“My kingdom is not…” (Some thoughts on the election)

kingdom-of-godWhen Jesus visibly came to earth, He came to a setting that was a long way from a democracy. Roman rule was absolute. Caesar was not questioned. This wasn’t just not democracy; it was the antithesis of democracy.

Yet, what did Jesus tell people? “Render unto Caesar…” He didn’t say to overthrow the government. He didn’t suggest that the people should try pushing for a democracy.

Instead, He said something far more radical. “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) That’s crazy talk.

Well, unless He was far more interested in eternal things than temporal ones. Unless He was more interested in the souls of people than in earthly governments. Then it’s not crazy talk. Then it all makes sense.

He didn’t come to overthrow that evil government. He could have. But He didn’t.

He came to redeem people. To make dead people alive. To bring people back into a right relationship with the Father. When you hold that picture up against a particular form of government, there’s not much comparison, is there?

For centuries, people – including Christians – have lived and even thrived under socialist regimes and even totalitarianism. In fact, it was in the culture of a pagan ruling monarch – who had delusions that he was a god – that the Holy Spirit prompted the Apostle Paul to write:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Romans 13:1-2)

In context of the history of that day, I really don’t like those words. But they’re in the Bible.

Honestly, as I read the Bible, I think God is far less concerned about the form of government than we are. Again, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

In the Old Testament, God was upset when the people wanted a king. But it wasn’t because in God’s mind that was a less-desirable form of government than, say, if the people had requested a president. No, it was because they had rejected God.

Any form of government we have is so far below what God wants for us that to suggest that one form of earthly government is vastly superior to another seems to miss the higher plans and purposes of God.

From our perspective, democracy – and its twin brother, capitalism – is often seen as a good and godly idea. But there is nothing in Scripture that would suggest that democracy – every person getting a vote in whatever happens – is God’s choice for government. And, the fact is that capitalism helped bring about the greediness of Wall Street, and that greed was a major contributing factor to a number of serious social issues, including the housing collapse of several years ago and the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. In fact, many would suggest that it is that disparity that has helped fuel the growing terrorism of this century.

Now, please hear me. I am not saying that capitalism and democracy are emphatically, across-the-board wrong. But they are not necessarily always right, either.

And don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I greatly appreciate the government and even the culture in which I grew up. It has afforded a dimension of ease and comfort and stability that is nice, even intoxicating. Having been immersed in such a setting for so very long, we can think this is God’s best. And I will say that I do think there is a dimension of God’s blessing on us as a nation. But when that blessing is turned inward – when the things that God gave as gifts, including great blessings like freedom and prosperity, when those become the objects of our affections in place of Him – then maybe there’s a problem.

“We have allowed our vision for America to capture our hearts more deeply than God’s vision for us as his ambassadors.” [Charles Drew, Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew?, Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2012, pg. 50 (Kindle version)]

See, I think we have to ask ourselves, “What is most important?”

Think about it. Why is the Church flourishing in China today, when, in many ways, it’s floundering here? In large part it’s because our life of freedom – of ease and comfort – has made us far-less committed disciples.

And, again, don’t misunderstand. I don’t want to leave my children or grandchildren in a culture where they don’t have the freedoms that we have enjoyed. I really don’t like that idea at all.

At the same time, if given the choice to give them an environment where they will be more likely to prosper materially or one where they will be more likely to prosper spiritually, that isn’t a difficult decision.

Honestly, I am far less concerned about the outcome of this election than I am the process. The name-calling and demeaning comments from Christians toward those who are not of “our fold” is damaging to the message of Christ. That – far more than our lifestyle options or long-term comfort here – should be our higher interest.

We’re only here on earth for a short time. According to my calculations, eternity is going to be a lot longer than whatever time we have here.

If it comes down to two options: souls being saved or our comfort here and now, which do you think should be the higher priority for us as His people?

(By the way, before you write to correct me, let me add this: I am not suggesting that Christians shouldn’t vote, nor that Christians shouldn’t speak up about right and wrong. I do think we have put too much effort into politics and not enough into the Kingdom of God.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

What a Good, Good Father!

girl-rescued-in-chinaI recently read an article about the tragic collapse of a group of decrepit homes in eastern China. Apparently, the homes were built right next to each other. They were said to be of poor quality construction — a common occurrence in the outlying areas in China — when they were originally built, forty years ago. But the problem was compounded over the years when extra floors were added, making the buildings even less safe. Twenty-two people died in this catastrophe.

