Does Truth Matter Anymore?

 

The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth~ John 1:14 NKJV

 It’s been a long, hot week in the the Pacific Northwest. Most of our region is literally on fire right now and the city I live in is so smoky and gross that our whole house smells like we’ve been barbequing in the basement. The local health department has classified our air quality as “hazardous”.

 The heat, smoke and air quality have left me feeling more than a little unmotivated. As a result I found myself struggling to come up with a topic for this weeks blog-post. Inspiration came early Tuesday morning when I opened Facebook and ran across what I felt at the time was a rather innocuous quote from Bible teacher, Beth Moore…    

 You will watch a generation of Christians—OF CHRISTIANS—set the Bible aside in an attempt to be more like Jesus. And stunningly it will sound completely plausible. This will be, perhaps, the cleverest of all the devil’s schemes in your generation. Sacrifice truth for love’s sake, you will rise or fall whether you will sacrifice one for the other.

  Beth Moore literally could not to be any more correct on this point. The spiritual tension that exists between biblical truth and the current human definition of love is the greatest theological conundrum of our generation. I am convinced (and have been for a long time) that if the church doesn’t get its proverbial act together and figure out a way to communicate the truth concerning this issue, biblical Christianity will all but vanish with this generation. If that happens, our culture will enter a spiritual and moral dark ages, the likes of which the world has not seen since the dawn of the Christian age.

 It was not the quote that got me spoiling for a smackdown. It was the absurd responses to her quote that I found frustrating.  To my astonishment, most of those who commented disagreed with Beth Moore, some vehemently. All the dissenters called her unloving and accused her of lacking compassion. A few even criticized her for making an idol out of the Bible.

 Seriously. Is that even a thing?

 The comments were a reminder of a reality I frequently bump-up against when I’m interacting with some Christians. Sadly, too many in our generation have twisted love into something that is not found anywhere in the Bible.

 There are two truths we need to acknowledge concerning Jesus, love, and the Bible. First, we simply cannot separate the words of Jesus from the rest of the Bible. In the book of John, Jesus is referred to as The Word. By using that particular designation to describe Jesus, John is making a powerful statement about who Jesus is and how He fits into Scripture.

 John is declaring that Jesus is the personification and expression of the word of God. Jesus was the substance and incarnation of all that had been written in the Old Testament law and all that was to be written in the New Testament letters.

 What that means is that the statements Jesus made in the gospels (the red letters that contemporary Christians get all wound-up about) are no more or less significant than the Old Testament Law and the New Testament letters. Jesus is the perfecter of our faith and the author of all of Scripture. Not just the Scripture we feel comfortable with or those that reflect our current cultural values and sensibilities (Hebrews 12:2, 2nd Timothy 3:16, Luke 24:27).

 Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial requirements of the law and we no longer live in a theocracy, so as 21st century Christians we no longer sacrifice animals to have our sins forgiven (Jesus took care of that for us) or follow the civil laws that were given specifically to the nation of Israel. However, that doesn’t mean that the entire Old Testament should be tossed out because much of the Old Testament FEELS unloving to contemporary readers.

 The second truth we need to understand is that the good news of the gospel is wrapped up in a lot of really bad news. The good news is that God loves people so much that He sacrificed His only son so that we could be forgiven and spend eternity with God (John 3:16).

 The bad news for us is that God is a holy and perfect God who really hates sin. God decided a long time ago what actions were sinful and He has not modified or relaxed His standards on what sin is and is not. The penalty for for sin is awful: eternity in hell forever separated from God and all that is comforting and good. All people are sinners who cannot under any circumstances get right with God and be forgiven unless they are willing to leave their life of sin and follow Jesus wherever he leads (John 8:11, Mark 8:34).

 Those are at least two of the truths we need be honest about as we share the love of God with people. When we don’t tell the whole truth about life and sin and eternity we are really telling a lie that will eventually lead to the spiritual death of those we claim to love.

 There’s nothing loving about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should Christians and Non-Christians be Friends?

 Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character~ 1st Corinthians 15:33 NIV

 I subscribe to a number of Christian leadership blogs, podcasts and websites. Most of the stuff I subscribe to is pretty good. A few are hit or miss and one or two are just kind of meh. The best ones consistently tackle issues I have never thought very deeply about, challenge my biases, and help me think more imaginatively about problem solving. The not-so-great ones tend to hit on the same dozen or so issues over and over again and never really give any answers, just raise a lot questions.

