Pastor's Corner

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The Elections and Faith

I think this will be my last post about the elections before Tuesday, November 8. At fifty-seven, I have seen a lot of elections since I was old enough to vote. Without a doubt, this is the worst election of all of those years – worst candidates, worst national behavior, and the worst media involvement… ever. Like everyone else, I wish I had the silver bullet to convince folks who to vote for, or at least a good answer as to why you should vote for one candidate over another. But honestly, I don’t think Jesus would vote for any of these people. At this point, I think folks should stop with the pretense that one candidate is more “morally correct” to vote for over another. I wish folks would quit justifying the reasons for their choice behind some religious façade for why they are voting for a particular candidate. Let’s be real, the pretense of religiousness in politics, and among the candidates especially, is obvious and sickening – anything to get votes.

So as we come down to the final few days, what I am thinking about has less to do with the election, and more to do with what faith should be concerned with. It will likely not be the end of the world or the salvation of it if Hillary gets elected, and it will not be the salvation of our nation or the end of the world if Trump is. Both of these candidates are the fruit of the condition of the nation, and its governing body. They are the result of what our nation has become, not the coming force. Nations rise and fall, God alone forever sits upon His throne.

So what about faith? When the elections are over – as a Christ-follower, we are left with the same destiny regardless of who enters the oval office. We are called to faithfully follow Christ in a way that aligns with the biblical narrative and not our personal opinions. We are called to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world around us, even when it is not convenient or enjoyable – and to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, at all costs. It would be unfortunate if our behavior regarding the elections were to interfere with this calling of ours. How you behave today, what you say – all of it can and will affect how well we will be able to fulfill our calling in Christ. I can’t change what some national Christian leaders have said, neither can you. But we, all of us, can be what God would want us to be – lights in a dark world whose darkness is getting darker. 

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Critical of a Saint

It has become popular to attack Mother Teresa these days, particularly since she was made a saint. Many of these critics are following a themed rant against her based upon arguments formulated by an atheist. I personally do not advocate for anyone being made a saint in the Roman church meaning of the term, but this is something bestowed upon her. This is all Romanish baggage I understand, but do not have part in.

I am no Roman Catholic. I grew up Roman Catholic, and this only culturally, but became a Christ-follower as a teenager. As a Protestant, I have important reasons for having chosen this way of following Christ. Nevertheless, if you understand Church history, we cannot ignore the familial ties we have to many good men and women throughout history, who despite the evils of various popes and Roman church leaders, followed Christ faithfully. Even Martin Luther, whom God used to begin the Reformation, was not intending on bringing down the Roman church, only correcting some important aspects of doctrine and practice.

Then there are the critics against Teresa, one critic has even called her a “moral monster.” It is always troubling to me how folks with a bias on an issue, can only see according to their bias, particularly those who would accuse me of this, while harboring one of their own. Mother Teresa began her work decades ago in a country which limited her access and ability to do what she was doing. She and her sisters committed themselves to doing important work, primarily aiding those in need, in a nation who cared nothing for them. She did not try and take on everything, and every form of oppression or critical issue. As a result of these factors, the sisters did not deal with some issues which could have made a greater difference long term. Anyone who has worked in, or is working in some of these countries, knows the complications of doing work there, even when what you are doing is good work. Nevertheless, they made a profound impact where they did serve, and serve they did. Whether Protestants like it or not, Teresa was known as a symbol of a side of Christianity the world needs desperately, compassion for the poor.

People like to tear down heroes, it is human nature to do so. For some sick reason we take pleasure when a leader falls, or we can take one down. In this case, there are a lot of critics criticizing, but not personally doing anything to help the poor – yet they feel free to criticize someone who was trying to do something. No Teresa was not perfect, and yes, she could have done some things differently, which in hind sight could have made a real difference. But to call her a moral monster is ridiculous. If those folks who are doing all of the talking would start doing something to help the poor with their perceived better concepts, I might listen to them. But for now… Teresa was a flawed human being who was doing her best with what she had – and when we criticize this, we look like fools. I can admire the good, and seek for better. Oh God, help me do better.

