Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thoughts for Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day in which we set aside time to reflect upon the many blessings that God has given to us this past year.  Really our list should be quite long and our time of praise should be quite long as well.  But I have found that it is easy to give thanks for the "stuff" of life, you know, food - and what abundance we have, clothing - our closets are filled and our biggest problems is determining what to wear, health - too often we take this for granted, but, having just lost a brother to cancer a few weeks ago, I know that health is a precious gift to us, as is family. 

And how can we forget to thank our wonderful God of our salvation.  I have been reminded of this as I have been working on a Communion Meditation that I will be sharing Sunday from the story of Hosea.  What an amazing love Hosea had for his wayward, unfaithful bride Gomer.  Then God reminds Hosea that his love for Gomer is a portrait of God's love for His wayward, unfaithful people.  In order to set Gomer free, Hosea had to step out of his comfort zone and enter into the messy world of prostitution.  As one reads his story one can almost feel the shame that Hosea experienced and the humiliation as everyone knew that Gomer was the wife of the prophet.  Yet, drawn by his love, Hosea went forward, paid the required price to set his wife free.  I believe that  until her dying day, Gomer probably never fully understood that amazing love.  But is that not what God did for us.  We enter into this Advent Season where we celebrate God's love.  Yes, God stepped out of His "comfort zone" - the glories of heaven - and came here to this messy world to rescue us from the bondage to sin.  He, too, paid the price for our redemption.  So, with David in Psalm 103, I want to praise God for the blessings of redemption, of my salvation, of having received God's amazing love.

I have just finished reading Ben Carson's newest book titled, "A More Perfect Union."  It is one of the clearest explanations of the United States Constitution that I have ever read.  I highly recommend it to you.  After reading that book, I want to add another item to my Thanksgiving list: that I live in the United States of America.  And I want to thank those Founding Fathers for their vision of what America could be.  Those men had a knowledge of the Scriptures.  They understood the sinful condition of the human heart.  And they understood the character of a just God and that the country they were creating should be a reflection of that justice upon a sinful man.  And they did it well. 

My heart is saddened as I read of a generation of young people who are growing up and not fully understanding the freedoms that they have received.  I was just reading an article this morning written by Ben Shapiro.  You can find the article at:,  Let me just share a few quotes from the article: "Four in 10 young Americans have no idea what America is.  That's the takeaway from a new Pew Research poll showing that 40 percent of Americans aged 18-34 say that the government should be able to prevent people from making 'statements that are offensive to minority groups.'  This same group of young people has granted broad awareness to the culture of 'microaggression' - unintended slights taken as grave insults by their victims; they've also called for 'trigger warnings,' alerts that certain communications may dredge up unpleasant past memories or ideas.  With such ghoulish cruelties haunting the most privileged generation in human history, naturally we'd want to toss out the bedrock of Western civilization: The right to debate, to express unpopular opinions.  We wouldn't want to offend."  Friends, what this younger generation seems to have not learned - perhaps it was because they were not taught it - is that debate, the arguments of thought was the foundation upon which our nation was built.  I remember reading with fascination Joseph Ellis' book titled, "An American Creation," which is the account of the writing of the Constitution.  Yes, feelings were hurt.  Yes, tempers flared.  Yes, words were said that were later regretted.  But ideas were exchanged.  Compromise was done.  And the world has been blessed because of those agonizing weeks in 1787 in Philadelphia. 

It seems that today we want to shield everyone from anything that might be offensive.  But let's be honest: that can only happen if a person crawls into a cave and pushes the rock to close the entrance.  Life is full of ideas and differences of opinions.  Just look at Jesus: His world certainly was filled with those who differed from Him.  But Jesus entered into dialogue with them.  He freely shared His ideas and truths with them.  And the continuation of that debate over truths and ideas was central to the success of the early Church - example of Paul in Athens in Acts 17,  What is happening on the campuses across our nation is the suppression of ideas, the suppression of debate, the suppression of truth.  When such debate is stifled and quenched, intellectual growth ceases.  For it is in the presence of debate of ideas that our own intellect matures.  I remember a famous preacher once shared with a group of us young pastors these words, "Men, every year I read one or two books that I know I will strongly disagree with.  I do that to strengthen my own understanding of truth." 

So, I am grateful that I live in a nation that still grants me that freedom to express my thoughts and ideas.  I know that, if the present conditions prevail, that freedom will soon be a freedom in the past.

