Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Harvey: When Americans Come Together

All eyes have been riveted on those scenes coming from Houston that stagger our minds.  Homes which one week ago were filled with the sounds of life are now filled with flood waters.  People, who one week ago were dreaming of vacations, of work opportunities, and of the start of another school year are now in a state of shock and asking how they will be able to pick up the pieces and start all over again.  In a matter of hours last Friday evening, lives were unalterably changed.  The Houston area was forever changed. 

But, as I have sat and watched those images and listened to many of the stories, I was encouraged that, for all our differences, when a crisis occurs Americans band together.  As those boats went from house to house, they did not ask whether a person was gay or straight, whether a person was a Christian or not, whether that person was a Democrat or a Republican.  No, all were welcomed into those life-saving boats.  And, upon arrival at those mega-shelters people were not separated according to any particular system.  All were accepted because they were folks who needed help given in a loving way.  This is what Americans do best.  We saw it after 9-11.  We have seen it during those horrific wildfires in America's west.  We see it through the open arms of volunteers from the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Samaritan's Purse and other relief agencies. 

Why can't America act this way all the time?  Why must every weekend dozens of people living in Chicago be shot?  Why must Antifa react with violence when anything occurs that differs from their attempt to change American culture and history?  Why has violence become so embedded within our culture?  Whatever happened to civilized conversations?  Whatever happened to those times of civil debate?  Whatever happened to Jesus' command that we should love our neighbors as ourselves?  You might remember that Jesus said this was the second great commandment. 

I believe the answer to our dilemma is found within that first great commandment.  And what is that?  Jesus said that we were to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and spirit.  This is first, not just in its listing, but in its importance.  This first commandment has a vertical component.  It is how God desires we relate to Him.  We are to love Him wholeheartedly.  We are to be fully committed to Him as Lord of our lives.  He is to be the centerpiece around which everything else in our lives revolves.  Friends, when the vertical component is as it should be, then the horizontal component - that second commandment - will also be as it should.  If I have a deep love relationship with God, then I will also have a deep love relationship with those around me, whether it is in my home, my neighborhood, my community, or my nation.  It is a love that is shown through giving respect even when there are points of disagreement. 

I have to admit that I have almost come to the point of anger at how the main-stream media has covered Hurricane Harvey.  Yesterday's coverage of Melania's shoes almost was the final straw.  Who cares what shoes she was wearing as she walked from the White House to Marine 1?  Yet, her shoes became a feeding frenzy.  That became a point of fixation.  She and the President were on their way to bring encouragement to people who had lost everything, including their shoes, and all you could do was to criticize the First Lady's choice of shoes.  Let's see: there are hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been shattered and, for many of them, they will spend the rest of their lives trying to recover from this powerful storm, and yet you focus upon Melania's shoes.  How far removed from real life has the main-stream media gotten?  They really are out of touch with reality.

Since the time of the Great Flood, the world has experienced many natural disasters.  Innumerable earthquakes - some more devastating than others.  Floods - some that have swallowed up entire communities.  Tornadoes and hurricanes - think of Katrina, Sandy, and now Harvey.  Yet, each disaster was just a small microcosm in that it impacted only a small area.  Think of those pictures you have seen of the devastation from Harvey.  Now, imagine what it would be like if there were a hundred Harvey's all occurring at the same time.  Yet I believe the Bible tells us that in the last days that is exactly what is going to occur.  The prophetic passages describe earthquakes occurring that will literally change the landscapes of our planet.  Natural disasters will increase.  The death and the destruction will be incalculable.  Could Harvey be a wake-up call?  Is Harvey another one of nature's groanings as it senses its soon redemption?  I can't declare that with certainty.  But of this I am certain: the coming of the Lord Jesus is getting closer every day.  Are you excited for that day?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

An Eclipse and Signs

This past Monday a total solar eclipse occurred.  Partial eclipses occur with more frequency; total eclipses are more rare.  There was a narrow band across the United States where the best viewing of this eclipse could be seen.  People spent hundreds of dollars and, in some case thousands of dollars, to travel to see this eclipse.  Unfortunately, many of us in Minnesota were greeted with clouds and rain, thus making the total eclipse a non-event for us.  Reports from those who saw the eclipse indicated an excitement.  I read of comments on the beauty of the sun's corona which was the only portion of the sun to be visible. 

