Mini Maos

Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution in China (1966-1976) to centralize his power and influence, and purge capitalist, traditionalist, and nationalist elements from Chinese society. His campaign led to abuse where millions of people were stripped of profession, livelihood, possessions, liberty, and even life, all without due process on the basis of a simple accusation by a member of the Red Guard or other complicit political group. Physicians were forced to clean toilets, builders and engineers were made to harvest crops by hand, business leaders were stripped of the businesses they built and forced into labor camps, university professors were required to attend reeducation sessions (indoctrination), and all of this based on unsubstantiated accusations. Contrary to Mao’s intentions, these actions paralyzed China politically and severely damaged its economy and society. His actions did, however, utterly destroy countless innocent lives in the process.

It’s striking to me to watch an American version of this develop in our freedom-loving nation where our citizens are now guilty until proven innocent and due process is just a dusty and irrelevant concept of a bygone jurisprudence.  What’s more striking is that the source of so much of this incitement is a growing list of politicians who inspire mob rule, encourage violence against colleagues they disagree with, promote harassment in public places including restaurants and retail centers, and slander with the cynical partnership of a media that can’t discern the truth if it bit them on the behind. Eclipsing all of this is the complete destruction of a public servant’s reputation and family with a methodology and fervor that would make Mao proud.  These politicians, most of them lawyers by trade, were taught early in law school about due process, the presumption of innocence, and the meaning of corroborating evidence, but choose to set aside these sacred elements of the American legal system for political reasons (the same motivation as Mao). Flipping our legal system upside down may seem like a good idea when it potentially benefits a person or group, but what happens when that system is then flipped on them?

To say our nation faces a political identity crisis is an understatement. Many Republicans have become Democrats and many Democrats have become Socialists.  One thing we don’t have to be confused about is our foundational and shared values as Americans. It is obvious, and sad, that some of our leaders have slipped into a political abyss by adopting Maoist tactics to advance their standing and power. My hope is that Americans of all political persuasions who value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, who honor our constitution and institutions, who respect the rule and process of law, and who put our country above their own self-interests would rise up, reject, and resist such practices and return to a spirit of civility. Those who are perfectly willing to trade principles for power by employing these tactics must be held accountable.  The best way to do that is during this election cycle. Vote for those who share our American values and not for the mini Maos.

The Church Drop Outs

There’s a lie and heresy that has infiltrated the Church in the United States. It says that commitment to Christ is all that matters. It asserts that we can have a relationship with Jesus without a relationship with his Church.  Current church related statistics in the U.S. reflect this flawed and man-made theology. Although 40% of Christians in America claim to attend church weekly, research shows the actual percentage to be between 14 and 18%.  Each Sunday, the average church is missing 33-40% of its church attenders, a mere 15-20% serve in some volunteer capacity, and giving as a percentage of income is lower than during the depression.

Contrast this, however, with the plain teachings of Scripture and the example of the one we say we are following, Jesus.  The writer of Hebrews noted, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:25).  The implication is that some who were previously faithful have become unfaithful. Luke observed of Jesus, “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom” (Luke 4:16). It’s important to notice that there is no asterisk in the text excluding us from the command and example based on how we feel, what we want to do, or how put out we are with the Church.

Unlike the command of Hebrews and the example of Jesus, American Christians are dropping out when they should be digging in. They are disappearing for a variety of reasons. Some have gotten hurt or offended forgetting it’s hypocrisy to expect the Church to accept their imperfections while demanding perfection from the Church. Others became distracted by the cares of the world and pursuits of the flesh. Some have simply become lazy, apathetic, and without passion losing their priority for the things of God. Others have been deceived and isolated having missed a signal from the Head of the Church. Many, unfortunately, have simply grown stingy and selfish disappearing from the Church because they just don’t want to attend, serve, or give. We may or may not feel we have a valid reason for withdrawing from a church, but we are never right to completely drop out of the Church.

