Wednesday, August 24, 2016

More Thoughts on Gender Confusion; What Should Be the Christian's Response?

Over the past few weeks, I have had a very good friend of mine send me three articles concerning the almost, it seems, ever present discussion on the matter of gender identity.  One article, written by David French and published by the National Review on August 18, can be found at www.nationalreview.com/node/439126.  This article was not written from an evangelical perspective but from a scientific one.  The bottom line conclusion of the author is this: "Our youth may or may not be in the midst of a 'transgender contagion' - the data will ultimately tell the tale - but moral blindness is epidemic.  It turns out that the science doesn't say what the Left wants, and our responsibility is to deal with people as they are, not as identity politics defines them.  A boy is still a boy, even if he wants to be called Sue, and to claim otherwise is nothing short of cruel." 


The second article is a rather lengthy one.  Written by Ryan T. Anderson and published at the Patriot Post website on August 22, it is titled, "Almost Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity is Wrong."  You can find the article at www.patriotpost.us/opinion/44397.  Again, this article is not written from an evangelical perspective but from a scientific one. The main thesis is that what has been purported to be solid scientific evidence in support of gender issues really is not scientific at all.  The author relates his findings to the Supreme Court decision of last June 2015: "These findings - that scientific research does not support the claim that sexual orientation is innate and immutable - directly contradict claims made by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in last year's Obergefell ruling.  Kennedy wrote, 'their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment' and 'in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.'  But the science does not show this.  While the marriage debate was about the nature of what marriage is, incorrect scientific claims about sexual orientation were consistently used in the campaign to redefine marriage."


The final article can be found at the American College of Pediatricians website.  It is a study co-authored by Dr. Michelle Cretella, President of that organization, Dr. Jane Orient, Executive Director of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, and Dr. Les Ruppersberger, President of the Catholic Medical Association.  This well documented article is titled, "A Medical Response to DOE & DOJ Guidance for Schools."  After reading this article there is no longer any doubt that what the Obama Administration was trying to foist upon our nation's schools systems had no scientific basis but was purely for the purposes of promoting a leftist-socialist agenda. 


I highly recommend that parents of young children and of adolescent teens read these articles. 


But, now for some good news concerning this same matter.  This past week Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, ruled that the administrative guidelines given to all the nation's school districts requiring those males who believed they were females to have access to the girls' locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms were based upon an illegal procedure and thus become invalidated.  This Judge's ruling impacts all of this nation's school systems.  Our thanks to Judge O'Connor for doing what was right.  Now it is up to all of us to contact our local school administration officials and school board leaders to voice our support for boys only being allowed to use boys' locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms; the same applying also to girls using only rooms designed and reserved for their use. 


I guess I am becoming more aware of how Satan has effectively used sexual perversion in the past.  I was working through passages in 1 Corinthians 6 and 7 this past week in preparation for a Bible study I will be having with a group of men from my church beginning in September.  And as I was reading I was reminded of what a cesspool ancient Corinth was with all its decadent sexual perversion.  After many became followers of Christ Jesus, the Apostle Paul had to remind them that now their physical bodies belonged, not to themselves, but to God.  They were no longer to be used for immoral, selfish reasons, but to bring honor and glory to God.  Read through the Old Testament and you will encounter story after story of how Satan used forms of sexual perversions to sidetrack the people of God.  So, we should not be shocked that Satan continues to use deviant sexual behavior today, wrapping it in the shroud of cultural and, at times, governmental authenticity. 


So, what are we to do?  First of all, we are to pursue truth.  Now we need to understand that truth is not to be found always at the wellspring of the main stream media today.  In fact, often that is the last place to look for truth.  We also need to understand that truth is not be found within the edicts of government, for government is more often a reflection of culture than of truth.  And sadly we need to understand that truth is not to be found in many religious societies today for many of those societies also are only a reflection of what is cultural and socially relevant.  So, where does one go in a pursuit of truth?  The answer lies in a study of the Word of God.  There simply is no other place to turn.  I am talking about a deeply probing study of the Word of God - digging into the very heart of what God has to say.  Truth is not always a beautiful thing but, when it is heeded, does produce a right living before God.


Secondly, we are to stand confidently and boldly for that discovered truth.  We are to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3.  They were so confident of God's truth that they were even willing to die for that truth.  Many of us are not quite there yet, but we need to be.  Will such a stand for truth be costly?  Read through story after story related to us in "Foxe's Book of Martyrs" and you will find the answer to that question. 


