Thursday, September 16, 2010

Caring for the Poor

I'm watching the nightly news on NBC as I write this.  The opening story tonight was about poverty in America.  It was heartbreaking.  About 43 million people in America are living in poverty.  20% of children live in poverty.  It's a problem that is sweeping our nation, and taking victims right and left.  Therefore it's a hot topic on how much involvement (if any) government should have in solving this problem.  I'm not going to write about that tonight, although, as many of you know, I sure could.  I, of course, have an opinion on government roles, but that's not where I'm going tonight.

I'm ready for the day when the nightly news reports that poverty is at an all-time low, due to the evangelical church's involvement.  I'm ready for the day when the report shows how unity amongst evangelicals has led to less arguing, and more problem solving and action.  I'm ready for the day when that report turns people to Jesus inadvertently because no one can see these statistics and not turn to Him.

So, how can that happen?  Am I just an idealist who needs a reality check?  I don't think so.  I think the church has to get back to the foundation of faith.  We need to care more about Jesus's gospel agenda then the Tea Party's anti-government agenda.  We need to care more about the gospel agenda then the Democratic Party's more government agenda.  Because, in the end, both fail.  Neither one can give lasting, eternal hope.  Sure, both boast that they can solve the problem in the here and now, but that's not the end of it.  But the Church, through Jesus, can offer the eternal answer.

Proverbs 31:8-9 says, "Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy."  I don't see conditions in there.  Like, only support the poor if they are actively trying to find a job.  Or, only support those who have graduated from high school.  Or only help those that are legal.  Or, only support those who haven't made poor life choices.  I see a pretty broad, and pointed, command to Christians to defend those in need.  Now, I'm not advocating hand-outs, but I am advocating active, life-long support to those who are in need.  Without condition.  Because the grace of God has no conditions.  We are poor and needy, and without our Savior, we have nothing.  We can't make judgements that keep people out- we have to fight for everyone.

One of my favorite quotes is from Tim Keller, when he said, "When a Christian sees prostitutes, alcoholics, prisoners, drug addicts, unwed mothers, the homeless, the refugees, he knows that he is looking in the mirror.  He thinks, 'spiritually I was just like these people, even though physically and socially I was never where they are now.  They are outcasts.  I was an outcast."

Let's stop pitting us against them.  Let's stop crippling the love of Christ.  Let's stop following a Mormon, and follow Jesus Christ, whose lasting, eternal hope can literally change the world.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

God is Sovereign

Do you really believe that God is sovereign?  I do, but sometimes I think I only partially do.  I find most people are like that too.  We believe that God is always in control, and that He knows everything, but often we battle with the idea that God is fully in control- meaning we have no control.  That's where I think it gets tricky.  We take up arms about the idea that God would purpose certain events to happen, and that God would choose and plan one's life.

But when we look at the Bible, we're confronted with our disbelief.  In the Old Testament we see a vast amount of examples of God choosing particular people, and causing events to happen.  The biggest example of this is the nation of Israel.  God clearly chooses them as His people.  Even calling them His chosen people.  And I don't know many Christians that take issue with this idea.  God chose Israel.  Got it, no problem.  But have you ever considered the flip side?  It means He didn't choose the Philistines, or the Assyrians, or the Babylonians.  We don't get it, and we never will.  However, it's clear that this is the way of God in the Old Testament.

We see it again in the New Testament.  The disciples are specifically chosen and called by Jesus.  Again, the flip side of this is that other men were not chosen.  He chose Saul to change into Paul, and he became one of the greatest missionaries of our faith.  Again, this means God did not choose other persecutors of The Way, as Acts calls it.

So why do we fight the idea that God is sovereign, even in salvation?  God chooses us, we don't choose Him.  We see it in the Bible over and over again.  So why the argument?  Why the bickering?  Why do we hate this idea?

I think it's two-fold.  One- pride.  That's a big obstacle for me.  Pride keeps me from thinking that God could choose someone or some event over another.  Two- control.  I want to control, and I want to think that I'm in control.  Salvation coming from God and God alone, and that He chooses who and when to give it takes away control from me.  I can't manipulate situations, I can't convince, I can't control.  Even typing that is difficult.  But the reality is, it's true.

"And those He foreknew, He also predestined..."

Thoughts?  Anyone else out there struggle with this idea?  Disagree? Agree?  Let's hear it.