DIGGING DEEP 8 BY ABIDAN PAUL SHAH

DIGGING DEEP – 8 by Abidan Paul Shah

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

Greeks (1500-165BC)

  • Alexander the Great and the spread of Greek culture.
  • Koine Greek

Romans

One constant factor during the writing of the New Testament was Rome. Roman history can be divided into three parts:

  1. ROMAN KINGDOM – early stages of Rome. (753 BC – 509 BC) Not very significant for our discussion
  2. ROMAN REPUBLIC – still an early stage of our discussion (509 BC – 44 BC)
  3. ROMAN EMPIRE – (44 BC – 6th century AD)

Rome had great admiration for Ancient Greece. Unlike Persia and Greek, Rome knew how to make people Romans. Persian Empire tried to absorb the conquered people but they still did not create unity. Greece tried but not everybody could be a citizen of Greece. But Rome knew how to truly absorb the surrounding cultures – both people and gods.

Some key aspects of the Roman Empire:

  1. The Emperor
  • In 48 BC Julius Caesar declared himself the Dictator. After he was assassinated, his adopted son, Octavius through a series of battles and events became the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Some of those battles might be familiar to you (Mark Anthony and Cleopatra).
  • In 27 BC the Senate gave him the title of Caesar Augustus and they became just an advisory council to the Emperor. His rule brought the PAX ROMANA. Rome’s first institutionalized police force and fire fighting force. He built roads throughout Italy.
  • The Imperial cult was typically instituted after the death of the emperor. Domitian (AD 81-96) was the first to institute it in his own lifetime. He demanded to be addressed as “dominus et deus” = “Lord and god. This was a major problem to the Christians. (See I Peter 3:12-17; and Revelation 2:13 – “Satan’s throne” in Pergamum)
  1. Provinces
  • Main administrative units; 2 kinds: Senatorial and imperial
  • Senatorial provinces were ruled by governors who were appointed by the Senate. They were no threat to peace. For e.g. Sicily, Spain, Pamphylia, Africa, Macedonia, Asia, Crete, Cyprus, etc.
  • Imperial provinces were also ruled by governors who were appointed by the emperor. They were on the borders of the empire and had a threat of revolt. For e.g. Syria, Gaul, Galatia, and Britain.
  1. Client Kingdoms
  • Not directly administered by Rome but still under Roman rule.
  • They were independent rulers who could appoint their own officials and implement their own policies.
  • Palestine was ruled by Herod from 40BC – 4 BC (Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Peraea, and Idumea)
  • After his death, his territory was divided into 3 parts: Judea, Idumea, and Samaria to Archelaus; North of Galilee to Philip; and Galilee and Peraea to Antipas.
  • Archelaus was removed after 10 years and Idumea and Samaria went under Roman procurators (Pilate, Felix, and Festus).
  • Later Herod Agrippa (Herod’s grandson) was a client king over North of Galilee, Galilee, Perea, and Judea. (Acts 12) His son Herod II (acts 25-26).
  1. Colonies and Free Cities
  • Self governing settlements of Roman Citizens
  • For e.g. Philippi and Corinth (locals who were granted Roman citizenship)
  1. Roman Citizenship
  • People could have dual citizenship like Paul (Tarsus and Rome).
  • It ensured loyalty.
  1. Roman Law
  • Basis of Roman Authority was Legal. It all depended on RIGHT and JURISDICTION. Magistrates had complete power. Measure of all things was the LAW. (Greek – man; East – king; Jewish people – God).
  • It was not perfect – THERE WAS CORRUPTION. The further from Rome, the more the corruption.
  • The power over life and death (ius gladii) was always retained by Governors.
  1. Roman Taxation
  • Poll tax was on every adult, including women and slaves.
  • An amount was set but the local governors could set their amount.
  1. Benefits
  • Pax Romana
  • Roads
  • Common Currency – Greek coins (lepta, drachmai,) and Roman coins (assaria, quadrans, denarius). Also temple currency was in shekels

Test Passages:

  1. Matthew 10:18; 11:8; 17:25; 18:23; 22:2; 25:40

 

  1. John 18:31

 

  1. Acts 16:19-40

 

  1. Galatians 3:28

 

  1. Acts 24:5

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN (PART 2)

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Christian_CitizenThis morning is our second message in our miniseries through Romans 13, titled, “The Christian Citizen.” Sadly, most Americans are ignorant and naïve on matters concerning government, politics, and economy. More sadly, these subjects are never addressed from the pulpit. But praise God – the Word of God does address all these issues.

