Politics And Religion:
Choosing When To Carry Your Cross
Many times over you have heard banter that politics has no place in the pulpit, the church, or religion in general.
Such a sentiment may sound good at dinner parties or when trying to win friends, but nothing could be further from what one sees should a person actually open the Scriptures.
Basically every single Old Testament prophet had to stand toe to toe with the current king ruling the land and confront him with social injustices, morality run amuck, and blatant disregard for God's principles relating to humanity and governance.
Try telling Dietrich Bonhoffer that politics has no place in the pulpit. You'd first have to exhume his body and see it come back to life, because he died at the hand of Hitler for opposing his regime.
Try telling that to Youcef Nadarkhani, an evangelical pastor who, as you read this, is sitting in some Iranian dungeon right now for refusing to back down against Islam and all it stands to do to eradicate anything it opposes.
In my country, at this very moment, I see political debate all around me. Ironically, I see the vast majority of those in debate claiming the name of Jesus Christ as their Lord.
Not long ago I went to see a friend of mine at his home. He's a pastor. He had an Obama sign in his yard. Funny thing is ... I know this guy well. I love him with all my heart and he loves me. There's not one thing about Obama that my pastor friend has in common with our current president other than they both share the same skin color. My pastor friend cannot stand for abortion; he cannot tolerate same sex marriage; he cannot and will not agree with socialism. Yet he votes along the party line no matter what. It doesn't line up with what he preaches personally, but it does line up with what he feels ethnically.
If you profess to be a follower of Christ, there's something you must grasp. There's something you must let permeate your soul like water to a sponge. You must understand that if you follow Jesus of the cross, then you are bound to His rule over your life. In doing so, you are not allowed the privilege of only taking up your cross when it works out best for your wallet, your social agenda, or your sexual preferences.
If you follow Jesus, then Jesus leads. Period. No negotiations. It's in following Him that you realize you cannot support any nation, any government, or any candidate that openly and overtly works against everything the Scriptures stand for and holds dear. It doesn't matter what color, or what party, that leader comes from at all. Party and color have nothing to do with it. Being faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and His mandates for life is what I will be judged for, and if that doesn't win me favor with my party, then so be it. If that causes some to call me radical, then so be it. If that causes some to unsubscribe from my writing because it's overtly political on rare occasion, then so be it ... for I am going to be judged by a Holy God, not pop culture. Pop culture doesn't even know my name, but my God, by His own admission, knows every single hair on my head. You can bet He is paying attention to my every move. If I carry His name, then carry it I must, no matter the cost.
Read the last book of the Bible, my brother, and you see a day coming. A day like Bonhoffer faced. You see a day that Youcef Nadarkhani stares into at this very hour. Jesus was not speaking metaphorically when He said, "But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake." (Luke 21:12)
If you are a follower of Christ, you have an obligation to be His representative everywhere, all the time. Everywhere. And everywhere touches everything. Including, among what should be the least of these, something as simple as your ballot.
Tell The Truth.
Trust God With The Outcome.
by Jason Cruise
Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created Him ... Colossians 3:9-10
I knew a guy, actually worked with him for a few years, who had a tendency to lie at times. He wasn't a habitual liar, but if on occasion a situation turned into something that might look bad on him, if he had to, he'd twist that situation in a direction that took the spotlight off of him.
In all sincerity, he wasn't a bad person; in fact, I liked him. He loved God, loved his family, and was fun to be around. I don't believe that my friend got up every morning intending to lie that day. However, when pressured strongly enough, he'd panic, and in that panic, he'd say just about anything to disarm the stress. If that meant lying, then he'd do it, and face the consequences later if anyone ever found about it. It was a short-term gain, but a long-term loss.
When you lie, ultimately you are revealing to those that watch your life closely that you do not trust God with the outcome. My friend simply could not help but try and manipulate the situation toward his favor, and if it meant burning a friend, he'd do it.
In the end, it cost him relationships. His life, in fact, by his own admission, was built entirely upon fear that he'd fail. Ironically, lying only brought him more failure. It was a self-imposed prison.
Spurgeon once said, "Avoid cowardice, for it makes men liars."
When you are backed into a corner, tell the truth. No matter what. God is certainly bigger than your corner.
Ground Zero For Self-inflicted Pain
You can count on the devil for a lot of distortion, and one such area is an amazing ability to twist the Scriptures to confuse the mind. It seems everywhere I go, I hear people, and many of them followers of Christ, saying "Well it's not my place to judge."
