The problem with the Baby Jesus is that he grew up!
Now I've gone and done it. Since there was, apparently, no one else interested in doing this in Topeka, I've announced a "Change is Coming" meeting at my house a week from today, December 13, at 3:30 p.m.
The President-elect appears to be serious about wanting to involve the people,not just party insiders and his major donor base, in his administration. And his organization has asked for participation in this through grassroots meetings. I think we should support him in this.
Since no one else has volunteered in Topeka, I have volunteered. I earnestly hope others in Topeka will follow suit, since the number who will be able to participate at my house is quite limited (and the available parking is even more limited).
Some of my church friends will likely think I've gone over to the "dark side." But the truth is that I'm not supporting the "dark side," I'm supporting the country and its elected leader, as I've explained in previous posts.
Generally, nationwide, I believe Christians should get behind the President-elect in his desire to involve us, take advantage of the mechanisms he is trying to create for our involvement, and make our voices heard graciously and in the manner invited. And we should pray FOR the new President and others in office, as I have prevously described.
This positive approach will have far better results than complaining for the next four (or eight) years!
As I indicated in my last post, God calls us to pray for kings and all who are in authority--to find reasons to give thanks for them, and to pray FOR them as human beings, for God's gracious activity in their lives. The call is to pray for those in authority rather than join others in cursing them. This practice can, and should, be practiced when we hear negative things about leaders in the news, or hear others gossiping about leaders, harshly criticizing them, or cursing them. Christians are called to bless; cursing of other people made in God's image should not come out of our mouths. See, James 3:7-12.
However, I will now suggest something that many of my readers may think to border on treason: the command to pray for those in authority isn't limited to those leaders who are directly in authority over us. Indeed, it isn't even limited to the leaders of regimes friendly to "us"--whether the "us" in view is Christians or the United States. Indeed, it extends even to the leaders of "enemy" regimes.
Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
It has been correctly said that this verse applies to individual Christians, not governments. It is not a rule for our government's foreign policy. But it is a guiding principle for me, in dealing with other individual humans made in God's image. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-il are as much individual humans made in God's image as I am myself, or as any of the people in my circle of acquaintance. Their official stations as leaders of enemy governments (in Iran and North Korea, respectively), and even the hostility of those governments and their persecution of Christians, do not transform these leaders from humans into subhuman monsters in God's eyes. Remember that God brought to repentance King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the destroyer of His Temple and the killer of thousands of His people. See the first four chapters of Daniel. So, the command to pray for them, as human beings in authority, when I am reminded of them, is just as valid as the command to pray for the leaders of my own country. I am to pray "for all men, for kings and all who are in authority." I Thessalonians 2:1-2.
This is, in fact, true of any government leader of whom I am reminded by the news, by gossip or by criticism, whether the leader involved is a part of my government, a friendly government, or an unfriendly government. The news report or verbal attack on the leader is properly taken as a reminder to pray for that leader.
I invite comments about this posting!
I write this entry in response to e-mails I have been receiving lately from various Republican, conservative and "Christian" organizations. These e-mails have been attempting to sabotage President-elect Obama's program now, even before he takes office, essentilly cursing him before he has a chance to do anything.
As I stated in earlier posts, I am a Christian (though I believe Mr. Obama is, too) and have been a Republican since my very first vote. Nevertheless, I believe the recent American tradition of imediately cursing the winner if he or she is not one of "us" is totally inappropriate and is a source of real problems.
God never tells us to curse those in power if they don't tow "our" party line.
Instead, he tells us to pray FOR them, ALL of them. We are to be thankful for ALL in authority, and to pray for God's positive work in their personal lives and official decisions. I Timothy 2:1-3. I've applied this to Mr. Obama in an earlier posting, but I believe the point bears repetition in light of the volume of poisonous e-mail I have been receiving about him.
Moreover, I believe we must apply the point to ALL those in authority, and perhaps particularly those "we" don't like.
Paul said to give thanks for all in authority--even when the Emperor was Nero. If we look hard enough, there is SOMETHING for which we can give thanks about any official. It is precisely these matters for which we can be thankful for which we SHOULD be looking, rather than the evil things or the things that anger us. Our focus should always be on the things that are right, pure, lovely and noble, even about our enemies! Philippians 4:8.
