Thursday, November 29, 2012

At the Intersection of Faith and Politics - 11-29-2012

Part 1 of 2

Now that I have declared myself a Progressive Conservative, Christ follower first, some have expressed concern with the word “Progressive,” thinking in terms of socialism or humanism they believe this word connotes.  Yes, “Progressive” is often associated with Liberal politics, as well as Liberal Christianity. It is also associated with music from folk to metal to hip hop. Words have a way of being co-opted, and attached to various agendas that might actually not communicate the true meaning of the word. I am a staunch believer that words have meaning that need to be understood and embraced (I love the word embraced because it speaks to something more than simple understanding with respect to ideas), so I want to begin to explore this word "progressive" in this blog post.

As Christians, we need to think well about what we believe. Underdtanding what gives life meaning, why and how to live that out daily is important. I do not believe we, as Christians, need to dismiss ourselves from the political process, politics simply being the activities associated with governance. Although some consider it a subject to be avoided and others insisting on seperation, I find no reasoned basis to do so. My devout catholic mother did, especially at the dinner table. When the family got into the political debate over supper it could get loud and Mom would get upset insisting that religion and politics were not polite dinner conversation. I am not sure where that idea originated but it's one of those tradition aphorisms. At our table everyone had their point of view, and the discussion could get heated but we still loved one another. Oh, if that were only true of our divided culture too.

Here's the thing I am wrestling with, I believe that modern Conversative values, alone, may not be the best political ideas to live as Christians. Not that we abandon the good that is in Conservativism, and there is some, but there are many issues that need rethinking. That is the purpose of this weekly blog section. I confess I don't have all the answers but I'm willing to do some of the thinking and ask some of the questions, and I invite you to come along to think with me. Did you realize that as Christians it is good to questions our own faith (2 Corinthians 13:5 )? Why then would we not also do so for our politics? As Christ follower we need to consider the intersection of faith and politics, for we live in the world, and living sent today is our intersecting point. 

To begin, let's consider what the word "progressive" means and why I would use it in terms of my political thinking, while remaining conservative in many respects, yoking the two ideas together.  The main dictionary definitions of "progressive" are:

·         of, relating to, or characterized by progress
·         making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities
·         moving forward or onward
·         favoring or advocating progress,  change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, especially in political matters: a progressive mayor.
·         making progress  toward better conditions; employing or advocating more enlightened or liberal ideas, new or experimental methods, etc.: a progressive community.

Now how does the word "progressive" connect with conservative ideas?  While these two words are not widely accepted together, yet, they represent ideas that are not diametrically opposed and can in fact work together well, when we are properly focused and putting Christ first in our politics. Conservativism is defined as caution or fear of change from the traditional. In the world we live in such concern is certainly prudent and our progress should not lead away from Biblical values. Conservativism should be rooted in Judeo-Christian "traditional values" and established on Biblical truth. Properly understood, our Christians values should flow from an understanding of the cosmic story the Bible tells (see blog posts for Mission of God's People).  

Conservativism is good, as far as it goes, if we understand what values we affirm for what they are, not what we want them to be, but must not allow fear to guide how we live. Putting Christ first in all things, it is one thing to be a cautious Christian, discerning the times, it is quiet another to be a fearful Christians. Caution can lead to a deeper appreciation, that can be expressed in love, whereas fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate. There is no room for hate in the life of a Christian. While seeking to maintain Biblical values we must make sure our thinking is in fact representative of the whole Bible story. I don't think we can say that about any politic today, certainly not the Left-Right of 21st Century America, which is why we should rethink what we believe and why on a myriad of  issues. Then we need to recalibrate our politic around those Biblical values.  
Jesus says to those he sent out: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ). The three images here tell us three things Jesus is communicating: First, Jesus, as the Good Shepherd,  is speaking to his followers (sheep) who know his way, heed his word and follow his lead (John 10:27 ). Jesus is our leader and calls us to follow. Second, Jesus calls us to be shrewd as the world (e.g. snakes). That is we are to be sharp, perceptive, insightful and discerning, operating with a measure of Godly wisdom. Yes, Jesus is speaking to God’s mission, instructing His disciples in the art of witnessing but Jesus understood the whole story he was in and again we must do likewise. Through our mission and witness, I firmly believe that Christians are called to be thought leaders and culture shapers, who live the whole Gospel. Third, Jesus calls us to be "innocent as doves" - blameless and guiltless, above reproach - which clearly requires living counter-culturally. We should not live by the world's standard in any part of our lives, including our political life. Why then do we so often live in the world as the world does? 
Answering that question is beyond our scope here but one influence affecting our thinking I do want to address here is dualism. Dualism separates  the sacred, which simply means connected with God, and secular, which are things that are not regarded as religious. The prevalent idea of seperation of Church and State is based on dualistic thinking that insists we should compartmentalize our lives to keep religion out of politics, This usually comes from those who oppose religion, and misapply the 1st Amendment. for their own agenda. But dualism affects how we see and live in the world. It keeps us from seeing all of life, every facet, as sacred, and it is. Dualism keeps us from perceiving progress through the lens of a God who is at work in history. That is not to say that all things glorify God in our world but that God is able to work all things together for his global purposes - even the evil man does (Romans 8:28).  But do we embrace that truth?

What if we truly believed that 'The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it" (Psalm 24:1)? What if we saw progress as part of the  continuing work of God in history? What if technological and medical advances were God inspired ideas that are part of his story, regardless of where they come from, if they serve the good of humanity?  There is no doubt mankind has a tendency to corrupt what God designs but what if the great achievements of the 20th and early 21st Century were really for the purposes of God’s glory filling the earth?  How might that change how we view progress, our politics and live in the story?

