Sunday, November 13, 2016

The 2016 Election and the Mission of the Church

A Message to my Church About the Election (This is the text of a sermon I preached to my congregation on 11/13/2016)

This political season has been one of the most emotionally charged in my lifetime. Today many feel elated because their candidate won, others feel confused, while others are angry and upset. Both candidates had serious flaws and voters had to weigh their options, and cast their votes. Some enthusiastically voted for president-elect Trump; others decided he was the lesser of two evils. Some decided to vote third party and others, of course, voted for Secretary Clinton. All of these people are represented in this room this morning. Emotions are still running high as the protests are in the streets and friends and family members feel the tension as we all deal with deeply held opinions and feelings.

The 2016 presidential campaign was historic. Not since Dwight Eisenhower has a political outsider become the president of the United States. For this, Donald Trump deserves our congratulations. He also deserves our overall support and our prayers. I also have to mention that President Elect Donald Trump, Secretary Clinton, and President Barak Obama have so far handled the transition with grace and dignity. These actions are much needed, and I pray that the transaction of power will continue to be peaceful.

We cannot ignore, however, the ugliness of this campaign. I have to say that this has been the strangest and nastiest of any presidential campaign I have ever seen. The ugliness was on both sides. It is unnecessary for me today to repeat the accusations, the mocking, the vulgar expressions, the corruption and the overall malice. We must admit, this was not all the fault of the candidates; it was also our fault. These candidates were a reflection of who we are. They are a snapshot of the American people in 2016. The hostility did not just come from the candidates; it was poured out over social media. Many of us went beyond expressing our opinion, to cheap mocking and pouring out anger and aggression. I believe God has used this campaign to unearth things that we would rather not see in ourselves. Perhaps God is breaking up fallow ground, preparing us for revival. Again, while many are elated at the outcome, others are hurt, afraid, angry and confused. This is not to say that if you voted for one of these candidates, you share in the worst of their traits, but simply to say, Americans got the campaign we wanted.

I believe the church in America, particularly our church is in a unique place to bring healing, and regardless of your feelings on the outcome, we need to admit that our nation and our community need healing. Here is the challenge though, it will take great humility on our part. It read this scripture last week, and I’d like to read it again.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21English Standard Version (ESV)

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is also known to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1.    We need to redefine the enemy
To the Liberals, conservatives are Deplorables, racist, bigots.   To the conservatives, the enemy is the liberals, socialist. Instead of calling her Hillary conservatives call her “Killery”. These are the nice words. We mock, we make fun, and we draw our sides. We speak to the other half of the country, and we state that if it weren't for them, all would be okay.

The scriptures say, however, that our fight is not against flesh and blood. When we purposely make enemies out of people, we are fighting people who are made in the image of God, and thus we are fighting God. The old political trick is to present a problem, tell the people who to blame, and then promise to stop the people you are accusing. This method works!

We, however, regard no one “according to the flesh”. God doesn’t see liberal, conservative, independent … He sees people made in His image. It is strange that we put so much importance on a presidential election, that we are willing to alienate and box in anyone who is different. We label others because it is easier than listening to them.

This election has changed me. I have always voted conservative and generally conversed with those who think like me. I rarely listened, really listened, to other’s point of view.  Last night I had the privilege of speaking with some good people outside of our church. There were four in all. Three of them voted for Hillary and one decided not to vote at all. Instead of arguing my point like always, I decided to spend most of the conversation listening. They expressed fear to me of a Trump presidency. Regardless of what you think of the election outcome, their fear was real. This is a vital point for us to understand. Many are afraid and we, our church, are the best ones to help them through it. We cannot help them if we concentrate winning political arguments. That is worth saying again: We cannot help them if we concentrate winning political arguments. We help them by representing Christ and listening more than we speak. Steven Covey in his book: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People states that we should first seek to understand, then to be understood. We honor people when we show that we are willing to understand them. The church needs to lead the way in throwing off the labels and seeing people the way God sees them. I honestly hope to have many more conversations like the one I had last night. In the end, there was more that we had in common, then we realized.

