In a recent conversation with a doctor about religion and politics, he said to me that God doesn’t want us to love only those who are “on our side.” We are to serve faithfully all who are in need, and the truest extent of Christ’s love is shown when we still love and serve those with whom we disagree. The problem is that quite often we are quick to write people off as unworthy of our love. He then noted that God is neither Republican nor Democrat.
American culture and politics these days seems so volatile and violent, so extremely polarizing, with people vehemently and angrily on one side or the other. Followers of Christ sometimes get sucked into this volatility when they assume that in order to be a “proper committed Christian” you must be on the side of conservatism and the Republicans. It would be an error to think that nobody who is Democrat with liberal tendencies could possibly be a Christian. Believe it or not, God is Lord of members of both political parties.
This raises a question in my mind: “What is the role of Christian faith in politics? Is there one? Should religion and politics ever mix?” In a recent on-line newsletter I subscribe to, called The American Patriot’s Daily Almanac, by Bill Bennett and John T.E. Cribb, a portion of President George Washington’s farewell address was discussed. I found it very interesting that the first President of the United States understood the important role of religion in our nation, and that he saw clearly how it makes a difference not only in the lives of citizens, but also those who lead us.
The newsletter noted that in a world still ruled by kings, President George Washington’s decision to not seek a third term clearly signaled that the United States would be governed by the people, not any ruler-for-life. Washington’s Farewell Address – really an open letter to the American people – appeared in newspapers on September 19, 1796. The president reminded his fellow citizens that national strength rests on the pillars of private morality, especially religion. The word he used to describe those pillars of American democracy is not “optional” or “desirable” or “helpful”; it is “indispensable.”
Here is an excerpt from Washington’s farewell address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. ’Tis substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”
I understand that in a religiously pluralistic culture such as what we live in today, one might ask, “But whose religion and morality should we follow?” Others believe that there is no place whatsoever for religion in politics or anything public. It seems that America is experimenting with all sorts and kinds of religion and morality, non-religion and immorality; and trying to embrace them all as if all beliefs are equal and equally good. I get it that this becomes a complicated thing to figure out, nevertheless, as a follower of the God we read of in the Bible, I recognize that the Christian principles presented in the message of the Gospel lead to life that flourishes, both now and in eternity. And when Washington states in his farewell address that religion and morality are indispensable supports to political prosperity, he’s thinking of religion and morality as proclaimed in the Bible…and that’s the kind of pillar that can support and guide anyone well, whether Democrat or Republican.
Working together with you to influence our culture for Jesus,
In an article for the online news magazine, The Stream, on August 22 (a day after the solar eclipse) Tom Gilson writes: “My wife said it well: ‘He probably thought it was cute.’ Neither of us caught the NBC news reporter’s name, but we did hear how he signed off his report yesterday on people gathering for the Great Eclipse: ‘One nation indivisible — under one sun and moon.’ There’s something to be said for anything that will bring us all together. Grand events like the eclipse remind us of how much we have in common. We are indeed one nation, and may the sun and moon hold us together that way!
Gilson continues: “Not much chance of that, is there? The next eclipse is seven years away, and they sure don’t last very long when they do come. More to the point, we aren’t so much into astrology here. I’m sure that NBC reporter isn’t either. It was a cute quip. There’d be no reason to make a big deal about it, except he missed a great chance to tell it the right way: ‘One nation under God, viewing His glory!’ Whether we all knew it or not, we were looking up at the glory of God on display.
Gilson is right in observing that heavenly events such as a solar eclipse point to a God in heaven. It is a natural event, but it points strongly toward an intelligently designed intention behind the ‘coincidences’ that make its amazing features possible.”
Jay Richards, also writing for The Stream, observes: “A rare alignment of events allows Earthlings to witness not just solar eclipses, but what we might call perfect solar eclipses. Our Moon just barely covers the Sun’s bright photosphere. Such an eclipse depends on just the right sizes, shapes, and relative distances of the Sun, Moon and Earth. There’s no law of physics that dictates this layout. There are 65 major moons in our Solar System, and many smaller ones. But only we enjoy perfect solar eclipses. If there were Martians or Uranians, they wouldn’t see such eclipses. The Moon is about 400 times smaller than the Sun. But the Moon is also about 400 times closer to the Earth than is the Sun. As a result, the size of the Moon on our sky matches the size of the Sun. And since they appear as round disks, they match in both size and shape.”
Tom Gilson continues, “We were a nation looking upward yesterday. Sadly, I know this reporter never could have said we were looking at the glory of God on display; the network wouldn’t have allowed it, even if he’d wanted to. The rest of us, though, can remember never to allow the moon, the sun or anything else to eclipse Him from our hearts and minds.”
To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing” (Isaiah 40:25-26).
Working together with you to shine for Jesus,
William Booth was a Methodist minister in Britain and founder of the Salvation Army in 1865. He had a passion for helping the poor in the name of Christ. One of his biographers tells of the day when the general was in his eighties. He was ill and had been to see a doctor. His son, Bramwell, after talking with the physician regarding his father’s health, had to tell him that he would soon be blind.
Upon hearing the news, Booth asked, “You mean that I am going blind?” His son, Bramwell, responded, “Well, General, I fear that we must contemplate that.” He, along with the family, had always addressed their father by that affectionate name. There was a pause while Booth thought over what he had been told. And then the father asked the son, “I shall never see your face again?”