Rom 13:1-5 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Overall Background:  In the passage we just read, Paul is instructing the church in Roman and all of us on taxes. You’ve heard that adage – “There are 2 things in life you can count on: Death and Taxes.” If I may add – At least death comes only once but taxes come every year! And, guess what – Its tax time! The Bible has a lot to say on this subject. It not only teaches us spiritual wisdom but also daily wisdom. It not only inspires us to keep our eyes on the heavenly city but also instructs us on how to live in the earthly city. It not only teaches us to how to organize the House of God but also instructs us on how to organize our government and politics. If we would only turn to the Bible – The Manufacturer’s Instructional Manual – we would be so much better off. So this morning we will drop anchor at Romans 13:6-7 but also catch some important principles on this subject from throughout Scripture.

With that said, there are two questions we will answer in this message:

I. WHY DO WE PAY TAXES?

Listen to verse 6 “For because of this you also pay taxes, Because of what “this” do we pay taxes? The answer to that is given in the previous verses.

#1.The rulers protect us against foreign and domestic threats. Romans 13:3 “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.” Our rulers should put fear in the hearts of those who seek to do us harm. They are there to punish those who infringe upon our life, liberty, and property, and gain restitution for the victims. Let me add – there is more to protection than just physical harm. They’re also there to protect and take care of those who are really in need. They’re also there to oversee environment protection, patent protection, product safety, fair business transactions, transportation systems, and other interests that protect and enhance our standard of living. Hence we pay them taxes to be our protectors in all this.

#2.They are there to praise those who do good. Romans 13:3 says, “Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.” The rulers should reward the honest, hardworking, and good people. Hence we pay taxes to them.

Our Declaration of Independence clearly states: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.”

Let me clarify: It’s not the government’s job to create jobs. (Check out my article on this subject titled – “CREATING JOBS IS TOP PRIORITY” – ANOTHER POLITICAL JARGON.” “Employers create jobs not Government. When there is a demand for a product, employers put up a “now hiring” sign. This is backwards with the Government-created jobs program. It puts up a “now hiring” sign and then looks for some artificial demand to justify it. Recently, there has been growing talks of targeted stimulus towards infrastructure repairs, clean energy, and education. Where will the Government find money to pay these new employees? Unlike the private sector employer who withdraws from his savings to pay his employees, the Government digs into our wallet when it is time to write the paycheck. When the money runs out, the only available option is to raise the taxes on the “rich” (a.k.a. the private sector employers). What is the natural recourse for these employers? Cut backs. In the final analysis, the Government destroys jobs rather than creates them. Furthermore, Government-created jobs have no clear accountability or bottom line. Projects can drag on for decades with an endless supply of taxpayer dollars.”

As Reagan remarked on several occasions, “The most dangerous words in the English language were: ‘Hi, I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.”

II. HOW MUCH TAXES SHOULD WE PAY?

7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

So how much taxes are due? Here are some key questions (See Politics According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem):

1.    Should we lower taxes or raise taxes? Think about Bill who earned $80,000 and has to pay 25% in taxes. That’s about $20,000 in taxes. Now if the tax rate is lowered to 20%, then he has to pay only $16,000 in taxes. What’s he going to do with the $4000 extra dollars? Bill can go on a vacation and pay for gas, hotel room, and food. Or, he can use that money to start another business. Next year Bill could be earning $110,000. If he continues to pay 20% taxes, then he owes $22,000 in taxes. That’s $2000 more to the government than last year. He may even hire Mike to be his assistant and have to pay him. Now another person has a job. Overall, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

What would happen if we raise Bill’s taxes to 30% instead? Now he has to pay $24000 in taxes. That’s $4000 less dollars to spend. Do you think Bill will go on a vacation? Of course not. Do you think Bill will invest money or try to hang on to it? Hang on to it. Do you think he will worker harder at his job? Why should he? After all, Uncle Sam is going to take more money from him!

2.  Do the rich pay their fair share? (From my article “CORPORATE JET OWNERS – SWATTING POLITICAL JARGON” in 2011) “According to the SOI (Statistics of Income) tax stats available on the IRS website, the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans paid 38.02 percent of the total income tax. If you still think that it’s not enough, here is one statistic that will blow your mind. The top 50 percent of the taxpayers pay 97% of the total income tax. This means that half of all Americans pay only 3% of the revenue! Do we still think that these wealthy “fat cats” are not paying their fair share? In fact, they are the small business owners who are the heart of American business. Seems to me that they are being penalized enough already.