Satanic spiritual principalities are our first enemies. We must do everything we can not make enemies of people.

2.    We need to change what drives us – “The love of Christ controls “compels” us.
Jesus was never a political figure. Whenever his followers tried to insert politics into his mission, he flat out rejected it. Babies were killed by the government in Bethlehem at the announcement of his birth, but even this did not cause Jesus to detract from his mission. His mission was to love mankind and go to the cross. He was compelled by the love of the Father. The same love compels us.

Taking part in the political process is important, but it pales in comparison to our real mission. We must resist the temptation to be “right” at the expense of people we are trying to reach. For years, the evangelical church has been seen as a voting block. This election, apparently, has proven it true. In many cases, however, we have lost sight of our real mission. If we win a political battle and alienate people in the process, we have only made our mission that much harder.

It is our responsibility to take the initiative to make peace now. It is not the world’s. We want to make Christ attractive to all people, not just the ones who vote like us. Christ did not come to build a community of people with common political beliefs. He came to build his church, made of people from all nations, tribes, and languages. Now is the time to show the world that we are not simply a voting block but a community of people who are compelled by God’s love for all people. We have the responsibility to walk in humility and find avenues of ministry. In my conversation last night, it was not hard to find common ground, even if our political beliefs did not change.

No matter who wins elections, our mission never changes.

3.    We are Ambassadors from another place

In the end, we are not really part of this world. Political involvement may be the least important thing we do. For many years, the American church has used politics as its main change agent in society. To be honest, political power is one of the weakest powers the church can possess. It is only a power of force. Without changing hearts and minds, political power gives us nothing. To be clear, it is a good thing to a part of the political process, but we never advocate the work of the church to political leaders.

For instance, it is almost senseless to demand that abortion laws be changed when we are not active in saving the lives of the unborn in our community. Every broken family, drug addict, sex addict, money addict and sin addict is an opportunity for the church to present Christ. Washington is unlikely to help them really. That is why God sent us.

2 Timothy 2:4New International Version (NIV)
4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

We have only one master. An ambassador does not get too involved in changing the country she is in. The reason for this is because she represents another country entirely. Our goal is to see lives change by the message and power of Christ. Settling for political power is a poor substitute for our mission.

The church has a real opportunity right now to bring healing to our nation. Our church shares in that responsibility. I cringe every time I read phrases like “those stupid liberals” or “those racist conservatives” coming from Christians. Every time we degrade others, we communicate that our savior is either not real, or is just as petty as any other politician. We are HIS representatives. He chose imperfect, emotional, impulsive, and sinful people to represent him to this world. I have come to believe that how we vote may be the last thing Jesus asks us, when we give an account for our lives. Washington is not coming to fix our communities. Washington will not heal people of depression and sickness, and Washington will not bring one person to the saving knowledge of Christ. We can argue over government policies and small ways they help, but it is up to us to bring real change.

So I congratulate President-Elect Trump on his victory. I will support him as long as I can, and I will not support him when I can’t. That goes for every other politician. I pray that the angry rhetoric will cease and Christians will hold leaders accountable to godly standards. I applaud both sides in taking positive steps in this direction last week.

When it comes to the church’s mission, it makes no difference. We are not a political organization but a living organism, made of people from all languages, tribes, and nations. We are his “sent ones”, proclaiming the message of the one who left his home, became a servant to all, and died for us. Jesus had darker skin than me; he never carried an American flag and he never entangled himself with political powers. His message to Pontius Pilot was the same message he gave to the common person. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Mixed emotions are in this room this morning over our election, no doubt, but God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. We first need to reconcile over our shared mission – proclaiming the love of Christ to the world. We then have a responsibility to our community, our country and the world to take the initiative to bring peace. It is our responsibility. We are the ambassadors, not them. After seeing this election, we have our work cut out for us.

Join me now in praying for our nation.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Why I Can't Help Hillary - What is Really Important Here?

Why I can't help Hillary - What No One is Telling You About the Election
What is Really Important Here?

