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Friday, November 9, 2012

Election Results and the Christian: Part 3

Many of my Christian friends were sorely disappointed by the results of the election. Some are downright nervous about what might come of a second term from a President they didn't care much for the first time around. The first impulse in that kind of situation is to sort of freak out, become very fearful, maybe lash out verbally on your social networks. I was surprised and impressed that my friends did not do that... many of them instead took time to seek God, look to Him in prayer, and discover hope in His Word. Now, it's very easy to use the Bible as a weapon against people - find some scriptures that beat people up or make them look bad. That's not what the Bible is for; it's a weapon, but it's a weapon against spiritual forces, not against human beings that God loves. But my friends didn't misuse the Scriptures. Here are some of the things that I found in my Facebook stream after the election (I won't quote the commentary that was with the verses quoted; I'll let the Scripture stand on its own).

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
-Psalm 33:16-22 NIV
It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in princes.
-Psalm 118:9 KJV
Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
-Psalm 146:3 KJV
...the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.
-Daniel 4:32b NKJV
We use God's mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.
-2 Corinthians 10:4 NLT
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour...
-1 Timothy 2:1-3 KJV
Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
-Psalms 37:1-11 NASB
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace... For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
-Jeremiah 29:4-7, 10-13 NKJV
...if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.
-2 Chronicles 7:14-15 NKJV

What does the Holy Spirit seem to be saying to His people? Seems like He's saying something like: Calm down... you're going to be all right. Live your life in peace and confidence, praying for your leaders, knowing that no man is worth your confidence anyway, and neither is any man worth your fear. Even the most evil of people can't destroy what I protect. I'm here, and I'm listening to your prayers.

I'm so proud of my friends for seeking answers from the Word of God instead of giving in to fear and panic. I'm actually humbled by the breadth of the wisdom they've culled from the Scriptures on this. Whether their political opinion that a second Obama Presidency is a Really Bad Thing is correct or not, they have found that God's answer is peace. That's always a really good answer to any situation!

Here's the original post, and here's Part 2 of this impromptu series!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Results and the Christian: Part 2

In yesterday's post I talked about a Christian response to the election results from this week. Many of my Christian friends were sorely disappointed by those results, because their political leanings are conservative (as mine are). My point yesterday was that even under the regimes of the most pagan and downright stupid rulers in the Bible, God's people were able to prosper, so even if you think that Barack Obama is evil and stupid (I don't happen to think he is either, but some people appear to) there is still hope for the people of God. But I started to be concerned that one statement that I made might be misunderstood. I wanted to keep focused yesterday on the topic at hand so I didn't clarify then, but I do want to make sure today that it's clear what I didn't mean by it. Here's the statement in question:
In the end, the only thing in the Bible that ever caused God's people to ultimately not prosper is not their leadership: it is their own unrighteousness. God's people failed to prosper not when their leaders were bad, but when they chose not to maintain their own relationship with God.
What I was absolutely not saying by that was that if we are all good boys and girls and keep our noses clean, that God will be nice to us. Looking back at it, it could be read that way, but that's a half-truth that I want to clear up.

The stories I was discussing in that blog post (Joseph, Daniel, and Esther) had one thing in common: they occurred under the Old Covenant. I was telling stories from the Old Testament, and referring to the experiences of the Jewish people before Jesus came to Earth. In those days, the primary means of having a relationship with God was by following the Law. You would do what the Torah said, offer the proper sacrifices at the proper times and when you sinned, and that was the way that people related to God and maintained righteousness. If you read through the books of Kings and Chronicles, the times when the people had rough water as a nation were the times that they abandoned the Law and decided that worshiping idols instead of the one true God was a great idea. When they began to look to idols or to alliances with other nations instead of looking to God, they began to have problems - the problems that ultimately resulted in the exile of Daniel and the other young Hebrew men to Babylon. The means that God had provided for them to stay right with him were the rules they called the Law. Follow the rules and you're OK. That's what I had in mind when I wrote those two sentences yesterday.

However, we're in a different situation now. When Jesus died on the Cross, He took all of our broken rules with Him. We call them "sins," but basically they are broken rules, transgressions of God's Law. God knew that ultimately nobody but Jesus would ever be able to flawlessly follow the Law - that's why He gave the Jews of the Old Testament sacrifices to pay the price for their rulebreaking, and that's why God gave us Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice to pay the price for all of them at once. Breaking the rules is not what separates us from God now; refusing to accept the cleansing that Jesus offers by the blood He shed on the cross is the only thing that gets between us and God. The "unrighteousness" that Israel of the Old Testament never could really quite break free from is the unrighteousness that Jesus has unchained from those who accept Him as their savior. So where "unrighteousness" from an Old Testament perspective meant "breaking the Law" or not following the rules, to New Testament Christians, "unrighteousness" is not a failure to follow rules as much as it is a failure to seek that connection to God that Jesus has provided. I don't think the sin-to-consequences link is the same now as it was then.

So to bring it back around: if you got the idea from my post that I think we should all be good, go to church on Sunday and not kick the dog on Monday, don't smoke or chew or run with girls that do, don't lie or cheat or steal or break the Ten Commandments, and then God will smile on us and protect us from the infernal Democratic Party - that's not what I wanted to convey. Be nice, absolutely. But don't try to be a good person in order to curry God's favor. You already have God's favor if you've accepted Him as your savior. Because you have God's favor, you are free to naturally live a life that lines up nicely with His Will and His Word. And because you have God's favor by the blood of Jesus, you aer under God's protection from whatever might try to harm you. There is no legislation, no five-point plan, no majority in Congress that can separate you from the love and protection and favor of God. We actually have coined a special word for that concept: the word is "Gospel." The Gospel is this: God has made a way for human beings to live in His favor. The guy who sits in the Oval Office has no effect on that.

