Posts Tagged With: politics

Links to Help Your Grip (4.20.2013)

The Marathoner’s Fragile Glory (David Niblack)

But when I walked out of the restaurant, I stepped into a world that had changed. Suddenly our achievements, our medals, and even whether we had finished the race became astonishingly trivial. The near-sacred enchantment of the Boston Marathon vanished before my eyes; our medals became mere pieces of metal around our necks, the finish line was only a band of colored paint, and we found ourselves in a new race to discover if our friends were safe amid the confusion and sadness. This race had an urgency the marathon never did. Death and evil openly entered the equation, and they changed the atmosphere completely.

A Focus on the Personal as Britons Bid Thatcher Farewell, New York Times (John F Burns and Alan Cowell)

Since dying of a stroke last week at 87, Britain’s longest-serving prime minister in 150 years — and the only woman to hold the office — continued to stir intense passions. At issue were the elaborate ceremony and estimated $15 million cost of a funeral in whose planning she had a major voice, as well as the socially disruptive consequences of her no-turning-back battles in the 1980s to shake Britain from its long postwar slump.

Kermit Gosnell and the Politics of Abortion (Ross Douthat, New York Times)

… if you want to hear honest talk about the realities of abortion, go speak with those abortion counselors and providers. Even the most radically pro-choice will tell you that the political discourse they hear about the subject, with its easy dichotomies and bumper-sticker boilerplate, has little correspondence to the messy, intricate stories of her patients. They hear about peace and guilt, relief and sin. And it is they who will acknowledge, whether we like it or not, that the rhetoric and imagery of the pro-life movement can touch on some basic emotional truths.

I Hate Flying, But I Love Jesus (Joe Thorn)

The only place I can find real comfort and peace is in the character of God and the hope of the gospel. It is not just that God is sovereign, but that he is good, and because of Jesus his work in my life is for his glory and my good.

Iranian pastor told to recant his faith, or else remain in prison (Baptist Press)

“The reality of Christian living is that difficulties or problems do arise in our lives,” Abedini wrote. “Persecution and difficulties are not new occurrences, but are seen often in the Christian life. It is through the suffering and tribulations that we are to enter the Kingdom of God.”

7 Wastes of Energy for Leaders (Ron Edmundson)

Wasting time and energy may be one of my biggest pet peeves as a leader. Some days I leave work and feel I never got off the treadmill. It’s physically and mentally draining.

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Politicking in the Pulpit—a Caution to Pastors

Brian Lee writes a cautionary piece to preachers who are encouraged this election season to be openly political in regards to particular candidates. 

That’s what Jim Garlow and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) are urging preachers to deliver. ADF is promoting October 7th as “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” and is asking ministers to dedicate their sermons to explicit politicking. According to an online pledge, sermons should evaluate the presidential candidates according to “biblical truths and church doctrine,” and make a specific endorsement. Launched in 2008, over 500 pastors signed last years pledge, though promotion of the event seems to peak in election years.

Mixing politics with religion is a slippery slope.  A line should be drawn.  If a candidate makes a remark or a political party has a platform that the Bible addresses as true or false, this should be acknowledged.  Many have said that abortion is a ‘political issue,’ and thus should not be preached from the pulpit.  I disagree—this is an issue that the Scriptures directly address and should not be hijacked by political figures and , thus, make it off-limits to preachers.  God has spoken, and thus we should speak.

But for those who stand up and say that God supports a particular party’s platform and all that it addresses is treading on thin ice and, in my opinion, is squandering his biblical authority. 

But Lee closes this article with a spot-on message for us as ministers, and for all believers who walk into church and might be subject to another political advertisement behind the pulpit.  Read and heed!

 

Furthermore, the New Testament offers no encouragement for direct political action. When Jesus was asked a trick question about the propriety of paying taxes — is there any other kind? — he asked whose name was on the coin, and told his followers to “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Later, when on trial for his life, he did not deny his royal authority, but instead claimed “My kingdom is not of this world.”

At a time when the major issue in Jewish politics was the overthrow of the oppressive regime, neither Christ nor his Apostles had a word to say about it. The Apostles surely could not conceive of a democracy, or shaping imperial Roman policy, yet they urged submission for the Lord’s sake “to every human institution.” In his letter to the Romans, Paul twice called the deeply flawed governing authority of his day — that of Nero, persecutor of Christians — a “minister of God” for good and evil. With Jesus, he urged for this reason the paying of taxes that were owed, along with honor and respect. Clearly, loss of tax-exempt status may be an injustice as well as a threat to our constitutional liberties, but it poses no threat to the well being of the church.

The primary message the New Testament commends to preachers — “Christ, and him crucified!” — is scarcely a political one. But this doesn’t mean preachers should be constrained from speaking politically. One care barely open one’s mouth on a moral question of the day without giving political offense, and no one would suggest God’s word has nothing to say on these matters.

