Politics: Hold your nose and hold your nose tighter

Stuffed nose: boy with clothespin on his nose, simulating cold. Undated B/W photograph. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Hold your nose and hold your nose tighter.”

That’s how some sociologists describe the game of American politics today. Even when people fervently support a particular nominee or political party they usually do so in spite of certain inconsistencies, flawed voting records, or general character issues or deficiencies. They support their candidate…mostly.

This has probably never been truer than it is today in our current presidential election, with national polls revealing widespread, general distrust of both candidates. Additionally, this current election cycle is probably the most combative, aggressive, and divisive campaign that I have witnessed since I voted in my first presidential election in 1992.

If I may I would like to share a pastoral perspective on how Christians should be processing and approaching this current political cycle.

First, we need to NOT allow this round of politics to become a divisive issue in our churches. Our churches contain representatives from both sides of the political aisle. Let’s transcend the political chaos, remain firmly attached to our higher citizenship in God’s Kingdom, and not allow our national political circus to cause division and broken relationships within our congregations.

One of the ways to do this is for all of us to humbly acknowledge the flawed elements of our chosen candidate. There are legitimate questions and concerns to be raised with each of the presidential nominees. Rather, than ignoring those concerns and becoming defensive and belligerent with one another, let’s recognize that fair, wise, thinking people can come to different conclusions from us.

Second, let’s vote as closely as we can to our values. As followers of Christ, we must ask, “What are our core, animating principles?” What issues of life, liberty, and international concern most closely align with our deepest-seated values and the teachings of Jesus Christ? Which candidate aligns the closest to our most cherished values? We must take the time to find out and then vote accordingly.

Third, we can never stop praying about all of the issues, problems, and opportunities in our world today. Remember that the Apostle Paul placed prayers for leaders and authority figures near the top of our prayer lists (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Fourth, let’s live our faith. This is an amazing time in which to live courageous, noble, God honoring lives in our generation. Let’s do so for the glory of God and for the future of our world.

Repent, for electricity is at hand!

electricityWhat do you most often feel when you hear or read Jesus’ words from Matthew 4:17, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”?

Does the call to repentance make you feel excited and hopeful or nervous and a little bit scared, like you’re about to get busted for something you’ve overlooked or done wrong?

It’s natural to associate repentance with confession, sin, and failure because repentance is the act of turning away from those things; however, in its core definition repentance is not about sin or failure it’s about re-thinking things. Metanoia, the Greet New Testament word for repentance, refers to after knowledge that results in a change or alteration in one’s mind. Another way of saying it is: re-think your thinking.

Sometimes the things we are re-thinking might be negative or harmful and sometimes they might be very good. For example, when rural communities in our country were first converting to electrical power the residents had to “repent” (or re-think their thinking) and turn from their reliance on candles, kerosene lamps, and lanterns.

In altering their thinking and turning from one inferior power source they were able to receive and connect to a much greater one. I think that’s part of what Jesus meant when He announced the arrival of an entirely new kingdom and then invited people to step into it through repentance.

So…what areas of your life do you need to re-think? Where is your thinking keeping you trapped in yesterday? Where are you still living with lamps and burning torches when God is beckoning you to repent and receive His greater power?

Ezekiel’s Muteness

mute-buttonA bizarre, often overlooked element of Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry to the Jewish exiles in Babylon is the fact that God muted him for twelve years. Ezekiel was only allowed to speak when he was uttering an authentic word from God.

Ezekiel was taken to Babylon in the first Jewish deportation in 597 B.C., but the city of Jerusalem did not actually fall to King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies until twelve years later, and for the entire twelve years in between the initial deportation and Jerusalem’s ultimate collapse Ezekiel was silenced.

When word of Jerusalem’s fall arrived in Babylon, Ezekiel’s muteness finally came to an end. “In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month on the fifth day of the month, a fugitive from Jerusalem came to me and said, ‘The city has been struck down.’ Now the hand of the Lord had been upon me the evening before the fugitive came; and He had opened my mouth…so my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute” (Ezekiel 33:21-22 ESV).

Can you imagine having those restrictions placed on your speech? Can you imagine holding your tongue for twelve years?

Sometimes I can barely hold my tongue for five minutes…and I almost always regret it when I start talking again.

I’ve seldom ever regretted the things I haven’t said, but I have often regretted the critical, gossipy, pretentious words that I let slip out. The real problem though is not just my regrettable utterances it’s the fact that those things were already in my heart to begin with.

Our speech betrays us; it reveals the internal condition of our soul. Conversely, silence can be a purifier that tests the metal of our soul, revealing what is pure and what is dross. Perhaps we should practice some Ezekiel-esque silence, resolving only to pour unashamed words of life into the ears (and souls) of our listeners.

 

 

YOUR Olympics (a Post-Rio Reflection)

olympic_ringsDid you get your Olympics fix this summer? Did you carve out enough time to vicariously swim, jump, lift, dive, tumble, and throw alongside the greatest athletes in the world?

Fortunately, for Jessica and me, this summer’s Olympic Games occurred in the middle of our ministry sabbatical so if you missed any of it let me know—we watched it all!

We have always been Olympics fans, and every two years we clear our schedule so we can cheer and cry and pretend that we too are being crowned champions in our chosen disciplines. When we lived in Colorado Springs we routinely visited the Olympic Training Center there so we could touch the spirit of the Olympics even in the off seasons. There really is something about the Olympic Games that strikes a profoundly deep chord in the human soul.

It might be the beauty of the different people groups of the world…it might be the brilliance of watching someone set records that no other human can attain…it might be the human interest stories that augment the tumbling of Simone Biles or the pole vaulting of Ashton Eaton…or it might be something else.

It might be that the Olympics are a metaphor for our lives. WE are athletes in training, contending for victory and mastery in life. The Apostle Paul realized this, and he sprinkled his letters with powerful Olympic imagery. He spoke of competing for a crown “that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:25), winning “the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), and he compared Timothy’s calling to an athlete who longs to “receive the victor’s crown” (2 Timothy 2:5).

WE are Olympians. As the Rio Games fade into history, OUR Games are just beginning. What prize so consumes you that you are willing to sacrifice to attain it? What victory is so essential in your life that you will rival the work ethic of Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt in your whole-life pursuit of it? Let’s go for it! Let’s pay the price.

When the 2018 Winter Games commence in South Korea, let’s be transformed. When the 2020 Summer Games are inaugurated in Tokyo let’s be brandishing medals and crowns that will never fade away.