Archive for the ‘ Christians & Culture ’ Category

American Self-Government: Example #1

They were called Separatists in their native England. They got this name because they couldn’t abide being part of a state church where the government controlled the worship and doctrine. So they set up their own churches based on their understanding of how God wanted His church to work, following what they perceived to be the model in the New Testament.

When they set up these churches, they had to start from scratch with church government. Consequently, they relied on covenants, where each member voluntarily joined together with others to agree on the rules by which they would be governed. No authority from above told them what to do; they simply did it.

They were persecuted and had to leave their homeland. Holland allowed them to worship as they pleased, but they longed for a country of their own. That’s when the decided to sail for the New World.

They were blown off course and were unable to land where the charter under which they sailed had authority. That led some of the hired men to talk of the “liberty” they would have once they got off the ship. The covenanted settlers knew they would have a problem on their hands with a group of people who were eager to be in a place without established government. That is why they wrote up their own covenant for civil government.

Drawing Up the Mayflower Compact

Drawing Up the Mayflower Compact

We now call those early settlers “The Pilgrims.” The document they wrote is the Mayflower Compact. It’s not a long document. It merely says that they will obey whatever government is set up. But that was enough. It was the beginning of true self-government in America, from people who already were used to governing themselves in their churches. We continue to look back on that model of self-government today (at least where anything about the Pilgrims may still be taught). A group of dedicated Christians showed the way.

How are we handling self-government in our day? Do we really believe in it anymore? When we look to Washington, DC, to provide for us and to take care of all our problems, what is left of the spirit of self-government?

I hope it’s not too late to revive this principle.

The Greatest of All Self-Government Quotes

 

Grotius: Father of the Law of Nations
Grotius: Father of the Law of Nations

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was a Dutch Christian who became famous for his writings on how nations should relate to one another. There is a quote attributed to him that spells out how self-government works better than any other explanation I have ever read. Now, I haven’t been able to document when or where Grotius said this; that’s why I stated only that it is attributed to him. However, as I tell my students, if I ever find out for sure that he didn’t say it, I will continue to use it because it is such a wonderful quote, and then claim it for myself. Here’s that very insightful statement:

 He knows not how to rule a kingdom that cannot manage a province; nor can he wield a province that cannot order a city; nor he order a city that knows not how to regulate a village; nor he a village that cannot guide a family; nor can that man govern well a family that knows not how to govern himself; neither can any govern himself unless his reason be lord, will and appetite her vassals; nor can reason rule unless herself be ruled by God, and be obedient to Him.

 Read through that carefully again. How might this nation function if we took this to heart? If we never gave anyone civil authority until he or she has shown the ability to handle smaller responsibilities first? If we checked to find out if that person is first of all obedient to God? What a difference it could make.

Principle: Self-Government

In an age when we look to Washington, DC, for everything we need, we have forgotten one basic Biblical principle that was part of the foundation of this country. It is a principle simply called self-government.

It’s not hard to explain. God has created each of us with the ability to make decisions. That is part of His image that He placed within us. Government, by definition, is “control and direction.” Whenever anything is governed, that means it is controlled and directed. The issue comes down to who or what is doing the controlling and directing.

Self-government begins with the individual. We are to learn how to control and direct our own lives under God. This is not meant to be an old 1960s refrain–“do your own thing.” Rather, it is a growth in maturity as we come to understand more and more just what God wants us to do–and then we do it. We don’t do it because someone is standing over us making us do it; instead, we do it because we acknowledge that it is the right thing to do and we make that decision ourselves.

We used to teach this to our children. We sought to help them grow up and make wise decisions based on eternal standards of right and wrong. Nowadays, we tell them to make their own decisions but we disconnect that decisionmaking from God’s standards. That’s when it becomes a purely personal preference unrelated to what is right.

So each individual is govern himself. But there are other applications. Each family is to be self-governing, each church, each voluntary organization, each locality, each state, each nation.

One more application: you should never give a higher level of responsibilty to anyone who has not shown the proper self-government of a lesser responsibilty. The apostle Paul was following this principle when he cautioned his disciple Timothy on the procedure for choosing elders and deacons in the church. They had to be proven at a lower level before being elevated in rank or responsibility.

I’ll continue with this concept in my next post.

I Didn't Really Want to Mention This, But . . .

The devotion to Obama seems to have few boundaries. Perhaps you have seen some of the videos making the rounds on YouTube: children singing his praises; teens marching and spouting off on how Obama has given them new hope and has inspired them to succeed in life. Some would say, “What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that a positive thing?”

What’s wrong can be summarized in one word: idolatry.

Many have mentioned the cult that has arisen around this presumed political savior. Some, I fear, have taken it even further. It is rather chilling to view the raptured faces whenever he speaks. This is why some have referred to him critically as the “Obamessiah.”

Personally, I am distressed by the lack of rational thinking on the part of his adoring fans. I have noted a number of interviews with Obama supporters being asked “Just what has he accomplished as a senator?” They have trouble coming up with anything. This is a cult of personality with no substance.