“No, probably not in this world,” was the son’s reply. The biographer writes, “During the next few moments the veteran’s hand crept along the counterpane to take hold of his son’s, and holding it he said very calmly, ‘God must know best!’ And after another pause, ‘Bramwell, I have done what I could for God and for the people with my eyes. Now I shall do what I can for God and for the people without my eyes.’”
As I think about that story I am inspired by William Booth’s faith and deep spiritual character. So many people who call themselves “Christian” today are willing to follow Jesus as long as everything stays calm and happy. Our tendency is to try to follow Jesus and gain the benefits of that relationship without having to deny ourselves or give anything in return. We’re so obsessed with being comfortable that we’re unwilling to follow Jesus when our circumstances are uncomfortable…or we whine and complain about it.
In Mark 12:30 Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And in Luke 9:23 Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Apparently Jesus expects us to stay committed to him and his church no matter how we feel, either good or bad. One sign of spiritual maturity is when you continue walking in God’s grace serving others even when your life becomes uncomfortable.
Working together with you to stay faithful to Jesus,
In Philippians 3:10-11 we discover that the Apostle Paul is passionately pursuing something: I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. In this single sentence Paul shares his great goal for life. His determined purpose as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ is to “know him, to participate with Jesus in his resurrection and sufferings, and to become like him.”
For Paul, nothing on earth was more important than pursuing Jesus and becoming like him, yet, strangely, so few followers today pursue this all-important priority with intentionality. It’s not too late to change, but you have to be intentional about it. It’s easy to let summer’s activities and our daily routine distract us from deliberately embracing the aim to become more intimately acquainted with Jesus. Everything around us works against our efforts to participate with Christ and to become like him, because we like to clutter up and complicate our life with other activities, events, and things.
From this time forward, make it your goal in life to pursue Jesus and the causes for which he stands. Jesus had this in mind when he said, Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33). This requires that each of us reorder our private world through the discipline of simplicity. Maybe this means saying “enough is enough.” Advertisements have in mind to make you discontented and dissatisfied with who you are and what you have, but being content will help break this kind of “driven-ness” to always pursue more, bigger, and to have what’s “better-than-yours.” Simplicity will help you become less busy.
Maybe reordering your private world through the discipline of simplicity means rejecting envy. Envy leads to nothing but dead-end streets of judging, comparing, and regretting as our focus turns from the things of God and becomes riveted on others and our own discontentment. Envy will make you feel like you can never measure up, but simplicity reminds you that your worth isn’t found in things, but in God.
To cultivate intimacy with the Almighty, it is essential that you reorder your private life by slowing your pace, choosing to be content, and stopping the envy. Cultivating intimacy with Jesus also means making room for God by taking the time to pray, worshiping with the church, reading God’s Word, and studying the Bible with others. Those who determine to simplify their lives so that God can become more present in them are those who actually pursue God so they can become like him.
Everyone’s busy. Choose what you will pursue.
One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
Which tells us the way to go.
Working together to pursue Jesus with you,
Have you ever noticed how people are always trying to figure out who they are? It’s not just people like Bruce Jenner trying to figure out who he is, and then landing on the name Kaitlyn. “Who am I?” is one of the most important and most asked questions in each person’s life.
Almost every commercial tries to help you answer that question. If you’re really country then you’ll wear Levi Jeans. If you’re really wealthy you’ll drive a Lexus. If you are a real American patriot you’ll vote for…. If you’re really sexy then you’ll wear a certain brand of perfume or cologne. If you really love your woman and want her to feel esteemed, you’ll spend thousands of dollars on a diamond ring from Jarrods.
Remember those “identity” quizzes that were on Facebook? They started out like, “What Disney character are you?” and then after answering some questions they identify you as one of the Disney characters: “Tyler is Goofy.” There were all kinds of these “identity” quizzes: What candy bar are you? What movie star are you? Which footwear matches your personality? Which word defines your life? What fast food are you? What color are you? What animal are you? (I like to think of myself as a tiger!) What Walking Dead character are you?
The reason why these things exist is that we all have a deep-seeded need to find out who we are. People don’t determine your identity, though; God does. Your identity has been given to you by him. In the very beginning of the Bible’s message we read in Genesis 1:26, Then God said, “Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness….” The New Living Translation puts it like this: Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” That’s a powerful statement.
The Bible teaches that we are to identify ourselves with Jesus, and significance comes from him. When we have a dismal view of ourselves we’re usually listening to the wrong voices about our significance, our worth, and our purpose. If someone is communicating to you anything less than your true worth as a child of God—be it a parent, spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, employer…anyone—then remind yourself that God’s voice is the one that counts most.
Too many of us go through life without liking our answer to the question “Who am I?” Or we’re not sure who we are. But knowing who you are is a game changer in that it will give you confidence and stability if you identify yourself correctly and accurately. I like what Randy Frazee says in his book, Think, Act, Be Like Jesus: “The more we know and accept who we are in Christ, the more our behavior will begin to reflect our true identity….We will be set free to use our words for building bridges, not burning them. To use our hands to hug, not hurt. To use our feet to bring to, not take away. To use our hearts to inspire, not conspire. To raise the level of any room we are in, not bring it down. As we love God and grow deeper in our love for him, we will then, anywhere and everywhere we go, be Jesus with skin on.”
Isn’t that great? When you identify your life in Jesus, you are him with skin!
Working together to build our identity in Christ,
|Community Christian Church||
FROM TYLER'S DESK