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America, Look Up

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

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God Doesn’t Think You’re Crazy


Do you ever talk to yourself?  I do.  In fact, talking to yourself is a universal activity and even has mantalkingtoGoda special name.  It’s called “private speech” and some psychologists dedicate their entire lives to studying this phenomena.  Before going further, I’m not talking about an individual walking down the street yelling at clouds, swatting at imaginary creatures or the demons of his own making because of alcohol and drugs.  No, I’m talking about the “private speech” that encourages and challenges or at times, unfortunately, berates and discourages.

Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen reports that in a study on private speech in adults, participants learned 6 different computer tasks of varying degrees of difficulty.  Every single one of the adults in the study talked to themselves at least once during the tasks and 80% of them talked to themselves during all 6 tasks.  Concerning “private speech” Hendriksen adds, “You’re simply thinking out loud, which is not only normal, but beneficial.”  Even God encourages “private speech.”

In the first chapter of Joshua we find God’s instructions to the successor of Moses.  Joshua 1:8 states,

“This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

I want to focus on the word “meditate.”  The Hebrew word for meditate is “hagah” which means to “mutter, murmur, to utter, or speak.”  Often times when hearing the word “meditate” we think of a person sitting Indian style with elbows resting on the knees, index fingers and thumbs touching, softly humming.  In Joshua 1:8, God commands Joshua to meditate on His Law day and night.  Can’t you imagine Israel’s leader speaking God’s Word aloud to himself as he readied to cross the Jordan into the Promise Land or before marching around the intimidating walls of Jericho? I can hear him “private speaking” this word of encouragement:

“No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life.  Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”

On many occasions I find myself quoting Scriptures aloud, especially when facing unpleasant circumstances or tasks, or when tackling a problem that requires supernatural intervention.  One of my favorites is

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

According to God, we’re to meditate (mutter, utter, speak) His Word day and night.  And what’s the benefit?  We’re told in  Romans that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God.”  Whenever we quote His word aloud to ourselves our faith grows stronger.  “Private Speech” grows our faith muscles and a strong faith is necessary in this evil day and age.  In fact, the next time someone notices your lips moving and believes you’re conversing with yourself, inform that individual,

“I’m not crazy.  I’m working out.”

Keep talking.  Grow those faith muscles!

 

 

 

 

My Problem with the Manning Message


I celebrated the Denver Broncos win on Sunday evening, February 7.  For several years, I’ve escorted teenagers from our youth group to Incredible Pizza for our annual Super Bowl Party.  I find the spot perfect for sports lovers and those who care not one whit at the outcome.  The teens uninterested in the big game can spend money on arcade games and special attractions while we sports enthusiasts huddle around a gigantic television screen.  Going into Sunday night, my brain picked the Panthers while my heart longed for a Bronco’s win.  I think Peyton Manning might hang up his cleats for the last time this off-season, so seeing him win another championship just felt right.  And for those who ignore all sporting events, even though Peyton failed to play a spectacular game, the Broncos defense stymied the Carolina Panthers, and Denver pulled off the unlikely victory.

As soon as the game clock wound down to zero and the confetti cannons fired, I rounded up the teens driving them back to church.  My younger sons, not yet in the youth group, met me at the church, and on the way home my 11 year old asked if I’d seen his interview after the game.  I had not.  He said,

“Dad, did you know that Peyton said he was going to celebrate by drinking a lot of Budweiser?”  I could hardly believe it.  This wasn’t “Manning-esque.”    After arriving home, I found his actual quote:

“This has been a very emotional week and an emotional night. I have a couple of my priorities in order. I want to go kiss my wife, kiss my kids. I want to go celebrate with my family. And I am going to drink a lot of beer tonight – Budweiser. Those are my priorities at this time. I will take some time to reflect on the other. I am going to say a prayer and a ‘thank you’ to the man upstairs for this opportunity as well.”

Here’s why I’m concerned about his comments.

First, he told the entire world he planned to celebrate by drinking “a lot of beer.” I’m not naive.  I imagine many star athletes celebrate by downing alcoholic beverages, partying into the wee hours of the morning after a victory.  Though I imagine this to be the case, I don’t know for sure because I’m not a witness to the after game festivities.  In other words, out of sight, out of mind.  Instead of keeping the lid on his post-game plans, Manning announced his intentions to down a lot of Budweiser.  Peyton blew an opportunity to be a shining example for the younger generation.

In Children’s Church on Super Bowl Sunday morning, a four year old sported a Peyton Manning jersey to Kids’ Church.  I told the youngster I loved his apparel and that I liked Manning because he had been a role model to thousands of young boys just like him.  That night, the man I held up as an exemplary example, gushed about carousing with plenty of alcohol.  A seed I planted in a young boy’s mind about a sports figure he could look up to, withered before it had a chance to grow.

Secondly, this man who speaks in interviews about the importance of faith in Christ, referenced God as “the man upstairs.”  This statement, though used by many well intention-ed people, demeans our Creator.  God is Holy, Righteous, Just, our Creator…not the “man upstairs.”  Certainly people listening to his post-game comments knew his reference alluded to God, but somehow his words fail to give God the true awe and respect He deserves.