…We need to stop thinking of economy as a zero sum game. This idea assumes that the economy is a fixed pie where the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. Think of a hard working and law-abiding farmer. He sweats all day under the hot sun. He hires laborers and pays them their fair wages. After the harvest, he sells his produce and gains a profit. Who did he rob? Or, how about the athlete who works hard and stays clean? Who did he rob to get that contract? Or, that talented girl who makes it big in the music industry through hard work and focus. Who did she rob?”

As long as you legally earn what you have, you should be allowed to enjoy the wealth.

Luke 19: 16-19  16 Then came the first, saying, “Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ 17 And he said to him, “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, “Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ 19 Likewise he said to him, “You also be over five cities.’

3.  Isn’t it better to raise taxes on corporations? Think for a moment – if you raise taxes on corporations, what are they going to do? They will raise the prices of their goods and services. If corporate tax goes up by 5%, the cost of products goes up by 5%. What’s more? The marginal corporate tax rate in America is 35%. Many of the Asian countries and European countries are dropping the rate so they can attract more companies overseas. We are loosing American jobs as one company after another closes to move overseas. We need more foreign investment here.

4.  Is it fair to have a progressive tax rate? This means that the higher you earn, the higher your tax rate. Let me clarify – this does not mean that if you make $10000 at 25%, you’ll pay $2500 and if you make $100000 at 25%, you’ll pay $25000. That would be nice! The more you climb the tax bracket, the higher your tax rate becomes. As a single person, if your income is not over $9,075, then 10% of the taxable income. If its over $9,075 but less than $36,900, then 10% on the $9,075 and then 15% over the excess. Then the rates keep climbing. Now if you get exemptions at lower levels of income, you may end up not paying any but getting more back in refund. How about for those on the higher level? They only end up paying more.

How was it in the Old Testament? 10% of their income to the Lord and then census tax of half a shekel.

5.  Are there other taxes? Yes! Capital Gains tax – tax on the increased value of something purchased as an investment – rental property. If a person is already paying income tax, should they also pay this? No. How about Death or Estate Tax – tax on a person’s estate after the person dies. Did not the person pay taxes while living? Then why should they be taxed again?

6.  Should everyone who earns have to pay? Yes. How about people who make very little and are trying to survive. Of course, provisions should be made for them. Jesus’ parents brought two young pigeons to be sacrificed. Why not a lamb? Because in Leviticus 12:8 it said, “And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”

It makes a difference when each American feels responsible for our nation.

Conclusion: It may seem – There’s no way people in America will ever see all this. Here’s how they can:

1. We begin to change.

2. We begin to take a stand.

GIve to Caesar3. We give God the best. Matthew 22:15-22  15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.  16And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.  17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. 20   And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21   They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

4. We reach people with the gospel – the only way to have a good and honest and just and hardworking citizen is by leading him/her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Christian_CitizenFor the next couple of weeks we will be in Romans 13 for a miniseries, titled, “The Christian Citizen.” Sometime back I was riding with a couple of guys and we began to discuss the role of Christians in government and politics. I was not prepared for all the negatives I heard – “Christians should stay out of politics.” “We’re not of this world.” “It doesn’t really matter how you vote.” “We need to only focus on the gospel” “This world will soon burn up anyways.” Needless to say, it was very disheartening for me. This morning let’s see what God’s Word has to teach on this subject.

Romans 13:1-5   1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.  3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.  5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

The passage we just read has puzzled scholars for a long time. Why did Paul include chapter 13 in his letter? All of chapter 12 deals with our interaction with fellow Christians. All of chapter 14 and beyond again deals with our interaction with fellow Christians. But chapter 13 in the middle focuses on our interaction with the government and rulers and authorities. It appears to be out of place. But the more you study it you realize that Paul through the Holy Spirit had a very good reason for this.

Paul has been teaching us a lot about love and forgiveness and showing hospitality and not taking vengeance and not being overcome by evil but overcoming evil with good. All these values and principles are wonderful for our individual lives and personal relationships but when it comes to society in general, we need certain rules and boundaries and obligations and consequences. Without them our society will fall apart. Furthermore, you can have all the rules, boundaries, obligations, and consequences but if you don’t have godly rulers and authorities and government to enforce them then it will not work.

This message is vital for us living in this great nation in 2014. Let me ask you:

–       Would you agree that we are living in a time when people have lost faith in government and have for a while?

–       Would you agree that it does make a difference who is in authority?

