Politics and Believers

Gods-Politics

I suspect that many of my blog’s followers may take issue with today’s post as it addresses what has become a hot button or sensitive area for some.  I apologize in advance if it is not as well received as my usual post, but I do not apologize for my observations and subsequent response.  It is something that continues to leave a black mark on our faith and we are all guilty to some extent from parishioner to clergy.

With each passing election I am finding that I am becoming more and more apolitical.  For any who have known me long that may come as a bit of a shock.  I was once a grand-stander for all things conservative and a graduate of the Rush Limbaugh school of The Way Things Ought To Be.  I, like many others truly believed that political activism was a Christian duty and obligation to the point of casting shadows on those who refused to vote.  I believed that “true” Christians could only vote one way, and if they didn’t, their faith should be scrutinized.  I could not have been more wrong.

Social media seems to have given many people a voice and platform, and a select few would have you think they have a Master’s Degree in Political Science.  Seems everyone is an expert with a false sense of boldness that comes from the safety and protection of sitting behind a computer screen.  But what troubles me so deeply isn’t necessarily the blind allegiance believers have to a party or the unsubstantiated political memes they share on their timelines without any due diligence; it’s the level of disdain they so easily display with anyone who votes differently than they do.  I’ve posted on it before, I’ve observed it repeatedly, and it only seems to be getting worse.  There is a division in the church that goes right down political party lines.  It is always the elephant in the room, even after an election is over and the results are tallied. It is shameful, hurtful and an embarrassment to the body of Christ that nothing stirs up more heated public exchanges than a good old-fashioned debate about politics.

And yet with each election a new level of boldness is displayed for the unchurched to behold.  And this is perhaps what is most disheartening and so hard to swallow-there is a clear and distinct correlation between political party alliances and the racial division in our country in that the more politically divided we become, the more racially divided we become.  There is wholly nothing Christian about our response and approach to politics, and I am calling out our Christian leaders above all.  Through my social media connections I am privy to many clergy timelines and their postings.  Both sides are equal contributors to the walls of partisanship we see today, left and right, black and white.  I see white leaders using hurtful labels to describe those who vote differently, and even a few supporting or at least tolerating the notion of supremacy or nationalism through their implications or silence.  I see black leaders who allow heavily biased responses on their threads against anyone or anything white.  I even saw just this week that one of my famous black leader friends suggested that blacks should be preparing for a civil war.  What was once at least closely held and private biases have now become bold fodder for the world to witness as we cast stones back and forth over walls we created that have become increasingly higher and thicker.  I hate what politics has become and what it has made us.

And since I am on a roll I’ll take it all the way.  Shame on you on both sides of the aisle who have the balls to suggest that God is in your political camp!  Trump was elected because he was God’s choice; the Dems took back the house because God was displeased so he turned the tables-PLEASE STOP!  How little of us to humanize God to the degree of assigning God the label of Republican or Democrat!  The true glory of God, which no human could ever fully be exposed to, is not nor will ever be subjected to partisanship among his children.  My God is not red or blue. If your god is, you need to step back and reexamine your god.  The visceral, the labels, the allegations we throw back and forth over politics is man-made, not God ordained.  Any Christian leader who uses God to implore parishioners to vote a certain way, or uses God as some holy endorser of the current administration, is guilty of blasphemy in my opinion.

Last week Jewish worshippers were gunned down in their own temple by someone filled with hate.  Just this week 12 very young people lost their lives at the hand of someone equally hateful and bitter.  This week in Las Vegas three youths beat down a 78 year-old man just to take his car.  Everyday in America people are gunned down because of the evil of out-of-control hatred, and we who are “mature” have the gall to ask what has become of today’s youth, while at the same time holding in our hands a stone to throw at the next person who differs from us.  We have become hypocrites by using God to invoke hate and division in a partisan system we created that has nothing to do with God or anything he would deem holy.  Our enemy and the enemies of God are on vacation because we are fulfilling their agendas without them, and any allegiance I had to any party has been squashed by my refusal to be party to a system of division that is anything but civil.