I think it would make a huge difference in our culture and our world. Not that it would change how the world thinks but it would help change how Christ followers think and how we live today, or at least it should. Eliminating dualism brings all things subject to Christ, in our worldview, as they should be. Knowing all things are sacred, though presently spotted and blemished, will lead us to embrace human progress as part of God's work in history. Again, there is more here than a single blog post allows but I invite you to take the time to watch these two videos and understand the progress that has been made (watching both will take about 30 minutes):  

Scott Todd: The Church Will End Extreme Poverty 

Can you say - glory to God!? Isn't it amazing what our God has done? God wants to do even more and will, as we partner with him in his plans. As you think about the the progress of the human condition we must be careful not to think as the people of Babel, that of making a name for themselves. Progress is not about human fame and fortune but God's glory and his purposes progressiving onward. Next time we'll look more at this idea of progess but I'll  condude here with this short poem that speaks to a proper attitude toward progress:
An old man going on a lone highway
Came in the evening cold and grey
To a chasm yawning both deep and wide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
That swollen stream was naught to him.
But he stopped when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
''Old man,'' said a fellow traveler near,
''You are wasting your time in labor here;
Your journey will end with the closing day,
You never again will pass this way.
You've crossed the chasm deep and wide.
Why build you this bridge at eventide?
The laborer lifted his old grey head:
''Good friend, in the way I have come,'' he said,
''There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm which has been naught to me
To that fair youth may a pitfall be.
He too must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.''
Author Unknown


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Missional Musing - 11-27-2012

"The 'layman' need never think of his humbler task as being inferior to that of his minister. Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything. Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act. All he does is good and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For such a man, living itself will be sacramental and the whole world a sanctuary. His entire life will be a priestly ministration. As he performs his never so simple task he will hear the voice of the seraphim saying, 'Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.'" AW Tozer

All work is worship and all worship serves the purposes of God. If our work glorifies God through an attitude of worship, it serves the mission of God. Our work serves the mission of God when done for the glory of God. What are you working for today?

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Mission of God's People - Chapter 2 - Part 2.4

We started looking at the four section of the Bible story in Part 2.3, We said that the Bible begins with Creation and ends with the New Creation, and we also looked at the tragedy of the Fall that brought ruin to the whole of creation. Today, we’ll begin to look at part 3 – Redemption - which needs to be considered in two parts: Old Testament and New Testament. These are not two distinct part of the Bible, with God acting differently in one than the other, as is often thought. Rather, the Old and New Testaments are like two acts of the same continuing play. We need to understand what God is doing in both the old and the new to understand at a deeper level the whiole story we are in and the scope of the mission we have. Wright tells us here that, “our mission…has to be as comprehensive in scope as the gospel the whole Bible gives us.” Anything less in fact misses the whole mission of God’s people.

3. Redemption – Part I
Q – How have you understood the story of redemption? 
After the Fall, and following the Flood, “God chose not to abandon or destroy his creation, but to redeem it. And he chose to do so within history through persons and events that run from the call of Abraham to the return of Christ.” We must start at the Abrahamic covenant with the mission of God’s people ,if we are to understand the redemptive storyline that God is unfolding through the ages.  God’s mission of redemption didn’t start with the Great Commission of Jesus, his call to go and make disciples, as so many Christians believe today. When we start with Christ and the Cross we can miss an important thread that runs the entire story. God is not just dealing with our sin but in the “call of Abraham God set in motion a historic dynamic that would ultimately not only deal with the problem of human sin but also heal the dividedness of the nations.”
Undoubtedly, you know that at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) God confused human language and "scattered" the people across the planet. But why would God do this? Why would God not want people united together and cooperating in a massive building project? Was it that God felt threatened by man’s industriousness and ingenuity, though using faulty building methods, to erect a structure that could reach the heavens, or so they thought? Never! Certainly God wasn’t pleased with mankind’s self-reliance and independent spirit, he never is. God accepts a partnership at minimum but desires full dependence.  Rather God’s plan from the beginning was to fill the earth with his image bearers who possessed the knowledge of his glory. God confused languages and scattered the nations as part of his global plan to fill the earth as the waters cover the seas with the knowledge of who he is for every “nation.” The “nations” gathered at Babel, which by the way were not all the nations (see the story of Noah’s sons - Gen 10:32), had no right to simply stay in one place when God said “Go.” Nothing stands in the way of God’s mission being completed as he brings about the New Creation.
Back to Abraham, Wright tells us that: “The election of Abraham was explicitly for the blessing of the nations on earth. God’s command and promise to Abraham can legitimately, therefore, be called the first Great Commission.” The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3). It was God’s plan to bless “all peoples on earth” – every “nation” - through a people chosen for the task who would share the knowledge of his glory until it did fill the earth. (that is why I use Habakkuk 2:14 for this blog).
The Old Testament:
Here are some thoughts from Wright to introduce the key storyline of the Old Testament:
“God’s plan, then, was to deal with the problem of humanity – sin and division – through Israel, the people of Abraham…At Sinai, God entered into covenant with Israel, still with the rest of the nations in view, calling them to be representatives (priestly) and to be distinctive (holy)…It became increasingly clear that Israel could not and would not live by the standards of God’s law in response to his saving grace, but actually proved themselves to be no different from the nations…Israel, the servant of the Lord, called to be a light to the nations, turned out to be a failed servant blind to God’s work and dead to his Word. They too needed God’s salvation…Nevertheless, the Old Testament  continues through the prophets to point forward and insist that God would keep his promise to bring blessing to the nations and salvation to the whole world…the failure of historical Israel was anticipated by God and did not represent a failure of God’s plan. In the mystery of his sovereign purpose it would lead to salvation going to the ends of the earth as God always intended.”
There is much more to the story of Old Testament of course, that we'll get to, but before moving on to how God would continue to unfold his plan, we should consider some New Testament verses that tie together the continuing flow of God’s purpose through Abraham:
Romans 4:3 – “What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” We share the same faith as Abraham.
Romans 4:13 – “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.” We share the same righteousness as Abraham.
Romans 4:18 – “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” We share the same lineage of Abraham.
Romans 9:8 - “In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” We are in fact children of Abraham.
Galatians 3:7 – “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.” We are by faith part of the line of Abraham the Lord is using to fulfill his covenant to bless the nations.
Galatians 3:8 – “Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” We share in a Gospel that is timeless, eternal and glorious beyond our understanding.
We should never minimize the Good News to a strategy, formula or even think it is simply about the forgiveness of our personal sin. God is redeeming the whole world, all of creation and bringing us to a new creation through a whole Gospel that requires the whole church living sent today.
Next time we’ll look at how the Lord plans to accomplish this through the New Testament.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mission of God's People - Chapter 2 - Part 2.3

We have been looking at the people who know the story they are in - Chapter 2. See Part 2.1 and 2.2.

Wright takes us into the next part of this chapter through outlining the four major sections of the Biblical story line - Creation - Fall - Redemption in History and New Creation. The longest portion of course is Redemption in History. But what is important to understand about this story is not only God's plan of redemption, as the major theme of the total work of Scripture but where we came from and where we are going.

