Bumper Sticker Wars

The bumper sticker wars are an entertaining diversion in the life of a commuter. People make all kinds of social, political and theological statements on the bumpers of their cars — to which others will directly respond with cleverly worded bumper stickers of their own. Take for example the commonly seen bumper sticker, “God Bless America.”

5953This is a bumper sticker that is perceived to convey the attitude of politically conservative, evangelical Christian drivers. It’s been around for years. More recently, one can see what appears to be the direct response of the politically liberal and theologically pluralistic crowd… “God Bless All Nations.”

I get a chuckle out of both of these because it seems to me both of these groups are defending points of view that miss the biblical mark — and both are doing it on behalf of God.

Take the “God Bless America” crowd. What do they want? They want God to “bless” America. Okay, what does that look like? What does “bless” even mean? If you look into it you will discover this often means God grants to America a prominent position in the world, complete with military strength, economic prosperity, and political freedom. But I ask you: What does this reveal about the affections of the one asking for God’s blessing on America? Is their primary affection for God or for country?

61SxYT3kUtL._SL1500_Then there is the “God Bless All Nations” bunch. They claim to have taken the more enlightened and morally superior high ground. I will grant that they appear to have a better handle on the idea that God is at work around the world and that America is not, in fact, God’s new chosen people. But, if you look closely at the sticker they display, you will see emblems and icons from a whole host of world religions. It is a symbolic affirmation of the old concept that all religions lead to God, they just take a different path. This betrays a fundamental and fatal misunderstanding of the God of the Universe.

These bumper stickers remind me of Genesis chapter 22. In this chapter God has commanded Abraham to kill his son Isaac. Just as Abraham is about to do it, God commands him to stop. Then Abraham sees a ram caught in a thicket and sacrifices it to the Lord. Then God tells Abraham…

“…I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed…”

The apostle Paul insists (in Galatians 3:16) that this offspring is to be understood as a particular descendant — namely Jesus Christ — and through HIM all nations are to be blessed. Please notice, this blessing is not a promise of wealth, or military power, or political freedom — it is a promise that Jesus will save His people from their sins. It is a promise of heaven.

And, yes, all nations are already blessed, because God has promised to save people from every nation and tribe and tongue. But the Bible is clear, He will only do this through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, period.

Read Revelation chapter 5. It is a beautiful picture of Christ’s redeemed at the end of the age…

“And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Notice these people are singing to the Lamb who was slain — Jesus Christ — the same one through whom God promised to bless all nations in Genesis chapter 22.

Dear Christians, the Bible is clear, HE is the one that has provided salvation (not a plurality of world religions) and HE is the one who gets the glory (not America). We need to insert ourselves right into the middle of the bumper sticker wars and declare to both sides that God HAS blessed all nations only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and only for the glory of God.

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Thideology News of the Day

• Praise God! The Sudanese woman who was in prison under a sentence of death because she became a Christian has been released. However, as this article points out, her life may still be in real danger. Continue to pray for this sister.

• There are students in Brazil right now sharing the Gospel with people from around the world who have come to that country to witness the World Cup of soccer. Pray that many of them will be saved and go back to their home countries bearing witness to something infinitely more important.

• The folks at The Mission Ball, an organization dedicated to using the world-wide popularity of soccer to spread the Gospel, recently announced the development of The Mission Ball in Hausa. This language, which is spoken in Africa, represents the 31st language in which the Gospel has been translated onto The Mission Ball.

A Christian’s Attitude at Tax Time

What would you call it if a person walked up, pointed a gun at you, and demanded your money?

Robbery.

What if three guys did it? Would it be something else?

Of course not, it’s still robbery.

Okay, but suppose you live in a town of 100 people and 75 of them got together and agreed to send three guys to your house with guns to take your possessions. What’s that?

Robbery. C’mon!

Well, how many of them would have to get involved before taking your stuff was justified? 80? 90? 99? What?

That’s silly. It doesn’t matter how many people agree to steal my stuff — it’s still robbery.

