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Posts Tagged ‘government’

Traditional institutions like marriage and family are under attack like never before.  The home, the nuclear family, the church, faith in God, even God Himself, are the target of a systemic and focused campaign to undermine their value and rightful revered place in society.  It breaks my heart, because I am intimately aware of the value these have meant in my life and literally thousands of others over the course of my lifetime.  It’s more than just an emotional value.  It is a practical… real… solidify-your-world value that creates emotionally and mentally healthy individuals who are then able to positively impact society.  That, my friends, is the most desperate need in our families, communities, nation, and world today.  There is a solution that then serves as a catalyst for a whole host of “right answers” to what needs to be done.  But we must get that answer right first for the other answers to make sense and fit together.  Jesus was asked what the most important thing was.

‘Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ‘ Mark 12:29-31    https://www.bible.com/bible/59/MRK.12.29-31

Whenever a person enters into a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus, they become a child of God, adopted into God’s family in a marvelous and miraculous way.  A transaction takes place where Jesus’ death on the cross is substituted for the just and right punishment for our sins and God accounts the righteousness of Jesus to the repentant, new believer.  We become a new creation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ‘ 2 Corinthians 5:17-21   https://www.bible.com/bible/59/2CO.5.17-21

God has His eye upon us for good and not for evil.  He desires that every single one of us would turn to Him in faith and begin the journey into the rich and abundant life He has for us.  But He also allows us to make choices.  Each choice we make has consequences.  Each choice results in a new set of options with a new set of consequences.

I was raised when maps were all we had to help us get around.  I loved reading maps. Finding and following the shortest route was my goal and I enjoyed a real sense of accomplishment when we successfully completed a trip.  One thing I learned though was that wrong turns sometimes occur.  Once you realized you had taken a wrong turn you needed to take immediate action to get back to the desired path.  Continuing down the road thinking it will eventually get you to your destination was a losing proposition.  I learned the U-turn from observing my father.  As an adult I have pulled a few U-turns myself.  A good church word is “repent” which in essence means “do a U-turn”.  It carries the connotation of recognizing you are on the wrong road, headed in the wrong direction, and you take decisive action to go the other way into the right direction… into the arms of Jesus.  God’s desire for every person is that they enter into a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus.

This is the beginning of the most incredible journey, a journey which consists of the rest of this earthly life, continuing on into an eternal life in heaven.

There is another similarity between our road trips and this journey that Jesus calls us to.  The further we have travel down wrong roads, the more backtracking we will have to do.  There are habits that develop heading down wrong roads that are not helpful to our new life.  There are addictions to be broken, lifestyle choices to be turned away from, and relationships that will have to be altered.  We are adopted and become God’s children the moment that holy transaction takes place.  But God’s desire is that we grow  into the whole, healthy, faithful, mature men and women He created us to be.  That transformation takes our active participation and it lasts a lifetime.  He works in us to make us holy.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ‘ NIV  Romans 12:1-2   https://www.bible.com/bible/111/ROM.12.1-2

Our nation is badly divided right now.  It is extremely sad that a rational, thoughtful conversation between people of differing opinions is so hard to achieve.  While I have a political opinion on the many issues of the day, I am dismayed because I know that anything our governing authorities may do will only treat the outward symptoms.  And they often carry unintended negative consequences.  Only when I turn to Jesus do I see hope.  And it is a marvelous hope.  When God’s people get busy doing what we are called to do – pray, seek God’s face, love God, love others, intercede, serve, and obey Him, then we will see the deep work in lives that will result in the transformation of our marriages.  As our marriages are strengthened our families will grow healthier.  Healthy families undergird strong, growing communities – the Church family and local communities.  And healthy communities in turn positively impact our state, nation, and world.

God’s plan is the positive transformation of society through the transformation of the individual through a vibrant, growing relationship with Him.  In my last three posts I spoke of the Kingdom of God being real and current, yet only partially revealed.  God’s kingdom is the picture of what society can be like – people seek to love Him and love others, brokenness is healed, loss is genuinely comforted, the confused and lost are found and given direction, and through it all God is lifted up and glorified.

