Dietrich Bonhoeffer on our instruction in divine love

When God was merciful, when He revealed Jesus Christ to us as our Brother, when He won our hearts by His love, this was the beginning of our instruction in divine love. When God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with our brethren. When we received forgiveness instead of judgment, we, too were made ready to forgive our brethren. What God did to us, we then owed to others. The more we received, the more we were able to give; and the more meager our brotherly love, the less were we living by God’s mercy and love.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1954), 24-25

Me. Me. Me!

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3 NIV84)

For the modern American, there are few words that are more impossible to understand in their full depth and more unlikely to be applied in their full scope than the words “put others first.” (Although, “slower traffic keep right” is a close second; but doesn’t that require thinking of others?) From a young age, we are taught that we have to look out for number one in this dog-eat-dog world. Our entire culture encourages a mentality of self-centeredness and selfishness. These ideas are foreign to us: loving our neighbors; doing unto others as we would have them do unto us; thinking of others as more important than us. But they are the core of who God is slowly turning us into.

I pray that, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, I may grow in this area every day.

Dallas Willard on the role of silence in evangelism

In witnessing, the role of talking is frequently overemphasized. Does that sound strange? It’s true. Silence and especially true listening are often the strongest testimony of our faith. A major problem for Christian evangelism is not getting people to talk, but to silence those who through their continuous chatter reveal a loveless heart devoid of confidence in God.

Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (New York: HarperCollins, 1998), 165

Why we selfishly want Jesus’ presence

“Any individual can think it’s better for Jesus to be by his or her side. But that’s losing sight of the fact that others need His help too.”

Chuck Bomar, Better Off Without Jesus (Venture: Regal, 2012), 20.

Some Post-Election Day Thoughts

In a previous post, I explained why I absolutely refused to vote for Obama or Romney. Today is a brand new day and we have the same old president but, after watching and reading many Christians as they discussed this election, I’d like to explore two attitudes I found pervasive and particularly disturbing. First, most of the Christians I talked to were thinking like Republicans, not Christians. And second, fear seemed to be a greater motivator than faith.

Thinking like Republicans, not Christians
I can’t tell you how many Christians were convinced that our only option—nay, our only hope!—was to vote for Mitt Romney because…well… he was the Republican candidate. Did Christians have no other possible course of action? Based on what I’ve heard and read, we actually don’t! It sounded to me like our only hope hinged on the outcome of the 2012 Presidential Election!

Equally disturbing was the mentality that the last thing we could possibly do was vote for a third party candidate. That might require us to maintain our integrity and do something unpopular and likely to fail! Instead, our only option was to capitulate to the slightly better of two undesirable choices—one a liar, the other a deceiver—for the sake of political expediency.

In short, our goal wasn’t to support the best, most desirable candidate; our goal was simply to knock Obama out of the White House. We weren’t thinking about the Kingdom of God and we certainly weren’t concerned with maintaining our integrity, we were merely concerned about the good ol’ USA.

The truth is, God has not called us to win elections in His great Name; God has called us to transform our culture and that begins in our neighborhoods not the courtrooms. Our faith is to be placed in Christ’s atoning work on our behalf, not the legislative performance of our elected officials. Do you think God cares that abortion is legal or that abortion happens? Do you think God cares that our system is corrupt and greedy or that our hearts are corrupt and greedy? My point is, instead of trying to change the laws of the land, we need to try and change the hearts of ourselves and our neighbors. But what fueled this perception?

Operating from fear, not faith.
The reason we had no choice is because, let’s face it, we are all afraid of Obama—especially because he no longer has to worry about being re-elected and has nothing to lose. (And if Obama doesn’t worry you, then I don’t think you pay very much attention.) None of the Christians I heard or read were reasoning from a place of faith in God. They were arguing from fear of Obama. It wasn’t “in God we trust,” it was “in Obama we fear.”

I never heard anyone say, “I have approached the throne of God with this issue and feel compelled to vote for Romney.” It was more like, “Well, the last thing we want is 4 more years of Obama” or even, “Remember folks, ABO: Anybody but Obama!” We were like Peter when he tried to walk on water (Matthew 14:29-31). We took our eyes off Christ and began to look at the storm and the crashing waves. We got scared. But I don’t think it has to be this way.

