Friday, June 29, 2012

Government Welfare is Not Christian

I am not particularly political in this blog.  I do have a political ideology, I just normally do not think that this is the venue for those beliefs.  Yesterday was a sad day for America when the ObamaCare law was upheld by those who are supposed to protect us from such tyranny.  In fact, the fatal blow to the efforts to stop this bad law in its track was given by a man was once touted by Christians and conservatives as someone who would support our values.  Should we be surprised, though?  This is what happens when we put our trust in man, even in one who calls himself a conservative. 

I want to talk about that law today, not in specifics but in generalities so as to cover similar laws that we have passed as a nation.  I know many so-called Christians think that laws that give to the poor are a good thing.  I know that many so-called Christians think that "social justice" is Christian.  Of course, how just is it for those who are forced to pay the taxes in order to cover others.  Some think it is Christian to take from those who have more to give to those who have less.  Some think it is Christian to make everyone pay more tax dollars to cover those who have less.  Unfortunately, those who say that are utterly ignorant when it comes to the Bible. 
[So let] each one [give] as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:7 NKJV
Taxes are compulsory giving.  They are taken by force with the threat of penalty and imprisonment if not paid properly.  They are not given by choice in that they are not given as anyone purposes in their hearts but as the government demands.  One can not say that taxing one person to pay another is in any way Christian.  God does not want anyone forced to give anything. God does not want anyone choosing for someone else what to give.  God does not want anyone giving without a desire to make that donation.  This ObamaCare law forces people who do not want insurance and may not even want to use medical care to pay for those who need it.  In fact, it requires healthy young people to pay into the system to pay for those who need it.  This is the same as Welfare and other government programs that take the tax dollars of one person and use them as charity for another. 

Another reason why it is not Christian, is that it supersedes the God-given role for government.
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.   Romans 13:3-4 NKJV
It is clear here that government is established to punish evil and promote good.  It supposed to facilitate the good works of people, not control them.  Everything government does is supposed to accomplish those things.  You take someone to court because they are somehow doing you harm.  A government fights a war to defend its people and land.  A government passes administrative laws to make things run more smoothly.  Government is not supposed to be in the business of Welfare in taking from one to give to another.  Does government promote good by forcible taking from one to give to another?  First of all, it adds a layer from giver to recipient of whatever charitable cause it is going to.  In other words, it makes it more expensive and ultimately gives less to those in need.  Secondly, government also makes this money by borrowing it leaving today's problems with future generations who may not have the means to repay that debt.  Is that promoting good?  Thirdly, government then chooses who this money goes to.  This takes the place of the Holy Spirit and also gives to unrighteous ends.  Government gives this money to organizations that promote sin and perform such evil acts as abortion. 

The Bible does say, however, that we should take care of the poor.
But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  1 John 3:17 NKJV
I really want those who applaud when government takes from one and gives to another to really read this verse.  This verse is to the individual. It is not to the government, it is not to some organization, it is not even to some church.  It is to you as a person.  If you think that the poor should be taken care of, then go and do it.  It is not for you to steal from others or compel them to give, but for you to give.  If you are retired, then get back into the work force and pay those same tax dollars you were paying before.  If you are collecting Social Security, send it back to give to someone else more in need.  If you do not pay taxes, then offer to pay some to pay for another.  In other words, put your money where you mouth is and stop trying to force others to support what burdens your own heart.  If God has put someone on your heart, take care of that person.  If God has put a group on your heart, then you minister to that group.  It is not your job to worry about whatever everyone else does but to worry about what God has told you to do.  Ultimately, when you stand before God, that is what you will be accountable for.  It will not be for what you tried to force others to give, but for what you gave.  Take care of whomever God has told you to take care of and leave the rest of us to take care of whom God has told us to take care of.  That is a system that will work because that is a system reliant on God and not on any political ideology. 
He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.  Proverbs 28:27 NKJV

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Canada Oh Canada

Last week my wife and I spend some time in Quebec for our vacation.  We saw some beautiful countryside.  We say some beautiful architecture. We met some very friendly people.  We also some very beautiful and ornate churches.  What we did not see, though, was Jesus. 

I thought that was kind of ironic.  I mean there were these beautiful ornate old churches and just about every town named Saint something or other and yet I did not really see Jesus anywhere.  The churches were tourist stops. The towns forgot any history of what being a saint even means.  I saw plenty of drinking and revelry.  I saw plenty of commercialism.  I saw romance.  I saw tourists of all stripes touring around.  Yet, I did not see Jesus.  There was no outreach group handing out tracts.  There was no countryside dotted with small churches.  There was not even a pretense.  There was just nothing. 