  • It is a young teenager who gives up her addictions when she finds out she is pregnant.  Or better yet, she decides to wait to experience sexual intimacy until she marries her husband.
  • It is a troubled youth that has a father at home to see and head off the down-ward emotional spiral.  Or better yet the father was there from the moment of his birth to invest into his young son and to head off issues very early.
  • It is a doctor, alert to the needs of every patient, noticing a young man that is slipping deeper into a violent mindset who determines to intervene not just with more drugs but compassion and wisdom and a different course of action.  Or better yet, the doctor is sensitive and compassionate enough that he prays and intercedes for the troubled young man and gets Holy Spirit given direction in bring healing.
  • It is a local community that is close enough and communicates well enough that a troubled and violent youth is identified early enough that they prevent a mass tragedy.  Or better yet, the community is one where faith and love predominate and a sad and troubled youth is loved, embraced, and gets the deep help he needs early.

One of the more difficult things to measure is a problem avoided.  Since it didn’t occur you don’t have something to count.  Yet it is true that if you do the right things, you will get the right results.  This is true in industrial plant maintenance.  It’s true about taking care of your car.  It is true in our families.  It is true in society.  Doing the right thing in our society would be to recognize and support the Judeo-Christian principles that this nation was founded upon.  Latitude was given for persons of other belief systems, but this nation was founded as a nation under God specifically because He gave us the privilege to do something new in the world.  We must not abandon the foundation that made this nation the great nation that is has become.  Faith in God, responsibility to God, family, and community, genuine love for others, clear and compelling laws and a judiciary that rightly interpret the laws, are all cornerstones of the just, fair, and compassionate society our forefathers attempted to establish and that we are responsible to preserve.

Lord Jesus, please move in this land to bring this nation back to it’s founding principles.  Jesus bring an awakening to this nation and cause us to turn back to you.  Stir your body, the Church, to pray, to intercede with fervor, and to minister in the power of your Holy Spirit.  Help us to wage warfare in the spiritual realms and minster in your mighty power in our homes, schools, workplaces, churches, and the hi-ways and bi-ways.  Bring your answer to today’s issues Lord with clarity and emphasis.  Lord God display your power and love in and through your people. Be glorified today Lord.  Make your presence known Holy Lord and be glorified today.  It’s in the name of your glorious Son and our mighty savior, Jesus Christ, we pray.

And all God’s people said – Amen!

 

 

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We desperately need healing in our nation.  Historians, Statesmen, and even our Lord Jesus have pointed out that division precedes destruction.  A nation divided, like a house divided, shall soon fall.  A look back in history shows us that the greatest danger to a thriving nation is internal division and strife.  Ancient Rome was one of the greatest nations the world has known, controlling most of the civilized world of its day.  Civilization flourished and stretched its influence across Asia, Europe, and Africa.  But the soul of the nation became corrupt.  Division, strife, intrigue, assassination, and disunity weakened the resolve of the people.  Moral decay left a nation that had once been a nation of laws and nationalistic spirit a giant with a weakened will to fight.  When Rome fell, the Dark Ages ensued.

There are several touch points in our nation that should give us pause.  There is a radical element that has risen inciting protests, disobedience, violence, and even anarchy.  This has been highly publicized, perhaps even with a favorable slant in the media, to the point that the greater portion of the public has chosen sides.  Polarization has occurred and continues to do so as greater focus is given to the “protests” and little effort seems to be taking place to move in the direction of reconciliation.  This is madness.  At the very least it threatens our position in the world as a just and compassionate “leading nation”.  At the worst, and it is a plausible worst, it threatens our security as a nation founded “under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

