Monday, January 21, 2013

President Obama and the Blessing of Abraham

I looked at my 18-month-old daughter today and realized that she was among the relatively few persons who was completely clueless as to the historical moment we all witnessed: the inauguration of the 44th President's 2nd term.  As her father, I know she'll have questions down the road about the times that she was born in.  I'm responsible for letting her know several things about the president that was in office when she was born.  First, that God is sovereign and that He chose President Obama for these years.  Secondly, that this man's racial make-up makes a very strong statement about the status and potential for ethnic minorities in this country.  The list could go on, but for the sake of staying on topic, I won't.

Thanks to internet archives, I know my daughter will hear other things about this presidency:

The "prophecies" from MLK and RFK re: the future presidency of a black man in America.
That Obama isn't just a president, but the "messiah"
Obama's unique ability to bring excitement to certain members of the national press
The president's widespread generosity in extending telecommunication privileges to the least and left out

But what do the scriptures say about this man?  I would say that the Bible says nothing at all different than what is said for all who have been or ever will be in his position:  pray.

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quite lives in all godliness and holiness"
1st Timothy 2:1-2

And I know that many are happy to pray for a president that they voted for.  However, millions who did NOT vote for this President, while praying about him, are not particularly "moved" to pray for him.  As a member of a predominantly black church that I am very proud to be in affiliation with, I personally know dozens of people who will fervently pray for President Obama's safety, his family, his success as a president, wisdom to avoid the various pitfalls plaguing the presidency, etc.  For sure, all these are good requests to bring before the Lord in the name of Christ on behalf of the leader that the LORD Himself ordained for the nation at this time.

Can I suggest another?  Pray for the blessing of Abraham to overtake our President's heart and life.

"And you are heirs of the prophets and of the the covenant God made with your fathers.  He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.'  When God raised up his servant, He sent Him first to you TO BLESS YOU by turning each of you from your wicked ways."
-Acts 3:25-26 (emphasis added)

I'm a man happily associated with Obama lovers and Obama haters-- both groups can be found within the various churches that proclaim Christ and His gospel.  But because of some racial, political, ethnic, and other  less important lines of division, these groups rarely intersect in meaningful ways either on the topic of Obama or his presidency.  But since so many on both sides generally agree on doctrine and practice, they would be more prepared for partnership if they could first partner in prayer.  Certainly, within the body of Christ, we can agree that this president would be more effective if blessed with an ever-increasing love for God that flows from a heart of repentance.  To be sure, the blessing of Abraham is Jesus Himself, the true Seed of Abraham through Whom we can all find forgiveness and His gospel commands our repentance.

For all my friends who love Jesus first and are sincerely grieved over the obvious violations of scripture either continued or enacted by this president, I simply ask, "Have you prayed that God would grant him repentance?"  I don't complain about your continued cataloging of his each and every public offense against the word of God through policies he supports.  I stand with you on that.  But in all your justifiably righteous indignation, have you sincerely prayed for God's mercy on your president such that he would renounce evil both in national government but also in his heart?  Or have you committed God's appointed man over our nation to utter destruction forgetting that the king's heart is in the LORD's hands?  If you're convinced "he ain't saved", pray for his salvation!  If you think he is a believer, at the very least, pray for repentance.

For all my friends who love Jesus first and can't understand how anyone could deny this President's faith, integrity, and greatness, I simply ask, "Are you blind?".  Do you truly believe that Obama's complete commitment to "protecting" children from assault rifles but failure to protect the unborn is a thoughtful and consistent with a biblical perspective?  When he openly embraces homosexual unions, thus betraying traditional marriage as outlined in the Bible, do you think that this pleases the God you serve?  If you are so eager to see Obama exalted, then you must know that he must first be humbled before the Lord.  Pray, therefore, for his repentance.

I openly confess that I have not truly prayed for President Obama these last 4 years as I should have.  But I have been convinced and convicted of my sin before the LORD and am determined to pray for his repentance even as I repent of shamefully weak intercession for him and his profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  Who is with me?

Monday, January 7, 2013

What If I Don't Feel Like It?

A Christian alive in the year 1513 met a Christian alive in 2013:

1513 Christian:  Man only proposes, but it is God Who disposes.
2013 Christian:  The Bible only infers, but We do what we prefer.

Isn't that the agenda and temptation of today's believer?  We know what God's word says, but we just don't feel like it.  It's not that the 1513 Christian always did God's will.  Far from that-- Christians of every age have failed God and have "preferred" their own way.  The difference is many of today's Christians openly rebel and refuse to blush.  Completely unashamed and even offended by any call to repentance, so many in our churches are most happy when expressing what's on their heart and most bored when challenged to discern God's heart as expressed in the text of scripture.

