Category Archives: Let's Get Political

Faith & Politics ALWAYS intersect. Just a place to post my political reflections.

Seeking Refuge – A Commonsense Look at the Syrian Refugee Crisis

It is with great trepidation that I enter this conversation because I recognize that I do so at my own peril.  There have been voices on all sides of this conversation, and unfortunately, people too frequently respond with vitriol.  My goal is to not create a forum for people to spew political rhetoric or make emotional appeals, but for evangelicals to think critically and rationally about these issues.  But first, let me detail my own bias.

I do not trust the Obama Administration.  The “most transparent administration in history” has been immersed in scandal after scandal.  From the State Department’s inability to secure email to the IRS targeting political enemies to the DOJ giving free guns to Mexican drug cartels to the  DHHS and their inability to build a website.  This is a short list of the most “non-contested” incompetencies.  We have a 7-year track record observing our President’s Executive Branch at work, and my honest evaluation has left me with zero confidence in this Administration.  That’s not political, it is just reality.  When it comes to the potential for terrorists to use the refugee population as a “Trojan Horse,” how can we honestly expect an incompetent, corrupt executive branch to be able to appropriately and thoroughly investigate potential refugees?  Though the investigation is ongoing, a passport found near one of the attackers in Paris suggests that the terrorist may have infiltrated the country as a refugee.  That fact is further affirmed as the news is filled with “Syrian refugees” being arrested with fake or stolen travel documents in Turkey, Honduras, Saint MaartenTexas and other locations that likely have not yet surfaced.  If you can’t tell, I’m a little leery of rolling out a red, white, and blue carpet for Syrian refugees.

However, I do believe it is possible to think through this issue biblically and rationally without interference from my own personal bias.  At the same time, I acknowledge that well-meaning people have fallen on both sides of the conversation.  When there is deep divides among believers on issues, it may very well be that the right path is down the middle.  My goal is to find the middle and shine more light on that particular path.

Authority & Purpose

As American Christians, we recognize that there are two very distinct jurisdictions in which we dwell.  The tangible jurisdiction is human government.  It manifests in various ways – from homeowners associations to the Federal Government.  In this particular issue, the Federal Government is the focus of our conversation.  In Romans 13:3-4, the Apostle Paul said, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.”  Paul suggests that government exists for “your good.”  To whom does that “your” refer?  He is obviously talking to the recipients of his letter, the Roman Church.  I’m quite certain that the emperor did not always get this right, but it is clear that God’s design for government is that is exists for the good of its citizens.  

Our own Constitution defines the purpose of our government thusly:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It is evident from the Preamble of our Constitution that the role of the federal government is to provide for the common defense and promote the general Welfare” for “ourselves and our Posterity.”  It is perfectly reasonable, therefore, for American citizens to demand that our government do things that are necessary to protect American citizens from those who would seek to do them harm.

The second jurisdiction in which we dwell is God’s Kingdom.  As Christians, our responsibility to this jurisdiction is ensuring that the good news of God’s Kingdom is spread to the ends of the earth.  This Good News ignores national borders and is unconcerned with national security.  It embraces people of every tribe and every language.  It is color blind and is unfazed by economics.  It is no respecter of persons.

We must recognize that these two jurisdictions coexist.  Most of the time, they coexist peacefully.  Sometimes, they contradict.

Because our feet are planted in both jurisdictions, we frequently make mistakes in our thinking.  Our first mistake is that we often forget that the government is not expected to do the job of the church.  The State cannot share the Gospel, baptize converts, disciple believers, plant churches, or send missionaries.  That’s not to say that the State can be unjust or unethical or that the State is free from the influence of the Church, but even the most just, ethical, moral governments are not able to fulfill the obligations of the church.  Likewise, the church is not well equipped to do the job of the State.   Though many Christians would gladly take up arms to defend the State, the Church does not have the authority of the sword that God gave to the State.  A second mistake is that we are prone allow our allegiance to the State to overshadow our allegiance to the Kingdom.  We are Christian Americans, not American Christians.  We are free to serve the State as long as the State’s requirements do not cause us to disobey the Lord, but in those times when serving Caesar requires that we reject King Jesus, we always obey King Jesus first.

A Double Crisis

The Syrian refugee crisis touches in both jurisdictions.  This is why there is such a deep divide, particularly among evangelicals.  The State is obligated to protect her citizens, but there is more than little evidence that the current refugee population may pose legitimate security risks.  FBI Director James Comey said in a congressional hearing last month, “I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this.”

