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.

Good enough to fail?

Throughout history, success or failure is often determined by someone or something being where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. From sports to warfare to our personal lives, being where you are supposed to be can make a “destiny difference”.

D-DayOn June 6, 1944, the success of Operation Overlord (what we commonly refer to as D-Day) can be largely attributed to the fact that personnel and equipment were where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there.

Operation Market GardenConversely, the failure of Operation Market Garden (famously depicted in the movie A Bridge Too Far) just three months later can be blamed, in large part, on the inability to get men and supplies where they needed to be in order to support troop movements and actions. Although Operation Market Garden was actually a larger operation, it failed to meet it’s objective and expedite the end World War II.

In sports, the difference between a team winning and losing a game has often come down to a player not being in his proper place when he was needed. Super Bowls have been won and lost for this very reason.

Even in the Bible, a seemingly insignificant decision made a difference we can follow across generations.

Look at King David.

2 Samuel 11:1 says…

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war,
David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.
They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.
But David remained in Jerusalem.

“At a time when kings go off to war”.

King DavidThis would imply that David, as king and leader of the army, should have been with his army, Instead, he decided to hang back, and relax in the confines of his palace in Jerusalem. While there was not necessarily anything inherently wrong with being where he was (in his palace), by not being in his proper place, it allowed him to fall into temptation, and subsequently sin with Bathsheba. Not being where he was supposed to be opened the door for sin, and changed the destinies of Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba, David himself, and an entire nation.

Awakened by the SpiritMaybe there is nothing inherently wrong with where you are… it’s just not where you are supposed to be. For me, as a burned-out Southern Baptist preacher in 1989, a perfectly acceptable place for me to be would have been at home with my family. However, where I was supposed to be was in Glorietta, New Mexico. Being there, and my subsequent encounter with the Holy Spirit as a result, changed my future, my ministry, and my life.

So where are you supposed to be?

Are you doing a good thing, just not the right thing?

Do you always feel like there is something more — that you are missing the mark even though you are succeeding where you are?

Are you doing good enough to fail?

I’ve heard it said that “good enough is the enemy of great”. Are you in an environment that thrives on good enough, but never seems to get beyond that ceiling to the open skies of unlimited possibility?

We are called to an abundant life in Christ, not a life of mediocrity. We are called to be overcomers, not settlers. We are called to a place of destiny and purpose, not a life on the fringes. Jesus said in John 10…

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Stop giving in to the dream-thieves. Stop listening to the voices that tell you this is all there is. Stop being content to settle for good enough. Get to that place of destiny and purpose you are meant for — that you are called to— and the future God has in store for you could be something more amazing than you could have ever imagined.

The Cross and the Bystander

Chalk outline - personWe have now in America what is referred to as The Bystander Effect. This “psychological phenomenon” was brought to light on March 16, 1964 when a young woman named Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was brutally stabbed to death while walking to her apartment at Kew Gardens in Queens, New York City. A man named Winston Moseley had decided he was going to kill a woman that day, and it didn’t matter who it was. Driving around, Moseley spotted Genovese, and followed her to a parking lot. He got out of his car, and when she began to flee, he quickly caught up to her, and began stabbing her. As Genovese screamed, “Oh my God, he stabbed me! Help me!“, Moseley continued his attack. Amid her cries for help, a neighbor eventually yelled out of his window, “Let that girl alone!“, at which point Moseley fled the scene of the crime. Lying wounded and dying, not one of the estimated three dozen+ people who either heard her cries or saw the attack came to help Genovese. After ten minutes of lying there wounded, her attacker returned, and continued to stab, rape, and rob Genovese. By the time Moseley left, and help finally arrived, it was too late. Twenty-eight-year-old Kitty Genovese took her last breath en route to the hospital.

Was her life nothing to those that heard her cries
and did nothing in those early morning hours?

Wikipedia describes the Bystander Effect as…

“… a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help.”

