Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Living as if People Mattered

Last week a person said to me “I’m pro-life but I don’t know how to defend my position from the Bible.” If she feels that way, I wondered how many others feel the same. I decided to do a sermon on the major issues of the election allowing scripture to speak on the issues. I decided to interview fellow Christians about what they feel are the important issues of the election. One of the things I found in my very limited survey was disgust with the whole system. Some were very pessimistic; the politicians are on the take, both parties are guilty of taking excessive money from lobbyists and special interests. The politicians are not concerned about the common man. I agree.

Is not Washington, D.C. a reflection of our culture? Charles Colson, in his book “Who Speaks for God?” says, “Yet politicians of both parties continue to promise—and to electorate continues to expect—political solutions to all our ills. We go through the same cycle every election year. Why?” Jacques Ellul, the eminent French historian, answered the question in his book “The Political Illusion.” Ellul theorized that modern man increasingly turns to the state for answers to his problems—even though the state cannot solve them. Politicians perpetuate the myth that it can since the illusion perpetuates their power; the media willingly collaborates since their coverage of government fuels their own power—and profits—as well.”

“The result, Ellul wrote, is a ‘boundless growth’ of the state, with an insatiable appetite for power. We Christians, of all people should see through the political illusion. We should understand that the real problems of our society are, at their root, moral and spiritual. Institutions and politicians are limited in what they can do.”

“Certainly that is so in the criminal justice field. Crime is the result of wrong moral choices. Laws are needed to restrain evil, but penal institutions can’t deal with the ultimate problem: the human heart. That’s why the gospel of Christ is the only real answer.”

If Ellul is correct, and I believe he is, who is responsible to take the gospel message to our nation? We are—the church—we the church, believers, disciples—we have not done our job. We hide out as our country goes to hell. We are quick to point the finger at Washington, D.C., when in reality we are the problem.

Listen to the words of Isaiah…"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves (my comment: God wants our heart not our money) in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (Isaiah 58:6-12)

We talk a lot and very seldom do anything about it. Jesus told us to go and make disciples. We pushed our responsibility off on the government and we sit and complain when we should have been doing the work. Remember we are to fear God and Honor the King (I Peter 2:13-17“Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”)

If we fear God, we will obey. I ask “why have we sat and complained when we are, with God’s help, to go and make disciples?”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

“Tell my brother…”

Luke 12:13: “Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me’."

In the midst of Chapter 12 we find the parable about the barn building rich fool. In thinking about this parable, we contemplate about greed, abundance, retirement and we ask if we’re living a self-centered life or a Christ-centered life.

Often we slide over verse thirteen: “Teacher, tell my brother”. Here in an instant we see man’s tendency to avoid personal application of Christ’s teaching to ourselves. It is his brother that he thinks about, not himself at all. The man has a disagreement with his brother concerning the disposal of an inheritance. The man is in the presence of Christ and all he is thinking about is his brother’s unfairness or perceived unfairness. The last thing a man thinks of is applying Christ’s truth to himself.

Do we listen to God’s word and the first thing we think of is this, “Boy, Bubba sure should hear this.” Yes, Bubba needs truth applied in his life also but all the while the “issue” is eating a hole in our gut. It distracts and blinds us from Christ’s message when we are consumed with our “worldly cares”. We listen to Christ all the time thinking of our “inheritance problems”.

We are distracted by the “worldly cares” and make pronouncements that Bubba better get his life in order while all the while we are consumed with me, myself, and I. These issues, whatever they are, tend to become absorbing and engrossing. It blinds us from Godly insight and truth. The message of Christ gets lost in the shuffle. We fail to make application in our own life and we become less because of that, and sin continues unchecked in our life.

May I make application to my life, not my brothers. Let the Holy Spirit do its work in both our lives. May we forget about self-righteous pronouncements against our brother.

Jesus doesn’t take the bait. Jesus is the Messiah not some earthly judge working out inheritance squabbles. Jesus tells them in verse 15: “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’." We need to be on our guard against all sin, especially those which apply to us. On second thought, they all apply to us. Let the Holy Spirit deal with my brother.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Which of you will listen in times like these?

Isaiah 42:20-23: “'You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing.' It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious. But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They have become plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, 'Send them back. Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come?'"

Early this cool September morning I read these words of Isaiah. One question haunts me: “Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come?” I asked myself am I paying attention to the times?

Have you wondered like I did last weekend? We have four professing Christians running for the Presidency and all of them campaigned on Sunday? Are we paying attention? We heard a lot about country first—really? I thought God and family were somewhere in the mix.

