Why Christians Should Prepare for an Uncertain and Possibly Ugly Future-

There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 2ndTimothy 3:1-4 NIV

I am not someone who worries excessively about the world falling to pieces because my Christian faith enables me to be an optimist, in spite of challenging circumstances. I believe with all my heart God is on His throne is firmly in control of even the messiest and most troublesome of situations (Romans 8:28). 

That being said.

Only a fool would attempt to argue that life is somehow getting less weird and scary than it was just a few short years ago. Just last week my Mother-in-law and I were cracking each other up remembering how we used to wring our hands about how bizarre, awful and generally sinful the world was back in the early 1990’s.

As if. 

We were convinced at the time that there was simply no way the world could get any weirder, meaner or more sinful. We were wrong. The world is far weirder, meaner and more sinful now and the Bible makes it clear that tough times could be ahead (2nd Timothy 3:1-5, 2nd Peter 3:3, Matthew 24:4-14).

We are not there yet. However, it appears that we just might be headed in that direction. There are things every Christian can and should be doing to prepare for that eventuality (more on that later) but first are six reasons every Christian ought to be concerned enough to pray: 

Sixty-four percent of Pastors feel they cannot speak out on social issues-

According to the Barna Research Group most pastors do not feel “safe” speaking out on thorny social issues.  I am not sure if their fear is grounded in experience or if we have all just devolved into a bunch of timid simps. I do know that the church is called to be salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:13-16). I also know that pastors are meant to be the mouthpieces of the church in this world. If sixty-four percent of pastors feel they cannot speak out about abortion, sin, sexuality and issues of fairness without suffering some sort of personal backlash then the world will quickly lose even more of its preserving (salty) influence. 

Socialism/Communism has made a major comeback-

 Despite nearly a century of utter failure communism is being ballyhooed as the salvation of the masses. A lot of people are buying into that line of thinking. This development does not bode well for the church. Communists and socialists have never been big fans of Christianity nor have they had a lot of use for Christians. 

Politics are headed in a dangerous direction- 

In some ways the political climate FEELS slightly safer than it has in the past but political rhetoric is quickly becoming incendiary and scary. Complicating things further, the vast majority of folks vying for power right now are socialists who happen to be very open about their plans to centralize governmental control and squash opposition. The political situation that is emerging right now is bad for anyone whose values do not align with the existing political and social orthodoxy. This includes most Christians.   

Libertarianism is rapidly becoming the new conservatism-

Libertarians believe that nearly everything (drugs, hardcore pornography, etc..) should be lawful and widely accessible for adults (1st Corinthians 8:9). A cornerstone of libertarian dogma is that there should be no laws that hinder an individual’s personal choices (1stCorinthians 6:12, 1stCorinthians 10:23).  This would be a sensible viewpoint if every adult were wise, mature, moderate in their behavior and possessed at least a smidgeon self-control (Romans 3:23). Sadly, in our broken and fallen world a lot of people don’t possess any of those things.  In recent years many conservatives, even some religious conservatives have begun adopting a libertarian mindset. As a result, it is quickly becoming unacceptable even in conservative and Christian circles to say that some things are simply wrong or bad for society.  

The Western Church has lost its moral authority-

We have no one to blame but ourselves. Moral compromise, the prosperity gospel, pathetically feeble preaching and a lack of evangelism have caused the Western Church to lose its moral authority. This has left most of the Western world without a reliable moral compass. Most of Western culture has already bought into the notion that issues of morality are best left up to people to figure out on their own. It is only a matter of time before this view takes an uglier turn than it already has.  

Common sense is now a form of hate speech- 

It is now immoral to say (or even think) that some behaviors are wrong, dangerous or sinful. This development has and will continue to undermine the notions of free speech and free thought. Unless something changes it will eventually become unlawful to speak biblical truth simply because a small minority finds the truth offensive.  

Preparing spiritually for whatever the future might hold begins with accepting that Christians should not expect to be “safe” in this world. Christians are promised trouble, persecution and oppression in this life (John 16:33, Matthew 13:21, Romans 8:35). If by some chance we are not experiencing any of those things we should thank God for that blessing daily. 

As Christians we must learn to fight the ever increasing battles of this world with prayer, righteous living and truth rather than simply depending on the political system to save us.  We will never do that successfully without a healthy relationship with God and other Christians. It is time for Christian people everywhere to band to together, pray like crazy and seek God like we’ve never sought Him before. 

