Recently, I’ve been learning from God about grace. Among many things the Lord has taught me is that we have a tendency to restrict grace. In the story of the prodigal son, the words “far country“ and “great way off” are essentially the same in Greek. The father’s loving gaze and grace extended all the way to the place of wrong choices, waste, and ultimately to the pig pen. Our Father’s patience, grace, and loving welcome waits on the worst of us to come to ourselves and come home. How many of us can extend grace for the long wait? How many of us are willing to hang in their with a “prodigal” until the journey leads a friend home?
It’s easy to extend grace to someone we care about, love, and want the absolute best for. But is grace just for those we like and those who like us? Is grace prejudiced? Is grace for those who act like we think they ought to act?
Am I hearing a crucified Savior saying of His executioners, “Father, forgive them”? After all… Jesus scandalized the religious crowd by eating with sinners and being called a friend of sinners. Obviously, He had affection and compassion for those that society did not hold in regard. But to forgive and show grace to hypocritical religious types? What could Jesus have been thinking???
The apostle Paul may have hit the nail on the head when he said, “He made Himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7). Jesus wasn’t worried about His reputation, about who He was seen with, or who He socialized with. He wasn’t interested in winning a popularity contest. He was concerned with winning the souls of men through grace, and pointing them to God, regardless of what that did to His reputation with the It crowd.
For me, this grace thing is easy to talk about but hard to do.
How about you?
What limits do we put on grace? Sure, I know Romans 5:20 – 6:2a…
Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound.
But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Maybe what Paul is reiterating is that only God has the right to set boundaries on grace. After all, it doesn’t say ”Ron forbid” — it says “God forbid”. Probably good advice for all of us.
Well, just some stuff I am learning at 70… grace to you and me!
Billboards have long been a fixture across the landscape of our country. Just drive down nearly any state highway or interstate, and you will be witness to massive advertisements for any number of businesses, products, services, or causes. From ads for fast food to political candidates to massive marriage proposals, people use billboards to communicate any number of products and ideas.
And in my 70 years on this earth, I don’t ever recall a single time I passed a billboard and witnessed an individual standing on the side of the road, screaming at that billboard while waving a picket sign. A billboard must meet certain community standards in order to be erected in the first place. I see any number of billboards on a daily basis that are advertising something I don’t necessarily agree (or disagree) with.
When I see these, I do what all normal people do… I just keep driving. I don’t stop and scream at the billboard. I stay in my car, maintain my speed, and have probably forgotten about it within a mile.
Wouldn’t it be great if people viewed what they see on the internet and social media the same way they view billboards?
It never ceases to amaze me, the time and energy people put into running something down that they disagree with on the web. In a letter he wrote in 1946, Albert Einstein said something almost prophetic…
“I believe that the abominable deterioration of ethical standards stems primarily from the mechanization and depersonalization of our lives — a disastrous byproduct of science and technology. Nostra Culpa (our fault)!”
Even in 1946 — long before home computers, digital technology, and the internet — Einstein saw technology “depersonalizing” our lives as individuals, and the way we interact with each other. Today we witness people say and do things on the internet — and when I say ‘internet’, I am including social media — that they would never have done even 25 years ago. We see “digital courage” on display on a regular basis; people hiding behind a computer screen, espousing their particular brand of hatred and vitriol from the safety of their bedroom… things they would never dream of saying to another person’s face.
Recently, our church had what we called All American Day. Our church has a long history of patriotic events, dating back over 30 years. I love this country, and I am thankful for the grace God has shown us over the last nearly 250 years. I believe the blessings of God on our nation are worth celebrating. This year, we invited former presidential candidate Governor Mike Huckabee to be our guest speaker. Subsequently, we did a little advertising on social media to promote the event. The text of the ad read…
Governor Mike Huckabee will be speaking this Sunday at Abba’s House in Hixson! Join us for patriotic music and an inspiring message by Gov. Huckabee! The service begins at 10:30am. Abba’s House is located at 5208 Hixson Pike.
No political agenda. No partisanship. No campaigning for a candidate. A former governor, who happens to be a Christian, was speaking about our nation.
