Foolishness, Responsibility and the Rape Culture

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways~ Proverbs 2:12-13 NIV

 This last week I was blindsided with not one but two— face palming— lose your faith in humanity forever— let me off this planet— now— kind of moments.

 The first occurred when the news program I was watching covered the early release of Brock Turner. For those who do not own a television or have been vacationing on another planet, Brock Turner is the bag of human filth Stanford student found guilty of raping an unconscious woman on campus following a fraternity party.

 Although his guilt could not have been more obvious (DNA plus two eyewitnesses), Brock Turner was initially sentenced to only six months in jail for the assault. The paltry sentence was for some reason, (known only to God and the numbskull judge) cut in half.

 Six months of jail time for raping an inebriated, unconscious woman is such a staggering miscarriage of justice that I literally have no words for how furious it makes me. Cutting the sentence in half for any reason makes a mockery of the entire notion of justice.

 The second of the face palming— lose your faith in humanity forever—let me off this planet— now— kind of moments quickly followed.

 The women discussing the case bantered back and forth on the generalities of the case for a while, before moving on to the problem of campus rape. Then they debated what should be done to prevent rape on college campuses.

 It wasn’t so much what was said that caused me to face palm but what wasn’t said. Not a single word was uttered concerning the notion of people in general and young women in particular avoiding the act of becoming too drunk to function in public places. Not one word. In fact, the whole idea that college students can or should drink less was openly ridiculed.

 Once I got a grip and quit muttering under my breath about the lack of logic on this planet. I came to the sad conclusion that as a society we have become so consumed with the notion of personal rights that we have completely lost the entire concept of wisdom and, with it, personal responsibility.

 Wisdom is the ability to look at a possible course of action and see in advance what the likely outcome might be. Wisdom is sometimes defined as the correct use of knowledge, underscoring the fact a person can acquire a lot of knowledge concerning a lot of things but be completely lacking in wisdom.

 For the record, I do not believe intoxicated women deserve to be raped; anyone who believes that lie is clearly out of touch with their own humanity. Furthermore, I truly believe rape is a hate crime and ought to be charged as such with a mandatory-minimum ten-year sentence. So please, don’t accuse me of being soft on rape.

 That said.

 If as a society we are going have any sort of thoughtful dialogue about preventing rape we need to tell women and girls that getting drunk in the presence of strangers is simply unwise. This world is full of horrible people who gleefully seek out defenseless women for the sole purpose of taking advantage of their defenselessness. Sadly, rapists are not born with gross deformities, an “R” on their foreheads or any other identifying marks. Therefore, the key to rape prevention is situational awareness. No one is aware of their situation when they are wasted. Period.

 It’s not just in the arenas of criminal justice and college rape where our society has lost its collective mind. There is a lack of wisdom everywhere we look. From parenting to food consumption to marriage to how we view gender to how we approach the complexities of daily life. As a society we have rejected the giver of wisdom (God). In the process we have become fools who wander around in bewilderment wondering out loud why our lives and our society are not working the way we think they ought to.

 Sadly, Christians cannot wave a magic wand and make our society more rational. However, we can seek wisdom from God on a daily basis and commit to living lives that model wisdom and good sense. We can also work to reform the system. Christians need to pay attention to what is going on in schools, churches, the justice system and the political world. Then we need to courageous enough to call out foolishness when we see it.

 

 

 

Voting for Corruption

 

Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them~ Isaiah 1:23 NIV

 I am an ardent fan of all things political.

 The Presidential elections are my favorite; it actually bums me out that they only roll around once every four years. I look forward to the presidential election season the way some women look forward to a fifty-percent off sale on Jimmy Choo shoes.

 I am a registered Independent and although I cheerfully admit to leaning conservative I am attentive to the goings-on on both sides of the political aisle. I will vote for any politician evidence reveals is a decent human being who can pass a drug test, possess a solid ethical compass and has a working knowledge of basic economic principles.

 This election has been a gloomy one for me. It has challenged my love of politics as well as my faith in the intelligence of the American electorate. Somehow the nation I love has succeeded in picking the two most tragic candidates in the history of our Republic. The out-and-out absurdity of these two choices for President baffles me to no end. My unending irritation over the Republican pick has caused me to say precious little about Hilary Clinton.

 Well, no more.

