The 10:45am Celebration & Growth Service will happen – Lord willing – as usual! Come and join us for worship, learn about some interesting volunteer opportunities, and hear a report from Kelsey Stebbings on her missions work in Canada. Plus we’ll get a New Year’s challenge by Steve from the Word of God, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper one last time together in 2012 .
News and Updates
Here is the full text of the quote I used from Tim Keller (12/16/12) in the sermon last Sunday. Keller is the founder and senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. This quote is excerpted from the sermon he gave following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Unfortunately, it is useful again in helping us think through the tragic deaths at Newtown last Friday.
One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts where God says things like this: ‘If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless.’ I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff!
But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in—suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a baby. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.
But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock, that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way: ‘I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?’
Do you see what this means? It’s true, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be … that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be … that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates our suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.
“Lord, thank you for identifying so personally with our suffering and pain. Please be the God of all comfort and the Father of all compassion* to every grieving person in Newtown who turns to you for strength and courage in the days and weeks to come. Amen.”
Resting in Him,
* 2 Corinthians 1:3
How is it that at this season, when everyone is preparing to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, our joy and our peace is repeatedly shattered with news of shootings — a football player killing his girlfriend and then himself, a lone shooter killing shoppers he doesn’t even know at the mall, and now a troubled 20-year old killing his mother and her little students?
Pastor and author Max Lucado expressed my thoughts well when he wrote today…
It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.
These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.
The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?
Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.
Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.
Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.
This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.
May it be so Lord Jesus,
Massachusetts voters are faced with Ballot Question #2, the co-called “Death with Dignity” question, which wants to legalize Physician Assisted Suicide in Massachusetts for terminally ill patients.
The patient would have to ask their Doctor to prescribe a fatal dose of medication. The Doctor would have to dtermine that the patient will die in six months. And the Doctor would have to determine that the patient is mentally sound and capable of making this decision to end their life.
I think Christians should vote NO on this question for the following reasons…
All humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and this have intrinsic value from conception until natural death. this is the core, foundational biblical value that makes all human life sacred — becuase we alone in all creation bear the image of God.
God knows each human from the moment of conception (Psalm 139:13) until natural death. Each is known by God and loved by God — and each was in mind when Jesus died on the cross to atone for sin (John 3:16).
This basically says our society approves of suicide. The Ballot Question allows for a Doctor to prescribe a fatal dose of 100 pills allowing a person to attempt to take their life at any time — possible alone, without their family or their doctor present.
And it enlists Doctors in this plot to take life, turning healers into killers, by asking them to determine if a person will die of their illness within six months — something which all doctors agree is not possible to do with any degree of certainty.
This law will open the door to requiring Doctors to prescribe a fatal dose or refer a patient to a Doctor who will prescribe the fatal dose, voilating the conscience of Physicians who disagree.
The Massachusetts Medical Society (the Massachusetts state association of medical doctors) has come out in opposition to this Ballot Question. As has the Boston Globe newspaper, the Boston Herald, the American Medical Association and many other organizations.
I urge you to be informed and vote NO on Question 2.
Only by grace,
I know we’re all pretty tired of all the political stuff. It’ll be over very soon. 🙂
A few people have asked me how I am voting. I prefer not to say. But I do have some strong opinions on how Christians should approach the privilage of voting. I was struggling with how to express them. Then I read this great essay by Richard Lee, Lead Pastor of Bethel Well Church in Ft. Lee, NJ and a Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary grad. He nails my thoughts. (I particularly like #1) So here are his thoughts…
The truth of the matter is many Christians today don’t know how their faith affects their vote.
We have been told from all parts of society that we should not mix politics and religion, the Church and the state. However, for Christians, faith is meant to be instructive to them in their relationships, their careers and all aspects of their lives.
So, why should we cordon off politics from our faith? The truth of the matter is many Christians today don’t know how their faith affects their vote.
Instead of shying away from the issue, I would like to tell you how I think all Christians should vote. No, I’m not going to come out and say vote Republican or vote Democrat. That would be too easy … and too polarizing.
Instead, I will outline the principles by which I believe all Christians should vote.
1. Vote For Citizens
In some ways, Christians have a unique place in our society, because we have dual-citizenship. We are commanded to be “aliens and strangers” in this world because our “citizenship is in heaven” (I Peter 2:11, Philippians 3:20).
However, at the same time, we are nevertheless citizens of the towns, states and country in which we reside. Voting for Citizens means we should not simply vote for what we think is best for people in the Church, but rather as a citizen of Ft. Lee, or New Jersey or the United States.
“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” ~ Jeremiah 29:7
The other aspect of Voting for Citizens means we are not trying to usher in a church-state. We are not trying to legislate Christianity. That didn’t work for Constantine, nor for the Crusades. And it won’t work today.