Grasping the two book ends of the Bible - Creation and New Creation - is key to understanding the story we are in. It's an old story that if you don't know where you're going you're not going to like where you wind up. But to this we can add that if you don't know where you have come from you will never get to where you are going. Wright tells us that "the Bible is not just about the solution to our sin problem and how to survive the day of judgment. It begins with creation and ends with the new creation. So our Biblical theology of mission need to take this great beginning and ending seriously."

Let's briefly look at the first two of the four parts today, some thoughts from Wright and some reflection on each section in today's post:

1. Creation -

Q - Why would knowing the beginning of the story be crucial?

Obviously, it tells us who we truly are. The challenge for us today is to remember who we are. Our culture tells us we're a cosmic accident, a freak of nature, just another species in the animal kingdom that evolved from a primordial stew. "Science" has rather adamantly suggested that we are nothing more than a compilation of chemicals that somehow developed a rational mind and so we can reject the "fairy tales" of religious ontology and the ideas that we're anything special. The debate over our nature didn't just start with Darwin however but predates Socrates. Anaxagoras, a 5th Century BC philosopher,  promoted a view similar to that of the Big Bang theory of today and held to a crude form of the theory of evolution. What this tells us is that thinking people have always been trying to underatand the story they are in, trying to discover meaning. But without our story beginning in a meaningful way we end up in a meaningless place. Wright shares that:
"The creation narrative provides two of the fundamental planks for the foundational Christians worldview, for it answers two of the most fundamental questions that all philosophies and religions answer in different ways. Where are we? And Who are we? That is to say, what is the universe in which we find ourselves? Where did it come from and why does it exist and is it even real? And, second, what does it mean to be human?...Does human life have any value, meaning and purpose?"
2. Fall  -

Q - how do you understand the effects of the Fall?

"Human disobedience and rebellion against the Creator God brought disasterous results (Genesis 3-11). Evil and sin weave their way into every aspect of God's creation and every dimension of human personhood and life on earth." Without understanding the nature of the Fall we will not pursue the redemption, restoration and reconcilation of all things - the reversal of the effects of the Fall through living the whole Gospel. Wright points out four effects of the Fall -
"Physically we are sibject to death and decay, living within a physical enviroment that is iself under the curse of God. Intellectually, we use our incredible power of rationality to explain, excuse and normalize our own evil. Socially, every human relationship is factured and disrupted - sexual, parental, familial, societal, ethnic, international - and the effect is consolidated horizontally through the permeation of all human cultutre, and vertucally by accumulation through the generations of history. And spiritually, we are alienated from God, rejecting his goodness and authority.

Before moving on to God's answer to the Fall, one observation need to be made about the nature of of what God created and the effects on Fall on it. In Genesis 1:31 the Bible says of his creation - "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day." Notice that God says it was very good and not perfect. If God had made creation perfect we would never have had the freedom to chose anything else, our story would be simply then meaningless. It is the freedom to chose that gives life meaning.

The efficacy of human choice however led to a wrong choice that wrecked much of the very good. of God's creation. Biblical history howver tells us that from the very beginning most chose poorly, which resultd in judgment, but there were a few who chose wisely - Enoch who walked faithfully with God (Genesis 5:24) and Noah who did everything just as God commanded (Genesis 6:22). What this tells us is that mankind had the ability to respond to God even after the Fall but chose not. The Fall did not create in mankind an inability to seek God but simply that the vast majority didn't in the choices we all make.

Instead, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6), which leads us into the Redemption. Now for living sent today.let's walk faithfully and obey God in everything  Give thanks with a grateful heart for what God has done for us today. Happy Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Missional Musing - 11-20-2012

I really like this thought from the Gospel Coalition blog (You can read the blog article here.)

I think the major failing of Reformed anthropology is that it assumes that human beings are completely empty vessels. The distinction between total and utter depravity above makes this clear. Tullian is right, people can be much worse than they are. He puts this down to something like “common grace” – i.e. God restraining us by his grace from being utterly depraved. I think a much better explanation, and one that is consistent with how the early Church understood Scripture, is that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. Human beings are intrinsically good precisely because God made us and called us “very good”. I know this will eventually go towards the endless arguments on human freewill or lack thereof. I don’t want to go there, but I will note that the Fathers, particularly the Eastern Fathers (including ones that the Reformed like including Athanasius and Chrysostom), had a robust theology of freewill. I didn’t see anything on human beings being image bearers of God in the above article. I just don’t think Christians can begin to talk about human beings without this as their starting point. What intrinsic value do human beings have if what we really are, in essence, is very bad? In Reformed theology, everything good is alien to us. We are not “very good” as God declared in the Scriptures. We must not take St Paul’s metaphors places where the text does not take us. Nowhere does St Paul say that being “dead in our trespasses…” means that we cannot respond to the Gospel – this is a non sequitur. Our deadness is caused because we have separated ourselves from Life. The consequence of sin is death – not because we are being punished for it, but because when we separate our selves from Life, we die. God did not tell Adam “if you eat of the fruit… I will kill you”. He said “if you eat of the fruit… you will surely die”. We are still God’s very good creation. We still bear his image – although this is obscured by sin. Things just aren’t as black and white as Reformed theology would have it. It isn’t Reformed theology OR Pelagianism. There is room for mystery in theology. How is it that we can hear God and respond positively? Our salvation is a mystery of the co-suffering love of God. Love requires a response, else it would not be love. It’s why the Revelator says that Christ knocks and waits, he does not barge in. We can respond to him precisely because we are his intrinsically good image bearers.

Now see Psalm 139:7-12

Living with the knowledge that we are fearlessly and wonderfully made should motivate us to live a life of gratitude to God, with thankful hearts for all that He has done for us, for living sent today. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

At the Intersection of Faith and Politics - 11-19-2012

Intersection of Faith and Politics is a new edition to this blog and one I hope to write on weekly. 

I  read this quote on Facebook  this morning -"Absolute liberty is absence of restraint; responsibility is restraint; therefore, the ideally free individual is responsible to himself." - Henry B. Adams

This quote speaks to why I am rethinking Conservativism today. You can't live in this nation without being influenced to some degree by the two dominant ideologies of the day - Modern Liberalism and 21st Century Conservativism, unless you can find a cave somewhere to dwell. To some extent, our lives are shaped by politics and religion because they are meta-ideas - ideas about ideas important for societal life.Let me state right up front I have long thought of myself as a conservative when it comes to politics and liberal only with respect to grace and I'm working on love. Maybe the former because as Ronald Reagan once said, "if you're not a Liberal before your 25 you have no heart, if you're not conservative after you're 25 you have no brains" and the later because Jesus does tell us to love God with all our minds.

