Archive for October, 2016
It’s election season. As Americans entrusted with the hard-won privilege of self-government, we have a responsibility to participate in the process of electing those who serve us. Elections are wonderful and yet often unwieldy things. Elections are like giant negotiations between millions of diverse people as to who will lead all of us in a variety of roles: legislative, executive, and judicial.
The very nature of this mass negotiation means that total unity is never achievable. This is certainly true in the election of our nation’s President every four years. Yet, most of the time, a pretty remarkable degree of unity is found around at least two candidates, as various groups within our diverse nation let go of certain priorities in order for the chance to do good on others. America has worked exceptionally well.
Yet this election season reminds us that the political process is inherently tied to the people that engage that process. Winston Churchill put it this way: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried.”
Unfortunately, this election exposes the reality of an increasingly fractured—and, we must say, spiritually darkened—nation. The parties are pulling farther apart, and within parties there are sharper divisions. The nature of these divisions are often over matters of inestimable importance.
Yet there is a more dangerous prospect than the fracturing of the nation. If we’re not careful, the question of what to do in this election can harm not only the nation’s unity, but unity within local gospel churches.
Kevin DeYoung has done us all another favor by expressing some timely and needed ideas clearly in his piece, “Seeking Clarity in this Confusing Election Season: Ten Thoughts.” After saying that, for his part, he will not be voting for either major candidate, Kevin offers this exhortation to deference among brothers and sisters. We resonate with this spirit.
“This does not mean I think every Christian must come to the same decision in order to be a good Christian. There are simply too many prudential matters in the mix for Christians to be adamant that you absolutely cannot vote for so and so. Someone may think Trump is a lecherous oaf, but still conclude that his policies and judicial appointments have a better chance of being good for the nation. Likewise, someone may find Clinton’s position on abortion utterly deplorable, but conclude that Trump’s pro-life credentials are untrustworthy and that Clinton is less likely to be recklessly incompetent. Others may be convinced that an unpopular Clinton presidency may be better for conservative principles in the long run than a train wreck Trump administration would be. Some people may think voting third party is a waste. Others may figure it is one way to send a message that the system failed us this time around. Or maybe they really, really like Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin or whomever. Do I agree with all these arguments? No. But am I able to tell Christians that these arguments are manifestly unbiblical? No. They are conclusions that require prudential judgments. While our church might discipline a member for holding the positions Clinton holds or for behaving the way Trump has behaved, this does not mean we have biblical grounds for disciplining a church member who, for any number of reasons and calculations, may decide that voting for either candidate (or neither) makes the most sense. And if we wouldn’t discipline someone for a presidential vote, we should stop short of saying such a vote is sinful and shameful.”
Kevin has much more to say, and so much of it helpful. Read Kevin’s entire post here. Though it was written in the context of a different election, Kevin’s post, “What Am I Doing When I Vote?” offers us helpful distinctions for more careful thinking about what a vote is and isn’t. Evidence of Kevin’s perceptivity is the fact that this article from 2012 practically accounts for our present situation.
“First, I did not want anyone to think that the Gospel was tied to a political party. If I were to endorse a candidate, people would identify Christianity with that political label, and this would be a stumbling block to those of the opposing political party. Instead of endorsements, over the years I have preached on those issues which cross the biblical/political divide, such as abortion, the role of law, same-sex marriage, etc. But throughout I have always insisted that the cross of Christ must be held above political wrangling, particularly before an election. We must be able to say to Democrats, to Republicans, and to Independents, ‘All of you are lost forever if you do not put your faith in Christ.’
The second reason for my refusal was that I feared a politician I endorsed could turn out to be a disappointment, and I would then be embarrassed that I had lent my name (and by extension that of The Moody Church) to the man or woman who acted in an un-Christian manner.”
These are wise words.
If you read around the web or track with social media, you’ll be familiar with the strongly prescriptive and often condescending or dismissive spirit from all sides around the question who Christians should or shouldn’t vote for. Strong opinions are good, and even needed for robust self-government. But if we’re not careful, we can end up treating the voices of leaders we trust as a kind of extra-biblical papal authority. Let us remember that we account to God for our decisions, and let us with all seriousness live and vote like that is true.
