Hope In God, Not Government

The_Shepherds011When I was in school, our history teachers taught that citizenship required responsibility. We are responsible to pay our taxes, keep the law, and vote. Personally, I could hardly wait. I looked at voting as a solemn job but also as a sort of rite of passage into adulthood.

When the time finally arrived, some tarnish had stained the once shiny responsibility. The US government was doing things that were not so heroic and it didn’t seem as if it made a difference which party was in the White House or in control of Congress. They all seemed the same to me.

Since then our country and our political parties have been pushed further apart. We’ve been relegated to red and blue states, the liberal Democrats or the right-wing Republicans. No longer does it seem the President presides over the country. Rather he or she is concerned with satisfying the party base.

In many respects this situation is a result of a significant number of citizens not voting. Those would be the people who thought, like me years ago, that it doesn’t matter who wins the office—things will be much like they’ve always been.

Well, no. If this last year has shown us nothing, it has shown us that much change that cuts against the wishes of the majority can be foisted on the public by the government.

In an effort to respond, many people have determined they must get the right person in the White House. Then all will be well.

I still believe voting is a responsibility of every citizen. And I believe who is in the White House matters. But I do not believe America will ever have a government functioning according to God’s law. I’d be happy to see it function according to the Constitution, but that seems to be a fading hope as well.

No surprise, really. The United States is not a theocracy. We have a collection of people running government, no matter who wins. And one thing is true about us all—we sin.

Don’t misunderstand. I’d rather have a God-fearing statesman who wants to serve the nation and its people than a power-hungry blowhard, any day. But the truth is, getting the right person in office is not going to initiate revival in our land.

Only one thing can change the direction we’re headed, and it isn’t government.

Government can pass all the gun laws it wants, but that won’t change the hearts of the people who wish to kill. Government can de-fund Planned Parenthood, but that won’t stop people from engaging in illicit sex and terminating pregnancies that may result.

Government can pass sweeping immigration reform, but it can’t engender love for neighbors.

Government can establish welfare programs and pass laws against hate crimes and bigotry, but it can’t stop the greed and selfishness and biases residing in the human heart.

It’s time we learn: we need to put our hope in God, not in government. Sure, we should vote, and we should even pray that’s God’s mercy will be on us so that the next President will lead us wisely. But we should then go about the business of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Years ago I memorized the verses in Luke 2 that tell the Christmas story, so this year I decided to relearn them. I noticed something really interesting. After the angels had given the shepherds the good news that a Savior had been born, they decided to go see this baby. They didn’t seem to be doing so as skeptics, however.

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” (v. 15)

Key is the idea that they wanted to see “this thing that has happened.” They weren’t wondering if it indeed had happened. They believed it before they went.

When they got to Bethlehem and found the baby, just as the angel had said, they didn’t stay silent. They started broadcasting the news:

When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. (vv 17-18)

The shepherds received the news and believed, the others heard the news and wondered.

Maybe our sharing the gospel will only ever make people wonder, but that’s a start.

On the other hand, our staying silent can perpetuate the idea that there’s a government solution just around the bend, that there will be someone who can fix immigration, the economy, racial prejudice, terrorism, health care, the Iranian drive for nuclear power, problems with North Korea, abortion, and on and on.

The fact is, the next President might be able to make a difference and point us in the right direction in some of those areas, but we don’t know what the future holds. Our hope cannot reside in the “right” President or in the government doing more or less. Christians above all people should keep our eyes fixed on the Author and Finisher of our faith. He alone is faithful in all circumstances.

Here’s what my nephew said in an article in The Federalist related to this topic:

America, as G.K. Chesterton quipped, is a nation with the soul of a church. Like a church, we are founded on beliefs and have a sense of purpose and mission to our collective existence. Like the church, America tries to welcome people from anywhere of any background so long as they sign up to our creed. . .

It also introduces a temptation to American politicians. Because we have the soul of a church, politicians can easily confuse church with state. The mission of the church and the mission of the United States are different (although they can sometimes be complementary, as when the United States champions religious liberty abroad).

The two missions seem to be drifting apart as American culture becomes increasingly non-Christian. But regardless, we need to remember, as Moore says, “the end goal of the gospel is not a Christian America. The end goal of the gospel is redeemed from every tribe and tongue and nation and language in a New Jerusalem.” (emphasis mine)

It’s not just the politicians who sometimes confuse church and state. Voters sometimes do too by putting our hope in the government instead of in God.

Published in: on January 19, 2016 at 7:08 pm  Comments (3)  
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Republicanlogo.svgThis week yet another Republican declared his candidacy to become the party’s US presidential nominee. The Politics And Elections Portal lists 33 declared candidates—thirty-one men with Carly Fiorina and Shawna Sterling as the only women. Some of these individuals have impressive credentials—having been executives, either of a state or large corporation. Some have worked in Congress. Some have served in the military.

Unfortunately the one person who gets the lion’s share of the press is an individual who does not exhibit true leadership qualities. Of course I’m speaking of Donald Trump. The man is rich and famous, and he loves to wield power. But that does not make him a leader.

