Monday, April 22, 2013

Failure—A Good Word

           I want the word “failure” to be a good one in the Edge household. I want my kids to fail. I want them to fail because:
  • They cannot succeed without failure
  • They cannot aspire to higher things without failure
  • Without failure, they are playing life too safely

            Let me clarify. I don’t mean I want my kid to bring home a failing grade on his or her report card… unless… he or she has aspired to take a course so challenging, failure is a possibility. In that case—give it a shot!
            It took me a lot of years to learn this lesson. I think it truly hit home my junior year in high school. My dad had always told me when I was playing point guard in the seventh grade to fearlessly drive to the goal.
            I told him that I did not want to. I was afraid the opposition would steal the ball.
            “Let them steal it,” he said. “Make your mistakes now.”
            I would not listen. Too often, I was tentative. This anxiety came back to haunt my junior year in football. I was tentative during fall practice and our two preseason scrimmages. As a result, I was benched the first two games of the season.
            That benching changed my life.
            To a sixteen year old, the worse thing that can happen, the most embarrassing thing that can happen, is to be the starting quarterback of your hometown team and be benched.
            Somewhere during that two-week period I remembered feeling this sensation, “The worst has happened. It can only get better from here.”
            Strangely enough, it took failure to relax me. Our team lost those two games. The third game I was named the starting quarterback. I was never nervous again. Consequently, instead of playing tentatively, I played assertively and with confidence. I have always been grateful for that failure.
            The French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “Our duty as men is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.” Reflecting on that statement, one writer noted that most people who have achieved greatness died falling short of their aspirations.
            I want my kids to set high goals. If they meet them, I want them to set even higher goals. If they fall short, I want them to be grateful for the chance and to recalibrate. But I always want them to aspire.
            If I want that for my kids, I want that for you too.
            In “Apollo 13”, Gene Krantz famously says, “Failure is not an option.” Okay, when you are returning astronauts from the moon, failure is not an option—I get it. However, in much of the rest of life, failure is an option.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What Churches have in Common with Downton Abbey

            Downton Abbey is a PBS TV program about an aristocratic British family and their servants, who live in a mansion in the lovely English countryside.
            In part of the plot, World War I begins and millions of British soldiers are wounded. A desperate need arises for hospitals and the family at Downton decides to open up their home to the injured. Great good is done through the Downton “hospital.” Many of the sick and hurting are cared for and rehabilitated.
            But the war ends.
            After the war, many soldiers continue to need care, and military doctors request that the owners of Downton carry on in receiving the wounded. Those of Downton consider the appeal but ultimately reject it.
            As pleased as they are to help during the conflict, Downton’s residents have grown tired. They’ve had to change some things at their building to accommodate the sick. It is inconvenient and uncomfortable; they are ready to return to a more stable and relaxed life.
            A lot of churches are like Downton Abbey. They may pass through a phase where they feel motivated to turn their buildings into something like hospitals. They may even effectively receive and serve those who are wounded. But in time, they grow tired. Accommodating the hurting becomes uncomfortable.
            The difference with Downton is this: church members do not openly communicate the fact that they are discontinuing treatment of the injured. Instead, members find more subtle ways to alert the wounded that they are no longer welcome.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Value of Strong Marriages

            I’m reading in a lot of places that same-sex marriage in the U. S. is not a matter of if, but when. Time will tell; in the meantime, I have found it interesting to observe how the same-sex marriage movement has been able to pull this off.
            Let me offer a reason that I have not seen discussed much: people in Western culture instinctively yearn to see marriage succeed. People intuitively understand that the preservation of marriage offers society stability and hope. Unfortunately, the unofficial consensus is heterosexual marriage has failed and will never succeed; therefore, gay marriage should be given its chance.
            I am not saying I agree with same-sex marriage. I do not. And, obviously, my assessment in this post is an opinion. Having said that, the best way to persuade our culture concerning the value of heterosexual marriage is to offer it many examples of strong heterosexual marriages.