Likewise Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper said, “I don’t, obviously, put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees, so that’s a huge concern of ours.”  He called the potential for ISIS operatives infiltrating the refugee population “a disaster of biblical proportions.

In spite of the guarantee of a thorough vetting process by the Administration, the actual law enforcement officers involved in the process have expressed legitimate concerns.  If the State is responsible for the security of her citizens, then there are legitimate reasons to believe that bringing Syrian refugees to the United States is a risky move.  We need to remember that President Obama suspended an Iraqi refugee resettlement program in 2011 amid similar security concerns.

At the same time, the refugee situation falls within the Kingdom jurisdiction.  There are few Christians among the refugee population. Therefore, the refugees represent a group of people who desperately need to hear the Gospel.  They have lost their homes, their homeland, and have been displaced  into places and cultures that are completely unfamiliar. They are struggling through physical needs and the church stands well equipped to help those very real physical needs and even better equipped to meet the spiritual needs of the thousands of refugees.  Just like those affected by natural disasters or other crises, we know that we have an amazing opportunity to give hope to the hopeless through Jesus.

Therein lies the conflict.  In the government sphere, it is completely reasonable for the State to take actions that ensure the safety of its citizens.  When the State refuses to take those necessary actions, then the citizens of that State have a right to question the intentions of the governing authorities.  In the Kingdom sphere, we should find ourselves eager to love and serve the nations, even as the nations are relocating to our own backyard.

This means both sides have a point…

This means that government officials who are nervous about bringing in refugees because of the security risks are right to think that way.  That is not being unChristian or lacking compassion, it is simply being sensitive to the situation at hand.  If a government entity or official is acting out of their God-given and Constitutionally mandated responsibility to protect the citizens of the State from the demonstrable risk of terrorism, then it is wrong to vilify them.  It is certainly your prerogative to disagree with them, but not to demonize them.

But this also means that Christians who are acting out of compassion who wish to “rescue the perishing” are also right.  In fact, one could fathom, in this particular situation, a Christian member of Congress who is opposed to bringing Syrian refugees into the United States and sponsors legislation to stop refugee resettlement, but at the same time gives a generous financial contribution to his church’s efforts to evangelize the refugees who are already here.

What is inappropriate is when an official of the State acts against prudence and endangers the citizens of the nation.  Likewise, when a Christian allows fear and/or prejudice to cloud his Kingdom vision for spreading the Gospel, then a needed correction should take place.

How Should We Respond?

First, we need to have all the facts.  As with most criminal investigations, the story develops over time as more facts are known.  We are quick to reach a verdict without having all the information.  This story is still ongoing.  French police are still conducting raids.  Arrests are still taking place.  We honestly don’t know how polluted the refugee population is with jihadis.  It is good to have all the information before we rush to judgments.  Likewise, we need to listen to trustworthy experts and reliable media.  Just like I have a bias against our current administration, much of the media that people trust is biased in the other direction.  This is only prudent to do so

Secondly, we must stop making emotional appeals and encourage people to listen rationally to the truth.  Placing pictures of Syrian children on social media does not help bring people to a well-reasoned conclusion.  There are children sleeping in rotten places all over the world.  A trip to your local DFACS could likely yield a picture that is just as heart-wrenching.  The President accusing Republicans of being afraid of Syrian widows and orphans only serves to deepen the divide, not come to a responsible compromise.  Accusing people of fear and islamophobia only creates resentment and comes nowhere near anything helpful.

Thirdly, we have to stop misusing Scriptures.  I have never seen so many misquoted, misrepresented scripture texts.  It’s like we looked up every biblical reference on hospitality and taking care of the poor so we could use it in the arsenal of our arguments.  Christians are expected to exude hospitality – but that doesn’t mean that you are required to open the door when the thief comes knocking.  Nations are in a different boat.  They certainly aren’t prohibited from open borders, but they aren’t required either.  Remember, the United States is NOT the nation of Israel.  Israel caring for the sojourner is not a biblical commendation for a weak immigration policy.

Finally, we must take advantage of every opportunity to share the Gospel.  The only hope a refugee has is to trust Jesus Christ as Savior, not just as a prophet.  Apparently, 2,000 or so refugees have already resettled in the US.  If you live near one of these refugees, then you have got to ask yourself the question, “How do I love my new neighbor?”  Loving them supremely means doing what you can to keep them out of hell.  If we ignore them, then the reality is they will likely never assimilate into our culture.  When that happens, then it is easy for these unassimilated communities to become hotbeds for radicalization.  Even if you are opposed to refugee resettlement, you are not exempt from doing what is necessary to love your neighbor.  So if your church does some sort of mission work focused on refugees, you must not allow political opinions to cloud your judgment of that work or prevent you from participating.  We are not exempt from the Great Commission simply because we disagree politically with the decisions that opened the door for ministry among a refugee population.

