Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Insanity Continues...And So Does Getting Older

The recent political primary contests in South Carolina and the caucuses in Nevada have shown some interesting results: This is not a good year to be an establishment politician, at least on the national stage.  Who would have thought, months ago, that Hillary Clinton would just eek out a small victory in Nevada?  Who would have even thought it possible last June that Donald Trump would not only win both the Nevada caucuses and the South Carolina primary, but do so in an almost overwhelming fashion?  From exit polls both in South Carolina and Nevada voters have expressed an anger over politics as usual.  Super Tuesday is next week - those results could really tell the story of who the candidates for President will be.  As Ohio Governor John Kasich said after the New Hampshire primary, "Put on your seat belt, this is going to be a ride!"

I read a couple of articles this week that, once again, brought to the forefront the insanity of the world in which we are living.  And one of the articles involved Chick-fil-A.  It was written by Todd Starnes and can be found at: "The war on poultry rages on yet another public university campus - this time at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.  The hullabaloo started last January when students were asked to select a new dining option for the student union.  Their choices included Chick-fil-A, Panda Express, IHOP, A&W and Sbarro.  The youngsters chose Chick-fil-A - in a landslide. ... However, it turns out majority does not rule at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.  A vocal minority pitched a fit and demanded that Chick-fil-A be banished from campus.  Among those opposed to the chicken restaurant were members of the university's Queer Straight Alliance (QSA).  'We only hope to create dialogue on the importance of being aware of issues facing diverse and minority students,' QSA president Tiff Weekley told the Kearney Hub. 'Though majority voices are most often heard, it is important to listen to what issues are facing all students and to start conversations around those.'  All the anti-chicken contingent needed for their nefarious plan to succeed was a yellow-bellied student government.  And they got what they were looking for.  'We decided, after much consideration, to poll students again,' student body president Evan Calhoun wrote on his Facebook page.  Calhoun went on to explain why Chick-fil-A would not be included in their new poll.  'When we learned more about Chick-fil-A and its corporate values and discriminatory policies, and after hearing these concerns raised by a section of our student body, we concluded that these corporate values are not aligned with our values as a student body, and it is not in the best interests of our UNK community to pursue Chick-fil-A right now,' he wrote.  Calhoun did not provide any evidence that Chick-fil-A has ever discriminated against anyone - especially the LGBT community.  But these days - facts don't seem to matter."

Starnes continues, "Meanwhile, all those kids who wanted to eat more chicken are fighting made, the website Campus Reform reported.  Pro-poultry student Aaron Ohri fired off a letter calling the student government's decision a 'complete and total slap in the face to many of us on this campus who believe that Chick-fil-A is not wrong in what they believe.  I understand that a Christian lifestyle in this day and society is completely 'disrespectful' but please do not ever again send me an email speaking for the 'whole student body' when you do not have a clue what most of us actually think,' he wrote in a letter to the university."

After reading this, is it any wonder that many in America's electorate - on both sides of the aisle - are angry at what is happening in America today?

Let me share another article with you.  You can find this one at:  "The Nashville chapter of Black Lives Matter accused a public library of 'white supremacy' after librarians refused to host a meeting which banned whites from attending.  BLM Nashville attempted to set up a meeting at the North Branch Library in North Nashville, but after group organizer Joshua Crutchfield said 'only black people as well as non-black people of color are allowed to attend,' the library told BLM to find a new location.  'All meetings at our facilities must be open to the general public and news media,' library spokesperson Emily Waltenbaugh said.  'We're a library. We're taxpayer funded.  We have to be open to anyone anytime.'  In response, BLM Nashville announced a change of venue with the following sign stating 'due to white supremacy in our local government, this week's BLM General Body Meeting location has changed."

The article concluded with some remarks that appeared on the BLM Nashville's Facebook page.  "'Am I the only black person here that finds this appalling?' Eugene J. asked. 'Not all whites are your enemies, and not all blacks are your friends.'  Another gentleman, Greg Z, pointed out the irony of BLM Nashville: 'BLM Nashville, you are the only ones fueling the flames of hate; everyone is just simply pointing out that you cannot just make up your own rules.  Especially with public places that the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 still comes down that in a taxpayer-owned building you cannot discriminate who can and cannot attend a discussion.'" 

Okay, so much for the insanity of our world.  Let me share with you a little lighter note.  This past Sunday I preached from those first verses in Ecclesiastes 12 where Solomon paints a picture of old age.  He certainly brought some laughter in his descriptions.  Well, I shared an article that I had clipped from a newspaper many years ago.  It was an Ann Landers column.  I was asked if it would include it this week.  And I do so with joy. 

