Election Recap

Photo credit: © Some rights reserved by Stijn Vogels on Flickr

My faith has always informed my voting. There is no question about that and I believe that it should. I honestly strive to have my faith inform every decision I make, though admittedly, I’m not always successful in this endeavor. However, this last election is not so much a matter of faith for me as it was an issue of common sense. The fact is–our American churches were in as much a need of revival on November 5th as they were on November 6th. My American citizenship and my kingdom citizenship are not the same thing and I have to recognize that there is often a tension between these both within myself and within the culture at large.

Republican Revival?

While “morality”, to some extent, can be legislated, (that IS the very nature of law), revival cannot.  Revival is something that springs from the grace of God and a deep inner hunger for Him on the part of His people. I am not so naive to have believed that, somehow, a Mormon would have brought “revival” back to America. As an Evangelical, that thought should seem ludicrous. While on the surface, Mormons and Evangelicals share some of the same family values, we have to be intellectually honest and realize that “revival” was not going to come from a President, no matter how “moral” he may be. If I have believed this, it is illustrative of the fact that I have my spiritual priorities out of order. It did not, however, stop me from enthusiastically supporting a candidate because I believed that his overall values were more in line with what I believed to be the best for the common good. I was not voting for a Preacher, but a President. So this election, while faith-informed, was not a spiritual exercise for me outside of the fact that I believe it is my duty to promote justice, honor life, and work for the common good at every possible opportunity including the exercising of my right to vote.

The End of Personal Responsibility?

With that said, I am disappointed in the American people, not so much for voting for a particular candidate, but for what will most likely be an irreversible move toward greater government dependence. Many mocked Romney for his “47%” comment (I took no offense, though I have been one of them for most of my life), however, the fact is that once that number becomes 51%…it’s all over. There will be no going back to personal responsibility and fiscal sanity in regards to government spending and entitlement programs. The difficulty with this decision is that our finances today are no different than yesterday. Life feels pretty much the same (except for the 312 point dive of the DOW yesterday). And, for the most part, it will be the same because our government will try to alleviate the “pain” of our financial distress by continuing to run up more debt.  Therefore, few individuals will feel the effects of this decision until it is felt nationally, at which time it will be too late. The rest of the world will not allow us to continue fiscal insanity forever and at some point we will be called in check. In the mean time, it will be very difficult for a majority of Americans to vote money out of their own wallets.

We need a better conversation more than better candidates

Candidates are simply a reflection of the constituency from which they are elected. For example, while I believe many Christians may have voted for the President in good conscience and out of worthy motives (such as care for the poor and disadvantaged), they also had to look past the most disadvantaged (the unborn) on their way to that vote.  Personally, I find it difficult to enthusiastically support a candidate that is committed to preserving the “choice” to take another human life. I also believe, however, that we need to find a way to engage our culture regarding these issues on different terms than simply “religious preservationism.” Whether we like it or not the “moral majority” is a majority no more and the rest of the country simply could care less about me or anyone else forcing their own religious beliefs on them. We also need to avoid (like the plague) having middle-aged, wealthy white men appear to be the “authority” on this issue. I mean…really?  There has to be a better way to engage these issues on a public and common good platform in a way to which people may actually listen. I’ve hear it said that it’s difficult to ‘hate’ up close. The opposite is also true–it’s difficult to ‘love’ from far away. As Christ followers, we need to do a better job of engaging our culture in well-informed, faith-filled conversations about the most vital issues of our day. This will not happen by hiding behind “friendly” political candidates, campaigns or church walls.

The most important priorities have not changed

I am a still a kingdom citizen and no one can take that away. Also, there is still “hope” for America, but it will only be realized when the hearts of our people are challenged and changed by the gospel. I do believe that God wants to send us revival (more than we do), however, it will come to individuals and churches long before it comes to a nation. There is no Democrat or Republican that can ultimately bring the lasting change that every soul ultimately longs for. Millions of Christians around the world can testify to the fact that it is NOT necessary to have a “strong America” to be able to worship God and enjoy the fellowship of the gospel. It is MUCH bigger than that. However, in the mean time, let the church to step up, enjoy the freedom we have and get busy about the eternal Kingdom that will never fade away. No one is stopping us–no one can stop us. Let’s quit whining and go get it done.

Disclaimer: These views do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of any institutions of which I may be affiliated. Nor do they comprise an endorsement of any particular candidate. These are simply my own personal reflections concerning recent events and are not typical of the content normally found on this blog. 

