What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Be strong and have strength of heart. Do not be afraid or shake with fear because of them. For the Lord your God is the One Who goes with you. He will be faithful to you. He will not leave you alone~ Deuteronomy 31:6-7 NLV

 I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about life.

 I freely admit that there is more I don’t know than there is that I do know. Moreover I am well aware that even after more decades on this planet than I like to talk about I probably still don’t know what I don’t know.

 Sigh.

 That said, there are some things I am convinced are true. The first is that God is a good God, and He always has our best interests at heart, even when our feelings or circumstances tell us something different. The second is that spiritual truth simply does not change or become untrue because the culture in which we live tells us otherwise. God’s opinions do not “evolve”. If something was true from a spiritual perspective two thousand years ago then it is still true today. Notwithstanding all the reports you have likely heard to the contrary.

 And lastly, I am persuaded that every human being who walks through life on this silly, sin-sick planet has or will experience the frustration and confusion that comes with not knowing what to do or how to respond to a particular situation or problem. Sadly, there are times in this life when education, wisdom or extensive personal experiences still leave us thoroughly ill equipped to handle the junk life throws at us.

 An unpleasant sense of defeat generally accompanies these times. The muddle is further compounded by the fact that the stuff that vexes us most in life is generally profoundly personal and often deeply painful. This ends up leaving even the best of us feeling bewildered, vulnerable and peeved with God.

 Which leads to doing a whole lot of nothing.

 I am convinced that the nuts and bolts story of how we got to this place in life matters a whole lot less than what we do with the circumstances we are faced with. Don’t get me wrong; there is value in self-examination. Self-examination and an honest assessment of our actions and reactions is the only thing that will keep us from replicating the same stupid mistakes over and over again.

 However, it’s what we do when we don’t know what to do that determines our character and ultimately it’s our character that determines our destiny (please pardon the trite platitude).

 Again, I do not know everything there is to know about this or any other subject. However, I do have more experience than I care to admit with not knowing what to do in a particular situation (don’t ask). So today I want to share a few tips for maneuvering through the morass of what to do when you don’t know what to do.

 First…

 Don’t get stuck in a muddle of misery and self-pity.

 Personal blows such as a job loss, relational rejection, business failure, or a divorce are horrendous, life-altering, episodes that really do warrant a legitimate grieving process. It’s crucial that we allow ourselves be sad or angry when we experience a big hurt or loss, it’s also crucial we don’t get stuck in feelings of sadness or self-pity. At some point we have to heal from the hurt, take risks again and find a new normal.  

 Do something good

 Anytime we make a big mistake or suffer through a hurtful situation it’s tempting to isolate ourselves and wait for good things to come our way. Sadly, good things rarely just happen. Good things typically transpire because we are doing good things for other people (Galatians 6:7). So turn off the electronic devices and and go interact with humanity. Volunteer in a soup kitchen, get to know a lonely neighbor, or help out at your church. It may not change your circumstances but it will make you feel better about life.

 Don’t blame God.

 Trust me, it’s not His fault.

 Forgive the jerks that hurt you

 Lack of forgiveness keeps us trapped in a never-ending cycle of bitterness that makes it almost impossible to see a way out of our current circumstances. The only way to break the cycle is to let go of resentments and forgive. It frees us up to see the future that God has prepared for us.

 There is one other thing I am staunchly persuaded is true. I am sure God never allows anything, no matter how painful or futile it may feel to us, into our life without a greater purpose. Sometimes when we don’t know what to do, God wants us to get to know Him better. When that task is accomplished, then He will show us what to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Why We Should Stop Telling People to ask Jesus into Their Hearts

When He (Jesus) had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me~ Mark 8:34 NKJV

 Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time will tell you in a state of wide-eyed wonder that evangelical Christianity has changed significantly over the course of the last three decades or so.

 Some changes have been positive and healthy. Changes in attitudes have righted some legitimate wrongs that were shockingly common in some Christian circles, especially in the arena of legalism.

 I have an older Christian friend who told me that when she was growing-up her family had an actual LIST of things she and her siblings were told they could not do if they wanted to be followers of Jesus.

