Worthwhile – December 14, 2018

Tomorrow my oldest child turns nine. Next week I turn forty-one. Clearly I have much to learn of both being a parent and being an adult. So take everything I say with a grain of salt, or sugar, whichever is your preference. Or maybe you should kill your preferences… 

This week’s worthwhile is short because I found myself scheduling appointments for vehicle maintenance, replacing a windshield, and shopping at thrift stores for new soccer cleats for Junior. 


All abuzz in the Twittersphere was Andrew Sullivan’s column on America’s New Religions. He takes swipes at yoga, progress, and Trump. Still, it is important to think through the ways idolatry has become religion. Even those that claim faith in Christ but means really just right-leaning politics etc. Sullivan uses more words than necessary but brings up some important points for all sides to consider. And we can all pray for a resurgence of vital Christianity in our day. 


Speaking of vital Christianity, Sunday in China the government began to persecute and crack down on members of Early Rain Covenant Church, an unregulated “house church.” One of the pastors of the church encouraged members to keep meeting no matter how many staff or elders were imprisoned. Of his own situation Wang Yi said:

“Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ.  When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them. 

“Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.”

https://christiandailyreporter.com/faithful-disobedience.html

Read Yi’s letter here and please be praying for the church in China. 

Honor God in the Voting Booth(?) (Psalm 51:17)

My friend “Matt Pilgrim” is at it again with a poignant poem for today.

 

The sacrifice of praise seems small

Though nothing else is needed.

Another simple call of God’s

Our hearts have not yet heeded.

 

One of the old hymnals declares

“Nothing in my hand I bring”

But some mix of pride and fear in us

Insists on adding something.

 

In many forms throughout the years

We’ve brought our sacrifices.

Sometimes blood, sometimes good works,

All just thinly veiled vices.

 

These days we leave our votes at the altar

“Look, God, I’ve stood for truth!”

How quaint to think we’ll build Christ’s kingdom

From the voting booth.

 

The sacrifices of God, my friend,

Aren’t elephants or mules

It’s broken and contrite hearts we bring

Carrying crosses carved for fools.

 

Or maybe we’ve been blinded by pride

Unaware of the contrast

Between the earthly kingdoms we build

And the one in which first shall be last.

 

Oddly, our King thought better of us

Than to insist we win elections.

He left us with the much harder task

Of making disciples of all nations.

Life Defining & Life Demanding Faith

To own and expose the fullness of Christ in all of life. This is what I desire to be about. Seeing how the gospel of Jesus impacts every corner of our existence and embracing it, following it to the source for his glory and our good.

Of course, that wasn’t always my purpose. There was a time I wanted to change the world with my politics, by convincing people of policy and programs as the resolution to all that ails us. I even have one political party’s logo tattooed on my body which has become a memorial to my idolatry, my god of politics.

Thankfully in his providence, God had a different purpose for me. His kindness and the good news of forgiveness and adoption in Christ far outweigh any inkling of engaging again in that realm beyond having opinions and being a participating citizen.

It is with keen interest that I pay attention then when political leaders choose their faith over the defined success of leading and winning. One such character in Britain has done just that today. Tim Farron has been the leader of the Liberal Democrats and is stepping down in what beautifully seems to be an act of life defining and demanding faith in Christ. May we all, that claim Christ, be found as faithful.

Be encouraged by Farron’s statement:

This last two years have seen the Liberal Democrats recover since the devastation of the 2015 election.

That recovery was never inevitable but we have seen the doubling of our party membership, growth in council elections, our first parliamentary by-election win for more than a decade, and most recently our growth at the 2017 general election.

Most importantly the Liberal Democrats have established ourselves with a significant and distinctive role – passionate about Europe, free trade, strong well-funded public services underpinned by a growing market economy.

No one else occupies that space. Against all the odds, the Liberal Democrats matter again.

We can be proud of the progress we have made together, although there is much more we need to do.

From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I’ve tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again – asked about matters to do with my faith. I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.

Journalists have every right to ask what they see fit. The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.

A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.

To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.

I’m a liberal to my fingertips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.

There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it – it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.

Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.

In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

That’s why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I intend to serve until the parliamentary recess begins next month, at which point there will be a leadership election according to the party’s rules.

This is a historic time in British politics. What happens in the next months and years will shape our country for generations.

My successor will inherit a party that is needed now more than ever before. Our future as an open, tolerant and united country is at stake.

The cause of British liberalism has never been needed more. People who will fight for a Britain that is confident, generous and compassionate are needed more than ever before.

That is the challenge our party and my successor faces and the opportunity I am certain that they will rise to.

I want to say one more thing: I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party.

Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour.

In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something “so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all”.

HT: Andrew Wilson

The Pastor and Politics

If you are a pastor – stay out of politics. This is a word I need to hear constantly, not quite as often as I need to hear the gospel but close!

You see I lived the life of politics for a long time. I made a great salary because of politics and there were moments when I felt like political movements could make a difference. But the gospel is more vital and fulfilling than politics any day. I grant that we need responsible politicians and even more responsible press to keep an eye on them, but for those in ministry politics should be treated like infidelity.

This is not to say that pastors can’t have political convictions – I know I at times twitch with political angst, but when you share that from the pulpit you are robbing your people of the gospel and distracting them from mission.

Justin Taylor has highlighted an exchange between Billy Graham and another fundamentalist leader on avoiding politics. Billy didn’t take the advice and today regrets is, perhaps we can head the advice a little better…

I know that the temptation to get into the political fray will remain and at times we might join the pointless conversation but let’s purpose to keep the main thing the main thing.