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America, Look Up

The importance of America returning to Christian principles and Traditional Family Values

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December 2013

How the VA Stole Christmas


This past Sunday I filled the pulpit as my Pastor wrapped up a week of vacation.  I chose to deliver a message built around the visit of the Magi.  I titled the sermon, “How the Grinch Almost Stole Christmas,” the Grinch of course being King Herod.   One of the points presented was Herod’s hostility to the new King.  I compared his hostility to the animosity against Christmas in America today.

A few days ago, I read a story written by Fox News and Commentary Radio Personality, Todd Starnes.  He reported about VA hospitals around the Country refusing gifts, carols, and cards if these wishes used the phrases “Merry Christmas,” “God Bless You,” or included Scriptural references.   At one hospital, a school wished to sing carols, but before the kids visited the patients, the VA sent a list of “government approved” songs, 12 in number.  Frosty the snowman made the cut, and knowing the current Administration, probably “Barry Did You Know.”  Any references to the sacred and spiritual meaning of Christmas wound up on the banned list.  I shared this news with our Congregation and unexpectedly, I found myself choking back tears.

Yes, over the last couple of years God’s certainly tenderized my heart, but I didn’t expect the tears on Sunday morning.  Sitting in the congregation, my dad sat teary-eyed as well.  My grief stems not from a sadness for myself, but for the future of my children.  For an instant, I imagined the school children of Grace Academy in Prosper, TX, hunched over their desks, meticulously drawing Christmas cards to cheer men and women recovering from wounds suffered while defending our Country.  I pictured them drawing Christmas Trees, Stars, and Stables, each buckling down to give their very best.  I also envisioned the disappointment on their faces as they discovered any cards wishing America’s brave warriors a “Merry Christmas” or an appreciated “God Bless You” would not be shared.  How does a teacher who instructs about the Constitution explain that political correctness now trumps the First Amendment?

It’s quite possible future soldiers attend this school, but when they become old enough to enlist, why should they place their lives on the line for a Country stripping away the Constitutional rights their fighting to protect?

Two thousand years ago, King Herod failed at eliminating Christmas.  Today, once again it’s the Government actively working to erase any public vestiges of Christmas, and without the Grace and Mercy of God, the America we’ve grown to love, celebrations and all, could become nothing more than an ancient memory.  But there’s good news.

Ban Christmas.  Outlaw Christmas.  Bow at the white round base of Frosty the Snowman.  No one can take away the spirit of Christmas nor the reason we celebrate.

And that’s the birth of Christ.

So, the VA didn’t nor can it steal Christmas but instead it swiped away encouragement and cheer.  And what do I say to that?

Bah, humbug.”

*Update:  I contacted the Grace Academy School.  This was the school that made Christmas cards for soldiers, but the VA refused to allow the Students to pass them out if they referenced “Christmas” or had Scripture.  I think it would be awesome if we sent the school thank-you cards for attempting to make our military wounded’s Christmas brighter.  I received the response below from the school along with mailing information.

Mr. Ridenour, Thank you so much for your kind words. The entire 6th-9th grade students were responsible for making the cards (52 students). Thank you notes would be such a blessing to these students to show them that they are supported in their efforts of standing up for what is right. You may send them directly to the school,

ATTN: Mrs. Chapman, Math and she will ensure that they are shared with the students.  Grace Academy of North Texas 4255 E. Prosper Trail, Prosper, TX  75078

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Liberal Chrisitianity Weakens the Church


About a year ago, “Can Liberal Christianity be Saved?” trended on Twitter.  I clicked on the statement, scrolled through the tweets, and chose a link to a recent New York Times article detailing the current membership decline plaguing Episcopalian Churches across the nation.  The substantial exodus appears attributable to the Episcopalian hierarchy’s embracing and championing of lifestyles identified as sinful in the Word of God.

In 1998, Episcopal Bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong, published a book entitled, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.”  Though a controversial and divisive figure, many current leaders in the Episcopal Church espouse his ideology, forging ahead with a concerted effort to lead their diocese to assimilate with the mores’ of the time.  According to current membership numbers, the Episcopal Church is on the proverbial “ropes.”

