Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual: Jon Meacham, author of "American Gospel:God, The Founding Fathers, And The Making Of A Nation", Part I

Last Friday, while the rest of my family dined out on Mexican cuisine, I consumed not a frozen dinner, but a can of ravioli and then began Jon Meacham's "American Gospel." I read the first hundred pages covering Colonial America and the Revolution. Meacham seeks to set before readers the role Christianity played in the foundation and development of the United States.

Meacam provides a quote from Benjamin Rush concerning the origins of the Constitution and the founding of the nation. To me, it is the best summary of the facts coming from an avowedly orthodox Christian: "I don't believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am perfectly satisfied that the union of the states, in its form and adoption, is as much the work of divine providence as any of the miracles recorded in the old and new testaments were the effects of divine power. 'Tis done! We have become a nation." While I strongly believe that this nation was created by God for a special purpose, and has been used by God for the spreading of His Word, I do not hold the position that this nation was or is a Christian nation. Jesus stated in Matthew 7:13 that very few enter the narrow gate. This verse is a strong indication to me that there is no such thing as a Christian nation. Maybe for you that is too simplistic. Perhaps it is. Maybe I am considering the subject from the wrong vantage point. While not all our Founding Fathers were orthodox Christians, much of their philosophy that guided the founding is rooted in a Christian world view. Even parts of John Locke's work, which influenced Jefferson, was a secularized version of Puritan Samuel Rutherford's "Lex Rex" (Law Is King). This is amply demonstrated by Francis Schaeffer in his book "How Shall We Now Live." I doubt Meacham is aware of that fact. Yet he does point out that the Founders' Enlightenment thinking was greatly leavened by Christianity.

Meacham attempts to steer a middle course between Christian and secularist views while laying before the reader the Founders' great achievement in regards to the place religious freedom has occupied in America. In Jefferson and Madison's fight for Virginia to adopt the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, religion was taken away from the realm of legislative grace, or government toleration, which could be extended or withdrawn. Religious freedom was made an inalienable right for all men and women. And this freedom of conscience was given to all religions, not just Christianity. This eventually became the thinking of the nation as a whole. The negative historical experience of state-run churches, or church-run states led the Fathers to create a climate of religious liberty.

Because Meacham did not have the space for an exhaustive historical study, he had to engage in a good deal of generalization. The inevitable result being that Meacham makes broad statements when the truth is a little more nuanced. This is clearly seen in his portrayal of individual Founding Fathers. Washington is likened to an Enlightenment thinker along the lines of Jefferson. The credible evidence that Washington was indeed an orthodox Christian is dismissed as myth. Meaham also mistakenly claims that John Adams was a Unitarian his whole adult life when the truth is he was an orthodox Christian until he changed late in life. Franklin and Jefferson are portrayed accurately. Yet in the case of Jefferson, there is need to be more nuanced when describing him. Jefferson certainly was not an orthodox Christian. He rejected the Trinity and rewrote the New Testament to suit himself. Yet he was no avowed enemy of Christianity. Indeed, he saw the contribution Christianity has made in culture and in daily life. When Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, he created a school for religious studies. He believed that a state run institution could promote religion in general so long as no specific creed was forced upon unwilling consciences. Yet he knew that Christianity would be the dominant position taught. So much for the modern interpretation of the wall between church and state. And consider this. Meacham mentions the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. This act of the Continental Congress laid out the steps by which territories may become states. The act stated that no one would be legally persecuted for their own religious beliefs and practices. Meacham gives a quotes from the act, yet I am not sure he realizes the implications of the quote in the debate concerning the separation of church and state: "Religion, morality,and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Schools should teach religion, morality, and good government. By religion, most if not all involved in passing the legislation meant the Christian religion. In other words, the promotion of religion (Christianity) was mandated by the Federal Government!

