Monday, November 30, 2009

Standing Up For Christmas

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. That may not resonate with a lot of my fellow Baptists, for whom the liturgical calendar means little beyond actually celebrating Christmas and Easter. Still, in this day of politically correct jargon, believers need to stand up for the uniqueness of Christmas amid all the other festivities of the winter season. Some of the festivities are pure fabrications intended to be substitutes for Christmas. Others are legitimate religious holidays rooted in other religious belief systems. Christians can respect all of these while at the same time making a case for Christmas.

Christmas celebrates the fulfillment of promises strung throughout the Hebrew Bible regarding the coming of a God-sent deliverer for a lost humanity. The first such promise occurs in Genesis 3: 15, where God promises Eve that her seed will "crush the serpent's head." No sooner had the fall occurred than God promised a remedy who would come from the seed of a woman (not a man, a woman). Clearly, there is an implication here of a virgin born Chosen One sent from God to deliver fallen humanity.

Christmas is a joyous celebration precisely because it embodies this good news, this gospel, of the coming of the Deliverer. Wish everyone you see a merry Christmas, and do so from your heart. In the process look for opportunities to explain to people the real significance of Christmas--the good news that God has sent his Deliverer, and that they may find deliverance from sin through him.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Touching Lives Through Wrong Numbers

I've had an interesting journey with my cell phone of late. Some months ago a person got a new cell phone number almost identical to mine. This person mis-memorized her number and has given my number out to everyone from her doctor to her friends. I know way too much about her personal life. At first it was irritating, but I've learned to take it in stride. I've even begun to build a kind of friendship with one of her friends. When she calls, expecting to get her friend and realizes that again she has dialed the wrong number, I take a minute to ask how she's doing. We chat briefly. Today we talked about our Thanksgiving meals and eating too much, and I wished her a merry Christmas. It's not much, but if it brings a little joy to her life I can spare a few cell minutes. It gives me a chance to pass on a little of the grace I've found in Christ. My family is rather entertained by the whole thing now.

What do you do with wrong numbers? Do you see every encounter as something intended by God as an opportunity to touch a life? Are there really any wrong numbers? Use those "happenstances" to spread God's love to others and be a channel of grace. Take a stand and be a blessing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still Giving Thanks

Well, it's the day before Thanksgiving Day. This will probably be my last blog of the week. I have more things to be thankful for, and I hope you do, too.

I've had some absolutely wonderful experiences and opportunities in 2009. Early in the year God showed us that our work at one church was done and it was time to go elsewhere. God has provided another wonderful church home for our family where I get to teach a class and pretend I can actually play a guitar (mostly I beat on one, sort of in rhythm and in the right key). God has given me the opportunity through my work as an adult Scout leader to build a lot of wonderful relationships, but the ones I'm most mindful of at this moment are the guys in my Wood Badge Patrol (SR 982 Antelope Patrol). What a great group of men. They are godly and dedicated to making a difference in the world through touching the lives of youth in Scouting. I'm thankful also for the Wood Badge experience. Our entire troop seems to have been brought together providentially, and our Scoutmaster made the entire event one which he had bathed in prayer.

I'm also thankful for a week spent this summer at Philmont Scout Ranch for "Bringing Youth to Christ through Baptist Scouting Ministry". During that week I spent time with the leadership of the Association of Baptists for Scouting, and somehow I got elected to office myself. I guess I don't have enough to do.

I'm thankful for having been raised in a Christian home. Although the Lord took my father when I was in 8th grade, my mother is still with us, now 84 years young and doing well. I have two wonderful brothers and a sister still living. God bless them all.

Take some time today and tomorrow to make a list of things you are thankful for and give God the thanks for all his wonderful benefits to you. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1: 17 ESV).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks

What are you thankful for? How often do you sit down and really ponder the blessings you enjoy--small and great--in this land of ours? Personally, I don't do it enough. And I think that all the clamor on the part of many for the government to do more for us is a tacit admission that we have grown ungrateful for what we do have. Some recently have begun to speak of the U. S. Constitution as comprising "negative rights", by which they mean that it says what the government does not have the right to do. And they find a problem with that. Personally, I like it that way. The less the government can do for me, the less it can do to me. So for the individual and the states, limitations on the federal power constitutes positive rights--more freedoms for you and me to pursue what the writers of the Declaration of Independence sought: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

But, back to what I'm thankful for today. I'm thankful for a nice house to live in, located in a nice, quiet subdivision. I'm thankful for hot and cold running water, heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. I'm thankful for good transportation (all paid for). I'm thankful for my job, which God has provided for me that allows me to afford all these things and time with my family. I'm thankful for the Boy Scouts of America and the American Heritage Girls--youth organizations that help me instill in my children the values I believe are important to their becoming good citizens and followers of Christ.