Lutzer’s tone, along with Kevin’s, really is the spirit to model. Or at least it seems that way to this writer and Christian. Whatever you purpose to do this election, surely you have heard silly, misrepresentative, and wrong-spirited arguments against your decision. It’s good to remember, and even to self-consciously acknowledge, that not everyone who disagrees with you disagrees with you for those same reasons and in that same spirit. Kevin and Lutzer will likely vote differently, and yet they express their arguments and their disagreements reasonably and in a manner appropriate to the murkiness of the moment.
Finally, we simply must conclude with a word from Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. George, reflecting on the difficult options our political process has left us with, looks forward with perspective and offers these wise words on Facebook:
“. . . This is where charity is required. There is no point in getting angry at people for whom what is obvious to oneself in these appalling circumstances is not obvious. Every single one of us needs to do his or her best to think this thing through carefully and then follow the dictates of conscience, acknowledging and appreciating the fact that conscience might lead other reasonable people of goodwill to a different conclusion.
Whatever happens, whichever of these people is elected, those of us who believe in limited government, constitutional fidelity and the Rule of law, flourishing institutions of civil society, traditional principles of morality, and the like are going to have profoundly important work to do. And we will need to do it together. Let us not break the cords that bind us together in friendship and conviction.”
If that’s true for broadly like-minded Americans, how much more the church. As the Apostle Paul commands, let us eagerly “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Let us have strong opinions about this election. Let us speak and persuade and struggle together as Americans. Let us have stronger unity around the gospel as Christ’s church.
There are good men and women among us—even within our own church—who are serving or will one day serve in public office. Let’s pray for them, even as we pray for our national leaders. And if this election season leaves us disappointed, let’s not give up on participating. In a democratic republic, a nation ultimately get’s what it asks for. So let us not withdraw from the process, but participate all the more—with more wisdom, more attention, and more love for neighbor than we have before.
On October 9 we had the joy of witnessing the baptism of four sisters in Christ, two in each service. In case you missed one or both of the services, here are the video testimonies from those who were baptized. This time we did just one video for all of our baptism candidates.
As we listen to these testimonies, let’s remember together Jesus’ truly great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28:18–20, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
[RSS and email readers, click here to view this video]
This is the second in a two-part interview with Scott Meinema, DSC’s new Minister over the areas of Biblical Counseling and Community Groups. In Part 1 we learned a bit about Scott’s background, how he met Janelle. Here in Part 2 we’ll learn a bit about the larger influences on Scott’s life.
In this second part to your blog interview, let’s start with a question at the heart of what you’re coming here to do: what is your view of how discipleship takes place in a church?
Great question. By discipleship I assume you have in mind the activity of introducing others to Jesus and /or helping them grow to become more faithful and mature followers of Christ. Discipleship takes place many different ways in the midst of life on life relationships. In other words, parents modeling Christ and teaching their children is discipleship. Husbands dying to self and sacrificially serving their wife is discipleship. Older men and women modeling Christ and teaching younger men and women is discipleship. Christ followers exhorting, encouraging, and serving one another is discipleship. Confession of sin to one another is discipleship. A Pastor’s teaching and preaching is discipleship. Discipleship takes place in Community Groups. What takes place in the counseling room is discipleship. Discipleship takes place whenever we are living in a way that demonstrates Christ to one another.
Now, a few questions about influences on your life. What’s your favorite book of the Bible and why?
Genesis, because it gives us so much insight into the glory of God, his character, and his attributes. I love Genesis because we see God’s kingship of grace, mercy, sovereignty, holiness, and creative omnipotence. In Genesis we catch a glimpse of Christ and the gospel in various places and we learn our condition and need for a Savior. There are so many things that can be learned about relationships in Genesis. But I also like John’s gospel because he takes us back to Genesis and gives us the rest of the story. John unveils the very Word who became flesh and tabernacled among his people. John helps us to see Jesus, the true glory of God, in a way that is purposely veiled in Genesis.
What book has had the most impact on your life, besides the Bible?
That is a toss-up so I’m going with Desiring God by John Piper. I was surprised to learn that my pursuit for joy was actually good. The problem was that I was looking for joy in all the wrong places. The idea that real joy comes from our enjoyment of God was something foreign to me. Up till then, I saw religion more as duty but not in a relationship to delight in. I saw God’s commands as counter-joy not as something to run to because they offer blessings, protection, and joy from a Father who loves us and wants his best for us. That book helped recalibrate my thinking to see that all of life should be about glorifying God by enjoying him. I like what Piper says: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him”.
