Archive for the ‘ The Christian Spirit ’ Category

Do You Want Obama to Succeed?

Bill O’ Reilly asked that question in one of his online polls. I didn’t respond. The question is too simplistic, offering no room for explanation for my answer.

I would ask instead, “Do you want the United States to be blessed by God during the Obama presidency?” To that question I can answer an emphatic “yes.” I receive no satisfaction when my nation suffers. I desire that it be an example to the world of righteousness, Biblical morality, and economic prosperity.

But that’s not the same question as “Do you want Obama to succeed?” If he models a Biblical worldview and leads us in a godly direction, then I want him to succeed. If, instead, he maintains his stated goals during the campaign, then I am not in favor of his success.

What does he wish to accomplish? He desires to overturn all laws restricting abortion; he wants to place judges in the federal courts who will treat the Constitution as a “living document,” using the court system to enact a radical liberal agenda; he is in favor of treating homsexuality [characterized as a sin in the Scriptures] as an acceptable, moral lifestyle, even to the point of endorsing same-sex marriage [if you are not aware of this, see my earlier post dated January 13]; and he relishes the idea of the federal government running the economy [otherwise known as socialism]. How can I want those plans to succeed?

My Christian faith has to inform all of my thoughts, attitudes, and decisions. Some would accuse me of being unchristian for not wanting Obama to succeed. I respond that I would be unchristian if I desired any of his plans to come to fruition. Christians need to speak out for God’s standards. I will continue to do that throughout the Obama presidency. If he should happen to put Biblical principles first, I will support him. If he dismisses those principles, I will oppose his efforts. That is the proper Christian response.

Inauguration Day

When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan. [Proverbs 29:2]

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. [I Timothy 2:1-4]

 

Thank You, Southeastern University

El Prado--The Main Walkway on Campus
El Prado–The Main Walkway on Campus

In this new year, I want to begin with an expression of gratitude. I am in my third year now at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived.

I had taught previously at the graduate level and at a college with high admissions standards dominated by homeschoolers, so returning to an open-admissions university was going to be a challenge, I thought.

In some ways, that has been true, but I have grown to love this place. Why?

First, I have never worked at an institution of higher education that has demonstrated the heart of God as much as I have witnessed here. The openness of the administration toward faculty is refreshing. Without trying to sound too trite, this is the “nicest” place that I have ever worked.

The desire to constantly improve the quality of the campus–the physical structures, the educational standards, and the spiritual atmosphere–is evident. It is a pleasure to come to work, although “work” is often the wrong word. I really do consider this a ministry to the students.

Tuscana Ristorante

Tuscana Ristorante

I have also been given the opportunity to develop courses I’ve never had the privilege to teach before: American Colonial History, The American Revolution, The Civil War Era. But those are basic types of upper-level courses. In addition, I have had the liberty to develop more specialized courses that I know will benefit the students, expanding their understanding of how the Biblical worldview applies to our society.

In particular, last year I taught a full-semester course on Whittaker Chambers, writer of what I consider to be the most significant work of the twentieth century–Witness. This coming semester, I will be offering a course entitled “Ronald Reagan and Modern American Conservatism.” Would I ever have been allowed to teach such courses at a typical university? Highly unlikely.

At one end of the campus is a statue that is supposed to embody the spirit of Southeastern. It is called “The Divine Servant,” depicting Jesus washing the feet of Peter, his disciple.

May that spirit of servanthood always prevail here.

Just What Exactly Did Those Angels Say?

We all know the words, as recorded in the King James Bible and placed in a number of Christmas carols: “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” But that was the King James version, and I’ve always questioned its accuracy. It seems rather indiscriminate, this goodwill to men, almost like sentimental humanism.

It’s always best to check other translations: For instance, the New American Standard says, “peace on earth among men with whom He is pleased.” Now that is different. It stresses that peace will come only to those who please God.

We see the same emphasis in the New International Version: “peace to men on whom His favor rests.” God’s favor rests on those who respond to Him. Yes, His love is unconditional, but His favor is something else.

I have an interlinear Greek-English New Testament, which translates as follows: “peace among men of good will.” Again, there is the concept of man’s response–you must be someone of good will to obtain His peace.

So when we see those words this Christmas, let’s not just fall into the worldly way of understanding them. The world loves the King James translation because it can turn its phrasing into a lack of personal responsibility. I don’t believe that is what is intended at all.

Peace on earth, and within each individual on earth, is obtained only through a restored relationship with the God of all. That restored relationship is available via the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no other alternative.

In a Celebrity-Mad World . . .

As a people, we seek heroes. Sometimes, we manufacture them:

At times, we even go further:

Yet, in the midst of all this hype, there is one true “hero” and only one Messiah:

May this be a real Christmas for everyone who reads this.

Warren & the President-Elect

The latest political controversy that involves the Christian faith is one I’ve had to think about more than usual. Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback megachurch in California, has been tabbed by Obama to offer the invocation at the inauguration.

My first reaction was one of disbelief: how could Warren possibly join Obama on the platform and invoke God’s blessing on his administration?

My second reaction was to think more about the responsibility we all have as Christians to pray for our elected leaders, no matter how much we may disagree with them. Perhaps, I reasoned, this is God’s way of putting someone with His heart near the heart of this new administration. After all, didn’t Billy Graham counsel both Democrat and Republican presidents?

The prophet Daniel served at the court of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. His presence there was a way that God used to bring His message to that pagan monarch.

Christians do have a responsibility to pray for government officials. If we have the opportunity to influence them, we need to take it. So why should I not want Warren to pray at the inauguration?

I know all of this, yet I still have trouble with this latest development. If Obama wants to receive counsel from Warren or any other evangelical with a proper understanding of God’s righteousness on issues of public policy, that is one thing–and it would be a cause for rejoicing. But to pray at the inaugural itself is tantamount to a public profession of solidarity with the new president. Our role is to hold up God’s standard and lead officials closer to what He intends for government. I’m afraid that Warren’s presence on that platform will appear to be more of an endorsement.

Now, I know Warren does not endorse Obama’s views on abortion, and that his church took a decided stand against homosexual marriage. It’s possible that people will realize this, and in the eyes of those who are part of the great American “middle,” that confused mass of humanity that doesn’t know what it thinks, hearts and minds may be opened to rethink their views.

Already the main problem is that Obama is getting grief from his homosexual supporters, as they demand that Warren be removed from the agenda. Perhaps that reaction will accomplish the opposite of what the protesters desire; people may reject their protest.

I understand the various possibilities for how this could turn out, and some of it could be for the good. Yet I remain unconvinced. I ask myself, “Could I do what Warren is being asked to do?” Quite honestly, I could not.

I welcome the perspectives of my readers on this issue. As long as your comment is civil, I will publish it.

Teaching in Puerto Rico

My Lodgings at YWAM

My Lodgings at YWAM

I am in Puerto Rico this week, teaching church history at the Youth with a Mission (YWAM) base in Juncos. I have been coming here for the last six years, teaching primarily in the School of the Bible. Besides church history, I also offer a week-long series on Biblical worldview and another on American history.

Being here is always a highlight for me. The students are eager to learn and devoted to developing into what the Lord wants them to be. The base also has a passion for evangelism, primarily in China.

One of my goals the past few years has been to learn as much Spanish as possible. I seem to make advances, only to have my schedule reverse my achievements. Finding the time to learn another language when you are a fulltime professor, trying to write another book, and blogging in your spare time, is not easy. Someday . . .