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Does God Have Anything to do With Politics?

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2008 candidate Barack Obama spent approximately $730 million dollars in winning the U.S. presidency. John McCain spent close to $334 million in losing. That’s over 1 billion dollars for two candidates in one race. That is a huge and troubling number for several reasons. Mostly because of what it says about how many of us view political leaders.

Does it matter who the U.S. president is? Can one person, even the one holding the most powerful office in the world, change the world economy, the global power structure, and our individual lives that much? By the amount of money spent one would assume it not only matters, but it is down right crucial. Is it?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Ezra 8:21-9:15

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Psalm 31:1-8

Proverbs 21:1-2

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Ezra 8:21-9:15: Once again Ezra shows his faith. His first response to danger and trouble is fasting, prayer, and worship. Rather than contradict how he has expressed his faith in God to the king, Ezra sets out back to Jerusalem not under the protection of the king and an army but under the hand of God. Ezra is not naming and claiming God’s protection, however. He has made a statement of faith and is going to live or die by it. Ezra leaves life and God’s reputation is in God’s hands.

1 Corinthians 5:1-13: Biblical honesty about human sin is not relegated to the Old Testament. A church member having sex with his father’s wife? And the people who know find a way to justify it? Again we see God’s Word is not sanitized. Why not paint a prettier picture of the brand new church?

Because there is enough in this book that is hard to believe. We would never believe a fairy tale. If God is real, then his story of how he relates to us must be real as well.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Ideas, especially political ideas, matter. Big government, small government, low taxes, high taxes, liberal, conservative, pragmatism, idealism, freedom, control: these ideas, and the people or person who wields them, affect the way we live.

On the extreme end of the spectrum, Karl Marx’ idea of communism spread and unintentionally brought untold suffering to millions. On the other end, the first ever televised debate between curmudgeonly Richard M. Nixon and handsome John F. Kennedy unintentionally changed how U.S. political candidates needed to look and present themselves.

One person, especially one with political power, can make big a difference.

This truth haunts me, particularly when the candidate I voted for, with the ideas I shared, looses. I suspect others feel the same.

Yet a greater truth overrules. God is sovereign. “The king’s [or president’s or prime minister’s or dictator’s] heart is in the hand of the Lord,” claims the author of proverbs.

This does not mean, cannot, that individual choice and responsibility are a sham. Humans are not puppets to God’s puppeteer. God is sovereign over the end result.

“[God] directs [the king’s] heart like a water course wherever he pleases,” the writer continues. Like a river inside its banks the heart of a leader knows the right way to go, yet may overrun the banks, dry up, get polluted.

In the end history flows, taking some incredibly twisted turns no doubt, into the sea, its intended destination. God can and does work all things–good and bad leaders and ideas–to accomplish his will. Money, even a billion dollars,  and power are no match.

Yes, it matters who leads us. But the thing that matters most is relinquishing our fear and hopes to the One who leads the leaders. I may not have voted for any particular leader. And even the ones I do will make mistakes and lead poorly.

But God is at the heart of what will come. I can trust in that.

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. Do you believe God is sovereign?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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Do You Really Want To Get Younger??

CNN recently televised a news piece comparing photos of President Barak Obama between the time he took office only two years ago and today. The increase in his gray hair is astonishing, as the above video reveals.

Such is the predicament of every president, who on average age two years for every one year in office.

But should we be astonished? Is the onset of gray hair something to be embarrassed about and covered up, or should we view it as element of beauty?

Please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Ezra 4:24-8:20
1 Corinthians 3:5-4:21
Psalm 29:1-30:12
Proverbs 20:26-30

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Ezra 4:24-8:20. After being forced to stop rebuilding the temple and later receiving permission to continue, I’m amazed that the King of Persia decided to fund its completion. God works in mysterious ways.

The overarching message to me in today’s reading of Ezra is that God can use pagan kings to fulfill his purposes. He used Assyria to bring destruction on the people, but then he used their descendants to rebuild it, too.

1 Corinthians 3:5-4:21. Divisions were forming in Corinth. Some people pledged their allegiance to Paul while others to Apollos. Paul’s message: pledge your allegiance to Jesus.

While I believe in the importance of denominations—which were founded by people like Paul and Apollos—because they provide accountability to congregations and pastors, our ultimate loyalties must belong to Jesus. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ”  (1 Corinthians 3:11). It’s for this reason that it seems to me that there is only one church exists in every city: the church of Jesus Christ. However, various expressions meet which we call congregations.

Psalm 29:1-30:12. Psalm 29 begins with “Ascribe to the Lord.” But what does “ascribe” mean? Give, bring, or present. The basic idea behind the word in this context is presenting the king with a gift. The gifts we present to the king of kings are glory and worship, which are really extensions of ourselves. When we worship God and make a big deal about him, we  present him with a gift.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.

Proverbs 20:29.

We live in a culture that values the strength of the young but not the gray hair of the old. In a month I turn 46 and already, my hair is almost completely gray. Ten years ago, the thought of entering my 40s depressed me. I’m getting older, I lamented. I wish I could stop the aging process.

But not any more. I don’t want to return to my 20s and 30s. I’m content with my 40s, because I earned that gray hair on my head! I may have avoided the presidency (thank God!), but I am in the midst of raising three daughters.

Actually, certain painful experiences and relationships probably contributed to the gray hair—but the lessons learned along the way were invaluable.

In 1 John 2, the apostle John addresses three groups of people: children, young men, and fathers. The young men are strong, but John writes that the fathers “have known him who is from the beginning” (1 John 2:13-14). The fathers have a lifetime of experience with God to rely on.