"Dear Ann: I live in Riverside, CA, and newspapers are my hobby.  I ran across something in the Yucaipa, CA News Mirror that tickled my funny bone.  It doesn't say who the author is, but that person is certainly tuned in to what life is like when you get to be 65.  I hope you will share this little essay with your readers. - Ann's Fan.

"Ann says: Thanks for sending on that funny, funny piece.  I hope my readers enjoy it as much as I did.  The 40-and-under crowd can skip it.  They won't get it for at least another 20 years.

"I have noticed: Everything is farther away than it used to be.  It is even twice as far to the corner and they have added a hill.  I have given up running for the bus; it leaves earlier than it used to.  It seems to me they are making the stairs steeper than in the old days, and have you noticed the smaller print they use in the newspapers?  There is no sense in asking anyone to read aloud anymore, as everybody speaks in such low voice I can hardly hear them.  The material in dresses is so skimpy now, especially around the hips and waist, that it is almost impossible to reach one's shoelaces; and the sizes don't run the way they used to.  The 12s and 14s are so much smaller.  Even people are changing.  They are so much younger than they used to be when I was their age.  On the other hand, people my own age are so much older than I am.  I ran into an old classmate the other day; she has aged so much she didn't recognize me.  I go to thinking about the poor dear while I was combing my hair this morning and in so doing I glanced at my own reflection.  Really now, they don't even make good mirrors as they used to."

What a great philosophy in the midst of a world of increasing insanity!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When Families Fail...

I have been reading through the historical books of the Old Testament this year.  Just completed the reading of Judges.  I read with both alarm and sadness these words from Judges 2 - "The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel.  Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD died at the age of a hundred and ten. ... After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.  Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.  They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt" (verses 7-12). 

Did you pick up on the central warning in these verses?  Okay, let's work on it together.  The background is against the successful campaigns that the children of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, had fought in the land of promise, the land of Canaan.  Everywhere the children of Israel looked, there were the reminders of God's faithfulness to His promises to them.  The land had been subdued, although there were still pockets of resistance that remained.  The future looked bright.  But the years rolled by.  Leaders, including Joshua, grew older.  Eventually, those who had been witnesses to the faithfulness of God died.  And, as happens so often, the memories of them faded from reality. 

The text makes it very clear that the generation that followed Joshua, Caleb and those other leaders of Israel did not have the same focus.  They did not have the same allegiance to God.  They did not practice the same obedience to God's commands.  In fact, the text makes it very clear that "they did not know the LORD."  How sad!  Here were the children of some of Israel's giants in leadership - those who had experienced the sun standing still; those who had witnessed the walls of Jericho falling down; those who celebrated the destruction of city after city, including that major center known as Hazor - who did not even acknowledge this miracle-working, faithful God.  They were "theologically ignorant."

How did this happen? you will ask.  Was this a failure of the sacrificial system as practiced at the tabernacle set up in Shiloh?  No.  This failure came as a consequence of parents - especially fathers - not fulfilling the task and the responsibilities that God had given to them.  Friends, what we see here in Judges 2 that results in years of cataclysmic oppression is the failure of the home.  You might remember God's words to families through the lips of Moses: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  (Deuteronomy 6:4-7). 

Okay, so what are parents supposed to do?  They are to tell their children about God.  They are to excite their children about what God is doing and what God can do in their lives.  They are to lead their children to a dependence upon God.  As a father, that was my role - to teach my children about God.  In essence, I was their "theology teacher."  Granted, at times I probably did not do this as well as I could have, but it was my desire to point my children to God and to instill within their hearts a desire to follow God always. 

That is NOT what happened in Israel.  The Bible does not tell us the reasons for this failure on the part of Israel's parents, but I believe that there could have been several.  First, the busyness of the conquest kept them from having adequate time with their families.  Oh how we need to guard against busyness today - it is an accomplished thief of our time.  Busyness becomes that priority - that tyranny of the urgent.  Its voice is a strong one.  Satan loves to use the tool of busyness to keep us from doing what we need to do - teach our children the truths from the Word and to love and obey God.  Second, success kept them from having adequate time with their families.  You see, when success eludes us, we are more intentional about our dependence upon God.  But God had given these fahters success after success.  And I believe that because of their successes, these men became rather apathetic in their own relationships with God.  And, if as a father I am apathetic in my own walk with the Lord, then, you can rest assured that I will not be as diligent or passionate in sharing biblical truths with my children.  As I look at our world today we have had a great deal of success.  Few of us worry about our next meal.  Few of us are anxious about where we will spend the night.  Few of us are concerned about having sufficient clothing - in fact, if anything, we have too many clothing options in our closet.  And so, in our success, we have grown comfortable, perhaps even apathetic in our own walk with the Lord.  And this has been handed down to our children. 