 Over the course of the last couple of years, I have noted a clear trend regarding the subject matter of many of the blogs I subscribe to. All of them have been encouraging Christians to be bolder in their pursuit of authentic and meaningful friendships with sinners (their word, not mine). A few have openly scolded other Christians for not having and pursuing more intimate friendships with non-Christians. Every article I’ve read on the subject holds Jesus up as the example we ought to follow when it comes to pursuing friendships with “sinners”.

For the record, I believe with all my heart Christians ought to pursue friendships with non-Christian people (more on that later). However, I am convinced this teaching trend has become dangerously unbalanced because it presumes without offering cautions.

 I will begin with the presumptions.

 The most common presumption is that Jesus spent most or all of His time just chilling with sinners. To hear many pastors and teachers tell it, Jesus spent every moment of His life on earth at the local bars, crack houses and brothels hugging and high-fiving the local riff-raff.  

 He didn’t.

 A careful reading of the gospels reveals that Jesus did indeed attend events and parties where “sinners” were present (a very big deal in His world). We also know that Jesus was kind and welcoming to everyone (including sinners) and He definitely wasn’t shy about interacting with sinners or building meaningful relationships with very messed-up people (Luke 19:1-9, John 4). However, that was one part of His over-all ministry. Jesus spent most of His time with the twelve disciples and others (Luke 8:1-3, Luke 10:1) who were interested in following Jesus and learning to live a holy life.

 The second assumption many make is that the culture Jesus ministered in was exactly like the culture we live in.

Its’ simply not true.

Jesus lived in and ministered to a predominately Jewish culture where even the most messed-up “sinners” understood exactly what the Bible had to say about sin (John 4, Luke 9:1-9). This meant that the pre-evangelistic work of helping folks recognize the reality that they are sinners in need of redemption was done long before they came into contact with Jesus. We live in a post-Christian/atheistic culture where few people know or care about what the Bible has to say about much of anything. Even fewer feel guilt or remorse over their behavior. This difference is subtle and may seem trivial. However, it’s a difference that dramatically affects the dynamics of interacting with non-Christians. At the very least it makes spiritually productive conversations more difficult, and relationships trickier to navigate.

 And finally:

Some are assuming we are all a heck of lot more like Jesus than we actually are. Jesus was the perfect, sinless Son of God on a mission to save the world from the bondage and consequences of sin.

We are not Jesus.

 Even in our redeemed state we are still people who possess a sin nature (1st John 1:8). We are people who have been saved by the kindness and mercy of  a seriously benevolent God and nothing else (Ephesians 2:9). We are also people who have been commanded by a holy God to live a life of purity, holiness and righteousness (1st Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 5:3, 1st Thessalonians 4:7, 1st Peter 1:14-16, Hebrews 12:14). Our calling to holiness is sometimes made more difficult by our choice of friendships (Proverbs 13:20, Psalm 1, 1st Corinthians 15:33).

 All that being said, I still really believe Christians ought to be intentional about seeking out friendships with non-Christian people. People have to be led to Jesus and the only way that will happen in this culture will be through cultivating relationships. However, we need to initiate relationships with non-Christian people wisely and prayerfully, keeping two truths firmly in mind.

 First, the Bible warns us repeatedly concerning the dangers of spending an inappropriate amount of time around those who may tempt us to sin (Jude 22, 2nd Corinthians 6:14-15, 1st John 2:15-16). Secondly, we need to remember that we will NEVER lead anyone to Jesus if we make a habit out of sinning with them.

 

Breaking Free From Regret


Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death~ 2nd 7:10

 Regret is a tough topic.

 Mostly because there are so many different levels of regret. Some regrets are minor in the grand scheme of things. Missed opportunities to do good or an occasional overindulgence (AKA taco night at my house) are lamentable for entirely different reasons. However, none of those scenarios leads to the kind of grief that steals our joy and keeps us stuck in destructive emotional and spiritual patterns.

