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The Unconscious Ill-Equipping Of The Saints

The good Bible teaching that occurs in many churches is not enough to equip Christ following congregants to interact effectively with the world.  In fact, I believe that some pastors are unconsciously hindering their flocks, and are, as a result, “ill-equipping” them for the work of ministry.

I recently heard a tremendous quote, and I will try to paraphrase.  The speaker spoke of the American Church and said, “We are a subculture of a sub culture.  We read each other’s book, we sing each other’s songs, and we scratch each other’s backs”.

I completely agree that the Body of Christ is a sub culture, and that each movement or denomination is a further sub culture, and finally, that each individual church within a movement or denomination is a sub, sub, sub culture.  There is nothing wrong with that…to a point.

Each culture and sub culture has its own language.  The lack of awareness that we (the Church) have regarding our sub, sub culture language is the thing that concerns me. What do we sound like to the world?

As followers of Jesus, we have been given the Great Commission, to “make disciples of all nations”.  Most of the people in our churches understand and agree with that.

However, here is the rub.  Here is the problem.  The people in our churches often parrot the words they hear us pastors speak.  If they hear us only speak “Christianese”, and our particular brand of “Christianese”, then that is how many of them will speak.  They will seek to explain the eternal truths of God by using language that is familiar only to their sub, sub culture.

I believe that we who stand in the pulpit need to speak in the language of our culture and of the current generation.  We do not need to descend into vulgar speaking or innuendo, but we need to communicate the truths of Jesus in ways that would make sense to any unbeliever walking in off the street.

The purpose for that is not just for the unbeliever who walks into our church.  The bigger and perhaps more important purpose is that we will equip our churches to use words that the unbelieving world will recognize.  Without telling them how to communicate the Gospel, we will be bestowing upon them a language, a vocabulary, and a communication style, whereby they will be unconsciously equipped to speak to an unbelieving world.

A word to those who preach and teach: Let us be careful to not use decades old “Christianese” simply because that is what we grew up on.  May the younger generation of pastors not only use the Christian sub culture language of their generation. May we read and listen widely, that we may adopt the language of this generation, so that we might more effectively preach the Gospel, and equip our listeners to share the Gospel in a language that can be understood by the world around us.

Is Another Revival Possible?

 

 

Last week my wife and I ventured down to the Calvary Chapel Southern California Pastor’s Conference at Calvary Chapel South Bay. The theme of the conference was “Revive Us Again,” taken from Habakkuk 3:2:

“Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?”

It was a great time in the Lord. Ten Bible studies over the course of two days, by nine different teachers. Very sobering, strengthening, convicting, and encouraging.

I want to comment on the talk that resonated with me the most. Brian Brodersen brought a very insightful message which started with Habakkuk 3:2:

“O LORD, I have heard your speech and was afraid; O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.”

I have often prayed this prayer myself, so I was very interested in hearing what Brian had to say. I found myself in complete agreement with his premise, with his conclusion, and with his application. He said what I think, albeit far more clearly and thoroughly.

A very brief summary goes like this:

  1. The wrath of God will fall upon America, but we can pray for mercy as it falls. Judgment is God’s strange work, and He is merciful by nature. So we can pray for mercy.
  2. There have been two major revivals in American history, the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition, there have been smaller moves of God. The so-called Jesus movement fits into this category.
  3. Revivals during the period of Judah’s kings came after periods of intense wickedness. The state of our nation prior to the Great Awakenings was both wicked and hopeless. The progressives, humanistic philosophers, atheists et al, were dominant. Evil had spread to every corner of the land. But the people of God cried out to the Lord, and revival came!
  4. The conditions in our country pre-revival were strikingly similar to today’s conditions. If it happened before, it can happen again.
  5. Following revival, many incredible social changes occurred (the ending of slavery, for example), and many powerful spiritual results took place (modern missionary movement, the Bible societies, etc.).
  6. We should hope (and pray) for revival, even though we know we’re in the last days. The Scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all flesh through the entire period of the last days.
  7. Today, we’re seeing indications of revival and awakening taking place, world-wide. Could it be that the things the Lord has been doing are a preparation for His last big push prior to the rapture and ensuing tribulation period?

Three conditions that may enhance the possibility of revival/awakening:

A.  Repentance. Much sin has invaded the church and effected its leaders.

     B.  Prayer. Are we praying men? Are we praying women? We need to bring back the prayer meeting into our churches.

     C.  Faith. Childlike faith, in which we believe that God can do anything. We need to take steps of faith, and take ventures of faith. God wants to do more than we give Him   credit for, so much of the time.