What ensued over the next few days was a series of ill-informed, uneducated, judgmental, and even vile posts by people who disagreed with or disliked the idea Governor Huckabee was speaking at our church. While there were many posts that were positive and/or neutral, many crossed the line into absurdity and profanity that we would not even allow on the page. People launched into uninformed and unfounded personal attacks on Governor Huckabee. Others launched into attacks on President Trump. Still others became “Constitutional scholars”, and launched into arguments about the First Amendment, separation of church and state, and the Johnson Amendment (calling into question our church’s tax-exempt status). I even had one person who proceeded to attack a speaker who spoke at our church several years ago (in an event that was not even sponsored by our church) who has no affiliation to politics, Mike Huckabee, or President Trump.
But what was probably the most disheartening were the attacks commentors made on other commentors, calling them childish and profane names, and belittling total strangers for being hopeful about our nation and our future.
Now normally I don’t respond to comments and criticisms, particularly on my blog. This “conversation”, however, goes to a bigger issue: Decency. I am used to criticism; I’m a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so in a world that is hostile to Him, it comes with the territory. What gets me, though, is the way people instantly become experts about everything they disagree with, which amplifies the idea that, as a believer in Jesus Christ, trying to “fit in” in such a world is not possible.
Here are a few fast facts pertaining to these posts…
Former-governor Huckabee is no longer a political candidate. The fact is, before he was Governor Mike Huckabee, he was Pastor Mike Huckabee. More than a decade before he entered politics, he was the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church. One of his former bosses, evangelist James Robison, once said of him…
“His convictions shape his character and his character will shape his policies. His whole life has been shaped by moral absolutes.”
The Johnson Amendment (regarding political speech from a pulpit), has to do with the endorsement of a political candidate. Since Mr. Huckabee is neither (at this writing) a political candidate nor endorsing one, this really was a non-issue. In fact, all one has to do is a simple YouTube search, and you will find a variety of politicians (and candidates) who have spoken in churches, from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and President Donald Trump.
There were several comments about the First Amendment and “separation of church and state.” The fact is that the term “separation of church and state” is not in the First Amendment, or in the Constitution at all for that matter. The phrase separation of church and state came from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Baptist Association of Danbury Connecticut. The actual text of the First Amendment of the Constitution reads as follows…
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.
While the First Amendment was never meant to keep the Church out of the State, but in fact, to keep the State out of the Church, liberal interpretations of the First Amendment, combined with a mis-interpretation (lack of context) of Jefferson’s words have led us to where we are today. The fact is, Jefferson’s own writings (as well as the writings of many of the founding fathers) bear witness to not only his belief in God, and to his belief that our liberties as a nation are a gift from God. Does it really stand to reason that we should eliminate, from our public life, the very God credited with making our public life, as we know it, possible?
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
~ Thomas Jefferson
In the social media posts, the word “hypocrite” was bandied about quite a bit. The fact of the matter is, hypocrisy is, by definition, the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. The fact is, nearly everyone exhibits hypocrisy in some form or fashion (if you claim to be a law-abiding citizen, yet you speed, you are, by definition a hypocrite). But here again, for the believer in Christ, fighting against the labels the world attempts to put on us is an untenable position; if we stand unwavering on the tenants of Scripture, particularly with regard to issues of morality, we are labelled “intolerant, bigots, homophobic, judgmental,” etc. But the same people who use such terms to describe people who stand on their Christian moral standards and beliefs are as equally unforgiving of any Christian who appears hypocritical in any way, form, or fashion. Essentially the argument is, “You are going to criticize me if my Christian belief system is counter to your political, social, or moral ideology (ie: if I am NOT a hypocrite), but you are going to criticize me for being a hypocrite if I don’t live my life perfectly in keeping with what I claim to believe.” Are you seeing the absurdity here, in trying to please those who you are never going to please?
I could go on for days, but I would like to bring this all back to the bigger issue I alluded to…
While there will always be critics and naysayers, regardless of the topic, there should be an understanding that such “dialogue” is not the acceptable norm. There should be a way, in civil society, that we can “disagree without being disagreeable”, and respond to each other with dignity and respect. It seems that the more tech-saavy we become, the less decent we act. We should be able to have public discourse without the need to go to verbal war. We should be able to have honest debate without vitriolic hate. In the Bible, James implores the believer…
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. ~ James 1:19-20
In Proverbs, we find this truth…
A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. ~ Proverbs 15:1-2
Someone much wiser than me wrote that. It seems like pretty good advice for all of us. We can be uncompromising in our beliefs without being uncharitable in our speech. We should all strive to be passionate about our convictions without being profane in our words and attitude. It is possible to strongly disagree, but do so with unquestionable love, or at least civility.