Paul said to intercede for all those in authority. We sould be lifting them up personally, seeking God's protection and blessing on them. We should likewise be lifting up their families--which are under attack simply because of their office. For those who profess a knowledge of God, through Christ jesus, we should be praying that God would increase their love and their knowledge of Him. For those who do not profess--or even oppose--Christ, we should be praying that God would bring them to faith in himself. As I wrote in my earlier piece about praying for Mr. Obama, God treats even those in high office first as individuals, then as officeholders. We should pray for them first as individuals, for the growth of their relationship with God, starting from wherever it is today. And we should recognize that God usually draws us closer to Him by showing his goodness, rather than by showing harsh judgment. It is the kindness of God that leads us to salvation. Romans 2:4.
Paul also said to offer petitions and prayers for those in authority. We should pray FOR the SUCCESS of their policies. Of course, we can and should pray that God would give them wisdom in their official decisions. but we should be prepared for those decisions not always to be exactly what our wisdom, our our party line, says they should be. God doesn't always work in the ways we expect. God doesn't always work even in ways that are comprehensible to us, and His plans operate on an eternal time line we can't even see. His plan to solve the problems we see may not "fix" them tomorrow.
All of this is to be applied to all those in authority.
Thus, I now declare that I personally recognize that this applies to the justices of the Kansas Supreme Court. I wrote in an earlier posting that I planned to vote against the two of them who were on the ballot in the retention election four weeks ago. But now that they have been reatined, it is my duty to support them, to give thanks for them, and to pray for them. This does not imply anything about my vote in the next retention election. But while they are in office, I must support them.
For many years, I have been cynical about the world, those in power, my interaction with the world, and even God sometimes. In my personal experiences, and my observations of the way the world works, I thought I had adequate reasons for my deep cynicism.
Indeed, I once operated a website that had a title that summed up my attitude quite nicely: "Pessimists International." Even my humor was cynically pessimistic and often sarcastic. I really expected things to go badly, especially for me. Then again, a few months ago I announced that I would soon post, but never actually started to post, a series of satirical pieces on political issues.
I won't say that things have changed for me completely, overnight. At the core, I am still cynical. But I have started to realize that not everything is bad. The whole world isn't stacked against me, and against us. God is not against me, and He still has good plans for the people in this world who will believe and follow Him. What's more, He is fully able to carry out those plans in His own time, which usually isn't mine, or ours.
Because God is still doing His thing in the world, and He is good, there are also still some good people in the world. I haven't entirely abandoned my cynicism, but I'm actually trying now not to be entirely cynical. Hence, my recent call to pray for soon-President Obama, to pray positively for him as a man and for his family, not just for his agreement on political issues--and to believe that God will act in and through him. Complete cynicism is incompatible with a God who is good and can do anything.
A gym is where you shell out clams to build mussels.
If all the world's mine oyster, like Shakespeare said, it's opening to me at a snail's pace.
Here are two pictures of some interesting wall art found on a commercial building near 17th and Washburn in Topeka, Kansas. Doesn't the king's scepter resemble a muffler and tail pipe?
Most of my recent past predictions have, at least on the surface, been gloomy. These predictions developed from my October 8, 2000 prediction of a coming economic collapse. This prediction was based on two observations: 1) the observation that we as a people, and, more particularly, we as the Church of Jesus Christ, have been idolatrous in our dependence on our governmental, corporate and financial institutions; and 2) the scriptural observation that God always responds to the idolatry of His people by destroying the idols. I am quite certain that I was hearing the Holy Spirit in making this prediction, and nothing in the subsequent eight years has shown me to have been wrong. Economic idols have been falling lately!