Here is a little message to my NJ friends and those who live in non-swing states. The presidential election is actually 50 separate elections. The votes from each state go to electors who then vote for president. Votes do not get transferred to other states. That means only a few states (mainly Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and a few others) really decide the election. So there is good news and bad news.

1. The good news - When your awesome friend on Facebook (me) says that he is voting third party - relax. Why? because unless I am voting Democrat, I will vote for the looser. NJ is a dark blue state. Hillary will win here before any of us even get up in the morning to vote (sorry). Both candidates have conceded this and that is why they are not even campaigning here. Most of my friends are conservative, and many like Trump, so here is the good news: It is IMPOSSIBLE for me to help Hillary even if I vote directly for her. That's right. I will have zero effect on Supreme Court justices and abortion. I may have more of an effect on those issues if I call my Congressman once in a while. (just saying)

2. The bad news - Your vote for Trump is just as much a wasted vote as mine if you live in NJ, or any other of the 40 or so non-swing states. Trump has no chance here in NJ and your vote will not help him in any other state (sorry again).
This is the case for at least 40 states in the nation. They are either firmly Republican or firmly Democrat. The ones that are changing colors are drifting from red to blue, not blue to red. (sorry again, again) 
So what is the point of voting? To make your voice heard! Guess what? When a growing number of people vote third-party or register independent they can change the two parties. If you believe in Trump or Clinton fine. Vote for them. If you do not believe in either of them, but vote for one anyway, here is the message you send - Everything is A-OK with me! 
How is that possible? Because at election time all the two parties really want is the precious independent voter! They change their platform to attract them. If you are in the fold, they want you to give them money, praise them, and vote on election day. 

"To my Christian friends: Let's stop whining and be the church."

If you do not live in a swing state, you can not mess up the election. Let me say that again. IF YOU DO NOT LIVE IN A SWING STATE YOU CAN NOT MESS UP THE ELECTION!!! Don't worry . Vote your actual conscience! Even if you do live in a swing state, if things come down to one vote, it will go to congress or the supreme court anyway.
Let's stop getting angry and upset. If your friend is not voting like you, he will not change the results, especially in NJ and pretty much the whole Northeast.
Get out and vote, and vote for what you REALLY believe in. Stop being manipulated by people who are afraid or angry. Not to mention that there are down-ballot issues and local elections that are really important. 
Prayer has a much more powerful influence than voting. God can change the direction of any candidate or leader.

To my Christian friends: Let's stop whining and be the church. If you want to stop abortion, find a woman who is about to make this desperate, heart-wrenching decision and help her. Let's reach out to out to our communities and show them the love of Christ. Let's show compassion and pray for our leaders and the candidates. Finally, let's reject the disgusting name calling that both candidates are drawing us into. It is not worth it to lower the name of Christ to that level. Even the candidates themselves are human beings made in God's image, and we owe them our prayer and compassion, not angry Facebook memes. Sorry to say many people are taking on the negative characteristics of the candidates they support or not support. I may be guilty of this myself, which I regret. 

Romans 13:8-10 (NLT)
Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

No preacher or "prophet" has the right to tell you that you are sinful if you don't vote like them. You have a Bible and the Spirit of God lives in you. As a minister of the gospel, I trust God to direct you as you seek Him.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Humility Over Politics

Humility Over Politics 

2 Chronicles 7:14New International Version (NIV)

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

In my current sermon series we are talking about rising above politics. This scripture holds some principles for us in finding our healing. Political parties and our country are broken right now, and contrary to what many believe, there is no man or woman that has the power to heal our land. Sunday, I spent a lot of time speaking about humility. Since then I have begun to wonder about how Jesus dealt with politics. I always thought he avoided politics but in reality he had various political people around him. Politics was a daily reality for him, just like it is for us. Take a look at some of his disciples.   

Simon the Zealot - This is not Simon/Peter but another one of his disciples. If this Simon was the kind of Zealot we believe he was, he was one of the most radical of political people.  The Zealots refused to pay taxes, and wanted war with Rome. His identity was so married to his political ideas that it was part of his name. Jesus definitely was not a war monger, but I wonder how long it took for Simon to let go of his political ideas?