But what does this have to do with living sent today and being a Christ follower in the 21st Century? Well much actually since Christians today are represented on both sides of this ideological divide. Many Christians voted in the recent election and voted differently, placing importance on different issues, or maybe as a protest vote like mine has been in recent Presidential elections. Tens of millions of Christians participate in the political discourse of our nation. I think that's a good thing, unless perhaps you are an Anabaptist, because we are called to live in the world not of it (John 15:19). Yes, we must fight our battles differently than the world (2 Corinthians 10:3), but I find no command to dismiss ourselves from the political process in Scripture. Rather there are numerous Biblical examples of political leaders from Genesis forward. But if we are going to participate in this unalienable right we best do so from a solidly Biblical foundation, as Christians. 

Now with respect to the quote -- the central idea being expressed by Henry B. Adams is that my life is  all about my freedom to live responsible to me. Adams, from the Adams family - no that not that Adams family but the family of one of our Founding Fathers- was an historian and author and I am unaware of his personal faith position. I share this quote because it was posted by someone I know to be a Christian Conservative leader and an elected official. Adams expresses a couple of idea that are firmly established in 21st Century Conservativism today. One narrative that emerges from this past election cycle is that it's all about my personal liberty to live anyway I chose (which is actually a Liberal idea) and I am responsible to no one but me (another Liberal idea). But is there any Biblical basis for this thinking, as it has come to represent, at least in some large degree, American Christian Conservativism today? The indictment I hear, right or wrong, and read often from those on the political Left is that Christan Conservatives are only interested in what's in it for them and this quote speaks to that underlying philosophy The end result of this kind of thinking is that government is thought of as evil in any attempt to regulate their social contract but do we really want to say that's the case (Romans 13:1-7)? I think too many Christians Conservatives are operating outside of clear Biblical principles when they express the kind of thinking that Adams does in the above quote

That it why I am rethinking where I stand politically since the election which has been a time for many to do some serious soul searching. That's a good thing or you just flow with the status quo. First, let me say that I think we have a social responsibility as "salt and light" to be part of the political process, if that simply means voting. But when we do so we need to avoid cognitive dissonance - holding two or more conflicting beliefs. And, while I find little common ground with Modern Liberalism, as it seems the State is their god, I have been uncomfortable with what Conservativism has become, hijacked as it has been by Libertarianism, at least to some extent. So that's why I am starting this Intersection of Faith and Politics blog section of Living Sent Today.

My honest appraisal has led me to a number of issues with Conservativism today. First, I cannot find a basis for the fierce independence that is expressed by the movement in the Word of God and I think it is antithetical to the Bible's emphasis on community. Second, I do not find much socially redemptive working in the platform with an exception to a staunch opposition of abortion and same-sex marriage which isn't working. Both need to be rethought as our arguments to do not resonate in today's culture. But isn't it at least somewhat inconsistent to enthusiastically support government intervention through social policy and adamantly resist it in fiscal policy? And I certainly cannot agree with the ideal that we must keep taxes low because I don't want to give "my hard earned money" to the government or to think a few point tax increase for the richest 1% equates to the "evils of socialism." Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying government isn't part of the problem but maybe we need to rethink the reasons that it is. 

Our politics do shape our worldview as one component of how we see our world, they can also tinge our Christian witness in the world. That doesn't mean we withdrawn into a cloistered community but rather as Christians our politics need to be informed by a solidly Biblical worldview. We cannot hold two opposing worldviews or try to fit two dichotomous ideas inside another to justify our personal ideals, and remain Biblical.  Francis Schaeffer thought that the only livable worldview is Biblical Christianity and that all other worldviews are not livable in a consistent fashion. We need to weigh our ideas about what a Conservative Christian is in light of this. Schaeffer said that for a worldview to be livable it needs to be cogent (reasonable and convincing; based on evidence.), coherent (true to what it is) and consistent (no contradiction logically). So our political life needs to fit into a whole life concept shaped by a Biblical worldview and faith in Christ.  

In my search to make sense of my own political thinking, one that lines up with Scripture - cogently, coherently, and consistently - I came across this information concerning Progressive Conservativism: 

 "The outlines of a modern progressive conservative reform agenda includes tax reform that benefits working families and ends the special treatment of income from dividends and capital gains, preferences for domestic manufacturing, securing the social contract, classic Theodore Roosevelt-style trust-busting, enhanced regulatory oversight of the financial sector, a return to the old Glass-Steagall Act restrictions separating commercial banking and securities trading, measures to control the spiraling costs of post-secondary education, strategic investments in public infrastructure, action on climate change (my edit: I prefer to couch this in the language of sensible Creation Care as a responsibility to the Lord), campaign finance reform, and the tireless defense of both civil and religious liberty.

Taken as a whole, progressive conservatism offers a positive vision of a limited, but vigorous, federal government promoting the interests of America’s working families and communities."

I want to start unpacking this quote and blog weekly on the intersection of faith and politics for living sent today.  Your comments are welcome if civil and I welcome a discussion. Blessings.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Theological Reflections - 11-18-2012

Sunday is a time to slow down and  think more deeply about God so I hope to do that in this new weekly Sunday edition feature of Living Sent Today. I love Theology - thinking about God and all that God is. Without proper theological reflection life becomes all about my little world. It becomes about what I can do for God. But here's the thing...

The LORD doesn't needs us to do anything for him. In fact he doesn't even need our love. I know what you're probably thinking - "but Jesus' commands us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength." Of course he does. He is the creator and knows exactly what we need - we need HIM!.

Think of this - God existed in eternity past is perfect harmony with himself - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then God said - "let us make humans..." But it wasn't like one day God said to himself, "God, something is missing in our life" and so God created us to complete him and worship him. God forbid God needs anything but God because if God did God wouldn't be God. God is eternally complete in Himself.

But out of a his very nature as Creator, God created all things and out of his character of love created us to be like him - in his imago Dei. Jesus commands us to love God out of his nature of compassion and gave us the option not to out of the character of his grace. Jesus went to the Cross out of God's nature of mercy and he rose from the dead out of his character of omnipotence. God sent the Holy Spirit for us out of the nature of his omnipresence and empowers believers by the character of his omniscience. Jesus sends us in the out in the nature of his justice and calls us to live in character of his love.