Persecution of Christians Might Just be the New Normal- Here’s What We Can do About It

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you~ John 15:17-19 NIV

 We live in strange and strangely terrifying times.

 This statement was recently proven true by an incident that should cause even the marginally intelligent to pause and wonder if Western society is devolving into a dystopian nightmare.

 The strange (and strangely Orwellian) event took place following the 46thannual March for Life in Washington D.C.  A group of Catholic students (all boys) from Kentucky were preparing to return home following the march. As they waited for a bus they were verbally harassed by a group of protesters. The group began hurling anti-white, anti-Trump and anti-Catholic slurs at the boys. The insults were far-too demeaning and obscene to repeat here.  After forty minutes or so of said abuse a Native American man began drumming his drum in between the two groups in a very weird attempt to “bring calm to the situation”. As he was endeavoring to “bring calm to the situation” he also verbally harassed the boys, throwing more insults at them.

 One boy stood motionless with what can only be described as a very peculiar smirk on his face as the Native American man drummed his drum directly in front of the teen. An edited video of the much older (Native American) man drumming and the much younger (white) man smirking hit Twitter like a rabid bat flying straight out of the bowels of hell and promptly went viral.  Because of the teenager’s (admittedly weird) facial expression the media (and most of America) jumped to the conclusion that the boys were the instigators in said situation.

 Because that’s what we do these days. We jump to conclusions. 

 In this case jumping to conclusions included vicious accusations of white privilege, vile anti-Christian rhetoric, death threats against the boys and calls for shutting down their Catholic school (because the school must be teaching hate. Duh.). Ultimately, it was proven that the situation was not what it seemed. A longer video proved the teenagers behaved in a remarkably nonaggressive fashion especially considering their ages and the bizarre nature of the situation.

 Some of the haters have officially back peddled. A few even apologized but many have doubled down on their animosity and are calling for the closing of the school and nothing less than the abject humiliation and/or death of every single Christian/Catholic/Conservative currently residing on planet Earth.

 For those of us in the Christian faith community (Protestant, Evangelical and Catholic) hate and suspicion of our faith has become the new normal. Christians and conservatives (even non-religious conservatives) are now the only group left on the planet that is okay to hate, abuse or humiliate. Hostility towards Christians is not a new thing (Luke 21:17, 1stJohn 3:13-14). Therefore, we should not be surprised by recent developments. That said, Christians do need to know how to navigate the new normal. Following are five things Christians can and should do as persecution and hatred of Christians intensifies.

 Defend God and His people-

 Try really hard not to be an insufferable jerk when you do it, but do defend God, the Bible and fellow believers anytime the need arises (1stPeter 3:15). An engaging and thoughtful combination of defending what we believe and praying for those who persecute us is the only way hearts and minds are ever changed (Matthew 5:44). Be as gracious as you possibly can as you speak the truth (2ndTimothy 2:15, Ephesians 4:15). The reputation of God and the church literally hangs on the tactics of God’s people at this point in human history.

 Pray for revival-

 Pray for people you know, pray for people you don’t know and most importantly pray for those in authority (1stTimothy 2:1-3). Without authentic revival we’re pretty much done for as a culture. Best case scenario we will likely devolve into a dystopian nightmare without some powerful and prompt divine intervention.

 Prepare for more persecution-

 Without God’s intervention the odds of the spiritual and/or cultural climate improving on its own anytime soon are pretty much zero.  So, draw close to God, and let go of anything that is obstructing your relationship with Him (Hebrews 2:1, Romans 13:11, Hebrews 12:1). Close relationship with God could become vital in the coming years.

 Stop rushing to judgement-

 Some have developed the nasty habit of doing what the world does: running off half-cocked after receiving a minimal amount of information on a given subject. Stop it. It makes us all look like a bunch of ignoramuses. ALWAYS assume you are only getting half the story. Furthermore, you do not have to be the first one to state your opinion on Twitter or Facebook, especially if your opinion is based propaganda and faulty information. 

 Use the courts to protect the civil rights of conservatives-

 Being born into a Democratic Republic is a gift. We should take advantage of that blessing for as long as the law will allow.