Maybe it’s time to view social media the same way we view bilboards…
Anyone who knows me knows how much I care about this country. Throughout my 50+ years of ministry, I have desired for America to come back to God, and for revival to once again burn like a wildfire in our land. I know that, in order for that to happen, it takes the people of God getting up off of their pews, out into their communities, and sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all who will hear.
Another thing that it takes for revival to happen is for men and women of God to stand in the public square, and to proclaim unashamedly that Jesus is Lord, that right is right and wrong is wrong, and to be champions of truth, the poor and the unborn, and to be a voice against the ungodliness that has leeched into the walls and halls of our government.
Governor Mike Huckabee is such a man.
This Sunday is going to be a special time at Abba’s House as we welcome Governor Huckabee for 🇺🇸All–AmericanDay🇺🇸. There will be stars and stripes, Patriotic music by our choir and orchestra, fireworks, and a special word for this hour by Governor Huckabee.
So join us THIS SUNDAY (July 2) at Abba’s House for 🇺🇸All–AmericanDay🇺🇸! I would love for you to be my special guest. Service begins at 10:30am.
P.S. If you can make it earlier, come at 9:15 and check out our LifeGroups. There’s always room for one more, and you’re always welcome atAbba’s House!
Contemplate, if you will, this quote by the late C.S. Lewis…
“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.”
Why do we find forgiveness to be such a difficult thing? Does it come from our need to be right? Is it born of our desire to “one-up” someone who has wronged us? What is it about a lack of forgiveness that makes us feel superior?
A friend once said that, “It was easy for me to be unforgiving until I was the one needing forgiveness”. In Matthew 18, Jesus is painfully clear what judgment awaits the person who does not forgive “from the heart”.
Unforgiveness is like being locked in a prison cell, with the keys sitting within your reach. Forgiveness unlocks the doors, and sets ALL of the prisoners free.
Is holding on to unforgiveness against the one who has wronged you worth sacrificing true joy?
Let it go, and find the freedom God has waiting for you.
In the 1965 Charles Schultz classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, there is a very famous exchange between Charlie Brown and his street-corner counselor, Lucy Van Pelt…
Lucy: Are you afraid of responsibility? If you are, then you have hypengyophobia.
Charlie Brown: I don’t think that’s quite it.
Lucy: How about cats? If you’re afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia.
Charlie Brown: Well, sort of, but I’m not sure…
Lucy: Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?
Charlie Brown: What’s pantophobia?
Lucy: The fear of everything.
Charlie Brown: THAT’S IT!!!!!
Fear is a magnet to demons. Fear will draw in the enemy, and will bring to pass the thing you have spoken out of your mouth. You need to understand that fear is not only an emotion, it is a spirit. In 2 Timothy 1:7 we read, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.”
Friend, it’s time to recognize your fears.
What fears flood and bring failure to your life? It is time to take a close look at your mind and see what fears may exist there.
Every day I meet people who are afraid to live life to its fullest. This fear is one of the first to ever show its face in this world. Right after Adam and Eve fell into sin, God showed up to speak to them. In Genesis 3:10 Adam admitted to God, “I heard Your voice in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.” He couldn’t even go through his normal routines there in the garden!
Perhaps you’re afraid that people will find out who you really are and then shun you. You are afraid that some of the things that you’ve done that are between you and God may come out. You live in fear of the truth. However, if there is any place in the world that you ought to be able to live a transparent life, it ought to be in the church. You ought to be able to surface your difficulties and your failures and have them dealt with in safety there.
The impact of fear reaches beyond spiritual issues; it can also affect your job. Perhaps you are afraid to take the next step for advancement. Maybe you fear going into management because you’re afraid the responsibility will be bigger than anything you’ve ever known. The comfort zone is preferred over progress. Someone reading here may have birthed a wonderful idea but you won’t take a risk because you so deeply fear failure.
History tells us that Abraham Lincoln lost every election he ran in except for when he ran for president. What if he had quit? We would not have had one of our greatest presidents. There are those who are paralyzed by the fear of getting up in the morning and just going about the chores of life. I want to challenge you to break this spirit and believe that you can be everything God has created you to be and more.
