God And The Presidential Primaries

1880 - Illustration shows Senator Roscoe Conkling, leader of the Stalwarts group of the Republican Party, playing a puzzle game. All blocks in the puzzle are the heads of the potential Republican presidential candidates, among them Grant, Sherman, Tilden, and Blaine.

1880 – Illustration shows Senator Roscoe Conkling, leader of the Stalwarts group of the Republican Party, playing a puzzle game. All blocks in the puzzle are the heads of the potential Republican presidential candidates, among them Grant, Sherman, Tilden, and Blaine.

This year is not the first year that choosing a candidate for President is a bit messy. Perhaps the best question a Christian can ask is this: What does God think about elections, especially elections of governmental leaders?

The last time I checked in Scripture, God Himself is the one who puts leaders in place. In the Old Testament, He used a prophet to anoint a new king from time to time, but most often let the hereditary process (or the coup d’état) work. My guess is, He does the same in a democracy—that is, He works in and through the process. The difference, of course, is that we citizens now have responsibility in that process.

But does that mean God has chosen the person He wants in leadership, and now it’s up to us who “have the mind of Christ” to discern who that person is, and vote accordingly? Not possible. For one thing, Christians aren’t a majority and can’t insure that the candidate we favor will in fact be elected. But also, God hasn’t chosen to give us that kind of knowledge. Finally, by looking at circumstances, we really can’t tell what is God’s will and what isn’t.

Late in Old Testament Jewish history, some of the best kings were followed by God’s judgment. Not against that king but against the prior waywardness of the people. How can we know what God intends in our nation at this time in history?

He may desire to lead us into revival, or He may release us to the lusts of our sinful hearts. And even after we know who wins the election, we still won’t know His intentions. Perhaps one man as President will make decisions that drive Christians to our knees and revival will come because government is obviously not going to give us the moral society we know pleases God. That would be the ultimate good, though initially we might think we’re headed for judgment. The point is, we just don’t know.

It reminds me of my coaching days, when my team of kids from a Christian school played another team from a different Christian school. How do you pray for God to help you win instead of the other guys? How do you know your team needs to win more than the others? Or that winning will be more spiritually beneficial than losing?

So does it matter whether we vote or if we pray for a desired outcome in the presidential primary and eventual election? It does matter. As I mentioned earlier, God seems to work through the process in place. In addition, Scripture indicates over and over that God moved because of the prayers of His people. Who’s to say He won’t bring a certain result in the election if, and only if, we ask Him?

Following the council of a wise friend, I’m praying that God pour out His mercy and give us the President we need, not the one we deserve. Because honestly, our hedonistic, greedy, selfish culture deserves a power-hungry, autocratic entertainer or a shady, untrustworthy liberal.

If He does not bring the result we ask for, should we say He has let us down? Should we shake our fists in His face and say He’s made a mistake? How silly that would be. He is God. He knows if what we ask of Him is truly for our good or not. As a loving parent, He knows if we need hardship to drive us back to Him or revival that will cause us to repent or a climate of peace and tranquility that will allow us to do the work of evangelism or something altogether unimagined that will serve His greater glory.

What I do know is that one thing and one thing only will be a disaster in this election—that is, if Christians react with vitriol toward those with whom we disagree. The good Samaritan did not check the politics of the mugging victim before he gave his help. Jesus did not hang Herod in effigy because he had John the Baptist killed. Paul did not write snarky letters to the churches, blasting Felix or Festus or Caesar, when he was imprisoned.

We believers in Jesus Christ need to love God and love our neighbors, even if our neighbors are throwing rocks through our windows and calling us names because of our faith in Christ. We believers in Jesus Christ need to love our fellow Christians in a way that will show the world what it truly means to be a part of the Church, even if our fellow Christians voted for the other guy.

Does love mean to stay quiet about deeply held beliefs or decide to stay above the fray and simply not vote?

Seriously, did you forget for a moment whose blog you were reading? Me, stay quiet? Me, advocate not expressing an opinion? That would certainly be a first, now wouldn’t it!

This article with some revision is a reprint of one by the same name that appeared here in November 2008.

Women As Leaders Of The Church?

