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Romans 3:21-26 (NRSV)
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.


Politicians and social media participants happily point out which group is at fault in these divided times.  No matter where we are on the political spectrum, we can blame the other side for the wrongs done in our society. In doing so, we might even feel as if our very existence has been justified.

When our local church reopened for in-person worship recently, we tried something different for the pews.  We decided to use ribbon to mark off which pews we can use.  The ladies who tied the bows for the ribbons did a marvelous job, but after thanking them for their work, I noticed something peculiar.

Earlier, when I had shown them what I envisioned, I had used a roll of blue ribbon to demonstrate.  They had other colors available, too: pastel green, pastel pink, and red.  When they were finished, we ended up with blue ribbons on the left side and red ribbons on the right. It was not a preplanned political statement; it just happened that way.

I mentioned this when we were back in our first in-person worship service.  I lightheartedly said that the Democrats did not have to sit on the left, nor did the Republicans have to sit on the right.  I finished my remarks by saying, “All sinners are welcome here.”

The only way we can be justified is by faith in Jesus Christ.  All of us, no matter the political persuasion, can receive redemption that comes through him.  Being lumped together by faith in Jesus Christ surely gives us a different perspective on life, even our political life.

Lord God, you want all to believe in Jesus Christ so all may be in your kingdom.  Our arbitrary divisions of political class do not change the fact that all of us are sinners.  Use the righteousness that you have given us through faith in Christ to heal the relationships in our local church, our community, and our nation.  For we realize we can only be found in your kingdom by being in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Wilderness Meditation

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 63:1-5 (NLT)

A psalm of David, regarding a time
when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary
    and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.

There are different kinds of wilderness, but they all have a few things in common.

While starkly beautiful, they can be unnerving, being so different from our daily experience. They even can be life-threatening if we don’t know how to navigate them. 

Some of us might feel we’re in a metaphorical wilderness right now. With a pandemic and a shift in political climate both underway, life can seem unpredictable and maybe even a little scary.

Here’s a positive thought, though. The heightened awareness the wilderness demands can bring us in touch with God.

Let’s take time to look at the first part of Psalm 63 today. I’ll raise the questions, and you consider your particular answers.

Do you still actively search for God?

Are you emotionally engaged in that search? Is the search more than theoretical—are you praying a need will be filled?

Can you say you’ve recently worshiped in a way where you have sensed God’s power and glory?

If you’ve not said “yes” so far, you may have identified why you sometimes feel as spiritually dry as a Levantine desert.

You also may have the beginnings of a strategy to move toward praise and deep satisfaction, regardless of your environment.

Lord, grow us in our awareness of your presence and our appreciation of your power and overwhelming love. Amen.

Hope!

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 78:1-7

O my people, listen to my instructions.
    Open your ears to what I am saying,
    for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
    stories we have heard and known,
    stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
    we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
    about his power and his mighty wonders.
For he issued his laws to Jacob;
    he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
    to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
    even the children not yet born—
    and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
    not forgetting his glorious miracles
    and obeying his commands.

As I write this, election results remain unclear in several states, and I suspect this uncertainty will be ongoing as you read this. Several people have expressed to me how anxious they feel.

It helps, I think, to stay on task, to control what is actually within our sphere of influence. Regardless of the political climate, a particular responsibility remains for those of us who follow God. Having experienced hope, we pass along hope to others, something a lot of people seem to be lacking lately.

Hope in God’s plan, as expressed in Psalm 78, also is an effective sedative for those overly elated with a moment of worldly victory, and a boost for those who hang their heads, thinking political defeat spells looming disaster.

People of God carry within them big-picture hope, but we simultaneously are called to a daily kind of work. Back when Barack Obama was running for his second term, a panicked church member cornered me one day, tugging at my sleeve and saying something that made his political views obvious: “Pastor Chuck, what are we going to do if Obama wins the election?”

“Well,” I said, “I plan to do what I will do if he loses. I’m going to preach Jesus.”

