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Why bother coming to a political rally?

A friend asked about the effectiveness of political rallies and why we should spend our time going to them. This was specifically addressing a rally in Austin, TX on Feb. 25, 2017 for the total abolition of abortion. The following was my answer. It was later published by Abolish Abortion Texas. The principles apply to other issues as well.


For those that are not politically involved, the question of why going through the trouble of loading up your family, sometime very large families, and driving several hundred miles to attend a political rally is a legitimate one. There are several reasons why a rally can be an effective tool to positively influence your culture. This, of course, assumes a) the rally is properly run and b) the cause you believe in is, in fact, positive. While the list could be much longer here are a few reasons why it worth the effort, if those two criteria are met.

texas-capitol-rally-imageFirst, a rally is a visible sign of the support for any issue or bill. Any issue can be widely supported, but if there are no visible signs of that support it becomes much easier to deny that such support exists. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” comes to mind. Phone calls are great, but an image leaves an impression. This truth is applied both in the positive and negative. If we claim there is wide support for an issue, and a large crowd shows up for a rally it confirms the claim. It also confirms credibility to the one making the claim. If on the other hand, we claim the support is wide, but only a few dozen people can be bothered with showing their support, the image of a few lone rangers will also be a lasting one. It then becomes much harder to be believed when making such a claim in the future. This brings us to my next reason and general rule for understanding politicians.

Modern politicians are much better at counting than reading. The details of a bill matter far less than the voting public’s support for it. If there is one thing politicians love, it is staying a politician. This means the greatest fear for most of them is a group of angry, in-district voters. Nothing communicates an angry group like images of an angry mob demanding action. The thoughts of this angry mob coming from their district is enough to keep them up at night. An important point to remember is that we need be angry and not sin (Eph 4:26). Our anger should be directed to the evil that is being allowed.

Another principle of winning at politics is controlling the public conversation. A successful rally should draw media attention. What they say about us is less relevant than that they mention us. An insignificant rally will be easy to ignore. A large, diverse group all coming together for the sake of a cause is a story. A successful rally doesn’t guarantee media coverage, but an unsuccessful one guarantees the media won’t cover it. If people aren’t talking about our issue, we aren’t winning.

Read the rest of the article here

 

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The Light from Asia

While most Americans have their political thoughts focused on the Presidential campaigns, or are trying to forget them by pretending to care about sports they otherwise didn’t know existed before the Olympics, something very big happened over thAhoke weekend. Some 10,000 miles away in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, a Christian church held a conference on politics.  The Christian Faith, Democracy and Prosperous Nation conference was significant for multiple reasons, but the biggest was one of the guest speakers they hosted and the speech that he gave.  Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, affectionately known as Ahok, is the Governor of Jakarta.  What makes Ahok unique is that he is the first ever Christian governor serving in Indonesia.  While there is a lot of background information that is fascinating in how he reached this position, the short version is: God has had favor on him. God has clearly honored the 20+ years of fasting and prayer that the Christian church in Indonesia has been dedicated to.  Not only is Ahok bold in his testimony, but he has proven to govern Jakarta with the wisdom and integrity that prove his faith is what guides him in governing.  He has earned a reputation for being unrelenting in fighting corruption and practical when dealing with the problems facing Jakarta.  I share this as both an encouragement and admonition.  May we rejoice and pray for our brothers in Asia.  May we be prepared for decades of fasting while being ruled by wicked. Below is an excerpt of his speech from an attendee of the event.

Speech given by Ahok:

In being in politics, my Reformed Christian faith is what influenced me. At first I did not know who Calvin was, I only knew about Pastor Stephen Tong. When I was serving as a Representative in the House Parliament in Belitung, I had plenty of opportunity to watch Stephen Tong’s sermons. I also participated in a seminar by him, there, Pastor Tong always said, “After you complete this seminar, you must all return to your own church, ok?”_ I am also not a member of the GRII church.

I read a book by Calvin in 2009, and I compared Calvin’s teachings to Pastor Tong’s, to see if pastor Tong is making stuff up or not. According to Calvin it is most difficult to serve as a public official (civil magistrate), because they are supposed to be a model in the public eye.

Initially, in my heart I did not feel encouraged to go into politics because I am a Chinese descendant in a large Chinese church that the congregation do not like and do not want to be involved in politics.

There is one Bible verse that I hold in governing:

Proverbs 29:4  (NKJV) “The king establishes the land by justice,
But he who receives bribes overthrows it.”

As a human being, I can falter, and that is why I need God at my side.

In the past, I was offered to be Governor of Babylon by way of bribes, but then my wife said “It’s up to you, do you want to be a disciple of Jesus or a disciple of Barabas?”
At the end, I did not become governor of Babylon, but I did become the Governor of Jakarta.