Thirdly and most importantly, we are to pray diligently, applying daily those pieces of the armor of God described for us in Ephesians 6.  We will not be successful in our own strength.  But we will be successful in the strength of the Lord Jesus. 


It is time we rise up - become students of the Scriptures - become active in prayer - and exude a confidence before others that our trust is in truth found in God alone. 



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"If You Can Keep It" - A Challenge from the Pen of Eric Metaxas

I want to share with you about the most recent book written by Eric Metaxas.  You might remember that he is the author of probably the most definitive biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  His new book is titled, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty.  This is a book that I highly recommend each high school and college student read. What the author shares in this book is the premise that America's liberties are slipping away and, unless we take action, they will be lost forever.


The book's title is taken from an incident in the life of Benjamin Franklin.  As he was leaving that famous building in Philadelphia in 1787 following the adoption of the United States Constitution, he was approached by a woman named Mrs. Powell who asked, "Well, doctor, what have we got?  A republic or a monarchy?"  To which Dr. Franklin responded: "A republic, madam - if you can keep it."  Now what was Dr. Franklin actually saying?  This Constitution that was newly created derived its strength not from the power of a ruling family, as with the monarchies that dotted the political landscapes of Europe at the time.  No, the strength of the Constitution was derived from the will and consent of the people.  The Constitution was a venture into a new form of government that the world had not witnessed in a long time - not since the days of ancient Greece.  Would it work?  Would a government "of the people, by the people, for the people," as Lincoln spoke so succinctly in his Gettysburg Address so many years later, really hold a nation together as diverse as America was?  Franklin's reply would be: "Yes, but only if the American people worked on it."


The underlying premise of Metaxas's book is the concept developed by Os Guinness and called The Golden Triangle of Freedom: "The Golden Triangle of Freedom is, when reduced to its most basic form, that freedom requires virtue; virtue requires faith; and faith required freedom.  The three go round and round, supporting one another ad infinitum.  If any one of the three legs of the triangle is removed, the whole structure ceases to exist" (page 54).  


The first leg is virtue or morality.  You are aware as am I of how our moral foundations in America are eroding away; sadly, at an alarming rate these past several years.  We murder innocent babies almost without impunity.  We celebrate sexual perversions with public parades.  We have become immune to the almost daily slaughter that occurs on the streets of our cities.  Truth, if it has not been negated, certainly has been compromised.  Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: "Liberty cannot be established without morality" (page 60).  Friends, if our liberties are eroding it is due in part to the eroding of our moral foundations.


The second leg is faith.  That our Founding Fathers were religious men cannot be called into question.  George Washington, in his Farewell Address as President in 1796 wrote: "Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.  Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles" (page 65).  And the words of Thomas Jefferson, who was to be our third President, should alarm us, for he wrote in 1785: "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that those liberties are the gift of God?  That they are violated but with his wrath?  I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep for ever" (page 66).  Friends, our Founding Fathers attributed the victories in the War of Independence to the intervention of a Divine Providence.  Yet, today, our nation's leaders have tried to isolate God from our history, both its past as well as its present.  Is it any wonder that our liberties are eroding away.


Perhaps the strength of this book are the many stories that the author relates.  The story of the great influence a smallish British preacher by the name of George Whitefield had upon the birth of our nation.  The story of Nathan Hale and his ultimate sacrifice for his nation.  The story of Paul Revere and his famous ride and the famous poem about his ride that helped a nation during the days of the Civil War.  Stories of real life men and women committed to truth and to the ideals that would grow this new nation's liberties. 


Is America perfect?  No and it never will be!  Can America rediscover those foundations upon which its greatness was built?  Yes, I believe it can, but time is running out.  As Metaxas brings out in his book, to re-experience what made America great, it will take all of us working toward that common goal.  It will mean that we will have to repent of America's wrongs, but then move on.  We cannot camp in the shadow of those images of slavery, or of Wounded Knee, or of My Lai.  Why is it that Americans pull together when there is a crisis?  September 11, 2001 brought Americans together.  Suddenly we were not Hispanic Americans or black Americans or Chinese Americans - we were simply Americans.  Those were Americans who entered into those Twin Towers in an heroic attempt to rescue as many as possible.  When Hurricane Katrina wrecked its destructive powers in Louisiana, it was Americans who came to the rescue.  Can America be saved once again?  We need to look past ourselves.  We are not Hispanic Americans - we are Americans who happen to be of Latin descent.  We are not black Americans - we are Americans who happen to be of African descent.  We are not white Americans - we are Americans of basically European descent.  We are not Baptist Americans - but Americans who happen to attend a Baptist Church.  We are not Muslim Americans - but Americans who happen to attend a mosque.  We are Americans first!  Our heart swells with pride when this nation excels.  Our hearts feel the pain when this nation experiences hurt.  We still get that strange feeling when we sing the national anthem or watch the American Legion Post delegation parade the flag down the streets during a community celebration.  We stand in hushed silence at the row upon row of white gravestones in an Arlington National Cemetery or at Fort Snelling Military Cemetery or countless other places.  That is what makes us Americans.  That is the intent our Founding Fathers attempted to create with their Constitution.  That was their vision of America. 