Rejoice-

Seriously. It may not feel like it, but it is a distinct honor and a profound blessing to be chosen to represent our God at such a pivotal point in history (Matthew 5:11-13, Philippians 4:4-9, Esther 4:14).

 

 Own it.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

What the Kavanaugh Hearings Say About our Culture-

Buy the truth and do not sell it— wisdom, instruction and insight as well~ Proverbs 23:23 NIV

 My husband and I are not exactly world travelers.  In almost three decades of marriage we have left the continental U.S. exactly once (to build houses in Juarez, Mexico). This past week we broke with our pathetic tradition of staying put and made our first trip to Europe. We spent almost two weeks in Ireland and loved every minute of it.  We found the people of Ireland to be genuinely warm, good-natured and hysterically funny. They were quick to engage in conversation with anyone willing to learn about the history of their country.

  In the mornings we drank truly terrible coffee and watched the European news stations (BBC and Sky). The thing about European news is that it’s really short on actual news stories. There were quite a few biased views regarding Brexit and negative opinion pieces thinly disguised as actual news concerning the American president.  However, all the other stories tended to be focused on the environment, events that took place decades ago that have zero relevance to life in this decade and lifestyle pieces. Sadly, European news makes American news look downright illuminating.

 Sigh.

 The one relevant news event that managed to make it across the pond was the scandal brewing at the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. The newscasters in Europe went to great lengths to cover every salacious aspect of the story in grim detail. Most of them had a tough time hiding their glee at the prospect of this particular nominee going down in flames.  

 It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that I have no clue what exactly happened between Bret Kavanaugh and his accuser. No one does. It is the ultimate he-said she-said.  It is clearly evident that Ms. Ford sincerely believes something happened and has experienced pain and trauma. Whether or not it was at the hands of Bret Kavanaugh could not be less clear.  That aside, I believe that most of us are missing the bigger picture. This hearing is about bigger things than this hearing.  Sadly, how the Kavanaugh inquiry is being handled says a lot about where we might be headed as a culture. Following are four major concerns we should all have about this situation and how it’s being conducted.

 We are rapidly devolving into a people that believes that the hoped-for outcome of any given situation always justifies the means used to achieve that outcome-

 It is clear that the allegations leveled against Kavanaugh are absurdly partisan at their foundation. If this were not true the matter would have been handled quietly and Ms. Ford would not have become a public figure. It’s clear the Democrats desperately want to prevent Kavanaugh from being confirmed before the mid-term elections because they are hoping to gain enough seats in November to prevent the President from confirming more Justices during his remaining time office. If they succeed they will effectively prevent the President from transforming the political landscape for a generation or more. I do not agree with what the Dems are attempting to do but I do understand what’s motivating them. They believe that the direction the country is headed in under this administration is wrong. Rather than trust the process (as Republicans were forced to do) they have chosen to ruin the reputation of a man based on what can only be described as the thinnest of evidence just so they can get their desired outcome (a more liberal America). It’s a corrupt political move and ultimately it will hurt everyone including the Dems (Proverbs 28:10, Amos 5:14).  

 We have decided that past injustice towards a particular group validates present injustice towards a different group-

 It goes without saying that women have been treated unfairly by men in the past (Proverbs 22:8). Until recently women were not permitted to vote, own property or even decide the direction of their own futures. Additionally, women were seldom believed when they were raped or sexually harassed. Even when they were believed they were frequently blamed for the assault. That said, just because women have been treated badly in the past it does not make it okay to accuse men without evidence in the present (Psalm 5:5). Nor does past injustice towards women automatically make every present allegation against men true.

  We could easily be setting victims of sexual assault back a hundred years-

 Cultural pendulums tend to swing dramatically. So, if we as a society choose to simply believe (and act on) every accusation of sexual assault (no matter how flimsy the evidence). Sooner or later the pendulum is bound to swing back to a place where no one is believed. That will be a sad day for everyone.   

 We are becoming a people who lack moral insight and wisdom-  

 There has been endless dialog surrounding this investigation (Job 13:5) however, none of the talk has centered on the prevention of sexual assault or the prevention of false accusations of sexual assault. We need to get back to a place where we are teaching our boys as well as our girls that attending parties where drunkenness is the sought-after outcome is dangerous and could easily lead to traumatic, life-altering consequences for everyone involved (Proverbs 1:7, Psalm 119:104).