In his chapter on the Colonial era, Meacham is right to point out that while the Pilgrims and Puritans came to North America to worship God in their own way, they denied that privilege to others, even executing those who did not conform. To make his valid point that the Founding Fathers looked on the example of Colonial America as a model not to follow, Meacham necessarily focuses on the negative. And there was a dark side to pre-revolutionary history, including slavery. Yet the overall portrait he paints is overly one-sided. He is too much influenced by negative stereotypes regarding our colonial forebears. It is interesting that Meacham singles out an incident during the Pilgrims' crossing as a condemnation of them as religious zealots. The source is William Bradford's "Of Plymouth Plantation." The passengers fell ill and were thought to be dying. (Meacham describes their ailment as just sea-sickness.) One young sailor taunted the sick who thought their demise was imminent. Using foul language, he told them that he would throw their bodies overboard and take all their possessions. (Meacham merely describes this sailor as a difficult young man.) The irony was that the only one who died was the young sailor, whose own body was tossed overboard. Meacham describes Bradford's reaction as a gleeful expression of revenge couched in religious terms. This is not so. I first read this account in high school an it made a great impression on me that the God I was ignoring was not one to trifle with. God is being extolled as a holy God who punishes sin. He does not always reveal Himself in reassuring ways. It is interesting to note that Meacham makes the statement that to believe God punishes disobedience is a danger for democracy. He writes "If a community (or a nation) is dominated by the idea that God specifically punishes sinners and the milieu in which they live, then it is all too easy for that community (or a nation) to demand absolute adherence to certain moral codes on the grounds that the well being of all is dependent on the personal conduct of the individual." It appears that Mr. Meacham views God as one who does not mean what he says about sin. A real knowledge of our own history demonstrates that not even the most unorthodox of our Founding Fathers subscribed to such a view. Even Jefferson believed that God punishes wickedness. Before his death, he wrote concerning slavery that he trembled when he remembered that God is just.

Here is how Meacham expresses the value of religion in American life: "So is religion in America a necessary evil, or can it be a positive force for good? Taken in all, I think history teaches that the benefits of faith in God have outweighed the costs." So Meacham thinks religion is good for America. Good. But elsewhere he writes that it might not be the best thing to fight for Christian values in the public square or to be too aggressive in trying to convert those who hold different beliefs. He writes: "While a biblical case can be made for aggressive evangelization in public and private life, scripture also teaches that believers are to practice charity toward all." My question to the author is this: Is there a contradiction between evangelization and charity? In his footnote on pages 288-289 (in the paperback edition), the fight to prevent the removal of Christianity from the public square is labeled as an effort by extremists who do not understand that God wants us to love everyone.

Meacham is right in stating that not all the Founding Fathers were orthodox believers of the Christian faith. For instance, when God was referred to in the Declaration of Independence, it was not the Trinitarian God Jefferson was thinking about. Yet it is most likely that when ordinary Americans read or heard the Declaration, it was the God of the Bible they were thinking about. When one explores the role Christianity played in the founding of the United States, one cannot just look at the religious beliefs of the Founders alone. Ordinary citizens were also actors in this drama. It was to them as well as the entire world that the Founders addressed themselves. If private citizens were not convinced that Divine Providence was behind the foundation of this new nation, then this nation would not exist in its present form today. And while Americans have allowed religious pluralism to flourish, it was not the "Public Religion" as extolled by Meacham that sustained them through the crises the United States has undergone over more than two centuries.

Part two of my consideration of "The American Gospel" will cover the next one hundred pages which deals with the Civil War and slavery.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Audio Impressions

This is the first of a new feature on "The Hand." In this feature, "Audio Impressions", I will give my impressions of what I have recently heard or seen on the web or heard on cassette or on CD.

Sounds Of Majesty: This nightly show from the Moody Broadcasting Network ( ) features mainly traditional church music. The host, Greg Wheatly, provides insightful commentary and historical background. The show is the most conducive to worship of any that is on the Web or on Christian radio. This program is also helpful when I go to an establishment with a wi-fi connection. It is hard sometimes, while blogging, to compose a spiritually related article while the background music is a rather loud rendition of "I'm Your Venus, I'm Your Fire of Desire" or "Another One Bites The Dust." Often I plug in my earphones into my PC and listen to "Sounds of Majesty." That way, the task of writing is facilitated.

Rick Warren's Blog: One does not have to be a fan of megachurches to appreciate this resource. Every week, Warren and guests talk for an hour about one topic concerning the ministry. One can listen at Warren's website or one can download a program for free to listen to later. I have heard only two programs, yet I can recommend this resource for pastors. The programs contain good practical advice on a number of subjects. Warren is to be commended for making these programs available to pastors.

