Holding Fast Through the Updates of Life

Ron Phillips

I was in the middle of preparing a message on my iPad when all of a sudden, my session was interrupted for an Apple update. Before I thought about it, I hit the “yes” button and my device left for the netherworld of computer mystery. Now, please understand… the device had been working fine. I was satisfied with how things were going; whatever it was doing now was not needed for this tech-challenged older guy.

While awaiting for the machine to beep, light up, go off, or signal some sort of progress, my inspiration was lost. Just when I thought it was finished, I received this message…

“UPDATE FAILED… DEVICE NEEDS TO BE PLUGGED IN TO POWER.”

So, I plugged it in, and apparently the chipmunk inside this thing woke up, and began running once again on the great treadmill of computer efficiency. The waiting, the beeping, and the flashing started over again.

As a longtime sufferer from A D D, I was done. I thought, “Is all of this really necessary?” I guess, in some tech-saavy bastion of computer intelligence, it is. For me? Not so much.

As Senior Pastor of  the same church for over three decades, I am constantly getting “updates” from church growth experts, the contemporary church movement, denominations, and visitors who are only interested in the latest trend, style, or buzz words. I mean, here I am in my suit and tie being told to update my ministry. Sure, I see the numbers, and oftentimes they are bigger, better , and added quicker than ours. Huge churches with multiple sites, hip looking leaders with skinny jeans and weird hair… the slick methods are booming. The last 25 years have seemed phenomenal .

So, I am getting the signal on the computer screen of my mind to “update”.

Yet, when I look at these movements with all their positives, I have some cautions in my spirit.

  • Where is the Holy Spirit’s voice in all this?
  • Are we growing an audience or the Kingdom?
  • If these updates are so great, then why are babies still being aborted, division at its worst in decades, and minimum discomfort to the attendees?
  • Is 45 minutes start to finish what church is suppose to be? Is cultural relevance and conformity for the sake of numbers dulling the sharp edge of the sword of the spirit?
  • Have we lost touch with the New Testament call to discipleship?
  • Are we becoming fast food centers in a society that needs spiritual nutrition?

Maybe at this point in time, a reset would be a good option. While giving thanks for all the new tools we have, let us not forget our Biblical foundations. Let us not lose our ancient identity in our eagerness to be relevant . The disciples understood the fact that the church must oftentimes be the counter culture. God’s agenda is always on a collision course with secular governments and culture seeking their own path to enlightenment  apart from Him.

We are not called to conform to society.

We are called to transform society.

Our ultimate allegiance is to a greater Kingdom.

CoffeeSo, I will reset and update, but hold fast to sound teaching rooted in Scripture and ancient church traditions.

I have bought a Robert Graham shirt and some casual slacks. It hasn’t helped my looks, but it does prove that I am not a complete relic.

Pastor Ron

Justice or Judgment?

Silence in the face of extreme danger is cowardice and treason.

About two weeks ago, Iran successfully test-fired a ballistic missile that can reach all of our bases in the Middle East and Europe, as well as the nation of Israel. It is bad enough for Iran to do this since the Obama Administration-hailed nuclear agreement was enacted in January. However…

This is the third time.

MissilesThree times since January, Iran has thumbed its nose at the feckless world community, and openly continued testing its weapons of war. To add insult to injury, one of the missiles that was fired in March had the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” written on the side of it in Hebrew. The missile testing ban (in place since 2010) was lifted by the U.N Security Council as a part of the nuclear deal, being replaced by a resolution “calling on” Iran not to participate in missile testing. It would seem that the idea is, if we ask nicely, they’ll stop testing.

So how’s that working out for everyone?

