Freedom With Jesus

In 1 Peter 2:16, Peter reminds us that we should never claim our freedom as God’s people as way of justifying wrong or sinful (or “evil”) choices. To do so shows that we deeply misunderstand what it means to be a free servant of God. Nor are we to use “submission” as an excuse to do something sinful, simply because the government has told us to. 

1 Peter 2:16 (MSG) Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.

In Acts 5:28-29 (Amp), the Sanhedrin confronted the apostles ordering them to stop preaching about Jesus, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this Man’s blood on us [by accusing us as His murderers].” Then Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men [we have no other choice].”

The Jewish leaders feared that the people would hold them responsible for Jesus death. They were more concerned about maintaining their authority than embracing the truth.

But no matter what is happening across our nation or the world, we know that we can ALWAYS count on Jesus.

Hebrews 13:7-8 (MSG) Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness. There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.

As time moves on we move along with it. We are constantly changing. Change is good. That is why we attend church. We want to change. We want to become more like Jesus. We want to forsake our sins, to honor the Lord God, to be more loving and forgiving, and to let the world know what Jesus has done for us.

Change is good and sometimes necessary. But, though we may change, though circumstances may change, Jesus does not. He is always there for us, always dependable, always concerned for us.

 

1. It means that you can always depend upon his character to never change.

2. It means that you can always know that His love for you cannot decrease.

3. It means that you can always depend on His commitment to you in all things, at all times, in all ways.

4. Though the world changes, circumstances change, people change, and you change, Jesus never does.

 

We should never use our freedom in Christ as justification for sin choices. Instead, we should always keep at the forefront of our heart, and count on, that Jesus does not change. He is the same today as He was 2000 years ago. He will be the same tomorrow, even if our national and global culture changes for the worse. Praise God!!

 

References:

https://carm.org/sermon-hebrews-138-you-can-always-count-jesus, accessed 11 Oct 2019

Christian Standard Study Bible

The McArthur Study Bible, NASB


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Where’s The Beef?

I was reminded today of that Wendy’s commercial from the 80’s where that elderly lady was looking for a decent hamburger and was constantly given burgers with buns so large that it covered the beef. Hence the catch phrase she and Wendy’s started, “Where’s the beef?”

Several years ago the Lord led me in the direction of becoming certified in Holistic Nutrition and while eating holistically leans towards a plant based diet, I believe the Bible is where our bottom line answers should come from. If Jesus ate meat, and the Bible says we should follow His example, then we should too! Now I’m not advocating eating just any ‘ole meat sold in the stores . I believe it should be as close as GOD CREATED it to be and how Jesus ate it, which is what we would call today…. grass-fed and organic. 

Although I have become and been called a “nutrition nerd” (which is nicer than some others names I’ve been called in my lifetime!), and I’m less likely to set foot in a fast food restaurant, even for the coffee (*gasp!*), I’m starting to see where society today, particularly progressive liberals, is trying to lead us. They are taking us in a direction where we may end up asking ourselves, “Where’s the Beef?”  

Progressive liberals (including many of the Democratic Presidential Candidates) want to change the dietary guidelines and limit meat consumption due to an uneducated belief system of “farting cows” and what they believe the meat industry is doing to the environment impacting climate change. While there may be a tiny sliver of truth that “farting cows” (where does this leave “farting humans?”) might be contributing to the environment, rather than taking an easy way out and wiping their hands of what they consider a “problem” by taking meat away, what they should be focused on is how to IMPROVE the industry, so that the food we eat is actually produced the way God in nature intended for us eat it. 

With the left wanting to dictate to us what “they think” is good for us (and not God) and wanting to take meat out of our diets, I want to end with what God says on the matter (emphasis mine):

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”

‭‭I Timothy‬ ‭4:1-5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

These verses are stated even more clearer in the Message Translation (again, emphasis mine):

“The Spirit makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars. These liars have lied so well and for so long that they’ve lost their capacity for truth. They will tell you not to get married. They’ll tell you not to eat this or that food—perfectly good food God created to be eaten heartily and with thanksgiving by believers who know better! Everything God created is good, and to be received with thanks. Nothing is to be sneered at and thrown out. God’s Word and our prayers make every item in creation holy.”

‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭4:1-5‬ ‭MSG‬‬

So if you ever come to MY house and say, “Where’s the Beef?” I’m going to reply, “On the grill and…. ready to eat!”


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Faith, Love, and Culture – A Time to Reflect

Where is your heart on the following cultural items currently dividing our nation?

  • Abortion.
  • Gender identity
  • The LGBT agenda
  • Immigration and borders
  • Socialism v. Capitalism
  • Free Speech v. Political Correctness (1st Amendment)
  • President Trump’s impeachment
  • Marriage rights
  • Gun Rights (2nd Amendment)

Which of these items caused your heart to beat faster or a roll of your eyes? Which ones triggered compassion, mercy, peace, or forgiveness?  Which ones brought up anger and frustration? Or, did you simply not care about any of them?  Odds are that you had a physiological reaction one way or another to each one of these questions.

As you consider each question – can you think of any scriptures to support your perspective, opinion, or thoughts?  Do you look into your heart in search of the right direction, do you believe your scriptural support to be clear and concise for your positions on each question?  What do you believe to be God’s thoughts on them? Can you talk about each one of these with anyone – believer or non-believer – and maintain your composure in love and grace?

As we walk the journey towards protecting what each one of us believes is right and just for our national heritage as well as participating in the process of protecting our religious liberties, our path swaggers between our cultural and scriptural truths.   Not only do we have a treasure in Scripture, our Declaration of Independence and our US Constitution, our largest treasure exists within our heart. The result of our political, religious, and moral crises we face today, if you believe we have one, is that both the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake – no matter your political philosophy or biblical theology.

As we consider the ramifications and scale of this crisis, it is easy to blur the lines as we compromise our faith with societal pressures and cultural worldviews with our opinions and biases. This is a condition of where our heart gate meshes with our thought gate, or worse, where our thoughts blur the truth of our hearts. For example:

  1. We have Christians that refer to Democrats as “Demoncrats”.  When this happens, we are grouping ALL democrats together and this is neither fair nor Christ-like; creating an opportunity for offense and blocking an opportunity to share the Gospel. Conservatives were uncomfortable when they were referred to as “deplorables”.
  2. We have Christians who inherently interpret scripture to support an argument versus proper application of scripture towards “life”, which is not healthy. I am of the opinion that Dave Barton of Wallbuilders and Jim Denison of the Denison Forum are two wonderful examples of those who do a fantastic job of blending scripture with American history and current cultural issues. Proper blending of the gospel message with American culture is paramount and distinctive of The Gospel of Christ.
  3. Many Christians spread inaccurate propaganda, or fake news, across social media inciting others to move along their echo chamber or harming the testimonies of others.  It is bad enough that fake news of a non Christian flavor are doing this. 
  4. Christians prefer bumper sticker quotes to careful nuanced reading of the Bible. We hate complexity and prefer the easy-to-quote lines that work well for mugs, Facebook posts, and arguments.
 

Nonetheless, despite our duty to be Christ-like and loving, we should also remain guarded and never betray the truth itself by indulging in misguided beliefs as if they are true, just for the sake of pleasing other people. In 2 Cor Ch 6, Paul is telling us that Christians should not unite with non-Christians in any [spiritual enterprise or relationship] that would be harmful to our own Christian testimonies. Nor should we engage in any activity or learning that can compromise our faith or that of anyone else (this does not mean that we disengage from cultural discourse). It is not a matter of trying to remain pure, but when the Gospel  is rightly taught it has the power of the living God to save lives. If we allow and permit the truth to be distorted, we are then accomplices in leading people astray from the path of salvation. That’s why Paul gave the warning to Timothy that we see in 1 Tim 4:16 where he tells him to watch himself in his teachings, by doing so he will be saving both himself and his hearers a lot of problems.

John 15:12. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you

When discussing politics and culture, some may tend to present it differently than the Bible does, this is when Christians can run the danger of compromising their faith.  When this happens, the Holy Spirit will speak up and convict you, to which we should step back and review our actions, our words, and more importantly, our heart.  This is why scripture warns us to “guard our heart”.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil (Proverbs 4:23-27).

In the Old Testament the word “heart” is used more than 800 times, but more than 200 times it deals with one’s thought life, emotions, the wellsprings of life, those things that motivate and mold us (Proverbs 23:7). In a complex society increasingly skeptical about claims related to absolute truth and indisputable facts, it’s increasingly hard to use the Bible to support anything without coming across as biased and prejudiced.

Jesus came to save sinners—all kinds. As the church, this truth should define the way we interact with others that have opposing points of view as people, as we communicate to them: God loves us all. We should not let our politics define us. Instead, we should first communicate that “We love you”, and we want to talk with you with a spirit of grace.

Another risk is when Church followers argue with other Church followers of different faith traditions and all those who are on their own unique spiritual journey. The challenge of any discussion (or debate) about culture, even when Scripture is applied, or as a Christian, is the muddlement of fact interpretation.  We should never disparage the rights of anyone to openly discuss or debate issues. But, what we should do, before making an argument about anything, is ensure our comments and our facts are correct. Else, our credibility is shot (pun not intended) right from the start.

