God’s Kingdom?

voting boothsI believe Christians should be responsible and vote. I believe, if possible, Christians should vote for Christians who are qualified for the office they want to hold. But if all went well, and a Christian managed to become President, if many Christians took office in Congress, the US would not become God’s kingdom, or God’s democracy.

Jesus made it very clear to Pilate just before He was sent to the cross: His kingdom is not of this world. It simply isn’t—not then and not now.

So why make a big thing about the presidential primaries and voting and politics and government? Shouldn’t we just hunker down and wait for the coming kingdom, and not trouble ourselves about the earthly one we live in?

No! God gave us a job to do, and honestly, it’s easier to make disciples of those at home and those abroad if we’re operating in a democratic society with strong Christian values. So it’s right to do our part to create such a place.

It’s right as long as we remember what we’re working for.

First, what we are not working for: we are not working to make this country heaven on earth. It can’t happen and it won’t happen; if we’re working for that, we’re working in vain. We’re also not working so that we can have a nicer home than everybody else (and keep all Those Other People out!!) That kind of selfishness is not something consistent with God’s call on the Christian.

We aren’t working for a place that will put few temptations in front of us and give us many rewards, as nice as both those would be. Temptation is something Jesus faced, so there is no avoiding it here on earth. And rewards or blessings come to those who suffer as much as to those who live in prosperity.

So what should we be working for?

    * freedom of religion so that we can continue to worship God openly and preach the word of God without restriction.
    * life. God created. Our times are in His hands. He condemns murder and makes no exceptions: don’t murder, unless the person you kill is really, really young. Our leaders have a lot of influence in creating a culture of life or not.
    * to preserve the Constitution that declares our rights to be endowed upon us by our Creator. We have slid ever closer to dictatorship. We can vote for those who will uphold the rule of law or who will ignore it in favor of their own way of achieving their own ends.

It reminds me eerily of the choice Adam faced back in the Garden: to do things God’s way, or to do what he wanted to do? Law or desire? God’s way or Man’s way?

That list includes good things, but they will not create God’s kingdom here on earth. His kingdom will only come when Jesus Christ returns and takes the throne.

Until then, Christians are to be on the alert, to be prepared, to work and serve with that day in mind. We are to invest our time and our talent and our money in the things of God. We are to love Him in a sold-out way. We are to love other Christians and our neighbors and our enemies.

The best way to show love is not by giving people stuff to use here and now. That’s a common fallacy lots of people proclaim. We have this idea that we must feed the hungry and clothe the poor, and then when they ask why we’re doing it, we can tell them about the love of God.

Well, the problem is, that’s not what the Bible says. Yes, we are to give to the needy, but what’s with the “waiting until they ask” business? The Bible says, Make disciples. It doesn’t say, Make disciples when they ask why you’re being so nice or sacrificial or helpful or whatever it might be. There should be an unashamed proclamation of the gospel.

Look at Peter and John in Acts 3, when the lame beggar approached them for a handout:

But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (v 6)

What Peter offered was more than a handout, more than giving him money to feed and clothe himself. No, I’m not saying we should start healing people. I’m saying we should boldly give what we have, which is the gospel.

As a result of this miracle, Peter and John were arrested, not once but twice. They were threatened both times, and then eventually they were flogged. Their answer? Shouldn’t we be doing what God tells us rather than what people tell us?

And what was it God had told them? To preach the truth:

But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 3:19-20)

What was it that they had heard and seen?

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.

“And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Acts 3:13-21)

The kingdom is not now, but we Christians have kingdom work to do. Part of our responsibility is to keep the gospel light burning—hopefully in a free society that allows us to reach out to people in other places. But if God, who is in charge of rulers and authorities, sees fit to change the freedoms we now enjoy, we’ll be tasked to work in a rocky field with greater obstacles. But work we must.

In what kind of an environment may be determined by our next election.

Published in: on February 29, 2016 at 5:51 pm  Comments (3)  
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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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Democracy Or Oligarchy?

Sample BallotYesterday after I voted, I tweeted that I prefer a democracy even though it’s not perfect. The thing is, I’m beginning to feel as if I’m not living in a democracy any more. There’s more than one reason, but the prevailing one at present is that so few people vote!

I know this is the low of my state, but in Los Angeles County, only 29.4% of registered voters managed to make it to the polls yesterday. Never mind that not all who are eligible have bothered to register.

Sure, part of living in a free country is that no one makes you do your duty. But these numbers mean we no longer have a majority of the people deciding important issues or choosing which candidates will serve in important offices.

