Category Archives: Government

The Enemy Wins When We Hate

Jesus said, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25).

As I have watched the events unfold both before and after the election, I am aware that my real enemy is not the person who disagrees with me politically. It is not the person who has a different worldview or follows another religion from mine. My real enemy is Satan, the forces of darkness, lying spirits and sin. In the Beatitudes, Jesus called on His followers to love those who hate you. As a Christian, I am called to love everyone, including those who anger or annoy me. It is hard, and I struggle with it just like the next person.

The real enemy is anger, hate, sin, pride, lies and those things that would divide the body of Christ. Some “Christians” have said some horrible things over the past six months. And any way that I have fueled those flames, please know that I apologize. I am asking for forgiveness for the body of Christ for those who claim to be Christians and have spewed hatred, malice and anger.

Can we disagree? Sure, we can. Can we vote for different people? You bet. Can we believe in different futures for America and the world? Yes, we can. But at the end of the day, we need to treat each other with mutual respect. This means allowing those who are upset about the outcome of the election to vent or mourn. And it means those who are happy with the result can celebrate. This situation calls on everyone to be aware of the feelings of others. The guy who I openly liked (Gary Johnson) didn’t win either.

Elections have real outcomes, and those who win get to decide what the agenda will be. So this is not an editorial calling for the Republicans to fold up and sheepishly put away their agenda. But it is a call for civility to listen and understand the other side. All the major players in the presidential stage have acted with extreme grace and maturity since the election. This includes President Obama, Secretary Hillary Clinton and President –elect Donald Trump. I hope and pray this continues even though I know the various sides will work to defend the principles they hold dear.

As President Obama said this is an intramural scrimmage not a war between two different countries. I have friends and family on all sides of this election. And I want them to know that I love them. I want them to know that I am here to listen. Do I believe that God is still in control? You bet. Do I understand how that thought might not be very comforting to those who are overcome with grief in the moment? Yes, just like it may not have seemed a comfort to the Israelites in the Bible who were oppressed and lived in exile.

Even though I was not a fan of Barack Obama, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and pray for him. I was a bit afraid when he was first elected because of strong disagreements with his policies. As a person, I liked Obama and was proud that the country had overcome racial barriers. As a politician, I feared his solutions would only make our problems in the country worse. And I understand that at this point in time, there are millions who feel the same way about Trump.

I have no idea what the man I have called “Hair piece” will do as president. But I am going to give Trump the same benefit of the doubt as Obama. And I hope that Trump can be a better man in the White House than he has shown on the campaign trail. I do believe that people can change. Otherwise, the cross would be useless. I do believe that Jesus can redeem anyone.

If Trump turns out to be a nightmare and tramples on the rights of U.S. citizens or acts in inhumane ways, I will be right there with the oppressed standing for them. And I will publicly stand up for them in any way that I can. I will fervently defend the Constitution if Trump tries to become some sort of fascist leader.

Do we need to move on from hysteria? Yes, at some point. And I will be patient enough to realize that some people need a chance to decompress. Do many people have legitimate grievances with Trump and his rhetoric? Yes, I think so. I have personally criticized many things that Trump has said and done in the past. But even for Trump’s harshest critics, the best thing they can do is be vigilant, pray and act to mobilize socially to defend their rights in peaceful, non-disruptive ways.

Upon reflection, the real enemy is within when I and others let anger, fear, frustration, disillusionment or resentment lead me/them to act in ways that do not reflect Christ, who is the essence of love. The real enemy is not the other person but the powers of sin and darkness in the world. The real enemy wins when we hate.

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Can a Christian Be a Libertarian?

It seems that the core of the Libertarian worldview is both very Biblical and also anti-Christian at the same time. I am not talking about particular political positions as much as its  focus on individual liberty and what it means to be free.

Christianity is full of apparent paradoxes. One of the hardest to cope with is the fact that to be free from sin we have to submit and give over our liberty to Christ.