 Recent revelations have made me so insane with righteous outrage that I can no longer hold back my uncensored opinion on the dangers of a Clinton presidency.

 I will begin with the email controversy.

 It is an irrefutable fact that Hillary Clinton set-up a private email server in a bathroom. She committed this criminal act against the counsel of her staff, proving she is either hopelessly dimwitted or has zero interest in keeping classified information out of the hands of foreign governments. For the record, I do not believe that Hilary Clinton is dimwitted. Nor do I believe she was ignorant the law (as she claims), nor do I believe her emails are so desperately dull that no foreign power would ever be intent on reading them, as she stated in an interview with the comedian Jimmy Fallon. Hillary Clinton is an attorney who has worked at the highest levels of government for most of her life. She simply despises accountability, doesn’t care who she hurts and believes herself to be above the law.

 If the email debacle were the only example of flagrant corruption, I might be inclined to let it go, sadly that is not the case. In 1997 the Clintons created the Clinton Foundation, ostensibly for the purpose of raising money for do-gooder causes. In all fairness the foundation has raised a lot of money for various causes, many of them good. Exact numbers are tough to pin down but conservatively speaking millions have been given to help people around the world.

 That is a good thing.

 What is not a good thing is how Ms. Clinton used the foundation while she was Secretary of State. Credible allegations charge she used the foundation to line her own pockets by selling meetings (to the tune of $156 million) to individuals, corporations and foreign countries in exchange for donations to her foundation. Donors include the Prince of Bahrain who pledged $32 million to the Clinton foundation.

 Doubtless these folks were astute enough to get something in return for the money they paid. Naïve people have argued that there is no actual evidence she ever gave anyone a favor in exchange for a cash donation. Sadly, that unlikely scenario makes the whole situation worse rather than better. It means she and her aides were running some sort of a flimflam operation out of the office of the Secretary of State. Trust me: the crown prince was promised SOMETHING in exchange for 32 MILLION DOLLARS. No one in their right mind pays 32 million dollars simply to meet with someone. He had an ulterior motive and if he did not get what he paid for, he’s seriously furious.

 When her email server was exposed, she blamed her own ineptitude (like that is supposed to make any of us feel better), then she blamed her colleagues. When her colleagues declined to be hurled under that particular bus she blamed COLIN POWELL. Seriously, she blamed Colin Powell for her illegal server, that’s like me blaming the mailman for the sloppy condition of my front yard. When four Americans were killed in Libya she blamed an anti-Islamic video that few people had actually viewed for the disaster. When her husband sexually harassed women he worked with she blamed the women.

 I could go on forever.

 Hillary Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, was born in Michigan but raised in Saudi Arabia. She is the daughter of Muslim intellectuals who have dedicated their lives to spreading the Muslim faith. Abedin acted as the assistant editor for a radical Muslim publication for ten years. The scholarly journal Ms. Abedin edited openly promotes Sharia law, is anti-women’s rights, anti-Christian, anti-Israel and blamed America for the 9-11 attacks. The woman slated to be the next Whitehouse Chief of Staff has close ties to radical Islam. At the very least this fact proves Hillary Clinton does not have the good sense necessary to make her own staffing decisions.

 Any American who is not troubled by Hillary Clinton’s corruption and poor judgment is at least as dimwitted as she pretends to be.

   This is the most depressing election of my lifetime. A Clinton Presidency may very well be unavoidable. However, that doesn’t mean nothing can be done. Christians everywhere need to pray. It is not too late for God to intervene. He is in the business of miracles and we could certainly use one right now. Christians also need to vote— the congressional election is critical this year. If conservatives lose the house and senate and Clinton wins the Presidency all will truly be lost. The most openly corrupt person in the history of American politics will control everything.

 God help us all.

When Feelings Run the Show

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long~ Psalm 25:4-5 NIV

 There was a time in the not-so-distant-past when facts mattered and feelings were considered immaterial to most discussions. Those days are in the rear-view. Few people care about facts anymore. Even in the very rare cases where logic and reason are allowed entrance onto the debate stage, the facts nearly always take a backseat to whatever emotion is driving the aforementioned argument.

 Feelings have become the god we worship.                        

 This truth is most clearly revealed in the whole transgender bathroom debate. The kerfuffle over who gets to pee where is not really about fairness; if it were, we would be done discussing it already. Nor is it about men dressed convincingly as women using women’s bathrooms.