However, God doesn't give warnings of destruction simply to frighten us and leave us no hope. He gives us these warnings so that we will return to Him. There is always hope, always a way to escape to Him. So it is with my October 2008 prediction. I would remind my readers of what I wrote eight years ago:
In North America, in particular, unless God's spoiled people there repent of their idolatry, an economic collapse is coming soon. It will destroy the web of economic and governmental institutions upon which the elect have heretofore falsely relied. It will be so complete that even the governments of North America will be unable, through their social programs, to begin to provide for the massive needs that will suddenly present themselves. At that time, the Church must be ready to supply these needs in Jesus' name. This will require supernatural provision on a large scale. The Church will need all of the power of God displayed and all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in full operation. It will become clear to everyone that only God is our provider.
Seven years go, I added this comment:
The collapse has not yet come, but it is certainly coming, unless the CHURCH repents...
However, there is some good news. When the collapse occurs, it will force Christians to repair some of the major problems of the visible Church. There will be no more playing church as usual. Desperate people will desperately seek after God. Since most of us will no longer have the means of transportation to reach our denominational churches across town, on the edge of town or in the suburbs, we will be forced to cooperate with Christians in our own neighborhoods and to reach out to, and take some responsibility for, our neighbors. Because of the intense need all around us, the church will become more than a place where we go to sing a few songs, hear a sermon and have some superficial friendships. It will become a place we habitually go to find real friendship, brotherhood and help in our very real distress. It will be our common means of survival, and, because of this, great unity will develop.
We could avert the disaster by repenting and moving in this direction voluntarily. Unfortunately, I do not see this happening. We are still too wed to our church, governmental and business organizations.
The way out of this is now, as it always has been, for we who believe in Christ to repent of our idolatry, look to God for our provision, and start working together as the Church. In 2001, I did not believe this would happen unless it was forced to occur by a very deep, long and painful economic collapse. Now, I see some hope that it might occur more quickly.
Recently, I have been reading some of the predictions of Kim Clement. These predictions encourage me to believe that the collapse may not a prolonged affair, and that the Church in America is now in the process of repenting of its faith in the economy, coming to faith in God, and coming together. In 2005, Mr. Clement accurately and specifically predicted the "Banking Crash." He also appears to have predicted the election of Barack Obama last March, and said not to fear him, he is God's man for the job. He is now stating, in the following articles or web pages, that the collapse has accomplished its purpose and is now nearly over:
One final point needs to be made. When God restores our fortunes, whenever that happens, it will clearly be God's work, in response to the repentance of His Church. The natural result of our nation's many years of economic idolatry and insanity is, as I have previously explained, hyperinflationary economic collapse followed by a prolonged depression and enslavement. Even secular economic experts appear to agree with this assessment. If we escape these natural consequences, the cause will plainly be supernatural.
Christians, it is now time to pray for Barack Obama, our new President-elect, not to curse him because he doesn't agree with "us" on every point of our agenda.
Note carefully--I said we should pray for him, not for his agreement with us on the issues. What matters is Barack Obama, the man, not his current public stand on the issues. If we, as a Church, properly support the man, God will take care of the issues. God always works with and upon individual people, not institutions or issues. Jesus died for Barack Obama, not for the abortion political issue!
What authority do I have in urging prayer for Barack Obama?
I Timothy 2:1-3 says:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
This passage is often misread today, in exactly the same way I often misread it in the past. We are told that it says that we should pray for government policies that will advance the Kingdom. But that is not what it says. It says we should be offering petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving (!!!) for the persons of kings and other people in authority. (Note that Paul wrote this during the reign of the Emperor Nero, who was not exactly an enlightened monarch.) If God is working with and through the persons in charge of the country, the results will be right for Christians and the Kingdom. Public stands on the issues are a secondary matter.
So, if we are to pray for President-elect (and soon to be President) Obama, what are some things we can pray for?
We can thank God for his apparent openness and willingness to learn (which I am convinced is mostly real, not faked).
We can thank God that he has publicly stated that he believes in Jesus Christ (once again, I believe this profession to be real, in spite of disagreements on some political issues).
We can thank God for his apparently stable marriage and devotion to his family.
We can pray for his safety from those who have already announced or secretly harbor plans to kill him. We can pray that he will be delivered from wicked and violent people.
