Tag Archives: politics

Sermon Prep for November 6

Over the years, I’ve been asked about how I go about preparing a message. That’s a big question with a complex answer because no two messages or series are the same. Here are some of the obvious nuts and bolts, including-

  • prayer and guidance by the Spirit,
  • what I’ve been reading through Scripture on my own- praying through and studying the text using multiple methods,
  • what topics, concepts or issues may be culturally relevant (like my series in July on compassion as our nation was, and still is, embroiled in racial turmoil),
  • what is on my sermon/message list,
  • is this a “one-off” message or will I be in the pulpit for more than one week,
  • direction from church leadership.

With those things, and probably a great many others, there are other influencers on me. Family, friends, conversations, blog and Facebook posts, what I see on Twitter, the media I consume- music, movies and television, each of these things weigh in on messages that I prepare.

With all of that said, I’m in the pulpit at our church on November 6, just two days before our national election. And, I’m going to be speaking to that reality- my message title is currently, “Rendering Unto Caesar” based upon the instruction from Jesus found in Matthew 22:15-22 and Mark 12:13-17. I’ll be spending much time over the next few weeks reading, studying, praying and thinking about those texts. BUT…there are a great many other texts and resources that will be shaping this message. Some I will mention in the message, others I will not.

  • From the Bible: Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (God’s instructions about an earthly king); 1 Samuel 8 (God’s instructions about an earthly king); 1 Samuel 24 & 26 (David refusing to kill God’s anointed leader); Daniel 1 & 3 (faithful living in the midst of a government that is hostile to them); Acts 4 & 5 (the apostles and the governing authorities); Acts 22 (Paul’s use of Roman citizenship);  and Romans 13:1-7 (Paul describes the purpose of government); Ephesians 6:10-18 (who is, and who is NOT, our enemy).
  • The October Christian Standard:Can I Be a Christian and a Patriot?“. The articles are toward the bottom of the page and are well worth reading.
  • Author Greg Boyd’s book: The Myth of a Christian Nation. When Greg preached a series (that became the book) in 2004, he had over 1,000 people leave the church where he was the pastor.
  • Singer/Songwriter Derek Webb:
    • Mockingbird album, specifically the songs “A New Law”, “A King and A Kingdom”, “My Enemies Are Men Like Me”, “In God We Trust”.
    • The song “A Savior on Capitol Hill” from album “The Ringing Bell”
    • Stockholm Syndrome album, specifically the songs “The State”, “The Proverbial Gun”, and “American Flag Umbrella”.
    • Article: “How Should We Then Vote?

 

 

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Love (What We Should Be Know For)*

Acts 17:11- “The people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica…”

Luke defines “open-minded” as:
– “listened eagerly to Paul’s message” and
– “searched the scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.”

As a result, “many believed”.

Many Christians have this backward.
– Rather than, “listening eagerly to the gospel” they, “listen eagerly to their favorite (or least favorite) political candidate”.
– Rather than, “search the scriptures” they, “search the internet for memes and one-liners about their political enemies.”

Additionally, they fail to learn whether or not what they are seeing is true, so they simply pass on falsehoods and lies for the sake of scoring political points and making themselves feel better. The Bible calls this, “bearing false witness” and make no mistake, it is sinful.

The result? Few, if any, are actually converted to anything, this only fosters anger, cynicism, and mistrust. For the Christian, as we retreat into our echo-chambers of self-righteousness, our ability to demonstrate empathy, sympathy and compassion is diminished as are our opportunities to speak truth into a culture that is deeply in need of it.

The WOPR computer in the movie “WarGames” had it right- “The only winning move is not to play”.

I challenge those who identify with Christ to:
– care as much about the health of your local church as you do your government;
– be as interested in, and as committed to, the local church as you currently are in your government;
– pray often for and with the leaders in the local church;
– point people to Christ as the answer, instead of any political leader, policy or law;
– recognized the truth found in the words of Derek Webb: “we’ll never have a Savior on Capitol Hill”;
– demonstrate empathy, sympathy and compassion to those of a differing political opinion than you;
– if you do not have a relationship with someone who has a differing political opinion that you…GET ONE, and…

above all else…

Remember the words of Jesus in John 13:35- “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are [his] disciples.”

