Monday, October 29, 2012

Christ and the Upcoming Election

Psalm 146:3–5 (NKJV)
3 Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. 4 His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish. 5 Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God,

Recently my friend and fellow pastor Brian Nolder wrote a piece on the intersection of Christianity and the upcoming election. This morning I’d like to read sections of it for us in light of Psalm 146 that we’ve just read. He writes:

There is a lot of “doomsday” talk in this election.  “If candidate X is elected, this awful thing will happen.”  “If candidate Y is elected, America will not survive.”  And we frequently hear what we seem to hear every four years: “This election is the most important election of (my/our/your) lifetime!”

Now, I am not saying that the upcoming election is unimportant, insignificant, or inconsequential.  I’m not saying that Christians should retreat from politics or the public square.  Indeed, I think we should be far more active than we have been.

But for now, let us engage in a little thought experiment: what if all the doomsday predictions come true?  What if candidate X is elected (insert the name of your choice), and “America as we know it” ends?

Christian, remember that Jesus made a promise: “on this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18)  Read it again: “I will build my Church.”  Jesus was keeping that promise long before July 4th, 1776.  He is still keeping that promise today.  He will still be keeping that promise, even if there is no longer a spot on the map that says, “the United States of America.”

Will I be “happy” if America does not survive?  Not necessarily.  I consider myself patriotic; I count myself very blessed to have been born and raised in this country.  But I must always remember, as a Christian, that the kingdom of God is much bigger than America–indeed, that most Christians in the world today have dark skin, not light; most do not necessarily speak English–and that the kingdom of God does not, in the final analysis, depend on America.

If we take a long-range perspective, we realize that nations come and go–as do kingdoms and empires.  But while kingdoms come and go, and so do their kings, Jesus will still be building his Church.

Another reality check: go to sometime and read about what Christian believers face in places like Saudi Arabia (a so-called “ally” of the US), North Korea, China, and even a seemingly “friendly” nation like India.  Do we think that these Christians, who are suffering, in prison, and even dying for the name of Christ, really care who will be the occupant in the White House next January?  What matters to them is that Jesus occupies the throne of heaven at God’s right hand.

I close with a portion of Psalm 146, 3000 year old words that remind us where our ultimate trust and confidence always needs to be:
Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God,

So reminded this morning that our great King Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God, let us kneel and confess that we have often put our trust in other kings.

Our Father,

We have put our trust in princes as a people. We have turned to government as the solution to our problems rather than turning to Christ. And so we have become subject to inreasing levels of intrusive government. We have thrown off self-restraint and so have brought upon ourselves shackles. Forgive us our sin – teach us to trust in you, to labor for your kingdom, and to look to the future in faith knowing that our Lord Jesus has conquered and will yet conquer again. All praise and thanks to you O Lord, Amen.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Ecclesiastes 7:13–14 (NKJV)
13 Consider the work of God; For who can make straight what He has made crooked? 14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.

For the last couple weeks we have meditated on the nature of time and the way in which we as Christians are called to be a people anchored in the past and expectant of the future. We are a people whose history stretches all the way back to Adam, centers in the Second Adam Christ, and will culminate when that same Lord Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. We look back and we look forward.

The wisdom of looking back and looking forward at one and the same time is a discipline that we must cultivate. The folly of constantly looking back is that we imagine the past holds all the solutions to our present problems. If only we still wore prairie dresses and could go out and live the doors unlocked. We become ensnared by sentimentality. But Solomon warns us, “Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.” A perusal of history reveals that many of the frustrations and struggles which we face in our own day have been faced many times before by our fathers. They were not ideal days – they were days of successes and failures, days from which we can learn but days to which we are not called by God to return. He has placed us where we are so that we might labor for the future.

The folly of constantly looking forward is that we naively expect that things will just work out. Of course the future will be better than the past – aren’t we Americans, isn’t this the land of opportunity, won’t the peace we enjoy now remain indefinitely? Well a quick glance at the history of humanity would reveal the absurdity of those questions. God rules in human history and allots times of prosperity and adversity in accordance with his will. He exalts one and brings another down. He kills and He makes alive. He prospers and He curses. He is the Lord; He does all these things.

What then is our calling at this point in our history? Listen to Solomon: In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him. Currently, we are in a time of prosperity – so what is Solomon’s word? Rejoice! Be joyful and thankful, praising God for His mercy. Does this mean that the future will go on indefinitely this way? No – for He is the Sovereign Lord and orders all things in accordance with his will. So what are we to do? Worship Him, honor Him, seek refuge in Him and know that He does all things well and shall protect His people in both prosperity and adversity. He wants to keep us humble.