 Among other things THE LIST included: skipping church for any reason other than serious illness, playing card games (because go-fish and Uno are gateway sins that the devil exploits to lay the foundation for future gambling addictions) attending movies of any kind, wearing make-up, going to the beach (because of swimsuits) and of course wearing pants (because she was a girl). Her Pastor also taught that it was possible to lose ones salvation for owning a television, smoking cigarettes or attending a school dance.

 Sigh.

 Thank heaven most of us have chosen to part ways with the pharisaical judgment of the past, and leave it in the past where it belongs.

 However, Christian’s today are far less devoted to their faith than our more judgmental forerunners were. Christians today are far less likely to attend weekly services, honor their marriage vows, observe scriptural commands regarding sexuality, read the Bible consistently (or at all), pray and serve in their local congregations.

 Sigh.

 It would be foolish to argue that the problems vexing the Church are somehow less threatening to Christianity than the sins of the past. The current crop of problems the church is dealing with may be different from the problems of the past, but that does not make them any less hazardous to the health of the average Christian.

 Theories abound as to how exactly we got into this mess. There are some who blame inadequate teaching from the pulpit. Others attribute the problems on an absence of church discipline. Many blame invading secularism and the acceptance of worldly entertainment in the Church.

 Oddly enough, there are even some who believe that it was the demise of legalism that created the problems the Church is now wrestling with.

 No I am not kidding.

 Some individuals actually believe that legalism (strict adherence to manmade rules) made Christians more aware of their own behavior and fearful of the judgment of others. Thus legalism protected the church from the sinful excesses currently devastating the body of Christ.

 Clearly, some theories have greater merit than others.

 However, in my estimation they all miss the mark. The real problem is not with legalism per se. In this case legalism is simply a symptom of a much bigger problem. The real problem lies with how we view the Christian life. If we view the Christian life as a list of rules to be kept then we will eventually devolve into a pool of legalistic goo and destroy the beauty and spirit of grace that makes the Christian life a life worth living.

 Conversely, if we view the Christian life as simply “asking Jesus into our heart” then we will inevitably come to see our relationship with Jesus as something we get to do on our own terms. The Christian life becomes something we do for our own pleasure and to meet our own needs. God becomes the servant and we become the master. He becomes a tool that we use to get what we think we need out of life. If God fails to meet our needs on our terms we leave Him on the margins of our lives or abandon Him all together and go off in search of something that will satisfy us on our terms.    

 The answer is not a return to legalism or even simply ridding our lives of bad entertainment and wrong thinking (although that idea is not completely without merit). The answer is to rethink how we view the Christian life. Christianity is not about asking Jesus into our hearts just so we have assurance of salvation.

 Christianity is about following Jesus wherever He leads and obeying His commands, whatever the cost.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Election Nightmare is Over-Now What?

 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him~ 2nd Chronicles 16:9a NASB

 I was not going to write a blog this week.

 I am on vacation. My only plan for the week was to reconnect with friends, catch-up on some much-needed sleep, replenish my rapidly dwindling stores of vitamin D and indulge my love for tacos in the great state of Arizona.

 However.

 Events have compelled me to break with the plan and attempt to communicate my hopes, fears and thoughts concerning the future of America, and more specifically, the church in America in light of the election results on Tuesday.

 After arguably the weirdest, most contentious election in modern history, the people have spoken and Donald J. Trump has been chosen as leader of the free world.

 To say I have mixed feelings about a Donald Trump presidency understates my feelings to such a degree that I literally do not have words to describe my feelings (and I always have words, having words is my thing). On the one hand I am thrilled Hillary Clinton will not be President of the United States.

 Hillary Clinton is a corrupt and godless woman. Her behavior as Secretary of State repeatedly crossed the line into criminal territory. I am opposed to the vast majority of her policy positions and I find it highly disturbing that those positions can and do change on a dime. Furthermore her irksomely smug assumption that she somehow deserved to be President because it was “her turn” irritates me to no end.

 I am beyond relieved she lost the election.

 Despite my well-documented misgivings, Donald Trump has some qualities that give me hope. He has raised four loyal, hard working, adult children, (no small feat in this world). Throughout the campaign he has chosen to surround himself with some very wise and godly people. He has promised to restore sanity to the Supreme Court and he clearly loves our country. His Presidential acceptance speech was genuinely moving and exhibited a deep desire to unite and heal the country.