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Random “Linsanity”: What we can learn from Jeremy Lin’s recent media frenzy

photo © 2012 Some rights reserved by DvYang CC-NC_SA on Flickr

Ok. Yeah, I’ve caught the fever. Well, almost. As a natural contrarian, I’m typically not quick to jump on anybody’s bandwagon. But I’ve had a couple thoughts lately about Jeremy Lin and his sudden rise to the media spotlight. Just consider this my small contribution to the tidal wave of media that has fixated on this young athlete. While the future of his basketball career is still up in the air (7 wins a hall-of-famer does not make), I think his sudden rise in media attention can teach all of us something.

God is Sovereign

The past couple of years our family has had the privilege of hosting a couple of exchange students from mainland China. This has been an enriching experience for our family and has given me a sort of “insiders” view to the far east that I probably would not have had otherwise. While there have been many advances to the gospel in this region, the vast majority of the people have never heard the gospel message nor are they familiar with basic Christian doctrine. Jeremy Lin is helping to change much of that.

This past week he is reported to have been the number one search on Baidu, the Chinese (and highly censored) equivalent of Google. His profile lists his religion as “Christian” with a link to a common article on “Christianity”(a Chinese Wikipedia-type source), which based on my poor Google translation, seems to be a fair representation of the historical claims of Christianity (and its various strains–mainly, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox).

There are enough articles out there describing Lin’s background, so I won’t retell that here, but the point is this: If God wants to take an American born man of Taiwanese immigrants and make him 6’3″ tall (much taller than his parents), allow him to be Harvard educated, have him go predominantly unnoticed by NBA scouts, and then send him to the peak of media attention in the world’s largest media market in a couple short weeks, then God can do just that. And if all that comes of Lin’s career, whether it be long lived or short, is being a high-profile light of the gospel for almost 1.5 billion people that otherwise may not even consider the claims of Christ, then I believe he is hall-of-fame caliber in a different book, regardless of his long-term basketball statistics. But that’s the cool thing about this hall of fame–there is only one Member (hint: it’s not Lin), and from what I can tell at this point, Jeremy seems just fine with that.

The Gospel is for everyone

Part of what makes this story so unique is the stereotype killing that is happening as a result of the media hype. He is the first Asian-American to play in the NBA. He is Harvard educated (I guess not ALL Christians are uneducated and ignorant [smile]). AND he has “unified” China/Taiwanese relations in that they both claim him as their own. (I say this somewhat tongue in cheek and you only have to do a little historical research to know the tensions that have existed between these two countries).

If you would have asked any sports analyst half worth his salt 10 years ago if he/she thought the most talked about player in the NBA would be an Asian-American, most probably would have laughed at you in the face. So, before you laugh too hard at your prospects of considering the claims of Christ as true for yourself–don’t laugh so fast, the gospel is for you as well. [For a short explanation of what I mean by “the gospel” click here].

Every Christian has a responsibility to live “the gospel”

In a recent interview, Lin was asked about how his outlook has changed with all of this new-found fame and he said “I’m thinking…how can I bring God more glory?”. This is much different than how most of us would respond. Many at this point would be thinking “how can I cash in on my new found fame?”, or “Yeah, it’s about time everyone sees how great I really am”. But seeking God and His glory first, gives Lin a unique perspective that, though counterintuitive, actually will make him more successful–more successful in the things that really matter, anyway. Will Lin score some big endorsement deals? Probably. If people dig deep enough, will they find “dirt” on this young athlete? Probably. I don’t mean this as derogatory to Lin’s testimony, however, the beauty of the gospel is that we’re all fallen and broken in some way, and that’s why we need redemption. However, the power of the gospel makes our shortcomings and failures as blood-stained patchwork on a quilt that is infinitely valuable and already purchased by God.

Regardless of who you are or what pinnacle of “success” you may or may not have achieved at this point, we all have a responsibility to bring God glory from our lives. In his book Soulprint, Mark Batterson states “…You were created to worship God in a way that no one else can. How? By living a life no one else can—your life. You have a unique destiny to fulfill, and no one can take your place.” Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus”. We are all unique and infinitely valuable to God and to the “worlds” we live in. While my fame may never reach “Linsanity” status, I have a responsibility to live the gospel in my “world”, and in doing so, I can have eternal significance by loving those in my world, because I am loved by a King with an eternal Kingdom.

