Love is Love

Except When It's a Lie

It would be easier just to let this go unchecked but, that wouldn’t be very loving. When you truly love somebody, you don’t go out of your way to lie to them. Believe me I know there are different kinds of love. I love my dogs differently than I love my wife, differently than I love my parents, differently than I love my siblings. I even love other men besides myself. Let’s be honest though, this whole “Love is Love” business isn’t really about love at all. It is about saying that same-sex couples should be able to express their love for each other the same way that a heterosexual couple can. At its core though that is impossible. The love between a man and a woman is different than the love between two men or two women. No amount of calling it the same changes that fact. Not even the President of the United States of America can change that fact.

The ultimate reason this is a lie is because it goes against what God says. The evil one has the world fooled, and is battling against anyone who would dare speak the truth. What bothers me the most is that our President seems to think he knows better than God. He says he’s learned “lessons in humility”, but if you’re willing to call God a liar, I’m not so sure you have. Just yesterday Barack Obama spoke to the Illinois legislature. He recounted his first experience on the floor of the legislative body, “I was passionate, idealistic, ready to make a difference… filled with a heightened sense of purpose…. I thought I had made some compelling points with irrefutable logic… [Pate Phillips] said, ‘kid that was a pretty good speech, in fact I think you changed a lot of minds… but you didn’t change any votes.'” Mr. President, you may succeed in changing a lot of minds about “Love is Love”, but God’s vote on the matter is the only one that counts. Leading people astray has always had severe consequences.

Going along to get along sure would be easier, but truth be told, I wouldn’t be loving you very much if I knew that this idea that “Love is Love” is rooted in a lie, and I covered it up. You’d find out soon enough that what God thinks about it is more important than what I think about it, or what the President of the United States thinks about it. And you would discover too late that it is better to be on God’s side and be hated for it, than to go along with the crowd in the interest of getting along.

Discriminate |disˈkriməˌnāt|

The national spotlight is on my home state, Indiana in a huge way. All over our enactment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law. Given my history of talking about such issues, rest assured I’ve been chomping at the bit to write. I’ve started on three different occasions, and haven’t quite hit on exactly what to say that’s really any different or helpful. Then it occurred to me what all the hubbub is about. Discrimination. 

Why I Hate Christmas, Yet Can’t Live Without It.

ChristmasSceneNow that I have your attention, you are probably asking one of several questions. Not the least of which is the contradictory nature of the title itself. How can I both hate Christmas, and not live without it? Maybe you’re asking how someone who has made no attempt to hide the fact that they imperfectly follow Christ hate the day that celebrates His birth? Or maybe you’ve come to the same point and you just haven’t articulated it. No matter how you come to read this, it is my hope that we can get to the point where we cut through the tradition, and the presents, to the giver of the ultimate present of all time.

You see this is the reason I hate Christmas. Not because of what it celebrates, but because of what it has become. Instead of celebrating the birth of a God named baby, it has become a God be damned battle for things. Can anyone remember what they got last year for Christmas? Let alone from whom? And if you can remember, how thankful are you now? Does it still work? Or, have last year’s gifts joined the pile of other toys and must have gadgets gathering dust? Sure that’s not always the case, but I’d venture a guess that what I’ve described isn’t just my experience.

We haven’t even fully addressed the frenzy that is Christmas shopping yet. The day after we proclaim how thankful we are, we are out fighting with one another over the best deals. But wait, not this year, we couldn’t even wait for Thanksgiving Day to be over this year. There just aren’t as many shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we need just one more. What about slowing down just a little so that we can remember the real reason for celebration. God with us. Immanuel. Isn’t that enough?

Seriously, what have we done with the day of Thanksgiving? And what have we done with Christmas? We worship at the altar of materialism, not in humble awe of what God did some 2000 years ago. We take our children to have their picture taken with “Santa”, we don’t even explain who Santa Claus even was, and why the real Santa Claus or St. Nicholas even did what he did. Instead we perpetuate the myth of a man who can fly through the air behind rain deer that can fly as well. We say he knows if we’ve been naughty or good, “so be good for goodness sake.” Is it any wonder that many kids have a hard time with the real person behind Christmas? Namely, Christ?! They get to college and all the professor has to say is that Jesus is just like Santa Claus, and what happens?  The myth we tell them innocently enough evaporated, and now the truth just as easily vanishes. Will they question everything else we tell them too? Will they believe Jesus? Or, will they wonder if Daddy & Mommy are lying about Him too?