Friend, nothing could be further from the truth. The Scriptures do give you the right to judge righteousness from unrighteousness. Jesus told us plainly that "you'll know a tree by its fruit."
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. [Matthew 7]
Where we go wrong is blatant ignorance between being judgmental and wise judgment. The Scriptures do not give us the right to be judgmental; and, being judgmental comes when you make character assessments about a person without knowing the situation or the backstory.
The older I get the more I realize that I must be slow, in fact, very slow, to form an opinion about a person or a situation until I know the facts. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm not given the right to make righteous assessments. Even still, watch your assumptions, for they can lead you to a whopping lot of crow eating.
by Jason Cruise
Imagine you're in church. The sermon is over. The pastor calls for the ushers to come forward and take up the offering. Finally, the bucket comes to your row. You reach in your pocket and pull out a paperclip. You place it in there along with a few pork rinds, and after a little more searching, you throw in a used ink pen you got from the office that was almost out of ink anyway.
Two common denominators are at play here. One is that you gave an offering that was worth absolutely nothing to you because it cost you nothing to give it. Second, and most striking, is that the offering is absurdly out of place. It just doesn't fit.
"... do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." [Romans 6:13]
The Scriptures speak of the same irregularity in the life of a follower of Christ who willingly gives an offering of themselves, literally, to sin. When a person is without Christ, living life under the power of their own authority, then that's exactly what's driving their every move. Self-gratification. Self-absorption. It doesn't matter the "act" of sin that's being performed, whether it's sex outside of marriage or greed from relentlessly pursuing a prize for which they have no need to possess; the "act" is irrelevant. A person demanding their own freedom from God's power in their life will get just that ... a life without God's power and the imminent danger that comes with it.
It's completely different with a Jesus follower.
At least it should be.
When a believer in Christ willingly sins, they violate the basic nature of what it means to be completely renewed and transformed by the power of His resurrection. As a blessed American, you'd never dream of offering something as inconsequential as a pork rind to Holy God as your act of worship. It's not worthy of Him. It bears absolutely no reflection of what He has done on your behalf to secure your eternal salvation. It shows complete disregard for the power He has given you to navigate life in the fullness of the Spirit.
When Paul speaks of no longer offering yourself to sin, he's speaking of the simple fact that you are not obligated to obey an unredeemed nature any longer. So why do it?
No, in fact, don't do it. Don't do it at all. Don't give an offering of yourself to sin. Christ purchased your life. Christ ransomed you from the dead. Therefore, never, ever offer the devil property for which he has no owner's deed or title.
This Son of Mine
by Jason Cruise
I cannot help but think of what could have possibly been running through his mind as the dust kicked up with each step. No doubt that dry dirt road was soaked with boyhood memories of rock throwing, playing army, and building forts. Hundreds of times he'd ran down that road after hearing his mama calling him in for supper. This day, as he walked that same road, he knew every rut, every bend, every tree lining the ditches, but there was no mama calling him home. No father's voice filling the air. No sound of anyone was heard, because nobody was expecting him. It had been too long. Perhaps they had stopped looking. Perhaps.
The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 tells us that his dad saw him from a distance. I wonder what ran though the mind of this heartbroken father, for I have two sons, and I cannot imagine the sight of seeing my son, one who's heart left the family, now walking back down the same road that took him toward his shame.
I have an idea, though. I have some small idea as to what the father was thinking, for he revealed his heart toward the boy when he said, "This son of mine was dead and has come to life again."
This son of mine. You see, friend, it was personal to the dad. The day he walked out he didn't know it, but the boy took his father's heart with him. When a father loses a son, it's personal. The loss is one that only the deepest love can know. The pain is a type of pain only a father can feel.
We tend to forget just how personal it is to the Father when any of His created ones leaves home for a shameful land. We call them heathen, and they do act it out very well. We call them lost because they have chosen not to be found. We say such things because we tend to forget that there was a time when we, too, were on the other side of the cross. There was a time when we walked up the road ourselves chasing the grand illusion.
Never, ever forget how the Father's heart aches when any of His treasures, ones that have been lost, remain dead in a land never intended for them. When one of His most prized possessions takes up residence in a barren land, it's personal, and He'll go to extreme measures to get them back.
"For God so loved the world ..."
Jason Cruise is the founder of Mission. Mission was created to "vindicate the fatherless" in a country known as Moldova. To learn more go to www.themissionvision.net Jason is a well known speaker traveling across the country sharing his love for Christ at wildgame dinners and conferences. Jason has created many valuable resources for the outdoorsmen to take them deeper into their walk with their Creator. These items include DVD's, Bibles, and Bible studies.