A blog about everything about teaching the Bible. "And still I will show you a more excellent way..." (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New President

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1 ESV).

A few days ago, many Americans, in fact, many people around the world were thinking about the inauguration of a new President of these United States. I can't help but wonder what the next four years will be like. I believe what Bible passages like Daniel 4:25b teach us: “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” God has a plan. He's in control. It will all work out to bless his people in the fullness of time (Romans 8:28). Though I feel compelled to say that I heartily disagree with many of Obama's points of view, I respect him as one God has set up as an authority. I pray that God will use President Obama's leadership as a means to secure “quiet lives in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2) for Christians everywhere.

I suppose this is as good an occasion as any to discuss politics. The buzz word in the ol' U.S. of A., these days, is “separation of church and state.” For the Christian there is no such thing as separation of “church” from anything. We are Christians in everything we do, politics included! What does that mean, though? Many Christians understand this to mean that they should seek to further kingdom goals through actual involvement in the political process. I may or may not agree, depending on what they mean by “actual involvement.” I do not involve myself in politics at all, except through prayer. I pray for the U.S. and all the nations, and all national leaders, and all people everywhere. In my spiritual-political views, I have come to see things in a way very similar to the late, brother David Lipscomb (whose book on Civil Government you can read in its entirety here).

I cannot separate my faith from any decision I make, so there are some "political" activities I cannot in good conscience partake of. What I do recognize is a separation between politics and society. I heartily believe that Christians must be active in society.

Though I cannot in good conscience become part of civil government myself, neither can I condemn those who do as if it were inherently sinful. There are Christians in many local political offices that I deem righteous men, and I think they do well. However, I am convinced that no one can rise far in politics without becoming corrupt. Call me cynical if you will, but that's my observation. As for patriotism, I am genuinely thankful to have been born a citizen of the United states of America. It's the best civil government that I know of in the world today. Republican democracy is the best form of civil government in the world today. However, my patriotism is reserved for my true county (Hebrews 11:13-16). My citizenship is in heaven, and from it I await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20).

It is a prevailing view of Christians that the first social institution God set up was the home, and the second, civil government. In a way, that is correct. But, we must note that while God created the institution of the home, the institution of civil government was initially created by man, apart from God, and as we read of it in Genesis 11, we find its first project was an act of rebellion against God. The form of government God instituted was himself as ruler over the hearts of free men, and that is the only truly good kind of government that can last for very long. As for government by mere men, Thomas Paine said, “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” I couldn't agree more. May God preserve for us a government that maintains our freedoms, and stays out of our lives as much as possible until his Son returns, under whose righteous, and bearable rule I long to live for eternity. Amen!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Working Man

This morning I borrowed my aunt's copy of this old photo and scanned it. It's of my maternal grandfather, James E. Mitchell, Sr. The photo was taken sometime in the 1930s, but we don't know much more about it. Behind my grandfather is my great-uncle Bud. They're walking to work in downtown Nashville, TN. I can't help trying to imagine the scene as it was in life, and what was on the minds of those taking the picture, and in it.

Physically, my grandfather was an impressive man. There was just something about him. That's hard to miss even in this old pic. Spiritually, he had his strengths and weaknesses. He was a passionate man. Perhaps, I inherited that from him. However, he was prone to anger, and, at times, it got the better of him. He was a Christian; at one time an elder in the church of Christ. He was an intelligent man with a deep knowledge of the Bible; a working-class man, the son of a share-cropper who worked on freight docks, eventually becoming a Teamster's Union representative. He fathered ten children, nine of whom lived to adulthood (my mother being the youngest). I never knew him. He died shortly after I was born in 1975. I've always been fascinated by stories about him. His blood flows in my veins, and his faith, along with that of his dear wife, my beloved "Granny," has passed to me.

Speaking artistically, the photograph has a great composition. It's a bit dark, but there is enough contrast with the lighter areas to make it very interesting. I've decided to use it as a drawing exercise to sharpen my abilities, and might make it the inspiration for more artwork in the future.

I'll end this post by encouraging you to take pictures and save them. Your children and grandchildren and so on will appreciate it. Pictures like this one help us to visualize the past and have a better vision of our roots.

Friday, January 9, 2009

"Crowded Out"

I have a piece of scrap paper in my car with the words, "crowded out," scribbled accross it. I originally jotted the note down to keep from forgetting that I want to explore the idea in an upcoming class about spirituality that I intend to teach this Spring. Needless to say, I don't need the note any more, but I'm leaving it there anyway. Getting in and out of the car for days, I've had the idea running through my mind almost like an obsession. We all want to have a personal relationship with the Father. We want it to be more than just accepting intellectual facts that we've learned. We want an intimate relationship with God; to feel his presence, and see the effects of his work in our lives.

Why don't we have it? Well, let me just say, it isn't God's fault! He wants intimacy with us more than we want it with him. He's willing. Also, I suppose I should say that some of us experience God's presence in our lives more than others. Why? Could it be that you've crowded God out to some degree or another? Too much work, too much play, games, clubs, hobbies, TV, internet, appointments, too tired, not enough time, bla, bla, bla. You get the idea. The culture around us never sleeps. It's a 24/7 on the go society. The default state of our existence is to dive in and go with the current. At some point, if you want to be close to God, you have to unplug, and be devoted to him. It's not too late to make a resolution about it. For you all at Highland, we'll pick this thread up in the Spring, Lord willing.