We can see an example of scripture selection and interpretation in Deut 23:1 and in Isaiah 56.

  1. Deut 23:1.  “No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.”
  2. In Isaiah 56, God welcomes eunuchs.
 

In Deut we read that an emasculated man cannot enter the assembly of the Lord while in Isaiah 56 we read that God welcomes eunuchs.  Which one is correct?  Both scriptures must be placed into context, to which I would encourage you to study both and draw your own conclusion. If we came together with our answers, most of us would not be surprised if we don’t have the same conclusions. Why? Because, as humans, we are operating under different theologies: truth theology (Word study and revelation knowledge) and testimony theology (life experiences, background, demographics). All theologies and doctrines are flawed to some degree due to our human nature, but that doesn’t change the truth that is within our hearts.

This impacts our interpretation of Scripture as it applies to whom we vote for, which policies we support, whether we are progressive or not, and how hard we will argue a point with others.  We are all reading the same bible and the same scripture we but still come to differing conclusions. Every Christian denomination, theological sect, and faith-based political platform asserts their ‘biblical’ status and this can be confusing.

Luke 6:27-28  But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

We may not all have the same answers to the questions Jesus asked and prompted, but they must be asked; and perhaps it is our conversation about them together that could help heal a broken nation. In another one of his letters, Paul talks about the pride that comes from religion and an obsession to be better than others as an example of idolatry, where we prioritize our desires over the Creator’s design (Galatians 4:8–9).

Paul’s concern for the Galatians was that before they knew God, they were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. “So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world?

But if the term ‘biblical’ means justifying something based on verses and ideas that are found within the Bible, then almost everything can legitimately claim to be ‘Bible-based,’ because the Bible can be used to rationalize and support almost any idea or agenda. If you are looking for verses with which to support slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to abolish slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to oppress women, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to liberate or honor women, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to wage war, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to promote peace, you will find them. If you are looking for an outdated, irrelevant ancient text, you will find it. If you are looking for truth, believe me, you will find it.

This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the Lord within Scripture is not what does it say? But what am I looking for? I suspect Jesus knew this when he said, “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” If you want to do violence in this world, you will always find the weapons. If you want to heal, you will always find the medication.

“What is the most Christlike way?” is a goal Christians should always be pursuing. The subtle difference from ‘biblical’ to ‘Christlike’ has radical connotations. Because instead of being centered upon the text, we’re now centering our faith on the person of Christ, which is what the Bible was intended for in the first place.

The semantics are important to understand because the different terms present two completely contrasting ideas. One is based on textual interpretations and opinions, while the other is founded upon the words and actions of the living savior of the world. If you’re a Christian, you should always err on the side of Jesus. But if we’re not careful, it’s easy to idolize the Bible while simultaneously ignoring the very message of Christ.

1 Peter 4:10. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

If our sinful nature had totally died upon regeneration, there would be no need for sanctification, because we would already have it.  This is why the secret of sanctification is to develop in our hearts a growing intensity of desire to please God, to be obedient to Christ. That’s why we are called to fill our minds with the Word of God that we may know more of the love of God, the majesty of God, and the excellence of Christ.
 

But no Christian in this world achieves 100% consistent desire to obey God only. There is a powerful desire left over from the fallen nature.  Romans Chapter 7 concludes with Paul’s acute awareness of the sinful side of his nature, which serves as strong evidence that he is saved, for the Holy Spirit operates in the believer to quicken his awareness of sin. When it comes to opinions about politics and culture, this can be a challenge. Perhaps this is why too many Christians have walked away from cultural debate. The good news is that we can learn.

There comes a time when it is appropriate to stop, rest, reflect, and ponder. You can meditate on what has been accomplished, what still requires doing, and, more importantly, spend some time in quiet, away from the noise. The pleadings of the Holy Spirit will tug at the heart strings if you are thinking incorrectly or improperly focused.
 

In the lead up to the 2020 election we’re being told that our primary choice is between different candidates and political parties. I believe the real choice is something deeper and more urgent. I believe the real choice is between the politics of Jesus and anti-Christ politics.

There seems to be a clear choice, a real and stark choice, going on in this country between the politics of Jesus and anti-Christ politics. I believe that the fear of the other, the hatred of the other, and violence against the other are the core of anti-Christ politics. And the love of the other, calling the other your neighbor, is at the heart of the politics of Jesus.

Jesus said eight different times, “Be not afraid …” Anti-Christ politics says, “Be afraid. I’m going to make you more afraid.” Jesus says that leadership is about service. Anti-Christ politics says it’s about wealth and power — it’s about winning and losing. Jesus says that we should not be lazy. Anti-Christ politics wants to take from those that work and redistribute to the lazy.  Jesus politics tells the church to take care of the sick. Anti-Christ politics says that healing is the responsibility of government. The Bible says we are all made in the image of God, but anti-Christ politics says, “No, some people are more valuable than other people.”

Jesus politics says that we, the people, need to be stewards of the resources He has given us. Anti-Christ politics says that the government knows more than us about our needs.  Jesus politics says to follow the Lord in all of our endeavors. Anti-Christ politics says that God is not necessary, man can take care of business. In Jesus politics, how we treat the “least of these” is the test of our politics.

1 Tim 5:8. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

 

Perhaps when we realize where our politics reside in our hearts, we’ll cease being a Pharisaic teacher of the law and we’ll become a gospel witness. We’ll start loving our neighbors as people made in the image of God and feeling compassion for them in their weakness. We will see in the face of every sinner a reflection of the corruption that afflicts our own hearts, the fruit of the rebellion we have participated in. Then we may see the truth of our culture and how only God can truly revive our nation. Utopia on earth is not possible until Jesus returns. Until then, we are in a spiritual war for our nation, the Leviathan of the Old Testament has reared his ugly head.

Mere political activism (as important as that is) won’t defeat our demons alone. The moral, religious, and political battles between our angels and our demons have become the “spiritual warfare” of our time, using the language of the Apostle Paul.

People often say they just believe the Bible and do what it says. This is never true! Everyone who reads the Bible makes priority decisions about which scripture to give more weight to. We make the judgement that certain verses, or certain voices within scripture, have higher authority than others. That is, if we rely on the Bible at all.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:10-14 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,”, it is very encouraging and empowering. It sounds like a down payment on all our hopes and dreams… unless we read the full context. Then we see that Paul is most likely saying that Christ can strengthen us to bear up under terrible, painful circumstances—like being imprisoned for your faith. That’s a great promise, but one not quite so many people hope to need.

Love one another, but let’s do it in truth. Let’s love each other enough that we are able to leave a legacy for our children that continues to allow them the freedom to choose, the freedom to speak, the freedom to defend themselves, and the freedom to live their worth. Most of all, let’s love our children enough to leave them with the freedom to worship and the freedom to praise God. That, my friends, is a faith worth fighting for.  If we are not careful, we will lose the “legal” right to do all things.

 

References:

https://marcalanschelske.com/use-the-bible-wrong/, accessed 25 Sep 2019

https://sojo.net/articles/not-everything-biblical-christlike, accessed 25 Sep 2019

https://sojo.net/articles/anti-christ-politics-vs-politics-jesus, accessed 25 Sep 2019

https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/daily-article/nfl-player-fined-for-wearing-man-of-god-headband-the-key-to-transformative-courage/, accessed 7 Oct 2019

https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/how-to-guard-your-heart.html, accessed 8 Oct 2019

http://www.crivoice.org/twotheology.html, accessed 8 Oct 2019


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Abortion and the 14th Amendment

The movement against abortion is generally construed as activity controlled and sustained by Christians, although there are also deists and secularists that are pro-life as well. Nonetheless, there is validity in the argument that those of the Christian faith are leading the charge, with much of the evidence pointing to the use of Scripture to advocate for the right of the child.  However, there are also professed Christians that are in full support of abortion, primarily when it is addressed as a women’s rights issue versus making it about the child.  
 
Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg (an Episcopalian) has used scripture to indicate that God is ok with abortion, or, at least that scripture can be interpreted that way. He opens the door for different interpretations while deriding evangelicals for “hypocrisy and immorality”. He is a great case study about the use of Scripture to support this debate. However, it becomes even more difficult when in debate with a deist or non-believer. Using scripture with non-believers to fight against abortion is not going to get anywhere.  
 
But, praise God that there is an avenue from the perspective of our founding fathers, contained within the constitution itself. They laid forth a path that allows our great nation to make amendments and changes to the constitution while also placing restrictions on what can be done.  This is what led us to the 14th Amendment.  
 
However, before we get there, allow me an opportunity to share something that many are not aware of in regards to the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.  
 
In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion on demand was a “legal right” for women across the country.  To clear up a misconception or incorrect interpretation, the Supreme Court DID NOT declare in Roe v. Wade that abortion itself is a constitutional right. The Supreme Court ruling left room for Congress to pass a “Life at Conception Act”.
 
A Life at Conception Act declares that unborn children are “persons” as defined by the 14th Amendment. A “person” is entitled to legal protection.  
 