I highly recommend this book.  I have one word of caution, however: you will need a dictionary as you read for the author's vocabulary is not our usual one.  But, that aside, you will be stirred as you read to better understand why our nation is as it is today.  Dr. Franklin's words are a challenge to us: "If you can keep it."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Redefining of History and a Redefining of Educational Morals

As most of you know I have a great love for the nation of Israel and one of my favorite places in all of Israel is the City of Jerusalem.  I never tire of those first glimpses of the Holy City from the summit of Mount Scopus.  I walk those ancient streets with a sense of awe and wonder.  I can sit on those ancient Southern Steps and imagine what it was like twenty one centuries ago.  As I walk through those ancient tunnels I stop to listen to the stories that echo from those stone walls.  I sit in quietness in the Garden Tomb and ponder the joys that flow from that empty tomb.  Yes, Jerusalem is a truly amazing City.  It has a way of grabbing a person's heart and soul.


Central to Jerusalem's history is a large rectangular stone platform that rises above the Kidron Valley.  We are uncertain as to who its first owners were, but we know that the Bible describes this place as belonging to a man named Araunah, a Jebusite farmer who used this place as his threshing floor (2 Samuel 24:18-25).  David purchased this place and it later became the place where his son Solomon built the first temple.  It was also the location of the second temple built after the return from exile in Babylon.  It was to this place that Jesus made several visits, including an unforgettable one when He was only twelve. 


Now I realize that the central feature upon the Temple Mount in Jerusalem today is not a temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. and never rebuilt.  The central feature is an octagonal building known as the Dome of the Rock, one of the holy sites in Islam. 


Okay, you are saying, so there is an Islamic site on top of the historical Jewish Temple Mount.  Big deal?  Absolutely!  I read an article a week ago where the author, Bob Unruh, revealed that the United Nations wants to declare that the Temple Mount is sacred only to Muslims.  Now, friends, those just might be the words that would ignite a third world war.  But, let me quote from the article which can be found at: www.wnd.com/2016/07/israels-sanhedrin-takes-on-u-n


"Israel's ancient high court, the Sanhedrin, now reborn, has issued a statement warning the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization not to try to interfere with - or change - the history linked to the Temple Mount.  A report by Breaking Israel News says the U.N. agency wants to adopt a resolution at its current meetings in Istanbul that would declare the Temple Mount, site of the ancient Jewish temples, as 'sacred to "Muslims only."'  The proposal comes jointly from Palestinian and Jordanian interests and follows an earlier decision by the agency to call the site in Jerusalem in official papers only by the name created by Muslims - Al-Aqsa.  But Breaking Israel News reported the new plan is 'far more radical.'  It said 'UNESCO's very unholy actions' would deny that there is any Jewish link to the location at all.  That prompted the Sanhedrin, which is known in the New Testament for condemning Jesus, to act.  That court, which was disbanded about A.D. 425 and now has been re-created, released a statement warning that the U.N., through its statements and comments, is fomenting global terror.


"'The Jewish right to the Temple Mount was established in the Bible, and should therefore be recognized by Christianity and Islam,' the Sanhedrin said in its statement.  'In fact, the Jewish claim to Jerusalem is as essential to those religions as it is to Judaism.  The biblical connection between the Jews and Jerusalem led to the building of the First Temple by King Solomon, which strengthened our claim to Jerusalem even more.'"


Friends, archaeological evidence strongly and undeniably supports the facts that the Jewish presence upon the Temple Mount goes back well into the ninth and tenth centuries B.C.  Artifacts on display in the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem attest to that historical fact.  The Muslim presence upon the Temple Mount did not originate until around the year 636 A.D.   In other words, there was no Muslim presence in this place for some five and a half centuries after the temple's destruction by the Romans.  The Jewish presence predates the Muslim presence by at least fifteen centuries. 