Most importantly, I'm thankful for the relationships in my life. I'm thankful for my wife. God has given me the most wonderful wife in the world. I can't imagine life without her. I'm thankful for my children. They are a blessing to me everyday. I'm thankful that one has heard and answered the call of salvation, and I'm hopeful that the others will, too, in the course of time. I'm thankful for oh, so many good friends and a wonderful church in which to serve the Lord. But more than any other relationship, I'm thankful for my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It was God who looked down through the stream of time, saw me in my sin and rebellion, and loved me anyway. He chose, freely, to send his Son to die on the cross for my sins. He chose, freely, to send his Holy Spirit to convict me and convert me, drawing me to himself by his grace. He chose to set those influences in my life that he used to awaken me to my lost condition. He has claimed me for his own and conquered me for himself. It is solely by his grace that I am what I am. I can claim no credit for myself, for left to myself I would be a loathsome, sinful wretch of a man given to every unclean appetite. But praise be to God he did not leave me like that. He saved me and has called and equipped me to take a stand. So my deepest gratitude is to God for all the blessings I enjoy, but most especially for my salvation.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks this Week

Well, I'm glad to be home from my trip the Evangelical Theological Society's sixty-first annual conference. The shortage of blogs last week was due to poor internet access at the premier hotel hosting the event. I tried twice to post blogs only to have them get lost in cyber-space and gave up.

So I'm thankful that I was kept safe and brought home from the trip. There are so many things to be thankful for during this week when we will celebrate national Thanksgiving Day. Among the things to be thankful for is that we live in a nation that was established on what could broadly be termed Christian principles, though those have fallen by the wayside in the last fifty plus years. Take notice, for instance, of this quote from President Washington's Inaugural Address of 1789: "we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained" (A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789--1897, vol. 1, 53). In his first Inaugural Address, Washington noted throughout the hand of Divine Providence in establishing the United States. Let us not forget during this week of food, football, and hunting, that the original intent of this celebration was to show gratitude to God for his blessings on this nation and our lives. Let us also be mindful of the need to support and maintain biblical morality in the public square and our private lives.

Bearing in mind Washington's comments on the "eternal rules of order and right" I would refer the reader at this critical point in our nation's history to the Manhattan Declaration ( as an affirmation of commitment to maintain Christian standards of conduct in the face of a government now gone astray from its roots. Be thankful you still have the right to protest and stand for what is right.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Well, it's happened. The "holiday season" is rolling around again. When I was a kid the stores put out the Halloween stuff around Labor Day, and the Thanksgiving stuff the day after Halloween. Then the Christmas stuff came out the day after Thanksgiving. Now Christmas stuff shows up in September along side Halloween and Thanksgiving decor barely gets shelf space. Furthermore, there's the whole "Happy Holidays" greeting push so as not to offend anyone. Please! We still live in a free country, and the U. S. Constitution gives me the right to wish anyone a Merry Christmas and to celebrate the heritage of the English Settlers who first came and laid the foundation for what was to become the United States through this wonderful holiday we call Thanksgiving.

But what about that word, "holiday". It originates from "holy day" and has as its primary reference a day off for religious observances. By extension it could also be applied to going on pilgrimage, but in England today is used of anything we, in America, call a "vacation". But, back to the idea of "holy day". Why should we treat one day more holy than another. Why should we have only one day a year when we express deep gratitude to God for his blessings? Shouldn't we do that every day? Why should there be only one day a year when we celebrate the coming of Christ into the world? Shouldn't that be a constant theme in our lives?

Of course the answer to both of those questions is "yes". Still, I find it helpful to have these special days. They give us time in the midst of life's chaos to stop and reflect more deeply on God's blessings and the gift of the incarnation. They also afford us special opportunities to show good to our neighbors and share our faith with them. During this holiday season when you are celebrating Thanksgiving and wishing others merry Christmas, be sure to include in that a word of witness to the life-changing power of God's grace. Render good service to others in the process. By so doing you'll show the positive side of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and you'll take a stand for Christ.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Being Odd for God

Do you ever feel like you're an odd-ball? I do. I always have. I was a "nerd" back in the 70s in high school. Even had the pocket protector to prove it. Still, somehow I found a way to be comfortable in my own skin and build some good friendships, even with the non-nerds in my school. Throughout college I seemed to attract other odd-balls as friends. How I ended up with my wife is still a mystery to me. Must be a God-thing (we just celebrated 20 years). Anyway, it's okay, even good to be odd sometimes.