A Middle Ground

I mentioned earlier about trying to illuminate the middle pathway.  The middle ground in this case means not moving refugees around the world.  In my mind, this makes a lot of sense, especially when one considers the high birthrate of Muslim populations.  There is an inherent risk to host populations to relocate large numbers of Muslims, particularly when those large numbers do not assimilate into the host culture.  The Center for Immigration Studies, recommends keeping refugees close to their homes.  They said in a recently published document entitled The High Cost of Resettling Middle Eastern Refugees: 

  • On average, each Middle Eastern refugee resettled in the United States costs an estimated $64,370 in the first five years, or $257,481 per household.
  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has requested $1,057 to care for each Syrian refugee annually in most countries neighboring Syria.
  • For what it costs to resettle one Middle Eastern refugee in the United States for five years, about 12 refugees can be helped in the Middle East for five years, or 61 refugees can be helped for one year.

From an economic standpoint, more refugees can be helped if that help happens closer to their home.  When the conflict is finished, then they can return home and begin rebuilding.  If they are resettled in developed countries, the reality is that these refugees will frequently be dependent on the welfare system, becoming a greater economic strain on the host nation’s fiscal wellbeing.  That certainly cannot be the only consideration in the conversation, but it is one that needs to be had.  When a country is approaching $19 trillion in debt, real conversations about fiscal responsibility are needed before taking on additional fiscal liabilities.

We simply need to remember prudence in the conversation.  Prudence does not equate fear or fear-mongering.  It equals, what the Center for Immigration Studes calls a “wise welcome.”  There’s nothing unChristian about looking for wisdom.

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God’s Plan for Government

GovernmentWhat do you think the role of government should be?  That is a BIG question with a LOT of answers.  Most likely, your answer will be determined by your political persuasion.  The Libertarian ideal is a highly limited central government with minimal intrusion into the lives of everyday citizens.  Pure Libertarians value a government whose primary role is protecting individuals from coercion and violence.  Some Libertarians border on anarchists, advocating for the dissolution of the State all together.

The other extreme of the political spectrum are those who advocate a very strong central government that closely monitors the affairs of its citizens, limits their freedoms, and is in charge of the day to day operations of the society.  Whenever someone is accused of being a socialist, it is because they believe the best form of government is the one that has the most control. 

In between the Communist State and the Libertarian Anti-State, you will find most people.  And while we may all have our own opinions about this particular issue, especially as it is hashed out in the public square of our nation today, it would be wise for us to consider the fact that God has already established His divine plan for government.  Before we form our opinions based on political persuasion, we would do well to form our opinions based on what God has already said.  Remember, our first loyalty is to Christ.  As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:16, “We have the mind of Christ.”  This means that what He says in His Word is the most important guiding principle of our lives.

So, what does God say about government?  Peter has some very interesting words for us today and they are perfectly relevant to the conversation going on in our own land.  In 1 Peter 2:14, Peter says that the main role of government is to punish evil and praise good.  Paul affirms this in Romans 13.  Simply stated, it is the government’s job to ensure that a virtuous society can flourish. 

One could easily make the case that this seems to be the intent of the Declaration of Independence when it says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Though imperfect men, our Founders understood something of God’s intent.  So, they structured a government that was accountable to the people and limited in scope.  Those powers not given to the central state were left up to the states and municipalities to decide. 

Our great problem today is that we no longer have a clear understanding of virtue and evil in our culture.  Things that God has said are evil are now being considered permissible – even preferred in some respects.  A government cannot do its God-ordained function if it embraces moral relativism because evil is no longer identifiable.  As Christians, we must recognize the dangerous ground in which we live, but still strive to be good citizens.  There may in fact come a day when the state not only sides with evil, but requires evil of its citizens.  On that day, our citizenship in this sphere will be revoked because our number one allegiance is not to the United States of America, but to the Kingdom of God!  While we may honor the emperor as Peter says, we must always remember that we surrender to the KING of KINGS and the LORD of LORDS.

