Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Where Is the Good News?

I don't know about you, but I hunger for a newscast that contains just one piece of good news, one story that will encourage my heart, one example that would shine as a light in the midst of the darkness of our times.  But such stories are not easily discovered.  And so we become overwhelmed with the magnitude of evil that is around us. 

There is the cesspool that is Hollywood in particular and the entertainment business in general.  It seems that almost daily another woman steps forward with a lurid story of sexual harassment, and at times, sexual debasement she was forced to endure just to obtain employment.  And these predators were not just "back-alley thugs" but men respected by the entertainment and film industry.  "Back-alley thugs" we lock up in our jails and prisons; these people were wined and dined by others with power.  Oh the rumors were there, but silence became the norm. Friends, I believe we are just now beginning to see the tip of the iceberg of the immorality and debauchery that has been part of the Hollywood scene for decades.  America has its own Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Then there is the continued assault upon the truth that is as old as time itself.  "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27).  Did you notice that God created males and females only.  There are only two sexes.  Yet, the State of California has just approved a third gender option when you apply for a driver's license within that state.  There is male, female, and now nonbinary, which means "I don't know what I am! I am confused about my gender." 

I understand from conversations with physicians and psychologists that a very small percentage of the population is born with a lack of gender clarity.  In other words, this phenomenon is rare.  But what is happening today, I believe, is a direct assault upon the character of God.  It is as if we have said to God, "We don't have to recognize what you have said.  From now on, it is all about us and not about you!"  If we want to create a dozen different options concerning gender, then who is to stop us?  In these days I am drawn back to the words of Paul to the church in Rome, words that probably stirred as much controversy in the first century as they still do in the twenty-first century.  Paul writes: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Romans 1:18-20). 

Paul is saying that there is a willful and deliberate suppression of God's truth by godless and wicked men.  They know exactly what they are doing.  There is no "wow, I guess I messed up!"  There is, however, a "Wow! Let's continue to mess up!"  The evil heart of man knows exactly what it is doing.  There is no accidental turning away from God.

Let's continue in the text: "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (Romans 1:21-23).  When one turns away from God, the only thing that remains is either the worship of self or the worship of the world around us.  And, when a person begins to worship himself or herself, then it is so easy to defend any action you make, no matter how perverse it might be. 

Paul continues, "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised" (Romans 1:24-25).  Later Paul will say that God gave them over to shameful lusts (Romans 1:26) and then to depraved minds (Romans 1:28). 

Friends, the cesspool of Hollywood and the explosion of transgenderism and gender confusion can be laid directly upon the abandonment of absolute truth found in the person of a holy God and expressed through His Holy Word.  Now I know some of you will say, "But Max, there has always been the expression of immorality throughout the generations and cultures."  And you are right, with this exception: In the past, immorality has been looked upon as a deviation from acceptable behavior; today immorality has lost its stigma.  But, the Apostle Paul warned us that this would happen when he wrote: "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:32).  "It's wrong, but let's do it anyway!  What can God do about it?" 

Finally, there is the escalation of violence in our communities.  We have almost become numbed to the weekly totals of shootings and homicides that come from Chicago.  But it is happening all around us.  Small town are not immune to murders or assaults upon others.  People are murdered by complete strangers for no reason at all.  Whether it is on a train platform in France or on a crowded street corner in London or riding the subway in New York City, one must be alert to those around him or her. 

But I do want to close with one tremendous piece of good news.  It is simply this: Jesus Christ is coming again!  Each day we draw one day closer to His coming!  My hope is not anchored in CNN, ABC, NBC, or even Fox News.  My hope is built on nothing else - except the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.   When I am tempted toward despair, I simply look up ready to hear the trumpet.  And then I focus upon what God has commanded me to do: to proclaim His Truth unashamedly to others and to encourage them in their faith.  I trust that is your practice as well.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Great Book and A Great Article - Both Must Reads

I just finished reading the newest book by Dinesh D'Souza which is titled: "The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left."  First, let me warn you that this is not one of those books that you can sit down and read in the space of an evening.  Oh, I suppose you could, but you would miss much of what the author intended you to receive.  I found that I could only read a few pages before I would ask myself the following: "Wow! How did that happen?" or "That can't be true, can it?"  or "Now it makes sense." 

The premise of Dr. D'Souza's book is that there is a strong relationship between the policies and foundations that caused the rise of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany in the 1920's and 1930's and the American Left today.  In fact, D'Souza makes a strong case that Mussolini fashioned his Black Shirt Fascism in Italy around the teachings of Woodrow Wilson and then Franklin Roosevelt.  His conclusion is that the real Fascists in America today is not Donald Trump and ultra right, but the Left.  The problem is that the real Fascists, namely the American Left, has attached that title to the American Right.  And this "big lie" has been promoted by both the mainstream media and the Hollywood entertainment industry, both of which are dominated by those on the Left. 