Nancy Pelosi, professing Christian, Speaker of the House and very part-time theologian says that theologians haven’t a clear understanding of when life begins—really? It has been the Church’s position since the beginning that life begins at conception. Listen to Psalm 139:13-16: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Have we forgotten this? Listen to the word of the Lord from Jeremiah 1:4-5: “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

We pontificate on this issue of life. Some of us may feel the answers to these questions “are above our pay grade” but let the Lord speak through His word or has God’s word become outdated? Yes, we’ve heard and seen many things, and we have paid no attention and we act as if we have heard nothing. Few Christians stand up to defend the sanctity of life. Be reminded, we will all answer for our actions.

I was with a group of younger people who were discussing the election. One said McCain is old and stiff. Today in our culture, old people are marginalized. We haven’t learned from the past. Yes, he is old and stiff. Why stiff? Many of the younger generation have not heard of his time of service and his confinement as a POW. You’d be stiff too if you were tortured in a North Vietnamese prison camp for 5 ½ years. Don’t bother me with his life story. Have you not heard or seen?

We pay no attention as our nation is plundered. T. Boone Pickens is right, our unlimited appetite for oil is resulting in the largest transfer of wealth to the oil rich countries. T. Boone has a vested interest, he owns natural gas wind and oil technology and resources. And if we don’t change, it will not be T. Boone Pickens but “Slim Pickins’” for all of us.

The Chinese are buying up our debt at an alarming rate with what? With money we’ve given them to buy more cheap inferior products to pile into our over crowded houses. Is anyone noticing or listening?

I just got back from a business trip to Redwood Falls. I ran into a friend who said “no matter who we elect, it won’t change anything.” Pessimistic yes, but it may be closer to the truth than I want to think. We are, in many ways, a wicked nation and God’s judgment may be in the works.

We live in a system where we can participate. We need to participate and pray. God is still on the throne. We do not need a Messiah-like President or a Messiah-like Vice President be it Obama or Palin. What America needs is the Savior, Jesus Christ. Christians wake up, stand for truth, be alert and aware.

“Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in the time to come?" (Isaiah 42:23). God help us.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Curse of the Baby Boomers

I am the only baby boomer in our office. I know, I don’t text message, cell phones frustrate me, the computer world is an area I need improvement in; yes, I am a bona fide baby boomer. Most baby boomers probably feel the same way as I do about these things. The baby boomer generation has another problem—lying without a twinge of our conscience or guilt. Others in the office began to notice that pattern a couple of months ago. The pattern was that some of my generation lies whenever it’s convenient. We started keeping track since July; we had six specific instances where baby boomers lied to us even when we had proof that what they were saying was false.

In our litigious society, we need to document everything we do. We document meetings in detail not only for our recall but also the notes are handy if a disagreement comes up.

I was out of the office last week. I returned Tuesday morning to find a pile of paperwork and messages on my desk. One note asked me why I hadn’t gotten back to a tenant regarding a lease renewal proposal. When I checked my notes in the file, they confirmed what I had recollected, that I was waiting for their response. My business partner, who is in his 40’s, who took the message said they clearly implied I had dropped the ball and they were upset.

I made a phone call to them Tuesday morning (of course I got voicemail—does anyone answer their phones anymore?). I told them that my notes said I was to wait until they got back to me regarding their carpet choice. Later in the day, I received a call from two other doctors in the group agreeing with my recollection of the meeting. (This was a breath of fresh air—support not denial of what happened.)

My generation is a generation of rebels. Just check out the sixties. The anti-war, sex loving, drug loving culture brought drastic changes to our culture and society. We threw off the shackles of the Christian faith. I want to do everything my way; don’t restrict me or ask me to conform to a predetermined set of societal rules. Throw it all out the window, the commandments included. As a result, we have suffered as a society.

The church struggled with these rebels. Many walked away from the church. Some friends of mine who grew up in the church have left and they are not coming back. God was gracious to me; I didn’t grow up in the church but he gave me a Christian wife and the Lord changed my heart and called me to Himself. Oh, am I blessed.

As I preach in different places, I don’t see that many baby boomers in the pews. Yes, they left and (it seems) no one could care less.

Yes, we want it our way, we may have full bellies and hopefully, a comfortable retirement but many in my generation have lonely, empty hearts. If you know of a baby boomer who doesn’t know the Lord, befriend them and pray for them. Many have tried everything and found the joys of the world lacking. It doesn’t fulfill, only Jesus does.