What if they gave you a vote?

Doesn’t matter.

But suppose they came and took your possessions and, after pawning it off, took the proceeds and fed some hungry people in the neighborhood. Would that justify their actions?

Of course not, robbery is robbery regardless of what you do with the stolen property.

All of those scenarios were robbery — and easily understood as wrong — yet we blindly accept this kind of robbery in America every day. Many of us enthusiastically support it.

We just call it taxes.

The federal government of the United States — the worst offender — confiscates huge portions of our money every year and gives it away based upon their discretion. And, should we refuse to pay, the “authorities” would eventually show up at our door to take our money or our freedom by force. We are robbed, quite literally, at the point of a gun.

Now, I know what many of you are probably thinking… the Bible tells us to always submit to the government. No. I contend the Bible tells us to render to people what is legitimately theirs and to submit to legitimate authorities. You see, everything that Caesar claims is his is not his. And, when you boil it all down to the basics, most taxation is, in fact, the same thing as theft. A majority vote does not justify it.

So, why draw this comparison at all? Because it’s tax time in America and many of us have become conditioned to think it is our “patriotic duty” to fork over our hard-earned money to the ones holding a gun on us.

It’s really no different than a mob boss sending thugs around the neighborhood collection protection money. The mob boss wants you to pay for services you neither asked for nor needed. And, he is prepared to use force and intimidation to make you “accept” his services.

The federal government is just like this. The Internal Revenue Service is a master at intimidation and is dispatched every year at this time to collect money from us for services we neither asked for nor need. In fact, most of us have voiced our objection to these “services” over and over again — the propagandized “Affordable Care Act” being the most recent and egregious example.

But, this sort of extortion is nothing new. It might be comforting to know that people throughout history have had to deal with this sort of thing.

Augustine of Hippo, a Christian theologian and apologist who lived in the 4th and 5th centuries, commented on this very thing in his book, the City of God

“Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a vast scale? What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms? A gang is a group of men under the command of a leader, bound by a compact of association, in which the plunder is divided according to an agreed convention. If this villainy wins so many recruits from the ranks of the demoralized that it requires territory, establishes a base, captures cities and subdues peoples, it then openly arrogates to itself the title of ‘kingdom,’ which is conferred on it in the eyes of the world, not by the renouncing of aggression but by the attainment of impunity. For it was a witty and a truthful rejoinder, which was given by a captured pirate to Alexander the Great. The king asked the fellow, ‘What is your idea, in infesting the sea?’ And the pirate answered, with uninhibited insolence, ‘The same as yours, in infesting the earth! But because I do it with a tiny craft, I’m called a pirate; because you have a mighty navy, you’re called an emperor.’”

So, why even bring any of this up? Because, as Christians we need to understand that wicked men will always try to plunder what they can, whether they wear the title, “emperor” or “pirate,” “mob boss” or “president.” From time-to-time all of them step beyond their legitimate authority and engage in criminal behavior. And when they do we need to stop pretending that one is any better than the other. None of them are worthy of our devotion and loyalty.

PiratePistolBut, there is one who is. One who harbors no ulterior motive and no hidden agenda. One who is righteous, holy, and worthy of our loyalty. One whose kingdom is enduring and eternal.

Only One.

And it is to His Kingdom we need to turn our attention.

So, where does this leave us on the question of the proper attitude toward taxes? Should we pay them or not? Should we only obey governments that are legitimate? Should we always resist governments that are illegitimate? What do we do?

It depends on what will bring glory and honor to our King.

Sometimes it honors God to defy the illegitimate laws of men, just as the apostles did when they refused to obey the order of the Sanhedrin to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Sometimes it honors God to comply with an illegitimate law — and Scripture provides the perfect example…

“So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’ When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you now know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.'” — John 19:5-11

If ever there was a situation where a government had zero authority over someone it is when Jesus stood before Pilate. Christ is the supreme lawgiver — holy and righteous. He is the rightful judge of all those who judged him and yet he allowed himself to be placed under their power — subjecting himself to sinners. Why?

