Friday, February 24, 2017

Who Paid Up?

At an international conference a year ago, countries from around the world promised to give aid to the refugees from Syria. Unfortunately for the refugees, there is no nutritional value in a promise, nor will a promise put a roof over your head. Thus many refugees are still hungry and homeless.

Several countries (US, UK, Canada, Germany and even Estonia) met and even exceeded their promises. But there were several defaulters, and some of them were huge. Saudi Arabia pledged $200 million but backed that down to $27.9 million. China promised $35 million, but paid only $3 million.

But let’s not be too quick to criticize. Let us first ask, “How are we doing on our pledge to Christ?”

In coming to Christ we pledged to love him more than our earthly families (Lk 14:26). Are we putting his spiritual family ahead of our earthly family, or does his family take second place?

In baptism we promised that we were dying to the old life (Rom 6:1-4). Are we living the new life or the old?

We claim to be a people called together for the purpose of proclaiming his excellencies (1 Pet 2:9). Are we fulfilling that purpose?

In calling ourselves Christians we claim to be following in his steps (1 Pet 2:21). Would an impartial observer notice any resemblance?

It is easy to condemn the Saudis and the Chinese for not keeping their commitment. It is a different matter to look at our own lives to see how our actions look in light of our claims.

Are we living up to our commitment?

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Golden Key

In his delightful little fantasy, The Golden Key, George MacDonald recorded this incident. “Then the Old Man of the Earth stooped over the floor of the cave, raised a huge stone from it, and left it leaning. It disclosed a great hole that went plumb-down.
‘That is the way,’ he said.
‘But there are no stairs.’
‘You must throw yourself in. There is no other way.’”

MacDonald is figuratively expressing what Jesus said more plainly, “… any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:33). It is the same message that he gave to the ruler who asked “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22, ESV). The thing he lacked was an absolute surrender to the Lord.

In MacDonald’s tale, the little girl stared at the old man for an entire minute (she thought). It was in reality an entire year. Then she cast herself down.

Some of us have been staring at the Lord a long time, shocked by his demand for complete surrender. He is patient; but there is no other way. We all need the lesson learned by Saul of Tarsus.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11, ESV)

Friday, February 3, 2017

The "Johnson Amendment"

People use words rather loosely. Recently there has been fresh discussion of the, so-called, “Johnson Amendment.” Using the term “amendment” confuses people. We normally use that term of constitutional amendments. The “Johnson Amendment” amended only the tax code, not the constitution. It was, and is, a completely unconstitutional action with no validity either constitutionally or spiritually.

I believe that the main purpose of the “Johnson Amendment” was to silence churches that were beginning to speak out against racial prejudice. Lyndon Johnson was, in the 1950s, a recognized leader among the southern congressmen who supported segregation and opposed attempts to pass a civil rights bill. He would change his tune later, but the “Johnson Amendment” was one of a series of actions he took to prevent equality among the races. Some brave churches ignored it then, and all churches should ignore it today.

The church has not only a right but a responsibility to speak against institutionalized sin. That includes institutionalized racism and it includes the shedding of innocent blood by means of abortion. We try to steer clear of trouble with the “Johnson Amendment” by not using the names of individual politicians who are guilty of supporting racism and the shedding of innocent blood. But we should not be afraid to say that those who vote for such scum are unlikely to be found on the Savior’s right hand in judgment.

I did not vote for Donald Trump (or for Hillary Clinton). I consider President Trump to be wrong about many things, but he is right about the “Johnson Amendment.” It is unjust, unconstitutional, and it should be removed from the tax code. But whether it is removed or not, the church should still make it clear that voting for race baiters and abortion mongers is sin.

A vote is a way of giving consent, and those who give their consent to sin are as guilty as the ones who actually commit the sinful act. That is not my personal claim; it is the plain statement of scripture. “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32, ESV).

Do not give approval to sin. Never cast a vote for a pro-abortion candidate, or for any candidate who would institute legal protection for sin. Often that may mean registering a protest vote (voting for neither of the major parties). But when the final judgment comes, you will be glad you took that stand.