Christians, more than anything else, we share the Good News. Day in and day out, we need to find ways to tell others about Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Politics may have consumed our thoughts recently, but we need to focus on our most pressing, immediate problem. A new generation is failing to learn the critically important story found in Scripture, mostly because those of us who know it are not telling it deliberately and well.

This story should excite any generation. It is ancient; the psalms are ancient to us, and our psalm for today speaks of lessons from what its author considers a distant past. We work from millenia to millenia, not term to term.

Our story describes who God is: The one who has always been and always will be, holy from before time to beyond the end of time. It also explains why we are the way we are—broken, sinful and often full of regret.

Our story declares a mysterious, fundamental truth. God loves us despite our sins. He loves us so much that he came among us in flesh to redeem us from our deliberate decisions to reject our creator’s will. Believing this story draws God directly into our midst, changing how we see every aspect of our lives.

Wherever you stand politically, do all you can to inject hope into the lives of others in these coming days, weeks, months and years.

Lord, as your followers, we commit ourselves to the truth that we are yours first. Help us to tell your story of hope to people who are on edge. Amen.

God and Governance

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

1 Timothy 2:1-7 (NLT)

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For,

There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.

This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. And I have been chosen as a preacher and apostle to teach the Gentiles this message about faith and truth. I’m not exaggerating—just telling the truth.


In these highly politicized times, Paul’s words to a young pastor will make some of us squirm.

Obviously, we are polarized as a nation. We’ve seen the left and right run toward their extreme edges, leaving a void in the middle. Far behind us are the days of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill sitting down in a room and hashing out a way to govern despite their political differences.

So, let me ask you the tough questions the Apostle Paul has raised for us. For the last four years, have you been praying for our president? Regardless of what you may think of him?

Will you pray for our next president, regardless?

I suspect some of us are blanching at the idea. Me, pray for him? Me, lift that guy up to God for support and sustenance?

Our situation could be worse, much worse. Just in case you’re thinking, “How could Paul suggest we do such a thing,” let’s take a moment to consider the context of his words.

The worldly leader of leaders in Paul’s day was the Emperor Nero. Yes, that Nero. The Nero who persecuted the Christians, having them dipped in tar and turned into human torches, or letting them be torn apart by wild animals for sport. The insane Nero, the evil Nero, the guy likely assigned the code number “666” by the author of Revelation.

Paul was telling Timothy to pray for the worst leader you could imagine, and for all of his flunkies. And frankly, as strange as Paul’s request sounds, there is some incredibly powerful Christian logic here, a logic rooted in Old Testament teachings.

Proverbs 21:1 makes clear God can control the will of any leader. The prophet Jeremiah exhorted the Jews in exile to pray for their captors, knowing that if their captors were at peace and blessed, the Jews would be at peace and blessed, too.

We pray assuming God can change anyone so he or she is inclined to do God’s will. It is of course a good thing when our leaders follow God’s will, even if they have not done so in the past. Paul is essentially saying, “If they begin to listen to and follow God, things will be better for all of us.”

He goes on to emphasize there is but one path, one God and one mediator, Jesus, who is the Christ. Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, regardless of whether we sit in a palace or sift through a dung heap for a living.

In a way, Paul’s (and Timothy’s, we must presume) prayers do seem to have borne fruit, although not in time to save Paul from martyrdom. Nero’s empire eventually passed into the hands of other emperors, until one day it finally belonged to Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion.

Some people debate whether it was really a good thing for countercultural Christianity to suddenly be acceptable in the halls of power, but one thing is for sure—the alignment of the empire’s leaders with the faith sped the spread of Christianity.

So, if you’re one of the many folks who lie awake at night worrying about this nation’s future, quit worrying and start praying. Certainly, pray for the leaders you like. But also pray fervently and regularly for the leaders you feel are not aligned with God.

Pray for all the people who might lead us soon. God may do great things in their hearts, working through them to awaken this nation to its role in Christ’s kingdom.

Lord, bless all of our civic leaders with a deep sense of your presence and guidance. Amen.