 Like it or not, that sort of thing has been going on for as long as there have been bathrooms in public places and most folks have been none the wiser. Contrary what the LBGTQ community would have the world believe, conservatives do not routinely do “parts” checks or demand to see birth certificates at the doors of public toilets.

 The real issue at hand is a small minority of men who do not routinely dress as women who claim there are times when they suddenly “feel” like women and should therefore be treated like women. These men are demanding the right to enter women’s restrooms whenever that feeling happens to strike them. According their supporters the “needs” of those men outweigh the rights of everyone else.

 The notion that men ought to be permitted to use any restroom they wish based on something that simply cannot be proven (feelings) is clearly absurd and obviously rife with potential for abuse. However, the brave few left clinging to reason are losing this debate. Not because the truth isn’t evident or because the facts aren’t compelling; but rather because the debate is being framed around feelings rather than facts or common sense.

 Sadly, the proclivity to allow feelings to drive every argument is not restricted to men who wish to have access to women’s bathrooms. Feelings rule the day in all sorts of different situations and it seems everybody is hopping on the feelings bandwagon.

 Decisions are made, marriages dissolved, political opinions shaped, and votes cast. Not based on promises made, facts examined or the painstaking vetting of views, but rather on the basis of how we feel about those things. Commitment, character of the individual and reason all take a backseat to feelings.

 Feeling statements are oftentimes cleverly disguised as “I don’t think” declarations. Usually an “I don’t think” declaration will follow the delivery of an irrefutable, but unpleasant fact or the teaching of an exceptionally clear but hard Bible passage. The hearer will scrunch their brow, take a deep breath and state, in a very serious tone “I don’t think a loving God would ______________” or “I don’t think _______________ is actually true”. “I don’t think” declarations rarely involve any deep thought; rather they reveal the hearers’ feelings about the fact stated.

 When facts are ignored or dismissed as irrelevant, society quickly devolves into the messy muddle described in the book of Judges: in those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes~ Judges 21:25. The only discernable difference between our time and theirs is that we do have a king, we are led by feelings and feelings are proving to be more tyrannical than any human leader.

 The American public and even those in the Church have been conditioned over the course of several decades to buy the lies that a hurt feeling is every bit as serious as a broken bone and perception is reality. The truth is that hurt feelings do hurt. Sometimes they hurt a lot.

 However, a hurt feeling only causes permanent damage if we allow the hurt to take root and grow into bitterness. Perceptions are essentially just feelings with a fancy title and should never be treated as facts and it’s a dangerous form of lunacy to kowtow to anything as capricious as a feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lesson We all Have to Learn at Least Once

 Be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.  Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do~ Ephesians 5:15-17 NLT

 The whole thing started with a promising, albeit peculiar occurrence. It was late last June and par for the course in Tucson, it was freakishly hot outside. I was in the garage rooting around in the refrigerator for a cold bottle of water. When (and this is weird) I was overcome with an almost overwhelming sense that our family would soon be moving back to Spokane.

 It appeared at the time that the feeling was little more than wishful hoping coupled with possible heatstroke. I wanted that feeling to be a word from the Lord or a sign, or whatever, as long as it was also a fact. Rationally it didn’t look like it would be.

We were in the initial stages of planning a move to Texas. The job that would have taken us there appeared to be a done deal. To our knowledge there were zero employment options for us in Spokane.

 Two weeks later everything changed.

 The deal driving the move to Texas abruptly fell apart and, as a result so did the job offer. One week after that, a job in Spokane appeared out of nowhere. Three weeks after that. We were going home.

 It would be reasonable to assume that any situation that came together as easily as that one did would be nothing but smooth sailing all the way to the finish line.

 As if.

 The ten months that followed were anything but smooth and easy. They were in fact some of the most challenging of my life. It wasn’t the first time I had to deal with the frustration of a move that seemed to be stuck in second gear but it was unquestionably the most difficult.

 I won’t bore you with the stupid details. It’s enough to say that the house didn’t sell quickly, effortlessly, or for anywhere near the price we listed it at. My husband and I lived in different cities and as a result the situation rapidly became emotionally and financially draining. Complicating matters further were some dynamics that are unique to our family situation. Including an eleven-year-old girl with some serious trust issues who has only been a part of our family for two short years.