The Disastrous Impact of Liberal Christianity

So, why has the average Sunday attendance plummeted 23% in the last ten years?  According to the article, the Church has become,

“…flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology in favor of secular political causes.”  (New York Times, July 2012)

Many Episcopalians distanced themselves from the denomination when the Church’s House of Bishops approved rite to bless same-sex unions.  And though many bemoan the church’s wandering from truths taught in Scripture, the current Episcopal presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori traverses even further from the truth.  She endorses same sex marriage,

“prayed to a female Jesus at the Columbus convention and invited former Newark, NJ., Bishop John Shelby Spong, famous for denying Christ’s divinity, to address her priests.”  (L.A. Times, 2006)

Of course Liberal pundits applaud this tolerant form of Christianity.  In fact, many of the Episcopal congregations adopted a more Liberal philosophy to woo a younger, more open minded demographic.  Tragically, the most Liberal dioceses continue playing “Nearer My God to Thee” while the “Titanic” plunges to the depths.  Sociologist Rodney Stark and historian Phillip Jenkins state,

“the more demands, ethical, and doctrinal, that a faith places upon its adherents, the deeper the adherents’ commitment to that faith.”

L.A. Times contributor Charlotte Allen writes,

“When your religion says ‘whatever’ on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it’s a short step to deciding that one of the things you don’t want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to Church.”

In other words, a hungering for truth exists and if the world offers the same ideology as the Church, why clutter the schedule with one more obligation?

In writing this article, I do not intend to denigrate the Episcopalians or any other denomination.  I write this as a warning shot.  Any denomination considering the adoption of a more “Liberal Christian” worldview risks the mass departure of active members and worshippers.  The world needs a moral system superior to what’s produced by out of touch Hollywood elitists.  God unveils that moral system in His Word.  When a church or an individual metamorphoses to be politically correct, a biblically conscientious congregant quickly realizes that their denomination offers nothing more than secular liberalism.  The Bible teaches that as believers we live in this world but are not of it.  If a church welcomes and encourages aberrant behavior as normal and propagates a woman’s right to abortion, then worshippers ought to feel free to lay alms at a voting booth once every four years instead of darkening the door of a sanctuary.

Romans 12:1-2,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I Peter 2:11,

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.

When fleshly lusts stroll into a body of believers, invited by the powers that be, God cranks the spigot of favor off, not even a drip escapes His fountain of blessing.  People them choose.  Should my ideology evolve with the times or hold fast to Scripture?

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”  Isaiah 40:8

Phil Robertson Modeled Jesus


Yesterday evening at family Christmas, my brother announced, “I just saw a Fox News Report.  It’s official.  Phil’s back on the show.”  The family room erupted with a smattering of applause and head nods of approval.  But no one was surprised.  A louder voice spoke.  Money talks.

After a nationwide uproar, A&E re-instated Phil Robertson to his prominent and beloved position on Duck Dynasty.  According to the Left, Phil committed the unpardonable sin.  He dared define homosexuality as sin, citing the Bible as his reference.  The side always preaching “tolerance” leveled accusations of bigotry and homophobia at the God fearing outdoorsman.  Resolved to hold fast to the truth of Scripture, the Patriarch of the Robertson Family told a Church Bible Study group he refused to back down from his anti-homosexuality statements but added,

“I’m a lover, not a hater.”

He’s modeling Jesus.

In the Gospel of John chapter 8 we find the following:

Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee

Many people, when justifying a choice or behavior, quote this section of Scripture, stopping before Jesus finished his statement.  He did say,

“Neither do I condemn you”

But He also added,

“Go and leave your life of sin.”

People hate being labeled a sinner.  It sounds so filthy and dirty and undesirable.  And yes, that’s how God views it.

Had the religious leaders dragged a homosexual, or a thief, or a person charged with “knock-out,” a murderer, or a child guilty of sticking gum in his sister’s hair, to the feet of Jesus, He’d said,

“Go and leave your life of sin”

It’s not a popular message.  It steps on our toes and causes us to be uncomfortable.   But that’s how God deals with our sin.  If people desire forgiveness, there must first come an acknowledgment of sin and then repentance, a

“Going” and “Leaving.”

Phil Robertson pointed out several sinful lifestyles, targeting no group in particular.  He explained every person’s need of repentance and of God’s role in holding Heaven and Hell’s citizenship rolls.

What did the “Duck Dynasty” star do wrong?  He ruffled the feathers of a minute percent of people searching for a lifestyle validation.  From Mr. Robertson, those people won’t receive,

“Congratulations, you’re living in a sinful lifestyle,”

but more likely hear,

“There’s good news, a little Baby born in Bethlehem entered the world to shoulder your sin problem…as well as mine.”

And that should be good news to one and all.

The President’s Evolving Morality


Almost two years ago, our President ignited a media firestorm when he personally endorsed gay marriage, a personal nod to gay rights activists on the heels of North Carolina’s approval of an amendment banning same sex marriage.  One only guesses he timed his endorsement for purposes of political gain; he shared his “evolved” view on the eve of a trip to plead for funds from Hollywood elitists.  After his announcement, 21 million dollars poured into his re-election campaign coffers, the choice to come out and support gay marriage obviously delighting his ostensibly liberal supporters.  With Twitter abuzz and the media ablaze, does it really matter?  Does the Obama/Biden decision to champion gay marriage impact America?  Simply put, yes.