I'm leaving this week to go to New Orleans for the annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society: Two and a half days of professional theologians reading papers to each other, a banquet dinner, and a vendor's hall with every Christian publisher you can imagine selling books that I will want to buy. I will enjoy myself and be spiritually renewed at the same time. To most people that sounds odd. I find spiritual renewal at a conference where theologians are presenting papers and debating weighty doctrinal issues. But it's part of how God has made me and prepared me to take a stand for him.

Here's the question. In what way are you odd? How does that make it possible for you to take your stand for God? Learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Embrace your uniqueness as one of God's children and let your uniqueness become a way of pointing people to God. Take a stand and be odd for God.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stand for Compassion, Part 5

In this last blog on compassion I want to address the need for compassion for our Christian wounded. Now, in many ways that could be each of us. We're all damaged goods in some sense, and we need to keep that in mind to help us maintain perspective. But what I'm mainly concerned with here is that category of wounded we often tend to treat like a horse with a broken leg. It's not pretty, and it's not a good reflection on the One who has called us to be instruments of mercy, healing, reconciliation, and grace.

So what am I talking about? I'm talking about persons who fall into grievous and public disgrace, whatever the circumstances. It could be related to finances, marital failure, or sexual immorality. It could be problems with "Bud" or "Wild Turkey". It could be a false accusation of misconduct that never gets put to rest properly. We often sweep these people aside. Oh, we let them come and occupy a pew, but we can't let them have an office in the church, no matter what kind of track record they have of demonstrated repentance. They have committed what amounts to an "unpardonable" sin in the eyes of the church.

I had a friend, now gone to be with the Lord, who, before he was saved, had a terrible drinking problem (smoked, too). God delivered him from both, and called him to preach. He spent most of his life in small churches or planting Hispanic missions. One church interviewed him, and the interview went great until they found out he was a recovering alcoholic. Never mind that he had been clean and sober for twenty years. They couldn't have a pastor who was an alcoholic, even though he was in recovery.

How does your church treat those who are the Lord's wounded? Are they second-class members or does your church look for ways to bring healing and restoration to their lives. Christ died to make them whole, too. If the ground is level at the cross, then it is level for all God's people. Work to bring recovery to God's fallen soldiers and take a stand for real compassion.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stand for Compassion, Part 4

A couple of years ago I heard about Christians in a predominantly Muslim country who refused to pray for or share Christ with their Muslim countrymen. Why? Because these Muslims has persecuted the Christians in this country for over thirteen hundred years. If these Muslims died as infidels and went to hell, then that was just fine with these professing Christians. You might be thinking, "That's horrible. Christ commanded us to love our enemies." True enough, but let me ask, are we not equally conflicted in our posture toward Muslims now that we are engaged in a war against what the press so delicately terms "Muslim extremists"?

In reality the War on Terror will not be won with bullets, warships, and fighting aircraft. It will not be won with drones and missiles. If it is to be won, it must be won one heart at a time. First, our own hearts must be won to the idea of compassion for men, women, and children bound in the darkness of Islam's fatalistic and works based idolatry. Our hearts need to melt in prayer for these people--a people to whom the Gospel came in ancient times and among whom it once flourished. God is bringing Muslims into contact with Christians in ever increasing and creative ways through mass communication and transportation. In the small town to my south my own pastor spends time at the gym every day with a Muslim, and looks for ways to share Christ with him. I had the privilege once, sitting in the airport in Charlotte, N. C., of sharing with a Pakistani who is now a U. S. citizen and a wonderful gentleman with a Catholic wife. Our hearts must be won first. Maybe as you prepare your Operation Christmas Child Shoebox, you could take just a few minutes with your family to pray for the child who will receive each box, that he or she will also receive Christ, God's gift, through your gift.