 Period.

 

 

Manchester, Multicultural Madness and Why We Should All Care About Politics

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight~ Isaiah 5:20-21 NIV

I was preparing dinner when I heard the sad and all-too familiar news that there was yet another terrorist attack in Europe. This time the attack was a bombing at an arena in Manchester, England. The suicide bomber killed 22 and wounded 116 (mostly school girls and their parents) as they were leaving a concert Monday night. 

 This type of tragedy inevitably highlights the bigger issues of life. It gets thoughtful people focused (at least temporally) on both the innate goodness and incomprehensible evil of mankind, the preciousness and brevity of life, and the importance of vigilance when it comes to our safety and the safety of our children.

 As central as these issues are, it’s not where we ought to get stuck at this moment in history. Rather, the attack in Manchester ought to place our focus squarely on the importance of politics; or more precisely on political ideas and why we ought to care about them.

 It has become almost a badge of honor in Christian circles not to care about politics or political ideas. I get it. Following the epic disappointments (and outright failures) of the “Religious Right” and “Moral Majority” political movements in the eighties and nineties many Christians concluded that politics are a distraction to the real mission of Christianity and there is little value to Christian political involvement.

 For the record, I do not believe politics are the be-all-end-all solution to every problem we have. To my knowledge, no law or political idea has ever changed a human heart or healed a sin-sick society. Only Jesus can do that. That said, politics matter because politics are the soil in which a society grows.

 If the politics of a society are bad, the society will eventually go bad.

 Nazi Germany is the classic example. In less than twelve years Nazi political ideas annihilated twelve centuries of cultural Christian witness, obliterated the flourishing Jewish culture in most of Europe and ended the lives of six million men, women and children.

 Conversely, good politics produce good cultures.

 We possess the blessings of individual liberty, economic freedom and the ability to speak our minds and worship in any way we see fit because of the political ideas and leanings of our Founding Fathers.

 America never would have become America and Nazi Germany never would have become Nazi Germany if it had not been for political ideas.

 For at least two decades Western political leaders have embraced the notion of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is the belief that all cultures and all aspects of all cultures are all equal. Because all cultures (and all traditions within cultures) are equal, no one has a right to judge the deeds or beliefs of another culture.

 It’s all very tolerant, broadminded and progressive.

 However,

In order to fully embrace multiculturalism you must also embrace the notion that a culture that protects, educates and nurtures young girls is no better (just different from) a culture that ritualistically mutilates the sexual organs of young girls and sells girls into sexual slavery. One must also embrace the notion that a culture where most folks respect the beliefs (religious and otherwise) of others is no better (just different from) a religion where some followers think terror and violence are a legitimate means to a political, religious, or social end. You must also accept that those followers will cultivate those beliefs in their places of worship and in the hearts and minds of their children.

 Let’s be real here.

 Not every person who comes from a culture that observes bad traditions is a bad person. However, some cultural traditions and beliefs are quite clearly bad (burning widows alive, slavery, racism, sexism, terrorism, genital mutilation, eating people). Those traditions have no place in any society.

 Yes. I am judging. Get over it.

 Multiculturalism is a stupid political idea directly related to the proliferation of terror attacks in Europe, including the one in Manchester. Sadly, it’s just one of a hundred stupid political ideas destroying Western culture that Christians are not praying about or confronting. Sadly, many Christians don’t even recognize multiculturalism when they see it in their children’s textbooks or hear it preached from the pulpit.

 The real mission of the church is to act as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) and make disciples in whatever culture God places us (Matthew 28:19). We have to understand the times we live in (1st Chronicles 12:32) to do the things the church has been called to. Understanding our times demands political awareness and involvement.

It’s that simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God Calls You to Love a Jerk

To you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you~ Luke 6:27-28 NIV

 Pretty much every Christian I know (myself included) likes to pontificate endlessly on the topic of love.

 Why on earth wouldn’t we?

 In a world that is increasingly more hostile towards Christians and their faith, love is one of the few doctrines left that everyone likes discussing. Sin, judgment, obedience and hell are sensitive, uncomfortable, sticky-wicket kinds of issues that are all-but certain to offend pretty much everyone. However, no one can quarrel with the whole notion of loving people.

