I don't want God in the White House

As an evangelical Christian, I have been conditioned to believe that if I want to make America great again, and if I wish to hold back the tidal wave of God's fiery judgment, and if I wish to vanquish all demonic foes (both foreign and domestic), then I simply need to be committed to making sure God gets back in the White House.

And the only way to get God back in the White House of course, is to vote for a man after God's own heart, which means voting for another evangelical Christian... or a Roman Catholic or Mormon, if that's all we can find.

At least, that's what we've learned to think.  And this belief is so common among us that it almost goes without saying anymore.

And it is such a powerful idea embedded into our DNA, that because of our numerical representation, even Donald Trump the Great feels compelled to bow at this cultural altar, and at least pretend to be Christian-ish, if he has any serious hopes of being successful in his bid for the White House.

We will accept nothing less, and such is evidenced by the fact that all Republican presidential candidates currently running for office have an official Christian badge that they are ready to flash should anybody question their credentials.

But the more I think about this idea, the more I'm starting to feel like it's a bad idea, nay, even a terrible idea.

First of all, the idea is theologically suspicious.  

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ presently possesses all authority in heaven and earth.  He is currently King of kings and Lord of lords.  And no matter who sits in the Oval Office, Jesus Christ is still the sovereign King over all of creation, and He presently rules over whomever we elect as the President of the United States.  Therefore, the idea that America needs somebody that is saved and sanctified in order to get God back in the White House is a mistaken idea.  God is already there, no matter who we elect.

Secondly, the idea that electing a Christian leader will somehow hold back God's judgment on our nation is entirely without Biblical support.

The apostle Paul made it clear in Romans 1:18 that the wrath and judgment of God is always being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness.  God is always judging America in some way, shape, or form.  And as history has made abundantly clear, our continued existence as a nation-state is always in constant jeopardy.  Eventually, America will go the way of all nations, as God is only interested in permanently establishing one nation forever, and that is the Kingdom of God.  And according to the Bible, His kingdom will eventually overtake all nations.  Therefore, electing a Christian to the presidency of the United States will not change what is our ultimate fate.  American will not exist forever.

Thirdly, just because a candidate is a Christian doesn't mean they have the best ideas and solutions to make America a better place, and to solve the issues our nation faces.

In spite of having impeccable Christian credentials and a direct line of communication with God , president George Bush proved to be not such a great president, and I think most would admit that they regret voting for him two times in a row (at least I do).  Granted, Al Gore and John Kerry would've probably done a terrible job at running our government had they been elected.  But I think most of us would admit president Bush didn't exactly do a great job either.

The way I see it, voting for a man just because he claims to be a Christian is like trying to take a test at school and praying that you will pass it.  The truth of the matter is, if you take a test at school without mastering your subject matter and studying hard, you'll never pass the test.  Therefore, we should vote for somebody, not just because they are a Christian and give us some sort of religious goosebumps, but because they've really done their homework, and have the best ideas about governing our nation.

Therefore, it is my resolve (and I hope you'll join me) that going forward I will not simply vote for a man simply because he is a Christian.  While I like the idea of a Christian occupying important government positions, I'm not going to vote for somebody simply because they put on a half-way decent show of being a Christian.  Rather, I'm going to vote for the guy I think will best govern our nation, who has the best ideas, who has done his homework, and really seems to have the ability to get things done.

At the end of the day, the guy we put in the White House should be the best guy for the job. Period.  

Presently, I don't know who that is yet.  I personally like Rand Paul, but I don't think he has the best chance of winning.  And I'm not exactly thrilled about any other candidate, so I might find myself not voting for anybody for president.

But regardless of who ultimately wins, I will commit to praying for whoever ends up in the White House, because at the end of the day, Jesus Christ is Lord and all of my hope is ultimately in Him.  And I believe that through the rule and reign of Jesus Christ, that He can even make deeply wicked men the best of rulers, and nothing will ultimately stop Him from accomplishing His will in this world.

For the rule and reign of His kingdom of peace will know no end, no matter who we elect.


Jesus says: Beware of your Preacher

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits."  ~ (Matthew 7:15-20; NASB)
False prophets are something that Jesus said we should be on high alert for.  But many Christians aren't so discerning, and prefer to take on a more passive and accepting attitude.   At the end of the day, many of us simply want a minister who puts on a good show.

