Archive for the 'Gospel and Culture' Category

Pray for Matt Chandler

by Stephen Rodgers

I debated on whether or not I should post anything about this. After all, it felt rather biased. Matt Chandler is one of my favorite preachers outside of LBC, and to draw attention to him in this way seemed…unfair?…unbalanced?…arbitrary? After all, this isn’t my newsletter, it’s the official newsletter of Lighthouse Bible Church. Right?

Wrong.

Ultimately, this is the official newsletter of Lighthouse Bible Church…which in turn is a church of Jesus Christ. And as anyone who remembers high school algebra or college logic will tell you, if LBC owns the Beacon, and Jesus owns LBC, then by the transitive property, Jesus owns the Beacon as well. And it is His glory, and His name, and His will that this blog is ultimately concerned with, not LBC’s.

Which brings us to Matt Chandler. I don’t know the man personally. I’m sure he doesn’t know me. As far as I can tell, no one from Texas even reads this blog. But none of that matters in light of the fact that Matt Chandler is a fellow brother in Christ, a fellow servant of our Lord, and a man currently in need of prayer.

Matt had a seizure last week, fell, struck his head, and was rushed to the hospital. While there, the doctor’s discovered a mass in his brain and, to use Matt’s words, “scheduled him for a date with the neurosurgeon.”

Pray for Matt Chandler. Pray for his family, his wife Lauren, and his children. Pray for his church. And in all of that, remember that you are praying to God. A God so awesome that He knew you, me, and Matt Chandler before there was an earth. A God so loving that He sent His only Son to die on our behalf. A God so merciful that He saved us all, dragging us kicking and screaming away from damnation to eternal life. And a God so wise that no matter what happens to you, me, or Matt Chandler, His perfect will will move inexorably onward, unable to be thwarted by the confusion and tragedies of this world.

More information can be found here.

(Good) Internet Resources for Christians

by Stephen Rodgers

I get a lot of questions about Christian resources: books, sermons, blogs, software…even Twitter, Facebook, and magazines. I hope that this article will serve as a helpful introduction to some excellent and trustworthy resources that will help you in your walk with the Lord.  And as always, if you need help with any of these, just find me at church.  They day I’m not happy to talk about the Bible and study-aids is the day I stand before my Maker.

Blogs

Sometimes a Christian just needs something good to read! Any of the blogs below would be a great place to start adding to your diet of Christian writing. And all of them support RSS as well, in case you just want to be notified when there’s an update. (If you don’t know what RSS is, ask Stephen Rodgers at church and he’ll explain it to you).

Shine the Light – This is the official blog of the Pastor’s of LBC. If you’re not reading it already, what are you waiting for?

Al Mohler’s Blog – Al Mohler blogs several times a week with a focus on current events and cultural issues. Just reading him is guaranteed to make you smarter!

Pulpit Magazine – Pulpit Magazine is the official blog of the Shepherd’s Conference at Grace Community Church, and they recently redesigned their website to make it much easier to read. They post several articles every week.

PyroManiacs – Updated daily, this is a Team Blog by Phil Johnson, Dan Phillips, and Frank Turk. They are some of the most outspoken voices (who can actually support their statements Biblically) on the internet today, and you would do well to give them a read.

desiringGod Blog – This is the blog of John Piper and several other folks at his church.

Sovereign Grace Ministries Blog – This is the blog of CJ Mahaney and several other folks at his church.

Twitter

Twitter may be a relatively recent phenomenon, but already several Christians have moved into the space and are working hard to encourage fellow believers and redeem this corner of social networking for the King.

JohnPiper – John Piper takes Twitter to a whole new level. His tweets are frequent, timely, and incredibly Bible-centered.

johnmacarthur – John MacArthur mostly uses Twitter to link to relevant articles at either Pulpit Magazine or Grace to You.

Rick_Holland – Rick Holland tweets often about the Bible, pastoral ministry, and life as a pastor/husband/father.

Kim_S_Holland – Kim Holland (Rick Holland’s wife), may actually be more prolific than her husband, and offers interesting comments and insights as a Christian wife and mother.

iamresolved – Even the Resolved Conference is on Twitter! You’ll want to follow them to get the latest information on resources and scheduling related to Resolved.