Take our county assessor, for example. Just this year there was a scandal in the office and the chief assessor was charged with corruption. In the contest to replace him, there’s a 50.2% versus 49.8% split—about as close as you can get. But in reality, whichever candidate wins (I understand they’re still counting mail-ins) will do so with the approval of 14.6% of the registered voters.

That’s a mere handful of citizens essentially dictating to the rest of us who will move into an office that needs to be cleaned of its corruption. Did “we” get the right guy or did “we” vote in someone who will continue doing business as usual?

The point is, there is no “we” in our elections any more. Even for those who vote, making a decision is more apt to be choosing the party line, which means someone else is making the decisions and telling their followers how to vote. Some, to be sure, listen to political ads on TV and let the people who pour thousands of dollars into producing slick sound bites determine how they should vote. But is that any better than voting the party line?

Often times trusting in TV commercials means trusting in those with the most to gain if you vote their way, but who they are is something you have to dig to uncover.

I realize that part of why voter turn out is low stems from this very problem. People feel less empowered by voting than in the past. Who they choose likely won’t change things, and if there is someone who has good ideas, it’s hard to figure out who they are or what they believe in because of the attacks hurled at them from the other side.

But here’s what bothers me about voters: all this “work” seems too hard. We actually have to pay attention to what’s going on, to listen to who does or doesn’t endorse a candidate, to read up on what he says he wants to do if elected.

I have to say, people in fledgling democracies put us to shame. They know what it’s like to have zero voice in how their government is run. By our voting habits, you’d think that’s the kind of government we are trying to create here in the US.

Maybe we should revoke voting privileges that aren’t exercised. If a person doesn’t vote in a five year span, for example, they will be banned from voting for life. I mean, they’ve shown they don’t take their responsibility seriously, so why should they get to fire in and vote whenever it jolly well pleases them?

I’m not actually serious about that idea, but I have noticed, people care about things they may actually lose more than things they feel entitled to own, whether they use them or not. So I can’t help but wonder, if we were faced with the possibility of losing the right to vote, might we actually start exercising it?

Published in: on November 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm  Comments (1)  
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Mid-Term Elections

VotingTomorrow we vote, and to be honest, this is a sad day for me. You see, the numbers of people who actually go to the polls is dismal. On top of that, here in California, most of the “races,” aren’t! So we have a candidate who has been indicted for corruption, another from a notoriously corrupt family, and another who is from a “famous” political family. Those will all probably win, even though they don’t deserve it and/or are up against someone far more qualified.

Add to that the fact that we vote for a number of propositions—something that has felt very democratic in the past. Until the courts overturn the stuff we vote for that the politicians don’t want.

In this upcoming election we are voting for a couple propositions that have obviously been written by top notch political schemers. One has three parts to it: test doctors for drugs, check a national database when there’s a prescription for a regulated substance, and change the dollar figure allowable in malpractice suits.

So all the commercials telling people to vote yes are about doctors who are staggering drunk into the operating room. But of course it’s trial lawyers who are funding those commercials because they can see dollar signs ahead of them if they get to sue for more and more money.

Then there’s the proposition that the health insurance companies are paying big bucks to stop. This one is couched as a “political power grab.” A caring doctor comes on in one commercial saying how awful the proposition is because it would allow a politician to determine not only the amount of money you’d be covered for but the kind of treatment the doctor can give. And after all, such things should be between a doctor and her patient only.

Sounds good, but what the proposition is saying is that the insurance commissioner will review the insurance companies’ proposed changes to coverage and that they’ll have to demonstrate that such changes are necessary. In other words, this proposition is protection from insurance company price gouging. Now that we HAVE to buy health insurance, if someone doesn’t regulate them, the industry can curb coverage or raise rates at will. Sure, it might be better if it wasn’t one insurance commissioner who has this regulatory power, but I want someone overseeing the health insurance companies.

But I suspect the ads have done their work and that proposition will go down in defeat.

There are a couple catch phrases that have worked in the past, and it’s interesting to see them get recycled. One is “power grab” as I mentioned above. Another is “protect the children.” The Republican running against Jerry Brown has used that one, which I think is a real stretch. I don’t see how Governor Brown’s policies have put children at risk. I don’t think it will win his opponent any votes, but we’ll see.

Obviously Governor Brown isn’t worried. I have yet to see an ad for his re-election. Yes, he’s been in a couple supporting two propositions he wants us to pass, and a friend told me he’s endorsed another politician for a different office. But he feels quite secure about his re-election, it’s apparent.