I see all of that and it gets me thinking two things.  The first thing is that I want to pray for Quebec.  I can not speak for all of Canada, but from what I see in Quebec, Jesus is all but gone.  I am sure He has His remnant somewhere, He always does.  However, as the Bible says, the harvest is plenty but the workers are few.  They need our prayers.  We like to think of missionaries going to some third world country, but should that really be the focus of all our missions when there is much work to be done right around the corner?  In fact, I say even more that we should focus more resources on our neighbors.  The fact is that many of those third world countries are more Christianized than many first world countries.   Before God, a poor country with Jesus is richer than a rich country without Jesus.  While we should take care of the poor and share our resources with our brethren in poverty, but we must not neglect sharing our spiritual wealth with those nations in utter spiritual poverty. 

The other thing that comes to mind is I pray that this does not happen to America.  I know we have our problems. I know there are many parts of this nation that are full on into sin.  I also know that as I drive from place to place, there are small churches of committed Christians dotting our landscape.  I know for our all issues, there is still a strong Christian presence in this land.  Are we slowly slipping?  Sadly I say yes we are.  Is it too late to turn things around?  No, it is far from too late.  It takes a re-dedication to living as the light and salt of the earth to keep our witness alive and spreading.  We have many great churches still in this nation that are not empty buildings of glory past but filled and praising God each and every weekend.  We must never be so prideful to think we are above falling, though.  There are many once great churches that are now shells of what they once were.  There is the Presbyterian and Methodist churches that have strayed far and away from their once-great witness.  That is not just an empty church, but a once strong movement of God that is now dying a slow death.  I sometimes wonder if that is what Jesus means in revelation when He says that he would remove their lamp stands.

There is a lesson to be learned from the once-great-now-dead movements of God.  That lesson is that no matter how great you think your particular church may be, it requires that church living for God to keep that movement going.  Many nations that were once lights are now as dark as night.  Many once great churches sit empty except for tourists snapping photographs.  Many once-great movements of God are still moving but now steadily away from God.   May we never be so prideful to rest on our accomplishments and think that is enough.  As long as there are unsaved people in this world, as long as there are poor, as long as there are those in need of Jesus, our work is not done.   There is an eternity for us to sit back and talk about what work God has honored us to be a part of in this life, but for now, it is time to do that work.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent.  Revelation 2:5 NKJV

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

You Will Never Be Younger Than You Are Right Now

I heard someone on the radio say this past week that we will never be younger than we are right now.  It kind of struck me a little.  He was not a Christian and was not speaking in Christian terms.  In fact, he was speaking in terms of revelry more than likely.  However, it was a very true statement.   Our time on earth is but a flash and it is counted by a clock that begins counting down at birth and never changes that reverse direction until it reaches our final moment.  We can never get back the time we had nor can we get any more time.  What time we have, we have, and we must make the most of whatever time is allotted to our existence on earth.

The point I am making is that time is our most precious possession.  We can never get more than we have, we are constantly losing it, and you never know how much is left.  Wasting time is worse than wasting anything else.  You can make more money, you can replace things you lose, you can usually work yourself back into good health, but time is different.  Time ticks on at a constant rate.  We can now slow it, we can not hasten it, we can not give it away, we can not get any more.  We have what we have and it is on us to use it wisely. 

I am not going to go off one some grand theological argument as to what it means to waste time.  What is a waste of time for one person is good use of time for another.  What it does mean, in simple terms, is spending time outside the will of God.  If you are in sin, you are wasting time.  If you are not doing what God has asked you to do, you are wasting time.  If you are working against the will of God, you are wasting time.  If you are not in Christ, you are wasting time.  It really is that plain and simple.  Making good use of our time means giving that time to God and allowing Him to direct our steps.  God has a plan for your life and seeking out and living that plan is always the best use of your time. 

There are times, however, when we seemingly have no choice but to waste time.  This can happen if you are sick or injured and can not get up and around.  These times, it seems as though time moves on without us or our participation, and they seem like days lost to us.  There are other things in life like waiting in a long line or being stuck in traffic.  Personally, I struggle with both of those things.  For me, nothing seems more like wasting time then spending that time in traffic.  Those times it is not about us not wasting time, but finding the best way to not let lost time slip away.  In other words, we must make the most when there does not seem like there is much to be made.  Being sick is a wonderful time to pray or catch up on some Bible reading.  Spending time in traffic is also a good time to pray or just have some conversation with God that you have been putting off for too much time.  If you are with someone, try to spend that time just enjoying each others company.  These are lessons for myself just as much if not more than anyone else.  Traffic, airplane delays, and the like are wonderful times to be stuck with a nonbeliever.  They can't get away! 

