Archive for November, 2008

Friends,

I’d like to share some personal reflections concerning president-elect Barrack Obama and how I have chosen to respond to his recent election to the highest office in our land (save for that of the local church preacher.) PS–as you know, these reflections are my opinion only. They do not represent the views of anyone else who writes for CRN.info. I do not speak for anyone here but myself. jerry

I shall state from the beginning of this post that I am a conservative. That does not mean I am a Republican. Nor does it mean I am not a Democrat. What it means is that I believe certain things about fiscal responsibility, certain things about morality, and that I believe certain things about personal responsibility. It does not mean that I am a misogynist, homophobe, redneck, indigent-phobe, a war-monger or a racist. It does not always mean conservatism=Christianity.

It does mean, among other things, that I think homosexuality is a sin (although for some conservatives it does not mean this at all), men are men and women are women and we are not alike, and that America has come a long way in its race relations since the Emancipation Proclamation. It does not mean I think America is the best place to live for everyone, but it is the best place for me to live (and that our history is rich, diverse, and blessed.) It does not mean I think America is perfect. It does mean I think a lot of places in the world would be rather bad-off if the USA didn’t exist. It does not mean I love war and violence. It does mean that I am not so naïve as to think a world, fallen as it is, will be devoid of war apart from the reign of Christ. It does not mean that those in elected-office get a blank check from me, but it does mean that I respect the office they hold and that per the Scripture, I should pray for them. It means that I think abortion to be one of the most despicable, heinous and outrageous crimes a person can perpetrate against the human body, against life. It does not mean that I think those who have had abortions have committed the unforgivable sin.

Being a conservative gets a bad rap because most think it means being intolerant of those who are living differently or believing differently—as if God’s grace depends upon the rightness of our opinions and convictions. Being conservative does not mean we are intolerant of people even if we are intolerant of certain ideas that people hold or certain lifestyles that people, for whatever reason, live. For that matter, intolerance does not mean or equate to hatred. My conservatism flows out of my being a Christ-follower and not the other way around. It doesn’t mean this for everyone, but it does for me. Being conservative means not being liberal. Neither idea means being less than or more than human. It means having ideas about things that matter this much.

I have made a very difficult decision to champion Barrack Obama. I have written critically of President-Elect Obama and some of his (political and theological) views at my own blog. I had an argument with family members at a summer picnic because they already supported him (actually they just opposed President Bush). I have harbored terrifying thoughts about what an Obama presidency might hold for America. I have read the blogs of those who also live in terrific fear of what an Obama presidency might hold. Like here. And here. And here. (And there are many, many more just like this.)

Suddenly it came over me last week at a prayer meeting, as I listened to a man I know speak about some of his concerns and how God is using this shake this and squeeze that and how the church needs to get ready, that I don’t need to or have to fear a so-called liberal president. Why should I fear? Whom shall I fear? The Psalmist wrote, “Some trust in horses and chariots, but we trust in the Lord our God.” Whom shall I fear? I will not live the next four years of my life in constant fear of some imagined agenda people have put into his mouth. I have other things I’d rather worry about—like prayers, Scripture, those God has put in my life and the lives that God has shoved me into. Fear is not high on my list of fun ways to live, nor is it on my agenda for tomorrow.

So I have decided that I will be a supporter of Barrack Obama for a few different reasons.

First, I will be a supporter of Obama because it is not in my nature to act like an ADM. That is, I will not be one of those who will sit back and engage in schadenfreude. The writers of .info have always impressed me not because I agree with the position they take in regard to everything, but precisely because they do not engage in delight at the failure of others. I don’t want him to fail. Granted, I hope some of his policies fail and do so miserably. But I can hope for him, without supporting his particular ideas about morality.

Take abortion for example. When I went to Great Lakes Christian College in 1991, I remember gathering one night to pray for upcoming elections. The candidates were Bill Clinton and George Bush. We had one issue, mostly, on our minds: Abortion. Then Clinton was elected, much to the chagrin of many people. And you know what? Not a thing happened concerning Roe v. Wade for 8 years of the Clinton Administration. Then George W Bush was elected. And not a thing has happened to Roe v. Wade for 8 years of his administration. I’ll grant that Mr Obama is a flaming lunatic when it comes to his opinions on abortion, but I’m not naïve enough to think that John McCain, had he been elected, would have suddenly swung the pendulum so far right that Roe v. Wade would have been overturned. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. I’m just saying that perhaps it is time for Christians to find alternative ways for dealing with the abortion issue besides putting all our stock in a presidential candidate who will ‘get the right people on the Supreme Court and get Roe v. Wade overturned.’ I think that is a pipe-dream at best.

To the point, I will not engage in schadenfreude when it comes to Pres-E Obama. I am not an ADM and I never will be.

