Archive for the ‘ The Christian Spirit ’ Category

Principle: Christian Character (Part I)

We are all free moral agents made in the image of God. In order for His creation to operate the way He intended, we must reflect His character. If we don’t, everything falls apart [which is evident just by observing the world].

Noah Webster’s dictionary definition of character, distinct from the human aspect, was simply “a mark made by cutting, engraving, stamping, or pressing.” Like a typewriter—you remember those? Put in the paper, press the key, the arm jumps up and cuts, engraves, stamps, or presses on the paper, making a “mark.”

It works the same way with people. Our character is made by the various cuttings we must endure, the engravings that sometimes hurt, the stamping and pressing that oftentimes leaves us wondering how we are going to survive. Yet those very circumstances of life make us into what we are. They form our character.

Character is created within; it reveals itself externally. We cannot simply grit our teeth and determine we will have godly character; it must spring from a heart that is changed. The Apostle Paul alluded to this when he wrote to the Corinthian believers:

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (II Cor. 3:2-3)

The real change takes place in the heart. What is in the heart will be manifested. Some may not like this explanation:

Truth can disturb us—but that’s the nature of truth. Only when we face up to the truth and acknowledge it for what it is can we be set free.

Resurrection Day

The tomb is empty.

There is more significance to this day than to all other holidays combined—Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving—yes, even Christmas, because Christmas would have no meaning if Christ had not fulfilled His mission.

May all who are reading this know the One who is the focus of this day.

The Culture War: Homosexuality vs. Christian Faith

Who Would Have Believed It Would Come to This?
Who Would Have Believed It Would Come to This?

The Washington Post, of all places, has an article pointing out the problems faced by Christians who are standing by their belief that homosexuality is sinful. When Christians take this stand, they are being confronted with the government’s insistence that “gay rights” trumps religious convictions.

I don’t provide this article to make anyone angry or to say that we are to despair; I merely want to help us understand the transition we are facing in this culture. The real question is whether we are ready and willing to be steadfast in our faith and provide a clear explanation for why we believe as we do. Let it be a challenge for all of us who claim the name of Christ. Can we respond intelligently, clearly, and with the full force of our convictions? And as we do so, can we offer those who are involved in a sinful lifestyle the path to redemption? Those are the marks of the true follower of Christ.

Pull Out of Politics?

I am linking to an article by commentator Kathleen Parker. It is entitled “Christians at the Gate.” The thesis is that the Christian Right has failed in its endeavor to influence politics. The culture war has been lost. She then quotes some Christian leaders who say that we instead need to model the character of Christ rather than press for political change.

Please do read it and feel free to comment. The main problem I see with the article is that it seems to present the dilemma of an either/or situation. It’s as if one cannot be involved in political life and simultaneously display the character of Christ.

There was a time in my life when I thought it might be better for Christians to just fly under the radar, concentrate on cultural change outside of politics, and set aside ambitious goals in government. After all, government is not our savior. But after a while, I realized that it is not one or the other—it is both. We work with people one-on-one to bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ while doing our best to stay the hand of the Destroyer in the political realm.

Yes, there are some Christians who allow political involvement to overshadow everything else. They are in danger of setting up a false god. But there are also those who avoid any cultural confrontation politically, thereby silencing the Christian voice in the public sphere. We should do neither.

The Lord is Lord of all aspects of life. Nothing is outside his Lordship. When Christians fulfill their responsibilities, no matter what the arena, they are bringing His Lordship to bear on the culture—government or otherwise.

This, I believe, is the task the Lord sets before us. When we accomplish it with the proper spirit, we honor Him.

One more point: He never said we would always be successful, but He does require obedience and faithfulness to His calling.

Liberty of Conscience Denied

The United States Senate apparently doesn’t believe in liberty of conscience. A vote Thursday denied doctors and medical centers the right to abstain from participating in abortion procedures. Read the entire story here.

The story lists the senators from each state and how they voted. Check yours. Some of you may be surprised by how some so-called moderate Democrats voted. See in particular Virginia and Florida.

A Christian doctor has no option here. To participate in an abortion is to deny the sanctity of life as created by God. May Christian doctors take a stand. May that stand make many uncomfortable in their sins. May the discomfort lead them to the Comforter after a sincere repentance. May God make something good out of something evil.

Principle: Unity & Union (Part II)

Building on the concept that unions must be voluntary and that there must be internal unity before an external union can be successful, we can look at examples in certain nations. Remember the old Soviet Union? The official name was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—one of the most dishonest names imaginable.

First, it wasn’t a true republic—that would have required representation and the protection of inalienable rights, ideas foreign to its government. Neither was it a true union as understood by this principle. Look at the map below:

Notice all the appendages to the Soviet Union—places such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. None of them were eager to join this “union.” They were forced into it; voluntary consent was not an option.

This union held together for about 70 years, but when the central government could no longer keep it in line militarily, most of those appendages broke away and became independent nations. The reason? There never was any real unity.

The United States, on the other hand, provides a different image at its founding. Unique for its time [and pretty much ever since], the United States came together voluntarily, based on common agreement on basic principles. We had a consensus on the essentials: a Christian framework for understanding the nature of man; the need for a representative government that divided powers to protect from tyranny; the belief in inalienable rights granted to man by God.

It has been a model much imitated, but rarely with the same Biblical foundation. The Founders, despite their disagreements on specifics, were united on the general principles. They could hold a convention, write a Constitution, debate it in all the states, and voluntarily set up a new government. They accomplished all this because of their common worldview.

What would happen if we tried to hold a constitutional convention today? What consensus do we have now? How have we changed as a people? Would there be any hope for agreement? I submit that we are polarized as a society, one segment retaining the original Biblical framework, another rejecting it totally, and the mass of citizens in the middle, not really knowing what they believe.

We can wring our hands over this situation or . . . we can see it as an opportunity to speak Biblical truth into our society. I choose the latter.

Principle: Unity & Union (Part I)

In politics, we are always hearing appeals for “bipartisanship.” That’s great in theory, but overlooks a basic reality. A Biblical prinicple that I call “unity and union” helps explain.

Those two words—unity and union—are not the same. Unity is an internal voluntary agreement; union is the external joining of two or more things into one. External unions should be built on internal unity. They really need to be voluntary unions for them to succeed. Forced unions that lack unity will ultimately fail.

The prophet Amos put it this way: Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?

I don’t think Amos was opening up a discussion with that statement. It was meant to be rhetorical. Everyone understands that agreement is necessary for people to work together.

That’s why so many of the calls for bipartisanship are hollow. It will work only if two people or groups are united in a few things first: beliefs, purposes, goals, interests, and something called unity of spirit.

When I was in junior high, I joined the science club. I think I did so simply because I liked the science teacher. That provided some basis for my being part of that union, but it wasn’t sufficient. At one meeting, we all held hands while the teacher made contact with a battery. The shock that went through each of us convinced me that I lacked sufficient unity of purpose with the rest of those students. I didn’t consider that to be a “thrill.” I dropped out of the club.

In politics, if I firmly hold to a belief about how government should operate, or if I have strong, principled reasons for a policy position I hold, I cannot set aside those beliefs just for the sake of working together with others. The result might be a denial of basic principles that I consider essential to the proper working of government or that would lead to ungodly policies.

Being bipartisan is fine as long as you don’t deny truth, but we have been called to stand up for truth. For Christians, first and foremost, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and it is that truth only that will set people free. Further, only His truths—principles—will be beneficial for society. If I ever set those aside, I am denying Him.