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America, Look Up

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

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April 2015

Book Review: Twisted Innocence by Terri Blackstock


I just finished Terri Blackstock’s book “Twisted Innocence.”  Once again, Ms. Blackstock hits a homerun in the crime/murder mystery genre.  I personally find mysteries entertaining, but it’s nearly impossible to find a mystery on the shelves today that isn’t rife with gratuitous sex, gory violence, and profanity.  “Twisted Innocence” is refreshing.

Terri Blackstock is a Christian author who shares entertaining stories, interweaving her faith in God.  In “Twisted Innocence,” I especially love the message of redemption and the opportunity of second chances.  Two of the key players, Holly and Creed, are in desperate need of both….as we all are.

I highly recommend reading works by this New York Times best selling author.

Should Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Get the Death Penalty?


At small group last night, a college aged young man asked,

“If God says, ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ then is capital punishment an appropriate consequence for a crime?  I means as Christians, should we support executing  perpetrators of heinous crimes?”  (not exact words, but close)

The verses prompting this question originate in the book of Genesis.  Genesis 9:5-6 says,

“From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

Obviously these verses reference the consequence of one taking another’s life through the crime of murder.  But his question sparked a discussion, his viewpoint valid.  He asked,

“What if our government executed an individual that God wanted to save?”

Interesting question.  We all agreed that Jesus died for criminals, even the most hardened individuals on death row.  If a serial killer turns to Christ, his sins will be forgiven.  Case in point, Jeffrey Dahmer.  Then we addressed the issue of having enough time to repent.   Though I didn’t cite any statistics, I reminded the group, criminals on death row are sometimes awaiting execution for several years.  According to the Death Penalty Information Center,

Death row inmates in the U.S. typically spend over a decade awaiting execution. Some prisoners have been on death row for well over 20 years.

The Bible shares,

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  II Peter 3:9

This verse reminds us that God wants no one to be separated from Him for eternity and that He is patient with us.  Patience hints at giving people ample time to consider their sin nature and the need of a Redeemer.  A prisoner on death row has plenty of time to mull over his past choices and render a decision on accepting God’s forgiveness and unmerited grace.

So, we know the Old Testament affirms capital punishment.  Is the New Testament quiet about this topic?  No.  Romans 13:1-5 shares,

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

So, according to the Bible should Dzhokhar Tsarnaev  get the death penalty?  Absolutely.

Should we pray that he sees the error of His ways and comes to faith in Christ before he either dies in prison or sits in the electric chair?  Absolutely.

I Peter 3:18 says,

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God..”

The key words here being the “righteous for the unrighteous.”  The sinless Son of God, perfect in every way, served as our sacrificial Lamb.  The righteous laid down His life for thieves, adulterers, gossips, murderers, rapists, swindlers, conservatives, and yes, even liberals.

Oh, and for terrorists too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would Jesus Condone Same Sex Marriage?


Response to Memories Pizza in Indiana has run the gamut. Some threatened to burn down the establisment; popular Conservative talk show host Dana Loesch set up an online fundraiser to offset the financial lost incurred by the Christian business owners. (It raised almost $850,000 dollars. Wow!) What was the crime of this popular mom and pop pizza joint? Exercising their Religious Freedom and their First Amendment rights.

A news reporter ASKED the owners of Memories Pizza if they would be willing to cater at a gay wedding. Co-Owner Kevin O’Connor responded,

“I don’t turn anybody away from the store, I don’t have a problem with gay people. I just don’t condone the marriage.”

This reply set off a firestorm reverberating across Liberal and Conservative lines. Some staunchly supporting the owners, others spewing hate and vitirol aimed at shutting Memories down.

In the last few days, social media has continued to keep the debate alive. One of my Facebook friends insists if Jesus was asked to supply a cake or build a table for a gay wedding reception, He’d do so gladly. In quoting the post,

He would sell them a table, and a darned good one at that.”