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It is not going to be the politicians

As we continue to move on in the election season, the level of animosity and anxiety continues to grow. Because we are currently a two-party system for the most part, folks have chosen up sides and are treating each other like the enemy. Both sides can only imagine the worst of the other, and the public display of hatred is growing. As a pastor, I am particularly troubled by those folks who call themselves Christians who are joining in on this ugly behavior, embarrassed and ashamed at times even.

Long after the election is over, we have to live with each other. Long after the election, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will still be extremely rich, while the majority of the rest of us will continue struggling to pay bills, raise our families, and be Americans. Little will have changed for the candidates, except they will have traveled all over the country on someone else’s dime, talking and making promises they can’t keep. We will not be suddenly richer, better looking, and happier after the election.

If you are counting on the politicians to rescue this nation, you are looking in the wrong direction. They are a primary reason for the problems, not a solution. It is the politicians who have created the obscene mess through foolish public policies and party line agendas we see in Washington D.C., and in each of our troubled states. But, ultimately, because we live in what was supposed to be a constitutional democratic republic, it is our own fault for allowing these people to remain in power.

As it was, and as it will be, change will only take place because the nation rises up and does what is necessary. The candidates are not going to come to your house and do homework with your children; that is something you have to do as the parent. You have to demand the schools perform better, and get involved so the teachers have a chance to do better. The plague of “fatherlessness” in America is not going to be solved because of the government, it is going to be solved by a change in culture within each community which demands men behave like men, and take responsibility for themselves and the family they are accountable for. The crime problem is not going to be solved because some politician passes a law, it is going to change when the complex problems of poverty, lack of education, joblessness, and personal integrity are dealt with. This takes whole communities, not some politician.

As a pastor, I know God created us in His image, and although we are a broken image of the Almighty because of sin, we are still capable of doing some good. People demonstrate this every day. So I would not give up on a change for the better. I just would not count on the politicians to be the next savior of the nation – we have a couple of centuries of proof they will likely make things worse. As it was in the beginning of this nation, it is in the hands of the people. As a pastor, I would exhort Christ followers to act like it, and stop behaving badly. I would exhort you to instead engage in your community to make things better – you carry a real answer in Christ. Speak out, pray, get involved, and vote.

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A Shortstop Philosophy on Life

The life of a baseball shortstop exists somewhere on the infield between the second and third basemen. It is a fast-paced world where you seldom are standing in one place for very long. If you are not fielding a ball, you’re covering a base, if you are not covering a base, you are backing someone up on the field, and if you are on the bench waiting to go back on the field, you are cheering your team on.

Our lives as Christ-followers are lived in a similar manner, somewhere between heaven and earth, it is fast-paced and often demanding. Something is always coming our way, and we need to be prepared for whatever that ends up being. If we are not at work, we are at home, if we are not at home, we are at church – and in each place we find ourselves, we should be an active participant. And if we are currently not directly involved in some form of service to the saints, or the world around us, we should be cheering on those who are!

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An Unquenchable Fire

Leviticus 6:12-13  “but the fire which is on the altar must be kept burning on it. It must not be extinguished. So the priest must kindle wood on it morning by morning, and he must arrange the burnt offering on it and offer the fat of the peace offering up in smoke on it. 13 A continual fire must be kept burning on the altar. It must not be extinguished.”

It was here the peace offering was to be brought and sacrificed; the burnt offerings being the greatest of those brought before God. It was through the peace offering, Israel was able to maintain relationship with God, and thereby make it possible for the Lord to safely travel with them at all times. Their sin could prohibit God’s presence, indeed, put them all at risk because of the holiness of God. God, rather than have this risk without an answer, provides the fire.

Of this fire, God demands they keep the fire burning. It was to be an unquenchable fire, for this is of the heart of God toward us. He is always gracious, always ready to receive us, if we but come through the peace offering to Him. Jesus, our Offered One is this for us, and it is Jesus who stands as the unquenchable fire for all who would believe. God stands ready, Jesus burns as the reminder of the gracious love of God toward us all. 

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