Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The List Grows

Sadly, we add another city to the list. It is a sickening, demonic, maniacal, hate that increases the list of cities and places where terror strikes and kills. I am so sorry Orlando. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.   I feel so helpless in many ways. But my helplessness turns to probing that turns to prayer which turns to anger as I hear so many opinions as to what can be done.

I hear gun control is the issue.
I hear mental health is the issue.
I hear radical Islam is the issue.
I hear religion in general, fundamental religion specifically, is the issue.
I hear law enforcement, anti-terrorism agencies are the issues.
I hear political problems such as immigration and bombing ISIS is the issue.

More guns, less guns.
More mental health care, more facilities for the mentally ill.
More walls. No walls.
More prayer. Even more prayer.
Less surveillance. More surveillance.
Less religion. More religion. No religion.
Less of YOUR religion. More of MY religion. None of either.

None of these opinions and solutions surprise me. It is what I haven't heard from anyone that bothers me.

No one postulates that what is needed is a better race of human beings.  I suppose it would be politically incorrect to suggest that human problems come from flawed humanity. How about a race that doesn't hate but loves instead? How about a sturdy race of humans that doesn't equate agreement with security and doesn't see disagreement as discrimination? How about a race so concerned with justice and fairness for all that no amount of money or power could turn humans against one another? How about having a wise race that desires liberty for every human but knows that liberty is not the same as license? How about a race that is not motivated by anything less than holiness and righteousness that at the same time identifies and spurns unholiness and unrighteousness? How about a race of humans that can feel so deeply the hurt and pain that life and loss can bring that it would never do anything to inflict such pain or loss on another human? How about a human race that is so respectful of life that it holds life and the living as a sacred trust?

Gun laws cannot create this kind of life.
Politics cannot usher in this way of life.
Mental health facilities cannot create this quality of life.
Walls cannot create this life, nor contain it for that matter.
Technology to surveil, spy,  and monitor cannot sustain this type of life.
Even religion cannot bring this abundant and eternal life into existence.

Only Jesus Christ can create, cleanse, sustain, equip, develop, mature and impart such a life. And He does this with people in relationship with Himself and one another. For all who trust in Him, submit in faith and loving obedience to Him, and follow Him, He begins to work into those lives His very life.

Utopian gibberish you say? Nice, sentimental drivel you say? Impractical platitudes that are unreachable and unlivable you say? I say it is possible. I say this is the very race God in Christ is creating. This, and so much more, is the kind of life and living that the Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit enjoy among each other. This and so much more is what God intends for His children to enjoy with Him and one another in a life He calls abundant and eternal. The question then essentially becomes not one of whether He can do it but whether we really want Him to.

Tell me now world, how is your way working?

I John 4:13-21

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Tale of Two Men

They weren't the best of men, they weren't the worst of men. In many ways humans measure, they were considered a cut above. They rose to the pinnacles of their profession and knew great success.

And yet....

We read about these two men who would be kings in II Chronicles 25 and 26. Their endings are sad, made much more so by the fact that it didn't have to end the way it did. Together they ruled Judah for 81 years, 29 for Amaziah and 52 years for Uzziah. How did they rise so high and fall so far? The Bible gives much insight into these things but leaves a few questions also, possibly because each heart needs to answer those questions for itself.

The particulars are that Amaziah became king of Judah when he was twenty-five years old. His father, Joash, was a good king that slipped and slid away from God at the end of his days. He abandoned the temple and its worship. He worshiped false gods, killed rivals, killed the prophet Zechariah, sent to warn him, and eventually lost a war with Syria and was assassinated in his bed. Maybe Amaziah learned better from seeing those bad examples, maybe he had a good teacher\mentor, for whatever reason Amaziah determined to rule rightly.  II Chron. 25: 2 says, "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord," but there was a problem built into this insight. The next part of the verse records a very disturbing truth, "but not wholeheartedly." He got folks worshipping aright, he executed justice but not vengeance, he acted according to the word of God, he strengthened the armed forces, he even listened to a preacher God sent to warn him about a certain battle. But a half-hearted devotion eventually led to a full departure and Amaziah began to worship false gods from the people he conquered. A prophet came to him and asked him, "why do you consult these people's gods, which could not save their own people from your hand?" Amaziah didn't listen this time and he fought a battle against Israel and though warned, lost decisively, spending the rest of his reign as a tribute-paying king. From the time he turned away from following the Lord, he was conspired against. He tried to escape and was hunted down and killed.

The next king was Uzziah, Amaziah's son. He reigned fifty-two years. The same words are used of Uzziah in II Chron. 26:4, "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord,,," Verse 5 at the end says, "As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success." There is a warning in that sentence, one that wasn't heeded..

Uzziah sought God, used technology and wisdom to make life better. He rebuilt towns, towers, walls, and modernized the army. He subdued enemies and his fame spread "far and wide" (vs15). The "oh-oh" comes in verse 16, "but after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall."
Amaziah decided that he now should perform the duties of the priests and went into the temple to burn incense. 80 priests confronted him but he railed against the priests in anger. He was immediately struck by leprosy. He quickly got out of the temple. He was never healed and spent the rest of his days in isolation and excluded from the temple of the Lord.

Two sad stories of two men who, if they didn't have it all, had a lot of it. But they blew it, lost it, messed up, and in their older years, when they should have known better, it all came apart.  What happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? We are told just a little or at least can readily see: arrogance, anger, privilege,  and maybe even forgetting. What we don't know should really serve as a warning for us today. How did the arrogance manifest itself? When did the anger trump reason? On what day did these kings, these two men among men, awake and decide they were men above men? After which victory did they believe they couldn't be touched by truth that wasn't convenient for them? It probably wasn't one day, but an accumulation of days where they listened more to the praises of men, believed the headlines, and enjoyed the fruits of victories rather than hearing their own voices praise God, thank God, seek God, honor God, and pledge to obey God. Maybe they got so busy being the king, they forgot to be God's king.

