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november-3-2020

(Do Not Open Until Election Day 2020)

November 3, 2020

 

Dear followers of Jesus,

It’s Election Day!  Wow!  Has it been four years already?

Today, the people of the United States will either: 1) re-elect President Donald J. Trump to a second term, 2) elect another Republican in the rare event that someone successfully challenged President Trump in the primary elections to become the party’s nominee, or 3) elect the Democrat candidate in the 2020 Presidential race.

I’m writing this letter to bring some things to your remembrance and to ask some things of you, especially if the third possibility becomes a reality today and a Democrat is elected to lead our nation as the next President of the United States.

1)  Keep praying. 

Four years ago, in the days following President Trump’s election, many Christians composed some beautiful and deeply meaningful prayers on behalf of the President-elect and our nation.  Some posted and shared these prayers on social media.  They acknowledged and praised God’s sovereignty, credited His wisdom and His guidance upon the electorate, professed their confidence that His divine hand had been decisively active in the outcome of the election, and petitioned His richest blessings to be upon the new President.

I hope that you saved those prayers in an easily accessible place.  Please retrieve them and pray them again today and in the days ahead… verbatim.  Change them only to reflect the name of the new President-elect.  They would be splendid prayers for you to continue praying over the next four years.  I’m asking this of you simply because I don’t recall the composition of such prayers in 2008 and 2012, and it would be a real shame to reserve such lofty petitions only for candidates of our liking and choosing.  Or is it possible you believe that God only selectively involves Himself in our elections, with unfavorable outcomes serving as an unmistakable signal as to which ones He has chosen to sit out?

Oh, and the countless public prayers that I have heard in Christian assemblies over the last four years that specially requested heavenly blessings upon President Trump, openly and unashamedly mentioning him by name… those would be great to continue as well.  Again, my mind isn’t quite what it used to be (I’m nearing 60 now), but I just can’t remember such prayers being offered with any regularity during the eight years prior to President Trump’s election.

2)  Keep reciting and living out Scripture.

Do you remember those Scriptures and memes that were so prolifically posted on social media when President Trump was elected?  They included Biblical texts like:

“First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-4)

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good… Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor.” (I Peter 2:13-17)

That was so great!  Please do that again!

Many Christians experienced a miraculous measure of renewed interest and dedicated commitment to these Scriptures on November 8, 2016.  I just don’t want to see these texts fall back into the depths of obscurity, neglect, and disuse that they suffered from 2008 to 2016.

3)  Keep calling for unity, healing, and overcoming divisions and differences.

Following President Trump’s election four years ago, there were repeated calls from Christians for the nation to come together, unite, support our new President, and heal the wounds of division within our country.  Harsh rebukes were offered to those engaged in post-election protests, urging them to get over it, accept the will of the people, and respectfully support the President-elect as the incoming leader of one nation under God.

The memories of many were apparently instantaneously wiped clean of any recollection of the divisiveness, disrespect, incivility, insults, name-calling, demonizing, venom, and vitriol in which far too many Christians had been deeply involved for the previous eight years.  I lost count of the number of believers I know who stated or wrote, “Barack Obama is not my President.  He will never be my President.”  I regularly heard President Obama’s name spoken with derision and contempt.

You can’t speak like that and behave like that for eight years, and then, upon the election of your favored candidate, wave a wand, flip a switch, sweeten your tone, invite everyone to grab a hand and sing “Kumbaya,” and expect to be taken seriously.  You can’t repeatedly toss grenades and verbal weapons of mass destruction, and then glibly pontificate about the need to heal.

So, if “the other candidate” wins this 2020 election, please commit yourself to be among the first to call the nation to unity, to demonstrate solidarity and show support for the President-elect, and commit yourself to sincere and ceaseless prayer on his or her behalf, and for our nation under their leadership.  Whatever you thought “God is in control” meant in 2016, try to speak and act as if you still believe it now.

Only when we’ve lived it can we credibly prescribe it.

When we fail to do these things, the light of Christ becomes shrouded by our duplicity, our hypocrisy, and our blatant double standards.  We ensure that those who are skeptical and dubious about our belief in Jesus will find it even more impossible to accept our faith as genuine and authentic.

If we believe that our God’s sovereignty and the successful working of His will is dependent upon the election of a particular candidate or the dominance of a single political party, then our God is far, far too small.

Lest you think I’m being overly critical of believers or unduly “beating up on fellow Christians” to the neglect of pointing out the faults and failures of those in the world, please understand that the latter is not within my purview as a minister of Christ.  “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.” (I Corinthians 5:12-13)

My desire is that our light shine more brightly, our convictions more consistently, and our witness more credibly as disciples of Jesus.