 However, in recent weeks things have been looking up. The house sold. We bought another one and for the first time in nearly a year our family was living in the same zip code. Things were far from settled, but it was looking like they would be soon.  

 Until last weekend when I had to sit the eleven-year-old down and tell her that it was looking like the house deal in Tucson was going to fall through (it didn’t). If that happened we would also lose the house in Spokane. On the surface she was the image of calm serenity. However, within hours that image was shattered. She had regressed to some behaviors and attitudes we hoped and prayed were gone forever.

 Under normal circumstances, I would have attempted to finesse the situation a bit. I would draw her out, talk to her about her feelings and then gently attempt to get her back on the right track. At that moment I lacked the emotional bandwidth for sensitivity, so instead I simply informed her she was acting out.

 I explained that acting out is a common reaction even for adults. Plenty of folks choose to do all sorts of stupid stuff when they are angry or sad. I went on to explain that acting out always makes things worse and is never the wise thing to do.

 Then I told her that I would be there for her If she wanted to talk or cry, but acting out was unproductive waste of time and she needed to be done with it. Thankfully, her attitude improved immediately and we went on with our weekend. The next day I was thinking about our little talk and it occurred to me that I had been making a lot of things about me that were probably not about me at all.

 The struggles I selfishly felt were mine were at least partly about God and a little girl and what He was teaching her about life through our trials. It was about a kid who desperately needed to see that there is a different way to do life. It was probably about a kid who needed to see people running to God (no matter how imperfectly) with their disillusionment rather than looking for a thing or a substance to fix their feelings.

 It hit me that we are all prone to forget the truth that smooth and easy might feel good but it’s not always best. Tough times can be an opportunity for God shine through us, if we let Him.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Happens When we Take Offense

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense~ Proverbs 19:11 NIV

It’s official.

Sometime in the recent past America morphed into a population of whiners, wimps and politically correct crybabies.

 College students at Harvard University have reported feeling “ threatened” by the possibility of the presence of students whose views on abortion might differ from their own. Students were not actually exposed to opposing ideas on the topic. Nonetheless, the mere notion they might be exposed to a view they didn’t agree with was simply more than the little snow flakes could endure.

 These attitudes are not limited to the young. Full-grown adult and committed atheist, Patrick Greene is suing the senior Pastor of Abundant Life Fellowship in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mr. Greene asserts that a 230-foot cross being erected on church property is “offensive” and “tacky as he__ __”, and should therefore be removed. Greene is also suing two city officials for attending the crosses groundbreaking ceremony as private citizens.

It seems that everyone these days is “demanding an apology” from someone for something. At this writing various Muslim groups are demanding apologies from the makers of Lego, Chick-fil-A restaurants, Clint Eastwood and a bunch of cities in Texas. Bernie Sanders is demanding an apology from Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton is demanding one from Bernie Sanders. Everybody thinks Trump should apologize for something he said or did. 

Sadly, Christian people are not immune from the madness engulfing the greater culture. Wounded Christians were out in droves this past week. They were diligently monitoring and scolding others for what they believed to be “insensitive” and “callous” April Fools day jokes.

 It’s not just silly hoaxes that God’s people find offensive these days. It is not unusual for Christians to leave or cease supporting their local church financially because they’ve determined that the Pastor’s preaching is not “sensitive” enough. Lifelong alliances and friendships are frequently tossed aside because one person hurt another’s feelings and they refuse to forgive or even discuss the subject with the other party. Discussions of doctrinal particulars are frequently forbidden at Bible studies because the subject of doctrine is considered too divisive.

Many  Pastors and Bible study leaders have simply given up teaching and preaching about “harsh” subjects such as abortion, homosexuality, adultery and divorce out of fear of offending or driving away church members. The doctrinal illiteracy that has infiltrated churches as a result of this silliness has caused many Bible studies to become little more than pools of collective ignorance.

Some Churches have scrapped doctrinal declarations of faith altogether. Embracing “Who We Are” statements in their place. These statements avoid making any pronouncements that might be considered unequivocal or offensive. One denomination dropped all references to the Bible in their Who We Are Statement and instead quote Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

 Many Christians admit to isolating themselves from other believers, because they have been hurt or felt offended by the words, actions or the “sensed” motives of others. Some have stopped attending weekly services altogether because they felt ignored or were offended by a Pastor or staff member. 

 This is simply not what Jesus envisioned for His people when He prayed that we would be one (John 17:11).