Audio Lectures on American History: A great resource to gain a greater understanding about our country's history. I listened to Harry V. Jaffa's lecture on the Declaration of Independence. Jaffa pointed out that Lincoln appealed to the principles contained in the Declaration when explaining the Civil War to Americans and the world. Jaffa asserts that as these principles are for all time, they should effect the manner in which the Constitution is interpreted. Yet only one conservative on the Supreme Court believes the Declaration should be consulted when making judicial rulings, according to Jaffa. That is Clarence Thomas.

The Debate Between Christopher Hitchens and Rev. Al Sharpton on the Existence of God: Trust me, this debate, which was held on 5/7/07, is not worth your time.This was more of a publicity stunt than a serious debate. Hitchens expressed his athiestic views, nothing not heard before. Sharpton did not, or could not reply from scripture. A more serious opponent would have effectively countered Hitchens.

Philosophy and Christianity: Doug Groothius gives a lecture entitled "What Philosophers Wish Pastors and Theologians Knew About Philosophy." Groothius is correct that we are to love God with all our mind. His point that philosophy is a necessary vehicle for the exploration of certain areas of thought is appealing. He also cautions us against emphasizing certain philosophical systems at the expense of Biblical truth.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Monday Morning Devotions

I Cor. 1:8- "...who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." (NKJV)

A quick reading of this passage and its context to surrounding verses brings to mind two thoughts. One is comforting. One is disturbing.

Lets look at the later thought first. Those who know their New Testament are aware of the problems that plagued the Corinthian Church, immorality and sectarianism among them. Yet Paul testifies that he thanks God for the grace given the Corinthians (v.4) that enriched them in all utterance and knowledge (v.5) and so that the Church as a whole lacked no spiritual gift. (v. 7) Despite all their iniquities, they possessed all these gifts! Are you in the same boat as the Corinthians? Are you rich in gifts yet poor in holiness? In 1991, I heard an evangelist make a statement that I have never forgotten: "Just because God is using you does not mean that God approves of you." I can testify that there have been times when I was not walking with God yet He used me in some fashion. You may be used of God to heal the sick or cast out demons. Maybe you are known for the gift of prophecy. Yet if you refuse to walk in holiness, the Lord will say to you one day "I never knew you. Depart from me!" (Matt 7:21-23) This is a lesson not even that evangelist heeded. Within a few months he himself fell through compromise with sin. Despite the gifts the Corinthians were operating in, Paul found it necessary to confront them with their sins. He wanted to disturb their complacent minds so that they could experience the restoration that repentance brings. Is that what you require? I require it from time to time. And yet the Church in my experience is reluctant to engage in this role as Paul did. I pray that both you and I have someone in our lives that the Holy Spirit can use to bring this "holy disturbance" to us. I also pray that we can also be used in such a way in other's lives to bring them to repentance.

Now lets move on to my first thought. The same Jesus, who gives us these gifts and who expects us to walk in holiness, He will confirm us to the very end (v.8), so that we may be presented blameless to the Father. Verse nine reminds us that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are faithful and can be trusted to empower us to live holy lives that we may indeed be presented to the Father. Even if Jesus finds it necessary to confront us, it is so we may achieve the destiny the Father has had in mind for us since before the beginning of time: To walk in holiness here on earth and then enjoy being in the presence of the Triune God forever!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Monday Morning Devotions

Eph 5:14- 'Therefore He says:
" Awake you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light." '

There are no promises in scripture that do not include some condition. This verse promises that Christ will give us light. Yet to receive this light, we must change. We must awaken ourselves, we must remove ourselves from our dead state. The promise sounds great to me. If Christ offers this light, I certainly want all that Christ can give me. Yet what is this light? What is this state of sleep, this deadness we are to cast off?

Ephesians 5: 8-11 reminds those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ that we were once "darkness", but now we are "children of light." Contrary to popular belief, being a child of light is not a passive state. Because we are children of light, we must walk as children of light. We must fulfill the role of a family member as we have been adopted into God's family. When I was a child, I witnessed the way other families behaved. Much, if not most, of the bad behavior I saw did not rub off on me because deep-down, I knew that in the Guthrie family, such things were not done. The same principle applies to my new family, the family of God. Because I belong to this family, I behave according to the familiy's standards. As a family member, I am expected not to behave as those outside the family would. We should not be fornicators, unclean, or covetous. We should not engage in filthiness, foolish talking, or course jesting. (Eph 5: 3-4) Those who engage in such things are in the state of sleep Paul is refering to. To do these things is to be dead in sins. This is the death we are to arise from.