In 1973,  the Supreme Court admitted that there was one thing that would cause the case for legal abortion to collapse. This is not a biblical thing, it is an admission of the limitation of science of that time.  
 
“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins…the judiciary at this point in the development of man’s knowledge is not in a position to speculate as to the answer”.  
 
“If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case (Roe], of course, collapses, for the fetus right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the 14th Amendment.”  
 
The 14th Amendment states “….nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.” The Life at Conception Act would force Congressional support of the 14th Amendment when it comes to the unborn:  
 
“Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”  
 
Science today is proving, unequivocally, that an unborn baby is alive. Some states have passed legislation restriction abortions once there is a recognizable heart beat.  But, this is not far enough when it comes to protecting the rights of the unborn. Many believe, as do we, that life begins at conception.   There are two bills in front of both the House and the Senate indicating that life begins at conception – referred to as the “Life at Conception Act”.  
 
  1. The House version of the “Life at Conception Act (HR 616)” can be found here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/616/text
  2. The Senate version of the “Life at Conception Act (S. 159)” can be found here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/159

 

The National Pro-Life Alliance has created a petition in support of these bills and is asking that anyone and everyone sign a petition in support of the Life Act. The link to this petition follows: http://nationalprolifealliance.com/lacv_petition.aspx?

 

This group has a goal of one million signatures. If achieved, this petition will add significant weight to the bill when it is put up for a vote in Congress. Would you be willing to add your voice to this petition?

 

References:

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/pete-buttigieg-defends-abortion-suggests-bible-says-life-begins-with-breath/

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/616

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/159

http://nationalprolifealliance.com/lacv_petition.aspx?


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The Doo-Doo Dilemma

It is amazing what we can find in Scripture. The Lord has given us an answer for everything in life, including how to manage and handle doo-doo.

Deuteronomy 23:12-14 “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.”

Scriptures even provide guidance on how to handle and manage our excrement. However, as embarrassing as it is, San Francisco has been labeled the “doo-doo capital of the US”, but the issue also exists in Los Angeles and San Diego with some reports that the poop dilemma is also expanding into New York City (although nothing like the cities of California). The city of Austin TX has recently passed and implemented policies similar to those found in Los Angeles – we will have to wait and see if the impacts are similar to what is occurring on the West Coast.

The majority of the nation’s homeless people now live in California. But there was no “defecation crisis”—a term usually associated with rural India—in the 1930s, even with unemployment at 25%, vagabonds roaming the country, and shantytowns and “Hoovervilles” springing up everywhere.

Seattle Washington is also not immune from a feces problem. In King County, the Sheriff put a program together to regularly powerwash the sidewalks of the harsh feces and urine smell around the courthouse, but, city councilman Larry Gossett closed the program down because the hoses from the washers were considered racist, a reminder of a time years ago when water hoses were used against black Americans. This is not to ridicule Mr. Gossett, but it is a silly policy decision.

The resolution to solve the problem appears to be a simple one, but the leadership of these cities, San Francisco in particular, does not deem it important enough. While they are likely not aware of the humane policy and direction about the handling of feces and human waste as articulated in Scripture, they have removed God, or even basic Christian/Judeo values from their surroundings, indicating that they would not follow or adhere to any biblical guidance anyway – they would most likely strike it down with hateful feedback. Their leadership states “love and compassion” of the homeless problem but it seems that they would rather allow filth and suffering to continue rather than adhere to or listen to anything that the bible has to say. In San Francisco, they deem it more important to spend time on rules designating the NRA a terrorist organization or changing the classification of a “felon” to “justice-involved person”.

These are the policies and leadership direction as mandated by cities that are considered to be the most liberal in the nation.  So, how do we look at this through the lens of a Christian?  Is it love to continue to allow the current homeless catastrophe to continue, or, is it love to continue to point out the fallacy if the policy direction that the city is taking?  Why is this even important to those of us that do not live in San Francisco? It is not our problem. Because the issues in these cities are expanding outward and the future of our cultural, political, and dare I say “spiritual” well being are at stake nationwide.

The candidates from the Democratic Party believe in, and support, similar policies of those in the California and Washington cities. While they have subtle differences, the candidate pool wants to take over more services that they believe are the responsibility of government. And, they want to tax the American citizenry even more to manage these services.  Outside of the military and law enforcement, do we have any examples of where the government runs things better than organizations from the private sector?  Does the government run healthcare better? Education? Housing? 

“When Humpty Dumpy fell off the wall, even all of the Kings Men and all the Kings horses could not put Humpy Dumpty together again.  The government could not help Humpty Dumpty in his most dire time of need. This is not a partisan statement, this is statement about government in general. We should never depend on our government. We must learn how to fish and manage our own lives [the way our Founding Fathers intended]. Too many believe that our government will put our country back together again, as if we are expecting all of the answers to come from our elected officials. It is unfortunate today that far too many believers, are expecting the solutions to our problems to land on Air Force one.” ~ Tony Evans

God gave us marvelous minds to  use —to study, learn, observe, analyze, judge and think. You see, God wants His people to zealously read and study, to think and meditate. He wants us to be well-informed regarding the major geopolitical, cultural and spiritual issues and events of our time. God deplores ignorance, indifference and being “dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11).

Because of this, the Bible should be the prism, lens and filter by which we can accurately perceive and judge all other information. It enables us to develop a godly worldview—the framework and foundation by which we can accurately interpret all that is going on in the world. We can then understand our confusing world with amazing clarity, sense and logic!

Some people ignore news because it’s mostly bad news that interferes with feeling happy and comfortable. But that’s choosing escapism over facing reality and obeying Christ’s command to “deny” yourself (Luke 9:23). We are not to selfishly shut our eyes and hearts to the suffering of others, becoming indifferent, complacent or fatalistic.

While we all have compassion, empathy and a desire for mercy when it comes to the homeless, the way the city leadership is managing their dilemma is skewed, problematic, and a strain on the community. There are churches and secular organizations working with the homeless to the best of their ability but it is not enough.  Perhaps what is needed is a change in policy – changes that will truly help both the homeless problem and the doo-doo dilemma. Current leadership is wrong – the facts and current conditions speak to this.

The West Coast requires our prayers and a significant move of God. He can do anything – even influencing the hearts of the right people who have the ability and talent to clean up the mess of these cities. But He requires our participation in prayer.

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_in_the_San_Francisco_Bay_Area, accessed 6 Sep 2019

https://www.foundationsoftruth.com/post/i-left-my-poop-in-san-francisco, accessed 6 Sep 2019

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/san-francisco-board-adopts-new-language-for-criminals-turning-convicted-felon-into-justice-involved-person, accessed 6 Sep 2019

https://www.rt.com/usa/467415-seattle-courthouse-excrement-racist/, accessed 6 Sep 2019

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/washington-posts-la-times-columnists-slam-san-francisco-branding-nra-a-terror-organization-mccarthyism, accessed 6 Sep 2019

https://www.wsj.com/articles/californias-biggest-cities-confront-a-defecation-crisis-11565994160, accessed 18 Sep 2019

https://www.ucg.org/the-good-news/jesus-warning-to-watch-just-what-did-he-mean, accessed 18 Sep 2019


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Church Tax Exemption: Blessing or Obstacle?

The first recorded tax exemption for churches was during the Roman Empire, when Constantine, Emperor of Rome from 306-337, granted the Christian church a complete exemption from all forms of taxation following his supposed conversion to Christianity circa 312.

Within the United States, churches received an official federal income tax exemption in 1894, but they have been unofficially tax-exempt since the country’s founding. The United States is the only country around the globe that currently offers tax exemption for churches. Additionally, the USA is the only nation that affords a tax deduction for those that tithe or donate to churches. 

Is it time for the Church to seriously consider “voluntarily” ending their tax-exemption (non-profit) status? 

Governments have traditionally granted this privilege to churches because of the positive contribution they are presumed to make to the community, but there is no such provision in the US Constitution. However, if the tax exemption were removed and the government started taxing churches, the government would then be empowered to penalize or shut them down if they default on their payments. The US Supreme Court confirmed this in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) when it stated: “the power to tax involves the power to destroy.”
 

Congressional Committee Meeting – 19 Sep 2019

However, the debate continues over whether or not these tax benefits should be retained. During a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on 19 Sep 2019, Democrats spent almost three hours vociferating on “How the Tax Code Subsidizes Hate.” Vocally, they were speaking about and pointing fingers specifically at the Christian Church and Christian organizations that they argue are “subsidized by the tax payer” to spread hate about LGBTQ, immigration and a few other agenda items. Their solution? Strip mainstream Christian organizations — and anyone else guilty of the Democrats definition of “hate” — of their tax-exempt status.

There was no verbal mention of other religious organizations, only Christian organizations. Just for a second, let’s remove the tax exempt portion of the discussion and review this from the lens of who the Democrats were speaking out against. The three hour debate was a vieled threat and attack against the Christian Church and Christian Organizations. This appears to demonstrate how the Democratic platform continues to show itself as anti-God and anti-Scripture while forging forward on their path towards legislating behavior and legislating beliefs through fear and coercion. However, the democratic majority did rely on a list given to them from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which listed mainstream churches as hate organization. The truth is that the SPLC is a liberal front and routinely attacks conservative organizations that are socially skewed as Christian. More on the SPLC later.

