Monday, August 16, 2010

Up front: I am VERY thankful to live in the USA and feel incredibly blessed by God and grateful to all who've sacrificed (even their lives) for our freedom and for many of our founding values. I'm very thankful for those who serve our nation with integrity and honor and for those who are called to the political arena as a vocation or in specific ways to make a difference (like our own Bill Cooper in West MI -- I was so proud of him and so disappointed that he did not win the primary -- I believe he would've made a difference!). I believe that Christians should invest in the good of the nation where God has placed them. They should be knowledgeable and participate as good citizens.

That said, driving today and listening to a Christian radio station spending hours on political issues reminded me about how much emphasis many Christians, churches, and Christian organizations are increasingly putting on politics -- denegrating politicians and mounting campaigns of various kinds. I'm conservative, always vote, and have strong feelings about many candidates and political issues. But I feel passionately that the primary focus of Christ-followers and the church must be to fulfill Jesus' Great Commission by our proclamation of the Gospel by our words and good works.

I'm very concerned that we have traded our mission for one which is vastly inferior to Jesus' Great Commission (Matthew 28:18ff) and the advance of His kingdom and which won't make any difference in a thousand years. Many Christians are far more passionate about their political concerns than about the Gospel, the kingdom of God, the eternal souls of men, and the holy Scriptures.

The first century church made an astonishing impact on their world and spread the Gospel/church throughout the Roman empire in one generation. Their impact was not political. They did it by preaching and living the Gospel. They did not focus on changing laws or getting their candidates and values in place through political means. They understood that Jesus' kingdom is not of this world (John 19:36) and that we do not use "the weapons of the world" (2 Cor 10:3ff). They changed lives by the power of the Gospel, not political action.

Throughout history, when the church has married the state, it has always been a horrible marriage with devastating results.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tonight and tomorrow our sermon focus is on Matthew 7 -- penetrating teaching by Jesus about judgment and judging -- ours and God's.

As I reviewed Jesus' command against judging other believers inappropriately, I was reminded of a series of questions it would be good for me to ask before I negatively pass judgment on another Christian's character or action.

Do I know ALL the facts?
How do I know whether or not I know ALL the facts?
Have I interpreted the all the facts correctly?
How do I know that I have interpreted all the facts correctly?
Can I see his/her heart/motive?
Is my judging necessary, kind, and loving?
If I share this with anyone else, will it follow the procedure of Matthew 18:15-18?
Will my sharing this with anyone else help to build up the person with the problem or will it tear them down?
What is my motive in making this judgment -- helping the person, or putting them down?
Have I specifically and persistently prayed for the person in the area of concern?
Have I examined my own life for the same or related problems?
Am I diligently dealing with the problems in my own life?
Do I want others to judge me the way I am judging this person?
Do I want God to judge me this way?
Is this the way God has reacted to my sins?
Will others see God’s love in the way I respond to these faults?
Have I gone to the person first to check the facts and, if necessary, to loving help them overcome the problem.

Perhaps the reason Jesus immediately followed His instructions (on not judging inappropriately, Matthew 7:1-5, and on making discerning judgments, 7:6) with encouraging lessons about prayer (Matthew 7:7-11) is because we so desperately need His wisdom and help to obey these commands. I am so prone to making wrong judgments. Wrong judgment is an epidemic in many churches. "Lord, help us in everything, to do to others what we would have them do to us" (Matthew 7:12).