Here's the original post - and here's Part 3 of this impromptu series!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Results and the Christian

I've been pretty quiet here all through the U.S. election season. This blog isn't intended as a place for me to espouse or even share my political views; it's not a politics blog and I don't want it to turn into one, and that's been a big part of what's been on my mind. Certainly it is part of my "life" as a "Christian" (see the blog's title!) but I just don't want to go there on this platform... because I don't think that you should use your Christianity as the reason for your politics. I don't mean by that that you shouldn't vote for the person who you believe will provide the most Godly leadership out of all of the candidates, no matter what the office, but I don't think that you should hang your Christianity on your political party. Politics by its nature is divisive, but Jesus by His nature seeks to draw everyone to Himself. If I say "I'm a Republican because I'm a Christian," what are people who are not Christians but who have strong opinions which contradict the Republican platform supposed to think? That they aren't allowed in the "Christian" club because they are members of the "Democrat" club? I just don't think that's a good path to follow. Jesus loves and accepts political liberals, moderates, conservatives, and whatever - all the same - and does not require them to change their political ideas except in any areas that contradict God's Word. And those ways are often fewer than we think.

Anyway, now that the elections are over, I do have a few thoughts to share... with my Christian friends, mostly. The ones who wanted Mitt Romney to win. I will start with full disclosure: I didn't want President Obama to win again. I don't think he's done the job that needed to be done, and I wanted to give the other guy a crack at it. That said, I have something to say to my Christian friends who agree with me on that.

My message to my Christian friends is this: RELAX.

Let's back up for a second. I live in Oklahoma, which is as red of a state as you are going to find. I grew up in Louisiana and Texas, which are also very red Southern states. And most of my friends are thoroughly Republican Christians. Overall I think they (we?) are pretty disappointed that Obama won a second term. But I don't believe that a second four years for a President who may have failed to accomplish what needed to be accomplished is the end of the world for Christianity or Christians, or even the end of the United States of America. I think God is present in America today the same as He was present yesterday, in the hearts and lives of His people.

I'm going to take the devil's advocate for a moment and argue from the assumption that Obama is the worst of what conspiracy theorists and wild-eyed alarmists think he is: evil incarnate, bent on ruining this country by turning it into something it has never been before and should never be, and lacking the common sense to do even the simplest things for the actual good of the country. (This is not my own view; I don't think the President is an evil man. But let's assume for the moment that he is.) What precedents do we have in the Word of God for a ruler like that?

Let's think about the life of Joseph. Joseph was sold into slavery into the land of a pagan king. Once he was there, God brought Joseph such success that not only did he prosper personally, but he brought his whole extended family in to enjoy the prosperity, and ultimately that family grew so large that 400+ years later, a future pagan king felt threatened by their presence. Now THAT is prosperity under an unrighteous ruler.

What about Daniel? He was a prisoner of war, brought into the court of yet another pagan king who not only tried to get him to do things that contradicted his religious convictions, but after Daniel and his friends proved their value to the king and became trusted advisors, the king stupidly and more than once was talked into executing them (God saved them each time, Daniel from the lions and his three friends from death by burning in a furnace). Not only was Daniel made a top advisor to that king, but he outlived two or three more kings, becoming a top adviser in turn to each of them. How's THAT for a lifetime of prospering under unrighteous leadership?

And let's take Esther. Forced to marry the king and become the queen (forced to become the queen?) she was able to save her whole people group when she exposed a situation that the king was stupid enough to let his adviser talk him into, condemning to death not only her, but a man who had just a few days earlier saved the king's life. A pagan king? Yes. Unrighteous? Yes (forcing women to marry you is not a righteous act). Dumb? Yes (not thinking through policies that are presented by your advisers is dumb leadership). Did Esther and the people of God survive and prosper?

Yes they did.

Even Jesus Himself came into the world during the reign of a pagan oppressor (Rome), but Jesus did not seek to correct any of the political problems of His day. Our situation is a bit different in the 21st century United States, of course, and we have the privilege/right/responsibility to take part in the political process by the mechanisms the Constitution gives us. But my point is that God does not always see fit to immediately remove rulers who are not Godly or even not that smart. In the end, the only thing in the Bible that ever caused God's people to ultimately not prosper is not their leadership: it is their own unrighteousness. God's people failed to prosper not when their leaders were bad, but when they chose not to maintain their own relationship with God.*

Now, let's get back to reality. President Obama may be a bad President. Or, he may be a good President. We may, in future years, reap benefits as a nation from the work he's done for the past four years and the work he will do in the next four, or we may suffer the consequences. Sometimes historical hindsight reveals a forest we were unable to see for the trees at the time. But as individual children of God, we can trust that He will make all things, even President Obama, work together for our good.  God's power is greater than the power of any other ruler, and if you don't agree with that statement, perhaps you're not thinking of the same god I'm thinking of. The Kingdom of God is not the United States of America; the Kingdom of God exists within His people. And God will take care of His people. We will not be destroyed.

So quit the pouting. It's all going to be okay. :)

Still freaking out a little bit? Take a look at this blog post which a friend of mine linked to on Facebook yesterday.

Don't miss Part 2 and Part 3 of this impromptu series!