Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Do we need a "Christian" President?

Why are we so surprised that there is no "Christian" candidate for the presidency? Our American forefathers forwarded a Christian agenda and were blessed for it, but a nation in which the government's leader is also God's appointed leader has not existed since the days of Solomon. Even the men God raised to the heights of political power in the Scriptures (Joseph, Daniel, etc.) were put in place NOT to aid the world, but specifically the people of God.

Isaiah told the people that a new government was coming (Isaiah 9:6-7) with a Leader we could fully trust. This kingdom has been established and is fully and properly functioning, but "is not of this world" (John 18:36). Herein lies the point of confusion for so many who are focusing on what Barack Obama or Mitt Romney does, rather than on what Christ is doing.

Come November, I will vote for Mitt Romney because his sense of morality is much closer to the Scriptures than our current President. Some are worried that he will push a "Mormon agenda." I could care less about any such plan he might have. The Lord is still on His throne. "There is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God" (Romans 13:1). If the gates of Hades cannot overpower Christ's kingdom (Matthew 16:18), then neither will a Mormon or socialist agenda.

Certainly I want the best leader for the American government possible. This is where I live, and the decisions made by such a man will affect my family. I will vote for the man who most closely mirrors God's moral values ... but that is as far as my involvement can go. My real citizenship lies elsewhere (Philippians 3:20), having surrendered my full allegiance to Jesus Christ. "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier" (2 Timothy 2:4).

It is a mistake for us to so thoroughly involve ourselves in a world from which Christ died to remove us (Colossians 1:13; 3:2). Our primary allegiance is not to a man labeled as Commander-in-Chief, but to "the King of kings" (1 Timothy 6:15) who has been given "the name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9).

Friday, July 13, 2012

Who are the Real Heroes?

For every preacher who headlines the North American Christian Convention, how many will never receive any worldly recognition? For every successful 30 year ministry, how many are driven out of town every few years? For every man who regularly publishes articles and books, how many are scorned by the world? For every one who preaches to thousands on any given Sunday, how many have been forced out of the churches and into private homes? How does heaven measure success?

What about those who were "tortured," or "experienced mockings and scourgings," or "chains and imprisonment"? What about those who were "stoned," or "sawn in two," or "put to death with the sword"? What about those who were "destitute, afflicted," and "ill-treated"? What about those who wandered "in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground"? The word of God declares that "the world was not worthy" of them (Hebrews 11:35-38).

Jesus said to His disciples, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:19-20). 

So how do we explain the popularity of some preachers? Why do crowds flock to them? Why are their speaking calendars and church pews full? If they are saying what Jesus said ... and doing what Jesus did ... how are they receiving better treatment than their Master?

How many of the apostles and prophets were popular among this world? How many of them were hailed as heroes within their communities? Paul said, "To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now" (1 Corinthians 4:11-13). Was the apostle exaggerating? Or perhaps we don't see this kind of mistreatment because the church has acclimated so well to the world.

If our churches - especially our mega-churches - are doing such a great work for the Lord, why are they so well-tolerated by society? Is it possible that a church with thousands - with tens of thousands - can become so popular with the world that they fall away from the Lord? How many churches today are like Sardis? "I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead" (Revelations 3:1).

Numbers, book sales and speaking engagements are not godly standards of success. God's best leaders have never been popular. "But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me" (Galatians 2:6).

Who are our heroes? It's hard to say, since the Bible never uses such a term in relation to godliness. "Hero status" does not mesh well with the whole concept of self-denial. A discussion did arise among the disciples as to which one of them was the greatest. Jesus simply said, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all" (Mark 9:35). That tells me the servant may be unrecognized by the world around him ... he may even be scorned by his fellow servants ... but the Master is watching!

Peter abandoned his position of Jewish superiority to declare, "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him" (Acts 10:34-35).

Paul realized that the popularity he had experienced as a Pharisee did not accomplish the will of God, admitting, "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27). "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). 

I thank God for the real heroes of the faith ... those whom Satan is constantly sifting like wheat (Luke 22:31), yet keep "straining toward what is ahead" (Philippians 3:13), their eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2),  "contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The crowds may not be applauding, but heaven is.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Pursuit of Perfection or a Hint of Harlotry?

What do you expect from God?

Movies such as "Clash of the Titans" and "Wrath of the Titans" portray the gods on Mount Olympus as fickle and prone to mood swings, not caring about a man's behavior as long as he prays, feeding their power and fueling their immortality.

Personally, I expect more from God that that. If God is holy, then I would expect His offspring to be holy. I would expect His creations to be holy. I expect a perfect God.

If there is one criticism I have heard more than any other in my lifetime, it is this: There are too many hypocrites in the church. For years, as a minister, I have excused the behavior with lines such as: "Well, at least they're going to church. That's the best place for them." But now, I have come to believe that the criticism is valid. There ARE too many hypocrites in church. ONE hypocrite is too many in church.

The real questions isn't what I expect from God. He has no obligation to live up to my expectations. The question is: What does God expect from me? What does He expect from His people?

I certainly understand the church is no longer bound by the Law of Moses, but that does not mean it is without value - the same perfect God created both the Old and the New Covenants. Within the Law, He declared - clearly - His expectations from man.

Take, for example, those who would serve as His priests. "They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God" (Leviticus 21:6). If God is holy and perfect, then isn't it right that He would expect such behavior from those who serve Him?

Examples of such perfection are offered in the chapter. "They shall not take a woman who is profaned by harlotry, nor shall they take a woman divorced from her husband; for he is holy to his God" (Leviticus 21:7). When they married, they were to marry someone "perfect" ... "He shall take a wife in her virginity" (Leviticus 21:13). 
The priests themselves were also to be perfect. "No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the food of his God" (Leviticus 21:17) ... and the defects are listed in the following verses - no one who was blind, lame, disfigured or deformed could serve as a priest of God.

Is God anti-women? Is God anti-handicapped? *sigh* Those aren't the focus the passage ... perfection is the point! God is perfect, and He expects His servants to be perfect. The reason we of the New Covenant have been given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is to allow us to fulfill that expectation. He is rightly called "the Spirit of holiness" (Romans 1:4).

But today, I see just the opposite. So called "men of God" are reveling in their imperfections. They are shouting from their religious rooftops, "Hey, we're all just sinners!" There is no effort toward holiness in their own behavior ... no expectation of perfection in their preaching or teaching.

What we see today is the hint of harlotry. Churches claim that God is their Husband, yet chase after worldly lovers. Such has never been God's expectation. God speaks to His church, "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

God's desire has not changed. He still expects us to be holy before Him, and not to profane His name. But we cannot do that as long as the hint of harlotry remains. "... beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1).