–       Would you agree that majority of our young people have no clue about the issues that are taking place?

–       Would you agree that we are loosing our cherished freedoms because we haven’t spoken out as we should have?

Paul is teaching the Christians in Rome what it means to be good Christian Citizens.

3 important points we will see in this passage:

I. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD SEEK GOD’S WILL IN THIS WORLD.

Before we jump in to Romans 13, we need to backup to Romans 12:2 for a moment. That is the verse that sets the tone for the entire application section. It says, “And do not be conformed to this world (age). Meaning: The people of this world have their set of beliefs and values. Don’t let them squeeze you into their mold. Instead, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Meaning: Let there be an individual mind transformation. What next? “that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God – the GAP Test. Meaning: As you resist this world and are being transformed in your mind, go out and prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Most of us only think of God’s will in our personal context – work, relationships, health, etc. But the passage does not limit God’s will to only our personal lives. It also extends into the world.

God has a will for our world. Do you remember how Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6? “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Meaning: In heaven God’s will is always done. Our prayer is that God’s will would also be done on earth. That means that God’s will is not always done on earth. Some people like to say – “God’s will is always done.” That’s not true. If it were so, Jesus would not have asked His disciples to pray for it. Let me ask you a question – “Is it God’s will for babies to be aborted?” “Is it God’s will for people to loose their jobs?” “Is it God’s will for the institution of the family to be torn down?” “Is it God’s will for someone to rob you and get away?” Of Course Not!

When our mind is renewed, we will not only prove God’s will in our personal lives but we will also prove it in our community, our nation, and our world. We will become a Catalyst for proving God’s will on the earth. No wonder Paul put Romans 13 right in the middle. He is telling us “Don’t run from the world but go into the world and help prove the will of God for the world.”

What will this world look like then? Good and Acceptable and Perfect.

Declaration of IndependenceOur Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

Application: Do you think the world around you is good, acceptable, and perfect? Do you think our neighborhood is good, acceptable, and perfect? Is our nation and our government doing what is good, acceptable, and perfect will of God? Don’t blame the community, government, and the world for it. Let’s look into the mirror. The reason we are in a mess is because we as Christians have failed to make a difference.

Are you willing to take the blame for failing to prove God’s will in our community, our nation, and our world?

II. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD RECOGNIZE THAT GOD IS THE SOURCE OF ALL AUTHORITY.

1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Meaning: God is the source of all authority and order and He has placed every ruler in that position.

This was perfectly demonstrated in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. This King was ruthless and had taken the Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar DreamJewish people into exile. What Nebuchadnezzar did not know was that God had chosen him for that. (Jeremiah 27:6-7) Through Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego he had come to know the living and true God. He had acknowledged that there was no other God than the god of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But one day, he was walking in his royal palace and in pride he said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” 31 While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!  32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” The Bible says that very hour God’s word was fulfilled.

At the end of the 7 years, Nebuchadnezzar repented and he was restored and he made a commitment to always follow the King of heaven.

Another example comes from the New Testament when Jesus stood before Pilate as the chief priests and the scribes kept instigating the crowd to crucify Him. Jesus stood silent and Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” John 19:10-11 In other words, Jesus was saying, “You’re trying to help me? You are powerless. I gave you that scepter.”

Paul goes on to say in verse 2, “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. At this time, Christians were not a majority. They were a growing minority where the governing authorities were pagan. Paul is instructing the Christians to submit to those in authority since God is the real person in authority.

What does that mean for us who live in America in 2014?

–       We need to make sure we elect people in authority who will represent God the best.

–       We need to respect all those in authority and teach our children to do the same.

–       We need to pray for all those in authority and encourage them whether local, state, or national.

III. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD SUBMIT AS UNTO THE LORD.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.

Background: Paul explains here that submission to authority is based on certain assumptions. The rulers are not to be a terror to good works. Their purpose is to encourage the good and punish the bad.

Eisenhower at Ohrdruf Concentration CampFor e.g. Immediately our mind goes to someone like Adolph Hitler who not only killed six million Jewish people but he also massacred other nationalities and even his own people.

Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  Hitler was a terror to the good people and raised the evil in power.

4 For he is God’s minister to you for good.

Paul uses the title God’s Minister to describe the person in governing authority.

Application: When you elect somebody are you looking for someone who comes the closest to being God’s Minister?

But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Meaning: There is something called evil. The ruler, whether born again Christian or not, can recognize that its evil, wrong, bad for society, and bad for our future.

