The New Testament scriptures seem to give great credence to the primacy of the cross. After all, the apostle Paul said in 1 Cor. 2.2, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” And while I wish to take nothing from the glory and importance of the cross, is it possible that the Church has undervalued the empty tomb? As churches fill tomorrow morning with folks who who rarely frequent the public worship of the body of Christ, do they implicitly know something about the power of a risen Savior that many of us ‘regulars’ have allowed to slip off our radars? Think about it. If we read the book of Acts, we read how the apostles primarily preached about the resurrection, not the cross. And the saints began meeting on the first day of the week not the sixth. Why was our weekly Sabbath moved to Sunday to commemorate the resurrection rather than moved to Friday to commemorate the crucifixion? These questions are all too great for this man. But one thing that I do know is that it is a glorious and powerful thing to be able to cry out with joy with all the saints, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”
Monthly Archives: March 2016
One of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to clear while on sabbatical is finding motivation and discipline for my personal prayer life. That might seem like a shock to some. “What?! You’re a pastor. You guys are supposed to pray as easy as breathing.” But I assure you that the same sinfully resistant heart resides in my chest as it does in everyone else’s. Prayer is a battle and one that I have found is hard to jump start outside the context of my regular pastoral duties. Well, this morning I picked up my copy of Valley of Vision to give me words to pray since I seemed to have none. And what a blessing it proved to be. If you are unfamiliar with this book, it is a collection of Puritan prayers that have been edited and organized for easier reading. I have produced one below (lightly edited) that was particularly helpful to me this morning, simply titled “Resurrection”:
O God of my Exodus,
Great was the joy of Israel’s sons,
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy
when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed
in the dust.
Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives for ever.
He, my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave free,
and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.
Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil’s sceptre is shivered,
that his wrongful throne is levelled.
Give me the assurance that in Christ I died,
in him I rose,
in his life I live, in his victory I triumph,
in his ascension I shall be glorified.
you who were lifted up upon a cross
are ascended to highest heaven.
You, who as Man of sorrows
was crowned with thorns,
are now as Lord of life wreathed in glory.
Once, no shame more deep than yours,
no agony more bitter,
no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high,
no life more glorious,
no advocate more effective.
You are in the triumph car leading captive
your enemies behind you.
What more could be done than you have done!
Your death is my life,
your resurrection my peace,
your ascension my hope,
your prayers my comfort.
There’s a level of anxiety being expressed on social media right now that is far from healthy and giving birth to an ugly sectarianism. And for the Christian, that kind of anxiety and sectarianism is both damaging to an individual’s walk of faith as well as harmful to the unity of the Church. Yet turning a blind eye to matters political and neglecting our privilege of voting is being a poor steward of the kingdom we are to be seeking above all things (Matt 6.33). So in this soup of sound bites, polarizing talking heads, nasty barbs and zingers, suspicious conspiracy theories, red-faced cries of injustice, and enough analytical info to cause the most patient among us to throw up their hands in disgust, here are a few questions that we all can ask ourselves to help bring focus to our faithfulness at the polls.
- Who possesses my greatest motivational allegiance? Our loyalties call us to be motivated to all sorts of things. As a Washington Redskins fan, I’m motivated to support them through thick and thin. However, if Kirk Cousins, the surprise QB star of the Redskins’ most recent season came out in favor of voting for Attila the Hun for POTUS, I’d probably have to respectfully decline to follow suit regardless of how cool Cousins’ first name is. This comes into political play when the party we most often align with puts forward a nominee that requires a Christian to check his or her allegiance to Christ at the door before casting their vote. Are you being asked to violate your conscience in voting for someone of questionable character and/or competencies in order to “support the party?” If so, ask yourself, “Why do I feel an allegiance to this particular political party? Would I ever ask a politician to violate his or her conscience in order to support some agenda that I have?” There is a cost of discipleship when one claims allegiance to Jesus Christ. Sometimes that cost entails relegating one’s vote to what the world might consider irrelevant.
- Should I submit my conscience to the ‘lesser of two evils’ argument? Or another way of asking the question is this: how despicable does a nominee for my party of choice have to be before I refuse to support them? I mentioned Attila the Hun earlier only partially in jest because the choices for nominees Americans are being offered have been increasingly distasteful over recent years. But I want to point out the ethic that is often behind the motivation to vote for one ‘evil’ over another one. Most people think, “I have to vote for Candidate Gag. I don’t like it one bit, but Candidate Blech has to be stopped.” Or another way of describing this ethic is this way: the ends justify the means. But not only is this a sub-Christian ethic, it is the ethic that gave this world such atrocities as Hitler’s “Final Solution” and Mao’s “Great Leap Forward.”
- Is my choice of candidate driven more by fear of the future or by the fear of the LORD? So much fear-mongering goes on on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media avenues that the Christian must be careful to guard their heart. And part of that guarding process is reminding oneself that no Christ-follower ought to fear whoever occupies the oval office. Though our nation’s Commander in Chief wields more authority now than ever was intended by our nation’s founders, it doesn’t alter the fact that “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Prov. 21.1).” Do not fear the state. Fear God. Or as Psalm 143 puts it: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation… Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever (Psalm 146.3, 5-6).”
- Am I familiar with what God’s Word says about what makes a good leader? I considered not putting this point in this post but I keep hearing my bride’s voice tell me things like, “Go ahead and believe the best about what other people know but state your point anyway.” To that end, part of fearing God is a working knowledge of what His Word has to say about who is qualified to lead and who isn’t, who is a fool and who is wise, who is a righteous person and who is wicked. I am fully aware that we are not electing a PastorOTUS, but the Bible nevertheless gives us a glut of data by which we can judge who is fit to be a public official and who is not. Consider just a few verses from just 10 chapters of Proverbs that apply to at least one of the top three major party candidates: 10.4; 10.9-12; 10.18-19; 11.2; 11.9; 11.12; 12.15-18; 13.10; 13.16; 14.2; 14.5; 15.1-2; 21.4; 21.23-24; 21.29; 22.5; 22.10-11; 25.14; 25.19; 26.1; 26.12. Take these earthy proverbs alongside other biblical data about what kings aren’t supposed to do (Deut. 17.14-17) and what kind of person an overseer in the Church is supposed to be (1 Tim 3.1-7; Titus 1.7-9) and a much clearer picture emerges about what a public, elected servant ought to look like. [Note: Harry Reeder in a recent blog post put an important qualification: “[I]t must be remembered that at times, God’s common grace produces leaders that though unsaved have a dependable and reliable character.”]
Can we not look at the major party candidates as well as independents and minor party candidates, vote for the best person available with a clear conscience, and trust that we are cared for by the mighty hand of the King on His heavenly throne? Can we not trust a long-range view in which there is major reform in the existing major parties or their break-up and subsequent shift in the political centers of gravity? So yes. We have a right to be upset with both the Democratic and Republican parties. But no. We should not allow our anger to cause us to respond faithlessly at the polls. We must consider how the reactions in our own hearts can lead us down unwise paths. We must weigh our decisions and actions according to the clear teachings of scripture, for “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established (Prov. 24.3).”