Monthly Archives: December 2011

Religious Right or Wrong?

It is the turn of the year and I don’t know about you but I’ve already got a gut full of politics.  I have just about “had it up to here.”  The most disturbing aspect of all this is the antics of the so-called Christian “leaders.”  The “Religious Right” is in grave danger of becoming the “religious wrong.”  Along with the disgusting concentration on pre-election politics is the equally disgusting lack of concentration on what really matters: following Christ.

I have to believe that Jesus really meant it when He said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting…but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36).  His life, ministry and teaching were decidedly “not of this realm.”  His emphasis was the Kingdom of God, eternal life and preparation for it.

Yes, He was deeply concerned with justice, mercy and love for neighbors and enemies.  When it came to earthly kingdoms and their governments, however, he was decidedly silent.  Can you imagine Him endorsing a candidate — even in our time?  Yet we read stuff like this:

“The Rev. Donald E. Wildmon is making an urgent plea to Christian voters in Iowa to vote for Newt Gingrich in their caucuses on Tuesday in what he describes as the “most critical” election in American history” (Newsmax.com, December 31, 2011).

This, in spite of repeated warnings by the Holy Spirit not to put our hope in human beings (Psalm 118:8-9; Proverbs 20:6; Jeremiah 17:5).

The only thing that can change this world for the better is the spread of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the values of His Kingdom.  Earthly kingdoms, empires, nations and governments can never approach the power for good resident in the Kingdom of God.  Faith, hope and love are not the results of the legislative, judicial or administrative processes.  So, why are our leaders seeking to manipulate earthly politics?  Could it be because they have lost faith the Kingdom and its King?

It is the right of all citizens of all democracies to participate in the government of the people, by the people and for the people.  As Christians, we should consider the issues and the candidates and vote according to our Christian consciences.  At the same time, we must beware of placing undue trust or emphasis upon or in this process.

Our emphasis must be upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  We must seek to influence our cultures by trying to live, look, love and smell like Him (2 Corinthians 2:14).  To put our trust in politicians is to risk stinking like them and, considering our present congress, behold, the stench thereof rises to high heaven.

You shepherds of your flocks, put your hope and trust in Jesus, the only one who can change hearts and minds and thus change our world for the better.  Proclaim Him.  Emulate Him.  Gather disciples to Him.  Don’t place your trust in some flawed human being.  Only Christ can turn this capsized world right side up.

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A Note to Politicians, Especially Current Candidates

I would exhort you to be brave enough to be true to what you know is right and wrong (that some of you don’t seem to know the difference is troubling).  When November comes, I intend to vote my conscience.  I hope it has been trained to discern right from wrong.  I intend to vote for the person who, in the face of pressure from special interest groups (be they national or international), the press and the pollsters, holds firmly to his or her beliefs.

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled (Titus 1:15).

If you messed up in the past, come clean about it!  No one is perfect or has a pristine record so don’t try to justify yourself.  I intend to cast my vote for the person who is honest enough to, in the face of contrary evidence, admit his or her mistakes.

It may well be that there are enough ethical Americans to respect that kind of openness, honesty and courage and put such a brave man or woman into high office.

James Freeman Clarke (1810 – 1888) US minister, theologian, author.  “Conscience is the root of all true courage; if a man would be brave let him obey his conscience.”

 

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Sabbath Lessons

During Jesus’ ministry he was repeatedly criticized for allegedly breaking the Law of Moses.  Those who had taken upon themselves the responsibility of making sure the Jews were obedient to the Law used their usurped authority to follow Jesus around scrutinizing his actions for any imagined violation.  Their motive was more to discredit Jesus than to please Yahweh.  They witnessed his signs and miracles but refused to accept the implications of them.  When we become more concerned with rule-keeping than godliness, we jeopardize our salvation and that of those we discourage and hinder.

It is instructive to study the words and actions of Jesus as he countered the “spiritual enforcers” in regard to the Sabbath.  It helps us know whether we are more concerned with mercy and compassion or legalistic rule-keeping. Are we focused on “getting it exactly right” while neglecting justice and the love of God? (Luke 11:42).  Is our goal the letter or the Spirit? (2 Corinthians 3:6).

What Jesus said about the traditions and teachings of men are applicable to today’s nit-picking counterparts of the Pharisee enforcers (Mark 7:5-13).  Here are nine points regarding the Sabbath for our consideration:

1. Many rules for keeping the Sabbath were men’s additions, inventions and traditions and therefore extra-biblical and non-binding.

2. Jesus is the law-giver (even the Law of Moses) and Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8)

3. The purpose of the Sabbath was rest and rejuvenation and was created for the benefit of humans

Mark 2:27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

4.  The Sabbath, as originally given, did not restrict necessary physical labor (such as eating when one is hungry and the labor necessary to feed one’s self (Matthew 12:1-8)

5. The Sabbath did not forbid spiritual labor

Matthew 12:5Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?”

6. Compassion (relieving suffering) trumps sacrifice (laws and traditions)

Matthew 12:7-8 But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.     8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

7. Doing good on the Sabbath is lawful

Matthew 12:9-12 Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. 11 And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

8. If God, who gave the Sabbath, is working, then it is permissible for us to do His work

John 5:17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I myself am working.”

9. Rules which violate common sense and logic are invalid.

John 7:22-23 “For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?”

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