 However.

 My concerns have not vanished. Some are directly related to Donald Trump as a man. The other concerns are a bit squishier and harder to put into words.

 But I will try.

 My concerns regarding Donald Trump are mostly related to his temperament and lack of consistency on issues. He has changed his mind more times on more issues than a tired toddler coming off a sugar-high. Humility (a necessary quality in a leader) is quite clearly not his greatest strength. He has said some extraordinarily “indelicate” things regarding women and appears to relish offending people unnecessarily.

 However.

 God has had lesser men to work with and still accomplished the impossible. I may not entirely trust Donald J. Trump but I do trust God.

 My concern for the country runs deeper.

 We are a deeply divided nation of dreadfully immature people. We are no longer capable of agreeing to disagree on the issues and behaving like adults. Over the course of the last week I have seen posts on social media that have left me stunned and disillusioned with the human race. There has been gloating on one side and inexcusably ugly vitriol on the other. Some are threatening to leave the country because their candidate didn’t win; others are literally setting things on fire and shutting down our cities.

 The childishness is appalling.

 Confounding the situation further, we have reached a point in America where many have come to believe that good is evil and evil is good. Every sort of depravity is encouraged by those in authority and celebrated by the masses. In recent years government agencies have begun to mandate Christians go along with the never-ending onslaught of degeneracy or lose their freedoms. Historically God has not had a lot of patience with societies that reach our level of contempt for decency and human freedom.

 Despite all that, I believe God is giving the Christian community a much-needed opportunity to regroup and get our churches, communities and families healthy again. We cannot sit back and assume a Trump win is a mandate from God to continue on with the business-as-usual mentality that has infected our homes and Churches for decades. The time has come for Christians to get serious about serving God, deal decisively with sin, live righteously, pray for wisdom and tell others about Jesus.

 It is essential we make the most of the opportunity we’ve been given. It might be the last one we get.

Why the Church Isn’t Experiencing Revival

 

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

 One does not have to look far these days to find something to be appalled at or bummed-out by.

 A short list of the issues vexing our culture and depressing me would have to include such things as: radical Islam, bigotry, bogus outrage, drug legalization, sex trafficking, divorce, government corruption, baby daddies, political correctness, anemic Christianity, anarchy, religious repression, and a government that openly encourages every sort of immorality imaginable; and don’t even get me started on the parade of dysfunction, festival of lies, flaming hot dumpster-fire election the American people are being forced to endure this year.

Sigh.

 Every Christian I know talks about the need for a spiritual revival. Sadly few of us are doing the things that typically bring about an authentic movement of God. Revival always begins with God’s people. God brings about needed spiritual and moral transformation when God’s people get real with Him about their private spiritual condition. There are at least five things all of us can do right now to expedite a much-needed movement of God.

 First:

 Stop committing idolatry- 1st Corinthians 10:14

 For what feels like eons now believers have endeavored to elect a flawless human leader who will liberate our culture from the chaos created by our own foolishness, rebellion and spiritual lethargy. Others want to bring back an America that, for the most part, ceased to exist long ago. Both yearnings are a dangerous form of idolatry. Rather than look for a leader who will fix the mess or pine for a past that is clearly in the rear view, we need to seek God for wisdom and direction to make the world a better place.

 Get your spiritual house in order- Acts 17:20, 2nd Corinthians 12:21, Revelation 2:5

 Christians are called to be the moral and spiritual leaders of whatever culture they live in (Matthew 28:18-20). Sadly, our generation has failed at this task. We’ve failed because we have amused ourselves with entertainment, adopted philosophies and participated in behaviors that are hostile to biblical Christianity and heartbreaking to Jesus. In some cases we have even accused those calling for repentance of being judgmental, unsophisticated and even un-Christian. The world won’t change until we change. It’s time to get our spiritual houses in order. Authentic social transformation begins in the hearts of people. The process of getting our spiritual lives in order always begins with asking God to reveal the attitudes and behaviors we need to repent from and then doing it.

