Wednesday, November 22, 2017

BE WATCHFUL (Part 2)

BE WATCHFUL (Part 2)

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

Paul’s exhortation to “be watchful” is a reminder to them they are in the midst of a spiritual battle which has two battlefronts: the inner which deals with the sinful nature and temptations that we encounter inwardly (which I dealt with in part 1), and the outer which is the focus of part 2.

There are a number of ways we may be assaulted outwardly. We might be tempted outwardly (peer pressure to do something sinful), but also false teaching, false religions, worldly values, & viewpoints and such. We are constantly assaulted by these things through the media, politics, education, science, philosophy, ideology, the arts and so forth. Paul provides some insights into some of these ways in Colossians 2. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) “See to it” bears the same idea as “be watchful”. These things are all around us and coming at us all of the time - see to it that you identify them, and protect yourself from being deceived. Unfortunately, many Christians fail to identify them and instead accept them with open arms.

Here are a few examples of what I mean: For quite some time, Disney was seen as “safe” and “family friendly” moral but spiritually benign. It was not until the Disney company came out in support of homosexuality that Christians saw Disney as a problem. And suddenly there were calls for boycotts. But truth is, Disney was never the friend of Christianity. I say this not because I don’t like Walt Disney or think Christians should be boycotting everything Disney - not at all. In fact I think Walt Disney was an amazing animator and visionary. I have great admiration for what he accomplished. However, I also recognize that he had ideas and beliefs that came from a man-centered outlook, despite his Christian upbringing. Though he spoke highly of his upbringing, and believed in good morals and would have stood against many of the things which the company that bears his name puts out today, he was more a product of human philosophies and traditions than of the truths of Scripture. Walt Disney once said “If you can dream it, you can do it.” He also said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” That sounds safe and acceptable on the surface, but what does it really mean? Simply that you can be the master of your own future. You control your destiny - that is if you have the courage to make your dreams come true. Yet when we read the Scriptures we encounter a God who is in complete, sovereign control over all of our destinies. While he does encourage us to dream and to pursue those dreams - it is all to the glory of God. Not to mention human history is full of broken, unfulfilled dreams that no amount of courage could protect. But the overarching philosophy behind much of Disney’s work has been the supremacy and self-determination of mankind.

Here’s another example found in the realm of politics. Many Evangelical Christians tend to vote along Conservative/Republican party lines, myself included. There are understandable reasons for this - we often find we share certain moral convictions on things like abortion and gay marriage. I personally cannot in good conscience vote for anyone who supports the extermination of the most vulnerable members of humanity.  But what concerns me is that evangelical Christians have been quite watchful when it comes to something like abortion or other liberal positions, but have given the keys of the city to conservative positions which may or may not line up with scripture. A pastor friend of mine said to me years ago: “It is possible to be more conservative than the Bible.” And he is right. Yet there seems to be this assumption that if it is a politically conservative idea, then it must be biblical. And the further to the right we go, the closer to Jesus we will be. And this leads us to embrace just about every “conservative” idea that we hear without searching the infallible scriptures to see if these things are so. And of course this spills over into the media, the news outlets and radio and television personalities. If the conservative news outlet says it, or we hear the conservative radio host say it - it must be true. It seems when it comes to political conservatism, we lack alot of discernment and fail to see the dangers all around.

In Acts 20 Paul told the Ephesian elders to be watchful against ferocious wolves who would seek to scatter the flock, and that some of these wolves could even come from their own ranks. In 1 Thessalonians 5:20–22, Paul said: “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”  Now, he was speaking about dangers within the church that could come through wolves posing as elders, or false prophets and teachers within the church. Are we to assume the political dangers are less of a threat, or are not to be scrutinized and tested? We are to hold to what is good and reject evil in all its forms, including the ones found in conservative politics.


How do we keep watch on this battlefront?
First of all, we need to be people of the truth. Only God’s word has all of the truth and so our minds need to be shaped and conditioned by the infallible Word of God, not by fallible radio personalities or news outlets. We need to be cautious about what influences our positions on various issues and examine EVERYTHING through the lens of scripture. We need also to recognize that each one of us have already been affected by the empty philosophies of the world. No one is purely objective - no one is unbiased. We all have presuppositions that need to be challenged by the Word.