Hebrews 2:14-15 says that “Jesus was manifested that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject unto bondage.” Many people sustain a powerful fear of dying. I believe that’s why about 65% of our hospital dollars are going to give people tests for diseases they don’t have. Many people wake up nightly short of breath, and they actually are suffering from night terrors, a demonic attack on basic health.
If you are saved, why should you be afraid of dying? Philippians 1:21 should be the Christian’s boast, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Heaven is not a thing to be feared. I’ve heard people say, “You know, I want to go to heaven, but I’m not ready if there is a trip going out tonight.” Well, I’m ready to go today. I would miss my family, and they would miss me terribly. But after Jesus died on the cross and then arose from the tomb, He lit up the corridors of death forever. I don’t have to be afraid. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me,” said David in Psalm 23. Even in death, we are not alone.
Fearing the Enemy
Psalm 31:13-15 should be the proper response when you are facing the enemy, “I hear the slander of many. Fear is on every side, while they take counsel together against me and scheme to take away my life, but as for me, I trust in you, O Lord. I say you are my God. My times are in your hand. Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.”
I don’t have to be afraid of the devil or his emissaries that wear skin here on the earth. Jesus spoiled principalities and powers. He ripped the astro-deities from their thrones and exposed the enemy. I don’t have to be afraid of a tarot card, or a horoscope. I don’t need to call a psychic to find out what is going to happen tomorrow. I boast with the psalmist David in Psalm 31, “My times are in His hands.”
This fear is a powerful one for many. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” Is there somebody in your life that when you see them fear rises up in your spirit? Is there something in you that has you agreeing with people when you know they are wrong, simply because you are afraid of what they will think of you? Have you ever gone along with people and done things you know you shouldn’t do just because of fear that they might think badly of you?
This fear of man is something that really grips our young people today. Peer pressure, a fear of what friends think, can take over their lives. The fear of being different, the fear of what other people think—these can be so strong. I’m not telling you that you ought to be obnoxious, but the honest truth is that it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks but God. Young people and adults alike need to quit allowing the fear of man to hinder what God wants to do in their lives.
People are afraid that their lives won’t count for anything. I think of Genesis 15 and the story of Abraham. Here’s old Abram, he has left fame and fortune in Ur of the Chaldees, left his beautiful home and is living in a tent. Out here, nobody knows who he is. In Genesis 15:1 it says, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision saying, ‘Do not be afraid. I am your shield and your exceedingly great reward.’”
You said, “Well, I didn’t win ‘Employee of the Month’ even though I deserved it.” But God saw it, and He took account of your stewardship. You say, “Nobody has ever given me a plaque. Nobody appreciates what I do.” I want to tell you, your great reward is God.
I remind you of the story of the woman who broke the alabaster box and wept over Jesus’ feet. Nobody really knows what her name is; some scholars believe it was Mary. What we do know for sure: Jesus appreciated what she did. We also don’t know the widow’s name that stepped up to the temple offering box and threw in the “widow’s mite”, all of her living, but Jesus knows her name, and she is significant and important to Him.
One day you are going to get to heaven and you are going to find out everything you sowed into this life is still over there. You sowed it into His work. Embrace the understanding that Jesus Christ is the one who can make your life last forever.
Fearing the Future
“I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace
and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11
You don’t have to be afraid of what is going to happen tomorrow. Once you know the Lord Jesus Christ, the fear of the future can leave.
When my son, Ronnie, Jr. was a little boy, he loved to go with me on errands. Even when he was four or five years old, he would eagerly jump into the passenger seat even if it were a quick trip. Looking back, I think it is significant that not once did he say, “Daddy, do you have enough gas in the car?” “Daddy, do you have any money with you?” “Daddy, do you really know the directions to where are we going?”
You see, he didn’t have to ask those questions. He put his little hand in my hand, and that was all he needed. He was ready to go, because he trusted me. He knew that if he was with me, his needs would be met in abundance. Whether it was a soda from the gas station or a quick trip through fast food drive-through, he knew he wouldn’t go hungry on our trip. If he needed a restroom, Daddy would find one. And he could trust that Daddy would know the way back home when it was time.
I can’t predict to you what will happen in your future. But, I can tell you this, as a believer, what is waiting for you in eternity is wonderful and you don’t have to worry.