The official Libertarian party platform preamble states, “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.” It goes on to further state, “We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”

Scripture in many places suggest that God has given man free will to make decisions, and that we will indeed be held accountable for our actions. Instead of stamping out robots, God created humanity with the ability to reason and make choices. Although God does intervene in many cases, He also takes a very hands off approach at times allowing us to discover for ourselves the folly of our ways. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is a perfect example of this situation. Just like that father who allows his son to squander away his inheritance, God doesn’t micromanage our lives, and indeed in many cases He seems to hide so that we have to really search to find Him. God could blind us with His glory at any given moment and create a situation where we would have little choice to acquiesce to His demands. But God doesn’t want that. He wants us to truly love Him and become like Him in character. And that is more caught than forced upon us by an edict.

So in many ways, God seems like a classic Libertarian. But then again, He is far from it when you see the values that He demonstrates and calls His people to follow. The perfect symbol for Jesus is the cross. And that is the ultimate example of Him setting aside his rights and making sacrifices. It was direct divine intervention to solve humanity’s biggest problems. Instead of running the show, Jesus submitted to the will of His Father. Jesus demonstrated complete humility and selfless love. True, it was His own decision. But he set aside His rights for a greater glory and purpose. For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. And that joy was you and me coming to salvation and true freedom. Jesus knew that freedom comes at a cost. And many times it requires us to set aside our rights.

One of the pitfalls I see for Christians when it comes to Libertarian political philosophy is the emphasis on individual liberty can easily turn the focus to self and our own desires. But that is not what Jesus promoted. He said that whoever would follow Him, must take up a cross, deny himself and follow Christ’s example (Luke 9:23). This is symbolic language with a real world application. We are to put aside our desires for actions that achieve God’s purposes in the world. And that is exactly what Jesus did. He is our example.

Libertarians came make their arguments so much about freedom that they don’t realize the things they fight for actually cause addiction, depression, bondage, self loathing, or possibly even death. While God calls us to be His sons, we are also His slaves. And that means true Christians lay down their rights knowing that they can trust God and His ways to be best.

I am reminded of what Michael Card wrote in his book, A Better Freedom, “The New Testament does not offer the choice between slavery or freedom, but only whose slave we will be — the world’s or Christ’s. Jesus does not offer freedom from slavery but instead a a new kind of slavery that provides the only true freedom. I cannot buy my own freedom. Only Jesus can.”

This is difficult if not impossible to do without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. So it isn’t that liberty and personal choice are bad. The problem for a Christian is when we elevate personal choice over the Word of God.

These are tough words, and nobody really wants to hear them – certainly not Americans. What the Christian Gospel offers is a radical reversal to the values of humanity. The cross is freedom. Death leads to life. And renouncing our rights to God’s direction leads to true freedom. Our pursuits are our undoing when they lead us away from God’s best. It isn’t that desire is bad. It is that our desires take pleasure in lesser things  that lead to less and less freedom.

Can you be a Libertarian and be a Christian? Yes. Just like you can be a Democrat, a Republican or a third-party voter and be a Christian. We are not saved by our politics. But our spiritual beliefs should guide our political stances and positions. The problem with some Libertarians that I have met is that they value their freedom above all else. And in that they will find it difficult to let go and truly trust God who offers the greatest freedom imaginable.

Choosing Among Evils

With that headline, you already know what I am going to write about – the 2016 presidential election. For the record, there is no candidate that I can enthusiastically support. I have severe problems with all of the four candidates who are on enough ballots to theoretically be able to win – Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.

In the primaries, the candidate I liked the most was Rand Paul followed by Marco Rubio and then Ted Cruz. If I had to describe my party affiliation it would a Tea Party Libertarian. I know such a thing doesn’t exist. I like the Tea Party because it wants less taxation, smaller government, more local control and less interference from federal regulators. I like the Libertarians because they are the only major party left that agrees with small government and individual freedom. I don’t like the Libertarian party’s stance on abortion, but I do know that there are many Libertarians who are pro-life.