For one thing, leaders don’t talk without thinking. When a person runs for a public office, he or she talks a lot and it’s possible they’ll say something that comes out wrong. If that happens, they’ll own it, not repeat it.

Of course, speaking boldly and forcefully rather than giving carefully scripted sound bites is kind of refreshing, especially to anyone who pays attention to politics for any length of time. But railing at problems is not a strategy for fixing problems. A leader doesn’t just criticize and judge.

A leader sees himself or herself as a public servant. One thing I cannot see Donald Trump doing is proclaiming himself a servant. Maybe I’m wrong.

One thing that’s evident is Mr. Trump’s bombastic pronouncements have earned him followers. Seriously, I’m troubled about that fact. Apparently there are a significant number of people who think the office of President consists of calling people names, taking criticism personally, and retaliating because of it.

Leaders have to have thick skins. They can’t be mean and petty.

I’d say there are some things that leaders ought to be or do, but there are others they can’t be or do. Mean and petty fall into the latter category.

Mr. Trump isn’t short on opinion, but neither am I. Voicing an opinion does not make a person leadership material, even if a good number of people agree.

The thing is, Mr. Trump touched a nerve when he spoke so candidly about immigration—wrong, though he was. I live in California, and I can guarantee you that not all immigrants from Mexico, including those who have come illegally, are rapists and drug dealers.

Instead of saying such outlandish things, Mr. Trump would have done the nation a service if he’d talked frankly about solutions to the problems. As long as politicians are afraid of the fall-out with voters, nothing meaningful will ever get done about immigration.

Mr. Trump demonstrated that he’s not afraid of voters, but he also showed he’s not particular about the truth, that he’s unimaginative about solutions and out of touch with the majority of Americans.

His tirade against Senator Lindsey Graham was a bit frightening. In case you missed it, Senator Graham “started it” (are we in third grade still?) by calling Mr. Trump a jackass for what he said about Senator John McCain. Mr. Trump retaliated by calling Senator Graham an idiot and giving out his cell phone number (so mature).

Leaders aren’t childish. They also form logical, informed opinions rather than saying one thing at one time, then another at a different time (see “How Do the Republican Candidates Stack Up on Afghanistan?” by my nephew Paul D. Miller who gave Mr. Trump an F grade).

I’m hoping that this year of politicking will bring a leader to the forefront. There seems to be an understanding that former Secretary of State Hilliary Clinton will be the Democratic nomination. While she clearly has knowledge about foreign affairs and understands the office of President like few others, I have some reservations about her leadership abilities.

She’s not like Mr. Trump. I wouldn’t say she speaks without thinking, or rails against policies with which she disagrees. I wouldn’t call her mean and petty or childish either. But there are some troublesome questions about her trustworthiness.

Interestingly, the Republican field of candidates seems stacked with people affiliating with some form of Christianity. One Pew Research article notes that eight different candidates identify as Roman Catholics—which seems to be a shift from the past when Catholics voted nearly as a block for Democratic candidates.

All this to say, I’m hoping we’ll soon see a shift away from “train-wreck reporting” to coverage of serious candidates who actually have leadership abilities.

Published in: on July 23, 2015 at 6:53 pm  Comments (2)  
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Jews And Greeks, Republicans And Democrats

A couple weeks ago, my pastor, Mike Erre, pointed out something important about Jesus’s redemptive work. First He provided reconciliation between God and man, and then He abolished the barriers for believers that separated them from one another.

The Jews understood reconciliation with God–that was pretty much all those who were religious cared about, thinking that they had to perform to a certain high standard to bring it about. But they had no interest in reconciliation with other people. In fact, they believed themselves to be the chosen people who were to pursue separateness. They were to be religiously clean, and racially pure.

This, of course, was wrong thinking on their part. They could not do enough to be rid of sin, and they had long ago lost any racial purity. Joseph, for example, had married an Egyptian, and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were therefore not “pure” Jews. Of course, neither was King David with his Canaanite ancestor Rahab in his family line and his Moabite great grandmother Ruth.

Nevertheless, the Jews of Jesus’s day were determined not to be tainted by the racially mixed Samaritans living on their borders. Or by the Romans, if they could help it, or the Greeks.

Paul made it clear that this divide no longer existed in Christ. Jesus revolutionized relationships.

and [you] have put on the new self who is being renewed . . . a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Col. 3:10-11)

Peter makes the same point. Writing to this mix of Jewish and Gentile believers scattered throughout Asia Minor, he said

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD (1 Peter 2:9-10a).

In his letter to the church in Galatia, Paul expanded the number of barriers between people Christ broke down.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (3:28)

Barriers down. In house churches slaves sat alongside masters, men worshiped in the same room with women, and Jews prayed with Gentiles.

In truth there is only one category left–saved and lost.

But the lost are not the enemy. Again Scripture is clear:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)

Flesh and blood–not the enemy.

Which brings us to Republicans and Democrats. Christians of either party are brothers and sisters of those in the opposite camp who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer. Eveyone else is in the lost camp. Lost, but not our enemies.

