Reflections on the “Debate”

Last night, like many others, I stayed up late to watch the debate and the various commentaries that followed. One thing seemed clear—this was called a “debate,” but it was anything but! Yet, no commentator said anything about the fact. Other than a brief scuffle between Christie, who seemed and anxious to really debate and Paul, there was nothing even to resemble a true debate.

Instead of a debate where back-and-forth propositions and rebuttals upon various topics continue for a substantial amount of time, what we had was a slight opportunity to learn something of the opinions of each man (and one woman—who was outstanding) always closely guided by the questioner from Fox News. Obviously these questions did not always correspond to that which a contestant wanted to speak about. Consequently, he had to hedge on it, then try somehow to weave his own concerns into his answer.

Now it is understandable that with 17 individuals participating in two tiers there could be no real debate—where issues were really discussed at some length. It was physically impossible to do any such thing. Probably, then, we could be treated only to the question-and-answer evening that we experienced.

So be it. My protest is that the label that was affixed upon this—a “debate”—was false advertising. Frankly, I’m still waiting to hear one. Perhaps one or two of the candidates could elsewhere at another time really debate. How I’d like to hear that!

Who Is In Control?

In Jeremiah 27:5, we read:

…I made the earth . . . and the people . . . I give it to anyone I please . . .

What is God telling the Jews through Jeremiah?

The answer ?—He is I charge of politics.  And for His purposes He determines who will and who will not be in charge of Governments. As He says elsewhere, He raises up one and puts down another.

Does that mean that we have no say in the matter? Of course not.  We vote.  But, providentially, God so arranges things that our votes achieve His purposes. And His purposes may be to bring tragedy upon an ungrateful nation, as He did upon Israel.

Sometimes the rulers we abhor therefore, are but His judgment, one that we deserve.

Nehemiah

Nothing adverse is said about Nehemiah in the Scriptures. Like Daniel, Joseph, and Noah, he is set forth only as a man who faithfully served God. Of course, like the rest of us, he still sinned. But his life as a whole remained steadfast to the Lord. It is, therefore, interesting to note some of what God did through him to bless His people.

Here, let’s consider only one item—one that may appear insignificant. But it is often of significance to consider how one handles insignificant matters. It usually tells you much about him.

In Nehemiah 5:15c (HCSB) we read,

I and my associates never ate from the food allotted to the governor.

Here, we see a man who cared. The people who had returned to Jerusalem remained a pitiful lot. They were poor, lived among the ruins of a formerly great city, were outcasts among those who lived in the land; their situation was miserable. Nehemiah recognized the fact and cared. Already burdened beyond belief, to take upon themselves a new responsibility, now that the new governor had arrived, would have been almost beyond their ability. Or, so Nehemiah saw it.

So, on his own, he determined not to place an additional burden upon their shoulders. He was entitled to his share of the food allotment that was to be given to him and his officials. But he chose not to enjoy that entitlement. He understood the needs of others and, in effect, determined to identify with them. Here was no pompous person, gobbling up all he can get from others; rather, here was a servant of the Lord who saw his responsibility in that service to stand with—not above—those he served.

What a difference there would be in government today were our officials to adopt a similar attitude. Of course, it would not take the same form that it did with Nehemiah. But to adopt Nehemiah’s attitude would have significant impact. Of interest, in this regard, can you think of five ways in which our officials could refuse to take advantage of those perks that are rightfully theirs for the taking? It might be a challenge to you as well if you should do so.

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Rights and Right Focus

It is interesting how time and again Paul asserted his civil rights as a Roman citizen. Yet, neither do we find him, nor Jesus—nor, for that matter, any of the apostles—ever demanding that the government change things to conform to Christian principles.  There is no such thing as a Christian Politician in the New Testament, and there are no examples of believers protesting, demanding that some laws be changed.

As a matter of fact, it was long after, when Constantine wedded the church and the state—for whatever purposes he may have had in mind—that the church began to go downhill. There is something about the church taking the initiative to get mixed up in the state’s business that God doesn’t seem to honor!

In our time, and in our democracy (is it really a republic anymore?), the church seems not to understand this fact. Moreover, it becomes obvious to anyone who has lived 82 years (as I now have) that the seemingly large gains have not turned out to be so large after all—or lasting. Indeed, many of these “gains” in the long run have actually turned out to be losses.

If Christian magazines didn’t have a lot to write about politics in relationship to the church, they’d probably fold for lack of material. After all, is the emphasis of the church today on the right thing? Is the passage (or failure) of a bill in the congress as important as the beginning of a new congregation in Chinatown? As the salvation of a child in Sunday School, in God’s sight? In yours?

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Work?

There is a conflict in Washington about how many days a year the House ought to work. There are two views about this:

  1. Work less, and therefore mess up the country less. The more congress does, the worse things get.
  2. Work like mad and get done all the things that need to be done to turn the country around.

Which would you support?

Frankly, if congress isn’t going to do any better than it has in the past, then let them stay home with their families around the fire roasting marshmallows.

But if, on the other hand, they are going to really bring our country back to the position it was in before the Democrats started ruining it, then work, work, work at it.

Who knows what will happen?  There are new men in Washington. Does that mean new, good ideas—and votes? Or are they going to fall in line, in time, the way it seems politicians all do, and do the country more harm than good?

I don’t know.  But I know one thing—we Christians ought to be much in prayer that the right decision is made with the right effects. Are you grousing about the nation—or praying?

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Falling Asleep

Ever fall asleep at your computer? It’s a lot easier to do so now than when I was a vigorous young man—I can attest to the fact. And, that’s not just because at that time I didn’t have a computer! One of the things that’s likely to happen when you do is mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm or something like mcs’iapfu[bnge[r9 bk/gyyouib. Your hand may remain on a key for the fraction of a second, then slide its way along the keyboard as you drift off—with the above results. When you wake up, you wonder whether or not it might have been the most intelligent thing that you’ve written in the manuscript so far [do we have manuscripts any longer since we rarely do anything manually?].

At any rate, you may think that many of my blogs are written while half asleep. Let me assure you that if there are any blogs like that, they’re probably my very best. But when I write what I’m about to say in this one today, I can tell you, without qualification, that I’m wide awake! And mean every word of it. And I think I know what I’m saying.

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Amos, Samaria, and the USA

The capital of the Northern kingdom of Israel was Samaria. The city was located on a hill at the bottom of which, today, archeologists have found a number of its ruins. As Amos tells us, through nefarious business and political practices, the upper crust had virtually enslaved the poor of the land—much as we see in dictatorships today. All of this followed King Jeroboam’s rebellious reign, in which he determined to set up a rival religion to Jehovah, that would keep his people from traveling to Jerusalem. Rather than follow God’s directions about the true temple, sacrifices, and priesthood, he set up his own temples, festivals, altars, images of golden calves, high place shrines, and non-levitical priesthood. This was a mongrel religion with mixtures of truth and paganism. Much like a present-day cult, there was enough similarity to the real thing that the people were easily duped. Besides, as he told them, why travel all the way to Jerusalem to worship when you can do here, right at home in Bethel or Gilgal? They needed little persuasion, but flocked to these religious centers.

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