So, what is going on?  Very simply put it is this: Muslims want to change the history of the Temple Mount to fit their history.  Their way of thinking fits in nicely with liberal thinking of today: if you don't like history, just rewrite it to fit what you want history to say.  Destroy any archaeological evidence - we have seen this happen repeatedly with ISIS in Iraq and Syria with its destruction of ancient sites that challenge the history ISIS purports.  Sort of the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality.  Sadly, we are doing something very similar in our own nation.  History is no longer based upon an interpretation of historical fact, but is now based upon personal preferences. 


Friends, I urge you to take a trip to Jerusalem and discover for yourselves the deep, historic roots of Judaism there.  But continue to be in prayer for Jerusalem as the Psalmist challenges us in Psalm 122.


And, here in America, the controversy surrounding gender identity simply refuses to go away.  (Note: Sadly I believe this controversy is only going to grow stronger in the coming years until that group has completely shredded what little is left of the moral foundations of our nation.)  The following article was written by Jason and David Benham, whose "fix-it-up" program was canceled because of their stand for "one man-one woman marriage."  The article was published and can be found at: www.wnd.com/2016/08/schools-push-disturbing-gender-unicorn-on-your-kids


"The radical, anti-values sexual revolution is accelerating at break-neck speed.  Just last week, the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board acted on Obama's high-pressured, open bathroom initiative by taking it to a whole 'nutha' level.  CMS introduced 'The Gender Unicorn.'  This little guy is the Charlotte school system's new teacher's assistant.  He's going to help our children explore and discover who they 'go to bed as,' and who they like to 'go to bed with.'  Are you kidding?!  He (or she, not really sure) looks cute and harmless - kind of like Barney with a horn.  Yet this little thing is geared to grab the imagination of our children and indoctrinate - and even intimidate - them in participating in the sexual revolution.  Even the confusing gender symbol is placed over its private area!  What kind of nonsense is this?


"But it's worse, because the purple unicorn was accompanied by an entire CMS Training presentation, where parent's rights, teacher's classroom gender references and even school activities have been completely redefined.  The NC Values Coalition highlighted just a few points:


1) Parental involvement dependent on student's permission: 'Involvement of parents in the plan is determined in working with the student, considering the student's age and health, wellbeing and safety concerns.' (page 34)
2) Students can choose their bathrooms and changing facilities: "Students must have access to the restroom/changing facilities that correspond to their gender identity.' (Page 42)
3) CMS will remove some gender-based activities: 'CMS will evaluate all gender-based activities; maintain only those that have clear and sound pedagogical purpose.' (Page 46)
4) Students can choose their gender-based activities (intramural sports, dress codes, classes, ceremonies, photos, extracurricular activities, etc.).  This includes choosing which gender they participate with during overnight field trips: 'Students are permitted to participate in gender-based activities consistent with their gender identity.' (Page 46)
5) Students shall not be referred to as 'boys and girls' in classrooms, but 'scholars' or 'students': "Avoid gender specific classroom management techniques.' (Page 46)"


The Benham brothers then stated, "It's time pro-morality Americans, whether Christian or not, seek the common good of our nation and start speaking out against nonsense like what CMS is trying to push on our children.  We also need Christians to shed the 'we shouldn't be political' cover and start running for local and state elections - especially school boards - to protect our children and the common-sense decency that allows civil society to flourish."


This article came on the heels of a bill, currently being debated in the California General Assembly - known as California Senate Bill 1146 - which, if passed, would disallow institutions receiving California state funding from remaining consistent with their religious tenets related to sexual identity and same-sex marriage.  I happened to hear an interview with the President of BIOLA University on the radio a few days ago addressing the consequences if this bill is passed and signed into law.  In essence, it would have the effect of shutting down evangelical schools of higher-education in California who would choose to not compromise on biblical convictions regarding gender identity and sexual orientation.  And, friends, what happens in California becomes the pattern for what happens elsewhere. 


These are days when we need a holy boldness as did the disciples in the Early Church.  We need to let those teachers who still take a courageous stand in our public schools that we fully support them.  I am sure that, for many, they feel like islands in the midst of a storm-tossed sea.  If you know Christian school board members in your community, encourage them.  I know at times their hands are tied by all the legal mandates, but there still is room for a bold voice.  Write to local elected officials strongly encouraging them to not forsake the values upon which our nation was founded so many years ago.  And how we need to pray!  It is great to know that God is in control.  But He has given us a voice and the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Let's use that voice and that power to let our communities know that we are standing for truth. 