This is an important book that I believe every American should read.  It is not an easy book to read.  It is a book that requires its reader to stop and do some critical thinking.  At times I know you will strongly object, but just read the footnotes and pay attention to the sources that are cited.  There is nothing secret about what D'Souza writes.  It is all very public.

I have shared with several that this book and a book written by Jonah Goldberg titled "Liberal Fascism" has really influenced my understanding of the current political and cultural climate in America today. 

Speaking of America's cultural climate, I received an article yesterday from one of our church leaders.  It is an article written by Jeannie Cunnion and found at the Fox website.  (

"I sat on a parenting panel last month with a well-known and widely respected counselor by the name of Sissy Goff, M.Ed, LPC-MHSP.  She is the Director of Child & Adolescent counseling at Daystar in Nashville and when asked about the biggest issue facing kids today, she confirmed what you've probably read about recently on your news feed or even your Facebook feed - the increasing anxiety epidemic in our country.  But it's not just an epidemic among our kids.  It's an epidemic among us - their parents.

"According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults.  In a recent article entitled, 'Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering from Severe Anxiety' we glean significant insight into the anxiety epidemic:
a.  Privileged youths are among the most emotionally distressed young people in America.  These kids are incredibly anxious and perfectionistic.
b.  For many of these young people, the biggest single stressor is that they never get to the point where they can say, 'I've done enough, and now I can stop.'  Kids have a sense that they're not measuring up.  The pressure is relentless and getting worse.

"We have to be willing to take an honest (maybe painfully honest) look at how we may have contributed to the anxiety our kids feel with the pressure we just might be passing down.  With our unrealistic expectations and impossible standards of ourselves, and of them.  See, we parents aren't the only ones linking accomplishment to acceptance and success to significance.  Our kids are attempting to answer the question, 'Is who I am enough?' by how well they perform on the field, how much they excel in school, and how many likes they get on their Instagram feed.  They are attempting to answer that question, 'Is who I am enough?' by proving they can do enough and be enough.  Whatever 'enough' is.  Because you and I both know enough is never enough when the goal is perpetual perfection.  The primary message our kids receive is that they'd better be the best at everything, and this leaves them afraid to reveal their inadequacies and insecurities - and hiding behind the best version of themselves.

"A key ingredient in helping our kids overcome their anxiety is facing and working through our own anxiety.  It starts with us.  It doesn't end with us.  But we are part of the solution.  We have to be willing to take an honest (maybe painfully honest) look at how we may have contributed to the anxiety our kids feel with the pressure we just might be passing down.  With our unrealistic expectations and impossible standards of ourselves, and of them.

"And ultimately, it is our responsibility to help our kids push back the pressure they face with the truth of God's Word.  I am not at all suggesting that therapy and medication aren't part of the solution.  They often times are.  But please let us not forget the alive and powerful Word of God that has the absolute power to show us where our significance comes from and ultimately set us free from proving our worth and our value in our performance.

"We need to know that failing doesn't make us failures and succeeding doesn't make us significant.  At least not in the eyes of our Creator - the only One whose opinion of us really matters in the end.  In God's eyes we are of great worth, not because of anything we have or haven't done, but because of what has been done for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  The cross has the final word on our value.  Believing that truth and embracing that truth isn't the only thing we need to do.  But it is a firm foundation on which to build a life of freedom from anxiety and the exhausting endless quest to prove our value through our performance."

What an amazing article!  Perhaps as parents, and even as grandparents, we are not fully aware of the pressures we place upon our children and grandchildren.  Our goal is not to have them conform to our image, but to conform to the image of Jesus Christ.  They are not to be "mini-me's" but to be reflections, in their own way, of Christ.  Challenge them - absolutely!  Admonish them - absolutely!  Drive them - absolutely not!  Paul said it best, "We are to bring our children up in the admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Of Paddock, Weinstein, and Columbus Day Mobs: Is There a Common Denominator?

Marlys and I have had the privilege of spending the better part of the past six days driving down to Carrollton, Texas and spending some time with Greg and Beth and Ethan and Max.  It certainly was a hot time down in Texas; guess it is still summer time there.  We enjoyed seeing both our grandsons run cross-country.  Not sure why anyone would want to run over 3 miles in 90 degree heat.  Also got to see Max in a baseball game - he has come a long way in his baseball playing abilities.  And also got to attend a high school pep assembly - I forgot how loud those could be.  And, of course, we ate a lot of Tex-Mex - couldn't be in Texas without that.  Now we are back into the coolness of the fall season here in Minnesota.  The trees are beginning to show some vibrant shades of reds, oranges, and yellows.  Landscapes are shrouded with the colors of fallen leaves, and bright orange pumpkins grace many a front porch.  It truly is a wonderful time to be in Minnesota. 

