Archive for June, 2009

Time is Running Out!

This week the Associated Press issued another in a series of urgent bulletins. The basic message: Time is running out! Commerce Secretary Gary Locke made a pressing appeal for Americans to respond before it is too late. What could possibly be so important to warrant such a barrage of warnings from the federal government? People who have not yet made the transition to digital TV face a Friday deadline to upgrade – or be faced with the terrifying prospect of blank TV screens.

Night and day for eighteen months, the words have slowly scrolled across our screens. When broadcast television converts to digital, analog receivers will no longer be able to pick up a signal. It appears the government is concerned about the uproar that might occur when people suddenly realize they cannot watch tonight’s episode of CSI or “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Can you imagine the chaos that would follow the complete and instantaneous removal of our television signal? What if it included satellites, cable and broadcast TV? What would America do? Sure, television is a tool that can connect us to noteworthy events in the world around us. However, more often than not, it is simply the vehicle that brings various forms of entertainment into our homes. Sometimes harmless, usually mindless, and often downright offensive.

When I read the latest warnings, I began to wonder. What if believers treated the reality of the Lord’s return with the same urgency that the federal government treated this event? The Lord Himself reminds us that “as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37). He describes people who were eating, drinking, and celebrating as if they had no concerns at all – until Noah entered the ark. Those same people who ignored the warning were swept away in the great global flood. He then offers the sobering reminder that “so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:39).

We have a clear message: Jesus is coming again! We have an urgent message: His coming is imminent! We have an alarming message: He will come without further notice! We have a sobering message: We must be prepared now to meet Him! Perhaps we should put out an urgent bulletin to the people that surround us each day. God has promised the return of His Son. Today is the day to prepare.

President or Preacher

President Obama spoke to the Muslim world this week at Cairo University. After listening to the spin from both sides about his “New Beginning” speech, I read the complete text. All 5,802 words of “audacious hope.” He dealt with a variety of important issues including Israel, nuclear weapons, American troops in Afghanistan, the Palestinian conflict, and women’s rights.

However, what struck me was the way he chose to conclude this speech; by quoting from the Koran, the Talmud, and the Holy Bible. His final remark was, in fact, a declaration of God’s vision for the world. Seemingly assuming the role of prophet, the President of the United States was proclaiming, “thus saith the Lord.”

My first thought concerned which god he had in mind. Like it or not, there is a distinct and infinite difference between Allah of the Koran and Jehovah of the Bible (both Old and New Testaments). The former is the manufactured product of man and his religion. The latter is the one true God who created everything that we know and to whom each of us will give account. It is likely that President Obama holds the popular, but erroneous, belief that all concepts of a higher being point to the same entity. “Every religion leads to the same paradise as long as one truly believes.” I offer the following advice to anyone who insists on espousing this view. Put your Bible back on the shelf, because you will not find anything resembling that in its pages.

A second thought immediately followed. A politician elected in an increasingly secular American society was standing before the world pontificating on religious matters. What about the supposed separation between one’s political and religious beliefs? Our own government has wielded that concept as a sword against pastors and churches at every possible opportunity.

In 1954, the United States Congress approved Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson’s amendment that restricted churches and charitable organizations from political activity. Through the past five decades, Congress has repeatedly added restrictive language that effectively tells churches and ministers to keep their noses out of the political realm. “Steer clear altogether or we’ll take away your right to tax exemption,” they threaten.

Perhaps a few crucial reminders are necessary. First, the government did not give me a single right or liberty that I have. The founding fathers never believed that government did or could. God alone gave us our freedoms, and the government (federal or other) was created simply to protect them.

Furthermore, a cursory historical review of our nation will reveal ministers who were highly involved in the framing of our nation’s laws and governments. In our earliest years, pastors throughout the colonies would stand before their congregations and deliver “election sermons.” They would remind their communities about God’s principles for civil government. From the Word of God, they would charge both elected officials and citizenry with the duties of serving and living in a Christian nation. The honest student of American history will also discover political leaders who were deeply religious and unafraid to state that it influenced their personal, professional, and political lives.

As this history is being rewritten in today’s textbooks, we are led to believe in some inviolable partition that keeps the realms of religion and politics from even brushing into one another. The first time an elected official makes a comment that reveals how his faith in Christ affects his decisions the cries are loud and strong. “Keep that private. There is no place for that in this arena.” However, the same politicos who threaten religious leaders and organizations to mind their own business will gladly invoke the name of God if it will win them an election or boost their approval rating. Ultimately, the question is whether our government truly wants this inviolate separation of church and state – or only when it serves their cause. You cannot have it both ways.

Now the most powerful politician in our nation is waxing religious before the whole world. Unfortunately, his great mistake was a common one; trying to equate any other book with the Bible. He tried to declare the will of God without relying solely on the inspired Word of God.

Obama’s purported fields of expertise are government, the law, and the economy. Perhaps he would be best served by restricting his comments to those areas. There is an old response uttered when someone offers unsolicited advice. “I don’t come to your workplace and tell you how to do your job.” Part of me would like to tell our president, “Leave the preaching to us.” The other part longs for a president who would stand firmly on God’s Word alone and be unashamed to state that it guides his decisions. Even greater would be the leader who gives clear evidence supporting that claim.

I do not profess to have all the answers, but I know the only One who does.