As I write this, I know I’m going to be labeled by some, and maybe even my own family as “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” But, the real “Grinch” isn’t me. It is all of us. Because the real Christmas isn’t about “presents under the tree”, or “kissing under the mistletoe”, or “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday cheer.” No, the real story of Christmas is a love story. The story of God’s plan to redeem man. The story of God become man, and born to die.

I’m tired of pretending that perpetuating this myth this is a good idea. That it is harmless fun. Let’s tell the real story of St. Nicholas. It’s a good one. Why not start a different tradition based on reality? So, sure, give gifts, and graciously receive them as a reminder of the greatest gift of all. How can we ever hope to transform culture if we go right along with them buying in to the same myth?

In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I manage a retail store, so we obviously like it when people buy gifts. However, if we only make it if you buy something you can’t afford, because you think you need it, or you can’t do without it, then we really haven’t succeeded. That’s not the kind of memory we want to help you preserve.

Now you know I hate Christmas because of what it has become. I love the part of Christmas that has God leaving glory to be born, and ultimately dying, “that man no more may die.” That is by far the best gift ever. And if that’s the only gift I need, then I don’t have to go fighting through the crowds for the current fad.

MovadoWatch_459x715The beauty is this isn’t a gift to be hoarded, it is a gift to be shared. There’s no line to wait in, and it is never out of stock. You just have to be living, and accept the gift.

Nothing would make this a better Christmas than discovering that somebody reading this accepted God’s gift, and is now following Christ. Not even the $1800.00 Movado watch I saw a commercial for, and not even an iPad Air. In fact, as much as I’d like an iPad Air, and I’d really enjoy it… if it meant you wouldn’t even consider the best gift of all, I’d rather do without it. Everything I own will crumble, but I’ll get to spend an eternity worshiping God with you. Why wouldn’t anyone who believes this give up everything now for this prospect?

… But Wait!! There’s More!!!!

We’ve all heard the line, “But wait, there’s more.”  If not from those “infomercials” where the line is used in this fashion, “Our incredible Sham-wow is only $19.95  plus shipping and handling.  But wait, there’s more.  If you order now we’ll double your order.  Just pay separate shipping and handling.”  Then, there’s just about any Apple product announcement.  Get through an amazing list of new things, and you’re greeted with “But wait, there’s more.”  Our shiny new device comes in a rainbow of colors.  Or, if you thought what we’ve already announced was impossible… this is even more stunning.

This enhanced stunning quality about the more that’s coming is what I want to talk about now.  This comes as a practical result of one of Steve DeWitt’s sermons.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  1 John 3:2 (ESV)

Here’s my paraphrase of this verse.  “Christians are God’s children now, but wait, there’s more.  When he appears, we will be like Him.  We’ll be able to see Him as He is!”  This is the moment all Christians are looking forward to, and everyone else will dread.  Why will you dread this moment if you are not a Christian, you ask?  Well, as Steve DeWitt said in his sermon, God gives everyone what they want in the life to come.  If you didn’t want God, you get an eternity without him.  It’s called hell.  If you’ve been responding to God’s call on your life, and you can’t wait to meet Him, you’ll get what you want, an eternity with Him.  It’s called heaven.

When you get to the end of your life is the wrong time to realize that the phrase “but wait, there’s more” is true then too.  This advent season, my prayer is that you respond to your creator, and seek Him, and then discover that He’s been drawing you to Himself all along.  Knowing how things will be in the end may take the surprise and wonder out of the future, but we’re just skeptical enough to wonder if it all is true.  That’s the mastery of the deceiver at work. Isn’t it about time you found truth for a change?  If you’re in Northwest Indiana and you want more answers, visit www.bethelweb.org.  Otherwise call 1-888-NEED-HIM.

First Amendment or First Commandment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution

One might be forgiven for wondering what the Constitution is worth these days, when a long standing amendment has been eroded beyond recognition.  A more somber question follows this next quote.