Sermons

Didn’t get enough of the Gospel on Sunday? Good for you! Listed below are links to a LARGE libraries of available and trustworthy sermons freely available on the internet.

LBC Sermons – Our first stop is the sermon library at our very own church. Ever wish that you could be in two (or more!) Sunday School classes at the same time? Now you can be! And while it may seem that the sermons only go back to 2008, Kyle and his team are busy getting the rest up there soon!

Grace to You – Another fabulous resource is what GCC affectionately calls “The Vault.” Here you will find 40 years (!) of sermons by John MacArthur, organized by title, scripture, date…if you can’t find something here to help you, then you’re just not looking hard enough. And the vast majority of the sermons have a transcript as well, so you can read them if you prefer that to listening.

Desiring God – John Piper has 20+ years of sermons available here, as well as messages from innumerable conferences. And yes, they are organized, categorized, and have transcripts as well. Honestly, I don’t know what DG feeds their webfolks, but the speed, quality and sheer amount of material that they make available is staggering.

Sovereign Grace – Something happened to the old page, and there’s only 3 of CJ Mahaney’s sermons up here now, but if you poke around a bit you can find many more.

Christ Fellowship Baptist Church – And while he doesn’t blog, another fantastic place to get some sermons is from Steve Lawson’s church. The man has a distinctive voice and a distinctive style that really make his messages come alive. And he’s one of my favorite expositor’s to boot.

Software

While there is a variety of Christian software available, I chose to highlight the following two resources because they’re good, easy to use, and best of all: free!

e-Sword – My personal favorite Bible-study software, e-sword makes the ESV Bible freely available. Other study guides such as commentaries, dictionaries, devotionals, and other translations of the Bible are available as well. Some require a small fee, but many are freely available. For ease of use, price, and value, I honestly believe this is the best software out there.

Libronix – If you have an ESV Bible, then you have qualified to download the ESV demo version of Libronix. It comes with the full ESV text, several other resources, and it is quite common for new resources to be made freely available (you’ll receive email notifications after you’ve registered). For example, last week, they gave away John MacArthur’s Study Guide to the book of Romans. It’s a bit more complicated to use than e-Sword, but it does give you access to material that e-Sword doesn’t. And since it’s free…why not have both?

Websites

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of BAD Christian websites out there. But listed below you’ll find that three are actually quite good, and will help you a LOT as you study the Word.

Bible Bulletin Board – BBB collects a variety of sermons, articles, and notes with an emphasis on John MacArthur, Charles Spurgeon, and Christian classics.

Biblegateway – It’s not fancy, but Biblegateway brings together hundreds of translations of the Bible, makes them available, searchable, and free. If you just want to read a passage in several translations, this is a great place to do it.

Blue Letter Bible – Blue Letter Bible is a fantastic resource for Bible translations, notes, commentaries, study aids, dictionaries, and devotionals online.

NET Bible – The NET Bible is a very interesting site. In addition to being a very credible translation in it’s own right, they also make their footnotes, cross-references, index, and translator notes freely available. You can learn a LOT from checking out their site.

And don’t forget…if you have an ESV Study Bible, then you have a code that you can register to get access to the Bible, notes, and account software online for free as well! Anywhere you have an internet connection, you have your ESV Study Bible.

Persecution Unbounded: Ignoring the Obvious

by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

From restaurants to fast-food places for breakfast, lunch and dinner seems to be a daunting task for many of us. Enjoying a multi-hyphenated concoction of coffee at a local Starbucks or perusing the Internet at incredible speed would typically be the norm for many a single adult or collegian wanting to spend a productive day reading God’s Word, while listening to the latest album by Chris Tomlin. This looks like the typical day for a Christian in the comforts of San Diego.

Easily this can lead to a reprimand of all things technological or an issue of having biblical priorities, but this isn’t the road I’m taking. The reality of persecution within the body of Christ seems to be furthest from our minds, especially since its absence in the media never makes mention of the constant attacks from many who seek to dethrone Christ’s authority within their respective countries. In the wake of the Olympics in China this past year, a slight murmur came out over the fact that many believers were, and still are, being pursued to silence from proclaiming Christ, beating, arresting, and threatening many with death. Pastor “Bike” Zhang Mingxuan, his wife and family were arrested and held in captivity in a hotel until the international athletic events had ended. Only then did people respond, as China was, for a small amount of time, under watchful eyes. Not too long after the frenzy and excitement was gone did the son of that pastor received an intense beating by Public Security Officials.