God knows exactly what we need - we need HIM! And because God does know "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." 2 Peter 1:4. Jesus commands us to love the God not for his sake but for ours so we can experience His life in us as he has designed it.

God's commands are meant for us so that we can participate in his divine nature.  We desperately need that for living sent today.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mission of God's People - Chaper 2 - Part 2.2

Wright writes: "Indeed, we need to ask ourselves right up front: how well do you actually know the biblical story? If Jesus and Paul saw fit to repeatedly go over it with those who knew their Old Testament Scriptures inside out, how much more do we need to make sure we are familiar with the content of the Bible as a whole?"

We are in Chapter 2 of Mission of God's People which is entitled "People who know the story they are in." Wright is arguing for a thorough understanding of the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, or at least the story it tells, as important to the mission of God's people. That's not to say we all need be Bible scholars, we don't all  need to go to seminary or know Hebrew and Greek. Frankly, you can do all those things and still miss the story. Our big challenge with the story today, in our sound-bite culture, seems to be  our reductionist theology that Christianity is all about Jesus and me - personal salvation being key. It is after all my story but now Jesus fits my story. We may not say it in quiet that way but the the rarity of Biblical worldview amongst Christians demonstrates it clearly.

Q - How does that though challenge you? How would you push back against that idea?

We need to ask what has this self-centered Christianity really gotten us and how is  it impacting the world for Christ? Answering that question is beyond the scope of this single post but consider this recent headline (10/09/12) by the New York Time - Percentage of Protestant Americans Is in Steep Decline, Study Finds. For the first time in our history the total population of Protestants has slipped below a majority. According to this Pew survey, 1 in 5 Americans now consider themselves "Nones."The secularization of America tells us that people are buying a different story.

If Jesus and Paul put such great importance on knowing the story. might it be imperative that we understand it as well? Knowing the story was culturally relevant then but recapturing it is even more so today. In our consistently confused culture we need to be able to offer a clear alternative narrative. It's not sufficient to simply say "Jesus saves" and expect people to flock into churches to "find Jesus," as if he was ever lost. What people want, what they long for, is the genuine which is why Jesus had so much to say in opposition to the hypocritical. They want the authentic and not some imitation. In order to get there we need to reengage the story that Jesus and Paul understood, that Wright is bringing us to. But why aren't we there? Where did we go wrong?

Q- What are your thoughts? 

Today I just want to offer three observations:

First, most sensible people like Jesus, or at least the one our culture portrays.  He's cool, radical, loving, tender all wrapped up into an attractive icon, packaged for us by our modern  marketing, and deemed safe for children (that's why many non-religious parents drop their kids off for children's Sunday school .) After all, looks at those loving eyes, his tender manner, and he's holding a baby lamb. You've probably seen this picture but as Mr. Beaver points out in Chronicles of Narnia "he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you." We like the main character of the story but don't really know him.

Second, we make the story about us so we don't bother to understand it except as it applies to us. Stanley Hauerwas suggests that "Most Americans tell themselves the story that you should have no story except the story you chose when you had no story." Simply put, Hauerwas is saying that we want to author own story. And because we do, Christian "self-help"books, tape, seminars, conferences, therapists for both men and women, is big business as we try to live our own story instead of God's. The problem we encounter when we try to live our own story is that we live displayed lives and so need those "self-help" remedies to try to cope and attempt to live "the best life now" as we define it.

Third, in the other direction, as Wright points out, "The attitude of some is all you need is the Great Commission and the power of the Holy Spirit. Bible reading or biblical theology will only serve to delay you in the urgent task." It is all about what we do for Jesus that counts or it is all about how we love people that counts. Both are popular beliefs today. Both contain some truth as far as they go. But the Biblical evidence is that Jesus, Paul and the Apostles understood his story and it is what animated mission from the beginning. The story still animates much mission today but not nearly enough when you consider mission statistics (a topic for another day.) 

We must be "People who know the story they are in"and when we do we define our best life now according to that story. Could it be that  when the whole story becomes our whole lives we start to become the whole person we are created to be? Could that be why "Jesus and Paul saw fit repeatedly go over it with those who knew" the story they were in. Could the whole Bible story lead us to together with the whole Church, to live out the whole Gospel,for the transformation of the whole World? I don't know but I'm willing to live like it until we find out for living sent today. 

Q:  how well do you think you actually know the biblical story?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Missional Musing - 11-15-2012

The great 20th Century theologian John Stott wrote: "Our mandate for world evangelization is the whole Bible. It is to be found in the creation of God (because of which all humans beings are responsible to him), in the character of God (as outgoing, loving, compassionate, not willing that any should perish, desiring that all should come to repentance) in the promises of God (that all nations will be blessed through Abraham;s seed and will become the Messiah's inheritance), in the Christ of God (now exalted with universal authority, to receive universal acclaim) in the Spirit of God (who convicts of sin, witnesses to Christ, and impels the Church to evangelize) and in the Church of God (which is a multinational, missionary community, under orders to evangelize until Christ returns)."

We therefore err if  we limit our missional praxis to any portion of the Bible, any particular thread of Scripture, or any single ideas about what mission should be today. We need to recalibrate around the whole Council of God and rethink the whole Gospel, whole Church, whole World through the lens of the whole Bible, once again. But how do we live that out? All that Stott tells us is "of God" needs to be reviewed through the "Kingdom of God" (which is the realization of all that the Church of God is empowered to do through the Spirit of God, due to the completed work of the Christ of God, toward fulfillment of the Promises of God, to display the Character of God, for the redemption and restoration of the Creation of God.) That does kind of rule out placing limitations of how we understand the Mission of God.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Missional Musings - 11-14-2012

"Through believing the story, we are drawn in to the account and find ourselves caught up in the saving movement of God. We learn to "indwell" the story so looking our from within the biblical world with new eyes onto our postmodern live and world we stop trying to make the Bible relevant to our lives and instead begin to find ourselves being made relevant to the Bible. We give up the clumsy attempt to wrench the ancient text into our contemporary world and instead bring our world back into collision with and cleansing by, the strange new world of the Bible." Philip Greensdale.