But what is this light? Ephesians 5:13 defines light this way: "But all things that are exposed are made manifest in the light, for whatever makes manifest is light." A manifestation is a revelation of what was previously hidden. It is an exposure. The light is that which exposes sin, it is the Holy Spirit which exposes anything in our lives that displeases the Father, even those things we do not recognize as sin. Once the Spirit reveals these things in our lives, we cast them aside. Then we replace them with behaviors that cement our family relationship. (Eph. 5: 15-21) We must receive this light, which is promised to all God's children, if we are to live as members of His family. That is why we must cast off all behavior that dulls our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's dealing with us. For us to receive this promise, we must be willing to have our deeds brought to the light. We need to be as David, who when his sin was exposed, had his confession sung in the temple. (Psalm 51) He was proclaiming to the world "This is who I am when I fall away from God! But when I cast off my sin, I was restored and made new." Walking in the light is not easy. But it allows us to be children of the Father. Are you willing to live in this promised light? (All scripture quotations are from the NKJV.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Quotes and Facts:"Behold The Glory:Incarnation Through the Arts" edited by Jeremy Begbie

Here are some quotes from most of the eight essays contained in this short work which attempts to explore Christian theology through various artistic mediums. The inclusion of each quote does not imply that I endorse each opinion expressed in them. I am merely seeking discussion on the subject of the relationship between the arts and theology.

Trevor Hart in "Through The Arts: Hearing, Seeing and Touching The Truth."
p21- "Is there any sense in which art itself, through its capacity to transform our vision of and response to the world, shares in or corresponds to that redemptive activity of God?"

Malcolm Guite in "Through Literature: Christ and the Redemption of Language."
p.28- "Because a certain kind of "bloodless" and abstract theology used words in such a way to alientate people from the incarnate Word, so now it falls to the artist to redeem language, to use imaginative language to restore what a language devoid of imagination has destroyed."
p30- "But Christians, especially those called to preach or share the word, should take a special interest when those 'outside' the faith are drawn to deal with its mysteries and should listen closely when they tell us what our orthodoxy has sounded like to them."
p32- "One reason why it is so essential that we begin again to do our theology through the arts, is that the arts are never discarnate, they always begin and end in the realm of time and sense, however much they give us glimpses of another realm that transcends it."
p45.- "A literary imagination, open to the light of Christ, has the power to move us beyond the limitations of ideological arguement, and take us to the far side of the cross, on a journey with the One who was incarnate into every part of the world and every corner of the human heart."

Sara B. Savage in "Through Dance: Fully Human, Fully Alive."
p65- "This kind of intellectualism has had a marked influence on the Christian Church, and not least, its approach to the person of Christ. At times it has encouraged an attitude to Christ which gives excessive weight to what can be expressed in propositions , apprehended by the mind. This has limited the resources with which we hold together the divine and human natures of Christ. Two extremes typically result: Christ is all/only divine or Christ is all/only human."
p.66- "Movement is thus one of the first languages through which we gain personal knowledge, and as a result, the capacity for propositional knowledge. Hence it is appropriate (perhaps even necessary?) that we use movement to enrich our personal knowledge of Christ (whom we must approach by faith with our whole selves, not only our intellect)."

Jim Forest in "Through Icons: Word and Image Together."
p86- "The catacombs bear witness that wherever Christians prayed, they sought to create a visual environment that reminded them of the Kingdom of God and helped them to pray."
p.89- Here Forest provides a quote from St. John of Damascus (676-749) on icons:
"If we made an image of the invisible God, we would certainly be in error...but we do not do anything of the kind; we do not err, in fact, if we make the image of God incarnate who appeared on earth in the flesh, who in his ineffable goodness, lived with men and assumed the nature, the volume, the form, and the colour of flesh."
p.92- Forest quotes St. Sergius of Radonezh: "Contemplation of the Holy Trinity distroys all discord."