Any attempt to moralize society with Christian ethics is not only impractical but also impossible. It may not only be deceitful but also destructive. We should not force people to follow morals without faith. Those are what we call hypocrites. In fact, Jesus’ harshest judgements were reserved for the most morally upright in society (Matthew 23), because their “righteousness” was not based on faith. We don’t want a society full of Pharisees and professional moralists.
It is precisely this acknowledgement that is at the center of our understanding of the Gospel. It is our admission we are not good enough or morally upright enough to be considered righteous that is at the core of our believing the Gospel. It’s not that we live a life “good” enough, it’s precisely that we cannot. And we turn to Jesus for salvation.
2. Vote With Peace
Have we lost all civility during election season? Everything you read on social media and the news is so polemical and divisive. Politics has become so polarized today you cannot even buy a cup of coffee without being told to choose who you’re going to vote for. Between all the smear campaigns and negative ads, we have lost the ability to have conversations with respect and humility.
People post political views on Facebook, and then people complain about other people’s views because they don’t agree. I’m sure thousands of people have been “unfriended” (sometimes literally) because of what they post on Facebook. As Christians, we should remind ourselves to be peaceable and respectful. Be above the rhetoric of rabble-rousing.
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” ~ Titus 3:1-2
3. Vote With Knowledge
You should know where each candidate stands on a myriad of issues. If you don’t inform yourself, then you are merely becoming the type of person who gets swayed by negative ads. You need to develop your own filter so you can evaluate the things you hear in debates and ads.
Part of the problem is too many Christians have become One-Issue Voters and once they encounter a candidate who doesn’t agree with them on the hot-button issue, then they stop listening and stop learning.
Perhaps your One-Issue is abortion or same-sex marriage or the economy or foreign policy. I know of a woman whose One-Issue is stem cell research. You never know what that issue may be to different people.
The fundamental problem with being a One-Issue Voter is your president doesn’t just vote on that one issue. If you vote for a candidate because of his stance on marriage, then you’re also voting for his policies on the economy, health care and the environment.
You shouldn’t ignore the issues you feel strongly about. In fact, I would encourage you to continue to feel passionate about them; study them, research them. Christians should pursue what the Bible has to say about these issues like abortion and poverty. Don’t vote ignorantly, vote informed. So, when you cast your vote, understand how your vote is cast along the broad spectrum of issues, not just one.
4. Vote For Others
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” ~ Proverbs 31:8-9
Throughout Scripture, we are called to be advocates for those who have no advocate. We are called to be a voice for the voiceless, to stand up for those who have no standing. Cast your vote for the benefit of others.
Whether you advocate for the unborn, those in poverty or those at war … or all of them. Don’t simply vote for whoever will give you the best tax break or the best health plan. Rather, use your vote to bless others.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” ~ James 1:27
Again, the very foundation of our faith lies in the advocacy of Christ. II Corinthians 8:9 states, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Jesus became our Advocate by taking on our poverty and making us rich. He took on the poverty of our sinfulness and gave us his rich righteousness. For this reason, we are called to advocate for others.
“Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.” ~ Zechariah 7:10
5. Vote With Prayer
Whether you vote for Obama or Romney, one of these men will be the leader of our country. And regardless of how you feel about them, you are called to pray for them.
“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 quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior” ~ I Timothy 2:1-3
Pray for who to vote for. Pray for the different issues. Pray for peace among the parties. Pray for those who need a voice. Pray for whoever wins, regardless of who that is!
In fact, if you haven’t been praying for the person or party with which you disagree, then let the first time you open your mouth be in prayer to God, not in criticism to others.
6. Vote With(out) Hope
The first election I remember was in 1984, when I was 9. Reagan won 49 of 50 states and garnered 525 electoral votes to Mondale’s 13. As the incumbent president, I don’t think that election was about hope as much as this one is. I don’t think people were so concerned about their future being better, because they were pretty happy with their present!
This election, however, is about hope. The rhetoric among the parties is about who will raise America out of the recession, who will create new jobs, who will change the trajectory of our nation in the world at large.
But, as Christians, we need to realize we need to Vote Without Hope. Don’t place your hope in any one person. Ultimately, whoever wins will not deliver on every promise. Neither candidate will be able to accomplish everything they intend. And in four years, we will probably be using the rhetoric of hope once again to nominate new presidential candidates.
However, we can Vote WITH Hope. That is because we believe in a God who is sovereign over the president and Congress and supreme over the Supreme Court.
Proverbs 21:1 reminds that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.” What a promise! God is in control. In fact, Romans 13:1 tells us “there is no authority except that which God has established.”
No matter who wins and whether “your guy” wins or loses, you can hope in our God who is the ultimate ruler of nations. So, whether you agree with where we are going as a nation or not, rest assured you can hope in the literal “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:6).
Thanks for reading this far! (Just to be sure you undertand, this is an blog post by Richard Lee. I happen to agree with it.)
Only by grace,