 

We MUST briefly talk about Christian love, since Hate has been brought to the forefront.

How we believe we are loved will determine how we love; conversely, how we love will influence how those around us love and how those around them love. This means that the consequences of how we love will stretch far beyond our perception in both time and space. This might be a bit deep. This is why it is critical WHOM your god, our Christian God, says we should love.

True Christian love is perfectly outlined in the most fully developed commands directly from the words of Jesus from Matthew 22:37-39:

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

True Christians should not hate. Jesus told us that the Great Commandments above all others is to love our God and love our neighbor – regardless of persuasion and affiliation. If you are a Christian and spread hate about the people that are living in an LGBTQ lifestyle, then you are scripturally wrong. If you speak out in hatred towards those classified as “illegal immigrants”, then you are scripturally wrong. This does not mean that you should not, or cannot, speak about policies that are geared to such cultural topics as LGBTQ or immigration – this is being a steward as a citizen of the country in which you reside. But, the democrats have made it a point to categorize anyone as a “hater”, even if speaking out against policy decisions or cultural mistakes while simultaneously loving on people. This is the rub….

Nonetheless, we are told to speak out in love, not hate. It is ok to speak out against policies as long as you speak out in truth and ensure that your heart is focused on the love of God and His people – all people.

One of the most emphasized virtues in the Bible is to love the truth, and to tell the truth. In Galatians 4:16, Paul the Apostle asked a rhetorical question, “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” – this question has become an accurate descriptor for a large segment of the culture today. Sometimes, speaking the truth even if not popular is love. Jesus did it, we should to. Nonetheless, check the condition of the heart.

 

Christian Hate Groups?

In 1947, the US Supreme Court ruled in Everson v. Board of Education that “No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.”

On 19 Sep 2019, the Democratic majority committee said they were concerned about the government subsidizing groups that millions of Americans would find abhorrent and Republican minority said they feared that First Amendment rights could be infringed ending some groups’ tax-exempt status. The committee members focused on 60 groups that have been designated as “hate groups” by the SPLC. The Family Research Council is included on that list.

Also on the list are mainstream church organizations, on a list that also includes KKK affiliated groups. Former SPLC spokesman Mark Potok recently revealed an animus against organizations on the list. He said the SPLC’s “aim in life” is to “destroy these groups.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is also among the more than 60 tax-exempt “hate groups” that attracted the Democrats’ ire. The ADF is the legal organization that defended the cake baker from Colorado in front of the US Supreme Court as well as other faith based organizations being discriminated against.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that tax exemptions can’t be denied based on the viewpoint that a group communicates. In Speiser v. Randall (1958), the Supreme Court upheld a property tax exemption to people and organizations that advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government. The Tax Code may indeed subsidize hate, just as it subsidizes Socialism, Satanism, and a wide variety of other dangerous and offensive ideas. Under the First Amendment, tax exemptions have to be distributed without discrimination based on viewpoint; that means that evil views have to be treated the same way as good views.

If we are a true Pluralist culture, then Christians that desire to maintain tax exempt status must accept the idea that opposing organizations, such as the Church of Satan, will also qualify for tax exemption under 501(c)3. Of course, the IRS should not provide tax exemption for organizations that incite violence against individuals or groups of people. Such organizations are already illegal. But attempts to get the IRS to blacklist “hate groups” would have devastating consequences, even without the SPLC’s bias involved.

 

Small churches, already struggling to survive, would be further endangered by a new tax burden.

A 2010 survey by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found that congregations facing financial strain more than doubled to almost 20% in the past decade, with 5% of congregations unlikely to recover. If these churches were obliged to pay taxes, their existence would be threatened and government would thus be impeding religious expression.

The law against churches intervening in political campaigns was passed by the US Congress in 1954. Since then, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been successful in using the law to revoke the tax-exempt status of only one church: the Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, NY, which had placed an advertisement in USA Today and the Washington Times rebuking Bill Clinton four days before the 1992 presidential election.

Some Pastors simply refrain from talking about cultural issues – this is the safety zone. By refraining from talking about culture they have no fear from the tax man, AND, they have no fear of offending congregants that may have hold different points of view.  It is not about being confrontational, we can talk about cultural issues with both “Respect and Love”. Holiness is separation from sin, not separation from sinners. Put another way, holiness does not mean separation from people in the culture around us, but separation for the sin in culture around us.

We need more cultural engagers and we need more churches to engage. However, we should judge culture based on solid biblical principals in order to both heal and inform – not condemn people to hell or judgement. That we should leave to God.

 

Global Taxation?

A vast majority of Americans may not realize that the USA is the only nation that currently offers tax exemption or benefits when it comes to religious organizations. Many European countries, for example, have religious taxes. In some cases, such taxes are voluntary while in other countries taxpayers have the option to divert a certain percentage of their income to either a religious group or the state. In many cases, the churchgoer pays the tax as part of their personal income taxes and the government passes the money along to the church. A few examples as outlined by Pew Research:

  • In Italy, taxpayers pay an “eight per thousand” tax (0.8%) and express their preference for whether the money should go to one of the religious groups listed (including the Catholic Church, several Protestant groups and the Jewish community) or the state.
  • Spanish law “provides taxpayers the option of allocating a percentage of their income tax to the Catholic Church but not to other religious groups,” according to the U.S. State Department.
  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark – the country’s national church – receives funding through a specific church tax imposed on members and also receives additional support from the Danish government. Denmark reports that nearly 80% of its people were church members as of 2012.
  • Two other northern European countries – Sweden and Finland – also collect church taxes from members, both at rates that range from 1% to 2%.
  • In Switzerland, church taxes are imposed at the canton level; most of the 26 cantons, or states, collect a church tax in some form. In some cantons, private companies must pay a church tax, according to the State Department, which also reports that some cantons collect taxes “on behalf of the Jewish community,” but that “Islamic and other ‘nontraditional’ religious groups are not eligible.”
  • Iceland’s church taxes are collected from members of registered religious groups – including secular humanist organizations.
  • Croatia finances the salaries and pensions of clergy and the running of church schools and universities, and it maintains and restores church sacral objects and buildings.

In some of these countries, there are churches that will only serve those who have paid up. For instance, the Catholic Church in Germany has forbidden those who do not pay their church taxes from receiving communion.

My answer – tax exemption gives the government control over what churches can preach about the Gospel as it relates to culture and government. While the IRS would have control to shut churches down that cannot pay their taxes (if tax exemption were removed), we cannot allow the government to control the Gospel message. There is nothing in Scripture that indicates Churches should be tax exempt, only that they should pay taxes when they are called for (Matthew 22:21).
Perhaps it is time for the Church to remove itself from 501(c)3 tax exemption and operate just as other business organizations operate. Or, at a minimum, it is time for Church’s to consider investments into for-profit businesses if tithes and offerings suffer if tax exemption is removed. Just a thought – this is how the Church operates in most countries around the globe.

The problem – too many tax paying citizens across the US have been spoiled by the tax exemption. Some have unfortunately lost focus on the heart as the source for our giving.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV) – The Cheerful Giver

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

 

References:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/economy/house-democrats-call-for-stripping-tax-exempt-status-from-60-hate-groups

https://www.frcaction.org/updatearticle/20190920/ways-means

https://waysandmeans.house.gov/legislation/hearings/how-tax-code-subsidizes-hate

https://docs.house.gov/Committee/Calendar/ByEvent.aspx?EventID=109958

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/09/22/in-some-european-countries-church-membership-means-paying-more-taxes/

https://www.gosanangelo.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/02/15/tax-exemption-gives-government-control-over-churches/97571818/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2012/09/19/if-47-dont-pay-taxes-lets-tax-churches/#434c9eed554b

https://www.fhghministries.org/the-johnson-amendment-of-1954/

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/february/3-ways-christians-will-address-cultural-issues-in-coming-ye.html

Keith S. Blair, JD. (Feb 2009), Praying for a Tax Break: Churches Political Speech and the Loss of Section 501c3 Tax Exempt Status, Denver University Law Review

Averil Cameron, PhD. (2005). The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 12: The Crisis of Empire, A.D. 193-337, histories.cambridge.org

Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, PhD. (17 Feb 2011). Christianity and the Roman Empire, bbc.co.uk


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The Business of Impeachment

Hearings have begun in Washington DC against President Donald Trump. The stated intent of these hearings is to determine if formal impeachment charges will be filed against President Trump, which could then be used to kick off the “actual” impeachment trial.  In commemoration of an impeachment process that I do not believe is likely to end in the removal of Trump from office, I was curious about the history of impeachment. 

Impeachment as an institution has its roots in ancient Rome and it was Rome that the Founding Fathers were thinking about when it was written into the Constitution. Only senators could be impeached in ancient Rome—the emperor could not, leading to a number of chaos-making political assassinations. 

The Founding Fathers wrote impeachment into the constitution for the purpose of removing an official who had “rendered himself obnoxious,” in the words of Benjamin Franklin. Without impeachment, Franklin argued, citizens’ only recourse was assassination, which would leave the political official “not only deprived of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character.