The scope of this brutality is too large for us to consider when we begin to hear some of the stories that come out from lands where to read a Bible openly or to pass tracts could lead to your potential death. Yet, this is the blessing that Jesus Christ Himself gives to anyone who hears: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

This is the hope that drew a woman, “Laila,” away from her abusive husband in the Middle East to embrace Christ as her Savior and Lord. She left and returned to her family in the United States, who were Muslims. They threatened her repeatedly to renounce Christ, which she knew she could not do. This is the result of one who truly leaves everything, their familial background and their sins, to follow Christ wholeheartedly.

Life is being given to those who are living for Jesus, cherishing their only Bible, digging into its contents and doing the work of God in countries where people can easily be taken away, and opposition is strong. The Scriptures are clear for us as well: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3). We must hurt with those who are hurting, with believers who can without difficulty lose heart in worshipping Christ openly, and without fear. We must remember their acts of courage in standing up for the truth even when no one else will, for the sake of honoring God and spreading the aroma of Christ to those who don’t believe and are unrepentent.

Learn the struggles that our brothers and sisters are facing now, at this moment. When guerilla fighters are hunting for you, is not your desire for deliverance? For their hearts to burn for Christ, and also that others would be praying for you? The Word of God has already spoken: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:29). A biblical view of loving one another must include the sharing of sufferings, theirs as well as our own. Read biographies that display lives of faithfulness in times of faithlessness like that of Esther Ahn Kim and Richard Wurmbrand. Discover ways you can support the universal church through ministries like Compassion and Voice of the Martyrs. We must take action in supporting and truly loving the brethren, as well as ours and their enemies, in ways that show Christ is more significant than our iPods. Persecution is rampant; can our love be as unbounded as Christ’s? Let’s show the world a tiny glimpse of that, and “all people will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35).

Economic Recession from a Biblical Perspective

by Garrett Glende

As this article is being written, shoppers around the country are crunching the numbers in their checking accounts, wondering if they will be able to provide the kind of gifts their children are used to receiving this Christmas. The past months have brought a recession to the United States which has not left many unaffected. The decline has been brought about by many factors including the decreasing value of the dollar, the subprime mortgage crisis, and the bankruptcy of many large investment banks. To be certain, these are tough times for the average worker, but the Christian must not cry out “the sky is falling!” But what should be the proper response to this economic crisis? What wisdom does God offer?

In order to develop a biblical attitude toward the current state of the economy, it is necessary to look to Scripture to see how God has told us to handle our finances and the rest of our possessions. First, we must realize that what we have is truly not our own. Everything that is ours has been given to us by the grace of God. Paul reminds the Corinthians, “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did not receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). We need to recognize that our belongings are God’s and it needs to show through in our actions. Also, we should guard ourselves from any temptation to covet money or material things. The Christian’s first affection is Christ. When we place money and wealth above all else, we have fallen into idolatry and have dethroned Christ as Lord in our hearts. Jesus warns us that “you cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). 1 Timothy 6:9 says that “those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.” It is easy for the man who pursues riches to become blinded by his quest for worldly possessions that he forgets what is most important, ruining his soul in the process. We must store up heavenly treasures, for our treasures are in the same place as our hearts (Matthew 6:19-21). With this in mind, the Christian must also work hard to provide a healthy life for his family, doing all to the glory of God. We aren’t to be lazy and just trust that God will provide, but we should work diligently and with excellence to make a living.

So how are we to respond today? One thing that would be more than appropriate is prayer. We must acknowledge our utter dependence on God, the provider of every gift. Pray for protection from the love of money. Pray for God to provide only what you need. Pray that the poor would be provided for and that our leaders would handle the situation responsibly. Ultimately, we must remind ourselves that God will provide all that we need in life. He does not guarantee wealth, success, or health, but he has given us a promise that He “causes all things to work together for good to those who love [Him]” (Romans 8:28). God will not be unfaithful to this promise. Christians can rejoice in the fact that no matter how difficult circumstances are, we have a God who works all things out for good. Constantly worrying about the falling stock prices is not a healthy attitude to have. Instead, it would be good for us to continually give thanks to God for granting us everything that we do have, while believing that He will continue to sustain us through this period of time.