 That said, even a hasty analysis of the comments section of any news article or blog piece posted on the Internet clues us in to the fact that although most people love the idea of love, and we adore quoting scriptures concerning the importance of loving people, we struggle mightily with the implementation of loving people.

 The Christian standard of love is outrageously high and almost impossible to achieve, mostly because some people are jerks and God calls us to love them anyway. Scripture commands we love people who do not love us back and those who openly despise us. We are also instructed to love people who make fun of what we believe, insult our intelligence and tell lies about us (Romans 12:9-21).

 This is quite obviously easier said than done.

 There is no question that loving people (even nice people) is a concept that is far less painful to achieve in theory than in practice. That said, it’s easier to love a person when there is relationship in place or an emotional bond that has already been established.

 Showing love to a wayward child or a spouse with a less than pleasant disposition is somehow much easier than trying to muster up some emotional warmth or caring for a heartless, egomaniacal boss or an intellectually pretentious brother-in-law/college professor/auntie/co-worker. The one who cannot seem to stop themselves from insinuating that the only possible motivations anyone could possibly have for voting for a particular political party would be racism, homophobia or a criminal level of stupidity. It’s even harder to muster grace (let alone love) for the media personality who is constantly undermining decency and openly supporting actions and attitudes wholeheartedly contrary to God’s way of doing things.

 Sigh.    

 Thankfully, authentic Christian love is more about making a choice than manufacturing a feeling. We can choose to behave in a loving way towards people we don’t particularly like. In the process we might actually change hearts and minds in a way that hateful and nasty rhetoric or sidelong glances never will.

 Loving jerks needs to begin with some honest self-examination. Sometimes we are the innocent victims of jerks and other times we are the ones acting like a jerk. Even Christians are capable of less than Christian behavior from time-to-time, especially when someone is intentionally pushing our buttons. Any time we feel offended or hurt, it’s a good time to prayerfully evaluate our own actions and attitudes to see if we are doing anything that is contributing to the problem.

 Nothing about honest self-examination is pleasant or easy, however it is necessary if we want to grow and mature spiritually.

 Sigh.

 If after some soul-searching we discover we are indeed part of the problem, then we need to repent. Repentance is all about changing how we think about the person who has hurt us. Instead of focusing on the things we don’t like we need to look for positive qualities. We also need to cease any hurtful actions on our part such as gossip, ugly or passive-aggressive comments, and writing rude things about the person on the Internet. Genuine repentance always includes praying for the person who wronged us.

 Praying for the person who offended or wronged us really does make any repenting on our part that needs to be done easier and less painful, and prayer actually has the capacity to change the heart of the other person.

 Bonus.

 Then God calls us to the truly hard thing, blessing those who curse us and actually doing good to those who have wronged us. Doing good is about more than an absence of malice. It’s about thinking through to what Jesus would do to the person and then doing it.

 Love is an action.

 

How Hate and Fear Got Trump Elected

The truth shall make you free~ John 8:32b NKJV

It’s been nearly two weeks since the votes were counted and Donald J. Trump was elected as leader of the free world. Sadly, half the American electorate is still deep in the weeds of a bitter grieving process. Because anger is not an easy emotion to sustain over a long period of time I figured that the riots, temper tantrums, and malicious Facebook tirades would be easing in intensity by now.

 I figured wrong.

 Over the course of the last two weeks I have seen a steady stream of social media posts and liberal columnists demanding that Trump step down (seriously, like that will happen). Others are hanging on to the fantasy that a large enough percentage of state electors will go “faithless” to reverse a Trump victory at the eleventh hour.

 As if.  

 Others are descending deeper into a state of denial. The vast majority of progressives out there are convinced the only reason Donald Trump won the election is because half of America is racist, poor and stupid.

 This belief exposes an ugly truth. We have become a nation of reflex labelers. We no longer take the time to discover the nuances of what people think or how they feel about issues. Instead we slap a label on those who do not think like we do do. Sadly, this is typically done based on the scantest of information, which makes it almost impossible for those in denial to see the truth.

 For the progressives who read this blog (I know you’re out there) I want to clear up a few misconceptions concerning the Trump win.

 One piece of Trump’s success was his competition. Hilary Clinton was a flaming-hot mess of a candidate. She was a scandal-ridden nominee who presented no new ideas and in spite of a lifetime spent in public office she could boast of no actual accomplishments.