Second, we need to be wise as serpents though innocent as doves. Think about how the Enemy tries to infiltrate your thinking, or the church? His approach is to slowly boil the frog in the pot, not usually a direct assault. He uses stealth - has his wolves wear sheep costumes. Things are not as they appear! And he uses red herrings to keep us occupied and distracted so he can make is more lethal move. He wants to present himself as our ally, to get our guard down so he can infiltrate our thinking and turn us against the very things we ought to be defending.

Thirdly, we need to be clear on our identity, and the identity of the enemy. Our identity is in Christ. We are citizens of his Eternal Kingdom, his brothers, sisters, and mothers, members of his body. That needs to come first before any political affiliation, or even before our national identity. Christ must be first. His Kingdom and his eternal purposes must take priority in how we interact and seek to influence our world, including politics. Just to be fair, all of this applies to the left side of the political spectrum and everything in-between as well.

But please do not misunderstand me - I am not calling for anyone to stop watching certain news outlets or to vote a specific way. I am urging Christians to be discerning about what they are hearing, watching and reading so that they are not taken captive. I am also urging Christians to allow themselves to be exposed to opposing viewpoints and to get out of echo chambers and allow their positions to be challenged. Most importantly I am urging Christians to look at everything through the lens of scripture and to recognize that it is far too easy to have our worldview shaped by unbiblical ideas. We need to remember that as Christians we are in this world, but we are not of it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

BE WATCHFUL (Part 1)

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

There are two general battlefronts that we must watch: there is the battlefront within, and the battlefront around us.


First, let’s talk about the battlefront within. This is perhaps the most important. If I am not watchful over my own heart, and I fall into sin in some way, others are affected - the church, my family, and society.
Being watchful over our own hearts requires first and foremost that we understand that our hearts are sick.
Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Mark 7:21–23 - For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”


Granted - when we are converted to faith in Christ - we are given a new heart.
Ezekiel 36:26–27 - And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.


But understand that your old heart - the one that is sick is still in you and is at war with your new heart, which is why Paul says…
Romans 7:22–23 - For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.


This is why we must be watchful - there is  war going on within every Christian. If there is not a war, then you may not be truly converted.


Being watchful requires introspection through the Word and through prayer. David explains it best:
Psalm 139:23–24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!


What this shows us is how impossible it is to watch our own hearts apart from the soul-piercing gaze of the Holy Spirit who alone can illuminate the depths of our our hearts and show us what’s in it.


The better we know our own sick hearts, the more effective our watching will be - for we will be keenly aware of how deceitful and conniving our old hearts can be. We know that our old heart lies to us about many things, and seeks to justify all sorts of behaviors, attitudes and motives. We know when our heart is lying to us, when it is trying to allure us away from the truth and getting us to believe lies. We are on guard against those attempts - we know the kind of tricks the heart likes to pull to get us to do what it wants us to do.


Being watchful involves regularly questioning our motives, desires, attitudes and inclinations. And it also involves strengthening our new heart created in us by the Holy Spirit through regular communion with God through prayer, the Word, fellowship and the sacraments.


So I encourage you to make it a regular habit of asking what David asked in Psalm 139 - search me and know my heart. Show me if there is any grievous way in me.  


Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Prayer of Repentance and Mercy as the Storm Approaches

Almighty Father, we are once again being confronted by the manifestation of your wrath and eternal power as this unrelenting and fierce storm approaches. (Romans 1:18-20).

