Monthly Archives: November 2014

He Can’t Quote The Bible! Can He?

ObamaAndBibleRecently, President Obama has gotten in hot water for…wait for it…quoting the Bible! Yes, it’s true. And the unlikely folks who have been so upset? Conservatives! Confused yet? Let’s discuss.

In support of his immigration policy, President Obama quoted a very important verse from the Old Testament with regard to how to treat others: Exodus 23:9. It is one of my favorites, and I quote it often. The NASB reads: “You shall not oppress a stranger (sojourner), since you yourselves know the feelings (literally ‘soul’) of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

The principle of Exodus 23:9 (Leviticus 19:33, & Deuteronomy 24:17; 27:19) is a bedrock principle of the New Testament as well. Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31).

But many conservatives were upset with the President’s use of the verse. They were so upset that they declared that the Bible is off-limits; he isn’t allowed to quote from it! But is that how God’s people should respond? Surely we can do better than telling people to not quote the Bible! Here are a few thoughts on what to say instead:

1) The Bible is a good place to start any discussion.

In a famous/infamous 2008 speech, the President said, that the Bible should not be used in shaping public policy. Now, he takes a Bible passage to prove why his public policy is correct. While this is hypocritical, Christians must guard themselves against the same hypocrisy. He did actually quote the Bible! And we want people searching the scriptures, don’t we?

Rather than responding in anger, “He can’t quote the Bible,” let’s congratulate him on looking to the Bible for inspiration and then give him a better understanding of the meaning of the passage.

2) A text without context is a pretext for a proof-text.

Do what? Ok. Translation: if you take any text and rip it out of its context, you can make it mean whatever you want it to mean.

The principle the President quoted is correct; we should treat others as we want to be treated. But what is the context? Is this the only verse in the Bible where God instructs His people on what to do and how to live? What about the other verses in Exodus 23? Might they be important to the discussion? This is a good opportunity to discuss context and meaning.

3) God is no respecter of persons.

God’s offer of grace and mercy is freely given without regard to race, age, gender, or nationality.

If the President had studied the passage more closely, he would have seen that the protection is unilateral for ALL strangers. It is there to remind God’s children to deal fairly with strangers and not take advantage of them because Israel was enslaved in Egypt.

Whether you oppose or favor the immigration policy, this verse simply doesn’t fit his usage. The policy is limited to illegal aliens with US born children, who have been here for 5 years, and it is only temporary. That would mean that God’s kindness doesn’t apply to some strangers. But no one, not even the President, is taking the position that we should unilaterally treat ALL sojourners as citizens!

The point of the passage is that we should not oppress others and we should be giving toward those who are in need. It isn’t a political statement, it is a moral statement. And morally, you can’t treat the Bible like a buffet, picking and choosing a little of this and a few of those.

The greatest gift we have is the gospel. Jesus said salvation is available to all who would come – whosoever believes. And that is irrefutable. Help others to read the Bible for God’s intended meaning rather than hunting for verses that appear to support political positions. God sent His Son to die for us; doesn’t He at least deserve a fair read?

“Zero Remorse” Interception: Is Chivalry Dead?

saints-bengals-game-ball“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7).

Interceptions are just part of football. And usually fans cheer when their side gets the ball. But no one was cheering for Tony Williams last Sunday when he intercepted the wrong pass!

The pass in question was intended for Christa Barrett. She is a Bengals fan and she ran down to the end-zone to celebrate as Jermaine Gresham, tight end for the Bengals, scored a touchdown. Gresham saw Christa and tried to toss the ball to her. Williams, a Saints fan, “intercepted” the pass and got flagged for ‘pass interference’ by the fans and social media.

Tony isn’t a bad guy. He is a Veteran, a 70 year-old pensioner, and a season ticket holder for decades. He loves his wife, his daughter, and his 8 year-old grandson. But, in sports, the player-fan gift is sacred, almost untouchable. And if that gift is to a woman or a child…well, forget-about-it…there are rules!

But where do those rules come from? If this life is all that ever will be, what would cause us to be horrified at a man knocking a woman out of the way to intercept a ball? Why not get what you can, while you can?

Because like it or not, our “rules” are influenced by the Bible’s teaching regarding justice. And the Bible teaches that God hates injustice (Isaiah 59:15). And justice is always being threatened. Nathan rebuked King David for the horrible injustice of taking a man’s wife and killing him to cover up adultery. Jesus taught that men should get their justice right before they pick up stones to kill an alleged adulteress. Jesus defended the innocence of little children and their access to the Kingdom.

So I suppose, some thought that they were defending justice when they defended chivalry. And maybe they had the right heart, but the wrong execution.

Interceptions may be part of football, but what happened off the field degraded into a shameful activity. Some judged Williams to be a monster. Then the yelling started. Then social media lit up with death threats and racial slurs. Chivalry was an excuse to curse Williams, but it is clear that kindness went out the window!

We are still just as sinful as the days of Cain & Abel. And when we see something we don’t like, our reaction is often just as violent. Christa ended up getting a ball from the Saints and one from the Bengals, so I guess Chivalry isn’t dead. But what about Williams’ grandson who was afraid to go to school the next day? What about racism? What about hatred?

