Our Age to be Enlightened

By Michael W. Raley

The time has come for the reasoned and rational voices to prevail,

And put aside the empty rhetoric, which only leads to more travail.

All these tired talking points only take us back to the problem’s start,

As more and more dig deeper trenches around their obstinate minds and hearts.

How about we actually work together to solve problems

Instead of resorting to demonizing and fear mongering?

We should have long ago made great strides and progress.

Yet, we continue to retreat and regress.

There are those who  refuse to see the dawn of a new day,

Because they cling to the comfort of the old ways.

We must not allow ourselves to be frightened,

For this is an opportunity, our age to be enlightened.

 

 

 

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The Politics of Jesus

The Lord Jesus Christ is the most influential figure to have ever lived. From His sacrificial death and resurrection to His teachings, billions of lives have been changed. The principles Jesus taught and exemplified have also been sources for great social and personal change. If our salvation in Christ is supposed to influence every aspect of our lives, how does this influence our political beliefs for the upcoming Presidential election?

In this post, we will examine the politics of Jesus. However, I will not make the Lord out to be a card carrying member of any political party nor will I be pushing for any particular agenda or platform. Also, keep in mind that there are no perfect candidates nor are there any perfect elections. This current election cycle has a lot of people holding on to their affiliation’s ideological extremes, perceiving to vote for the lesser of two evils, or just tuning out in general. But if Christians are to vote along biblical principles, what exactly does the life of Jesus illustrate in this regard?

For an examination of how a Christian is to respond biblically to their government, I would encourage you to check out my post, “A Christian’s Civic Duty.” https://triumphantinchrist.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/a-christians-civic-duty/

When Jesus walked the earth, Israel was a territory of the Roman Empire. However, Jesus’ harshest criticism was not directed at Caesar, but against the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees- the religious leaders of the day. Jesus openly exposed their hypocrisy in placing barriers in front of so many people, while neglecting the teaching of the most important aspects of the Law. Jesus came to earth to die for our sins; He did not seek to start a theocracy. Jesus’ kingdom was as He said, “Not of this world.” Jesus also downplayed the political ramifications of Him being the Messiah. In the Old Testament prophecies, there are no clear distinctions as to the verses that mark the first and second coming of the Messiah. Many people believed the conquering Messiah would come first and overthrow Rome, when the suffering Messiah came first.

Political power can corrupt, but Jesus could not be swayed by the allure of political power. Jesus emphasized devotion to God over allegiance to worldly things and agendas. Jesus crossed cultural barriers, as the Gospels record Him ministering to Gentiles. Jesus also elevated the status of women, as with the examples of the Samaratian woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood, and the woman who anointed Him with the alabaster jar of perfume. Jesus also welcomed and cared for children.

Jesus also ran social programs, as He feed the hungry, treated the disabled, the sick, and the mentally ill. Jesus believed that we should love and treat each person with dignity and respect. Jesus emphasized blessing (speaking well of) our enemies, or those who seek to criticize us. Jesus broke down social conventions and man-made traditions to reach people with the Gospel or healing. Jesus reached out to those who were cast off by society- prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, the possessed, and other “sinners.” Jesus also taught fulfilling our civic duty and pay taxes to our earthly government. Jesus’s teachings and deeds are vast, and as John put it, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25, KJV).

Who or what you vote for is between you and God. I just want to emphasize that as Christians, we must be spiritually discerning of the things that go on inside and outside of the church. We must not be swayed by false promises or fear-inducing rhetoric. We must no longer demonize our political opponents or those whose life choices are different from ours. Jesus taught us to love and forgive all people as He has loved and forgiven us. As this election nears, let us all pray for God’s will to be done and that He would give us the wisdom to go forward. God bless you all.

Filling the Leadership Vacuum

As I write this, the United States is weeks away from a presidential election. Like American politics in the Twenty-First Century, the race has been divisive, polarizing, uncivil, filled with countless accusations, and lacking in character depth and substance when it comes to putting forth solutions to solve our country’s  problems.

I have no political agenda here. I consider myself apolitical- I am not Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, or any other label that can be placed on a person’s political views. My principles are guided by my faith, family values, and my life experiences. The current political environment has created a segment of the population that is discouraged and apathetic toward what is happening with the presidential race. Poll after poll shows the lack of support and dissatisfaction Americans have for their government. It also seems as if reason and moderate discussion no longer apply to politics because the extreme ideologies have seized both political parties and people in general.

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vison, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (KJV).

When leaders fail to lead or if their principles are negotiable, the entire nation suffers. Historically, as a nation’s leaders go, so go the people. This is true in the current case of the United States, ancient Rome, or even ancient Israel. Just as the Bible says that bad company corrupts good character, so too does lawlessness among leaders creates lawlessness among the people. When leadership is wanting in government, you could also more than likely believe that leadership is lacking in the home, in the church, and in the workplace. This creates a vacuum, where people try to fill in the gaps for themselves and do what is “right in their own eyes.” And as a result, standards and ethics disappear.