"Who needs the Bible? I't's irrelevant. It's an outdated ancient bunch of nonsense written by old men. It's a fairly tale. It's irrelevant to my life. It's full of errors and contradictions. I don't need the Bible, I've got science." You have probably heard things like this but the problem is not with the naysayers. There have always been naysayers who have their hearts closed to truth (2 Cor 4:4). They are not our concern.

The problem is when those who say they follow Christ give credence to these naysayers, thinking "maybe they are right?"  They convince themselves that they can follow Jesus without the Bible or by only focusing on the "red letters." They stop reading the Bible altogether and get their spiritual milk somewhere else - like the plethora of Christian books and music - instead of drinking from the Source of true life and power. Today, many think they can move beyond the Bible."Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: "So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge." (Romans 3:4). In order to do that we need the Spirit of God to open our eyes and shape our hearts to make us relevant to the Bible. We don't fit the Bible into our lives We enter the Bible's story and learn to live in it, allowing it to conform us to the cosmic story it tells.

First, though we need to know the story it tells and where it is taking us. That's why I am blogging through Mission of God's People. I invite you to come along and invite others to join us on this journey. May God be true and everyman a liar.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mission of God's People - Chapter 2 - Knowing the Story - Part 2.1

 If someone were to ask you what the Bible is about how would you answer? In chapter 2 of Mission of God's People Wright begins to answer that question but he does so in way that most Christians are completely unfamiliar with today. Wright has written extensively on the Grand Narrative of Scripture in his tome - The Mission of God. I think it is safe to say that most Christians understand that the Bible is about Jesus, foretold in the Old Testament, revealed in the New. Some may add it is the story of how God dealt with Israel and the Church. Some would undoubtedly say that is a love story or the greatest story ever told, but is that really sufficient? That's like saying that War and Peace is about war and peace, an unhelpful tautology.

Truth is, we have been taught to read the Bible, when we read it at all,  as a devotional, random bits and pieces, isolating stories from the whole. Or, worse we get our Biblical diet from other "devotionals" instead of drinking from the source. This simply is insufficient as it doesn't connect the whole cosmic story together for us. It's like seeing a tree but missing the forest. Sadly, we have a tragic paucity of Biblical understanding in the Church today. How do I know this is true?

First, studies indicate a great lack of Biblical understanding by American Christians today. The fact is fewer than 1 in 10 Christians actually have a Biblical worldview. When we don't start there we will not even know there are deeper riches to be gleaned. I often encounter atheists who have a better understanding about our sacred text than most Christians. We may know some favorite Bible verses that give us comfort but we miss the Big Story, the meta-narrative, of the Bible and what it tells us about how we are to live sent today.

Second, my personal experience with the Perspectives study program makes this glaringly clear. Many students come to me after the Biblical section, the first five week, and ask, "How come I have never heard this before? I've been in church for ____ years." My simple response is, "because its not taught." This doesn't just apply for average Joe Christian who has sat in a pew for years but now wants to know what God has for them, so someone suggested they take Perspectives. I have had numerous veterans of missions, who have served the Lord for many years, have the same experience. One 30 year Wycliffe veteran, after understanding the Bible story we teach, gave testimony that, "now I see my ministry in a whole new light."

The fact is that we simply do not know what we do not know. And because we don't know this story we don't allow it to shape our lives. And when the story doesn't shape our lives we don't live the mission we are called to. But when we know the story, we live the story, just like so many Perspective alumni. who have been "ruined for the ordinary" (a little saying we have in Perspectives.)
Why aren't more Christians living sent today? Because they don't know the story we are in. But Wrights point out that this was not the issue for the first followers of Jesus and because they understood the mission of God went forth to live sent and shape the world across the last two thousand years.

Wright asks, "What was it that made Christianity a missionary faith from the beginning. What made the first followers of Jesus so passionately, courageously and unstoppably  committed to telling the whole world about him?" Wright points out that it was not the Great Commission, although most Evangelical churches, who are at all mission oriented, use this as the rallying cry - "Go therefore and make disciples..." But as Wright points out the New Testament, with Matthew 28:19-20 recorded for all of history was not written until years following the launch of the mission enterprise we call the Church. That's not to imply Jesus didn't say this. However, as Wright points out, if it was the Great Commission that motivated and mobilized the Church, it wasn't mentioned in the Book of Acts by the early Church and Paul never once refers to it. 

Wright points out that ut is also insufficient to say that the earlier followers of the Way simply were living out of obedience to what they understood and had been instructed to do. Then as now, Wright tells us that, "to call people to conversion was to confront them with serious and costly demand."  We need to rethink what the Great Commission is, as it is not a call to an adventurous life to escape the monotony for average Jane Christian, as she heads off to some exotic foreign land. You cannot be in most churches long without hearing something about the Great Commission, that we need to live in obedience to it, that we should "go." Why then do most of us stay? Do we really want to live in disobedience, unwilling to lay down our 5 and 10 year plans? Maybe its deeper than that? Maybe we simply don't understand the story we are in?

One final thought here today, we also have some insufficient thinking about what the Great Commission calls us to. Many think that the Great Commission is a call to foreign missions - "Go into all the world" and that is way it is often communicated, as mission has been taught to be "over there." Then the result is, "I am not called to go overseas" and so we have an excuse to stay home and not be involved in mission (reflect back on the whole church, whole Gospel, whole world idea we looked at previously - see the menu on the right.) But what Jesus was really saying in the word "Go" is better translated, "as you continue on your way, make disciples..." I think it is safe to say that Jesus understood the story he was in. That being the case, perhaps we can rethink the Great Commission this way: "as you continue to live in my story, make disciples."

We'll look more at how we can know the whole story next time. We have to know His Story for living sent today.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Missional Musings - 11-12-2012

“God created all things ‘not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it,’ for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness.” Bonaventure.

God's glory does not spread to places where it is not (Isaiah 6:3). Rather God's glory shines, it becomes visible, it becomes known (Habakkuk 2:14). To spread would mean it is not yet there which could not be true of our omnipresent God.But to shine means God's glory is not yet seen, not yet known, not yet experienced. World evangelism then is not the spreading of the Good News as if we need to bring God with us because he is not already there. Rather the task is the showing forth of the glory that is already there - for "Christ is all, and IS in all." (Colossians 3:11). The reason then that we make disciples is not to spread the Gospel as if it is not already there for Christ is everywhere. No, the missionary task is to bring forth, release, and make known what is already in every human soul - the divine spark of creation. "Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved." (Psalm 80:3).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Mission of God's People - The Whole Gospel - Chapter 1 - Part 1.5

It's been a few weeks since I last blogged on the Mission of God's People. In that time, Ethnic Embrace USA was launched at Denver 2012, during the Mission America Coalition National Leadership Consultation. Then we had the election and frankly my disappointment got me off track as I grieved for what our nation has become and really needed to rethink and recalibrate. I was hoping and praying that the Lord would be merciful and maybe he actually was, especially if now we must rely on him more than ever. The Lord's heart cry is always "return to me with all your heart" (Joel 2:12) and I think that is the message that comes out of the election season, at least for me. I don't want to get political, that's not my purpose on this blog, so we'll move on. 