You shall have no other gods before me. – 1st Commandment – Exodus 20:3

Haven’t we really made government our god?  We are paralyzed by our fear of our government, when these amendments, and the 1st Commandment were meant to empower us, not encumber us.

To whom will you liken me and make me equal,
and compare me, that we may be alike?
Those who lavish gold from the purse,
and weigh out silver in the scales,
hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
then they fall down and worship!
They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,
they set it in its place, and it stands there;
it cannot move from its place.
If one cries to it, it does not answer
or save him from his trouble. – Isaiah 46:5-7

It is a sad day in our country when we fail to realize the correlation between the First Commandment and the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” in large part recognizes the limits of government and its place before God. Thinking that any government can control God is irrational. Congress with all its power cannot keep a single star in its place. A king no matter the size of his realm cannot lengthen a day, nor can a president keep a tornado from touching down. But God can. In fact God can even protect people in the flimsiest of hiding spots.

We might further be tempted to think that the IRS can stop God, given the seeming paralysis of the church fearing the loss of their tax free status. But, a growing number of pastors are realizing that they must speak the truth regardless of the consequences.

The truth is that unless we realize that anything we elevate to God’s level is a worthless man-made idol incapable of solving any problem, let alone moving heaven and earth, we are doomed to repeating the errors of previous great civilizations. We’ve given in to the lie we’ve been buying since the Devil tricked Eve. We think we can become like God, and something we create can become God. Who do we think we are fooling?

The Wonder Of It All

To say I have a few favorite Christmas hymns would be an understatement!  While we have much to rejoice about, these hymns don’t sugar coat reality.  Here are some that came to mind, followed by why they did.

It came upon the midnight clear
That glorious song of old
From angels bending near the Earth
To touch their harps of gold
Peace on the Earth, goodwill to men
From heaven’s all gracious king
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing

Still through the cloven skies
They come
With peaceful wings unfurl
And still
Their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing

O ye
Beneath life’s crushing load
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow
Look now
For glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing

For lo the days are hastening on
By prophets seen of old
When with the ever circling years
Shall come the time foretold
When the new heaven and earth
Shall own the prince of peace
Their King
And the whole world
Send back the song
Which now the angels sing

————————————————————

While shepherds kept their watching
Over silent flocks by night,
Behold throughout the heavens,
There shone a holy light:

Refrain:
Go, Tell It On The Mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
That Jesus Christ is born.

The shepherds feared and trembled
When lo! above the earth
Rang out the angel chorus
That hailed our Savior’s birth:

Refrain

Down in a lowly manger
Our humble Christ was born
And God send us salvation,
That blessed Christmas morn:

Refrain

When I am a seeker,
I seek both night and day;
I seek the Lord to help me,
And He shows me the way:

Refrain

He made me a watchman
Upon the city wall,
And if I am a Christian,
I am the least of all.

Refrain

————————————————————

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Refrain:
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

Refrain

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

Refrain

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Refrain

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

Refrain

————————————————————

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Refrain:
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Refrain

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Refrain

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Refrain

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

Refrain

————————————————————

There’s the wonder of sunset at evening,
The wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is the wonder that God loves me.

O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

There’s the wonder of springtime and harvest,
The sky, the stars, the sun;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is a wonder that’s only begun.

O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

————————————————————

As I sat to write this, I clearly had “The Wonder of it All” on my mind.  But I also had the tragedy our nation faced when evil made it evident why Jesus needed to be born.  The lines of the first Christmas hymn I quoted are evidence that this display of evil is not new.

O ye Beneath life’s crushing load
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow
Look now
For glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing

That life is a crushing load of toil and pain is as old as time.  But neither the song nor the story stop there!  There is hope.  That hope is that God loved me and you enough to send His son Jesus to be born of a virgin, live a sinless perfect life, and ultimately to die though undeserved, so that we no longer have to.

Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Why do we need this “Second Birth”?  Our first birth was marred by a curse and sin.  And as a result we need to be reconciled to God.  That’s what God provided for when He sent Jesus, who saves from sin, and allows God to justly forgive us, because Jesus took the punishment that he didn’t deserve instead of us.  And did I ever deserve death!