There are two things I want us to consider about the eclipse.  First, astronomers knew the exact moment when it would occur.  They had it calculated down to the very minute when it would be at its peak.  In fact, we know that the next total solar eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024.  How can astronomers be so precise?  The answer lies in the person of the Creator.  The universe moves with a certain precision.  We know when comets appear.  We know when a meteor shower will occur.  It is because the universe operates within the parameters of laws established by God.  Things do not happen within the universe by chance; they happen with regularity because God has ordained it that way.  One of the many questions God asked of Job in His examination of Job was this: "Do you know the laws of the heavens?" (Job 38:33).  The eclipse of Monday pointed strongly to the presence of an awesome God.  I am drawn to those powerful words from the pen of David: "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" (Psalm 8:3-4).  What a mighty God we serve! 

But, as I thought of all the media hype being given to Monday's eclipse, I remembered those words of Jesus to the Pharisees and Sadducees who desired that Jesus show them some signs.  This was His reply, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.'  You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." (Matthew 16:2-3).

Now the Pharisees were religious leaders, many of whom had devoted their entire lives to the study of the Scriptures.  Yet they were so blinded to what was happening in the world around them.  They were unaware of how God was preparing for the fulfillment of that ultimate moment described in the Old Testament, namely the death of Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for all sin.  We read the story of Jesus in the Gospel and we cry out against them because of their apathy and ignorance.  How could they be so blind? we ask.  How could they not have put "two and two together and arrived at the answer of four?"

But, as we not doing the same today?  We are blinded to what is happening around us.  We fail to hear God's voice amidst the turmoil of our times.  In Matthew 24, Jesus lists several signs that His disciples should recognize that would prelude His coming.  First, Jesus said there would be wars and rumors of war with nation rising up against nation (verse 6).  I know some of you are thinking, "Max, this happens all the time, so why should I get excited about it now?"  Let me answer you this way, "With the rise of militant Islam, there is hardly an area of the world that is not experiencing its impact through wars or military might.  Indonesia, the Philippines, the Middle East, Europe - which, almost weekly, sees some violent attack by radical Islam against what they call the infidels.  Even our own nation is not immune to such attacks.  Then there is North Korea with its saber rattling and the potential nuclear arming of Iran.  Are we paying any attention to the signs?

Then Jesus talked about famines and earthquakes in various places (verse 7).  It seems that there is an increase in both famines and earthquakes these days.  I have read recently of the devastating famine plaguing South Sudan and portions of the Horn of Africa.  Earthquakes in Oklahoma seem to be an almost weekly occurrence.  Those living in California wonder every time the ground shakes even a little if this is the big one forecast.  Are we paying any attention to the signs?

Then Jesus described how wickedness would increase and thus the love of most would grow cold (verse 12).  Violence in Charlottesville.  Violence in Ferguson.  Clashes between Black Lives Matter and Neo-Nazis.  Blood spilled on the streets of Chicago at a rate that staggers the mind.  Our newspapers and media airwaves are saturated with words that seek to destroy rather than to build up.  We have lost our ability to sit down and have a civil conversation any longer without anger being aroused and hatred expressed. 

We have become confused in our thinking.  Those who strongly voice a violent hatred toward the Neo-Nazis (and let me be clear, I abhor everything the Nazis stand for, there is absolutely nothing commendable in their belief system, including their systematic destruction of the weak, aged, and infirmed) are readily accepting of abortion on demand and granting the termination of life.  Let's see: you hate Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, yet you accept one of the tenants of their belief system.  That is confused thinking. If Black Lives Matter, where is the outcry in Chicago over the dozens of black people who are murdered every week primarily by other black people.  Don't all black lives matter?  Another example of confused thinking.

Friends, the world stands on the brink of its own self-annihilation.  The horizons are scanned for that one person who will step forward and bring some semblance of order.  I believe we are not too far away from that man, we know him as the Antichrist, being revealed.  But I believe the Bible teaches that before that event occurs, the Church of Jesus Christ will be taken to glory (see 2 Thessalonians 2).  I am looking forward to that day happening, but realize that until it occurs there is a lot of work yet to be done within the harvest fields.

Friends, are you paying attention to the signs?  Just as the solar eclipse draws us into the presence of a God of order and purpose, so the signs around us are reminding us that God is still on the throne and His Story is not yet completed.  But I do believe we are in the final pages of the final chapter. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Response to Charlottesville

Over this past weekend violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in the tragic deaths of three people. Two law-enforcement officers died when their helicopter crashed as it was giving surveillance at the site of the violence and a young woman was struck and killed by a driver who deliberately drove his car into a crowd of people.  Scores more were injured in the clashes between police, the white supremacist groups, and those who opposed the white supremacist group. 