In fighting the War on Terror, not only must our own hearts be won, but also the hearts of Muslims around the world must be won. They must be won through ongoing acts of compassion. CNN reports that a Christian in Pakistan saved the lives of many Muslim women by blocking a suicide bomber from entering a crowded school cafeteria (read the story at In ancient Rome the Christians softened the hearts of their persecutors by their willingness to love their enemies in the face of overwhelming violence. On the one hand, as citizens, we must fight to protect our nation. But on the other we must send more missionaries, pray harder, and give more sacrificially to show love for Muslims here in the U. S. and around the world. Pray that God will open their hearts to the Gospel. If you can afford it, take your vacation to a Muslim country and help out struggling Christians there. There are any number of missions agencies that have a long list of temporary needs and assignments. It will change your life. And by the grace of God, it may change the lives of people living in darkness and bondage. Do something the world views as radical as you take a stand for compassion.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Stand for Compassion, Part 3

I had the great privilege for three years of working with Seven Springs Baptist Church (, and one thing that is central to the ministry of Seven Springs Church is working with people who many may see as hard luck cases, for lack of a better word. I saw something extraordinary, too. I saw a businessman who was not connected with our church come forward and say, "I'd like to put the government out of the social ministry business." And he put his money where his mouth was. He came to several churches and offered to help them help the needy. He would supply the financial resources and the churches would administer them. Here was a man whom God had blessed with wealth and a heart of compassion. It was a delight to work with him.

What is needed is more men and women like him and his team. We would not need a "welfare state" in the U. S. if the churches would do what they're supposed to do and care for the sick, the poor, the orphans and widows. Most of the time we don't even provide for our own widows in our own congregations. Never mind helping those on the outside. And why is it that we're that way? I think part of it is that when theological liberals like Walter Rauschenbusch promoted social action as the gospel many conservatives ran from social activism for fear of being associated with the Social Gospel. In effect they threw out the baby with the bath. In a few places today Evangelical churches are waking up to the real need to minister to the needy.

We need to be more effective in working with drug addicts, helping people recover from failed marriages, sexual addictions, and training people to enter the workforce. Churches should be a place where people who need a basic education can come for free and learn how to read and write and do basic math. Why aren't our church buildings, which often sit empty for hours and hours each week, used to provide basic life skills classes, GED courses, and parenting classes? Remember, compassion is something you show by doing something about the situation people are living in. Let's rise up and take a stand for compassion by doing more with our time and our facilities to help people who are genuinely in need, and at the same time let's show them Christ, the One who gave everything that they might live.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stand for Compassion, Part 2

In writing today's blog I'm writing to myself as much as to anyone else. I recently took a friend's word for granted and posted something on Facebook related to John Stossell leaving ABC that contained both truth and error because I got caught up in the heat of the moment, trusted a friend, and didn't do due diligence. Something in our nature causes us to see opponents as enemies--bad guys (and of course, we're always the good guys, at least in our eyes). In reality we should not see every opponent as an enemy. Sometimes an opponent is simply someone who differs from us in some point of belief or practice. But they enemy or opponent, we, as Christians, should treat them with the same compassion. Somehow we forget that in the heat of political debates. Right now there is a major political debate in the United States over whether we will remain a free republic that values and honors the rights of the people and the states or become a socialist state where everything is made subservient to a centralized government. To be sure, such a transformation would not be done all at once. How could it? But the general direction of our federal government has been in this direction since the administration of Franklin Roosevelt.

My purpose here is not to debate the political developments themselves but to look at how Christians should demonstrate compassion toward their political opponents in this kind of cultural environment. The political left stands against virtually everything that most Evangelicals believe is both biblical and right. They stand against traditional marriage. They stand against the rights of parents to discipline their children and raise them as they see fit. They stand against life, preferring the culture of death with their support of euthanasia and abortion. They stand against smaller, limited government and individual freedom. They stand against the full and free public exercise of religion, at least traditional Christianity. How ought Christians respond to this?

Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, as was noted in yesterday's blog. Paul, in 1 Timothy 2: 2 enjoined the believers of his day to pray for the king. Who was the king? He was a Roman emperor and a pagan. He was an enemy of the faith. Christians need to engage their human enemies first by praying for them, realizing that those who oppose the faith are under the control of the true Enemy from whom they need to be set free. Pray first that God will open their eyes to the truth. Pray that God's will for the nation will prevail over the evil intentions of sinful men. Then, with genuine and unselfish love engage them in informed and meaningful debate on the issues of the day, but always do so with respect. Never engage them in a vindictive spirit. Above all remember that they are fallen human beings in need of God's mercy and grace every bit as much as you are. Only God's grace separates you from them. Pray that God's grace will bring them to where you are. Pray for their conversion and for God to open their eyes. In so doing you will take a stand for genuine Christian compassion.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stand for Christian Compassion

How do you respond to someone who maliciously attacks you? How do you respond to someone you believe is a danger or threat to society? How do you respond to a drug addict or someone addicted to pornography or gambling? Most of us, sadly, do not respond to these situations and persons in a way that is biblical. Often we strike back at those who hurt us. Those whom we see as a threat to society we want to see removed from power or locked up, and we leave it at that. In short, we fall victim ourselves to a judgmental attitude. But how ought we to respond?

