The Bladensburg Peace Cross

The Bladensburg Cross is a WWI memorial located in Bladensburg, MD, a mere few miles from the Arlington National Cemetery. It was erected, on private land, between 1919 and 1925 using private donations. The project had been spearheaded by Gold Star mothers who lost their sons to battle and lists the names of 49 men from Prince George’s County who died during the war.

The cross was originally built on private lands, but, in 1961, via the law of Eminent Domain, the lands were turned over to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Since that time, the Commission has overseen maintenance of the memorial. The land has been heavily developed over the years, with a divided highway passing by it and the memorial on its median (see attached photo if you wish).

On 27 February 2019, this memorial cross was the subject of a court case that was heard in front of the United States Supreme Court. At issue were the merits of “The Establishment Clause”, that this cross is a violation of the separation of church and state (a Thomas Jefferson metaphor).

In 2014, after 90 years of this cross being on the same site, three area residents (THREE) and the American Humanist Association filed suit, saying in court papers the memorial sends a “callous message to non-Christians.” The filers won the lawsuit, which was immediately appealed to the Fourth Circuit of Appeals, who, in October 2017, agreed and ordered the memorial be torn down, moved or modified. One of the appeals court judges stated that “they should just cut off the arms of the cross, that would take care of the issue”.  They wrote that publicly funded maintenance of the cross was unconstitutional because it “excessively entangles the government in religion because the cross is the core symbol of Christianity and breaches the wall separating church and state.” We should be reminded that “the wall” is never mentioned in the constitution nor the 1st Amendment. Nevertheless, the court remanded the issue of what will happen to the cross to the district court.

On November 2, 2018, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, which was heard on February 27, 2019. “Look at the historical context here. History counts,” Justice Stephen Breyer said. “But no more. We are a different country now, and there are 50 more different religions.” “Does the cross really have a dual meaning?” Ruth Ginsburg asked. “It is the preeminent symbol of Christianity. People wear crosses to show their devotion to the Christian faith.” “It’s sectarian,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said of the Peace Cross, and also questioned whether its long history is enough to allow it to remain.

“I think the Constitution tilts toward liberty in its structure,” added Kavanaugh, suggesting this particular cross memorial should stay, but the antagonists in the lawsuit claim that the memorial does not pass the “Lemon Test” – which is the basis of their oral argument. But Gorsuch said that precedent has not been applied in recent years by the justices.   
What is the Lemon Test?  In 1971, the Supreme Court heard the case of Lemon v Kurtzman (403 US 602). In the case, the Court decided that a Rhode Island law that paid some of the salary of some parochial school teachers was unconstitutional. One of the outcomes of this case is the Lemon Test, which created three criteria for determining if an issue at law is within the boundaries allowed by “The Establishment Clause”.
  1. First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose;
  2. Second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion;
  3. Finally, the statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.

While it may be a few months before we hear of an official ruling, the justices of the supreme court will likely vote in favor of The Bladensburg Cross; however, they are also indicating that they will avoid a broad ruling that would provide clear markers for similar legal disputes in the future. They will, instead, continue to hear each case on a case-by-case basis.

So, what are the ramifications of this case as it relates to our religious and constitutional liberties?

  • Similar crosses are displayed on federal land to honor war dead at nearby Arlington National Cemetery. Those that support tearing down all Christian themed memorials are indicating that they will also go after the Arlington National Cemetery. This case can set a precedent that may allow them to win.
  • There are over a hundred memorials around the United States that are similar in scope to the Bladensburg Cross that are also at risk.
  • It is very likely that from this day forward, new war memorials with religious imagery will no longer be permissible in the United States – given the diversity of faiths, and the views of atheists or agnostics.

I am not sure how many of you care about this, or, perhaps you feel helpless to do anything about it so, while you may be interested, you are frustrated but yet remain silent. There are things that you can do, but with God’s grace and Spirit filled wisdom, I believe and have faith, that even we, the so-called little people, can effect positive outcomes. May the Lord’s blessings make it so.

He frustrates the devices of the crafty, So that their hands cannot carry out their plans – Job 5:12


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Collapse of American Culture?

Note: this post is taken and rewritten from an idea expressed by Lance Wallnau.

Regardless of your religious affiliation, or lack of one, this ought to catch the attention of all concerned; nevertheless, the issue expressed in the attached article is clearly another step towards the collapse of parental rights and American Culture in general.  This is a dangerous precedent being set here for all parents, current and future.

In Ohio, for now, children under the age of 18 are being removed from parents custody if the child desires a gender transition and the parents refuse.  The legal decision is being made via an alliance of liberal lawmakers (liberal lawyers and liberal judges) who are siding against the wishes of the family (whether due to religious beliefs or not). This type of action is not necessarily new but this new action has taken a dangerous twist. Courts are now ordering fathers and mothers to turn over their children to the power of judges who support the gender reassignment agenda. Children are being taken from parents by the state so the children can receive state-sponsored injections to change their sex. Families that refuse to support their child’s sex change can lose custody of their sons and daughters.

In this instance, Judge Sylvia Hendon removed the child from parents’ custody solely because the parents would not consent to giving their daughter gender-suppressing, gender-manipulating, hormone-manipulating drugs. Never before in American history has this happened that we know of. Judge Hendon’s ruling is even more extreme in that she charges legislators to draft criteria to help the courts decide whether and when minor children have a right to obtain sex change drugs without parents’ intervention. She implies that government officials and medical professionals, “who will profit” from this, care more about the child than the parents. While this isn’t just an issue of parental rights, it is clearly also a religious freedom issue!

Think about what is happening. This judicial invasion of family rights is a manifestation of wreckless overreach and ignorance at a moral, intellectual and constitutional level. First, it is an assault on personal liberty, religious liberty and the fundamental protection of citizens from the tyranny of government at levels not seen since the Founders rebelled against King George! This blatant assault on the beliefs of parents actually expands the power of activists over any rights of parents regardless of belief – even scientific rejection of the spurious and often contradictory research underlying the whole gender fluidity field. 

Secondly, and perhaps, more importantly, is the issue of the maturity of children in making this decision. The girl in this particular story is 17 but, if a child of 12 to15 years of age is capable of making such a fundamental and life-altering decision regarding their own gender and the medical procedures needed to make such decisions permanent, should they not also be judged mature enough to leave home, drive a car, get a job, drink, marry, get drafted, and own a gun?

And if not – why?

What if, large what if, the same activists who advance this agenda will say, “why should they not have these rights?” And the reason they would say so is that they would also get the right to vote. I think they can. We may soon have 16 year old children voting.

Ohio groups fight back after parents lose custody of daughter for refusing gender ‘transition’


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The Unborn

Unless you keep away from the news (I am aware that some do), you should be aware that an attack has been unleashed on the unborn, including a child that is still alive after birth (referred to as abortion survivor).  More recently, the democratic party shot down an opportunity to vote on a resolution(H.R.962) that would have protected babies born alive after a failed abortion attempt. One liberal congressional leader indicated that this was a conservative attack on woman’s choice, while another liberal congressional leader indicated that they did not like the criminality imposed on health care providers if they were found in violation of the law if passed. In either case, while three democrats wanted to vote on the resolution, the dominant liberal point of view is that it is acceptable to support infanticide. I could not find any conservatives lawmakers in Congress that did not want to vote on this resolution.

I have a confession – once upon a time, as a young man, I was a supporter of abortions in cases of incest and rape, and, I hate to say it, if the baby was determined to have deformities or other life impacting issues. My hard stance views were dominant during my pre-“born again” years but some partially remained after. After I was born again, I never defended my views nor did I ever consider anything God had to tell me about the issue, but, the good news is that my position has changed over the years; nonetheless, I regret to say that I was recently still “ok” with abortion in cases of rape and incest, that is, until recent actions by people in positions of power flashed the error of my ways right in front of my eyes (I became hyper-convicted about the topic).  As mentioned, up until these recent events, I had not thought much about what God had to say, it was simply an “opinion”; but, after witnessing the cruel and heartless comments made by many over the last 2 years or so, I no longer believe that abortion is ever acceptable.

We should make no mistake that if a person votes someone into office that is an abortion advocate, then that person is also responsible for the act of abortion. Perhaps it is possible that a politician is elected where the voter was not aware of the politicians views on abortion – they do now. I understand a woman’s right to choose when it comes to her health but I am not sure we can adequately define where a woman can make a choice to destroy/kill/mutilate a baby that is, at a minimum, healthy and viable (I use “healthy and viable” more for a point of view, I do not support abortion of any kind).  Those that support abortion rights will blur the conversation by using the term “fetus” which is a clinical term that allows them to separate the reality of the conversation from the procedure itself. For those that can actually say “abort the baby” and continue on as if nothing is wrong should really consider the status of their heart and soul.

Reference his NO vote on a similar bill from 2018 (H.R 4712), D-MA Seth Moulton stated “It always has been and always will be illegal to kill or harm newborn infants. Many federal and state laws already protect newborns, and any evidence of wrongdoing can and should be handled under current law.”  I can only presume that he did not see the decision that would be made in New York nor the heartless comments made  by the Governor of Virginia that would be forthcoming.  Since the passage in New York, eight (8) other states have passed laws that allow late term abortions. The states are Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Vermont, along with Washington, D.C.  I guess the silver lining is that polls continue to show that a strong majority of Americans oppose late-term abortions. According to a national poll conducted by Marist University, three in four Americans (75 percent) say abortion should be limited to – at most – the first three months of pregnancy. This includes most Republicans (92 percent), Independents (78 percent) and a majority of Democrats (60 percent). It also includes more than six in 10 (61 percent) who identify as “pro-choice” on abortion.

Throughout Scripture, God affirms the value of every human life—from children in the womb to the elderly. In Jeremiah 1:5, the Lord said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…..”.  Pro-choice supporters that use the bible to support their cause claim this verse is an example of where it was only applicable to the prophet and does not apply to all babies. Of note, it is worth noting that the pro-choice movement ONLY uses OT scripture to support their biblical claims that the Lord approves of abortion. In contrast, there are also numerous scriptures from the OT that point out that life is sacred. In any case, abortion supporters are neglecting the New Covenant, where the two greatest commandments from Jesus are that we do everything in “love” (love the Lord and love your neighbor) (Matt 22:36-40). Can a doctor complete an abortion or can a woman allow the process to be completed “in love”?

We also find in Galatians 1:15 where it says that “But then God called me by his grace; and in love,he chose me from my birth to be his.” We also find in Ephesians 1:3-4 where it says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love”. These scriptures declare the Lord’s love for the baby in the womb, all are precious in His eyes.

Instead of referring to people as pro-choice, most pro-choice supporters instead refer to the opposition as “anti-choicers”. An article by the Pro-Choice community from 2017 attempts to highlight scriptures that support abortion as biblically legitimate and even supported by God.  As far as validating when a baby is “alive”, the pro-choice movement points to Genesis where the Lord breathed life into Adam (Gen 2:7).  Abortion supporters believe, based on this verse, that an unborn child, even one that is a few seconds from birth is not alive because it is not yet breathing. This verse, along with a dozen others, provide a high level overview of how the pro-choice movement attempts to use the bible to support abortion. However, the pro-choice community seems to remain clear of the New Testament. It may be argued that abortion supports are falling short of the Glory of God.  Are they?

In 1 Corinthians 10:31 we are reminded that”Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Can anyone say that killing a baby in the womb is being done to the glory of God? Can anyone say that killing a baby in the womb is acceptable with the two great commandments of Jesus Christ “to love”?  Just because the law allows the abortion activity, does not mean that we should. People still have the choice. Todd White made the statement “those that support abortion do not know the Father”.

Nonetheless, we should never specifically rebuke the person(s) that support abortion, we hate the sin but not the sinner. We need to pray for person(s) and continue to speak out against the act of abortion without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. Love still dominates the Christian, even in the case of those that continue to vote for and support the escalation of abortion and taking a life.


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Theology and the Jesus Experience

Theology is a system of beliefs based on the study of God through a scholastic interpretation of the Bible. The Pharisees, who persecuted Jesus, were focused more on scholastic achievement rather than a relational experience with the Lord. For the most part, the Bible is a record of God’s actions and interactions with the world and man, some may say an entry level understanding for finite man to interact with an infinite God. The early Christians didn’t have the New Testament but they did have the fresh, vibrant experiences of those who walked, talked and lived with our Lord Jesus Christ (see Luke 13:13-35). 

The Lord does not say anywhere in His word that you are to test your experiences against your theology; He does not even say that you are to build a theology about Him. Too many people are seeking to approach Him with their minds first rather than with their hearts. What He intended was that you would live life as an ongoing experience with Him and that you would compare your experiences with Him with those in His Word to ensure that your experiences could be confirmed by others. When you go back to read Scripture after you have had a fresh and new experience with Him you find that His Word has also become new to you. It speaks to you on another level because you yourself are on another level. It is not that His Word changes, it is that you have changed and now see things which before were veiled to you. 

To build a theology before you have an experience of a certain thing is to live on a very shallow plan. He has called you to experience Him and then to compare your experience with a fresh daily study of His Word from your current vantage point in life. You only know that which you can see at this time. 