The truth is, we aren’t evolving in our morality. And until we learn to obey God’s ways and follow Jesus’ example, we never will. Micah reminded us to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. And remember, sometimes a football is just a football!

Shirtfronting, Shawls, and Chewing Gum…Distracted Much?

APEC DramaIf you haven’t been following this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), don’t worry; you haven’t missed much. But what you did miss seems more like a soap opera than leaders of the world discussing politics and economics. Here were a few of the headlines: 1) Tony Abbott threatened to “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin; 2) Vladimir Putin was “hitting on” China’s President’s wife, and 3) President Obama’s Nicorette caused national disgrace.

Is it just the media, or is the whole world easily distracted by side stories, gossip, and pageantry? The real message and importance of an event is often overshadowed by nonsense. The Bible warns believers against engaging in foolish chatter (Titus 3:9), myths (1 Timothy 1:4), and ignorant speculation (2 Timothy 2:23). We are called to, “avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16).

Now, consider the truth behind those headlines:

  1. Australian Minister, Tony Abbott, had promised to “shirtfront” Putin, a term that comes from an illegal, midsection rugby hit. What Abbott really meant was that he would hit Putin hard on the illegal rocket launcher sales that downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and killed 38 Australian citizens. Rather than focusing on illegal arms sales, downed planes, and loss of life though, headlines were about “shirtfronting.”
  2. In the cold air, Vladimir Putin placed a shawl around Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President, Xi Jinping. This was a harmless act of kindness, but Chinese chat boards lit up with rumors of a Putin-Liyuan attraction. Chinese authorities immediately cleansed the Internet and shut-down anyone who mentioned it. Rather than reporting massive Chinese censorship, headlines fueled gossip about a possibly love affair.
  3. President Obama made headlines as he emerged from his limousine chewing gum. While this might not seem like a big issue, it is a cultural “no-no” in most Asian countries. It was, in the Chinese view, horribly embarrassing. Never mind that China has horrible pollution and human rights issues; the story of the day was Nicorette.

Don’t be fooled and distracted by the side stories. Keep the big picture in mind!

Focusing on a storm caused Jesus’ disciples to forget to have faith in Him; focusing on a weeping woman caused some to question Jesus’ status as a prophet; and focusing on temple pageantry distracted some disciples from His greater Kingdom.

What about you? Will you be distracted by the side stories or will you keep your eyes focused on Christ and the big picture? Don’t lose sight of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. And never let name-calling, gossip, and pageantry carry you away from what matters most.

7 Seats Worthy of Consideration

us-senate-floorOver 100 million dollars for a chair? Now that is a price that would make even the auction house Christie’s blush! But can you believe that several campaigns in key states met or exceeded that price to buy a few chairs last night?

Or at least, if you had just been dropped off in America and knew nothing about our politics, it might seem that way. The goal of last night, according to all the news, was to pick up a few “seats” – seats in the Senate, seats in the House of Representatives, and seats in governors’ offices and state legislatures. And they were expensive chairs!

Of course, it isn’t the chairs that people are after, but the office itself. The word “seat” is what we call a synecdoche. It means a part that represents a. So we talk about the beauty of a set of wheels when we mean the car, getting all hands on deck when we mean every person, and the power of a chair when we mean the office that it represents.

Republicans picked up 7 highly sought after “seats” last night, but I’d like for you to consider 7 important seats from the Bible that will have a far greater impact in your life:

  1. Matthew 23:2 – Jesus said that the Scribes & Pharisees have seated themselves in Moses’ chair. This means that they had placed themselves as lawgivers, judges, and sheriffs. Be sure, if you are going to claim to be God’s spokesman, you don’t fall into the same trap that they did: hypocrisy. Jesus said, do what they say (when they speak the law correctly) but not what they do, for their actions were sinful.
  2. Luke 14:9 – Don’t think more highly of yourself than you should. Jesus uses the example of a person who seats himself in the position of honor. Then the host is forced to embarrass him by asking him to move since that chair is for another.
  3. Acts 25:17 – This is one of many examples in the NT of the “seat” of power of men being used to hear the cases of God’s children who are being tried for their faith. We are to submit to our rulers and those in authority, recognizing that God will be glorified, despite times when we can’t understand our trials.
  4. Romans 14:10/ 2 Corinthians 5:10 – There is only one judgment seat of Christ. Therefore, don’t judge your brothers and sisters. Rather, remember we will all have to stand before that “seat” one day.
  5. James 2:3 – With God there is no partiality, so why do we give a better chair to the wealthy and lesser seats to the poor? James warns us against any such hypocrisy! Show equal love to all at the foot of the cross.
  6. Hebrews 9/10 – The Hebrews writer describes the mercy seat of God where He judged Israel year after year, but points out in 10:12 that Jesus’ seat is the greater chair where He now sits and atones for all who are His.
  7. Revelation 2:13 – If you aren’t Jesus’, you are Satan’s. There is no middle ground. Satan has his own seat – a throne that will be cast in the lake of fire.

So give consideration to these seats. The seat Jesus rules from is one that cost far greater than all others – the ultimate price – His blood.