Let’s say he’s right. For those Christians standing with those who embrace the homosexual lifestyle, they stand on the argument of love, citing God’s love of all people. I don’t question the love of God for all people. John 3:16 states,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Note, God fails to insert an asterisk or offer a disclaimer. No Christian famliar with the teachings of the Bible argues God’s love for all people.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

When thinking about how Jesus handled the issue of sin in people’s lives, I often cite the story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus demonstrates the model of ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner.’

As Jesus taught, religious leaders dragged a woman from the bed of an adulterous liaison and dropped her at the Master’s feet. The religious leaders circled, spewing judgment on the woman, reminding Jesus and all within earshot about the Law. For her infidelity, she deserved the prescribed punishment – a public stoning.

In response to their vitriol, Jesus stooped and scratched something in the dirt, then stood and challenged,

“You who are sinless cast the first stone.”

I’ve often wondered what Jesus wrote. I doubt He wasted His time on doodling stick figures. I wonder if He jotted a list of sins with which these men struggled. Maybe He wrote the words, “pride,” lust,” or the word that labeled the actions of the religious leaders – “entrapment.” (How did these men know about this woman’s indiscretion and the ability to catch her in the arms of a man not her husband?)

As these men cast aspersions at the woman and questioned Jesus’ handling of the situation, I imagine their words trailed off as they watched Jesus write. If Jesus enumerated a list of transgressions, as each man’s besetting sin appeared, the Spirit of God pricked their hearts. When He stood to authorize the first hurled stone, each dropped his rocks, slinking away. Jesus asked,

 ”Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?

“No one sir,” she replied

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

Many who demand acceptance of ungodly lifestyles, quote only the first part of Jesus’s statement. Jesus added the following exhortation,

“Go and leave your life of sin.”

Let’s visit the carpenter shop owned by Joseph, with Jesus apprenticing.   A couple living in a gay relationship request the Son of God craft a banquet table for a wedding feast.  There’s no doubt He’d make a “darned good one…” But would He condone the wedding?

I envision Jesus requiring the partners to spend time with Him in the carpenter shop, the Master sharing spiritual truths while He sawed, chiseled and sanded. I can see the partners squinting through sawdust laden air, complaining about the threats of the religious leaders to have them stoned to death.  I see Jesus listening to their concerns and maybe even saying,

“Don’t worry, there’s no condemnation here…”

But adding,

“Go and leave your lives of sin…”

Of course the couple’s taken aback.

Oh no, another armchair Rabbi ensnared by the teachings of  some antiquated scrolls…..

Many believe Jesus never addressed same sex marriage, thereby claiming homosexual unions are left up to the discretion of the people who choose them.  Maybe in the writings of the Gospels we find no mention of same sex marriage, but Jesus does address Biblical marriage.  In Matthew 19:4-6 Jesus says,

“And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH ‘?”So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”…

Jesus doesn’t add,

“Oh and that’s why men marry each other and women marry each other as well.”

That’s not God’s standard for marriage.

I can imagine the couple in the carpenter shop either being convicted of their sin and repenting or leaving the shop insulted and outraged, either way the banquet table no longer necessary.

If the government forces Christian owned businesses to provide the same services to all wedding ceremonies whether straight or gay, maybe the owners should adopt a “come to the table making” strategy.  To appease both sides, the owners share their views on godly marriage, expressing truths from the Bible.  I can imagine some couples embracing the views, others tolerating the “opinions, and several storming out of the bakery, decrying “discrimination.”  But see, it wouldn’t be discriminatory with all couples submitting to free pre-marital counsel.  Of course the above is hyperbolic, but nowhere is it written that a Christian’s morals and conscience are to be left once vacating the shadow of the steeple on Sunday mornings.

Hang in there Memories Pizza, many around this great nation support you.

 

Historically Dark Fridays (Or the Best Friday Ever)


Throughout history, Fridays have harbored their share of tragic events.  For a moment, let’s look at some of these catastrophic days of old.

April 14th, 1865:  President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd attended Ford’s Theatre to watch the play, “Our American Cousin.”  John Wilkes Boothe slipped into the State Box and fired a bullet into the President’s head.  Lincoln passed away the next day.