5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

Application: When you elect somebody, will it be good for your conscience to obey them? Do what they believe line up with the Word of God?

Government, Politics, and Authorities have a major role to play in our spiritual life.

How seriously do we take that? Every time I hear someone say, I don’t care about politics, I don’t pick parties, I don’t vote, I think how ignorant and how reckless and how spiritually immature.

Christians should be involved in the political process because conscience is at stake.

I. As Christian Citizens, we should Seek God’s Will in this World. 2. As Christian Citizens, we should recognize that God is the Source of all Authority. 3. As Christian Citizens, we should evaluate our Authorities based on God’s Standards.

Application: Are you praying for our local authorities, state authorities, and national authorities? Are you seeking to glorify God in being a good citizen? Are you a citizen of the heavenly city?

IF THE FOUNDATIONS ARE DESTROYED (Article)

IF THE FOUNDATIONS ARE DESTROYED (Article in the Local Newspaper) by Abidan Paul Shah

“If the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”  – Psalm 11:3

We are living in a time when old values and beliefs are under attack. We are being told that there is a new world coming, whether we like it or not. We are being advised to abandon all hope of ever returning to the old. In fact, they are warning us that the new order has no place for us and it would be safer for us to seek refuge in some remote hideaway. This is a time very similar to when David wrote the opening words of Psalm 11.

1 In the Lord I put my trust;
How can you say to my soul,
“Flee as a bird to your mountain? 2 For look! The wicked bend their bow,
they make ready their arrow on the string,
that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. 3 If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?”

We do not know the exact setting of this psalm. Maybe David wrote it in his earlier life when he was dodging King Saul. Maybe he wrote it when he was battling against the Philistines. Or maybe he wrote it as he was fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom. No matter what prompted David to write this psalm, one thing is for sure – they are words full of hopelessness and fear. They are a call to retreat; they are a signal to fall back and withdraw; they remind us of the words we are hearing today.

Keep in mind that these are not David’s words. He is quoting the counsel of his so-called friends. How did David respond to them? He rejected their advice and, instead, chose to look up. What did he see? 4 The Lord is in His holy temple,
The Lord’s throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men. 5 The Lord tests the righteous,
But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. 6 Upon the wicked He will rain coals;
Fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. 7 For the Lord is righteous,
He loves righteousness;
His countenance beholds the upright.

WOW! What a change in scenery! While down on earth everything was in despair, up in heaven everything was in control! God was not for a moment disheveled by the happenings on earth. As the famous preacher Robert G. Lee would say, “God is not a bewildered bellhop running up and down the corridors of the hotel He created trying to find His key!” In fact, His purposes were moving just fine—for the righteous, it was a time for testing; for the wicked, it was a time for judgment. David did not have run but simply rest in the promise that God loved Him and had His eyes upon him.

In America, we are seeing an attack against many of our foundations – Bible, prayer, Judeo-Christian values, family, liberty, etc. Psalm 11 calls us to look up and see that God still has His hand upon our nation. We are to examine our hearts and see if there is any wickedness in us. We are to step out of our hiding place and be the salt and light in our community. We are to rebuild our families and marriages according to biblical standards. We are to labor until every boy, girl, man, and woman finds peace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

“From victory unto victory His army shall He lead,
till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.”

WOULD JESUS CARRY? SOME THOUGHTS ON GUN CONTROL

WOULD JESUS CARRY? Some thoughts on Gun Control

by Pastor Shah (Clearview Baptist Church) 

The horrible tragedy in Newtown Connecticut has brought back the question—“Is it right for private citizens to own some or all kinds of guns?” Those in favor of gun control have argued that guns are the problem—“Remove the guns and you will prevent the crime from happening in the first place.” Those on the other side have argued that guns are not the problem—“Remove the guns and you will increase the crimes against innocent unarmed citizens.” So who is right?

The answer should be examined on three levels: constitutionally, historically, and biblically.