D-DayOur active military forces have been diminished to their lowest point since prior to the end of World War 2. While our enemies mock us, terrorists attack us and our allies, and our economy continues to languish, President Obama and national leaders are busy wringing their hands over transgender bathrooms. It is no wonder that the American people — both Republican and Democrat — are choosing outsiders to overthrow establishment and career politicians. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan doesn’t know if he can support the Republican party’s nominee, political outsider and businessman Donald Trump. Speaker Ryan might want to take a page from history: In 2014, Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor ignored the will of the people and lost re-election to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat, in spite of a 30-point lead in the polls, and outspending Brat 40 times over.

The good will of the American people has reached a tipping point. People are fed up and disgusted with a Congress that has done little-to-nothing in the face of the disarming of America, ISIS terror, the lowest middle class income in 18 years, the worst conditions for minorities in 3 decades, $19 trillion in debt, the attack on the 2nd Amendment (gun rights), the erosion of religious liberty, and Islamic aggression.

Where is the hope and change we were promised?

In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform of hope and change. So where is it? Why have we diminished ourselves in the name of progress? Why are we no longer respected by our friends, and feared by our enemies? Our nation is in grave danger and we need a turnover and turn-around in Washington DC.

We need reform now.

  • When Bible-believing American churches are rendered mute by political correctness and cowardice, and Biblical standards are waived for cultural compromise, we need a change.
  • When a political candidate is applauded for declaring that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed” to accommodate abortion-on-demand, we need a change.
  • When the rights to privacy and safety of women and young girls is forced to take a back-seat to the “rights” of a man dressed up like a woman, we need a change.
  • When Christians are being slaughtered in other countries while America stands silently by and does little, we need change.

No amount of new community centers will help when daddies are not home, and the family unit is continually undermined. No amount of legislation can satisfy the corruption and degradation of the human heart. Political correctness and “common core” are not substitutes for the values of Judeo-Christian ethics and common sense. Liberalism, like any disease, will progress until it kills the body… there is no such thing as enough. Liberalism is slow-motion suicide for any nation.

Yet…

IMG_1304In spite of the dark clouds, I sense an uprising of Americans who are fed up and will pray, act, and bring our nation back from the brink. I see a movement that understands the beliefs that truly did make America great. I hear the voices that echo the call to freedom — physical and spiritual —  that can put us back on the rails of goodness, truth, justice, and sanity. Judgment is at the door. Our God is a God of love, compassion, and patience. However, He is also a God of truth, righteousness, and justice. In Romans 2, Paul warned the Christians in Rome…

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”:  Eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. ~ Romans 2:4-11

America cannot continue to follow the unrighteous path she is on without severe consequences. We say we are one nation under God,  but our actions don’t show it. In the face of so much disdain for His Word, God has given us time and again to repent and return to Him. This could be Americas last hope. Amos 5:15 says…

Hate evil, love good;
Establish justice in the gate.
It may be that the Lord God of hosts
Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

We His people must not be silent. We must declare His goodness and mercy to this generation. We must refuse to back down in the face of compromise. We must decide if we will establish justice at the gate, or face judgment at the gate.

It’s up to us.

Courage To Succeed

RP & PauletteMany people who read my blog are leaders in either church, community, or business. There are so many different styles and philosophies when it comes to leadership, with countless books, seminars, and self-help videos on the subject. Just typing in “leadership” on YouTube yields over 4.2 million results.

As a pastor for nearly 50 years, I have witnessed stunning changes in leadership demands.

In the first two churches I pastored, I was the ONLY paid staff member. The fact is, we did everything through the use of volunteers. As pastor, I had to look at my congregation, identify those with leadership skills, and train them how to serve in a church/ministry capacity. When I graduated from seminary, I became pastor of a church in a rural area that was rapidly becoming suburban, with a lot of growth potential. There, I had two part-time secretaries and one part-time custodian. My staff was all volunteers… Richard Wilson, a court reporter, led our choir and music. A young businessman by the name of Jim McGriff led our student ministry and student choir. An architect was our education director. Our church grew to over 500 in attendance with no paid staff.