December 13th, 1916: During the First World War, Italy and Austria manned military bases in the Swiss Alps.  The military personnel discovered that enemy attacks weren’t the only cause for concern.  Heavy snowfall triggered a series of avalanches in the Tyrol Region causing the deaths of 10,000 soldiers.  The day became known as White Friday.

March 18th, 1937:  The modern, newly constructed school, in New London, Texas exploded, killing an estimated 280 children and 14 teachers.  The explosion occurred at the end of the school day as grades one through four exited their classrooms to file onto waiting school busses.  Apparently, a natural gas leak precipitated the calamitous loss of life.  Three minutes before dismissal, a shop instructor turned on an electric sander, sparking the explosion.

November 22nd, 1963:  Shortly after noon on this day, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas.

March 2, 2011:  This arguably marked the worst tornado outbreak in history.  The National Weather Center reported 86 tornadoes.  Normally, there are 87 tornadoes during the entire month of March.

March 11th, 2011:  Hundreds of Japanese citizens perished after the worst earthquake in decades.  The 8.9 magnitude earthquake shook buildings violently in Tokyo, sending millions fleeing for higher ground.  This earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that obliterated large portions of coastal territory.

If scientific technology permitted time travel, a journey to Golgotha, A.D. 33 might be in order.  On this Friday in history, Roman soldiers nailed three men to crosses, the man in the middle, no ordinary man.  The crucifixion of Jesus marked the end of an era, so His closest followers thought.  If interviewed on that day, undoubtedly the disciples considered Friday, that Friday,  the worst Friday of recorded history.  The man they believed to be the deliverer of the Jewish people hung helplessly on a cross, all hope dissipating with his dying words,

“It is finished.”

For years, Paul Harvey hosted a radio program entitled “The Rest of the Story,” and for those who know the rest of the story, we acknowledge that Friday as not only a Good Friday, but the greatest Friday of all time.  Certainly Christ’s death on the cross appeared to be a crushing defeat for those who witnessed and participated in his earthly ministry, but as we know, appearances can be deceiving.

I Corinthians 1:18 expresses the truth of the cross in this manner,

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”

Galatians 3:18 shares,

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

And there’s the hope of Good Friday.

He bore the penalty for our sin, enduring the punishment we deserved.  His sacrifice afforded mankind the opportunity to be forgiven of sin’s ravaging consequences and receive eternal life.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice, God extends a promise to all from His Word,

“For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Though the followers of Christ considered Golgotha’s Friday bleak, in reality, it truly was a Good Friday.  In fact, Golgotha’s Friday earns the title, “The Best Friday Ever.”

And by the way, it may be Friday, but Sunday’s coming!

Same Sex Marriage and the Bible – Part 4


Most of my blog readership resides under my own roof.  However, a few other fellow Christian bloggers and friends also check in from time to time.  So, when I posted, “Does God’s View of Sin Evolve?” I knew my thoughts would mostly be “preaching to the choir.”  However, since joining the world of Twitter, the posts sometimes end up reaching a much more diverse audience, especially with “retweets” and “sharing.”  A few months ago, an individual chose to open a link to my blog and responded to my views on homosexuality and same sex marriage.  Here’s the comment I discovered in my inbox,

“None of you know what it’s like to be gay; if you did, you would drop this ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ crap.  I’m seriously sick of it.  My relationship is not a sin, in fact, it’s a lot stronger than many heterosexual relationships out there.  Sorry if you can’t handle the truth.  Goodbye.

Let’s look at this statement:

Sorry if you can’t handle the truth

“You can’t handle the truth.”  Ah yes, a quote from the 1992 movie, “A Few Good Men.”  Actually many people “can’t handle the truth,” especially Biblical truth.  It seems our society embraces moral relativism on a grand scale.  Moral relativism espouses the idea that ethical standards, morality, and positions of right and wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to a person’s individual choice.  Simply, we can all decide what is right for ourselves.  You decide what’s right for you, and I’ll decide what’s right for me.  Moral relativism says,

“It’s true for me, if I believe it.”

