God Cares

Even when it looks like He doesn’t. 

The past week has given new meaning to  the words, “he shook my world.” And not in a positive way. With several earthquakes in excess of magnitude 7, and the loss of 100s of lives, how can I conclude that “God Cares?” Perhaps, just as the words “he shook my world” have taken on a seemingly sinister meaning, so too should the idea that “God Cares.”

Back in a time when the world wasn’t much different than it is today, people were searching for why bad things, catastrophic things happened to some people, and not to others. Here is what the Gospel writer Luke penned, and Jesus’ response. 

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
— Luke 13:1-5 NIV

Let me spell out what this means for us today. God cares enough to bring these earthquakes as a reminder that we need to repent. You might be thinking, I’m a pretty good person, compared to a murderer or a thief. That’s not the comparison God makes though. God’s standard is absolute perfection and His holiness. Even Billy Graham falls short, and so did Mother Teresa. I hope to meet them both one day, not because I’m as good as they are, but because, like them, I’ve repented. I’ve acknowledged that my good isn’t good enough, and trusted that Jesus paid the debt I could never pay, and because of what Jesus gives me, I now meet God’s standard. 

You see, God cares enough to send His Son, Jesus. Jesus loved me enough to die the death I should have died, and that death could pay the price for you too. Just repent. 

What could be worse than dying when a tower falls on you, or the earth shakes beneath your feet? Having any of that happen before you’ve repented and turned to Jesus. What is coming for this earth will make these earthquakes seem tame, and God cares enough to send these as warnings of what is to come.

The only question at this point is, will you listen? I’ve done my part. I’ve told you about your condition. And how Jesus is your only hope. Ridicule me if you must, but the day is coming when you will wish you listened, but it will be too late. On that day you will not be able to say, “I wish somebody told me.” Instead, you’ll say, “I wish I listened.”

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.

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?

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?

Death, Lies and Falsehood

We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement,
when the overwhelming whip passes through
it will not come to us,
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter — Isaiah 28:15

You might be thinking, “Who in their right mind would actually do this, let alone do it on purpose?”  If this didn’t describe what we are doing as a country, I would say nobody would do it.  I can hear the protests already, “we haven’t made a covenant with death.”  Oh, really?  Why don’t we ask the millions of aborted babies whose blood cries out from the ground just like Abel’s did?

Surely we haven’t made an agreement with Sheol.  What is Sheol exactly anyway?  If we go with “the grave”, are you still prepared to say that we haven’t attempted an agFameposterreement whereby we avoid it at all cost?  We’re doing research to cure disease, and people are living longer more productive lives.  We’re increasingly willing to destroy human life, and attempt to create it in the form of cloning.  All because we believe there may be some advance from embryonic stem cell research, that will cure cancer, prevent Alzheimer’s, and allow us to recover from spinal cord injuries.  Why perhaps we’ll experience in reality the song from the 80s.

I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly — Fame 1980

The sad reality is that we make lies our refuge.  Don’t believe me?  We teach that God didn’t actually create everything.  That the theory of evolution is more accurate than God’s account of His creation.  We believe the lie that human influence on the climate is going to cause oceans to rise and overtake the land, unless we stop.

If that isn’t enough, we have taken shelter in the falsehood that government knows better than God.  We believe that  the laws they pass will make us safer, and the programs they put in place will protect us from cradle to grave.

We no longer turn to God unless we experience some disaster beyond our control, and then we blame Him for the destruction, and ask Him why, as if he needs to explain himself to us.

The real question is when will we wake up?  When will we turn to God?  When will we beg for forgiveness?  And the follow-up question is, will we do it before it is too late?

Holistic Hegemony Has Hope

Thank you for enduring my love of alliteration. It serves several purposes, not the least of which is it forces me to think about the meaning of words. We must go beyond the superficial or casual use of words, just as we must avoid the pompous display of knowledge. Why? Because the essence of communication transcends the casual and shreds the pompous. It is about ideas, dialog, and ultimately results. Consider the power of these words, oft quoted.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

What do I mean by “Holistic Hegemony Has Hope”? Allow me to expand on the alliteration. Holistic means the “comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.” Hegemony, as I am using the word for my alliterative purposes refers to leadership, not dominance. “Has Hope” ought to be self explanatory.

In order for someone to fully understand me, you must understand that the parts of me are intimately interconnected. Lets start with the obvious. I’m a human male. I’m married. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I’m a sinner, therefore I have flaws. Some flaws are obvious only to me, others only to my wife, and still others only to Jesus himself. I am politically active. I am conservative, notice I didn’t say Republican! I desire to make a difference, yet the difference I want to make, will likely not be popular in our culture. Many of you think I should stop being holistic. In other words, I should separate religion or church, and state.