In Christ,

Pastor Brian

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Cleaning the House

I saw a truck the other day that must have had an interesting story. It was seriously rusted. It was “don’t go down a road that is too bumpy or I’ll fall apart” rusty. It looked like it had sat somewhere for a very long time – especially considering that the truck had an actual tree trunk grown around its bumper. Someone literally had to cut this truck out of a tree in order to reclaim it. To tell the truth, if I ran across that truck in the woods, I don’t know that I would have gone through the effort to reclaim it. There are some things that are simply too broken to try to fix.

I’ll be honest – sometimes I feel that way about our country. I look at the gulf that seems to separate conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians, and I wonder if there’s any way to fix what is broken, or is it too far gone? The fact of the matter is that Christians may be to blame for some of the breakdowns that we are seeing in our culture. Allow me to explain.

In the last couple of centuries, Christianity has been the dominant force in American culture. As a result, we’ve done our best to make our moral convictions the “law of the land.” This is why we have blue laws still on the books. But in legislating morality, we have not been diligent in turning the corner between the requirement of moral behavior and Christian discipleship. The result is a society that is nominally Christian and a legal code that is divorced from the moral standard that led to its implementation. Bottom line is this: you cannot legislate morality and expect people to be good. Sinful hearts are sinful even if the law says otherwise, and government cannot preach repentance. A moral society is more than just the sum of its laws; the hearts of the citizens must be inclined to the Lord.

In 2 Kings 22-23, we find the story of King Josiah. He was a moral king. He ruled with righteousness and integrity. And he is the KING of moral legislation. He enacted sweeping reforms that required people to worship the LORD exclusively. His reforms make modern blue laws look liberal! The only problem is that as soon as he died in battle, the people returned to their old ways. Bottom line is that the nation experienced moral reform without a change of heart.

Christians today should pay attention to this very important principle. Though we should champion legislation established from a Judeo-Christian ethic, those laws cannot change the nation without a necessary change of heart. Christians are uniquely suited to help with this. That is what the Gospel is all about, after all. The Gospel does what no government ever could; it transforms the hearts of the people.

Christians can look at our culture like that truck stuck in the tree trunk. We can say that the whole thing is too broken to fix, wash our hands of it, and leave it to rot. Or, we can do what the owner of the truck did, carefully reclaim it from the trap, and through the Gospel, see righteousness restored and a nation exalted. I’m not yet convinced that it is too broken to fix, but the clock is certainly ticking!

In Christ,

Pastor Brian

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My IRS-Approved Presidential Endorsement

Aren’t you glad you live in Georgia?  They tell me that living in a “swing state” is miserable in election years.  The radio & television ads are non-stop, the billboards are everywhere, the campaign mass mailings are relentless, and the door-to-door visits are all too frequent.  Georgia, they say, is a foregone conclusion.  No need to have the election.  Just color us red on the map and come back again in a few years.  One poll of likely voters in Georgia turns us red by 21%, although it is probably closer to 10% or so.  No matter, the campaigns have largely avoided our state with both their “ground war” and their “air war.”  Georgia is so much a foregone conclusion that the major media outlets will not be conducting exit polling in our state.  They see no need in asking a red state why they choose to remain red.  Much more news is to be made in swing states, so they’ve put their news eggs into purple baskets like Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina.

If you’re a Christian, it makes no matter if you live in a swing state like Pennsylvania, a red state like Georgia, or a blue state like New York.  A biblical worldview is consistent across geography regardless of the political ideology of the place you call home.  This means the biggest influence of Christians – whether they live in Meriwether County or Manhattan – had better be the Word of God.  This also means that there are certain non-negotiable issues that should be near and dear to the heart of Christians, because they are near and dear to the heart of God.

Many Christians have washed their hands of the political process.  It feels that we are often left having to choose the lesser of two evils.  To be perfectly honest, I feel this way about our presidential choices this year.  I’m being asked to choose between a religious pluralist and a missionary from the Mormon Church.  On one hand, President Obama has done more in his four years to suppress religious freedom than any president before him.  On the other hand, Governor Romney practices a religion that most evangelicals – myself included – consider a cult.  As a former missionary, he actively proselytized for the Mormon Church.  He also supports the work of the church with large sums of money.  I’ve heard some say that I shouldn’t worry about such things because “I’m not voting for a pastor.”  I agree, because if this were the vote for my pastor, I would have to find a new church.

