Friday, November 30, 2012

ASPIRING Christians

K2, Pakistan - 2nd Highest peak in the world
I have been working my way through Richard Alleine's (1611 - 1691) The World Conquered by the Faithful Christian.  I'm a little over half way through the 160 or so pages that make up this brief work.

He's a very quotable and thought-provoking author.  I find myself frequently underlining, circling and arrowing his remarks.  I like books like this.  If you are looking for something from the Puritan era, and have not read it - put it on your short list.  Anyway, this morning I read this:

"Oh, be aspiring Christians!  Look up to the highest and do not be content to take up with low attainments.  Follow on to know, to serve, to imitate the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!"


What struck me was his use of the word "aspiring."  Typically we think of someone as "aspiring" when they are working toward something...but have not yet arrived.  An aspiring artist, musician, doctor or even (if you are so unfortunate) pharmacist.  Aspiring means you have a dream, a goal and hopefully a plan.  Aspiring is typically a lofty and long-range vision for something you hope to be.  We don't aspire to get the grocery shopping done.  We just do that.  But we might aspire to be a respected chef, restaurant owner or renowned connoisseur of French cuisine. 

But when Alleine uses the term "aspiring Christian" I don't think he intends to suggest we become something we are not.  Rather, he appears to be saying be MORE than what you are.  Yes - you are Christian - but be MORE so.  Yes - you have faith - now have MORE faith.  Yes, you have Christ - but now have Him even MORE.  Be aspiring Christians.  Aspire to rise up beyond the level of your current exercise of the Christian faith.

Am I doing good for others?  Do more.  That is the goal of the aspiring Christian I think.

Am I reading and studying the Bible?   Read more.  Learn more.  Compare Scripture to Scripture.  Look for the truth.  Get commentaries and helps and advisers.

Am I serving my church?  Serve more.  Aspire to use all the talents and gifts God has given me to bless those around me.

Am I praying?  Pray more.  Pray fervently, passionately and continually. 

Am I resisting temptation?  Resist more.  Whatever that sin is that I am allowing to linger in my life - put it to death - aim for its destruction.  Stop excusing worldliness. 

And so, today, I hope to be an aspiring Christian. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Leadership and Light

"Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night."
Genesis 1:16a
Courtesy of

As I thought about this verse the other morning, an unexpected application occurred to me.  I suppose the thought arose because this text uses the word "rule" to denote the activity of the sun and moon.  Other translations use the same sort of personification, translating the word "rule" with "govern."

Ruling.  Governing.  These are positions of authority and privilege.  These are offices to which some are called upon and expected to function in for the good of others.  Those entrusted with the responsibility to rule and govern are expected to be great leaders, men & women of vision and benevolence, outstanding examples of public service. 

But here in this text the Lord assigns one particular - and maybe often overlooked - responsibility to those who rule:  Shed Light.  The sun and the moon fulfill their office by shedding light upon men.  The greater ruler sheds more light.  The lesser ruler sheds less light.  But either way, their special calling is to make things visible and clear. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Letter to President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President, 

I am writing to congratulate you and your party on your victory.  The American people have given you both the privilege and responsibility of another 4 years as our Commander in Chief.  This letter comes to you with the promise of my prayers – both for you and for our Nation.  I am a Republican.  I have never voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate, and I did not vote for you.  The fact, however, that my party did not win the Presidential race shall not discourage me from working and serving my fellow citizens – seeking their good and the good of my community.  If anything, it impresses upon my heart to be even more active, Lord willing, in promoting those things which I believe will lead to greater freedom and prosperity in our land. 

Mr. President, I am a conservative Christian, a husband and the father of 4 children whom I love.  I am a pharmacist.  My wife is a stay-at-home mom who homeschools our younger two.  We are actively involved in our local church.    I am not, I suppose, the type of voter your party is very fond of.  However, I am writing today to share with you the things which you could do to secure from even a voter such as myself, an acknowledgment of respect and support for your efforts.  These are the things I will be watching.  These are the issues, from my perspective, most deeply affecting our Nation and her prosperity and blessing.  Progress in these areas will turn our country around for good, and lead us away from the moral, spiritual and economic collapse that seems otherwise unavoidable.

1.      Please labor to make Abortion less frequent.  If you cannot support making abortion illegal, at least make every effort to reduce its frequency.  Do this, Mr. President, not simply by making contraceptives more accessible.  This has not helped.  We need more self-control not more birth control.  Reduce the frequency of abortion by promoting the importance of Godly families in our nation.  Do this especially, and boldly, amongst those with whom abortion is most frequent.  Promote adoption options as an alternative to abortion.  We must find a way to offer kind assistance to those who have made poor choices, while at the same time not applauding or encouraging those sorts of choices.  I pray that the deafening silence of the murdered unborn would ring every day in your ears.  Let us not be silent in our response.  Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all those who are appointed to die (Job 31:8).”