This tale of two men is really a tale for all men. We have the same spiritual dna. We all have a God-shaped heart meant to invite Him in but in our sin we have gotten bent out of shape and forget to make room for God. But God in Christ has always made room for us. He loves; He redeems; He forgives. The false gods of sin, self, slack, substitution, success, and celebrity exact an exorbitant tribute, which no one can afford.

We should read these stories with humility. Except for the crown, the army, and maybe the riches, these kings are us. In our own realms in which we rule we tend to do the same things unless we fight against those arrogant, prideful, loose, self-serving, forgetful tendencies that leave God and His will out of our lives. One of the best places to start, whether leading the business, the school, the home or just our own hearts, is to remember that there is but One King and He alone is worthy to be worshiped. May our lives in Christ be summarized by II Timothy 4:7-8. May we all then be

Fidelis ad finem.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Questions Not Being Asked

From former church members to current ones; from the Panhandle of Texas, from south, west, and east Texas, from men's Bible study attendees and even from the ladies Bible study, folks have been asking me at least a few dozen times: "Who should I vote for in the presidential race?" "How can I vote for either candidate?" "Which is the lesser of two evils?''

This little essay will try to answer those questions for you.

Why are these questions important? Questions about who to vote for are obviously important as the winner of the election will lead our nation and arguably become the most powerful person on the planet (I personally would argue against that but that's another story).  Americans have for some time now voted by their pocketbooks and their general sense of well-being. The Christian recognizes a higher calling in the power of politics and elections as the opportunity to execute justice. I would hope that the Christian voter would bring this sense of seeking justice for all to the voting booth. I seem to recall a line in the Pledge of Allegiance to that effect.  There are hurting, oppressed, poor, marginalized, disenfranchised, forgotten, and neglected Americans. There is much waste in our governmental spending. Although many find themselves in their precarious positions by poor choices and judgments, justice seeks help for those truly in need and would even seek to help the foolish make better decisions. The new president should seek to establish justice and also call for proper stewardship of the resources available to insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare and provide for the common defense thus securing the blessing of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.

A president who lacks moral character, (as I believe is demonstrated by the Bible's truth) and thus will also be lacking the sense of justice, fairness, firmness, discipline, stewardship and compassion those virtues employ, will not bring justice to our land. The candidate who is guided by a passion only  to win the election, and the next, to control, to rule, to impose, to scapegoat (by the way Christians, you will be the scapegoat for the coming days just as in the days of Nero), to intimidate, and govern not by moral truth and justice will be a disaster for our nation.

So who should you vote for? For whom will I vote? Let me share this recently oft shared quote from Charles Spurgeon, London pastor from the mid to late 1800's during troubling political times in England.
        Of two evils, choose neither. Christians must turn from the endless cycle of voting for the lesser of two evils and expecting an unrighteous act to produce a righteous act. From a communist to a cultist, choosing the lesser of evils is still evil, and never should we do evil, that good may come.

 I will exercise my constitutional rights and privileges to vote for the candidate of my choosing and write in Jim Griffin or Walter Bradley or Daymon White or Rick Davis. They will lose but my conscience will be clear before God if not before the chairman of the Democratic or Republican party. I will also do a little more homework on the candidates on down the ballot to try and discover wisdom, altruism, and a passion for justice and humanity.

Now let me ask you a question. Why are you asking me, a pastor, who to vote for, rather than asking me how we can better spread the gospel of salvation through Jesus, send more missionaries, feed more hungry, clothe more poor, house more homeless, and encourage more hurting, lonely, depressed people? Here is my curmudeony, cold, cynical answer: You actually believe that the president has more power than Jesus. You actually think that the the Republic of the United States of America holds more answers for living a good life than the Kingdom of God. You believe that the gospel of politics has the power to change lives more than the power of the gospel. If that is not true then why am I not being bombarded by Christians wanting to give time, money, and passion to spreading the gospel but instead I'm being asked who to vote for?

Look folks, I have mentioned in a sermon or two and as the poor men who are a part of my morning Bible study have endured several times, I believe our nation is under the judgement of God. In Romans 1:24-32 you see God's judgement given as He gives folks over to their own desires. You want God out of your lives, your bedrooms, your boardrooms, your choices and decisions? So it shall be, He says. So in this election you have choices between the party whose nominee reeks of materialism, anger and greed opposing the party promoting sexual freedom without moral consequences which have led to millions and millions of abortions and welfare without responsibility. We are a nation confused about the difference between license and Liberty and that freedom carries moral responsibility. Whichever way you vote, America loses.

You're probably either mad or scared by now, or at least you should be. But here's a little Biblical perspective, read Daniel 2:20-22; Isaiah 46:5-12; II Timothy 3:1-5; II Peter 3:11-13; Revelation 21. I'm not going to type it out. You read it!(moral responsibility) But I will say this, hard times are coming but God is still the Lord of the universe and He will be with and guide His people. There are 365 "fear not'' scriptures, one for everyday or 365 everyday if you want to read a lot. But these scriptures I will type out for you:
   But I trust in You  Lord, I say, You are my God. My times are in your hands, deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.   Psalm 31:14-15.  
    Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I  Am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with the right hand of righteousness.  Is. 41:10

Yes, in my opinion, whichever way you vote in November, America loses. But whenever you follow Jesus everyone wins. Pray for America. Pray for your next president. Pray the life changing gospel will sweep across our land, especially our leader's hearts. Trust the Lord.

Some trust in republicans, some trust in democrats, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.  Psalm 20:7 (CSV)*


*Cos Standard Version