaving Germany. Others ignored the politics, and the rumors of war crimes and death camps in the hopes that they would be left alone to go about their business as unhindered as possible. Still others chose one side or the other to support.

When Hitler was firmly in charge, a small group of Christians protested the obvious and egregious policies being carried out by the Nazis. For instance Jewish Christians who had already been ordained were banned from serving as ministers and later from attending church with “Aryans.” Bonhoeffer and others of like mind took a stand against this policy. But others in the church did not. In fact, many felt Bonhoeffer was off base. They had embraced the Nazis, as demonstrated by their church gathering which came to be known as the Brown Synod because it was more like a Nazi rally than a church meeting.

The time for schism had arrived. A church synod had officially voted to exclude a group of persons from Christian ministry simply because of their ethnic background. The German Christians had clearly broken away from the true and historical faith. (Bonhoeffer, p. 187)

It’s easy to look back and say, Why did those people who professed faith miss their departure from God’s word? How could they not see that they were supporting a government policy over the clear instruction of God?

I have to wonder, though, if many didn’t see their choices as limited. They were backing what they believed to be the lesser of two evils—the Nazis instead of the Communists.

Bonhoeffer didn’t take that route. He had the opportunity to leave Germany and in fact did so for a short time before he felt convicted he needed to stand with his fellow true Christians, come what may. He openly protested as long as that action was allowed. He found ways to skirt the laws meant to reduce his influence, and finally, he joined with others seeking an opportunity to overthrow the wicked empire Hitler had erected.

All this history influences my thinking about the upcoming Presidential election. What are the choices Christians have? We can leave. We can ignore the election, keep our heads down, and hope whoever wins won’t do anything that will dramatically affect our daily life. We can support one or the other of the candidates because we think it is the lesser of the two evils and believe the greater evil is unbearable. Or we can protest.

Today the idea of protest prompts thoughts of marching in groups, waving placards and disrupting traffic. Bonhoeffer didn’t protest in that way. He didn’t take a knee during the national anthem or any of the kinds of protest gestures people are making to call attention to injustice today.

Bonhoeffer instead built a sound Scriptural argument that he circulated far and wide. He countered propaganda with the truth. He taught—first in the seminar, and when no longer allowed to do so, in a one on one discipleship setting that he created.

Today we American Christians do have other choices. There are third party candidates that we can vote for instead of Mr. Trump or Sec. Clinton. To do so would be a protest. It would be a way of making our voices heard: neither of the major party candidates is worthy to be our next President.

Then, when one wins, we can counter the propaganda that will inevitably swirl around the winner by holding them to a high standard. It’s not OK to lie to the American people, to treat people unjustly, to play to either greed or entitlement. We need to lead the way in opposing policies that oppose Scripture—not because we want to make things “the way they used to be” or to create a comfortable life for ourselves, but because as God’s people, we need to stand for right, no matter which party is in power.