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Kingdoms in Conflict, The Problem for American Christians

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A long time ago I read a book by Charles Colson about Christians and politics. I don’t remember a lot about the book but the title always stuck with me because I feel it describes our dilemma as Christians involved in politics. The title:

Kingdoms in Conflict.

So what is the conflict? Simple. Loyalty and obedience. Who should we be loyal to? America? Or God? Can you be both? I think the bible is clear in teaching that not only can we, we should!

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Now, whole books could be written about how Christians should engage with politics – and they have been – but there is also a short set of verses/passages that I use when thinking through what to do as a Christian, as it relates to politics.

I was reminded again this past week when I was talking to a friend of mine, a Christian, who just simply does not like mask mandates and thinks that we should rebel. I also do not like masks or the mask mandates and I think they are ridiculous.

But the conversation was about how we decide if and when we as Christians can and should rebel in conscientious objection or civil disobedience.

Here are those four bible passages to consider that will help us understand the nuances we navigate in living for Christ while being a good citizen of the United States.

Phil. 3:20 – We are citizens of Heaven

First and foremost we are citizens of heaven. That is our home and where we will spend our eternity. We live and will live eternally under the government of the one and only righteous King of Heaven. His law is final and just. I think we are probably all on the same page here so let’s proceed to the next passage.

II Cor. 5:20 – We are ambassadors of Christ

An ambassador is someone who lives in one country while being a citizen of another country. Since we are first and foremost citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, yet we live here, we are His ambassadors. We are His representatives here. Everything we do and say should be as a representative of His Kingdom. This is one of the reasons we are called to holiness, because it represents to the world who Christ is and what His Kingdom is like. Just like a human ambassador does his or her best to live and work appropriately in the country he or she is an ambassador to, we should also in all ways do our best to be godly ambassadors to earth in general and the United States specifically. The unique aspect here is that we are also citizens of the US, so we are ambassadors from our eternal citizenship to the country of our temporary place of citizenship. Again, I think at this point we are, most of us, in agreement. The next two parts of the equation are where it can get sticky, but I believe together they bring us to a very workable plan for living as citizens of both the Kingdom of Heaven and the US.

Romans 13:1 – We are to obey the government

Here is the full context of this passage as I feel it is warranted:

Romans 13:1-8 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

So let’s create a checklist of the key applicable points of this passage:

Be subject to the governing authorities.

There is no authority except that which God has established.

Whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.

It is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue.

Since this is the bible and the bible is the authority for the Christian life, we must take this seriously. I think most Christians do. But the question that gets even the most devout among us is when and if we can disobey. What if we don’t like a law? What if we disagree with the law? What if we consider the law unjust? What if we believe it is immoral? All good questions. It is the last scripture that I think ties it all together and gives us the answers we are looking for.

Acts 4:19 – We disobey government only when they command ungodly actions

Here is the context of Peter’s proclamation. Peter and John had been preaching the gospel and the rulers, the Sanhedrin didn’t like it. So they told the Peter and John that they were to refrain from preaching about Jesus.

This is where the problems arise.

Essentially Peter and John made this case:

God told us to preach the gospel.
You told us not to.
God’s law trumps man’s law.
We are going to continue to preach the gospel.

In this case it is clear but sometimes maybe not. The conclusion, however, seems to be that when putting all of the above verses/passages together, we come to the conclusion that we are to obey government in all laws, even if we don’t like them, unless they go against God’s law.

For example, in China and other countries, there is forced abortion. The Christian should rebel because it breaks God’s law to kill life.

At the other end of the spectrum would be something simple like speed limits. You may not like it that the speed limit is 55 instead of 70, but it is not immoral or against God’s clearly outlined law, so we are called to obey. My friend asked me last week why God would have us obey even laws we consider stupid. My answer is that ultimately if there was the right to rebel against any law, and not just the ones that go against God, then we would have anarchy. God is a God of order and societal laws create order and structure.

Now here is where things can get tricky. Let’s take mask mandates for example.

On the surface, there is nothing immoral or against God’s law as it relates to wearing an article of clothing. If the government mandates that we all wear green jumpsuits, we may find it ridiculous, but it wouldn’t be against God’s law. What about masks, then? Well, I think the argument that could be made to justify civil disobedience would be the health aspect of it. God created healthy bodies, wants us healthy, gave us an immune system etc. God is for health. If masks make us unhealthy, then that is a law against God’s natural law and thus could be disobeyed.

Now, here is what you must also consider. While you have every right in God’s eyes to disobey, you still live here in the US and you may have to suffer punishment for obeying God rather than man, just like Jesus did. If they say that you can’t travel on a plane without a mask, then you may have to drive if you refuse to wear one. Thankfully they aren’t at the place yet where they are arresting people en masse for not wearing masks.

