Posted by: pastortomvabeach | August 23, 2016

Thought for the Week August 28, 2016

The last two weeks I have discussed the need to seek God’s face for a real revival in light of what is happening in our nation and discussed my thinking on how a Christian ought to approach our duty to support and shape our government by voting and supporting what God would support. This week, I want to begin to point up some stark differences in the two major parties and their candidates with the goal of helping us all to seek the Lord about which candidate and party we should support.

I want to begin with something most of us don’t think a whole lot about, religious freedom. The First Amendment to our Constitution reads, in part: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. This amendment codifies the God-given right of every American to practice their faith without government interference, not only in their houses of worship but also in everyday life (i.e. in operating a business, carrying a Bible to work, etc.).

Our General Superintendent, Dr. Wood, wrote in his summer newsletter to ministers about the battle for religious liberty currently taking place in our nation. He says, “We are on the precipice of losing critical religious liberty protections in our country. Over the past twenty-five years, the Supreme Court has severely limited the traditional understanding of the First Amendment. The Constitution is no longer interpreted by courts to give people of faith, as well as the schools and service ministries we form, the protection we need in order to fully live out the implications of our most cherished beliefs. Meanwhile state courts, legislatures, and city councils around the country have moved to further narrow the protec¬tions granted for religious liberty, as their citizens must choose between adherence to religious faith and full participation in the public square.

“The secularists in our society seek to redefine the First Amend¬ment protection of the ‘free exercise’ of religion as a mere right of worship. In other words, their view is: ‘If you are going to be bigoted in your pro-life views or your view that marriage is between a man and a woman and that fornication (both heterosexual and homosexual) is morally wrong—then you must confine your views within the four walls of your sanctuary. But don’t bring your bigotry into the public square.’ A society that adopts such a view may be setting the stage for a future day when even a defense of biblical teaching on human sexuality from the pulpit will bring with it the risk of punishment by the government.”

If you have followed some of the law suits brought against Christian owned businesses and some of the regulations related to health care requirements of such businesses you surely see that the courts are siding with those who believe we must check our strongly held Christian values at the door of the church. For instance, bakeries and florists have been fined and, in at least one case, forced out of business for refusing to participate in celebrating same sex weddings even though other bakeries and florists were locally available to provide service.

What does this have to do with the election before us and how we should pray for our nation? This basic right of religious freedom has underscored nearly every other freedom we enjoy in America. We don’t restrict people of other faiths from practicing their faith nor do we prevent any religion from attempting to convert others to their faith. As Christians, that should be our position. Of course, our hearts desire and prayer for everyone is that they would come to know Jesus Christ as Savior (see Romans 10:1) but we don’t force anyone to do that nor do we prevent anyone from believing as they choose. If we restricted anyone else in the practice of their faith then it wouldn’t be long before someone told us we could not evangelize.

The platform of one major party refers to this attack on religious freedom, “Ongoing attempts to compel individuals, businesses, and institutions of faith to transgress their beliefs are part of a misguided effort to undermine religion and drive it from the public square. Government officials threaten religious colleges and universities with massive fines and seek to control their personnel decisions.” Their platform states, “We pledge to defend the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard religious institutions against government control,” and “we strongly support the freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs, not only in their houses of worship, but also in their everyday lives. We support the right of the people to conduct their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs and condemn public officials who have proposed boycotts against businesses that support traditional marriage.”

The other major party makes a passing comment about religious freedom but is filled with specific guarantees to support abortion, same sex marriage, LGBT rights, etc., and to stand against any kind of discrimination in these areas. Policies that promote non-discrimination have been interpreted widely to tell Christian owned businesses, ministries, and individual leaders that the biblical view cannot be lived out in everyday situations of life.

The platforms referenced above are: first, the Republican Party platform and second, the Democrat Party platform. As I said last week, we can’t legislate morality but we can surely support positions that are moral. I plan to show some of the other differences in the party platforms in the next few weeks but I urge you read them yourself. Both platforms can be easily found on the Internet. While every issue may not carry a moral bent, I believe you will find that those that do are starkly different.

To some this is an area we should just leave alone. Dr. Wood shared an example of how that can play out: “In our own Fellowship, I and district officers contacted nearly two thousand credentialed ministers to support a religious freedom bill just a month ago that was before a committee in the Missouri House of Representatives. Less than 15 percent of them even bothered to respond. The bill failed in committee and significant religious liberty protections were lost. We are like the situation described by Jesus in the parable of the weeds and the wheat: But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:25). We have largely been sleeping. Have we awakened too late?”

Friends, I don’t think it is too late to turn our nation around. I realize the government won’t do it but if we, Christians, will not humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways (II Chronicles 7:14), and make our voices and votes heard so that we influence our culture for good, it won’t happen. Will you take this duty seriously in this election year? Just a thought with more to follow.

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