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

In Search of Good News

I don't know about you, but I am getting weary with all the negative news lately.  I am tired of the mainstream media's "spin" of the news to make it more appealing to those who would agree with that point of view.  I am frustrated with the ease that Americans are being deluded into believing lies about America's past.  I am weary of politicians who are all talk, just to get my vote, but have no backbone regarding getting anything done.  I am tired of the lies and innuendos that dominate headlines and talk-shows.  I am tired of reading of the wanton killings on our cities streets.  I am weary of hearing of terrorists around the world who have no respect for human life and so assault the innocents with total disdain.  I don't know about you, but I long for some good news


I was reading for my devotions this morning Psalm 121.  (I am working my way through Psalms in July and August - fascinating reading, by the way; I think we hurry through Psalms too quickly; it should be savored like a good steak - at least that is my opinion!)  I love this Psalm.  Every time I read it I remember sitting on the Southern Steps leading up to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  It was a hot early June day.  And, as our tour group sat there several years ago, our tour guide sang for us this Psalm in Hebrew.  It was one of many serendipitous moments I have had over the years while in Israel. 


Let's look briefly at this Psalm and see if we can discover some good news.  First, this Psalm is included in a collection of fifteen known as the Psalms of Ascent.  These were probably among the familiar Psalms sung as people traveled up to Jerusalem for the various feasts and celebrations.  We do not know who the author of this Psalm is but, whoever he is, there is a strong understanding of the character of God.  Before we look at verses 1 and 2 - where I find some encouraging good news, let's look at the remainder of this Psalm for it, too, contains some good news.


First, we learn that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  That is an important place to begin in one's understanding of who God truly is.  That is where the Scriptures begin with their introduction of God: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  Second, the author relates that God is dependable - we can count on Him.  Notice what the writer says: "He will not let your foot slip."  I don't know about you, but the older I get the more cautious I need to be about walking.  And you know what trips me up at times?  It is the corner of a rug or the leg of a chair or a torn piece of carpet on a step.  It is those little things that can cause a person to fall.  Now, do you hear what the Psalmist is saying?  God will help you through those "little things" in life so that you do not lose your balance; so that you will not fall.  So, thank You, God, for taking an interest in the "little things" in my life.


Third, the author strongly states that God is always on the job.  Notice how he stresses this: "he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD watches over you - ."  Three times the author uses the word "watches."  Twice he makes reference to the fact that God does not slumber or sleep.  God never needs to take a nap!  God never needs to take a "breather."  God never needs to take a rest!  No matter the hour of the day or the time of the year or the condition of the circumstances in which you find yourselves, God is always there!  He is only a prayer away.  Who else do you know who will ALWAYS be there for you? 


Fourth, the author wants us to know that God will always protect us: "the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life."  As I read of the condition of our culture today, I am drawn to the story of Daniel and his three friends: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  They experienced the protection of God, although each was willing to lay down his life to do what was right in the eyes of God.  Does this promise mean that everything, every event, every occurrence in our lives will be delightful?  Of course not.  Just ask Job.  Just ask David.  Just ask that person who sits next to you on a Sunday morning in worship.  No, problems and difficulties are a part of life.  There is no escape from them.  And some of those events make no sense to us.  But, I believe the promise from the Psalmist is this: God will be your shade; God will see you through.  He will be our strength.


Finally, in that closing verse, the Psalmist declares that God is interested in every aspect of your life, for he writes: "the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."  That little Hebrew phrase, "your coming and going," is like saying "from beginning to ending."  It is all inclusive.  In other words, God is concerned about everything that is happening in your life right now!  He will not walk away from you and leave you alone!  He will put His arms around you and bring you safely through!  And He will do this until He ushers us into His presence! 


Now, let us turn our attention to those first two verses.  Let me share with you the geography behind these verses, behind this Psalm.  I want you to imagine with me that you are a pilgrim making your first journey to the Temple to offer a sacrifice to God.  It is a warm early spring day.  You approach the Temple from the north walking through the Kidron Valley which lies just to the east of the Temple Mount.  On your left hand is another mountain whose landscape is dotted with temples dedicated to foreign gods.  Perhaps they are abandoned now, but the ruins speak volumes of another time when other gods were Israel's focus.  Today, this mountain is known as the Hill of Offense - a fitting reminder of what happened there in the past.  On your right hand is the Temple itself, shining in its splendor in the bright spring sun.  Here the living God of Israel is worshiped and served. 