I fear we have lost our way and become a lot like the young adults we all love to mock on college campuses: a bunch of oversensitive, easily wounded, crybabies.

 This nonsense has eternal consequences. Church is no longer a place people go to find truth or get answers to life’s toughest questions. As a result unbelievers are often left to figure out life and eternity on their own. Typically,with less than spectacular results. It is noble to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others but not at the expense of tackling heaven and hell issues.

 We can stop the madness by making a habit of stepping back and praying for wisdom when we feel offended or hurt by others. We must understand that contrary to popular belief, our perceptions are not always reality.  We need the Holy Spirit, not our emotions to show us what is true in these situations. Even when our perceptions are correct and people have behaved in a way that is insensitive or callous, forgiveness, not offendedness is the God-honoring, life-giving answer.

 

 

 

 

Who’s to Blame?

 

Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you~ Hosea 10:12 NIV

 If you have been a reader of my blog for any length of time you have probably already recognized two truths. First, I am an enthusiastic follower of all things political and second, I’m less than satisfied with the state of political affairs in our country.

 I have written several blogs detailing my opinions concerning several of the candidates running in the 2016 election. However, my irritation with the current political landscape runs far deeper than the sorry collection of candidates running for office this year.

 Like many in our culture, I have concluded that prevailing “wisdom” and government policies have encouraged and enabled folks to reject the principles of hard work, faith, unity and personal responsibility. For decades now a large share of the population has chosen to actively reject the very values and principles that made America great in the first place. The choice to abandon our founding principles has not been without consequences. America has become a nation fractured by discord and conflict, a country overrun with rabble-rousers, crybabies, and freeloaders.

 Sane people (especially Christians) are naturally panicked by the devolving social and political structures. There are two opposite but equally rational and all too human responses to the cultural and political turmoil. The first is all too common in Christian communities. We withdraw from the greater culture and pretend the darkness and problems don’t actually exist or that they can be fixed through superficial, feel-goody kinds of events or undertakings.

 We turn off the television news, tune into our families and focus in on our local churches and the activities that make us feel secure, happy and like we have at least a little bit of control in this world.

 This approach directly defies the biblical directive to act as salt and light in our sin-weary world. If the last three decades have taught us anything it’s that when we retreat into our holy huddles we preserve and enlighten only each other. It does not take long for the devil to gain a foothold in the social and political realms, and the world devolves rapidly into social and political chaos.

 Another option is to try and outsource our job as salt and light. We work to get the “right” people elected and then demand that those folks legislate political and social changes. The hope is that if the right laws are passed, those laws will eventually change the hearts of people and even if hearts aren’t changed at least questionable behavior is kept in check.

 The political approach has accomplished little in past decades but to alienate unbelievers who have determined that Christians think it’s their business to police the rest of the world’s behavior. Even in the cases where it does work, it’s still a disaster from a spiritual perspective. For the most part all we’ve done is produce a crop of well-behaved heathens who lack the spiritual insight to recognize how lost they truly are.

 Truth be told, the Christian community bares at least partial responsibility for the mess our world is in. It is our God-given duty is to morally preserve and spiritually enlighten whatever culture we find ourselves in. If you’ve turned on the news recently you know that for the most part we have failed to live up to our obligations.

 Roughly two decades ago Churches ceased to pray corporately because prayer meetings are boring and the people in the pews no longer felt like praying. Around the same time many Pastors stopped preaching on the importance of prayer, repentance and doing hard things, even when we don’t feel like it. In its place the Church has focused a lot of energy on helping folks to feel good about bad choices.

 The solutions to the problems we see in our world will not be found in church programs or improved marketing campaigns designed to make Jesus cooler and more user-friendly than He really is. Our problems will only be solved when the people in the Church renew an interest in prayer and repentance and stop looking to worldly people to solve spiritual problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be the Leader

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land~ 2nd Chronicles 7:14

 We live in an age of extreme and sometimes bizarre contradictions. Some are amusing, others are puzzling, and a few are rather troubling:

 For the first time in human history places exist where it is possible to be both overfed and undernourished.

 Most organizations striving for equality for women refuse to recognize the right of unborn woman to be born.

 Those who report spending the most time “connected” to social media sites are also the most likely to report feeling “lonely” and “disengaged” from others.

