Thursday, August 25, 2011

Qualifications for the Office of President

The Constitution makes it clear that there are some specific requirements for the office of President, as follows:

• Must be a natural born citizen,

• Must be at least thirty-five years old, and

• Must have been a resident of the United States for fourteen years.

(US Constitution, Article II, Section 1)

It seems that some have now added to those requirements:

• Must “believe in science,” to be defined as believing in the existence of “man-made global warming,” otherwise known as “climate change,” and also must believe in evolution, regardless of biblical truth, common sense, and the evidence.

• Must not believe in God, especially the God of Christianity, regardless of references to God in other founding documents, and regardless of the intent of the framers of the Constitution.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Biblical Function of Government

I determined from the very beginning of this blog that I would stay away from political issues. However, sometimes people call things “political issues” when in reality, they are biblical and moral issues. So often, Christians avoid clearly biblical issues for fear of crossing the mythical line of “separation of church and state.”

So frequently today, we see government at all levels overreaching and doing a myriad of things that government has no business doing, either constitutionally or biblically, while all but ignoring the biblical mandate in this area. It is not my purpose to point out those things. The Bible is very clear relative to the legitimate functions of government. We would all be a great deal better off if governments would follow the biblical mandate.

When God established human government, He gave man the right and responsibility to punish evildoers, up to and including capital punishment. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6, NASB). This point is further reinforced in the New Testament. Speaking of government, Paul says, “…it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:4, NASB). Peter further teaches us that government authorities have been sent “…for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:14, NASB).

A tremendous instruction to believers is that we are to pray for our leaders so that they might have the wisdom to protect the citizens from the dangers of evildoers, both domestic and foreign, and to lead in a manner consistent with the Word of God, to the end that we might have the freedom to live godly lives. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, NASB).

Government needs to first and foremost take care of this responsibility. To neglect this in order to do other things not included in God’s commands is to lead a country in the wrong direction. This is so often the case as government tends to concentrate on overreaching into inappropriate areas at the expense of legitimate functions. Roads, bridges, etc. have their place, but these things become nearly meaningless unless government puts first things first ..."so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

An excellent article, entitled “The Five Functions of Government,” is found here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

When Not to Talk

By My Anonymous Friend

I have a variety of interests as I am sure you do also. One activity I enjoy is picking up new recreational vehicles from the factory on occasion and delivering them to a local RV dealer. This past week I made such a trip … to pick up a beautiful new trailer. As I drove I listened to various talk radio stations as I often do. Doing so led me to my theme for this week.

As I listened I was chagrined to hear information being passed off as fact that I knew to be either greatly exaggerated or else patently false. The host of the talk show never once questioned the veracity of the information he was using. What happens a lot in our world today is that bloggers write about things important to them and media outlets use these blogs as their sources without ever doing the kind of fact checking that good journalism requires. Information is then made public in established print or electronic media and picked up by talk show hosts or the public. It is assumed to be true but may in fact not be so at all. At times all spectrums of the political landscape are guilty of this carelessness. This guilt extends far beyond just political discourse and includes business, family, and church life equally. As Winston Churchill once said, "A lie makes its way half way around the world before truth has put its pants on!"

It is very critical for us to be sure we have facts before we speak about them. We can do serious damage to someone's reputation or cause when we pass along information that may not be accurate. Sometimes even when we have facts it is still good judgment to guard what we say. Scripture warns of this in many references.

1. We should not talk if we do not possess the facts. "He who gives an answer before he hears it is folly and shame to him" (Prov. 18:13).

2. We should not talk if our words would only inflame a situation. "He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding" (Prov. 17:27).

3. We should not talk if our words could damage a friendship or hurt another's reputation. "A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are as a scorching fire" (Prov. 16:27).  "A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends" (Prov. 16:28).  "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof" (Prov. 18:21).

4. We should not talk if doing so might put us into a realm where we do not belong. "Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks evil against his brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it" (James 4:11).

As someone for whom talking was a way of life for many years and still is to a great degree, these admonitions are at times very convicting to me. I wonder how many people I have hurt over the years with careless things I have said. James wrote of the power of the tongue. We have all experienced the positive power when a sincere compliment is given. It lifts our spirits and elevates our sense of well being. But we have also experienced the piercing pain that an unthoughtful comment can deliver. It stings and hurts.

My prayer for myself and for you is that we might only use speech that in the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:29 might give grace to the hearer.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


By My Anonymous Friend

This past week some friends of ours celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. It was a delight to join with family and friends to help celebrate this significant milestone in their lives.

Our friends served for some years as missionaries in Vietnam before being forced to leave in 1975. They shared many stories of their work there and how they survived the Tet offensive in 1968 and the final weeks before the war ended in 1975. Some readers may recall that several missionaries were killed during the war and our friends were involved in recovering the bodies and seeking to honor their lives with a dignified burial.