First, it comes down to twenty-seven words of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The question here is whether the focus is on ‘individual rights’ of the citizens or on the rights of those who belong to the armed services or law enforcements. In 2008, the Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller upheld that the right to possess a firearm is “unconnected with service with a militia” and “militia” referred to “all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.” U.S. Justice Antonin Scalia further opined that “Self-defense…was the central component of the right itself.” Bottom Line: The Founding Fathers made sure that the people had the right to defend themselves. Listen to the word of George Mason at the Ratification of the Constitution in 1788: “to disarm the people ― that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them…I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people…”

Next, historically, guns have always been a part of the American way of life. In the early days of our nation, individuals and families went out on the frontiers to start a new life. They needed protection against outlaws, hostile tribes, and wildlife. Guns were the great equalizers when outmatched and outnumbered. It allowed honest law-abiding citizens to make a successful living in the face of risks and threats. The same mindset has made us who we are—a people who believe in protecting their loved ones and their property; a people who stand against threats and intimidations; a people who fight back in the face of incredible odds. The Newtown tragedy is a sad reminder that physical force is no match against guns. Overall, violent crimes are much lower in the United States when compared to England and Australia, where guns are now banned. As the saying goes—“When guns are outlawed, only outlaws keep their guns.”

Finally, the Bible does have much to say on the subject. Some people claim that Jesus opposed any kind of self-defense, as noted in Matthew 5:39b,But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” But the context of the passage reveals that Jesus was opposing vengeance, as noted in the previous verse: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” He advised his disciples to purchase swords and defend themselves—“he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” (Luke 22:36) But when Peter attacked the High Priest’s servant, He said, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) What a warning to those who attack innocent people!

So, would Jesus carry? He did—a Cross—because only the Cross has the power to stop a criminal. Until then a gun will have to do.

STOP. THINK. VOTE.

STOP. THINK. VOTE.

Winston Churchill supposedly said, “The strongest argument against democracy is a five-minute discussion with the average voter.” True or not—it seems that way more and more. People seem to be voting more by assumption rather than information, feelings rather than facts, and rhetoric rather than results. Oops….Let me leave the rhetoric behind and share with you some wrong and right reasons to consider before you vote for a candidate.

Here are some wrong reasons to vote for a candidate:

  1. Party Loyalty – Often people vote a certain way because they think that it would be wrong to abandon their party after all these years. Here’s the question that every voter should ask: “Has my party abandoned me?” “Does it still have my best interest in mind?” “Are my values important to those I am electing?” Don’t let someone use you just for your vote.
  2. Skin Color – What makes America wonderful is that unlike some countries we have shown that anyone—regardless of the shade of their skin—can be the President of the United States. With the same token, we need to show the world that Americans look deeper to the principles and values of our candidates. What matters is what they stand for rather than what they look like.
  3. Religious Faith – Americans have repeatedly shown that a candidate’s religious tradition is not as important as his moral values. A person may claim to be “born again” and still lose the re-election campaign if his values and economic policies are not ours. Thomas Jefferson—the third President—was a deist but he reduced the national debt by a third.

So what are the right reasons to vote for a candidate? Deuteronomy 1:13 says, “Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.” Let’s look at those three qualities:

  1. Wise – from the Hebrew word hokma. In this context, it means skills in civil and military affairs. With regards to civil affairs, the President cannot ignore the tremendous unemployment rate and the mounting debt crisis facing our nation. Many Americans are living in constant fear of losing their jobs. Our children and grandchildren need to know that we are doing everything possible to prepare a better tomorrow for them. With regards to the military, the President should never cut back on defense spending. Recent events in Libya are a reminder that the world remains unstable and unpredictable.
  2. Understanding – from the Hebrew word bina which means discernment. The President should have a sense of discernment as to how jobs are created. We constantly hear about how the “rich should pay their fair share.” According to the SOI (Statistics of Income) tax stats available on the IRS website, the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans paid 38.02 percent of the total income tax. If that’s not enough, the top 50 percent of the tax payers pay 97% of the total income tax. This means that half of all Americans pay only 3% of the revenue and many don’t pay any! To increase taxes on the wealthy would actually hurt the small business owners and destroy more jobs!
  3. Knowledgeable – from the Hebrew word yeduim. It carries the meaning of respect. The United States has been and continues to be the force for good in this world and we need a President who will inspire respect and admiration, both here and abroad. It affects the progress of democracy, business, and national defense.

So before you head to the polls – Stop, Think, and then Vote.

STOP. THINK. VOTE. (Sermon)

STOP. THINK. VOTE. (Sermon by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson)

In ten days, our nation will be going to the polls. In fact, the early voting has already begun. With that in mind, I want to preach a message this morning titled, “STOP. THINK. VOTE.” Turn in your Bibles to Deuteronomy 1:5-13. Winston Churchill supposedly said, “The strongest argument against democracy is a five-minute discussion with the average voter.” True or not—it seems that way more and more. People seem to be voting more by assumption rather than information, feelings rather than facts, and rhetoric rather than results.