I have been praying for our nation, asking God for healing and for guidance.  It has been my experience that God will guide our prayers when we offer them up in faith.  Last week as I was seeking the Lord’s face, I sensed that I needed to pray for empathy… for myself and for people across this land.  We need to gain a perspective of the issues we are arguing about from the other side’s point of view.  As I have done so, I have seen an interesting thing happen within my heart.  Instead of perceiving all the protestors in a totally negative light, I can begin to see them as human beings with real hurts, fears, and concerns… people a lot like me.  People who have not had the same life experiences as me, therefore they do not have the same worldview.  We live in the same pluralistic nation, but we see it differently.  The only way for us to coexist is for us to have a large degree of compassion for one another that isn’t predicated upon our belief system, our political views, our skin color, our gender… upon the differences between us.

Our differences do not have to divide us.  We have always had differences in this nation.  Our nation was founded as 13 distinct and highly autonomous colonies.  They had major differences.  Our constitution is indeed a marvelous document written to forge a single nation of these distinctly different states.  It leaves significant room for the different expression of beliefs and values of the people while establishing a foundation of law and joining us as a single nation.  And we have persevered as a nation for over 240 years, through good and bad times, with strong dissention and disunity on occasion, with a civil war and many periods of internal turmoil.  But we have remained one, united nation.  Not uniform, but united.  I take four things from this high-level view of our history.  1) There is an enemy, a spiritual enemy whose tool is strife and division, who wants this nation to fall.  2) There is a spiritual protector whose tool is love and compassion, who wants this nation to exist and succeed.  3) There has been, and I believe still is, a divine reason for this nation in the world.  4) It is incumbent upon followers of God to seek His guidance, wisdom, and help in healing this land and fulfilling the purpose for this nation.  2 Chronicles 7:14 are the key verse that we, the Church should be heeding.  “if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

As the Church, as people who have been rescued by Jesus’ love, as people who once were enemies of God through our sin and disobedience, we should be taking the lead in seeking reconciliation and healing.  Our first step is prayer.  Our second step is empathy.  We need to open the dialogue with people with whom we disagree.  We need to hear their perspective.  We should work toward understanding why they believe what they believe.  And we should understand why we believe what we believe as well.  The Prayer of Saint Francis is a good model.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

 

What I am proposing is not the easy thing to do.  It is counter to the current mood portrayed in images on our TV screens and computer monitors.  It is not aligned with the ever-increasing rhetoric I am seeing in social media.  But as I seek the Father’s heart, it seems to be aligned with what the Spirit is whispering to me… “Blessed are the peacemakers…”  “Love covers a multitude of sins…”  “You will know them by their love…”

Friends, please join me in praying for healing in our nation.  And follow that up by asking the Lord to provide opportunities to engage others in civil discussion.  Seek to understand their perspective.  And ask the Lord to help you understand, and when appropriate, articulate your point of view.  While the media may continue to highlight the strife, let us humbly and quietly seek the common ground, the healing, and uniting that I believe the Lord desires.  When we do, we will also see doors open for the Gospel to be shared and God will get the glory.

Be blessed today.  And be a blessing.

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The sign on the window made me sad.  Not because of what it said, but that it had to be said at all.  And additionally because our federal government felt the need to create a law about it.  Oh, they got the sentiment right, but it is a sad commentary if, as a society, we are so broken about doing the right thing that the minutest details of our life have to be codified by the government.

CS Lewis was one of the most brilliant authors of the 20th century.  While raised in the church early in his life, he threw off the restraints of “religion” at a fairly young age.  His path led to an atheistic worldview for a while and then moderated to more of an agnostic perspective over time.  In his classic book, Mere Christianity, he identifies the existence of a moral code within every society as the reality that caused him to rethink his worldview.  The moral code – that framework of right and wrong, was intrinsic to every society.  Yes there were differences from place to place, but virtues such as loyalty, courage, and honesty within the tribe were consistent across every group.  Likewise the vices – betrayal, cowardice, lying within the tribe, were common threads across people groups.  The only logical explanation was that a universal law existed.  And if such a law existed, that demanded a Creator of that Law.  Hence Lewis followed the logic and expanded his godless worldview to include the reality that God existed.