In 2012, actually, I wanted to return to Babylon. But God showed me His will, I felt several times God strongly showing me what I should do.   One of them when I read the book by Calvin it says, our duty is to become a showcase, showing the transformation of reformation of God to the society, showing the glory of God through our actions and Jakarta is a good showcase in Indonesia, as the capital, Jakarta is a big city, the city is right for God to display His work.

The Bible also speaks about the official task of the civil magistrate is to provide social justice for the people and not social assistance.

I agree when Pastor Tong said that the foundation of a democratic government that is true, is what John Calvin speaks about. Real democracy is applied with the foundation of the law of love and justice from God’s Word.

In the Book by Calvin, when beggars beg for money to the church, they are not given money, but they are sent to work. That is social justice, not social assistance. Social justice means self-responsibility.  People who are lacking must be helped, but we also have to remain firm.

I also once said _ “You who are poor need to realize your position” _. In the “Rusun case” (where Ahok provided government apartment housing to homeless so they don’t live in the streets – a program to clean up the city), if you are caught selling your housing to someone else, it will definitely upset me and you will be expelled from the program, we must be firm. It does not mean that if you are poor and you do not know your place, you demand and blackmail the State for assistance in the name of human rights. Point number 5 of “Pancasila” (the Indonesian Ideology) speaks about social justice, not social assistance. Social assistance will only damage people and make them unproductive.

Paul (in the Bible) also said, “He who does not work, does not eat.”
Democracy without True faith, will be anarchist and chauvinist.

There is this story about my son who was going to face an exam in high school.

I asked, “What subject is the exam tomorrow?”

My son answered, “Bahasa Indonesia” language.

“Then now, you should study Physics instead of Language,” I said.

“Papa, the exam on language, how is it you tell me to study physics?”

“If your teacher did not tell you what subject is the exam tomorrow, what would you study?”

“I will learn everything, language, physics, mathematics, etc. to be ready.”_

“If in school, we always know what the exam is tomorrow so we can prepare and can learn. You can be smart in school, yes. But because we already know what we will face during the exam. Then how can we be smart in life? Life is like an exam, the difference is, we do not know what exam God gives us tomorrow, we do not know what problems we face. Every moment of our life is a test, without knowing what subject. That is why we should be thankful we have the Bible. The Bible is what we have to hold on to prepare for “exams” in life.  That is why I read my Bible every morning, to prepare for life exams.”

Many times God has made it clear His will to me through God’s Word. Spiritual experiences can be in various forms, and each person is different. I used to struggle when finished my bachelor’s degree,  I wanted to be a pastor and further into theological school. But my dad in Belitung was very broke, I am the oldest son . I wrestled and asked the Lord if I should become a minister or a businessman. One day, while at a church youth event, on the event handout, there is a verse written:

1 Timothy 5: 8 (NKJV) “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

After reading it I felt that rhema of God, I immediately decided to return to Belitung to be a businessman. I want to be a businessman whose characteristics is just like a pastor.

*Question and answer session*
Q: Why did you choose the path of political party and not the independent path?

A: I want to mention, I believe in God’s providence.

Through the independent path, if I win, I will immediately become a superhero in Indonesia. If I win this way then I will destroy all political parties. I’ll be the first man in Indonesia who could win an election without political parties. I will be a great man.  Wiranto and Surya Paloh, said to me, “If no party support you, and you win, it is  finished for all political parties.”

Politics is perception. If Ahok can not go forward because of KPU (the election committee), people would say _ “Too bad, if Ahok move forward,  we will have an advanced Jakarta.”  Pillar of our democracy is the political parties. We should correct the way of the political parties and not do away with the political parties.

My vision is in accordance with my Christian faith: my goal is the building up of people (reconstruction of society). I was struggling for this, and this time the Lord answered through President Jokowi. Mr.Jokowi really know me. When I met with him, he asked, “Have you understood the risk of not being selected if you are going through an independent path?”  I answered, “My wife and I believe, if I do not selected, it means this is the end , our task of our service to the community, we end our service honorably.” Then Mr.Jokowi answered with a very smooth, very meaningful way, “Mr. Governor,  my wife had four months of stress when I wanted to be president.”  More or less, what he is saying is, “Don’t listen to your wife in this case.”

Finally I decided to take the path of political parties, and many people were disappointed, they judge I am inconsistent. I also wrestled, like David in the Psalms, I also pray to God in my quiet times.  I said to God, “I’m embarrassed God, just yesterday I confidently said in front of the crowd that I will progress to go through independent path, but now I actually joined a political party.  People are saying I am inconsistent.” And the Lord spoke to me, God answered when I read Isaiah 60. I feel the verses were addressed to me,

Isiah 60:1-4 (NKJV)

“Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.

“Lift up your eyes all around, and see:
They all gather together, they come to you;
Your sons shall come from afar,
And your daughters shall be nursed at your side.

