On the Oregon College Shootings: Do We Have the Courage to Change?

I hate guns. I hate war. But wars do not start by themselves and guns do not kill on their own. Can we please start talking nationally about the root causes of violence and hatred, especially among young people? Can we examine the media and the role models they push on society? Can we examine popular culture? Can we examine music and movies and television? Can we examine video games and unbridled and unregulated Internet access for children? Can we examine the medication of young people for the never-ending list of psychoses being discovered and diagnosed every day? Can we talk about absentee parenting? Can we talk about the role faith (not religion) plays in creating positive boundaries, moral absolutes (yes there is a right and wrong) and ethical rules? Do we really have the guts to take this thing on and not just pass another law and believe we have actually done something? That’s the kind of debate I am interested in…let’s not make this solely the NRA v. America. That is a false premise…this is so much more and we all know this.  This is about us, all of us, and whether we have the courage to change from within so that real, positive change can occur without.  Perhaps as well this has much to do about whom we love more, ourselves or others.  In a selfie world of self-love, self-promotion, and self-centeredness, are we taking the time to love, support, care for and nurture our children, our neighbors, our friends and even strangers?  How many would have been saved if those around the Oregon shooter, the Newtown shooter, the Columbine shooters, had really cared, had paid attention and had become involved.

Please join me in praying for all of those who have been effected by this most recent tragedy.  Yes, it will take more than prayer I know that.  But it will take more than one more gun law as well.  Our children and our young people are our future…we need to stop and examine why each new generation seems to have more who are lost, disillusioned and angry than the one before.

I’m Not the Example to Follow

The Bible instructs us that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that (we) may proclaim the excellencies of him who called (us) out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

Notice it tells us to proclaim His excellencies not extol our alleged virtues! When we talk about God’s perfection we are giving instruction for life, when we talk about our own “perfection” we are opening ourselves and our faith up to ridicule and condemnation.
Too may of us find religion or get “saved” and use that as a license to hold our new lives up as a beacon to others to follow…then wonder why there is so much anger, confusion and rejection when we cannot live up to our faith 24/7.  The light we are to shine is God’s light not ours! We are not to be worshipped and to lead by example, we are to lead others to God through Jesus Christ who by his example provided a firm foundation for faith and a renewed life for all.  We are broken, even the most faithful among us, and therefore we cannot use our vanity and pride wrapped in faith and Bible quotes to shame others, beat them into submission, or give them as an example of Christian perfection.  It is a trap set by Satan to confuse the un-churched and un-saved so that they reject the messenger and refuse to embrace the message.
Do not follow me.  I am a broken Christian.  Follow Jesus Christ, the only perfect being to walk this earth and listen to His words, not mine.  I have a testimony that may inspire and create an initial thirst for Truth, but he has life changing instructions that will lead to eternal life!

Evangelicals and Pope Francis

I think that evangelical Christians, of which I am one, need to be very careful about dismissing or criticizing the Roman Catholic Pope Francis. I have heard people, fellow believers, say Francis is the Anti-Christ mainly for his supposed left-leaning statements. As with all leaders of the faith his words, like anyone else’s should be weighed against the Bible.  Pope Francis is clearly a man of God, although I do not of course adhere to his infallibility as to Church matters and his opinions about earthly matters are obviously his own. Yet he is spreading a Gospel message to many who are not saved, and un-churched, or little-churched and who need God. Many would likely never pay attention to the Word of God without the widespread interest he has generated. He is also clearly a good, humble, decent human being who loves as Christ loves. There are lessons in that for all of us. My only hope is that when he leaves, just as when Billy Graham’s crusades left town, that the millions of people whose lives have been impacted are surely inspired to seek God, read the Bible, and transform their lives through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope that true faith in God, not in the Pope or any other man, is the end result.

Have a blessed day!

My Observations on the Kentucky Marriage License Controversy

Social media and traditional media have been lit up with opinions about the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, resulting in her temporary imprisonment for contempt of court.  There are passionate arguments on both sides of the issue.  One thing that cannot be denied is the fact that the clerk, who led a very wayward life until a few years ago, has embraced her faith fervently and without apologies.  She clearly believes that her conversion was a life changing event, and like many who have been transformed after hitting rock bottom (in her case multiple marriages, children out-of-wedlock and other serious personal crises) she is determined to stand firm in her faith against all critics.  She has truly decided to reject this world and embrace the promises of the next.