Fifteen hours after the collapse, workers were digging through  the rubble. Much to their surprise, they found a three-year-old girl alive. She was wrapped in the arms of her mother and father. The girl had only minor injuries. Her parents’ bodies had shielded her from the brunt of the falling debris.

Firefighter Sun Jing said, “We found them together, with the mother and father facing down and the little girl between their bodies facing up.”

When I read the story, I was immediately reminded of what Jesus did for us. He took the weight of our sins. He took the wrath of God so that we wouldn’t need to. His death gave us life.

What a good and loving Father we serve!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Final Apologetic

francis-schaefferFrancis Schaeffer once referred to Christian community as “the final apologetic.”

The word apologetic is used often in the Church today, but I find that few people could define it. So, let me explain, so we don’t miss the point of what Schaffer meant.

The word apologetic comes from the Greek word apologia. The original idea was that it was a defense or an answer given in response to a charge. We could best think of it in an ancient Greek courtroom scene where, after an accusation is made, the accused would attempt to refute the charges.

In the Bible, the word is nearly always used as someone making a direct defense for their faith, or at least explaining why they did what they did because of their faith.

So in Christian apologetics, we’re making a case as to why what we believe is true and accurate and logical. (The second part of the word apologetic comes from the same word as logic.)

So when Francis Schaeffer said that community — Christians demonstrating to one another in tangible ways the love of Christ — is the final apologetic, what he’s saying is that when all of the words have been spoken, the demonstration of true biblical community is the last and best defense to show people that what we believe is really true.

And that’s what Jesus clearly said when He was praying in John 17. “…that they may all be one … so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)

As we are more and more unified, as we are more and more united as the Body of Christ, the world will more and more believe the truth of the message.

I think Francis Schaeffer was right. Christian community really is the final apologetic.

Posted in Scriptural Perspective | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Unshakeable Confidence

unshakeable-confidenceThere are not many people I would refer to as heroes. For me, the hero list would actually be really short. But one who would be near the top would be the Apostle Paul.

He endured difficulties that would cause many of us to despair. Constantly chased out of cities and towns. Incarcerated. Beaten. Whipped. Shipwrecked. Stoned and left for dead. All because of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, I should be quick to add that Paul wasn’t perfect. He was very candid, at least in general terms, about his own struggles. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) Paul battled against temptations just like everyone else.

But Paul also had an unshakeable confidence in God.

Most theologians agree that the final letter that Paul wrote was 2 Timothy. He was in prison awaiting what would be his final trial. Near the beginning of the letter he writes of his imprisonment. Much of the letter, though, is encouragement to Timothy to keep going, keep pressing forward, keep trusting God, keep fighting the fight.

It’s early in the letter that Paul – the same guy who has gone through unspeakable trials, battled temptations, and is now sitting in a Roman prison – makes an amazing statement. “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

In spite of the circumstance, Paul was absolutely confident in God. Regardless of what had happened, or was currently happening, Paul knew that the Lord had him in the palm of His hand.

What about you? Are you convinced that He is able to guard what He has entrusted to you?

Posted in Scriptural Perspective | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

“Even As We Are One…”

christian-unity-2In response to Philip’s request for Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus said, “…I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (John 14:10) If you really think about it, that’s an amazing statement. Jesus and the Father are so linked together — so unified — that they are “in” each other. There is an intrinsic one-ness that causes them to be part of each other.

And here’s why I think this is so important. Just a bit later in the same setting, Jesus prayed that His followers “may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11)

So let me ask you a question or two to make this practical.

  • Do you think Jesus and His Father ever make demeaning comments toward one another?
  • Do you think they ever make insulting or mean, sarcastic remarks to each other?
  • Do you think they ever belittle one another?
  • Argue harshly or cut one another off in midsentence?

Okay those are obvious. But do you think they ever say negative things about each other when the other isn’t around? Alright, they ARE always around. But suppose they weren’t. Suppose that somehow the Father and the Son could be temporarily separated so they weren’t together. They couldn’t hear one another. They didn’t know what the other was saying. Would they, then, make disparaging remarks about the other?

Of course not! The very idea is absurd, isn’t it?

Yet Jesus clearly prayed that we would be one just like He and the Father are one. My goodness! What a request!