There are a number of much smaller third parties that do have some quality candidates. But these are on so few state ballots and would require such a massive write-in effort to achieve any substantial vote totals that I believe voting for them is pretty much a wasted vote. At least a vote for the Libertarian or Green party will register some protest on the national political radar.

When it comes to voting for a president, you have to analyze the platform, character, experience and leadership qualities of the candidates. Some people don’t care as much about the person as the party affiliation or platform. Others focus more on the personality of the individual. Some will talk about the Supreme Court and who the various candidates would appoint. I believe that you can love Jesus and vote for practically any candidate running. I do not stand in judgment of any person who votes his or her conscious before God.

It is important to keep this election in perspective. Anyone who is a Christian must remember that his or her ultimate trust is in God not earthly leaders. In Scripture you can see that God even works through pagan, evil kings to work His purposes. Sure, we need to make our votes count and use wisdom when we enter the voting booth. But ultimately, I lose in this election if I allow the current media circus to destroy my public witness and ability to be an ambassador for the Kingdom of God. No matter how mad I get. I have to remember that my trust is in God alone. Whoever becomes our next president, I will pray for him or her to lead with sound judgment.

The issues that matter most to me are controlling the national debt, turning more control over to state and local authorities, preserving individual liberties, protecting the unborn, creating sane immigration policies, the safety and welfare of the American democracy and increasing economic opportunities for all. My problem is that I feel no candidate reflects my views in all of these areas. I tend to side with Donald Trump on tax law changes, environmental reforms, gun rights and pro-life policies. I sort of side with Hillary Clinton on immigration policy. I don’t really find agreement with Jill Stein on much except for reining in the NSA and the surveillance state.

Generally, I believe that liberal policies are not best for the economy nor for fixing social problems. In many cases though, I do care deeply about the concerns that liberals raise – racial inequalities, high college debt, prison and sentencing reform, fixing the illegal immigration problem in a humane way and improving health care for all, etc. For far too long the media has painted conservatives as people who don’t care about those issues, and that is not true.

When I took a test to analyze my stances on major issues, I found that I agreed most with Gary Johnson, and that was only 80% of the time. I definitely do not like Johnson’s stance on a number of core issues. These most notably are his opinions on abortion, religious freedom and environmental policy. But when it comes to the other major issues, I tend to side with him. And I do believe both Johnson and Bill Weld have experience in doing what matters most – improving and cutting the size of government.

Yes, I know about the recent foreign policy gaffes made by Johnson. But I think that is why Bill Weld is there to help make up the difference. It seems clear that Johnson would defer a lot to Weld’s political experience and background.

Many people will say, “You are voting for Hillary. You are throwing away your vote.” But those are bad arguments for pulling the lever for a man you wouldn’t let watch your pet cat much less run the country. I hope that enough people are like me that they will vote for Gary Johnson too as a protest against the current two-party system that does not reflect how many of us believe today. Some will say, “That is only going to play into the Democrat’s hands.” And I believe they are right for a time. I believe the GOP will crack first. But eventually (probably in only a few elections), three parties will lead to four or more. And then we will start to see our views more widely represented. Collaboration will become even more important.

When we demonize the other people in the process, we are making it more difficult to fix the problems that we claim to care about. Honestly, we will need to work with everyone to create meaningful change in this country. I happen to have some strong political and even philosophical differences with many liberals, but I still respect them as people who mean well. Unfortunately, I feel that many times those on the left can’t say the same thing about those on the right. And my biggest problem with Donald Trump is that he is the embodiment of every false lie that the media says about conservatives. I don’t think Trump is truly conservative. And he certainly is not a Constitutionalist. I haven’t seen him say much about the Constitution in his rallies or TV interviews.