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (NIV)

“If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.” (MSG)

The one clear message that God has for fervent believers, is that those who truly follow the cross will experience the same burdens of carrying the cross (the message of God) as Christ did: you will be rejected of men, ridiculed, scorned, attacked and perhaps even crucified.  The disciples knew this, preached their message anyway and nearly all met their deaths for their faith, some even literally sharing the same crucifixion as Christ.

Many reject the actions of this woman with Biblical references to forgiveness and judging.  This is common when people know bits and pieces of the Word but have never read the entire Bible cover to cover and considered its entire message to humankind.  I have not heard this woman condemn anyone for their lifestyle choices, nor have I heard her attack anyone personally (although ironically she herself has been personally mocked for her appearance, her lifestyle, and her faith by those purporting to promote equality, inclusion and tolerance).

Likewise I have heard the arguments that her stand is hypocritical because she gave “divorced people” licenses, and “adulterers.” While this is undoubtedly true, she clearly sees a difference in supporting same-sex marriage as an affront to her faith and the antithesis of her commitment to live a life that is pleasing to God. Loving everyone, recognizing all have sinned and fall short, is not the same to her as using her position and authority to “bless” a union between same-sex partners that she believes contradicts Biblical teachings.

“She should separate her faith from her job as a public official and do what is right and follow the law.”  This is a very strong statement that has truth in it (although many rightly see hypocrisy in the failure to hold immigration laws to the same standard).  Can Christians, should Christians hold public offices where their decisions and duties might contradict their faith?  The trouble is that we all take our beliefs with us everywhere we go, to work, to school, when we socialize.  All of us…this includes Christians, atheists, agnostics, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, climate change supporters, climate change deniers, bigots, world government supporters, militarists, doves, feminists, etc.  Is there anyone who makes a decision in a vacuum, without the influence of a personal “belief” in something (atheism is a personal belief in “nothing”).

If I were in her shoes I think I would have resigned my position, after explaining myself publicly.  It is too hard today to serve God and man, when man continually seeks to embrace lifestyles that are counter to Biblical principles.  In truth Christians are not expected to confirm to this world, and so Christians cannot expect to make the world conform to their faith. Non-believers need to come to God on their own. True Christianity is a personal awakening, followed by a personal relationship with God.  It was too personal for the Kentucky clerk to perform her duties and keep her conscience regarding her faith, and it is too personal for her applicants to be forced to accept faith in God by denying earthly government services rightly or wrongly granted in a document with which the government (not God) bestows its own definition of marriage.

I am confident that the Bible, in fact the very existence of humankind, was and is based upon mixed gender relationships (procreation is not possible otherwise and God was clear in the design of our “plumbing” to know what fits where), yet I would not take steps to deny someone who does not share my beliefs government created rights. Instead I would share my testimony about what God has done to change my life in the hope that I would create a spark of curiosity that might lead to a personal revelation and transformation stronger than any condemning act or judgmental preaching.

“Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21 (KJV)

Remember that Jesus did not come to condemn the world….the Jews of the time hoped he would take on the pagan Romans and the corrupt politicians but He did not do that.  Instead He came to save the world, by preaching a message of personal salvation obtained through a personal revelation, rebirth and re-focus on God.  Jesus asked us to leave the world behind and follow Him.  Sometimes we spend too much time trying to create heaven on earth when Jesus Himself never tried to do that…it is a lost cause and should not be the goal of Christianity.  The utopia we seek is in heaven and we should be encouraging each other to see that, embrace that, and strive to achieve that…through an intensely personal journey we each must walk alone.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

The “Do Not Offend Anyone” Movement Has Left Someone Out

We are in  the midst of perhaps the greatest movement in emotional hyper-sensitivity in human history.  In the midst of national disasters, wars and threats of wars, political and social strife, and severe economic conditions reflecting the highest number of people out of the workplace on record, the news and social media’s biggest perceived concern is who insulted whom.

Today on college campuses young people are being schooled on how to avoid “oppressive” language.  Lawsuits have been filed for emotional distress caused by the most ridiculous slights.  Teasing, joking and harmless playacting have, sadly,  resulted in suicides and mass murder.  Displaying a flag, poster, bumper sticker, and even wearing a t-shirt with a slogan on it have resulted in evictions, school suspensions, and organized marches.

Predictably the level of anger and protest against “offensive” statements and behavior often depends on the political issues surrounding them, so that some offenses are acceptable if they support current causes or are conducted by people in “protected classes”-not as that term is known in the law (race, gender, ethnicity etc.) but as has been redefined by popular culture (celebrities, rich and powerful, ardent supporters of current causes, and those in positions of power and authority).