The Apostle Thomas – Part 4 – From Despair to Declaration

by Stephen Rodgers

Part 4 of 4: John 20:26-28

We’ve seen that Thomas doubted that Jesus rose from the dead.  But was his doubt so bad?  Did that really distinguish him from the rest of the disciples?  Not at all!  Scripture tells us that the other disciples didn’t believe that Jesus had risen until He appeared to them as well.  The women tried to tell them, but they wouldn’t listen to them either.
Matthew 28:16-17 tells us that “some doubted.”  Mark 16:9-11 tells us that when “they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.”  And Luke 24:8-11 states that “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.”
It’s almost comical.  The disciples who were so recently sharing in Thomas’ skepticism are now attempting to convert him to their perspective, but they can’t.  One can almost imagine Mary Magdelene in the background shaking her head…”Now you know what it feels like to have the greatest news in the history of the world…and be unable to find an audience.  Good job guys.  Good job.”  Welcome to the role-reversal.
Until finally Christ himself appears to Thomas.  Again, you can almost picture Thomas…he wants to believe so badly.  This is what he wants more than anything else.  He can’t cry anymore, he’s cried until he has no more tears.  He can’t decide whether his friends are preying on his fears or simply have snapped.  He’s probably replayed the events of the past week hundreds of times in his mind…”If only we never went to the garden…if only we’d tossed Judas overboard on the Sea of Galilee…if only we’d defended Him from the mob, at least we could have died with Him!…If only we…If only I…”
Maybe he’s blinking.  Maybe he’s rubbing his eyes.  He probably walking towards Jesus, terrified that when he gets there it will all have been a hallucination or a trick of the light.  And Jesus turns to him.  He looks into the eyes of his teacher, who he never thought to see again.  And then Jesus speaks to him.  He hears the voice of his master, who he never thought to hear again!
Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
Jesus’ words are not mocking.  They don’t repudiate Thomas; they reassure Him.  Thomas had seen his Lord cast out demons, walk on water, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, give speech to the lame, run semantic circles around the intellectual elite of his day, and forgive sins…so a little omniscience is par for the course.  Jesus is reminding Thomas that He knows him; He understands his doubt, which stems not from a hardened heart…but from an utterly broken one.
And so Thomas does the appropriate thing.  He understands.  And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” What a statement!  Even Simon Peter needed divine revelation from God to say those words.  And yet Thomas utters them spontaneously, of his own initiative, out of a belief that comes from love.
“Doubting Thomas” indeed.  I wish I was more like him.
That’s the last time Scripture explicitly mentions Thomas.  Church tradition says that he carried the gospel to India where he was martyred.  The book or Revelation mentions him implicitly when it says that the names of the twelve are written on the gates of Heaven.  But we don’t know anything else about Thomas, which is pretty much the point.  This isn’t his story; he’s just an illustration to show us a greater truth.   That when God gets ahold of the heart of a depressed, pessimistic skeptic and his friends, He can utterly change the world.

We’ve seen that Thomas doubted that Jesus rose from the dead.  But was his doubt so bad?  Did that really distinguish him from the rest of the disciples?  Not at all!  Scripture tells us that the other disciples didn’t believe that Jesus had risen until He appeared to them as well.  The women tried to tell them, but they wouldn’t listen to them either.

Matthew 28:16-17 tells us that “some doubted.”  Mark 16:9-11 tells us that when “they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.”  And Luke 24:8-11 states that “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.”

It’s almost comical.  The disciples who were so recently sharing in Thomas’ skepticism are now attempting to convert him to their perspective, but they can’t.  One can almost imagine Mary Magdelene in the background shaking her head…”Now you know what it feels like to have the greatest news in the history of the world…and be unable to find an audience.  Good job guys.  Good job.”  Welcome to the role-reversal.

Until finally Christ himself appears to Thomas.  Again, you can almost picture Thomas…he wants to believe so badly.  This is what he wants more than anything else.  He can’t cry anymore, he’s cried until he has no more tears.  He can’t decide whether his friends are preying on his fears or simply have snapped.  He’s probably replayed the events of the past week hundreds of times in his mind…”If only we never went to the garden…if only we’d tossed Judas overboard on the Sea of Galilee…if only we’d defended Him from the mob, at least we could have died with Him!…If only we…If only I…”

Maybe he’s blinking.  Maybe he’s rubbing his eyes.  He probably walking towards Jesus, terrified that when he gets there it will all have been a hallucination or a trick of the light.  And Jesus turns to him.  He looks into the eyes of his teacher, who he never thought to see again.  And then Jesus speaks to him.  He hears the voice of his master, who he never thought to hear again!