Just when you think the revelations about Donald Trump couldn’t get any worse, out pops tapes that may have just shipwrecked Trump’s candidacy. Long before the latest revelations I had severe reservations about Trump and was leaning strongly against not voting for him. Now, I know that I have no choice. And I really feel that voting for a respectful atheist who will defend the Constitution and work to bring common-sense solutions is better than a die-hard liberal or a fake conservative, business mogul who is the biggest narcissist to ever seek the presidency.

The only way I could change my vote is if Trump drops out and the Republicans nominate Pence in his place. Otherwise, I will be voting for Gary Johnson in November. And I urge others to do the same. You can find out more about Gary Johnson and Bill Weld at https://www.johnsonweld.com/.

The Holy Spirit Inspired the Dream

If you have ever heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech it is impossible not to be stirred and feel that you are listening to something epic. It is as if that speech was not mere words. It was a spiritual experience that broke a yoke off the necks of millions of people.

I always thought that when I heard it I was reminded of some of the most moving sermons I had listened to in my life. King was a preacher before he was a civil rights icon. And he knew what it meant to be inspired by God to action. And when I heard a recent TV show exploring the story behind King’s famous speech, I knew that I was right. Those were not mere words.

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Congressman and civil rights leader, John Lewis, spoke about that day. ABC News journalist Byron Pitts spoke with Lewis and former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, one of King’s top aids, about King’s speech. This transcript is incredible.
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Andrew YOUNG: He was determined not to speak more than 10 minutes. And he did. He finished his prepared address in just about 9 minutes.

PITTS: But he wasn’t finished. Sitting behind Dr. King was famed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson who shouted to her friend, tell them about the dream. It’s a theme he’d used before in smaller settings.

KING: I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

PITTS: Why do you think he made that transition to talk about the dream?

YOUNG: As a preacher, there’s something we, we call being led by the spirit.

LEWIS: The spirit told him to lay that paper down and just go for it.

KING: I have a dream. My four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

PITTS: And it’s a dream that still lives on 50 years later.

(See more on this news discussion at
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/rep-john-lewis-remembers-historic-march-on-washington)

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This transcript clearly shows that the Holy Spirit inspired one of the most incredible political moments of the last 100 years. When people ask, “Where is God with all this injustice in the world?” I can point to moments like King’s speech and know that God’s Spirit stirs mens’ souls. The Holy Spirit moves behind the scenes, and one day, we will realize that the Lord was in those moments after all.

I am not surprised that the Holy Spirit breathed life into words that King had said at other times without the same effect. It was the power of the Spirit that made those words electric. He is moving in history. We just have to see it and know that the Spirit brings the fire that changes history.

I don’t say this in any way to disrespect King’s impact or his personal sacrifice to gain what he fought for. While those were his words, the concept he fought for is deeply rooted in the vision that the Apostle Paul outlined in the New Testament. Primarily, I am pointing out that King was divinely inspired, which should give more credence to his dream.

Praise be to God that we have come so far because Scripture says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” May we continue to bring God’s principles of love, hope and mercy to those who are not free or struggle due to injustice. While our job is not done, history shows that we have come a far way in establishing liberty and freedom in many places in the world.

A Godly Revolution

Adam Edgerly, the lead pastor for Newsong Los Angeles, spoke yesterday at a training session for young leaders taking part in the Love Santa Ana campaign this weekend. Looking at the civil rights movement in the 1960s as well as the current racial divides and ethnic concerns in society today, Edgerly suggested a radically different process for social engagement. He didn’t say that people just accept injustice. Yet he also cautioned that taking to the streets should not be the first action for followers of Christ. He also said that certain actions may help be a temporary release valve for social tension although they don’t do much to solve the long-term problems. Rioting in the streets and vandalizing businesses may go a long way to hurt a movement instead of help it.

As a black leader and pastor, Edgerly spoke with conviction about real reform coming through the spiritual discipline of civil engagement. This seeks to bring change to public policy through altering the spiritual and physical reality of the world around us. He pointed to the actions of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 1 as a model for social reform. Overcome by the state of his people, Nehemiah sat down and wept over the state of Jerusalem. Its walls had been torn down, and the city was defenseless. Those who lived in the city were vulnerable and in a poor state.