Posted in Scriptural Perspective | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Am I in Love?

love-2It’s a common question in our culture: How do I know when I’m in love?

No one has ever asked me that question. I wish they would. But, honestly, it’s probably best that they don’t. I’m pretty sure they won’t like my answer. That’s because I don’t think like much of our culture.

You see, a person doesn’t “fall” in or out of love. It’s a choice. It’s a decision. It’s something we make up our minds to do.

Let me offer an example. Boy meets girl. Boy finds girl to be beautiful, witty, fun and desirable. He thinks she has great potential. Then boy finds out that girl is engaged to be married in a month. At that point, all of her charming qualities don’t disappear. They are not suddenly less attractive. But, if he is honorable, he has changed the orientation of his heart. She is betrothed to someone else, so he chooses to not love her.

It’s not a falling. It’s a choice.

You may be aware that there are two primary Greek words in the New Testament that we translate as love. One, agape, is generally seen as God’s love. The other, philia or phileo, depending on the context, is usually understood to be brotherly love. Hence, Philadelphia means the city of brotherly love, and philanthropy is about caring for others.

But that brotherly love understanding is not completely accurate. The word philia can also mean a type of love where you set your heart on someone or something. It’s used in 1 Timothy 6:10 about the love of money being the cause of all kinds of evil. If you set your heart on money, it will cause problems.

Setting our heart on someone is love. It’s a decision. We choose to do it or not do it.

You don’t fall in love. You choose to love someone. You don’t fall out of love. You choose to stop loving. (I’ll admit that there certainly can be actions from the other person that provoke that decision, but it is still a decision.)

That’s why Titus 2:4 says that the older women should “train the young women to love their husbands and children.” You can’t train someone to do something that is an innate part of them. The young women can only be trained if there is a choice involved.

There is a common cultural notion that there is one perfect life-mate out there somewhere waiting to be found. And when you find that person, you should marry them. But what happens is that somewhere along the journey that “perfect” person does or says something one too many times and you decide to stop loving them. So, that “perfect” mate gets jettisoned – because it was obviously the wrong one – to find the really perfect one.

I don’t see any scriptural basis for any of that. There is no perfect person out there. Every one of us is sinful and in desperate need of redemption. So, rather than looking for the perfect mate, we have the opportunity to decide to love someone.

That’s why Paul says that a widow can marry “whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) As long as the guy is Christ-follower, it’s okay. No special bells and whistles need to sound in your mind or heart. Two people who are honestly committed to Christ should be able to work through their differences.

If you’re currently looking for a life-mate, when you finally settle on someone, you’ll end up with a person who is imperfect and sinful. Decide to love them anyway.

Posted in Scriptural Perspective | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


daddy and little girlShe had wandered away. It wasn’t intentional. There were just so very many things to look at. She was only four years old, after all. For a little girl who lived in the country on a farm, the three story shopping mall – and all of its glitz and glitter, colors and movement, and people … so many people – it was all so overwhelming. She had never encountered anything like it.

There were live “mannequins” in a store window, moving only every few minutes. Food vendors with every imaginable type of delicacy – even the smells enticed her. There was a woman dressed as a clown making and handing out balloon animals. The larger-than-life carousel in the middle of the mall. And so much more.

Elise’s head turned this way and that, trying to take it all in. But she couldn’t. There was no way someone her age could process all that activity that was happening at the same time. Her brain was on overload.

Just as she felt she was being smothered by all the sensory options, she noticed that her father wasn’t next to her. He had just been there, and now … he wasn’t.

Panicked, she turned around, but he was nowhere to be seen. She looked this way and that way … spinning … now running, and stopping again … running a different direction … frantically searching. But she still didn’t see Daddy.

Gasping for breath in the midst of the throng of people – who were all so much bigger than her – Elise’s fears engulfed her. He’s gone! I’m lost! “Daddy!” she shrieked. Then Elise crumpled to the floor and sobbed.

She was only there a moment when she felt the strong arms. Elise lifted her head and saw Daddy picking her up and holding her tightly to his chest, hugging her, loving her, telling her that everything was okay.

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)

The word “compassion” in this verse is the Hebrew word, racham. It’s what Elise experienced at the end of the story. It’s the loving, comforting embrace of a father who cares deeply and fully for his child.

And, it’s what your heavenly Father offers to you. Over and over and over again.

Posted in Scriptural Perspective | Tagged , , | Leave a comment