A Step Down

David Lane, an evangelical Christian leader is calling for pastors to run for political offices. Founder of the American Renewal Project, Lane thinks getting more Christians into politics can “save America.” He goes on to say, “The Constitution says the state is to keep out of the church, it doesn’t say the church is to keep out of the state…It’s part of a spiritual battle. If we are going to survive as a nation, we have to have a spiritual resurrection.”
His words are music to the ears of Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson, ministers who felt God called them into the political arena, and Lane’s logic is compelling. There has been a rise in the assaults on religious freedom, and getting more involved in the political process might offer some relief.
Irish statesman Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This echoes the Scriptures’ counsel, “Like a trampled spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked,” Proverbs 25:26. When good people fail to act, we become defiled with the rest of society by our inaction. So I firmly believe God calls Christians to get politically involved when we witness the encroachments on religious liberty, the ongoing threats to the unborn, and the attempts to redefine marriage that we have.
Lane continues, “Government is not going to save America. Wall Street is not going to save America. The Republican Party is not going to save America. If America is going to be saved it will be done by Christian men and women restoring a Judeo-Christian culture to the country.” But I would add that politics is not going to save America either.
Billy Graham has commented, “The central issues of our time aren’t economic or political or social, as important as these are, the central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature.” America’s problems are primarily spiritual not political. Our problems are heart problems, a heart that no longer believes and trusts God’s wisdom to govern our daily affairs and direct our nation. You cannot politically restore a Judeo-Christian mindset to a culture that rejects God’s wisdom and/or questions His existence.
Pastors have a calling and are already serving at the heart level of the problem. While I agree we need godly men and women involved in the political process, I am not sure it is wise to advise pastors to forsake their calling to run for public office.
Years ago I was privileged to hear Dr. W. A. Criswell address the Florida Baptist Convention. Dr. Criswell was the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, at the time. I remember him saying that if he was offered the opportunity to be the President of the United States and he resigned his pastorate to do so, he would be taking a step down. I do not think pastors should take a step down.

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Give Thanks to God

There are a host of Scriptures that enjoin us to give thanks to God. In the midst of prayer, when we are asking Him for things, we should always be mindful of what He has already accomplished for us, what He is doing on our behalf, and what He has promised in the future lest we seem ungrateful. In the midst of an ungrateful culture possessed with a sense of entitlement, bound by materialism, and blinded by hedonism, the Christian should be distinguished by an “attitude of gratitude.”

Of the ten legally recognized Federal holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two that have a religious heritage. Although the term “holiday” is a compound derivative of the term “Holy Day,” the other eight federal holidays are secular in nature in that they merely memorialize an important event in our nation’s history, or they recognize the contribution a group or individual has made to our country. Calling them secular is not to slight their importance. The secular holidays help form our country’s national identity predicated on our history. And our history is “His story” displaying the sovereign hand of God shaping our nation’s destiny and its role in the history of mankind.

But our two religious holidays are significant as well. Christmas is a decidedly Christian holiday and while thanksgiving for God’s providence has a long established tradition in the Jewish economy of worship, but in this country its practice has been adopted and sustained by the Christian community. Historically speaking, it was the Pilgrims of Plymouth that introduced its practice to the New World and whose purpose for settling here was declared in the Mayflower Compact. These Christian pioneers made it clear that their colony had been “undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith.”

The Thanksgiving tradition has a rich history here in the United States. Recognizing this, in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, and the day became an annual national tradition celebrated every year since.

Wikipedia says Thanksgiving Day “was a holiday to express thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation to God, family and friends for which all have been blessed of material blessings and relationships. Traditionally, it has been a time to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. This holiday has since moved away from its religious roots.” Given the distractions afforded by our affluence many probably have “moved away from its religious roots.”

Here’s a news flash for Wikipedia; we are still depend on a bountiful harvest. We are still dependent on twelve inches of topsoil and some rain at the right time or we would all starve. Given that truth would it not be wise to return to our “religious roots,” to return to the Lord of the harvest. “Let us enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise,” Psalm 100:4.

The Lost Gospel

If you have not heard there is a new book about to be released entitled The Lost Gospel. The authors Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson found this “lost gospel” in a British library. This lost and found gospel claims Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and they had two children.

Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene is not a new revelation, Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code made the same claim and quite a bit of money at the box office when it became a movie. The tag line for the movie was “seek the truth.” Dan Brown said the couple only had a daughter with no mention of a second child. I wonder which one is “true.”

This isn’t the first lost gospel to be found either. About the same time The DaVinci Code was unveiled National Geographic boasted The Gospel of Judas is “one of the most significant biblical finds of the last century, a lost gospel that could shake the foundations of Christianity.” As it turned out the foundations of Christianity did not even shrug, but it did manage to capture part of the commercial success of the sensationalism created by the promotion of The DaVinci Code.

Not everyone is jumping on The Lost Gospel bandwagon. A professor of religious studies at Duke University, Mark Goodacre, is skeptical. He has evidently seen the lost manuscript the book is based on. He said, “I don’t think that there is any credibility in these claims at all. There is simply no evidence in this text or anywhere else that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, much less that they had a couple of children.”