Finally, I want to just share a word about what is happening in the Middle East.  As you know, yesterday a Russian fighter jet was shot down as it crossed over into Turkish air space.  Tensions, already strained have now become even more heightened.  And I read this morning that it was reported that IAF (Israel Air Force) planes bombed Syrian units inside Syria - although this report has yet to be confirmed.  Yesterday our President met with the French President in the White House and promised America help in destroying ISIS, yet the very fact that ISIS was able to do what it did in Paris and shut down the city of Brussels indicate that its destruction will take a new type of warfare that the world has not prepared for.  The world grows even darker.  Yet I was encouraged with these words from Marvin Olasky, the editor of "World" magazine (which by the way I highly endorse): "We play checkers, but God plays chess, as His billions of moves bring the world toward its culmination." 

So, at this Thanksgiving Season I am grateful that God is in control.  Aren't you?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

These Are Dangerous Times

The senselessness of the wanton taking of innocent human lives by ISIS continues.  The slaughter of 129 innocent people in Paris last Friday was another reminder that the world is at war with a group of people who have placed no value upon human life - except for their own.  In their estimation, they are right and everyone else is wrong; they are the only ones worthy of life, everyone else is worthy of death.  One can only imagine what this world would be like if their ideology prevailed. 

But the actions and attitudes that ISIS displays toward the rest of the world also reminds us of how self-centered many are today.  My way is the right way.  Your way is the wrong way.  We are no longer tolerant of others with differing beliefs, but feel threatened whenever someone takes issue with our ideas.  In today's world, if you do not fully agree and accept my views and beliefs, then I am left with no other recourse than to seek your destruction.  And we see this played out over and over again.

I read an article, written by Douglas Ernst and posted on the WND website, that literally made my heart stop.  You can find the article at:  "Berkeley College students attend a Nov 6, 2015, protest in response to racial message, allegedly written by a KKK supporter, on a library computer.  A well-established black student coalition is calling for violence if the U.S. Constitution is not replaced with a version that serves 'the interests of black people.'  Afrikan Black Coalition was created in 2003 to connect activists across the University of California system.  It has gone from concentrating on the low admittance and retention rates of black students in California to developing leadership and communication skills for members."

I want to share with you some of what that group posted in an op-ed article titled, "A New Constitution or the Bullet" on November 4.  Read it carefully.  "I have come to realize that the Constitution is the root of virtually all our problems in America.  In order to understand the injustices against Black folks in United States, we must look back to its foundation.  The U.S. is a country that was founded on slavery, genocide, rape, and white-male patriarchy.  A body cannot be separated from its head and remain living.  The Constitution and all the evil that it allows to be perpetuated are the head of White America, or more so corrupt America.  Racist America. ...A Constitution written by only white men will never serve the interests of black people.  The Constitution was written for the ruling class of white men which constructed whiteness to be more valuable than any other race.  Do we not have the right to abolish the laws that oppress us?  It is time to claim the Declaration of Independence and apply it to our struggle as colonized black people in America.  The United States has us; it is time we demand a new constitution or tell America that she will get the bullet.  White supremacy's bullets are killing black people every day.  If America does not protect us, then it is our human right to defend ourselves by any means necessary.  It is our human right to overthrow a government that has been destructive to our people.  This is why we must rise up and let all people come together and write new constitution to serve ALL people. ...We must pick up where the Black Panthers left off and declare a new constitution or it will be the bullet." 

Friends, that op-ed may seem almost too radical to be believed, but there are those who actually believe it to be true.  This is another example of either "accept my beliefs or I will destroy you" mentality.  Here is my question to this group: What will you replace the Constitution with?  Are you capable of having a constructive dialogue as those men did back in Philadelphia in 1787 that would lead to a document that literally changed the course of the world?  Will you, in your Constitutional Convention, even allow room for a constructive dialogue?  What really are your complaints with the Constitution as it presently is - it is a pretty incredible document?  I would like to tell this Afrikan Black Coalition that the only reason they could publish their op-ed piece in the first place was because of the safeguards given within the Constitution and its First Amendment.  They certainly could not express those views if they were living in Saudi Arabia or Yemen or even in Russia. 

I also want to refer you to another powerful article written by Jesse Lee Peterson and posted on November 15.  You can find this article at:  I want to share just a few lines from the closing of this article: "If you stand up against the bullies - whether they're radical black bullies on campuses, or Islamic bullies, they will go sit down.  But if you act with fear, they will run over you and your children.  You can't prove anything to angry people.  You just have to speak up, be honest and live your life.  Telling the truth and setting a living example is the only way to change anything for the better.  The greatest civilizations in the world are being destroyed by the godless.  The godless have not been raised by decent parents.  They're looking for love in all the wrong places, and in the wrong way.  And now they're destroying the free world.  It's time for whites in America, and in Europe, to stop the madness.  if it isn't stopped, your way of life - and possibly your life itself - will be stopped." 