A lot has happened since I last wrote to you.  A lone gunman, sequestered in a 32nd floor hotel room, suddenly breaks windows and begins shooting down on a crowd of people who had gathered in a park below to share in a country-music festival.  Stephen Paddock fired hundreds of rounds, killing 58 innocent people and wounding over 500 others.  It was the largest mass shooting in American history.  We may never know exactly what prompted him to commit such a heinous crime, but this shooting has once again revived the calls for stricter gun controls.  There have even been a few voices that have demanded the repeal of the Second Amendment which protects a citizen's right to have and to bear arms.  It is almost as if these people actually believe that guns are the problems.  Friends, there are more people killed via automobiles each year than via all types of weapons combined, and yet I have never heard anyone champion stricter controls on who can drive a car.  The problem exhibited in Las Vegas is more serious than just a matter of controlling guns.

Then this past weekend multiple allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault were brought against one of the most powerful men in Hollywood - Mr. Harvey Weinstein.  And, since that story first broke, others have begun to share their stories.  This was not a once or twice moral failure, but a repeated culture of moral failure on the part of Mr. Weinstein.  And, because he wielded a lot of power that could make or break a young aspiring actress or actor, and because he had a lot of money, Mr. Weinstein's immoral behavior was never questioned in public.  The silence of many allowed for this culture to continue, almost as if it was approved.  But there is a deeper problem in Hollywood than just Harvey Weinstein.

This past Monday was Columbus Day - a day commemorating the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492.  Although Columbus was considered a hero when I was a student in school (of course that was 60 years ago), today Columbus is considered to be a monstrous villain.  The genocide of the Native Americans is laid at his feet.  The enslavement of minority people is laid at his feet.  And so there is a "mad" rush - and I do mean that it is a rush toward insanity - to destroy every vestige of Columbus that remains today.  Statues were assaulted with red paint, at best, or totally destroyed, at worst.  But there is a deeper problem than just statues of Columbus in the United States.

What is this deeper problem?  To put it very bluntly: It is the consequence of the abandonment of moral clarity based upon absolute truth.  When absolute truth is cast aside, then moral relativism reigns.  To put it very succinctly, when absolute moral truth is absent, then there is no measuring rod by which to measure another person' actions or attitudes.  So, Mr. Paddock can shoot dozens of innocent people because for him there is no absolute moral truth.  So, people can desecrate public statues of Christopher Columbus because they have no absolute moral truth.  And Mr. Weinstein can impose his will upon vulnerable young actresses because he has no absolute moral truth.  To be perfectly honest with you, I am very surprised by the outcry against Mr. Weinstein, for, after all, he is one of "them."  He could most assuredly wear the title of "Mr. Left."  Yet I applaud those women who came forward to expose Mr. Weinstein for the immoral creep that he was. 

But, here is where it gets very interesting.  Suppose I were to ask Ashley Judd, for example, why she believed the actions of Mr. Weinstein were wrong.  What would be her response?  Now, she would have to be very careful with that response.  She might say, "Well that type of behavior is very demeaning toward women."  And my response would be, "Why is that behavior so demeaning toward women?"  She might hesitate and say, "Well, it is just wrong!"  And, again I would ask, "How do you know it is just wrong?"  You see, what those on the Left refuse to state is that something is wrong because there is an objective standard of right and wrong that necessarily demands that there be an absolute truth with a foundation firmly planted in God.  But the Left cannot just come out and say that for that statement destroys the very foundation upon which they have built their belief structure. 

I have been teaching a class on Apologetics this fall here at our church.  I have nearly 40 students in two sections.  Over the past several months I have had the privilege of reading and studying about those questions the skeptics and agnostics ask concerning the Christian faith.  And one of the things I have discovered is that deep down in their hearts, skeptics and agnostics recognize that there is a moral reality.  Just try to break into the home of an agnostic and they will have you arrested as a burglar.  With that very action they have affirmed that there is a moral reality.  But you won't hear them talk about this or trumpet moral reality before the television cameras.  Why is that?  Because moral reality forces us to ask the question, "What is the foundation for that moral reality?"  And, of course, you and I know it as abiding in the person of a holy, righteous, loving, and just God.

Friends, great are the depths to which the human heart can fall when all restraint is cast off.  The prophet Jeremiah expressed that thought with these words, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).  "But for the grace of God..."  What powerful words!  God could have changed Stephen Paddock's life.  God can still change Harvey Weinstein's life.  God can change your life as you acknowledge Jesus as Truth.