Monday, January 26, 2009

Why we need to pray ...

The Apostle Paul reminds us that we need to pray for those in authority so we can live in peace and good order. Barack Obama's first week as President of the United States gives us an idea of why that's necessary.

The first part of Tuesday -- his first full day as Chief Exec -- was spent, according to the ABC Radio reporter -- in prayer. On Thursday, he moved to restore funding to abortion clinics and to overseas programs that counsel abortions as an option in the Third World.

The move has prompted the expected reaction from the Religious Right, although we have to keep in mind that Obama probably couldn't do anything right in their eyes, anyway. But for people like me who oppose abortion but don't want to get into the knee-jerk-ism of populist talk-show hosts, this is a true exercise in looking for God in all things.

See, one thing I've learned since coming to Christ is that God anoints leaders to govern, and will put into office the person He wants at the time He wants it. Sometimes, He'll pull the strings to make sure it happens. That whole controversy in Florida over the 2000 election was nothing short of God either making sure George Bush got elected or Al Gore didn't; the Democrats' failure to have a credible opponent in 2004 could also be seen as Divine intervention. And with so much talent available for John McCain to choose as a running mate, how in the heck did Sarah Palin emerge as the selection? Palin, it appears, was McCain's "hanging chad". (For those who don't quite remember, part of the Florida controversy was that a number of ballots were rejected because the punch-hole wasn't cleanly punched, and the chads -- the little bit of paper that was supposed to come off cleanly -- were still hanging. Many of those ballots, allegedly, were votes for Gore.)

So I believe Barack Obama is exactly the man God wants in the White House at this time, and we need to pray for him to recognize the anointing that has been placed on him and to allow himself to be guided by the Lord. (It's an open question right now, whether the president's prayer time was spent seeking guidance or asking God to bless the decisions he makes. There's a big difference.)

There's something else we need to consider. How good a job have Christians done in ending abortion? I'm not talking about parading in front of abortion clinics with placards showing inflammatory slogans and dead fetuses. I mean, how good a job have we done in teaching people that having babies is not a bad thing? That it's not a burden or a crimp in a woman's lifestyle ... and that fatherhood is something glorious ... scary, perhaps, but still glorious. How good a job have we done in teaching our children about love and respect and responsibility? No government can mandate that.

Barack Obama's buzz-word is "change", and Christians have an opportunity, through prayer, to affect the man who effects the change. I'm reminded of Peter and John, going into the Temple and facing the lame man who, essentially, spent his days outside the gate, begging for change. Peter says, "you want change? I'll give you change! In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" That's the kind of change that's needed: lifting up the name of Jesus and spreading that over the nations.

For too long, Christians have shown their opinions about things by protesting what is wrong, rather than promote what is right. Jesus' Great Commission is to preach the Kingdom of God, not fight the principality of Satan ("resist not evil," He told us). We have to "sell" the unsaved on God's glory, grace, mercy and especially love, which is a much simpler task than taking arms against every manifestation of evil that rears its head.

If Christians are properly doing their job -- as I've said before -- we could have a fully-funded abortion clinic on every corner, open 24 hours a day with a three-mile "bubble zone" to ward off protesters ... and they would be empty.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Keeping Christmas in Christmas

(This was originally written on Dec. 12, 2008, but due to some technical difficulties it wasn't posted at the time.)

Christmas can be a depressing time of year for many people. Truly, you don't have to be penniless to go on a major downer at Christmas. In the "bad news makes good copy" mindset of the media, it follows as the night the day that a newspaper will have, stuffed in amongst the adverts telling us how to have a happy unspecified holiday (g'day, Stuart Shepard!*), a feature-length piece on some psychology boffin talking about how depressed people get at Christmastime?

Don't think there isn't a connection. The more our society tries to excise Jesus from talk of Christmas, the more we're left with some bizarre near-winter ritual that involves buying stuff and eating fancy food and having parties but no apparent reason - and certainly no expression of Hope. We're left with stupid songs about "the man with the bag" and forced fun that has all the sincerity of a Tom Vu seminar. No wonder people get depressed, no matter what their income bracket. That's a truth Charlie Brown uncovered 43 years ago, and somehow it's fallen further away from us, no matter how many times we watch that show and mouth along with Linus, "Lights, please".**

* If you haven't yet, check out Stuart's video, Merry Tossmas. A group of us sent that link to various mall administration offices in October, letting them know that this "said it all" for us, and that we'd be spending our Christmas shopping money at malls and other retailers that actually do go out on a limb and use the "X"-word ("Christmas") in their marketing. Central City in Surrey did - although the girl in their picture was in a yoga position. Baby steps ... baby steps ...

**Interestingly, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" dang near didn't get aired. CBS TV executives were spooked by three elements of the cartoon:
  1. they used real kids' voices - not women
  2. the soundtrack was modern jazz
  3. the story line turned on a Biblical quote.

Only the three elements that made it a smash hit ... CBS often rivals the CBC in its track record for creative meddling. This time, though, Bill Melendez and Charles M. Schulz stood their ground.