Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Now To Election Day and Beyond

1 Timothy 2:  I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.

 Much has been blogged and spoken in recent days about what we should do as believers in regards to our upcoming presidential election.  The above scripture passage summarizes the key element:  PRAY.  Petitions are pleas for something.  Intercessions are standing in the gap for something or someone.  Thanksgiving is the characteristic that should govern all our prayers.  Believing as I do that this election is historic (as each of them is, but with the condition we are in, this one feels especially so), we should be on our face before our Sovereign and intercede for those in authority and for our nation as a whole.

As you pray, and as you vote, I do want to say one thing that is not a political statement but a holiness statement.  Biblical truth must apply to every action we take in life.   While in a pluralistic society we can't force unbelievers to live by biblical standards, we as believers should take our personal stand for biblical values.  The sanctity of life, all life, as seen in Psalm 139 and other places is a biblical issue that has been politicized.  The sanctity of marriage, being between a man and a woman for life, is a biblical issue that has been politicized.  Standing with Israel is not a political issue.  Romans 9-11 shows that as we are grafted into the foundation of faith through Abraham, so we are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and see that God has plans for His people, the Jews.  So this is a faith issue and not a political one.  Caring for the poor is a biblical value.  Working and carrying our own load while assisting those who can't is a biblical issue.  We could go on and on.  It is also biblically true we are never to fear, never to be anxious, but let our requests to be made before God and His peace will guard our hearts and minds through Christ. (Phil. 4:6-7)  So we don't have to fear the outcomes of the future.  At the same time that does not mean that we sit idle and not stand for Christ in our culture.

Let me be clear:  POLITICS AND POLITICAL SYSTEMS WILL NOT BRING ABOUT THE RIGHTEOUS LIFE THAT GOD DESIRES.  That can only come through doing our work as a church and people change.  But the Scriptures are clear that when a nation, any nation, humbles itself before the Lord it will be blessed.  

So be informed.  Know what you believe from Scripture.  Humbly pray, even for those with whom you disagree or even see as evil.  Pray for God's will to be done.  And then participate by going to vote and let your voice be heard.  

As believers who are to shed light in our culture, how we interact with and speak about those with whom we disagree or even those who are our enemies and are mistreating us, reflect the reality of our faith in Christ.  So be careful about your speech; fervent in your praying; holy in your living; and faithful in your participation.  And God will use you to make a difference.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Terror, Trust and Temptation

Today is 9/11.  Twelve years ago there was nothing special or memorable about today except for those whose birthdays and anniversaries are on this day (Happy birthday and anniversary).  But eleven years ago that changed.  Over 3000 people lost their lives and America was shaken to the core and terror became real.  I remember where we were on that day well.  So do you.  I also remember how people responded.  Church services were swelled over the following weeks as people sought understanding, meaning and hope in the midst of everything.  The seeking lasted a month for most.

Now we face potentially one of the most devastating economic and social crises ever.  And it is not just here at home.  This is a global issue.  And fear enters the picture once again.  When unemployment runs high and people become desperate, we see the effects in various parts of Europe.  Riots, destruction, acts of violence.  There is blame and anger a plenty.  And people again wonder where they can turn.  Who can save us out of this mess?  Who can we trust?

Therein lies the temptation.  Many react to the mess but few ask how we ultimately got here.  In America, we have long served at the altar of rights rather than the altar of freedom.  The founding of our nation was based on the fact that rights, freedom and opportunity come from God.  We were and are not a theocracy like Israel, and we never were.  But we were a people in the beginning who understood the truth that blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.  And in the framework of our culture, including our government at the time, God was recognized and honored.  Over the past two hundred and thirty plus years, that has changed.  Our trust and hope have shifted to men, to ourselves, to our political leaders.  Yet the psalmist warned,  

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.  Psalm 146:3-5

Since moving away from our trust in Him as our foundation, millions of unborn babies have been killed; jails have become overpopulated, all sorts of excesses have become "normal," the foundations of the family have been eroded, and right has become wrong and wrong has become right. 

So what do we do?  God speaks from His word in Isaiah 57:

10 You wearied yourself by such going about,
    but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’
You found renewal of your strength,
    and so you did not faint. 11 “Whom have you so dreaded and feared
    that you have not been true to me,
and have neither remembered me
    nor taken this to heart?
Is it not because I have long been silent
    that you do not fear me?
12 I will expose your righteousness and your works,
    and they will not benefit you.
13 When you cry out for help,
    let your collection of idols save you!
The wind will carry all of them off,
    a mere breath will blow them away.
But whoever takes refuge in me
    will inherit the land
    and possess my holy mountain.”

I have been asked if I am going to address our political situation from the pulpit.  I want to move to the fundamental core of why we have the chaos we do.  In the name of rights and freedom even many organized churches in America have moved away from honoring the Lord and are preaching a Gospel that is no Gospel at all.  There is no light in the darkness and no salt in the culture.  If we were as passionate about standing up as believers in our culture, caring for the oppressed, speaking up for the rights of the helpless, visiting those in prison, teaching our children about the Lord, and putting our trust in Him, our land would be reclaimed and we would possess it.

I strongly encourage every person to seek the Lord and exercise your right to vote.  But I plead with every person to put all your heart into seeking the Lord personally, and trusting not in political systems to change our world, but in the Maker of Heaven and Earth.  I'll leave you with the words of the psalmist again from Psalm 146:

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.   

Even so, come and accomplish this through your church in our day, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Loving Atmosphere of Discomfort

We spoke this past weekend about the law of contradiction.  Two concepts which are presented as absolutes yet they exclude the other cannot both be true.  The sovereignty of God is an absolute and our free will is true but only within the boundaries set by God.  We do not have the ability to change reality.

Yet we also spoke of the law of contrariety.  This law states that seemingly opposite things can have great elements of truth to them that blends them together in reality.  That is how law and grace exist side by side.  Mercy and justice are compatible parts of God's economy as well.  They feel like they can't both be true but they make perfect sense together.

Now let's look at this in the life of Jesus.  People who were living sinful lives but looking for hope felt comfortable with Jesus.  He talked straight to them, acknowledging the effects of the decisions they had made but let them know there was a way to a new life.  He had not come to condemn but to save.  But salvation meant that people needed to face up to the decisions they had made, repent, and turn to Him.  His offer to everyone is to deny yourself, take up your cross (make tough decisions to say "no" to ungodly things and "yes" to God's way) and follow Him.  That is the core of the Gospel. 

Our church is a place of loving welcome to all who are seeking and struggling.  But we will always speak the truth in love in pointing people to Christ.  When challenged to change, and turn to Christ, some will say we are legalistic or judgmental.  Not so.  We love and spur each other on to Christ, helping each other along on the journey.  We all will be uncomfortable at times.  That is what truth does when we have to face ourselves.  But the love of Christ will always be the dominating atmosphere in which we live. 

Truth and love, mercy and justice, are powerful components of the character of Christ as expressed in and through His people.  A healthy family holds all these traits in consistent tension.  That is the life of a healthy church as well.  And this pursuit is one we will never give up on.