So let us this morning humble ourselves in the sight of God and confess that we are often ignorant of the past and naïve in our expectations for the future. Let us entrust ourselves to Him and pray that come prosperity or adversity we would honor His Name. Let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord.

Our Father,

We have forgotten that you are the Sovereign Lord and that both prosperity and adversity come from your hand. In times of prosperity we praise our own labor and become puffed up and forget you. In times of adversity we blame you and grumble at your providences ignoring our own sins and your many mercies toward us. Forgive us our pride and folly. Grant us grace to serve you in times of prosperity and adversity – to rejoice in the Lord always, knowing that in Christ you are for us. All praise and thanks to you O Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Anticipate the Future

1 Corinthians 15:20–26 (NKJV)
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

Last week we remarked that as Christians we are called to be a people anchored and rooted in the past. Today we learn that we are not only to be anchored in the past, we are to anticipate the future. Christianity does not proclaim that what we see now is all that ever shall be. Rather, we are called in faith to look to the future, the day when Christ shall return in glory and triumph over the last of His enemies – death. And when He triumphs over death this shall be glorious news for us – for we shall rise from the dead. Even as Christ rose from the grave bodily ever to live and reign as King, so we shall rise from the dead to rule beside Him, vice-regents over all creation. Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead.

It is Jesus Himself who has taught us to live – not only anchored in the past but eager for the future. After all, for the joy set before Him He endured the cross despising the shame. Jesus lived, sacrificed, bled, and died in hope. He died anticipating God’s faithfulness to Him and that the grave would not be victorious over Him. And He held out this same promise to us – now verified by his own resurrection. Jesus declared, “…the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear [the Son of Man’s] voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn 5:28-29).

So what does the hope of the resurrection mean for us? It means that no matter the trials we endure now, no matter the suffering and hardship that we may be called to endure as Christ’s disciples or as humans living in a fallen world, we live in hope. These sufferings, as Paul explains in Romans 8, “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption in to the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope…” (8:18-24a). In which hope? In hope of the resurrection.

So we can count it all joy, my brethren, when we encounter various trials; we can rejoice to the extent that we share Christ’s sufferings; for we know that if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. Praise God for the hope of the resurrection.

But often we fail to live in hope, fail to live in anticipation of the future, in anticipation of the resurrection. Instead we focus on the suffering in the here and now. We forget the goal. So let us kneel and confess our need for His grace. We’ll have a time of silent confession following which I’ll pray on behalf of the congregation.

Our Father,

Not only do we forget the past, we also forget the future that you have promised. We get overwhelmed by the pressures of life, stunned by the sufferings we face. And so we doubt your goodness, we doubt your faithfulness, we doubt your Word. Forgive us, O Lord, for our sin is ever before us. We know that we are weak. But we praise you that you are strong! And that you have given us the firstruits of the Spirit. We pray that by Your Spirit you would continue to work within us and empower us to live in hope. Empower us both to remember the past and to ancitipate the future – through Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Ecclesiastes 12:1 (NKJV)
1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”:

We Christians are called to be a people anchored and rooted in the past. We are not to be consumed by the present, by the worries of today, the fears or luxuries before us, but are to call to mind the promises that God has made to our fathers and the deeds and wonderful works that He has done. We are to be saturated with a sense of history, of tradition. After all the book in which God has chosen to reveal Himself is a book stuffed with history, with stories of men, women, and children who feared and served God.

So listen to the words of the book, the commands to remember:

Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place.” (Ex 13:3)

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)

And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm…” (Deut 5:15)

And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness…” (Deut 8:2)

“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth….” (Deut 8:18)

Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness…” (Deut 9:7a)

Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam on the way when you came out of Egypt!” (Deut 24:9)

Remember Lot’s wife.” (Luke 17:32)

Remember, remember, remember! We are to be a people of remembrance. For remember (!) that when our Lord Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he commanded us, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Our worship and our lives need to reflect this sense of grounding in the past. As James Smith writes in his book Desiring the Kingdom, “there is a deep sense in which the church is a people called to resist the presentism embedded in the tyranny of the contemporary. We are called to be a people of memory, who are shaped by a tradition that is millennia older than the last Billboard chart.”

But often we forget. Like our fathers we wander astray; we forget God’s goodness. We forget God’s promises. We forget the ways in which He has delivered in the past and so we are incapable of trusting him in the present.

Thus the children of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side;” (Judges 8:34)

They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy,” (Psalm 78:42)

… you have forgotten the God of your salvation, And have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold…” (Isaiah 17:10)

And this is where we are as a nation. We have forgotten God, failed to remember the wonders that God has wrought in the earth. We are consumed with the present; overwhelmed with the hip; distracted by the contemporary. And what of you? Have you been captured by the spirit of the age or are you remembering God? Let us kneel and confess that we have often forgotten God.