The Christian and Government

What does the Bible say about Christians and the government? How should biblical teaching influence your interactions with the government, including how you vote? That was the topic of yesterday’s sermon. Listen to it before you head to the polls tomorrow.

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How to Respond to “Pro-Choice” Arguments

In a helpful blog article today, Scott Klusendorf discusses how pro-choice advocates try to win the abortion argument by changing the fundamental question from an issue of morality to an issue of personal preference. He also gives some helpful tactics for getting the argument back on track. Klusendorf mentions Greg Koukl in his article. Koukl has written a powerful book on apologetics that every Christian needs to read. Check out Klusendorf’s article, and then get Koukl’s book. Arm yourself to defend the truth in a culture whose foundations are built on the shifting sands of personal preferences.

Why I Voted for Mitt Romney: Judicial Appointments

In his book Politics according to the Bible (just $4.99 on Kindle and highly recommended), Wayne Grudem argues that the most important issue facing the United States today is the appointment of judges, especially judges to the Supreme Court of the United States. While I said in a previous post that abortion is the most important issue facing our nation today, I also agree with Grudem because the only way abortion will become illegal in the United States is if justices are appointed to the Supreme Court who will overturn Roe v. Wade and send the question of abortion back to the states and elected representatives.

When considering the appointment of justices, President Obama’s record is clear. He has appointed two SCOTUS justices during his first term in office: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Fortunately, these two appointees replaced justices with a liberal view of judicial activism, so nothing was gained by way of continuing the undermining of our democracy through activist judges. With the likelihood of one or more SCOTUS justices retiring over the next four years, the stakes are high in this election. The United States simply cannot withstand any more Obama appointees if it is to be recognizable as the historic democracy founded on the original Constitution.

Gov. Mitt Romney takes a more conservative approach and would appoint justices that would favor an originalist approach to the Constitution. The positions of Obama and Romney have been contrasted by Bill Mears. Mr. Mears also reminds Americans of the stakes in this presidential election, noting that it is possible that the next president would appoint three SCOTUS justices. He wisely points out that we will remember the justices long after we have forgotten the president who appointed them. While SCOTUS appointments might not be high on everyone’s list of election priorities, they should be. Whether you vote for Romney or Obama will have far-reaching implications for possibly decades beyond this election cycle. Romney supports judges who interpret the Constitution as it was originally intended. Obama will appoint more judges who will force a liberal agenda on the nation and bypass the Constitutionally appointed means of making laws. The choice couldn’t be more clear, which is why I voted for Mitt Romney.

Let’s really get real about abortions

In his column this morning, David Frum talked about getting “real” about abortions. The goal of his column is to shift the discussion about the legality of abortion to how to minimize abortion by providing support, especially financial support, to pregnant women so that they feel financially secure enough to bring the baby to term. Frum raises a significant issue that too often conservatives overlook and ignore when discussing abortion, and I thank him for raising it. His ideas deserve thoughtful reflection and response. Here are a few thoughts from a pro-life, conservative viewpoint.

I absolutely agree that a major part of the pro-life platform must be providing support, financial and otherwise, to pregnant women who are unable to pay for the medical expenses of having a child. I know firsthand how overwhelming these expenses can be as my last child cost over $4,000 in medical bills for the prenatal care, sonograms, delivery, and hospital use. And that was after insurance covered their portion. Moreover, my child was healthy and we only were in the hospital for 24 hours. I can only begin to wonder how much more expensive it would have been had he had medical problems at birth or during prenatal care.

But here’s the thing: Pro-life groups are leaders in providing financial, spiritual, and moral support for pregnant mothers in distress. Take an adoption agency in Birmingham, AL, as an example. Lifeline Children’s Services includes a “Maternity Village” where pregnant mothers in distress can live and receive support and training during their pregnancy. This is provided to the mothers as a free service. The village is supported by donors and adoptive families. My wife and I adopted a little girl from Lifeline, and a portion of our adoption fees went to support the maternity village. The primary problem is not that pro-life groups are unwilling to provide this support; it’s that the government refuses to provide adequate support for such services, choosing to fund pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood instead. Imagine what a difference it would make in the lives of mothers and their babies if all the federal money given to Planned Parenthood went to pro-life groups that provided prenatal support to pregnant women in distress! Imagine how many more maternity villages could be built and how many fewer babies would be brutally murdered inside their mother’s wombs. While Frum is right, he’s also wrong. If he is serious about what he says, he needs to join the crusade against Planned Parenthood and their radical pro-abortion stance, and begin to write opinion columns urging the government to pour all of that money into maternity villages around the country run by pro-life groups.

Lastly, Mr. Frum is intellectually inconsistent in his position. If he thinks abortion is acceptable, then why bother providing any support at all to pregnant mothers unable to afford a baby? If abortion is not morally wrong, then on what grounds does he argue that anyone’s money should be used to prevent it? The idea that we ought to work and donate to reduce the number of abortions is nonsense unless abortion is morally wrong. If it’s not wrong, if it’s just a “woman’s healthcare decision,” if it’s just related to what “a woman chooses to do with her body,” then we don’t need to have the conversation about reducing abortions. But deep down, Mr. Frum knows that abortion is indefensible and morally egregious. He tries to take the high road by showing concern for pregnant women in distress, but when he does so, he undermines his entire position on abortion.