 Leadership is yet another arena of inconsistencies and absurdities. A recent and rather hasty Amazon search for “leadership books” netted a whopping 185,460 results. Leadership seminars and conferences have become virtually ubiquitous and every high school student in America is required to take at least one leadership class in order to graduate. Leadership is the current buzzword and yet good leaders are getting tougher and tougher find.

 The sad state of leadership in our culture is most clearly seen in the political realm. Many of the “leaders” who are running for President tell lies on a fairly consistent basis. Few are above stooping to dirty tricks to win an election. One frontrunner will likely be indicted on federal charges and the other is being sued for fraud. Few of the officials who presently hold office are any better. Almost none of them have done what they promised to do; fewer still are humble enough to own up to their lack of accomplishment.

 The political realm is not the only arena where leadership is sadly lacking. Both male and female teachers are frequently dismissed from their positions for having sex with the students they were paid to lead. Sports, movie, and music icons are eager to take the material blessings and notoriety that come with celebrity. However, few are prepared to use those blessings to benefit others or lead kids in a wholesome direction. Some of the vilest offenders of common decency have stated categorically that they “are not role models.”

 Leadership is an issue in many churches as well. There are an appalling number of Christian leaders who live lives of duplicity, preaching love and righteousness from the pulpit and mistreating people or viewing porn when they think no one is watching. However, incidents of obvious sin are not the only issue creating chaos in our churches.

 Many “leaders” in our churches are so averse to saying anything that might possibly be construed as offensive, or hurt someone’s feelings that little of substance is actually said. Christians have bought into the lie that it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to do ALL the convicting and challenging.

 Conviction, or the awareness that we have done wrong, is the natural outcome of exposure to spiritual truth (Acts 26:20, 2nd Timothy 4:2). Too many churches seem to have set the bar at simply transforming sinners into nicer people, rather than leading them to a radical change of thinking about life and God that leads to repentance and transformation.

 It is correct that the Holy Spirit is the only one actually capable of radically transforming an individual heart. However, Christians have an obligation to give Him something of substance He can work with as He does the work of persuading people of their need for change.

 The muddled state of leadership in our world ought to give us all pause. If history is repeated (it usually is) our future will likely be rather grim. Typically following a period of corrupt leadership and cultural anarchy, strict, autocratic and sometimes even fascist leadership rises from the ashes of cultural decay.

 It’s not too late. Change is still possible, but it won’t come easy. Christians need to be the leaders they want to see. We cannot be anything or do anything of any substance without God’s leadership, help and mercy. It is time for Christians everywhere to to pray and seek the face of God. Don’t pray that God changes the world; rather, pray that He changes us so we can change the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Christians Should Not Vote in This Election

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan~ Proverbs 29:2 ESV

 Our country has come to a place the founding fathers never imagined in their darkest of dreams. Unless the political winds shift quickly, this presidential election will likely be the strangest in our history. Bernie Sanders, self-confessed socialist/communist; and Donald Trump, reality television star/wealthy mogul, will be going toe-to-toe for the most powerful job in the world: President of the United States of America.

 Take a moment and let those words sink in. It’s unlikely either outcome will be pretty and neither can happen without the support of Christians.

 Our first option is the Senator who clearly lacks even a rudimentary understanding of how large economies work. Bernie’s fondest wish is to raise the tax rate on EVERYONE. We are told there is no need to worry because Bernie will reallocate all resources collected in a more “objective” and “equitable” fashion. Under his leadership the same government that is incapable of providing adequate medical care for military veterans (a relatively small percentage of the population) will be deciding who gets how much of pretty much everything.

 The alternative will be Trump, a full-grown adult with the temperament of a toddler. Donald was busy this week. He vowed to sue one of his rivals for producing a negative ad consisting entirely of video clips of his past statements. A day later he called the Pope “disgraceful” and said he was “going down” for criticizing his views on immigration. Trump stated repeatedly this week that he believes spiritual leaders do not have the right to criticize or correct what people believe. If that statement does not scare you, you have literally dismissed all rational thought.

 Many Christians intend to or have already voted for one of these two men. Many believe for whatever reason, that it is wrong to choose not to vote for anyone based on Christian principles. They have decided that Christian values should be consigned entirely to the private sphere of life. Those who support this view inevitably quote Luke 20:25 to justify their belief:

 Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s~ Jesus

 Context is key here. Jesus was not telling His followers they should never use biblical standards when considering a political issue or candidate. I suspect Jesus would have thought the idea that anyone should not apply biblical standards to any subject absurd.