My co-host on Ron Phillips from Abba’s House, Angie McGregor, wrote this beautiful song about conquering fear. Listen, and let the fear melt away…
For about 240 years, Americans have shed their blood for the cause of freedom.
From places like Lexington and Concord to Gettysburg to Appomattox Station, the blood of patriots has been shed on American soil, fighting for a young nation’s heart and soul.
When the United States had established itself as a world power, our brave men and women were once again called upon, and shed their blood fighting against dictators and tyrants with
names like Mussolini, Hirohito, and Hitler.
While American citizens enjoyed the safety and security of life at home in places like Wichita, Dallas, Boston, and Tacoma, American soldiers gave their lives in previously unheard of places with names like Chochiwon, Ia Drang, Haditha, and Kamdesh.
On Memorial Day, we honor the sacrifice of these brave American heroes who saw the cause of freedom as something worth defending, worth their sacrifice. We remember those who gave the last ounce of devotion to the ideals and principles enshrined in documents
like The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
Today… we remember.
…It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people,
by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
~ Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863
from The Gettysburg Address
Freedom of speech is soon to be a thing of the past in America.
The recent incident in Garland, Texas where Muslims tried to murder a group of people drawing cartoons about Mohammed is blazing the trail for laws against so called hate speech. Even some conservatives are railing against Pamela Geller’s gathering in Garland.
As distasteful as what she did may seem to some..this is America.
As a believer in Christ, I obviously disagree with the majority of what Bill Maher has to say. However, I will defend his right to say it in America. People have the right to ridicule and criticize Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other religion or ideology they choose in America. The First Amendment was not adopted so we would all have the opportunity to agree, hold hands, and live in harmony. The First Amendment was meant to guarantee the right to worship as one believes, to have the right to have a dissenting and/or unpopular opinion, and to peacefully assemble and seek the help of the government without fear of retaliation or retribution. As believers in Jesus, we must remember that the same laws that give us the right to speak and worship freely also protect the rights of those who say offensive and abhorrent things in direct opposition to our faith. However, If we say some cannot speak freely no matter how abhorrent, it is just a matter of time before the government attempts to silence Christians. We are beginning to see it happen now. Yes… today our voice is free to speak out against gay marriage, immorality, and even poor government. However, that will soon be called hate speech as it is today in Canada and parts of Europe. Liberals and Islamic extremists believe only their opinions are protected. But while the voices of “intolerance in the name of tolerance” continue to force their agenda down the throats of the American people, we must be diligent in standing on our identity as Christians, and our rights as Americans. We must be wary of the schemes of the enemy to silence the Church through physical threats, legal intimidation, and popular opinion / mob rule mentality.
Freedom of speech, like freedom of religion, protects the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some of my teachings are already unwelcome in certain venues. It is important that Muslims realize that the freedom that enables them to worship and speak in this country is because of our Judeo-Christian American heritage. Islamic nations restrict freedom of speech, religion, and women’s rights.
German theologian Martin Niemöller famously said…
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
This is America and we must guard freedom of expression for all.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe, with all of my heart, the quote above. The logical converse of this truth is that, without the truth, we cannot be free. Today, I am writing to you in the interest of truth and freedom.
First of all, I would like to begin by saying that we, the American people, are the victims of fraud on an astronomical scale. Over the past 6 years, we have witnessed…
The national debt increase from 7 trillion to 18 trillion dollars (and rising);
An absolute debacle in foreign affairs, leaving us to restart a war that had already been won;
The murder of our Ambassador in Benghazi;
The beheading of American citizens by ISIS;
The unprecedented betrayal of Israel, one of our greatest allies;
The dismissal of 12 of our nation’s top military leaders;
The unemployment rate of African-American youth skyrocket to its highest point in history;
The elevation of street thugs to heroes. While my generation witnessed men of character like Jackie Robinson, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King, Jr., this current generation has been subjected to the toxic ramblings of race-peddlers, always quick to show up at the site of any potential racial tension, always quick to throw gasoline on the fire.
Narrative being elevated above real news. The “media elite” and left-wing press in this nation regularly editorializes what it wants a story to be, instead of the reality of the event in question;
A Congress that refuses to hold the President accountable for unlawfully acting against the Constitution;
A former Secretary of State who says that we should “empathize with our enemies”.