We confess that so often we do not get the message - we dismiss the storm as “mother nature”. If we acknowledge you in any way, it is typically in the form of a charge against you; accusing you of bringing such unjust and cruel devastation down upon the undeserving and innocent. (Psalm 18:26).  But where were our praises and offerings of thanksgiving on the days of safety and peace? Is it not our failure to honor you as God and to give you thanks the reason such storms come our way? (Romans 1:21). Are they not brought upon us for this purpose: to arouse and awaken us to the reality of our sin; to expose our pride and frailty and to turn our eyes upon a loving God who calls out to a deaf and defiant world with arms stretched out? (Jeremiah 6:19; Ezekiel 18:23; Luke 13:34; Romans 10:21) Father, there are none who are innocent or good. (Romans 3:9-10) We have all sinned and fallen short of your glory. (Romans 3:23) We all have gone astray and chosen a path that pleases us}

Forgive us of our manifold sins and our pride. Forgive us for our love of money, pleasures and possessions; of the particular sins of abortion, pornography, adultery, fornication, homosexuality; of neglecting the fatherless, the widow, the poor, and the least of those among us. Send Holy Spirit upon our hearts to convict us of these and many other violations of your Holy Law. And in convicting us, we also ask that you would humble, comfort and heal us with the gospel of your grace in Jesus. (John 1:14; Hebrews 4:16; James 4:6)

We can only look unto you and appeal to your great mercy and enduring love. (Psalm 25:6, 103:8). Grant repentance and faith! Soften hearts and open blind eyes! Help us to respond rightly to the warning message this storm brings in repentance and turning our eyes to Jesus who endured the fierce storm of your wrath on the cross! May we heed the warning and look unto you. (Jeremiah 36:7)

We also appeal to your great and abundant mercy on behalf of those who have already experienced your heavy hand of wrath through this awful storm. May they now experience the gentleness of your Fatherly hand. May your kindness and mercy surround them and turn every eye to our loving and merciful Savior.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

RACISM AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1–5)



Several years ago, I met a Jewish journalist who, after learning I was a seminary student, asked me what the Book of Revelation was about. Without even much thought I said: “The return to Eden. At the end of the book the Tree of Life reappears, the curse of death mentioned in Genesis is no more. All things are made new.” “Oh, that doesn’t sound so bad!”, he replied. To this day I am surprised at how quickly I replied with such a simple concise summary of such a complicated book. But that is precisely what Revelation depicts: the removal of the curse of death, of weeping, crying and pain. (Rev. 21:1-5) The Tree of Life reappears and mankind once again has access to it. And the leaves are for the healing of the nations.


What an amazing concept - all the nations of the earth being given access to the Tree of Life and being restored and healed!  That’s the future of humanity in Christ Jesus. That is where we are going folks! That is why Jesus came into the world. And it is also why he has left us in the world, to give the world a glimpse into this glorious reality!


And this brings me to my main concern which has been weighing on me for some time and got heavier over this past weekend. It has to do with how we as Christians respond to issues of race in general, but particularly to the events of this past weekend in Charlottesville. I realize that what happened is like an onion and that we cannot simply peel back one layer and think we’ve gotten to the core of the problem. I am not claiming to have all of the answers, or understand all of the dynamics that were in play. But here’s what I know to be absolutely true: it is the duty and obligation of every Christian to be a window into this glorious reality which Jesus is preparing. I doubt any Christian would argue with that, but I am not convinced all of my brothers and sisters understand the full implications of this obligation. It means that we put the agenda of God’s Kingdom and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ ahead of every other agenda, whether that be political or social. It means that we Christians are to be careful about how deeply involved and entangled we get into worldly agendas and ideas. It means our future shapes how we live today, how we see the world AND how we view the past, including our heritage.


There is a lot of talk about ‘heritage’, particularly southern heritage these days. I say this as one whose heritage is southern. Everyone with the last name ‘Bradsher’ who fought in the war between the states fought for the Confederacy. So I understand that many southern Americans believe the heritage and history of the south is being wiped out by liberals and are upset by this. They claim that the battle flag and the monuments are not about racism, just about southern heritage and history. But those on the other side of the issue view these monuments as celebrations of a hateful ideology; reminders of racism, slavery and oppression. For them these emblems also represent the fact that racism is alive and well today. And this is only reinforced by what happened in Charlottesville. For them, separating southern “heritage” from slavery and racism is an impossible task.


