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Politics

Today was either a very good day or a very bad day to be a US Citizen. If you are for “marriage equality” for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered (LGBT), today was a very good day for you.

If, however, you are for traditional “one-man, one-woman marriage”, today was a very bad day for you.

Two very important decisions were handed down by the US Supreme Court today: the Federal DOMA and California’s Proposition 8.

 

Federal DOMA

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Federal Government cannot grant special privileges to one group (traditional marriage) over another group (LGBT). Tax credits and other Federal benefits given to traditionally married couples must be granted to LGBT couples as well.

The Federal DOMA was signed into law by then-president Bill Clinton in an effort to define marriage in the traditional sense. The Court stated today that those who would limit Federal benefits to one group and not another were doing so in an effort to inflict punishment on the other group. In other words, those who supported DOMA — including Clinton – were bigoted and punitive against those who supported “non-traditional” marriage. Perhaps the Court was correct.

Civil Liberty is a sticky issue.

A few years ago, some groups disapproved allowing religious groups to use public school facilities after school hours and on the weekends. A doctrine of “equal access” was adopted which said that if any one group was allowed access (YMCA, Boy/Girl Scouts), then all other groups also have access. The other side of the same coin said that if one group was prohibited from accessing the school facilities, then all groups would be prohibited from using the facilities.

In a free society, I am protected to be able to practice my religious beliefs according to my personal convictions. At the same time, someone who holds the exact opposite religious beliefs from mine is also protected to practice their religious beliefs according to their personal convictions. That’s the way liberty works. Atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, and Protestants are all free to practice our religious (and non-religious) beliefs. Giving preferential treatment to one group over and against another group violates the “no establishment of religion and the free exercise thereof” parts of the First Amendment. If it applies for one group, it should be applied in the same way to all the other groups.

When the Parker County Ministerial Alliance requested that the Weatherford City Council start with pledges to the US and Texas Flags and an invocation, there was great caution on the part of the Council. They were afraid that at some point in the future the City might have to use taxpayer funds to defend against lawsuits from groups claiming a violation of “separation of church and state”. Their approval could have gone one of two ways:

1 – Having a designated person to pray “nonsectarian” prayers (presumably to a nonsectarian god?).

2 – Allowing a diversity of persons to pray according to their own religious tradition (including praying “in Jesus’ name” for those who chose to do so).

The Council allowed the Ministerial Alliance to coordinate the invocation pray-ers with option 2. The Alliance has done an honest job of being “inclusive” of leaders of respective groups in the community, even inviting religious leaders who are not affiliated with the Alliance.

 

California’s Proposition 8

The second decision handed down by the Supreme Court had to do with California’s Proposition 8. Prop 8 was an amendment to California’s Constitution which defined marriage for the State of California; it was California’s version of the Federal DOMA that applied to just the State of California to protect it in case the Federal Government nationally legalized “nontraditional” marriage. The Court struck down Prop 8, saying that marriage cannot be limited to one-man one-woman couples. However, they also stated that a LGBT couple whose marriage was recognized in one state does not necessarily have to be recognized in any other state.

 

My Take on the Decisions

I am not a lawyer, nor am I a Constitutional Scholar. However, I am a citizen of the United States whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War of independence against tyranny. I am also a pastor. And these Supreme Court Decisions affect me. They affect all of us.

What we saw today is a display of man’s depravity. What we saw was the natural consequence of putting our ultimate decisions in the hands of nine fallen men and women (the “highest court in the land”).

When a nation turns its back on its original principles and reads its founding documents as “fluid documents”, open to new interpretation of each new generation, anything is up for grabs. Literally anything. LGBT today … LGBTP (pedophilia) tomorrow?

We see a very similar situation in churches that turn their backs on their original principles, where Christians view our founding Document as a fluid document, open to new interpretations of each new generation.

I’m not just talking about the “liberal” churches. I’m also talking about the “conservative” churches. We have all – in our own way – turned out backs on our original principles of reaching a lost and dying world with the hope of the Gospel as it is revealed in the Bible.

The “liberals” have done it by rejecting the Bible as a static document of God’s revelation and authority. They argue that the Bible is outdated and needs to be reinterpreted for the changing culture. They see LGBT as a new situational ethic to be interpreted according to the “love of Christ” without any judgment on the LGBT lifestyle (because the Bible is outdated, remember?).

