Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How Should You Vote?



Polls show the majority now think the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Fear is everywhere. Debt Cliffs, Ebola Panic, ISIS War, Radical Islamic Terrorism, Economic Stagnation, Marriage Woes, Political Gridlock, Racial Division, Moral Chaos. People are flat out desperate for ANSWERS. Increasingly, people are looking to MESSIAH GOVERNMENT as the solution and provider. A few reminders may be helpful as you prepare to vote:

1. The Lord Rules
Increasingly, people want “God Bless America” and not “One Nation Under God.” However, you can’t have one without the other. Psalm 103:19 says, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His Sovereignty rules over all.”  The Kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One … no matter who the President is. Trust God ... He is in control. Really!

2. The Four Systems of Government
Under God’s rule there are four distinct realms: Individual self-government, family, church and civil government. Each realm has limited spheres of responsibility and jurisdiction. The most significant is self-government where individuals can choose to live individually under the principles of God and in the power of God (Eccl. 12:12-13). Family and Church government are critical as well. Civil Government is to support, not replace, the other spheres by keeping evil in check so good can flourish (Romans 13:1-4). Civil government was never created to be your parent or Savior. If the first three spheres of government break down and/or civil government grows beyond its divinely authorized scope, watch out for chaos. In the extreme, people end up with tyranny.

3. There are Two Kingdoms in Conflict
Make no mistake … Jesus is a King and He has a Kingdom (John 18:36-37). Believers live as dual citizens (Eph. 3:20). Jesus teaches and models how to bridge this divide. In Mark 12:13-17 members of the far right and far left came together to discredit Jesus and neutralize his power and influence. Jesus threads the needle with his famous reply, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” St. Thomas Moore said, “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” Our hearts and agendas must not be tied first and foremost to a donkey or an elephant but to a Lamb.

4. Humility or Humiliation
Whenever a government sets itself up as a God, some fireworks will come. God sits on the throne and laughs (Psalm 2). Remember Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from the throne for seven years until he humbled himself (Daniel 4). Whenever rulers drift away from God they set themselves and their countries up for a heavenly political action plan. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Dare we not think the USA is invincible.

5. Don’t expect Government to do what only Jesus can do
Chuck Colson said, “The danger with Christian political movements, per se, is that they tend to make the gospel hostage to particular political agendas. You may wrap the gospel in the flag, and make God a prop for the state. And this is a grave danger.” We mistakenly think the political process has the power to change the culture, change hearts and make the world what it should be. Notice the Iceberg Diagram.

We tend to place all our attention on the visible part above the water line: Abortion, Pornography, Violence, Adultery, Division, etc. These are merely the symptoms of a deeper problem. Below the surface is the raging philosophical issue of “What is Truth?” and deeper still is the fundamental issue of Jesus. Real change will come from the One who has the power to change human hearts—Jesus. May God help us see people not as enemies but rather as thirsty people and give us the grace to offer the Living Water, who alone can quench even the deepest thirst. People can make shocking decisions yet God still pursues them…it’s called Grace.

6. Be On the Right Side When You Vote
In Joshua 5 the people of God are preparing to fight the Battle of Jericho. General Joshua has a surprise divine encounter with the sword-carrying Captain of the host of the Lord. Joshua asked him,” Are you for us or for our adversaries?  His answer to paraphrase, “Neither. I’m not on your side or their side. I’m on God’s side.” He had not come to take sides but to take over. God will not settle for merely being a mascot for the Democrats or a mascot for the Republicans. God doesn’t come to take sides but to take over. Vote for the person that best represents the values of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Be informed, register to vote and then vote.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Retreat Sneak Peek