Previously, we started looking at two of three "whole" statements, the "whole World" and "whole Church" as expressed in the in the Lausanne statement: "Global evangelization requires the whole Church, taking the whole Gospel, to the whole world."  Dr. Wright is beginning his book by introducing these "wholes." Understanding what is meant by the "whole Church, whole Gospel, whole world" will help us to live God's mission for his people. One of the key ideas that we touched on so far is the "everything" of  the mission of God's people which must be embedded in our thinking for living sent, on missions, in the world and as the Church. Now what about the third "whole" - the Gospel? Does that include everything too?

The other day, while driving and listening to the radio, I heard an idea that was captivating - "the Gospel is the reversal of how the world thinks." It was from an advertisement on a Christian station. While I don't recall what the ad was about, I do recall my reaction - "that's it, isn't it?" I proclaimed to myself. I had never quite heard the Gospel defined in those terms before, as a reversal of how the "world thinks." But the more I thought about the depth of that statement the more I began to understand how true that statement is, when you think about all that the Gospel reverses.

The Gospel redeems (1 Peter 1:18), restores (1 Peter 5:10 )and renews (Romans 12:2 ) all of  which are reversals. The Gospel reserves the curse (Galatians 3:13), it cures man of himself (Ephesians 2:5), and it sets right what is wrong (John 16:8).  The Gospel is the power of salvation for those who believe (Romans 1:16). The Gospel empowers us to overcome our worldly thinking and now think as Kingdom citizens as we think Christ's thoughts (1 Corinthians 2:16 ). The Gospel gives life to that which is dead as is it's most important reversal (Colossians 2:13). So in every sense the Gospel is everything that is different from our fallen natural world. The Gospel that has been called God's plan of redemption, and it is certainly that, could equally be called God's plan for the Great Reversal.

"So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” ; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit." (1 Corinthians 15:45). And that is Good News! 

Question: How have you previously thought about the Gospel? 

Dr. Ralph Winter spoke of a "Great Reversal" from another perspectives. He noted the reversal from a holistic Gospel up to the mid 19th century that involved all areas of life that God was redeeming to a narrow, sin management, spiritual salvation message focused on a confession of personal faith that became the Evangelical message of the 20th Century. Richard Stearn, President of World Vision, writes about the "hole in the Gospel" which is a reversal from the whole Gospel that neglected care of the poor to what is "true Christianity." Stearn's writes as a response to the election: "Christians can stop worrying about the symbols of the decline of Christian America" an important reversal,  "and get back to the mission Jesus gave us to show the world a different way to live -- a way that demonstrates the great character of God: his love, his justice, his compassion, his forgiveness and his reconciliation." (read the article here.) All of which is certainly an important reversal of how the Church thinks and operates. 

What if we saw the Gospel as the cosmic Great Reversal it is - from darkness to light, from brokenness to restoration, from despair to hope, from lostness to foundness, from anxiety to peace, from sickness to health, from captivity to liberty? Could we then begin to understand the depth, breadth and width of the "everything" of the Gospel as it is meant to be if "Christ is all." All of these ideas are expressed Biblically concerning the Gospel but we have reduced the grand and glorious Good News to a formula, marginalized it to a concept and too often trivialized it in the Church.  If Christ is all, and he is, why wouldn't we want to plunge the glorious depths of the "everything" of the Gospel and the riches of all that he (for the Gospel is Christ who is all and in all) offers us?

Question: What could you add to the above list of Gospel reversals? 

Wright asks what is the scale and scope of  God's redemption? I think we can say it is the  redemption reclamation, restoration, and renewal of every human system and central to that is every human person, according to the will of God who makes this life available to all. Every human system is based on how humans think, even to some extent the human body itself, as we interact with God's creation. But can we, as we grasp the expanse of the whole Gospel, really change "everything" about the human system? To some degree yes although as the old saying goes there are two certainties in life - death and taxes. To those certainties we must add the Good News that in Christ we now have the power to reverse our wrong thinking and live the life of  repentance He calls us to.

Question: Have you previously considered that repentance is a reversal of how you think?

We are just getting started. There is much that needs to be explored and expanded on the "everything" of the whole Gospel. Which is why Wright takes use on this Biblical exploration of the Mission of God's People. We are only just beginning to explore the whole realm of truth packed within the pages of the Bible. I think this exploration will take us outside some of the traditional thinking with respect to how we tend to limit the Gospel. But that's wholly okay so long as we explore the full biblical content. We don't want to let our passions about what we believe to be true about the Gospel interfere with what actually is for as Wright points out...
"One of the dangers with a word like "gospel' is that we all love is so much (rightly), and want to share it so passionately (rightly again), that we don't take the time to explore it's full biblical content."
That's the journey we are on for Living Sent Today.In the next post we will begin Chapter 2 - "People Who Know The Story They Are Part Of" 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Post Election 2012 - Rethinking and Recalibrating

This week I have been giving a lot of thought about why we saw the election results we did. I think it's time to rethink priorities in light of the results.

