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Pulpit Freedom Sunday

A member of our church, away at college, messaged me on Facebook, asking what I thought about “Pulpit Freedom Sunday”. The question was accompanied with the comment that this individual didn’t think that it was necessarily right for a preacher to endorse a candidate from the pulpit.

I thought other people might be interested in my response, so I’m putting it here.

In generations past, people looked to pastors for leadership on moral issues. Not only that, but they expected their spiritual leaders to take a stand. However, since 1954, preachers have been bullied into silence on many moral issues. As an example, prior to last week, I received a letter from an organization that warned pastors to be careful in our preaching leading up to the Presidential Election.

First, a little background. “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” seeks to challenge the constitutionality of the Johnson Amendment to the Federal Tax Code 501(c)(3). In 1954, Senator Lyndon Johnson amended the IRS code in order to silence some of his critics. Basically the amendment says that nonprofit organizations (churches, etc.) cannot endorse political candidates. Since that time, nonprofits have been threatened with revocation of their status if they violate the provision. The amendment never been tested in court.

Since 2008, the Alliance Defending Freedom has encouraged pastors to preach messages on Pulpit Freedom Sunday that address moral issues, including speaking to where the candidates stand on those issues. They have encouraged the pastors to even record their sermons and send the recordings to the IRS in order to bait them into revoking the church’s nonprofit status. The next step would be for the Alliance Defending Freedom to sue the IRS, challenging the constitutionality of the Johnson Amendment. The ADF has offered to represent participating pastors and churches pro bono for exercising their First Amendment Rights of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion.

I understand my member’s s concern about a preacher endorsing a candidate from the pulpit. After all, people go to church to hear what God says through His Word. But what should a preacher do if a political candidate or political party’s position differs from clear Biblical teachings?

It’s safe to say that everybody who attends our church knows who I’m voting for and who I think they should vote for — even without my saying his name. I have provided several resources that lay out the very clear differences between the Democrat & Republican platforms (and thus the candidates) on some key moral issues.

A week prior to Pulpit Freedom Sunday, I told the church that I would be no more and no less political than any other Sunday. In my sermon on God’s Name “Adonai” (Master, Lord), I emphasized that embracing the Lordship of God has consequences in life decisions, specifically in the voting booth. I didn’t need to come out and say “vote Republican” or “vote Democrat”. However, I did say that how one votes reveals one’s core beliefs about the authority of the Bible and the key issues in this year’s Presidential race — regardless of what one may claim otherwise.

The Democrat platform is in CLEAR opposition to the Biblical teachings of the sanctity of innocent human life, and marriage between one man and one woman. The Republican platform has denounced abortion on demand and “gay marriage”. Now, having said that, if someone says that they believe in the authority of the Bible, their choice for President has already been decided. If they vote otherwise, their belief in the Bible’s authority for their life can legitimately be called into question.

A preacher doesn’t have to endorse political candidates from the pulpit. All he needs to do is expose how the moral issues are addressed by the clear teachings of the Bible. Groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom have volunteered to come alongside churches if our nonprofit status is revoked by the IRS due to exercising our First Amendment Rights.

It’s time for preachers to boldly and confidently stand up to the bullies and speak to the moral issues of our day.

 

“Majority Rule” Isn’t Always Right

Baptist church polity is generally based on “majority rule”. Whichever side has the most votes on an issue wins. Generally, majority rule is a good idea, because there is wisdom in Godly counsel (Prov 11:4). But majority rule isn’t always best.

A case in point is in today’s Bible reading from Matthew 27:20 Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent of all charges brought against him by the Jewish leaders and was hoping to release him by letting the majority of the crowd decide for him. The chief priests and elders were aware that Pilate might do this, so they whipped the crowd into a frenzy to ask for Barabbas’ release rather than Jesus.

Thankfully, I have never witnessed a similar situation in a church, but I have heard horror stories. A small, disgruntled group goes into a business meeting with an “agenda”. Perhaps they want to fire the pastor because he parts his hair on the wrong side, change the carpet color (or not), or something like that. But they don’t have sufficient support for their ideas to be approved. They go through the church rolls and contact everybody who has ever been a member of the church, hoping to gather a group large enough to vote their way. When the meeting is called to order, a great deal of energy must be spent to verify that everyone that wants to cast a vote is eligible to vote; many of those in attendance haven’t darkened the church doors in years.

This is especially true when most Baptist churches have upwards of 50-60% “non-resident” members. What this means is that we have the names of people on our rolls, but we don’t have a clue where or who they are. But as long as their names are on the roll, they are eligible to vote. And thus, the majority rules; their agenda carries … and God’s doesn’t.

 

Application

Are you seeking God’s agenda, or do you seek out people who will side with you and your agenda?

 

How to (not) Gain Favor with God

In Judges 17, we come across a young man named Micah. Micah’s name means, “Who is like God”. But Micah isn’t much like God. He steals silver from his mother and then when he ‘fesses up, his mother dedicates some of the silver for Micah to make into two idols. Micah hires out a Levite to be a father-figure and priest for his private shrine. He is convinced that God is pleased and will prosper him for having a Levite for a priest.

How bizarre!

But is it?

 

Two things emerge as noteworthy.

1. A “man of God” allows himself to be bought to aid in someone’s sin.

2. A “believer” feels that God will bless him in his sin because he has a good luck charm in having a “man of God” assisting him.