Such stories provide intrigue and fascinate a listener but in my view there is something infinitely more significant about the life and ministry of our friends. Their work did not end in 1975. For years and continuing into the present, they have continued to work in various ways in this SE Asian country. They have provided a voice for the persecuted church there. They continue to advocate for those who have no platform from which to speak. God continues to provide amazing opportunities to serve. In recent months positive contacts have been established with individuals in government service. Recently a television station there featured an interview with our friend. I could continue.

All this spells one thing!  F-A-I-T-H-F-U-L-N-E-S-S. What a tribute to be able to say about a person that after 50 years of marriage he or she has been faithful in their service to their Lord!  I have a conviction that their work is not yet complete and that perhaps even greater ministry opportunities await them. This we simply entrust to the sovereign will and plan of God.

Scripture says that of a steward it is required that he be faithful. Our friends have been faithful for sure. They have several children who currently live abroad who are continuing in the pattern created by their parents. Thus their work will continue through their children even after their time on this earth is completed. I celebrate and rejoice.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ whom you are serving”  (Colossians 3:23-24).

I share this with you today to encourage you to be faithful and to serve day by day in the spirit of Paul's admonition to the Colossian church. Perhaps like our friends, you are serving in a way or in a place where you receive little recognition from others. Do not let this discourage you.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Institutions or People?

By My Anonymous Friend

Recently we watched the movie, "Patch Adams" again. It is based on the true story of a medical student (played by Robin Williams) who rebelled against the institutional medical traditions and barely was able to graduate even though his grades were at or near the top of his class. Hunter "Patch" Adams'  basic frustration was that medicine did not treat patients as humans. He believed that quality of life should count for something as well. He founded a clinic named  the Gesundheit Institute in W. Virginia that treated people free of charge. In real life, at one point 1000 physicians were on a waiting list to serve in this facility. Its purpose is to revolutionize the medical industry by replacing greed and competition with generosity and compassion. In recent years it has expanded its scope to offer a variety of holistic kind of care as well.

This movie resonates strongly with me. In my view any institution must recognize the  danger of losing sight of its most important work – people!  Over time, tradition and ritual often bring about a change where instead of being a servant of the mission they become the mission itself. The administrative work of running an organization becomes all consuming. Organizations lose sight of serving people.

Another example concerns a life saving station established on the rocky ocean coast in New England. Its clear vision and purpose initially was to rescue persons suffering shipwreck in the turbulent waters in the area. After some years the life saving station became a club. Money was raised to buy more boats, the station center was enlarged and furnished more exquisitely. Every year, fewer and fewer people were actually rescued. However, more and more people were members of the life saving station club!

Canada once had two airlines competing with each other. One was the "institutional" airline. The other was private. Eventually the former bought out the latter. It could simply not compete because the playing field was not level. The "institutional" airline received more government favors and tax advantages. After the two merged I once asked an employee who had worked years for the now defunct airline about the differences between the two. "The answer is easy," he said. "One airline had in its mission statement the concept of serving people. The other saw itself as simply a mover of products!"

Jesus fought this trend during his earthly ministry. His chief antagonists – religious leaders, were much more concerned about rules and regulations than about the real needs of people. When the disciples of Jesus were hungry and ate some grain on a Sabbath, religious leaders were alarmed that a Sabbath regulation had been violated. Jesus pointed out that hunger was a higher priority than proper Sabbath observance. An adulterous woman dragged before Jesus so He could pronounce judgment on her, was given new hope while her accusers disappeared with embarrassment. Lepers, blind people, military leaders, Samaritans, tax collectors – all were friends of Jesus. He found time for them.

I have spent most of my adult life working with or in a bureaucracy or "institution". I was a pastor and a denominational executive. When I look back today I sometimes wonder how much I did that was of real value. How many lives did I truly impact for the better?  Today I honestly believe God has given me the opportunity to directly touch the lives of many more people. People who are hurting for a variety of reasons can approach me because I am a "safe" person to talk to. Often they approach me because they have no confidence in the "institutions" to help them deal with their pain. Some of this hurt has come from self-inflicted wounds or bad judgment. Some of this hurt has come from institutional bureaucracy and indifference. But it does not really matter. Hurt is hurt and pain is pain!  I am extremely thankful that by the grace of God I have been able to come alongside people like this. I wish I could do much more because the needs are enormous.

What are your thoughts here?  Are you spending your time truly touching the lives of people?  Are you mired in organization and details to the point where you simply do not have much time for people?  At the end of your life will you be able to say confidently that your life meaningfully intersected with the lives of others?