Today, I lead a church with over 100 paid staff members, yet the leadership principles we operate by are the same for both paid staff and volunteers. Moreover, these principles and the truths contained therein are not confined to the church-house. They also apply to the business world and, for that matter, any endeavor in life that involves people.

So how can a leader truly succeed?

  1. There must be a clearly defined vision. The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18). No one wants to follow a guide who doesn’t know where they are going. If there is no definable end-result for your organization (church), your vision (or lack thereof) has doomed it from the start.
  2. There must be defined goals. No runner is going to simply wake up one day and run a marathon. It takes months of preparation with goals along the way. If you are driving from Atlanta, GA to Chattanooga, TN up I-75, when you get to Dalton, GA, you know you are only about 25-30 minutes away from your destination. Leading your organization is no different. You must have, not just the end in sight, but landmarks and achievable goals along the way. It helps to eliminate the frustration of following blindly on the part of those you are leading, as well as your leadership team having to endure the constant cries of, “Are we there yet?!?!?!?”
  3. There must be measurable accountability. “Just because I said so,” may be reason enough for a three-year-old to clean their room, but generally does not suffice when it comes to running an organization and motivating adults. There must be a clear chain of accountability for actions and decisions, and that accountability has to be modeled from the top down. Remember the old saying… Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  4. Leadership1There must be a culture of mutual honor, respect, and teamwork. You cannot be an effective leader from a high and lofty towerFormer President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” A businessman in my church once told me that “I don’t ask anyone to do something I either haven’t done, or wouldn’t do myself. The people who work for me will do anything for me for one simple reason — because they know I will do anything for them.” Treating people with respect, honoring their time by being prompt and on-time, being forthright and honest, approaching each task with a well-thought-out plan, being conservative with criticism and liberal with praise, letting each individual know how important they are to the organization — all of these things help to build an atmosphere that goes beyond teamwork… it creates the atmosphere of family.
  5. There must be a focus on goals, and the steps to achieve them. While looking at the “big picture” can give you a sense of importance and meaning, most people work best with goals that are progressive, logical, and attainable. Make the goals clear for your team. Clearly explain the steps it takes to achieve each goal. Give them the tools they need to be successful for each step in the process. Encourage them to focus on the goal immediately in front of them, and not fixate on the enormity of the “big picture.”
  6. Hands togetherThere must be disciplined financial principles that include healthy revenue streams, careful spending, and total accountability. Most organizations crumble because of financial woes. Bad financial planning (insufficient funding), mismanagement, and dishonesty are just a few ways financial problems can doom an organization. Being disciplined with how you spend, how you manage growth, and how you invest your resources will go a long way toward giving you a healthy bottom-line. Being realistic about projections, operating within a well-defined budget, and being an “open book” when it comes to accountability will not only give you a reputation for integrity, but can also provide others with confidence in investing in or donating to your organization.
  7. There must be flexibility and a willingness to change. Change is inevitable. Change is unrelenting. Change is coming, whether we like it or not. George Bernard Shaw once said,Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” If you want to progress with your organization, being flexible to the changing winds of public needs, technology, and the direction of your industry are essential. Keeping an open mind about new innovations and ideas is the only way to survive having your methods bent to the breaking point. Being forward-thinking to the future needs of your market, and being able to adapt quickly can mean the difference between extinction, survival, and success. C.S. Lewis made this observation…

     

    It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

     

  8. There must be a strong prayer ministry and a sense of God’s leadership.  My thought process for this point comes from my years in the pastorate and ministry. As a believer in Christ, our life in Him should permeate all we are and do. There should always be an attitude of prayer, as well as a desire for God’s direction when it comes to the life and direction of your organization (church). True Christianity is not just a religion or thought process — it is an all-encompassing immersion into the life and death of Christ, and surrender to the control of the Holy Spirit.  There should never be a time when we operate separate from that reality. There should never be a decision made that is not bathed in prayer, with our spiritual ears open to hearing from Heaven for wisdom and guidance. The realization that all we are and have is God’s should motivate, inspire, and guide us in every facet of business, ministry, and life.Creación_de_Adám hands

I hope that embracing these steps will give you the courage to change, the desire for more for you and your organization, and the tools to encourage those in your circle of influence to live life ready to succeed.