As I watched the images that appeared on television screens across America, one word came flooding into my heart and mind - hatred.  The actions of one person toward another screamed "hatred."  The words, often vulgar, hurled toward one another shouted "hatred."  The descriptions that flowed from the mouths and pens of the media present reinforced that "hatred."  Have you ever witnessed a time in our history when the streets of America are filled with such incredible hatred.  Whites against blacks.  Blacks against whites.  Blacks against blacks.  Whites against Hispanics.  Pro-choice against pro-life.  Progressives and liberals against conservatives.  People have gravitated toward one position or another.

Friends, it is great to have a position and to be able to stand behind that position.  But, to hate another person simply because he or she does not identify with your position is simply wrong.  Where has the civility gone?  Where has the ability to debate, yes with conviction and persuasion, with respect toward one another gone?  We no longer debate.  We pick up our signs, grab the biggest club we can find, and march down the streets looking for places to vent that anger we carry within.  Windows are smashed, but why should I care whose windows they are; after all, I am angry and I feel I have a right to be angry.  Cars are smashed, but why should I care whose cars they are.  Buildings are set on fire, but why should I care.  I am angry about a perceived injustice, so I can do whatever I want to do - right? 

Wrong.  Whatever happened to showing respect for other people's property?  Whatever happened to showing respect toward other people's ideas and opinions?  We have no such respect today because we have abandoned absolute truth and now live in a world filled with nothing but opinions.  Friends, opinion have a very shallow grounding.  That grounding is just me!  And, opinions have no root; they can change almost instantaneously.  So the world is filled with rootless opinions.  Yet we proclaim that these opinions are truth.  But, are they?

Truth is anchored to the past.  It finds its roots in history.  Yes, history is truth.  The Civil War was fought between the years of 1861-1865.  The Civil War resulted in the deaths of over 600,000 men killed during some 10,000 battles and skirmishes those years.  The Civil War was a struggle over an ideology - slavery - that troubled our nation from its very inception.  The Founding Fathers knew of its dangers, but chose to "kick the can down the road" and let others try to fix it.  Slavery was an ideology that was abhorrent to the thoughts of democracy, yet it persisted in the South as a way of life.  But the slaves were freed by an Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863.  And slavery was abolished throughout America because the North won the War in April 1865. 

The winning of the war did not mean that all blacks were considered as free by everyone else.  No, sadly they were considered as inferior by many, including a small minority today.  But our Constitution grants them equality.  They are part of "E Pluribus Unum" - "out of the many, one." 

Back to last Saturday in Charlottesville, what caused the conflict?  It was the proposed moving of a statue of Robert E. Lee, one of Virginia's heroes during the Civil War.  There were those who wanted the statue removed because, to them, it represents a time of oppression - perhaps an oppression they still feel today.  There were those who wanted the statue to be left as is because, to them, it represents a man who stood for what he believed was right.  Many feel that by eliminating statues, monuments, and portraits we are somehow removing that which caused the offense.  Friends, I have news for you - you cannot erase history.  History is what it is - complete with all its beauty and all its ugliness.  Instead of removing those statues, let's ask ourselves this question: How can we take steps so that the offense represented by that statue can be changed today? 

There are many things in this world that can create an offensive situation.  Years ago I had the privilege of walking through the grounds at Auschwitz.  Personally, I found that experience to be extremely offensive.  Yet, should I go to the Polish government and protest that Auschwitz should be destroyed because it represents an ideology that I find extremely offensive?  Of course not.  Thomas Jefferson owned slaves.  Jefferson could have led a charge at the writing of the Constitution to have slavery outlawed in the United States, but he said nothing.  So, should I go to Washington and protest that the Jefferson Memorial should be torn down because it is offensive to me?  Of course not. 

It is time we sit down with history and learn from it, not seek to have it erased.  And that is the problem today.  Our young people are not being taught American history, or, for that matter, world history from an objective point of view.  We have adopted this battle cry: "I am offended, so have it removed."  We see that on college campuses: "I am offended by your speech, so ban that person from the campus." 

Our President was correct when he proclaimed that the conflict in Charlottesville was created by both sides.  Neither wanted to listen to the other.  Neither wanted to sit down and have a dialogue about how a certain action - namely, the planned removal of a statue - would impact them.  If such a dialogue had been pursued, I believe three people would be alive today and thousands of dollars spent on policing would have been spared.  Our President was correct when he stated that we should reach out in love toward one another.  Love is the foundation for a dialogue.  Love is the backbone for respect toward one another.  Love say, I may not agree with you, but I will respect your right to have that opinion.  And, I believe that until we rediscover the value of sharing truth with one another in a respectful way, hatred will always win and riots and conflict will become the normal course of action. 

As believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, who is Truth, we need to lead the way in those dialogues.  Let's do our homework with care.  Then let us sit down with others and, in loving respect, share our ideas with them.  Will such dialogues change their opinions?  Perhaps yes; perhaps no.  But we will have side-stepped a reason for conflict.  I believe that is what Jesus would have us to do.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Ridiculous Professor; An Important Invitation

I read a headline yesterday that really caught my attention.  The headline read: "Prof lets students choose own grades for 'stress reduction.'"  I thought to myself, remembering back to those days of sweating out final exams so my grades would improve, "Wow, why didn't they have something like that then?"  Let me share just a couple portions of this article:

  "A University of Georgia professor has adopted a 'stress reduction policy' that will allow students to select their own grades if they 'feel unduly stressed' by the ones they earned."  Well, let's just stop right here.  I work hard in a class - or, at least I think I work hard - and I get a B when I think I should have gotten an A.  I admit that the B does cause the "stress factor" to increase.  Okay, let me share a personal experience with that fact.  I remember being a junior in high school and taking a physics class.  The teacher was a tough teacher.  He had actually done all the experiments that he assigned in class and had all his answers in a little black book hidden away.  Mr. C had to sign off on your experiment before you could move on to the next one, and, just to add stress, your result had to match his result.  If it didn't, was back to the drawing board.  I remember working hard that first semester.  I knew I was right on the border between an A and a B.  I missed an A by .40 of a point.  I went into Mr. C and pleaded my case.  I can still remember that intimidating smile as he said, "Mr. Frazier, I gave you exactly what you earned."  Wow!  Where was this University of Georgia professor and his policy when I needed it back in 1963.  [To complete the story: I worked even harder the second semester and got a solid A, but that B kept me from being first in my class].

Let's continue with the article: "According to online course syllabi for two of Dr. Richard Watson's fall business courses, he has introduced the policy because 'emotional reactions to stressful situations can have profound consequences for all involved.'  As such, if students feel 'unduly stressed by a grade for any assessable material or the overall course,' they can 'email the instructor indicating what grade [they] think is appropriate, and it will be changed' with 'no explanation' being required.  'If in a group meeting, you feel stressed by your group's dynamics, you should leave the meeting immediately and need offer no explanation to the group members,' the policy adds, saying such students can 'discontinue all further group work' with their remaining grade being 'based totally on non-group work.'  Finally, for in-class presentations, Watson will allow 'only positive comments' to be made, while 'comments designed to improve future presentations will be communicated by email.'"

The article, which was written by Anthony Gockowski and published at, concludes: "Watson, notably, does concede that 'while this policy might hinder the development of group skills and mastery of the class material,' those outcomes are ultimately a student's 'responsibility,' though he promises to 'provide every opportunity for [students] to gain high level mastery.'"

What is wrong with this professor's thinking?  His desire is to remove stress from his student's life.  And he understands that grades create stress; therefore, let the student determine which grade to be received that causes the least amount of stress.  Now, what I found interesting is that this professor teaches business courses.  My father was a businessman.  In my ministry, I have met hundreds of business people.  They all shared with me that stress is just part of business.  You had the stress of deadlines.  You had the stress of meeting sales quotas.  You had the stress of market fluctuations.  You had the stress of balancing business with home.  It seems to me that what this professor should be teaching his business students is how to manage stress successfully, not the removal of stress. 

Friends, as you have found, life is full of stress.  I was asked to teach a class at a Community College titled, "Stress Management."  I shared with my students that there are values that come along with stress.  Stress can be a useful tool to enable us to grow stronger as we endeavor to accomplish our goals.  Then I shared with those students that I found that taking all my stress loads to Jesus and letting Him carry the burden really helped.  In essence, I let Jesus become my "stress manager."  Friends, allow Jesus to manage your stress.  When you do, you will find that stress becomes not an obstacle but a tool to advance you to where God desires you to be.

One of my friends here at the church that I serve as Lead Pastor and who follows my blog carefully, came up after a service and urged me to invite my blog-readers to strongly consider running for local school boards and other local community offices.  If ever there was a time when Christians needed to get into the arena, it is right now.  Local school boards still have some measure of control over what is taught within their schools.  Wouldn't it be great if every school board had a majority of followers of Jesus Christ as members?  The same could be said of local city councils.  I had the privilege of serving on a local school board for four years.  Yes, it took time.  But I was able to contribute to discussions about curriculum, about policy and procedures, and about relationships between faculty and parents.  There are still a few days left to get your nomination papers filed with the school. 