I’m glad someone with our movement is saying these things. I can’t wait to hear this message again.

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Israel

At this time in world history there doesn’t seem to be a day that passes where the State of Israel is not in the news in some way. It is my conviction that this is exactly as scripture foretold (Zechariah 12:2), and is key to the belief of many evangelicals—including myself—that we may be living in the very last of the last days. But convictions such as these and recent correspondence with other evangelical leaders has caused several questions to come to my mind.

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  • What should be the response of the church to National Israel in the last days?
  • How should we interpret and apply Paul’s words “To the Jew first” in the context of 21st century Christianity?
  • Should the evangelization of lost Israel take precedent over other lost peoples?
  • Does the promise of Genesis 12:3 (i.e. “I will bless those who bless you…”) mean that we—the church—should seek to bless, monetarily, the nation of Israel to receive a blessing ourselves?
  • Do Jews and Christians worship the same God? Do Muslims?

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I would love your thoughts, add your’s below. (click here to comment)

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Aliens

Last week I jumped into the political fray on the issue of homosexual rights, I figured I’d continue the controversy and tackle political hot topic #2, immigration. As with the marriage debate, this one is fueled by great emotion and is often used as a political campaign weapon. The “right” cries foul in favor of lowering debt and taxes, while the “left” plays the human rights card. It’s an emotional debate for sure; one that causes division in our society as well as within the church.

While it may not be entirely correct to say that a majority of American Christians lean “right of center” politically, I think American (especially evangelical) Christianity tends to be more socially conservative. Within this group it is almost a curse word to be labeled “Liberal,” which is exactly what I am sometimes called when I discuss this topic with acquaintances. I truly want to have an honest discussion about this important issue, but I’ve found very few people who can leave their emotions at the door. Furthermore I think it is unfortunate that we seem to have slid to a point where any [apparent] threat against a conservative position is seen as a threat against the kingdom of God, as if “USA” were synonymous with God’s Kingdom (it’s not, by the way). How do we openly discuss issues such as this when we’re unable to do so civilly? Again, a reframing of the debate is [I think] necessary.

As with much of the western world, America is watching national debts multiply faster than gremlins in a downpour, which – at some point – will likely require an increase of taxation. As it stands now illegal immigrants have become the scapegoat for this problem of increasing debts, and since I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually likes paying taxes (I just had a meeting with my CPA this morning in fact), we clearly have a recipe for frustration and anger.

I live and minster in a fairly conservative town that, perhaps more than any other in America, could be labeled “Anti-illegal immigrant.” Fifty miles from the Mexican border, Escondido has a nearly 46% Hispanic population. At the direction of the city, law enforcement regularly sets up “license checkpoints” which have been highlighted several times on the national news and challenged by the ACLU. Several years ago we garnered national attention when a city ordinance passed that prohibited landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. I’m not sure what came of that one, but I’m sure it has been hung up in court. Each of these measures are the result of decreasing revenues and increasing costs; the easiest place to point is the illegal immigrant population.

Please don’t misunderstand, from a political stand point, I agree; if people are going to immigrate to our nation then it should be done legally. We are, and will continue to be a nation of immigrants. My grandparents (on my father’s side) immigrated here from Italy, and I’m grateful that they did. That said, if I grew up south of the border and could provide a better life for my family by moving north, I’d likely do that however I possibly could. Our biggest issue with such immigrants is not that they’re lazy, cause they’re not. It’s not that they don’t pay any taxes, because they do (i.e. sales taxes, many of them pay payroll taxes under fictitious Social Security numbers, property taxes as renters, etc…). As conservatives, our biggest issue is that we’ve been baited, by political rhetoric, to believe that they (“aliens”) are the cause of our fiscal problems. I’m not convinced that they are.

Sure, they’re using civil and social services as they live in our communities, but these services are offered to anyone who meet the criteria for receiving them. Thus the problem is not the low income immigrants as much as it is the social services themselves. Many conservatives are not exactly proponents of such social programs in the first place. If you provide social services, people will utilize those programs; but then you cannot turn around and be mad at the people using the programs that you provided. This being the case, I’m convinced that the best way to change the discourse is divert our attention from those using the services to the services themselves.

Is it the mandate of our constitution that we provide such services (i.e. health and welfare)? Is it the place of the government to provide them, and therefore tax the people to do so? Or, is it actually something that we, the church, should look to do for the fatherless, widows and strangers in our midst?