With all of this evil, from mall shootings, and school shootings, and arson, we are asking questions.  When we experience the little pain it causes each of us, and when we think about the anguish the families and communities directly impacted felt, how can we not long for the day when this “heaven sent Prince of Peace” will reign?  Unfortunately, we are looking for him in all of the wrong places.  Our government will not save us.  More laws will not save us.  Keeping guns away from unstable people will not save us.  Shoot, we can’t even save ourselves.  We are outraged by these events because we know good and evil.  But we are powerless to do the good, at least if we are honest.  We each have the ability to do the things we know we should not do.  And as a society, we have explained away the fear of God.  So what is left?  Why, evil of course.  God says Christians are the only thing restraining evil in this world, and we are not doing a very good job.  God calls Christians to be salt and light, and we’re too afraid of what you may think of us, to speak out about what this world, and our country really need.

Salt in a wound hurts, but brings about healing.  Shedding light on evil exposes it for what it is, and also serves to disinfect.  What Christians starting with me need to do is repent.  I have not been nearly the witness, nor as forceful and loving as I should have been.  I’m the worst sinner there is trying to pass myself off as a humble flawed follower of Jesus.  But don’t let that stop you from having the only relationship that matters.  A saving relationship with the One who died to set you free, and restore your relationship with the God who made you.

If you accept this gift, you will have accepted the biggest gift of all.  If that doesn’t inspire “The Wonder of it All”, then nothing will.  This Christmas, my prayer is that God will use the tragedy our country faced to bring you, and many others to the Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Defy God At Your Own Peril

There is more meaning to my title than the obvious.  Yes, we each defy God at our own peril.  I’m also calling into question President Obama’s presuming to speak for our country, and defying God at OUR own peril.  It is bad enough if he chooses to defy God personally, but because of his position, as I mentioned, he speaks for our entire country.  If President Obama is willing to defy God when it comes to the definition of marriage, what else is he willing to defy God about, that we are not aware of?  Oh, sure we know about abortion too.  Do you see a trend?

I will remain silent no longer.  I will not sit idly by and allow this pronouncement by the President of the United States to go unchecked.  I, like Paul claiming the rights of a Roman citizen, am claiming the rights of being a citizen of the United States of America.  I am speaking out to all who will listen.  President Obama does not speak for me, nor does he honor God, or the institution of marriage.

Here is why this is so significant.  God designed marriage when he created Eve for Adam.  And God used the model of marriage to define Christ’s relationship to the church.  By redefining marriage, what is really being attempted is to redefine God. God cannot be redefined by his created beings, although we sure try.

President Obama cites the “Golden Rule”, as part of his decision making process on this issue.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  The only problem is Jesus himself when the woman who was caught in adultery was brought to him, dealt graciously with her.

10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  – John 8:10-11

The “Golden Rule” cannot be used as a justification for breaking another law of God.  The woman wasn’t condemned, but she was told to “leave” her “life of sin.”  So it is that I don’t condemn a person who practices homosexuality, but for their own sake, they should leave their life of sin.  The same can be said for each one of us, if we are honest.

Here is yet another problem with the “Golden Rule”.  If I apply it with the fear of God and my faith, then what I want is different.  Allow me to explain.  If I’m doing something in my life that God would call sin, and somebody sees that in my life, I would want them to come and confront me.  So it stands to reason then, applying the “Golden Rule” for me would mean drawing attention to the sin in a friend’s life, so that they can turn from it, since that is what I would hope a friend would do for me.

God calls adultery, and homosexual behavior sin, not me.  I can call both of these behaviors lawful, and acceptable, but that doesn’t change what God thinks.  Just like our nation can say it is lawful to abort the life of an unborn child.  It doesn’t change the fact that God calls it murder.

Let me be perfectly clear.  President Barak H. Obama, you are defying God, the righteous judge.  History is replete with the devastating results when leaders defy God.  The sad thing is, those leaders may think they are getting away with it.  But, they are not, and will have to give account to God for leading even a secular nation like ours astray.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galations 6:7

Please join me in thinking what God must think each time he hears President Obama conclude a speech with “May God Bless the United States of America.”  Hypocrites.  I pray that President Obama repents, while he still can, or he may hear words he never thought he’d hear from the only one who can save his soul from hell.  “Depart from me, I never knew you.”