According to news reports, the President’s panel of spiritual advisors expressed varying reactions to the President’s announcement, some expressing disappointment while others supported Obama’s decision.  One advisor suggested Obama arrived at his moral epiphany after prayer.  An obvious question begs to be asked…to what “god?”

“Man sees the outward appearance, but God sees the heart,”

reads I Samuel 16:7.  No human possesses the ability to peek into the heart of man, investigating whether the Holy Spirit resides there or not.  So, only the President knows whether his claims of Christianity be authentic.  However, the Bible teaches in Matthew 12:33,

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.”

Hinting God initiated a change of heart to embrace a sinful  lifestyle reeks of heresy.  Why?  God hates sin.

Notice, God hates sin…not the sinner.

An account in the life of Jesus in John Chapter 8 confirms this:

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.

Many people stop the account there in justifying their lifestyle choices.  However, Jesus added one more important statement,

“Go now and leave your life of sin.”

In supporting gay marriage, some argue God changed his opinion on homosexuality between the Old and New Testament.  Old Testament Law leaves no doubt about God’s view on homosexuality, but does the New Testament remain strangely silent?  Romans 1:24 and following says,

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

God’s pretty clear on the topic.  But God’s also clear on the sinful nature of pre-marital sex, adultery, murder, lying, stealing, cheating and a plethora of other behaviors falling into the category of sin.  When our opinions “evolve” and in turn contradict God’s Word, who’s wrong?  We are.  The Bible states clearly,

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8

What God labeled as sin in the Bible, remains sin today.  Sadly, our culture hurtles toward self-destruction because of an “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” ideology.

Humanity’s evolving opinions matter not.

“For all men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the world of the Lord stands forever.”  I Peter 1:24-25

 

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Should Christians Disarm?


 

A couple of years ago, a teenager asked for the Bible reference reminding Christians of their obligation to obey the government, provided no demands violated the Laws of God.  The exact scriptures failed to come to mind, but I knew the reference could be found in Paul’s writings in the book of Romans.  Later in the day, I typed in a few key words and pressed “Search.”  Bingo!  Romans 13:1-7.  I texted the findings to the young man and awaited for follow-up questions.  The next inquiry he posed threw me for a loop.

Should Christians Disarm?

He explained his question by posing the following scenario.  If the Government orders the confiscation of all guns, how should Christians respond?  Do we obey the government in this instance?  These were questions I’d never pondered, but ones I sincerely wanted to investigate.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve given the question considerable thought.  The issue of the “right to bear arms” stirs the hearts of Americans on both sides of the political aisle.  Most conservatives strongly support the Second Amendment, while many liberals vehemently oppose, claiming the “living Constitution” needs a long overdue overhaul.  Joseph Story, a prominent 19th century lawyer and jurist on the Supreme Court penned that the Constitution has a:

“…fixed, uniform, permanent construction.  It should be…not dependent upon the passions or parties of particular times, but the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

This premise suggests that judges should not veer from the literal text’s meaning, and according to quotes by the Founding Fathers, American citizens deserved the rights of gun ownership.  Thomas Jefferson said,

“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.  The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in the government.”

However, the question remains, if the federal government enacts legislation to disarm its citizens, should Christians peaceably comply?

When the Founding Fathers gathered to hash out the wording of the Constitution, three long months of vigorous debate ensued.  After months of arguing, haggling, and heated discussion, a welcomed spirit of consensus permeated the hallowed halls of the Pennsylvania State House.  The Founders settled in to inspect the final product emanating from the spirited deliberations.  Washington and Madison believed a Divine Hand guided the efforts calling the Constitution a “Miracle.”

Other Founding Fathers concurred.  Charles Pinckney of South Carolina said,

“When the great work was done and published, I was struck with amazement.  Nothing less than that superintending hand of Providence that so miraculously carried us through the war could have brought it about so complete….”

Alexander Hamilton agreed with his sentiments saying,

“For my part, I sincerely esteem it a system which, without the Finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”

In other words, the Founding Fathers experienced something supernatural at the Convention, prompting these great statesmen to credit God for the outcome.

Maybe this is a stretch, but here it goes.  If God inspired our Founding Fathers to create the document esteemed as the “supreme Law of the Land,” the writers made no mistake in including a fundamental “right to bear arms.”  So, is the constitution infallible as the Word of God?  Of course not!  But God does still inspire people today. Songwriters, poets and storytellers occasionally credit God for ideas, marveling at how quickly the finished product appears on paper.  The Founding Fathers credited God for the same type of wisdom flowing from the end of a quill pen.