For much of history this was a domain occupied by the people of God. At some point in the last century the church vacated that sphere and abdicated their responsibility. The vacuum left by the church’s absence was ultimately filled by the government, who must provide such services via taxation and not charity. The need of services for the fatherless, the widow and the stranger will never go away, as “the poor we will have with us always.” But would we rather share the love of Christ by willingly meeting the needs of those who have them, or will we horde what we have? If we are unwilling to render unto God what is His in loving our neighbor, we will certainly be required to render unto Caesar what is needed to meet a need that will never go away this side of the Kingdom of God.

Daniel’s article yesterday is a good reminder. Preaching the gospel and living the gospel are not mutually exclusive realities.

Just saying…

For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

– Deuteronomy 10:17-19

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

– 1 John 3:17

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Anti Rights?

One of the hot political topics over the last several years has been the issue of marriage as it relates to the LGBT or homosexual community. With the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision today and 2012 being a major election year, we’re certainly going to be hearing a lot of rhetoric surrounding this topic once again.

This has become a major rallying point for many in the conservative community, especially the [incredibly] influential evangelical movement in America. The standard position among Evangelical Christians has been one against the redefining of marriage. Thus many conservatives have funded campaigns to legally define marriage as being between a man and a women. At the outset I want to make it very clear that I believe and agree with the conservative position on this issue.

This is a theological issue. God ordained marriage as being between a man and a woman. Every culture has a basic framework for this family relationship because every culture grew out of God’s initial creation as described in the book of Genesis. The question I seek to tackle here is how we, the church, ought to engage in this discussion as we move forward into the 21st century.

This is a divisive issue. As a result of its divisiveness, it is used (like abortion and immigration) as a political weapon in campaigns to pit groups against one another and influence votes. Other than division, very little ever results from the political campaign rhetoric.

Losing the war of words

This debate has shifted, and although some “battles” have been won on the conservative side, the momentum has begun to slide to the other side, because the phraseology of the debate has changed. Such as in the debate over abortion, where we, conservatives, are now deemed “anti-abortion”, whereas they are “pro-choice”. Likewise, an ever so slight wording change has shifted the discussion over marriage. The discourse has moved from that of marriage to civil rights. We are now the “anti-rights” camp, and they, “pro-rights.” As a result, the generation called “Millennials” (those born between 1980 and 2000) are now moving into voting age and are largely pro gay marriage. Millennials will be the largest voting demographic for the next generation, therefore, as it stands now, within the next 20 years we will see the legalization of homosexual marriage in America (as well as the likely legalization of marijuana). This presents us, the church, with an incredibly difficult situation. Or is it actually an opportunity?

Changing the debate

I do believe that there is a better way wherein we can turn this discussion around, while maintaining a footing from which the church can speak into our culture in the years to come.

I do not know a single American Christian who does not love his/her civil liberties. That being the case, we should agree with the LGBT community that they should not in any way be denied civil liberties. This is not a religious issue, it’s constitutional. We are quick to cry foul when we think our rights are being infringed upon but not so quick to do so when the rights of others are endangered. We must be consistent in our position, therefore we ought to be pro rights in this area also. The question is, how can we be pro rights while maintaining a biblical position?

Yes, we believe that homosexual behavior is sin. We do not think that the institution of marriage can be redefined, for it was ordained and defined by God. Therefore, since marriage is a religious institution, and the public sector of our nation desires to maintain a separation of church and state, we the church, ought to petition our government to remove themselves from the discussion of marriage, by having them refuse to continue in providing marriage licenses. In the place of marriage licenses the government should grant civil unions only. They would determine who receives such unions and the rights associated with them. (As a side note, the government needs to clearly define who should receive such rights, as we are quickly moving in a direction wherein we have no ability to draw a line between who receives rights and who does not. In such a case we would have no ground from which to say that polygamist, pedophile or incestuous unions could not be valid).

If the church would spearhead this move, we would carry the discussion in a whole new direction. Marriage would maintain its religious definition as being a God ordained union between a man and a woman. Churches would continue to preform marriages under God’s ordered institution, while requiring those being married to also receive a legal civil union through the state, and then, we would no longer be portrayed as those taking rights from those seeking them.  Additionally, I think such a move by the church would bring to light that many within the LGBT community have a deeper motivation than the legal redefinition of marriage.