Well, maybe that’s not exactly true. There is substance there, only hidden: Marxist roots; liberation theology; close associations with radicals out to change the very nature of American society. But you would never know that from the reports of the mainstream media.

It is very possible that we may wake up the day after the election to an Obama victory. That will be only the beginning of our national woes.

False Messiah?
False Messiah?

My mind keeps returning to a warning straight from the mouth of Jesus:

Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many…. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance.

We haven’t seen any “signs and wonders” yet, but I am concerned that some of my brothers and sisters in the Lord are being deceived. For the sake of the church and the nation, I urge any of you who are contemplating voting for Obama to reconsider. Please check out the concerns I have raised here and in previous posts.

Principle: Made in God's Image

In early America, there was little debate about who man was. Nearly everyone agreed man was a being made in the image of God. What did that mean?

First, it meant that God had transferred many of His attributes to his creation: man was given intellect, emotions, and the power to choose good and evil. He also had a spirit. Just as God is a spirit, so man was more than a material being. He also would live forever, the destination predicated on his choice.

Second, it meant that man was God’s highest creation and that the life He breathed into him was the greatest gift that could possibly be given. It was a gift that was to be honored and protected. It meant that life was sacred. We know that’s how God viewed it when He declared that anyone who would take away the life of another would suffer the same penalty, thereby sanctioning capital punishment.

There is a difference between taking the life of a murderer (a task given to civil society) and taking the life of an innocent person. The ultimate innocent person is one who has never chosen right from wrong because he or she is still inside the womb.

The Ultimate Innocent Person

The Ultimate Innocent Person

When we later adopted the view that man simply evolved from lower life forms, we discarded the idea that man is a special creation of God. We reduced him to a mass of chemicals or a blob of tissue. That’s why it is so much easier now to discard unwanted human life, either in the womb or when a person is no longer considered “useful” to society.

A society that can allow this type of behavior is a society in rebellion against its Creator. It will pay a penalty. Our mission is to trumpet the message that man IS made in God’s own image, as we seek to reverse policies that destroy innocent life.

Are Voters Foolish? (Part II)

Mankind is sinful. That’s the Biblical message. Consequently, we should not be surprised that voters will make foolish choices at times. Yet what do we mean when we say that mankind is sinful, and how does that connect with voting?

Let me try to explain how I see sin. First, all sin is foolish. What could be more foolish than to stiffarm the God who created you and who wants to free you from a life (both now and in eternity) separated from His love? Our rebellious hearts create a barrier. It’s not God’s fault; it’s ours. We are foolish.

Second, all sin is selfishness. We don’t want anyone else telling us what to do, and we don’t want to be held accountable to the standard God has set. Instead, we want to follow our own thinking, our own selfish desires, our misguided concepts of what is “good.” In short, we want to be our own god.

Combine that selfishness with foolishness and then apply it to voting. What is the result? We vote for whoever promises to give us more. We just want things to go better, so we pick someone who says he is all about “change.” Never mind what the change might be; we simply want “change.” We choose not to be truly informed on the issues. We don’t bother to think about foundational principles of life and government. All of this comes from sinful hearts.

I expect that from the world at large. What is distressing is when professing Christians do the same thing. We are to be the salt and light in this society. As Jesus noted, if the salt loses its flavor, what is it good for? The answer: nothing. If we hide the light, who is going to find the right path? No one.

We should be taking the lead in promoting Biblical principles in all of society, but particularly, at this time, in the sphere of politics and government. We should be the most informed on the issues and be able to explain why certain policies are right and others wrong. We should never vote for “change” without first examining what the change will be. Neither should we simply cast our vote for those who promise to give us more goodies. That’s selfishness. That’s sin.

Principle: God the Creator

Continuing with a review of Biblical principles, I want to focus now on the truth that God is the creator of all things. If God “is,” then it is not a great logical leap to conclude that He also “does.” We don’t really grasp the concept of how astonishingly creative He is. All that we see around us began with an image in His own mind. He then transformed that image into something tangible. The universe sprang from His creativity; all the features of this earth are the result of His desire to create; the material and animal creations manifest His imagination.

Then came man. This was a unique part of His creation. Man is separated from all other created things by one key ingredient. Within man was planted the image of God. Nothing else in creation has this gift. God reasons; man can reason. God displays emotions; man possesses identical emotions. God chooses; man has a will. God knows the difference between right and wrong; man is endowed with a conscience. God is a spirit who is from everlasting to everlasting. Although man has a starting point, he also is more than a physical being; he has a spirit, and he will live forever as well. The only difference is that there are two eternal locations for that spirit, and only one is in the presence of his Creator.

Perhaps Michaelangelo expressed it best in his painting of the Sistine Chapel.

How are we handling this most wonderful creation of God? Do we reason as God reasons? Feel what He feels? Choose as He would choose? Is our conscience informed by His truth or have we instead seared our conscience to avoid the truth? This is not a game; it determines where our spirit will spend eternity.

And do we attempt to influence our culture by speaking clearly regarding this truth? Or do we hide the truth in order to be accepted by the culture? The future of the nation depends on the answer to that question.