You are exceptional too

I wish the best for Lin and his basketball career. I hope he breaks all sorts of records and goes down in history as one of the best ever. But even more than that, I’m thankful that, regardless of his basketball success, he is exceptional in that he is “finding greater ways to give God glory”. I’m glad for the reminder that I am exceptional as well, because when God made me he broke the mold. He broke the mold when he made you, too. If we can find our identity in that fact and live in constant pursuit of knowing God and allowing the gospel to redeem our lives daily, we too can experience a kind of success that is unexplainable.

The Holy Spirit and the Federal Reserve

What we believe is fundamental to and acts as the primary influence on our behavior. As I contemplate on my own life and the lives of those that I lead (family, church, and other influences), I can’t help but observe behavior that I find contrary to what I/we say that we believe. Why is that?

I now turn to the current state of the economy to help us flesh this out. I am not an economist (nor am I the son of an economist), however, there are some basic principles of our current financial system that most of us understand (I often wonder about our politicians, however).

Until the U.S. effectively went off of the Gold Standard in 1933, any printed money was simply a “promise to pay”, or promissory note. That meant that you could exchange that printed money for a predetermined amount of gold or “real money”. Prior to 1933, if someone were to hand you a $100 bill, you might say it was “good as gold”. Possessing that $100 bill (especially prior to 1933), could effectively cause your behavior to change, and rightfully so, even though you have never, and probably never planned on seeing any gold. Today, it is significantly more complicated and much more “hi-tech”, but I still dare to say that possession of a $100 bill could still substantially change your behavior.

You see, a true promissory note differs from an IOU in that the lender can effectively call the “note” due at any time and it has no maturity period. It is not necessarily an acknowledgment of a debt but in fact a true promise to pay at any time (at the choosing of the one who holds the “note” or promise). You see, God does not “owe” us anything, but in fact has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness through His Spirit (2 Peter 1:3). His promises to us are spiritual certainties (2 Cor. 1:20), though in our flesh we may not have full understanding or “sight” right now (Heb. 11). He is simply waiting for us in faith to “cash in” on what He has already promised.

I say all this to make a point. Of course any promise of God is far more trustworthy than any denomination of money. However, often we don’t behave that way. The Scripture tells us that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh, and that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. If we truly believed this, our lives would be much more extraordinary. We would exhibit a freedom and power that this world would find contagious. All that is required is that we have faith enough to “cash in” on God’s promises and put a little more faith in the Scripture than we do in good ‘ole “Uncle Sam”. Our lives and the lives of those around us will be radically changed if we do.

Rescued People Sing Better

We (Trinity Baptist Church) are preparing for our Tuesday Thanksgiving service which has typically highlighted the ministry of the Trinity Rescue Mission and Rehabilitation Farm. This afforded me the opportunity to go down to “the farm”, as it is so affectionately called, and “lead” my brothers there in worship. However, what I received was far more than I could have ever given. My soul was refreshed from the authentic worship that flowed out of these men (though my body is exhausted from constant Christmas preparations, oh and did I mention their chapel is at 7am!).

I’ve made an observation before, having worked with other urban and rescue ministries in the past, that rescued people simply sing better. Of course, it’s not necessarily about the singing (and I didn’t even say they sound better), but it is about their worship. What most of us often fail to realize is that we have all been rescued. No matter what your background may have been before you met Christ, you have been rescued (Ps 40:2; Titus 3:5).

You see, this morning, the style of the music wasn’t an issue at all. We poured our hearts out to God together singing everything from “old” camp-meeting style songs to what many would consider a more “cutting edge” styling. All that mattered to these men was singing, speaking, and listening to the “Voice of Truth” that would keep them on solid ground so that they might live in obedience today. All was sung with the same conviction and strength.

Much like when a fireman is on the ladder and in the fire pulling people from the flames, it is not the time to debate on whether or not the ladder being used was a good choice. All that matters is that the people are rescued. When the debate does come, it is usually from those standing in safety and comfort, far from the front lines, who take the time to criticize those that care enough to take the risks–to get their hands a little dirty (Mark 7:1-15).

As you go about this day, take the time to remember how Jesus has rescued you and remember the “risks” that He has taken to call you His own. I don’t know about you, but I often remember the times that I have failed, and how that God, even knowing this, chose to rescue me anyway. When I take the time to listen to “the Voice of Truth” and remember where and how God rescued me…I sing better, too.

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