Tag Archive | Ted Cruz

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.

Election 2016: In Search of The Perfect Candidate

One has only to watch the news, drive down the street, or look at social media for 2.7 seconds to realize one singular fact…

It is an election year in America.

KS77849That’s right, folks. Election Year! Placards wallpapering the roadside, political television and radio spots with the flip of every channel, unbridled rhetoric filling the walls and news feeds of Facebook and Twitter. We seem to have about every conceivable viewpoint, every imaginable ideology, and every possible position covered. We all have in our minds the perfect candidate; the one that we agree with on 99.9999% of the issues important to our nation. And while the Democratic side of the nation has far fewer candidates to choose from than the Republican side, it would seem that just about every possible ideology is represented.

Everything except, perhaps… reality.

Candidate XThe reality of the situation, particularly on the conservative side of things, is that we are looking for someone who does not exist: The perfect candidate. We want to believe that we agree with a certain candidate about everything when we really don’t because he (or she) is “our guy”. We want to not agree with a certain candidate because they are not “our guy”. The fact of the matter is that there is not really that much that separates most of the candidates on either side. Most Republicans agree on most issues. Most Democrats agree on most issues.

So how do we pick? How do we choose the best person for the job? How do we make peace with ourselves and our ideology when “our guy” is not our nominee of choice?

There is the saying that “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And while we view the Bible from a theological standpoint, we sometimes forget the fact that it is also a book of historical events. In reading the Bible, we learn that God oftentimes used unlikely people to accomplish His purposes.

Cyrus II, King of Persia

“Cyrus the Great” was king of Persia, and was what most of us would consider “a heathen”. He was brought up in the worship of the idols of the Medes and Persians. Yet, here is what God had to say about Cyrus in Isaiah 45…

Thus says the Lord to His anointed,
To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
To subdue nations before him
And loose the armor of kings,
To open before him the double doors,
So that the gates will not be shut:
‘I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who call you by your name,
Am the God of Israel.
For Jacob My servant’s sake,
And Israel My elect,
I have even called you by your name;
I have named you, though you have not known Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the Lord, do all these things.

God anointed King Cyrus to free his people from the Babylonians. Not only did Cyrus allow God’s people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild, but he charged the people living in the lands where the children of Israel lived to assist them with donations of “silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings…” (Ezra 1)

God used a person of questionable spiritual standing to change the lives and destiny of His people. God didn’t just USE him… God ANOINTED Cyrus for the task. While Cyrus (followed by Darius and Artaxerxes after him) did not have the “desired” spiritual knowledge and background, what he did have were the practical knowledge, ability, resources, and authority to rebuild the temple of God, and eventually, Jerusalem itself. In Proverbs 21:1, we read…

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,
Like the rivers of water;
He turns it wherever He wishes.

 This verse doesn’t say “the Christian king” or “the Spirit-filled king”… it simply says “the king” — ANY king. Take a look at Romans 13:1…

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities,
for there is no authority except that which God has established.
The authorities that exist have been established by God. (NIV)

God puts people into authority for His purposes. Sometimes it is to judge His people. Sometimes to chastise His people. Sometimes to encourage His people. Sometimes to challenge His people. Regardless of His reason or purpose for elevating any individual, You can rest assured He has one.

And while some candidates come across as “Cyrus-like” (which, honestly, is how I view someone like Mr. Trump), still others have unabashedly courted the “evangelical vote”. While each candidate, at least on the Republican side, has expressed their belief in God, some have been more forceful about their commitment to Him. Candidates like Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Marco Rubio have professed their Christianity in no uncertain terms. Yet even so, we have seen backbiting, personal attacks, and “dirty politics” emerge from some of these camps. We see, on both sides, candidates who have spoken favorably about one another in the past now tearing each other down on a daily basis. However, Galatians 5:15 warns us…

But if you bite and devour one another,
beware lest you be consumed by one another!

In 1980, George H.W. Bush won the Iowa caucus against former California Governor (and former Democrat) Ronald Reagan. Yet, in the end, Mr. Reagan was chosen as the Republican candidate for president. And while during the primary both candidates had their differences, they never went so far afield in their attacks that they were unable to come together, join as eventual running mates, and serve two terms together, with Mr. Bush going on to serve one more term, this time as president.

I have said all of this to encourage you… get out and vote. Be a part of the process. Make your voice heard.

But…

Someone once said, “In the primary, vote your conscience. In the general election, vote your party.” While this idea does hold some exceptions, there is some truth in it. Most every one that has a political ideology is a member of their party — Republican or Democrat — for a reason. Generally, you choose a party because of that party’s platform; the core values of the party itself. Even many “Independents” tend to lean one way or the other for the same reason. So while you go about supporting the candidate of your choice, remember these three things:

#1. Listen beyond the bluster and personalities of the candidates. We all have different personalities. Some are extroverted and loud. Some are meek and introverted. We have a tendency to want to vote for people who are like us. If that is you, just remember…

Abraham Lincoln had no denominational affiliation. Considered to be the father of the Republican party, Lincoln’s name, legacy, and words are invoked probably more than any other politician.

