Power of God – Resource for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (1/20/19)

As we prepare for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday coming up in just a few weeks, I encourage you to make sure you’re incorporating that emphasis in your church’s worship service.

Here’s one resource I wanted to make you aware of. It’s a spoken word piece by a good friend, Nigel “Legin” Anderson. Legin is a Gospel rapper and record producer here in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area. This spoken word, called “Power of God,” mentions various aspects of life’s brokenness and a specifically strong stance on abortion, and then heavily highlights the hope of the gospel to make all things whole.

Legin has offered the video for churches to show on January 20 for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Enjoy the video and consider if your church would benefit from seeing it in a few weeks.

You can find more of Legin’s music, podcasts, and ministry at rmmusic.tv/legin and linktr.ee/legintv. If you’d like to use Power of God for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, you can download the file here (1080p, 1.09GB).

 

Related:
For Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, our ERLC has downloadable bulletin inserts available in addition to the Evangelicals for Life conference from January 16-18.

Character Matters: George H. W. Bush

George Herbert Walker Bush was the first President I remember.  I was eight years old when he was elected and I remember he beat that guy whose tank helmet was too big for his head.

George Bush was beacon of civility in a cruel profession.  What I have learned about him since his exit from office is the exact opposite of what we see in politics today.  His character was above reproach and his character mattered to him.  Here are some of the highlights:

He was the son of a wealthy Senator, yet chose to serve as a fighter pilot in World War II.  He could have found a place of service in relative safety far behind the front lines, but he chose to be in the thick of the action.  His character was evident at an early age.

He routinely sacrificed politically advantageous and influential positions to serve at the behest of the current President.  He was elected to the House of Representatives, but resigned his seat to serve at the behest of President Nixon.

He formed a lasting friendship with President Bill Clinton in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.  His goal was to do what was best for those who had been affected.  He was not there to promote himself.  That’s a man of character.

He also wrote a note to President Clinton as he exited The White House.  Clinton said, “I was touched by his kindness.”  Clinton also stated that President Bush was like the father he never had.  The man who befriends his political adversary who took every opportunity to trash his reputation on the campaign trail is a man of character.

In a documentary about The White House and its most recent occupants, the permanent White House staff all praised President Bush and his wife as decent, kind, caring, and affectionate.  President Bush was known to send personal condolences to White House staffers when they had lost a loved one.  In Colossians 3:12, the Bible says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  President Bush exemplified these traits.

He invited Dana Carvey to perform at The White House.  Dana Carvey regularly President Bush on Saturday Night Live.  I’ve seen the footage of Carvey’s performance at The White House.  The loudest laughter came from the man who was being impersonated.  Who does that?  A man of humility and grace.

He sacrificed his reelection bid to do what was best for the country.  President Clinton won the election because President Bush raised taxes.  It was, in his estimate, what was best for the country.  this self sacrificial move probably prevented our country from sinking farther into the recession of the early 90s and many economists believe, set the stage for the economic boom of the mid to late 90s.

He kicked Sadam Hussein out of Kuwait, but resisted the urge to oust him from power. He made a promise to kick him out of Kuwait, not to remove him from power.  He kept that promise, and two decades later, we can see the wisdom behind that decision.

He kept a low post presidency profile.  He went about the business of serving others after he left The White House.  he did not interfere with political affairs though he had ample opportunity.  He spent 24 years as an ex-president and the enduring images of his post presidency career are those of service to others and Houston Astros ballgames, where he had a seat directly behind home plate.  I’m glad he was able to see them win a World Series.

He was a life long member of the National Rifle Association, a bastion of republican support.  He, however, resigned his membership in 1995 when then President, Wayne LaPierre, mad disparaging statements towards federal law enforcement officers.  That requires a man of character.

When our current President insulted the Bush family during the 2016 election, the Bush family did not retaliate.  The whole family emulated the character of President Bush.

The last time we saw President Bush was a this wife’s funeral in April.  His son was pushing him down the aisle as they exited the church.  He elicited love from every member of his family because he showed that kind of love in return.  This man of character loved his family more than his country.

He was a man who served his country and not himself.  He was a man who was gentle but not a wimp.  He was a man who was humble yet supremely self confident.  He was a man who’s character and reputation mattered more than his politics.

He was a religious man and I believe this kind of character can only come from a man who knows Christ as his Savior.  He loved God by loving others.

Our country lost a statesman, a moderate politician and a philanthropist, but most of all our nation has lost a piece of its character.  He was the last President from the greatest generation, and he was the last President who put character above politics.

Do we really want to make American great again?  American greatness was forged in the fires that tried the souls of great men like President Bush.  American greatness will never be found in a surly tweet, or a snarky quip.  It will always seep forth through the pores of men who prize character above everything else.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things”.  May God make our country great again with more men like George Herbert Walker Bush.

Christians, the Government, and the Ballot Box

When it comes to the relationship between Christians and the government of our United States, we want to root our attitudes, ideas, and actions in Scripture. Yet, when it comes to our historical situation, we don’t match the hierarchies in place during Old and New Testament times. As a Democratic-Republic in which supreme power is vested in the people as we select men and women to represent our views, we are a different creature than what we see with Israel and Rome.

