Archive for the ‘ The Christian Spirit ’ Category

Burdens, Anger, Sorrow, and Prayer

As I sit down and write in this blog today, I’m not really sure where my thoughts are going to end up. All I know is that I am terribly burdened for the future of this nation. Christians sometimes talk about feeling a burden for a specific person or problem; well, that’s where I am today.

Where is the line between anger and sorrow? I reach a point where I don’t want to hear the same old lies over and over as I listen to the political debate. An anger stirs within me that wants to be released in a shout or a prophetic utterance of some kind. How I wish at times I could be Jeremiah, and point to certain individuals and say, “You want to know what evil is? Here, look at this person. This is evil.”

Yet I cannot allow the anger to take over. There is such a thing as righteous anger, and when you feel it, you have not sinned. What it should lead to, though, is a deep sorrow–sorrow over the deceptive practices, sorrow over the blindness of the people who are led astray, sorrow over what this portends for the country as a whole.

Too many Christians, I’m afraid, retreat into a well-worn phrase: “God is still in control.” While I agree that ultimately all people will answer to Him, I am also quite aware that not everything that happens is His will. He has given us the ability to choose, and more often than not, people choose sin. We cannot simply rest on the idea that God is in control. What we do in this life has consequences. Can God overrule some decisions? Of course. Can He bring good out of evil? He has done so many times. But that doesn’t mean the evil is not real; it doesn’t mean that there won’t be disastrous results emanating from our sinful choices.

So that’s where I am today. This burden I feel should lead to prayer. That is where we find the presence of God; that is where He gives us direction; that is where He offers His peace; and only through prayer will anything change.

The presidential and congressional elections are now less than one month away. If you feel this same burden, I urge you to pray for God’s will to be done.

Prophet or Priest?

As a Christian, what am I supposed to be when commenting on politics? Am I to be the prophetic voice, warning against the dangers of voting wrongly and following wrong policies? Am I to be the compassionate voice that draws people to God by staying away from controversy?

Is it possible to be so prophetic in one’s approach that people are turned away from the truth? Likewise, is it possible to be so open and compassionate toward those with differing views that you never lead them to the truth, for fear of offending?

For those of us who believe that the Lord is the be-all and end-all of life, that nothing is more important than a relationship with Him, it may appear unseemly at times to get embroiled in the criticisms of the political scene. After all, isn’t this life just a temporary waystation on the way to eternity?

Yet God has put us in this world to make a difference while we are here. What we do–and how we do it–will influence the future of this nation as well as the eternal destiny of individuals. And there can be a link between the two. In a nation that honors God and follows His principles, there is liberty to teach His ways openly to all. If that nation instead passes laws that shut down those who teach the Gospel truths, more people will remain lost in spiritual darkness.

That can happen, by the way. In Canada, it has become a hate crime to speak against homosexuality. There are those who seek power today who would like to bring that type of law to the United States. So what we do does matter.

How do we combine the prophetic role with the priestly one? I look at the example of Jesus, who welcomed all who came to Him, whether prostitutes or Pharisees. Yet He was direct and harsh at times with those who set themselves up against the ways of God. He called some Pharisees whitewashed tombs, pretty on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones within. He did turn over the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple.

We can speak forcefully and directly. Being a Christian does not mean you have lost a backbone; in fact, it means you have finally found one. Yet we are always admonished to speak the truth in love. Notice both parts of that: we are to be loving in everything we say, but we speak the truth simultaneously. And that truth can be pointed and contain dire warnings. We must continually check our hearts to be sure we have the proper attitude. This portion of Psalm 51 jumps out at me today:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.

A Truly Christian Discussion

I had a great experience last evening. As part of Constitution and Citizenship Day at Southeastern University, I moderated a panel discussion on politics. First, I presented, without comment, planks from both the Democratic and Republican platforms on such issues as: national defense and terrorism; government reform; energy policy; education; environmentalism; abortion; and marriage, among others.

After I finished, I turned the program over to a panel of four Southeastern faculty members, who made comments on items in the platforms, sharing their Christian concerns in the process. When they completed their remarks, it was time for the audience (which numbered approximately one hundred) to ask questions of the panel.

Why do I call this a great experience? Because two goals were achieved. The first was to better inform potential voters as to the issues at hand and where the respective parties stood on them. The second was to demonstrate that Christians, even when they may disagree with one another on certain aspects of public policy, can conduct themselves in a manner that does credit to the One they serve. The presence of God permeated the room; we were all challenged to make sure that our Christian faith has priority over our political views, and that our political views should be informed by our Christian faith.