 The question at hand in this passage was whether or not Jews were obligated to pay taxes to the Roman government. Period. Jesus was not telling his followers to abandon reason, so they could vote for some yahoo completely lacking in decency or sense just because they promise something the voter wants.

 In Matthew 22:37, Jesus tells his followers to love God with their intellect as well as their emotions. For that reason it is critical that Christians contemplate the character and conduct of a candidate when they consider whom to vote for. Anyone who promises to do a good thing that is not achievable or sustainable from a fiscal perspective is either dangerously ignorant or deliberately dishonest. He’s as bad as Trump who proudly tells the press he could shoot someone on the street and people would and should still follow him. Both should be rejected on the basis of character.

 It is critical we remember God promises that ALL people (Christian and non-Christian) will give account for all their choices, including those made in the voting booth (Romans 14:12, Hebrews 4:13).

 It’s time for Christians to get a firm grip on their feelings and stop wishing for more of the immediate change that helped propel us into this mess. We must accept the fact that the right candidate is not the person who proudly spouts vile, sinful things we sometimes think and shouldn’t. Nor is it the candidate who makes promises he cannot deliver without taking significant resources from the people who actually worked for those resources.

 The right man or woman is the person with enough humility to admit that the problems we have are too big for one person to fix alone. A true leader will be courageous enough to remind us that we all bear some responsibility for the mess we’re in, rather than tell us what our itching ears long to hear (2nd Timothy 4:3-4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hard Truth Concerning Forgiveness

I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept~ Genesis 50:17

 They have become ubiquitous on Facebook.

Photos of a man standing at sunset, back to the camera arms spread wide in an expression of complete and glorious freedom. Or sometimes the photo is of a young woman dressed in white strolling serenely down a long tree-lined path, suggesting a future filled with joy and endless possibilities.

 The quotes accompanying these images are sometimes spiritually questionable. Others are far too syrupy and sentimental for my taste. However, the vast majority of quotes on the subject are thought provoking and more than a little convicting…

 We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies~ Martin Luther King Jr.

 The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong~ Gandhi

 Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness~ Corrie Ten Boom

 Over the course of the last few years I have had the “opportunity” to work through two unrelated and dissimilar situations, both requiring me to forgive some massive and very personal hurts. I concluded after working through those situations that none of the quotes I have seen tell the complete story of forgiveness. Sappy sentimentalities and inspiring quips extolling the virtues and benefits of forgiveness inevitably miss a core truth.

 Forgiveness is hard.

 Sometimes it hurts almost as much as the offense that necessitated the forgiving. If the offense was particularly personal or the person who did the hurting was someone we trusted. The act of forgiving that person can hurt to the point of physical agony. Forgiveness is tough because involves a release of the right to seek revenge on someone who doubtless has earned some sort of retaliation. The letting go of what is logically a right can feel overwhelmingly unjust.

 Forgiveness is a foundational (albeit sometimes unpopular) doctrine of the Christian faith. God forgives without hesitation, and He clearly expects His people to forgive in the same spirit. Forgiving is so important to God that it’s a prerequisite for obtaining His forgiveness (Matthew 6:15).

 God knows enough about people to know that when we refuse to forgive, unforgiveness transforms us in a profoundly ugly way. We eventually become incapable of focusing on anything but our wounds and resentment. The relentless emphasis on the negative causes our patience to shrivel and our irritation with everyone to increase. Over time we inevitably twist into a hostile, unsympathetic and nasty version of ourselves. 

 Regrettably, knowing all this does not make forgiving any easier.

 It is considerably more difficult (if not impossible) to forgive without God’s assistance and power. Some offenses are simply too great to forgive on our own; we acquire the help we need to forgive through persistent and sometimes prolonged prayer. Prayer keeps us connected to God, prevents bitterness from taking root in our hearts and empowers us to forgive the unforgivable. We pray until our feelings towards the person who did the hurting change.

 Prayer also prevents people from blaming God for situations He had nothing to do with. Oftentimes, when Christians have suffered a serious offense they struggle as much with anger towards God, for allowing the hurt to happen as they do with the person who hurt them. It’s important to understand that God is not a puppet master who controls the choices of people.