Israel was a theocracy. God created a community of people and he established the rules. Even after giving the nation a king, the monarchy was to be subject to the rule and commands of God. The kings were expected to learn, know, and obey God’s Law, though most failed miserably at this. The church exists as a singular people spread throughout many nations. This means that from culture to culture and period to period, the church lives and thrives under many different types of governments, including monarchies, dictatorships, and democracies.

The early church existed primarily within the Roman Empire that at times sought to persecute and kill Christians. Still, Jesus, Paul, and Peter all taught that God’s people should pay their taxes, pray for their leaders, honor authorities, and submit to just laws.

Though, situationally, our relationship to our government is different than that of Old Testament Israel or the early church, we find guiding principles in scripture that help us determine our Christian duty in regards to the government. Briefly, I want to detail five primary duties we have.

First, we have a duty to honor and pray for those in authority. “Authority” in our system is different than what we see in a monarchy or empire. The opening line to the preamble of the constitution is “We the people.” Authority ultimately resides in the voting population. Still, we elect persons to represent us and thus grant to them representative authority. Therefore, we will not equate our president or senators or representatives like an “emperor as the supreme authority” as Peter writes, but we can still see them as fitting the bill of governing authorities in passages such as 1 Peter 2:13-17, which tells us to honor those in charge (as a subset of “honoring everyone”), and 1 Timothy 2:1-4, which tell us to pray for those in authority that we might live peaceful lives and that they might be saved.

We live in a climate where respect has almost become an artifact of the past. Social media and polarized “news” channels have brought out the worst in us. We need to relearn respect, for those in government and for our fellow citizens, even those with whom we deeply disagree. We must relearn what it means to argue against ideas without belittling the person. Followers of Jesus should pave the way in this. A person made in the image of God is of much greater worth than winning a particular argument.

And praying for someone will help build respect. If we truly pray with deep concern that another might act in wisdom, know Jesus, and follow Jesus, then it will change for the better the attitudes we harbor toward them.

Second, we have a duty to obey just laws. In the gospels when Jesus was asked if it was lawful to pay taxes, he replied, “Whose image is on the coin?” When those testing him answered, “Caesar,” Jesus said, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” In Romans 13, Paul continued this thought, telling us to obey governing authorities and pay our taxes. Then in 1 Peter 2, Peter commanded that we “submit to every human authority.” For, as both Paul and Peter state, government exists as a representative of God to punish evil and support good.

We, of course, know that in a post-Genesis 3 world, governments struggle to do this well and some flat fail. Still, we are to obey the laws of government when they are just. How do we know what a just law is? Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:17 that we’re to “honor everyone, love the brothers and sisters…honor the emperor.” The phrase in that ellipsis is “fear God.” This is Peter’s way of saying that as much as we are to honor those in authority, we are to honor God far, far more. A king might be supreme in the land, but Jesus is the King of kings over creation.

So, if a law contradicts God’s commands or results in us treating another person in a way that degrades the image of God in them, then the law is unjust. If the law is unjust, then we are justified in disobeying it, indeed we even have a responsibility to disobey it because God is the greater King. But any law that does not contradict God’s commands or degrade another person is to be obeyed, even if we dislike it.

The great thing in the United States, however, is if we don’t like a law and enough of our other citizens don’t like a law, then we can vote in people who will work to change said law. But as long as it is law, it is to be obeyed.

Third, we have a duty to vote for men and women of character. In 1998, the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention passed a wonderful resolution on “Moral Character of Public Officials.” The first “resolved” states: “We, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 9-11, 1998, in Salt Lake City, Utah, affirm that moral character matters to God and should matter to all citizens, especially God’s people, when choosing public leaders.”

Scripture tells a consistent tale: Governmental leaders of good character lead to a better nation; those of immoral character lead to ruin and disgrace. We see this in the pattern of the kings where those who “did evil in the sight of the Lord” often brought political, social, and spiritual damage. And we see this in Proverbs 14:34, quoted in the resolution: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Or in Proverbs 11:10-11, “When the righteous thrive, a city rejoices… A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked.” And in Proverbs 28:12, “When the righteous triumph, there is great rejoicing, but when the wicked come to power, people hide.”

At the last presidential election, when the two major parties presented candidates of poor moral character, some held their nose and voted “for the lesser of two evils.” Some voted for the party with the platform they saw as being the least morally repugnant. And others of us voted third party.

What was shocking and continues to be shocking is seeing some Christians enthusiastically support a candidate of poor moral character. That flies in the face of the wisdom of scripture. Some respond, “Well, God can use evil men for his good ends, just look at Nebuchadnezzar [or: insert a different Old Testament governmental head].” That might be all well and true, but God’s people didn’t vote in Nebuchadnezzar, and neither should we.

Fourth, we have a duty to vote from a biblically informed conscience on various issues. Every election cycle there is a home in my town that places a big sign in their front yard with words you can see from the highway: “Vote the Bible.” In a way, they’re right—the Bible should inform our decisions; but the Bible doesn’t directly speak to a variety of issues. For example, the Bible gives no specifics about tax rates or infrastructure funding or gun control or automotive emissions or health care coverage or trade deals. In these cases, one platform isn’t necessarily more morally right or good than another.

