The Church is not a Democracy

where living begins

Jesus said, I will build My Church (Matthew 16:18)

The local news headline said it all: “Catholics Rally to Accept Same-Sex Marriage.” A group of Roman Catholics met to demand the Vatican change its view on homosexuality and allow same-sex marriage.

More and more Americans – including those sitting in a pew on Sunday morning – believe that God’s Word is old fashioned. They argue that God needs to catch up with our enlightened views. What we think today must become the Christianity of tomorrow. Christianity is a democracy that must bend (or break) to the will of the progressive majority, not to the will of God.

Sadly, poll after poll shows that Americans are both ignorant of the Bible and don’t care what it says anyway.

But truth is not defined by people. It comes from the God who declares Himself to be truth (John 14:6). The Church of Jesus Christ is not a democracy, it is a Theocracy. It was created by God the Father, is being built and ruled by Jesus Christ, is empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and is governed by the written Word of God. Truth doesn’t come by taking a vote; it came from God to man through the Bible. We cannot change God’s truth; when we do, it ceases to be truth … and becomes a lie.

Protest and petition till the cows come home, but when people who claim to be Christians oppose the clear teaching of the Bible, it is open rebellion against the God who breathed it.

Jesus prayed, Sanctify them by Your truth, Your Word is truth (John 17:17).

Our Responsibility

Our responsibility as followers of Jesus is not to fix this broken world. Never once has God called His people to march for justice, redistribute wealth, end cruelty to animals, solve the world hunger problem, or save the oceans. Not once has He commanded the Church to polish the brass on this sinking ship called Earth.

Instead, He commissioned us to preach the Gospel of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).

He saved you to proclaim His message of reconciliation – not racial reconciliation – but the reconciliation of sinners to a holy God.

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

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The Controversy

shepherds 1The angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10).

The rocky plains around Bethlehem were (and still are) used as grazing land for sheep. Located only a short distance from Jerusalem, Bethlehem was a popular place for raising sheep for the sacrificial slaughter at the Jewish temple.

Shepherding was not a prestigious job in the ancient world. The task was always pawned off on the youngest son (1 Sam 16:10-11) or daughters. Farmers and city dwellers detested shepherds (Gen 46:34), and by the time of the prophets, shepherds were considered fully both second-class and untrustworthy.

Shepherds suffered from cruel stereotypes, and shepherding was even outlawed in Israel except on desert plains. The Jewish Mishnah (commentary on the Law of Moses) refers to shepherds in belittling terms, describes them as “incompetent” and notes that if a shepherd was found hurt or injured, there was no legal or moral responsibility to help him. They were unable to hold public office, forbidden to testify in court, had no civil rights, and were considered worse sinners than tax-collectors and prostitutes.

Yet, strangely, it was to a group of shepherds that the Father chose to announce the Incarnation of His Son.

We are most impressed with the message of someone rich or famous, powerful or successful. They are paraded before crowds at churches and evangelistic events and given time on Christian tv. What fools we are!

When God had chosen His man to be king of Israel, Samuel’s prejudice came out. God had to remind him to be careful in his judgments, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart  (1 Samuel 16:7).  And who did God choose? A young shepherd named David who would later write, The Lord is my Shepherd  (Psalm 23:1).

50 Shades of Gray

50-shades-of-greyWhen the Jewish leaders brought the King of the Jews before the Roman governor, they demanded He be given the death penalty. Jesus was guilty in the minds of the Jewish leaders of declaring Himself to be God, but what would Pontius Pilate decide?

The Gospel accounts say that Jesus refused to defend Himself against His accusers. This left the Roman governor confused about Jesus and what to do next since he found no fault in Him at all (John 18:38). But the protesting crowd outside the courthouse was moving from anger to violence.

When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that an uproar was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” (Matthew 27:24). Stirred by fear of the crowds (John 19:8), Pilate compromised truth with what worked for him politically and Jesus was led away to be crucified.

I’m been amazed at how many people calling themselves Christians are willing to act like Pilate. They will compromise truth for fifty shades of gray. They will accept one shade of evil while condemning another shade of the same evil.

As people of faith in Jesus Christ, we are to walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), proving what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret (Ephesians 5:8-12).

Whether in your workplace or at the ballot box, in your finances or in the privacy of your own bedroom, let us shine the light of Christ rather than throw shade in an already compromised world.

Election 2016 or 1517?

votingAlmost 500 years ago, a Roman Catholic priest posted a community notice on the door of his church. He listed a series of objections to what was going on around him. Religious leaders traded spiritual truth for political influence. The church was mired in moral decay. Politics had become the game of the rich and connected. Truth was twisted to justify their corrupt “man” as God’s saving answer. Money was the driving purpose among his fellow churchmen, so that even Heaven was a commodity to be bought and sold.

The young priest became public enemy #1. Both religious and civil authorities banded together to silence the man. Governments stifled his freedom of speech; religionists claimed a prophetic imprimatur on their own power. Long-time friends abandoned and even betrayed him. He was bullied and threatened to conform.

He was subjected to the courts of public opinion, religious intolerance, and civil jurisprudence. He was told to either support their chosen leader and his platform or suffer.

He refused to submit. Instead he appealed to a pure conscience informed by the Word of God. He would not cast his vote for evil. He would not bend to pressure but bow only before the mind of God revealed in the Scriptures.