There is however someone noticeably absent from the equation.  The God of the Judeo-Christian faith.  For while we rarely if ever hear of widespread offensive conduct and statements against the God of Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism, we are bombarded daily with images, statements and conduct that not only is offensive to Christ and the Father but rises to the level of mockery, disrespect and blasphemy on a scale that is starting to rocket off the charts.  Perhaps most offensive is the effort by many to redefine Christianity and tell Bible studying, faithful Christians that they don’t know their own faith, they are too conservative in their faith, and are too dogmatic in adhering to their faith….a claim if it were to be made against a supporter of Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism would be roundly condemned.

What is it about Jesus Christ and the God of the Christians and Jews that offends so many?  It’s not the alleged “hypocrisy” of its followers.  There is plenty of hypocrisy in the world, and the Christian faith in particular preaches the prevalence of sin in fallen man and the need for prayer and faith to overcome it daily. Christians don’t claim to BE Christ, they struggle daily to be LIKE him.  I think it is more akin to the fear and loathing most of us have about looking in a mirror.  We never want to see something that may condemn us or bring some defect, physical or otherwise, to our attention and thereby burst our self-love bubble.  For while the Christian faith offers mercy, grace and forgiveness, its teaching requiring “rebirth” and turning your back to this world and your prior sinful life, are bitter pills too hard to swallow.  Its easier to raise meaningless complaints about offensive comments then to accept the Truth about our own lives: we are sinners, living in a sinful world, embracing self-love and ignoring our Creator. Therefore if we can marginalize God, mock true faith, redefine the Word of God, and reinterpret the Bible to keep doing what we are doing, there is no need to face the mirror…we’ve created our own alternate universe. Then if we can stop everyone else from looking at us the wrong way, we will be just peachy.  In truth we will only be at peace when we make our peace with God.

The next time you want to cry and complain about someone looking at you the wrong way, think about how Christ and the Father feel to be exempt from protection by the “Thought Police.” Forgive and forget the slights and unintended insults, people are flawed, and instead examine your own life for thoughts, words and actions that insult the Creator of the Universe.  If we get God right, everything else will fall into place and the division and tension in our world will subside.  Without God there is no peace, no matter how many words are redefined, how many marches take place, and how many sensitivity classes are taught.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7

Loving, Judging and Sin in the Christian Walk

If you say you’re a Christian and there is no change in your life, you don’t hate your sin but instead embrace it and proclaim it and say God loves me anyway, are you really saved?

We as Christians are frequently being told that “Jesus loves everyone,” which is true. Usually this is being offered to counter opposition to some type of sinful behavior that elicits a strong emotional objection. Christians are told to “love” and not to “judge.” Those called out for sin (in an effort to explain Biblical expectations) exclaim that they “are who they are”, and God “loves them that way.”

Of course we must love all, but are you really a Christian if you don’t become saved, embrace Christ and strive to turn from sin…I get the feeling when people object to being judged sometimes they are saying…”I’m a Christian in my own definition of one, and that’s ok.” It’s not. Being a Christian is hard, it requires denial, rejection of the world, striving to be something else that means carrying a cross daily. Its not easy but when the heart is committed then the reward is great. Yes, God loves us as we are but he EXPECTS us to change and to hate sin, and to come out of this world, not creating false Gods and false religions that suit our lifestyles and make us feel better about our sin. I sin, daily, but I hate my sin and I strive, daily to be greater than this world.

The Truth is that if you say you are a Christian, and yet you have not yet awakened to the painful consequences of your sins, and have therefore not learned to hate them like Christ hates sin because it separates us from Him, then you cannot possibly be saved. This awakening is what reflects the emergence of the Holy Spirit growing within us.  Being saved does not mean you will not sin, but it does mean you have committed yourself to change, and change means just that: your life cannot go on as it has before.

Are you a new person in Christ or simply the same old sinner professing to believe but not willing to accept that real love means sacrifice and change?  Christ made the ultimate sacrifice, dying to this World, as a demonstration of His love for you, can you do less for Him?

The False Promises of the Modern Christian Church

There is a dangerous trend throughout modern Western Christianity that seeks to transform the Gospel into a “get rich quick” guidebook.  The emphasis on getting more “blessings” today that are “reserved for you” and “yours to name and claim” emphasizes a doctrine that says one can eliminate the pain and suffering of a fallen world through material gains.  Churches conduct entire services focused on worship and prayer (and sometimes fasting) to obtain blessings, by which they mean new cars, new jobs, new spouses, new homes and so on.  The focus is on getting the blessing NOW!  Making this world more comfortable NOW! Having more wealth NOW!