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

Jesus’ words are not mocking.  They don’t repudiate Thomas; they reassure Him.  Thomas had seen his Lord cast out demons, walk on water, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, give speech to the lame, run semantic circles around the intellectual elite of his day, and forgive sins…so a little omniscience is par for the course.  Jesus is reminding Thomas that He knows him; He understands his doubt, which stems not from a hardened heart…but from an utterly broken one.

And so Thomas does the appropriate thing.  He understands.  And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” What a statement!  Even Simon Peter needed divine revelation from God to say those words.  And yet Thomas utters them spontaneously, of his own initiative, out of a belief that comes from love.

“Doubting Thomas” indeed.  I wish I was more like him.

That’s the last time Scripture explicitly mentions Thomas.  Church tradition says that he carried the gospel to India where he was martyred.  The book or Revelation mentions him implicitly when it says that the names of the twelve are written on the gates of Heaven.  But we don’t know anything else about Thomas, which is pretty much the point.  This isn’t his story; he’s just an illustration to show us a greater truth.   That when God gets ahold of the heart of a depressed, pessimistic skeptic and his friends, He can utterly change the world.

Change You Should Believe In

Somewhere in America, a mother loses her son to the war in Iraq, a father’s job ships overseas, an elderly man’s retirement fund has evaporated, a young woman works the night shift after a full day of college but still cannot provide health care for her ailing sister, and each are hoping for a better tomorrow and praying for a brighter day to come. This year, a young senator from Illinois and an old senator from Arizona embody this hope for these people and millions like them. For the past nearly two years, Barack Obama and John McCain have engaged in a historic presidential run, captivated the hearts of Americans, and turned the apathetic into the awed and the bitter into believers.
Regardless of who wins the election, politics as we know it will never be the same. By the time anybody reads this article, the election will probably be over, and history will have been made. Consequently, this article is not an official Beacon endorsement for any candidate but rather an inquisition into how we, as Christians, should view this battle of hope and experience in light of being followers of Christ.
There are essentially three categories that I think most people fall into: the uninformed, the informed, and…everyone else, I guess.
First, the uninformed crowd. Let’s be honest. Some people simply do not care about politics. Especially at a church setting, it seems, being informed about these issues always takes a backseat to the sanctification of your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and yourself. This is not to say that all those who are not informed do not care for politics at all, but it just does not seem as important as “Christian stuff.” For others, it seems that life goes on no matter who is in office or what happens in Washington and as a result, they find no reason to read up on the news or care who is running for president. Though I would be hard-pressed to find any passage in the Bible that says you have to maintain a steady discipline of CNN and BBC News intake, I would like to submit this smidgen of logic: God is a sovereign God. He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Fittingly, the scope of God’s power and grace cannot be limited to the local church or in our personal sanctification. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” And so, it is not too far a stretch to conclude that God’s handiworks, even in politics, are instruments of carrying out His will and making His glory known. Therefore, as Christians, we cannot turn a blind eye to what happens in Washington or dichotomize issues into God and non-God. In the end, being uninformed is not a sin, but caring about what goes on in the country and being informed can help us gain a better view, understanding, and appreciation for the depth and extent of God’s grace.
And for the informed, I would caution that the close nature of this election has made it easier to polarize fellow brothers and sisters because of their political differences. Experience, albeit little for me, has taught me two lessons. One is that some battles are not worth fighting. For example, trying to convince someone that Obama is the antichrist or that McCain is a warmonger are issues that I consider absolutely trivial and fruitless. The second is that 1 Corinthians 8:1 (Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up) most certainly holds true when it comes to talking about politics. Some who consider themselves informed condescend, some argue, and unfortunately, some get so worked up upon discovering fundamental differences in values and opinions in others that they inadvertently remove love (and consequently God) from their efforts to ostensibly reform the other person. However, just as I mentioned above, because God’s handiworks is in everything, including politics, discussions about it should never be devoid of God and love. In other words, since we are to be united as the body of Christ, political discussions can occur with the intent to educate and encourage, but should never come as a means of division.
For everyone else, make no mistake as the next candidate, regardless of who he is, will succeed a president who has received one of the lowest approval ratings ever, averaged what economists call a “dismal 1.7/5 for economic management,” alienated other parties, and damaged relations with the rest of the world. He will inherit what “The Economist” calls “the most difficult international situation since 1968,” and what Colin Powell describes as a “daunting period” for the nation. Times will inevitably be tough these next few years and in these trials, we invariably find people who believe that a candidate will be the solution to these problems. In this election, perhaps more than ever, we find citizens holding firmly to a hope in these candidates—to what McCain promises as “reform, prosperity, peace” or what Obama calls, “change you can believe in.”
Although it is not wrong to want a better or a more prosperous future for yourself and your family, one must remember to never desire these things more than desiring God—a theme we find in 1 Samuel 12. After God has given the Israelites a king, He reminds them that their ultimate responsibility is to obey His commands:
“Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see the Lord has set a king over you. If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God – good! But if you do not obey the Lord,…His hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.”
Similarly, God has blessed us with a democracy where we have the privilege of voting. However, much as the Israelites needed to be reminded, we must also be reminded that our hope in these candidates should never supersede the things of God and our hope in Him, or as Pastor Patrick so aptly put it, “God’s plan was never for our ultimate hope to be established through government or politics.”
In regards to the political makeup of our church, though bipartisanship remains an integral part of our government, it has no place in fellowship. Political conversations can be healthy and educational, but political agendas should never come at the cost of needlessly dividing fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all children of God saved by the same grace and imputed the same righteousness, and politics should never make us lose sight of this truth: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (Eph 2:19)
We now find ourselves either bracing for or embracing the next President of the United States but regardless of party affiliation, we must remember Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:2 to “not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” For people like the mother and her son in Iraq, the father and his unstable job, the elderly man, or the hardworking young woman, every passing election will assuredly bring promises of reform, prosperity, and change they supposedly can believe in. However, as Christians, do these hardships cause us to turn to certain candidates in such a way as to lessen our dependence on the sovereignty and grace of God? Do we get more worked up about the things of politics than the things of God? Are we more eager to spread our political agendas than the Gospel?
Ultimately for all Christians, for the informed and uninformed alike, in light of this election, we must never let these promises and issues make us lose sight of our ultimate Hope—the Hope that has transformed and renewed our minds, the Hope which gives us the change we can and must believe in.