We can pray that God would give him wisdom, both for his official acts and for his personal life, and that he would continue to listen and that his ability to hear and listen to God's wisdom will grow.
We can pray that he would be given the key he so greatly desires for overcoming racial hatred in this country, and would recognize it when he finds it. In this matter, his desire is God's own heart.
We can pray that he will continue to develop his relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and that the pressures of his new office will not interfere with this. Stated another way, we can pray that he would continue to grow in his knowledge of Christ and be rooted and grounded in His love.
We can pray that his relationship with his wife and family would be preserved through his time in office and continue to grow.
Once again, what really matters is his relationship with Christ, not his agreement with "Christian" political positions. If the President's relationship with God is growing, God will take care of the country.
For historical examples of this, see my recent pre-election post McCain, Obama, and who is in control: A tale of four kings and a priest.
This election day, I want to remind my readers of my past predictions:
1. On October 8, 2000--almost a month before President Bush was elected--I predicted BOTH the general downward course the economy has taken ever since AND the fact that the process would end with a major collapse. The prediction was made before President Bush was in office and was based on factors that had nothing to do with him. See the web page making the original prediction, A Warning Against Idolatry, and the more recent posting on this blog collecting predictions consistent with it, OK, I'm not alone in my predictions.
2. Also in 2000, I stated that God would take care of His own through whatever collapse occurred, on the page God Says, Trust Me with the Frightening Future.
3. In February 2003, before the war with Iraq began, I predicted that it would be unwinnable, on both historical and prophetic grounds, in Notes on the King of Babylon and the Peace of Jerusalem.
4. On September 18 of this year, I predicted that prices would be held down artificially until shortly after the election, but would start to increase explosively sometime between then and the first of the year. I also predicted that gasoline prices would pass $5 per gallon shortly after the election. See the posts I predicted the current economic times before President Bush was elected (September 18) and the further explanation in Repudiation of the Dollar or hyperinflation: what the collapse will look like.
5. Also since mid-September of this year, I proposed an obvious solution to the credit crisis ( A humane proposal for the credit bailout: Provide relief to average debtors) but also pointed out in the next post that the government had already decided not to do it that way. (I note that, even today, the final shape of the bailout is still somewhat up in the air, but that its likelihood of providing much real relief to ordinary debtors, or of making any real structural reform in the way debt is marketed and used, is very small).
Finally, in my last post, I explained why, in spite of all of the above, I should not be afraid of the election outcome.
In recent posts, I've said that some of Sen. McCain's foreign policy statements scare me, that some things said about Sen. Obama scare me, and that many of my friends believe that abortion and immorality will explode and we will lose all of our constitutional rights if he is elected. Yet I recognize that I should not be afraid.
It's because the President is not really the one in control, whether his name is Bush, McCain or Obama. God is. And God is able to exert His ultimate control in the world even through very bad kings. I'll give you four examples, directly out of the Bible.
The first king is King Saul, whose story is told at I Samuel 10 through 16 and I Samuel 31. God chose Saul to be king. I Samuel 10:1. Shortly thereafter, God put a new heart in Samuel, and he prophesied. I Samuel 10:9-11. Nevertheless, as king, Saul rebelled against God. Because he was in a hurry to fight a battle and feared his army would slip away if he waited for the prophet and priest Samuel to arrive to offer sacrifices to God, Saul offered the sacrifices himself. I Samuel 13:7-12. Later, Saul kept some of the livestock of the Amalekites for himself, when told to destroy utterly. I Samuel 15. Because these two incidents of rebellion showed that Saul preferred doing things his own way rather than listening to God, God said he would take the kingdom away from Saul and give it to another better than him. I Samuel 13:13-14 & 15:26-29. After that, for the rest of his life, Saul became paranoid, a cruel oppressor of his own friends, and ultimately turned to witchcraft for answers. He died in battle, and God repalced him with David. Though imperfect, David was a "man after God's own heart," who listened when God spoke and changed his course when God corrected him. King Saul demonstrates that, when even a ruler specially appointed by God rejects God's leadership, God is well able to replace him.