My God is on both sides of any border wall; my God reigns over both halls of congress; my God has mercy on both the innocent lives snuffed out before birth and those sitting in prison for murder; my God is not defined by race or nationalism; my God has compassion on all, even those who refuse to believe in his existence.  Christianity is guilty of humanizing God and decreasing him to fit neatly into boxes we store at our convenience.  The humanity of God has been greatly perverted while his omnipotence has been diminished to fit our molds of what we think he should be. And this is never more evident than in Christian political circles.  God is every color-he is every race- he is neither party-he doesn’t sow discord but promotes harmony, not fear or hate but love and acceptance.  He hurts over the senseless loss of life, over the racially charged environment we created, over the walls of separation in his church over who should be our civil governors as if they wield somehow more power and authority than our true supreme and eternal leader who can never be voted in or out of office.  Once I understood that through ten presidencies and administrations going back to Kennedy God always took care of me, that my life didn’t change because of which side held control of the House or Senate, that Christ died for both sides and all those in countries who don’t know the privilege of electing their own representation, I dropped my colors and my allegiances.  Yes, I still maintain certain convictions, but I take it as a personal challenge to do what I can in my circle without holding disdain for those who feel and vote differently.

Scripture compels us to reason together. Scripture tells us a house divided will not stand. Scripture tells us to test all teaching, views, opinions, against his Word.  Scripture tells us to love and pray for those who hate us.  Scripture warns us of the penalties for sowing discord among believers.  Scripture tells us as believers our true and eternal citizenship  is not of this world or its systems.  I am by nature a man full of issues and by no means perfect, even in my faith.  But I see well enough to recognize the role I played for so many years in contributing to the numerous walls that divide us.  In as much as it’s in my power to do so, I prefer to spend what little influence I have in promoting healing and unity.  If that requires being apolitical for the sake of harmony, I’m all in.

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While America Votes Red or Blue the Church Walks Away Red and Blue

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Tomorrow many will head to their local polling places to exercise their right to vote for the candidates of their choice.  In the political arena the colors red and blue have been used to indicate left-leaning or right-leaning voters, and on maps, showing Republican vs. Democratic States during election coverage.  However, it is my humble observation that the church will walk away from this unprecedented election as both red and blue, i.e. bloodied and bruised.

I am grateful that God allows His kids to be unique, to have differing experiences that shape their life long beliefs and philosophies when it comes to certain issues.  God forbid we were all cookie-cutter church droids void of any diversity.  We can have different tastes in worship styles, in dress, in practice and traditions and within limited context we can even have differing views on Biblical topics like tongues or the tribulation, so long as we accept opposing views with respect and humility.  With that said, I am deeply troubled at how social media has applied a magnifying glass to the existing vile and bitterness exchanged within the church when it comes to a civil election.  We can peacefully agree to disagree on tongues or prophesy and call it different takes but when it comes to secular politics, opposing views are tantamount to creating enemy lines.  The passion and the angst we should hold for the Kingdom of Christ is perverted and exploited to “ungodly” levels as we label and in fact view each other not as eternal siblings but as red or blue, left or right, conservative or liberal, and even in some cases, “real” Christians or disingenuous believers.  We invoke God and His will or His sovereignty into the debates when in fact the God I know would have little to do with such petty grievances as secular politics.  Whether one views voting as a Christian obligation or abstaining as a preferable option, both have been demonized and regardless of the outcome of this election, there will be brothers and sisters of the faith left battled and bruised, red and blue.

Many have been duped by those who bastardize Holy Scripture to support a political stance. The “God sets up Kings” and the “God establishes governing rulers” crowds have not only used improper exegesis in interpretation, they have “exorcised Jesus” “straight out of context”.  There is not a single passage anywhere in the Word that advocates an obligation to exercise a secular civic right.  Thank God we live in a country where we can have a voice, but that choice should be individual, personal and most certainly not subject to ridicule by opposing siblings of the faith.  Conversely, the Holy Scriptures are plentiful in reference to how we are to treat each other with love in a spirit of unity that surpasses the limitations of fleeting time in a temporal world.