Harry Truman was known for his profanity. Bill Clinton was alleged to be a womanizer. Both of these men were allegedly Baptists.

Regardless of the criticism leveled at a candidate, be careful to avoid extremes in your own criticism. I have seen an amazing amount of rhetoric and vitriol leveled at certain candidates in the media, as well as on social media. You may be forced to have to swallow your pride and eat your words if your candidate is not your party’s nominee. What you should consider heavily is the candidate’s track record of success and failure, and their position on the issues that are important to you and the nation.

#2. Remember we are ALL human. We all make mistakes. We all misspeak, and say things that we wish we could take back the moment the words leave our lips. Candidates, just like the rest of us, change their minds and positions. Personally, I would rather have a leader who recognizes and is honest about his or her mistakes than someone who doubles-down on a bad position or bad decision because of pride. While we should always be wise in our choices of leaders, we need to also recognize their humanity and fallibility as well. Personally, I would love to see a born-again, Spirit-filled person elevated to office of President, but that may not be the person God has ANOINTED for the task (remember Cyrus).

KS77810#3. Vote. Abraham Lincoln once said, “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.” As much as I hate to say this, sometimes voting is not about picking the person who will do the most good. Sometimes, it is about picking the person who will do the least harm. Sometimes, neither candidate is ideal. Sometimes, you may feel like you are just choosing between the lesser of two evils. However, by choosing not to vote, you have voted — you chose not to support the candidate who had the best chance of success.

In Jeremiah 29:7, God told the exiled children of Israel…

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (ESV)

While this world is not our home, and we serve a higher King, we have a responsibility to be good citizens of the place where God has planted us. That means being a good neighbor, caring for our communities, and getting involved in the decision-making process — a big part of which is exercising our right to vote.

I have a friend who is recovering from cancer. In the last three years, he has been diagnosed with three different types of cancer, so it is safe to say he has been through a variety of treatments and procedures. In the last year, he has undergone five surgeries. We were recently discussing the political landscape and the election, and he put it to me this way:

“When you are going through cancer, you choose the treatment that has the best track record, the one that is going to have the best chance of saving your life. None of them are pleasant. Every treatment I have undergone has had its side-effects, pain, and associated misery. However, in the end, I just had to go with the best option, and trust God with the results. Sure, I had the choice to just do nothing, but that decision probably would have cost me my life.”

We as believers have the opportunity to be a part of turning our nation around. The candidate you get may not be the one you want, but may be the one God anointed. The next four years may not fix every ill in our nation, but may simply be a small step in the right direction. If we do our part and vote, there is still the chance we could fail.

However, if we as believers in Jesus do nothing at all, failure is guaranteed.

Why?

Because “… faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” ~ James 2:17

May America bless God once again,
Pastor Ron

Come Home

Homecoming 2015

I wanted to take my blog today to share with you a little about a special event coming up in the life of our church, Abba’s House.

On October 11, we will be celebrating Homecoming at Abba’s House. This will be a time of reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, and reflecting on the heritage of the place we call home.

Our special guest for this celebration will be none other than my dear friend and former colleague Pastor Gaylon Wiley. Pastor Wiley served as Pastor of Education at Central Baptist Church of Hixson/Abba’s House from November 1, 1991 – March 30, 2013.  During this time, he helped train over 1500 soul-winners. He and his team averaged over 200 soul-winners over 32 weeks a year for 10 years.  Only God knows how many people were saved! He is now pastoring Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN.

Preachers often use the analogy of the pebble being thrown into the water. Although tiny, when it strikes the calm water, the ripples it creates can be seen and felt for a great distance.  Recently, Pastor Wiley had a reunion with a man whose family he had ministered to years back. The father’s name was Rafael, and he had abandoned his family in Canada, and gone back to Texas. Pastor Wiley met Rafael, witnessed to him, and led him in the sinner’s prayer to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior. Rafael went back, reconciled with his wife and 3-year-old son, and got his family back together. Pastor Wiley went on to baptize Rafael and his family. That ripple of influence is still being felt today through the life and work of Rafael’s then 3-year-old son… Republican Presidential Candidate, Senator Ted Cruz (TX).

Click HERE to see the full story about that reunion from WKRN-TV in Nashville.

So come home to Abba’s House on October 11. Whether you have been gone for a long time, or have never visited, we want Abba’s House to be a place you can call home. Because no matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve been through, The Father is waiting… and we are too!

For more information, you can visit our website.

You’re welcome at Abba’s House – Come home October 11!