Commitment to the Church without commitment to Christ is religion, but commitment to Christ without commitment to the Church is rebellion. If we really loved him, we would keep his commandments. People in the Church who would never board and demand to take the controls of the plane or attempt to perform surgery on themselves in the hospital or interrupt their college professor and take over the class, have decided, without call or anointing, to isolate from the Church and pastor themselves. They have the mindset that they do not need anyone but Jesus to teach, guide, or lead them. But consider that the simple action of tapping one’s toe requires that a message come from the head, down the neck, through the torso, down the spine, past the thigh, knee, calve, ankle, and foot to get to the toe.  Sever the signal at any level and the message does not get through. Just like the natural body, believers need Jesus and one another to function.

Perhaps as a culture we are forgetting just how important the Church is in this world. It is the body of Christ of which he is the head, the expression of his nature, will, and power in the earth, the seat and locus of his authority in the earth (Matthew 18), the source of revealed wisdom, mysteries, and manifestations (Ephesians 3:9-10), the benchmark of his standards and expectations, and the moral conscience for society. We must remember that there will be no transformation in isolation because life transformation takes place in community.  There will be no restoration in isolation because even Lazarus needed the Church to take off his grave clothes following his resurrection. There will be no revelation in isolation because even Peter’s great revelation from God that Jesus was the Christ came in fellowship. There will be no impartation in isolation because only those who showed up to the upper room in Acts 2 experienced the outpouring of God’s Spirit. There will be no direction in isolation because God has ordained leaders who are anointed to guide us and seasoned believers who provide the wisdom that can only come from a multitude of counselors. This is why misdirection so often accompanies isolation from the Church and why deception is so prevalent in the body of Christ today.

The confusion caused by the drop outs has many sincere believers wondering what they should do with the Church. Instead of isolating from the Church and dropping out in these days, we need to plug in like never before.  First, we need to love the church, appreciate it, and be positive about it by focusing on the virtues rather than the weaknesses. Warts and all, the Church is still the best thing going in the world. Second, we need to commit to the Church. We need to rededicate our lives to Christ, but we also need to rededicate our lives to the Church. Third, we need to support the Church by faithfully attending, serving, and giving.  After all He has done to purchase our redemption, the least we can do is reciprocate with our time, talent, and treasure. Fourth we should honor the Church by living right and modeling the message of redemption. Fifth, we should grow the church because church growth is every believer’s responsibility, not just the responsibility of the pastoral staff and leadership.  Sixth, we need to defend the Church from those that would attack and malign it internally, externally, culturally, or globally. Finally, we need to be the Church by expressing God’s love, power, and goodness in our community and throughout the world.

The Consequences of Standing on the Wrong Platform

democratic-vs-republican-party-in-america-republican-democrat-xlc8wc-clipartJesus told the story of two houses built upon two entirely different foundations, one on sand and the other on rock. When the storm came, the house built on sand collapsed, but the house built on the solid foundation survived.  What was the reason for the differing outcomes?  Was it the type of house?  Was it the severity of the storm?  Was one builder just fortunate?  No, the outcome was entirely based on the integrity of the foundation.  During the 2016 election, a choice will be made to once again either build upon the sand or a solid foundation.  That foundation is the official platform for each of the major political parties.

Like a building foundation, the political platform, a party’s statement of official values and positions, will affect how well our nation weathers future storms and challenges. Political candidates will come and go, but the ideas, values, and agendas remain for generations.  Too many Christians have bought into the lie that the presidential election of 2016 is about two personalities.  The truth is the election is about two different views of the world and two different directions for the United States.  Both candidates are deeply flawed but we must look beyond the personality and potential time in office and discern and project what policy and cultural legacy they will leave behind for the next 50 years.  The two major party candidates represent two very different platforms, and the values, views, and policies reflected in those platforms will impact our country long after the candidates are gone.  