The “conservatives” have done it by not reaching the lost and dying world. Somehow, we expect lost to find their way to us (even though the Bible clearly says that no one is righteous and no one seeks after God on their own. We have failed to “contextualize” the unchanging Gospel as revealed in the Bible and actually dialog with lost and dying people. We run from Christian huddle to Christian huddle preaching against the evils of abortion and homosexuality. But when was the last time we talked with an unwed teen, offering her viable options for carrying her baby to term (Who’s going to pay for her medical bills?)? Or when was the last time we sat down with a LGBTQ* friend or coworker about his/her struggles for acceptance (regardless of what acceptance he or she may be struggling with)?

Our only hope is for the church to be the church: repent and return to the God on Whose principles and Document our faith was founded. Only then will we have any hope for hope and the blessing that we once enjoyed as a church and as a nation.

So was it a good day or a bad day in Court? Regardless of your views of traditional vs. nontraditional marriage, today was a bad day in Court. It revealed our depravity. The depravity of all of us.

 

 

*LGBTQ is a relatively new designation that includes those who are questioning their sexual identity.

 

As I type this on the morning after the 2012 General Elections, I am physically sick to my stomach. Not because “my guy” didn’t win. I feel sick because of where I see us as a nation and where we are heading as a nation. We are getting what we have asked for. And we deserve exactly what we are getting.

I don’t claim to have the spiritual gift of prophecy, but this is what I see in the coming months and years:

Homosexuality will continue to be paraded in the public square. “Gay marriage” will continue to garner support, either blatantly, or through laissez-faire attitudes by heterosexuals.

Abortion on demand will continue to be “legal and safe”. But it won’t be rare. More babies will be killed (at taxpayer expense), and more women will suffer the physical and emotional consequences of abortion.

First Amendment Religious and Free-Speech Liberties will continue to erode. Religious institutions and other organizations that are pro-life in nature, or pro-life in the organization’s leaders’ beliefs will be required to provide insurance that covers abortion/abortifacients (abortion-causing drugs).

Second Amendment Liberties will be restricted, either through the banning of certain weapons, or through the taxation of weapons and/or ammunition.

Several Supreme Court Justices will be replaced, resulting in decades of even more left-leaning decisions.

As of December 31, 2012, United States citizens will arrive at the “fiscal cliff”, seeing tax increases and cuts to our military and other programs such as Medicare. With President Obama’s reelection and continued Democrat control in the US Senate, our elected leaders will not feel obligated to address these issues — and the US House will have no authority to do so on their own. Our deficit will continue to increase exponentially, increasing the tax burden on our children, grandchildren for generations to come, as we spend more and more of what we don’t have. The result: the “recovery” trumpeted by the Democrats for the past few years will fall into another recession or worse.

Free Market Capitalism will be more restricted through increased government regulation. More workers will be laid off — or their status will be reduced to “part time” status — as employers seek to avoid the increased costs of providing mandated healthcare for their fulltime employees or fines if they don’t.

 

In short, our nation will continue to become much more different than what we have been accustomed to.

 

Our Mandate for 2012 and Beyond

It is incumbent on all Christians to pray.

Paul commands that we pray for all those in authority (1Timothy 2:1-2). If we haven’t been, we must begin to pray for our leaders. If we have been praying for them, we must not stop praying. We must pray more, not just that we get our way, but that God will bring us back to Himself, His ways, and his purposes.

“My people” in 2Chroinicles 7:14 applies to all of God’s people, not just the Nation of Israel, led by Solomon in that passage. In fact, the context of 2Chronicles 6-7, if God’s people fail to follow Him, He would bring calamity to them. If “My people” respond in repentance, then He would hear their prayer and bring restoration.

We are in 2Chronicles 7:13, 22. May we be brought back to experience 2Chronicles 7:1-4.

 

May God have mercy on us!

I recently posted a link on Facebook to “‎10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate Is Never Asked by the Media”: http://ow.ly/eM9ND. A friend responded that most pro-lifers appeal to Scriptural rhetoric. Since he wasn’t well versed in Scripture, he asked if I could enlighten him on the biblical basis of life beginning as conception and not at first breath? That’s a GREAT question!

Note: I am choosing to talk about what I am FOR (i.e., life) as opposed to what I am AGAINST (i.e., abortion). If we do not begin from this perspective, we will not realize the moral ramifications of abortion.