Matthew the Tax Collector  - It is amazing to think that Matthew and Simon could be in the same room. Tax collectors worked for Rome. While the Zealots worked to defeat the system, tax collectors benefited from it. Often they would take extra money from the people, and Rome looked the other way. 

The "Regular Joes" - Peter, James, John and Andrew - These men were fisherman, blue collar, the regular guys. You would think that they were the least political, but we find that not to be true. It was these men who argued about who would be greatest in Christ's kingdom. They could have been thinking, "about time the average guy gets an opportunity". These would be the guys that were tired of the politicians (or rulers). They thought Jesus was going to bring change, and make things better. They misunderstood his mission. 

All of these men were missing one of the most important ingredients for healing: humility. 

Jesus states that the greatest in his kingdom would be the servant of all. So here are my humility questions:

1. Are we willing to relinquish control? Simon wanted to fight for his rights but Jesus wanted him to lay down his life. Matthew had a nice life working for the state, but Christ called him to give it up. Maybe we will have more influence on people when we lay down our lives for them, instead of screaming at them about who to vote for. Can we trust that Christ can bring healing to our lives and our land, as we serve others?

2. Are we willing to admit that our candidate is not the answer? We all should vote and our vote should reflect who we are and what we believe. Candidates, however do not bring healing to our land -  God does. God has chosen his primary vehicle of change on earth to be the church. My candidate did not win in the primaries, but if he did he would not be able to heal our land. Peter, James, John, and Andrew lost their political gamble when Christ died on the cross. They were discouraged and disillusioned. The resurrected Christ however, made them leaders in the church, not through political parties, but through supernatural power. This is where real change comes from. 

James 4:1-3New International Version (NIV)

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

This scriptures from James is sobering when it comes to politics. It shows us that most of what get angry about is not righteousness, but rather our own desires. Are we trying to advance His kingdom, or are we trying to create the America that we want? Carnal means do not accomplish godly ends. 

We once had a newly converted woman attend our church. Her family almost stopped her from coming to church because they though we would make her a Republican! May seem a little funny but I wonder how many people reject the gospel because we have been so affiliated with political parties. The early disciples had a diversity of political opinions and Jesus wasn't interested in changing their parties or their votes. All of them had to learn humility regardless of their political beliefs. Our churches need to have room for a variety of political beliefs. We do not need to unify around temporary political candidates or parties. We unify around Christ, His kingdom and His mission. 

The next president will not heal our land, neither will gender bathroom issues, gay marriage, saying Merry Christmas, or Supreme Court Justices. While these issues are important, it will be our humility, our dependence upon Christ, and the laying down of our lives for the world, that will bring change and healing. I for one, am tired of looking for answers from the next politician when the answer is right in front of us.

 2 Chronicles 7:14

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Your Vote is Your Voice, Not Your Party's

This blog was a response to someone who asked me about my response to Walker's and Cruz's speeches at the RNC convention is 2016. The person who asked me the question asked also about a Ross Perot situation. She implied that people voting for Ross Perot stole the election from George HW Bush. This is a difficult question. I believe however, that voting your conscience is more powerful in the long run than voting your party. Here are 3 illustrations that point to why.

1. Socialist – The socialist political party has been part of our system for decades but no one took them seriously. They were faithful to their third party vote, while they worked their philosophy at the local level (a philosophy I do not believe in). The Democratic Party (DP) saw this and started moving toward this group of voters. Now the DP is pretty much a socialist party. So my first question is, what would have happened if socialist were not so committed to their cause? Would they have changed the DP?

2. African Americans – Many African Americans are concerned over socialist policies from the DP that they feel have ripped apart the African American family. When they stand up against it what happens? They often get ostracized. Why? Because the DP has told the African American community that they have no other place to go. People on the right see this as a gross injustice. Yet the message the GOP is giving to Christians, Conservatives and other groups is the same – “You have nowhere else to go.” This is nothing short of manipulation.