In reality this world and all that is in it is fallen and will never be elevated above its purpose as a playground for sin and a hospital for suffering.  There is a reason that Christ told us to come out of the world to follow Him.  He did not say fix up this world and make it a paradise for Christians; men, even faith leaders, are fallen, selfish and broken and cannot possible clean up what Satan and we (as his willing assistants) have irretrievably broken. It takes all of our effort, with prayer and fixed purpose, to save ourselves, let alone try to create a paradise of riches on earth.  Yet millions pray for a Mercedes, and a mansion while heaven awaits us with true paradise.  Sadly many preachers and pastors live a life of material wealth that rivals Solomon, calling into question their own focus on Godliness and true worship.

If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

Christianity is not a “before and after” story where one accepts Christ and then opens his or her wallet and the cash starts rolling in.  Praying harder, believing stronger, fasting for days will not of themselves bring us riches.  Christians will and do suffer…some of the most fervent believers (who ironically live outside the wealth of the West in places like Asia and Africa) endure enormous persecution and suffering despite their faith.  There is no luxury car waiting in their driveway when they return from their underground church service.  Yet they remain committed to Christ!  There is no collection plate yet the power of the Holy Spirit reverberates through their services because they have a strength of faith that transcends materialism.

Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants. Isaiah 5:9 

I will tear down the winter house along with the summer-house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished,” declares the Lord. Amos 3:15

Yes Christ wants the best for us and has promised to care for our needs…yet He told us not to worry or even think about them, that each would receive what he needs in this life.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

The promise of abundance is in the next life.  Why?  So we do not lose focus on Him, we do not start believing that we can create more “things” through works, that we accept unconditionally what God has for us recognizing that we are all equal in His eyes but each receive according to the purpose and plan that is unique to us.  When we think being a Christian means abundance, and that abundance does not flow as we expect our faith dissipates because it was built on a false foundation.  I know men and women who have exhibited signs of great faith and then in the face of a tragedy have cursed God or asked “where is God?”  This is a direct result of the false teachings that Christianity brings an immediate blessed life filled with earthly rewards.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20

Yes Christ can and will bless his children for their faith.  But the immediate blessings are not material, they are forgiveness of signs, mercy and grace and a promised heavenly salvation filled with eternal peace and joy.  Compared to a new Mercedes…which would you rather live for?

Have a blessed day!

 

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

Carry out your duties with respect for the Lord, with honesty, and with pure motives. 2 Chronicles 19:9

It is an interesting phenomenon that we live in a society that is fixated on reality TV, where so many sit glued to the television screen amazed at the transparency and forthrightness of ordinary people (and sometimes washed up celebrities) who, with nothing to lose, bare every inner secret and past indiscretion for entertainment.  The raw nature of these programs, where to their credit these folks are being open and honest about themselves, stands in stark contrast to the communications we often see in the workplace environment.  There an unwritten code exists where transparency is too often replaced with obfuscation, diversion, manipulative language, and double talk.  Corporate managers have their own jargon, with ever-changing trends that has become so obtuse and confusing in many workplaces that corporate language consultants are frequently hired to explain the latest trends, improve communication skills, and help interpret for those not up to the latest terminology.  Corporate speak, corporate lingo, business speak…there is even an online dictionary of “Ridiculous Business Jargon” addressing such nuggets as “above-board,” “action item,” “hammer out,” and the ever cringe-worthy “gravitas.”  My own personal annoyance is the overuse of the term “synergy” as in, “we seem to have a good synergy with our respective services.”

The avoidance of plain speaking and clear language, and the reliance instead on euphemisms and jargon in the business world sometimes leads to disingenuous communications and outright rudeness.   It masks truth in triteness and can be harmful to a work environment.  The inability to speak truth, to be clear and open and transparent often leaves employees confused, causes emotional upheaval, and does little to help correct mistakes, improve performance, and foster true growth.  Doublespeak with clients and peers can lead to resentment and poison or kill a business relationship.  It is oftentimes an outgrowth of pride, dishonesty, and selfish motives.

I try to approach my communications with my clients, partners, colleagues and employees with honesty and forthrightness. I explain what I am doing and why I am doing it.  I am honest in communications and transparent in decisions. I take the time to consider the listener and the impact of my words on them.  I avoid obfuscation and try to be clear about what I am saying, why I am saying it and what my intentions are. I am mindful of what the Lord expects from me: humility, honesty, truthfulness and compassion. I suspect that this is also what people we work with and serve as clients and customers expect from us as well.