Daniel Webster wrote,

“I regard it (the Constitution) as the work of the purest of patriots and wisest statesmen that ever existed, aided by the smiles of a benign Providence; it almost appears a Divine interposition in our behalf…the hand that destroys our Constitution rends our Union asunder forever.”

Maybe oft times controversial conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh sums it up best,

“You know why there’s a Second Amendment?  In case the government fails to follow the first one.”

Christians are to Blame for Phil’s Firing


A&E’s not to blame for kicking Phil Robertson to the curb.  We are.  The Church.  Sure, A&E wrote out his checks and signed him to contractual agreements, but the real reason for Phil’s retribution lies on us, the Church.  Somewhere along the way, the Church joined the rest of our Country in the “wussification” of America.  For those unfamiliar with the term, it means, “the trend of becoming an increasingly wimpy society.”

Over the last several years, there’s been a movement to make the Country more soft.  Little boys can’t bite pop tarts into shapes of guns without stern reprisal.  In the Fall of 2013, Fox News reported, “An elementary school in Nashua, NH has reminded parents and students that playing “tag” violates the school’s longtime “no contact” rule for recess games.”  And the no contact rule now extends into the adult world.  In football, players are limited in their methods of tackling; Major League baseball plans to ban home plate collisions beginning in 2015.  Soon, spectators will fill arenas to watch professional athletes in marathon pillow fights or playing tag….well, maybe not tag.  Little kids can’t even play “Cowboys and Indians” because of the offensive nature of the “I” word.  America’s becoming too soft.

Sadly, the “wussification” movement has crept into our churches as well.  A couple of centuries ago, pastors pounded pulpits and loudly warned of “hell, fire, and brimstone.”  In 1741, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  The message depicted the realities of hell so clearly, the hearers could smell the sulfur burning.   Fast forward to the early 1900’s and to the evangelist, Billy Sunday.  NPR contributor and author Steve Inkeep wrote of Sunday, “The “muscularity” and movement of his sermons was meant to counter the view by some that Christians were docile and fragile.”  Finally, over the last 50 years, Billy Graham spoke plainly about the hell awaiting those without Jesus.  Unfortunately, many churches today shy away from sermons about God’s Judgment or the text Phil quoted in his GQ Interview.  I Corinthians 6:9-11 states,

 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a]10 nor thieves
nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the
kingdom of God.”

Tough words but none more true.

Soon the executives and A&E will crowd around a conference table wondering how to keep their proverbial ship afloat, and some will ask why did we allow 5% of the population to dictate this decision.  None will think to blame Christians.  If the Christian voice resonated with as much volume and fervor as GLAAD, Phil Robertson wouldn’t be out of a job; the rest of the cast wouldn’t be facing tough decisions about their television future.  But we needn’t worry.  Duck Dynasty will land on their feet with even greater success.  God blesses faithfulness.

In the meantime, Christians today need to “man up.”  Phil Robertson transported America back to the days of Jonathan Edwards and A&E’s response to Phil’s comment proves that in 250 years, this Country’s grown soft…too soft.  And so has the Church.

I stand with Phil Robertson.

More importantly, I stand on God’s Word.

Trading for Ugly


A few years ago, a news report surfaced about a young man making extra money for college selling ugly Christmas sweaters.  Who doesn’t need to make a little extra, right?  I decided one way to help pay down the mounting debt from my son’s medical bills would be use my day off from Church to visit area thrift stores and Goodwill’s and stock up on gaudy sweaters to auction off on eBay.  I accumulated quite a trove of the ugly apparel and started listing them.  Several sold.  However, three plastic grocery bags of sweaters failed to make the cut in purchasers’ eyes, so I brought them to church and offered them to the teenagers.  They took a few off my hands, but many others occupy a table in my cluttered office.

On Sunday afternoon, I received a text from a former youth group member searching for an ugly sweater.  She asked how much my ugly sweaters sold for on eBay.  I responded with, “Don’t worry about the price, I think we can make a trade.”

A few hours later she picked up the atrocious sweater and attended a party holding an ugly sweater contest.

What did I trade for?  Babysitting!

I traded something ugly for something wonderful.

After she gladly accepted the deal, a thought struck me.  When Jesus entered this world, he traded a perfect home for an environment ravaged by heartache and pain.  When He obediently took upon Himself the cross of Calvary, He traded His righteousness for our sin so we might have the righteousness of Christ.

Jesus modeled trading something ugly for something wonderful.  So, on December 25th, if after tearing into a wrapped box an ugly sweater or another stomach churning item of clothing greets your eyes, let that gift be a reminder: Jesus took your “ugly” upon Himself to forge something beautiful….a brand new you.

By the way…she won the sweater contest.

We made a good trade.

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