In the Old Testament, God frequently rebukes kings, priests, false prophets, and the peoples of Israel and Judah for their continued disobedience and lawlessness. One such instance can be found in Ezekiel 22, where God specifically rebukes the priests, princes, and prophets.

God makes a direct correlation between the behavior and disobedience of Israel’s leaders to the behavior of its people:

“The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out my indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,’ says the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 22:29-31, NKJV).

God searched the land and found no one to be a person of principle and lead. What a sad commentary on Israel’s spiritual affairs. The United States finds itself in the same situation as our elections have devolved from the best person for the job to trying to discern the lesser of two evils.

However, the responsibility does not lie solely on the government. All of us must take action and display leadership in our lives- reach out to those who need a hand up. The problems facing our society- racism, discrimination, oppression, addiction, crime, marginalization, isolation are all matters of the heart. It is impossible for one election or one candidate to fix society’s ills. We must look within and examine ourselves. What can we do? Are we willing to stand in the gap for our loved ones? Are we willing to draw the proverbial line in the sand of our beliefs and morals and stand our ground? Are we willing to be a voice for those who cannot speak? Are we willing to be our brother’s keeper? I believe as we take leadership of our own lives, not only will our lives improve, but so will our nation. God bless you.

 

A Christian’s Civic Duty

As the United States has entered into another presidential election cycle, there will be numerous debates and even more numerous polls about how the candidates rank with potential voters. The last 35-40 years in the U.S. has seen the rise of a voting bloc known as “Evangelical Christians,” that has played crucial roles in elections. Many leaders of the Evangelical Christian movement have been prominent televangelists, pastors, and other leaders who have spoken out against such issues as abortion, same sex marriage, and reclaiming America’s Christian heritage. The purpose of this post is not to debate political issues, but will examine a Christian’s civic duty in a political culture hostile to Christianity.

An Understanding of Authority

Everyone is under some kind of authority. Of course, for Christians, God is our ultimate authority. As a child, you were under the authority of your parents and teachers. If you have a job, you are under the authority of your supervisor. As citizens of the respective countries we live in, we are under the laws that govern our nations. To rebel against any kind of authority can bring serious short-term and long-term consequences. The Bible makes it very clear that all authority comes from God and serves His purposes.

 “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men- as free, yet not using your liberty as a cloak for vice, but as servants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:13-17, NKJV).

The Apostle Paul goes even further to explain the importance of submitting to authority.

  “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’s sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.” (Romans 13:1-6, NKJV).

Jesus was asked about whether or not people should pay taxes to Rome. Jesus’ response was: “’Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have? They answered and said, Caesar’s.  And He said to them, Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’” (Luke 20:24-25, NKJV).

At this point you may be asking, “Well, yes, I understand, but what if my government is corrupt and promotes evil?” Consider the context in which the New Testament was written. All of the books in the New Testament were written approximately mid-to-late First Century, the time of the Roman Empire. Rome, according to secular history, was morally corrupt and its citizens and emperors engaged of lifestyles of hedonism and decadence. Where Christians ran afoul with the Roman government was in their refusal to worship the emperor as God because we serve the one and only God. If a government forces you to personally renounce your faith in Christ and pledge allegiance to an idol or leader, then yes, stand up and declare the word, just as Peter and John did when they were brought before the Council and forbidden from preaching in Jesus’s name (see Acts 4:1-31).

History is in God’s hands

God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:9), so we will never fully understand His purposes, which includes who is appointed or elected to political office.  As Christians, we must remind ourselves of God’s sovereignty and that He is directing the events of history and the affairs of man. Though you may disagree with a political leader or a ruling of a court, remember God has appointed these leaders for His higher purposes.

 “Daniel answered and said: ‘Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.’”(Daniel 2:20-21, NKJV).

“But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.” (Psalm 75:7, NKJV).

“He leads counselors away plundered, and makes fools of the judges. He loosens the bonds of kings, and binds their waist with a belt. He leads princes away plundered, and overthrows the mighty…He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them.” (Job 12:17-19, 23, NKJV).

Christians must stop fighting the culture wars

As we are living in the End Times, the Bible reminds us that society will grow more and more evil and corrupt (1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-5). The Church and Christians will face persecution in this world as Jesus taught because we are not of the world. Our home and citizenship is in heaven and we are pilgrims and nomads passing through this life. Jesus stated that we are sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Our purpose as Christians is to declare the Word of God and to make disciples. If we are to declare the Word, we must not engage in senseless debates with the culture, which only brings further division, but we must proclaim Christ.

 “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather train yourself to be godly.” (1 Timothy 4:7, NIV).

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:23-26, NIV).

We must live our lives as an example of Christ. Jesus faced opposition from both the Roman government and the religious leaders of His day, yet on the cross forgave His enemies and died for them the same as He died for you and me. The Church must not take sides in a political debate, but we must show the love of Christ. We must pray for our political leaders and for all of those in our lives who do not know Christ. The sins of the world are no different than our sins. We must not speak judgment and condemnation atop from our self-righteous perches, but we must step down and walk beside those who do not know Christ to show them the way of salvation.