Romans 12:16, …”be of the same mind toward one another, not haughty…”

Romans 14:19, “pursue things which make for peace and building up of one another…”

1 Peter 3:8, “…be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted with a humble spirit…”

Eph. 4:3, “…being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…”

When the religious leaders came against Christ accusing Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan, He was quick to remind them that a house divided against itself is doomed. We can be peacefully divided when it comes to non-essential differences of opinion-you can love the Colts and hate the Pats, you can cheer on the Cubs and detest the Sox.  You can tithe by obligation or you can be a cheerful giver.  You can fast once a year or on a regular calendar. But any division or opposing view that causes one brother to look critically at another in light of just these few referenced passages alone goes against the grain of the totality of Christ’s teachings on peace, love, unity and humility.  We can’t be the light of the world if we are snuffing out each others candles.  When any light is diminished the result is an increase in the level of darkness. At that point we have failed our commission.

Most would say that tomorrow, Election Tuesday, is the most important day of this year. The result of the peoples’ preference and direction for the next four to eight years hinges on the outcome of the vote.  I might suggest however that for many believers, the following day, Wednesday, is actually the most important day of the year.  It is the day after the election that we as a church will be forced to look at not only the results of this race and the impact it will have on its citizens, but the aftermath and the damage done during the electoral process and the ramifications it will have on eternal relationships. I have to ask this with all sincerity-on that day when we are reunited with Christ in our forever home, how important will it be if you voted red or blue, if you abstained completely, if your good friends or even your family shared opposing social beliefs, or if your candidate won or lost? We hear the phrase “big picture” quite a bit.  But “big picture” should mean totally different things to believers vs. nonbelievers. To the church, this world is but a vacation stop, not our home.  Until we can see each other in the realm of eternity we will continue to take up arms against the political enemy in a secular war with no real winners but a host of losers.  This weekend I’ll  still be in church as always,  I’ll still buy food when I run out, I’ll still be able to post my opinions, popular or not, and I’ll still have a loving Father who will sustain me as He has before when “my guy” didn’t win.  And I won’t be moving to Canada. My prayer is that we will embrace our rights to have a voice but that our love for each other will “Trump” any temporary and insignificant civil situation we find ourselves in, with the understanding that we serve an eternal leader who has already won and one who can never be voted out of office.

God bless our country and heal our land but more importantly, let our rule of law be the debt to love our brother, which can never be fully paid.

 

 

 

 

A House Divided

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At no other time is the division of the church more apparent than during the heated and passionate weeks leading up to a Presidential election. But politics in general is just an umbrella label that covers several very controversial and divisive issues that separate the church, some to the point of drawing lines in the sand against brothers and sisters of the faith.  As free moral agents God equipped each of us with the ability to reason and form opinions.  Those opinions may be based on several factors including life experience, demographics and upbringing. Thank God for diversity of thought lest we be zombie-like followers void of any uniqueness. However, are we as believers afforded the option to differ over basic tenets of Biblically doctrine?  What are some of the hot-button topics the enemy is using to divide the church?  With much trepidation, I want to examine just a few, in no particular order.