 Other regrets are tougher to reconcile because some regrets are by their very nature trickier to overcome. A missed opportunity to do good can typically be made-up at another time and the consequences of most indulgences can be remedied with a little extra exercise. Other choices are less easily overcome. We might deeply regret getting married and/or divorced, our chosen career path, the choice to have (or not have) children, or a great big sinful decision that simply cannot be undone.

 Whatever the cause, regret can quickly become psychologically and spiritually debilitating. This is especially true if we allow ourselves to get stuck in the quagmire of “what if” and “if only” thinking. When this happens, we spend an inordinate amount of time wondering what life would look like if only we had made another decision or wishing we had taken another route in life.

 “What if” and “if only” thinking is a pointless waste of energy because it keeps us stuck in the past and focuses our energy in an introspective, navel gaze-y kind of way that will never actually change anything. To the best of my (admittedly limited) knowledge even God cannot change the past. Consequently, there is nothing to be gained by wishing we could do something that even the Omnipotent Maker of the Universe cannot (or chooses not) do.

 That said.

 Dealing with regret is about more than simply “getting over it” or “moving on”. I am convinced that God wants us to do more than just “get over” stuff. He wants to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ and sometimes God uses our deepest and most profound regrets in life to shape us into the people He wants us to be (Romans 8:28).

 There are four things we need to do anytime we are struggling with regret.

 The first is…

 Own what you need to own-

 Wise people own their mistakes because they know they will never grow past anything they refuse to take responsibility for (Psalm 32:5). If you have regrets concerning your marriage or how your kids turned out, do enough soul searching to figure out your part in the mess and own it. Don’t blame God, your parents, your spouse, society, or the church for the choices you made. No one can change what they refuse to acknowledge. Taking ownership is the first step to solving problems and living at peace with the past.

 Change what you can change-

 Taking responsibility frees us up to see what can and cannot be changed in any given situation. Sometimes even small changes in how we deal with people or circumstances can dramatically affect the outcome of the situation or the health of the relationship. If you don’t know what to do, read some Christian books, seek the advice of someone who has their life together or spend some time with a Christian counselor or pastor. Whatever you do, don’t give-up.  

Make right what needs to be made right-

 This means seeking forgiveness (Psalm 38:18, Hebrews 8:12). Every sin is ultimately a sin against God, so go to Him first and ask him to forgive you (He will). Then talk to the people you have hurt or wronged. If you were a crummy parent, spouse or friend be honest about your shortcomings and don’t blame others for your failures (Psalm 37:37, Hebrews 12:14). Seeking forgiveness from the people we hurt may or may not change how they feel about us but it does create an environment where God can bless and heal us.    

 Trust in the resurrection power of Jesus to do what we cannot do-

 Sadly, there are times in life when situations or relationships are simply broken beyond our ability to fix them. Once we’ve done what we can do, we need to trust God to do the impossible. The Bible is clear; if you are a believer in Jesus then the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is living in you and working on your behalf (Romans 8:11). The resurrection power of Jesus is not only about salvation. Over time (if we let it) God’s power infiltrates our lives and that power allows Him to do the impossible and fix the things that broken beyond fixing.

 

 

 

 

Lazy Activism and Other Things That Inflame Racial Tension

God does not see you as a Jew or as a Greek. He does not see you as a servant or as a person free to work. He does not see you as a man or as a woman. You are all one in Christ~ Galatians 3:28 NLT

 I am not nor have I ever been black. My lack of personal experience coupled with an unbridled ambition to speak out of wisdom rather than ignorance, has made me enormously reluctant say anything at all concerning the sorry state of race relations in America.

 That said…

 I decided this week to go ahead and run the risk of looking and sounding like a chump because I believe attitudes towards race are more of a spiritual problem than a social or political issue. The ever-devolving state of race relations in this country says nothing good about the spiritual condition of our hearts (Luke 6:45).  

 Race ought to be a non-issue for Christians. The Bible is clear: in Jesus there is no color, race, sex, socio-economic class or any other of the distinctions humans are so fond of making (James 2:1-9, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). That sort of thinking is earthly, corrupt and foolish. It leads to nothing but suffering, discord and a sinful sort of smugness that REALLY annoys the Almighty (Isaiah 2:11, James 3:15).