I told God, “I feel like I’m buying rice and is exchanged with a potato, Lord ”

But the Lord answered me Isaiah 60:17-22

“Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
Instead of iron I will bring silver,
Instead of wood, bronze,
And instead of stones, iron.
I will also make your officers peace,
And your magistrates righteousness.
18 Violence shall no longer be heard in your land,
Neither wasting nor destruction within your borders;
But you shall call your walls Salvation,
And your gates Praise.

19 “The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light,
And your God your glory.
20 Your sun shall no longer go down,
Nor shall your moon withdraw itself;
For the Lord will be your everlasting light,
And the days of your mourning shall be ended.
21 Also your people shall all be righteous;
They shall inherit the land forever,
The branch of My planting,
The work of My hands,
That I may be glorified.
22 A little one shall become a thousand,
And a small one a strong nation.
I, the Lord, will hasten it in its time.”

I am even more firmly that it is the right thing to go through political party path. Political parties have been willing to support me with my condition and little money etc. By using this path, I just finished a peacemaker. If I use an independent path, going feud between political parties, others will blame other political parties who supported me. God also reminded me to be humble. If I go forward as a candidate by an independent path, then I have a higher position in the public eye compared to other candidates who weresubmitted from political parties. But now, if I go ahead with a political party, then my position is equal to candidates of other political parties, it is fair. God wants to remind me not to rely on my own ability. Now I do not care about people trying to tell me I was being inconsistent, etc., which I believe my purpose of running is according to my Christian faith.  God is the one guiding me.

<End of Ahok speech>


I hope you were encouraged as I  was by these words from Ahok.

Art Sisneros

Criminalization of the Creation

Monday and Tuesday of this week some friends and I went to Austin to visit the Texas Legislature while they were in session.  We had the opportunity to meet with some of the best State Representatives in Texas, get a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the Texas Supreme Court, and visit House Committee hearings.  We purposed to testify before the Public Health committee to speak on behalf of decriminalization of medical marijuana.  Unfortunately, the bill we were testifying for was bumped and didn’t get a hearing until late Tuesday evening long after we were headed home.  It was a great experience I plan to repeat often.  Below is my testimony that I never got speak.  It is intentionally short because of the 2 minutes time limit.
___MARIJUANA_2_LA-600x427_________
My name is Art Sisneros and I am speaking in favor of Texas House Bill HB837.  First I would to thank you all for allowing us the time to come and testify before this  committee.  As a citizen of this state, I appreciate the  opportunity to be a part of this process.  As I Christian, I  firmly believe that God ordains all things that happen  including allowing each of you to serve currently as state representatives in the great state of TX and particularly as members of this committee.  Being that He is the one that has put you in office, I ask you to consider the possibility that you will be held accountable to Him, even more than your constituency, for the work that you do here.
As one who bears the name of Christ, I believe we are to turn to the Bible to decide what is right and wrong, what is sinful and what is criminal.  Regarding marijuana, the Bible is clear in the creation account found in Genesis 1:12, “And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” As the Creator, He made everything for a reason and to serve a purpose.  While many people may take something that God has made declared as good and misuse it in a harmful way.  This doesn’t mean that it suddenly becomes a bad thing.  Marijuana is often used in harmful and sinful ways, but that doesn’t cancel God’s purpose for it.  It doesn’t make it bad.  To the contrary we live in a time when we have evidence of many good and proper uses for it today.  We have this plant that God has put here for us to use to help sick and hurting people, often children, but unfortunately the law prevents us from using it without taking great legal risks.  I ask, why?  What have we become that our fears drive us to setting policy that literally prevents hurting people from finding relief in a natural plant?  This doesn’t make any sense. Do we really want to be a society that makes criminals out of those that are seeking relief for themselves or their children?

 

It is in this light, that I ask you to vote in favor of moving this legislation out of this committee and to the House floor.  I ask you to do the right thing so you can stand with a clean conscience knowing that you have set aside political posturing in order allow those citizens that in this state to find relief in that which God has created for our good.  Thank you!

Loving the Kids: School Bonds or Bondage

We have officially entered into a change of seasons.  If you are like me you can appreciate almost everything that comes with fall; from the cooler weather, to the anticipation of the holidays, or to thosebeloved November elections….hey, I said almost.  As much as I hate to admit it even the political cycle seems to return every fall.  Sadly, it doesn’t matter who wins for nothing seems to change.  After some reflection about what difference any investment of my precious time was making, I decided this year to pay closer attention to local politics.  For me, this meant focusing my attention on what was happening from Liberty to Austin, TX.  Changing Washington is beyond me and probably beyond changing outside of an act of Providence.  It is in this mindset that I recently stumbled across the wickedness of a school bond that will be on our local ballot in November.  This bond is not only fiscally ignorant, but morally evil.  Lest you think I am being too harsh in my opinion of this bond allow me to make my case.    