There once was a man who walked the dusty roads of the Middle East. He was kind, compassionate, and full of wisdom. Crowds large and small gathered to hear him speak, and his words brought life and hope to those who heard. However, regardless of the words he spoke, kindness he showed, and good deeds he did, the “Establishment” hated him. He rocked the boat of their belief system, upset the apple-cart of their status-quo, and for that — they deemed — he was worthy of death. Accusations were brought, false witnesses told lies, a friend betrayed him, he was given a mockery of a trial, and sentenced to die.

But death wasn’t good enough. The Establishment needed to make an example out of him, if for no other reason, to discourage copy-cat rabble-rousers.

They began by striking him and mocking him. They blindfolded him, hit him, and made sport of his captivity. Since this cruelty wasn’t enough to elicit a response, they ramped up the abuse. He was tied to a post and whipped 39 times with a device designed to tear the flesh from his body; nine strips of leather, embedded with broken pottery, bone, metal, and any other sharp edge that would help accomplish its goal. This “scourge” was raised by the muscled arm of a soldier who showed a knack for inflicting the most pain and damage, and 39 times it fell with the ferocity of a pack of wild dogs descending upon its victim.

When he survived that unimaginable beating, the rest of his sentence of death could be carried out. The “electric chair” of that day was called a cross — a heavy beam of lumber with a cross beam. The victim would be nailed to it, forced to hang naked before the world, dying from his wounds, exposure, and asphyxiation. To add insult to injury, the soldiers tasked with his execution forced him to carry his own instrument of death through the dusty streets, being mocked, spit upon, and humiliated along the way. At one point, when he finally collapsed for the last time under its weight, the soldiers accompanying him pulled a man from the crowd, forcing him to carry the load the rest of the way to the spot of execution.

Upon arrival at a place known by the locals as “The Place of the Skull“, his cross was dropped onto the ground, and he was forced on top of it. Spreading his arms out on the cross-beam, massive spikes were driven through each wrist, with one being driven through his overlapped feet. Once it was certain he was secure, they raised the cross and dropped it into a hole in the ground, the velocity of his body weight jerking hard against the spikes.

And for six hours, Jesus hung between Heaven and Earth… and died… for you.

Chalk outline - crossIs His sacrifice nothing to you?

If you could cure AIDS, wouldn’t you want everyone to know it? If you could stop cancer, would you keep quiet? If you had the method to put an end to Alheimer’s, would you keep silent?

If you are a believer in Christ, you have a testimony.

As one saved by Jesus’ precious blood, you have an amazing story to tell.

As a Christian, you have the incredible witness of a Gospel that
transforms lives… and it is criminal to keep it to yourself.

Are the lives of those around you who are dying — lost without Jesus — nothing to you?

In a YouTube video, illusionist, comedian, and renowned atheist Penn Jillette had this to say about Christians who share their faith…

And I’ve always said, you know, that I don’t respect people that don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a Heaven and Hell, and people could be going to Hell — or not getting eternal life, or whatever — and you think that, “Well, it’s not really worth tellin’ ’em this, because it would make it socially awkward”, and atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize, “Just leave me alone. Keep your religion to yourself”… How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it —that truck was bearing down on you — there’s a certain point where I tackle you, and this is more important than that.

At Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and His triumph over death, Hell, and the grave! What better time to introduce a friend to the risen Savior that can save their soul, and transform their life. Christian, it is time to get serious about our witness. It is not enough to be a bystander, watching the masses pass by — beating a path to Hell — and waiting for someone else to tell them of Jesus’ love. He has called YOU. You are the one to tell His story. You are the one they are waiting for.

Is it nothing to you?

Maybe not… but it is EVERYTHING to them.

 

Easter header

 

Politics and The Art of Reason

With all of the recent discussion regarding the upcoming election, I thought I would chime in with a few thoughts about one of the topics that has obviously struck a nerve in our nation…

Immigration.

I have given some thought to this, and thought I would share with you a few ideas that, if I were the guy in charge, would be a part of my platform. For lack of a better term, let’s just call it the Phillips Immigration Plan.

IMG_1904VISAS

It is essential for all foreign nationals to have a visa when they are travelling to the United States, as without one they will not be allowed to enter the country.