We should not build theologies with our minds that are unrelated to the experiences we are having in our hearts. His scriptures are stories of direct divine revelation and each story can be seen from many different vantage points. Your vantage point is based on where you are in your walk and relationship with Jesus. The vantage view gets better as you experience more of Him – that is one of His promises to you.


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Keep Going, Keep the Faith, Keep Pressing Forward

As we get ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior, I also look at it as a time to reflect on my own personal relationship with Him. As I meditate on this season, I am reminded about how much I continue to suck at being a Christian – and I am not alone. If you continue to read, you will understand. Keep Going. Keep the Faith. Keep Pressing forward.

Since becoming a Christian, there are some of our faith that will remind me (either verbally or body language) that some of my favorite things are not considered a part of the “Christian circle” and I should destroy them, throw them away or otherwise get rid of them.  I am talking about such things as my music preferences (which includes rock and yep, even some heavy metal), I like beer, and I will read books and watch movies that are secular in nature, amongst other things. [I do like Christian music and I am constantly reading Spirit filled books as well – just FYI]. The thought is that these items will influence my heart and drive me away from Christ – or preclude my walk in some fashion. There are things of the heart and then there are things of the mind – look at the heart and you will see and find a person in love with Jesus. But I suppose there are some that will continue to think, no matter what, that I suck at being a Christian.

But, we then get into the true imperfections of my soul and those things that are valid areas of my personality and character that are a “work in progress”. I talk loud and I talk too much. Depending on who is around me, I will still toss out a little “soldier speak”. I am a large fan of fairness and I am a champion of justice, BUT, I am unfortunately talking about justice and fairness in the eyes of Marcus. I continue to allow the wrong people to push my buttons and I will lash out however it seems appropriate to me at the time. The good news is that this is nowhere near the level it was for me 10 years ago, or even 3 years ago, but it still happens nonetheless. Now this is an area where I continue to suck at being a Christian.  Ironically, after a day like this and an hour of self-criticism and repentance, I will get home and initially relax with a beer and a song or two from Iron Maiden or Metallica [while repenting]. However, I will eventually switch my music choice to worship, reminding me of my salvation and redemption in Christ. I will close out EVERY day, before going to bed, with scripture and a prayer discussion with my Father.  I am always thankful to Him for continuing to correct the flaws of my character, giving me a wonderful family, and taking care of all of my needs – His will for me and not my own. Sounds Christianeeze , right?  Romans 7 reminds us that the struggle is real. In Happy Joy, Romans 8 further reminds us that there is a solution to the struggle. Keep Going. Keep the Faith. Keep Pressing forward.

And THEN, we get to the true meat of the Christian challenge – the nature of the WORLD itself. Continuing to behave as a true and faithful man of Christ is very difficult and challenging.  Losing my oldest son in February of 2011 was very close to the final straw for me, almost took me down. Yet, here I am, continuing to profess my love for Christ, sharing Him with anyone and everyone that will listen, and not concerning myself with what others might think of the position I hold near and dear to my heart. Why? Read Romans 8 again. Keep Going. Keep the Faith. Keep Pressing forward.

We watch our politicians struggle to come together across “The Great Divide” in order to make decisions in areas such as economics, immigration, security, and life choices. We watch as professed Christians condone abortion or tax us in the name of government services. We watch as our national citizenry continue to lose focus on identifying who we are supposed to be as people or who we are as a nation. We watch as Christians publicly condemn people for their life choices instead of remaining compassionate and operating in love for others regardless of their decisions. And we watch as over 2400 Christian denominations argue about their interpretations of Law versus Spirit and right versus wrong. We are taught that the bible is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow – yet some work to change and mold the bible to fit the choices we make as a society in the modern world. If the founding fathers of our great nation were using the same bible 250 years ago as a guide in forming our constitution, then how is it possible that our constitutional processes are wrong and need to change to validate “progress” according to the world today. In this regard, I must suck at being a Christian as my Spiritual beliefs don’t fit the mold of the progressive movement. Nonetheless, while I may not be progressive enough, I still love others no matter what their views and I Keep Going. I Keep the Faith. And I Keep Pressing forward. 

We watch as some argue that science is stronger than faith and then watch as the same group says science is wrong in declaring what gender we are at birth – but I suck at being a Christian because I hold an opposing view even while continuing to love those that declare it. We watch as more church leaders are caught in scandals or, even worse, identified as pedophiles. I suck at being a Christian because I am glad that these people are being caught. But I Keep Going. I Keep the Faith. I Keep Pressing Forward.

So why, as I suck at being a Christian, do I keep going, keep the faith, and keep pressing forward?

Because there are guys out there that are good, honest Christians. There are guys out there with tattoo’s, who occasionally use “soldier speak” and who like to drink beer.  These are people who exhibit behaviors that would typically get you kicked out of the God Club. Aren’t they living in sin?  Do they suck at being Christians like me?  This is not why I am a Christian, just FYI, that would be a stupid reason.

These same guys love me for who I am and they love people who are hurting and messy. These same guys, tough on the outside, share openly about how they hurt and are repeated failures. They love their wives unconditionally and always speak highly about them. It is the joy I see in their eyes even in the middle of their tears and pain. They absolutely do not pretend to have it all together nor do they claim to have all of the answers – it is ok to simply say “I don’t know”. They Keep Going, They Keep the Faith. They Keep Pressing Forward.

What they do know is contagious, it is infectious – if only you were to listen. They are big, bold, and beautiful and it is fascinating, if you will only pay attention.  They are like me in many ways, we don’t believe that it is simply about believing in Jesus and living a morally correct life to get to heaven. It is much more than that. A life in Christ is not following a simple set of rules to earn God’s favor. If that were true, there are more morally correct people out there who live much more moral lives than Christians. In fact, I would argue that it is very possible that there are more non-Christians helping more people than those sitting in Church on Sundays.

To the dude with tattoo’s, the dude that talks loud or way too much. To the dude that likes to occasionally listen to rock music or drink a beer when he gets home from work. To the dude that occasionally talks like a soldier. We all believe in the same thing – that the cross where Jesus died is a reminder that as good as we try to be, we still need someone to save us from ourselves because at the end of the day, we like to compare ourselves to scoundrels. If Christianity teaches anything, we learn what a train wreck we are and when we see people in this light, we are humbled beyond compare. We might suck at being a Christian but we are real, heart felt, Christ loving men that keep going, keep the faith, and keep pressing forward.

Some religions say: “This world is going to hell. It doesn’t matter. It’s not real, but a shadow, so we wait until we die and escape this. We wait until the next life.” However, Christ teaches that His goal regarding the resurrection is to transform the world. Christ teaches His goal is a new heaven and new earth here on earth. Not that we convert people to our tribe and wait for God to nuke this place, but that we’re in the business of restoration. That we bring hope to the hopeless. That we love everyone regardless of their views or choices in life. That we help the needy, poor, and oppressed. That we give generously, freeing the captives and the addicted. That we transform the world where disease and suffering are alleviated. That we treat others different than us better than ourselves.

The truth is, being politically incorrect, that some Christians happen to be really skilled at covering their flaws and look pretty externally. And even the one’s who are pretty on the outside usually get disillusioned or just end up judgmental cause they are “nailing it” (although that attitude reveals massive heart issues). I happen to be “that guy” that occasionally wears my train wreck on his sleeve. But I keep going, I keep the faith and I keep pressing forward.

This may be surprising to many but the day that I became a Christian is not the day I asked Jesus into my heart. I had not even been attending Church, so I had never confessed to anyone that I was down with this whole confusing Jesus dies on a cross, resurrects, and is God, but God can’t die because he’s eternal…….Instead one day (labor day weekend 2008) I had an experience that was so over powering and so over whelming that I instantaneously knew that I had been wrong my entire life, I had the epiphany that “I’m all in and I guess I’m one of them.” It would be another two weeks before I prayed the confession and started openly identifying as a Christian. I started going, I started in faith, and I started to press forward.

So, Why Am I A Christian?

Because I know I’m a flawed human being. But I also know that God loves me 100% as is, right now. I know there are some church people out there that are good at following the rules but I also know that there are Christians out there acting out in judgment instead of compassion and love. I can be outrageous on occasion when I should be silent and I can be neutral-silent on other occasions when I should be loud. And yet, God loves me and is cheering for me as I get better and especially when I fall down. Where I see failure, he sees opportunity for growth. When I give up, he whispers, “No, you can make it”. This is why, even as I suck at being a Christian, I Keep Going, I Keep the Faith, and I Keep Pressing Forward.

So maybe if we can all accept the idea that God’s love is wholly separate from our actions, receive it, and give it to others maybe then we’d have more Christians that look like Christ. Christians that don’t feel it’s important to beat people down with their theology and doctrine, but instead spend their lives in the gutter bleeding alongside other people. Maybe then, even millennial’s will stop looking at Christians as bigoted and judgmental and out of touch with the times.

I think maybe then, we might even just see Christ’s kingdom here on earth.


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America is a Christian Nation

As a nation, right now, we are at a crossroads in history. I am gripped by a strong urge in my spirit to push forward in discussions that blend spiritual revival with toxic distractions and soul-numbing passivity. What I mean to say is that opportunities for a spiritual breakthrough are here, right now; but way too many Christians are passive and are losing out.  Now, I must admit that I am a Christian with moderate conservative leanings, so the tone shared here may not be comfortable for those that are more liberal leaning, nonetheless, I ask that you prayerfully read the entire contents. Christians are separated from political discourse. Why? They don’t have a clue about economics or political theory, they turn their eye away from the violent rhetoric gripping our nation, or grab their information from heavily right or left wing leaning headlines. It is doubtful that ministries are teaching the flock on how to deal with the national debate. Lance Wallnau believes that “the church is about five years behind the curve”. Bottom line is that this is not a normal moment in history and too many Christians are not equipped to talk about the issues that plague our nation. 

It is almost impossible to discuss political issues today without setting off some emotional responses or outburst. Some issues have become so supercharged and hypersensitive that many simply wont touch it. Why? Because some topics are loaded with figurative landmines that have become so polarized that your political leanings or philosophy simply does not matter – anyone and everyone can be criticized and/or negatively characterized.  What makes this complicated for Christians is that this is not just a secular problem, it is impacting all of us. We are now in a time where Christians are pitted against Christians.  In such a climate, how can any progress be made?  I know this will be criticized but we cannot ignore this topic, because God doesn’t.

For our nation, trouble isn’t coming, some evangelical leaders believe that trouble is here. This means the days and years ahead will be of a different caliber of difficulty and complexity than anything we’ve ever known in the past. The new normal will not look like the 80s, 90s, or even the 00’s. I believe it will be more challenging than people expect, but the kingdom opportunities are far beyond what we imagine. Christians must not get complacent or be passive, they need to find where and how they can get involved. Get outside of your circle and have open, honest, and civil discussions with others that have opinions which differ from yours. Learn why people believe what they believe – and do it with grace and honor.

In the Old Testament (2 Kings), there was a group debating severe issues for themselves. As they contemplated their courses of action they asked themselves “Why do we sit here until we die”? (2 Kings 7:3). They correctly asserted that complacency and passivity would not solve any problems. Once they made a decision, at the prompting of their heart, the Lord prepared their path.  Psalm 11:3 reads that “If the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do”?  The Book of Hebrews reminds us [what the righteous can do].   God is still up to something and we need to join Him in His work. Who speaks for Christians today? The answer is simple. You do.

We have to stay [courageously] and culturally relevant. It’s not only possible but absolutely necessary for Christians and Christian values to become a vital element in the overall moral and cultural discourse of our nation. Without our strategic involvement in the culture shaping this nation we simply cannot be the great and glorious society it once was and what we are meant to be. The Lord knows that we are resourced with excellent resources to be great – He provided them. Let me be up front – the issues we have today are absolutely not President Trump’s fault, though it can be argued that he is complicit. I would argue that the members of our Congress, on all sides, are more accountable as are past administrations. But, back to the church, the church is almost a nonentity when it comes to shaping culture. Mike Bickle argues that “Cultural decay is dragging our young people into gutters of oppression and perversion. War on God fearing Christians is escalating as nations heave in the throes of crises, birth pangs, and political correctness”. If you don’t believe this, then ask yourself why condoms are now distributed in public schools without parent permission or oversight, but the Bible and the principles it contains are banned. How did this happen? Because Christians have abdicated all rules – we got scared.

For too long Christians have allowed themselves to be bullied to hide in closets or under the bed.  Christians are under attack, our faith is on the decline in the USA. We should not be ashamed of our faith anymore than a member of the LGBTQ community is told that they do not need to be ashamed of their choices.  We should have courage to stand up for who we are and we should defend it to anyone. We don’t have to sit back and wring our hands at the way our culture is going down the drain. But I believe that churches in the US are missing it and as a result, its members are missing it.  Salt and light, this is what we have been tasked to do.  In love, we can remove the hate one bit at a time; don’t be violent but do not be afraid to be loud, always remaining in love. Our country is on the decline while our politicians are trying to lead a nation that is at war with itself. It is a dangerous time but Christians can, as ordained, bring the government of heaven to the earth.