Graham Cray in "Through Popular Music: Wholy Holy."
p119-120- Here Cray is speaking of culture: "...within the human sciences as a whole, culture now refers to the whole of society with particular references to the ways in which human beings make or discover meaning. Cultural studies recognises that people make meaning through the everyday resources of their lives. A Sony Walkman has as much involvement in the making of meaning as the underlying economic and social forces involved in its creation and marketing...this understanding of the relationship between culture and meaning applies to every aspect of culture, including any art form regarded as elite...Christian theology must resist the tendency of some cultural studies to claim that reality is entirely constructed by culture or through language. Instead it adopts a view that combines God's initial and ongoing creativity with human stewardship and discovery in partnership with God...But theology can nevertheless agree that culture, including popular culture, does involve the shaping, as well as the identification of meaning."
p121- "It is just because popular music is a mass medium that it has the capacity to introduce substantial themes into its audience's everyday life and experience, in such a way that people are enabled to engage with them significantly."
p135- "When resistance to temptation becomes costly, the critical issue is the trustworthiness of the Father. The cost is bearable if the Father can be trusted. At the heart of the incarnation is the revelation of the trustworthiness of the Father."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Monday Morning Devotions

II Cor 9:8- "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work."

Most people who follow Jesus, when asked to define grace, define it as getting from God what we do not deserve. And most of those who define grace in this way are thinking mainly in terms of salvation itself. This definition is true, but it is only a good start. This is not a complete definition of grace. Grace also includes everything we receive from God to walk as Jesus walked in all areas of life. Jesus said "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30) Those who labor and are heavy laden are those who try to live in their own strength. This group can include those who try to please God in their own flesh, as the Pharisees did. It can include people who were saved by grace alone, yet have forgotten that the life that pleases God is lived by grace alone. Grace is what the Father supplies through the Holy Spirit to walk as Jesus the Son walked. Whatever the Triune God calls us to do, He will supply all that we need to obey. By relying on His grace rather than on our own strength, we find rest from all our futile labors.
(All Scripture Quotations are from the NKJV.)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Questions to Ponder: A Sermon

When we reflect on the ways of God, there are two questions that surely you have pondered. Why does God choose to carry out His will on earth through us? is the first. The second: What will we be doing in Heaven? These sound like two totally unrelated questions, yet they are inseperately linked. We can see this as we look to scripture for answers.
In dealing with the first question, lets examine two passages, from the Old and New Testaments:
Gen 25:21- "Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived."
Matt 9:38- "Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

In the case of Isaac, we can ask, "Why did he have to pray for his wife to conceive?" After all, did not God promise Isaac's father Abraham that his descendents would be numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the sea? Can we not safely assume that Abraham shared this good news with his son and daughter-in-law? Knowing that God keeps his promises, why would Isaac have to pray at all? We couldn't he just sit back and wait for God to act? Isaac married at age forty, but Rebekah bore no children until he was sixty. Why did he have to wait for so long? Why did he have to pray for Rebekah before God's promise to Abraham could be begun to be fulfilled?

Why did Jesus command us to pray that laborers would be sent into the harvest? After all, we know that it is the will of the Trinitarian God that all be brought to repentance. Jesus is the second person of the Godhead. Why can he not make sure there are enough laboers in the field on His own? Why would the Father, Son and Holy Spirit rely on us to pray for laborers? After all, our track record is nothing to brag about.

There are other examples we could come up with in regard to this matter. Even though Ezra knew he had God's favor, on his way back to Israel from captivity, he and those with him stopped to fast and seek direction. (Ezra 7:6, 8:21-23) Jesus told us to knock and the door will be opened unto us. (Matt 7:7) In the origional Greek, the text reads that not only are we to knock once, but to keep on knocking until the door is opened. Why? Ezra knew the answer. '..."the hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all who forsake Him." ' (Ezra 8:22) Not to seek direction from Him, even though Ezra knew he had His favor, would have amounted to forsaking the Lord. He would have been relying on something other than God. In Psalm 145:17-21, David tells us that God hears those who call on him; He rescues those who love Him. Even though we are in possession of God's promises, it is only in the process of seeking Him that we truly learn to rely on Him. Maybe Isaac did not have an heir for twenty years is that he needed that time to learn to seek God in this matter instead of relying passively on God to fulfill His promise. It is by our seeking God actively in all things that we become the "over-comers" that Jesus speaks of in Revelation 3:21 : "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne." As Jesus overcame, so must we. We must learn obedience as He did, and His learning took many years. Only in obedience can we overcome Satan and Spirtual forces and be with Him who overcame.

Being overcomers allows us to do in Heaven what God plans for us to do. What will we be doing in Heaven? Revelation 5:10 reveals to us that we will be "...kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on earth." To reign means that we will rule. What will our reign will be like, I do not know. But I do know that we will have tasks to do in heaven. And our obedience prepares us for those tasks that await us. The undertaking of these tasks is a priviledge for those who seek him. It is a reward. And here we can link the two questions. We learn obedience and reliance on God so that we can be made ready for what God has for us in Heaven. As the writer of Hebrews puts it: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Heb. 11:6)
(All scripture quotations are from the NKJV.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

How is He Doing?