When I originally posted this article three years ago, it wasn’t one of the more popular blogs I’d written. I don’t suppose that will have changed, though I do think this is an important topic and this content is well worth bringing to the forefront again.

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It seems obvious to me that the culture and not Scripture has influenced many people to believe that women too can be pastors and elders (would they be call eldresses? 😉 ) For over 1900 years, it seems, the Church understood the role of pastor to be reserved for men, but now in these last few decades we have scholars who say that actually all those earlier students of God’s Word, for all those centuries, had it wrong.

Why would we think that God would not correct this error long ago, if in fact it was error? Why, in the first place, did the Holy Spirit lead Paul to write something that for centuries the Church would misunderstand?

In reality, I think the Church for all those centuries understood exactly what God intended—that the role of pastor was reserved for men. Here is Paul’s clear instruction to Timothy:

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Tim 2:11-14)

Paul not only gives the principles the Church is to follow, he gives reasons for it. A woman’s role, in part, is established because of the order of creation. It is also set because Eve was deceived, not Adam.

There are several other issues involved too.

First, Scripture gives clear instructions about the relationship a wife is to have with her husband. He is the head who is to love her sacrificially. She is to give him her respect and submission.

That’s not subservience. Her submission is the same as my putting myself under the authority of a principal when I was a teacher. I may have disagreed with how a certain principal wanted to do things, but in the end, the teacher needs to give way to the principal, though in the best working situations, the two strive to reach a place that satisfies the concerns of both.

That’s the way any organization must work. Somebody has to be in the hot seat where the buck stops. In a family, that “somebody” is the husband—the one tasked to love and selflessly serve his wife.

Each local church also has a leadership structure, with a pastor and elders taking the responsibility.

So what would happen if a woman was pastor—the head or leader of … her husband, a member of her church, who was to be her head? At one point or the other, the leadership structure God designed for the family or for the church would break down.

There’s another issue. The pastor or episkopÄ“ and the elders were given the role of “shepherding the flock.” Luke mentioned this in Acts when he recorded Paul’s farewell admonition to the elders in Miletus:

Be on guard for yourselves and for 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 – emphasis mine)

Peter goes into more depth in his first letter:

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4 – emphases mine)

Is it coincidental that Peter refers to the pastor and elders as shepherds and Christ as the Chief Shepherd? Clearly not. He is likening their role, in miniature, to Christ’s role—just as Paul did when he addressed husbands and said they were to love their wives like Christ loved the Church. In other words, as the husband is to serve as a type of Christ by his sacrificial love, so the pastor is to serve as a type of Christ in his shepherding role.

We should not minimize this function of the pastor—as one who gives us a glimpse of the head/body relationship we enjoy with Christ.

Apart from specialty cases in which God may indeed call and equip a woman for a time, even as He allowed David to eat the sanctified bread reserved for priests, the teaching of Scripture gives the offices of pastor and elders to men. They are to be humble servants and caretakers of their flock, and women, as fellow servants and fellow heirs, are to join in ministry, just not in the lead role.

Published in: on September 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm  Comments (8)  
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If The Shepherds Fail, What Happens To The Sheep?

shepherd083When I read the book of Jeremiah, some times I feel as if he was talking about contemporary Western culture. Instead he prophesied during the last thirty or so years before Judah fell to Babylon. During that time, he repeatedly warned the people of the impending calamity. God, he said, would not rescue them because Babylon was His instrument of judgment upon them because of their evil deeds.

Rightly so, he especially lambasted the leaders, who he referred to as the shepherds of God’s people: the rulers, the priests, but especially the prophets.

“Many shepherds have ruined My vineyard,
They have trampled down My field;
They have made My pleasant field
A desolate wilderness.” (Jer 12:10)

The priests were to bring sacrifices to God and to follow the Law. The rulers were to be models before the people of living according to the Law. The prophets were to listen to God’s voice and communicate His word to the people. Instead

“The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’
And those who handle the law did not know Me;
The rulers also transgressed against Me,
And the prophets prophesied by Baal
And walked after things that did not profit.” (Jer 2:8)

The people didn’t escape condemnation. They were complicit in the evil that the leaders brought on Judah:

The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so!
But what will you do at the end of it? (Jer 5:31 – emphasis mine)

Which brings me to today. Well, last night actually. I turned on a TV station called Daystar which airs these Christian music/Bible verse/nature picture montages–except last night in place of those was what appeared to be a concert.