 Clearly, anyone could have beaten her.

 However, Trump’s success was not due entirely to Hillary’s weakness. Economic concerns were on the minds of many Trump voters, but the election results were about more than just the economy. I believe the issues that propelled Donald Trump to the Presidency run deeper than all of that.

Ultimately the Trump win was about:

 Fairness-

 Prior to 1973, abortion was outlawed in thirty states and legally limited in the other twenty. America was a steadfastly pro-life country. Nonetheless, seven Supreme Court Justices overrode the majority and legalized abortion on demand in all fifty states.

 Three states (Maine, Maryland, Washington) legalized gay marriage due to a vote of the people. No state enforced prohibitions on homosexual sex or same-sex cohabitation; most states simply refused to recognize gay marriage. Nevertheless, in 2015 the Supreme Court marginalized the masses and overturned thousands of years of social wisdom when they pulled the “right” for same-sex marriage out of thin air.  

 It is estimated that roughly one-percent of Americans identify as “trans-sexual” and yet the federal government is attempting to force schools and business to make costly and difficult “accommodations” for a tiny minority, despite the practical concerns of millions.

 Clearly, none of this is fair. Unless of course your definition of fairness differs dramatically from the commonly accepted meaning of the word.

 It was also about common sense and respect for others-

 Contrary to popular belief, it is common sense—rather than hate—that dictates that we carefully screen immigrants who belong to a religion where some of the adherents commit acts of senseless violence against innocent people. It’s absurd to insist that state mandated education teach children there is an endless array of genders for them to choose from.  Especially, when one considers the sorry state of public education in many areas. Contrary to popular belief, most Christians LIKE gay people. However, they also believe it’s irrational and disrespectful to demand they bake a cake for a gay wedding.

 Finally, it was about fear and hate-

 Not fear of Muslims, women, gay people, Latinos or a changing America. It was fear of the liberal left and their hatred of conservatives that drove folks to the ballot box. Conservatives have been watching liberals for years and the riots in Ferguson, Baltimore, Seattle, Milwaukee, Portland and St. Louis have proven that sane people ought to fear a progressive majority. Sadly, fear is increasing, thanks to the aggressive vitriol coming from the left since the election. Hilary Clinton reinforced that fear when she called Trump supporters “deplorable” and when she declared, “religious beliefs must change”.

 Conservatives knew what religion she was talking about and it scared them. It was the intolerance and hate that has become endemic on the left that drove conservative America to vote for Donald Trump.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Should Christians Live in a Scary World?

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side~ Proverbs 3:25-26a NIV

 The world is a scary place these days.  

 The 2016 presidential primary looked more like a continuous loop of an old episode of the Keystone Kops than a thoughtful campaign for the job of President of the United States; the two contenders left standing look and act more like parodies of presidential candidates than actual candidates.

 We are told the economy has improved, but the job market is tight and so are budgets. Terrorist attacks have become so common that they are no longer even shocking. Civility and decency have taken huge hits in recent years. Marriage rates are plummeting, illegitimacy rates are soaring, race relations are terrible, abortion and divorce rates remain steady and the entire notion of gender has become so squishy that no one even knows where to go to the bathroom anymore.

 Church attendance is down, as are conversions. Biblical ignorance has soared to heights not seen since prior to the Reformation. Radical Islam is a very real threat to the notions of religious and political freedom and yet many spiritual and political leaders are too fearful and feckless to even debate the issue like grown-ups, let alone do anything about it. As a result the persecution of Christians and Jews has become widespread in some areas.

 Sometimes it feels like the world is a great big political and social tinderbox and we are all just waiting for someone to light the right match to make it all go boom.

 Sigh.

 Some respond by relentlessly analyzing and lamenting the issues. They write long, depressing blog posts cataloging the world’s social and political sins. They are convinced the apocalypse is coming next Thursday and have prepared accordingly. This group plans to hunker down and grit their teeth as they wait for the end to come and sinners to be vanquished from the earth.

 On the other end of the spectrum are those who throw vast amounts of physical and spiritual energy into bringing heaven to earth. This group believes that if we all work together to “take our world for Jesus” by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and acting as agents of peace in the world everything will eventually get better. These folks believe deep down in their hearts that it is ultimately up to Christians to make the world a better place through human efforts.