Obedience.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” — Philippians 2:5-8

Those men had no right to judge Christ, but Christ was not concerned with his own rights. He was not concerned with the injustice of his situation. He was concerned only with the glory of his Father in heaven.

John recorded an instance where Jesus taught his disciples about his purpose.

“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” — John 14:30-31

Note that Jesus points out the “ruler of this world” has no claim on him yet he is going to do as the Father has commanded so that “the world may know” that he loves the Father.

Jesus was sent to this earth for a purpose. Not to defend his own rights against an unjust empire, but to accomplish the will of his Father. Likewise, we are saved for a purpose. Not to defend our own rights against a wicked and sinful generation, but to accomplish the will of our Father. Illegitimate governments and the wicked men who run them have no claim on us — but we do as the Father has commanded.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:10

We need to remember that God’s will for us is that we always bring glory to Him. And that should be our guiding principle in life.

crownIn fact, we should rarely, if ever, concern ourselves with the legitimacy of earthly laws. If they are legitimate then they will be completely consistent with God’s higher law and our obedience to them will stem from our obedience to God. If they are illegitimate we may or may not be obedient to them — depending on what will glorify our Father in heaven.

 

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The immeasurable value of a wife

This morning I heard about a woman who wrote an article entitled, “I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Kids and I’m Not Sorry.” This drew my attention because it is a direct attack on my wife, Peggy. From a strictly financial/market perspective I will say this: The kind of care and home management my wife provides our family is simply unavailable on the market. I could not find the services she provides anywhere. And, if I could find them, I certainly could not afford them. There is simply no substitute for the love and care of a stay-at-home mom. None.

So, when I heard about this little gem of an article, I thought I might respond. Turns out others already have. I’ll simply refer you to a response by Matt Walsh entitled, “Stay-at-home moms: You don’t owe the world an explanation.

And, if his response is not enough, I submit to you the Word of God certainly is…

An excellent wife who can find?

She is far more precious than jewels.

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.

She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.

She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.

She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Her lamp does not go out at night.

She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.

She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. — Proverbs 31:10-31

Never forget, stay-at-home moms, what the world regards as wisdom is foolishness before God. You are likely assaulted daily with messages prompting you to get a “real job.” It is foolishness. You have entered into one of the most noble and most valuable of all professions.

God’s Word trumps it all.

Prophecy and Providence

The world has always known political oppression — and God’s people have frequently lived under it. This is a fact of history that American Christians tend to forget because for more than 200 years Americans have enjoyed a certain level of liberty. And, when American Christians begin to experience a rise is political oppression, one of their very first reactions is to pray for the removal of said oppression because it is a clear violation of their rights.

Thid-CaesarBut, this reaction is more American than it is Christian.

World history goes back much farther than the 200-plus years America has been on the scene — much of it marked with God’s people living under oppression. And, if God is sovereign over all things (and He is), then this has happened with His full intent.

Consider the oppressive nature of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. He was concerned only with his own power. Yet, God allowed Caesar Augustus to reign over God’s own people NOT because Caesar Augustus was a worthy ruler, but because Caesar’s oppressive rule served God’s purposes. Caesar was nothing more than a tool in God’s hand — even when issuing decrees intended to benefit himself…

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. — Luke 2:1-5

It didn’t matter that a journey to Bethlehem would be quite uncomfortable for a pregnant woman and potentially dangerous for her unborn child. Caesar gave an order and it was to be followed. Such is the nature of tyrants. But Caesar was not really in charge here, was he?