The first annual Grace Adventures Men’s Retreat launched the weekend of September 26th with 53 men in attendance. The vast majority of this Band of Brothers had never been on a retreat before. The teaching time pushed back on what culture analyst Skye Jethani calls the “Gospel of Consumer Christianity.” This is the upside down insidious false gospel that man is the center of everything and it is God’s job to orbit around us as a divine butler or a cosmic therapist. Self-indulgence is a predominant attitude in our land and it increasingly threatens our church culture. We approach God not for who He is but for what we can get from Him. As one person said, “Jesus has become our Duct-Tape WD-40 Combo Packet” who exists to fix everything. Sad isn’t it? The truth is, we are all tempted by consumerism.
“We are fiercely committed to making life work on our own berms, but the Father has rigged the world so it won’t work without Him.” ~John Eldridge
I focused my teaching so that the men could understand whose we are and who we are: the Character of God and our Identity in Christ. I prayed God would wreck our comfortable forms of faith and interrupt our lives. I am sick of malnourished men being suffocated by manmade Christianity and ending up thirsty for the real God. May men come to Jesus and hear Him say afresh, “Follow me.”
“What we do in life echoes in eternity.” ~General Maximus
Later in the weekend we learned a lot from special talks from Dr. Fred Miller and Dr. Shannon Allison. Fred observed that most of us expect life (if it could be graphed out) to be up and to the right...especially if you work hard and honor God. However, reality is… life as a line is a curved line of ups and downs/peaks and valleys. He drew a straight line through the curved line that represented God as our constant. God can be counted upon no matter what. I'm stealing that from him and using it. Shannon taught us that fear and discomfort should not keep us from the will of God...in fact sometimes when we sense those things we need to step intentionally in those directions and get out of our comfort zones. Wow. Great stuff.  Now to live it.
“What comes into our minds
 when we think about God
is the most important thing about us.” ~Tozer
Prayer
1. On the morning of October 7th I will be chairing a community event entitled “Leadership Revisited 2014: Unlocking the Keys to High Incarceration Rates in St. Tammany Parish.” We have a great group of community leaders speaking and expect about 140 leaders to attend. Please pray for this event.

2. Election time yields a lot of opportunities to speak to elected leaders and those running for office. Pray for those who choose to run and serve. Pray for leader’s families and the work of Jesus in their lives.

3. I am spear-heading a monthly North Shore Leader Forum comprised of key elected leaders. It will be launching next month. Pray for wisdom and favor.

4. Keep praying for Jonathan as he works Monday-Thursday in Chicago for three months. Pray for Patricia as well.

5. My dad just got out of the hospital and is recuperating at home.
“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” ~1 Corinthians 16:13-14













Betting the Farm on God,

Michael

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Nine Years Ago Today


Do you know where you were nine years ago today? I vividly remember. Never in a million years did I expect to live through the greatest natural disaster in American history: Hurricane Katrina. Yet, in the midst of catastrophe, beauty comes out of the ashes … lives are utterly transformed … miracles happen. I wouldn’t wish a disaster upon anyone, but I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned and have become for anything. Out of my brokenness has come a liberation and freedom.

Recently, I’ve been meditating upon the Apostle Paul’s STORM, SHIPWRECK and SNAKEBITE travel log in Acts 27-28. At outward appearance the voices of the day saw Paul’s calamities as God was out to get him. However, a look through the Sovereignty and Providence of God-lens revealed something far different:

1. Closed Doors are often just Divine Detours.
2. God’s guides by a zig-zag and not a straight line
3. God sometimes takes us off-course to keep us on-course.
4. At times our plans need to fail so God’s plans can win.
5. If you want to make God laugh, tell Him too many of our plans.
6. God is never early, never late, He’s right on time every time. You can trust His timing.
7. There are no coincidences, only providence. No twist of fate, only divine appointments.

If Paul would have tried, as a preacher-boy or a jailbird, to get an appointment with Governor Publius of Malta or Nero of the Roman Empire, it would have been impossible. Yet, SUFFERING, a STORM, a SHIPWRECK and a SNAKEBITE changed everything. Is it no wonder an angel would tell Paul beforehand, “Do not be afraid Paul, you must stand before Caesar” (Acts 27:24)? This was all part of the fulfillment of Paul’s calling to be a chosen instrument of Jesus to bear His name to Jews, Gentiles and Kings.

Nine years after Katrina I can’t miss God’s sovereignty and providence in my life. I’ve experienced a few rogue winds, shipwrecks and snakebites in order for God to get me where he wants me. If I would have asked for an appointment with elected officials nine years ago they would have probably laughed, and I would have had nothing to say. I think back upon this last month alone. I have had more key appointments with elected leaders, pastors and business leaders than I’ve had in any other month. Only God could open these doors to have me at this place, in this time, in these ways.

Paul finished his Capitol Commission calling. By 60 AD the message of Jesus had reached the highest echelons of power in the empire. It was so extensive Paul could send greetings from those in Caesar’s own household. Paul had reached out to the capital cities of Cypress, Pamphilia, Galatia, Lyconia, Macedonia, Greece, Achaia and Proconsular, Asia as recorded in the book of Acts. Today, our ministry and those I work with around the state and country are reaching a new generation of political leaders in state capitals, Washington D.C. and local officials by focusing on Jesus Christ and the timeless Word of God.