The Pro-Life issue can easily be explained on a scientific basis, including a detectable heartbeat at 61/2-7 weeks. But what does the Bible say about when life begins?

Anyone familiar with the Ten Commandments has heard the Sixth Commandment: You shall not murder. Murder is defined as the taking of an innocent life, as opposed to capital punishment, which the Bible prescribes in specific cases. That’s all well and good if we’re talking about murdering another person. But what about an unborn baby? Is an unborn baby a “person”?

Psalm 139:13-16 is probably the most often quoted Bible passage regarding this issue, where we’re told that the psalmist recognized that God knew his unformed body and he was knit together in his mother’s womb. Actually, the word translated “unformed substance” is used only here in the Hebrew Bible, and means “embryo” (Hebrew golem).

In Jeremiah 1:5, Jeremiah says that God consecrated him for his ministry before he was born.

Jacob and Esau are said to have fought in Rebekah’s womb in Genesis 25:22. Genesis 25:26 adds that Jacob was grabbing Esau’s heel as they were delivered.

Luke 1:41 speaks of John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb when Jesus’ mother came to visit John’s mother Elizabeth. Dr. Luke (a physician) calls Elizabeth’s son a baby (Greek brephos).

Perhaps one of the most clear statements about personhood before birth is in Job 10:18-19 where Job says he wishes he had died before he was born. Further, he says he wishes that he had never come into being. Job certainly recognized life before birth! After all, how can one die if one is not alive?

Perhaps the most striking statement is when Jeremiah mentions being killed in the womb in Jeremiah 20:17. Again, how can one be killed in the womb if one isn’t living?

Perhaps these passages aren’t enough to convince someone about personhood before birth. A look at how the Bible addresses injury or death of an unborn baby would be helpful.

Exodus 21:21-25 does just that. If two men are fighting and it causes the premature birth of a healthy baby, the father determines the punishment the guilty party with a fine. However, if the mother or baby is injured, the punishment is to be met in like kind. Specifically, if the mother dies, or if the baby is stillborn, the one/ones who caused the death is to be put to death.

Clearly, the biblical writers, under God’s direction, spoke consistently from a pro-life worldview; they recognized and protected life through the continual development from conception and birth.

 

Implications

If an unborn baby is a “person”, then it logically follows that terminating the pregnancy of an unborn (or partial-born) baby is murder. Since the Bible makes no distinction between a baby inside the womb and one outside the womb, there are moral ramifications we must address regarding abortion. Perhaps this is why many people insist on using euphemisms for abortion, or why they try to deny that life begins at conception in order to make their position more palatable.

 

1. In the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate, Senator Joe Biden said that his personal, Roman Catholic pro-life beliefs do not dictate his public, political actions. He didn’t think it was right to force his personal beliefs on other people. Indeed, Senator Biden and many other Catholic member of Congress have voted consistently against the Catholic Church’s pro-life stance on abortion.

Because the issue of life is so important, we must strive to consistently defend and follow the Bible’s pro-life stance against abortion. Is it not hypocritical to attempt to separate our personal religious beliefs from our public positions? Truly, what someone proclaims in the public square betrays the true beliefs of the heart, regardless what they may say otherwise.

 

2. If life does begin at conception, and if taking the life of the unborn is murder, then we must take such truths into account, even in the “hard case” questions. In fact, we must begin with the question of when does life begin in order to properly answer those “hard case” questions.

 

3. The Bible commands Believers to love the Lord with all of our heart. Is it really possible to love God with all of our heart if our heart is in stark opposition to the pro-life heart of God?

 

4. Finally, does abortion disqualify someone from being a Christian? What about a person who has either had or paid for an abortion? What about the abortion provider? What about those who support abortion through the legislative process or through voting for politicians who do?

 

I thank God that my qualification for being a Christian is not limited by what I have done or by what I have not done! My qualification for being a Christian is because of what Jesus did! The same is true for anyone else who claims to be a Christian. That being said, however, what I do and what I do not do can reveal where my heart is, and how seriously I want to follow Him. May God give His children a heart to passionately follow His heart in these issues!

 

Christians, let’s stand for life!

 

I will publish all comments that deal with the issues I have discussed. I will not tolerate “flaming”, name-calling, foul language, etc.

 

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.

 

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?