For those who are travelling to the country for religious events (since I am a Christian pastor, and religious events are important to me) there are Christian event visas. The numbers of these that are issued each year are limited, simply due to the large numbers of people who would wish to visit. It is important to adhere to the dates which are issued on the visa as if you overstay you can be subject to fines and further delays before you can return to your home country.

For those who are planning a short visit to the U.S., it is possible to get a visitor visa, although these will be limited. In order to get a visitor visa, you would need to be invited by a company or individual as they will be your sponsor and officially responsible for you during your visit. It is the sponsor who must apply for the visa on behalf of the visitor.

It should also be noted that if you are rejected for a visa, then it would not be worth reapplying as it is unlikely that you would be reconsidered.

Visitors or workers that have a stamp from any Latin American country in their passport or any visible connection with any such country will not be allowed entry into the U.S. If you do need to travel to a Latin American country for any reason, it may be possible to ask the authorities in those countries to stamp a separate sheet of paper rather than the actual passport, so that your future travel is not limited in this way.

Residency

When a person is applying for residency in the United States, they must be in possession of a firm job offer from a company operating within the country. A residency permit will not be issued unless this is the case. It should also be noted that residency permits are rarely issued when a person is already in the country on a short stay visa. Residency permits are normally issued when the individual is still in their home country. The permit acts as an ID card and the worker must carry it with them at all times, as the authorities can request to see it at any time. Failure to comply can lead to heavy penalties.

Citizenship

Foreign citizens would very rarely be granted citizenship in the United States. This is due to the strict limits that would be placed on immigration in the U.S. For most people the only way to become a citizen would be to marry a U.S. citizen, but this is no guarantee that citizenship status can be granted, particularly if the foreign national is not a Christian. A person applying for citizenship will have to be prepared to give up their own nationality as dual nationality will not be permitted. Those who marry a U.S. citizen can later have their citizenship taken away if the marriage ends.

It is possible for the President of the U.S. to offer citizenship status to a foreign born worker if they have lived and worked in the country for a long time and their service there is considered to be exceptional. It is possible for an employer who has a good foreign worker to offer them work and residence permits that are indefinite, but there will still be an issue when the worker retires, and only employers with a great deal of influence will be able to ensure that this continues when the work stops. This is not the same as citizenship status and only gives the worker the right to live in the country.

The naturalization laws would allow expatriates to apply for citizenship. Citizenship can be granted after a vigorous assessment process, but there would be a trial period lasting for 10 years, during which the behavior of the new citizen is monitored to ensure that they continue to be of good character. Those who make false statements in order to obtain citizenship are heavily fined and their applications are instantly rejected. Those who spend a great deal of time outside the country once they have obtained citizenship may also find that it can be withdrawn.

Citizenship can only be applied for by those who have already spent 10 years working and living in the country and applicants must be living in the country when they make their application, with all the relevant visas and permits in place and valid. An applicant will also need to demonstrate a good level of proficiency in English and most will require a reference from a local pastor or clergyman to show that they are of good character and that they have integrated well into the community. An applicant who is considered to be of unsound mind will not be considered for citizenship.

Those who have a child in the United States should be aware that the child will take on the nationality of the parents and will not automatically be entitled to U.S. citizenship, unless one of the parents is a U.S. citizen. In this case the child can be given local nationality and claim a passport from that country.

So what do you think? Do I sound pretty reasonable, or pretty harsh? Some of you may agree. Some of you may think I have lost my mind.

Well, in the interest of coming clean, I have a confession to make…

This is not my immigration plan. This is not even the immigration plan of any political candidate currently running for president. These “ideas” are actual visa, residency, and immigration laws of the nation of Saudi Arabia, with a few “minor” changes…

  • Where is says “U.S.” or “United States“, substitute “Saudi Arabia”.
  • Where it says “President“, substitute “King”.
  • Where it says “English“, substitute “Arabic”.
  • Where it says “Christian“, substitute “Muslim”.
  • Where it says “local pastor or clergyman“, substitute “Imam”.
  • Where it says “Latin American country“, substitute “Israel”.