Franklin, and others like Alexander Hamilton, paid special attention to impeachment because British politics didn’t have a structure for impeaching the leader. The British crown—the king or queen—is literally unimpeachable. And the Founding Fathers didn’t think that impeachment should happen for just any reason. For example, Hamilton wrote in the Federalist papers that grounds for impeachment should be:

“Those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

The founders also debated on the criteria for impeachment, settling on treason, bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors against the state. “High crimes and misdemeanors” was another term that originated in British law.

James Madison saw the Impeachment Clause as “indispensable . . . for defending the Community [against] the incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the chief Magistrate.” Elbridge Gerry stated that impeachment was needed as a check against presidential abuse of power. “A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them,” he argued. George Mason then refuted Morris’ argument that only the President’s assistants should face the impeachment process. “No point is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued. Shall any man be above Justice?” he asked.

Impeachment remains as a rarely used process to potentially remove the “President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States” if Congress finds them guilty of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” That is, until 1973.

The impeachment process is governed under Article 1, Section 3, of the US Constitution – in particular, clauses 6 and 7. Article 1 of the US Constitution covers the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government. Article One grants Congress various enumerated powers and the ability to pass laws “necessary and proper” to carry out those powers. Article One also establishes the procedures for passing a bill and places various limits on the powers of Congress and the states.
 

CLAUSE 6

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
 

CLAUSE 7

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

 

While there have been demands for the impeachment of a few presidents, only two—Andrew Johnson and William J. Clinton—have actually been impeached; however, both were acquitted by the United States Senate and not removed from office. Eight people have actually been impeached and convicted in Congress – all were judges who faced charges including perjury, tax evasion, bribery, and in one case, supporting the Confederacy.

Thirteen sitting Presidents have either been threatened with impeachment or had resolutions filed against them. 

President John Tylor [Whig] (1841-1845) – faced on impeachment resolution which was defeated. Tylor was the first impeachment proceeding against a president in American history

President James Buchanan [Democrat] (1857-1861) – hearings were held but there was no impeachment resolution filed.

President Andrew Johnson [Democrat] (1865-1869) – subject to three impeachment resolutions, neither of which succeeded.

President Ulysses Grant [Republican] (1869-1877) – threats and measures given, but nothing happened

President Herbert Hoover [Republican] (1929-1933) – subject to two resolutions had been entered but they were both tabled

President Harry Truman [Democrat] (1945-1953) – two were put in front of Judiciary Committee, but the committee sat on them

President Richard Nixon [Republican] (1969-1974)  – faced 17 impeachment resolutions.

President Ronald Reagans [Republican] (1981-1989)  was subject to two, but both failed.

President George H.W. Bush [Republican] (1989-1993) was also subject to two, but both resolutions were voted down.

President Bill Clinton [Democrat] (1993-2000) was subject to one.

President George W. Bush [Republican] (2001-2009) – was subject to three. All three failed during a vote.

President Barack Obama [Democrat] (2009-2017) was subject to one resolution that was filed and died in Judiciary Committee

President Donald Trump (Republican] (2017-    ) has been subject to five resolutions so far. Inquiry ongoing.

 

Prior to 1973, eight (8) impeachment resolutions had been filed; however, since 1973, there have been thirty-one impeachment resolutions filed. 

President John Tylor is the only president to have threats of impeachment that does not belong to one of our current political parties (he was a member of the Whig Party).

There have been 7 impeachment resolutions filed against Presidents from the Democratic Party and thirty-one impeachment resolutions filed against Presidents from the Republican Party.

It may come as no surprise that many historians believe that some of the impeachment threats were purely politically motivated in order to discredit the sitting President from being elected for a following term. It will be interesting to see what the outcome of the current impeachment hearings will have against President Trump. Unfortunately, regardless of the outcome, it may be a decade or more before an unbiased and more credible analysis is made.


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Is the truth your enemy?

One of the most emphasized virtues in the Bible is to love the truth, and to tell the truth.

In Zechariah 8:16 we are commanded to Speak the truth to one anotherand in Psalm 15:2 we are promised that whoever speaks truth in his heartwill be blessed and live with God (Psalms 15:2). Jesus Himself declared I am…the truth(John 14:6) and asked God to sanctify them [the disciples]in truth(John 17:17).

In Galatians 4:16, Paul the Apostle asked a rhetorical question, “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”  – this question has become an accurate descriptor for a large segment of the culture today. This is especially true with social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, who regularly ban or block users for sharing Biblical truth.

Consider the case of PragerU. They quote Philippians 4:8 when explaining that their videos promote “what is true, what is good, what is excellent”. They have garnered a staggering two billion views, often featuring a presenter giving a Biblical perspective on events in the news. Despite this popularity, YouTube actively restricts more than 100 of their videos. They censor their videos that are pro-Israel, anti-abortion, pro-Ten Commandments, promote two genders (male and female), condemn persecution of Christians, and other such topics.

But PragerU is not the only one being censored for telling the truth. Candice Owens, a black Christian commentator and civil rights leader was cut from Facebook for sharing statistics proving that the presence of a father in the home is one of the most accurate indicators of poverty in the black community. For sharing evidence affirming what the Bible teaches, she lost access to her account.

Additionally, Facebook has closed dozens of Catholic websites (with a following of nearly 8 million). They also blocked a Gospel song called “What Would Heaven Look Like,” which called for unity among various people groups. (Facebook claimed that the song had “political content” and deleted it.) There are many similarly ridiculous examples.

The fight to be able to openly disseminate truth has led the White House to set up a website to report instances of censorship, because, as the page explains:

“Social media platforms should advance freedom of speech. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear “violations” of user policies.”

Some state legislatures have begun considering legislation that would allow citizens to take legal action when Christian or conservative principles (such as pro-life) are targeted. May the nation return to a point where we ask God to “Lead me in Your truth and teach me” (Psalms 25:5). When this happens, we will no longer consider those who proclaim Biblical truth to be enemies.

 

References:

https://www.prageru.com/about/, accessed 27 May 2019

https://www.prageru.com/presenters/, accessed 27 May 2019

https://www.prageru.com/petition/youtube/, accessed 27 May 2019

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/facebook-temporarily-suspends-candace-owens-over-post-about-liberal-supremacy, accessed 27 May 2019

https://www.christianpost.com/news/7-times-social-media-sites-censored-conservatives.html?page=3, accessed 27 May 2019

https://www.christianpost.com/voice/social-media-facebook-google-censorship-out-of-control.html, accessed 27 May 2019

https://whitehouse.typeform.com/to/Jti9QH, accessed 27 May 2019

https://www.texastribune.org/2019/04/23/texas-senate-bill-lets-state-sue-social-media-companies/, accessed 27 May 2019

https://www.foundationsoftruth.com/post/am-i-your-enemy, accessed 27 May 2019


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Gun Rights and Christian Grace

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” 

In Matt 26:52-54 and John 18:11 Jesus orders Peter to put away his sword. “For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Some believe that this statement was a call to Christian pacifism, while others understand it simply to mean in a general sense that “violence breeds more violence.”

While Jesus did tell Peter to put his sword in its place, He did not tell Peter to throw it away.  Peter still needed his sword to protect the lives of the disciples, not the life of the Son of God who was fulfilling His role on earth. Nowhere does the Bible forbid Christians from bearing arms. But wisdom and caution are of the utmost importance if one does choose to bear a lethal weapon.

We are in a political season filled with drama and suspense; its like a mystery thriller and we can’t wait to see how it ends. At the center of the presidential electoral season for the Democratic Party is the question of gun control. Bottom line is that almost all of the candidates for the Democratic nomination for President, insinuate that they intend to implement extremely strict gun restrictions in the name of gun control, including mandatory gun confiscation.

During the Democratic Debates on the evening of 13 Sep 2019, most of the candidates stated their intent to institute a gun buyback program for certain caliber weapons, which to be real, would be a mandatory gun confiscation initiative. I am not sure that there is a more significant hot button single issue item with many conservatives than their 2nd Amendment Rights. In their view, a mandatory gun buy back and confiscation program is not logical as they did not buy their weapons from the government and would be a violation of their Second Amendment rights – at least that is how they would view it, how they argue it, and how they would fight it.

Beto O’Rourke is probably the most vocal and most critical of guns when he says “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”  To many gun owners, this statement is received as a threat and an infringement of their “unalienable rights”.  One legislator from Texas responded to Beto by stating “My AR is ready for you” – presumed to be a death threat by some and a great example [to gun control advocates] of why these weapons need to be confiscated. For this article, I will leave the debate about definitions of AR and “weapons of war” to you as this is not at the heart of what this article is about. I will also not discuss the argument that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.

What I will do is share what I have gleaned from Scripture about the right to bear arms and what it means for those of the Christian faith. I will also share arguments and points about the Second Amendment itself and the two Weapons Acts (1934 and 1994) that added restrictions to the types of weapons a citizen can own.