I’m submitting to you that a big part of the reason we are in the place we find ourselves locally on up to nationally, is in large part because we make a separation between church and state. We have forgotten that liberty is achieved only under a moral and just leadership. Our Founding Fathers intentionally created a difficult document with checks and balances to minimize the negative impact of our flawed human desires, mine and yours.

How is that good? Well, if it is done properly, it means you can elect me to a position of leadership, even though I am flawed! It means that other people can also be elected when they are flawed. And when it is working correctly, those who are elected can be counted on to hold other elected officials accountable within the governing framework of our constitution.

But, what happens when we elect individuals who are not governed by a moral code that transcends human law? Or, who seek to eliminate God, and/or Divine Providence? Simply saying that God doesn’t exist, or that evolution over billions of years produced human life does not make it so. Much of the premise of our science in this country is based on a lie. Who are we kidding? We teach evolution as fact, and in the next breath ask God to bless the United States of America. Do we think God is deaf, blind, dumb or non-existent?

So it is, that I am through pretending to go along with this bunk that church and state should be separate. I am standing up on the principle that we govern with the consent of the governed, and under the authority of God, the Creator and sustain-er of life.

You don’t have to agree with me, but I am no longer going to pretend that these things do not matter. They are in fact more important than human life itself. Think what you will of me. It doesn’t matter so much. Consider how much God desires to have a relationship with you. He sent his Son to be born into a despised family, in a despised town, to a despised people, to a despised cross, to a criminal’s death, when Jesus alone was without sin, holy, righteous, and without fault. God raised him from the dead, and the sacrifice of Jesus on that cross is a demonstration of God’s love for mankind. Believe that Jesus paid the debt you could never pay, and you will understand that it is not about separation of church and state! It is about getting rid of the guilt of your sin. That’s what it really takes to be free.

Until then, you may live in a land that calls itself the “land of the free”, yet be in complete bondage. A slave to sin, a slave to death, a slave to the government. The promise of these United States is not the obvious freedom, it is the ultimate freedom. To be free of the bondage of sin, not by force of government, as if government could even do that… rather by government making the environment conducive to the process of being truly free.

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.[b]

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[c] do what Abraham did.40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” – John 8:31-47

Holistic Hegemony Has Hope, then, is another way of saying we need to return to the principles of our founding as a nation.  We need to return to the notion that while all men are created equal, we are not guaranteed equality of outcomes.  We need to pick up the individual fight to retain the unalienable right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”, from a government that has overstepped its constitutional bounds.

The Ten Commandments

I’m never sure exactly who reads what I post.  Much of what I write is for the cathartic process of getting things off of my mind.  Other pieces are things that I’ve discovered about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–the political element.  Then, there are the discoveries I make as I pursue relationship with God though Jesus Christ.  This post is in that category.  And while I would encourage everyone to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and join me in following him, I am not naive.  Not everyone will share my my convictions.  So, this is a warning!  This piece is primarily for those who are following Jesus, and as you will see if you keep on reading, there are some decided advantages.   Yet still we seem to desire the pleasures of sin for a season, not the pleasure of heaven with Jesus forever.

You no doubt have heard the phrase, “familiarity breeds contempt”.  I have a corollary.  Familiarity breeds presumptive understanding.  Let me explain.

There is a concept called generational sin.  In simple terms, if your grandfather was a crook, and your father was a crook, chances are you are a crook as well.  This is spelled out in the Ten Commandments, “I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation” and that’s where many typically stop.  However, it goes on to say, “of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands (or to the thousandth generation) of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  (Italics and emphasis mine.)

The distinction I’ve often missed in my rush to the blessing is that the curse of generational “iniquity” or sin is limited.  Specifically, it is limited to those who hate God.  That means the chain can be broken by one generation who love God and keep his commandments.

I think the problem is that we hardly believe it, and continue living in bondage to sins in the past.  We allow them to take root, and run our lives as if this rule applied to us.  We give up hope of the victory already won, and think the battle is lost.  We allow little sins to slip by with excuses, until they become huge.  Then, we think we cannot overcome them because they are too deeply entrenched.

Do not be deceived!  While it is true that we reap what we sow, we have the power through the Holy Spirit to battle the enemy.  We have the power to realize the awfulness of sin.  And with the Spirit’s help, we can eliminate it.

Where do you start?  Might I suggest with the little ones?  Here’s an analogy.  In our backyard, we often have squirrels bury seeds, and then forget where they buried them.  Eventually those seeds become trees.  Trees we don’t want, usually!  We call them volunteers.  If I get those trees before they’re a foot tall, they come out without much effort at all.  On the other hand, if I give them a year or two to grow, I have to take a saw to them.  It is much more work.  If this analogy sounds realistic, that’s because I spent yesterday sawing down over 20 branches from these volunteers.  I hope they are sufficiently stunted so they don’t continue to grow.  But, like sin, they are stubborn things.  I’ll need to stay on top of them to keep them in control.  So it is with sin in our lives.  Give sin an inch, and it takes a mile.  So don’t give sin an inch.