Our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you (2 Corinthians 1:12).

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther’s one-man protest became the Protestant Reformation.

 

Opposing Evil – not Voting for It

BonhoefferIn 1933 and the rise of the German Chancellor Adolph Hitler, the German Evangelical Church was consumed by the Nazi government. Church leaders surrendered their authority over spiritual affairs and accepted the demands of Nazi leaders. No longer was the Church of Jesus Christ an independent voice for morality and good, but was coerced into silence and control by the federal government. Most German Christians either voted for Hitler as the lesser of two evils or sat idly by and allowed the government to act without opposition. While the handicapped and Jews were being gassed, German pulpits were silent except in their praise of Hitler. German Christians buried their heads in the sand.

A young pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer refused to back down in his opposition to Hitler and the government. By radio, Bonhoeffer warned the German people that they were making Hitler into a god and that the church had become a cult of idolatry used by Nazi politicians. Just then the radio transmission was cut. Two months later Bonhoeffer declared that the church had a responsibility not only to help those crushed by the government, “but to fall into the spokes of the wheel itself.

A small cadre of pastors began what was called the Confessing Church, a group opposed to Hitler, his socialism, and stood in support of the Jews. These pastors insisted that Christ Jesus and the Bible alone could dictate the conscience of a Christian and the role of the church in society. Secular government nor any political leader ruled over Christ’s Church.

Refusing to compromise the Gospel, Bonhoeffer and a few others openly resisted the government. Soon churches, schools, and charities that refused to cooperate with the government were closed by force. Pastors were banned by court order from preaching in public. Bonhoeffer secretly traveled Germany, teaching the Bible, preaching against Hitler and socialism, and advocated on behalf of the Jewish people. He also participated in several failed attempts to assassinate Hitler.

Pastor Bonhoeffer was eventually captured, imprisoned, tried and convicted of crimes against the state. On Sunday, April 8, 1945, from inside a concentration camp, he preached his last sermon, from Isaiah 53:5, by His stripes we are healed. Upon finishing, he was taken and hanged, only days before Allied Forces liberated the concentration camp.

The blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness.  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Our Last Hope

the-last-hopeMy hope is in the Lord – not in any political party nor in any politician. Jesus is the Saviour. He is the only hope in this world.

No politician is our “last hope.” If our hope is any person, party, or political movement to “save” our country, our dream, our religion or way of life, we are idolaters and must repent.

No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy. To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield (Psalm 33:16-20).

Let Me Be Clear

Let Me Be ClearSomeone put a rock through your new television. For fifteen minutes you listen to your two sons explain who did it and how it happened. Then the oldest boy says, “Okay, let me tell you the truth …”.

As a parent you now know two things: (1) You’ve just listened to a string of lies; and (2) Your child knows you didn’t believe the first story, so he’s cooking up a better one.

 

Once upon a time, the unsaved world knew what Christians believed and exactly where they stood on the issues. Pastors were known for speaking the truth without a hint of shadow. No longer in the age of purposeful ambiguity.

God never minces His words. Let us do no less when delivering God’s Word. The presentation of truth must be accurate, straightforward, and simple enough for a child to comprehend.

On the Day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter, without fear of being offensive, unashamedly spoke the truth clearly and without reservation:  “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36-37).

Dr H Allan Hamilton, Laborer in the Word and Doctrine

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Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17).

Dr H Allan Hamilton was my pastor.

He was born in small Colorado town in 1921. After Bible college in Los Angeles, at the age of 20, he took his first pastorate in a rural California town with all of five buildings. In that migrant town, the “boy preacher” and his wife learned to pray and trust in God’s daily provision. In time they moved to Colorado and then Kansas and Missouri.

The 1950s were a busy decade. The couple visited a pastor’s conference in Nebraska, where afterward his wife declared, “This is one place I NEVER want to come to.” A few weeks later the family moved to Nebraska.

In 1954 Dr Hamilton, his wife, and two young daughters hit the road in a two-wheel trailer starting churches throughout the American midwest. They were missionaries in the Philippines until called to pastor in Portland, Oregon in from 1969 to 1990.

Dr Hamilton was tall, slender, and had a thick shock of neatly groomed white hair. I called him “The Admiral.” Each Sunday morning he’d step into the pulpit and his congregation, which was the largest in the state of Oregon, were prepared to hear the Bible preached and Christ Jesus exalted. There was never a hint of fanaticism or trendy topical sermons, but the Word of God taught in a carefully prepared and presented verse-by-verse manner.

He wasn’t a musician or singer, a carpenter or caretaker. His call and gifting was in teaching the Scriptures and mentoring young men in the meaning of being a man of God. Dr Hamilton exemplified the words of Paul to a young pastor named Timothy: Give your whole attention to reading the Scriptures, to preaching, and to teaching doctrine (1 Timothy 4:13). The Word of God was Dr Hamilton’s whole attention.

I last saw him when we conducted a funeral together in the early days of 2012. He’d suffered a stroke. His hands trembled, his voice was feeble, but his mind sharp as ever. When he stepped into the pulpit that morning, Dr Hamilton’s voice immediately strengthened as the Holy Spirit’s power filled each word and the clear, unadulterated Gospel of Jesus was proclaimed. Once a preacher, always a preacher.

Dr Hamilton went to be with Jesus on February 9, 2016.