Dave Barton, the founder and leader of Wallbuilders, offers the following:

90% of pastors believe the bible addresses current issues such as abortion, same sex marriage, immigration, socialism vs. free enterprise.  While 90% believe the bible has something to say, only 10% are willing to address the issues. Are they concerned about being seen as political? They don’t want to take risks? Afraid they will lose members? Worried about losing tax exempt status?  But, if churches cannot (or will not) do this, then how do you mobilize Christians to change, or turn, the political climate?   Conservative churches have a biblical mandate to teach but they are choosing to ignore things in order to be a safe space. Does this make the church irrelevant? These days, people are choosing to invest their time into things that are relevant to their lives, not on topics or lectures that do not intersect with what their lives or the life questions in their daily struggles. Is this why Millennial’s are leaving the church? Evidence suggests that they are engaged with others that are open and having free willing conversations. Instead churches are focused on hope, potential, dreams, and prophecy; it is really a challenge. 

I don’t know where Dave got these statistics but I trust him. So, we have less than 4 weeks until the mid-term elections and rather than mobilizing people to talk about things to turn around the political climate, politicians and their helpers are mobilizing brain power to determine how to survive. I would argue that instead of just hanging around the fringes of our culture, we (Christians) need to be right smack dab in the middle of it. I am extremely tempted to argue conservative versus liberal, but not today, this is about Christian involvement. So here we are as Christians, we ring our hands, we pray, we listen to our favorite worship music or podcasts. This is not the same thing as political engagement. I would agree that some people are simply not wired or prepared to express emotional intelligence in a political debate or discussion.

Political debate and Christian inclusion goes beyond the act of “voting”, which is very important, but God needs people who will take a stand for what is right. Christians must [lovingly] speak out for what is true and right. To speak out for what is true and right requires more than just railing against evil. The call is for rational, cogent, well-crafted presentations of positive alternatives gleaned from the scriptures. But, unfortunately, evangelical Christians have abdicated. There are a few that are trying – can you name two that have the spotlight? We primarily spend our time and energies talking only to each other, writing only for each other, arguing with each other. To be properly positioned, we must take a hard look in the mirror. Too much of our inspirational rhetoric has become both anemic and insufficient relative to the coming storm. Times and seasons change; if we discern the Spirit is leading this, we are compelled to obey, even if it requires disruption.

At this stage, it would just be nice that Christians start involving themselves in cogent and civil discussions – regardless of political philosophy or leaning. It is important that Christianity find its way back into “the system”.  To this end, I pray that all are well and may the Lord bless you in your endeavors. 


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Politics in a Christian Life

In September 2018, my time at Wycliffe Associates was coming to a close; for two weeks prior, I prayed and meditated on a blog as I was prepping to sign off from one organization and sign on to another.  As many should be aware, I am passionate about politics and the impacts on our communities from the local level to the national level. And oh boy! This is a really long one, my sincerest apologies but I pray that you find this interesting enough to read through it.
The Opening
There are two topics that many consider to be taboo: religion and politics. Oh man! Two topics that I LOVE having intellectual discussions about. When you blend Christians with a political discussion – watch out!!  I believe that Christians are placed into three distinct categories when it comes to politics: 1) some bury their heads in the sand and ignore it, don’t want anything to do with it, 2) some monitor it but keep their thoughts completely to themselves and will not discuss political topics, it is private and no one else’s business, 3) some will openly debate anything. Which one do you think I fall in?  I love political debate but I do get frustrated when the other person(s) have an opinion on a political matter but have no knowledge of the topic – they get their opinions from headlines or media (ugh!).  Good Lord that makes me sad.  I was asked once about my thoughts on whether it was acceptable to have an opinion on a matter based on the impact(s) to the individual. Yes, I do. Is this selfish? No, I don’t think so. If a political issue will have a negative impact on your life then it will very likely have a negative impact on others; you are not alone.  Even if the impact is positive to me but negative to you; I fully and deeply respect your opinion on a matter.
With all said, I wanted to know what the bible has to say about politics. What is Jesus’ position on politics?  If Christians are all relying on the Holy Spirit for political guidance, then why do Christians continue to have varying opinions on a matter? After all, there is only one Holy Spirit, right? Would He not provide one venue of guidance to all? After all, we are all one body – right? Spoiler alert – I believe Christians should be as engaged in political debate as their anointing and spiritual equipping allows.
Before getting to the meat and potatoes of the topic, here are two things that I think we can all agree on regarding politics (I hope):
  1. The Christian faith is under attack in the USA. We continue to see ups and down in the court of public opinion and, unfortunately, in court cases.
  2. Separation of Church and State is used quite a bit as an argument, BUT, “In God We Trust” is still our national motto.

General Politics

Why a blog about politics? How does this topic mesh with Christian faith? Because I believe that our political climate is representative of the condition of the hearts and minds of us as a nation. As a nation, we are of one body, but, we are a body of individuals. We can believe in the power of our nation but the power of our nation is built upon the accomplishments, and mistakes, of individuals. And this line between what one considers an accomplishment and what another considers a mistake is widening and innocent victims are beginning to fall into the resulting chasm.  We are in dangerous times and the climate is getting worse as tribal lines are drawn; as each tribe fights for it’s right to survive, its members have to go to more extremes to get their point across (tit for tat). As things get more extreme, tribes work to strengthen their lines, they dig into their trenches, and all out warfare ensues. If this sounds like trench warfare similar to WWI, I feel it is. Tribes dig in and work hard to hold their ground while opposing forces work to gain more ground, and boy does it get ugly. In political circles, this ground is a reference to power. He who holds the power guides the nation (or so they believe). As Christians, should we ignore this, or, should we find where we can get involved? 

We all know that within the USA, there are many political parties (or caucuses) but there are two major political parties that hold the power (Democrats and Republicans).  Each party has philosophical differences regarding liberalism (the left) or conservatism (the right).  Those that choose to not be a member of one of these parties might be considered an Independent – most likely a moderate conservative or a moderate liberal (what most call “the center”). Being an Independent allows you to think freely, allowing you to choose a position on a candidate or a topic based strictly on your opinion without violating a tribal line.  Yes, many people will strictly vote across their partisan line regardless of the positions of the candidates or the impact of a law or regulation.  As over 95% of people in political positions are Republican or Democrat, the disadvantage of an Independent is that they do not get to choose which candidate will represent a particular party during the general election.

Now, with that said, is it acceptable for a Christian to victimize or “talk junk” about a sitting political leader? Absolutely not. However, in full disclosure and transparency, I am one that spoke out adamantly against President Obama and shared my thoughts and opinions about his policies and actions on a regular basis. I think it was during his last 2 years in office that I woke up to my mistake and realized that I had been acting out in sin. Jesus taught His disciples to respect governmental authorities. Regardless of the nation in which one resides, respect for that nation’s leaders is part of the responsibility of a true Christian. Paul speaks of this when writing to the Romans, “Let every soul, be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2, compare with Daniel 4:17). So no, I do not believe that a Christian has authority to “speak junk” about a sitting President or other political leader.

Let’s get real for a minute – yes, President Trump is vicious in some of his tweets and such, and yes, he is blunt, direct, and uncouth. Some Christians welcome this because they are sick and tired of the “political speak” that we have been hearing for generations; but, there are other Christians that wish, and expect, our President would speak with more polish and care about what he says. After all, he does represent our nation on the global stage. Nonetheless, he is the elected President and, as Christians, we should respect him. We should be praying for him regarding wisdom, courage, and spiritual revelation in his decisions. Should Christians be speaking out against him in public settings and screaming “impeach him”? According to Jesus, no.  Peter adds, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God” (1 Peter 2:13-15). I suppose some Christians believe that Trump is evil and therefore speaking out against evil is justified. Other Christians think Trump is appointed by God to lead. Food for thought.

It is both acceptable and understandable that Christians are a part of every major party across the USA. I do not believe that Christians fall into a liberal pool or conservative pool. Once upon a time, all Christians were predominantly considered liberal; most recently, most evangelical Christians are believed to be conservative (I disagree with this but this is hyperbole shared in the media). If Jesus were walking the earth today, I do not believe He would be a party partisan, I believe He would be an Independent. Christ has good reason to remain apart from “earthly” politics. The message He preached was about government, but a government He would bring to the earth, not one that would come about through human effort. Jesus’ message was about the government of God that will rule the world and that will bring about world peace!

Christian Politics

Are Christians supposed to stay aloof of earthly politics? “No” says David McGee, senior pastor at The Bridge Church in Kernersville, N.C. He says that “God has called us to influence society. After all, Jesus spoke out repeatedly on issues such as fair wages, unjust trade, oppression of widows and economics.” Being on the side of the poor or excluded isn’t about having progressive values, the right opinions or even voting the right way. It’s about the decision to leverage any power, privilege, abilities and resources you have to transform not only an individual’s immediate circumstances but, more importantly, the economic, social and cultural systems that perpetuate inequality, poverty, exclusion and exploitation. Laws matter, national budgets matter, political policies matter because they not only reflect what society says is OK but provide the framework on which structural inequality – or social equity – is built.

  1. Political Speak, Respect Those in Authority

In the book of Acts, Paul has the opportunity to speak to major political leaders of his day, and when he did, he didn’t speak to them about policy or hard hitting issues; he spoke to them about Jesus. Our job as Christians and leaders of our community is to share the Word of God on all things, including social issues.

Romans 13: 1-3: Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 

1 Peter 2: 13 – 16: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Proverbs 29:2says “When the righteous rule, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” Our nation needs a leader of upright moral character. We’ve seen what happens when power enters the hand of the wicked. Hitler killed because he held the keys to the nation’s power, and Sandusky molested children because he had power and authority over them. Character is influenced and developed by choices. Character will help people weather the storms of life and keep people from sin. Men and women of character will set a good example for others to follow, and their godly reputation will be evident to all. Our nation will be stronger with a leader of high moral character.

  1. Live in Peace and Unity and Stand For What Is Right; But Remember Honoring God Comes First

Psalm 133:1tells us: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” But where is our unity? John 6:43says, “Stop grumbling among yourselves.” We are not to bicker among ourselves, a huge problem in the midst of any Presidential election or political issue. People take sides and hurl aggressive and condemning comments at one another. God speaks on this political matter through Leviticus in which God says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Seek unity and harmony.

I believe God has called Christians to be influencers of society. We are to engage in society and political conversation about right from wrong as taught in the Bible. We are to uphold God’s moral code. The best way to do that is to get involved in the political dialog. Do not judge or show hatred, but rather educate in these discussions.

Acts 5:27-29: The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”

Acts 4:18-19: Then [the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law] called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Isaiah 33:22: For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is He who will save us.

Psalm 33:12says “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” Render unto Caesar what is his, but we must obey the law but know God is the ultimate ruler. He rules not only of the United States, but the world. We must obey God over men; over political leaders. Though I do not agree with some of the laws currently upheld in the United States, Christians cannot take advantage of our legal right to act on them, we must keep God’s law over the law of the land.

  1. We Have To Pay Taxes (Even If We Don’t Want To)

Romans 13:6-7: Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority

Matthew 22:19-21: Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

  1. We Are Called To Pray For Our Leaders (this does not mean pray for leaders in the morning and then “talk junk” about them for the rest of the day)

In Titus 1: 7-8the Bible describes a good leader. “Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” This description is what we should reflect on with choosing who we will politically support.

1 Timothy 2: 1-4: I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

  1. Virtue; We Are Called To Seek Justice, Defend The Oppressed And Help The Poor

According to Jesus in Matthew 28:19, we are to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” We are to go out and spread God’s Word; we are to teach all people including political leaders of God’s law. We must disciple people to make godly decisions about government and promote the efforts of those who are already doing so. Voting was instituted as a way to give every citizen a voice. Your voice reflects what you are willing to support and what you are not, so vote Biblically.

Isaiah 1:17: Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Proverbs 31:8-9: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Jeremiah 22: 1: This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there …. Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. But if you do not obey these commands, declares the Lord, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.’”

The World View

I believe that all Christians should care about politics but I know that only some are called, or anointed, to play a key role or part. Not all are equipped to handle difficult debate, the emotional intelligence or cognitive skills to “walk the talk” on the fly. During the course of a presidential campaign, it is common to hear evangelicals, especially younger ones, quip, “I’m just not that interested in politics,” or, “Politics just aren’t my thing.” These dismissive remarks are often delivered with a veneer of piousness implying that political engagement is inherently defiled, occupying an arena unfit for those serious about the gospel. For those inundated with television ads, robo-calls, campaign mail and the overall negative tone of politics, this might be a tempting position to adopt. However, I am of the mindset that this is not a position that Bible-believing, gospel-loving Christians can or should accept as congruent with Scripture. 

The message of the gospel is that by grace through faith sinners can be reconciled with God (Ephesians 2:7-8). This message transforms individuals and enables them to lead godly lives. Mandated by Scripture (Matthew 28:19-20), Christians are charged to share the good news and disciple others in faith. The gospel is a holistic message with implications for all areas of life, including how Christians engage the political process.

  1. The Christian worldview speaks to all areas of life.

A frequently raised objection against Christian engagement with politics is that anything besides explicit preaching and teaching of the Bible is a distraction from the mission of the church. However, this is a limited understanding of the kingdom of God and contrary to examples in Scripture.

The Christian worldview speaks to all areas of life, including political engagement. In fact, the Bible speaks about civil government and provides examples of faithful engagement. 