Pastor Ron

At What Cost?

SilverA  few weeks ago, there was a segment on the news where a dozen people were offered – for free – a Hershey chocolate bar or a ten ounce bar of silver. All of them took the candy. The candy bar was worth a dollar or two. The silver bar was worth $142.00 at spot prices on that day. People did not know the value of what was before them.  There is a segment on the TV show The O’Reilly Factor (with Bill O’Reilly) called Watters’ World. In this segment, Jesse Watters asks people on the street simple questions about current events, history, and politics. Although often humorous, it is sad that people are so ill informed about this great country in which they live, and — not just our history — but current events as well.

I have just finished extensive research on a number of issues affecting the future of our civilization and culture…issues like abortion, homosexual lifestyle and marriage, global warming, freedom of religion, governmental cover ups , hidden political agendas, the influence of secret societies , the threat of Islamic terror, and Israel’s right to exist. What has blown me away is that even when presented with irrefutable facts and credible evidence, people STILL believe propaganda, Internet hoaxes, and deceptive talking points. As Isaiah has said, “Truth has fallen in the streets“.

Bathroom signNow we have a socialist being supported by the majority of college students and young adults in the presidential election. We have people worried about transgender bathrooms and the news media making it a big story, while ignoring the slaughter of 250 Christian  women and girls in Mosul, a 16 year old beaten to death in an American high school, wild and godless gangs making our cities killing fields, the influx of Islamic radicals, the silencing of a middle school choir singing our National Anthem near the 9/11 memorial, and the continued murder of the unborn through abortion.

As darkness falls on our nation, we are choosing the temporary over the eternal, the trivial over the important, and evil over good. Even ministers and church folk are drinking the “Kool-aid” of ignorance.

While Russia was falling to the Bolsheviks, the Russian church was discussing the trim on their vestments. While our society plunges deeper and deeper into depravity and destruction, the church is busy splitting hairs over worship styles, the color of hymnbooks, and any number of peripheral issues that matter not one iota in the grand scheme of eternity. This is a critical year for Western civilization and our Judeo-Christian heritage, and we in the church of Jesus Christ need to recognize these perilous times for exactly what they are.

Dachau 2Several years ago, I was in Germany where we visited the Dachau Concentration Camp. Our host was telling us the story of when the camp was liberated by the Allies in April of 1945. When the liberating force confronted the citizens in the surrounding area about the horrific camp, the people claimed ignorance. “We didn’t know” was their excuse.

The commander of the Allied company pointed to the ash in the air and the smell of burnt human corpses emanating from the ovens that had been burning the bodies of the deceased…

“How could you NOT know?” was his alleged response.

Grave2aSo, I ask the same question… How can we NOT know? How can we not see the truth in front of our eyes? How can we continue to ignore the desperation of the times in which we live? How can we not see the writing on the wall, holding us accountable for our silence while our society slips further into the abyss? We will one day stand before a Holy God and, when asked about all of the souls we allowed to pass into a godless eternity, “We didn’t know” will not be an adequate response.

Chalk outline - crossTo hold to the truth of scripture is to be called a bigot. To have a problem with a grown man sharing a bathroom with a young girl is being “intolerant”. To demand that our leaders protect our borders is being “racist”. We are living to see our culture “calling good evil and evil good…” God issued a warning of “woe” to come on such. The worst of it is the awful silence in the contemporary pulpit — the failure to warn the nation. I for one will inform the uninformed, call sin by its proper name, and declare that people need to be saved. I will stand by the truth that the church cannot embrace the lies of culture and remain authentic. We must bear the scandal of the cross  and refuse to be silent in the face of evil. We must care enough to speak the truth regardless of how we may be labelled —  bigot, homophobe, racist, intolerant. Satan and his forces are stalking our families and communities. It is time to stop letting a liberal culture and media define us for simply believing in something and Someone. It’s time to stop being afraid of “ugly names” and start fearing for the souls of lost men and women heading into a hopeless eternity.

