Christians and the Political Process

I personally lost track this year with the presidential election. I admit I must choose who to vote for according to my values which are informed with the Bible. I must live according to my conscience in voting for any elected official. I must admit that I fear the direction our country is taking is like the fall of the Roman Empire with the administration, but my participation in the political process has been askew. Though I do believe I voted correctly, the way God would have me choose, I did not live peacefully and quietly in this area of life.

My conscience is guilty. I lost track of what scripture informs me about my role in this world.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

Instead of peaceful and quiet living, I have stirred up stress with disagreements about who and what to vote for. I apologize to all who I have encountered this way. I pray for your forgiveness and look forward to living peacefully in the future, choosing to vote according to my conscience as it is informed with God’s word and the Holy Spirit.

Let me encourage you to make that your path too. While praying for our elected officials, trusting wholeheartedly in God’s wisdom and understanding though we may not have access to it now.

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PS: It is and will be hard to keep my big mouth shut and my thoughts to myself in this area. I pray to God for his strength, help and guidance.

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Merry Christmas to You!

Forget the troubles of the year. Forget that people feared the end of the world last Friday. Forget the fiscal cliff, the Sandy Hook and other tragedies. Lay down you present concerns and follow my words for a moment.

It is easy to celebrate Christmas without celebration. It happens that we participate in Christmas festivities, presents, eggnog, parties, meals, vacations, ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas and all and still not celebrate.

There are many reasons this might happen, but the core aspect of celebrating with celebration is we have lost our focus. Here comes the cliché, so excuse me for a moment.

  • Jesus is the reason for the season.

The whole idea behind the holiday that contains Christ’s name is remembering Christ’s birth. Many do so with decorations, presents, programs, church attendance and special services, visiting soup kitchens, spending time with family, sharing gifts, and a lot more ways. In all of this, we can still get lost in Christmas without the hint of actual celebration.

How do we come back to celebrating Christmas. Look to Jesus!

Is it that simple? I believe it is. It is for me. I am not decrying the things that occur at Christmas. I am not putting down commercialism, or Santa Claus, or holiday parties, or Rudolph and Frosty, but I am trying to direct our focus to the real thing, Jesus.

For God so loved the world that he (sent) his one and only Son, that whoever will believe in him shall have eternal life” John 3:16.

Isn’t that what Christmas is about? God’s love, Jesus’ human life, our salvation.

May you have a Merry Christmas filled with the peace of God and the grace and joy of knowing his Son, Jesus Christ.

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What I Learned From the Sandy Hook Massacre

The more often these kind of tragedies happen, the more I realize just how vulnerable and exposed we all are to such atrocities. The first time something tragic happened that hit me was when a 10 or 11-year-old girl comes home from school and begins taking orders for a school fund-raiser in a town of 4-500 people; small town America. The last time she was seen was on the corner of one of the streets until about two weeks later when her body was found in a ditch a couple of miles from the town, molested, raped and murdered.

The US government is trying to determine what to do to prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook happening again. I fear there is going to be too much of a knee-jerk reaction that does not address the heart of the issue which is the heart and soul of the people who carry out these tragedies.

After some contemplation, I have learned these truths and realities.

Morality is not relative. The thinking of a lot of people is that whatever we think is right at the time is what is right and what I think is right for me is right me, but what is right for you is not necessarily right for me. Everyone is appalled by what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary and calling for justice and measures for the future prevention of such events. Therefore there must be a standard somewhere and somehow that we measure this by.

If you are reading this, you will already know what I am going write. Moral values, right and wrong come from one standard that never changes throughout time and history and the basis for the standard is in God Almighty and the standard which comes from his unchanging character is found in the Bible, God’s Word.

Sin is real and it is violent. Not all sinful acts are acts of violence but the character and nature of sin leads to it. God through the Apostle Paul related to us in the book of Romans that all people have sinned. Sin is a part of every person’s life. Some of the rest of the book of Romans especially chapters 4-10 give us information about how to overcome sin. But sinfulness will sooner or later, if given enough time lead to violence. In the Bible, the account of the flood which Noah and his family were saved from was on account of man’s violent nature (Genesis 6:11 ,13). Meaning since humans were made in God’s image, the violent acts against mankind were acts against the image of God. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was as a result of violence (Genesis 18:20, 21; 19:9). Violence is found throughout the history of the world. Sin is the culprit behind all of this.