  • In the Old Testament, Joseph and Daniel served in civil government, exerting influence to further the flourishing of their nations. 
  • In the New Testament, Jesus engaged in holistic ministry, caring for the spiritual and physical needs of people. Feeding the hungry and healing diseases were an outworking and extension of the reconciliatory message of the gospel. 
  • Paul also advocates this approach: “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone” (Galatians 6:10). And: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). 

Engaging in “good works” should include participating in the political process because of the legitimate and significant role of government. The decisions made by government have a substantial impact on people and the way we interact with them. A Christian worldview should include a political theology that recognizes every area of life must be included in the “good works” of believers, especially politics, an area with significant real-life implications for people. 

  1. Politics are unavoidable.

As “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), it can be tempting for Christians to adopt a mindset that earthly governing systems are inconsequential to the task of furthering the gospel. But ask a pastor in an underground church or a missionary attempting to access a closed country if politics are inconsequential. Religious liberty, passports and visas are not unnecessary luxuries but are often vital for pastors and missionaries seeking to preach and teach the gospel. 

Augustine’s City of God offers guidance on this point. Believers are citizens of the “City of God,” but on this side of eternity, we also belong to the “City of Man” and therefore must be good citizens of both cities. There are biblical examples of how membership in the earthly city can be leveraged for furthering the reach of the heavenly. Paul’s appeal to his Roman citizenship (Acts 16:37, 22:25) is a model of this.

In an American context, engaging these dual cities takes on added significance because of the words prefacing the Constitution: “We the people.” In the United States, ultimate national sovereignty is entrusted to the people. James Madison explained that the “consent of the people” is the “pure original fountain of all legitimate authority.” This reality makes politics unavoidable for American citizens who control their political future. 

Because politics have real-world implications for Christian evangelism, missions and preaching the gospel, Christians ought to engage the political process by leveraging their rightful authority, advocating for laws and policies that contribute to human flourishing.

  1. We need to love our neighbor.

When questioned by religious authorities on the law, Jesus explained that loving God with heart, soul and mind was the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37). He added that second in priority was: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). 

Followers of Christ are called to love and serve their neighbors (Matthew 28:19-20). When asked about the qualifications of “neighbor,” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), indicating that irrespective of race, background, social status or occupation, neighborly love is owed.

In a very real sense, politics is one of the most important areas in which Christians demonstrate love to our neighbor. In fact, how can Christians claim to care about others and not engage the arena that most profoundly shapes basic rights and freedoms? Caring for the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and lonely is important to Jesus and should be to His followers as well. Jesus said, “As you did it to one of the least of these you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). 

Fulfilling the biblical mandate to love our neighbor and care for the “least of these” should be a priority for every believer. Again, a holistic approach is essential. Loving our neighbor includes volunteering at a homeless shelter, as well as influencing laws that encourage human flourishing. Good government and laws are not negligible factors in the prosperity and freedom of a society. 

For example, the majority of North Koreans are held in economic bondage by corrupt political forces, whereas in South Korea, citizens are given liberty and a system that encourages prosperity. The people of North Korea need more than food pantries and improved hospitals; they need political leadership and policies that recognize human rights. Advocating for these changes in totalitarian countries is crucial for loving our neighbors in oppressed areas.   

Obedience to the golden rule includes seeking laws that protect unborn children, strengthen marriages and families, advocate for the vulnerable, and provide opportunity for flourishing. Politics is a means of effecting great change and must be engaged by Christians who love their neighbor.

  1. Government restrains evil and promotes good.

Government derives its authority from God to promote good and restrain evil. This mandate is expressly stated in Romans 13:1-7. Elsewhere, Paul urges that prayers be made “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Paul understood the need for Christian participation in government. 

Government plays a role in the work of God’s kingdom on earth. Good government encourages an environment conducive for people living peaceably, whereas bad government fosters unrest and instability. Because of sin, the legitimate institution of government has, at times, been used illegitimately throughout history. However, numerous examples persist of Christians reasserting their influence and redeeming government to promote good and restrain evil. 

In How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin Schmidt documents Christian influence in government. Examples include outlawing infanticide, child abandonment and gladiatorial games in ancient Rome, ending the practice of human sacrifice among European cultures, banning pedophilia and polygamy, and prohibiting the burning of widows in India. William Wilberforce, a committed Christian, was the force behind the successful effort to abolish the slave trade in England. In the United States, two-thirds of abolitionists were Christian pastors. In the 1960’s, Martin Luther King Jr., a Christian pastor, helped lead the civil rights movement against racial segregation and discrimination.

Carl Henry rightfully stated that Christians should “work through civil authority for the advancement of justice and human good” to provide “critical illumination, personal example, and vocational leadership.” This has been the historic witness of Christians concerned about government promoting good and restraining evil. 

Jeremiah 29:7says: “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.” Referring to Babylon, the prophet recognized that secular government served a legitimate purpose in God’s plan for Israel. This is still true. Today, good governments promote literacy, advance just laws, provide religious liberty and allow churches to preach and teach. Good government can serve as a conduit for the furthering of the gospel and human flourishing. 

Christian witness in the public square contributes transcendent values about moral and ethical issues. Christian withdrawal opens a moral vacuum susceptible to influences that pressure government to move outside the purview designated by God. Politics affects government, shapes society and influences culture. Because of what the Bible teaches and the inevitability of its effect on our culture, Christians must care about politics.

The Jesus Example (Politicians working together)

Lets follow the example of Jesus’ selection of disciples. Would we want to make disciples the way Jesus did? The culture of Second Temple Judaism was as politically charged as ever. The spectrum of political parties was wide and multifaceted, including the Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, Sadducees, and even the dreaded “tax collectors”. When Jesus walked on the earth, He entered into this political fray.  Two of the characters Jesus chose were on complete opposite sides of the political spectrum. Zealots were a political party that worked to incite violence and rebellion against the Roman Empire, to expel them from Holy Land by military might. Some have even gone so far as to say that the Zealots were the among the first expressions of terrorism. Anyone who sided with the Roman Empire were therefore enemies and targets of their violent attacks. And yet, from among them, Jesus chose Simon to be his disciple.

Then there’s the tax collector, a job that no Israelite wanted. Signing up for the job made you the most despised and hated person in your community because it was your responsibility to exact taxes from your own people to pay the Roman government. It is widely held that tax collectors abused the tax system, demanding more money and making away with great profit. They were not only unethical cheaters; they were traitors to their homeland and kinsmen. A tax collector may have had money, but that was just about all they had. They were pawns of the Roman government and objects of scorn among their own people. And yet, from among them, Jesus chose Matthew to be his disciple.

Now imagine with me for a minute what it must have been like to see that Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector are now on the same team! How is that possible? Left to himself, Simon wanted Matthew dead. Left to himself, Matthew demanded Simon to submit to Roman taxation. What were their first conversations like? What was Jesus doing in putting these two together? Did he not factor in their drastic positions? Their strong political affiliations? Their seemingly irreconcilable differences?

The fact that they are included among the original 12 apostles is striking. Jesus intentionally made disciples of people who, outside his reign and rule, were enemies of one another. He put them together, commissioned them in His name to call people to repentance. By this, Jesus said, the world will know you are my disciples by the love you have for one another (John 13:35). Can you imagine what it must have looked like for Simon to love Matthew, and vice-versa? Jesus took a terrorist and a traitor and made them His disciples. Paul also commented on respecting government leaders when writing to Titus. Paul told this pastor, “Remind them [the members of the Church] to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1).

In Closing

Christians have many different opinions about what constitutes good government. Jesus said that his “kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). That marvelous statement still leaves an important question unanswered: As long as we live in this world, what kind of civil government is right for humankind? The Bible does not contain an explicit blueprint for government. It does, however, provide abundant guidance and clear precepts for moral conduct in our thoughts and deeds that should influence our politics. Liberty, justice, charity, right, and wrong are dominant themes throughout the Bible. The political challenge is to get them in the right balance. In I Samuel, chapter 8, it is plain that the highest form of government would be for the people to follow God’s laws, and that any human ruler (and by extension, human government in general) will be prone to abusing the people under its authority.

Just how much power a human government should have has been a perennially vexing problem ever since. Founding Father James Madison famously wrote in Federalist No. 51, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Alas, of course, men are not angels, so how much external government do they need? Robert Charles Winthrop, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849, stated, “Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either via power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet.”

Many American Christians have a different opinion about the proper role of government today. Some desire to expand the scope of government as strongly as I favor shrinking it to the size our founders envisioned. And I must concede the possibility that we living in America today don’t deserve the limited government that our founders established. Perhaps Joseph de Maistre was at least partly right when he wrote, “Every country has the government it deserves.” John Adams believed, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” It may be that the American people have moved away from moral self-government to a degree that renders our original constitutional order impracticable today. Maybe (??). In closing, I will leave that thought with you.


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The Struggle is Real

     The struggle is real my friends.  Compared to some I myself started life at a significant disadvantage.  If that makes me “square”, then I square I shall be.

  • I was conceived and born out of wedlock – a square this might make me.
  • I was raised in a Godless family – a square this may add to me.
  • I grew up in a loveless family – a larger square perhaps, but this is my testimony.

The struggle is real. 

     However, there is good news for you and me -Jesus loves you and yes, even me .  For, as Jesus testified about Himself, my testimony is true for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from nor where I am going (John 8:14). He knows!

     If we knew each others life stories, would we cover our mouths and our noses with our hands, or, would we Praise God?  Would we shake our heads and roll our eyes, or, would we strengthen our resolve to be “saltier” in the world?  Would we view a brother or a sister as they share the Word and what it means to them as a loved member of the body, or, would we view them with contempt, eye roles, and gossip? 

     For me, Jesus came to me as the Light of the world and saved me from the darkness I was in (John 8:12).  He has called all of us out of the darkness and into His light (1 Peter 2:9). And the character of Jesus comes out when we realize that what was once weak has been raised in glory (1 Cor 15:43). If this makes me square, then square I am happy to be. But the struggle is still real.

     Some have been Christians their entire lives, or at least for as long as they can remember; I myself am coming up on 10 years next month – to this, I give Him all of the Glory and Honor – Praise God!!  But, does my 10 years pale in comparison to the lifelong Christian? Is there a ranking that I am not aware of or cannot locate in the bible?  Does the lifelong Christian move along through life with no worries, no grief, no pain, no struggles?  No, for the struggle is real for all of us.

     Some Christians bury their heads in the sand – they surround themselves only with other Christians and blot out everything else that is happening in the world or even in their local communities around them. Perhaps there is an argument in scripture to support this (I am not aware of one), for look at a mans friends and the man you will see.  However, I offer the following:

If a Christian is not wealthy, then who is?
  1. If a Christian is not in politics, then who is?
  2. If a Christian does not own a business, then who does?
  3. If a Christian buries their heads in the sand, how does he/she spread the Word of God and expand His Kingdom?

 

Jesus loves me as well as thee.

     No matter my birth and no matter my upbringing – the Word was still in the beginning and the Word was God. No matter my past and no matter my frailties, I continue to pursue my gifts with a passion that is boiling over. If this means that I am square, then box me in. But the struggle is still real.

     For I know this, that if the hand and the foot do not follow the commands of your mind, then this is referred to as paralysis. If your mind is not following what the Spirit is placing in your heart, then this is disobedience. This I can say, I will not be a disobedient Christian that is paralyzed with fear. If this makes me square, then I am happy to wear the badge. But the struggle is still there.

     The bible says that the body is made up of several parts, such as the eye, the ear, the nose, the hand, etcetera. The body is not of one part, but of many. The bible teaches that each part is supposed to fulfill its duties for which it was designed and gifts allotted. If the whole body were an eye, how could we speak, lift, walk, or smell?  Counter to this, if the hands ignore the eye, how do the hands know what to lift or what to touch? Each part has a purpose and each part has a dependency on the other parts of the body – if we ignore just one part, then the body ceases to function as designed.  The struggle is real. If this makes me square, then so be it.

     When the struggles happen, it is Christ Himself that looks upon you and shatters your defenses. It is in that moment that you understand that you are completely known by God, that you are completely loved. I pray for these moments often for you and I. For the struggle is real my friends, and if I must be, then a square I am happy to be.


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Honor

Over the last 1-2 weeks, HONOR has been a key word that keeps popping up. Yesterday afternoon, I had a conversation with a dear friend where we spent a bit of time talking about the concept of HONOR and what it really means in our lives. HONOR does have a definition and holds a lot of space in the Bible, but in the end, we both agreed that HONOR is something you feel, something that is inside of you; you cannot measure it and it is not fair to try to quantify it. You cannot fake HONOR but you can learn HONOR through life experiences that will define you.  It is how you deal with these life experiences that define where HONOR is a part of your character. 
 
HONOR is something that I believe has unfortunately lost its power and relevance in our modern world. The idea of consummating a deal with a handshake or a word has diminished in contemporary society. Among soldiers (men and women) in the military, HONOR holds a special spot that is sacred because it is a bond among warriors and a personal covenant that rises above anything and everything, no matter how difficult. HONOR is not regulated by rules, policies, or laws – it is an experience that simply lives inside and drives you to limits you may not think possible. Do you have a cause or a belief that you are willing to die for? Would you die to save a family member or a dear friend? Would you be willing to die for a cause that you believe was God driven? Perhaps this is not a fair question but if there is anything that you are willing to die for, I would bet that you will find HONOR in there somewhere.  
 