As I have read these articles and others like them, and as I have listened to newscasts of the almost unrelenting violence that is impacting nearly every society around the world, I was reminded of those words of Jesus as He shared with His disciples what the world would be like at the close of the age.  Jesus spoke these words: "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12).  There is a hatred that is growing around the world - a hatred that has turned each against the other.  Can this growing hatred be stopped?  Can this accelerating "my way or the highway" mentality be destroyed before we all are destroyed by it?  The answer is found in the return of the Lord Jesus.  Only then will the world know peace.  Only then will the world truly love one another.  But, until that day comes, our assignment, as believers in Jesus Christ, is to be salt and light in this increasingly evil world (see Matthew 5:13-16).  May we model Christ's love well before others.  And, yes, come quickly, Lord Jesus continues to be our prayer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Debate and a Campus Debacle

Like many of you I watched a portion of the Republican Presidential Debate last night.  I did not see the debate in its entirety, but I was impressed with what I did see.  I thought that any of those eight people on that stage would make a great President.  I was listening for some key words.  One such word was "values."  It seemed that almost every candidate said that America needed to get back to those "values" that had made it great.  It was good to know that, as diversified as are those candidates, that there is a centrality to their thinking: America is in decline and the only way to stop the slide is to get back to those principles that made America what it has been in the past.  A second word I listened for was "family."  Perhaps it is because the church that I serve has a strong focus on "family" as its ministry.  In fact, "family" is the heart and soul of our focus here at Buffalo Covenant Church.  I was so impressed with the emphasis that Marco Rubio placed upon "family."  He was unapologetic.  (By the way, I have been impressed with how Paul Ryan, the new Speaker of the House, has said that he will continue his focus upon his family.)  Yes, government is important, but family is biblical.  A third word I listened for was "small government."  I am a strong believer in "small government."  I am a strong believer in allowing the states to do what the Constitution guarantees to them.  Nearly every candidate emphasized their desire to shrink Washington.  Have I made up my mind as to whom I will support?  Not yet, but I was impressed with the quality of men and women represented on that stage last night. 

The feature story on the news last night was the events happening at the University of Missouri.  Through the pressure by students - and just a few students, certainly not the majority of students at that University - both the President and Chancellor of the University have resigned.  The complaint: the University of Missouri has been a hotbed of racism and the President and Chancellor have done nothing to prevent racism from occurring.  As I was driving into the Cities for a breakfast meeting this morning, one of the talk show hosts played a montage of clips from students as to why this protest occurred.  Among responses were these: it was a backlash against what happened in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this year; it was a sign that the university leadership had not been sensitive to the needs of students of minority who have been oppressed historically for centuries; and that if a person undertakes a hunger-strike for a number of days and sees no results, then a protest must occur. 

That same talk show host then read the email sent to the students on the campus of the University of Missouri from the Campus Security Department that if they heard any words that they viewed as being hurtful, the students were to call the campus 911 number.  As I was driving I thought to myself: you have got to be kidding!  If I hear words that I consider hurtful, I am to call the police using the number designated for emergencies? 

Let me ask you: How many times have you heard "hurtful" words said to you?  Did you call the authorities?  You say, "Max, don't be silly!  Of course not!"  And that is right.  Friends, I have to admit that there was a time in my life when, if I had followed the new directives used at the University of Missouri, I would have had an almost daily police protection.  I would like to tell those students, "Grow up!"  Yes, words can be hurtful.  I think of all the hurtful words that were hurled against Jesus as He hung upon that cross for you and for me.  I cannot begin to imagine the vindictive tone of the voices of those who hurled one insult after another.  Yet, what was the response of Jesus?  Did He protest?  No, He forgave! 

The problem in our country today is that we are so focused upon ourselves and our rights and our feelings that we have little regard for others.  Of course, it is politically correct to be sensitive to only certain words.  I need to be sensitive when I talk about gender - I don't want to offend anyone.  So, if I am walking around the campus of the University of Missouri I had better be careful about using the "gay" or "homosexual" words or I might offend someone and soon have the police at my shoulder.  I also need to be sensitive when I talk about race - I don't want to offend anyone.  So, if I am walking around the campus of the University of Missouri I had better be careful about how I speak of "black Americans" or I might offend someone and soon have the police at my shoulder.  However, I do not need to be careful at all as to how I speak of Christians - after all, they are always a welcome fodder for our conversations. 