Let’s really get real about abortions, Mr. Frum. They’re morally wrong and should be illegal. And the government should come alongside pro-life groups to help women make the right choice instead of supporting pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.

Why I Voted for Mitt Romney: Gay “Marriage”

Gay “marriage” is another issue facing our nation, and while it runs behind abortion in importance, it also is not trivial. The trajectory of our culture on the issue of gay “marriage” is decidedly against the biblical definition of marriage as a covenant between one man and woman, cleaving to one another and forsaking all others as long as they both shall live. For various reasons, including a faulty concept of “equal rights” and a generally apathetic stance on moral issues that “don’t harm anyone,” our culture is not only tolerating homosexual relationships but endorsing them as beneficial, right, and honorable. The biblical implications of this shift is sobering in light of Romans 1:18-32, and American Christians should take special note of the task ahead of us as we bring the Gospel to a culture that has suppressed the truth and plunged headlong into idolatry. While I don’t believe that electing one candidate over another to government positions will change the hearts and minds of people on this issue, I still think it’s important to vote for a candidate that espouses a biblical definition of marriage. A survey of where the two major candidates stand on this issue makes the choice easy and straightforward.

Pres. Obama initially ran for the U.S. Senate and then president of the United States as a proponent of the biblical definition of marriage. However, like so many things that Obama has said and promised in the past, his views on marriage “evolved.” Really, they didn’t evolve at all. When Obama ran for the Illinois state senate in 1996, he signed a letter backing the legalization of gay “marriage.” The evidence indicates that Obama simply lied to the American people because it was politically expedient, and when it was, at least in his mind, politically expedient to take the other side of the issue, he came clean and finally (with the prompting of VP Biden) made his real position clear. Now, Obama has become an activist for gay “marriage,” as he presently backs gay “marriage” measures in three states.

Some Christians might read all of this and ask, “So what? What people do in their private lives is none of my business. Why shouldn’t homosexuals have the ‘right’ to ‘marry’ if they want?” I’ve answered this question before, but I’ll expand a little more on it. The reality is that everything we do, whether in public or in private, affects society at large. The way we spend our time and money and even our choices about relationships influences more than just those immediately around us. We either improve society or contribute to society’s decline with our choices. Christians have a duty to love their neighbors as themselves, which does not mean to live and let live, but to do what is in the best interest of our neighbor even when our neighbor doesn’t understand what is in his best interest. Ultimately, what is in our neighbor’s best interest is to repent and believe the Gospel, and that is our primary mission with our neighbors. But we are also called to do good to our neighbors in general as we seek to reach them with the Gospel. In the political arena, that means voting for candidates who will fulfill the God-given role of government, which requires that government discern the difference between right and wrong, good and evil (Rom 13:1-5). Society is better off as a whole when government functions in the way God has designed it to function. While not all government leaders, or even most government leaders, are believers, we can and should still vote for candidates who have a view of morality, of right and wrong, that is closest to the Law of God. How else will government know the difference between evildoers and those who do good? Apart from the Law of God, right is trivialized to the opinion of the majority, and wrong is nothing more than the minority opinion. While people should be free as consenting adults to engage in homosexual activity, the government should not endorse their immoral behavior. Obama’s view of morality on this issue is diametrically opposed to biblical teaching, which means some extreme circumstance would have to exist for Christians to vote for him, a circumstance where, perhaps, all candidates held the same unbiblical position. Such a situation is not unthinkable if our culture continues down its current road.

Thankfully, that is not the situation in this election. Gov. Mitt Romney has taken a strong stance in favor of biblical marriage. While Romney’s position on this issue is not as strong as Christians would hope, he has made it clear that he will defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, something Obama has refused to do (which is constitutionally questionable itself), and advocate for a constitutional amendment defining marriage biblically.

As with abortion, this reason for voting for Romney might not make a bit of difference to non-Christians; for Christians, though, a vote for Obama is unthinkable based on scriptural principles of right and wrong and the role of government. Because of Mitt Romney’s stance on marriage, he received my vote, and he should receive yours as well.

Why I Voted For Mitt Romney: Abortion

Last week I mailed in my early ballot and cast my vote for Mitt Romney as President of the United States. Over the next two weeks leading up to the election, I’ll be discussing six reasons why I voted for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. The first reason pertains to the candidates’ positions on abortion.