The good news is that Jesus has given us clear instructions on how we should respond to our culture.  In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that believers are called to be “salt and light” in our world.  This really is simple, straightforward advice on how He wants us to live our lives.  We are to be influencers in our culture.  And it just so happens, in a free society such as these United States, the greatest influence can be felt at the ballot box.  What does it mean to be salt and light?  Salt is a preservative.  In other words, salt prevents decay.  Christians should work to stop the decay of our society.  I believe this means moral and ethical decay.  When we see decay, we must do our part to stop it.  That’s what being salt is all about.  Light exists to erase darkness.  Christians must constantly look out for darkness and shine the light of truth on it.  Things hidden in darkness are completely revealed when light is shined on them.

Remembering those two simple things helps me be a better Christian voter.  When I vote, I must discern which candidates or political parties will do the best at stopping moral and ethical decay and which will shine light on darkness.  At the same time, I cannot trust politicians to do my job of being salt and light.  They may govern in such a way that reinforces my worldview, but they cannot change the hearts of those they govern.  Only Jesus can do that.  While you may have great hope that your candidate will win in November, your candidate cannot change your coworker or your family member.  Jesus is counting on us to be salt and light in our own spheres as well.  True change for a culture comes when citizens’ hearts are turned to Christ, not just their government.

In Christ,

Pastor Brian

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Sodomy or Sweet Tea?

They looked like they had been through a battle.  Their uniforms were dirty and disheveled.  They had sweat beading up on their foreheads.  They had been fighting, some for six or seven hours with no end in sight.  And when I looked one of them in the eye to tell them thank you, she replied with an exasperated, “My pleasure.”

Such was the scene at one of our local Chick-fil-A restaurants on Wednesday.  Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I don’t really need an excuse to eat there.  Yes, I am a fanboy.  Yes, I could eat all three meals there and even finish the day with a milkshake.

But who knew that my favorite fast-food establishment would be ground zero for a cultural battle that is simmering.  No doubt that Tuesday’s election in Georgia was important, but the biggest statements made this week were the lines that poured out of Chick-fil-A’s all across the nation on Wednesday.  Have we really come to a place as a nation where the most significant question is not black or white? Rich or poor? Republican or Democrat? Left or right?  Could it be that the most significant cultural question this week boils down to a simple choice – sodomy or sweet tea?

There may be some who feel that this whole thing is blown out of proportion.  I would tend to agree.  But when cities threaten to refuse business licenses because of the religious convictions of the owner, Christians should pay close attention.  Why not refuse Baptist churches building permits because the Bible explicitly condemns sexual sin?  Why not refuse business licenses to stores that sell the Bible?  Suddenly it isn’t about sweat tea any longer.  I hope we all understand that this is much bigger than Chick-fil-A.

And I hope we all understand that this is not about homophobia.  I do not believe the Cathy’s are homophobes.  If they were intentionally undercooking the chicken of homosexuals, then I might be persuaded otherwise.  The truth is that the homosexual is a sinner just like I am.  I was in the same boat as every homosexual in the world – condemned in my transgressions and sin.  But God saw fit to rescue me from my sin through the cross.  And I truly believe that God can rescue any sinner, no matter what sin they’re in bondage to – sodomy, pornography, or pride.

I don’t actually believe that the Chick-fil-A battle is about sin at all, at least directly.  Instead, it is about the right of people to have convictions that there is an absolute moral authority.  That’s all Dan Cathy did – made a statement of value based soundly on the authority of Scripture.  Who did he offend?  The people who reject the notion that moral absolutes apply to them – as well as those hoping to be elected by those same people.

The day that American citizens cannot form their opinions based on biblical principles without fear of persecution is a dark day for our nation.  I champion the rights of Mr. Cathy to make a statement like he did.  Believe it or not, I also champion the rights of the left to disagree with him.  But I do not champion the attempts of our culture to suppress the opinions shared by Mr. Cathy and at least half of the electorate of our nation.  This isn’t about sweet tea, it’s not about fried chicken, it’s about freedom.  And that is something you should definitely care about.

In Christ,

Pastor Brian

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Indebted to the Ceiling

There is one doctor who is a household name.  No, I am not talking about Dr. Phil, or even Dr. Spock.  You could very quickly recall his name if someone in your home began to choke on a foreign object.  You would quickly spring into action, most likely performing what we know as the Heimlich Maneuver.  Though I have never had to be the administrator, nor the recipient of this “maneuver,” if administered correctly, it is supposedly an effective way of clearing the airway of a choking victim.  What is interesting about the Heimlich Maneuver is that it is named after Cincinnati physician, Dr. Henry Heimlich.  The “maneuver” was first advocated by Heimlich in 1974.  Prior to this, the application of back blows was the acceptable practice for clearing obstructed airways.  However, this method often caused foreign objects to drop deeper in the airway, worsening the situation.  Since 1974, countless choking victims have been saved thanks to the Heimlich Maneuver.