It is PAST time for the Church to rise up with the Word of Truth and go to war against ”the lie”.

At what cost will we keep silent?

 

Pastor Ron

The One

woman in depression

A while back, I saw the story of a man who was discussing his childhood. He revealed the fact that he had been brought up in a family that attended church fairly regularly. As this boy grew older, he became inquisitive about things of faith, the Bible, and the concept of God. His inquiries took a darker tone of skepticism, and he challenged the belief system being taught at his church. I would love to say that the leadership of that church reached out to him, and tried to guide him in a path to faith. According to his account, that was not what happened…

The adult leaders in the church sent him home, and asked his parents not to bring him back. This man is now a very outspoken atheist who mocks the existence of God, the accounts of the Bible, and the idea of faith.

Such a sad story. As a pastor for nearly five decades, I wish I could say that this story was an isolated incident. I wish I could say that such things happen so seldom that it can merely be defined as an anomaly. It’s just not the case.

The fact is that this story is repeated all too often, and often with much more tragic results. We all have a desire to belong, but for the formative years of adolescence, this time is critical in developing peer groups, self-worth, and core belief systems. Children gravitate to acceptance. The desire to be loved and accepted can never be discounted or marginalized. For everyone, that desire looks a little different. In schools, the outlet to fit in takes the form of clubs, special interest groups and elective classes such as music, art, etc. In schools and rec leagues, young people participate in sports because of mutual interests, camaraderie, and the desire to be a part of a team. We all want to belong.

The church has something for everyone, and all are accepted. Unfortunately, oftentimes our actions don’t bear out this fact. Sometimes, we don’t reach out to everyone the way we should. Sometimes, people fall through the cracks. Sometimes, someone leaves the church and their absence goes — for weeks — unnoticed. Sometimes we categorize people based on social standing, stereotype, or limited perception, and never take the time to find out who the person inside really is.

I have a friend who spent many of his school years in Christian schools. He once told me that some of the kids who acted out the most, and were the ones most often in trouble, were the preachers’ kids. Sometimes, the ones who we think should be the examples of obedience and Godliness are the ones struggling the most with acceptance and trying to deal with the unrealistic expectations of others. I know the struggles my own children faced being “preacher’s kids”. There is no “yellow brick road” of ease promised to any of us, regardless of our lot in life. Our struggles may look different, but they are struggles nonetheless. Anyone from any strata of society can be “The One”.

So how do we deal with it? In the end, does God put those we helped in one column, and those we lost in another, and if the gains outnumber the losses, we’re ok in His eyes? Is our success ratio the golden standard? Do we write off “acceptable losses”, and pat ourselves on the back for the majority we kept in the fold?

Good ShepherdNot according to the Bible. In Luke 15, Jesus tells us a story…

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying:

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

To the Good Shepherd, all of his sheep were of equal importance. To him, there was not an acceptable win/loss ratio. To him, getting back the one was just as important as staying put with the ninety-nine, and making sure they were ok. For many of us, we would focus and feel good about the ninety-nine we saved. To the Good Shepherd, however, his focus was on the one… any loss was unacceptable.

In the movie Schindler’s ListOskar Schindler is saying goodbye to the Jews he saved. The Jews had made him a gold ring. On it was an inscription from the Talmud that read, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” As Schindler begins to speak, he breaks down in tears…

Oskar Schindler:   I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don’t know. If I’d just… I could have got more.

Itzhak Stern:   Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.

Schindler:   If I’d made more money… I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I’d just…

Stern:   There will be generations because of what you did.

Schindler:   I didn’t do enough!