First we need to ask, “what exactly is a bond?” According to Wikipedia, “a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. Thus a bond is a form of loan: the holder of the bond is the lender (creditor), the issuer of the bond is the borrower (debtor), and the coupon is the interest.”[1]  In short, a bond is a loan or new debt.  In this case, the bond being sought after is the school district seeking to borrow money they do not have on behalf of the citizens upon the promise of future taxation.  Allow that statement to sink in for a minute.  The fact that most school districts regularly take advantage of bond debt should not cloud our understanding to the dangerous nature of taking on new debt.  Any household, business or community that wants to financially survive would be wise to consider the full implications of taking a loan before making their decision.  A few questions to ask might include: what do we need so urgently that we must take a loan to get?  What is it going to cost us?  Do we have the ability to repay this loan?  What happens if we can’t afford to repay it?  For Dayton ISD the urgent needs include 6 lighted tennis courts, concrete parking for buses, a new auditorium, a new practice gym, and a roof for the rodeo arena, etc.[2]   This particular loan for the citizens of the small rural community of Dayton, TX is to the tune of $87 million.  Once the interest is accounted for the total debt climbs up to neighborhood of $150 million.  Apparently the “community advisors” for Dayton ISD either didn’t ask these questions or came up with answers not based in reality.   Either way, they were led to the conclusion that this was indeed a wise decision for the community to get this loan.  One has to wonder if these folks would make the same decision on a personal level if it was exclusively their money being spent.  Would they personally take a loan to pay for lighted tennis courts?  Not likely.  So why do they think this community should?  One answer they give is because of the projected future growth.  What happens in the likely scenario[3] that the projected growth doesn’t reach their expectations?  Will the debt be forgiven? No!  The taxpayers and businesses of this rural community will be faced with a financial train wreck that is unavoidable.  They’ll be forced to split the bill.                

 Aside from being an unwise decision it is also an immoral one.[4]  While the Bible does allow for debt under certain circumstances, it is always to be done God’s way.  This means following the restrictions and limitations He has put in place when taking on debt.  Taking a loan is a voluntary act of submission that shouldn’t be taken lightly. As Proverbs 22 states, “the borrower is the servant to the lender.”[5]  To voluntarily take on debt is to make oneself a servant or slave to the debt and debt holder.   Paul said to the slave “if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.”[6] The inspired Word of God is clear that when there is a choice between economic freedom or slavery we ought to choose freedom.  God never expects His people to go into debt for their desires.  Extreme debt should only to be taken on in an extreme need.  I am confident in my assertion that tennis courts do not fall into the category of extreme need, but are rather a desire.  Another limitation on debt is: it must be a voluntary act.  It can never be forced on people that don’t want it.  How anyone could think that God would be pleased with people forcing their neighbors to take a loan is beyond me.  The fact that a local pastor would advocate such a position reveals his poor understanding of scripture.  To forcibly take something from your neighbor that he is unwilling to give is theft.  It is a violation of the 8th commandment.  For any group of people to vote to take other people’s money for their own purposes is simply theft by mob.  It is disregarding Christ’s command to “love our neighbor as ourselves”[7]  Sure it may be legal, but it is against God’s law and therefore is wrong.  The legality of abortion never made it the right thing to do.  This debt is not being sought on behalf of the school board, but instead on behalf of the taxpayers and their children.  Remember our description from earlier, “the bond loan being asked is the school district borrowing money they do not have on behalf of the citizens upon the promise of future taxation.” 

What about the children?  Do we not have a moral obligation to our children?  Yes, actually we do and this bondage is not it.  The Bible states that “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”[8]  Those that are pushing for this debt are literally leaving an inheritance of economic slavery to the kids all while doing it in the name of “for the kids.”  Shouldn’t we love our children?  Of course, but one has to ask, “what does that look like?”  Romans 13:8 says we are to “owe nothing to any man, but to love one another.”  Here is a two fold instruction.  First owe nothing (i.e; avoid debt) with the exception of love.  What is love?  The passage continues, “for he that loves another, has fulfilled the Law.”  To love is to keep God’s law in regards to your neighbor or your children.  To break God’s law by forcing debt upon them, robbing their inheritance, stealing their future income, and inheriting to them an economic slavery is anything but love.  It is in fact a wicked act.  

Will the people of this community consider this debt in light of God’s Word?  I truly hope so, but if their pastors don’t know better they probably don’t either.  We will try our best to change minds, but chances are things will remain the same until people return to God’s Word as the true source of all knowledge and wisdom.  I look forward to that season with a greater anticipation than I do towards fall.                                    


[3] 2003-2013 has shown decrease in population by 1.8 %

[4] As a Christian I base all morality on the Bible

[5] Proverbs 22:7

[6] 1 Corinthians 7:21

[7] Matthew 22:39

[8] Proverbs 13:22