Jesus tells us in John 15:13  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  I shared earlier where HONOR is sacred to soldiers. Are we not warriors/soldiers for Christ?  How much love do you hold for your fellow Christians that you would HONOR them that deeply? Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:17 that we are to “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God…”  In a discussion with another brother this week, I was commenting about how mean Christians can be to each other and it breaks my heart to think of it. It is not right and we all know it, but it still happens.  Then I was reminded of two scriptures where Jesus tells us that He Himself was dishonored by people whom you would not think it possible. 
 
Mar 6:4  But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”  Joh 5:41  “I do not receive honor from men.” 
 
HONOR is something you live, you experience, and you express. HONOR is a commitment to standing behind what you say and do and by simply doing the right thing with no expectation of reward or praise. I was really close to falling into the trap of looking for others to show honor, needing some level of praise or reward, but I was corrected and able to collect myself. Praise God!
 
Imagine: 
  1. Being handed THE FLAG at a funeral. This will humble you in a split millisecond (Humility before HONOR). 
  2. Spending weeks participating in battles while searching for a kidnap victim, finding this victim that had been traumatized for months, and then escorting this victim back to a loved one. HONOR those around you and LOVE the brotherhood. 
  3. Or, participating as a member of a team notifying a wife and two pre-teen children that their husband/father had been killed. HONOR embodied by laying down one’s life for friends.
 
There are “guide books” and “Code of Conduct” materials for each of these activities and while HONOR gets a general mention, you really find that HONOR is something you feel, something you embody. When it comes to HONOR, the guide book simply does not matter. It is a part of who you are or it is not.  These types of activities will quickly push you to discern how you define what HONOR is to you whether you are looking for this definition or not. 
 
Honor is mentioned in the scriptures 274 times (NLT), 134 times (NASB), 174 times (NIV), 144 times (NKJV), and 146 times (KJV).  There are several Hebrew and Greek words in the original text but to paraphrase these terms, they are generally used with reference to the honor granted fellow human beings, though in some cases they are used to describe the honor a person grants God. To honor someone, then, is to give weight or to grant a person a position of respect and even authority in one’s life. A person grants honor most frequently on the basis of position, status, or wealth, but it can and should also be granted on the basis of character.
 
Of all values you hold (I hope), you will find that it is HONOR that embodies all. 
It is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living such values as respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage in everything you do. 
  • HONOR is recognition of the contribution made by others in their organization, their families, or their church. 
  • HONOR, in the Christian context, is also embodied in how you look to God. Do you HONOR Him above all things?
  • When you are viewed as honorable, people trust the information you are providing and the actions you are taking. HONOR helps to define who you are as a person while serving as a guiding light for your growth and your character.  Having honor defines you to others.  If you have honor, then you are trusted.  
  • Without honor, you cannot count on someone to do the right thing unless you are watching them all of the time.

In a society such as ours, in which the “civic onus” is placed squarely on the law, it is common for the concept of honor to quickly lose relevance in the shadow of the almighty law. If we have the law on our side, then we have no perceivable need for honor or morals or ethics, for it is the rule of law that tells us what is right and wrong. To determine right and wrong in such a way is laziness, and nothing more. If HONOR is worth anything, then its dictates should remain unchanged across the generations. If it was honorable in the time of Jesus, then it is still honorable today. You cannot measure HONOR, you just know it and you feel it. It is sacred because the Lord has dictated that it be so. He has wired a desire to be honorable into us.

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of HONOR and good sense.” – Sir Winston Churchill  


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Am I a sinner?

     I have written quite a bit about what the Lord is speaking to me and, on some occasions (not all), He allows me to share.  Some of what I have written has been inspired by studies, a devotional, a word from a book, a comment made at church, a family event, or during my quiet time with Him amongst others.  Some of you have provided feedback and, while constructive, I appreciate your candor.  For this writing, I will be broaching a topic that some may disagree – some potentially at a deep level.  This topic was recently discussed in an Online Men’s Ministry that I am a part of and unfortunately reached a level that caused two of the men to disengage from the ministry.   

     These men did not disengage because of disagreement, they disengaged because they were called out, by name, by other men as being wrong and in need of counseling – sort of like an “intervention”.  Rather than handling the situation brother to brother, these two men were called out in a very public way. I know that this will not happen here. (Matthew 18:15-20). Therefore, due to what I suspect may be controversial in some circles, this write up is very methodical, detailed, and longer as a result. As hard as I argued with my spirit, I could not cut this write up down – it is just too important. 

     First, I want to share what I “believe” to be the difference between an opinion and a belief.  An opinion is something that a person develops based on their rational and logical mind as defined by one or more of your senses (see, hear, touch, taste, and smell). An opinion can, but not always, expand a part of your belief system but every opinion is foundational to your belief system. Opinion is mentioned 4 times in Scripture (NASB) as gnṓmē which means “to discern” in the NT or as dēa which means “knowledge” in the OT; NASEC indicates “what I think”.  An opinion is based on what you think to be true as discerned from knowledge – which is based on some form of truth as you know it at that time.  Along a similar line, the word “think” appears in scripture 39 times (NASB). I know that there are hard core KJV’ers out there, but I referred to the NASB predominantly in this write up (with a little NKJV tossed in).  

Rom 12:16  Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 

1Cor 7:40  But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God. 

     A belief is something that we fully accept as truth, typically based on personality, training, experiences, and dare I say “faith”. Our beliefs are the most important things that we hold true that may not be a product of fact or reason – no empirical evidence (world view). You can believe in something so concretely that nothing can change it, yet you do not necessarily require any of your five senses to support it. A belief is something you hold within your heart.  Belief, or believe, is mentioned 152 times in scripture (NASB). In the OT the original Hebrew is aman which means “to confirm, support”. In the NT, the original Greek is pisteuō, which means “to entrust” or “has faith”.  

Act 8:37  Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 

Rom 10:9  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 

     Scripture indicates that a man “thinks” based on what he “believes”. Jesus encourages us to think, as it encourages our belief system, or may identify the condition of our heart.  

Eph 3:20  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 

Luk 10:36  “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 

Matt 22:42  saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.”  

     Therefore, opinion=mind; belief=heart. Generally speaking, opinions can change quickly based on new data that is trusted by the receiver, but beliefs tend to take more time – the more mature the individual, the longer it can take for a belief to change. While I mean this in a spiritual sense, our beliefs may also be what make us human.  Often described as motives, the instrumental forces that drive and direct our behavior are based on a series of tacit beliefs that we have about ourselves. Our beliefs, more than our opinions, determine what we do, how we do it, and how we see our accomplishments in relation to the rest of the world. Bringing it back to a spiritual perspective, our Christian beliefs will determine how we worship, where we worship, who we worship with, what we allow to enter into our hearts, and how we view our relationship with our Almighty Father. How do you “believe” that God see’s you?  

     Before I was born again, I lived in the mistaken belief that I was a self-contained unit and that I did my own thing and made up my own mind and went my own way. The Bible makes it clear that I was really a slave of Satan and a slave of sin. It was the one who was living his life out through me, leading me into thoughts of self-worth, anger, revenge, lust, etc. Even after I was saved I continued with the misconception that I was a self-contained unit right over into Christianity and made a decision that I was now going to live for Jesus. I thought I was going to live… Nope. I have been crucified in Christ who lives out through me. It is not me living, any more than it was me living as an aetheist/agnostic. It is the Holy Spirit living His life out through me. Except on those occasions where I get in His way.  

     The ironic challenge is that we, as humans, are fundamentally flawed. The fall of Adam has allowed this condition to be a reality for us. If our beliefs make us human and our opinions are based on our rational mind versus spirit – from what source do we then shape our behavior and shape our reality? I pray that we ALL agree that our source for our behavior and our reality is our belief in Jesus Christ and that He has risen from the dead. More importantly, and more relevant, that He died for me, you, the world. He has set us free, but, we must be in lock-step with Him.  

1 Peter 2:24  who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.  

Rom 8:2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 

John 1:29  The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 

     The question raised is “As a Christian, are we still considered a sinner?”.  I hold the belief that I am not a sinner, the Lord does not see me as a sinner – I don’t receive that, I don’t accept that, I rebuke that. Let that sink in for a bit. For this statement has been condemned by many.  I myself must continuously remind myself that the Lord would save, and loves, a wretch like me.  

     By constantly saying, “I’m a sinner—but I’m so thankful God saved me and forgives me!” we live with a sin consciousness. If we are living according to the revelation of grace, our hearts should instead be focused on a right standing with God consciousness. As a believer, you may still sin, but you are not a sinner. ~ John Bevere 

     It is easy to be so caught up with the affairs of life that we totally lose our awareness that Christ is living within us. We find ourselves skimming the surface and not discerning the spirit and heart at all. The important thing is not the means but the end: I am, and must, consciously affirm my union with the Lord.  

     There is no sin in the risen Christ and, if you are a believer, Christ is in you. Christ and sin cannot exist in the same space; therefore, if Christ is in you, you cannot also have sin. However, our bodies, our flesh, are still of this world – the world that is going away – and therefore still fighting the carnal temptations of sin. In this context, while our bodies still contain sin our spirit man does not – as long as we believe.  

Rom 8:9  However, you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him 

1 John 3:6  No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him 

The Amplified …..No one who abides in Him [habitually] sins….. 

Jesus came to the earth to sacrifice Himself for sinners and turn them away from sin. 

Luke 15:10  “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” 

James 5:20  let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins 

John 8:11  …… And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more”.  

     All of the negative connotations of this world – shame, guilt, condemnation – will hinder us in this life, but our Father wants us to succeed; He is rooting for us. It is the evil one who wants you to fail and he is working hard to convince you that you are a sinner.  The good news is that with Christ in us, He leads us to freedom from the power of sin.  Note however, Jesus did not die on the cross to give you a license to sin. He will convict you, correct you, and restore you to fellowship – but we must repent. 

1 John 2:1, 2  ….if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father……..He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins – not only for our sins but the sins of the all the world.  

     We should not wonder where the line is before we cross it, we need to focus on how we can get closer to the Father. As we get closer to Him we get closer to His grace, which then allows us to live righteously. 

     Now, we are flawed, as mentioned earlier – but this flaw is in the flesh, not in our spirits.  His Spirit is with our spirit which has “freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Rom 8:2).  Romans 8:9 continues to remind us that we are not controlled by our sinful nature (our flesh), we are controlled by the Spirit.   Therefore, if we remain in obedience to Him and walk with him at ALL times, He will correct us before our fleshy temptations condemn us to an act of sin.  But the struggle is real; Paul reminds us: 

Rom 7:17  So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.  

Rom 7:22-23   I love God with all my heart, but there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to sin that is still within me. 

The good news: 

Rom 7:25  Thank God!  The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord…. 

1 John 1:9  But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 

     But Marcus, you can be very rough around the edges and can be aggressive or passive-aggressive. You ask – “You say that Christ is in you but your behavior does not support what you are writing about?” Yes, on occasion, but when this occurs, watch how quickly I recognize this, feel a deep conviction about it, repent, and move on.  Also, are you aware of how often this feeling/emotion works its way up in me and the Lord catches it before this behavior can manifest?  Do I sin? Yes.  Am I a sinner? No. Because I believe in Jesus, He is in me, and I belong to Him.  


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Workplace Toxicity and Impacts

Prov 11:14   Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.

It has been a while since I have last written but rest assured that the Holy Spirit is alive and kicking in me and I still have a boat load of notes, I have simply not been given the green light share most of it.  However, I wish to share a recent, and possibly personal, family event as I feel there is a deep, spiritual, and scriptural view on this issue.
Early this week, my daughter informed my wife and I that she had quit her job – pretty much out of nowhere. At first I was in shock, then followed by disappointment. She is 21 and needs to make her own choices but I was not prepared for what I thought was a very ill-advised move. As we sat at our dining table to talk about it, she shared, with tears in her eyes, the toxic and hostile environment that she worked – she was a receptionist at a local small Salon. It was very easy to see, and sense, that she was very hurt and emotional about the event. Not about quitting, but about how she had been treated and about the atmosphere at the workplace.
As she briefly laid out the patterns at the salon, she shared that the level of gossip was rampant at an extreme, primarily negative towards each other and everyone at the salon (behind backs or even the occasion where the victim can overhear it). She shared one example where she had assigned a man to a stylist for whatever qualifies as a man haircut at a salon. This stylist did not like this man and walked up to my daughter in anger – she told my daughter that she hates her for assigning this man to her and then proceeded to tell all of the other stylists about her hatred for the “receptionist”.   
As this culture and atmosphere had been going on for a while, my daughter attempted to approach this with the managers/owners but they justified it away and allowed it to continue. A great leadership team is one that exhibits the values, motivations, commitments, and behaviors of honor – this team is missing it and will ultimately fail as a result. Needless to say, I applaud my daughter for taking the step she did and trying to work this out with management first – before cutting the cord. My daughter was very upset and I could tell that not only was she devastated by what she had to deal with at the salon but that my wife and I would take issue with her quitting. No one should have to endure that type of climate and I am speechless about how a small business can afford to allow that to fester. I have read numerous stories about how successful small business thrive when they hold to a level of values and moral systems of conduct where employee’s enjoy work. Many of us have read similar stories. 
My wife and I assured our daughter that we love her and we informed her that we will always be there for her but we also want to ensure she is pressed to move forward. After this discussion, I was working on my devotionals when the Holy Spirit sparked a degree of conviction in me.  We had missed it.  We had missed an opportunity to witness and assure our daughter that God has her in His sights, that He is her Comforter, that He above all loves her. I am ashamed to say that we did not even pray for her as we were focused too much on the world views of this event and not on the spirit aspect of this. When it comes to ministering to people, the toughest job is often right there at home. Its difficult to work with your own family; they know you so well.  We lost a learning moment for all of us at that table but the good news is – it is not too late. 
Here is what we should have talked about and what we should have prayed for. Our daughter, thank the Lord, is one of the most forgiving people I know. The best times are when the blows you sustain in life lead past the point of forgiveness to a place where exciting opportunities and pursuits open up for you as a result of that experience. A broken heart can become a softer heart. Problems lead to answers. Frustration inspires change. And as long as you’re still alive, it’ll depend entirely on what you do with it, how you respond to it, and where you take it.  
  • The business world is full of successful women (and men) who have been beat down which also compelled them to build a life of success and wealth
  • However bad (even evil) peoples intentions are, Gods intention for good can trump those plans. Not just to make the pain stop, but to turn them into a ’cause celebre’.