Jesus said, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5: 44, ESV). Where does Christian compassion begin? How can you and I find it in ourselves to model before the world the heart of God toward the lost and enslaved in sin a winsome compassion that draws them to Christ?

Many years ago, while preparing a sermon on John 11: 35, "Jesus wept," I came across a definition of compassion somewhere that went like this: "Pity moved to action." It's one thing to pity someone in a terrible plight. It's another to do something about it. Down here in the South we often say "Bless his heart," which is just another way of saying "poor thing". It's an expression of pity. But it's not compassionate. This week I'm going to look at ways you and I can show compassion to those who would seek to do us harm and those who are trapped in bondage and need the liberty that only Christ can give. I'm going to look at ways to see others as Christ sees them and as he saw us in our need of salvation. I'm going to look at ways to treat others as Christ treated us and continues to treat us--with undeserved love. This week I want to explore what it means to stand for compassion--pity moved to action.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Take a Stand for True Liberty, Part 5

So what makes liberty work is the disciplined, responsible exercise of freedom. Why is that so hard for us? It requires a Christian worldview for that kind of liberty to flourish. Without the proper worldview liberty will degenerate into the selfish, me centered licentiousness we are seeing in American society today.

We're having trouble maintaining liberty today and tottering on the brink of totalitarianism precisely because we, as a nation, have lost our moral compass. We've given up the biblical concept of human sinfulness that must be curbed with God-ordained laws because they seem to us to be restrictive to our desires, and we've exchanged it for a concept that says we're all moving toward becoming better and better people by virtue of some kind of biological and social evolution. The problem is that evolution has no basis for an objective ethic beyond what benefits the self. This reinforces a certain selfish tendency in our fallen human nature and feeds the further deterioration of the fabric of society. When that happens people begin to feel insecure, and history is replete with stories of whole nations selling themselves into servitude in exchange for security.

What has been called the "American Experiment" is on the verge of failure because our nation's political and intellectual leaders in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries cut us loose from the worldview that made that experiment viable. For the most part our churches are so compromised and infected with the worldview of our surrounding society that we're not even in a position to try to call the nation back. What is needed is a repentance in the churches on a massive scale. God's people must forsake every vestige of the prevailing worldview and live their lives before God and the world as a counter-cultural revolution of devotion to him and his will before we can even begin to think of calling the nation back. "Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom 12: 2, ESV). Forsake the selfish way of "me" first and embrace God's way as revealed in the Bible and take a stand for true liberty.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Take a Stand for True Liberty, Part 4

If the difference between liberty and freedom is the difference between disciplined responsibility and licentiousness, then how can Christians tap in and reinforce disciplined responsibility in their own lives and in the lives of their children?

Several great organizations are available for Christians to become involved with that will help. Of course, you will always want to start with a solid, Bible believing and Christ following church. I'm not talking about a group of people who get together and "play" church on Sunday with a little singing, a little prayer, and a vacuous sermon devoid of any real meat. I'm talking about a church that takes discipleship seriously and lives the Great Commission as well as the Great Commandment. If your church isn't focused on the glory of God through worship, evangelism, and spiritual growth, then become an agent of change in the place where God has planted you or look for another church. The kind of church that makes a difference is a church that has a heart for God and humanity. It is a church where church discipline matters. At the same time, it is a church that is not legalistic but compassionate, helping fallen human beings become more Christlike.

Another great place to plug in is with the Boy Scouts of America. Here is an organization that focuses on duty to God and country, others, and one's self. The BSA recognizes, along with its founder, Lord Baden-Powell, that it is impossible to instill moral virtue in young people without a belief in God. What is needed is more committed Christians involved in Boy Scouts, bringing a Christian perspective to the Scouting experiences of young people. Yes, there is a place for young ladies in Scouting. The BSA has two organizations that are coed, Venturing Crews and Explorer Scouts. For more information on how you can be involved contact your local Scout council (to find your local council visit You may also want to visit the Association of Baptists for Scouting website at

Yet another great organization just for young ladies is the American Heritage Girls. This organization, which now has a formal relationship with the Boy Scouts of America, is a Christian organization intent on raising up young women of virtue, trained in traditional family values and a Christian worldview. AHG provides programming for girls from kindergarten through senior high school. For more information about AHG visit

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Take a Stand for True Liberty, Part 3

Yesterday I wrote about the importance, the necessity of legislating morality. Today I want to address the issue of taking responsibility. Freedom without responsibility is not liberty. It is license. What seems to be lacking most in our culture today in regard to personal conduct is a sense of moral responsibility for our choices and our actions. Everyone is looking for someone else to blame for why he or she did this or that. If you can't find someone to blame, then simply say, "It's none of your business what I do." At any rate the sense of personal responsibility, of accepting the consequences for our actions, seems lost on people today.