As the Psalmist ascends that road he asks himself one of the most meaningful questions: "Where does my help come from?"  Friends, that is the important question we need to ask ourselves in today's world.  Does my help, my confidence, my assurance come from those "temples" to other gods that dot the landscape, or does my help, my confidence, my assurance come from the Lord?  Are we dependent upon CNN and MSNBC and FOX for confidence, or are we dependent upon the BIBLE?  Is our focus upon what politicians promise but fail to deliver, or upon what God promises and has never failed to deliver?  Where is my focus?  Where is your focus? 


How I need to have the words of this Psalm ever before me these days for, indeed, he has good news for us in the midst of the trouble that surrounds us. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Truth - Where Is It?

It has been awhile since I last posted a blog.  Most of this month has been consumed with the needs of making another major move - this time from Iowa back to Minnesota.  We sold our townhouse in Ankeny, IA and bought a townhouse in Buffalo, MN.  Marlys and I have decided that making two major moves in 13 months should not be something that is aspired toward.  We are hoping that God will give us a nice, long stay in Buffalo - and I know that the folks in my church hope so as well.

These are very interesting times, aren't they?  Last week was the Republican Convention in Cleveland.  I believe we may have seen the creation of a new form of Republicanism.  While I did not always agree with decisions made during the convention, I did admire that the emphasis was upon "Making America Great Again."  It was interesting to visit with one of the men who helped us in our move from Iowa back to Minnesota.  He and his family were refugees from Bosnia and came to Iowa in 2006.  His family learned English right away.  He was able to get a job and not to depend upon governmental handouts.  He asked me why all refugees and immigrants did not do as he and his family did?  He and his family are productive citizens because they have earned that right because they have followed the laws and protocols.  I may not agree with everything Donald Trump stands for, but I believe many middle-class Americans will resonate with his desires to build a stronger military and to get back to the basics of an economy driven by American production. 

This week it is the Democrats turn in Philadelphia.  It is a party that is not as united as it would have us to believe.  But history was made with the nomination of Hillary Clinton to be the standard bearer for them.  Now the race can begin with two candidates that the majority of Americans do not like, nor do they trust.  How did we get into this predicament?  What happened? 

I believe the answer is as simple as this: we have abandoned absolute truth.  Truth today is all relative.  Truth is always changing.  Truth is personal, crafted for each individual.  What are perceived to be lies to one person are truths to others.  When there is no absolute standard for truth, if there is no solid foundation upon which truth is established, then is it possible that there really is no truth?  In the absence of truth all becomes merely opinions.  For example, Hillary Clinton has her opinions as to what happened that night in Benghazi.  The family of those killed that night have their opinions.  The media has formed its opinions.  And the American people are left to wonder: what actually happened that night?  What is the truth? 

Where does a person turn today to find truth?  Opinions are everywhere - everyone has one just about everything.  But what about truth?  As a Christian, I believe that absolute truth is found in the Word of God, known as the Bible.  Jesus, in His High Priestly Prayer, recorded in John 17, said these words, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."  Furthermore, this same Jesus said to His disciples earlier that evening, as recorded in John 14, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."  To know Jesus is to know truth.  To read the Bible is to know truth.  To know God is to know truth because God is incapable of telling a lie. 

Friends, in the absence of absolute truth - of absolute morality, bad things happen.  A priest is murdered while he is performing a mass at a church in France.  Five policemen are gunned down while patrolling a demonstration in Dallas.  Eighty-four people are mowed down by a madman driving a truck in Nice, France.  And the list goes on and on.  In the absence of truth, almost anything is permissible. 

Personally I have decided that I need to spend more time in my own personal Bible study.  I need to spend more time in prayer for my wife, for my children, for my grandchildren, and for my church family.  And every time I step behind that pulpit, I need to be reminded that I am to help people to understand God's truth for the days in which we live.  It is only that truth that truly sets people free.

Monday, July 11, 2016

What Is Going On?

The Fourth of July weekend has come and gone.  The celebration of the birthday of that nation whose foundations were laid upon the strong principles derived from Judeo-Christian teachings, soon descended into the chaos of racial tensions across our nation.  The riots that have occurred over the past few days have not been seen since the 1960's.  It seems that our nation stands poised near the brink of a potential civil war. 