But Americans are like the Athenians of Paul’s day, “Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new,” Acts 17:21. Jacobovici and Wilson are banking on people not caring about the truth as much as they want to hear about “something new.”

They will learn what Dan Brown did, that a new controversy plus some old–fashioned curiosity, equals big profits, especially if someone buys the movie rights. It is likely that Jacobovici and Wilson stand to make a small fortune when their book is published.

The truth is that sensational claims generate more than controversy and curiosity; they also generate cash. Many are willing to pander a “lost truth” for profits with little if any genuine concern for truth. I do not know what Jacobovici and Wilson’s motives are, but their book appears headed down a predictable path.

From the very inception of Christianity to the present believers and missionaries around the world have suffered the loss of their worldly goods, privations, persecutions and death to offer the Gospel of Jesus Christ freely to those who are in spiritual darkness. Who do you think possesses the truth, those who sell it to make a profit, or those who risk their lives to give it away?

Three Days in Nashville

Last week the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention met in conference from October 27-29 in Nashville, Tennessee. The theme for those three days was “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” The conference hoped to give direction to its members on how to address the changing cultural and legal landscape of same-sex marriage.

As you might imagine this created a feeding frenzy for LGBT journalists who attended the conference. Their reporting produced an admixture of understanding and misunderstanding from a group of activist reporters hoping to witness the largest protestant denomination in America collapse under cultural influence and capitulate to the gay agenda. That clearly did not happen, but the meeting did generate a question in the mind of some. Is the church losing the battle on gay marriage?

It is regrettable that this matter has been framed as a “battle.” Christians do not see this as an us-versus-them matter. Christians embrace biblical morality and God’s original design for marriage because we believe it is the best plan for the flourishing of mankind. The legal conflicts have only served to distract us from what is best for humanity and is primarily a spiritual problem.

In his opening address at the ERLC, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., stated the issue plainly, “The disappearance of cultural Christianity, like a morning mist, is a reminder to us that it was cultural and not Christianity.” Those who believe Christianity defines our cultural have it backwards; the culture is trying to redefine Christianity, and forsake what was designed for our good.

We have loosed ourselves from our moral moorings and find ourselves adrift on the cultural current into unchartered waters, because we have not remained anchored in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All our social ills arise from our spiritual rebellion to the will of God. At its essence, our problems are heart problems, hearts rebelling against God.

Our legal system and political process is not able, and never will be able, to save us from the problems we face because they are not legal or political problems at their root; they are spiritual problems. A legal redefinition of marriage, or a reformulation of social morality is not the answer; repentance is. This is why Billy Graham once remarked, “The central issues of our time aren’t economic or political or social, important as these are. The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature.”

“If…My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” 2 Chronicles 7:13-14. Sin is impractical. God warns us to repent and turn from our sin because we are the ones who suffer the consequences of our disobedience. He warns us to repent because He loves us.

Should Brittany Maynard reconsider her decision?

On New Year’s Day Brittany Maynard was told she had terminal brain cancer. She started suffering severe headaches shortly after being married a little more than a year before. Tests revealed she had the worst kind of brain tumor. Death would be agonizingly painful and the cancer would ravage her body. Chemotherapy and radiation may slow it down, but would be equally debilitating and not cure her.

Brittany and her husband lived in California but decided to move north to Oregon. Oregon has statutes that provide for death with dignity. Brittany says, “I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.” She has planned to die on the first of November. When a doctor on a radio talk show questioned her decision, Maynard replied, “The day is my choice, I have the right to change my mind at anytime, it is my right.”

Some frame this issue as the “right to die.” That is a foolish statement; death is the unavoidable appointment we all will keep. Brittany is not asserting a right to die, she is asserting the right to choose “when” she dies. She is not giving in to a temporary fit of depression, but an accepted desperation as she faces what appears to be an inevitable set of circumstances.

Brittany’s plight stirs human compassion, and her decision has stirred debate. Many have weighed in on the issue representing an array of perspectives. Joni Eareckson-Tada has commented on the issue from a biblical worldview, but some have pointed out that Brittany is not facing a life of disability like Joni; she is dealing with a terminal illness. But what we see juxtaposed here is the secular perspective versus the sacred worldview.

What I find disturbing about Brittany’s decision is that it appears to have been reached without any consideration to what if any role faith may have played in her determination. Her thinking makes perfect sense from a secular viewpoint. Brittany’s faith, if she has one, is not mentioned. Some may say faith is a private affair, but so is the decision to commit suicide. If she did not mind going public about her decision to end her life, it does not seem reasonable she would be reticent to discuss the part faith contributed to the process, unless it made no contribution.

The Scriptures declare, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” Hebrews 9:27. If Brittany’s goal is to end her suffering and to die with dignity she should reconsider her decision. She may be jumping out of an earthly frying pan into an eternal fire.

This past Wednesday, October 29, 2014, Brittany postponed her planned death indefinitely.