 

A few questions:

What would cause a “man of God” to compromise his integrity and his calling? Perhaps he was burned out from the work of ministry. Perhaps he had been terminated from his previous position. Regardless, here was a man who needed work and Micah offered him a regular paycheck.

How could someone knowingly run headlong into sin, expecting God’s blessing?

In answering both of these questions, let me just say that it happens every day in the Twenty-first Century for the same reasons. As Solomon wisely said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

People see their vocation simply as an occupation rather than a calling. Since it’s merely a means to the end of putting food on the table, they don’t see anything wrong with using their God-given abilities to make a quick buck. The sad thing is that it is worse when the vocation is “ministry”.

As a case in point, in my lifetime we have seen an agenda emerge from a minority group in our society. We were told that 10% of our population is “gay”. Because we bought this lie, we were told that we needed to tolerate their existence. Next we were told that we needed to accept their lifestyle as normative. Currently, we are being told that we need to endorse homosexual unions by changing the centuries-held definition of marriage and promote adoption of children by these “loving couples”. After all, we are told, orphans are better off being raised by a loving homosexual couple than a dysfunctional heterosexual couple. The implication is that there are few non-dysfunctional heterosexual couples, and that because they have had to overcome society’s intolerances, homosexual couples are more committed in their love for each other. Some of the most outspoken supporters of “gay marriage” are members of the clergy in mainline denominations like the United Methodists and Episcopalians. These denominations have been rocked by division as they have begun ordaining/endorsing clergy who live openly as homosexuals. Somehow, homosexuals expect God’s blessing by having members of the clergy assisting in their pursuits toward legitimacy of sin. Like I said, Solomon was right: nothing is new. We just change the words.

People try to manipulate God all the time in an attempt to get His blessing. They would probably deny it, but people frequently try to make deals with God. “God, I’ll go to church, read my Bible, go to the mission field, etc. if You will bail me out, answer my prayer, etc.” And how much of this deal-making actually involves an expectation of God’s blessing of sin?

According to Joshua 1:9-11, God’s blessing comes through obedience to His written Word. So how can people expect God blessing when they actively oppose what is clearly taught in the Bible?

 

Application: In what areas are you compromising your integrity and calling? What lies have you believed? In what ways are you attempting to make deals with God?

There is grace, forgiveness, and blessing as we submit ourselves in obedience to God. And having experienced God’s grace, forgiveness and blessing, we can — and should — extend grace and forgiveness to others who live in disobedience, helping them to line up their lives with God’s plumb line.

 

Whose Holy Book Is It OK to Burn?

Did the Pentagon really order burning copies of the Bible in 2009? Why was this not major headlines in the major US media?

Here’s a great blog article that should provoke conversation about the Gainsville, FL church that plans to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday, 9/11/10. It also links to the report about burning Bibles in Afghanistan.

I have two questions:
1) Is it possible to further enrage someone who already wants to kill you?
2) At what point will we cease to back down when we are threatened by our enemies?

Perhaps the best way to stop bullying is for someone to stand up to the bully. Unfortunately, it appears that the “someones” are either unwilling or unable to get off their hindquarters and stand up to the Muslim extremists … and to those within our own country that aid and abet our enemies with either their silence or concerns of “tolerance”. Granted, sometimes standing up to a bully will give you a black eye. But the black eye is worth protecting those who are being bullied.

Muslim extremists want to destroy our culture and replace it with their own. Their way of life (Shariah Law) and our Constitution are incompatible. They have no interest in negotiating and being “tolerant”. They believe they are right and everyone else is wrong — and everyone who is wrong is to be eliminated. I venture to say that these are not “extreme” views in Islam — they are clear teachings in the Koran. The “moderate” Muslims are the ones who are out of step with mainline Islam.

For too long, we have walked a line of not wanting to “offend” people. When will we (US and Christians) stand up and say, “We have had enough of this! We’re not going to take it anymore!” It’s time for someone to draw a line in the sand.

Now, where’s my stick?

 

Boxer Likens Abortion to Viagra

US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) did a tremendous service to the conservative cause when she compared a woman’s right to an abortion with a man’s right to purchase Viagra. “Why are women being singled out here? It’s so unfair… We don’t tell men that if they want to … buy insurance coverage through their pharmaceutical plan for Viagra that they can’t do it.”

“So unfair”??

Senator Boxer sent a much-needed reminder to all of us that value life that, in the abortion debate, we’re not talking about the same thing. She clearly revealed that to the democrats, abortion is simply a “reproductive rights” issue. She revealed it perhaps more clearly than many in the conservative movement often do.

In the minds of conservatives “reproductive rights” has to do with choosing how many children we want to have, at what intervals, and which (if any) birth control methods we use.

Our camps are labled “Pro-Choice” and “Pro-Life” for a purpose. No one wants to be labeled as “Anti-Choice” or “Anti-Life”. Pro-Lifers must insist that our position is not to tell a woman how many children she can have (as they do in China). There is wisdom in limiting how many children you have but the State has no right to arbitrarily set the limit for you. So in the debate of “reproductive rights” conservatives stand for a woman’s right to make those reproductive choices.

However, those of us who value life argue that the abortion kills babies. It’s that simple. Perhaps that’s one reason why we don’t like providing legislative loopholes. For instance, an exemption for the “life of the mother” is unnecessary, since every pregnancy puts the mother’s life at risk to some extent. If you start with and maintain the premise that abortion kills babies, everything in the abortion debate is affected.

And unless we define the debate accordingly, our tax dollars will be used to kill babies. Thank-you, Senator Boxer for helping us see what the debate is really about.