 As bad as things have gotten, I do not believe it is too late to correct course, but it’s going take a commitment from all us. Positive change will come about when we all examine our hearts on this issue and make a commitment to:

 Avoid lazy activism-

 Wearing a stupid tee shirt, demanding social change on Twitter, posting rabble-rousing twaddle on Facebook or refusing to stand during the National Anthem does nothing at all to improve the problems we have with race in America. Nor does it draw attention to the problem in a way that is at all constructive or healing. It only serves to spread ignorance and further divide people. If this sort of silliness is all the activism you can mange it would be far more helpful to do nothing at all.

 Stop supposing we all have the same experiences-

 There was a black guy who lived in our neighborhood in Tucson. I ran into him from time-to-time while we were walking our dogs; he was a well-dressed, pleasant guy in his late sixties who was really into his dog. I just sort of assumed that his experience living in our neighborhood was exactly like my experience living in our neighborhood. I was forced to reexamine my beliefs when my son befriended some local police officers. They divulged that they received at least two calls a week from residents in our area concerning “a strange black man roaming the streets”. No one in that neighborhood ever called the police on anyone in our family while we were walking our dog.

 Don’t joke about things that aren’t funny-

 I am not nor have I ever been one to embrace politically correct dogma, especially when it comes to words. However, I do believe there is wisdom in choosing our words wisely and that there is simply no place for bigoted words or racist jokes from anyone in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:29) nor should Christians laugh at such things. Ever.

 Don’t assume it’s always about race-

 I did not grow-up black (obviously). However, I did grow-up poor. As a result I lived in some seriously crummy neighborhoods as a kid. And I can tell you that police treat people differently depending on their zip code. If a police officer had seen teenage-me walking my stupidly-expensive purebred dog in my old neighborhood he would have asked me— in a not so friendly manner— where exactly I got the dog. Police profiled my friends and me all the time, but it wasn’t about race, it was about socio-economic status. When I’m sitting in my car at an intersection and I see a man in the crosswalk I lock my door. It is not a racist thing; it’s a sexist thing. I don’t care what color the guy is— if he’s a he and older than 12 or younger than 80—I lock the door. Sometimes when a person behaves in a way that appears to be racist, it is racist. Other times it’s not. It would help tremendously if we would all at least attempt to assume the best in one another.  

 I am wholeheartedly convinced that Christians are called to be change-agents in whatever corner of the world God has placed them. Becoming a change-agent in this particular situation begins with attempting to see things from the other person’s point of view. But it can’t end with empathy; authentic change begins with doing what we would want done for us if we found ourselves in the other guy’s shoes.

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.

Betrayed Like Bernie?

 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you~ Matthew 5:11-12 NASB

 I feel the need to offer a brief disclaimer.

 I am not, nor will I ever be a supporter of Bernie Sanders political and social vision for America. In my judgment his very best ideas are half-baked and hopelessly naïve. Despite his declarations to the contrary Bernie is and always has been more of a communist than a socialist. Communism is an absurd notion that deserves to die already. Communism is the governmental equivalent of a ponzi scheme.

 It has swindled and subjugated millions in the name of “social and economic equality”.

 Communism promises plenty but only delivers material, spiritual and moral poverty. Once it takes root, it destroys the ambition of the people and with that all economic and human potential. Communism only works if the people view the state as their sole benefactor and provider; therefore faith in God is a serious threat to communism, which makes communism a serious threat to religious liberty.

 Equally as critical, I simply cannot envision myself casting a vote for anyone who is clearly worse at math than I am.

 Now that I have that little rant out of the way, I have to confess I felt nothing but compassion and empathy for Bernie Sanders when it was disclosed this week that power-brokers in the Democratic Party schemed to block his path to the Democratic nomination. I may not like or support his political vision, but I have to concede that it was the dirtiest of deals and more than a little unfair.

 Most of us have been where he’s at, at one time or another. We were just doing life, going about our business, attempting to do our best with the gifts, talents and opportunities God has given us, only to discover that people, sometimes people we trusted, had betrayed or cheated us in a significant way.

 We can be cheated out of opportunities, as was the case with Bernie. Or we can be swindled out of money or cheated on by a spouse. Other times it’s our reputation we are cheated out of of when we are slandered or misrepresented in some way.