So, what does the democratic debate about gun control and gun confiscation mean as it relates to the Second Amendment? If a law is eventually passed mandating that we turn in all, or some, of our weapons, do you as a Christian adhere to this law? For the record, I am a gun owner of a few hunting rifles and handguns, including an AR-15. While I am one that approves of some added gun control measures (not the Red Flag Law), my emotions do rise at the thought of mandatory gun confiscation. Nonetheless, as a follower of the Bible and what it has to say, I must adhere to what the Lord tells me in His scripture.

Secondly, there are many Christians who hate Trump (see my articles  Why Do Some Christians Hate Trump  and Trump Is Not My Savior) but they are also gun toting NRA Card carrying members of our society. If these Christians honor their commitment to do whatever it takes to get President Trump out of office, are they willing to sacrifice everything they recognize today as law abiding gun ownership rights by voting in the eventual democratic candidate who wants to repeal the Second Amendment? 

I once worked for a boss, a very dedicated Christian who absolutely, without a doubt, hated Donald Trump. Trump just managed to push his buttons and you could see his heart race even by the very mention of his name. He swore that there would be no way that he would ever vote for Trump and celebrated the attempts to oust President Trump from office. As someone (meaning me) that reluctantly voted for Trump in 2016, he would roll his eyes in disappointment when we would discuss this topic. On a similar token, he was also a card carrying, gun toting, member of the NRA. This man loved his guns. While he possessed a lot of guns, he did not have an AR to the best of my knowledge but he did own small arms and small caliber rifles. I wonder if he is willing to sacrifice all of his guns if this will get President Trump out of office? What means more to him? 

So, a fair question for arm bearing Christians; if a Democrat takes office and a law is passed that we must turn in all or some of our weapons – do you and will you?  We will address this question after we dig into the Second Amendment for a bit as well as a biblical understanding of the right to bear arms.

The Second Amendment

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The Second Amendment to the Constitution was written to protect the individual right to keep and bear arms. It was ratified on December 15, 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. It was described as an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense and resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state.

The wording of the amendment is admittedly strangely phrased and its meaning is somewhat murky. Legal analysis, political scientists, and historians have long debated whether the first two clauses of the second amendment, “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,” modified or limits the straightforward declaration of the last two phrases, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” If the first two phrases do modify and limit the second two, then perhaps we only have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms consequent to militia service. But if the first two clauses of the 2nd amendment do not express limits, then the right to keep and bear arms is much more solid.

Nonetheless, the debate appears to have been partially answered in 2008 when the Supreme Court decided 5 to 4, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that “the second amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditional lawful purposes, such as self defense within the home.” Based on this decision, we do have a right to bear arms irrespective of militia service.

According to conservative leader and Wall Builders founder David Barton, the original intent of the Founding Fathers when writing the Second Amendment was to guarantee citizens “the biblical right of self-defense.” Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794), a signer of the Declaration of Independence who helped frame the Second Amendment in the First Congress, wrote, “... to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…

Just as the Founding Fathers recognized, Barton believes that “the ultimate goal of the Second Amendment is to make sure you can defend yourself against any kind of illegal force that comes against you, whether that is from a neighbor, whether that is from an outsider or whether that is [from your own government].”  Dave Barton bases his opinion on some of the original writings from the Founding Fathers, too detailed for us to get into for this blog unfortunately. However, it is striking to note that part of our right to bear arms appears to also be intended to protect us from our own government.

However, the Second Amendment DOES NOT indicate what types, nor how many, weapons a person can own. This is why the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 was enacted.

Current Laws and Impacts

A blog from the Huffington Post in 2013 posits the following:

“The Revolutionary Era militia has been superseded by an Army and Navy, which spawned the Air Force (formerly Army Air Corps), and Marine Corps, now augmented by state and local police – which have their own colonial and pre-colonial predecessors, National Guard and Coast Guard. And in each case those women and men have their firearms supplied by the governments (local, state, federal) that employ them. The necessity met by a “well regulated militia” in the Revolutionary Era and its aftermath is now met without militias. The originating context of the Second Amendment no longer exists.”

The Huffington Post blogger may be partially accurate but the Supreme Court decision from 2008 seems to have already closed the debate about the militia argument. However, what may be a larger legitimate issue emerging in our current times is the lack of definition in the second amendment about the kind of “arms” that people, collectively, have a right to.  At the time the constitution was written, the weapons of choice were muskets and possibly cannons.  Since general citizens no longer serve as part of a recognized militia or army charged with protecting the nation, we have no enshrined right to military grade weapons.  This almost appears to be rational until you consider historical context.

  1. The bible talks about swords, spears and slingshots – not muskets; but this does not make it less relevant about your God supported rights.
  2. In the late 1700’s, the weapons of choice were muskets – not high capacity or semi-automatic weapons; but this does not make the 2nd Amendment less relevant as a right to bear arms.
  3. In the present time, military and law enforcement professionals carry or have access to semi or fully automatic weapons – but the general population does not. 

When we view each era and the weapons available, the weapons of choice for the general public were commensurate with the type of weapons that were a threat to the general public.  In ancient times, citizens carried swords and spears which were also carried by those considered to be a threat to them. In the 1700’s, citizens carried muskets because this was the weapon of choice carried by those that posed a threat to them. In the present, American citizens have access to AR’s, rifles and handguns which are similarly carried by those that pose the largest threat to the general public.  Citizens do NOT have access to weapons of war as is dramatically and incorrectly articulated by many from the Democratic Party.

The National Firearms Act (NFA) was enacted on June 26, 1934. It imposes a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandates the registration of those firearms. The Act was passed shortly after the repeal of Prohibition. This act bans machine guns, short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, suppressors, and destructive devices (grenades, bombs, missiles, poison gas weapons, etc). This act is still in force and active today.

The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act or Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) was a subsection of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a United States federal law which included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms that were defined as assault weapons as well as certain ammunition magazines that were defined as “large capacity”. This act expired in 2004; however, numerous studies have been completed about the benefits, or lack thereof, that the act provided while it was in force:

  1. A 2013 study showed that the expiration of the FAWB in 2004 “led to immediate violence increases within areas of Mexico located close to American states where sales of assault weapons became legal. The estimated effects are sizable… the additional homicides stemming from the FAWB expiration represent 21% of all homicides in these municipalities during 2005 and 2006.”. Is this a sign of issues within the United States or a sign of issues within Mexico?
  2. A 2014 study found no impacts on homicide rates with an assault weapon ban. A 2014 book published by Oxford University Press noted that “There is no compelling evidence that [the ban] saved lives”.
  3. A 2017 review found that the ban did not have a significant effect on firearm homicides.

The evidence shows that bans and laws that restrict access to weapons DO NOT have an impact on crime within the borders of the United States. Nonetheless, in light of recent mass shootings, the right of American people to keep and bear arms has once again come under heavy fire and heated debate. However, ironically, homicides and crimes committed with the types of weapons targeted by the Democratic Party are significantly smaller than homicides and crime committed with handguns and weapons not necessarily targeted by the left. Why? Because the AR-15 is simply more dramatic and gives an appearance of violence that seems greater than a simple revolver or Glock handgun.

Christians that oppose gun rights argue that “Christians should be shrewd enough to view a line between constitutionally protected rights and the principles of Christian freedom. Yes, there is absolutely nothing inherently immoral about bearing firearms. Yes, there is nothing illegal about owning registered weapons. But when considering Christian freedom, grace moves us from what we could do in personal interest to what we likely should do for the sake of the greater good.” However, this argument potentially falls flat when we consider that there is a difference between martyrdom (being killed by a bad guy with a gun when you refuse to carry) and having a plan. Is a Christian, killed by a bad guy, a martyr in the cause of Jesus by refusing to carry a gun?
 
I say, follow your heart. If you don’t want a gun, then don’t own one. This is a right that you hold as both a Christian and an American citizen. However, I do not believe that a Christian can judge another Christian that chooses to own a weapon. 
 

What Does The Bible Say?

So, what does the Bible have to say about a right to “bear arms”?  While the Bible obviously does not specifically address the issue of gun control, since firearms did not exist in ancient times, it does make numerous accounts of warfare and the use of weaponry, such as swords, spears, bows, and arrows, darts and slings. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were expected to have their own personal weapons. Every man would be summoned to arms when the nation confronted an enemy. The people defended themselves.

In 1 Samuel 25:13, David said to his men, “Each of you gird on his sword.” So each man girded on his sword. And David also girded on his sword, and about four hundred men went up behind David while two hundred stayed with the baggage. (NASB)

In Psalm 144:1, David wrote: “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle…

In the New Testament, in Luke 22:36-38, Jesus commanded his disciples to purchase a sword and encouraged his disciples to have swords: 

And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

And we can’t forget that in the Garden, Jesus instructed Peter to put his sword away, not throw it away. Based on these Biblical references, it does seem to indicate that Scripture supports the right to bear arms.

However, Scripture also tells us that we must honor our government and the laws of the land.

Romans 13:1-2, 4 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…….The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. 

As Christians, we were saved by grace and the Lord has given us grace as well.

