Pastor's Blog

July 2016

Politics and the 8th Commandment

Are we there yet? Those of you who have children are probably quite familiar with that phrase. Over and over again it is asked on a long car ride. They just want to be done.

Do you ever feel that way when it comes to politics? Maybe we might rephrase the question, “Is it November yet?” We are just beginning the main portion of the presidential election season. Yet many are ready to be done: done with phone calls, done with commercials, done with hearing arguments between grown adults.

Lately, as I have been thinking about politics, the 8th Commandment has repeatedly come to mind: “Do not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).

[Note: Some count this as the 9th Commandment rather than the 8th. God gives us the Commandments in Exodus 20. In Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 10:4, we are told that there are 10 Commandments. Yet, the Bible never numbers them for us. That’s why some people number them differently than others. In the end, the numbering of them is not important, but what is important is the truth God is teaching here.]

When it comes to politics (especially national politics) this commandment is not just repeatedly broken, but shattered! Just think about the explanation given to this commandment: “We should fear and love God that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, or give him a bad name, but defend him, speak well of him, and take his words and actions in the kindest possible way.”

Consider also what God says elsewhere in Scripture: “Be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult” (1 Peter 3:8-9). “The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

As you consider all these thoughts, it is probably very easy to point the finger at various politicians and how they are not following God’s instructions here. Yet, rather than point the finger at others, we should point the finger at ourselves. How often have you run down a presidential candidate because you disagree with them? Maybe you did this vocally, or maybe it was just in your heart. Either way, you committed a sin against this and other commandments. It is so very easy to do, especially in the political climate in which we live. It is very challenging in our world to be able to respectfully disagree with our politicians’ opinions and policies without crossing the line into tearing them down and giving them a bad name.

So where do we turn? Where can we find our strength to do this? Where can we find the strength to build up rather than to tear down? We find our strength in Jesus. We see his example as he perfectly fulfilled this commandment for us. We find our strength in the forgiveness that he won for us. God used the Apostle Peter to remind us of this: “For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds” (1 Peter 2:21-24).

Therefore, living in the forgiveness that Jesus won, what should we do? Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote to Pastor Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:2-4).



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Christmas in July

When do you celebrate Christmas? That might seem like a strange question to ask; for Christmas (unlike Easter) lands on the same calendar date every year: December 25th. Yet, that doesn’t answer the question. I didn’t ask when Christmas was, but, instead, when you celebrate Christmas. A year ago, my family celebrated Christmas on December 6th, December 25th, and January 17th.

With everything that takes place in the month of December, it is often challenging, sometimes even impossible, for families to get everyone together to celebrate. Because of that, some families celebrate Christmas in July.

Whether your family has this practice or not, July might be a great time for you personally to open your Bible and read through the Christmas account once again. With all the stress of the Christmas season, some details of the Christmas account may have escaped your memory. Maybe last December you didn’t take the time to treasure up and ponder all these things in your heart like Mary did. Therefore, July might be a great time for you to read through and ponder the message of Christmas (Matthew 1, Luke 2).

Yet, as we think about the account of Christmas, Matthew 1 and Luke 2 are not the only places to turn. There are various places throughout the Old Testament to turn as well. Long before Jesus was born, many details of his birth were foretold, and they happened exactly as prophesied. One example can be found in Matthew 1:23 where Matthew quotes from the Prophet Isaiah who lived 700 years earlier, “See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’”

This detail of the virgin birth of Jesus has been debated by and denied by many. Why is this so controversial? Because it doesn’t make logical sense; humanly speaking, a virgin birth is impossible. Therefore, people have tried to find other explanations. One explanation often given is that the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 doesn’t necessarily have to mean a virgin, but it could just mean a young woman. Although that is true, we know that it means “virgin” here; the New Testament clearly shows that the birth of Jesus was a virgin birth. Not only that, but the other occurrences of this Hebrew word in the Old Testament are in contexts where the young woman being talked about is clearly a virgin.

Regarding this point there is another place where we may turn as well: Genesis 3:15. After Adam and Eve first fell into sin, God came with the first promise of the Savior to come. Speaking to the devil, God said, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” The seed of the woman listed here is talking about Jesus. Some English translations use the word “offspring” here. Although there is nothing wrong with that translation, the more literal translation is “seed.” When you talk about the seed of something or someone, to whom is that referring: the man or the woman? ‘Seed’ always is spoken of as coming from the man. Yet, here we find God speaking of the seed of the woman. Why is that? Because in Jesus’ birth, there would be no human father involved. Jesus would be born of a virgin, and thereby Jesus would be Immanuel, God with us, true God and true Man. And it had to be this way! If Jesus was born in the normal way with a human father and a human mother, Jesus would have inherited a sinful nature from his earthly parents. If Jesus had a sinful nature he could not have been the Savior. Jesus had to be born in this supernatural way so that being true God and true Man in one person he would live the perfect life that God demands of us all, die an innocent death in our place, and have his death count as the payment for the sins of the world. The virgin birth is not just another interesting detail, but rather an essential detail in the historical account of our eternal salvation.



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Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. ~ 1 Timothy 1:15