The consequences of standing on the wrong platform will be severe and lasting and why I believe this truly is the most critical election of my lifetime.  We will have Supreme Court justices who bend the constitution to suit political ideology and persuasion. We will have the unrestricted slaughter of the unborn, including late term elective abortion such as partial birth abortion.  We will have an all out assault on our right of religious expression, teaching, autonomy, and practice.  We will watch our right to bear arms watered down and severely restricted.  We will see rampant wickedness and abomination further normalized in our nation.  We will watch the greatest healthcare system in the world devolve into a single payer system where medicare and social security are raided and destroyed, where healthcare premiums skyrocket, and where quality is compromised.  We will lose our national autonomy to the march of globalism putting world interests above the interests of our people.  Socialistic policies will continue to drain our national wealth rather than increasing it.  The national debt will balloon to nearly 30 trillion dollars.  Corruption and collusion in the government between the Justice Department, the FBI, the State Department, the White House, and the Clinton campaign will never be brought to accountability.  The economic stagnation experienced under Obama (the only president with no quarter with GDP at 3 percent in U.S. history) will continue because of poor tax policy and over regulation.  Our foreign and military policy will continue to lack common sense, vision, cohesion, and execution trying to control monsters like ISIS instead of releasing our full war capabilities to annihilate them. We will continue to follow immigration policies that violate our current laws, disregard rules of fairness, and ignore our security.  Energy policies will continue to destroy American jobs while failing to tap our own  resources toward energy independence. Inner cities like Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, and Milwaukee, completely neglected by Obama, will continue to crumble under the weight of crime, unemployment, degradation, and failing schools.  

As believers we have the responsibility to evaluate the platforms of the political parties through the eyes of Scripture.  For the purposes of comparing the most critical components of the platforms, consider where the Republicans (R) stand, where the Democrats (D) stand , and where the Kingdom of God (K) stands on the issues:

The Sanctity of human life:  (R) Life begins at conception and should be protected.  (D) Abortion should be on demand, without restriction and funded with tax money.  (K) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Marriage:  (R) Marriage is between one man and one woman.  (D) The definition of marriage should include anyone a person loves.  (K) “God made a woman and brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:22).

Religious liberty:  (R) Religious speech and practice is constitutionally protected.  (D) Religious speech and practice is subservient to protected lifestyles.  (K) “Preach the truth in love” (Ephesians 1:5).

God in government:  (R) Rights given by God trump human or government given rights. (D) God has no legitimate role in government or place in the platform.  (K) “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

Israel:  (R) The security of Israel is supported unconditionally and it’s capitol is Jerusalem.  (D) There should be a two-state system with no claim of Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol.  (K)  “I will bless those that bless thee, and curse those who curse thee” (Genesis 12:3).

America’s security:  (R) ISIS is an existential threat to our security and way of life and must be destroyed.  (D) The greatest threat to our national security is climate change. (K) “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.  They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4).

America’s place in the world:  (R) The interests of the United States should be placed above the world.  (D) The interests of the United States are subservient to those of the world.  (K) “The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth” (Daniel 7:23).

Like many of you, I find different aspects of each candidate disappointing and distasteful. But I have made the quality decision to look beyond the personality and the limited time each would be in office and consider the long-term implications of their policies and agenda on our nation, our children, and our children’s children.  Instead of the candidate, I am voting for the platform and the future impact of that platform on the country I love.  I am voting for the platform that best aligns with the Kingdom of God. Christian, if you believe that abortion, redefining marriage, restriction of religious liberty, the exclusion of God from government and public life, the manipulation and persecution of Israel, lip service to threats to our national security, and advancing globalism at the expense of our national interests lines up with the Kingdom of God, then please do vote for the Democrat. If, however, you reject the death and darkness of the Democratic platform choosing instead life and light, then you should join me in supporting the Republican nominee for president.  I encourage you to assess which platform is better for building a great nation, sand or rock?

 

Trump, Clinton, and The Cyrus Effect

clinton_trump_splitLike many God-fearing believers around the country, I have struggled to make sense out of this election cycle. After suffering the radical progressive policies of the past 8 years, I long for someone to take the helm of this great nation who has the spiritual and leadership credentials to bring restoration, healing, security, and prosperity back to our country (you know, someone with the moral and spiritual depth and maturity of a Billy Graham mixed with the economic, policy, and communication prowess of a Ronald Reagan).  After a long and contentious primary season that feels like Alice in Wonderland, we seem to be left with Tweedledee on the right and Tweedledum on the left.