Monday, March 18, 2013

It’s About Discipleship

            Yesterday, Henry Holub, one of our staff members preached a really good sermon on "new birth" from the story of Nicodemus. I appreciated the points he brought out, especially the one that reinforced what I've been trying to teach my kids. And that point is this: it's not about baptism – it's about discipleship.
            All three of my girls initially wanted to be baptized early – too early. My youngest daughter started wishing to be baptized at age six. She was not ready. She had no idea what baptism was about. She was too innocent to understand the need for the power of God over her sins and her sinfulness. Basically, she wanted to be baptized because she loved God, and she wanted to grow up.
            I had to reassure her, "God knows you love him. Being a Christian is not about baptism; it is about being a follower of Jesus. Baptism is important – it will be the most important decision you will ever make. But it is only one part of being a follower of Jesus. You will still be a follower of Jesus after you are baptized. God will make you a clean follower through baptism, and he will give you the power in baptism to live even more like Jesus. You will be able to follow him even more closely.
            “All of this is to come. As important as baptism is, the most important thing is to be a follower of Jesus, and you can start that right now."
            I still believe those words. You don't need to know everything about baptism, but you need to know something. You don't need to live like Jesus to be baptized, but you need to have the maturity and commitment to choose to live like him. I want everyone to be baptized, but more importantly, I want everyone to be a disciple – of Jesus.             
            I can’t put it any better than Jesus, “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20.) NIV

Monday, March 11, 2013

You Can Pay Him Now… or Pay Him Later

            “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.”
            That was the tag line for an old oil filter commercial from the 70s. The idea was that you needed to change your oil filter on a regular basis (with that particular brand, of course) and if you did not, you would face the consequences. It was implied was that your car would break down.
            I've been thinking about that lately because we have begun an overview of the book of Job in our small group. This is not an easy book to look at. The book raises hard questions, but they are good questions to raise when it comes to faith. If we don’t let Job raise the questions, then life will.
            The bottom line to Job is this – can you trust God? That's what Job struggled with, and that's what many of us struggle with as well.
            Real life experiences of sickness, suffering, pain, disease, and death weave themselves into the tapestry of this question. And they certainly played a vital role in the book of Job.
            Through the years I have seen church leaders and preachers try to steer people away from believing God's involved in this world. The views they advocate range anywhere from “God always leaves people on their own” to “anything that looks bad came from the devil or people—and God had nothing to do with it.”
            I have seen leaders seek to comfort folks in moments of pain by explaining that God saw the bad things happen, and he felt awful for the people involved. Unfortunately, they portrayed God as caring but helpless.
            Furthermore, the problem with those beliefs is this: through instinct, observation, or biblical knowledge, people recognize God’s power. God either involves himself directly in what happened in this world, or he voluntarily holds back his power to change an outcome —and, like it or not, that means God is unwilling to change an outcome we perceive as negative.
            I am not saying it is our job to figure out everything that happens in this world. Scripture typically assigns credit (or blame) to one of three factors:
  1. God’s activity
  2. The Devil’s activity
  3. The consequences of sin and a fallen world

            In the case of numbers 2) and 3), God withheld his fire and allowed the “negative” to occur.
            Job teaches that it is our job to have peace with whatever happens in this world, and to trust God with it. For those who refuse to do so, they win in the short term because God allows them, in their free will, to have it their way—they get to hold their own opinion.
            Here’s how that plays out:
  • It is the parent who chooses not to trust a God who allows his child to suffer or die.
  • It is the adult who chooses not to trust a God who allowed her to experience abuse as a child.
  • It is the spouse who chooses not to trust a God who allowed her to experience a bad marriage.
  • It is the worker who chooses not to trust a God who did not allow him to get the job he wanted.

            You can freely choose to not trust God. You can choose to do so in an active and angry way, or you can choose to do so in a passive and angry (and hidden!) way.              
           But guess what? It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because you are engaging in a decision and a life that is based on a lie. Your decision is based on the idea that God is not worthy of your trust. The TRUTH is… God is worthy of your trust. That is the message of Job.
            Moreover, if you refuse today to recognize that God is worthy of your complete trust, you will recognize it someday. At the very least you will recognize it at the end of the world. This truth is behind Paul’s words in Philippians 2:
            Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
            To put it another way: you can pay God (homage) now, or you can pay God (homage) later.
            Some of you without realizing it will pay him homage out of your own flesh.
            That mysterious pain you are experiencing is not a self-contained, organic physical problem. Rather it’s root is spiritual and rooted in the consequences of your lack of trust in God.
            For some of you, that disease you are battling does not have anything to do with genes, or dank, or catching a germ or virus. Rather, it is rooted in your lack of trust in God and the avalanche of stress that created in your life.
            For some of you, that depression that you are battling is not the result of chemical imbalance passed along by genes; rather, it is rooted in your refusal to trust in God and the way he has chosen to participate in this world.  
            People often cannot function well when they do not trust in God. They bodies and minds cannot hold up under the weight of distrust.
            Believe it or not, I wrote the previous statements very carefully. Let me emphatically assert: what I said does not apply to all people and all pain. It refers to some people and some pain.
            If it helps any, I have been guilty of the same sin myself from time to time. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking of forming a new support group and calling it “Trusters’ Anonymous.” Care to join?