And that's exactly what wolves dressed in sheep's clothing do.  They put on a good show.

Outwardly, their ministry is very impressive.  Who could dare fault them?  They are extremely successful and often have stellar results.  Their naysayers are often said to just be jealous haters.

But for all the success and window dressing associated with their ministry, underneath the veneer is somebody actively looking to take advantage of you in some way, shape, or form.  They can come off as very sincere, very passionate, and very successful at what they do.  They usually have a great message that people just eat up... even very good Christian people.

But at the end of the day, you are being preyed upon.

The false prophet's ministry is often self-seeking, self-promoting, and makes the minister wealthy in the process.  Tough questions about the minister or the lifestyle of the minister are not really welcomed, and is even discouraged.  Blind submission becomes an exalted virtue among the sheep, transparency is feigned, and real accountability is virtually non-existent.  Inner circles are often formed to insulate the wolf dressed in sheep's clothing, so those on the outside can't get a closer look at their leader, and discover some awful truths.

After all, even the best dressed wolf can't hide the fact that it's merely wearing a costume.  The Wizard of Oz could only hide behind the curtain for so long, and it took nothing more than a tiny dog to ultimately find him out.  But if the people are kept far enough way, they'll never be able to pickup on the unusual scent or clothes.

Wolves are aware of this.  So they do everything they can to hide and blend in.  For they ultimately know that while sheep may have very poor eyesight, at the end of the day, they are not dumb.  And, if they get close enough to see something they don't like and are afraid of, they will simply take their business elsewhere.  But, if they never get the opportunity to see if their leader is merely wearing a costume, it's only a matter of time that they'll have something for lunch.

That's why Jesus encouraged us to closely examine the fruit of those who would presume to be our leaders in the church.

Jesus never wants us to be impressed by the show.  The outward acts of an impressive charismatic ministry are not what qualifies one to lead in the church.  The Lord Himself isn't impressed by the outward showmanship, and warns us that there are going to be a lot of seemingly mighty and powerful ministers who put on a good show, yet find themselves tossed into hell one day:
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'" ~ (Matthew 7:21-23; NASB)
We often think of false prophets as those who claim special revelations, that take away or add to the Bible.  We think about false prophets as people who deny classical, historical, Christian orthodoxy, and make heretical statements that are at odds with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

But in the above passages, Jesus doesn't say that false prophets are simply those who are spreading false teachings.  Such is so obvious that it goes without Jesus even needing to say it.  That's kids stuff.  Instead, Jesus dives a little bit deeper than that in His teaching.

Rather, the false prophets Jesus warned us to be on the look out for are a little harder to discover.  They won't be found by simply examining their statement of faith, or listening to them speak from the pulpit.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us that false prophets are often people who confess Jesus Christ as Lord, and hold to an orthodox view of the faith, and even do many mighty works in His name (works that would indicate that God is certainly with this person), yet the fruit of their everyday life and conduct reveals where they really stand with God.

It is ultimately the lack of God bearing fruit and character in their personal lives that makes these individuals false prophets, not their theology.  

And, that is why false prophets often work overtime to make sure you only see the side of them that they want you to see.  And this is why they excel at often putting on the best show in town, that hopes to silence those who might otherwise speak against them.  They have no interest in you ever getting to know the real them, and proactively take steps to keep as many people as possible at a distance.

Jesus tells us to beware of such ministers, who put on a good show, yet their lives don't quite measure up to the demands of the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus.

They are dangerous, not only because they have hopes of exploiting you in some manner for their own selfish gain, but because their conduct has the possibility of setting a dangerous precedent that others may be encouraged to imitate as they grow in popularity.   And such behavior is ultimately out of step with the kingdom of God that Jesus came to establish in this world, and sets itself at odds with His kingdom.  And this happens even in ministries that confess that Jesus is Lord, that prophesy in His name, and perform many mighty miracles.

Such a ministry may look like it is part of what Jesus is doing in the work of the kingdom.  But it is ultimately something that will cause a lot of men to be cast into hell.