The second king is King Manasseh of Judah. Manasseh's story is told in I Chronicles 33. Manasseh was the son born late in life to a very good king, King Hezekiah. Manasseh took the throne at a young age, and rejected evertything good of what his father had done. For most of his reign, Manasseh was evil, a very wicked king who placed idols in the temple of God, instituted the sacrifice of children to idols in Judah--even sacrificing his own son in the fire--and caused the people of Judah and Jerusalem "to do even more evil than the pagan nations that the Lord had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land." I Chronicles 33:9. God first repeatedly warned Manasseh and the people, then, when they ignored his warnings, sent an invading army from Assyria to strip the land and take its leaders, including Manasseh, hostage.
However, in prison in Babylon, a miraculous thing happened. "While in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God, and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors." I Chronicles 33:12. God responded to Manasseh's repentance, and restored him to the throne in Judah. "Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God!" I Chronicles 33:13. During the last years of his reign, Manasseh cleaned up the idol worship and was a good king. So God is able to get the attention of bad kings and bring them to repentance.
The priest is Caiaphas. Caiaphas was a member of the priestly family of Aaron, but he was also a corrupt political appointee of the Roman occupiers of Judea. He had the dubious honor of being the elected High Priest in the year Jesus became a great problem for the ruling classes in Judea generally. In John 11: 45-53, we are told that, immediately after Jesus became a very serious threat to the religious leaders of Judea by raising Lazarus very openly from the deadthe rulers called a council to discuss what to do with Jesus. The leadersbelieved this discussion necessary because, by raising the dead, Jesus had placed himself on a par with the great prophets Elijah and Elisha in the eyes of the masses. The rulers therefore feared that soon "everyone" (the leaders excepted, of course) would believe and follow him, and the Romans would be forced to destroy the Jewish nation and its temple to quell the resulting revolt.
At this point, the cowardly, unbelieving, pragmatic Caiaphas gave this advice: "You don't know what you're talking about! You don't realize that it's better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed." After that, the Council agreed that Jesus should die. Caiaphas had advised them to commit the greatest injustice of human history.
However, what does the Apostle John say about Caiaphas' advice? John says, "He [Caiaphas] did not say this on his own; as High Priest at that time, he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world." Man's greatest injustice was also God's greatest victory, and God used Caiaphas to prophesy it--to speak it into existence in his office as High Priest.
The third king is King Cyrus the Mede. In Isaiah 44:28-45:7, God calls Cyrus his "Shepherd" and his "anointed one" for the purpose of rebuilding Jerusalem, and describes the power he will give Cyrus over other nations. In the same verses, God repeats twice that He will use Cyrus in this way, "even though you do not know me." God can direct kings who do not even acknowledge him to do what He wants done.
The fourth king is King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was the king who destroyed what remained of Solomon's Temple and finally took Judah into full captivity. He did so with great and excessive barbarity. He slaughtered many Jews (and many from other nations he conquered as well). If anyone has ever deserved God's full wrath, it was Nebuchadnezzar.
However, God kept working with him. The story of exactly how God kept working with him is told in Daniel 2 through 4. Daniel, one of the Jewish captives in his court, interpreted a dream for him that no one else could interpret, in which God showed Nebuchadnezzar a brief history of the kingdoms of the world. Later, when three of Daniel'd frinds wouldn't worship Nebuchadnezzar's golden idol, he had them thrown in the fire--only to come out unharmed after meeting in the fire with one the king described as looking "like a son of God."
But when both of these incidents failed to flly get this king's attention, God sent him another troubling dream, which Daniel interpreted for him. The dream was a warning that, because Nebuchadnezzar continued to think of himself as a self-made man, and his power and wealth as things he gained by himself and for himself, God was going to take away his sanity for a time, until he acknowledged God. One year later, Nebuchadnezzar went insane, and lived in the fields like an animal for a period of time. Then it says Nebuchadnezzar "looked up to heaven" and his sanity was restored when he "praised and worshiped the Most High." He acnowledged that "the most high is sovereign over the kigdoms on earth, and gives them to anyone he wishes," setting up over them "even the basest of men" exactly as he chooses.
And that is why I should not fear the outcome of this election.