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America

            “What are you doing these days?”
            That is a question I’ve been hearing a lot the past month. My reply usually goes like this, “I have formed a chaplaincy company offering spiritual care to employees in the workplace.”
            What follows typically is one of three responses:
  1. a blank stare
  2. a request to describe in detail what I do, or
  3. a question as to why spiritual care is needed in the workplace.

            When I first heard about chaplaincy in the workplace I experienced those same responses, well—maybe responses # 2 and # 3. I want to address question # 3--why spiritual care is needed in the workplace. Check that, I want to allow Ian Mitroff and Elizabeth A. Denton to answer it.
            A few years ago, Mitroff and Denton wrote a thought-provoking book called A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America. Mitroff held the Harold Quinton Distinguished Professorship of Business Policy at the Marshall School of Business at USC. As an organizational consultant, Denton was in high demand and employed by several Fortune 100 companies. Clearly, these were not preachers or pastors pushing a Christian agenda.
            One area of research that caught my attention was their interviews with employees working in U.S. corporations. The authors stated that two answers summarized well the sentiments of those surveyed:
  •             1) “Organizations feel free to beat up on us 40 to 60 hours a week. Then they put the burden entirely on us to repair ourselves on our own time so we can come back for more!”
  •             2) “Organizations are constantly wanting and demanding more and more of us all the time. But they can't have it both ways. They can't have more of us without getting and urging the whole person. Organizations must give back and contribute as much to the whole person as they want in return.”

            Employees in the corporate world do not hold those feelings alone. People holding jobs ranging from factory workers to teachers share them as well.
            Sadly, too often organizations and businesses do not seek to integrate the spiritual with the realities of the workplace. Many go in the other direction. Many seek to address the challenges of the workplace by walling off employees from their souls. Leadership too often demands that their employees compartmentalize their spirituality from the workplace.
            Ironically enough, according to Mitroff and Denton, many business leaders attempt to draw upon the spiritual without realizing it. They challenge their workers to show enthusiasm—failing to realize the word’s original meaning was “God within.” They pimp spirituality trying to energize their workers!
            Enthusiasm in its purest form is a spiritual concept. Employers must tread carefully. If they succeed in eliminating the spiritual from the workplace, they will ultimately kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
            I believe Mitroff and Denton are correct in their assessment, and that is one of the reasons I have chosen this course. I am convicted that employers must face up to the fact that people are spiritual beings and that they must address the spirituality of the employees. To do so offers the worker tools for finding deeper meaning in his or her work. Thus, the employer transitions from functioning as a competitor of God to a servant of God. Rather than creating fragmentation in the life of the employee, the employer offers integration—of mind, body, and spirit. This raises the enthusiasm, energy, and creative levels of the employee. To borrow an old slogan, the employer is symbolically saying to the worker, “Be all that you can be.”
            In that kind of workplace, everybody wins.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Sacred Calling

“69% of the country believes that a bad day at the beach is better than a good day at work.”–Gallup poll

            I think this is sad. When an ancient Jew heard the word we translate “work” read from the Old Testament, the concept it brought to mind was not simply engaging in some type of compartmentalized labor. Rather he thought of work and worship. The notion was service (sacrifice) to God as offered through work. Six days a week in ancient Israel, the Israelites were to offer to God their work.
            The other side of the coin was the Sabbath. On the seventh day, the Jew was to rest. But rest here was not simply a cessation from labor. Rather, it was understood to be, again, a service to God. This rest was an offering to God—worship. The byproduct was re-newal and re-creation.
            The biblical understanding was never that a person would work until he or she reached the point of retirement, and then that person would be able to finally begin doing what he enjoyed. Instead, the biblical ideal was to work until death. The good life was to find work in something about which one was passionate. That person would work six days, and rest one. Both acts were offerings to God.
            And if a Jew was not passionate about her work? She could find consolation in the fact that she was offering a sacrifice to God through her work. Work was truly a sacred calling.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How You Can Impact an Overchurched Culture—Pt. 2