Sin corrupts completely, the longer it is not dealt with. In some people corruption spreads faster than in others. It may take more than a life-time for someone to become completely corrupt, but the fact remains that people like Nero, Hitler, and others became corrupt at young enough ages to carry out crimes against humanity (as we call it). The tragedies of Columbine and Sandy Hook and others illustrate this corruption and the despair in the lives of the perpetrators.

Government, political, public & social programs are not fixing the problem (and never have). Only redemption can change the situation. Only the spiritual change of being “born again” in Christ can make the change. I am not saying that public programs might not help, but true transformation comes from a transformation of the heart and soul and that only comes from surrender to and forgiveness given by Jesus Christ (Romans 12). Programs change external conditions not internal issues.

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Questions on Tragedy

We never expect it to happen but always dread that it will. When the tragedy of Columbine happened our nation was appalled and we searched for a handle on the situation. When the tragedy of 9/11 happened, our nation was even more surprised and questions about God flooded our consciousness. Now we have another tragedy which still surprises us and resurrects the questions . . . again.

The senseless killing of people inflamess the heart of our society. The tragic murder of almost 30 people on Friday has us reeling. I feel horrible about the circumstance and as a minister I am asked the questions. Why does God allow evil to prevail? What did those little six and seven-year old children do to deserve this? How could God let this happen?

And those kind of questions lead to deeper analysis. If God is “all-powerful,” than he would do something about bad things.  So, he is either uncaring toward humanity and our troubles and unwilling to help, or he is enjoying our suffering. That seems to be where it stops. Two options only: (1) God is uncaring or, (2) God is unwilling to help. These are not the only questions about the issue.

There are several facets to answering the problem of evil. And most ministers know the “pat” answers; and they’re correct, but they don’t usually affect the heart and don’t often satisfy the mind, but unless a person has the Spirit of God, we shouldn’t expect others to necessarily get it when given an explanation. Things like: Without pain we wouldn’t know there was something wrong and God allows pain and evil for us to learn discipline and so we will have faith in God and it gives God and his people the opportunity to share his love and compassion and God did do something about evil when Jesus died on the cross and defeated sin, evil, death, and the devil, and more.

The reasons are all true, but it is still sad when the lives of children’s are taken from them at such young ages. I can’t fathom the depth of grief family and friends experience in such circumstances. I have yet to preach or officiate at a baby’s or a child’s funeral. but I have preached many for teens and young adults and the emotions are similar. It is horrible, whether it is an accident, a sickness, a murder, or something else that took the young person’s life. I hate it but am privileged that God has gifted me and I am able to serve in tragic circumstances.

The thing is, when people begin to wonder where God is in tragic and troubling circumstances, they assume that this life is either all there is or this life is the best there is. If those things are true, than the senseless murder of 20 school children, a mother and a father, the other victims and the suicide of the killer are even more tragic.

This life isn’t “it.”  There is more. Jesus did come to defeat sin, evil, and Satan, and he did so by dying and paying for our sins on the cross. When we put our faith in Christ, we are putting our lives in the hands of a living and eternal God who has something incredible in store for us. There is more. Eternity with God where he is, where he dwells where there is no tragic circumstance, where Satan has no power, where all is good and safe.

Revelation 21:1-7; Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children, NRSV.

First, the heaven and earth that we know will be done away with. Why? To make way for that which is perfect and compete. Sin has been here on earth since shortly after creation (cf, Genesis 1-3), and the devil was with God in heaven when he rebelled and was cast out, so evil and impurity has been where heaven is. And when God creates the new heaven and new earth, they will always be without sin and what sin does. It brings death. Death won’t happen again. It brings crying. there won’t be any reason for tears any longer. It brings pain. Pain will not be a part of anything again. Therefore, nothing that brings hurt or difficulty or trouble will ever occur.

There is more to this life, there is the eternal life to come for those who are in Christ. Those who lose their lives, from old age, tragic circumstances, horrible situations that bring pain and death, actually have a better circumstance than we who are still living. They are safe with God.

I feel for and pray for the family and friends of the victims in the Connecticut tragedy and will for a while. I pray for their comfort and relief. And God will provide it according to each person’s willingness to receive. As bad and as sad as it is, things are not without hope, with God, in Christ.

Father above, of heaven and earth, please give the help that comforts, whatever the source, give strength as these events weaken hearts and souls, and please give the families unexpected grace this Christmas, Amen.

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