Responsibility requires discipline, and discipline is something we don't like. Discipline means curbing our natural desires and wants for the good of others around us. Our society has been told for a generation or more that you can "have it your way." It is the mantra of advertising. It was the choice method of child-rearing for a generation. Negotiate with that child. Work out a deal. The harsh reality is that actions have consequences. If you raise a generation of undisciplined children you will reap an adult generation of undisciplined whiners and cheats. And that is what seems to have happened in our nation. Our whole society has become dysfunctional as a result of abandoning time proven methods of rearing children in a way that built an orderly, cohesive society.

It is time for Christians to get back to fundamentals for living. The first thing that needs to be stressed is moral responsibility for one's actions. Churches need to hold members accountable when they sin or imbibe heresy. Parents need to discipline children and teach them the benefits of hard work, solid study, and careful thinking. Christians need to do more than believe the right things. We need to do the right things, modeling for society what liberty looks like. By living responsible, disciplined lives you will take a stand for liberty.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Take a Stand for True Liberty, Part 2

In our area we had a very prominent political figure and recently elected mayor convicted of sixty counts of receiving bribes and corruption. This was a Bible quoting mayor, too. I commented on it hearing the announcement on the radio in our car and my son said, "Is bribery wrong Dad?" I said, "Yes, son, it is." That set me to thinking about where our concept that bribery is wrong came from. It didn't come from Roman Law, as did much of our legal inheritance, for the ancient Romans were notorious as rulers for accepting bribes. One case in point comes from the New Testament itself, in Acts 24: 26, where Felix was noted as hoping to receive a "gift" from Paul in exchange for his freedom.

So where does the Western legal system's criminalization of bribery come from? Exodus 23: 8 says, "You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just" (NASB). The notion that bribery is wrong comes to our legal system by way of the Hebrew Scriptures. The logic of it is clear: Bribery undermines trust in the legal system and makes it possible for those with means to get their way against those who have less.

Does this somehow establish a joining of "church and state" because the origins of our proscription of bribery derives from the Bible? No, because there is no implicit endorsement of any one religion in it. Is the forbidding of bribery an attempt to legislate morality? Yes. Laws, when at their best, are legislating morality, whether in the form of forbidding murder, theft, bribery, prostitution, etc. Without such laws society would descend rapidly into sheer anarchy. Christians should never shrink from engaging the foolishness of the catch-phrase of our day--"you can't legislate morality". Engage that kind of thinking with keen logic and show the logical conclusion of a society without objective moral foundations. In so doing you will take a stand for true liberty.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Take a Stand for True Liberty, Part 1

Liberty and freedom are key terms in the American experience and the American consciousness. Everyone thinks they know what these words mean. Many people seem to think the words are interchangeable, too. It seems to me, however, that there is a nuanced difference between the two words. In my mind, when I think of "freedom", I think of the raw power of choice to do this or that. But when I think of "liberty" I think of the responsible use of freedom--choices bounded by a moral compass or a legal code that is supported by an objective morality. Of course, this runs counter to most current thought today. The Enlightenment helped create the American ethos of liberty and freedom, but it contained within it the germ of its own demise. Freedom without an object morality is acidic, and over time it will destroy the worldview fabric that holds a people together. The Founding Fathers of the United States understood this and understood the need for a biblical morality as a basis for social conduct. Morality, to them, was not merely a social contract to behave a certain way.

This week I want to explore the importance of a biblically informed ethic as foundational to a healthy society. This does not mean a joining of church and state, as some think. It does mean legislating morality, but that is what laws are actually intended to do anyway. Those who cry against such a thing are simply asking for social and moral anarchy and a schizophrenic legal code that makes no sense.

I will also explore ways that Christians, everyday believers, can impact society in a positive way with a biblically informed ethic. The question if not "How should we do it?" or "Can we do it?" but "Will we do it?" Will you take a stand for true liberty?