So how do we get past ourselves and do what we know is right to do?

Webster defines discipline as, "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character... orderly prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior."  So if we're disciplined, it means we've been worked on by some outside force and have been through enough drills such that, with the proper attention to correct thinking, we overcome our emotions and we do what is right.  So the answer is discipline, right?

I don't think so... at least not entirely.

Discipline is cold.  And unlike other cold things such as ice cream and cash, discipline rarely makes a person smile.  Many of us have worked hard at becoming 'more disciplined' only to find our disciplined selves defeated yet again by the boiling, red-hot passions that rage within us.  I'm not saying that discipline isn't part of the answer to doing what is right.  I'm just saying that it's not the whole answer.

Re-programming isn't enough.  What we need is a new passion.  We need a new love.  We need to embrace a goal and craving even bigger than self-satisfaction.  Being disciplined is good, but it's lifeless compared to being driven.  I met the LORD on my knees back in 1986 and over the last 26 years, I've become convinced of this one thing: knowing what's right is not the problem... a love for doing what is right-- THAT'S what's missing.  

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  
-Hebrews 12:2

Remember Gethsemane?  Jesus was not a cross-lover.  It was on His "to do list", but it didn't have little hearts dancing around it.  He didn't endure the most shameful kind of death ever invented because He was disciplined.  Scripture does not deny the shame of the cross and in fact, a few bible verses actually highlight and emphasize the shame of crucifixion.  But Jesus got past the shame by embracing another emotion: joy.  He was driven by the end product of the painful circumstance and therefore counted the displeasure a small thing in comparison.  Can fulfilling my own desires take me further than fulfilling God's will?

Forgive my enemies?  I'd prefer not to.  Pray for someone who hurts me?  I'd prefer not to.  Look after the needs of people who can't help me in my worst moments but swore they would?  I'd prefer not to.  Well, look at the Cross and consider the One on it: He did all these things and more, although He "preferred not to".  And the more cross-centered our lives are, the more we stop making our emotions/goals into gods, the more we desire Christ-likeness more than what we like... we'll be doing all kinds of things we don't want to do.  But I'm betting my life that there's more joy in that than anything else.

May God give me a pure preference for His pleasure and not my own.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Holy Ambitions > New Year's Resolutions

We've all heard Einstein's definition of insanity, "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  Sure, we've chuckled but have we really taken stock of how well we've proven ourselves insane based on this definition?  When it comes to New Year's Resolutions, how many more years in a row will it take to demonstrate our weakness and inability to truly change ourselves in God-honoring ways that last?

It's not that NYR's themselves are bad.  It's the background and purposes we have for them that determine their value.  How many times will we repeat mantras like these to ourselves:

"I want to be a better me."  (Isn't that really a "different" you?  Who will you be other than you?)
"This year, I'm taking myself more seriously." (Umm... do you know what you sound like right now?)
"New Year, New Me!"  (You start getting old tomorrow...that phrase has BEEN old...)
"This is MY year!"  (You and 7,000,000,000 other human beings just as selfish as you... good luck.)

The problem isn't so much the desire for change.  The issue is the source we often look to and depend on as we search for that change.  Think about it: if we recognize ourselves as flawed enough to need change... why do we assume ourselves adequate for the power and direction needed for that change?  Wouldn't that just lead us to the same issues next year?  And then more NYR's in 2014?  Kinda like 2011?  And 2010?


Here's a possible solution: Holy Ambitions.  I've written somewhere else on this blog about that topic so if you're wondering how the idea of "holiness" jives with "ambition", check here.  But for those of you already in the know, here's the basic breakdown on the difference between NYR's and Holy Ambitions:  NYR's generally focus on self-advancement and self-improvement by the power of, well, self.  We've already seen the futility of that.

A Holy Ambition is the abandonment of self for something greater for love of Someone Greater.  Holy Ambition means that I stop chasing things that I think are important so that I chase after God Himself.  Specifically, it means being zealous for the same things that God is excited about: the revelation of Himself, His glory, the promotion of the Kingdom of His Son, the propagation of His written word, obedience motivated by love for Him and stimulated by sincere trust in Him and His ways.  Once I chase after Him and  His purposes, He gives me p-l-e-n-t-y to do while He assumes the real work: changing and conforming me to the image of His Son.

So this year, if you really want to try something different, try this: stop chasing your own tail.  Stop making so much of yourself and thinking that someone other than the One Who made you can re-make you.  Instead, why not stop running from the Lord, return in repentance, and humbly accept the gospel message that can save you.   Not only will you have life-enriching goals to achieve, but you will know the power of God's Spirit to produce the change that you know you need but can't make on your own.

Anything else would be insane.