Friends, as I read through the book of Judges I kept coming back to these verses.  When the homes fail, society fails.  When parents fail in their God-given responsibilities to disciple their children, then a culture that is not friendly to Christian principles will gain the victory over the hearts and minds of those children. 

It is not the responsibility of the local church to disciple my children, that is my responsibility as a parent.  Now I am eternally grateful for the assistance I have received from the local church over the years my children were growing up, but Marlys and I assumed the primary responsibility.  It is time that we, as church leaders, provide the resources parents need and provide the encouragement parents need so that the next generation will not be one of whom it was said, "they did not know the Lord."
If you would like more help in this area, I would encourage you to go to the D6 website where you will find a lot of tools and encouragement.  It is never too late to get started.  And, when you start, God will give you the encouragement you need. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

More Insanity That Seeks to become the Normal

The people of New Hampshire have spoken and their message was that the political establishment - on both sides of the aisle - have not found favor with the American people.  Donald Trump was the runaway winner on the Republican side, while Bernie Sanders left Hillary Clinton wondering just what happened giving the former Secretary of State and former First Lady one of biggest defeats of her political career.  Now it is off to South Carolina and Nevada.  It will be interesting to see if the momentum that Mr. Trump and Senator Sanders have can be maintained.  This race is going to get even more interesting. 

Just this morning I received an article that caused my blood to boil with the insanity that is known as "political correctness."  This article was written by Bob Unruh and is titled, "Major U.S. city now banishes 'Founding Fathers.'"  The article can be found at:  The article begins, "The city of San Diego is being charged with taking political correctness to 'a whole new extreme' by banishing the phrase 'Founding Fathers' from the vocabulary of city employees.  'This brings to a new level, without question,' said Brad Dacus, the chief of Pacific Justice Institute, which raised questions about the issue with the city and is challenging its censorship.  'When you can't utter the phrase "Founding Fathers" without possibly losing your job and your work for government, that is a sad day for free speech,' he told WND.

"'Many Americans, including city employees, will no doubt be surprised to learn that the city considers them biased for merely mentioning ordinary words and phrases like 'the common man,' 'mankind,' 'manmade' and 'man up,' to name a few of the manual's parade of horribles,' McReynolds (PJI Senior Staff Attorney) wrote.  'Even more concerning is the manual's promotion of style over substance, to the point that employees are encouraged to omit or alter relevant research, based on subjective interpretations as to whether it includes biased or non-inclusive language.'  He continued, 'Most alarming, though, is the guidelines directive, on page 76, that city employees should refrain from mentioning those to whom we owe our most fundamental freedoms, the Founding Fathers.  The manual's inane attempt to recast the fathers as simply the 'Founders' reaches a level of political correctness, censorship and insensitivity toward time-honored American values that is indefensible.'"

Friends, it seems to me that this whole concept of "gender correctness" has become our nation's latest in a string of idols that is to be worshiped at all costs.  We have gender confusion that is now celebrated.  Many of our corporations have numerous options when it comes to selecting "gender" on an application.  And so we cannot use the term "Founding Fathers" for those who sacrificed so much so that this nation might be created in a way that no nation in the history of the world had been created before.  Friends, as I have read and studied that period of our history - and, as I have referenced before, I highly recommend the writings by historian Joseph Ellis who covers that period exceedingly well - there is only one conclusion to be drawn: those Founders of our nation were men.  Those who attended the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1775-1776 were men.  Those who later formed the Constitutional Convention, also meeting in Philadelphia, in 1787, were also men.  Yes, they were our "Founding Fathers."  Now I realize that many of them had faithful wives back home who also sacrificed so that their husbands could become those "Founding Fathers."  And I do not diminish their roles at all.  But our "Founding Fathers" were men. 

Have we become so fearful of gender identity that we are now seeking to change the very language we use.  What word will we now use in place of "manmade?"  Will it be "human produced?"  How about that phrase "the common man?"  Will it now become "the common person?"  Will the words "man" and "woman" eventually be eliminated from our common speech because we find those words offensive?  There is already a movement toward eliminating those words "boy" and "girl" from our speech because some find those terms offensive. 

And, it is not only in governmental offices where this is occurring.  I have to admit that I have a strong "pet peeve" with the compilers of today's hymnbooks for use within the Church.  I remember growing up learning dozens of hymns as a child.  Now, that was before all this "gender nonsense" began to take root.  So, I am singing along today a hymn that I have memorized and suddenly I find the words have been changed: "men" has been replaced with "humans", etc.  let me give an example: In the Christmas song, "It Came upon the Midnight Clear," the words in the first verse include - "Peace on the earth, good will to men from heav'n's most gracious King."  Well now that reads - "Peace on the earth, good will to all from heav'n's most gracious King."  (Yes, I know that I am probably being picky).  It seems to be that, as I read the Gospels, Jesus was not adverse to using the terms "men" and "women." 