Edgerly commented that the first thing Nehemiah did was to stop and encounter the pain of his people even though they were a long way off back in Jerusalem. He allowed the pain of others to impact his heart and drive him to action. Then, Nehemiah moved from pain to prayer where the concern was brought before God. This released divine guidance, inspiration and power to help impact the situation. Nehemiah started to develop a God-inspired plan. Prayer positions our hearts and minds so that we can hear how God wants to change the situations we see around us.

Nehemiah went from pain to prayer to planning and then to action where he sought the proper time to petition the ruling authorities for access and support to make the necessary changes to bring relief to those who were suffering in Jerusalem.

This involved a substantial risk for Nehemiah. As the king’s cup bearer, he had access to the king, but his request could be interpreted as disloyalty or rebellion. Nehemiah might find himself at the wrong end of the sword by making his request known. And it was never a good idea to be downcast in front of the king. Everybody wanted to put on their best face in the king’s presence. But if you want to make major change, you have to be willing to take a real risk.

Edgerly suggested the following lessons and process from the civil rights movement of the 1960s looking specifically at the example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1.) Christians should investigate the situation and collect the facts. Rumor and accusation are not the same thing as true injustice.
2.) Then, Christians should try to negotiate a proper resolution with those in authority.
3.) As the situation escalates, Christians should go through self purification to make sure that they cut any ties or support for the injustice taking place.
4.) Finally, Christians should engage in non-violent direct action to raise awareness of the issue and show solidarity with those who are being abused, hurt, marginalized or negatively impacted by a particular injustice.

Compartments

Throughout the recent campaign, an argument arose that has perplexed me. The essence of the concept is that we can hold divergent views on a moral question in our public and private lives.

During the vice presidential debate, the candidates squared off on the issue of abortion. Both of the men are Catholics. Congressman Paul Ryan said, “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith.” He added, “Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life.”

Vice President Joe Biden confirmed that he’s been a practicing Catholic all his life and his faith informs his social doctrine.Yet, Biden responded that while he accepts the church’s doctrine when it comes to abortion, he refuses to “impose that on others.” President Obama shares a similar belief and explanation for his stance on the abortion issue.

Vice President Biden explained, “With regard to — with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

“I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I’m not going to interfere.”

At the heart of Vice President Biden’s statements is the idea that we can hold one view in our private lives that is guided by our faith and yet support a completely different view in a public role, setting or sphere of influence. And this is not just any old issue — it is the concept of valuing and protecting life. It is answering the basic question that Cain asked God after the first murder. He asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

This is a foundational question that is moral, cultural and scientific in nature. Moral in terms of the need to protect the life of the unborn and limit late term abortions. Cultural in terms of responding to public pressure to keep abortion safe and legal. And scientific as the country debates when life begins.

A key aspect of the debate is that we can have various compartments in our lives that are distinct and don’t need to interact or correlate. If you are a Christian, can there be any part of our life that is not under the lordship of Christ and the rule of life outlined in Scripture? Are we obligated to honor the Church’s leadership on moral issues of high importance over public opinion?

It is one thing to be a staunch atheist who disagrees that life starts before birth or the third trimester of pregnancy. It is quite another to be a Christian who privately opposes abortion and believes it should be rare although publicly defends abortion rights, including partial birth abortions. The first view is very consistent. The second view is not for a number of reasons. For starters, why should abortion be rare if there is nothing wrong with it? Why not have abortion as a normal part of birth control? The fact that people suggest it should be rare shows that many people feel it is wrong even though they don’t want to limit the rights of others to take this life before it is born.

Secondly, the atheist doesn’t believe in God nor has any reason to recognize the authority of the Church. A Christian on the other hand must be submitted to the highest authority, which is the voice of God. Also, a Christian should error on the side of protecting life and those who can least defend themselves.