Some may wrongly believe that this warped philosophy reared its ugly head within the last few decades.  However, the book of Judges in the Old Testament challenges that thought.  Judges 21:25 says,

“In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”

As I drove through town the other day, I followed a car bearing the co-exist bumper sticker.  Once again, the realization struck that many people flounder in darkness, ignoring biblical truth, embracing a personal philosophy that

‘what’s right for you may not be right for me’

and vice versa.  Sadly, a majority of people today scoff at the idea of absolute truth, choosing to champion the mores popular at the time.  Today, many herald gay rights and same sex marriage, believing opposition to be discriminatory and bigoted.  On the contrary, as the old adage aptly states,

“The truth hurts.”

So, to quote Pontius Pilate,

“What is truth?”

Perhaps the most famous verse about truth in the Bible are the words of Jesus when He announces,

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the life….(John 14:6)

The Bible informs that all Scripture is God breathed. (II Timothy 3:16How do those biblical references relate?  Jesus, the Truth, entered the world as “God in flesh;” He also inspired men to write the book we identify as the Holy Bible.  The Bible shares the incredible fact that Jesus lived a sinless life, therefore He never lied, hence His claim to being the “Truth.”  Therefore, when God categorizes a certain lifestyle choice or behavior as a sin, His stances do not waffle even if the President of the United States expresses an “evolved opinion” or a Country music star advocates for such a relationship.

As our world progressively devolves, people tend to stray further from the truth.  Instead of honoring God’s Word, we’ve swallowed the same lie as Adam and Eve, adopting the cunningly deceitful question,

“Did God Really Say?”

In many cases, our society rushes to legislate immorality, assuaging consciences seared by the influence of Hollywood celebrities and supposed societal norms.  However, when our views contradict God’s inspired Word, who’s right?

The Bible and Same Sex Marriage – Part Three


Most of my blog readership resides under my own roof.  However, a few other fellow Christian bloggers and friends also check in from time to time.  So, when I posted, “Does God’s View of Sin Evolve?” I knew my thoughts would mostly be “preaching to the choir.”  However, since joining the world of Twitter, the posts sometimes end up reaching a much more diverse audience, especially with “retweets” and “sharing.”  A few months ago, an individual chose to open a link to my blog and responded to my views on homosexuality and same sex marriage.  Here’s the comment I discovered in my inbox,

“None of you know what it’s like to be gay; if you did, you would drop this ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ crap.  I’m seriously sick of it.  My relationship is not a sin, in fact, it’s a lot stronger than many heterosexual relationships out there.  Sorry if you can’t handle the truth.  Goodbye.

Let’s discuss the statement:

You would drop this ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ crap

Although some people consider the above statement a sneaky means of passing judgment, the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner” applies.  Jesus models the philosophy when ministering to the woman caught in adultery.

As Jesus taught, religious leaders dragged a woman from the arms of an adulterous liaison and dropped her at the Master’s feet.  The religious leaders circled, spewing judgment on the woman, reminding Jesus and all within earshot about the Law.  For her infidelity, she deserved the prescribed punishment – a public stoning.

In response to their vitriol, Jesus stooped and scratched something in the dirt, then stood and challenged,

“You who are sinless cast the first stone.”

I’ve often wondered what Jesus wrote.  I doubt He wasted His time on doodling stick figures.  I wonder if He jotted a list of sins with which these men struggled.  Maybe He wrote the words, “pride,” lust,” and “entrapment.”  (How did these men know about this woman’s indiscretion and the ability to catch her in the act?)

As these men cast aspersions at the woman and questioned Jesus’ handling of the situation, I imagine their words trailed off as they watched Jesus write.  If Jesus enumerated a list of transgressions, as each man’s besetting sin appeared, the Spirit of God pricked their hearts.  When He stood to authorize the first hurled stone, each dropped his rocks, slinking away.  Jesus asked,

“Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?