Stern:   You did so much.

Schindler:   This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.

Schindler:  This pin (referring to Nazi party pin). Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. He would have given me one. One more… One more person. A person, Stern. For this… I could have gotten one more person… and I didn’t! And I… I didn’t! (breaks down sobbing)

NE ChurchFriend, when was the last time you mourned for the lost? When was the last time your heart broke for those emotionally wounded and bleeding souls who came across your path — possibly through the doors of your church — and left untouched and unchanged? For the Good Shepherd, his reaction was immediate. He didn’t wait until it was convenient. He didn’t wait until he had gotten the ninety-nine to the safety of a barn or pen; the Bible says that he left the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and went after the one. I think the Good Shepherd understood that time was of the essence, and saving the one depended upon his deliberate and swift action.

So who is the one for you? Who is the one that God has put in your path that needs a friend, an advocate, or a Saviour? We may say, “The mistake people make is judging Jesus by His followers.” That is true. However, as His followers, it doesn’t let us off the hook of trying to be like Him, and love people the way He does.

Look around you today.

Identify The One.

Go after them. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Listen to them. Talk to them. Make a difference in their life.

Blessings,
Pastor Ron

A Tired Mind Revisited

It was almost three years ago when I penned this blog, which was based on a sermon I had preached a few years before. During this election year, we have much to consider when picking our candidates, and I thought this blog post was a good reminder — and a warning — of where we have come from, where we are, and what it will take to return to the path of righteousness.

With that, I give you Confessions of a Tired Mind…

Next week, we will celebrate our nation’s 237th birthday. I find it ironic that, just yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that chips away yet another stone in the foundation of Godliness that this country was built upon. As I witness the erosion of the greatness of America – a land that I love and still believe to be great – I must admit to you…

I’m tired.

IMG_1905I’m tired of the LGBT agenda that is being forced upon the American people. Understand me when I say that I don’t believe that anyone should be threatened, abused, or discriminated against because of their lifestyle. However, I do not believe that churches should have to hire someone that promotes a lifestyle contrary to our biblical world view, or be forced to affirm perversion as a “civil right”. While members of the LGBT community should not be oppressed or mistreated, neither should those of us who believe that their lifestyle is a sin be forced to agree with their choices. If you can’t “legislate morality from the (court) bench”, you shouldn’t be able to legislate immorality either.

I’m tired of abortion being called a choice when it means the death of an unborn child. Where was the child’s choice in the matter?

Pine Ridge1I’m tired of we, the American taxpayers, being robbed to support leftist causes and wasteful governmental agencies. It infuriates me to see our tax dollars go to failed and failing “green” companies (remember Solyndra) and other “pet
projects and programs”, as well as paying for silly videos, lavish parties, and non-sensical conferences for corrupt government agencies. Contrast this waste with the poverty in places like the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and it is even more maddening.

I’m tired of government leaders apologizing for America to third-rate terrorist countries and dictators. I still believe in the greatness of our nation, and don’t believe that is something we need to apologize for.

I’m tired of the assault on our Judeo-Christian heritage, history revisionism, and the mocking of every accomplished conservative by a leftist media that holds up semi-literate celebrities as icons of virtue and wisdom. While the truth of God’s Word may not be popular to some, it is still truth… and that is something I will not apologize for.

I’m tired of “reverends” who value political correctness over biblical authority.

I’m tired of the abuse of our welfare system. I believe that the aged, infirmed, and disabled need our help. Their needs are legitimate. However, the abuses of the entitlement system have to end. As the late Adrian Rogers once said…

“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.”

In addition, I’m tired of a government that will not take care of the brave men and women of our military who have kept us safe for decades on end. I’m tired of people who are here illegally, as well as countries that hate us, being shown more respect — and being better taken care of financially — than our veterans.