My daughter can, and will, turn this piece of personal history into a source of strength, opportunity and generosity.

  • Strength because she can take away its residual interference in her life and that free up energy to make her more resilient
  • Opportunity because the lessons and level of appreciation (wisdom) she has gained cannot be owned any other way
  • Generosity because she can multiply the acquired wisdom into the lives of others by being an observable example, by intentionally sharing, and by helping others get through similar challenges.

Why? Because God loves her way too much to leave her the way she was feeling. Not because He’s squeamish, but because of how much vision He has for her.

The points of contention, the areas of resistance, the times, places and people in our worst experiences and struggles can either be left as bad history and place markers of pain and unfairness or they can become your entry points to healing, resilience and enlightenment.

This is what we should have talked about then, but we will talk about it now instead.
 

2 Cor 4:17-18   For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.


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Take A Stand – The Great Divide

We should all condemn fake news and disinformation, across all isles and all sides of “The Great Divide”. We know it has happened and we know it is happening now. Fake news is happening across all networks, left, right, center, it doesn’t matter (The Great Divide). The problem, I believe, lies in the obstruction and destruction of too many opinion pieces, which is much more prevalent than standard news reporting. Too many of us are allowing the media to influence our social behaviors and social opinions rather than forming behaviors and opinions of your own – solely based on the facts of a news story that is balanced with your spiritual or philosophical belief systems. How many of us simply share, or comment on, social media memes and stories without determining whether the story or quote is accurate or not? Instead we blindly post, comment, or share, as the misleading and misinformed public becomes further frustrated with the great divide. We blindly follow because we want our side of The Great Divide to win the grand debate. Winning an argument has become more important than the truth.

We should all work together to conquer the “hysteria” that is gripping our nation via both local and national politics and strike down the deceit wherever it is. Blame does not have to be placed on a side of the Great Divide, it should be placed squarely on the way the media is working and the way the internet is being used to erode trust in our nation and across our institutions by entering fear in our elections which do nothing but wreak havoc on our infrastructure and American culture. Facebook did what they did because this was the demand placed on them, it was even joked about during the entire election process of 2016. Our modern digital ecosystem has enabled misinformation to run rampant because American attention spans are short and false news stories run circles around the major news outlets. How else are the major news outlets going to compete with social media but to exploit what, it appears, Americans want. Drama, intrigue, fear, and something to complain about. We want to place blame and these news stories do that with little regard to the truth or even worse, little regard to what is really important. These issues are blocking the internal views of ourselves and our own behaviors – dramatically impacting the way we, as individuals, think and believe. It is unfortunately ugly but the truth is to be discovered in us, not in what the media is portraying. The media, and social media, is giving us what many want for some ungodly reason – drama, intrigue, conspiracy, hate, destruction, violence, and juvenile tirades. Really?

As a nation, we should work to overcome our fears and stop sniping at each other, stop the trolling and the mean-spirited partisanship that some of our political leaders, and almost all media outlets are showing incessantly (across all networks). Regardless of ones viewpoints I have faith, that everyone is tired of the divisiveness, the injustices, and the out right hatred that many of us are witnessing. Is this how we want our country to be? Is this the legacy we want to leave for our descendants? How do you/we want to be remembered? How about a nation that that is capable of operating with opposing viewpoints, different philosophical belief systems, and different motivations? The human race is an imperfect species and it is highly unlikely that we will achieve utopia, but we can stop sniping and baiting each other with misinformation. It starts with one person, followed by one more, followed by another.

Yes, we should stand up for our views and stand up for what we feel is right, but also acknowledge that ones views have an opposing viewpoint and what one feels is an injustice, another feels is prudent and right. We should strive for facts to back up our thoughts and opinions, not conjecture or assumptions. Facts can be both a horrible and a wonderful thing – but we should serve to back up our views with facts and WITHOUT personal attacks and hyperbole; we should not want to create a line that we then dare one to cross it. This serves no end.

Have courage to take a stand and not participate in The Great Divide. Don’t fall for it.


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Victim or Victor

When by God’s grace we are regenerated, we receive a new self-image. He replaces self-hate with self-love. He replaces self-doubt with self-esteem. He replaces bitterness and hatred with compassion.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view (2 Cor 5:16)

Dragging others down with us is one major way we deal with our own inferiority feelings. To have victory we must get to the place where we no longer let others drag us down. If approval is still withheld, let Christ bear your burden. Abandon your bitterness against the one who withholds his approval.

If you feel like you’ve been deliberately cut back or pinched off, or experienced some seasonal winter-kill, then you have the option of choosing to believe for a coming season of fruitfulness in those very same areas. It is your choice, and it wont happen until you choose it.

Come on man! We all know that it never helps to allow these experiences to mold us into the role and identity of ‘the victim’. It is true that sometimes we are victimized, there is no reason to deny this. But we have a choice as to whether it will be temporary or if it will become our identity. We should be able to say, “I was the victim of blah blah blah….”, “But now I’m a specialist in blah blah blah.”

A victim mentality will keep you bound to that trauma or frustration and will sabotage any hopes or attempts to prosper. A victim mentality is resignation to weakness and powerlessness, and it becomes ones modus operandi. It automatically disqualifies you and dictates what you will or won’t do.

While it only feels like a weakness, a victim mentality is so much more – it is actually a powerful mechanism that blocks, deprives and binds. It steals strength. This is where Satan wants you to be. The GOOD NEWS is that the very area in which you were wronged can become a calling and destiny.

There is strength and empowerment to be found when you have been wronged. There is a more true ministry in righteousness.

The truth is that we are all creative. We all have memories. We can all love. We can all imagine. We can all be brave. We can all communicate thoughts. We can all express our emotions. We all have some measure of confidence. We can all exercise self-control. We can all think abstractly. We can all use language. We can all be a friend. We can all plan ahead. We all have bodies that heal. We all have some sense of rhythm. We can all appreciate some form of art. We can all do math in our head.

We can all do at least some of all things – you know you can!

Given that we’re all running on a small fraction of our mental capacity, it’s only logical that whatever we need more of can be located, dialed up, intended, cultivated, commissioned and encouraged to excel. Because God placed that deposit in us: His image, including whatever you needed when that crisis came, waylaid you and left you feeling like a victim. You just weren’t in touch with it at that time.

The image of God, Christ in you, the mind of Christ, whatever term you want to use, the Lord has gifted you with the antidote you need. You need to intercept that faulty circuit in your victim mentality – the self-fulfilling belief/feeling that came out of a bad situation in which you were victimized and cancel it by tapping into your God-given resources.

Let peace of Christ be the arbiter.

The challenge is whether you identify yourself as the victim, or the victimizer – or admitting it. How can you see what is in front of you if you fail to recognize what is inside of you? When our own hearts condemn us, there is no power in prayer, no power in preaching. We are just “sounding brass or a clanging symbol” (1 Cor 13:1).

It is Paul’s encouragement to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

To be a victim or the victor – it is your choice. God is waiting and He will never give up on you! He loves you that much.


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Church Cliques (part 2 of 2) – Trust, Distrust, or Misunderstanding

It was humbling to me that one of the revelations I received while reading through the four gospels would be the Circle of Trust that Jesus surrounded himself with; however, it was also just as revealing in that Jesus did not support Cliques, which can sometimes develop and evolve from Circles of Trust (He actually detests Cliques). 

I have heard it said that if Jesus were here today, He would need to learn how to do church. If He were physically with us, what would He say to us directly/vocally about the church? I believe that one of the things He would tell us is that people need each other, and God’s design is for our aloneness needs to be met within the context of a healthy church body. God abhors cliques because they leave too many people feeling isolated and alone. This aloneness is antithetical to the principles of Gods plan. Here is what God wants a church to be like:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer……….. All the believers were together and had everything in common…………… Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

Unfortunately for some, after being welcomed with open arms they are kept at arm’s length. The church gives an impression of being a near-impenetrable bunch of passionate believers. They are very selective about who they let into their Clique. Cliques repel new believers who are seeking to establish themselves in fellowship. Even worse – Cliques appear to validate the reasoning of some who say they are not Christian because of so many hypocrites in the Church. The cancerous effects of church cliques marginalize many members of the body, and in the worst case, will force members out. When trying to get plugged in, little else can be as frustrating (or even aggravating). So eventually you leave, looking for a place that will not only welcome you with open arms but really embrace you. 

A study by Balswick and Layne revealed that there are generally 4 types of cliques within a local church (they refer to them as clusters): the Conjugal cluster, the Christian Education cluster, the Established Member Cluster, and the Prominent Member cluster.

It was somewhat surprising that Balswick and Layne found that theological differences were not a factor in clique formation. Those within these cliques generally have a very weak theological and doctrinal foundation. They are not interested in having the most knowledgeable or capable people but rather the most capable clique members. The depth of Bible studies, for example, does not progress beyond the popular teachers of the day. The theology of these clique members, generally, is representative of the feel-good, narcissistic culture we see around us. Many of those that are the informal leaders of these cliques may also be the “showman/woman” – those that look for attention or influence by their actions rather than their spiritual value. 

Jesus caught flack from the Pharisee’s (the cliques) because He was hanging out with those considered to be socially unpopular. One example is his relationship with Zacchaeus the taxman (Luke 19:1-10). This successful tax collector got assurance of his spiritual restitution because Jesus saw a change of heart and his commitment to make financial restitution where/if called for. Jesus doesn’t ask him to quit his lucrative career (or sell all he had and give it to the poor), Zak was just elated to be accepted by Jesus and pledged to operate honestly. I believe this to be the same of most church members who simply do not understand how to fit in. 

People tend to associate with others who are most like themselves. While this behavior ministers to aloneness, those outside the Clique are alone and hurting. Every church is full of hurting people. Some are hurting more than you and could use your kindness, prayers and mentorship. God can meet so many needs in your own life as you serve someone else. Search for those in the congregation who need your help and support. Serve somewhere in a church ministry. 

In the case of a clique, the first response must always be prayer. We need to lift up these individuals in prayer, and seek God’s will to be done in the situation. Praise God for his sovereignty because as we are told in Romans 8, He works all things for good for those who love him. Many times these cliques will be lead by one strong alpha-type individual; pray for that person particularly, that God would open his or her eyes to submit to His holy Word. The Pastor or Elders may not even be aware that there is a problem. Oftentimes there are others who recognize the problem, but fail to speak up.

Finally, if one finds themselves falling victim to a clique culture that is bringing discomfort, bitterness, hurt/offense, or aggravation/frustration, it is encouraged to follow the rules outlined by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17. First speak with the individual one on one. If that does not work, then speak with the individual with one or two witnesses. If that still does not work, then take it to church leadership. In some cases, it is possible that the individual does not realize the harm they are causing and the issue is resolved with humility and civility. This is what we should be praying for.

 


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Church Cliques (part 1 of 2) – The Circle of Trust

I recently completed a vigorous and meditative read of all four gospels. It took a few weeks (three I think) as I meditated and prayed over many verses spanning all four of the books. I couple of interesting items popped out to me:

1. Jesus relied heavily on His Circle of Trust – the 12 Disciples

2. The Disciples competed against each other on occasion for His attention and favor

3. The books reflected on the perspectives, experiences, and education of the four authors. One gospel by itself does not really do Jesus justice (in my opinion anyway). 

Then, over the last few days, the Lord brought James 2:1 to me (amongst others). Imagine if Jesus had shown favor to a select few of His disciples. Not-withstanding that He brought three with Him to pray, he did not favor any of them that would form disunity in His Circle of Trust, nor did He allow strife between His Disciples and the flock they were preaching to. What if He had allowed Cliques to form? It would have destroyed the church from the start. 

James 2:1 – “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism”.