I realize there are some Christians and Christian leaders who will exhort us all to just preach Jesus and stay out of the political arena altogether, but that position is out of sync with our nation’s history and inconsistent with God’s demonstrated concern for the nations as indicated in the prophecies to the nations in Isaiah. No, God is very much concerned with the governance of nations and He uses the nations throughout time as instruments of his purpose and plan.  I believe He still has a great plan for our country. The truth is we have a Scriptural, moral, and civic responsibility to participate and not in a LBJ IRS amendment “churches keep your mouths shut kind of way.”  We as Christians are citizens of the United States and we did not forfeit our citizenship or constitutional rights when we joined a church or accepted the call into the ministry.  We simply cannot stick our heads in the sand while our national fabric is unraveling, our country is being drained morally and financially, our future is being held hostage, and our people are being slaughtered around the world with no clear champion to defend them.

Between 597 B.C. and 581 B.C. the Jewish people were exiled to be held captives in Babylon where they cried out to Almighty God for their deliverance: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1).  If you were to gather the rulers and elders of Israel together in that captive place and asked them what their deliverer from captivity would look like, I’m sure they would be thinking of a Moses or a David like historical and biblical figure to execute that deliverance. Shockingly, Isaiah prophesied that Israel’s help would come from a total pagan ruler, Cyrus, and worse yet, God would have the audacity to use messianic terms to describe him: “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him…so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.  For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen…though you do not acknowledge me” (Isaiah 45:1-5). Cyrus came to power 170 years after the prophecy, captured Babylon in 539 B.C. and two years later decreed Israel’s return to their homeland, the rebuilding of the temple, and that the treasury of Cyrus would pay the bill (2 Chronicles 36; Ezra 1).

I mentioned to my sister back in January of 2016 that I believed something is going on in this nation that transcends normal politics, political parties, and political alliances.  By the millions, born again Christians have been crying out to God on behalf of our nation for years, a country being held captive philosophically and spiritually. God’s dealings with man throughout history reveal one important lesson that may have some application to our nation’s current election cycle – we have the right and liberty to cry out for deliverance, but just like the Jewish leaders in Babylon, that does not mean we get to choose through whom that deliverance will come.  Too many Christians are looking for a president that would qualify for a deacon, Sunday school teacher (Jimmy Carter was a great Sunday school teacher), or pastor in their church forgetting that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:9).  

I believe we are experiencing our own Cyrus moment in the United States this year.  My candidate of choice in the primary did not survive the process (and considering his behavior at the RNC I’m glad) so it looks like I have a choice between Tweedledee (Trump) and Tweedledum (Clinton).  Despite the misgivings and ambivalence I may have toward both candidates, the question is simply who is most likely to be an agent of that deliverance?  Who appears to have the favor of God?  To me, Tweedledum has demonstrated failed leadership as a Senator and Secretary of State, she holds policies and values that are completely contradictory to mine, and she does not possess a clear moral compass as indicated by the never-ending ethical issues.  Tweedledee, a recently born again believer, is a brash, blunt, bold, and successful businessman who lacks the polish and couth (but also lacking the veneer) of a seasoned politician, but says things that resonate with many disillusioned and alienated Americans.  

I have concluded during this election cycle given the enormous stakes, including the fact that the next president will most likely appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices, to put away my grocery list of likes and dislikes and attempt to discern God’s big picture agenda and his Cyrus for this moment in U.S. history.  At the risk, well, of alienating everyone, and although as distasteful to some Americans and Christians as Cyrus was no doubt to the Jews who benefited from his political, military, economic, and human rights policies, I believe the mantle of Cyrus is on Tweedledee during this turbulent and unprecedented election season as an agent of change, not based on his spiritual or political credentials, but based simply on God’s sense of humor, penchant for irony, the prayers of his people, and directional sovereignty. Of course, time will shortly tell.

 

 

The Un-Sin

“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” (Leviticus 18:22). “Even the women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Romans 1:26-27).

Confusion about sexual morality (and normality) in this nation is at an all time high (and that includes self-professed believers). Because of the social and political correctness environment in this nation right now, droves of people are accepting behaviors that are clearly out-of-bounds biblically. The pressure and influence is so strong that many believers who may have struggled with certain sins are now being influenced to embrace a lifestyle that totally contradicts the Word of God. Many more believers are exacerbating the situation through the development of an “oh, well, to each his own” attitude having been worn down by the constant drumbeat of the activist agenda trying to shame anyone holding to traditional biblical values and morality.