Friends, the Bible instructs us that we are to be careful in our speech.  The way I guard my speech is to guard what goes into my heart for Jesus said, "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." (Matthew 15:19).  My speech is a reflection of my heart.  So, yes I need to exercise care.

But, we do live in a land where we still have a First Amendment which proclaims that I do have the right to freedom of speech.  That Amendment gives me the right to say what I want to say.  A person may not like it, but I can still say it.  This "right" is being taken from us.  Will there now be "thought police" at the University of Missouri?  They had those in Nazi Germany.  Will people be afraid to speak out now because someone might just be listening who would be offended?  When a culture becomes afraid to engage in significant dialogue and surrenders to the political correctness of the moment, that culture soon will die. 

Think about that statement for a moment: If we surrender to the political correctness of the moment, that culture soon will die.  Look at what the world is pressuring us to become.  Let's all have the same amount of money - no rich people, no poor people.  (Note: been tried before and didn't work too well, so was abandoned; why? because there is no incentive to work).  Let's all think alike - everyone thinks about everything in the same way - no diversity of thought.  Let's all believe the same way - everyone is going to heaven, so why make a big deal out of Jesus.  (Note: sadly this is the belief of so many, including some evangelicals).  Let's all be part of the same government - one-worldism is growing. 

As I look at what happened these past few days on the University of Missouri campus, I realized that we simply are turning another page toward the coming of the Lord Jesus.  And for that I get very excited.  How about you?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Dying with Peace and Hope

This past Sunday afternoon, my brother slipped away from the cares of this life into those unimaginable joys of glory.  Cancer may have claimed his body, but it could not claim his soul.  His confidence of his destination was evidenced by the peace he displayed throughout the many months of his battle with that horrible disease. 

During my 43 years in ministry I have had the opportunity of sitting by the bedsides of many as they ended their journey.  Some have died in such agony as I believe they become conscious of an eternal destiny without Christ.  Their rebellion against God was completed as they died.  Satan gives no peace at the end because he knows no peace.  He only takes; he never gives in return.  Those moments with those families became very difficult.  What can one say to a family whose loved one has died without knowing Jesus Christ as Savior?  There certainly is no hope; all one can do is talk about what was done in this life but make no mention of what is happening in the life after death.

But oh to sit beside the bed of one who knows the reality of sins forgiven, who knows the joys that await him or her.  They say with the Apostle Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith.  Therefore there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord will award me on that day."  Those words could be said of my brother.  He knew where he was going.  And he knew the way. 

Friends, I cannot begin to understand all that heaven must be.  The Bible only gives us such short glimpses into glory.  But, even with those short glimpses we stand in awe of that place God has prepared for us.  I love reading Revelation 4 and 5.  I would encourage you to read them soon.  Read those verses slowly and let your mind begin to picture what John is describing.  Soon you, too, will be singing songs of praise to our God.  Heaven is truly indescribable.  We know more of what is not in heaven than of what is in heaven.  Revelation 21 and 22 help us to understand that.  But of this we are certain: heaven is where Jesus is and if that is all heaven would be, that would be more than enough. 

I wish I could visit with my brother right now.  I wish my phone would ring and I would hear those words, "This is your younger brother."  I believe he would talk until my cell phone battery died and still not lack for things to say.  I believe he would put my Dad on the phone.  Mike knew of my love for the prophet Isaiah, so perhaps he would have him give me a greeting - hopefully someone would translate from the ancient Hebrew for me.  But I will never receive that phone call.  But I can know that my brother is now with the Lord.  His battle with pain is completed.  His body, which had been so destroyed because of the cancer, is now whole.  Instead of pain, he has joy.  My brother was never one to sing - guess that is a male tendency in the Frazier clan as my father could only sing one note well; he always said he made a "joyful noise unto the Lord" - but my brother is singing now. 

What makes the difference between dying with no hope and dying with hope?  That difference Maker is Jesus Christ.  As a young boy my brother had placed his trust in Christ and that decision carried him through life.  As I love to tell people, referring them to Romans 5:1, when a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior, the war with God ends; Paul says we have "the peace with God."  And, in Romans 8:1 he reminds us that, with Christ as our Savior, we will never stand condemned before God because Jesus Christ took our condemnation on the cross. 

Friends, my brother Mike knew where he was going.  And as the end came last Sunday afternoon, he rested his soul into the hands of Jesus.  And so, as we would always say when we closed our phone calls, "Mike, I'll talk to you later."  And it may not be that far away!