The other “protect the children” ads are for Superintendent of Schools, and that’s understandable. But of course both candidates can pull out that line. It’s what they should be doing.

The part of the election I hate the most is for the judges. I have no idea who these people are, but they have such an impact on society! I don’t have enough information about them to make an educated decision. There are a couple other offices I don’t really know about either—water board, board of equalization, controller, and county assessor. What do those officials do and what would make someone qualified to hold the office? I try to figure it out every election cycle, but then it blurs in my mind again.

The other thing we have to deal with here in California is term limits. I voted for term limits, but there are two problems. First, some people who are good at their job are getting termed out. I’m thinking of one of our county commissioners who used to represent my area until lines were redrawn. She’s more liberal than I’d like (but that’s true of all of the commissioners by virtue of the make up of our county), but she had the interest of the district at heart and went to battle for the things she felt were right.

So she’s out of a job, which brings up the other problem with term limits. Career politicians, who have name recognition even if they can’t be re-elected to their old job, just look for another one to run for. So we aren’t getting rid of these CPs—just recycling them.

OK, let the fun begin. I wonder if anything or anyone I vote for tomorrow will win. 😉

Published in: on November 3, 2014 at 6:04 pm  Comments (1)  
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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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The Christian And Politics

For me, stepping into that voting booth the first time was a sort of rite of passage. I was, at last, really and truly, grown up. At least enough to vote.

And back in that day, we were taught in school that voting was not a privilege. It was a responsibility—a civic responsibility no less important than following the laws of the land. Voting was nothing short of doing the bare minimum for the community in which I lived.

Still, that first time punching a hole into the computer ballot didn’t feel weighty due to a sense of duty. It made me feel empowered. After all, I was transitioning into the world of adulthood. I now had a say in Things.

Unfortunately, that attitude didn’t last long. First came the results reporting—radio and TV routinely projecting winners before the polls closed on the West Coast. Often I would be driving home from work, planning to vote on the way, only to hear who would be the winners. So why should I bother?

Eventually such premature reporting was banned, but by this time, I’d seen a trend. In the gerrymandered district I lived in, nearly all of the local and state offices went to the candidate I opposed. My vote was not changing anything. My vote wasn’t really counting for anything.

And still I voted. Because I learned it is my civic duty.

The more I have come to understand my role as a Christian, the more I am willing, even eager, to do my duty.

The concept of doing ones’ duty is quite unpopular these days. In its place we have admonitions to be true to ourselves. Presumably that means, if I don’t feel like voting, then by all means, I shouldn’t vote. To do so when I had no desire to, would be hypocritical. 🙄

Interestingly, Christians seem to be at a divide when it comes to the issue of politics. What should be our role?

Some have jumped on the Focus on the Family bandwagon to transform the “Moral Majority” from silent to vocal. Others have rallied around preachers like Alistair Begg who says our efforts should be toward making disciples and our focus on things eternal. After all, this world is not our home; we are renting space, not buying.

Today the Campus Crusade sponsored program, Family Life Today discussed this issue. Author and guest Wayne Grudem discussed his book, Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture.

What I liked most about the discussion was the admonition to take our place in the public arena when it comes to discussing issues of morality and ethics. Why should Christians be silent? Why should we withdraw?

Mr. Grudem made an excellent point about the various people in the Bible—from Esther and her uncle to Daniel and Nehemiah—who had influence and responsibility in foreign governments. Not just in the theocracy or even the monarchy of Israel. These various individuals held sway over kings and governors (think Paul). They held high office. And God used them in significant ways.

What I liked least was Mr. Grudem hedging by saying he thinks the Bible is saying this or that about our role. In other words, he admits some of his positions are formed by his own interpretation of the Bible.

I realize it is harder and harder to reach a consensus when it comes to declaring what the Bible says. But some things are clear. For instance, God says in Proverbs that He hates lies. The gospel writers record Jesus as saying that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. It would be contradictory, then for a Christian to formulate a principle that says lying is expected behavior. In other words, the Bible is clear on this point.

I would like to have seen Mr. Grudem restrict his positions to those things we can say unequivocally are clear in the Bible. Nevertheless, he gave me lots to think about when it comes to the idea of voicing our opinions in the public arena.

What is your view of the Christian’s role in politics?

Published in: on October 28, 2010 at 6:09 pm  Comments (11)  
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