Is Freedom of Religion a Biblical Right?

Some advice for Christians…

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Under the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act, Canadians have the freedom to practice religion. Specifically, if access to employment, services, or benefits is ever disallowed (based on religious belief), it would be considered discrimination.

Freedom of Religion Biblical Right

So that means that believers have the RIGHT to practice religion, right?

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Trump or Clinton?

How does a Christian navigate the 2016 US election?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

At this point, I would think many Americans have their minds made up.  In fact, over 24 million Americans have already voted.1  There are “Christian” reasons to vote for either of these candidates. The question remains: who has God chosen to lead America and how will the world react?

trump-clinton

“Christian” Politics

I recently saw a diagram outlining the American characteristics of the left versus right politics.2

leftright_us_1416-1When you start describing the “Christian” view, it’s difficult to stay on one side or the other.  Here are some examples:

  • Christians should be inclusive, and yet protective of established morals.
  • Christians should be loving and build relationships of respect and trust, and yet tough love is often required to build discipline and a strong character.
  • Christians should help those in need to encourage unity and equality, and yet make the most of every opportunity and be great stewards of our resources.
  • Christians should pursue peace, and yet protect those who cannot defend themselves.

The problem in 2016 is that neither of the candidates fit perfectly into the ideal left or right, and neither are “Christian.” Clinton has proven to be untrustworthy, or even unethical at times, and Trump’s tactics are aggressively non-conservative.

My point is this – voting “Christian” is not an option.  American Christians need prayer so they can choose the leader God has already chosen. #Election2016 Click To TweetThe choice is between Clinton, who has few Christian morals but has some Christian polices, and Trump, who holds true to most Christian morals, but has few Christian polices. American Christians need prayer so they can choose the leader God has already chosen (Acts 1:24), not the “Christian” leader, because that’s not an option.

In God we trust…

As the Pledge of Allegiance and the US currency clearly states, the American people put their trust in God.  While many now don’t truly believe this, Christians certainly should because scripture tells us to do so. In the case of political leaders, we know God is completely in control!  Paul wrote:

“…there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1, NIV)

No matter the final outcome on November 8, God is completely in control and there is no need to fear.  American Christians need prayer so they can trust God, and not fear the outcome.

The Canadian Christian Reaction

I’ve watched the Canadian reaction during this election at a bit of a distance.  As a Canadian, I really don’t have much to say, other than pray for fellow believers as they try to navigate through the muddy waters.  If you’re Canadian, this is my advice:

  1. Pray – honestly and earnestly pray for American Christians as they go to the polls to vote. Pray that they hear God’s voice and vote accordingly.  Pray that they don’t fear the outcome, but put their trust in God’s direction. American Christians need prayer so they can trust God, and not fear the outcome. #Election2016 Click To Tweet
  2. Don’t advocate – you’re Canadian, not American. I wouldn’t expect Americans to understand Canadian politics either.  All I know is that the election is far from ideal and both candidates have pros and cons.  As Canadian Christians, should we be advocating one way or other? Probably not.
  3. Publicly state your support – as fellow believers, let American Christians know you support them. Let them know you’re praying for them and the results of the election.  If there’s one good thing about social media – it’s your platform to bring encouragement internationally.
  4. Pray for our government – Trudeau and his government will have to work closely with whoever is elected. Pray for wisdom, so that our leaders don’t lead out of fear.

Your turn…

Are you praying? How do you think Canadians should react to the election?

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]

Taxes: Step Up and Help Those In Need

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Not sure where you may be reading this, but in my home province of Newfoundland, Canada, we are experiencing an unprecedented provincial budget full of new taxes.

taxes

The provincial debt has ballooned.

Taxes and fees have increased.

Services are continually being cut.

All economic classes are affected.

Tax-payers are backed into the corner of repayment.

Those seem to be the facts.  After that, everyone seems to bring their particular set of circumstances to the forefront.  No matter how difficult it may be, however, I’m constantly asking the question: as a follower of Jesus, how do I respond responsibly and effectively?