by Ed Yip

Somewhere in America, a mother loses her son to the war in Iraq, a father’s job ships overseas, an elderly man’s retirement fund has evaporated, a young woman works the night shift after a full day of college but still cannot provide health care for her ailing sister, and each are hoping for a better tomorrow and praying for a brighter day to come. This year, a young senator from Illinois and an old senator from Arizona embody this hope for these people and millions like them. For the past nearly two years, Barack Obama and John McCain have engaged in a historic presidential run, captivated the hearts of Americans, and turned the apathetic into the awed and the bitter into believers.

Regardless of who wins the election, politics as we know it will never be the same. By the time anybody reads this article, the election will probably be over, and history will have been made. Consequently, this article is not an official Beacon endorsement for any candidate but rather an inquisition into how we, as Christians, should view this battle of hope and experience in light of being followers of Christ.

There are essentially three categories that I think most people fall into: the uninformed, the informed, and…everyone else, I guess.

First, the uninformed crowd. Let’s be honest. Some people simply do not care about politics. Especially at a church setting, it seems, being informed about these issues always takes a backseat to the sanctification of your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and yourself. This is not to say that all those who are not informed do not care for politics at all, but it just does not seem as important as “Christian stuff.” For others, it seems that life goes on no matter who is in office or what happens in Washington and as a result, they find no reason to read up on the news or care who is running for president. Though I would be hard-pressed to find any passage in the Bible that says you have to maintain a steady discipline of CNN and BBC News intake, I would like to submit this smidgen of logic: God is a sovereign God. He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Fittingly, the scope of God’s power and grace cannot be limited to the local church or in our personal sanctification. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” And so, it is not too far a stretch to conclude that God’s handiworks, even in politics, are instruments of carrying out His will and making His glory known. Therefore, as Christians, we cannot turn a blind eye to what happens in Washington or dichotomize issues into God and non-God. In the end, being uninformed is not a sin, but caring about what goes on in the country and being informed can help us gain a better view, understanding, and appreciation for the depth and extent of God’s grace.