The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but an accurate weight is his delight. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the unfaithful destroys them…. Proverbs 11

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Philippians 2:3

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5

 

Solving Bitterness, Envy and Disappointment in the Workplace

The workplace can be a bitter, angry place filled with envy, jealousy, depression and disappointment.  It is rarely a place of refuge, or a place of joy.  For too many it is a place to be tolerated and endured for the sole purpose of paying the mortgage, a car loan and feeding a family.  I know very few people truly at peace and experiencing happiness at work.  It is a constant pursuit for more…more money, more recognition, more authority, more favor, more affirmation of self-worth and value through things.  It is never-ending and never fulfilling and does not have to be this way!

Matthew 13:3-9 talks about the parable of the seeds and highlight how the deceitfulness of riches and the worries of the world can choke the life out of man.  When men and women pursue earthly treasures and favor they are so frequently disappointed, for even those who reach their goals only find that they have been replaced with new, higher ones and the race continues.  The continuous pursuit of material wealth, position, authority and favor breeds competition, envy and jealousy and destroys lives.  It also belies the inability to recognize who we each are…that we are not all meant to star on Broadway, drive a Ferrari, play Major League Baseball, or be the CEO of a major firm.  Yet, we are all of equal value in God’s eyes.

There are blessings and riches and favor for all of us both here and in heaven.  God has created us all differently, with different skills and abilities, different personalities and purposes.  We are not all the same….our provision is equal to our purpose!  We will not all achieve the same wealth, position, power and material gain, because God has different plans for us all.  I have four children, all of whom have different levels of intelligence, different athletic abilities, different skills sets.  One is a great musician, one other a thinker, one loves books, another hates books.  One  achieves “A”s with no effort, another achieves “B”s with great difficulty.  One child has a big heart and is outgoing and empathetic, another is introverted and aloof.  One child obeys while another constantly rebels against all authority in the home.  One child needs constant love and nurturing, another shuns it. I love them all the same, the way that God loves all of us the same, but I do treat them differently…I must.  I understand that my children will bring different blessings to the world among the people they meet and the lives they lead.  So too we bring varied blessings to the world and receive varied blessings in return.  We were not made to be equal, rather we were each made to be unique!

When we start believing that we are all entitled to the same life, the same awards and rewards, and the same treatment we meet with grave disappointment and even depression.  Nowhere is this more on display than in the workplace.  The enemy wants you to be envious and unhappy and depressed…he needs you distracted from who you are and what you are to God, and instead focused on how you compare to other men and women.  Don’t get caught up in the enemies deception! Don’t you know we are all loved and blessed in the eyes of God?

Instead of looking at what the other guy has, look in the mirror at what you have.  What do you bring to the table?  What has the Lord gifted you?  Where do you fit into the grand scheme that God has assigned to you?  When you understand who you are, and accept who you are, and strive to be the best you can be and not try to grab what the other guy has, then you will find the peace and joy you are seeking at work and at home.

 

Welcoming Death

For we who love are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:11

The growth of Christian maturity is a slow and steady march towards death.  Each day we seek to kill off the vestiges of worldly sin that plague us.  Each day is a battle between good and evil, life and death, sin and salvation. Christianity is not a finger snap transformation that makes us holy and sinless.  We can never be Christ, although we can strive to be like Christ. The commitment that is required of us is a commitment to change our lives, change who we were into something new, more holy, more Christ-like than before.  We must embrace death: death to the old self, piece by piece.

One of the greatest misconceptions of the world when interpreting Christianity is the false belief (in some cases intentionally promoted) that Christians are somehow “better” than everyone else, and that therefore the failure of Christians  to live up to the “perfect” life narrative becomes proof that following Christ is either a lie or a waste of time. Of course the truth is far different.

The road to salvation is long and bumpy.  It is a race that is not won by the swift but by those who persevere. Hebrews 12:1  It means never giving up the goal of becoming something better, something new, something greater than what the world offers.  It means being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Christ told us that to follow Him we would have to die to sin daily.  Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24  The world would rather deny Christ exists and distort the truth of Christian faith rather than take that step.  Sin is addictive, alluring, pleasurable (for a time).  As believers we must not falter, must not waver, must not weaken or become discouraged.  God knows our hearts and He knows our struggles. He rewards those who strive to finish the race and cross the finish line of Salvation.

God bless you on your own personal journey!