But the further the minister of the word ventures from the claim of “thus sayeth the Lord,” there is a spiritual and political price to be paid. We risk squandering moral authority and offending the politically disaffected. The Gospel we are commanded to preach to all reaches a precious few, and the heavenly respite of worship becomes a good bit more earthly. Almost a century ago, J. Gresham Machen voiced a similar concern with the rise of politically progressive pulpits:

The preacher comes forward…not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God, and sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.

The minister doesn’t speak for himself; the title means “servant.” Perhaps preachers should ask themselves, before they step up to the pulpit this Sunday, whether they’d feel comfortable reading on behalf of their boss the standard campaign disclosure when they’re finished:

“I’m Jesus Christ, and I approve this message.”

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Some Perspective in Regards to our Political Leaders

Christians must realize that our political leaders are not our ultimate leaders.

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews[a] answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin”( John 19:1-10).

The ante had been upped! Not only was he accused of being a king (something for which he had been questioned thoroughly), but now they have accused him of being one who “made himself the Son of God” (v. 8). This chilled Pilate even more! Who is he dealing with now? This is not simply an earthly king, but the Son of God? This still clashed with the government, for Caesar himself claimed to be a son of the gods. Pilate could not sweep this under the rug.

When Pilate tried to strong-arm Jesus, that did not work either. Jesus felt no compulsion to answer him. He remained cool under pressure—and for good reason. Pilate said, “Look, I can release you or crucify you—it’s in my power!”

Every person on the planet is on trial, but none more so that our political leaders. Turn with me to Romans 13.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

All of us are to be subject to whatever authorities are in place (mayor, governor, president). Here, the apostle Paul echoes what Jesus spoke to Pilate—no authority is there but from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. So God put every political leader in place for a reason and a purpose. Regardless of who they are, they provide some sense of order and protection for the citizens. And for this reason, we submit according to the laws set in place.

Jesus exemplified this! Pilate represented a reprehensible government that was about to do a reprehensible thing—crucify the innocent Son of God. Yet, Jesus did not call down one angel, did not send his followers to fight. He stayed silent, until Pilate thought he was in control of the situation. Jesus set him straight.

God calls us now to abide by the laws of the land because these leaders are, in essence, “servants of God.” So we obey for the sake of conscience (v. 5). Taxes, respect, revenue, honor—all are owed by us as believers.

Our Founding Fathers who, though they may not have been evangelical Christians who surrendered to Christ! In fact, many of them didn’t believe in the deity of Christ much less his work on the cross. But they did have, as the Declaration of Independence, a notion of a Creator or that of ‘divine providence.’ This was enough to provide some restraint and an understanding that this country was a gift from this Creator (whom we know as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ).

But our leaders have strayed from this. Many leaders have expressed that they wish to not simply have a freedom of religion, but a freedom from religion! Whereas Thomas Jefferson wrote to some Danbury Baptists in Connecticut in 1801 when running for president separation of church and state (which is the only place this is mentioned, for its not in the Constitution), this is a one-directional wall. The state cannot influence the church, but the church and its members as citizens of this country, can petition the state. Of late, this has turned on its head and been reversed.

But we dear Christians need to remember some things as we interact with our governmental leaders.

First of all, pray for, honor, and respect your leaders. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul tells Pastor Timothy:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

If we recognize that all authority is given by God ultimately, we need to pray that they would be influenced by the very ones who placed them in that position.

Second of all, dear Christian, our ultimate citizenship is not here and our leaders are not our ultimate kings. I remind you of two passages. One in 1 Peter 2:11-12, Peter writes to the believers:

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Also in Philippians 3:20-21:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

While we are commanded by God to live under the leadership and the laws of the leaders he has put in place in the country he has placed us, it is temporary. Our ultimate citizenship is in heaven.

We as Christians need to quit living and reacting as if this is the place where we will live forever. Our reaction needs to be that this is not where all of us will be living!

Peter and John once told the council when they were arrested for preaching the name of Christ. They were ordered to stop. “But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

Dear friends, where is your citizenship? Are you stuck here in this world outside of Christ, are you counting on leaders in this country being just and right and true and without corruption? There is a leader, a king, the Son of God who is faithful and true. The president, mayor, or governor did not die for your sin. Science can explain some things, but it cannot explain guilt, love, nor any other emotion that God placed in us.

It is only through the prism of the gospel of Jesus Christ that anything makes sense. It explains why there is so much war, poverty, injustice. Because we are all sinners wanting our own way! We are broken, messed up people from the presidency to the homeless person and all points in between.  The gospel is our only hope, for it deals with our guilt and our sin and our hopelessness in ways political leaders cannot even dream to touch.

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Have We Forgotten the Christianity’s Primary Message?

A friend of mine was interviewed by a reporter doing a story on the so-called “Christian Right.”  This journalist interviewed 40 Christians involved in politics—those who are attempting to transform culture with a ballot box.  At the end of the interview my friend asked, “Has anyone explained the gospel to you?”  The reporter asked, “No, what is the gospel?”  She had no idea that this was Christianity’s primary message.

Have we forgotten that if there is any good news in America it will not come from Washington, but through the lips of God’s people?  We cannot evangelize America unless every Christian begins to witness for Christ wherever God has planted him or her.