Coptic ChristiansI’m tired of Islamic terrorists being called moderates. When I was young and growing up in the South, there was a religious organization that committed acts of terror in the name of God. They were called the Ku Klux Klan. Yet, the church rose up against them and said, “You’re not Christian… You’re wrong.” It’s time for any moderate Muslims to rise up, call these terrorists for what they are, and affirm the right for Israel to exist in peace.

But you know what? While I may be tired, I still have hope.

IMG_5209I am still proud when I hear the sound of our National Anthem being sung at a sporting event.

I am still humbled when I see a brave soldier in uniform in the airport, coming from or going to the far reaches of the world to defend freedom.

I am still moved at the sight of our flag, “Old Glory”, waving in a warm summer breeze.

I still believe that our nation is not beyond hope when I hear the words…

If my people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. ~ II Chronicles 7:14

I believe in the greatness of America. I believe that if we turn our faces in repentance toward God, He will heal our land, and give us “a new birth of freedom”.

Long may our land be bright,
With freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.

God bless America!

(Adapted from the message, “Freedom’s Holy Light – Part 1”)

Truth: Living Beyond Our Expectations

Creación_de_Adám hands

We’ve all heard it said, from parents, grandparents, and probably countless episodes of The Waltons or Little House On The Prairie…

“A man’s word is his bond.”

There was a time, not too long ago, in which honesty was valued, commended, and expected. Here was some thoughts about honesty from some people more famous than I am…

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. ~ Thomas Jefferson

No legacy is so rich as honesty. ~ William Shakespeare

The high road is always respected.
Honesty and integrity are always rewarded. ~ Scott Hamilton

Fear1Dishonesty has been around since the Garden of Eden. Original sin was the result of dishonesty and deception, when the serpent enticed Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. Since then, men have cajoled and connived their way through history. And while there was a time in the not-too-distant past when honesty was put up on a pedestal as the “golden standard” by which we should live, society began to take a much more cynical view of this virtue…

All men profess honesty as long as they can. To believe all men honest would be folly. To believe none so is something worse.~ John Quincy Adams

The most important thing in acting is honesty.
If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. ~ George Burns

In his song Honesty, singer/songwriter Billy Joel made this appeal…

But I don’t want some pretty face
To tell me pretty lies.
All I want is someone to believe.

Candidate XSomeone to believe. We all desire to be spoken the truth.Whether it is a doctor giving us a diagnosis, a politician making campaign promises, or a child explaining how the expensive vase ended up on the floor in a thousand pieces, we all want people to be straight with us. The fact is, however, that we have become accustomed to much less. In politics, lies and “back-room deals” have become expected, and we have grown too complacent to alter the modus operandi. On television, we see dishonesty given a pass — even glorified — as long as it serves some noble purpose, whether on a sitcom or the nightly news. As a pastor, I cannot tell you how many marriages and families I have seen torn apart because of dishonesty and deception.

So what does God’s Word have to say about honesty and truth?

In Psalms 15:1-2, the psalmist writes…

Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
    He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart…

In 1 John 5:20, we find that truth is a very attribute of who God is…

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

After David’s sin with Bathsheba, as he repented in Psalm 51, he says this in verse 6…

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

In John 4:23-24, Jesus tells us what true worship looks like…

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Throughout Scripture, God puts a pretty high value on truth.

So why should we settle for less in our lives, homes, churches, communities, and government?

CoffeeI would contend that we are not too far gone. I would argue that we are not beyond expecting truth — regardless of how painful — from those around us. Getting back to a place of truth and honesty might be painful for a season, but once we you get there with God’s help, and make that your expectation,  you will be amazed at the freedom that accompanies truth. As the saying goes… “The truth will set you free!”

So friend, I encourage you… get back to the truth. Live it. Walk in it. Operate in it. Find the freedom that is yours in Christ through living a life as He did… in truth.

I leave you with a quote by the late Zig Ziglar…

Honesty and integrity are absolutely essential for success in life – all areas of life. The really good news is that anyone can develop both honesty and integrity.