At the outset I want to be clear. Christians do not and should not hate anyone on the basis of a lifestyle choice, behavior, practice, sin, or stronghold (our mandate is to love the person without endorsing the sin). The genuine Christian is, however, committed to the integrity and authority of the Word of God and should not be expected to turn a blind eye to the teachings of Scripture on human sexuality just to keep from looking like they are intolerant or bigoted. The homosexual and the homosexual activist should remember that opposition to homosexuality by Christians is based in biblical morality and not hatred for any person or group.

Recently, an award-winning Christian recording artist announced that she was in fact a lesbian. She equated the ban on homosexuality in the Old Testament with restrictions on eating shellfish or wearing fabrics from mixed materials. To set the record straight, Paul himself denounced this behavior so the homosexual activists can stop pretending that the practice called an abomination in the Old Testament is somehow ignored in the New Testament. I would also point out that Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for eating shellfish or mixing their wool with their polyester but because of the specific practice of homosexuality which resulted from selfishly rejecting God (Genesis 18:20-21; 19:5).

The truth is we are all born into sin and we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Sunday School 101). This means in real life that we are all capable of doing just about anything in violation of God’s law and because of the fall, life experiences, and influences we each may have specific types of behaviors that we are particularly tempted to allow or pursue. Some people can’t seem to keep their hands off of the property of others and theft is a constant temptation while others find it hard to tell the truth even in the absence of a reason to deceive. Some people may struggle with alcohol or drugs. Some people may deal with a violent temper constantly on the verge of a wrong choice and a violent act. Some people feel hopeless and often tempted to end their own lives. There are people who have struggled with pornography. Others are tempted to engage in pre-marital or extramarital relationships. Some have struggled with homosexual feelings throughout their lives.

The point is that the temptation or the feelings toward a certain class of sin or behavior does not constitute the sin. The action or the behavior constitutes the sin (I also agree that not doing certain things is equally sinful). When a person says they were “born” this way or that way they are correct. We are all born sinners and wanting to sin. The liar, the thief, the adulterer, and the drug addict are all born with the possibility of yielding to those feelings but they can also find redemption in Jesus and the power as Titus reveals to say “no” to ungodliness. To say a homosexual was born that way and therefore incapable of living any other way is the same thing as saying that the person tempted to rob a convenience store was born that way and will inevitably rob the store. The truth is we are born sinners but through the impartation of the righteousness of God in Christ and the resulting transformation that takes place we are not destined or doomed to a lifestyle of moral compromise and sin of any kind including homosexual behavior.

This entire “coming out” phenomenon of people in the world as well as people in the church is actually a decision on the part of the individuals to accept the feelings and temptation and then yield to them. The phenomenon is also a blatant demand by political activists, educators, and liberal theologians that the world (and the Church) accept homosexuality as a perfectly normal and acceptable lifestyle. Saying people do not choose to engage in homosexual behavior but they are driven to it is tantamount to making homosexuality a special class of sin or the “un-sin” that denies personal responsibility for one’s life choices and actions. The growing and repeated chorus coming from governments, academia, the entertainment business, the liberal church, and now the courts that denies homosexuality is a sin and demands special protection will never trump, alter, or change what God has said about homosexuality.  We should remember that after Jesus refused to condemn the woman taken in adultery, he nonetheless commanded her to “go and sin no more.”  We too can demonstrate compassion for the sinner without ignoring the plain teachings and commands of Scripture – stop the sin.

So what should we do as believers? First, we should without condemnation help people to understand that in a fallen world feelings and desires that violate God’s word will come, but we have the power and authority to reject those feelings and temptations and live the way God prescribes. Second, we must also speak the truth in love but speak the truth about the sin nonetheless, just as we would do if we were dealing with the liar, the thief, the murderer, or the adulterer. Third, our attitude toward the homosexual should be no different from the person who struggles with any other sin. If we can muster grace for the drug addict let’s have the same respect and love for the homosexual or any other type of sinner. Fourth, we must never succumb to the pressure of the growing chorus of voices telling us that the morality of the Bible is wrong, outdated, or misinterpreted. The Bible is clear and the only decision at this point is whether we are going to stand on the side of truth or be shamed into silence and allow our foundation to be decayed by the changing culture around us.