Each moment we live is one less moment we have left to live.  There is no stopping the relentless ticking away of life's clock.  It was set by God and known only to Him.  You can not go back and fix something you did wrong and you can not move forward to try and predict what might happen.  All you can do is live today for God and trust Him to worry about the rest.  Seek Him, seek His plan for your life, and give that most precious possession you have to Him.  Giving what time you have to God is never a waste of time, but each moment of time we hold back for our own pleasure is a moment lost forever.  You will never regret giving your time to God, but take it from someone who has squandered more time than he would like to admit, you will regret what you lost knowing you will never ever get it back. 
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord [is].  Ephesians 5:15-17 NKJV

Friday, June 15, 2012

Road Trips

Today begins vacation.  I love vacation.  This time it is a road trip and my ride to work this morning reminded me of some of my past road trip "complications."  I was detoured around construction to get onto the Parkway.  To make matters worse, the entrance I made my way to looks just like an entrance I take much more often and being early and not thinking, I did not take a moment to realize that left goes south instead of north on this entrance.  To make matters worse, I already got off to a late start.  Sometimes life is like a road trip. 

Whether we buy a map and highlight our own route, have an idea in our head of how to get there, go to AAA and get a TripTick, print out a Google Maps, or just enter our destination into our GPS, we always leave with a plan in mind.  We know what route we are taking and about how long it should take us to get there.  Sometimes, like my drive to the Outer Banks a couple of years ago, the ride goes just as planned.  Many times (probably more often than not), it does not. 

Many things can happen on a long ride.  There can be construction, accidents, and any number of other things that cause traffic.  I think just about every road trip encounters traffic at some point or another making things take longer than we anticipated.  Sometimes weather is a complication.  I remember having to stay overnight in West Virginia on my way from a trip to Tennessee because of heavy snow.  The trip was delayed and more costly, but we had to make safety our priority.  Detours are worse.  In fact, my worst driving experiences are generally caused by detours.  There was one drive to South Carolina where our route was detoured, the detour was detoured, and once we finally made it back to our route, we were detoured again.  It literally added hours to our trip.   Then there was that previously mentioned drive through West Virginia.  We were detoured when we first entered the state and the signs just stopped.  We were left hanging on the back roads of West Virginia.  Eventually, by the grace of a God I did not know at the time, we made it out.  Then there are the voluntary detours.  One time driving through Tennessee, my friend and I saw a sign for something we wanted to see.  Little did we know just how far off the interstate this place was! 

Driving also brings out many emotions.  There is the anger when someone cuts you off or drives too slow and you can not get around that person.  There is the frustration of traffic.  There is the hopelessness of being in never ending traffic with no end in site only to hear that the end is miles and miles away and there is no way around it.  There is the grueling monotony of hours and hours on the same interstate with nothing to see.  There is the weariness of long nights and early mornings on the road.  There is the joy of getting to your destination.  There is the that feeling of rest when you return home. 

And that is life.  Look at my posts throughout the past couple of years.  My wife and I had an idea of where were going, but now who knows where we even are or when we will finally get there!  We have been in detours, construction, weather, and just about everything else you can imagine.  We have felt everything but the joy of finally getting there and we are sustained by our hope that irregardless of what happens in the hear and now, someday we will be home and this will all be a long gone memory.  I am sure everyone has similar stories.  Some of yours are not as long as frustrating as ours.  Some of you wish yours was as easy as ours.  We all have our own drives, though.  We all have our own route.  We all have our own stops in this life.  However, in the end, we all have the same destination.  For now, we need to help each other if we see one stuck on the side of the road.  Whether they are out of gas and can not go any longer, whether they are lost and not sure where to go, whether they have a flat and just need someone to give them a hand, or whether there car has broken down and they need a lift.  We must make sure that our eyes are not so focused on where we are going that we do not take the time to stop and help those in need along the way. 

I know life can sometimes get hard and confusing and sometimes we do not know how things will work out.  We must have faith that they will.  God promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him.  That is not just some phrase we repeat to encourage ourselves, but a promise given by God to us.  No matter where you are or how far off course you may think you are, there is another promise I want to end with.  God bless you all and I look forward to writing again once I get back if not sooner.
The steps of a [good] man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds [him with] His hand.  Psalm 37:23-24 NKJV

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

Today is going to be a very similar message to yesterday.  I think that Romans 6 holds some valuable lessons that we all need to hear from time to time so today I will address the first part of that chapter.  The story begins in Romans 5.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Romans 5:19-21 NKJV
This is a very encouraging passage.  Basically, we are being told that you can not sin too much to come to Jesus.  You can never outsin the grace of Jesus.  No what you have done, no matter how many sins you have committed, no matter how horrible sins you have committed, grace always abounds all the more.  You can never overcome grace with sin.  Grace will always win.  That is unless, of course, you never accept that free gift of grace offered through Jesus Christ.  Furthermore, even after you come to Jesus, you can not fall from grace.  God would not have saved you if He was just going to let you go if you failed Him enough times.  There is always enough grace to cover your sin. 