So how should a Christian respond to this issue? What is the biblical response? The danger for Christians is to get sucked into the conflict by choosing “sides” and by losing our Kingdom bearings, forgetting that our primary citizenship and our primary heritage is not of this world, but is of the world to come.  And so the right response is the one that most clearly gives the world that look into that glorious reality which Jesus is preparing. This includes speaking out against the rhetoric of the White Supremacists and calling it what it is - evil and demonic.  Racism and the Kingdom of God do not mix. Racism and the Kingdom of God are opposites. Racism and the Kingdom of God are not at peace and cannot be at peace with one another. Racism will lose in the end. The Kingdom of God will overcome and destroy racism in all of its forms. The Kingdom of God will endure forever and ever!

In the Father’s house there are many rooms for all peoples, colors, tongues and tribes. (John 14:2). Therefore, our response to what we saw in Charlottesville, and even to racism overall needs to reflect this Gospel truth. Let us endeavour to bring the healing leaves of the Gospel of peace to our wounded nation.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

HOW PRO-LIFE ARE YOU?


“I admire your passion for these unborn babies, but if abortion is outlawed who’s going to take care of them?”

Someone asked this question of me recently on social media after I posted articles and made statements on my Facebook page during the Planned Parenthood revelations. This person was echoing many on the liberal side of the issue. They are under the impression that if these children were not aborted, they would be abandoned or grow up in deplorable circumstances. The accusation I have heard made is that the pro-life crowd want abortion to end but they are not willing to step up to the plate and take in these unwanted children. 

My response was if abortion became illegal, Christians would rise to meet the need, because, I believe in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would bring great conviction upon the hearts of Christians to take in any and all unwanted children. I believe this because this is what Christians have been moved to do in the past. 

It was common practice in Roman culture to leave unwanted babies at the city dump.  “Roman law, religion and the entire ethos of their world saw nothing morally wrong with infanticide or with abandoning newborns.”[1]

Sometimes infertile couples would go and rescue these children and adopt them. Others would retrieve them for the purpose of slavery.  Christians would go and rescue these children from the dumps simply because they believed this was the right thing to do. Some of those children were already sick and dying. The Christians who found them cared for them until their death. “The catacombs [in Rome] are filled with very tiny graves with the epitaph “adopted daughter of…” or “adopted son of…” inscribed on them.”[2] Christians did it then, and they will do it again because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

That being said, I am not certain the present mindset of most Christians is prepared for such an undertaking. Many who wave the pro-life banner have not thought through what an abortion-free America would look like. Yes it would be wonderful were it to happen. But it also would require Christians do more than they are currently doing. Let's face it: taking needy children into one’s home is hardly the American Dream.  How much inconvenience are Christians willing to accept if Roe v. Wade is overturned?  Are we willing to show the defenders of abortion rights that their argument is a red herring? I am concerned there is some element of truth to the accusation.

Recently, God brought two little girls, ages 2 and 3, to us to care for while their parents get their lives on track.  These girls were prime candidates for an abortion. I am glad their mother and father chose life, but the way the champions of abortion rights would see it is it would have been better had they never been born. Children in their situation often become wards of the state. Many end up shuffled around in foster care which can be just as detrimental to their well-being as the environments that they were taken from. The logic goes like this:  If they had been aborted, then this wouldn’t happen.

How will Christians counter such a claim? Not by marches, protests or speaking in front of abortion clinics alone, but by standing in the gap and using whatever means we have been given by God to eradicate ALL and ANY perceived “need” for abortion to exist. For some of us that means being willing to take in kids who need a home. For some it means adopting children who might have slim chances of being adopted. If this is not possible, it may be supporting organizations and individuals that can do it. 

Many of our friends have expressed their admiration for our being willing to take in these girls because they recognized the sacrifice, the challenges and uncertainty that comes with such a decision. As much as my flesh wants to be seen as a hero, so much about this is basic to Christianity. We are just doing what needs doing, not because we are great people but because Jesus is a great savior. 

Psalm 72:4 says, “He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.” This was the job description of the King, David’s son which means its also Jesus’ job description. If this is what Jesus is into – saving the children of the needy – then we should be too, inside and outside of the womb.