However, if you ask Henry’s son, Peter, he will tell you that the Heimlich Maneuver should actually be called the Patrick Maneuver, claiming that his father stole the procedure from colleague, Edward Patrick.  Peter claims that the only maneuver his father can take credit for is maneuvering his own reputation.  In fact, Dr. Heimlich’s latest medical crusade is HIV research.  In a highly controversial procedure, known as Malariotherapy, HIV patients are injected with malaria-infected blood.  This highly dangerous procedure has been widely criticized by the established medical community as a deadly course of treatment.  It is no wonder that these procedures have primarily been conducted in Ethiopia and other developing nations, outside the oversight of governing bodies.  Dr. Heimlich has taken his crusade to Hollywood, raising millions of dollars for his controversial research on the fame of his last name.  Peter claims that all of his father’s medical accomplishments have been proven to be quack medicine or stolen from colleagues.

Isn’t it interesting that the guy known for saving the lives of choking victims may himself be choking?  In Mark 4, Jesus spoke of the risk of sowing good seed in thorny ground.  While the seed may germinate and grow, Jesus said that those plants are choked by the “worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things.”  Who knows if anyone has ever shared the gospel with Dr. Heimlich, but if his son’s criticism is right, there may be a lot of thorns in his life that would keep the gospel from bearing fruit.

What about your life?  Are there thorns in your life that are keeping the gospel from bearing fruit?  Is your lifeline being choked by worries, wealth, and other distractions?  Truth be told, if a plant is worth saving, the only course of action to rescue that plant that is being choked by thorns is the bloody process of removing the thorns.

Jesus knows a little something about thorns.  He knows something about blood too.  All those sinful thorns in my life, they have been pulled by a bloody hand, and trampled on by a bloody foot.  So when my fruit is diminished because I am being choked by my thorns, I would do well to look at the crown placed upon my Lord’s head during his passion – a crown made of the very thing that threatens my fruitfulness – a crown of thorns.  Why I ever allow thorns in my life I may never know, but I am so grateful for a God who has provided the maneuver to keep me from choking in my own thorns.

In Christ,

Pastor Brian

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A House Divided

On June 16, 1858, an up and coming politician accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for one of Illinois’ US Senate seats.  Though this particular politician would be defeated by his rival, Stephen Douglas, he would go on to greater things.  In his acceptance speech for the nomination, Abraham Lincoln said,

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

Lincoln was right.  Though it required a bloody civil war to settle the differences, the union would endure and the division would cease.  Or would it?

As a Christian citizen of this country, I would be lying if I did not express some concern about the issues faced by this country.  Though we have settled the issue of slavery, it seems that we are facing divisions today that go far beyond political ideologies, though they are very much political.  The divisions we face today rest at the heart of our culture.  And in so many ways, our divisions are a ticking bomb waiting to explode.  How divided must the house become before a tipping point is reached?

Even this week, we have seen this division deepen as yet another state – this time New York – has legalized Soddomite marriages.  That means that 20% of the states allow this mockery of marriage.  If you look at a map of the states that ban this practice and the states that condone this practice, it is starting to look a lot like the map of slave states and free states in 1861 – only this time the Southern states are clearly in the right.

Perhaps the nation will endure the division over Soddomite marriages.  What about the division over fiscal politics?  This is yet another point of great contention in our nation.  How far can the division go before something dramatic happens?  Ultimately, Lincoln was right on all counts regarding the efficacy of a divided nation – it simply cannot stand.  But, as it turns out, Lincoln had a good teacher.  Jesus said this long before Lincoln.

In Mark 3, Jesus reminded his critics of this foundational truth as they accused him of driving out demons with Satan’s power.  Obviously this was a foolish argument as Satan wouldn’t last very long if he behaved this way.  But the principle of division is true in every aspect of our lives.  It is true on a national level in our politics, but it is also true on a local level in our homes and our churches.  A house divided cannot stand.

As the church of this great nation, we must face the division of our politics with a unity in our purpose.  Though we may vehemently disagree with the direction our nation is taking, we must still be salt and light in a very dark and divided land.  We know that the only solution to our ills is Christ.  And we must be firmly committed to bringing him to our neighbors and our nation.  Not so we can save the union, but so Christ can save all of us from our sinful selves.

In Christ,

Pastor Brian

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