  1. Same Sex Marriage-this is most certainly not a new issue as the early church had to deal with this shortly after the birth of the church. It has only become a hotly contested issue with current legislation that makes it legal for same-sex couples to marry.  As with any good argument, opposing sides seem to be extreme.  Stones are cast with equal velocity by those who view this as the mother of all abominations and by those who “judge not”.  Is it indeed biological, is it a moral choice, is there restoration offered or is restoration required?  As with anything under the sun these answers may be found upon close study of scripture and a sincere seeking of God’s spirit for direction.  One thing is certain-it is dividing the body at the highest of levels.
  2. Racism-perhaps no other issue in modern times has resulted in or been the result of a blasphemous twisting of Holy Scripture.  Slave Owners used passages with slave references to instill fear and obedience in a way that was never intended.  Although we have evolved as a society from those shameful days of hatred, cells of bias still exist in the church that propagate a continued mistrust particularly between black and white Christians.  I have seen and felt this first hand in largely futile attempts at spurring racial dialogue between us.  That level of bias is exhibited even behind many pulpits.  You have on one side a black church body that continues to see and feel discrimination in a system largely lopsided to their disadvantage, resulting in a defensive and sometimes revolutionary posture. On the other side, a white church that knows the evil of bigotry between brothers but is either ill-equipped to properly engage in the battle, or for self-preservation, chooses to stay clear of controversy completely resulting in a complete ineffectiveness in ending racism.  I’m convinced we will never see a complete dissolution of racial hatred in our lifetimes, and it continues to plague the health of the church.
  3. Abortion-the number one reason some will vote for their favorite candidate or abstain from any vote.  More than any other issue, this one affects the voiceless and defenseless innocent.  It has been masked as an anti-government invasion of privacy between a woman and sometimes the biological father.  It has been debated on arguments of life vs. conception, whether pain is experienced by the unborn child, whether or not the fetus is a living soul before birth, whether or not an unborn child is entitled with the same right to life and liberty the living are afforded, etc.  It has been a painful and shameful cancer in the church that tears us asunder much like that of a late term abortion.  It’s ugly, disheartening and continuing. There are solutions to reducing abortion that include education, counseling and yes, birth control.  While I would never sponsor government endorsed contraception in schools, parents need to stop being naïve about sexual activity during teenage years and be active in teaching Biblical precepts regarding sexual intimacy accompanied with practical advice on contraception.  While some would argue that there is no difference in the sin of fornication vs. the sin of abortion, one involves an innocent victim.  Yet the church will look the other way on this topic when voting for their candidate of choice, which leads to the next issue.
  4. Politics-perhaps it has always been this divisive in the body and the popularity of social media simply casts a spotlight and magnifying scope on its existence. That said, the ugliness of partisan political affiliations displayed on posts and threads available for public consumption truly shed a bad light on the body of Christ. At no other time do Christian brothers and sisters hurl such hateful insults at each other than when done over political stances. Core convictions are placed to the side in preference to personal gain and welfare.  Personal responsibilities are discarded in lieu of government intervention and regulations. The custody and control of “do unto others” is surrendered to a largely non-Christian administration, defended by those who cite separation of church and state as if we are personally absolved of considering “the least of these” in light of big government agencies. Believers are highly criticized if they vote red-they are equally criticized for voting blue-they are called un-Christian if they abstain-they are called mindless if they vote third party and even accused of supporting ABC candidate if they vote for XYZ candidate. A temporary man-made form of secular leadership has caused many to overlook our eternal citizenship and relationships to each other long after any two-party system ceases to exist.  And lest I sound like a stuck record, this too is a top (clergy) down situation where even pastors hang their dirty laundry on social media for all to observe.

What ever the issue of the day, the Word is still relevant and has MUCHO to say about divisions in the church.  It plagued the early church just as it does us today.  John the Baptist or Jesus, Paul or Apollos, circumcision or not, foods, rituals, traditions-all divisive then just as our social issues are today.  Consequently, much was recorded for our consideration:

Romans 16:17; “I appeal to you brothers to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to what you have been taught, and to avoid them, for such do not  serve our Lord…”

1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you brothers in the name of Jesus Christ that you agree and that there be no divisions among you but that you be of one mind and judgment. “

Titus 3:9; “Avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law for they are unprofitable and worthless. “

Like 11:17; “But He, knowing their thoughts said to them ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and a divided household falls'”.

Our commission is to present through words and our lives a unified gospel of hope, peace, love and forgiveness to a world looking to us for answers.  That can’t be accomplished when there are canyons of division that present anything but unity.  Love has to be a bridge that holds the church together during enemy attacks.  There is but one Holy church, the body of Christ-one savior, and He’s not red or blue but He’s always Right-one Holy Gospel that should be “rightly” divided, not torn into sections to fit preferred lifestyles-one blessed hope that secures eternal communion. How I long for the day when love rules over all evil and the teachings of Christ become our only guiding principle.

 

 

 

 

 

Should We Really Expect to Reverse America’s Decline?