[1] Silver, Sandra Sweeny  Footprints in Parchment: Rome Verses Christianity 30-313 AD” (2013, Author House) P. 73
[2] Ibid. P. 74

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

CONFESSIONS OF A THANKFUL PASTOR


"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18)




In 1863, president Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation reminding the nation of the blessings which they have enjoyed by the hand of Almighty God. Bear in mind that when he wrote this the War Between the States was in full swing. Yet, Lincoln seemed to understand Paul's command to "give thanks in all circumstances." 

"In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy." (Click HERE to read the full address)

I think Lincoln nailed it. We have a merciful God whom we often fail to thank for not dealing with us according to our sins. (Psalm 103:10) Especially when times are good and we enjoy the prosperity and bounty of his blessings, we forget God so easily. Learning to give thanks even in trying times is so vital to being a thankful people in general. If we can't see the blessings of God when times are hard, we won't see the blessings of God when everything is going well. 

I was reminded of this recently when a pastor friend of mine asked for prayer for some very difficult situations in his congregation. Yet even as he asked for prayer, he stated: I'm giving all this to the Lord and at peace, believe it or not. But at any moment it would be very easy to slip into a variety of negative emotions." 

It was when I read this that I realized how blessed and thankful I am to be the pastor of Grace Community Church. We have little to no controversy, feuds or strife because love, unity and joy in Christ abounds. On top of that, I received a phone call from a recent out-of-town visitor. She expressed her gratitude for Grace Community Church, for the friendliness, the welcome, the spirit of worship and the preaching of the Word. I can’t tell you how blessed I was to hear this and so thankful for each of you because this reflected the congregation’s love for Jesus and for each other which every pastor wants to see in his congregation.

Yet I must confess I struggle to give thanks in all circumstances.  I still look out on Sunday and allow empty seats to discourage me, rather than be thankful for whom God did bring. I am sure I am not alone. Discontentment and complaining is far too easy to slip into for many of us. So I am taking this time to give God thanks for each of you. Thank you for being such a loving, warm and inviting congregation. Thank you for the love you demonstrate towards one another, to the hurting and broken who come through our doors, and to me and my family. I do not profess to be very good at my calling, but I love being your pastor. I am so thankful that in spite of my many flaws and my weakness, Jesus is pleased to use me each week, often to my utter amazement. Wow - God is so good to us! God is so good to me!

May he continue to manifest his love and goodness to us in 2016 and beyond. May we continue to give him thanks in all circumstances with full assurance that since we are in Christ, the very worst that could ever happen to us happened to Jesus instead. Whatever else may happen in this world full of trials and pain, we have every reason to give thanks to the Lord! Amen!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

THE TENSION OF OUR DUAL CITIZENSHIP


Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1–7)


The entire book of Romans reveals something peculiar about the Christian life: it is a life of constant tension. The Christian lives in two worlds, two realities, which are opposed to one another. The Christian in this age is a new creation in Christ, but is still in many ways the same old broken creature. The Christian is free but you can still hear the broken chains clanking (Romans 7:21-15). The Christian is a citizen of the new world to come therefore he is not to conform to this world (Romans 12:2) but at the same time he must still live in the present world. And so we must learn to live in the tension which is what he is teaching the Romans to do in his instructions about interacting with governmental authorities. The government Paul refers to here is obviously the Roman Government which was NOT Christian nor even Christianized by this point. This is the government that unjustly crucified the Lord Jesus, would eventually behead Paul, crucify Peter upside down, and feed Christians to lions. Yet Paul tells the Roman Chriatians to be good citizens of the Roman Empire, perhaps because it would be too easy for Christians to see the government as the enemy to be resisted – the evil empire, instituted by Satan. If it is evil then it is a hindrance to God's kingdom purposes which can easily become an excuse to rebel. 