I watched for a bit and soon realized my mistake–this was not a concert but the “worship” portion of a large church service. My first clue was the attractive little advertisement that opened at the bottom of the screen giving information about the pastor’s new book which could be purchased by calling such and such a number. As I watched, the ad changed to one for the church newsletter, to sermon CDs, to past books, to a “thank you” for donations and the contact information where people can write. Before long, though, the new book was again front and center.

I’m a writer, so I appreciate that speaking can lead to book purchases, but this particular pastor, who did eventually preach, is well known for his health and wealth message. It’s a false message, as much so as the one delivered by the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day. But there in that packed concert-hall type facility, with its broad stage and professional lighting, the people were only too happy to drink in the false teaching spewing from the pulpit. I suspect there were a good number only too happy to order a copy of the new book, as well.

So there he was, preaching a gospel that is mixed with Baal worship the love of money, using the occasion to advertise so he can make more money. Not surprising, his author bio is filled with numbers–how many people attend his church, how many watch his messages on TV, even how much money he spent renovating his church.

And My people love it so!

Clearly there are thousands–millions, if those stats can be trusted–who love it so. But Jeremiah’s question applies to us today as well: “But what will you do at the end of it?”

How many people are “trusting Jesus” for the misused promises this pastor passes on, and will come to the end of life without any idea about the redemption God offers, purchased by the precious blood of His Son.

Take this one example of a satisfied customer:

[Author/pastor’s name redacted] all that I can say is that you have saved my life and yet we have never even met. You give me Hope. Reading your books have helped me to see and believe that I am one of GOD’s children and well deserving of all the goodness, victory and abundance that is promised to those who love, praise and follow our Father’s wishes. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, you are to me a true deliverer of positive energy (emphasis mine).

To this happy reader, the author/pastor is the one who saves, who gives hope. Rather than seeing himself as a sinner, he now understands he’s deserving of goodness. Positive energy, not salvation from sin, seems to be the end all.

Jeremiah’s words again seem relevant for today:

Thus says the LORD of hosts,
“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you.
They are leading you into futility;
They speak a vision of their own imagination,
Not from the mouth of the LORD.
They keep saying to those who despise Me,
‘The LORD has said, “You will have peace”‘;
And as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart,
They say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.'” (Jer 23:16-17

Published in: on April 3, 2013 at 6:38 pm  Comments Off on If The Shepherds Fail, What Happens To The Sheep?  
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Who Doesn’t Want To Vote

When I was growing up, voting, like getting your driver’s license, was a right of passage into adulthood. It was something we all wanted to do.

Long before I was old enough to go to the polls, I wore campaign buttons, debated propositions, and voted in meaningless elections during history class. How I wanted the right to vote in the real thing. I could hardly wait. It was part right, part responsibility, and definitely a signal that I’d arrived into the world as an adult.

I’m not sure what’s happened, but voting seems to be something more and more people take for granted, and don’t bother to do. I know the system here in California has been broken for a long, long time. There have been few competitive races and consequently no sense of urgency.

As a matter of fact, I saw my first political ad for President last week. I’m not kidding. There’s no need to run ads when you know you have the state won, or when you know you haven’t got a chance to break the opposing party’s stranglehold on the electorate.

What a sad state of affairs. Once voters chose who they thought would be the best person for the office, regardless of office. Now, the first question seems to be, what party is he in?

Once a true leader was the person who could compromise with those holding differing views and reach an agreeable solution for all sides. Now someone who compromises is considered a flip-flopper and not someone a voter can rely on.

How odd it seemed to me to hear Mr. Obama during the debates try to pin Mr. Romney to a specific agenda of tax loopholes he would close if elected President. Mr. Romney had the gall to say he’d work with Congress and find the loopholes in a bi-partisan way. Horrors! That was considered a plan without a plan.

All this line-drawing and party-over-country politics is chasing away voters, I believe.

So my cry is, DON’T LET IT. If you live in a democracy, stand up for your right to vote by voting. See you at the polls.

Published in: on November 5, 2012 at 7:04 pm  Comments (8)  
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