As I have shared with you before, I love studying the era of the American Civil War.  What we are seeing today is not entirely unlike those days preceding that conflagration that literally tore our nation apart.  There was a lot of discrimination in those days - not necessarily between blacks and whites, but between whites who opposed slavery and whites who supported slavery.  It was North versus South.  Our nations leaders, who adamantly held to one opinion or the other, tried to stave off the inevitable with one compromise after another.  Yet, the more the compromises that came from Washington, the more sharply divided our nation became.  America had become a nation where trust was lacking.  The North did not trust the motivations of the South, nor did the South trust the North.  All that was needed was for someone to ignite the fuse that led to the barrel of gunpowder.  And that someone was John Brown whose raid upon the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859, shouted that the division was so deep that no civil conversations could bring about healing.  Thus, when those first shots were heard at Fort Sumter in April 1860, they were not unexpected. 

Now I am not saying that Americans are ready to take up arms against their fellow Americans.  But I am saying that America has become a deeply divided nation.  We continue to witness racial divisions which have persisted for centuries.  We now have gender divisions - something that no other civilization has experienced before.  And that gender division is become more pronounced and the chasm is expanding almost daily.  We have economic division between those who have and those who do not have - and, that divide is expanding as well.  We have divisions concerning matters of life - when it begins and how does it end.  And all of these create a political division that is most pronounced today.  Unlike the America from 1820-1860 which was basically divided into anti-slavery and pro-slavery groups, today's America is divided into many different camps.

Can there be a healing of America?  That is the question that is so critically important to ask and seems to be more difficult to answer.  I believe the answer is found in a return to absolute truth.  And that absolute truth, I believe, is only found within the Word of God - the Bible.  In the early days of the twentieth century, American educators and political leaders began to question absolute truth.  Instead, they anchored to opinions.  Absolute truth was cast aside as being irrelevant.  Truth became personalized.  It become "my truth" or, as they would say, "what is true for me."  Now, let's translate what this might look like in a nation of over three hundred million people: that means that there are over three hundred million "truths" that are held and deemed as being "right."  Is it any wonder that there is division today?

As I shared with my church family yesterday, in the absence of God all that remains is chaos and confusion.  Friends, that is what we are now experiencing.  Back in the 1950's our Supreme Court judges said that God was no longer openly welcomed into the public school classrooms.  Then that same Supreme Court ruled that murder within the womb was acceptable under law - it made no difference what God said about the beginnings of life.  And a year ago the Supreme Court said that God's ethic concerning marriage was no longer the only ethic to be followed - again, an act of willful arrogance against the words of God.  We have lost respect for each other because we have no respect for a holy God who made us in His image.  We have lost trust with each other because we have no common anchorage - all we have are personal opinions.  We have lost hope because our future is only dependent upon ourselves not in a relationship with the holy God.  We have become a nation that is filled with rage and with fear and with uncertainty.  These are the consequences of a nation that turns against God. 

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are not called to despair but to hope.  We are to shine as "stars in the universe" as Paul says in Philippians 2.  And the greater the darkness of our age, the brighter should our lights be.  May we be as "lighthouses" to guide people from the darkness of this age into the light of God's glorious kingdom that is soon coming.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Reality of This Fourth of July

As we near the Fourth of July weekend, it seems that our nation continues to drift further and further away from those principles that guided those men and women whom we honor.  I have often wondered at what those Founding Fathers and Mothers would think should they reappear.  I am guessing that in many ways this country would not be what they had envisioned.  Within their minds they pictured one nation that recognized those sovereign rights granted by the Sovereign God Himself.  In fact, they wrote those words within the first few sentences of the Declaration of Independence.  Yet today our nation has declared that God no longer matters; in fact, in the eyes and minds of many, God simply does not exist anymore.  Man is his own god.  Science, technology, power, sports, and entertainment are among the many gods who now lay claim to our lives.  Yet, those gods do not bring any peace into our inner being.  Those gods do not bring any hope for tomorrow.  All remains an emptiness within.

This past Sunday our church hosted the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Choir.  My heart was stirred once again with the stories of lives changed by the power of God.  Lives that were broken because of addiction were now healed by God's love.  Desperation had been replaced with hope.  Lives, once filled with drugs and alcohol, were now filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Yet, for everyone of these miracle stories, there are hundreds of others whose lives still are empty.  And our culture, today, continues to foster that emptiness.