That said, many like to stop here.  This is where licentiousness comes in.  This is where the belief that once in Christ we can still live how we always lived the only difference being that we are now forgiven.  This is where the idea comes in that we need not be concerned at all with our sin once we are in the Lord.  Sadly, for them, they fail to realize that Romans was not written in chapters and verses to be able to stop at this one point and think you reached the end of the discussion.  You can not read Romans 5 without considering Romans 6 because Romans 6 continues the thought. 
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Romans 6:1 NKJV
In other words, should we continue in sin knowing grace will always cover it?  Should we continue just as we did before knowing we are forgiven?  Should we be unconcerned with the sin in our lives because God has already forgiven us? 
Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  Romans 6:2-4 NKJV
Certain not!  God forbid!  Paul is emphatically telling is that we should not continue our sinful ways after coming to Jesus.  It is not that we are now striving to be better, but that we no longer have to.  Just as I taught yesterday, grace is so much more than forgiveness.  Grace is freedom to live for God.  Grace is freedom from sin's hold on our lives.  When we come to Jesus, we are dead to sin.  That is the symbol of baptism, that we put away our old life and are arisen again into a new life.  We are no longer the same person we used to be and we are no longer just like anyone else in the world.  We died to our sin and now we live new lives for Jesus. 
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be [in the likeness] of [His] resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.  Romans 6:5-7 NKJV
The person we were was crucified with Christ.  That is what happens when we come to Jesus.  It is important to note that the tense used for "Crucified" was a tense that means a past historical event (aorist tense).  In other words, it means that it was an event that happened and not repeated and never to be repeated.  We do not need to continually crucify our old man.  We do not need to repeat the death of the old man.  When we come to Jesus, that old man dies.  We are not who we used to be and the only reason we ever act in the same manner as our old selves is because we fail to recognize that who we are trying to be is dead.  Any idea that we are the same sinful unregenerate person we once were is a lie.  It is a lie created by the father of lies and perpetuated in our own minds. 
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For [the death] that He died, He died to sin once for all; but [the life] that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:8-11 NKJV
Now Paul begins to talk about our new life in Christ.  That old man is dead, we must recognize that.  He is dead, gone, crucified, and never to come back.  We are dead to sin.  It no longer has any hold over us.  Now that we understand that, we must begin to understand our new lives in Christ.  Once we understand that the old man is dead, we must begin to learn what it means to live this new life for God. 
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness to God.  Romans 6:12-13 NKJV
This passage really sums up the message.  Do not let sin run your life anymore.  Do not present yourself to sin, that is do not put yourself in situations where you are going to sin.  Sitting down at a bar knowing you are prone to get drunk is presenting yourself to sin.  Watching a movie that is going to stir up adulterous thoughts is presenting yourself to sin.  Being around people that area going to drag you into gossip is presenting yourself to sin.  Sin no longer owns us and our obedience to its call is now by choice and not by nature.  In other words, when you sin now it is because you consciously choose to because you consciously want to.  On the other hand, what we are called to do is to present ourselves to God as alive from the dead and as instruments of righteousness.  Again, this is not talking about some doctrinal position of righteousness but actual righteousness expressed through our lives.  We are to be God's instruments on earth.  We are called to be used of God for His glory.  We are called be bond servants of Jesus Christ.  We are called to serve God.  That is the new man.  The new man has the desire to serve God.  It is not service out of compulsion but out of desire as the newly alive persons we are in Jesus Christ. 
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.  Romans 6:14 NKJV
When you were outside of Christ, you were under the law and a slave to sin.  Now that you are under grace, sin no longer has a hold over your life.  Paul makes it abundantly clear here that an effect of grace is righteous living.  Being under grace does not mean freedom to sin, but freedom from sin! 

It is about time we stopped learning not just that we are saved, but what being saved means for our lives.  It is about time we stopped learning what we already know that is we are forgiven for our sins, but it is time to learn that we are free from sin's hold on our lives.  It is time that we stopped learning merely how to become a Christian or that we already are Christian but what it means to be Christian.  Those who are saved already know that Jesus died for them and that He was resurrected from the dead, maybe now it is time that they learn that they died as well and were raised again into a new life.  Yes, Jesus does save, but then He transforms, and that message needs to be taught to raise up men and women of God from the babes that they remain. 
For everyone who partakes [only] of milk [is] unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, [that is], those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.  Hebrews 5:13-14 NKJV