Deuteronomy 1:9-13  9“And I spoke to you at that time, saying: ‘I alone am not able to bear you. 10The Lord your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of heaven in multitude. 11May the Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are, and bless you as He has promised you! 12How can I alone bear your problems and your burdens and your complaints? 13Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’

Overall Background:  The passage we just read refers to a time in the early history of Israel when Moses was the only judge over all the people of Israel. He would sit from morning till evening, listening to case after case, dispute after dispute, and argument after argument. It was too much for him. He was not able to do it. He was wearing himself out. On his father-in-law—Jethro’s—suggestion, Moses asked the people to choose from among their tribes men who were wise, understanding, and knowledgeable and then he (Moses under the authority of God) would make them heads over them. This was not just an example of delegation; this was not just an example of democracy; this was an example of how God decides who will be our leaders. The people would choose their leaders and Moses as God’s leader would approve them. They were to vote for their leaders based on wisdom, understanding, and knowledge; then Moses would swear them in. God had the final say over their choice.

For e.g. The image that comes to my mind is the oath of office taken by every American President since George Washington. At the end of the oath they say, “So help me God.” In fact, George Washington’s inauguration took place in New York City, which was the nation’s capital for the first year of the new government. The newspaper reported that – “on the morning of the inauguration, church bells will ring at nine o’clock so people could go to church and pray for the new government.” About noon as they were making their way to the Federal Hall, they realized that they did not have a Bible and the Parade Marshall had to rush to find one. Finally, they made their way to the balcony of the Federal Hall, overlooking Wall Street. Washington placed his left hand on the Bible and raised his right hand to take the oath. At the end of the oath, he said, “So help me God” and leaned over and kissed the Bible. Then they went back into the Federal Hall where he gave his inaugural address in which he said, “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.” By the way, he began his address with prayer and he closed in prayer. Would you like to know what they did after that? They went down the street to St. Paul’s Church for a special service. It was not a Sunday. It was a Thursday.

Isn’t that amazing! That is how our country began! We have drifted far from that, haven’t we?

This morning, I want us to look at some very important questions with regards to the upcoming election. I want to answer three very important questions that Americans in general and Christians in particular often ask: 1. Is it wrong for us to talk about politics in church? 2. Should Christians be concerned with politics? 3. What are the right reasons to vote for a candidate?

I. IS IT WRONG FOR US TO TALK ABOUT POLITICS IN CHURCH?

The answer is No. It is wrong to endorse a candidate or oppose a candidate by name. In 1954, the IRS put a regulation that prevents pastors from supporting or opposing any candidate by name. It was done without any debate or discussion. The churches are allowed to deal with issues that are part of an election campaign. In reality, endorsement for candidates seems to be happening all the time through some churches and the IRS has never actually revoked the tax exempt status of any church for doing that.

Application: Sometimes people have used a scare tactic against the church and pastors to keep us from speaking on issues.

II. SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE CONCERNED WITH POLITICS?

The answer is Yes! But before we look at why it is important, I want to deal with several wrong views that people have about Christians and Politics. (From Wayne Grudem, “Politics According to the Bible”):

1.     Government should force people to follow Christianity.

  • When you look at history, it was never a good thing when the government tried to dictate the faith of a person.
  • The history of Europe shows how terrible the conflict used to be between Catholics and Protestants and between the Reformed and the Anabaptists. Thousands were persecuted and killed and burned at the stake.
  • Jesus set the boundary for us when he said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Meaning: Church and Government are two separate entities.
  • You cannot force someone to have faith in Jesus. It is a choice.

2.     Government is evil and Christians should have no part in it.

  • They say that politicians are corrupt and they have never done any good.
  • Behind every government is Satan who is busy causing wars and destruction. For e.g. behind Hitler was Satan who caused him to exterminate Jewish people and capture Europe.
  • Here’s the question: Who was behind the Allied Forces who went to fight the Nazi army? Who was behind the troops who landed at Omaha beach?
  • There are people who use Jesus’ statement to turn the other cheek to argue that Christians should never retaliate. When Jesus said turn the other cheek, he was talking about how we deal with individual insults. This is much different from what God expects from politicians and government.
  • Romans 13:3-4 3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

3.     Christians should focus only on reaching the lost.

  • You see bumper stickers like this all the time – Elect King Jesus
  • It all sounds very spiritual but it is escapist.
  • In the Old Testament, we meet Daniel who greatly impacted Babylon and later the Medo-Persian Empire.
  • Also, Esther, who spoke up and saved the lives of all her people.
  • In the New Testament, John the Baptist spoke against the Moral, Spiritual, and Political Issues of his day. He was not afraid to take on Herod Antipas.

