Monday, January 9, 2012

The Politics of Jesus

As I was walking to my car from having lunch, I noticed a bumper sticker on a car close to mine. It was a little faded out, but I could clearly read the word JESUS. I'll admit to not being a big fan of bumper stickers (mainly because of the rude nature of most of the ones I see) but I always read the ones with JESUS or GOD because I'm interested in what other people may have been thinking when they put them on.
This particular bumper sticker, as I said, was faded out but I was able to read it:

is a Liberal

Now this is the way it was written: big bold JESUS and small "is a Liberal" with a capital L. The car itself didn't tell me much. It was a plain Jane Camry with no other stickers to give me a sense of the driver.
Now don't misunderstand me...I have no problem with people speaking their minds, even if I disagree. I do, however, take issue with people trying to pigeonhole my Lord and Savior. This would have been no more acceptable if the sticker had said:

is a Conservative

To put it another way, how do we make Him fit in a neat, processed category as this person tried to do. Jesus is the pattern, not something to be filed away where we personally find a place for Him.
I always find it distressing when something I love is co-opted, and this has happened more than it should on both sides of the political aisle. I think Jesus would be rather apolitical, even today. When you see the extremes of the Roman occupation of Palestine, he would have had a rich political vein to mine. Instead, he concentrated his efforts on his mission which has now fallen to us. He did not exploit politics to his benefit or to fit an agenda. Should we? Did he rail against the authorities in Rome? In fact, he said "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" knowing that, at the end, tax money would go the way of all flesh.
I am not saying that Christians should abandon the political system, only that we should let it take second place to preaching the word. I think Jesus would be considered both liberal (love for the people) and conservative (condemnation of sin and its practice), and I can give scripture for this. I do not, however, believe he would be either a Liberal or a Conservative and all the pitfalls and baggage that those two designations carry. I certainly don't believe he can be neatly summed up on a bumper sticker no matter how hard we might try.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Two weeks ago, our Junior/Senior high class on Wednesday night discussed, briefly, the book of Revelation. I had asked for study ideas and one of their choices was the book of Revelation. As you might expect, they had never read the book, but had heard a great deal about it with most of what they had heard being false. Coincidentally, a few days before the class I found a copy of "The Watchtower" from the Jehovah's Witnesses laying on a table in a restaurant where I was eating. Looking through it, I found a short article on the coming "battle of Armageddon." I was astounded at the misinterpretation and misunderstanding with which the article was written. I read through it and made some notes and then had class with my kids a few days later. Their understanding of Revelation followed the writing found in the article I read. They had heard that there would be a final earthly battle between the forces of God and the armies of man. I was not surprised at this, it seems to be a plot point in many motion pictures over the years.
One of the verses used to predict this battle is in Luke 21:34, 35 - "And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting (drunken nausea), and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth." Unfortunately for the author of the article, verse 32 states "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled." This tells us that all of the thing written in verses 34-35 would happen in the lifetime of the people Jesus was speaking to.
Another scripture referenced as proof of this "world war" is 2 Peter 3:11,12 - "Seeing then that all of these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?" In verse 10, though, Peter tell us "but the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." What thief warns his victims beforehand? The Bible clearly states that the Second Coming of Christ, described as a surprise, will be accompanied by the destruction of the Universe and all it contains. We will be translated from our earthly bodies into everlasting spiritual forms and we will all go to our eternal reward or punishment.
The author goes on to say that one of the reasons for Armageddon is to destroy those who are polluting the earth, using Revelation 11:18 - "And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth." - to prove his point. This gives the wrong impression of the object of God's anger: not the physical pollution of the earth, but the spiritual pollution of the earth shown by the men in Revelation 9:20 that "repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver , and brass, and stone,and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk." God is always jealous of our worship.
I can study to see through the misinterpretation and misuse of scripture, but our children are not always so lucky. We have an obligation to not only teach them the milk of the word, but to confront unscriptural teachings and help them see through them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is discouragement inevitable?

Are you discouraged? Do you get discouraged often? Are there particular people who discourage you, either with their words or their unwillingness to commit or even their spiritual immaturity? I think of the apostle Paul opening his heart in his letters to the churches and to individuals.
This is a man who, after turning his life over to Christ, became what we would call a "super" Christian. He was on fire for the Lord, and nothing could bring him down...or could it.
In I Corinthians 1:11, he states: "For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you." Did this hit Paul like a kick in the stomach? He loved the Corinthian church and now he hears that they are dividing themselves. Not over doctrine, but over who baptized whom. This sounds like a schoolyard bragging contest - My dad can beat up your dad! Does he throw in the towel? No! He calmly and lovingly corrects these immature Christians in their understanding of their place in God's kingdom.
Also in I Corinthians, chapter 11, Paul corrects the church in its observance of the Lord's Supper. He rebukes them for the way they are making it a meal and leaving the reason for its observance.
Was he discouraged by these Corinthian Christians? Maybe. Did he write them off? No. He brought to their remembrance the Last Supper and showed them again the reason why they were there on the first day of the week.
Lastly, in II Timothy, chapter 4, Paul laments the loss of his fellow workers, Demas, Crescens and Titus, to the sinful world. This would be discouraging to almost anyone who worked with someone from their conversion on. Paul moves forward with no time to waste on mourning. He is already making plans for further work in the Lord's kingdom.
Do not be discouraged. Press on. Strive for the prize. Run the race.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Try to be consistent and look where it gets you.