Christians have a responsibly to act humbly and selflessly, while respectfully making a difference.

Paying tax isn’t a new issue; neither are the problems and potential economic pain that can follow.  Yes, we see it in modern history.  But there are biblical examples as well.

The Jewish temple tax…

Long before Jesus’ ministry, the Jews were paying taxes to pay for their way of life, buildings, walls, and other projects.  Gifts were often used, but the regular form of income was the “annual half-shekel tax” paid by all adult Jews.1 This “temple tax” was a long-time observance and continued into Jesus’ ministry (Nehemiah 10:32-33; Matthew 17:24-27).

Paying taxes to Rome…

In Jesus’ day, the Romans had economic control over the Jews.  In terms of tax rates, there was very little difference between today and that of the first century Palestine.  The problem was that what Rome instated and what was collected was dramatically different.

Publicans (“tax collectors”) paid Rome the instated amount and in turn collected the tax from the taxpayer and pocketed the extra.  Ultimately the weight of the expenses fell on the poor.2

Jesus’ response to paying taxes…

One of the Roman taxes was known as a “Roman tribute,” which was one denarius (about a day’s wage).3  4

In order to trap Jesus they asked him whether or not it was lawful to pay tribute.  As many have noted, Jesus was between a rock and hard place.  If he said, “yes,” then the tax-payers would hear his support of the Romans.  If he said, “no,” then the Romans would charge him.  This was his response:

24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. (Luke 20:24-26, ESV)

Knowing the two “tax systems” (Temple and Roman), this starts to make sense. Jesus wasn’t about to deny the system the Romans had put in place and he certainly wasn’t about to deny what God asks of his followers.  However, there was a problem with their focus.

The people were more concerned over the secular than that of the sacred.  Jesus’ main point, as he already stated in the gospel, “you can’t serve two masters…you can’t serve God and money.” (Luke 16:13)5  While they were trying to trap Jesus, Jesus was trying to show them their true responsibility.

Christians paying taxes today…

For the most part, when I’m in the middle of “Christian conversations” regarding taxes, I hear comments of how “it affects me.” I believe we, and I’m including myself, need to re-evaluate how we view our position on the economic scale.  We very seldom think we’re in a position of wealth – there’s always someone richer. Christianity is all about selflessness and helping the poor.  It’s the message of the gospel and one of the main purposes of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 4:18).

Jesus simply stated, “Give back to Caesar what is already Caesar’s.”  The political system was created by them, so give it back to them.  After all, we are called to support and submit to governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7). But Jesus didn’t stop there.  He also simply stated, “Give to God the things that are God’s.”  We are also called to support and submit ourselves to the ministry of those around us (Acts 4:32-37).

The question isn’t if we pay tax or become upset with the amount we have to pay. That’s a given. The question is are we focused on the message of the gospel or worried about the state of our chequing account?

That’s where our re-evaluation needs to come into play.

What’s the real impact and how do we respond?

When taxes increase and services decrease, everyone is impacted in some way.  Everyone will have less money in their pockets and fewer services at their disposal.  But we need to ask: Am I in economic trouble or do I simply have to cut back spending?

There’s a difference, and a different response for both.

For some, the increased taxes will mean further economic trouble.  Just as the poor took the weight in the New Testament, the same is very possible today.  If I find myself needing financial help, I should have the confidence that God will work through fellow believers to provide the help that I need.

For others, that means finding ways to cut spending in other areas in order to fulfill our responsibility as believers.  Perhaps it means helping someone with an expense, offering a free service (ie. childcare), or sending respectful correspondence to your leaders in an effort to help the marginalized.  If we limit our help to things like complaining on social media, then we have already lost our impact.

In either case, we need to be honest, remain faithful with the resources we have, stand up for those who are truly impacted, and bring relief to those who need it.

Economic despair is no match for the hope of the gospel!

Economic despair is no match for the hope of the #gospel! #nlbudget2016 #taxes Click To Tweet

Let’s be the Church – pay our taxes and help those in need!