3. Car Dealers – The DP and GOP are private political parties selling a product. The conventions are 4 day infomercials. That is all they are. Would we accept this kind of marketing from a car dealership? If Red car company pointed out to us that while it is true that their cars have killed 10 people, the blue car company has killed a 100 people, would we buy their red car, or would we look for a car from a completely different company, neither the red or the blue? Would it matter how popular the red and the blue car companies were?

While I really respect Walker and others who make statements like this, Walker is a reluctant salesman for a private political party. His best sales line was “We are bad but not as bad as or competition”. This decision however, is way more important than car. It is decision over who will be the leader over the free world. “We are not as bad as the other guys” is just not a good enough argument for me.

Our vote is not always about winning and loosing, its about making our voice heard. When a private political party tells you they are your only choice, and you believe them; they have successfully silenced your voice. As far as Ross Perot, the "product" was seen as weak. People were not happy with George HW so they looked for an alternative. Perot could not have run against Reagan because he was seen as a stronger "product". The responsibility for loosing falls on George HW and GOP, not Ross Perot or the people who voted for him.

I am trying to take my vote prayerfully and seriously. Some people are looking at the red car and saying “this is the best car I’ve ever seen”, others feel “this is the only car I can buy”. I understand both of these positions (the second more than the first). There is nothing in the constitution that stops me from looking for another alternative. Hillary does not get an extra vote if I vote third party. We only have two parties because WE have decided we only have two parties. The country, the GOP and the DP in my view are all broken. We didn’t get here over night, and things will not be solved in this election. The best we can do is pray for direction and vote our conscience. This is my little voice in a sea of voices. Its time for unity around principles, not parties. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Spirit of Faith 

Galatians 3:2New Living Translation (NLT)

2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.

Paul is confronting the people of Galatians about observing the law instead of putting their faith in Christ. Here he ask them the question: Did they receive the Holy Spirit by faith or by observing the law?

Interesting here is the connection with the Holy Spirit and faith. For Paul to ask this question, the churches must have had real Holy Spirit experiences. I believed this included tongues, healing and supernatural power. The Holy Spirit was received by simple faith. Working for God’s favor and power is contrary to the Spirit’s work. We must simply receive what He has for us. The Spirit is a critical part of experiencing the cross and living the work of Christ. By faith the Spirit unfolds for us our daily walk with Christ. That is why living in the Spirit is the part of the normal Christian life. He does more than miracles and signs, He is the revealer of the living Christ.

Lord open up my eyes to with work of the Holy Spirit. Let Him be completely integrated in my life. Holy Spirit reveal Christ to me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Where is God's Kingdom?

Journal Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Luke 17:20-21English Standard Version (ESV)
The Coming of the Kingdom
20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”[a]

Where is the evidence that there is a Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God is much different from an earthly kingdom that many were looking for. They were concern with signs and times when God will take over the world. Christ tells us that the Kingdom is not as concrete as that. God’s Kingdom is not like earthly kingdoms. It is a spiritual kingdom that is already among us. It is inside believers and is working in the mist of this world.

Sometimes we get too concerned about signs of the times, the end of days and signs for the return of Christ. While the Bible does say that we are to read the signs, we are not waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. The Kingdom of God is here now. It is working throughout this physical earth and the work of God is being accomplished. There are signs that is it exist, but we cannot always see it. Most important, it is within us, making us a critical part of God’s plan. We look forward to the return of Christ but we are not waiting for the Kingdom of God. We are to live breath and move in the Kingdom of God now. We proclaim now that Christ is present to change lives. God’s power is present to enable us to overcome. Things that are happening in the spiritual world now will reveal themselves in the physical world later. That does not mean that we have to wait to experience them. The work of Christ has brought God’s kingdom among us.  


Lord reveal your Kingdom work. We wish to see changed lives by the power of the Holy Spirit and the work of Christ. Perform signs and wonders with healing. Reveal to us the power and the presence of Your Kingdom. Help us to be constantly engaged in Your kingdom work. Let the power of Your Kingdom move ahead of us and behind us.