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

James 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Conclusion

God has given us plenty of wonderful freedoms, including, in our country, the right to bear arms. While the ownership or use of firearms is not commanded by Scriptures, the defense of others certainly is, and at times this will mean the use of force.  A means of defense of others, and of course self, is the proper use of firearms. I am not arguing that “Every Christian should own a gun”, but I am articulating an argument that the Bible gives us a right to bear arms as does the Second Amendment and applicable firearms acts. But, just because you have a right to something does not mean that you need to exercise that right. If you do not want to own a gun, then by all means, follow your heart.

However, what should be at the center of the Christian debate is when it comes to Christian freedom and constitutionally-protected rights, what takes priority in your life? If a law legally passes to turn in our guns, do we follow that law or do we violate the law and face possible law enforcement action?  The bible advises us to honor our laws and the authorities in office. If we do not follow the law, then we might be placing our personal emotions and feelings above the grace and love exemplified in the Bible.

Many people (notably NRA members) have turned their guns into an extension of God, sources of security (supposedly) in any storm. I pray that our second amendment rights are maintained but we should not place guns into a position in our lives that it becomes idolatry.

God’s grace is available to us at all times, for every problem and need we face. God’s grace frees us from slavery to sin, guilt, and shame. God’s grace allows us to pursue good works. God’s grace enables us to be all that God intends us to be. God’s grace is amazing indeed.

2 Corinthians 9:8  And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (ESV)

Let grace and righteousness be your guiding force.

 

References:

https://www.learnreligions.com/meaning-of-gods-grace-for-christians-700723, accessed 13 Sep 2019

https://www.learnreligions.com/the-bible-on-the-right-to-bear-arms-701963

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/second_amendment, accessed 13 Sep 2019

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf, accessed 13 Sep 2019

https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/blackstone_bk1ch1.asp, accessed 13 Sep 2019

https://www.senate.gov/civics/constitution_item/constitution.htm#amdt_2_(1791),accessed 13 Sep 2019

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_of_Rights_1689, accessed 13 Sep 2019

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-bible-and-the-second-amendment_b_2356432, accessed 13 Sep 2019

https://www.timeofgrace.org/blog/CarryingGuns, accessed 15 Sep 2019

Cal Jilson (2013). American Government: Political Development and Institutional Change, Harcourt Brace College Publishers

Lee, LK; Fleegler, EW; Farrell, C; Avakame, E; Srinivasan, S; Hemenway, D; Monuteaux, MC (January 1, 2017). “Firearm Laws and Firearm Homicides: A Systematic Review”. JAMA Internal Medicine. 177 (1): 106–119

Mark Gius, (2014). “An examination of the effects of concealed weapons laws and assault weapons bans on state-level murder rates”. Applied Economics Letters. 21(4): 265–267.

Lois Beckett, (September 24, 2014). “Fact-Checking Feinstein on the Assault Weapons Ban”. ProPublica. Retrieved 13 Sep 2019

Christopher Koper, (2013). Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis(PDF). Johns Hopkins University Press.

Arindrajit Dube, Oeindrila Dube, Omar García-Ponce, (July 10, 2013). “Cross-Border Spillover: U.S. Gun Laws and Violence in Mexico”. American Political Science Review. 107 (3): 397–417.


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Former Transgender Warning – A Podcast

Sometimes, we come across cultural issues that are very tough to listen to, much less have a discussion about it. One cultural item that can be very uncomfortable, emotional, or challenging to discuss is that of the Transgender lifestyle. Even if topics like this are uncomfortable, as Christians we should be willing to be aware, be open to talking about it, and not shy away.

In early August 2019, I spent a few days at the Texas State Capital participating in an event known as The Patriot Academy. While there, I met and had the opportunity to have a few short discussions with a man named Kevin Whitt. Wow, what a testimony from a man that has been redeemed from the LGBTQ lifestyle, something that he began while a teenager. God has definitely placed His hand on the heart of Kevin and healed him from a lifestyle that in his words “is dangerous”.

The Lord has truly blessed Kevin and he has a very bright future as he is beginning a ministry for those that are challenged by, and in recovery from, the LGBTQ lifestyle. Kevin is also connected with several state legislators around the country as he shares his thoughts about impacts on children that adults are leading to altering their sexual identity.

Kevin recently participated in an interview during a radio show with Wallbuilders (Tim Barton and Rick Green). A link to the podcast version of the radio show is below for those that may interested in hearing about this cultural issue from the perspective of someone that lived that lifestyle for over 20 years. God bless.

 
 

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Social Media – Test All Things

In Acts 17:11, we read where Paul’s teachings were tested by the Berean Jews. This was not only acceptable, it expanded their faith.  Can we not apply this same expectation today to things we read that are not of the bible but of the world?

As the ministry venue for FHGH Ministries is currently a digitally based ministry, I do spend a bit of time reviewing others areas of the digital space. I have it on my heart, at some point, to write an article about “Christian Concerns About Big Tech”, but the Lord has yet to provide me with the right words – as well as solid biblical foundational support. My professional experience is based on technology so I do have some foundation on technology. Nevertheless, I look forward to when the Lord tells me the time is now.

However, this morning (4 Sep) I came across an article that was quickly spreading across Social Media that indicated “Oprah Winfrey had purchased a controlling stake in the Fox News Network”. A link to this article can be found below in the references section if you care to read for yourself. As one might imagine, this article caught the eye of many conservative readers and the result was foul. Conservatives felt that they had just witnessed the demise of the last venue of conservative free speech in America, and they were terrified. Violent actions had actually been contemplated by some. The writer of that article had accomplished his objective. Well played sir, well done! For my conservative friends out there, be comforted in the knowledge that this article is false!!!

1 Thess 5:21 “Test all things; hold fast what is good”

As tensions rise across our nation, rhetoric also increases exponentially. Unfortunately, the reaction is to spread “stuff” across social media platforms. Over 41% of Americans get their news from Social Media, this percentage increases as we consider younger generations. Unfortunately, a large percentage of what is placed out there across social media is false, or at best, intended to stir up a response placed on negative human emotions. Making this more difficult is that the bad guys know where the majority get their news but also that innocent citizens are also aware of the fakeness of social media news (this IS NOT intended to be commentary about regular media) but they react to it anyway.  This is due, in most part, to a digital and literacy deficiency. Oh, I wish I had space to share details about how our Founding Fathers wrote at an intelligence level that surpasses us today and how the Bible played a significant part in their vocabulary, knowledge, and writing style. But alas, that is for another day {I hope}. Acts 5:29 “….obey God rather than men”

The bottom line is that human nature is lazy and we tend to take the easy road at every opportunity. We focus on headlines rather than the body. We rely on human reasoning, the word of others, or tradition.

Acts 17:11 “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

When I came across that Oprah Winfrey article, there was a check in my spirit that something was wrong, so I tested the information found in that article. I googled it, I reviewed my trusted news sites, and a meditated on what the article was implying. In less than 5 minutes, I knew that the article was fake and false. Yet, the writer had accomplished his mission. What took 2 hours to spread will now take weeks to clean up.

2 Tim 4:3-4 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

The Bible advises us to test scriptures, to test any word from God that we receive, and to vet what we hear and read with two or three spiritual brothers. When it comes to the junk that we see on Social Media, we should apply the same principal. Test it. Test it against two or three sources that you trust. If necessary, share it with a brother and sister to get their thoughts on it. Do not share or spread until you have checked and verified, the same that you would do with a word from God. The same should apply to something that you might consider “good” or “favorable” to you.

1 John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

As Christians, I would argue that we need to test everything that we see come across our preferred social media platforms. As responsible Christians, we should be stewards of the truth, this also includes being good stewards of our digital resources and not add to the hype that is only intended to seduce a negative human reaction. This spreads hate.  I look forward to the day that Christians are contributing to not only good news, but also the truth. Perhaps, just perhaps, we shall see a decline in the fakeness that is taking over social media.

References:

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/social-media-still-has-a-fake-news-problem-and-digital-literacy-is-largel/538930/

https://www.trendmicro.com/vinfo/nl/security/news/cybercrime-and-digital-threats/fake-news-cyber-propaganda-the-abuse-of-social-media

https://www.internetsociety.org/blog/2018/03/fake-news-spread-fast-dont-blame-bots/

https://www.aace.org/review/social-media-and-fake-news/

Oprah Winfrey and the Fox News Network


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Why Do Some Christians Hate Trump?

On 27 August, I shared a blog about how Trump is not my savior. A link to that write up is here: Trump Is Not My Savior.  In that article, I was transparent about my dislike of some of Trump’s behavior via Twitter as well as my lack of support for him when he was campaigning for the nomination from the Republican Party. As a matter of personal discourse, I stopped considering myself a Republican the day that he was nominated.  However, his nomination and eventual election as President has not stopped my belief that the far left wings of the Democratic Party are more dangerous to America, as well as our freedom to preach the Gospel, than President Trump by far. They have an outright hatred for Judeo Christian values, that had been somewhat obvious yet still hidden in the shadows in the past, that have now come to the surface in a manner that is blatant, chaotic, and extremely dangerous: for both our American heritage AND our religious liberties.  Trump is my President.