 Vote wisely- Proverbs 28:2

 I want to begin with a couple of disclaimers. First, I do not believe any political leader can or will save us from ourselves. However, I also believe who we elect to office seriously impacts the moral and spiritual direction of our country. Second, I do not like Donald Trump. In his best moments, he is a narcissistic train-wreck of a man. It literally makes me stupid with rage that with all the choices we had available we chose him to represent the conservative movement in America. However, he is also the figurehead of the Republican platform (sigh). The Republican platform includes respect for human life, the family, the Constitution and religious liberty. It is immeasurably superior to the Democratic platform. Supporting the Republican platform also means checking the box for Donald J. Trump. So vote for Trump (sigh). 

 Pray- Matthew 26:41, 1st Thessalonians 5:17

 It’s time for all of us to start praying some uncomfortable prayers. Pray God will enable you to see life from His perspective. Pray God shows you the sin in your life. Pray God helps you to hate sin and love righteousness. Pray for the wisdom to do God’s will. When you get done praying about all that pray for the spiritual health of your church and Pastor. Pray for our leaders. Pray for the spiritual health of your kids. Pray for your neighbors and their kids. Pray God will be merciful and send revival.

 We need it.

 Reset your priorities- Matthew 6:33, Jeremiah 29:13

 There is nothing inherently wrong or sinful with watching football, sleeping in, kids’ sporting teams, making money, or Hallmark movies. However none of those things should ever take priority over prayer, Bible study and church attendance.

 We all agree that our world urgently needs revival. I believe revival will come when believers make a concerted effort to let go of idolatrous attitudes, pray like crazy, and seek God with all our hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting God Back in America

 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart~ Jeremiah 29:13 ESV

 It’s been a decade of progress and change. Sadly, much of the progress has gone in the wrong direction and the changes have been mostly bad.

 Civility and respect have all but vanished. Policymakers routinely go to war over everything and anything, and yet somehow seem incapable of solving even the most rudimentary of problems. Regard for rule of law and those who enforce the law is rapidly declining. The murder of police officers has doubled in twelve short months.

 To our everlasting shame as a nation, many black citizens feel the need to affirm the obvious fact that their lives really do matter. Just as appalling, some of those same folks become outraged at the notion that all lives really should matter equally.

 Bakers, photographers, florists and other professionals are routinely sued and sometimes even criminally prosecuted simply for declining to participate in ceremonies they don’t wish to celebrate.

 Nearly half (forty percent) of the children born in 2016 will be born to unmarried women. The news that divorce rates have declined in recent years is a blessing; sadly, few experts believe it’s because commitment has made an abrupt comeback. Rather, fewer couples are getting married, opting instead to live together.

 Being born with a particular set of “parts” is now considered entirely irrelevant to the notion of being born male or female. Gender is now entirely relative to how one feels when they wake-up in the morning.

 To Christians, all this “progress” is simply heartbreaking. Most of us never even imagined that such behaviors and attitudes would become so widely accepted. For most of us, our natural response is to long for a time when respect for life, marriage, God and the law were the prevailing standard in our society.

 We want to get God back in America.

 How to accomplish this objective is a matter of vigorous debate.

 Some think that if we simply do stuff the way it used be done those changes will transform our society back into a saner version of itself. Those who long for the good old days believe that if we return prayer and corporal punishment to public schools, kids will be better behaved and more God-fearing. Conversely, some folks sincerely believe that if hymnbooks, dress codes and Sunday school classes were to make a return to the church scene, churches would become as healthy and fruitful as they were when those things were customary.

 Others believe that the right political leader can and will bring God or at least godly values back to America and life will settle back into something that looks and feels a little less scary and hopeless. They believe that if laws change to reflect a more conservative way of thinking, hearts will eventually follow.

 Both views are fatally flawed.

 Changing actions or laws only changes people and institutions if the changes were prompted by inner transformation or, as we used to say, “heart change”. We could have the best laws and leaders in the world and no one will follow either one if their hearts are unrepentant and bent towards evil.

 I would love nothing more than to have a President who would stop actively supporting evil and undercutting virtue. That said, I also recognize that one person can only do so much. Unless of course that person is Jesus Christ and sadly He isn’t running for President this year.