Not the bumper sticker on your car. Or what school you went to. Or the flag that you salute. Or your country of origin. Not the creeds you affirm or the political party you support. Not the church you attend or the position you hold in that church.

Your love for one another proves it.

Love.

*a play on Derek Webb’s “T-Shirts (What We Should Be Known For)”

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A Lament for Thursday

I am frustrated with so-called Christians who’ve essentially replaced the God of the Bible with the god of American sub-cultural christianity. They long for the good old days when the church had positional authority: power & prestige; when they had a place at the table. But, because they were more interested in political power, they failed to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Christians are absolutely allowed to interject themselves into the conversation. But…how? And, for what purpose?

When Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen, it was for the furtherance of the gospel. It seems to me that America’s Christians often exercise their rights as “their rights”, forgetting that they were bought with a price- this means for all intents and purposes, they have no rights in light of the Gospel. We are to give up what is “ours” for the sake of Christ, and for the sake of the “other”. This is why Paul wrote, “consider others better than yourselves.”

While there are certainly cultural things that we may stand up and speak against, it is time that we, as Christians, understand that our country has moved on. We’ve lost the cultural battle. And because for so long we were used to getting our way, we are now facing exile. And exilic believers act differently- read Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Jeremiah 29.

What’s more, Jeremiah 49:1 says, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Has Israel no sons? Has Israel no heir? Why them has Molech taken possession of Gad? Why do his people live in its towns?'”

People can lament about the “loss of our nation” all they want. I read the words of boomers and builders as they lament about what’s happened to “their country”. And the answer is so simple.

They were more interested in securing for themselves financial blessings and success in post-war America than they were in passing on the faith. The church, especially the conservative Christians, became enamored with political power- in short, they “gained the whole world and forfeited their souls.”

And now, far too many of those who call themselves “Christian” support a bully politically who doesn’t even believe what they claim to support. And, it’s possible that this person will win.

What needs to happen is not a return to the good old days when evangelicals reigned and the church was listened to.

What needs to happen is for people within the church to remember that God changes hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit and that we are to be heralds of that Gospel.

 

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(No) Savior on Capitol Hill

Today is “Super Tuesday”, a time when millions of people will have the opportunity afforded them by our Constitution to participate in the process by which we elect a leader for the next 4 years. Elections in our country have often been about promises- whether “a chicken in every pot” or “staying out of European wars” or this year…”make America great”. But, here’s the thing…(and, if you are a Christian, I suggest you read this next sentence very, very, carefully)…

There is no man (or woman) that we can elect that will “save” us.

Jesus has done that.

In light of that truth, what are we to do?

– Pray (this should not be the first time you’ve done this about the election year).

– Spend time in your Bible. I suggest Deuteronomy 17:14-20, followed by 1 Samuel 8:11-17, Mark 12:17, John 19:11, Romans 13:1-7, and Ephesians 6:12. For starters.

– Remember that Paul used his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:22-23:11) as a means to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and NOT as a means to political gain.

– Take a look at the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and compare the candidates and their positions to the words of Jesus and remember that Jesus is proclaiming a new Kingdom.

– Keep in mind that the right to vote is just that. A “right”. We are not under compulsion to do so. There will be some, perhaps many, who will not like this. They’ll bring up those who have sacrificed for country so that we may have this right. They may talk about how we “dishonor” their sacrifice. But voting is a matter of conscience, as is speech, or any of my other rights. Just because I have the right to free speech, does not mean that I have to right to be un-Christlike in my speech.

– We’re not electing a “Pastor-in-Chief”.

– Whomever we elect is not our Savior. She (or he) will not right all of the wrongs of our political pet interests. They will not, and cannot, bring true justice because they, like those who elect them, are sinners.

This is indeed a crucial election. We are a nation fraught with tension; the economic divide, the racial divide, the educational divide…these things are real. Which is why I recommend doing each of the things above BEFORE you vote. This is too important to just go in there a pull a tab, punch a ticket, or press a button for whomever is warming your heart, promising the most or easing your fears.

For the Christian, Christ is supreme.

To quote songwriter Derek Webb, “we’ll never have a savior on Capitol Hill” because we already have one. And…He ain’t on the ballot.

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