This is, by the way, not a new or original idea; Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz wrote on the subject in an LA Times op-ed in December of 2003, and many others have weighed in since that time.  There may be a number of issues I am overlooking as I open this discussion, but at the very least I think it is a discussion we need to have.

Thoughts?

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The Sword v. the Cup – the Purpose of Government and Church

The last 30 years of political involvement by the evangelical movement has left me jaded and cynical.  The failed agenda of the Moral Majority and all its various spawn over the last three decades should bring us to a critical examination of evangelical thinking about the nature of government.

According to Romans 13, the purpose of government is to visit the wrath of God upon the one who practices evil.  This is set over against the closing verses of Romans 12 which admonish us not to take our own revenge upon our enemy, but to leave room for the wrath of God.  The government is the agent of that wrath, a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.  Government is a minister of God for justice.  The church is the minister of God for mercy.  The government is to promote and practice justice and the church is to proclaim and preach the gospel.

The government bears the sword of God while the church bears the cup of Christ.

The government metes out punishment while the church metes out pardon.  There is a wall of separation between church and state and it is the wall of purpose – government and church have different purposes.  The government is to work to make this a just nation while the church is to work to make this a justified nation.  Our political leaders, therefore, should be known for their commitment to justice, not to Christ.  They should be those who are committed to our constitutional rights as citizens and not our spiritual righteousness as individuals.

In short, our President is not our Pastor.

It is not God’s intention that the President turn this nation back to God.  It is God’s intention that our President promote justice and protect the citizens from injustice.  This is the purpose and limited scope of government.  But there are those who want to make it more than it is.

It seems that some evangelicals think that if we could just get ‘our man’ into the White House (or other high offices), this nation could be turned ‘back to God.’  But the purpose of government is not to turn the nation back to God.  The purpose of government is to protect its citizens from evil men and to punish evil men.  In wanting to get ‘our man’ into the White House, some are confusing purposes with results.  Will a Christian President result in a more Christian nation?  Will his influence radiate out and be felt at an existential level in the hearts of the citizens?  So far, the answer to that is a resounding NO.  Carter, Bush1, Clinton, Bush2, and Obama have all claimed to be Christian – but their Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, and United Church of Christ faith have all resulted in – well, not much in terms of the results of righteousness.

Purpose has to do with what should be.  Result has to do with what could be.  When what could be overshadows what should be, we are aiming at results and not focusing on purposes.  When we expect a result from a purpose not engineered to produce that result, disappointment and disillusionment are right around the corner.  If I drive my Ford Focus to pick up twelve high-schoolers in order to take them to camp, I won’t get the result I desire.  I am expecting too much – the load is too great.  A Ford Focus is not a 15 passenger van.

When we expect a whole nation to be spiritually moved by a just President, we are expecting too much.  When we expect a whole nation to be impacted by a godly President, we are expecting too much.  Expected results should be in line with intended purposes.  We are expecting too much of our government officials when we expect them to forward the agenda of the church.

Proverbs 20:8, and similar Scriptures, are sometimes forwarded in this kind of discussion –

A king who sits on the throne of justice disperses all evil with his eyes.

Two things – the President is not a king and America is not a theocracy.  An eastern monarch was a despot (benevolent or otherwise) who wielded much more authority than does a democratically elected President.  He could be arbitrary, erratic, and dictatorial and there were few checks upon his power.  In our day, even the most godly President imaginable will still be surrounded by a vast bureaucracy marked by spiritual indifference and vested self-interest.  And even the most godly President would still need to appeal to the Constitution and not the Bible as a basis for his/her decisions.

Yes, righteousness still exalts a nation and sin is still a reproach to any people.  Yes, Christians should very much be involved in politics and in the political process.  But let’s not fool ourselves into believing that government can deliver more than it is designed to do.  (In many cases it doesn’t even deliver what it is designed to do.)  The government cannot deliver righteousness even as my Ford Focus can’t transport 15 people.  There are two mutually compatible ways to exalt a nation – the exercise of a just administration and the ministry of a Bible informed, Spirit formed church.  Let’s expect from the government what the government is purposed to do and let’s expect from the church what the church is purposed to do.  And let’s pray for mercy from God.

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What if…

I’ve been thinking a lot about this simple phrase.
To me it speaks of possibility.
It speaks of transformation.
It speaks of the ways and thoughts of God.