4.     Christians and Government should not mix at all.

  • This is a view that is used by people who hate Christianity. They try to attack anything that resembles Christianity. They argue that there is no place for prayers before a city council meeting; no place for the cross at veteran’s memorials; no 10 commandments in the courtroom.
  • This is just a tactic to pass values that are not accepted by most Americans. For e.g. The Same-sex marriage issue. Most Americans are not for it. Back in 2009, only 28.1% of Iowans supported it in their state. How did they get around it? They used the argument that traditional marriage is just a religious bias of Christians and hence the Iowa Supreme Court imposed same-sex marriage by claiming that it is a religious prejudice and goes against the Constitutional rights of a person.
  • Marriage is not a religion. It is a universal institution. By the way, the Bible also believes that stealing is wrong and murder is wrong. Should we then make it legal to steal and murder since they are Christian rules? That’s foolish.
  • When the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” it does not mean that Christianity has no say in politics. It simply means there can be no state church.

Here is the right view – Christians should have a significant influence on the Government.

  • It’s because Christians went beyond just evangelizing people and got involved in politics that they were able to pass laws against infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); they were able to outlaw the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); they were able to outlaw the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); they were able to bring about prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); they were able to stop the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; they were able to outlaw pedophilia; they were able to grant property rights and other protections to women; they were able to ban polygamy in the Western world; prohibit the burning alive of women in India (in 1829); outlaw the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuade government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advance the idea of compulsory education for all children in a number of European countries; and outlaw slave trade and slavery. (Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics according to the Bible” writes about the work of historian Alvin Schmidt.)
  • What did Jesus say? Listen to Matthew 5:13-16  13“You are the salt of the earth… 14“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden…16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Hence, it is important for Christians to speak up and let their voices be heard.

Is it wrong for us to talk about politics in church? No; Should Christians be concerned with politics? Yes

III. WHAT ARE THE RIGHT REASONS TO VOTE FOR A CANDIDATE?

People will be going to the polls and vote but many are voting for the wrong reasons. Here are some of those wrong reasons:

  1. What Party they Belong to? – Often people vote a certain way because they think that it would be wrong to abandon their party after all these years. Here’s the question that every voter should ask: “Has my party abandoned me?” “Does it still have my best interest in mind?” “Are my values important to those I am electing?” Don’t let someone use you just for your vote.
  2. What do they look like? – What makes America wonderful is that unlike some countries we have shown that anyone—regardless of the shade of their skin—can be the President of the United States. With the same token, we need to show the world that Americans look deeper to the principles and values of our candidates. What matters is what they stand for rather than what they look like or how charming they are.
  3. What Religious Faith they belong to? – Americans have repeatedly shown that a candidate’s religious tradition is not as important as his moral values. A person may claim to be “born again” and still lose the re-election campaign if his values and economic policies are not ours. Thomas Jefferson—the third President—was a deist but he reduced the national debt by a third.

So what are the right reasons to vote for a candidate? Deuteronomy 1:13 says, “Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.” Let’s look at those three qualities:

A.     Wise

Background: from the Hebrew word hokma. In this context, it means skills in civil and military affairs. With regards to civil affairs, the President cannot ignore the tremendous unemployment rate and the mounting debt crisis facing our nation. Many Americans are living in constant fear of losing their jobs. Our children and grandchildren need to know that we are doing everything possible to prepare a better tomorrow for them. With regards to the military, the President should never cut back on defense spending. Recent events in Libya are a reminder that the world remains unstable and unpredictable.

B.    Understanding

Background: from the Hebrew word bina which means discernment. The President should have a sense of discernment about how jobs are created. We constantly hear about how the “rich should pay their fair share.” According to the SOI (Statistics of Income) tax stats available on the IRS website, the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans paid 38.02 percent of the total income tax. If that’s not enough, the top 50 percent of the tax payers pay 97% of the total income tax. This means that half of all Americans pay only 3% of the revenue and many don’t pay any! To increase taxes on the wealthy would actually hurt the small business owners and destroy more jobs!

C.     Knowledgeable

Background: from the Hebrew word yeduim. It carries the meaning of respect. The United States has been and continues to be the force for good in this world and we need a President who will inspire respect and admiration, both here and abroad. It affects the progress of democracy, business, and national defense.

Application: So before you head to the polls – Stop, Think, and then Vote.

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