If something is a sin, then it is wrong for a Christian to do. Scripture is quite clear that murder is wrong, and if you believe the unborn child is a life worth saving then it would be a sin to take the life unless you are trading a life for a life. I can somewhat understand the viewpoint of a Christian who believes that life doesn’t starts until birth and as a result is pro choice. But if you believe there is something wrong with abortion in your private life, why is it okay in public policy? Doesn’t this suggest that you really think abortion is the taking of a defenseless life?

If Christ only guides the private side of your life, what does that say about your relationship to Him? 1 John 5:9 suggests that “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater.” Whose opinion should reign supreme in our most important decisions — the Word of God or the thoughts of men?

It is our deeds that matter as much as our words when it comes to saving faith in Christ. As James 2 suggests, words without deeds are useless. In the same way that Christian abortion rights advocates make little sense so do Christian capitalists who take advantage of their fellow man and cheat people in the name of making an extra dollar. Our conscience as Christians should be held captive to Scripture in all areas of life. This includes the abortion issue as well as taking care of the poor and the senior citizens, protecting the environment, and support equality for all under the law.

I don’t believe that siding against abortion on religious grounds goes against the idea of freedom of religion. You can hold a staunch pro life position and still be open for the free exercise of religion. But pro choose advocates like to make pro lifers look like people who oppose religious freedom. In actuality, the only thing pro lifers really oppose is playing god with somebody else’s life.

It is clear that an unborn child starts to develop unique features within the first 22 days of birth if not earlier. For example, most babies have a unique heart beat within the first 22 days. Upon conception, all the unique chromosomes are present for that individual life.

By the end of the eighth week, every organ is in place, bones begin to replace cartilage, and fingerprints begin to form. Is this not a distinct and separate life from the mother? So when people talk about a woman’s right to choose what happens with her own body, when does an unborn child get a voice in the process?

Ultimately, it is not my place to judge the faith of another person. They are responsible to God alone. But I tend to believe that Jesus is either Lord of your entire life or you can have no part in Him at all because the Lord is a jealous God. He does not want His people to have split allegiances. Christ calls for us to surrender everything in our lives to His will and purposes. This includes our day job, our politics and even our bedrooms.

Sorry I Said That…

The most recent election has produced some very strong feelings and words by many Christians. Some people have really said things that are hard to reconcile with what I know about those people. Ultimately, we are only responsible to God for what we say. But we must remember that our public witness does reflect on the cause of Christ.

I believe that we can state our opinion and even enter into political discourse without getting into name calling, yelling or being rude. Some of the best posts that I have seen on Facebook suggest that any Christian who acts like all is either won or lost just because of an election has put too much faith in people and politics. I certainly agree although I believe it is perfectly fine to either celebrate or mourn depending on your opinion.

I personally am mourning the fact that I believe this nation is swinging further away from the heart of God and at the same time both political parties refuse to do anything about pressing issues such as a skyrocketing debt, immigration concerns, boosting the economy, education, regulatory reform, etc.

As I was reading the Word today, I was challenged by these statements made in the book of James…

James 1:19-21: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

Sometimes we need to think twice before we hit the “send” button on the email or Facebook post. Our first reaction, may not be a Biblical one. I was hit hard by the statement that the “anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Wow! If what I desire is righteousness, then me torching somebody in an argument may not be the best way to accomplish what I say that I want.

James 1:26: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

Ouch that just hurt so good! We should not think more highly of our own moral high ground than we ought. We should be careful what we say. Or else we can become deceived and produce a life that is worthless in God’s eyes.

The last thing I want is to have a “worthless religion.”

Lord, help me to speak only Words of life not doubt and fear. Yes, I may even need to say a hard word at times. But may everything that I say and do be rooted in love. May I be quick to pray and slow to  speak. May I have eyes to see through the lens of mercy and grace. Help me to love and live like You did — Jesus.