Already, during this election cycle, I have seen a lot of things said by reporters, commentators, pundits, and political hacks that, quite frankly, are somewhat disturbing. The term “low information voter” is bandied about quite loosely by some to describe anyone who disagrees with the “more informed and educated” opinions of our media elite or political ruling classes. Instead of having an honest conversation about candidates, policy, or anything else of substance, we digress into the same “gutter” we accuse politicians of operating within with name-calling, vitriol, and baseless accusations.

As Americans, we want someone who will inspire us, who will ride in on a white horse and save our society. The problem with that is, if you look in Revelation 6, the first person to ride in on a white horse is the first horseman of the Apocalypse (the Antichrist). That doesn’t end so well for humanity. Am I saying our next president will be the Antichrist? Of course not. What I am  saying is that oftentimes the person doing and saying all of the right things is not all they are cracked up to be.

As Christians, we want someone with strong faith and a deep commitment to Christ. I know that personally, I would. However, as I discussed in a previous blog post, sometimes the person God has for the job is not a Samuel, a David, or a Solomon… sometimes it is a Cyrus or a Nebuchadnezzar. The person with the best Sunday School attendance record is not necessarily the best at fiscal decisions or international crisis management.

So how do we come to terms with the person vs. the candidate?

In Isaiah 1:16-18, we find the words of the LORD…

16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,

17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool…”

In verse 18, we see God beckoning His people to come and reason together. It seems to me that, in our current political climate, we would do well to do just that. We would be wise to set aside the preconceptions and media soundbites, and reason things out.

Every election brings empty promises from candidates. I cannot think of a president in my lifetime who did not make promises he either could not, would not, or had no intention of keeping. Whether he said it merely to get elected, or had the best of intentions and simply ran into too much opposition, promises were broken. Does it make it right that every candidate does it? No, not at all. It is simply a reality of the process; to hope for the best, but often settle for something in between “best” and “unacceptable”. Truth be told, all we ever have is a person’s word (unless they are running for a second term), because they have never been in that position doing that particular job with those particular pressures. We trust and have faith that our candidate will do what he says. Besides praying, that is all we can do.

Recently, I saw someone’s post on social media regarding Donald Trump (this is not an endorsement, merely an example). One person remarked on the thread that he was a liar and a cheat. In my mind I thought, “Ok, I’ll bite. Let’s assume that he IS the liar and cheat you say he is. Where are the charges? Where is the indictment? What is the name of the DA prosecuting him for fraud and conspiracy?” They don’t exist. People simply regurgitate what they hear, without doing their own research. A lot of people don’t like Mr. Trump for some things he has said… I get that. But making unfounded and vague accusations about a person often makes you no better than the person you are criticizing.

But God beckons us to come and reason together.

Recently, I was watching a man-on-the-street interview in which the interviewer would ask people about their candidate, but would attribute a quote or stance of one candidate to another, many times being the polar opposite view. It was amazing to me to see people get behind a position simply because they thought that was the view of their candidate, instead of what they personally believed.

In my “immigration proposal”, I was making a point that whether or not you agreed with me in theory, in some places in the world (in this case, Saudi Arabia), such laws are a reality, not just far-fetched fantasy. I know first-hand, from having been to Israel numerous times, the reality of having a customs agent offer to stamp a piece of paper so as not to put an Israeli stamp in my passport. The fact is, when it comes to many things such as immigration, gun-control, and other hot-button topics, before we try passing a bunch of new legislation, we would probably do well to enforce the laws already on the books. When we devolve into factions, and compare those we disagree with to Inquisitors, Crusaders, or Nazis (without a fundamental understanding of either), instead of talking and reasoning out our differences, we cease to be a part of the solution, and double down on being a part of the problem.

Some of my staff members recently went to a banquet, during which the keynote speaker was Pastor Rick Warren. One of my staff asked him the question, “How do you deal with all of the negative press and publicity you get sometimes in the press and social media?” Pastor Warren responded that, if we are following the example of Jesus, His first response was often silence. In Proverbs 15:1 we find this advice…

A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.

So I invite you, the next time you don’t see eye to eye with a person politically, don’t turn a bad situation worse. Let your soft answer defuse the situation, and open the dialogue to the invitation of our Lord…

Come, let us reason together.

You might actually find that you have not only retained a friend, but gained a brother or sister as well.