Friends, I believe this "gender confusion" is just another sign that we are getting much closer to the coming of the Lord Jesus.  So I just keep singing the hymns the way I learned them.  I just keep using the language that I grew up with - our nation's first leaders I know as "Founding Fathers."  And I just continue praying for the coming of Jesus. 

I also want to reference one other article that will cause you to say, "Really!  They want to do what?"  The article was written by Rob Stein and can be found at the following website:  The article begins with this question: "Would it be ethical for scientists to try to create babies that have genetic material from three different people?  An influential panel of experts has concluded the answer could be yes.  The 12-member panel, assembled by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, released a 164-page report Wednesday outlining a plan for how scientists could ethically pursue the controversial research."  The article gets rather technical, but the bottom-line is that scientists have been given the "go-ahead" to experiment.  It seems we keep getting closer and closer to the edge of this "creation slope."  I keep wondering when God will say, "Enough is enough!"  But I am grateful to know that He is in control, aren't you?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The "Religiously Unaffiliated" Are All Around Us - What a Mission Field

The Iowa Caucuses are now history.  For a few months, anyway, the people of Iowa can escape the political spotlight that has kept them in the national focus for the past 18 months or so.  History was made with the largest turnout for a caucus.  There were some surprises.  Ted Cruz being declared the winner on the Republican side was not totally unexpected, although even the final poll on Caucus Day had Donald Trump in the lead.  One conclusion I reached with regard to the Republican side of the results this past Monday night was this: Iowa Republicans did not seem to  care about any past political leadership in their potential candidates.  Three of the top four picks have little political experience: Trump and Ben Carson have had no political leadership, and remember, Cruz is in the middle of his first term in the Senate.  Perhaps the grassroots electorate is sending a strong message that the days of the political establishment are drawing to a close.  It will be interesting to see what the results will look like coming out of New Hampshire next Tuesday.

On the Democratic side, things really got interesting.  Hillary Clinton, perhaps one of the most recognizable names in politics and certainly one of the most powerful women on the world's stage - or at least she thinks she is - found herself in such a tight race that it was virtually decided by a coin toss.  Her challenger, Bernie Sanders who, until about 10 months or so, was just an unknown, socialist Senator from Vermont.  The Democratic establishment certainly never saw this coming.  The results in Iowa and the potential results in New Hampshire - Bernie Sanders has a huge lead in the polls - coupled with the increasing saga of Mrs. Clinton's email scandal have to cause alarm for the Democratic Party leadership team.  Can Mrs. Clinton change her image and reinvent herself to a Democratic electorate that seems unexcited about her candidacy?  Will the FBI boldly do what is necessary in order to promote justice with regard to the email scandal?  And, what about the ghosts of Benghazi that continue to linger over her campaign?  Stay tuned, this is going to get very interesting. 

I received an interesting email this past week that I want to share with you.  You can find it at:  Let me ask you a question: What do you think is the most godless city in America?  My first guess would have been Las Vegas.  My second guess would have been New Orleans.  Boy, was I wrong.  The most godless city in America, according to research conducted by the nonpartisan and nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute's American Values Atlas, is Portland, Oregon, where 42% of the residents in that city declare themselves to be "religiously unaffiliated."  In a tie for second place were the cities of Seattle and San Francisco (33% "religiously unaffiliated").  Denver (32%) and Phoenix (26%) were in third and fourth place.  What caught my attention was that the Minneapolis-St. Paul ranked 10th with 23% "religiously unaffiliated."  I happen to live in Buffalo, Minnesota, which is just 30 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.  That means that in our community of 15,000 - if these statistics are true - there could be the potential of over 3,000 people who are "religiously unaffiliated."  Friends, that is a pretty large mission field right in our back yard.

The article went on to say: "Studies show one-fifth (22 percent) of the U.S. population has no religious affiliation whatsoever.  Numbers are rising.  Last year atheists were 15 percent of the population; 10 years ago, numbers stood at 10 percent.  In the 1950s, it was 1 percent.  In late 2012, it was reported that atheism was the third-largest "faith" in the world after Christianity and Islam." 

After reading this article, I was reminded of those words of Jesus to His disciples about the fields being white unto harvest.  Friends, we do not need to look for unsaved people.  They are all around us.  They live next door to us.  They work alongside of us every day.  They share lockers with our kids at school.  They are our bankers, our grocers, our mailmen, our doctors, our policemen.  Just think, if the statistics are true, one-in-five people you meet today will have no church affiliation. 

If we believe that we are living in the last days and, at least from my study of the Word the descriptions of those last days certainly seem to mirror what is happening, then there is an urgency to get the Gospel message to as many people as possible.  We don't have to look for the mission field anymore - it is right next door.