Sure, some will see this as petty, reminding me and others that Peyton’s a professional athlete, not a pastor of a Southern Baptist Church.  I understand that.  However, when a person claims to know Christ and  earns the right to speak on a global stage, I’m not sure insinuating I’m going to go out and get drunk is the message that should be conveyed to hosts of people who place the Manning family on a pedestal.

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?

 

If God’s a God of Love then….Part Two


Recently I was posed the following question:

Why did God order a whole generation including CHILDREN to be slaughtered in the Old Testament and why does He seem to change from a God of vengeance and judgment in the Old to a God of mercy and grace in the New Testament?

In Part One, I shared instances of God extending grace and opportunities to repent to those nations sitting in the bull’s-eye of God’s judgment.  Other examples can be found in Jonah’s reluctant ministry to the people of Nineveh and the sound of Noah’s mallet hammering out a message about an imminent global flood.

But what about God’s call to annihilate entire people groups, including babies and children?

First, let’s examine something God told Abraham.  Genesis 15: 13-16 shares:

13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

Notice God stays His righteous hand of judgment on the Canaanites for 400 years!  God extends a 400 year grace period!  This once again attests to the longsuffering and patience of a God who wants

“none to perish but all to come to repentance.”

Note the phrase:

“Has not reached its full measure.”

By the time the Canaanite’s sin had reached its full measure, they practiced ritual prostitution and child sacrifice.  But still some wonder,

“Why destroy them all?”

Deuteronomy 20:17-18 answers that question.

17“But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you, 18so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God.

Think of it this way.  God allowed those peoples to transgress His laws and His call to holiness for hundreds of years, until their unrighteous acts were no longer tolerable.  He used the armies of Israel to carry out His righteous judgment.

But what about the children?

God commanded the complete destruction of entire pagan people groups to prevent them from being future antagonists of Israel and leading future Jewish generations to chase after false gods.  God also warns of potential future ungodly unions.  Deuteronomy 7:3-4 shares,

“You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.”

Obviously God is serious about Holiness and His people being set apart.

Question:  Does God know the future?

Yes!

God foresaw the future of the Canaanites and because of their hard hearted nature and their love of sin, He knew the Canaanites would not be repenting and following after Him.  In ordering the deaths of children and babies, He was actually extending grace and mercy.  These young innocent children who were destined for hell because their future generations would not repent nor acknowledge the God of Israel, found an eternal home in Heaven.   God’s judgment resulted in their salvation.

Scholar William Lane Craig writes,

‘Nothing could so illustrate to the Israelis the seriousness of their calling as a people set apart for God alone.  Yahweh is not to be trifled with.  He means business, and if Israel apostasizes the same could happen to her.  As C.S. Lewis puts it “Aslan is not a tame lion.”‘

He may not be tame, but He is righteous and holy.

God knows best.

 

 

 

Maybe America Isn’t a Christian Nation


I often hear people argue America wasn’t founded on Christian principles and therefore Obama’s quote, “We (America) do not consider ourselves a Christian nation,” resonates with truth. For those who ascribe to this idea, they dig through the writings and quotations of the Founding Fathers to justify this belief. One such tidbit comes from the writings of our second President in a letter written to Thomas Jefferson. John Adams is often quoted as saying,

john-adams

This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!”

I thumbed through my “God and Country” book of quotes and found that John Adams also said,

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

So which is it? What did he really believe?

Based upon biographical works of Adams, I chose to believe the former quote to be taken out of context. I researched the “no religion” quote and found that history revisionists extracted the quote from a greater body of work. In fact, here’s the complete quotation in an April 19, 1817, letter to Thomas Jefferson.

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were. . . . the general principles of Christianity. . . . I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature.

“Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion at all!!!” But in this exclamation I would have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell.”

Watching the happenings in the world today, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce our world’s going “to hell in a handbasket.” At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, participants enthusiastically booed the idea of recognizing God and the nation of Israel in the Democratic platform. When a nation chooses to shun God and His chosen people, judgment can’t be far behind.

Sadly, we’ve adopted the ideology of those referenced in Judges 21:25,

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”

I almost gag each time I hear Obama conclude a speech with,

“And God bless the United States of America.”

Will God bless a nation that continues to abort babies by the millions and champions gay marriage? It appears we’re living in an age where people identify evil as good and good as evil. The prophet Isaiah warned against such behavior,

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20.)

In the New King James Version of the Bible, “woe” occurs 71 times in 69 verses in the Old Testament, most of them in the prophets. The New Testament chimes in with the word 40 times in 33 verses, and in 32 of those 40 times it comes from the mouth of Jesus! The word “woe” was used to express grief and lamentation and was associated with the grief of death. God used the word “woe” to warn of pending judgment.

Several times throughout the Scriptures the word “woe” also means the opposite of “giddy-up.” In other words, “halt, stop, or cease.” I can imagine the prophet Isaiah bellowing out God’s message of “woe” to America today. Imagine him preaching, exhorting Americans to,

“Stop your disobedience to the Word of God….halt your transgressions….cease your godless behavior….Repent!!!”