Second, I don’t have to live in fear of him. He is a man and I just find it impossible to believe that it is his stated or secret goal and purpose to ruin the America we all know and love. Fact is, if he produces policies that differ from my point of view that is fine. If he produces legislation that is forcibly contrary to God’s Law, I have the biblical obligation to disobey. I don’t have the obligation to live in fear of Obama any more than liberals had reason to live in fear of George W Bush or than first century Christians had to fear Caesar. I will not conduct myself or raise my family or practice my faith based on fear of any man or woman in political office. The only fear I have a right to practice is fear of God.

The bottom line for me is this: God is still Sovereign. I heard someone say the other day that our fate lies in Obama’s hands. Pshaw! I saw an ad on facebook that has a picture of Obama with the word “Hope” underneath. Pshaw! I have heard people comparing him to the Messiah. Pshaw! I hear people say that the president of the United States is the most powerful man in the world. Horse****! He is none of these things for me because Christians are strangers, pilgrims, sojourners and aliens…I have as much fear of him as I do for the little old atheist lady who lives next door. Christians live under the sovereign watch-care and covenant-love of God Almighty. Whom shall I fear? This is not so much about should I support him, as much as can I support him. The answer is yes. I didn’t vote for him, but I’m not about to abandon him either. This is a matter of trust: Do I trust God who loves me or fear a man who cannot do me any harm?

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Friends,

I really enjoy the lyrics for this song, which for some reason just popped into my head this afternoon. When I was a kid jamming along with the song, trying to match Greg X Volz’s sound, and laughing at the sampling from the Wizard of Oz, these lyrics didn’t make much sense. Well, they did, but I had no idea who Bob Hartman may have had in mind back in the 80’s when he wrote this. Honestly, I wonder now who he might be ‘talking’ to although I can imagine a few… Anyhow, here they are. A Great song from Petra’s Beat the System CD from way back in 1984 or 85: Witch Hunt.

Words and Music by Bob Hartman

Everybody look there’s a new bandwagon in town
Hop on board and let the wind carry you around
Seems like there’s not enough to keep us busy
till the Lord comes back
Don Quixote’s gotta have another windmill to attack

Another Witch Hunt looking for evil wherever we can find it
Off on a tangent, hope the Lord won’t mind it
Another Witch Hunt, takin’ a break from all our gospel labor
On a crusade but we forgot our saber

There’s a new way to spend all our energies
We’re up in arms instead of down on our knees
Walkin’ over dollars trying to find another dime
Never mind the souls ’cause we really haven’t got the time

So send out the dogs and tally ho
Before we sleep tonight we’ve got miles to go
No one is safe, no stones left unturned
And we won’t stop until somebody gets burned
Bro Bro Bro Bro Bro Bro Brothers

Have a nice day everyone.

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OK, I have a confession to make.  This confession will probably make some of you question my judgement, or possibly even my salvation.  But here goes.  I absolutely love the NPR program This American Life.  I have over 80 episodes on my Ipod, and I’m addicted to it.  I know that the all of the producers, interviewers, and reporters are bleeding-hearts liberals, but I still find the show funny, witty, and overall well-produced.

One episode that keeps on popping into my head as of late is one entitled, A Little Bit of Knowledge.  In the beginning of that episode, the host, Ira Glass has a conversation with Nancy Updike, a producer, about a time when she was in Europe with some of her friends.  She explains it like this:

A couple of years ago some friends were travelling through Europe, walking through these old buildings. And these people do not know anything special about architecture, but, you know how it is when you’re a tourist. So they’re walking through these buildings and they’re looking at these doorways and pillars and they decide that this one building has a very Moorish influence. They’re pointing out details, saying ‘the Moors this’ and ‘the Moors that’. And finally one of them turns to the other and says, “You know, we sound like we’re in a magazine. A magazine called ‘Modern Jackass’.”

So the basic concept behind being a “Modern Jackass” is that you know enough about a subject to talk somewhat intelligently about it, but there are parts that are just beyond your grasp of understanding, so you kind of just make up the rest.  Thus entering “Modern Jackass” territory.

I’ve noticed this quite a bit this past political season.  I think we’re all guilty of it to some extent.  I think the fact that so much information is available at our fingertips through the wonder of Google and Wikipedia just makes it so very easy to make it look like you know more than you do.  So perhaps, we all need to take a step back now that election is over, take a deep breath, and start peeling away the layers of informational defenses we have put up.  In the end, no one really believes us most of time anyway.

I admit that I have done this.  I have been guilty of braying the loudest sometimes.  I have been guilty of caring more about being right than actually showing love to me ideological opponents.  I, sadly, have been a Modern Jackass.

So as we move forward, let’s remember that not everything on the internet is true, and that there’s nothing wrong with saying those three little words – “I don’t know”.