Tell us about the most influential sermon you’ve heard.
Well, I never heard it spoke but the most influential sermon I’ve read is John Owen’s “The Duty of a Pastor.” It is true North for anyone who ministers God’s word, particularly the pastor. Owen provides a rich buffet of truths but none more helpful for me then the point that the preacher (or counselor) must first and foremost preach to himself. In other words, it is difficult to lead others to a place you have never been to. The pastor must take in and apply the message to his own life first. He must not just think about it but feel it and act on it. He must experience the truth he is going to preach because that experience transforms and helps bring conviction to the delivery of the word.
Tell us a bit about one of two important mentors in your life.
One was a friend from when we lived in Chicago. God used Mark in my life to challenge my own knowledge of the Scriptures and of the God of the Scriptures. I recall one occasion when discussing a particular doctrinal issue, he asked if I had ever read the Bible with that one doctrine in mind? Of course I hadn’t and he proclaimed that I didn’t have a right to an opinion on that issue until having read to see all that God had said about it! Needless to say, I was not happy but went away and read with the goal of seeing what God said about the particular issue. To my surprise my previous opinion was way wrong. Mark helped me to think critically about the Scriptures, memorize the Scriptures and was the one who introduced me to John Owen for which I am grateful.
Another mentor would be our counseling supervisor, Dr. Bob Smith. I was privileged to spend over 100 hours in the counseling room with one of the early pioneers of the Biblical Counseling movement. Besides having a terrific command of the Scriptures, Dr. Smith is a faithful practitioner of the Scriptures. Week in and week out he faithfully applied the Scriptures to his own life and helped others do the same. He was transparent with his own fight of faith which made it easier for his counselees and trainees to be transparent and share their struggles. My favorite comment from Dr. Smith is when he would say, “my ears need to hear what my mouth just said.”
What was the most difficult time in your life as a Christian, and how do you believe this has this helped prepare you for the work the Lord has for you here?
We have had a number of difficulties throughout our marriage. I think it was John Piper who said that marriage is the most difficult relationship on the face of the planet. Marriage is one of God’s main sanctification tools. There is nothing like the marriage relationship to help us see our own selfishness. There is nothing like marriage that brings out my sinful and self-centered heart and need for change. There is nothing like the marriage relationship that provides me with opportunity to die to self and that can be difficult.
On the other hand, marriage can be joyful, wonderful and redemptive when marriage functions in the way our King intended. Seeing God’s goodness and sovereignty especially in the midst of our difficult circumstances and relationships is an important first step in ministering to others.
Okay, now a few left fielders we always ask our new ministers. What is the dumbest thing you did as a kid?
During the holidays my mom would make cookies, pecan cups and other deserts for the neighbors, friends and family. She would lock them in a freezer in a locked storage room so we would not eat them before they were handed out. She spent days baking dozens and dozens of these treats.
One year, I removed the hinges to both the storage room and freezer in hope of sampling a few of my favorite cookies and pecan cups. They were so delicious. The problem was that I couldn’t stop with one and this activity became a daily obsession over the next few weeks. Needless to say, there was very little left in the freezer when she went out there a few weeks later. We laugh about it now but my mom is in her 80’s and still recalls it with great clarity . . . and emotion.
Any odd talents that we should know about up front?
Not really but I can make the sound of dripping faucet.
That’s excellent and we need to hear it. What’s your favorite animal, and why?
Our dog, Addie. Addie is a Pointer / Brittany mix. She loves to run when she is outside and loves attention when she is inside. She is always happy and especially excited to to see me when returning from being away and she gets along well with our cat, Cassie.
Without going to the internet, do you know what a Lobo is? An Isotope? Carne Adovada?
I believe a Lobo is a dog of some sort. I remember UTEP playing New Mexico and the mascot was a Lobo. I am lost on the Isotope but I think it has something to do w/chemistry. Carne Adovada is Mexican dish of some kind.
And, for one last question, red or green? Green – can’t wait to roast our own!