 It’s not what we do or who our human leadership is that transforms our society or determines how much God we have in America.

 You and I decide how much God we have in America.

 The New Testament teaches that God occupies the hearts of people who have come to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ (Acts 7:48). If Christians (myself included) do not feel good about the level of morality, integrity or appropriate behavior we see in our communities or country. It’s time to look inward at our own spiritual lives and attitudes rather than at the world and their wickedness.

 We will never have more God in America (or anywhere else) than we have God in the hearts of individual believers. We get more God inside of our hearts when we live in closer relationship to Him and when we love people unconditionally. We will get more God in America when we ruthlessly eradicate sin from our lives, seek to become more obedient to His instructions, and when we make a daily effort to know Him better through the study of His word.

 When Christians everywhere make those pursuits their number one priority, we will have more God than we can handle in America.

 Powerful political and social change will follow our obedience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

When You’re Ready For It to be Over Already

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength~ Isaiah 40:29-31a

For the most part my son was a sweet and obedient little boy. However, there was one area he struggled throughout his childhood. Alex was (and is now) a kid who routinely spoke his mind, irrespective of the appropriateness of the situation.

 When Alex was six my husband took him to a local home improvement store where he saw a man dressed as a woman for the first time. Alex stared at the man for just a second or two, gave a slight nod, as if he had made his mind up about something significant and loudly declared that if men were going to wear dresses they ought to at least shave their legs. Alex charmed everyone within earshot with his thoroughly naïve but straightforward appraisal of the situation, except of course, the man wearing the dress.

 My son’s inclination to boldly speak his mind was not limited to the questionable wardrobe choices of others. Nor did it start when he was six. It started in early toddlerhood. To my utter horror, He would routinely ask total strangers the most personal questions imaginable. He also made a regular habit of informing the parents of other children when he felt their kids were misbehaving. He was notorious for correcting or contradicting any opinion he believed to be based on misinformation. Regardless of the age or person giving the opinion.

 As awkward, embarrassing and downright irritating all that was, nothing matched the level of humiliation I felt when my son would decide was ready to leave a gathering or a play date. Once he made-up his mind that he had enough fun for the day, he would approach me (he never once did this privately) and announce loudly that he was “done” and “ready for it to be over”. Once my initial inclination to hide under the furniture passed, I was typically overwhelmed with a very un-motherly yearning to murder my own offspring. For nearly a year of his childhood most of our outings ended with a lengthy lecture on the importance of not actually saying everything we think or feel.

 Alex’s desire to be done with any situation he wasn’t enjoying anymore was maddening. However, I do understand his feelings. Sometimes even grown-ups are done with a situation or trial long before God has decided it’s time for us to move on.

Lately, I have found myself saying some things to God that sound remarkably like the things my toddler used to say to me.

 It is not as if the trial we’ve experienced has been the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone. We have a great deal to be thankful for. We have a steady income, our kids are healthy, none of them are currently using drugs or openly rebelling against God, we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. My husband and I are healthy and our marriage is solid. In other words all the stuff that really matters in this life is still okay in our world.

 All that said, having a house that has sat on a stagnant market for the better part of a year has been hard. Our lives are currently on hold. The youngest is struggling emotionally. Living apart has been tough (to say the least) and our checking account needs CPR. However none of those issues compare to the spiritual bewilderment we have experienced as we waited for God to act on our behalf.

 There have been many times over the course of the last eight months when I have felt as if we were being tested (and failing badly). I now know I was wrong, at least about the testing part. We have been reading the situation all-wrong. It’s not a test.

 It’s an opportunity.

 Like any trial the last eight months has been an opportunity to learn to love and trust God even when life is a lot less than easy and the answers are hard to find. It’s been an opportunity to trust and to proclaim the goodness of God even when He has felt far away. It’s been opportunity to show the world what faith really looks like (Hebrews 11:1).

 I know this likely won’t be last time I will be given an opportunity that feels like a test. I am hoping and praying that the next time an opportunity disguised, as a misfortune comes around I will have the wisdom to recognize it for what it is sooner.

The Hard Truth Concerning Forgiveness

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

 They have become ubiquitous on Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Forgiveness is hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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