          Elaborating on last week's theme, I want to emphasize that one of the most effective ways of reaching an overchurched culture is by serving the poor. I write this for two main reasons:
  1. Overchurched (and in some cases, unchurched) people identify this ministry with Jesus—and rightfully so. The Gospel of Luke is a gospel highlighting Jesus’ ministry to the poor. In Matthew 25, Jesus makes serving the poor a salvation issue.
  2. When we live by Jesus’ ministry, it authenticates our message. In survey after survey, numerous young adults who have left churches–obvious examples of the overchurched–have stated that they place a high priority on helping the poor. They have revealed that churches that attract their attention in a positive way are those who demonstrate a clear commitment to fulfilling Jesus’ mission of serving the poor.
            The North Main church of Christ in Winters, Texas made a huge impact on their community of overchurched people because of their commitment to serving the poor. When we lived there, people who were “hard on their luck” would occasionally pass through town needing help. After 5 PM and on holidays, some of these people would stop by our house. They had been sent to us by local establishments such as Dairy Queen–all having received a variation of the same message: "If you need help, go see the Church of Christ. They help people."
            I must confess; there were times I was not wildly excited to have my holiday “interrupted.” Having said that, I realized at the time that it was a whole lot better being known as the church who helped people rather than being known as “the church whose members think they are the only ones going to heaven.”
            The servant hearts of those North Main members changed outsiders’ perception of the congregation. (Incidentally, let me emphasize, those Christians were already serving in that way before I moved there. I had nothing to do with forming their faith.)
            Writing this, I think about several of the Christians of Shiloh I have observed over the last few years. A number of them have spent much time ministering to the poor in ways such as partnering with Christians of other churches to feed the homeless of Tyler, working with other Christians in serving the “working poor” at a downtown location, serving people in the fields of health care by offering help as dentists, nurses, and doctors. I have seen Christians become foster parents and adopt children. All of these actions are like deposits accumulating in the “good-will bank accounts” located in the hearts of the overchurched.
            Now, let me emphasize, we need to watch out for the temptation of downplaying opportunities to share our faith. The world is full of organizations that began as beacons of light seeking to serve people and call them to Jesus… only to devolve into do-gooder organizations indistinguishable from secular charities.
            The world is filled with materially affluent people who are spiritually impoverished. We should never be satisfied simply because we helped a person climb out of physical poverty and ascend a materialistic ladder. Rather, our prayer should be that all of these cups of cold water open the doors to many human hearts, so that these might receive the ultimate supplier of human needs: Jesus.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How You Can Impact an Overchurched Culture

            I have shared how I see myself engaging an overchurched culture. What about you? I think there are ways you can do so effectively.
            If you are not on a church staff, you have an advantage over those who are: for instance, those of you who have jobs outside of the congregation have special opportunities to penetrate the overchurched culture’s protective shell.
            To illustrate, let me take you back to the North Main Church of Christ in Winters, Texas–where I preached for seven years. I never saw a congregation where such a high percentage of members sought to take the presence of Jesus to the workplace. One example was found in the field of teaching.
            Teachers would minister to their students who lived in dysfunctional families and in poverty. Indeed, North Main’s greatest ministerial legacy arose out of a teacher’s ministry to three children from the same family, who did not have enough to eat.
            I remember one mother of children who occasionally attended our church. One weekend, she overdosed on drugs. She was hospitalized in Abilene–40 minutes away. I visited her there and found with her a junior high teacher who was a member of our church. The teacher had stayed the night with that frightened and very sick mother.
            Winters was an overchurched community at that time, but let me tell you–it was ministry of members like the teacher, which lent authenticity to their name–Christian.
            Had you asked someone in the community about the congregation during that time, you might have received a response like this, “I am not certain about all that they believe, but they sure love people.”
            To summarize, here’s what you can do:
·      show Christ at work
·      serve people at work
·      search for opportunities to serve people who are in the extended families of those you impact through your work
This will lend authenticity to your message.
            Many people who are overchurched have left their churches because they were disillusioned with people who were in their churches. Observing somebody live a life of Christ-like service often destroys that disillusionment. This in turn will go a long way toward demolishing the hardness of their hearts.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Road Ahead for Mark Edge