Being the brilliant mind that he was, Lewis’ curiosity could not long rest with a riddle partially solved.  But neither was he going to be taken in by mere sentimentality or man-made religious dogma.  He was convinced that God existed, and therefore, the potential existed that He could be found.  His position on the staff at Oxford University gave him unfettered access to vast amounts of information collected from around the world and from history’s earliest recorded times.  Lewis was uniquely prepared and uniquely positioned to ferret out the truth.  I find it fascinating that JRR Tolkien was a fellow professor and confidant of Lewis.  In my mind’s eye I picture these two literary giants cloistered in the hallowed confines of Oxford, sharing a drink at their favorite pub, pondering the meaning of life, the potential existence of God, and how their latest book was shaping up.

His search led him back to Jesus.  Which brings me back to the writing on the window.  Right and wrong do exist.  And while I agree with Lewis that God is the authority of what is right and wrong, many people today resist or outright reject the reality of a Supreme Authority.  That vacuum is untenable.  Chaos, anarchy, and strife fill the void.  Society was not meant to exist without the structure that a framework of right and wrong provides.  So into that void government – whether it be a dictatorship in a third world country, elected leadership in a democracy, or simply the village chieftain, rises to define and enforce the law.

The problem with laws is the tendency latent in every person to break laws we don’t like or aren’t convenient for us.  In many cases we actually like the laws… so long as they apply to everyone else and I can be the exception when necessary.   The apostle Paul talks about this a lot.  The Law, in his writings meaning the Law given by God to the nation of Israel through Moses, served God’s ultimate purpose of pointing to our need of a savior and redeemer.  Jesus, was the only person who has ever lived who perfectly fulfilled the Law.  He was without sin.  And as such by His sacrificial death on the cross He was able to pay the price for every lawbreaker who has ever lived.  Those who accept His death on their behalf can receive forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

But it is the next step in the process that causes the sign on the bus window to stir me so.  When we submit to Jesus as Lord, we surrender our will to His.  He in turn puts His Holy Spirit within us.  The Holy Spirit will lead us step by step into closer intimacy with Jesus.  The Holy Spirit will gently transform our self-centeredness into other-centeredness.  It will become an internal desire of our heart to please God, to do what is right.  Read what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40.  Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In place of obeying the writing upon the window out of duty, we will look for someone needy of our seat and we will leap at the chance to provide it.  For the widow and orphan, we will reach out in love to provide for them.  For the sad and discouraged, we will speak words of life and hope.  We will act with compassion and kindness.  We follow the Law, not because of some external pressure, but rather from a living, vibrant center within us where the Spirit of the Living Lord is working to transform us into the real us we were ultimately created to be.

God reached out and saves us because He loves us.  As His children He desires that we join Him in His work.  Letting our light shine by following the leading of His Holy Spirit is one of the ways God is proclaimed to a hurting, dying world.  The world doesn’t need more laws.  It simply needs more of Jesus.  Join me today in seeking to let Him live larger, more completely through us today.

I love you friend.  Be blessed today and be that blessing God intends in someone’s life today.

 

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Payback

When faced with a trick question from His detractors Jesus gave a most insightful answer – “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God” (Mt 22:21). When I read that I marvel at the cleverness of Jesus’ answer in trapping the Pharisees.  However the real punch in this statement are two powerful truths that His answer illustrates.

Jesus acknowledges that there is a role for human government in our lives. He also endorses the collection of taxes by that government. The Pharisees seemed to think that Jesus would somehow implicate himself as “anti-government” in His answer, but He did no such a thing. Instead He affirmed that government had a right to some portion of payback because it was theirs. In Jesus day the government in Rome had established roads throughout the empire, it provided stability and security in many areas that were once lawless, it brought a level of opportunity in trade and education that many areas had never known before, it brought a common currency. In short the Roman government provided benefits to the communities where they held sway and it was appropriate for those who benefited to pony up and pay taxes. That does not endorse everything they did nor all the methods they used in bringing about those benefits but it does provide a legitimate basis for the collection of revenue for services rendered.