At the end of the day, Jesus says that the man and the message should be one and the same.  And we should be careful when a closer look reveals that they are not. Prophets should be known for their lives, not their words.


Jesus says: Walk this Way...

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."  ~ (Matthew 7:13-14; NASB)
So often we are guilty of selling Christianity as an experience:  Get saved; Get filled with the Spirit;  Get delivered;  Experience joy;  Experience freedom;  Experience breakthrough;  Enjoy Church; Go to heaven when you die...

And while Christianity is certainly inclusive of all these things, in its essence, Christianity is none of these things.

Rather, Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount that Christianity is all about living your life out in light of the fact that the long anticipated kingdom of God that the Hebrew prophets spoke about had finally come, and in His preaching He called for all men everywhere to live their lives in light of what God is now doing.

When the fullness of time had come, God interrupted the history of this world, and inaugurated His kingdom in the midst of a world occupied by Rome.  Men like Caesar could no longer claim to rule this world and be in charge of it all.  The Messiah has come and taken His seat on the throne of David, and reigns over the world as King of kings, and Lord of lords, to whom all must ultimately bow and swear allegiance.

And if we believe this proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that His kingdom has truly been established in the midst of this world, none of us can remain the same.  We must all change.

Believing such cannot but produce within us a deep and inward transformation, wherein we awaken to the fact that this world is now ruled by Jesus Christ, and not the Caesars.  Nor is it a world ruled by "we the people," who are so busy asserting their rights via the democractic process.   

Jesus Christ is Lord, not Caesar, nor are the People.  Jesus Christ alone is Lord! 

Imagine living in a world where we believe that.

This belief produces within us a new birth, wherein we experience a rewiring of all of our hearts and minds, and get the joy of entering the world afresh, armed with a radical new perspective.  And this transformation produces within us a new way of living that departs from the way we used to live our lives.

Old timers call this concept "repentance."  

For now we live our lives in light of the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord, and He has established a new kingdom over this world.

And if we believe Jesus Christ to be in charge of everything, such must produce within us a new way of life where we live out our days in light of Him being Lord.  Such must be totally different than living in a world where a hundred other men and forms of government claim to be king, and our allegiances were ultimately towards them.

Now we are invited to live a new way of life, and with a new allegiance soaked into our hearts.  It's a way of life that is not in keeping with anything that came before Jesus (including Moses).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying men don't need to get saved, filled with the Spirit, or any such thing.  I believe in all these great truths.

But the "true experience" of Christianity isn't to be found in all these crisis moments and other cathartic experiences.  And we fall woefully short in our Gospel proclamation by making men think that these things are the end-all and be-all of Christianity.

No wonder folks think all that Jesus has for them to do is to get saved and go to heaven when they die as a result of us preaching such garbage.  No wonder they believe they can live any damned way that they want, yet still claim they are eternally secure and are going to heaven one day.  They believe that because all we sell to them is a one-time experience.

Such teaching is dramatically at odds with the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus had no desire to assure men of their "personal salvation" simply because they made a confession, said a prayer, got baptized, or any other such thing.  Jesus came to turn this entire world upside down, and you with it.

To hell with such thinking and teaching that says otherwise.

Rather, Jesus taught us that if we want to experience His salvation and all that God has for us, it is to be found in the day-to-day living out of your life in light of the fact that you believe that He is Lord, and that you are part of His kingdom that He setup, and that you are going to live your out of this reality, instead of what you used to think was real.

And if you believe that, your life can never be the same.  And if you believe that, you can experience salvation, love, joy, freedom, breakthroughs, and true abundant living, overflowing with the Spirit of God.


Jesus says: Treat others like God treats you

One of the fantastic assumptions in the teachings of Jesus is that God hears and answers our prayers.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" ~ (Matthew 7:7-11; NASB)
Jesus assures us that God treats His children just like you, as a loving parent, would treat your children.  God isn't a cosmic trickster.  God is a loving Father who cares for His own, and is always looking out for their well being.  If you are truly in need of something, Jesus promises us that we can count on God to take care of us.  All we need to do is simply make our requests known to God, and sit back as we watch Him deliver.

This is a pretty simple and straight forward teaching, and while it would be easy to kick it up a notch and spend an hour preaching a sermon on this topic with a Pentecostal flare, such a thing would be inappropriate.