It has been six months since the November elections that put the Democrats back in control of Congress. With this being the case, I thought I would state my opinion as to how President Bush has performed since then.
His conduct right after the election led me to believe he would give the Democrats everything they wanted. While he has changed tactics concerning the war with Iraq, he has stood firm in his commitment to maintain the U.S. presence there. For resisting all efforts to set a time table for withdrawl, Bush deserves credit. The surge that is going on now should have been undertaken long ago. Whether it is too late to succeed, or whether it will be given adequate time to succeed, remains to be seen. His administation can claim credit for keeping the country from experiencing another terrorist attack.
Immigration is another matter. His plan, crafted with Teddy Kennedy, is a surrender of border security. By insisting on his approach, he is forcing his party to abandon him if they have any hope of being successful in the 2008 elections. Why a President would weaken his stature in wartime in this way is beyond me.
While Bush has not allowed himself to become a complete lameduck, his stand on immigration is the greatest threat to his success. I am still hopeful that he will continue to appoint judges who honor the Constitution. If he has an opportunity to fill any vacancies on the Supreme Court, and he nominates reliable Conservatives, and fights for them, then he will remain high in my esteem.

The Church and President Romney

Could I in good conscience vote for Mitt Romney? I could if his Democratic opponent is Hillary Clinton or any of the other announced Democratic candidates. Although I lean toward Fred Thompson, I would probably vote for Romney over McCain or Guiliani. Whether Romney's present conservative positions would remain if elected cannot be answered in the affirmative with any certainty. While there has been much debate about whether a Christian could vote for a Mormon, I have yet seen anyone ask what the challenges would be for the Church in America if there would be a President Romney in the White House.
What if Romney wins the Presidency and governs as a true Conservative. He would gain many supporters within the Evangelical community who would become emotionally tied to him as many have with Bush. This would put great pressure on those within the Church to legitimize Mormanism as a valid expression of Christianity. Could those involved with such issues such as the right to life seek support from Romney while not granting his religion orthodox status? Would these activists moderate their views in the hope that their access to the Executive Branch would remain open? If a pastor spoke against Mormanism, would some of those in his flock criticize him for not supporting the President? Would public figures be denied a platform if they did not tone down their criticism of the President's religion? Would they be labled bigots by those within the Church? While I would vote for Romney over any candidate that favors abortion and who would weaken the war against terrorism, I do wonder what challenges the Church would face from a Romney presidency. While many ask Romney how his religion would effect his governence, he should be asked whether or not he could cooperate with evangelicals while allowing them to hold on to their convictions regarding the Mormon Church.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Monday Morning Devotions

John 14:12- "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father." (NKJV)
I used to read this passage and wonder "I will do greater works than Jesus? Jesus raised people from the dead. What greater work could I do?" But now I realize that this promise is not just made to individual believers, but to the Church as a whole. First to the disciples, then to all those who believed in their message, down to the present day. Jesus was fully God and fully man. As a man, Jesus had voluntarily placed himself under the physical limitations that all individual men and women are subjected to. During His earthly ministry, He could only be at one certain locality at one time and He could only communicate with a limited number of people. Wherever He was, He performed the miraculous: healing sicknesses and physical deformity, casting out demons and raising the dead. Rarely did He perform miricles on those outside His vicinity. (The Centurion's servant and the Syro-Phoenician woman's daughter were two exceptions). But the Father and the Son were about to send the Holy Spirit to dwell in each believer's heart. The same Spirit that was about to raise Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11) was going to, and now does reside in all who make up the true church. As more are called to the Church daily, then that means more and more people have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. And as Jesus did all things as a man through the power of the Holy Spirit, so do all individual members of His body, the Church, all over the world. As the Church extends over all the earth, then the works Jesus did will be done all over the world. The Church can go where Jesus the man could not. More work will be done than could be while Jesus was limited by being one man. Now Jesus indwells all believers and so works through all believers all over the world. And if you are a believer indwelled by the Holy Spirit, you are doing the works Jesus did, in conjunction with the entire Church. And as the Holy Spirit works through the Church, then greater works than what Christ did on earth are being done.