 Both views are harmful in their own their own unique way. The first is a creepy form of fatalism Christian people should avoid like serial killers and skin diseases. Christianity is the hope of the world and Christians ought to be the most hopeful folks on earth. I am convinced that preaching fatalism without offering any kind of hope or optimism for the future is an egregious form of spiritual malpractice.

 The second option certainly sounds better on the surface. It’s positive and proactive; it mobilizes folks to action without freaking them out. Nonetheless, it is a misguided notion at best. Nowhere in the Bible are believers commanded to “take the world for Jesus” or “usher in the Kingdom”.

 That’s God’s job.

 The command for believers to “ be courageous” in the face of danger, opposition and even the threat of death is given repeatedly in Scripture. I seriously doubt God would reverse course now and tell His people to hide out until He gets back. Nor should we allow ourselves to be lulled into believing that the world will be dramatically transformed through feeble human efforts alone.

Christians should make every effort to remain hopeful and confident as we act as God’s representatives in this world. We are told to pray persistently for the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth and to resist the temptation to sin as we wait. We are also told to tell anyone who will listen about the hope Jesus offers and make the people who do listen into disciplined followers of Jesus. We are also told to feed the hungry and help the less fortunate, but not in a misguided effort to simply make the world a “better place”. Rather, as a tool to reach people with the hope of Jesus.

 He’s the real hope we have in this world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

They come intent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They mock kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; by building earthen ramps they capture them~ Habakkuk 1:9-10 NIV

 Last Sunday morning I woke to the sad but not terribly shocking news that there was yet another terror-attack on American soil. This time forty-nine people were killed in an Orlando, Florida nightclub.

 There are no words for the sorrow I feel for those who lost someone they love in this senseless tragedy. My heart breaks for the family and friends of the victims who will undoubtedly continue to experience fallout from this tragedy for years to come. I pray that each one will find the peace that only Jesus can bring in the midst of their pain and loss.

 I watch a lot of news.

 So far this week I have heard analysts and legislators on both sides of the aisle blame the attack in Florida on guns, politics in the Middle East, homophobia, the sorry state of our mental healthcare system, loose gun laws, the shooter’s Dad, the internet for “radicalizing the shooter”, sexual repression, morality in America and the sin of “Islamaphobia”.

 Whatever that means.

On and on it goes.

 Sadly, everyone is working so hard to find an excuse for the inexcusable that nobody is asking the one question that really needs to be asked. What is the one common denominator nearly all extremists and their sympathizers share in common? No one asks, because truth-be-told no one wants to discuss the elephant in the room.

 Islam

 Every time a terrorist attack occurs anywhere in the world every ignoramus with access to a microphone or a keyboard rushes in to say “Islam is religion of peace”, and that a few bad apples have hijacked an otherwise wonderful religion. The implications are clear, anyone who dares to disagree with the notion that Islam is a peaceful religion is a racist hater. It has become a highly effective tool for shutting down the conversation.

 But is it true?

 Is Islam a religion of peace? It seems to me that it would be more accurate to say that Islam is religion of violence that has been hijacked by a whole lot of peaceful people who wish to transform Islam into something it is not- at the very core of it’s teaching.

 I do not hate Muslim people. Nor do I believe that the vast majority of Muslims are violent individuals. However, I have come to believe that the religion of Islam is a profoundly violent and tyrannical belief system that seeks to control and dominate every individual on this planet.

 Sharia is the heart and soul of Islam. The word Sharia means “way’ or “path” and is the body of law that flows out of the Quran. Sharia directs every facet of public life for Muslims and much of their private lives. The vast majority (two-thirds) of the worlds 1.6 billion Muslims believe that Sharia law ought to be the law of the land EVERYWHERE.

 Sharia teaches:

 The penalty for rejecting Islam is death~ Quran 9:29-31

Husbands are to beat disobedient wives~ Quran 4:34

Muslims are commanded to terrorize non-Muslims~ Quran 8:60

Men are superior to women and meant to rule over them~ Quran 4:34

Murdering innocents is a valid form of inspiring terror~ Quran 9:14, Quran 9:5

The penalty for homosexuality is death~ Quran 7:80-84

Torture is demanded for apostasy, adultery, and refusal to convert and during times of war~ Quran 24:2, Quran 22:19-22, Quran 9:73, Quran 5:33, Quran 8:12

 The worldview that develops as a result of Sharia translates into a living nightmare for non-Muslim’s residing in Muslim countries. Even in so-called “moderate” Muslim countries such as Pakistan “blasphemy” laws ensure that no non-Muslim has authentic freedom of speech, assembly or worship. Nor are non-Muslims ever really free from the threat of imprisonment, torture or death.