Although the cultural tide seems to be turning away from pro-abortion policies, it still is not politically correct to go on the record as pro-life, much less to make this the defining reason for voting a certain way. However, I am convinced that abortion is the most important problem facing our nation today. Abortion is no less a moral outrage and a cultural evil than slavery, and my prayer is that someday my children and/or grandchildren will look back on our culture of death with the same horror we feel when we look back at slavery in the United States and other parts of the Western world. Abortion demands our utmost attention for two reasons. First, abortion is murder. When Vice President Biden claims to believe life begins at conception, but he is unwilling to oppose abortion, he is sanctioning murder because he refuses to protect not a fetus, not a tissue mass, but what he believes is an actual, real, living, human being from senseless slaughter. The logical end of this kind of reasoning is terrifying. Second, abortion says something about our culture. It says that we as a culture do not value life. It says that we do not value people who are made in the image of God. For all of Obama’s and the Democrats’ rhetoric about caring for the poor, the needy, and the helpless in society, their disregard for the most helpless of society, the unborn, in what should be the safest place on earth, their mother’s womb, shows they are hypocrites who try to milk votes out of the poor rather than truly care for those who cannot care for themselves. A culture that sanctions abortion is a culture that does not and cannot care for the “least of these.” All the talk in the world cannot change the reality of what they actually do when faced with the most helpless and vulnerable members of society when no one, not even their own mothers, will care for them.

Mitt Romney has not been the world’s staunchest defender of the rights of the preborn. Should he be elected president, I cannot say with certainty he would appoint judges who believe Roe. v. Wade should be overturned. During this campaign, as recently as last Thursday evening, he has campaigned as someone who would fight for the pro-life agenda, which makes me hopeful. I am much more confident in his running mate, Paul Ryan, who made it clear in the vice presidential debate that he takes a fairly strong pro-life stance (I say “fairly strong” because he would permit abortion in cases of rape and incest, which makes him mostly pro-life, not fully pro-life).

While Romney and Ryan have thus put forward a fairly strong pro-life agenda, their opponents, Obama and Biden, have put forward a very strong pro-abortion agenda. As recently as January 2012, President Obama said this: “As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right. While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue—no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant woman and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption. And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.” Apparently, those rights, freedoms, and opportunities do not apply to our preborn daughters or sons. When someone calls abortion a constitutional right, he is overturning the very principles on which this country was founded in the Declaration of Independence, namely, the right to life. On his website, Barack Obama contrasts himself with Mitt Romney by calling attention to his strong pro-abortion positions. In October 2008, Obama opposed the born-alive treatment law, which would have mandated babies who survive a botched abortion receive medical care. Obama thus is not only pro-abortion, he is pro-infanticide.

As a Christian who believes people are made in the image of God, it is unfathomable to me how any Christian could vote for any candidate that supports abortion, including Barack Obama. While the other issues on the table in this election are important, this issue is one that defines the way our culture views human life, making it paramount. Those who vote for Obama vote to denigrate the value of human life and align themselves with those in history who have treated it with contempt. I cannot so vote and so degrade the image of God. I cannot so vote and so show such contempt for my preborn neighbors, whom God has commanded me to love as I love myself. Because of their pro-life stance, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan received my vote for President of the United States.

Return of the Pomodoro

I’m not exactly sure what happened, but somewhere along the line I fell off the Pomodoro cart. Today, it was back onto it, and my intentionality and productivity showed noticeable improvement. Here’s what I learned through my Pomodoro hiatus.

First, I tried to do the Pomodoro technique without actually doing it. And it didn’t work. For example, I would work in Pomodoros (25-minute periods without interruption), but I would not work in purposeful Pomodoros that had been carefully and thoughtfully planned at the beginning of the day. This allowed for too much randomness in my day, as well as not considering how much time each task would take. Yes, it gave me uninterrupted periods of time to work, study, and write, but it also was not directed like it should be.

Many times I just skipped the Pomodoro altogether, and worked without thinking through segments. This allowed for too many interruptions. I began to notice, especially over the past two weeks, that it didn’t take a whole lot to get me completely off task. The other tasks were not necessarily unimportant or unnecessary, but interruptions reduce efficiency if not handled properly.

Sometimes these two issues compounded into what I like to call the “I’ll get to it later” syndrome. The only problem is that “later” never comes until it is crunch time, and then it’s full-blown, mind-numbing, blood-pressure-raising stress mode to finish. I try to avoid these results of procrastination at all costs, but when the “I’ll get to it later” syndrome infects the day, it’s almost unavoidable.

As a last thought, I don’t want it to sound like I am completely unable to be productive without a timer and daily plan. I still got things done, and, I think, produced quality work in reasonable time frames. That being said, tasks that screamed at me got my attention, and other tasks more easily fell to the wayside or were neglected. Without the Pomodoro mechanism, I find it easier to fall victim to the tyranny of the urgent rather than to plan ahead and be pro-active so that the number of things that are urgent are minimized to only those things which truly are urgent. Life happens, especially in pastoral ministry, and the daily plan sometimes goes out the window when an emergency hospital visit has to be made or a hurting member of the congregation comes in for some prayer and encouragement. These truly urgent things do require immediate attention, and they deserve to have a pastor who is able to focus without distraction on the immediate need, knowing that his other tasks are written down and won’t be forgotten or neglected when he returns to them.