What if…

…we made the greatest commandment our greatest commitment?
…we remembered that you can’t fulfill the great commission by neglecting the greatest commandment?
…we lived out the reality of the resurrection?
…we really chose not to worry or fear?
…we were as committed to unity as those who tried to build the Tower of Babel?
…we were really servant leaders?
…we love our wives as Christ loves the church?
…we didn’t use the ministry to keep us from having to interact with God?
…we viewed the church as a disciple making organism and not as a business?
…we stopped thinking that we had the right to share our opinions and stopped judging another man’s servant?
…we really believed in Jesus’ power to reconcile?
…we were really overflowed by the Holy Spirit?
…older pastor really mentored younger pastors?
…those same older pastors allowed younger pastors to be who God made them to be?
…younger pastors realized that they don’t know what they don’t know?
…we truly prayed without ceasing?
…movements and denominations didn’t resist the continual reforming of the church?
…churches gave their savings to the work of the kingdom in the least reached countries in the world?
…we truly died to ourselves?
…we stopped defining ourselves by what we are against?
…we realized that men will know that we are his disciples by the love we have one for another?
…we only cared what God thought?
…the church stopped being trendy and started being timeless?
…we truly fed the poor?
…we were more Christian than American?
…we were concerned enough for people to actually really share the life-giving gospel with them?
…we stopped snuggling up to the proclivities of our culture?
…we talked to people in person rather than behind their backs?
…if we truly feared God?
…we became the servant of all instead of lording our position over people?
…loved the whole world as God does?
…we lived out the grace that we proclaimed?

Photo: © Europen Parliament/P.Naj-Olearipietro.naj-oleari@europarl.europa.eu

The Millennials Rising Problem

I am seeing a growing problem in the church that is ready to trap a generation. Alcoholism is on the rise in the church and it is not with the down an out or with the older generation but instead with the young and successful generation known as the Millennials. Now I haven’t done any formal survey but I do have seventeen years experience working with Millennials and after talking to numerous parents and other people I am seeing the problem of drinking rising at an alarming rate amongst this age group. If you don’t think it is a problem read this article by John MacArthur here.

When I say this age group I mean the group of people called the millennials who are just now going into their thirties. There has been much written about this group and I don’t want to elaborate on it. I do want to point out though that this is group of people who really haven’t been denied anything in their lives, which I think is the source of the problem. Think about this for a moment. The group of people that encompass the age group of 34-18 year olds have grown up in a world of instant access. As children they perfected the play date with perfectly arranged times of playing with children who would be a good influence on them. As teenagers they moved in tribes because the nucleus of friends was the most important factor of all. Group thinking and their opinion was elevated above truth or what was best for them. As they entered the workforce this generation demanded a place at the table and wanted their voice to be heard without having to put in the hours of earning the respect of their co-workers. Because of this I think we have a generation that is extremely bored with themselves and thus are finding relief in their drinking because it is the one vice with a Christian loophole, you can drink, just don’t get drunk.

Remember that I said I see the problem not in the down and out but in the young and successful. The area where I see the most problem is with people who are in their late twenties to early thirties, have graduated from college, are married with children, usually own their first home, and have a successful career. They have everything their parents told them they could have. These are people who have grown up in Christian homes and where the church has been and may still be a big part of their lives. So why is drinking on the rise in this group?

I think there are several factors:

  1. They are Bored: I mentioned this earlier but it bears repeating. They have obtained everything life has to offer and have realized that it is empty. It would be easy to blame the parents here for misleading them but that is not the problem. The real problem is that they have been focused on themselves for so long that once they accomplished everything they could they don’t know how to shift their focus.
  2. It’s Their Theology: The most popular theology amongst Millennials is the New Reformed theology championed by people like Mark Driscoll. This new Calvinism emphasizes liberty and license as an overreaction to legalism. They freely talk about drinking beer as part of their missional lifestyle and rage against anyone who might suggest that sanctification would mean they stop drinking. A big part of the equation is also the doctrine of predestination. Their thinking is that “If I am part of the elect then really how I live is of little consequence because I am good with God and I can’t lose my salvation.”
  3. The Wrong Emphasis: One thing that was always said about the Baby Boomers was that they were all about themselves. It was called the “Me” generation. They worked a lot so they could obtain all the things that were perceived as successful. When they did play it was to release from all the stress of their work. The Millennial generation works to play. Instead of working hard to accumulate all the things, they already have the things and hence work has become a means so they can go and play with their things. They are always planning the next event, looking for what their tribe of friends are doing next, and seeing how they can fit another adventure into their work life without upsetting the balance.