Two Questions
Every time I watch a documentary with lions, hyenas, or other predators, I always wonder what would happen if the bison (or zebras or gazelles or whatever) stood their ground or, better yet, stampeded the predators. While it’s certainly likely that some of the bisons would be injured or die, it seems even more likely that the lions would realize they were outnumbered 50-to-1 and retreat. There are entire food chains that are perpetuated by fear and the perception of helplessness. In the same way, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if Christians stood their ground or—*gasp*—actually unified.
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So, I challenge all three of the people who will read this to ask themselves two questions when engaging in politics. First, will you maintain your integrity or will you compromise? I challenge you, instead of bending to the pressures of the world around us, to stand firm in your convictions and vote for the candidate you actually believe will be best for our nation. Second, will you walk in faith or fear? Christ calls us sheep; let’s put our faith in the Good Shepherd and stick together. Let’s stand up to the wolves because we trust in our Shepherd’s ability to protect us. And finally, let’s pray for those who have been elected. Let’s pray that God will guide their heart of our president and all our elected officials.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord ; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)

The 2012 Presidential Election: An Illusion of Choice

I must confess up-front that I have been very frustrated by the presidential race this year–especially by Christians. It seems as though political expediency is all that really matters; our political decisions are being dictated by fear of the ‘other guy’ instead of voting for the best candidate. We aren’t voting for who we want; we are just voting against who we don’t want. But then again, it seems as though we are all too often known by what we’re against instead of what we are for, doesn’t it? But, even if we really rally around Mitt, will it truly make a difference? I’m not so sure…

In fact, 7-Eleven may have inadvertently created the most profound and truthful parable for this election that I ever seen. On September 28th, they gave away free coffee in the morning; all you had to do was decide which cup you favored–the Red cup or the Blue cup–and they would scan that cup’s bar code. Then, presumably, they would tally the votes and be able to forecast the election results, right?

Here’s the thing though: no matter which cup you chose, you still wound up with the same mediocre coffee. The only difference between the two was what they looked like on the outside; inside they were identical. That’s what this election is all about. Obama vs. Romney is not a choice between two candidates chosen by the people. Obama vs. Romney is a choice between two puppets chosen, sponsored, and owned by lobbyists, big businesses, corporations, special interest groups, and the like. One merely speaks the lingo of the Left, while the other speaks the lingo of the Right, but neither of them care about what is truly best for the common man.

Now, some Christians may object at this and say that sometimes we must merely vote for the lesser of two evils. The only problem with that line of reasoning is that you are admitting that you are voting for an evil. Furthermore, you are assuming that there are only two candidates in existence for which you may vote. Or they may point out that Romney is (allegedly) pro-life. Sadly, when it comes to the issue of abortion, it doesn’t matter where our president stands as much as Evangelicals claim because the Supreme Court is the one who made the decision and are likely the ones who would have to overturn the decision.

The brutally honest truth is, I’m sick and tired of hearing people complain about the evils of our two-party political system and then voting for one of those two parties. Let me give you a hint: you’re part of the problem. You are perpetuating a system that you yourself have stated is flawed. If everyone who complains about the two-party system had the moral fortitude to vote for a third party and support a candidate they actually believe in, I doubt we would have a two party system! So, this election day, I challenge to challenge Christians to actually pray about which candidate deserves your vote. If you can vote for one of the Big Two with a clean conscience, more power to you. But as for me and my house, we’ll be voting third party. So here’s the bottom line: your vote matters. Your vote is important. Please, I beg you, do not waste it perpetuating an evil, corrupt two-party system.

Now, as a bit of a post script, I want to affirm one last thing: our ultimate hope does not rest in the hands of elected officials. Regardless of who gets elected this year, Christ is our King and we would do well to place our hopes and dreams in His Kingdom.

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.” Psalm 145:13

God’s building enterprises…

Our Lord implies that the only men and women He will use in His building enterprises are those who love Him personally, passionately and devotedly beyond any of the closest ties on earth.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 1993) May 7th Entry.