 Whatever the details, being cheated is the ugly stuff of life. It tests even the most patient among us (sometimes to the breaking point) and has the potential to destroy our trust in people and our faith in the goodness of God.

 I am convinced that the feelings of anger and hurt that follow a betrayal or cheating incident are not sinful or wrong. It’s normal and perhaps even healthy to feel anger towards someone who mistreats us in some way.

 It’s how we deal with our feelings that matter.

 How we handle our feelings will determine our future spiritual health, the people we become and the condition of future relationships. If our anger and hurt is permitted to fester into resentment we will be destroyed by our own bitterness and useless to ever do anything good. Conversely, being mistreated can, over time, make us wiser, more compassionate, and more sensitive people if we allow God to use the experience to mold us into better people.

 Dealing with a betrayal in a healthy way has to begin with a deeply held belief that God really is good and that He has a plan for our ultimate good (Jeremiah 29:11), even when life is unfair and people cheat us.

 Belief that God loves us and has a plan for our good is the only thing that enables us to forgive those who have wronged us. Forgiveness is not easy and is almost always a process rather than an event. Sometimes we have to repeat the process over and over again until it sticks. We know we’ve forgiven when we are totally free of anger and bitterness towards the person or people who wronged us.

 Betrayal, like every other ugly thing we are stuck with in this sin-sick world, has the power to make us either better or bitter.

 The choice is ours to make.

 

 

Should Christians Vote in This Election?

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him~ James 1:5 ESV

 After a long, sometimes uncomfortable year of name-calling, adolescent antics, ducking indictments, character distortions and mud slinging. The conventions are upon us and by the end of the week the people will have two official candidates for the office of President of the United States.

 God help us all.

 Sadly, Americans have become accustomed to holding their noses as they vote for President. But seriously, these two contenders redefine the whole concept of crummy options.

 The one positive thing to be said for Hillary Clinton is she’s a known quantity. Sadly, everything we know about her is pretty terrible. Her employment history is jam-packed with appalling lapses in judgment, brazen corruption, terrible ideas, near indictments, government overreach and reasonably credible rumors of toddler-like temper tantrums.

 Ms. Clinton has pledged to make the next four years an extension of Obama’s legacy. If she keeps that promise, she will spend our country into poverty, inflame economic and racial conflict, select the most liberal judges imaginable, champion Planned Parenthood, continue to defund the military and sanction additional bathroom shenanigans.

 Sigh.

 Then there’s Donald Trump. Because he’s a recent arrival to politics we can only speculate on how he might govern. We do know his views have “evolved” on every subject imaginable from abortion to taxes to healthcare to his feelings concerning Hilary Clinton, his former “close friend”. Reports of shady business deals and allegations of fraud follow him around like stink on a dog. Trump is seemingly powerless to reign in his tongue; policy experts openly fear his obnoxious rhetoric will lead to an international incident of some sort.

 So, what is a Christian to do?

 There are some who have made a sad sort of peace with the fact that there are simply no good choices this year. These folks are a practical bunch, who simply wish to elect the candidate they believe will do the least amount of long-term damage. They understand that this will likely be a tight race and believe that abstaining or selecting a write-in candidate is the essentially the same thing as voting for Hilary. Few in this crowd actually like Trump; they simply hope he’s better than the alternative.

 Their case is bolstered by the fact that the next President will likely choose three Supreme Court Justices. For a generation now Supreme Court rulings have determined the moral attitudes of our nation. Three strictly liberal judges would slant the balance of the court for at least a generation, all but guaranteeing there will not be another sensible Supreme Court decision for at least four decades. If elected Trump has pledged to do everything within his power to build a more conservative Supreme Court.

 That is no small promise.

 The other side is viewed by some as inflexible but they are perhaps more realistic. They see Trump’s record of flip-flopping and history of ethically debatable conduct and conclude that he’s too much of a risk to be trusted with the Presidency. They simply do not believe he will keep his promises. This crowd believes that in this case the lesser of two evils is still evil and they simply are not interested in backing evil of any sort.

 Both views have legitimacy. Every person I know grappling with this issue is a good Christian with a healthy fear of God who believes they will answer to God for whatever choice they make.

 If this were a typical election, I would simply advise folks to prayerfully study 1st Timothy 3:1-5 and choose the candidate that comes closest to the biblical ideal for leadership presented in that passage. Sadly, neither candidate fits that particular bill, so it all comes down to a matter of conscience.