But there are certain realities we find in scripture that should thoughtfully and prayerfully shape our views on such things. For example, the Bible teaches that every person is made in the image of God, that we are to honor all people, and that our lives began within our mothers’ wombs. Thus “sanctity of human life” should be a foundational principle for how we as Christians vote. Abortion, obviously, is a large part of that. But, how does sanctity of human life play into the other issues?

Some might say we have a responsibility to provide basic health care for everyone. Others might argue that a free market health care industry is best. Some might say that stronger gun control laws will help preserve life. Others might argue that an ability to protect oneself and one’s family is the better route.

And here’s the thing: As faithful followers of Jesus, we might actually come to different conclusions about these matters. That’s why Paul wrote about respecting each other’s conscience on secondary matters. That same principle applies here.

But however we end up voting on such issues, we should let our hearts and minds be guided and convinced by what the Bible clearly teaches. Then we vote our biblically informed conscience over popular thinking or strict platform/party lines.

Finally, we have a duty to seek for just causes. If you miss this one in Scripture, then it’s because you have your eyes closed while reading. In the prophets, nations are judged all the time by the way the marginalized or less fortunate are treated by the culture. We seek for just causes as we lift up those who have been marginalized and as we work against laws and attitudes that degrade the humanity of another. This means we stand against the various isms—racism, sexism, classism, ageism, etc. And we stand for that which elevates the dignity and potential of others.

We could say more on each of these topics, but as we draw near to yet another election day, let’s keep in mind these things that Scripture calls us to. Let’s cast off attitudes and political maneuvering that degrades others. Let’s stand for the kingdom of God above all others—the kingdom of love and light as the hymn goes…

All scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

What Should I do: Thoughts on Political and Cultural Engagement

I’m struggling.  I’m struggling with how to engage culture for God’s glory.  The recent nomination fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh forced that struggle to the front of my conscience.  There are five realities guiding my decisions on cultural engagement, and five action steps I’d like to take in the future.

5 Realities

  1. I have friends who I want to influence with the gospel:  This reality hits me hard.  I have many friends who don’t think like me, vote like me, share my background, etc…  I want be a Christ like influence in their lives.
  2. I see our society moving in a counter gospel direction:  I’m concerned about the direction of our culture.  We’re not moving toward the gospel.  We’re not moving toward Christ.  We’re moving away from Christlike values.
  3. I have opinions:  I have opinions on politics and on other aspects of our society.  I have biblically informed opinions that I’d like to share. I’d like to be a part of the conversation.
  4. My political party does not always align with my opinions:  This has become abundantly clear in the past two years.  The Republican party has moved farther to the right, and has left me feeling like a man without a party.
  5. God is neither republican or democrat:  I may feel like a man without a party, but I am never without God.  There will be democrats who spend an eternity with Christ.  There will be republicans who do not.  This is the most important reality.  It connects back to the first reality.  My heart’s desire is to see all my friends spend an eternity with God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

What am I to do?  These realities are difficult to navigate.  I’m not the only Christian struggling with the correct biblical posture for cultural engagement.  Here are five action steps I’d like to recommend to those who are struggling with this issue, both democrat and republican.  I’m committed to following these steps in the future:

  1. Do not be a stumbling block:  When Southern Baptists met for our annual meeting  in St. Louis in 2015, the messengers debated a resolution supporting a ban on the display of the confederate flag on public property.  There were emotional speeches on both sides of the issue.  Dr. James Merritt said, (I’m paraphrasing here) “If the confederate flag causes my brother or sister to tune out the gospel, then the confederate flag must go.”  If the voicing of my political opinions causes my brother or sister to miss the message of the gospel, then I should keep my political opinions to myself.
  2.   Engage with purpose and grace:  I always need to ask myself, why am I engaging this person on this issue?  Am I just looking for a fight?  Am I just looking to prove someone wrong?  Christ never engaged just to fight someone or prove someone wrong.  He always engaged with purpose and with grace.  The message of God’s grace was always on his lips, and He offered forgiveness while simultaneously standing against sin.
  3. Cultivate more relationships with people who do not think like me:  I can’t engage in meaningful discussion in an echo chamber–see reality number one.  I want to cultivate more of those relationships.  I want to genuinely listen to arguments.  Those arguments may not change my mind, but they give me an insight into people and their thoughts.
  4. Those who have different values are not my enemy:  There are too many conservative Christians who treat non-Christians as enemies.  They are not our enemy. The Bible says our fight is against the ruler of this atmospheric domain.  I want to always be careful not to treat those who ideologically oppose me as my enemies.
  5. I will not belong to either political party:  I’ve found myself in the position of not belonging to either political party.  I will still vote for a certain type of candidate, but I will not vote republican just because I’m a Southern Baptist Pastor.  The Republican or Democratic, or whatever party will have to earn my vote.

This is where I’ve arrived in my struggle.  Paul wrote in Philippians 3, verse 12 and following, “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brothers I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do; forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.