Grace and peace.

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Institutes of the Christian Religion – John Calvin

Whenever we come upon these matters in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God. For by holding the gifts of the Spirit in slight esteem, we contemn and reproach the Spirit himself. What then? Shall we deny that the truth shone upon the ancient jurists who established civic order and discipline with such great equity? Shall we say that the philosophers were blind in their fine observation and artful description of nature? Shall we say that those were devoid of understanding who conceived the art of disputation and taught us to speak reasonably? Shall we say that they are insane who developed medicine, devoting their labor to our benefit? What shall we say of all the mathematical sciences? Shall we consider them the ravings of madmen? No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration. We marvel at them because we are compelled to recognize how pre-eminent they are. But shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God? Let us be ashamed of such ingratitude, into which not even the pagan poets fell, for they confessed that the gods had invented philosophy, laws, and all useful arts. Those men whom scripture [1 Cor. 2:14] calls “natural men” were, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things. Let us, accordingly, learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was despoiled of its true good. (Emphasis mine.)

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“Jesus wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican.”

Duh!

I get this. I don’t need to be told again…and again…and again. But here is my question:

Why do people think that just because Jesus didn’t have an American party affiliation, that I shouldn’t?

Romans 13 says that God instituted our governing authority. That means the government. Not necessarily the person. That is where America is so historically different, having few precedents set before her, because we actually have a say in who the person will be that inhabits that position. But if you truly believe that God set up the government, then shouldn’t it follow that He also expected us to use it as it was designed? That means to participate. If He has already ordained a certain person, then why did He set it up so we think we might have a say? That sounds an awful lot like Calvinism…why do anything (vote or witness) if it has already been decided? So I have coined the new term “Political Calvinism”. (if in fact it is mine to coin)

Here is the deal…

1. I have been given, as a gift from God alone, the ability and means to own a nice home.

2. I am expected to use the house to God’s glory, in the way that allows me to fulfill my God-given purpose, and invest in the house’s upkeep.

3. If I do not constantly recognize this house as a gift, if I ignore it, or don’t use it, then I am not “multiplying my talents”. (See Matthew 25:14 – 28) I must also not idolize the house or see it as anything more than a blessing from God, a means to glorify Him.

4. God has already ordained that the paint will peel and the carpet will get dirty and the design will go out of style. So why should I change that? Because it is being a good steward of the gift God has given me, so to dismiss that upkeep/maintenance as “anti-Christ” or too worldly is to spit on the blessing of a house that we have been given.

So, substitute “house” with freedom/democracy/voting/government. It is NOT anti-Christ. Not if we truly believe it was established by God. It is a blessing. It is a gift. Who else in history was able to elect their governors with the freedoms we have to follow God however we are led? No, Democracy can become an idol, just as my house can, but it is, nonetheless, a gift. One which we are able and, I believe blessed, to be able to participate in.

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ROMANS 13:1-7

1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

God is Sovereign!

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When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

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One thing that I’ve always found ironic is that those who claim to adhere most strictly to the Five Solas often seem to have a hard time letting their practice line up with their rhetoric.  The one that seems to be the most abused and ignored is Sola Fide, or justification through faith alone.  Now I’m sure they would deny it, but it seems to me they deny this doctrine by setting themselves as the arbiter of whom actually has faith and who doesn’t.

The latest victim of this arbitrary faith-check is none other than great Christian author and apologist, C.S. Lewis.  In this article linked here, with the sad title Did C.S. Lewis Go to Heaven (which is steeped in gnosticism, by the way, but we won’t go there now), for reasons unknown, the author goes out of his way to throw accusations around that Lewis didn’t believe Scripture was inerrant (a loaded and debatable term anyway) and that he was a univeralist (a read of his little book The Great Divorce would show he wasn’t).  Perhaps the most telling portion of this article is the following paragraph taken from Mere Christianity, in which the author is clearly claiming Lewis said something he didn’t say:

“Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary. A serious moral effort is the only thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up the sponge. Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out of that Faith in Him ood actions must inevitably come.”

To which the author says this:

According to Lewis, both faith in Christ and “good actions” are necessary to lead a Christian “home.” The Apostle Paul says that this is not Christianity.

What?!  Did the author read the actual paragraph he quoted?  It doesn’t appear so.  Obviously, Lewis is stating that anyone who tries to reach God through good works will fail and eventually come to the conclusion that faith is his only chance.

So perhaps the ironic thing is this.  Those who claim to hold to Sola Fide, often throw all kinds of requirements on top faith.  So let’s not just make “through faith alone” a slogan.  Let’s live like we mean it.  Let’s not add our own litmus tests on top of it for people to prove they have faith.  In the end it’s not us who makes the call anyway.

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