 I believe every God-fearing believer should pray and fast and then pray and fast some more. Then they should do what God tells them to do, because I don’t know the answers, and the answers might be different for different people.

 However I do know some things we should not do.

 Christians should not judge one another, or belittle another’s opinions or anxieties. Nor should one Christian attempt to persuade another Christian to violate their conscience and vote for someone they believe God has told them not to vote for. According to the Apostle Paul (1st Corinthians 8:10, 2nd Timothy 1:9) the human conscience is fragile thing and repeatedly violating it can lead to all sorts of future problems.

 I am persuaded that who we vote for matters less than the amount of time we put into praying for our future leader. At this point neither candidate appears to be worthy of the office, however that can change. God is able to make them worthy.

 God knows the outcome; it’s time to trust Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

God and the Election

Work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare~ Jeremiah 29:7 NLT

 Life is filled with disappointments.

 For most of us, our acquaintance with disappointment begins fairly early usually around the same time we discover the truth about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Hopefully, as we mature, the issues that cause us disappointment evolve at least a little. Nevertheless disappointment tends to remain an issue for most of us.

 This reality has been validated by the outcome of the 2016 election.

 As of this week, the fix is clearly in. We know with absolute certainty that barring a federal indictment or a third party miracle candidate either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump will serve as leader of the free world come January 20th, 2017.

 This was not the outcome I wanted or I prayed for. I have made a gloomy sort of peace with the fact that this election will be a choice between the lesser of two evils and I have to choose one or I am in effect choosing the other, and I have chosen my candidate.

 However, I don’t have to like it.

 In my opinion neither is fit for public office. I have never in all my life seen two candidates who are both so terrible in their own unique way. For me, having to choose between the two is almost like being forced to choose which incurable venereal disease I want to have. Both have a consistent track record of flip-flopping, personal corruption, shady deals and less-than-stellar judgment calls.

 Sigh.

 My initial inclination was to purchase a tract of land in a remote section of Wyoming and begin hoarding dehydrated food and drinking water. Eventually I calmed down and began a journey through the five stages of grief. I probably spent more time in denial and anger than is healthy before landing on acceptance, with acceptance came the acknowledgement that God is still firmly in control.

 Then I started thinking.

 I started thinking about God’s purpose in all this and how Christians (including myself) ought to respond to the chaos that has erupted in recent years. After some thought and a lot of prayer I concluded that there are at least three things Christians can do right now to prepare for the future and be light in the increasingly strange times we live in.

 First:

 Pray- Matthew 7:7, 1st Timothy 2:1-3, Matthew 18:18-19

 Pray that spiritual leaders will be discerning and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Pray for truth to take root in our world. Pray for wisdom. Pray for world leaders. Pray for the next President. Pray for people to get saved. Pray our political leaders will become the people we desperately need them to be. Just pray.

 Speak boldly- Acts 4:31

 For too long most of us have equated spiritual boldness with rudeness or disrespect for the values of others. Since no rational human wants to be an impertinent jerk, Christians have become timid and even fearful when it comes to proclaiming truth. It’s time to find some balance and start speaking the truth about sin, life, death, heaven and hell. We should choose our words wisely when we speak (Colossians 4:6). That being said, we need to speak up. Our world is literally perishing due to a lack of spiritual knowledge.

 Get grounded in the word- Psalm 119:105, John 8:32

 We live in an age of deception. We are constantly bombarded with the message that right is wrong and wrong is right. Even some who know better have departed from the truth and begun to assert that all spiritual paths lead to the same place and some prominent teachers and preachers have begun to claim that the God of the Bible goes by many names. None of this is true. Not coincidently, these radical shifts in thinking have taken place as corporate Bible studies are being dropped in many churches. The truth found in the Bible is the only antidote to the deception out there. We should study it.

 God has reminded me over and over again these past weeks that my hope is not in the political process. My hope is in God who calls each one of us to fully face the challenges of our world with hearts full faith.

 The fact that God has ultimate control over the political process is in a sense all the hope we need in this world. We know that no matter what happens in the coming weeks and months, we can rest easy knowing that God, not the next president is ultimately in control of all things.