Blasphemy laws in Pakistan are responsible for the murders of at least two hundred Christians (including children) since 1994. Remember, Pakistan is a “moderate” Muslim country; their government is extraordinarily progressive in their treatment of non-Muslims compared to, say, Iran or Iraq.

 As Christians we should not fear or shun Muslims, nor should we ignore the reality of they believe or buy the lie that Islam is a religion of peace, because it’s not.

 Every Christian ought to be educating themselves on the basics of Islamic doctrine, so that we can effectively pray for the salvation of Muslim people. Muslim men and women need to know the love and spiritual freedom that only Jesus Christ can offer them. It’s our responsibility as believers in Jesus to reach them with that truth.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God Ordains Trouble

 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here. God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God”~ Genesis 44:5a, 7, 8a

 I rarely worry during the day and I’m usually out like a light within minutes of my head hitting the pillow. I would love to tell you it’s because I am some sort of a super Christian who has completely conquered the sin of worry.

 However, that would be a terrible lie.

I do worry sometimes. Sadly, it’s never at an hour when I can constructively deal with issues or problems. For some reason I will never entirely grasp, my brain simply prefers to focus in on all the unsolvable problems of life around three-o-clock in the morning. It never fails to amaze me how I can feel perfectly relaxed and anxiety-free at ten only to wake up with an extensive list of thoroughly bizarre concerns that appear to require my full attention just a few hours later.

 I was back at it the other night, wide-awake at 2:45 a.m. staring at the ceiling, mulling over an issue that has been vexing me on and off for months. The situation in question can only be categorized as an interpersonal disaster. I cannot figure out for the life of me how exactly the situation got to be so bad or even where it all went wrong in the first place.

 Looking back, there are things I could have (and probably should have) done differently. That said, I’m not sure doing things differently would have improved the outcome all that much. The whole thing is a big, stupid mess that appears to have been fated to become a big, stupid mess from day one. And the mess just keeps getting messier no matter what I do (or stop doing) to fix it.

 As I lay awake in the wee hours of the night praying for wisdom, it struck me that there are times in this life when it appears as if God has simply ordained trouble for people. It happened to some of God’s best and brightest. Paul, Joseph, Naomi and David are just a few examples of people who found themselves in serious trouble they did not create and were powerless to escape without God’s intervention.

 When Jesus promised we would have trouble in this life (John 16:33), He was not overstating facts. Friends betray our confidence, the wrong people get elected, persecution occurs, financial misfortune appears seemingly out of thin air. As if all that were not enough, spouses are sometimes prone to wander, terrorists attack without reason or forewarning and kids who were raised right can still go horribly wrong. Even the seemingly most secure and peaceful of situations can and sometimes do transform in the course of a single day.

 God’s purposes are largely hidden and almost always easier to understand in retrospect. Sometimes, as with Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, God has a much larger plan that is unfolding, and our pain is simply a stepping-stone to our true purpose in this life. Other times, God uses trouble to prepare us for responsibilities or blessings beyond anything we could possibly imagine, as He did with Joseph and David. Other times, trouble or persecution is simply the natural consequence of a life of obedience, as with the apostle Paul.

 God also uses trouble to reveal truth we need to see about ourselves. In the process of revealing those truths He refines us and makes us better people. Sometimes God uses trouble to draw us into a closer relationship with Him, and sometimes God uses trouble to reorder our priorities and steer us back to our original calling.

 If you live long enough and serve faithfully enough you will likely find yourself in the middle of a mess you did not make and have no clue how to fix. When trouble comes and life feels out of control, the natural response is to wonder what we did wrong or if God has somehow abandoned us. That response makes sense on a natural level but is an enormous waste of spiritual time and emotional energy.

 Rather, we should get busy praying for wisdom, direction and the ability to be flexible because something infinitely bigger and better is likely right around the corner.

The trouble you are facing today is simply God preparing you for the blessings and responsibilities of tomorrow.