The child Mary carried was the long-awaited Messiah — Jesus. And, if prophecy was going to be fulfilled (and there was never a doubt that it would), then Jesus was going to be born in Bethlehem.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. — Micah 5:2

God made sure Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem prior to the birth of our Lord and He used Caesar to do it…

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. — Proverbs 21:1

This should be a great comfort to believers everywhere. God’s purposes are accomplished and His timing is perfect. As Christians, if we find ourselves living under the oppression of an evil government, we need to remember that it is only because our King has allowed it to happen. But, you may still wonder, “what about our rights that are violated by wicked men?” The apostle Paul reminds us of our proper place…

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. — 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

If God ordains that we live under the oppression of wicked men then let us trust in Him who “works all things according to the counsel of His will.” Let us trust that He is accomplishing His purposes and conforming us to the likeness of His Son. Let us pray as Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” And, if we can’t see the hand of providence unfolding in our own circumstances, let us look to the evidences God has provided in the past. Remember, Caesar thought he was in charge — but his reign ended thousands of years ago.

Our King is still on His throne.

Give thanks — even for fleas

In her autobiography, The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom recounts her experiences as the Nazis invaded her home in the Netherlands. She and her family witnessed the abuses the Nazis meted out, especially to the Jewish members of the community. Corrie and her family became a part of the Dutch underground, hiding Jews in their home to prevent them from being shipped off to concentration camps. This, of course, the Nazis deemed “illegal.”

Thid-FleaEventually the Ten Boom family was caught hiding Jews. For this “crime” they were imprisoned. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, eventually found themselves residents of a work camp in Germany. The first thing they noticed, upon walking into their barracks, was the entire place was infested with fleas. They were everywhere.

Betsy prayed. She thanked God for the roof, the walls…

…and the fleas.

Corrie was shocked and asked her sister why she would give thanks for the fleas that tormented them day and night. Betsy’s response came directly from Scripture.

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Corrie believed Scripture, and even knew Betsy was right. But, she could not bring herself to give thanks for the fleas.

As time went on they discovered their days were filled with abuse from the Nazi guards. They never had a moment’s peace. Betsy eventually became too ill to continue in the hard labor to which she and Corrie had been assigned. She was reassigned to knit socks for Nazi soldiers. Her new work station was in the barracks. In her new assignment she discovered peace. The Nazi guards left the sock knitters completely alone. In fact, the Nazi guards refused to enter the barracks where the socks were being knit.

SScapThey didn’t want to get fleas.

This is the time of year when Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. A national holiday dedicated to giving thanks to God for His blessings. One of the things Americans typically give thanks for is our “freedom.” Ironically, freedom in America is evaporating at an alarming rate.

John W. Whitehead, a writer for lewrockwell.com, says this erosion of freedom is something Americans ought NOT be thankful for (He makes his case here). And, he is probably right. For the ever-increasing encroachment of the federal government into their lives, Americans might not want to be thankful…

But Christians should be.

Even if we can’t see the benefits of oppressive earthly kingdoms, we have God’s command in 1 Thessalonians to be thankful. We have the promises of Scripture.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” — Romans 8:28

We even have the accounts in Scripture of how God used tyrants for His own glory and for the sanctification of His people. God raised up Egypt so that HIS glory could be on display when HE delivered His people. God raised up pagan Babylon to conquer Judah so that HIS people would be corrected. God raised up Rome so that “in the fullness” of time the circumstances of the world would be just right for the coming of Jesus Christ and the spread of HIS Gospel.

empire2Living under less-than-desirable circumstances also separates the sheep from the goats. When persecution comes to the church, only the truly regenerate remain. The fakers leave when the cost gets too high. It also provides the church with a golden opportunity to put God’s love on display. The early church was birthed in the midst of the Roman Empire, one of the most oppressive states in history. A Roman soldier traveling could, at his whim, order anyone to come and carry his pack for a mile. Most people did it grudgingly (as you can well imagine) and would carry the pack not one inch farther than the law demanded. But Jesus told His disciples to have a different attitude…

“Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” — Matthew 5:41

Why?

It shows the world that our circumstances do not dictate our joy, for our joy is in the Lord. It opens up doors of opportunity to share the Gospel. It glorifies God.

Certainly we should be thankful for the blessings we enjoy — friends, family, health, food, etc. But may God grant us true gratitude even for the fleas.

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