And for the informed, I would caution that the close nature of this election has made it easier to polarize fellow brothers and sisters because of their political differences. Experience, albeit little for me, has taught me two lessons. One is that some battles are not worth fighting. For example, trying to convince someone that Obama is the antichrist or that McCain is a warmonger are issues that I consider absolutely trivial and fruitless. The second is that 1 Corinthians 8:1 (Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up) most certainly holds true when it comes to talking about politics. Some who consider themselves informed condescend, some argue, and unfortunately, some get so worked up upon discovering fundamental differences in values and opinions in others that they inadvertently remove love (and consequently God) from their efforts to ostensibly reform the other person. However, just as I mentioned above, because God’s handiworks is in everything, including politics, discussions about it should never be devoid of God and love. In other words, since we are to be united as the body of Christ, political discussions can occur with the intent to educate and encourage, but should never come as a means of division.

For everyone else, make no mistake as the next candidate, regardless of who he is, will succeed a president who has received one of the lowest approval ratings ever, averaged what economists call a “dismal 1.7/5 for economic management,” alienated other parties, and damaged relations with the rest of the world. He will inherit what “The Economist” calls “the most difficult international situation since 1968,” and what Colin Powell describes as a “daunting period” for the nation. Times will inevitably be tough these next few years and in these trials, we invariably find people who believe that a candidate will be the solution to these problems. In this election, perhaps more than ever, we find citizens holding firmly to a hope in these candidates—to what McCain promises as “reform, prosperity, peace” or what Obama calls, “change you can believe in.”

Although it is not wrong to want a better or a more prosperous future for yourself and your family, one must remember to never desire these things more than desiring God—a theme we find in 1 Samuel 12. After God has given the Israelites a king, He reminds them that their ultimate responsibility is to obey His commands:

“Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see the Lord has set a king over you. If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God – good! But if you do not obey the Lord,…His hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.”

Similarly, God has blessed us with a democracy where we have the privilege of voting. However, much as the Israelites needed to be reminded, we must also be reminded that our hope in these candidates should never supersede the things of God and our hope in Him, or as Pastor Patrick so aptly put it, “God’s plan was never for our ultimate hope to be established through government or politics.”

In regards to the political makeup of our church, though bipartisanship remains an integral part of our government, it has no place in fellowship. Political conversations can be healthy and educational, but political agendas should never come at the cost of needlessly dividing fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all children of God saved by the same grace and imputed the same righteousness, and politics should never make us lose sight of this truth: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (Eph 2:19)

We now find ourselves either bracing for or embracing the next President of the United States but regardless of party affiliation, we must remember Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:2 to “not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” For people like the mother and her son in Iraq, the father and his unstable job, the elderly man, or the hardworking young woman, every passing election will assuredly bring promises of reform, prosperity, and change they supposedly can believe in. However, as Christians, do these hardships cause us to turn to certain candidates in such a way as to lessen our dependence on the sovereignty and grace of God? Do we get more worked up about the things of politics than the things of God? Are we more eager to spread our political agendas than the Gospel?

Ultimately for all Christians, for the informed and uninformed alike, in light of this election, we must never let these promises and issues make us lose sight of our ultimate Hope—the Hope that has transformed and renewed our minds, the Hope which gives us the change we can and must believe in.