Here is the thing, it is progressively getting worse. Ten years ago I saw this group (which most had just gotten out of my youth group) start with the beer. To tell you the truth I got tired of seeing former youth in pictures on the internet (pre-Facebook) holding the infamous red dixie cup. Many of these people were in Christian colleges, who had very clear code of ethics statements forbidding drinking, but in their liberty were living the life. Over the last ten years I have seen the drinking progress from beer to wine to hard liquor. I now see people in their early thirties drinking mixed drinks that only hardcore alcoholics drank and were usually much older.

The scary thing is that this generation gets bored at a very quick pace. They lose interest in things at an alarming rate. My fear is that we are going to see many proverbial train wrecks in the near future. I have a friend who is an emergency room doctor who says that he see people on a frequent basis in their early thirties who are raging alcoholics and are on the verge of losing everything. We need to stop with all of the theological mumbo jumbo about our freedom to indulge in things that we know lead to destruction and start to obey the Lord. It’s not about what we can do but instead about what scripture commands us to do. In a generation that has been given everything and ended up bored it is time to take all of that Biblical teaching they have been given and start to live for Christ. Your life, your marriage, and now your young family hangs in the balance.

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Can a Christian Vote for a Mormon?

The challenge of voting is solved for me.  My vote is not determined by political party, nor by the candidate’s charisma, or his theological purity – I vote platform philosophy.  Whichever platform most closely aligns w/ my values is the one I will vote for.  If the Democratic platform aligns with my worldview more than the Republican one, I will vote Democratic and vice-versa.

As it stands right now, the Republican platform more closely mirrors my values than does the Democratic platform.  I would vote for a Mormon Republican before I would vote for a Christian Democrat.

I would rather have a Mormon working for me than a Christian working against me.

The question isn’t: is Mormonism heresy?  That question is definitively settled for the evangelical Christian.  The question is: can a Mormon be President?  More exactly: can a theological heretic be a competent President?  Well, would you support a Mormon Republican who sought to protect life in the womb or a Christian Democrat who was indifferent to it?  Would you support a Mormon Republican who calls for a strong defense or a Christian Democrat wanting to scale down our military to a position you would consider weakness?  Would you support a Mormon Republican who championed 2nd Amendment rights or a Christian Democrat who wanted to pry your gun from your cold dead hands?  These aren’t theoretical questions.  (I think issues of trinitarianism take a back seat to public justice).

A few more questions are worthy of consideration –

Can a man of your theological persuasion have a different political vision?

Can a man hold a theological persuasion quite different than yours and have the same political vision?

Can a Christian be open minded toward abortion, want to expand the role of government, work toward a socialist state, and weaken the military?

Can a theological heretic, or a pagan for that matter, work toward limited government and be a social and fiscal conservative?

I would have no problems voting for Mormon.  I don’t see that it presents a theological or philosophical problem for the evangelical Christian.  Someone might object that a Mormon President will give legitimacy to the Mormon Church.  Historically, as far as I know, the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church didn’t swell during Kennedy’s presidency, nor did the evangelical church see rising numbers because of the legitimacy that Bush the 2nd gave to it.  And if Romney is the GOP candidate, and if he does stir up interest in and curiosity about the Mormon church, let’s take advantage of it.  We should welcome a national conversation about Mormonism.  If Romney is the GOP candidate, study up, boys, and have a response to questions and concerns about Mormonism.  But again, I would vote for a pagan or a Mormon if we had a shared platform/a shared political philosophy.

I will be on my way back from Israel when this publishes and so I won’t be able to interact with any comments that are posted until later.

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Thanksgiving Day

My favorite holiday of the year … Thanksgiving Day.

I love it for its Christian meaning, as the thankful life is the Spirit-filled life (Ephesians 5:18-20).

I love it for its social benefit, as it’s a great time to reconnect with family, and reach out to others.

I love it for the food, fun, and football. The Lord truly gives us all things richly to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17b).

And I love it for its historical depth. It depicts so well the Christian roots of our nation … the influences that helped shape our nation and its unique freedoms, blessings, and privileges.

One of my habits each Thanksgiving Day is to read the Thanksgiving Day Proclamation by our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. In so many ways, it’s a remarkable declaration; it was made during the height of the Civil War, was boldly and unapologetically Biblical, and supremely Presidential.

I am including it here for your reflection, and if you feel so directed, for you to read on Thanksgiving Day before family and friends.

May God bless you, richly.


President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world.

May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

(signed)

A. Lincoln

October 3, 1863

(Lincoln’s papers, Library of America, 2:520-521)