To empathize means to “think as they think”.
Jesus said “love your enemies”, meaning that love works in order to change them. If our government is going to empathize with anyone, it needs to empathize with…
The American middle-class that is being taxed to death while losing income;
Those without jobs who are desperately looking;
Our underpaid, under-appreciated, and under-supported military;
The African-American community that needs jobs, encouragement, and hope instead of empty rhetoric, violence, and death in their communities.
While America has its fair share of problems, America is NOT a racist nation. As someone who grew up in the segregated South during the 50’s and 60’s, I am personally sick and tired of allegations that portray our great nation and our fine people as being something less than what they are. I have witnessed the sweeping changes that have taken place over the last 60 years. I have been a long-time supporter of civil rights, and was present on the streets of Montgomery, Alabama when Dr. King spoke to the crowds there during the Selma-to-Montgomery march. I heard the story of how my father took a stand for a colored friend (and veteran) who could not get a driver’s license simply because he was black. I was there when it cost something to take a stand, and know first-hand what that looks like, so I am deeply troubled when race-hustlers and religious phonies take isolated incidents and try to use them to divide our great nation. I’ve grown weary of a biased news media and White House leadership that are trying to invent crises as a way of grabbing more money and power. Our military as a whole was held up to scorn and ridicule by the media because of the actions of a few renegade soldiers at Abu-Ghraib. Now, we are witnessing those in the highest seats of power attacking our first-responders… the police and national guard. To watch New York City Mayor DeBlasio throw the NYPD “under the bus” was sickening. While there are officers who do things that are questionable or wrong, the vast majority of law-enforcement personnel are men and women of integrity, and I have known, been friends with, and presided over the funerals of such brave public servants. The same criticism can be said of any occupation, including politicians. If I could, I would say to the good mayor, “Mr. DeBlasio, should the people of New York City judge you based on the lack of integrity (or criminal activity) of other politicians around our nation? With no evidence to support an assertion of guilt on your part, would it be fair to lump you in with such names as Boss Tweed, Spiro Agnew, and Rod Blagojevich?”
What I have found is this…
America is still a great country. A recent study of racism in the world revealed that, out of the 50 participating nations, the United States is one of the least racist nations in the world. In Alabama — the center of the Civil Rights movement in the ’60’s — the Crimson Tide is being quarterbacked by Blake Sims, an African-American. I have followed the career of Dr. Ben Carson, a brilliant neurosurgeon and author. According to Forbes, 7 of the 8 most powerful celebrities in entertainment and sports are African-American, including Beyonce, LeBron James, and Oprah. In our own city (which has had its fair share of racial tension in the past), I’ve watched our children’s sports leagues operate, not on the basis of race, but ability. The church I have pastored for over 35 years is racially integrated. In fact, I have been told by people of color that they do not want to be referred to as “African-American members”, but simply “members”.
Yet, many questions trouble us all these days, and the recent deaths of men such as Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin —and subsequent violence and racial division — do not represent the best of America. Certainly, these men were all too young to die, yet I am troubled by the narrative in the public arena.
In the case of Michael Brown, a young man is dead, and a young police officer has lost his career and the life he would have had. Yet, the narrative in the media seeks to make a hero out of someone who was not, and tries to give meaning to a story that is, quite honestly, a tragic moment in time. And now, we have the symbolic gesture of “hands up – don’t shoot” being parrotted by news personalities, sports figures, and politicians… a gesture that has become a rallying point, based on a false narrative (proven false by autopsy reports and witness testimony).
So, while Ferguson, Missouri burns, and the race-hustlers attempt to extend their 15 minutes of fame, spreading their poisonous ideology to other cities to incite more unrest, a darker, more sinister question is hiding in the shadows: Why are the news cameras not rolling on the streets of Chicago, Detroit, and other large urban areas in which blacks are killing blacks, whites are killing whites, Hispanic youth are losing their way, and suicide is reaching epidemic proportions? Where is the concern by the American media for the native Americans living in squalor on neglected reservations?
The problem rests in our homes, churches, and communities. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child… it takes a mother and a father investing their time and their lives in their children. It takes parents who will raise up their children to honor God, love others, respect authority, and do what is right.
Are today’s heroes to be poor street kids involved in petty crimes whose lives end far too soon?