Jesus’ statement does not address the issues of how much tax, what level of benefits, etc. It only touches on that fact that the government was due payback. As I study Jesus’ life He comes across as the least political, high profile person ever. In fact in one sense it can be argued that His lack of political manuevering resulted in His untimely death (from a human perspective).  A little wheeling and dealing probably could have saved His life from the political machine at work in his day… but then we all would still be lost in our sins.

This brings us to the second half of Jesus’ statement which I hold up is far and away the more important point of the exchange – “give to God what belongs to God”. If the government provides a few roads and some military protection for the entire population then a combined group offering to pay for these benefits is due.  But Jesus’ action is ultimately a personal act.  Jesus action is intensely personal.  He saved MY Life.  He radically altered it for the good while I am living here on earth and He has promised an eternity in heaven with Him. This is way more than roads and a tenuous security, it is life that rich and full. In a very real sense Jesus bought me with His love and sacrificial death on my behalf. I belong to Him so my only appropriate response is to give Him all of me.

What does it mean to give Him all of me? Well I have figured out a few things that seem to fit into the definition of all.

First off all my finances less what He said I owed to the government is rightfully His. But if we take scriptures as a whole we see that God gave a guideline of a tithe, 10%. While He rightfully can ask for it all, He allows us to begin at 10%. I recognize that the rest is also His so when He asks for more I seek to be in a position to give more. I won’t go there today, but this speaks to being financially responsible with the remaining 90%.

Next there is my time. Since I belong to Jesus then all my time is His.  Obviously my quiet time with God is a blessed shared time with Him.  He speaks through His Word and by His Holy Spirit He breathes life into me during these times of sweet communion.  But when the quiet time ends, my time is still His.  Some persons have postulated that we give God 10% of our time.  Setting aside 2.4 hours each day for dedicated alone time with God CAN be achieved by a few and I don’t doubt that it can have benefits, but I honestly believe that God’s expectation for our time is not the tithe but the total.  Brother Lawrence, a monk in the middle ages, penned a devotional called “Practicing the Presence of God”.  In it this humble man identified that He was able to commune with God while peeling potatoes and performing the most mundane of tasks.  I believe the same concept is captured in 1 Thessalonians where we are admonished to “pray without ceasing”.  We are to live with a constant awareness of God and respond immediately to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. These promptings can be to pray, to perform a kind act, to give a word of encouragement, to provide an appropriate word of correction, to speak or sing or shout or wait – any number of God-directed acts that fit within the plan that only He sees in its entirety.  I would like to say I have achieved this… or that I have made significant progress, but the truth is while I have matured and I do better than I once did, I still have a long way to go.  However I believe this to be God’s call to me, to live fully in Him and give Him all my time in this manner.

Lastly I want to speak to those relationships and possessions that we call ours.  It naturally follows that if I belong to God, then everything that I call mine belongs to God as well.  Holding back anything falls short of the total surrender that Jesus calls us to.  He gave us the perfect example in His obedience to the Father. In leaving heaven to become a human, born in the most humble of circumstances, raised in relative obscurity and meager provision, Jesus surrendered more than any of us can imagine. But He did not stop there. He willingly submitted to a mock trial, accused of false charges He did not even defend Himself, but He accepted a punishment that He did not deserve. He truly gave everything to God… and He did it on our behalf. With Jesus as our model and inspiration we can offer every relationship and every thing in our lives for His use. For things I have learned this means not to hold on too tightly. For relationships I have learned this means to love with all the intensity that we have and hold them up to God for Him to do what He knows needs to be done.

While I would love to continue, my time is again about up. Remember to give to God what belongs to God. You were bought with a price. The precious blood of Jesus covered your sins and made you part of God’s family. You are His. Live fully for Him today and always.

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