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Birth pains-women will understand this, men, not so much.  Birth pains are the physical sign that the time is near for a woman to bear a child and that the wheels in motion for this event can not be stopped or reversed.  Jesus refers to the signs of the end times in Matthew 24 as the beginning of birth pains. This post is based on that analogy and may not rest well with many.

It would be intellectually dishonest from a spiritual perspective to deny that our great nation, the United States of America, has been on a great decline for many years now. We can still love her and prefer her over other countries, cheer for her at International events and proudly display her colors as patriots on holidays while relishing her freedoms. But we can’t deny the moral and spiritual decay she is suffering. That decay is like a spreading cancer slowly eating away at those elements which have always made America a strong and healthy nation.  As with most cancer the treatment, or response, is often worse than the disease until it becomes a matter of waiting for the inevitable.  Sounds hopeless, I know.

As I read the story this week of a beloved Pastor and University Professor who got caught up in the Ashley Madison profile leaks who decided to take his own life, it hit me just how far we have fallen.  Don’t get me totally wrong-there are saints preserving the Gospel, saints feeding the hungry, rescuing the enslaved, taking mission trips to help the helpless-all attributes of a healthy church.  Our Lord though His Spirit continues to use His people to do His work to help those with sincere and hungry hearts and real needs.  But when you step back to view the big picture, the lines are becoming blurred and the colors once brilliant are fading.

There is no better time than at election time that one can hear how bad America is, though campaign speeches should never serve as a true State of the Union gauge. In any debate we will learn that our defenses are down, our economy is bankrupt, our schools are behind internationally and we are heading to Hell in a hand basket.  Our natural and gut reaction is to climb onboard the bandwagon of the candidate we are sure is going to turn America around again and fix all our ills. And if he or she is evangelical, that’s even better.  And while we should always have hope and be proactive in making the world around us a better place, can we honestly in view of New Testament prophesy concerning the signs of the end times, expect for a sudden and miraculous reversal when all indications are that the birth pains have begun?

In the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy he lays out for us some signs of the last days.

“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves (Kingdom entitlement?), lovers of money (prosperity doctrine?) boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy(lacking spiritual discipline?), without love(prayer with no works?), unforgiving, slanderous(social media gossips?), without self-control (abusive priests?), brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than God(Congress?), having a form of godliness but denying its power, swayed by evil desires, always learning but never grasping the truth.”

I’m sure you would agree that in reviewing the list above we can see all these characteristics in our society today, and sadly even in the Church. We are told in the NT that God removes His spirit from such people and lets sin run its course.  The traits mentioned above are running their course.  Granted, there will always be individual stories of rescue by grace and God’s spirit will continue to be worked out in the lives of those who seek in earnest so that “none may perish”. But again, in light of the big picture view the fig leaves are falling and the signs are apparent.

A day closer to the return of Christ can be nothing short of Good News for the believer.  We should be able to with hope and confidence view the events around us and look up with eager anticipation knowing that however many days, weeks, months, years or decades, we are getting closer to that day. That is not to say we should become oblivious to the world around us or throw our hands up in surrender opposed to being active and making a difference when and where we can.  God defines true religion as loving Him, loving our neighbor, and taking care of the less fortunate.  There things carry on regardless of the surrounding circumstances.  Love good, hate evil, love everybody.  All Souls Matter! But in doing so we must be cognizant that birth pains don’t stop and that the process the pains represent is in full motion. We may never again see the America we love and remember.  We are certainly in a post-Christian America and I don’t see us going back. Scripture spells out what lies ahead for us.  There will be suffering, persecution, a falling away from the Church, false teachers and weak followers getting their ears tickled each week. But to those who see and understand the grand plan and correlate these times to the script left for us to follow, we will become less geographically oriented and more Kingdom oriented as we await the return of Christ in the midst of falling fig leaves as Summer comes to an end. .