No. Life and death must have more meaning. I think of Medgar Evers, who fought for civil rights, and believed the Gospel of Jesus. Here was a hero who was assassinated in his own driveway, but, by his death, affected civil rights around the world.
What about Rosa Parks?
What about Martin Luther King, Jr., and his belief in non-violence?
What about the courage exhibited in the life of baseball great Jackie Robinson?
There are thousands of young people of all races whose names are never called. One such young lady was Shirley Martin, the first African-American student in my high school in Alabama. She faced enormous odds, yet won a small victory for equal rights. Shirley gave up her head-cheerleader, homecoming queen status for the cause of racial integration and equality. Books will not be written about her. You won’t find her listed in Wikipedia. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson will never invoke her name. Yet she, and so many like her, are true heroes.
As sad as their stories may be, those who break the law and disrupt society are not heroes, whether they are young, old, law enforcement, civilians, famous ministers, or notorious personalities. A person who incites others to riot based on false pretense and a manufactured narrative is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, a charlatan, and a coward. Heroes do real work, make real sacrifices, inspire real promise and hope, and champion real progress.
It is time to join hands and take a stand for truth. It is time for us to lower our hands in surrender, and reach out to help someone different than ourselves. It is time that we reject the shrill voices of hate and division, and allow the words of Dr. King to resonate in our hearts…
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
Once again, the liberal courts of our nation have declared war upon the rights of Christians, upon our Constitution, and upon freedom itself.
Let me back up a little.
Ok… let me back up 222 years.
Our Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787 (226 yrs ago). The United States Constitution is the supreme law of our land.
On December 15, 1791 (actually, 222 years ago this coming Sunday), the first ten amendments – The Bill of Rights – were ratified by the states. Right out of the gate, the very first amendment states:
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.
Now, fast forward to last year.
A baker in Colorado refused to make a cake for a gay couple who were getting married. After the exchange, the couple left and, instead of just finding another baker, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the baker. Now (this week, in fact), a judge has ordered the baker to make cakes for gay weddings, or face fines. In an interview, Jack Phillips (the baker) stated that:
“I don’t plan on giving up my religious beliefs … I don’t feel that I should participate in their wedding, and when I do a cake, I feel like I’m participating in the ceremony or the event or the celebration that the cake is for… My priorities would be towards my faith rather than towards my safety or security… If it came to that point, we would close down the bakery before we would compromise our beliefs, so that may be what it comes to. We’ll see.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/10/jack-phillips-gay-wedding-cake_n_4420252.html)
Freedom is a double-edged sword. I find it interesting that the same group of people who support gay marriage and scream on a regular basis about the “rights” of every immoral and un-Godly special interest group in this nation are the very ones who are all-too willing to infringe upon the rights of people like Jack Phillips, people with beliefs grounded in faith and the word of God.
You can’t have it both ways. If you are going to support the “rights” of homosexuals to marry in the name of freedom, then you have no choice but to support the rights of those who oppose it.
If you don’t, you are – by definition – a hypocrite.
In a recent interview with CNN host Piers Morgan, Pastor Rick Warren was asked about gay marriage. He made one of the best responses I have heard anyone make on the subject:
“I fear the disapproval of God more than I fear your disapproval or the disapproval of society. And so, I can’t change what I think God has said.”
Maybe that is where Pastor Warren and Jack Phillips get it, and others may not.
It’s all about fear.
But before you take that statement and run with it, please understand: I am not talking about “afraid of the dark, scared of your shadow, boogeyman” fear. I’m not talking about unreasonable and irrational fear of something or someone different than us. I am talking about a fear far more serious, far more consequential, and far too rare in our society today. I’m talking about the “fear of the Lord.” The Bible says in Proverbs 9:10 that…
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
“Knowledge of the Holy One.” Not the inane and contextually deficient arguments of liberals who think the Bible should “evolve” with societal whims. True “knowledge of the Holy One” is based on a solid understanding of the Living, Inerrant Word of God. There is a reason that the Bible is the “foundation of our faith”. A foundation does not change. A foundation does not move. A properly built foundation can withstand nearly anything. Even when the building upon which it is constructed collapses, a firm foundation remains, providing as solid a foundation for any new structure built upon it.
So, if you think a solid foundation is not important, let me ask you: Would you move into a house with an “evolving” foundation?
