Inklings on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Interview of Me

9 09 2008

Several weeks ago I was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for a national TV special on the upcoming presidential election in America.  The program centered around the shifting trends among the religious right away from just voting a one party ticket, especially as it related to the upcoming presidential election.  I was specifically asked questions related to the religious faith of Barack Obama and John McCain and how this might impact the upcoming presidential election.  I answered as truthfully as I could at the time.  Though the interview took over three hours, only a few minutes were used for the broadcast. 

I have just viewed the telecast that aired a few days ago in Australia.  After reviewing the program, I felt it necessary to prepare a few of my inklings and thoughts to more fully share my position as it relates to faith and politics.

Though I still do not know about John McCain’s faith, which I clearly stated in the interview, be assured that I do know about his political convictions, which was not the question.  In 30 years of voting, I have never voted in an election based largely on a candidates personal faith in God.  I vote to elect a politician who holds my viewpoints on political issues.  Romans 13 is very clear that God raises up “ministers” (mentioned 3 times) in the civil/political realm as much as He raises up ministers in the spiritual realm.  In the Romans 13 passage, the Greek word, diakonos is used, which can be translated “minister.”  But what is interesting is that Paul never indicates that this civil minister has any need for personal faith in God, but rather that God has personally placed him in that position for God’s purposes.  Indeed when Paul was writing, Nero, one of the most deranged emperors of all time, was in power in Rome.  So personal faith in God is not nearly as important to me as whether the candidate will legislate, vote, and work for laws that uphold my convictions.  As Martin Luther, the father of the reformation, once said, “I would rather vote for a good pagan than a bad Christian.”

As a minister in the spiritual realm, I look for “ministers” in the political realm who will uphold, vote for, and legislate what I believe, in my understanding of the Bible and my worship of God, to be the most consistent with the Holy Scriptures. I believe that the stark difference between the candidates (Obama and McCain) on such issues as the right to life for the unborn and marriage, which are clearly spelled out in the Scriptures, makes the decision for president a very easy one.  The contrasts could not be more stark nor more clear.

So, the issue before every thoughtful follower of Christ in America is not what John McCain or Barak Obama personally believes about God, that is his personal faith question between him and God, but rather, how will John McCain or Barak Obama, lead our country through the laws and ordinances that his administration will promote.  The Bible is certainly not clear on many political issues, and thus each believer must seek the Lord and develop his or her own political convictions, but, and I do mean but—the Bible is very clear on some issues.  Namely that life begins at conception (Ps 139; Jeremiah 1, etc.) and that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:22-33, etc.).  The two candidates stand as polar opposites on legislation on just these two issues alone.  So, as an addendum to the ABC program, let me be very clear that though I don’t consider the personal faith of a candidate as primary  in my decision of how to vote, my personal faith in what the Bible teaches does play a vital part in how I would vote for a candidate.

I hope this is helpful in relation to those who have seen the program and have further questions related to my personal convictions as they relate to religion and politics in our upcoming election. 

Pastor Steve Holt

Gymnastics and the Kingdom of God – Part 2

8 09 2008

Rick Boyer was my high school coach and a fanatic about gymnastics.  His story was intriguing and unusual.  He had attended the University of Georgia as a Spanish major but, as a freshman in college, had seen a gymnastics meet and become fascinated with the sport. And so, at 18 years of age, as a freshman in college, he started working out in gymnastics.  The amazing thing is not only did he start doing gymnastics in college, he actually trained so hard and so diligently that he became quite an accomplished ring man.  And by his senior year he was nationally ranked.  He finished his senior year 25th in the nation on rings.  Now that’s incredible!

After graduating from college, Rick Boyer came to Clarkston High School as a Spanish teacher and the new gymnastics coach.  It was my sophomore year and when the announcement went out, I decided to show up for the initial interest meeting.  So, here we were, a bunch of punk suburban kids who didn’t know the first thing about gymnastics, seated before this short muscular Hispanic looking guy (he wasn’t Hispanic, but he looked like he was).  With no real introduction or niceties, Coach Boyer cut to the chase.  “I am here to build a state champion gymnastics team.  If you come out for this team you will work out 6 days a week, yes I said 6 days a week—on Saturday’s too.  You will train 9 months out of the year.  If you are involved with another sport, quit.  If you desire to be on the honor roll, don’t come out for the team.  If you have a girl friend, break up.  If you party and smoke dope, don’t come out!  I’ll see you tomorrow at 3:30.  If you are one minute late, you will run around the school ten times.  See ya tomorrow!”  End of discussion. What discussion?  Well, this little introductory speech did not win many friends or influence many people.  If I recall, at the meeting about 60 students had showed up.  The next day, at the first practice, ten of us came out.  And thus began the embryonic team that Coach Boyer would build into one of the best gymnastics programs that the state of Georgia has ever seen.

Coach Boyer was calling us to a commitment.  Coach Boyer was challenging us to give up everything we had known for something hidden, something unknown.  He was actually asking us to follow him, even though we barely knew him, for a prize that we weren’t even sure was worth possessing. 

In a way, Jesus did the very same thing.  As he walked along the Sea of Galilee, he ran across these ragtag fishermen and challenged them to follow him.  “And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  They immediately left their nets and followed Him.”  (Matthew 4:18-20)  Simon and Andrew knew very little about Jesus yet they followed Him.  What was it that drew them to Jesus?  What was it that made Jesus different than other religious leaders? 

The verse just before our passage gives us some insight, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)  Jesus came preaching about the kingdom of God.  But, He not only proclaimed the kingdom of God, He also demonstrated kingdom power.  Let’s look at what happened next, right after Simon and Andrew signed up, “(and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.) And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.”  (Matthew 4:22-24)

Jesus came proclaiming and demonstrating the kingdom of heaven!  He was calling these men to leave everything familiar, give up all plans, and follow Him!  The ultimate challenge, the ultimate commitment.  On another occasion, when Jesus was explaining the kingdom of God to his followers he said, “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44)  Jesus is saying that the kingdom of heaven is like something that is hidden from most people, but so valuable that for the people who find it, are then willing to give up all that they possess to have it.

The kingdom of heaven is a treasure.  It is a hidden treasure.  I discovered an earthly joy as I took on Coach Boyer’s challenge in high school, but I discovered an eternal joy when I chose to follow Christ and the kingdom of heaven.  The challenge to follow Christ will require everything that is familiar and all that brings earthly security.  God doesn’t want a part of our life, He wants our total being. God wants everything to be surrendered to Him.

Coach Boyer reached down into my heart when he challenged me to give up all for the pursuit of physical gold, and Jesus Christ reaches into our hearts and calls us to pursuit hard after the eternal gold promised to bring joy and peace.  Jesus said it best when he proclaimed a kingdom that calls out for the weary and tired, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus still reaches into our hearts and calls out the best within us.  He calls us to a heart change, a heart transformation.  The kingdom of heaven will require everything we long for and desire, but the irony is that all that we have ever really desired and longed for is found in the kingdom of heaven made known through Jesus Christ.  The discovery of the kingdom of God is the greatest treasure I have ever known.  Might you discover it too?