Moreover, if we can carry ourselves in the love of God, the world will notice how different we are. Jesus said,

I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one. Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You sent Me. . . . May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me. (John 17:20-21,23)

It’s nice to experience that unity once in a while. It should be a more common occurrence.

Why Should We Be Surprised?

The media jumped on any rumor to attack Sarah Palin. They were embarrassed (or should have been) by the result. The next attempt, which is already beginning, will be to “reveal” her church as an extremist organization, far from the mainstream of American life.

Now, how should Christians respond? While it is understandable to be outraged by the accusations, we need to keep in mind that false accusations against the faith have abounded throughout the ages. The apostle Peter reminds us,

Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. . . . If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

In America, we have been so accustomed to being in the majority historically that we are sometimes shocked when we are targeted in this way. Perhaps we have forgotten Jesus’ own words:

Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

Jesus Reminds Nicodemus that Men Hate the Light

Jesus Reminds Nicodemus that Men Hate the Light

I think we need to get used to this type of treatment, while we remember that this is hardly the ultimate sacrifice. As another Scripture notes, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

Rather than be outraged by false accusations, we should turn these occasions into opportunities to speak the truth. If the world sees us respond in a good spirit, patiently explaining the truth in the midst of false accusations, their falseness will become more evident.

Above all, God is more concerned that we take on the character of Christ than that we seek a redress of grievances. If we do exhibit appropriate Christian character, some of those grievances will naturally be redressed.

A Pause in the Action

I do plan to make comments on Obama’s speech last night and the surprise that McCain pulled on the nation with his choice of Sarah Palin as his VP. But, for now, I just want to pause a minute and say something else that is on my heart.

It is very easy to get caught up in the drama of politics. It is also easy to spend all one’s time trying to ensure that Biblical principles permeate the society, whether in government or other aspects of culture.

But one thing must remain fundamental: a strong personal connection to the One who gives life meaning. Without Him, there is no reason for any of this.

I recall a time in my life when I was sick of politics. What caused it? I had been working so hard to educate people in the need for Christians to get involved, but then experienced a season of disillusionment over the types of Christians I saw getting involved. Some of them seemed more concerned with the perks of office and the prestige that political power gave them. They would talk a good talk, but I was less than impressed by their walk.

I began to wonder: is this what happens to everyone who gets involved? Would it perhaps be better to avoid high-profile positions and simply work behind the scenes?

Well, that disillusionment didn’t last too long. While working on my book about the Clinton impeachment, I came face to face with individuals who were effective in office and maintained their integrity. It was refreshing to be reminded that even though some may lose their way spiritually, there are others who continue to be faithful.

At one point, the prophet Elijah moaned that he was the only faithful person left. The response he received from the Lord was that He had preserved a remnant who were still faithful. That remnant is still here, and God is still at work in our society.

Our job? Simply be one of the faithful remnant.

A Unique Insight from C.S. Lewis

Christian Apologist C. S. Lewis

Christian Apologist C. S. Lewis

Some writers just have a way of saying something. Ever since my undergraduate days (which are becoming somewhat of a dim memory by now), I have been fascinated with C. S. Lewis. His writings always stir me. He doesn’t just make statements; he draws you into what he is saying and creates an image that stays with you. At least that is the effect on me. There are so many examples I could use. In fact, I’ve included many of them in the Great Quotes section of my site (see the link at the top of this page).

Last night my mind was drawn back to one of his most poignant insights. It’s found in a message he gave (technically, it is a sermon, but that word sounds dry and stale–I prefer “message”) entitled “The Weight of Glory,” where he writes,

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

What if we were to have that image in our minds always? How would it change the way you treat your spouse? Your children? Those who are not easy to like?

Living the Life

I am very concerned that Christians live up to their profession of faith. I want to share thoughts on walking the walk and being sure that our walk matches our talk. Partial or weekend Christians are oxymorons; they simply don’t exist. The Christian life, though, is not hard, not if you are truly motivated by love for God and gratitude for what He has done for you in Christ. It is a response of love, not a grit-your-teeth-I’ll-do-this-or-die-trying ordeal. We love because He first loved us.

Christians throughout the world often have to face the prospect of martyrdom for their beliefs. What would it be like to be a Christian in Saudi Arabia or Iran? What if, by law, you were told you could not share what you believe on pain of death? In certain countries, anyone who converts to Christianity from Islam has a death sentence already decreed against him.

I would welcome any comments on this, as well as any personal experiences or accounts of others who have had to face this attitude.

Do you see any of this surfacing in America at this time?

Early Christian Martyrs

Early Christian Martyrs