For those of us who attended a Christian college or university, the following article is very disturbing, but, again, indicative of our changing cultural norms.  It was written by Todd Starnes and published at the Fox News website.  You can find it at: www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/06/23/democrats-lgbt-activitists-sinister-plan-to-crack-down-on-christian-schools.  The article begins, "If California Democrats have their way, Christian colleges and universities will no longer be allowed to require students to attend chapel services or require them to profess a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Senate Bill 1148 would close a loophole that lawmakers say allows Christian universities to discriminate against students based on their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.  'All students deserve to feel safe in institutions of higher education, regardless of whether they are public or private,' said Senator Ricardo Lara, the author of the legislation.  'California has established strong protections for the LGBT community and private universities should not be able to use faith as an excuse to discriminate and avoid complying with state laws.'  The legislation has already passed the Senate and is expected to clear hurdles in the Assembly.  Thus far, Lara has refused to compromise with the state's Christian colleges and universities. ... If the loophole is closed, it would only exempt schools that prepare students for pastoral ministry.  'It discriminates against religious colleges,' said John Jackson, the president of William Jessup University.  'If we don't play ball with the state - the state will attempt to drive us out of existence.'"

The article continues, "Lee Wilhite, vice president of university communications at Biola University, said they, too, have serious concerns with the bill.  'It functionally eliminates the religious liberty of all California faith-based universities,' he told me.  'It really does infringe on how we carry out our mission. ... We would no longer be able to require a profession of faith for students.  That's something Biola requires of all incoming students.'  Schools would no longer be allowed to integrate faith throughout their teaching curriculum, he added.  Leaders at three universities I spoke to say that they would not be allowed to require mandatory chapel attendance or mandatory core units of Bible courses.  The legislation would also give students a right to sue if - for example - they were offended by a prayer in a class."

Friends, what is driving this "craziness?"  Let me again quote from the article: "Senate Bill 1148 would close a loophole that lawmakers say allows Christian universities to discriminate against students based on their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation."  Wow!  The proclamation of absolute truth is being threatened because a "handful" of students are confused about their gender identity.  That which has been the heart and soul of a Christian university - that students identify with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord - is suddenly to be cast aside because some lawmakers do not want to offend a "handful" of students.  The Bible declares that in the last days, truth will be suppressed and people will believe the lie.  What is happening in California is certainly momentum in that direction.  And, unfortunately, what happens in California finds its way across our country. 

Let's shift to the east coast - let's say, the University of North Carolina.  Another article written by Todd Starnes and posted at: www. foxnews.com/opinion/2016/06/27/microaggression-madness-footwear-flattery-and-santa-cause-coed-kerfuffle.  'The University of North Carolina has been infected with a micro-aggression pandemic.  We are being led to believe the entire campus has been afflicted with this highly-communicable, politically correct malady.  University officials recently released online guidelines to employees on issues ranging from gender-neutral dress codes to casual conversations about ladies shoes - in hopes of staving off the spread of this heinous disease.  One of the guidelines posted on UNC's Employee Forum warned against complimenting a woman on her choice of footwear. To do so would be considered to be a micro-aggression meaning 'I notice how you look and dress more than I value your intellectual contributions.  How you look is really important.'  Campus Reform was the first to expose UNC's micro-aggression policies - that covered everything from Islam to transgenderism.  For instance, only having 'male' and 'female' as gender options on forms is considered to be a micro-aggression because it implies "you must fit in the gender binary and select among these predefined categories.'  UNC also frowns on dress codes that require men and women to dress differently - warning that not letting a man wear a sun dress and spanx could be a 'violation of anti-discrimination policies.'" 

I read articles like these several times a week and wonder how much longer before the Lord Jesus returns.  Every Sunday, as I stand behind the pulpit in my church, I am reminded of the incredible responsibility to proclaim ALL of God's truth.  I see young families with small children and think to myself - what an awful world my generation has created for them.  Are the sins of the fathers being handed down to the third and fourth generations today?  Are those decisions that our fathers so passively accepted in the late 1950's and early 1960's now the operative principles?  Why was there no outcry when Bible reading and prayer was excised from our public schools?  Why was there no outcry against abortion until after the Supreme Court ruled it the law of the land?  The timidity of the Church over the past decades against the rising tide of immorality and perversion is now reaping its consequences. 

Jesus said that it was TRUTH that set a person free.  Our culture today suppresses that TRUTH.  Instead, truth has become relative and experiential.  There are no longer any absolutes - except for those absolutes like those California lawmakers want to declare or those officials at the University of North Carolina want to declare.  Those become absolute statements whether they want to admit to that reality or not.

Friends, keep on clinging to Jesus.  I know of no other place to anchor my heart and my life these days.  He alone can give rest and peace in the midst of the cultural storms that surround us.  Yes, He is in control.  And to that truth we can all say, "Amen!"