 Sometimes people hurt others because they are egotistical, callous or even evil. Most of the time people hurt others because they are stupid, insensitive or lack awareness of how their actions affect others. Either way, it’s profoundly unjust to hold God accountable for the actions of free people.

 Forgiving would be easier if people were capable of simply forgetting offenses. We cannot do that. However, over time, with God’s assistance, we can reach a point where we are no longer held prisoner by the anger we feel towards those who have betrayed us. Forgiveness is freedom that will empower us to live a happy, useful and God-honoring life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it Always Wrong to Judge?

Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense~ Proverbs 10:13 NIV

 There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Christians were governed by a lot of rules. Many of those rules were unwritten but very real and recognized by all members of polite Christian society.

 The use of alcohol was strictly forbidden. Tobacco use was assumed to be a clear sign of obvious inner corruption. Tri-weekly church attendance was mandatory. Divorce was intolerable under any circumstances, even in situations where abuse was clearly evident. To be seen entering a movie theater resulted in a trip to the rumor mill. Only the vilest of heathens used salty language. Dress codes mattered; respectable men wore suits, hemlines were carefully monitored for modesty and women brazen enough to wear shorts were shunned.

Not all the rules were biblical.

Some were not even rational, a few were downright ridiculous. As a result the thing happened that always happens when individuals cease to be sensible and get carried away with rule making. For better or worse, the pendulum of popular opinion swung sharply in the opposite direction.

 It is no longer odd for Christians to drink alcohol or for churches, even evangelical churches, to serve alcohol at outreach events. Tobacco use is still frowned upon, not because it’s considered sinful or wrong, but because it’s unhealthy.

 Church attendance is no longer obligatory; in fact few Christians who identify themselves as committed believers even attend weekly services. Divorce for any and every reason is commonplace in the Church. Christians who choose NOT to attend even R-rated movies are sometimes considered a bit odd. In a few congregations, clothing is practically optional. And weirdest of all, it it is not unheard of for edgy young preachers to drop an F-bomb from the pulpit to make a point.

 All the old rules have been replaced with one new rule: THOU SHALL NOT JUDGE. Admittedly this is rule came about as a result of mostly silly, sometimes heartless, legalistic nitpicking about topics that have for the most part, never had any real relevance to Christianity whatsoever. Only an idiot would yearn for a return to the bad old days of unhinged legalism.

 Legalism is the brainchild of the devil, a perversion of the Christian concept of holiness. Legalism takes our eyes off of Jesus, and places our focus on the  outward behavior of others, rather than our own behavior, attitudes and internal spiritual development. Legalism breeds unhealthy spiritual self-confidence and sometimes even becomes a substitute for salvation.

 That said, not all judging is sinful. Some judging is beneficial and even biblical (1st Corinthians 5:12-13).

 There are two types of judgment. The first is when one imperfect human judges another imperfect human worthy of heaven, hell or the right to be cared for and loved based on behavior or outward appearances that may or may not be based on biblical truth. This sort of judgment is wrong, leads to hypocrisy (Matthew 23:1-5) and sets us up to be judged by the same standards (but not necessarily for the same sins) we set for others. The Pharisees judged in in this way and Jesus sharply condemned them for it (Matthew 7:1).  

 Christians are clearly not called to judge those outside the Church (1st Corinthians 5:12-13). The behavior of non-Christians is troubling to us at times. It is also none of our concern. Our responsibility towards the unsaved is to pray, show them the kindness of God and to present biblical truth. What they choose to do with all that is between them and God. He is the final judge.

 There is such a thing as healthy Christian judgment and it begins with regular and rigorous self-examination. We must be willing to look for sin in our own lives with the same zeal we normally reserve for others. But there is more to it than just that; we also have to keep ourselves open to the idea that we might be wrong about something we believe or do. Growing Christians are willing to entertain the notion that the thing or the attitude they have been holding onto as a “right” or as a “Christian freedom” might just be something that is holding back their growth and possibly leading others astray (1st Corinthians 10:23-33).

 We forget that Christians are called to judge one another, not in a condemning way, but out of concern for one another (1st Corinthians 5:11). If the Church is ever going to get healthy again, the people in it have got to stop getting angry every time someone says something that challenges their point-of-view on an attitude or behavior. It’s time to stop shouting, “You can’t judge anyone ever!” and start thinking about why we fear being judged or hearing a view that differs from our own.