If you’ve seen the movie Meet the Parents, you probably remember “the circle of trust.” Robert De Niro’s character, Jack, a former CIA agent and overly protective father, is obsessed with making sure his future son-in-law Greg is a trustworthy and honorable husband for Pam, his only daughter. From his point of view, a person is either in or out of his circle of trust; there’s nothing in between. 

As with a business, within the church, “Circles” are ok within department and leadership circles, they are normal (and generally required) both operationally and spiritually; these circles are a natural formation of people whom you trust and receive guidance and input from. The people who are closest to you and with whom you share unquestionable trust are the ones who are closest to you in your inner circle. You then have various ‘circles’ or bands of trust the expand out from the center of the circle based on the degree of closeness and trust you have with various people in your life.

Who do you allow in your “Circle” and why? Unquestionable trust; common traits and characteristics; to build your self-esteem (??). Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) spends the weekend at his girlfriend’s parents home and has to deal with her father, where poor Greg is stressed about being allowed into The Byrne Family Circle of Trust. The father reminds him that once he’s out of the circle, he’s out and can’t be let back in.  Thank God that He let’s us back into His circle.

The father did not initially allow Greg Focker into his circle of trust, the father was sizing him up – distrust was automatic and Greg had to earn his trust through many misadventures and actions. Greg had to work extra hard to earn the trust of someone who he knew was going to be an important person in his life. This caused Greg to be erratic, lose confidence, and grow bitter and disenfranchised; it caused him to stumble. His effort almost broke up his relationship with his girlfriend and his inclusion onto the Byrne family. Was this fair for Greg, his girlfriend, Jack Byrne? Should Greg have had to work so hard to feel included? What if trust were automatic, something you can only lose? Should the father have trusted Greg because his daughter trusted him? I believe the father excluded Greg because he felt threatened by him.  Thank God that He lets us in to His circle based on our desire and will. All we have to do is “want to be let in”.

A review of your Circle of Trust can help you understand where you need to address trust problems – whether it be with you or with others. Working out of your Circle of Trust and the circles within can help you to get an at-a-glance view of your own little world. Are you excluding people from your circle with disregard to their feelings? Are you excluding people because of their physical appearance or their education? Do you rely in your Circle of Trust to build your own self-esteem? More importantly, has your “Circle of Trust” transformed into a Clique? If so, you have entered the “danger zone”. 

Cliques are dominant and prevalent during teenage years, but unfortunately, they are also found in society, culture, and, within Churches. Members of a clique often isolate themselves as a group and tend to view the clique as superior to anyone outside the clique, even in churches. Circles of Trust are a necessity in churches, but when they have transformed into a clique, they have fallen outside of God. God abhors cliques because they leave too many people feeling isolated and alone.

After receiving the warm embrace of “greeters” and “meeter’s”, some churches are challenged in meeting the needs of newborns into the church body. “Therefore, many of them become vulnerable to the attack of the enemy of their souls”. People need each other, and God’s design is for our needs to be met within the context of a healthy church body; it is also God’s design for the gifts of the members of the church body to be used for His glory.

Ask Him to be let in and He will welcome you with open arms.


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Building a Godly Relationship

Eph 4:1  As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Not long after being born again. I had struggles. Even after experiencing a few miracles and awesome displays of love from God, I was still overcome by the world. The instability of my past was slowly being replaced by the stability of the Kingdom of Heaven. Over the years, I struggled to live a life worthy of the calling I had received. The trauma of my past, both received and delivered, haunted me. People strained my edgy temperament. It was really hard for me.

Some of us are impeded from living up to Christ. It may be a troubled childhood, a tough marriage, difficult children, or, having seen too much evil.

To each of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it (Eph 4:7)

It doesn’t happen just because we really, really want it or because we can master the will power. Rather, grace means letting the Holy Spirit supply what we need. The Holy Spirit is the gifter needed so that we can participate in His divine nature. Walking in Gods purpose, peace, power. Signs and wonders will follow those that believe.

I was a skeptic, then a seeker, then a believer.  You can lose a lot of things in life and get them back if you keep your confidence. The devil cannot take your calling. God does not change His mind when you lose your way. Since the devil cannot take your calling, he attacks your confidence. If he can take your confidence then he can keep you from functioning in your calling. Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that what you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.

In early 2017, I knew that I needed to work on my relationship with Jesus. I needed to know more about who He is and who I was in Him. When I felt that it was time to invest time into a  structured program, my wife challenged me with answering the question  – why?  She had watched me spend three years on a secular doctorate degree and appreciated the time commitment. As a knowledge seeker, it was paramount that my time be spent getting to know Him and build my relationship. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge was not adequate.

Because I took this seriously, it took me almost three months to sincerely answer this question – why? 

When asked by God to lead His people out of Egypt, Moses initially responded “Who am I to do this….?”.   Since connecting with Jesus, I have often asked myself who am I to be a member of His family, or, convincing myself that I was not worthy.  I have a passionate hunger for spiritual things, I am hungry to commune with God.   I sense a drive to do wonderful things in the name of the Lord but I also felt a shortcoming in my preparation.   I am a person wired to learn more things, yet without a deep relationship with Him I have nothing to apply.  I have been out of balance with expectations.

In February 2017, I was awakened to the reality that “Christian” knowledge by itself can be dangerous without “spiritual” revelation. I have always been fully aware that wisdom is the application of knowledge, but I was neglecting revelation.  I would read the scriptures, but I was still missing it because I was treating it like a book study. It was then that it was revealed to me that I was looking for answers on who I needed to be rather than anticipating who He is.  I then found a teaching where I determined that one cannot get the experience of God simply by study, it must come by the revelation of who He is. This revelation led to a secondary revelation that I need to read and “reflect” on scripture (meditate/ponder), this will in turn lead me to wisdom and “revelation knowledge”.   I simply need to be who I am, God is ok with me.

I am a veteran that thrives on structure, I am also a frequent consumer of knowledge.  I am a vessel and a vessel is what it contains; I contain the gift of the Spirit through Jesus Christ. To balance my Spirit with my soul, I required a program of revelation that is structured and planned. I know how to learn at every level of secular academics, under His guidance, I am expanding this vessel (me) to the revelation knowledge of who I am in Jesus Christ.

My wife challenged me to answer the question “why?”.  He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory, so I will provide what the Holy Ghost has given to me.  Who am I?  I am a vessel for Christ to impart his knowledge to those in need of His word. I am a vessel of wisdom to speak with those that are hard headed and out of balance with who they are in Jesus.  I am a vessel that has plenty of space to increase my own revelation knowledge of who He is.  When the Lord called Samuel, he answered “Here I am!”, but he did not know it was God; this was me. He later answered the Lord, after being guided by Eli “Speak, for Your servant hears.”  Who am I?  I am the Lord’s vessel to impart revelation knowledge on others. Here I am Lord.

Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”


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The First 40 Years – Part 2 (Church Encounter)

In Part 1, I shared that I was blinded by church labels, denominations, and the complexity of “choosing” a church that would be the right one.  My negative perceptions were also influenced by religion – man made doctrines and legalism that dictate how you act, how you perform, what you do, how you do it, and passing judgement while you do it. 

Why did it take me 40 years to come to Christ? I idolized a false god called rationalism. I could not rationally fit the church into my worldly logic view.  Was my rationality due to my own shortcomings, or, was my rationality due to what the world was teaching me?  I believe it to be both.  

What do I believe now? What do I believe today? 

John 8:32 “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 

What is the truth? 

John 14:6 Jesus said to him [Thomas], “Iam the way, and the truth, and the life…….”

The key to an encounter with God is the Holy Ghost. It is not intellectual, it is not theological. It is spending time with Him; communing with Him. It requires fellowship with other believers so that you may strengthen your confidence in Him and increases your faith. Church is necessary, it is a commandment. The denomination choice, the church of choice, is not material as long as the central focus is always in Jesus. Denominations are a matter of convenience but the truth is that there are no denominations in heaven. 

A choice of church is based on your heart language. What convicts you? What inspires you? What brings you closer to Jesus? 

Man has created conditions and rules around a set of belief frameworks that qualify which type of church you belong to, much/some of it based on biblical principles but some of it has been added by man to manage, administer, and organize groups of people. It establishes processes to assist with the operation of a church: worship, prayers, the message, etcetera.  The rub is that it also sets a tone for the message of that church, which is where most people have problems. Bottom line is that Jesus did not create a box, but he did outline commandments. Two of His commandments are foundational to His church. 

Mark 12:30-31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.‘ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The last words of Jesus to His disciples are His Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT) Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

I have come to believe that almost ALL Christian churches, regardless of denomination, are centered around one common theme – JESUS CHRIST!! If Jesus is not the central focus, then I do not see how that church can be Christian.

I have come to believe that people must follow their heart language regarding their church of choice (their denomination) – what does your heart tell you?  

Your heart language will set your belief system and frame your Christian morals and values. If one church setting is slow and monotone, then that is what fits the heart language of those parishioners. In contrast, if a church is loud, fast, and high energy, then that is the heart language of those particular parishioners. Some wear fancy church clothes and outfits; some wear street clothes. Some churches only sing hymnal music while other churches play music that is more modern. Does the message of the church bring people closer to Jesus?   

I have come to strongly believe that, regardless of their church “denomination”, Christians must respect and love other Christians. Christians should not criticize or condemn other Christians because of their choice of church. It is the Holy Spirit prodding us in our heart language that guides us; anything else is human logic and rationality. I believe that God desires for His Church to remain in unity and on point – focused on Jesus.  

1.       The Church belongs to Jesus, not to man. 

Ephesians 5:23-24. “……Christ is head of the Church………..the church is subject to Christ”

2.       Christ is the leader of the church, Jesus did not direct any appointments where we go through a man to get to God

Colossians 1:18. “……He is the head of the body, the Church”

John 14:6 Jesus said to him [Thomas], “………no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

3.       It is not your church nor is it my church, it is Christ’s Church.  It is CHRISTian. 

1 John 3:23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

We cannot get mad at people who we think are blind or scoff at them because they have chosen a specific denomination or belief system. It is ok to disagree with certain beliefs but we are also commanded to love each other.  I was blinded by Church labels and I was blinded by man’s rules in the church. More importantly, I was disenfranchised by what I was led to believe church was. This is one reason it took me 40 years to find Christ. The lesson is that Church labels, and the boxes we draw around them, can hold back the Holy Spirit. The good news is that even with all of this white noise, He and I were still able to connect and He saved me! Glory to God!


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God’s Approval

Galations 1:10 (NIV) Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

God is calling us to gain His approval, not the approval of people. People will only approve of us when our performance meets their expectations, but once we slip below the minimum line, we are out.  When our performance becomes the standard for other people’s approval, our dignity is reduced to a performance goal or an objective. Most people conform by learning how the system works and give other people what they want: performance.   However, the bible also tells us in Galatians 5:13 that we are to serve one another humbly in love.  I am not trying to please people with my performance, but I am also not to use this “freedom” to indulge lashing out at people or being judgmental. If we work with and help each other, we can humble ourselves by loving our neighbor just as we love ourselves.

Simple obedience is the secret to pleasing God.  Jesus did not die so that you can get away with “whatever” on a regular basis; He died to save your spirit.  The Bible tells us to “Have Faith”, but its not just telling you to have faith, it is telling you to believe in your heart. When you have faith in Christ, the love of God is so real that you feel you could do anything for Jesus.

To believe, you need to experience Jesus more. To experience Jesus more, you will have to become friends with the Holy Spirit.  It is these moments with the Spirit that will change you, not a one line message on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram.


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The God I wanted vs. The God I needed

Gal 5:22-26 (NLT) ……the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. 

Many Christians were born and raised in a Christian household and cannot recall not being a Christian. They have been immersed in a Christian environment practically their entire lives – their conversion was slowly absorbed into their heart, soul, and body versus one giant, dramatic leap from someone that had been living a “worldly” lifestyle.  These Christians do make their own independent declaration of faith in Christ, but they generally do not experience a dramatic experiential transformation – they have already been walking in His grace.

Walking from the “world” into a life of Christ is a conversion where a lightbulb is suddenly turned on, going off in front of your eyes.  I have come across a few since my connecting with Christ that cannot identify with that unmistakable moment (a small number have been fascinated by it). For me, my experience in September 2008 was immediate and very dramatic (I was shaken to my core and knocked to my knee’s), but then, tapered off over time due to my conflicting worlds (materialism vs. Christian “morality”) and silly events that would breed whispering seeds of mistrust. To be clear, I am accountable for my tapering off, not the Father. 

Rom 5:3-5 (NLT)  We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. 

The true turning point for me came when I stopped seeking the God I wanted and started seeking the God who is. I surrendered completely and fully committed myself to a relationship with Him and followed Him.  I surrendered my will, my heart, my mind, my soul and my strength to Him.  We dealt with, and still deal with, temptations and made/make some wrong choices, we have been taken to the mat a few times, but the Lord has always been there for us and we have walked away victorious. Actually, these moments are becoming much more clear to me personally, adding strength to my spirit and deepening my resolve and determination to follow Jesus wherever He takes me. We will experience a series of battles and trials, but it is through these events in our lives that we are made stronger as we honor Him and when we give Him the glory.