Praise and Prayer
Speaking at Capitol Commission Event
1. Praise for a good speaking engagement at a Capitol Commission gathering with community and legislators in Springfield, Missouri on September 4.

2. Pray for the establishment of a North Shore Leaders Forum targeted to launch October 29. Pray for the Prayer Breakfasts in St. Tammany and Jefferson Parish on September 19 and October 24. Pray for the Men’s retreat on September 26-28. A few slots are still open.
Interaction with an Elected Official

3. Pray for a God revitalization in our country. Most of our problems are spiritual and family related. Laws cannot transform hearts. Jesus can.
Capitol Commission Gathering Meeting Room



4. Pray for strength for Donna and pray for Jonathan as he travels to do consulting in Chicago for three months or so.
Betting the Farm on God,

Michael

Monday, August 4, 2014

Thoughts for Election Junkies in an Election Season



How far is too far with our faith and politics? Where is the line? A passage out of C.S. Lewis’s book Screwtape Letters jolts me. These letters, between a senior powerful demon named Screwtape and a young demon, are the fictional correspondence on how to derail a Christ-follower. Look at these advanced tactics: “Let him begin by treating patriotism…as part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the more important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely a part of the ‘cause,’ in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce … Once he’s made the world an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.” Even during the tumultuous times of WWII, Lewis was warning us to be careful how we engage in politics and how we allow it to influence our heart and our core.

Here are some things I constantly remind myself:
God is in Control. Our ultimate hope is not in Politics. We don’t have to freak out and be fearful every time something doesn’t seem to be a political win. God reigns no matter what country is dominating the globe or who gets elected. Think about it … after the fall of Judah (which Scripture clearly says God used Nebuchadnezzar to achieve) God then used another pagan king to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. God isn’t anxious about our elections (Daniel 4:17). God reigns.

The Kingdom can do well with or without Caesar’s cooperation. Times of government hostility often produce times of vibrancy. The blood of martyrs has often been the seed of the church. During times of trial the world may be turned upside down (Acts 17:6). In fact as E.K. Chesterton put it, “Coziness between church and state is good for the state and bad for the church.”

We dare not privatize our faith. Jesus is Lord of all or not Lord at all. Abraham Kuyper famously said, “There is not one inch of creation about which Jesus Christ did not say, ‘This is mine!’” Our faith is to impact every part of our life including politics. As Jesus leads, we are to vote, dialogue, engage, learn, pray, speak in the public square, serve, preach, debate, run for office or whatever Jesus leads us to do in a way that is civil, respectful and redemptive. This is a good thing. However, remember the old cartoon picturing a guy standing before Peter at the Pearly Gates and Peter saying to him, “You were a believer, yes, but you skipped the ‘not being a jerk about it’ part.”

Politics/Government is not the answer to everything. Many seem to rely on Big Brother for everything. Consciously or sub-consciously, citizens begin to assume that the state has the capacity and responsibility to solve all of society’s ills. Yet consider this: If we got all the right people in office and enacted all the right legislation, would you finally be the person God wants you to be? Would pride and greed evaporate and marriages become expressions of moral beauty? Would neighborhoods be places of harmony and would human beings master their impulses? The answer, “NO.” Deep, profound transformation has to come from within through a spiritual renewal that eventually impacts the outward. Real change comes as a ‘God-thing’ through the Gospel of Jesus Christ! This is why Grace Adventures and my work with the Capitol Commission exists.
“One of the greatest temptations of the church
is to trade grace for power.”  C.S. Lewis
Praise and Prayer
1. Praise for a great meeting in Dallas with state legislators and state senators as we tried to identify State Directors and Chaplains for the 25 states that do not have a minister with the Capitol Commission. Great contacts and opportunities. Check out Capitol Commission
Several Capitol Commission Chaplains

2. Pray for the right 51 men to join us on the Grace Adventures Retreat September 26-28 at the Solomon Center. About half are paid-up or committed.

3. Praise for my opportunities sharing the gospel as part of the Beyond History television series . This series has just been picked up nationally and will have a potential viewership of 60 million people. I have been the speaker on two 30-minute programs so far with more coming.

Jonathan and Donna
4. Pray for the establishment of a new Leader Forum on the North Shore for elected leaders, and the ministry of the one we established in the New Orleans South Shore region.

5. Pray for Donna as her teaching in the school system starts August 7th. Where did summer go?

Recent visit with my parents
6. Pray Donna and me as we walk with God and grow in Christ. If we abide in Jesus … HE will bring the fruit HE desires.
  



Betting the Farm on God,
Michael