            Last week I talked about how I had mistakenly spent my years in the Shiloh pulpit trying to think of strategies to reach the unchurched. After I stepped down from the pulpit, it occurred to me that Tyler was mainly comprised of overchurched people, not unchurched people. “Now what?” I thought.
            About two months ago, a friend mentioned to me that Interstate Batteries had a corporate chaplain located at their headquarters in downtown Dallas. I had never heard of a corporate chaplain and was curious. I could not find any information on their website, so three weeks ago last Thursday, I decided to drop by their offices while in Dallas. The receptionist could not have been nicer, but the chaplain was in meetings all morning, so she promised to have him call me.
            He did and we had a good visit by phone. He later sent me their corporate policy on chaplaincy. However, in that moment I was still curious, so I went to the largest bookstore I knew of in downtown Dallas. I searched for information about corporate chaplaincy or chaplaincy in the workplace, but the store had nothing in print on the subject. I went to the coffee shop, fired up my laptop, and began researching online. I discovered that a movement of chaplaincy in the United States had been at work for quite a while.
            Business Weekly, Fortune, The New York Times, and other media sources have all reported on the concept of offering spiritual care to employees in the workplace–and occasionally outside the workplace.
            Some people interviewed spoke of facing a crisis such as the death of a loved one, and not having a church home. They needed someone to help them with their grief and to conduct the funeral. Who better to turn to than a chaplain?
            My mind spun back to my days living in West Texas. I had officiated a number of funerals there for people who had no church affiliation and I found it a wonderful opportunity to minister to hurting people. Many of those people had been overchurched. Occasionally, these opportunities opened the door for people who wanted to hear about the Lord or to return to him.
            Returning to the present, I began to ponder the possibilities regarding workplace chaplaincy. The concept definitely appeared to reflect the scriptures. For example:
1. Work is important to God. The second commandment God gave to Adam and Eve involved a job–take care of the earth. He told them again to work in Genesis 2:15. He further commanded Adam to work in Genesis 3; only it was after the fall. Consequently, God told him the work would prove much harder.
2. God often provides images of workers to describe him in Scripture i.e. “builder” (Proverbs 8:27-31, “metal worker” Isaiah 1:24–26…)
3. Paul tells Christians they ultimately work for Jesus (Colossians 3:22–23.)
            The biblical ideal sees work as a sacred endeavor. This is good news, for we spend approximately ¼ of our adult lives (before retirement) working.
            In previous decades, Christians and non-Christians have harbored a view that work was a compartmentalize task, separated from the spiritual part of the Christian life. In early 2000s, Princeton University established a think tank dedicated to uncovering the connection between spirituality in the workplace.
            I believe a chaplain entering the workplace can bring the presence of Christ and assist workers in the spiritual pursuit of serving God through work. Indeed, by reconnecting the workplace with the spiritual, workers can further maximize their potential. This will in turn assist employees in reaching their potential. All of this affords the bosses and owners of businesses and corporations their best chance to earn profits for themselves and their shareholders.
            I am commencing today with the chaplaincy service to the East Texas area. I am assuming that I will be addressing overchurched employers and employees, who don’t want to be sued by the ACLU or any other special interest group. My approach will be holistic—I am addressing the spirit while others address the needs of the mind and body. I think I am going to call my service:

WorkEdge as in:

Maximizing Lives
Maximizing Productivity

            (Quick! If this is a bad idea—tell me… before I print up my cards!)
            As I mentioned, I have been researching for over three weeks this subject. I have related a few of the reasons why I'm excited about serving in this manner in the Kingdom of God.
            All things considered, I see this as the best way yet for me to witness to the power of the gospel to an overchurched community. Let me emphasize, the mission of workplace chaplaincy is not evangelism. It is to provide spiritual care to the employees. However, a byproduct of that relationship could very well be evangelism. In addition, I would certainly welcome that opportunity. It would have to be at the employees’ request—not mine. Yet, it is inevitable, if I minister to enough people, some will want to know the Lord better.
            I think this is an opportunity from God, and I will find out soon. I don't plan to borrow money. If God is not behind this, I will have to do something else before too long.
            I pray God blesses this ministry so much that I have to ask others who are qualified to assist me. I would be pleased pay good money to these Christians gifted by God for this ministry–men serving men and women serving women—in the marketplace.
            I have been reading recently H. W. Brands’ new biography of Ulysses S. Grant. During the early part of the Civil War, various Northern generals squandered opportunities to win the war. Grant on the other hand, was dealt the tougher challenge from the beginning. Yet, he established a pattern of winning through persistence. If one strategy did not work in Vicksburg, he would attempt another… and another… until he won the victory. He used the same strategy of perseverance in Virginia in the later stages of the war. 
            Grant to this day is known as a great general. His genius lay mostly in his relentlessness, a quality few generals had.
            I think we Christians, especially those of us in overchurched locales, need the courage to remain relentlessness. We try a strategy; if it does not work, we try another.
            We try relentlessly.
            That is my aim when it comes to reaching out to the overchurched.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Road Ahead

            Shortly after I stepped down from the pulpit last August, I realized I had made a mistake. No, not stepping down from the pulpit. Rather, I had preached for over 20 years about reaching the unchurched. That worked in some cultural contexts. For example, I spent almost 5 1/2 years living in Argentina in a city of half a million people, most of whom were definitely unchurched. That has not been the case in my ministry experience in the United States.
            A month or so after I left the pulpit, it occurred to me that most of the 80% of the people in Tyler who were not part of a church were not unchurched–they were overchurched. There is a big difference.
            Unchurched people have little knowledge of God, Jesus, or Scripture. They are truly secular.
            Overchurched people know a lot of information about God, Jesus, and the Bible. They have simply chosen to not allow it to impact their lives. Overchurched people, for various reasons, have been vaccinated against Christianity. It is as if they have received a tiny injection of Christianity, and they have built within themselves a spiritual immunity to Jesus and his church.
            I spent almost seven years asking the same question every day–how do we at Shiloh reach the unchurched people of Tyler? I was asking the wrong question. We are a generation away from Tyler comprising itself primarily of unchurched people. All along, I should have been asking–how do we reach the overchurched people of Tyler?
            That question raises an entirely different set of questions, yet they are equally important. Neither the unchurched nor the overchurched know the Lord. However, each group is strategically approached in different ways.
            I am still raising questions about how to reach the overchurched. I have some ideas, though. More on that to come.

Monday, January 14, 2013

If God were King # 10... We Would Treat Government His Way

            Last week we talked about family.
            Today, we will look at government.
            Bear in mind: neither earthly families nor government will exist in heaven. So what we are discussing concerns bringing heaven’s values into a fallen creation. Whenever creation is ultimately redeemed, government and family will not ascend into heaven.

            Regarding government, there are tensions here on earth:

1. The tension between l iberty versus societal discipline.
            None of us like it when government imposes something on us. That is one reason that churches often thrive when Christians are truly aliens—government intrusion unites people against the government.
            I am all for prayer in schools; I'm just not for organized prayer in schools. The issue is who does the organizing. I've been there when it has been people with whom I have disagreed.
            Nevertheless, a free society requires a moral, virtuous, and I would argue, spiritual people. As John Adams wrote in 1798, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” Without the discipline of spirituality, democracy downgrades into anarchy.

2. The tension between compassion versus Accountability
            I certainly do not have the answer on this. Where does allowing someone to starve end and allowing someone to sink into despair… in order to find God… begin? I am not sure.
            Having said this, I wrestle with government bureaucracy. A compassionate society as expressed by a people through its government can be good… unless the good will gets bogged by bureaucracy. It is hard to have a relationship with a bureaucracy. You cannot offer compassion without relationship.
            Disclaimer: I’ve adopted a son and daughter through the good work of CPS. Clearly, I am not anti-government.
3. The tension between the world we live in versus the world to come.
            The struggle here is I want to create as much of a utopia as I can while on earth, but this does not always correspond with the purposes of God.
            Sir Thomas More… describing a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean, called it “Utopia.” The idea we take from that is a place of perfection. Some have pointed out the irony of Moore’s title: “u” or “no” + “topos” or “place” = “no place.” I have not verified this, but I like the idea. We will not find the redemption of the world to come here in this one.