For when Jesus taught on prayer, the emphasis of His teaching was never really on prayer itself per say.  While there is a place for expounding on the way we ought to pray, who we ought to pray for, when we ought to pray, how long we ought to pray, and other such things, Jesus didn't care to address those issues too deeply.  And if you are reading His teaching on prayer in such a way, you are reading things wrongly.

Rather, when Jesus taught on prayer, He always had an eye on how you were going to behave as a result of praying.  For Jesus, prayer isn't a means by which we get things from God so much as it is a means by which God transforms us through our praying, and how we live our lives after having prayed.

And this teaching on the Sermon on the Mount follows this normal pattern of Jesus in His teaching on prayer.  He ends His teaching on prayer by saying:
"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the prophets." ~ (Matthew 7:12; NASB)
Take notice of the word "therefore" in the above verse.  It is a word that logical connects us with what was just said to what is getting ready to be said.  As Dr. Tatum used to say in my methods of Bible study class in college, "Whenever you see a 'therefore' ask what the 'therefore' is there for."  

So what is the "therefore" there for?  Jesus says as a result of praying, and seeing God treat us like we would treat our own children, we should therefore treat people in the same way we would want to be treated.

Or in other words, treat other people in the same way you want God to treat you:  

  • If you are ever in doubt as to how you should treat somebody else in any given situation, you should treat them in the exact same way you would want your Heavenly Father to treat you.  
  • If somebody has wronged you, forgive them, because you want God to forgive you.  
  • If somebody keeps doing stupid stuff, be patient with them as they work through their stupidity, just as you want God to be patient with you as you work through your stupid moments.  
  • Instead of neglecting others and acting in some sort of passive aggressive manner with people, actively look out for their well being, just as God is actively looking out for your well being.  
  • If somebody wants you to help them with something, give them your all, just as God has given you His.  Don't half do anything, because God has never half done anything for you.
  • If you receive bad service at a restaurant, leave a good tip anyway, knowing that even when you serve God poorly, you still want Him to bless you with abundant grace and mercy.
  • If somebody is looking for your attention, don't keep putting them off, as God always gives you His attention, and never puts you off.
  • If you owe somebody money, make paying them back your number one priority, as you live in expectation that God will take care of you financially.

No wonder theologians have dubbed this verse of Scripture "The Golden Rule."

Can you imagine what our lives would begin to look like if we lived this way?  Can you imagine the value our lives would bring to this world and those around us?

We would become like God to them.  

And that's exactly the point of this teaching on prayer.  Stop praying merely to get stuff.  Such teaching is Sunday-schoolish.  Instead, live your life in a way as if you were going about the world granting the prayers of others.

Live in such a way in your behavior to others that you answer their petitions and requests to you in the exact same way that God answers your prayers. Go the extra mile.  Hold nothing back.  Look out for their well being.  Touch their lives just as God has touched yours.

If you want to radicalize your prayer life, radicalize your prayer life by changing how you treat others.


A Christian Call to Arms!!!

In the past year, it's been almost impossible to avoid the issue of gun control.  Gun violence has regularly dominated the news.  President Obama has vowed to make gun control a priority in his final year in office.  And, in response to recent events, many have felt the need to arm themselves, and gun sales have recently spiked.

What is a Christian to do in all of this? 

I firmly believe we are called to arm ourselves. 

However, I believe we are called to arm ourselves in a very different way than the likes of Jerry Falwell, Jr has called upon the students of Liberty University to do. 

I believe we are to arm ourselves to suffer.

The apostle Peter once said:

"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God." (1 Peter 4:1-2; NASB) 

Armed to suffer? Say whaaa?  Ain't nobody got time for that.

...But Muslims!
...But Hitler!
...But the Second Amendment!
...But bad guys with guns!
...But late night home invasions!
...But Joel Osteen said I could have my best life now, and I can't do that if I'm dead!

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's immoral or sinful to own a weapon.  Jesus isn't going to send you to hell or strike you dead for owning a gun (after all, He did once encourage his followers to carry a couple swords). 