Before closing let me just challenge you to keep praying for our President and those in positions where important decisions are  made.  The situation with North Korea continues to escalate.  We are learning what happens when a rogue state possesses nuclear capability.  North Korea might think twice before launching a nuclear warhead, but ISIS might not.  I would not be surprised that ISIS has not already contacted North Korea about the availability of a mini-warhead and its price.  Our leaders need the wisdom of Solomon in these days. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Lessons Learned on Tish B'Av

Yesterday was Tish B'Av on the Jewish calendar.  It stands for the Ninth of Av, or the ninth day of the month of Av.  Its significance is that it is the day on which Jews worldwide remember the destruction of both the First and Second Temples.  On Tish B'Av in the year 586 BC, the Babylonian armies, under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar, broke through the walls of Jerusalem, set on fire the great Temple built by Solomon, and destroyed the city of Jerusalem.  Over 600 years later, on Tish B'Av in the year 70 AD, the Roman armies, under the leadership of General Titus, also broke through the walls of Jerusalem, set on fire the great Temple built by Herod the Great, and destroyed the city of Jerusalem.  I find it very significant that both Temples were destroyed on the same date. 

On this day many Orthodox Jews will fast and pray as they remember with tears the destruction of those two Temples.  But, last night as I pondered the reality of Tish B'Av, I thought of the reason why both Solomon's and later Herod's Temples were destroyed.  It is not good to just remember the event unless we also learn from the reasons why the event occurred.  And, why were both Temples destroyed by God?  It was a judgment because of sin. 

We read of the destruction of Solomon's Temple in Jeremiah 52:12-14: "On the tenth day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.  He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem.  Every important building he burned down.  The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down all the walls around Jerusalem."  And when the Babylonian army had completed its task, all that remained of Jerusalem was rubble.  Through the prophets God had warned the kings and people of Judah that, unless they repented from their sins, that destruction would come.  Yet the people and their leaders were determined to violate those commands from God.  Destruction came because of sin.

There is no biblical record of the destruction of the Temple built by Herod.  Jesus had foretold of its destruction to His disciples, as recorded in Matthew 24:1-2: "Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.  'Do you see all these things?' he asked.  'I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'"  And when the Roman army had completed its task, all that remained of Jerusalem was rubble.  Still today, some of that rubble remains as it fell in 70 AD.  Destruction came because of sin.

Friends, when a nation sins repeatedly and with arrogance defies the commands of the living God, judgment will fall.  Last night, as I was sitting in my chair on the deck, I began to think of the comparison between the destruction of Israel's two magnificent temples and what is happening in our nation today.  First, sexual sins had become prevalent within the culture of Israel.  That sexual perversion was accentuated with the idolatrous worship on every hill and under every tree.  Sex had become as a god to the people.  Today, legitimacy is given toward almost every type of sexual perversion.  Second, God had warned the people that unless they repented of their sins that a national judgment would come.  In the days of the First Temple Period, that warning came through a multitude of prophets; in the days of the Second Temple Period, that warning came through Jesus Christ.  Today, that warning comes from pastors and teachers, through books and films, and through personal outreach.  The warning is being sounded.  Third, in spite of the warnings, the people laughed at God and continued in their own sinful ways.  They knew better than God.  Today, we shake our fist in the face of God and command Him to stay out of our business.   Should we expect God to let our nation escape His punishment? 

I have shared with you in previous blogs about the condition of our nation morally.  Immorality is
flaunted in nearly every sitcom on television.  It is the theme of many of the hundreds of songs written today.  It is debated among school board members and city council members.  Experts give it legitimacy.  And, for the most part, the Church has been silent.  The longer I thought about Israel's Tish B'Av moments, the more I wondered when America would experience its own Tish B'Av. 

How should we act as believers?  First, we need to pray that God would strongly move in the hearts of His people to get right with Him.  Second Chronicles 7:14 begins with these words, "If my people who are called by my name..."  Will the Church be moved to confession and repentance of sin before a holy God?  In many quarters, the Church has endorsed sexual perversions.  Second, we need to take a strong stand for biblical truth, no matter the cost.  As during the days of Elijah, not all knees bow before Baal.  But it is time to rise up and become a militant Church proclaiming biblical truth.  Not everyone will listen to our clarion call, but some will. 

Tish B'Av - it is not just another day on a strange calendar.  It is God's reminder to us all that, unless a nation changes its ways and returns to the paths of God's commands, judgment will fall upon that nation.