4. The tension between Jesus’ choices for his Kingdom and the reality of government.
            Jesus had the power to overthrow Rome, but he chose not to. Most of Christian history sees the Christian population dealing with governments that are not Christian.            
            The time in history when Jesus came means that we have a template for the way we view government—if societal opportunities are beyond our control.
            On the other hand, the roots of the United States cannot be found in a people who said, “We are going to take over this country.” Rather, it was with a group of pilgrims who were escaping religious persecution, and were allowed the chance to go to an area that was basically remote. They did not try to destroy the Indians.             Fundamentally, they attempted to form their little community and to live in a way that was godly. And as much as anything else, these were the roots of our national government. They happened to have laid the foundation… the ground floor. What happens when you have godly Christian people creating a system of self-rule under the leadership of Jesus as King? You have the roots of democracy.

5. The tension between Jesus God of peace and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If I am kidnapped oversees, I want somebody to come save me. That means a police-like action from the military.
            So to say I want to eliminate the military and let America go and trust God and live under the rule of terrorism or of some other oppression… is the equivalent of saying I want to live without a local police force.

8 final thoughts of government from Deuteronomy:
1. God would transcend all.
            I do not see any way a nation can survive without an understanding of God transcending the country. No man is above the law, and the law comes from God.
            Ideally, citizens and government officials would understand that one of the basic and the fundamental reasons we have government is to restrain evil (see Genesis chapter nine and Romans chapter thirteen.)
            As I have mentioned, I do not believe in the church being connected to the state. However, I believe the famous letter that is cited from Thomas Jefferson is, in its context, reflecting Jefferson’s concern that the state would impede itself upon the church rather than the church having unnecessarily influenced on the state.
            However, it does not do the Kingdom of God good to be too closely aligned to the state. It waters down the message of the Gospel and the call to discipleship.
            If the Church marries the nation today, tomorrow she will be a widow. The same holds true for marriage to a political party. The Church transcends the state and the political party, not vice versa. The Church is the reflection of Christ—not culture.
            The state was instituted by God to restrain sin and promote a just social order.
            A theologian I have grown appreciate is actually a French one–Jacques Elluel, and he wrote this (to paraphrase): the Christian who is involved in the material history of this world is involved in it is representing another order, another master (than the “prince of this world”), another claim (than that of the natural heart of man)… Thus he must plunge into social and political problems in order to have an influence on the world, not in the hope of making it a paradise, but simply in order to make it tolerable–not in order to diminish the opposition between this world and the kingdom of God, but simply in order to modify the opposition between the disorder this world and the order preservation that God wills for it–not in order to “bring in” the kingdom of God, but in order that the gospel may be proclaimed, that all men may really hear the good news of salvation to the death and resurrection of Christ.
            Charles Colson said that while human politics is based on the premise that society must be changed or to change people, it is the people who must be changed in order to change society. On the other hand, William Wilberforce changed history in England through setting in motion a series of legislation the stopped slavery.

2. Justice would be a major concern.
            Look at Deuteronomy 16:19, “Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.”

            Everyone's property would be secure, every person would be treated as one made in the image of God, all wrongdoing would be punished but in a way that is consistent with humanity, not dehumanizing the one who is guilty, no false accusations would be allowed, a fair trial would be assured. Equally important, no one shall be above the law, not even the nations top leader.

3. Everyone is treated with the dignity God has given him or her (Deuteronomy 15:12–18, Deuteronomy 24:7, 27:18.) This means that women are to be treated as human beings. This means people will not be exploited. This includes the disabled and the alien (see Deuteronomy 23:19; 24:6, 12–15, 17; 27:18.)

4. Creation would be honored (Deuteronomy 22:4, 6–7, 25:4.)

5. Rest would be assured for each citizen (Deuteronomy 5:12–15.) Each citizen would have at least one day off. I think about the poor people and industrial England and the hours they worked. Seven days a week, sometimes, and twelve + hours a day. It was insane.

6. Government would be concerned for the poor and disenfranchised. Deuteronomy 14, Deuteronomy 15, and others emphasize God’s concern for the poor.

7. Government would hold people accountable. People will be held accountable for the sake of society, and people will be held accountable for their own sake. To not do so would be self-destructive.

8. Government would reinforce God-honoring sexuality. This would be not only for the sake of society, but for the individual as well. Nothing demoralizes society like immorality. There is no structure, people are hurt, and God is not honored by one's physical body. All of this sickens the soul.

            I am typing this quickly. I reserve the right to be wrong. Thanks for reading.