But Paul clearly states that all governments are instituted by God including the ones we did not vote for. Is this also true of the Stalins? Hitlers? The Kim-Jong Ils and the Chavez'? Yes – and also the Nebuchadnezzars, the Alexanders, the Caesars of ancient times. In Jeremiah 25:9, God calls Nebuchadnezzar his 'servant' whom he was calling upon to march against Judah. He was the Hitler of his day – put there by God. But this does not mean God is pleased with all those he puts in positions of authority. It does not mean God is responsible for their actions, nor does it mean they are excused for their actions. It simply means no king of the earth, no president or dictator of any nation is above God – no matter how powerful.  God is the supreme authority – second to none. He sets up kings and removes kings. (Dan. 2:21) Therefore, we must be SUBJECT to them. Paul is not saying there isn't ever a time when we must obey God rather than men. (Acts 4:19) What then does it mean to be subject (submit) to civil government? Douglas Moo exapins that to be subject means "to recognize one's subordinate place in a hierarchy established by God. It is to acknowledge that certain institutions or people have been placed over us and have the right to our respect and deference.”

Think of how Scripture teaches wives are to submit to husbands, how church members are to submit to church leaders, and how we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Submission is not mere obedience to whatever is commanded by those who are in authority. This question comes up with married couples: does submission mean do whatever my husband demands? No! There are limits to their authority and limits to your obligation – same is true in the church and the government. What limits all earthly authority is the heavenly authority of King Jesus who has all authority in heaven and earth! Submission does not mean we should be silent about injustice or about leadership failures or abuses. But it does mean when you speak out, when you confront, challenge that even then you respect their position or office. 

If you have been keeping up with the news then you know about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk of court who refused to issue marriage licenses because of her Christian convictions.  Many have said she should not be forced to do anything that violates her conscience or religious beliefs. Some have said, she should have resigned if her beliefs keep her from doing her job. A few weeks ago I posted a link to a sermon by Sandy Wilson, pastor of Second Presbyterian in Memphis. His perspective is someone in Kim Davis' situation ought to issue the marriage licenses to same-sex couples, not because he is flimsy on his view of marriage, (he is solidly reformed and holds to the biblical view of marriage) but because he makes the distinction between a Christian approving of something and simply performing a civil function. A biblical case could be made either way. Personally, I agree with Sandy Wilson's perspective and tried to think of the situation in different terms which I offer for your own reflection. What if I was the one who issues building permits in my county and found myself having to decide if I should approve or deny a building permit for an adult entertainment business? In this case I am not giving approval of the business itself, I am only giving permission for them to build a building. So in this case I could issue the permit. 

But at the same time, I am reminded of Martin Luther's famous saying when urged to recant of his teachings at the Diet of Worms: "...to go against conscience is neither right nor safe." I commend Kim Davis for refusing to go against her conscience and would never suggest she disregard her conscience. It may be her conscience is sensitive because it is misinformed...maybe. But I believe she was doing her best to live in the tension and for that I commend her and praise God for her, EVEN if I might have made a different decision were I in her shoes. She sought to appeal her case lawfully and tried to find a way to make it all work in a manner that put her conscience at ease.  She was not trying to disrespect the judge who declared her in contempt of court. And when asked on what authority she was refusing she declared it was on God's authority. She appealed to higher Laws that are not subject to change in the shifting winds of culture. But at the same time I believe the accusation made against other Christian clerks of court as "caving in" or "wimping out" (which I did see alot of on Facebook) is unfair. If they have a clear, biblically informed conscience and they feel issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples does not equal personal approval, then I do not view them as compromising their faith or guilty of sin. 

The point is, living in this tension is not easy and the answers are never simple and are seldom clear. But what is clear according to scripture are two things: 

(1) Jesus is our Supreme Ruler whom we follow above civil rulers. 
(2) Christians are to be noted for their civil obedience and be esteemed as upright citizens. 

As far as it depends on us we must strive to demonstrate what kingdom living is like through our behavior. By this we demonstrate that God's kingdom is about righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. By being such citizens we become the city on the hill. This is just one area among many of how we let the world see the glory of Christ and his kingdom in our lives.

I believe we can expect persecution in the days ahead and I believe that the intolerance of the culture towards genuine Christianity will grow. Meeting for public worship may become a crime one day. If and when it happens we will find great comfort in Jesus' response to Pilate. 

Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not 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 19:10–11).