2.      Please labor to reduce our National Debt.  We must begin to make significant efforts to pay back what we owe, and slow down the spending of money we do not have.  There is no way to accomplish this without a radical change in the way we currently operate.  Federal government programs not essential to the safety of our nation must be dramatically reduced.  When government employees earn perks and benefits that the private sector can hardly ever afford to give, we are asking for problems.  When public schools feel the need to build virtual cathedrals rather than simple classrooms - things are out of control.  We need to change.  Every individual citizen of our nation must contribute financially to this challenge – either through a decrease in government support or a contribution to our government’s debt problem.  No one segment of our country can single-handedly fix this situation.  It is endemic.  If our tax code unethically allows the wealthy to pay a lower effective tax than the middle class, then it needs to be fixed.  But we also need to ensure that every American is contributing financially to our future.  The issue is not primarily how much they can contribute.  We must all do something.  The American people will not willingly tighten their belts only to have the government loosen its own.  Romney’s comment about the 47% may have hurt him.  But the fact is that if we don’t all have our skin in the game, then many will simply not care what happens.  This is not the pathway to greatness.  The steep slope of mounting debt is the fastest route into slavery as a nation.   “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives (Psalm 37:21).” 

3)  Please labor to reduce the culture of government dependency.  Work to encourage principles and policies and values that will move people toward independence.  As a parent my goal is to raise children who began by being entirely dependent upon me and end up as adults who stand on their own.  The same is true for a nation.  While offering real help to those who cannot work, we must not encourage those who simply will not work.  As someone who has worked with the public for most of his life, I am sad to inform you that the mindset of dependency is rampant.  Government handouts are expected.  Those working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet are often doing much worse financially than the person who sits home and does nothing.  Is this right?  These things ought not to be.  “If a man does not work, neither should he eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).”  Help our nation get working again by making it easier for businesses to start up and hire people.  Create strong incentives for U.S. companies and U.S. jobs.  Promote industries that will reduce our energy-dependence on other nations, while providing honest work to citizens of our own country. 

Mr. President – I commend you to the Lord with the promise of my prayers.  I pray that you will have the courage to do what is right, and not necessarily the thing that makes you popular.  Remember, “…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  May such wisdom be yours, and may you remember that to whom much is given, much will be required.  We, the citizens of this country, will be watching from below, but the Lord will be watching from above.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Jason Poquette

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) on "Presidential" Qualities

Okay.  Jonathan Edwards didn't actually write specifically about U.S. Presidents.  He was about 30 years old when George Washington was born, and would himself die about 30 years before Washington would begin serving as our first President.

However, he did preach once on the qualities of good rulers.

The sermon was entitled "God's Awful Judgment in the Breaking and Withering of the Strong Rods of a Community."

The text was Ezekiel 19:12 "Her strong rods were broken and withered." 

By "strong rods" is meant Good Rulers.  And the occasion of this sermon was the funeral of the Honorable John Stoddard (died 1748), member of the Majesty's council, chief justice of the court of Common Pleas, judge and chief colonel of the regiment.  A well respected leader.

In the sermon, and based upon Scripture, Jonathan Edwards outlined 5 qualities which make a ruler a  "strong rod." 

Here they are - somewhat abridged.  You can find them in full-length in Volume 2 of his Works, p. 36-37 (or ONLINE). 

1)  First, one qualification of rulers whence they may properly be denominated strong rods, is a great ability for the management of public affairs.  This is the case, when they who stand in a place of public authority are men of great natural abilities, men of uncommon strength of reason and largeness of understanding; especially when they have a remarkable genius for government, a peculiar turn of mind fitting them to gain an extraordinary understanding in things of that nature.  They have acquired great skill in public affairs, and things requisite to be known in order to their wise, prudent, and effectual management.

2)  Second, when they have not only great understanding, but largeness of heart, and a greatness and nobleness of disposition, this is another qualification that belongs to the character of a “strong rod.”  It greatly establishes his authority, and causes others to stand in awe of him, when they see him to be a man of greatness of mind, one that abhors those things that are mean and sordid, and not capable of a compliance with them: one that is of a public spirit, and not of a private narrow disposition; a man of honor, and not of mean artifice and clandestine management, for filthy lucre; one that abhors trifling and impertinence, or to waste away his time, that should be spent in the service of God, his king, and his country, in vain amusements and diversions, and in the pursuit of the gratifications of sensual appetites.

3) Third, when those that are in authority are endowed with much of a spirit of government, this is another thing that entitles them to the denomination of “strong rods.”  They not only are men of great understanding and wisdom in affairs that appertain to government, but have also a peculiar talent at using their knowledge, and exerting themselves in this great and important business, according to their great understanding in it. They are men of eminent fortitude, are not afraid of the faces of men, and are not afraid to do the part that properly belongs to them as rulers, though they meet with great opposition, and the spirits of men are greatly irritated by it.

4)  Fourth, stability and firmness of integrity, fidelity, and piety, in the exercise of authority, is another thing that greatly contributes to, and is very essential in, the character of a “strong rod.”   He is not only a man of strong reason and great discerning to know what is just, but is a man of strict integrity and righteousness, firm and immovable in the execution of justice and judgment.

5)  Fifth, and lastly, it also contributes to that strength of a man in authority by which he may be denominated a “strong rod,” when he is in such circumstances as give him advantage for the exercise of his strength for the public good; as his being a person of honorable descent, of a distinguished education, a man of estate, one advanced in years, one that has long been in authority, so that it is become as it were natural for the people to pay him deference, to reverence him, to be influenced and governed by him, and to submit to his authority.


1)  Great Ability to Manage Public Affairs
2)  Largeness of Heart - a Great and Nobel Disposition
3)  A Spirit of Government - Talent to Use Knowledge, Not Afraid of Men
4)  Integrity, Fidelity & Piety
5)  Possesses the Needed Circumstances for Ruling and the Respect of Others

These are the things Edwards' says constitute "Strong Rods" in the role of government.

May the Lord raise up such individuals in our day.