If they choose to make themselves God’s enemy, that’s something for which they’ll one day face His judgment. It is not up to us to fire angry invectives at them in the meantime. In fact, our anger toward the lost plays right into Satan’s hand. It’s one of his schemes:

BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. (Eph 4:26-27 – emphasis mine)

James says specifically

for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:20)

To be honest, it’s easy when we discuss things about which we feel passionate to express ourselves passionately. That, perhaps, is the anger the verse in Ephesians is referring to. However, the do not sin part would mean it’s not OK to belittle others or call them names or demean them because they see things differently.

In short, Republicans are not the enemy, Democrats are not the enemy, Libertarians are not the enemy, Socialists are not the enemy.

As the US elections draw closer and the race for the President grows tighter and emotions run higher and debates or attack ads stir the pot, we Christians need to remember that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20a), that we are admonished to

keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things on earth. (Col. 3:1b-2)

If God is sovereign, and He is, then we don’t have to wonder or worry if He’s got a plan in mind should “the wrong” candidate win. No matter what, He will accomplish His purposes. Might we live less comfortably? That’s possible. Might we begin to see the door close on our religious liberties? That’s possible too. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic.

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation and do not be troubled. (1 Peter 3:13-14)

Published in: on October 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm  Comments Off on Jews And Greeks, Republicans And Democrats  
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Fair And Balanced Media, continued

There’s no conspiracy, friends and family say whose beliefs align with those self-identifying Democrats who work for the news media. I’ll concede the point, but at the same time, I think it’s essential to note that these non-conspiratorial media folk are not hiding their own opinions, and their opinions are liberal.

Media, of course, includes the various types of entertainment TV, and in this area, where apparently there is no FAA requirement for equal time, the Democrats are making the most of the existent bias.

Back in April Fox News reported that First Lady Michelle Obama already had more TV appearances than any of her predecessors in the first four years in the White House. Laura Bush, with her literacy program, tallied twelve TV appearances. Mrs. Obama? Forty-four. And still going strong.

Since the end of the two political conventions, she made “her first visits to ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ and ‘Rachael Ray’ for appearances that will air in September” and “her third appearance on the ‘Late Show with David Letterman.’ ” (Washington Post)

Obama’s appearances are working for her, [Doug] Schoen [a Democratic political strategist] said.

“I think Michelle Obama is a terrific asset for the president,” he said.

[Dan] Gainor [of the Media Research Center] had no quarrel with that claim, but said it’s all about the 2012 race.

Michelle Obama gains “an overwhelmingly amount of positive coverage” from being on these shows, said Gainor, who also added that these appearances allow her to campaign for her husband.

“What she’s doing is political,” said Gainor. “She’s getting her face out there because it’s an election year.” (see “Michelle Obama becoming the most televised first lady” by Bree Tracey)

Is it any wonder, then, that with a 69 percent favorable rating, she has replaced Hillary Clinton as the most popular national political figure? (See “Poll: Michelle Obama and Ann Romney more popular than their husbands” by Alicia M. Cohn)

But what about Ann Romney? Apparently she’s been on Entertainment Tonight, but primarily her interaction with TV has been a clash with Hilary Rosen over stay-at-home moms, a jab by the executive producer of Modern Family and critiques of what she wears based on how much her outfits cost.

What’s the average person to do with this? First, realize that, sans conspiracy, the media is still all about forming public opinion. There’s a reason David Letterman invited Michelle Obama onto his show three times. There’s a reason pundits talk about how expensive Anne Romney’s clothes are instead of what she said when she was speaking. Granted, she got coverage when she spoke at the RNC, but it was short lived.

So far I haven’t seen her name mentioned in the promos for the talk shows, day or night. Maybe I missed it.

Second, I think the average person can appreciate what Mrs. Obama is doing for her various causes, but weigh those, along with her likable personality, against her positions on marriage, life, size and role of government, and so on. One issue ought not sway a person to believe every word that person says is gospel.

Third, I think it’s judicious to ask questions of those who are criticizing Mrs. Romney. For example, is it their usual practice to discuss the cost of the clothing speakers wear? Did we hear how much Mr. Obama’s suit cost? Or Vice President Biden’s? Or any of the other women, for that matter, who stood on the platform at the DNC?

Apparently I’m not the only blogger who has noticed the different ways the media treats the wives of the two Presidential candidates. This from Independent Women’s Forum:

First Lady Michelle Obama wore a jacket with a $6, 800 pricetag to a Buckingham Palace reception Friday night [July 27]. I could care less and hope that she enjoyed it.

Still, it is difficult not to notice the wildly different treatment the press accords to Democrats and Republicans in these matters. Remember when Ann Romney showed up in a $990 T-shirt to be interviewed on TV? The press went crazy—it showed how out of touch the rich Romneys are (as opposed to how in touch with regular folks the rich Obamas are). (“A Tale of Two Tops” by Charlotte Hays

Maybe there’s no media conspiracy, but that doesn’t mean there’s no media bias. Viewers and voters would be wise to beware.

Published in: on September 13, 2012 at 6:52 pm  Comments (3)  
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