It seems that we, as a nation, are forgetting how precious freedom is. It is a slippery slope we travel when we begin to give up our rights as free people. Any nation is always a tyrant away from losing the very thing this nation was founded on, and freedom’s Holy light is always a errant breath away from being quenched for generations (have we so quickly forgotten the lessons of Nazi Germany and the Cold War?).
My friend, true freedom is only found in the Holy presence of God, and is subject to His will, His designs, and His rules.
So, given the choice between offending man or offending God, I’ll take my chances by offending man.
Given the choice between the disapproval of Piers Morgan, the liberal media, the homosexual lobby, the pro-abortion minions, and even society as a whole… or, the disapproval of God Almighty? I’m going to fall on the side of the Creator of the Universe over the created every time.
Given a choice between “evolving with society over time” or standing firm on the Foundation that will stand the test of eternity? It’s no contest… Eternity wins.
A sailor was on his way out of Algeria aboard a ship that contained a sick missionary. Right before the missionary died, he pointed his hand toward the distant horizon and spoke prophetically: “There lies a land there where the seas wash. There is a native people there that have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
When the sailor finally arrived home, he told his son – and later his grandson – what the missionary had told him. When the grandson grew older, he also became a sailor. He remembered the old missionary’s words, and wrote many letters and diary entries expressing his desire to see the inhabitants of that land convert to Christianity.
The land the missionary spoke of was America.
The sailor’s grandson was Cristoforo Colombo, or as we know him, Christopher Columbus.
From the very beginning, our nation had, at it’s very core, a foundation centered on faith in God. While liberals and history revisionists would like to erase every mention of God from the history books, there is no denying the reliance our Founding Fathers placed on The Almighty. Don’t believe me? Listen to them, in their own words…
“The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite, and these Principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United…”
~ John Adams, 2nd U.S. President
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever…” ~ Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President
“Let us then, unite in offering our most grateful acknowledgments for these blessings to the Divine Author of All Good.”~ James Monroe, 5th U.S. President
“The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth.” ~ John Quincy Adams, 6th U.S. President
I could go on and on… and on.
The 4th verse of the song My Country, ‘Tis of Thee sums up the prayers and petitions of these great men appropriately…
Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light, Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.
Freedom’s Holy Light still burns brightly in America…
That Holy Light which was ignited in the hearts of her Founders, kindled by the dreams of her citizens, fueled by the blood of her soldiers, and sustained in the hearts of her children. It was the Holy Flame that burned brightly during two Great Awakenings, at the Cane Ridge Revival, the Finney Awakening, in the streetlamps of Azusa Street, and in the eyes of Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. It is that Guiding Light of God’s love that guided the Pilgrims to the shores of New England, kept freedom’s dream alive in the cold of Valley Forge, illuminated the heart of Abraham Lincoln during the dark nights of the Civil War, was the fire of freedom in the face of imperialism following December 7, 1941, and was the light of hope in the darkness of September 11, 2001.
It was the fire that blazed in the forge from whence came
the timeless inscription on the Liberty Bell:
“Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
~ Leviticus 25:10
So… let freedom ring.
Let the sound of freedom be heard in the cries of repentance of the people of God. Let the church rise and once again be the vessel that unashamedly bears the message of forgiveness and hope that the world needs to hear.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where
the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” ~ II Corinthians 3:17
No amount of legislation or Supreme Court rulings will change America… only the cross of Jesus can bring real change.
No amount of political correctness will change a single heart… only the love of Jesus can turn a heart of stone to a heart of flesh.
No amount of wealth-redistribution can force an ounce of compassion… only identifying with the tears of Jesus can break our hearts for a dying world.
It’s time for we as American Christians to wake up, get up, and go. It’s time for us to get on our knees and pray for a breakthrough… in the White House, the Statehouse, the schoolhouse, and the churchhouse. It’s time for us to be salt and light, look the world squarely in the face and say, “This is going to sting, but THIS is the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It’s time for us to BE the revival we have been praying for, and put our lives out there for that which He gave up His life. It’s time for us to stop asking for God to bless America, but for we as Americans to start blessing Him – through obedience, sacrifice, and holiness.
On this July 4th, I leave you with the words of President George Washington, from his Inaugural Address of 1789:
“In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States.”
May America bless God once again.
“I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” ~ Psalm 34:1