“No one sir,” she replied

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

Many who demand acceptance of ungodly lifestyles, quote only the first part of Jesus’s statement.   Jesus added the following exhortation,

“Go and leave your life of sin.”

In supporting gay marriage, some argue God changed His opinion on homosexuality between the Old and New Testaments.  Old Testament Law leaves no doubt about God’s stance on homosexuality.  So the question remains, is the New Testament silent on the topic?  Romans 1:24 and following says,

“Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised.  Amen.  Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.  Even their young women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.  Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

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 of sin “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.”

Those behaviors God labeled as sin in the Bible, remain sins today.  Sadly, our culture hurtles toward self-destruction because of an “everyone did was right in his own eyes” philosophy.  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

 

 

 

The Bible and Same Sex Marriage – Part Two


Most of my blog readership resides under my own roof.  However, a few other fellow Christian bloggers and friends also check in from time to time.  So, when I posted, “Does God’s View of Sin Evolve?” I knew my thoughts would mostly be “preaching to the choir.”  However, since joining the world of Twitter, the posts sometimes end up reaching a much more diverse audience, especially with “retweets” and “sharing.”  A few months ago, an individual chose to open a link to my blog and responded to my views on homosexuality and same sex marriage.  Here’s the comment I discovered in my inbox,

“None of you know what it’s like to be gay; if you did, you would drop this ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ crap.  I’m seriously sick of it.  My relationship is not a sin, in fact, it’s a lot stronger than many heterosexual relationships out there.  Sorry if you can’t handle the truth.  Goodbye.

Over the next few days, I hope to address some of the issues raised in this response compassionately and honestly, sharing biblical truth.  (You can read Part One here.)

My relationship is not a sin

As human beings we exercise a real tendency to justify our choices and behaviors and/or pass the buck.  Oftentimes we measure our sinfulness by comparing our iniquities and shortcomings to the actions of others.  This tendency deflects our guilt, shining a spotlight on the sins of those around us.  No one wants to wear the scarlet letter ‘S’, even though we are all branded with a sin nature from birth.  Romans 3:23 reveals,

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

As far as dictating what’s sin and what’s not, that’s God’s responsibility.

Some argue God addresses homosexuality in the Old Testament, but He remains strangely silent in the New.  However, Romans 1:26-27 says,

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

The word “penalty” stands out in my mind.

Merriam online dictionary defines “penalty” in the following manner:

“The suffering in person, rights or property that is annexed by law or judicial decision to the commission of a crime or public offense.”

Granted, I’m using an English word and a modern definition, but the Greek of the Apostle Paul’s day defines “penalty” in a similar fashion.

Modern translators use the word “penalty” for the more antiquated English word “retribution.”  Retribution comes from the Greek word “antimisthia.”  The word literally means a

“reward given in compensation, requital, or recompense.”

Granted, in some cases the word was used in a good way, an instance found in II Corinthians 6:13.  However, in Romans 1:27 the word indicates punishment or retribution.  Punishment obviously indicating that the described behavior, in this instance, homosexuality, is sinful.

If that isn’t enough evidence, “shameful lusts” comes from the Greek word “atimiah.”  This word leaves no doubt about God’s thoughts on homosexuality.  The word means, “dishonor, shame, reproach, vile.”  “Antimia” comes from another Greek word “atimos.”  Atimos means “infamy” or “disgrace.”  The verse literally calls the act of homosexuality infamous and disgraceful, “infamous” meaning,

“having a reputation of the worst kind.”

Though some might choose to bury their heads in the sand on this issue, God addresses the topic of homosexuality in the New Testament, leaving no ambiguities about the behavior’s sinful nature.

The last verse of the Book of Judges states,

“In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Therein lies the problem in our world today.  Instead of honoring the Words of the King, we’ve crafted together a tapestry of our own rules, in many cases personally legislating immorality to assuage our own consciences.  However, when our views contradict the will of God, who’s right?

 

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