Your turn…

  1. Are you in a place of economic trouble or in a place of cutting back spending?
  2. Are you TRUSTING in God’s provision; how is God calling you to HELP?

References   [ + ]

“Christian” Government?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Canadians have decided – Canada will have a liberal majority government led by Justin Trudeau.

government

I’m a Christian, so you may think I would be upset because the “Christian” progressive conservatives are no longer in power.  The reality is, “Christian” politics don’t really exist.  It can’t exist.  The Canadian government is required to lead Canada, and Canada proudly celebrates diversity and thus everyone is not Christian.  In a democratic society with religious freedom, religion can’t define a government.  Instead, the government must be defined and measured by how policy allows for religious freedom.

Here’s my message to Christians who may be upset with a changing government: you serve a God who is in complete control, and His Word tells you to respect the government in power while continuing to serve Him.

God is in control and God instituted the governing authorities.

While I pay attention to the political story and vote accordingly, the party who receives the most votes is completely in God’s hands.  I have to trust that.  The reality of the policy changes that may occur (for, or against my faith-based views), will happen for God’s purposes.  Whether I understand that or not, I have to trust God is in control.

“For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”i

God expects us to respect the governing authorities.

If God has ordained the governing authorities, than we must respect God’s authority by respecting those He has ordained.  Anything less than that would be going against what God has put in place.

“…whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”ii

We may never fully understand why certain people are elected and others are not, or why certain policies are created, enacted or reversed.  The point is, God has planned this and it’s not the Christian’s job to simply resist such leadership.

“…one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.”iii

We live in a free country.  As Christians, our job is to be faithful to the calling on our lives, not create fights with a government who doesn’t hold scripture as their authority.  Their definitions, view points and understandings aren’t necessarily based on scripture – they’re based on general acceptance, and let’s face it – general acceptance means more votes.  In our faithful journey, we must respect the leaders God has placed in our lives, and give…

“…taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”iv

So, what happens if policy stops me from being faithful to God?

Be a Daniel – Remain faithful to God, and God will remain faithful.

God is always faithful to those who are faithful to Him.  What I’ve noticed, however, is that many Christians get upset over potential faith-based issues before becoming truly faithful to God.  When there are no arising issues, attention moves away from remaining faithful and towards being comfortable.  God is calling a generation to be faithful to Him at all times.  If I had to breakdown the Daniel story into three main points, this is what I would say:

  1. Daniel was faithful BEFORE it was illegal to do so.

Daniel was faithful from the beginning – before trouble came his way.  Everything from remaining clean and observing Jewish food lawsv to praying three times a day.vi  He didn’t wait for policy to change – he was faithful from the beginning.

  1. Daniel respected the governing authorities.

Daniel was faithful to his king.vii  Even after God was faithful in sparing his life in the lions’ den, Daniel’s response was clear:

“O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”viii

  1. God was faithful when Daniel stood strong.

Daniel respectively stood firm on his devotion to God when he was faced with policy changes.  He respectively declined unclean food and chose to live off of vegetables to do so.  God was faithful, as Daniel’s appearance was not only healthy, but stronger than those who did eat the king’s unclean food.ix  Daniel also experienced God’s faithfulness when he was tossed in the lion’s den for praying to God.  God’s faithfulness was evident in his life.

No matter how we may view the governing authorities, we must remember that God is in complete control, He expects us to respect those in authority, and remain faithful as we serve Him.  We will never fully agree with every policy.  Some policies will be more “Christian” than others; however, at the end of the day, our goal should be to simply be faithful to God and trust who he places in government.  The days ahead are not glum; the days ahead are bright.  The question is: will you be a Daniel and be an effective instrument for God?


i Romans 13:1.
ii Romans 13:2.
iii Romans 13:5.
iv Romans 13:6.
v Daniel 1:8, 12.
vi Daniel 6:10.
vii Daniel 6:4-5.
viii Daniel 6:21-22.
ix Daniel 1:12-16.