ballotWe are just coming out of election season, a time notorious for anger, disenchantment, or passive resignation, depending on your views. Often times we as Christians are perplexed when it comes to engaging culture through politics; separation of church and state, choosing the lesser of two evils, general lack of knowledge or interest on issues are all significant road blocks to our entry into the political sphere. When we do engage it, it is often a reaction of fear, anger, and dismay at the current degeneration of society.

For years I found myself cynical, disenchanted, and frustrated by all parties involved – friends on all sides of issues spouting ideological dogma, politicians falling short, or worse, ignoring their commitments all together. It seemed to me the best way to “fight” was outside the political sphere – best to spare myself and others the blood bath inevitably following a foray into politics.

My mind began to change, however, after reading a biography of William Wilberforce and studying the American and British abolition movements. For Wilberforce and other abolitionists, the courage of conviction began in their understanding of who God is and their understanding of man as an image bearer of God. Yet, these convictions were so great as to be worked out in every sphere of life – including political. For abolitionists, the political sphere was a public opportunity to reach large masses with revolutionary ideas, but it was not confined to politics (or slavery).

Women’s rights, the rights of the poor, suffrage of all, caring for orphans and vulnerable children were all of deep concern to abolitionists; they not only fought for political rights, but also lived with compassion and showed mercy in their daily lives. For abolitionists, if Jesus was Lord of their life then He was Lord over all of life, politics included.

Learning from these men and women has forced me to reconsider my own passive resignation – perhaps there is room for both the church and state in my life. At the least, I have found new conviction to use every available resource to fight for truth, justice, love, and mercy. In choosing to not abdicate from the political sphere, I knowingly walk into frustration, misunderstanding, and disappointment. Fortunately, we have the example of Wilberforce, who waited and fought his entire adult life to end slavery in Britain; victory narrowing succumbing to defeat on more than one painstaking occasion. My hope is we, as Christians and Grace Church, emulate Wilberforce who never wavered in his conviction or pursuit, but worked tirelessly within his cultural framework to affect change – one person, one city, and one nation at a time.

If women, African-Americans, children in foster care, and the poor are all created in the image of God then so is my friend on Facebook passionately declaring his views in direct contrast to mine, and the politician who sold-out. If Jesus is Lord of my life then He is Lord over all of life, political conversations included.

 

- Taylor Beard


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tiananmensquareToday marks the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. I was exactly 24 days old at the time. For me, Tiananmen is something I read about in history books, yet the implications still affect our world today and as Christians, we have a distinct perspective to offer.

First, we must weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). Though official numbers are unknown, at least hundreds of individuals died that day leaving behind thousands of family members to mourn their loss. Even greater, many of these men and women lost their lives without knowing the truth of the Gospel. We must press on, knowing the urgency and scale of our mission.

At the same time we can learn from the protestors and in particular, the fear-based decision making of many of the government officials. It is easy to condemn the Chinese government for their decisions, and to be sure, they must be held responsible for their actions; however, when pushed their motives will likely resonate with many of us. For many leaders, the students and protestors represented a threat to the stability of the nation – a nation they worked hard to rebuild after the Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong. They valued safety and stability above all else…

How many times have we valued the safety of our children and families above the greater, more difficult decision to follow God in total obedience?

To add to the pressure, in the days leading up to the massacre, the first meeting of the Sino-Soviet talks in 30 years was happening with Mikhail Gorbechev…

How many times have we let others’ opinion of us determine our actions?

One of the demands of the protestors was to end censorship of private media. Other demands were to encourage democracy and admit the wrongs committed during the Cultural Revolution…

How often do we try to censor the story of our mistakes rather than own them fully and face the consequences squarely?

To be sure, there were legitimate wrongs committed in Beijing and throughout China during the time of Tiananmen Square. However, as Christians with the benefit of 25 years perspective we can more clearly understand the mindset and the “rationale” behind the Massacre. We also have the freedom to live our lives not based out of fear of the world, others’ opinions, or consequences, but to live our lives in the freedom of Christ knowing we trust in a sovereign, just, and merciful God.

Despite the crackdown on anti-government activity, including Christianity, the church in China has continued to grow at a staggering rate. We take confidence in the clear expression of God’s power that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18). Today, 25 years after Tiananmen and more than 40 years after the Cultural Revolution, the church in China is on the path to become the World’s Most Christian Nation within 15 years. No longer is China solely the recipient of foreign missionaries; now they are sending their own missionaries into the world, notably to North Korea.

Still, there is a lot of work ahead in the world’s most populous country. The harvest is ripe, but the laborers are few.

Will you pray today for the laborers, both foreign and domestic, in China? Pray for their safety, ability to remain faithful amidst persecution, and pray their words would stir the hearts of the millions of Chinese people yet to know Jesus and their Lord and Savior.

-Taylor Beard


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Nicaragua Team Update

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We are having a great week so far. Around 35 Nicaraguans have attended the classes each day, and from the responses and discussions we can tell that they are engaged. We really cannot ask for more than to have students/leaders who are listening and open to change.

I (Patrick) got to preach at New Jerusalem Church in Managua  on Sunday.  I preached on the importance of hearing God’s voice through His word. During our teaching time we had to evacuate the church for the health ministry to spray for mosquitoes.  As we exited the building a young man entered the building spraying the fog in the entire sanctuary! We had to wait for the fog to clear and then we went back in.  My class on Monday dealt with such topics as how we got the word of God, God’s revelation through the Bible, how we know the Bible is reliable, and other topics.  Andy began to teach on the parable of the prodigal son which we prefer to call the parable of the story of the two prodigals.  The students were very much engaged especially when we broke into small groups.

The number of students in our classes grew on Tuesday. We talked about valuing Scripture above all else. We also did an exposition of Psalm 119 and looked at how many words that are used to describe God’s word. Andy’s classes have been so well received that a student within the classes even asked him to consider appearing on his radio program.

I think the students are not the only ones who are learning this week, we are learning from them too. It’s a great opportunity for us to be in such a beautiful place with great people who are hungry to learn and very appreciative of our service to them.

Que Dios les bendiga!
- Andy & Patrick


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