In 1996 I had the blessing of meeting with Pastor Samuel Lamb in Guangzhou, China. He was 71 years old at the time and had spent over twenty years in prison over the course of his lifetime. Every time the government decided he was getting too influential they arrested him and gave him more prison time. Every time he was released his church had grown. As he told me, eventually they stopped arresting him. Eventually his church was 3-4000 people strong. His memorial had something like 30,000 people at it. The greater lesson I learned from Pastor Lamb was that he accepted the punishment for disobeying. He didn’t scream and yell about his punishment. In fact, he told me an incredible story. When Christians were arrested and sent to prison camps they often had to stand all day in troughs filled with human waste. I asked him what they did to get through. “We sang hymns,” he said. I asked him what hymn they sang the most. Without missing a beat he replied, “In the Garden.”

In case you forgot, here are the words to that beautiful hymn:

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

Refrain:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

Wow. Standing in human waste, he and the other Christians sang that song. It made their punishment feel a little bit like Heaven.

He knew what God wanted. He knew what the Chinese government wanted. He chose to obey God and accepted the punishment of the Chinese government because he knew that God would get him through it and bring it to an even greater end. Perhaps this should be our attitude in Christ, yes?

So where does that leave us?

We are dual-citizens. Heaven and the US.
We are called to obey both.
When the US laws are in conflict with the laws of Heaven, we obey the laws of Heaven.
This may lead us to trouble and even punishment from the US (or state or locality) government.
If that is the case, we are to continue to rejoice in God and His ways.

What would happen if we lived under these simple rules? I believe it provides exactly the playbook we need for deciding how we should engage in questions of obedience to government.

What do you think? Comment in the comment section!

About Chuck Colson:

Those familiar with Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentaries on faith and society might not recognize the work as being that of an ex-con. But then again, Colson is no typical ex-con.

From 1969-1973, Colson acted as then-President Nixon’s special counsel. In an administration already known for its tough guys, Colson was the toughest. He was known as the White House “hatchet man,” and the media once referred to him as “incapable of humanitarian thought.”

Then Colson found himself caught up in the Watergate scandal. He had helped to organize the illegal wiretapping of Democratic headquarters, and in 1973 Colson realized he was in big trouble. After some hesitation, Colson took a friend’s counsel and turned to God in his moment of distress. He found something in Christianity that changed his life. Of course, outsiders had a hard time believing that the “hatchet man’s” faith was genuine. When news of Colson’s conversion to Christianity reached the press, the Boston Globe wrily commented, “If Mr. Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everybody.”

Colson entered Alabama’s Maxwell Prison in 1974 as a new Christian, and gained the vision there that led him to found Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976 after his release. While an inmate, he promised his fellow prisoners that he would “never forget those behind bars.” He fulfilled his promise by investing the royalties from his book Born Again to begin Prison Fellowship.

Today there is no larger outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families in the world than Prison Fellowship Ministries. The Christian nonprofit has more than 50,000 prison ministry volunteers in 88 nations. Its programs range from various programs for prisoners and ex-prisoners; to Justice Fellowship, aimed at reforming the criminal justice system; to Angel Tree, which annually provides more than 500,000 children of inmates with Christmas presents on behalf of their incarcerated parents. In 1991, Colson also launched a daily radio commentary called “BreakPoint,” which aims to provide a Christian worldview on everyday issues. BreakPoint, which is aired daily on over 1000 radio outlets nationwide, is a Silver partner of Townhall.com.

Colson has received many awards in recognition of his contributions to society. These awards include the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion (1993), Dominos Pizza Corporation’s Humanitarian Award (1991), The Salvation Army’s Others Award (1990), and several honorary doctorates from various colleges and universities. Colson donated the $1 million Templeton Prize to Prison Fellowship, and he consistently gives all of his speaking honoraria and book royalties to the organization as well.

Today, the efforts of Nixon’s former hatchet man have made a huge dent in the lives of countless prisoners and prisoners’ children, and have even influenced federal criminal justice legislation. President Bush referred often to Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative Program when calling for support for faith-based initiatives. The prolific conservative has also published 38 books which have captured the hearts of millions of Americans over the last 25 years.

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Chris is the President of the American Freedom Tour, one of the World's Top 50 Speakers and a member of the Motivational Speakers Hall of Fame. He considers it a privilege to be able to speak to people, help them lead successful lives, become extraordinary leaders and, masterful salespeople. Chris has authored twenty books with three million copies in print in 14 languages and over 450 articles on success, leadership, sales and motivation.



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Faith

From Mental Illness and a Cult to Christian Ministry and Political Office

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A young man turned his life around after getting involved in a cult and suffering from schizophrenia, and now later in life is a leader in Christian ministry and running for Phoenix City Council. Nick Griemsmann has gone through a lot, but through the grace of God he was able to turn his life around and now helps others. He recently wrote an autobiography called Becoming God’s Friend

Griemsmann wasn’t raised as a Christian, and having trauma as a young boy no doubt set in motion some bad things. He developed addictions and dropped out of high school. He found a job working as a bartender at Barcelona’s, a nightclub in Scottsdale, Arizona, but realized after a while that the party lifestyle was unfulfilling.