The Case for Prop 8

by David Ahn

For those of you who already feel like the presidential election has been decided long ago, it’s easy to lose motivation to actually go out and vote. However, there is one very important issue on the ballot where your vote DOES matter: Prop 8, which places the following 14 words into the California Constitution: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.” Recent polls have shown the percentage difference between No and Yes voters to be less than 5 percent. Both campaigns are readily aware of the closeness of the issue, and have raised staggering levels of fundraising and have been blitzing the airwaves with commercials. This is an issue where every vote, including yours, counts.
Since most of us have a biblical understanding of marriage and homosexuality, we share an understanding that marriage is between one man and one woman. However, opponents of Prop 8 have attempted to stifle our voices and opinions by portraying the issue as one of civil rights and equality. To summarize, one of their television ads states, “Regardless of how you feel about marriage, it’s wrong to treat people differently under the law.” Unfortunately, the public has seemingly bought into this notion. Newspapers and corporations (including AT&T, Apple, and Google) have all publicly come out in support of the No on Prop 8 campaign. Prominent figures such as Governor Schwarzeneggar and Senator Obama have explicitly stated that they believe marriage to be between one man and one woman, but yet have opposed the proposition.
However, most unfortunate of all is the fact that many of us Christians have bought into this lie as well, and we often feel ashamed to let our voice be heard, or fear imposing our views on those who don’t agree with us. However, this is NOT an issue about civil rights. Currently, same-sex civil unions have the EXACT same legal rights and privileges under California law. The issue, then, is in the definition of marriage. If you take the definition provided by opponents of Prop 8 (“marriage as being between two loving and committed individuals”), then surely banning gay marriage is unjust. But what makes THEIR definition any more inherently valid than ours? Also, their definition is equally guilty of being exclusive to certain groups of people: it excludes marriages of more than two people; and, although it doesn’t explicitly state it, I would assume that their definition excludes members of the same family from getting married as well. I know that sounds silly and obvious, but if the issue were truly about equality and fundamental rights, then who has the authority to say that love between one group of people is any lesser than love from another group of people? No one. There could be no definition of marriage at all.
For quite some time now, marriage has consistently been between a man and a woman. The terms “husband” and “wife” go hand in hand. When you see someone wearing a wedding ring, there is no doubt in your mind what the sex of their significant other is. As Christians, that definition of marriage is even more clear, as it is used to portray the church as Christ’s bride, or as it talks about the roles of husbands and wives. For the past thousands of years, across different cultures and generations, the definition of marriage has never been unclear. Why should we let it be now? Vote Yes on Prop 8.

For those of you who already feel like the presidential election has been decided long ago, it’s easy to lose motivation to actually go out and vote. However, there is one very important issue on the ballot where your vote DOES matter: Prop 8, which places the following 14 words into the California Constitution: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.” Recent polls have shown the percentage difference between No and Yes voters to be less than 5 percent. Both campaigns are readily aware of the closeness of the issue, and have raised staggering levels of fundraising and have been blitzing the airwaves with commercials. This is an issue where every vote, including yours, counts.

Since most of us have a biblical understanding of marriage and homosexuality, we share an understanding that marriage is between one man and one woman. However, opponents of Prop 8 have attempted to stifle our voices and opinions by portraying the issue as one of civil rights and equality. To summarize, one of their television ads states, “Regardless of how you feel about marriage, it’s wrong to treat people differently under the law.” Unfortunately, the public has seemingly bought into this notion. Newspapers and corporations (including AT&T, Apple, and Google) have all publicly come out in support of the No on Prop 8 campaign. Prominent figures such as Governor Schwarzeneggar and Senator Obama have explicitly stated that they believe marriage to be between one man and one woman, but yet have opposed the proposition.

However, most unfortunate of all is the fact that many of us Christians have bought into this lie as well, and we often feel ashamed to let our voice be heard, or fear imposing our views on those who don’t agree with us. However, this is NOT an issue about civil rights. Currently, same-sex civil unions have the EXACT same legal rights and privileges under California law. The issue, then, is in the definition of marriage. If you take the definition provided by opponents of Prop 8 (“marriage as being between two loving and committed individuals”), then surely banning gay marriage is unjust. But what makes THEIR definition any more inherently valid than ours? Also, their definition is equally guilty of being exclusive to certain groups of people: it excludes marriages of more than two people; and, although it doesn’t explicitly state it, I would assume that their definition excludes members of the same family from getting married as well. I know that sounds silly and obvious, but if the issue were truly about equality and fundamental rights, then who has the authority to say that love between one group of people is any lesser than love from another group of people? No one. There could be no definition of marriage at all.

For quite some time now, marriage has consistently been between a man and a woman. The terms “husband” and “wife” go hand in hand. When you see someone wearing a wedding ring, there is no doubt in your mind what the sex of their significant other is. As Christians, that definition of marriage is even more clear, as it is used to portray the church as Christ’s bride, or as it talks about the roles of husbands and wives. For the past thousands of years, across different cultures and generations, the definition of marriage has never been unclear. Why should we let it be now? Vote Yes on Prop 8.


About

The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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