Grace and peace always,

Tim

 

I am a Christian.

Many who read this blog would be willing to unapologetically and confidently make the same statement.  The basic meaning of the name “Christian” is simply “a follower or partisan of Christ,” that is, someone who willingly identifies himself or herself with Jesus.  Given our familiarity with the term and our frequent usage of it, many are surprised to learn that the name only appears three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:27; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). 

In our modern language and culture, the name “Christian” is used in a multitude of ways and has been infused with a wide spectrum of meanings.  These range from “anyone who acknowledges any level of faith in Jesus Christ as opposed to following the tenets of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.” to “only those believers who precisely agree with every aspect of my own understanding and practice of faith in Christ.”

In re-examining the first occurrence of the name “Christian” in the book of Acts, I found it very instructive to note the timing and context of its inaugural use.  It was not a name that was immediately claimed on Pentecost, when the Spirit-enabled apostles first proclaimed the message of the crucified and resurrected Christ and thousands were baptized (Acts 2).  It wasn’t when the number of disciples grew to 5,000 men (not including women and children) in the Jerusalem church (Acts 4:4).  It wasn’t when the Gospel spread beyond Judea and gained an overwhelming reception among the Samaritans (Acts 8:1-12).  Nor was it when Peter first proclaimed the message of salvation to Cornelius and the rest of his Gentile household in Caesarea (Acts 9).

“Christian” was not used as a synonym for disciples of Jesus until after the conversion of many Gentiles in Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:19-26).  It was not a distinctive name for Jewish believers or a separate name for Gentile believers.  The name Christian was a “shared” name and an “inclusive” name that transcended all man-made barriers between Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, men and women, young and old, slave and free, rich and poor, educated and uneducated (Galatians 3:27-28).  It was a name that celebrated the oneness of all baptized believers in Jesus Christ.

I am a Christian.

 

(I shared the following thoughts before Communion in our worship assembly this morning.)

September 11, 2001, is a date that cannot be forgotten.  It was a tragically defining moment for our nation, and, in many ways, for the entire world.  Things have never been the same since.  Today, 10 years later, if you are traveling by air, the gauntlet of security that you have to pass through is directly related to that day.  Today, if you have a loved one serving in the military in Afghanistan or Iraq, they are on that foreign soil as a direct result of the events of that day.  The visual images and the emotional impact of what happened on 9/11 have been permanently etched into our consciousness.

It was a day of violence and bloodshed; an outbreak of evil resulting in untold suffering by the innocent; a day that caused people to ask questions like, “How could this be permitted by an all-powerful, all-loving God?” and “What good can ever come out of such a tragedy?”  But, it was also a day that unified our nation and galvanized our resolve.  Regardless of our various personal backgrounds, ethnicities, accents, and political ideologies, we were Americans, and we stood together that day. 

It is hard to imagine the impact of 9/11 diminishing with time, but it inevitably will; not to ever be entirely forgotten, but, in future decades, it will become increasingly more historical and cerebral in nature, and less personal and emotional, just as has been the case with December 7, 1941 (70 years ago; a defining event for my grandparents’ generation) and November 22, 1963 (a turning point for my parents’ generation).  To some of you, those dates are extremely meaningful and deeply personal, because you lived through those events.  To those of us who are younger, they are certainly identifiable and notable dates, but framed within the context of a distant, historical past. 

Not ten years ago, but about 1,980 years ago, there was another day of violence and bloodshed; an outbreak of evil that resulted in untold suffering by the truly Innocent One; a day that caused people, especially the closest followers of Jesus, to question, “How could this be permitted by an all-powerful and all-loving God?”  “What good can ever come out of this tragedy?”

But, the passing of nearly 2,000 years has not diminished the memory of that day in the least.  On the contrary, the number of those who memorialize the death that took place at Golgotha has never decreased, but has multiplied exponentially with every passing year.  The passage of two millennia has not caused the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world to pass into obscurity, but has only resulted in increased reflection, meditation, understanding, and clarity through the centuries; an event that is relived, reenacted, and celebrated every single Lord’s Day in the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine.

This is a memorial meal that unifies us, regardless of our personal backgrounds, ethnicities, accents, and political ideologies.  We are Christians.  The blood that flowed from Jesus that day, the sacrifice that cleanses us from all sin, has made us one.

This we do today, because we remember.  This we do today, because the world has never been the same.

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