 

The Healthy Fear of a Sovereign God

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As a young boy much bigger for may age than average, there was little I was afraid of, at least from my peers. I got into very little trouble growing up. It might have been that I was in church so much there was little down time to get into any mischief. Or it may have been the one thing I did fear-those six words that evoked the fire of God whenever I heard them-“just wait until your dad gets home”. You see, at 6’8″ and 300 lbs my dad too was bigger than average! For greater impact I would hear my mom relaying the details of my latest waywardness to my dad when he called while on break, so I knew he would be planning my punishment for several hours before ha came home and played the role of disciplinarian. In every single case the wait was more dreaded and effective than the punishment.

As a believer I am grateful for a God who we can approach as Abba Father-one who is often described as loving, gracious, merciful kind, forgiving, patient-all attributes which are scriptural and true. We are told and can bet our life on the scriptures that tell us nothing can separate us from the unconditional love of God.  But, I wonder if the church, both the institutional church and the body of believers that make up the church, have so embraced the message of grace that we have completely disregarded the unchallenged sovereignty of God. We don’t want to consider the Old Testament God of jealousy , vengeance and wrath because it doesn’t fit into our 2015 definition of a more tolerant, sociable, politically correct, changing with the times God that we have created to better fit our conscious-one that allows us to fit in and be more widely accepted and considered for office, for promotion and for more likes on our social media outlets.

It’s ironic that those who oppose or deny the concept of God are first to point out accurately that God killed people in the Old testament simply because they did not follow His commands. The Mega-churches have apparently lost that section of the Bible. Don’t get me wrong-I believe that those who are looking for the truth and for eternal hope should not be scared into salvation at the thought of an angry God just for eternal insurance purposes alone. The message of the cross is one of forgiveness, of hope, of reconciliation and restoration of a sinful people to a loving, caring God whose desire is that none should perish needlessly. But to properly appreciate the loving and merciful side of God one must balance it against the judging, jealous and total rule of the same God who created a race of people to worship Him and Him alone and to fear Him who has no equals.

The stories of God’s wrath against an unruly people are too numerous to list. There were complete cities destroyed for their shameless disobedience. The armies of Israel were often decimated when they turned their backs on God.  Even Moses was prohibited from entering the Promised land because of a procedural error.  God was and is a stern God who demands fear, allegiance and obedience-nothing has changed in His expectations.  The difference today is God’s gift of His Son who took our sin punishment on the cross and acts as our advocate by covering us who accept Him with His righteousness so that the wrath of God is thwarted before being administered.

We are living in a time of great arrogance and brazen boldness as a church in general and as a nation as it relates to the issues and spiritual challenges of the day.  In order to boost attendance and keep our nonprofit status we have put forth a God who more resembles a Disney character than a God who is described in Revelation having hair white as wool and eyes blazing like fire-with feet like burning bronze and a tongue like a double edged sword. When I was younger and in church I hated always hearing sermons about hell-about how you could leave the church building and be struck by a car and enter into eternity.  The message left me uncomfortable and uneasy about the true motive for following in the path of Christ.  But the message was and is that God can’t be ignored forever just because His ways and laws are inconvenient to us or socially irrelative to the current culture.

In Him there is a life of abundance. But outside of Him, there is danger-there is peril-there is judgment. Some might ask “why would God do that” or how does a loving God allow this or that”. And my answer would be simply, I don’t always know.  He is God, I’m not. He’s in charge-I’m under His loving rule. I don’t try to argue with God.  I have many questions, but who Am I to demand answers or justification from God. I accept my role and love the promise of what is waiting.  And yes, I fear God.  Not in a panic fear but in the realization that apart from Christ, I am worthy of no less than the punishment I read about in the Old Testament.

We are living in perilous times. The Word of God is being dissected and voided of all hateful appearing verbiage. The Government is trying to tell us how we can interpret and practice our faith in complete defiance of the first Amendment to practice without interference. The entertainment, educational and political systems are lining up against the church in what will eventually play itself out as a major war for the saints that may change the face of the church as we know it now.  It is time like never before to have or develop a healthy fear of God, His word, His commands and His judgment.  The popular t-shirt is so right on-“Only God Can Judge Me”. What a horrible notion for those living in opposition to His nature and His sovereignty.