I started off with the best of intentions: try to consistently post at this blog. You have only to look at the timeline and see where that got me. Started strong, but allowed other things to grab my attention. I put off posting (I'll get to it later), rationalized it (I don't really have anything to say), and finally gave up any semblance of caring (no one reads it anyway). Then I realized that maybe I put too much pressure on myself. I WILL get to it later, I really did have something to say, and, come to find out, people actually do read it.
This sounds a lot like people in the church. We start out strong after, maybe, public repentance or baptism. We pressure ourselves to attempt "super-christianity". Then, unsurprisingly, we falter and then fall back into old habits, all the while rationalizing our behavior.
Guess what? God gets it. He's seen it all and it is not new to him. Remember, God is love. He loves us when we break promises, when we explain away bad behavior and even when we give up on Him. Luckily, God's love for me does not hinge on my blog entries, or my failed attempts at showing my zeal, or even for my occasional apathy. He loves me no matter what.
That's not to say He is not disappointed in me, or that He will not punish my disobedience. He is faithful in all his promises, including the one that says He will cast out the disobedient from His presence. I can, though, rest assured in the fact that He wants me to succeed in my walk with Him.

Monday, June 27, 2011

As you may have heard, New York is the latest state to legalize homosexual" marriage. Six states in all have fully legalized homosexual "marriage" with several others extending legalized civil unions to the homosexual population.
What to say to this? To rail against it seems futile. I do not live in New York so I cannot vote for or against this measure. I hold no political office and cannot make law or interpret laws that are passed.
What can we say, then? Just this. God's law is superior to man's law in every way. Period. The end. What does God's law state then? In I Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul writes: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." These are the words of God given by inspiration to Paul. How many more people would be willing to come to Christ if their sins were overlooked and they could "come as you are" to the Lord? God has a desire for us to be spotless and free from sin. We cannot be in these sins and be pleasing to Him.
How does this description of sin work with homosexual "marriage"? We see through ancient texts and manuscripts that marriage was a religious institution from the very beginning. God himself instituted marriage for his followers from the beginning to display a holy union that was not to be "put asunder" by men.
How then can homosexuals be married? They cannot take something that is holy and make it unholy. No law of man can do that.
How has the Christian failed God then? First, we have failed to emulate God's law in our lives. We have embraced divorce, unfaithfulness and loveless marriages. We have not set the example of what constitutes a Godly marriage.
Secondly, we have attacked homosexuality as a sort of "apex of sinfulness" instead of giving it the same seriousness as the other sins listed in I Corinthians 6. Thievery, drunkenness, covetousness and adulterers all come under the same judgment. Why do we view homosexuality with any greater degree of disgust?
Thirdly, we have not reached out, with Christian love, to the "homosexuals" as a group of people who are living in sin, but can be reached with the same Gospel that brought about our salvation.
More to come...

Monday, May 16, 2011

This past Saturday, I was able to head downtown with a group to participate (for the first time) in a build for Habitat for Humanity. It was an interesting and fulfilling day. Twenty-seven people worked with one goal in mind: to finish a house for someone they didn't know.
Habitat for Humanity has changed its program a lot over the years. In the beginning, they built houses and gave them away, but no longer. You have to apply and pay for the house being built. You have to go through training as a homeowner and show that you have the ability and smarts to be able to manage your finances and keep the house.
This change in program has paid off. The prospective owners are more deserving. They take it more seriously. They have a stake in the house being built. They must put in 250 work-hours to qualify for the house. 50 of those hours have to be spent on a house other than theirs.
The gentleman whose house it was, thanked us profusely throughout the day. He has a full-time job, as does his wife. One of his children is about to graduate from college. He is about to graduate from college, as well. I felt comfortable working for this organization because I saw that they had requirements for rendering assistance.
If you are looking for a great service project for a group of 16 year-olds (minimum age requirement) or a single group or just a church character building project, I can heartily recommend Habitat for Humanity. Just take some Tylenol before you go.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Where do we go from here?

How many times have you heard that question? Typically, you hear it after a goal is achieved by a group and they are now faced with a dilemma: What now? Sometimes it is overheard after a destination is reached after much effort and another leg of the journey is ahead.
Even now, with the death of bin Laden, we hear the same question. So much time and energy to achieve a goal, only to be faced with the question: "Now what?"
I can imagine the apostles standing around after the ascension of Jesus into heaven. "Where do we go from here?" The man they had built their lives around for close to three years was now gone, not to return in their lifetime. They were outcasts among their own people. They were threatened with imprisonment, death by stoning and being cast out of the assembly. Most of them had no homes of their own.
In spite of all this, they persevered. They kept on going. They took the final admonition of Jesus to heart: "Go ye therefore into all the world, making disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe all the commandments I have given you."
That is where we go from here.