–Erwin Lutzer, Why the Cross Can Do What Politics Can’t, p. 49

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When Election Cycles Turn Nasty—and Funny!

Now that these midterm elections are finally drawing to a close, so will the political ads for this season.  The mudslinging, slanderous comments these politicians bring against their opponents is embarrassing, to say the least. 

Yet, this is nothing compared to the nastiest election season of all-time:  the presidential election of 1800.  Check out the clip below between incumbent John Adams and Thomas Jefferson—using their own words (HT: First Things):

 

 

And remember when President George W. Bush was universally loved by all Americans in the wake of 9-11?  I remember this video well, but it seems like one of a long bygone era. 

 

Now check out this clip of a debate between Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown in the Democratic primary, c. 1992. 

 

And the best exchange of all, in my opinion, was in the 1984 Republican Debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale, where Reagan made clear what issue he would not “exploit for political purposes”:

 

Maybe one day we can look back and laugh at some moments from this 2010 midterm election cycle.  In the meantime, keep it civil, gents. 

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Glenn Beck and American “Christianity” (Notice the Quotes)

American Christianity has always intrigued me.  I do not equate American Christianity with biblical Christianity because American Christianity is too wedded to government, politics, and materialism.  Biblical Christianity addresses these things as an outworking of the gospel, not a replacement of it.  I am so interested in this topic that I secretly would enjoy doing PhD work in this area (yet, I shall just read up on it as much as possible in order to stay at my church and help my people discern the difference).

Russ Moore once again has nailed the issue on the head with his reflections on Glenn Beck’s political/religious/American “revival” speech (“God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck”).  Beck, an avowed Mormon, was embraced by many evangelical leaders and could likely be a flash point in the upcoming elections in 2010 and 2012.  Here’s an extended excerpt:

We used to sing that old gospel song, “I will cling to an old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.”  The scandalous scene at the Lincoln Memorial indicates that many of us want to exchange it in too soon. To Jesus, Satan offered power and glory. To us, all he needs offer is celebrity and attention.

Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him. An embrace of these tragic new vehicles for the old Gnostic heresy is unloving to our Mormon friends and secularist neighbors, and to the rest of the watching world. Any “revival” that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a “revival” of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 Jn. 4:1-3).

The answer to this scandal isn’t a retreat, as some would have it, to an allegedly apolitical isolation. Such attempts lead us right back here, in spades, to a hyper-political wasteland. If the churches are not forming consciences, consciences will be formed by the status quo, including whatever demagogues can yell the loudest or cry the hardest. The answer isn’t a narrowing sectarianism, retreating further and further into our enclaves. The answer includes local churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the kingdom of God and the latest political whim.

It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic. Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel. He doesn’t need American Christianity to do it. Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish.

And there will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer.

Do yourself a favor and read the rest

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Why Does God Care About Marriage, Part I: He Gave It From the Beginning

This coming Friday, July 4th, represents the 232nd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We live in a country founded on the notion of what Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, that our Creator endowed us with the inalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” What is not well known is that this can only work if people were disciplined with a significant moral code. As a result in our day, people are looking to whatever, saying they have the liberty to pursue whatever lifestyle makes them happy.

Of late, that “pursuit of happiness” has been to try and redefine the definition of marriage. In essence, they say that marriage is just a social construct that society has enforced on people for generations. David Graham Cooper, a British physician, believed in the 1960s that we should just do away with the family because it was how British and western culture spread their empire. In the 70s, Kate Millet believed the family must go due to how it enslaved women. In the 90s, homosexual activists seek to redefine marriage because the “traditional” view is too narrow.

Look with me at Matthew 19:3-4

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?

The Pharisees were trying to test Jesus’ knowledge of the Bible — for the Bible does address this issue. So Jesus puts this line of argument right back on them: “Have you not read …?” You see, the Scriptures show that God had marriage in mind “from the beginning.” This echoes Genesis 1:1, doesn’t it? God had this in mind even before the world began and would serve as a core fabric in our society. Marriage is not a social construct, it is a spiritual contract exclusively between “male and female.” So when you hear about people who are trying to redefine marriage, I want to tell you that this institution is not theirs to redefine. It’s God’s.

Also notice this. One of the arguments from homosexual activists is that Jesus never addresses homosexuality. He is silent on the matter, they say. What they look for is Jesus to come out and say, “Children, homosexuality is a sin.” Yet, in this passage he does address it: he “made them male and female.” He’s talking about marriage, then addresses that marriage is made of male and female. Do we really need to say anything more? Jesus said plenty.

But on a more basic level, does this not truly open our eyes to the seriousness of marriage? It is the first institution that God created. It should not be entered into lightly (and given the nature of the vows expressed at weddings, it is understood that this is a solemn union), but it should never be exited lightly as well. But given how so many in our culture have experienced this devastating trend of leaving. Many enter into it lightly, and leave lightly as well. May we see the seriousness with which Jesus approaches marriage in his ordained way.

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