In 1997 George Will wrote the following:
"True conservatives distrust and try to modulate social forces that work against the conservation of traditional values.” That is a fine and noble cause as a Christian because traditionally those values are founded on Biblical precepts – ideas such as truth, honor, integrity, duty, family, community and personal responsibility. But Will goes on…
“But for a century, the dominant conservatism has uncritically worshiped the most transforming force, the dynamism of the American economy. No coherent conservatism can be based solely on commercialism, but this conservatism has been consistently ardent only about economic growth, and hence about economies of scale, and social mobility....Conservatism often has been inarticulate about what to conserve, other than “free enterprise,” which is institutionalized restlessness, an engine of perpetual change. But to govern is to choose one social outcome over others; to impose a collective will on processes of change. Conservatism that does not extend beyond reverence for enterprise is unphilosophic, has little to do with government and conserves little."
Almost 40 years ago Will wrote the above and it still rings true today, so for nearly 140 years Conservatism has frequently come up short because of the primary focus on “free enterprise” or the simply making the economy the main issue.  Not that the economy is not always a major issue but when it is the primary issue we end up conserving little. This is one of the reasons why Romney lost. Another is that Conservatives remain “inarticulate about what to conserve.” For instance when was the last time a “conservative” politician talked about truth? There were important issues of truth to talk about in this election. Romney completely forgot about Fast & Furious and the President's lack of transparency. He said little of any consequence about what many are calling the biggest cover-up in our history – Benghazi. The conservative pundits are saying that Romney lost because he wasn't Conservative enough. But I think that's missing the point. Repeatedly there was but one conservative issue painted as the only one to be concerned about - a "reverence for enterprise," meaning the economy, and it became a losing issue.

The dominate competing argument was one of raising taxes on the top tier income earners back to what they were before 2000 against cutting taxes on all levels of income including that top tier.  Barrack Obama was able to show how his plan won back in the 1990s, bringing in President Clinton under whose term it did work, and won about 51% of the vote. Obama was able to show how Romney’s plan and conservative thinking is seen as protecting one class, rightly or wrongly, and leading to the issues we face as a nation. When Obama could point to Clinton's success with the higher rate it became a losing issue for Romney. But when it's the only issue that Romney tried to communicate it becomes a losing issue for Conservatives.  Romney pretty much agreed with Obama on many other issues, unable to articulate other conservative principles.
Republicans have held Congress hostage over this same issue for the past few years, claiming that it will hurt the economy to raise taxes on the top tier earner. Democrats have said that they would compromise on spending if taxes would return to the 1990's level for those earning over $250,000. Conjecture was on the side of the Republicans, argued against the factual evidence of the 1990’s (even if much of what happened in that decade was built on bubble economies.) One main selling point of course was the balanced budgets and budget surpluses of the late 1990’s. It is difficult to win an argument when the evidence is on the other side. Yes, Republicans could point to the runaway spending of the past four years, juxtaposed against an improving economy, but the challenge in doing so was in demonstrating how the Bush era tax cuts weren’t part of the issue. Romney failed to communicate that in a way that was convincing and arguing “I’m different” without showing how is disingenuous. The issue of cutting taxes needs to be rethought but I have nothing to offer on the subject since I am not a policy wonk. I do think however that we will now find out if higher taxes work the way Republicans fear.

The point here is the economy should never be the only issue or even the main issue for conservative values. That’s Will’s point. Notice that for the most part there were was no conversation about social issues that are tearing our nations apart. Now we have 4 new states that passed same sex marriage as the will of the people. Did you know that was on the table? Now 2 states have legalized marijuana, who knew? We know those are the big issues along with abortion but what about fatherlessness, unemployment in the Black community, increased gang violence or even a sensible approach to immigration reform (by the way – when did it become not conservative to protect the alien in our midst when the Bible so clearly speaks to it repeatedly, assuming that is the basis of our traditional values).
As a Christian first, we must put social issues at the forefront, regardless of how culturally unpopular for as Will says – “to govern is to choose one social outcome over others.” Because we have made the election a referendum on the economy all our other social ills have only increased. As Conservatives we must be coherent about what to conserve and we must conserve what is right or our people will continue to fall for what is wrong. It’s not an easy argument to make these days but it is an important one to live out. Conservatives love to complain about the entitlement mentality in this country but haven’t clearly articulated a solution. Conservatives love to talk about the decline of social values but only contribute to the problem.  Shouting at the darkness doesn’t bring light. But as Will points out, “Conservatism often has been inarticulate about what to conserve,” other than what serves our economic interests. I hope we have learned that is no longer sufficient.

Evil has won the day. No, I’m not calling Barrack Obama evil, though I would argue that he is an unrighteous leader who supports some evil policies. As one example, we know abortion is a great evil and his record is an appalling one on this issue. Rather what is evil is the the pursuit of economic prosperity as the single most important conservative principle, just as Will wrote about 40 years ago. I know that’s not popular to say but here’s the rub – as most conservatives claim to be Christian, we should know what the Bible has to say about uncritically worshipping  “the dynamism of the American economy.” Many will no doubt object and claim that Will is wrong, or I am for agreeing, claiming they don’t worship the American economy. But when we can’t articulate a response to the slogans such as “it’s the economy stupid” with other more important issues of our time and the economy takes center stage, can we really deny that we worship the “dynamism of the American economy?” Worship is devotion and there is great devotion to our economy and a diminishing devotion to God from whom all blessings flow.
Jesus did tell us that we could not serve both God and money, right? Our Lord also told us that “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” And, we should know that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Christians need to ask ourselves what is more important - our economic prosperity or our Biblical values? We need to ask ourselves what is more important for me, my personal prosperity or the common good of our nation? We need to ask ourselves who we are serving, God or mammon? Then we need to articulate why we think so, speaking the truth in love. But more importantly, we need to live sent today, in a counter-cultural way, lovingly rebuking the evil of our time through a message of grace, peace, restoration and yes even prosperity based on putting the Lord first in our lives. Then if we fail at least we can say we are on the Lord’s side and there is nothing more important than that, is there?

Unless we do form a coherent conservatism, solidly Biblically based, rooted and established on all that honors our Lord, Conservatives may not succeed in another Presidential election, until the people cry out for mercy. We need to discerningly weigh what all leaders, pundits and prognosticators are saying when they are not saying, “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge me and I will direct your path.” What if more who claim to be Christians actually believed this was true and lived like it? There is of course much more to it which is why I am blogging through the Mission of God’s People. I’ll pick that up again this next week.
One last point, for Christians who voted for Obama, you too need to ask yourself how your vote lines up with Biblical values, other than what you perceive to be reflective of Matthew 25. There is much more to the Good News than care for the truly poor. We live in a fallen fall but we shouldn’t add to the fallenness.  The liberal message is even more inconsistent with Biblical values than the conservative message has been.  If we are Christ followers we need to recalibrate our lives around what God says is important, not what we think is.

Even after the Israelities had gone their own way and were about to be sent into captivity for 70 years due to their national sin, God said to them,

Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
(Joel 2:12-13)
We need to think long and hard about what the Lord is saying here for living sent today.