It’s kind of like the racquetball class I took in college. Our instructor was well into his 60s when he taught the class. Finally, after weeks of instruction, we began playing. The young bucks stood in line to challenge our aging instructor—to hilarious results. The old geezer didn’t even break a sweat as he barely moved around the court. The young men, however, were diving back and forth, flailing helplessly. The young men were strong, but the old man had the experience. And experience trumps strength.

But let me take this one step further. In today’s reading, Paul tells the Corinthians that they don’t have many fathers (1 Corinthians 4:15). The young believers lacked the maturity and experience that only an older believer can offer. For this reason, he writes, “I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16). He was saying, “Be like me and get some of that spiritual gray hair that is earned through faithfulness to the gospel over a lifetime. Then be a father or mother.”

I encourage you to aspire to be fathers and mothers—and not children who still drink milk (like we read yesterday). Earn some of that spiritual gray hair and then use the lessons learned to raise other young men and women in the faith.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Is it okay for people color their hair when it stars to gray? Why or why not?
  3. What are the benefits of growing older? What are the benefits of growing older in the faith?
  4. Who has been a spiritual father or mother to you? What contributed to their spiritual gray hair? Was it worth it?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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Secrets To Breaching Security

Last November, Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed a state dinner at the White House, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Vice President Joe Biden, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and…ahem…President Barak Obama.

White House security was aghast at the breach. Imagine: two people common people—wealthy, but still common—slithered their way past some of the tightest security detail in the world and cozied up with the most powerful person in the world!

If you’ve seen the photos, Michaele smiles with a look like she’s the cat that swallowed the mouse.

I know virtually nothing about the Salahis, but I must admit that I admire their resourcefulness.

You can breach security too—of an even greater power than the President of the United States. In fact, you probably already have.

Please join me in today’s reading.

TODAY’S READING

Leviticus 15:1-16:28
Mark 7:1-23
Psalm 40:11-17
Proverbs 10:13-14

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Leviticus 15. The discharges described in verses 1-18 probably refer to male gonorrhea. Apparently, the existence of this sexually transmitted disease wasn’t nearly as intense as the present variety. Verses 16-18 refer to sexual intercourse or a nocturnal emission.

I was especially surprised by verse 18: “When a man lies with a woman and there is an emission of semen, both must bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening.”

This means sexual intercourse defiled both the man and woman until the next evening. While this might sound strange, it prevented people from participating in fertility cults, where men would have sex with temple prostitutes in order to gain their god’s blessing. In the same way, prostitutes would be perpetually unclean and unable to participate in the daily life of the community. This was a significant departure from the surrounding countries at that time.

Leviticus 16:1-28. The Day of Atonement was a very solemn occasion because it was the only day of the year that the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to seek forgiveness on behalf of Israel. We covered this in greater depth on February 12.

Mark 7:1-23. In verse 3, Mark explains the process of ritual cleansing because his audience is composed of Gentiles who wouldn’t understand.

Jesus told the Pharisees and teachers of the law—the religious leaders of his day—in verse 8, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” I wonder how often I fall into this same trap. We’re such creatures of habit that we can easily allow our traditions to violate Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves. On the surface, I can think of issues where this applies: style of music, style of dress, reaching out people outside the Christian camp, change dynamics. I have some scars from these battles—as I’m sure I’ve scarred others.

Also, consider this. In verses 21-23, Jesus lists what makes people unclean: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. You know what? We’re all unclean!

Psalm 40:17. This verse is an appropriate response to the statement above: “Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer.”

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

At the beginning of Leviticus 16, we read that Aaron was told “not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place…or else he will die.” God permitted Aaron to enter the Holy of Holies on behalf of Israel only once a year. That’s it. The rest of the year, Aaron and the rest of Israel hoped Israel was doing the right thing. They hoped their relationship with God was right.

But Jesus changed all of this. The writer of Hebrews tells us,

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Once a year the high priest entered the throne of grace—in fear and trembling. In fact, on the Day of Atonement, a rope was tied around the high priest’s foot, just in case he was struck dead in God’s presence and his assistants needed to pull him out.

But we can enter God’s presence—the throne of grace—with confidence. With confidence!

So what does it mean to approach the throne of grace?

Through prayer, you can approach God and receive forgiveness without fear of him using it against you. Anytime, anywhere, you can engage God in conversation without feeling like you’re interrupting his busy schedule. You have access to God 24/7/365. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Growing up, my father owned a business in the oil and gas industry. Before the market fell apart in the mid-1980s, his office was located in a skyscraper in downtown Denver. It was pretty cool.

But what was really cool was when he brought me with him to work for the day. Because I was the owner’s son, I could go anywhere in the main office. I could run photocopies of various and sundry parts of my body. I could look over the shoulders of my dad’s employees. I could even flirt with the women who were working.

In fact, my dad instructed his receptionist, “It doesn’t matter who’s in my private office, if my son wants to come in, let him in. He doesn’t even need to knock.”

Nothing made me feel more important than knowing I had unlimited access into my father’s private office. So occasionally, just to see if my dad really meant it, I walked past the people waiting in line to meet with my dad, and enter his office.

THAT’S WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US!

You have privileges that far surpass Moses and Aaron!

So take every advantage of your opportunity.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What causes people to value traditions over God’s commands? Can you name any examples you’ve seen? Are you brave enough to share a time when you’ve been an equal opportunity offender?
  3. What prevents you from believing that you have access to God 24/7/365?
  4. Describe a time when you entered the throne of grace with confidence? How did it affect you?
  5. What does it look like for you to approach the throne of grace? What does this tell us about Jesus and his heavenly Father?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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