1 Peter 1:7-8 (NKJV)  that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 

It is not the way of Christ that leads to everlasting life, it is the Person of Christ. It is not what we follow, but whom we follow; not a set of values, but a Person. This has been my lesson over the last few years – learned via some hard knocks. Jesus said “Follow me.”, He did not say, “Follow My principles”. If we imitate His life but don’t know Him personally, we will become exhausted. In the beginning, I was trying to simply follow a set of rules and what I thought of as Christian principles and values. This was me “yesterday”, it is not me “today” or “tomorrow”.


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My First 40 years – Part 1 (How did I get here?)

Jonah cried out, “When my life was slipping way, I remembered God, And my prayer got through to you, made it all the way to your holy temple. Those who worship hollow gods, god-frauds, walk away from their only true love” (Jonah 2:7-8 MSG). Jonah could not know it, but when he humbled himself, God initiated his comeback. When we humble ourselves and turn back, God initiates our comeback.

 

Over the last 10 years, when I talk with people, they always ask about “how I’m doing”, “when did I come to the Lord” and “what was that experience like”. But, a few weeks ago, I was having lunch with one of our Church Elders and he asked me a question that I had never been asked before “Why did it take me 40 years to come to Christ?”.  What an excellent question.

Last week, I shared a resolution, in a very public and transparent way, declaring my identity in Christ and our household decision to serve the Lord. It is critical to both my personal and professional calling and one that I am very excited about (I do work

for a Ministry). Why would I do that? Some might consider it embarrassing (perhaps too personal). I did it because before I can move forward, it was a necessary step forward for me “spiritually” and I had been concerned about how my faith would be received by those that believe me to be something else; not because of how I “walk” but because of how I had “walked”. I never really shared the joy and love of Jesus with many and this was stifling me in my relationship with God. It was not right that I was holding back in sharing Him with others, I was living in sin by allowing my fear to have a stronger hold on me than our Father. The Lord had been preparing me for over a year to share my faith openly and publicly, recent events made it absolute – the time was now. What I was struggling with were the right words. My fear of doing such a public thing were blinding me to what the Holy Spirit was guiding me to. So what did He do? He humbled me and influenced me in very indirect ways. A movie, devotionals, books, some course work, and a few conversations with some great men. The bottom line is the time was right to do so, doing so was in obedience, and He graciously provided me with the resources necessary to find the right words. 

But, why share at all? What specifically was I afraid of? Some may advise that this is personal and some may argue not the business of others. My personality runs smack down the middle of Introvert and Extrovert, my introversion side wants to dominate my extroverted side. Some of you are strangers, we only exist as social media connections or business relationships. Some of us have not really communicated in over a decade and therefore only know me “before Christ”, you do not know me any other way. There are others that know me “after Christ” and are focused more on my transitioning from 40 years without Christ to my new life with Christ – they recognize me more based on my challenges and stumbles than on who I truly am in Him. I don’t blame anyone, we are naturally human after all and I did stumble a few times, sometimes in glorious and dramatic fashion. I am also very bad about maintaining long term relationships (some of you know what I mean, I have been bad at it). We have all read books and other literature about how failure makes us stronger – when we stumble with the Lord or go through trials, it is a true statement that we can come out stronger on the other end. I share to show that with God as our strength, we can overcome anything – even something like this. I share to show that the Lord loves us, no matter our circumstances, no matter our past, no matter our character. I have been wondering recently how many others are holding back from being honest with themselves and are confident enough, and courageous enough, to declare their relationship with the Father, or, do they feel safer being what worldly social and cultural norms prefer them to be. This is where courage comes into place. 

During my transition to building a relationship with Him, I was trying to live two worlds at the same time, I wanted to live a life with Christ but I also wanted to keep what I had and the momentum I was on, I did not let it all go and allow Him to fully operate in my life. I was a moralist trying to be a Christian and a materialist. These worlds are completely at odds with each other and I fell into a warfare, a series of ups and downs. And then, the big one hit, our son Christoffer died while serving in the Middle East – man, this was a tumble. I stopped going to church for three years and pretty much cut off all contact with my church relationships of the time. I still recognized God but I fell into a blame condition, blaming myself, but more dangerously, holding Him accountable for our loss. This affected me personally and professionally. 

I fell back to my old self and was once again focused on me (me, me, me). I was wrong and was failing Him, I had removed “me” from His grace and righteousness. I did eventually get over myself when I realized that I was happier when I actively had God in my life; after three years away, I started the process of reconditioning myself back to the Lord – I was making a comeback. I repented, sought His forgiveness, and recognized that my way ahead would be via His grace and glory. This reconditioning started slow but exponentially increased. I observed and I listened. Finally, after a few setbacks in my walk with Him, I gave it ALL to Him. I surrendered. Took myself completely out of the equation and turned it all over to Him and His will for the life of my family and I. BAM!!! What an awesome experience, instantaneous freedom. This is where He wanted me to be. The more I focused on Him, the more He revealed to me. I had not experienced such peace in a very long time. My heart was lifted and most of the worries and concerns I had at the time, were erased away (the New Testament discusses this intimately). The desire to speak and the desire to share was very difficult to hold back, but I held my seat. And then, the fear to share (even in writing) starting to sneak its way in and I started to panic about what I was being guided to do. I would go through short spurts of speaking and sharing in corporate settings and church environments and then feel convicted about sharing (the time was not yet right). 

I needed more revelation and I needed to be consistent. I also needed to be in unity with my wife, she needed to be on the same page and in total agreement. This condition climaxed in a series of events throughout 2017; it was obvious that every decision we had made and every step we had taken, with His guidance and His input, had led us to that moment, right then. We had new instructions, it was time to follow a new path that He had wanted us to follow. We know that with Him leading and prodding us, every step we take and every decision we make will take us to where He wants us to be. The Lord told my wife and I that it was time to walk out in total faith. With the Lord as our guide, He has truly lit our path and is continuing to lead my wife and I. For He is with us and we have placed all faith in Him; And He has delivered. Here’s the deal, it is one thing to write words, it is another thing to walk it out in a way that matches what you read. Is my walk consistent with what I am writing? This is all part of my identity resolution. I now have all of you to help hold me accountable. 

Back to the question I was asked. Why did I block the Lord from my life for so long? This was something that I had thought about in retrospect but I had not pondered or meditated on too deeply. Not even Pastors that I had shared intimate conversations with or otherwise spoke with had asked me this; they were more interested in who I was today than who I was yesterday, looking forward and not looking in the rear view mirror. Nonetheless, it was very soon after this discussion that the Lord started to reveal to me the answer, what a wonderful Father. 

Meditating on this question and what the Lord would reveal to me is important because it is part of who I am and how I got here (spiritually). This was the final push I needed to finish writing and sharing my “identity resolution”. With the permission and support of my wife, clarity from spiritual accountability partners, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, over the next few weeks I will share this story as He guides me and brings definition to things. My journey will be shared in what I believe will be three Parts. I pray that my telling of this rather honest and very transparent story bless you and encourage you to reflect, ponder, and write your own story as our Father guides your path.


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A Public Resolution and Key to Identity

I have a resolution I would like/need to declare and share. It has been burning in my heart and spirit for almost a year but I had been blocked by fears and concerns about how it would be received, or perceived, by those that have known me or think they know me – a coming out if you will. Some will read this and understand and agree, while others will “mock it or ignore it”1; some will even roll their eyes and possibly break our connection. Some will believe that I am being true to myself and in some cases others will believe me to be in some form of crisis or have somehow gone out of my mind. Please understand that I am not in crisis. It has taken me a bit of time to gain the courage, and the confidence, to be who I was intended to be as a professional and who I need to be as a person – it is intermixed. While always a courageous person, I have allowed my truth to be clouded by what I perceived the reality of the world to be and those who I have connected with in the past, I have been afraid of what some would think. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot progress in who I am unless I share this. Whether you support my calling or not you may still agree that regarding my caring about what others would think- “How stupid is this”? No more, I am to be real to who I am, a man of Christ. Christ wants me to be courageous. He wants ALL men to be courageous.

As a non-believer for the first 39 years of my life, I held myself accountable to what others thought of me or tailored my actions to what I thought others wanted me to be and how they measured success (professionally). I was also holding myself accountable to what my father had convinced me of throughout my youth, that I wasn’t worth it (his perspective changed when I was an adult and he later accepted Christ before he passed away). Simultaneously, I allowed my desire (my mind) to accomplish the mission at the sacrifice of my desires for relationships (my heart) and what God had planned for me. My “orphaned” identity would constantly shift based on my worldly surroundings or to what mattered at the time. This allowed for a bit of collateral damage in my life.

I was wrong and have known that I was wrong for many years. Yet the shifting orphan identities I had created for myself were dominating my life and the life of my family. While I made a dramatic shift towards the Lord almost 10 years ago, it has been a process to change and rewire almost 40 years of thinking and 40 years of beliefs, to what I now know to be THE TRUTH. I had been holding myself to my own accountability on the outside (my thinking); on the inside (my heart), however, was a different story. My heart was in constant conflict with my attitudes and how I treated others and my surroundings. I know now that my identity is a son of God and that is the identity I now endeavor each day to be. Far from perfect, but I work towards excellence and the Lord knows this. I have made many mistakes and I will likely make more. But I know that the Lord will be there to pick me up. My accountability is to the Lord first and primary, anything else comes second at best. But oh man, there is constant temptation to backslide!

“We are all accountable for our positions and the influence we have on our friends, our families, and work mates. We should be a model on how to walk with honor and integrity and treat others with respect”1 – value everyone. “We need to be responsible to live our lives for what matters in eternity”.1 Instead, some of us are living our lives with an identity of self and are holding ourselves accountable to the way the world views us and the way others look at us. This isn’t courage, this is adapting. The world should not shape us, the Lord is our architect and our creator. In my orphan identity, I had seen firsthand the hurt and devastation that a life without God brings to a family, to the work space, and to the community, to our nation even. “This is because we are living recklessly and following the same patterns of irresponsibility that many of our fathers have shown us”1 – carrying their wounds while also adding our own wounds as we forget, or neglect, who we are and are supposed to be.

Every child desperately needs a father; there’s no way around this fact. As adults, I believe that our Father is in heaven, serving as our counselor, our comforter and our exhorter. Additionally, the Lord designed us as relational beings, we need and require relationships with others to live fruitful lives. As some know, 7 years ago my family endured the tragic loss of our son, Christoffer. Over the last few years, his death has forced me to realize that not only had I not taken advantage of the priceless time I had with him, but that “I did not truly understand how crucial my role was as a father to him and our other two children”.1 I have been extremely hard on myself regarding Christoffer and my relationship with him, I even blamed God (really??). Nonetheless, over the last few years, “I’ve asked God to show me, through His Word, how to be the father that I need to be, what kind of husband that I need to be”1, what kind of son “of God” I need to be, and what kind of man I need to be.

I believe that “God desires for every man to courageously step up and do whatever it takes to be involved in the lives of his children”1, to be united with their wives and love them unconditionally, to be good stewards of the prosperity the Lord provides, and “to be the man of courage that the Lord has designed us to be. More than just being there or providing for their families, men are to walk with them through their lives and be a visual representation of the character of God”.1 Have the courage to stand up and support the Godly convictions that you know to be the truth for our society today. We must also live the example in our work environments, in our local communities, on the stage, wherever it is that we find ourselves. I believe too many men have neglected God given responsibilities and have forgotten who they are truly accountable to – going back as far as a century and more, getting progressively worse. I believe this is the root of our problems in our nation, and world, today. “Men of God should stand up, take up the mantle of courage”1 to show the world what a true believer in Christ is, and feed the roots of our true heritage as sons of God.

“A father should love his children and seek to win their hearts. He should protect them, discipline them and teach them about God”.1 A husband is to love his wife unconditionally, honor her, pray with her, and readily receive her guidance. “While so many mothers have sacrificed to help their children survive, they were never intended to carry the weight alone. We thank God for them”.1 Men must walk in unity with their wives – there is a power in a communion that is recognized by God. Men should be proud of who they are in Christ and live the plan that He has for them. Where it is missing, bring God back into our families and into our communities.

Some men will read this and mock it or ignore it, I mentioned this earlier. “But I tell you that as a man, you are accountable to God for the position of influence he has given you. You can’t fall asleep onlyto wake up one day and realize that your job or your hobbies have no eternal value”1, but the souls of your family and our fellow man does.

“Some men will read this and agree with it but have no resolve to live it out themselves. Instead, they will live for themselves and waste the opportunity to leave a Godly legacy for the next generation. But there are some men who, regardless of the mistakes we’ve made in the past, regardless of what our fathers did not do for us, will show strength and live the rest of their days to loving God with all that we are”1 [and to work with other men to do the same], and, whenever possible, to love and mentor other men who desperately need help and direction. The good news is that the Lord gave us all free will, a choice; I just pray that we stand up together and make the right one.

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15

Note: this resolution was inspired from a speech given in the movie “Courageous”. While most parts of this are mine, some words have been highlighted from the speech. While credit is to be given to the writers of this movie and the final push I needed to put this out there, ALL credit is given to the Holy Spirit for His guidance in my version of this resolution. I pray that this resolution lights a fire in the lives of other men (even if only one), just as it has aided and inspired me to share the parts that are relevant to me in my life. If this only catches the positive attention of one man, then the glory goes to Him. God bless.

 

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