After spending time observing the abominations being committed by the masses today, he might side with Barack Obama.

Maybe this Country isn’t a Christian nation.

 

Book Review: “Chasing Francis” by Ian Morgan Cron


Imagine a pastor addressing his congregation in the following manner:

“I used to have all the answers, just opened the Bible and there they were. The truth is, they aren’t all there – or if they are, I can’t find them. I’ve tried to convince you that Christianity is logical and straightforward, as if God can be codified and stuffed into files he can’t jump out of. Each time uncertainty knocked on the door, I hid behind the couch until it went away. Now I’m the one who’s thirsty. And the Jesus I’ve known for twenty years isn’t making it go away.” “And what about our church? I mean, is this all there is?…”

Sound like a death knell from a Pastor’s lips?  Well, that’s what happens in Ian Morgan Cron’s first book, “Chasing Francis.”

The Church, not knowing how to respond, suggests Pastor Chase take a leave of absence.  He agrees and so sets in motion a pilgrimage, one that chases after the life of St. Francis of Assisi.  Though written in the genre of fiction, “Chasing Francis” speaks volumes to all who have experienced a crisis of faith.    Chase’s crisis emerged when a young girl from his congregation dies a seemingly senseless death and he feels helpless ministering to the needs of the bereaved mother.

After an extended visit in Italy, walking in the steps of St. Francis, Chase rediscovers the joys of his Christian faith and what it truly means to be Jesus in a world scarred by sin and devastation.

Near the end of the book, Chase shares these words of personal renewal:

“When I left here, I wasn’t sure what a Christian looked like anymore. My idea of what it meant to follow Jesus had run out of gas. I started feeling less like a pastor and more like a salesman of a consumerized Jesus I didn’t believe in. Learning about Francis helped me fall in love with Jesus again – and with the church again, too.”

“Chasing Francis” is a fine book, with great story telling and relatable characters. It’s a must read, especially for those who have found themselves facing their own crisis of faith.

Being Gay Isn’t Heroic


As a youngster, I watched shows like “The Lone Ranger.”  Clayton Moore played a masked man committed to righting the wrongs of the world.  Tonto and the Masked Man galloped around the countryside, serving those unable to protect themselves.  I remember pretending to be the Lone Ranger, riding my broomstick horse, Silver.  I defeated the bad guys and rode off into the sunset, a hero of my own making.  Today, heroes are harder to come by.  Not because they don’t exist, but because our culture labels heroic acts in a much looser fashion.  In fact, our culture’s adept at placing people on a pedestal that have not earned that distinction.  A few months ago, NBA player Jason Collin fell into that category.

Many youngsters idolize the stars of professional sports teams.   At any sporting event, kids don jerseys of their favorite players and hope for a much sought after autograph.  Collins, though an NBA player, spends more time riding the pine than playing on the court.  In other words, kids don’t snatch up his jersey at sports shops.  His claim to fame comes from a recent public announcement.  In an article written in first person, Collins shared he lives the homosexual lifestyle.  Social media exploded with the news.  Main stream media outlets became giddy.  News outlets bestowed the mantle of heroism upon Collins’ shoulders.

Now, there’s Michael Sam.

Mr. Sam attended the University of Missouri, playing on the Tigers football team.  About a year ago, he announced to his teammates he was gay.  His comrades on the gridiron accepted his sexuality and life resumed as normal.  In February of this year, Sam shared his homosexuality with the world, opening up about his lifestyle on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”  Recently, the St. Louis Rams drafted Sam in the 7th round.  ESPN broadcast Mr. Sam’s jubilant reaction, including the congratulatory kiss from his boyfriend.  Those who found the affection offensive took to Twitter.  A Dolphins player, tweeting negatively about the kiss, is barred from team activities until he attends sensitivity training,

Sensitivity training?!?!?  What about sensitivity training demanded of those who belittle Christians for choosing to adhere to the teachings found in the Bible concerning homosexuality?

President Obama weighed in on both the Collins and Sam coming out party.  He called Jason Collins, telling the athlete “he was impressed by his courage.”  The USA Today reported remarks released in a White House Statement concerning Michael Sam:

“The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward in our Nation’s journey. From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove every day you should be judged by what you do and not who you are.”

Our society tends to idolize those living outside the will of God.  In fact, America models a life the prophet Isaiah warned about:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”

Anytime an individual congratulates another for living outside the will of God, that person’s calling “evil…good.”  Glorification of evil breaks the heart of God.

Certainly some consider this post as intolerant or homophobic but it applies with all sin.  Imagine the following scenario:

A man addresses the nation, beginning his speech with the words, “I am an adulterer.  And I plan to stay an adulterer the rest of my life, because that’s who I am.  I was born this way…”  A handful might support the man’s freedom to sleep around on his wife, but most agree that we wouldn’t encourage that alley cat type of behavior.  And never would we consider bestowing the term “hero” on this potential home wrecker.  Congratulating a homosexual for coming out of the closet falls into the same category.  Both adultery and homosexuality are condemned by God, sexual sins from which we ask God for forgiveness…not a free pass, kudos, and a book deal.

 

 

 

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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