However, in listening to the news and chatting among family, friends, and other Christians, I can't help but notice that the primary tone of the conversations taking shape.  We want to own guns, not only because it is our right, but we want to be prepared to use lethal force so that we can avoid needless death and suffering. 

Suffering, even righteous suffering, is the furthest thing from our mind.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness dominate our thinking instead.

Preserving our life and our way of life have taken priority over everything else.  We are prepared to arm ourselves, but only in order to avoid suffering.  And we find the idea of being prepared to suffer and embracing suffering to be ludicrous and completely foreign to our way of thinking. 

Yet the consistent call of the New Testament from cover to cover is for Christians to prepare themselves to suffer, even unjustly, at the hands of madmen, and to do so with the greater purposes of God and the Gospel ultimately in mind.

Owning a gun is fine, and I'll never object to you owning one.  But instead of owning a gun, and getting all bent out of shape over whether or not President Obama is going to allow us to freely buy them, I believe we need to have a different focus.  We need to focus on arming ourselves to suffer.  It is better to be armed to suffer than to have two friends named Smith and Wesson at your side

I firmly believe in my heart of hearts that difficult times are ahead.  Violent and even life threatening times, from which none of us will be exempt, even those who own guns.  Times for which we need to prepare ourselves spiritually, because of all the suffering that may even be brought to our own front door. 

Times for which, I believe we as the church in America simply are not prepared for... but must get prepared for in our hearts.

Will you arm yourself to suffer?


Jesus says: Don't be Stupid... Pigs can't eat Pearls

"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." ~ (Matthew 7:6; NASB)
There is something about our humanity that just loves to give people a piece of our mind.  We love to be dispensers of our infinite wisdom.  And those of us with the gift of gab, we just can't wait to share our opinion on any range of topics.

In concluding His teaching on judging others, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us about the dangers of trying to force feed our little nuggets of wisdom to dogs and swine. Neither dogs nor swine are interested in what you have, so don't try to give it to them anyway.  Though what you have is extremely valuable, it is of no value to them, because it is something they simply cannot eat.  If they tried to, they just might just choke to death, or worse, they might just turn on you.

And treating this passage as a prophecy, we often try to comfort ourselves in such times when we feel the dogs and the pigs have turned on us.  We feel this way when somebody from another theological or political camp rejects the rightness of our position on whatever it is we have to say, and mud slinging ensues.  And afterwards, we dust ourselves off and vow to never share certain truths with certain people ever again.  We tell ourselves that we'll just share our wisdom with those who have ears to hear, and are interested in what we have to say.

However, if you are using this passage in this way (as most people do), you are reading it wrong.

We tend to understand this teaching as an isolated saying of Jesus, and divorce it from its entire context.  In the actual Biblical context within the Sermon on the Mount, this verse follows a string of passages in which Jesus exposes and condemns self-righteous behavior, and our general blindness to it.  This passage is no exception, as it caps off his teaching on the topic of judging others, which immediately preceded this verse.

In this Scripture, Jesus is offering no consolation prize to those who get their butts kicked after a heated argument, even though you were right in your position, and what you were preaching on. Jesus isn't encouraging you to be more discerning, and warning about the dangers of sharing precious truths with a bad crowd, and encouraging you to find people of more worth to share what you have to say with next time.

If such was the case, Jesus wouldn't have ever found a worthy audience to preach to.

Rather, Jesus is warning you and I about the dangers of looking at others in a smug, self-assured, know-it-all attitude to begin with, and then opening our mouths to let others know what we think anyway.  If you deem yourself so wise and think what you have is so valuable, then why the heck are you even trying to feed your pearls to people whom you deem to be dogs and pigs to begin with?

Instead of being so wise, Jesus says your behavior reveals that you are being a complete idiot, and what's worse, is that you don't even know it because you already think you are ever-so enlightened.  You should never look at somebody else and judge them as a dog or a pig (or "lib-tard," to use a modern idiom).  But if you do, then it's no wonder when an unplanned episode of Jerry Springer suddenly breaks out.

When sharing what you think with  others, if you treat them as dogs and pigs, don't be shocked when they act like dogs and pigs towards you in return.  The real danger isn't to be found in what you have to share, or the people you are sharing with, but how you look at others and treat them in the process.

At the end of the day, we tend to be the real the pigs.