But he then went to the other extreme, deciding to become a monk. His attempt failed, as he ended up walking around hot and thirsty in the New Mexico desert, never making it to the monastery. The onset of schizophrenia was starting. 

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However, he still yearned in his heart for God. When he was 22, he found a flyer on his car from Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. It said they provide a place for people to stay, which sold him. He called and spoke to a woman there on the phone, who prayed for him during their conversation. He could feel something changing inside of him that was supernatural. However, they wanted him to move to Arkansas, and his parents warned him that it was a cult. 

He moved anyway and it was the beginning of a deep, dark experience. He was taught that if he ever left that ministry, it would blasphemy the Holy Spirit, which can never be forgiven, and he would go to hell. They said his family and friends were “of the devil” and instructed him to cut them off. 

Alamo claimed he was one of the final two witnesses written about in the book of Revelation. His teachings were so disturbing, frequently focused on hell, that Griemsmann would see people shaking while listening to his messages. Cult members were required to attend church every night. Griemsmann started having spiritual hallucinations, likely brought on by a lack of sleep from the rigorous work schedule, which consisted substantially of long hours placing flyers on cars. 

He eventually tried to leave the cult, and voices in his head told him to loudly pray at the airport, which he did until the police took him to a mental hospital. Another time the voices told him to take his clothes off in public if he wasn’t ashamed of Jesus, which he did. During this time, a psychiatrist told him that he would be catatonic in 10 years and had no hope for recovery. 

Finally, God intervened in his life, and he was able to leave the cult for good and seek treatment. He became involved with several regular churches in Phoenix, and eventually felt a spiritual force leave him. With the help of his family and supporters, he weaned off all medication for schizophrenia in 2007 despite the fact that he was told that it was incurable. He found a job helping others with the exact type of mental health problems he’d gone through. As for Alamo, he was eventually prosecuted for the sexual exploitation of women and girls and died in federal prison.

Griemsmann started a ministry called The Father’s Friends. He wrote a book called Defeating Mental Illness about his journey, which did well and he was invited on large Christian TV shows to talk about it. 

He learned that “letting go of carrying the burdens of others is vital to one’s own emotional well being.” He also discovered that “Individuals do not end up with a big issue like schizophrenia randomly. It usually has been built inside the person over time through continued lies, trauma, substance abuse, etc.”

His interesting journey continued, taking a trip to Juarez, Mexico, with others and discovering through prayer that some people experienced the miracles of healing. He became an assistant pastor in Phoenix. He started livestreaming street evangelism in Harlem, New York and Europe.

Later on, he traveled to remote villages in Pakistan, where his team prayed to heal people miraculously. He did big events ministering in Kenya, where he continued to preach the Gospel and pray for sick people. Some reported healings of what he used to have, schizophrenia. 

Griemsmann talks about the negative aspects of life that he’s had to learn to deal with and overcome as “Misters.” For example, Mr. Condemnation keeps a person stuck in negative mindsets and emotions, inside a spiritual prison. He makes you feel like you are never good enough for God or anyone. Others include Mr. Discouragement, Mr. Self-Righteous, Mr. Fear, Mr. Anxiety, Mr. Lust, Mr. Addiction, Mr. Mental Illness, Mr. Rejection and Mr. Anger.

What worked for him was not focusing on the bad, like making a list of all your sins. Instead, he focuses on spiritual freedom, and teaches others to look for the good, since the fruits of the Spirit are positive attributes; love, joy, peace, kindness, etc.

Griemsmann’s journey has now taken him into politics, taking on incumbent Democrat Phoenix City Councilman Carlos Garcia in District 8. Although the district leans heavily Democrat, it’s a nonpartisan race and Garcia has a hostile relationship with Phoenix Police. When Garcia was pulled over by the police for driving a car with suspended license plates, he tried to intimidate the police by pulling rank. Political consultant Stan Barnes told KNXV that “the councilman is anti-police officer, and he’s playing it out in real time for all of us to see.”

Griemsmann wants to represent everyone, and says, “I am a supporter of the Phoenix police.” Due to his background with not only overcoming schizophrenia and his vast ministry experience, but also his past career as an administrator in behavioral healthcare, he can be a real champion for solving homelessness, community safety, healthcare, education, and helping the incarcerated transition back into society.   

 

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Education

When America Loses THIS, It Loses Everything

We are in a battle for the soul of our country. And that battle is over truth.

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We are in a battle for the soul of our country. And that battle is over truth. Truth must be the foundation of everything that we believe, honor, value, and esteem. If we don’t know what truth is, how can we stand for America? The left is at war with the truth and tries to reposition what it is that we believe to be true so that they can change society. We must stand for truth. PolitiCrosssing founder Chris Widener expands on the need to fight for truth in the short video below.

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