Unfortunately, there are Christians out there whose hatred runs deep, they are so blinded by what they consider to be unbiblical and ungodly actions of President Trump, that they cannot see the forces that are actually opposing what they know, in their hearts, to be true. They hate Trump with such a passion, that they would agree to sacrifice some of our religious liberty (as ordained by God), just to see President Trump taken down, tossed in prison, and legacy destroyed.  Christians that hate Trump will elect a democratic candidate even if the candidate supports late term or at birth abortions, even if the candidate will enact laws that will not allow the Gospel to be preached “openly”, even if the candidate will place a tax of over 50% on their income – their hatred runs that deep. How to share a story about Christians who hate President Trump has been something I have been personally struggling with.  How can I share this truth in a way that does not become blinded by my own personal opinions and political bias?
 
Scripture promises that “blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep his statutes” (Psalm 119:2). God blesses those that keep His word and judges those who do not.
 

How does “hating the President” line up with the gospel?  How does NOT praying for the President line up with Scripture? A Christian should never induce another Christian to sin.

The prophet Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel recognized the role that this pagan king played in God’s unfolding drama.  Daniel prayed for Nebuchadnezzar and helped him interpret his dreams. The church’s ability to work with Trump is totally Biblical.
 
We may believe that the Bible is divinely inspired but if we do not put its truths into practice, our beliefs ring hollow. Because the Bible is God’s Word we must be ready spiritually to hear what it says to us. The Bible is meant for every believer and if we want to help our culture understand why Scripture is worthy of respect, we must show that we respect it first. 
 
Bible study is built on certain presuppositions:
  1. Believe that you can understand Scripture. God has given us His revelation in such a way that we can discover and apply its truths. We need not depend on creeds, councils, and church traditions. 
  2. Use the New Testament to interpret the Old. The New, which reveals Christ, is our means of interpreting the Old. God reveals Himself progressively, building later revelation upon earlier truth. The New Testament is God’s fullest revelation of himself to us and our means of interpreting His earlier revelation.
  3. Make the Bible it’s own commentary. Scriptures can interpret themselves because Gods word is unified, coherent, and fully inspired.
  4. Remember to ask the question, “What was the author’s purpose?”. We need to know all we can about the authors intended purpose before we try to interpret the writing. If we don’t understand the purpose or task at hand, we will miss much of what the writer wants us to know and do.
 
When Christians accuse other Christians of disrespecting God’s Word because they disagree on the non-essentials, however important they might otherwise be, we jeopardize our witness to the non-Christians world. The end state of any Christian “opinion” should be firmly placed on a belief system grounded in the gospel – period. Therefore, if we remain grounded in the gospel, how does President Trump stack up against the current team of democratic candidates? My “opinion” which I believe is firmly grounded in biblical principles is that while Trump himself may not be behaving biblically, his heart, his motives, and his policies have made tremendous positive steps towards rebuilding and sustaining biblical principles.  Unfortunately, I recognize that there are Christians that will find my opinion flawed – I simply have to accept that. My heart is at peace.
 

Tom Farron is a former leader of the Liberal Democrats in the United Kingdom. He wrote and published an article on 5 June 2019 titled Why do US evangelicals support Trump? They’re giving Christianity a bad name“. In his article, he is highly critical of Christians who compare President Trump to the pagan king Cyrus from the Old Testament. But, it was his concluding paragraph in his article that weighed heavily on me:

“The choice of American Christians to publicly back Trump now, and George W Bush before him, has been a dangerous move in a culture war that now means that half of the US has its fingers in its ears when it comes to the gospel. My challenge to Christians in the US is this: what matters more to you, the identity of the person in the White House or the promotion of the good news about Jesus Christ? If it is the latter – and it surely must be – then you need to seriously reconsider your support of the former. The politicisation of US Christianity has undermined the witness of evangelicals everywhere.”

As I prayed on and meditated on this paragraph, I asked the Lord what it was about this article that was causing me distress. I believe very deeply that the Democratic Party is on a collision course with both our biblical freedom as well as the rights and freedoms afforded us in our US Constitution. What the Democratic Party is saying regarding their policies IS NOT grounded in biblical principles (see my blog on Trump mentioned earlier). However, I also find the tongue of President Trump to be unbiblical and ungodly as well.
 
Ask yourself: how does it look for petty, quarreling believers to air dirty laundry in front of unbelievers?  In this regard, I am referring to biblical interpretation and the judgement and exercise thereof. We really should keep our focus on Christ as He is our great equalizer. We are all under His authority.
 
We have Christians that hate Trump so deeply that they are willing to give up their own individual liberty to get him out of office. However, when we read 1 Cor 8, we see where Paul is telling the Corinthians that strong Christians should not give up their liberty, they are to use their liberties in a manner that will best serve Christ. While some Christians are free to choose to give up their own liberty, they do not have the authority to sacrifice the liberties of all Christians. Their hatred is a sign of weakness and, thereby, not under the authority of Christ.
 

Today, I was introduced to a story written by Mario Murillo titled “Christians Who Hate Trump“.  I don’t profess to know much about Mario, but I felt the last half of his write up, which I share below, to ring true in my own heart. You can click on the link to read the full article if you wish.

“Franklin Graham was attacked for questioning Obama’s Christian Faith.  They told him not to judge a brother.  Hold that thought as we explore another question…

So why do so many Christian leaders—who said it was wrong to judge Obama—judge Trump?

Trump is not a pastor.  He is a businessman who loves America.  As far as his faith?  I am not qualified to determine his spiritual depth, since I’ve never had the chance to meet the man. But there are many photos of Christian leaders laying hands on the President, praying for him, and he is cooperating.

“He is like Hitler and the church is being fooled,” said another comment.  At this time, those of you who are wearing tinfoil hats, please remove them, and listen.  Hitler never had 98% of the media against him.  Trump has never called for a new constitution.  Hitler never tried to protect Israel.  I could go on and on.

Maybe if Trump had addressed the March for Life.  Maybe if he had chosen an on fire born-again Vice President.  Maybe if he had rescinded executive orders that banned federal funds from Christian organizations.  Maybe if he overruled the Johnson Amendment that banned the free speech of pastors.  Maybe if he had moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem, and shown himself to be a true supporter of Israel.  Maybe if he had put someone on the Supreme Court who helped Christian bakers to exercise their right to freedom of religion.  Maybe then you would support him.  Oh wait…he did all those things…”

While Trumps tongue may challenge the best of us when it comes to biblical soundness, his actions indicate otherwise. Others will argue that his policies violate biblical principles or the teachings of Jesus, something that I will attempt to dig into in a later article; however, I believe that his issues come down to his “tongue”, and this gets him in trouble.

On facebook the other day, I shared an article, written by Dave Barton in 2015, that outlines an argument about how President Obama is arguably the most biblically hostile President in modern history (hence, most anti-Christian). Click on this link to see a list of 89 acts of hostility toward Christians: AMERICA’S MOST BIBLICALLY-HOSTILE U. S. PRESIDENT. The bottom of the article contains a reference list supporting all 89 acts. Being an avid researcher, I randomly reviewed 50% of the supporting arguments myself and believe I would have come to the same conclusion as Dave Barton.

My opinion and belief system remains firm that the conservative parties, while not completely, remain much more grounded in Judeo Christian principals than those of the liberal parties. My belief is based on actions, words, and individual stated beliefs; this does not mean that all conservatives are in line “biblically” nor that all liberals are not in line “biblically”. We must recognize that we are dealing with political parties developed and instituted by man, not God; therefore, all political movements and parties are flawed. Unfortunately, our nation is managed by a predominantly two party system, yet, in my opinion (and my heart), conservatives are standing on firmer ground.

Remain biblically grounded and evaluate against the end-state – the gospel. Since we live in a pluralist culture, I accept that there will be some disagreement. But, can we disagree with love in our hearts? Yes, I believe we can, and we should.
 

References:

https://mariomurilloministries.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/americas-most-biblically-hostile-u-s-president/, accessed 2 Sep 2019

https://mariomurilloministries.wordpress.com/2019/08/29/christians-who-hate-trump/, accessed 3 Sep 2019

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/05/us-evangelical-christians-trump-bad-name/, accessed 19 Jul 2019

https://www.fhghministries.org/trump-is-not-my-savior/, accessed 27 Aug 2019

Denison, J. PHD and Denison, R. MDiv, (2019). How Does God See America?, Denison Forum, pages 43-58

Limbaugh, D. (2018). Jesus is Risen, Regnery Publishing, pages 185-193


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Trump Is Not My Savior

I only have one Lord and Savior and it is not Donald Trump, BUT, he is my President.

From 28 July thru 3 August 2019, I spent a week at the Texas State Capital participating in sessions about the US Constitution, religious liberty, and the legislative process.  This group, ran and operated by the Patriot Academy, was attended by and facilitated by a wide range of people ranging from regular Christian American patriots (like me) to people already serving in elected office at various levels from local office through state legislators. One of the participants is intending to run for Governor of California in the very near future while another announced his bid to run as a State Representative for Texas. Also in attendance were 115 kids ranging in age from 16 thru 25; learning how to operate in positions of civil leadership in a biblical way while also understanding the TRUTH of our US Constitution and the founding of our great nation.

True, accurate, and factual lessons were given by such prominent professionals as Rick Green, Dave Barton, and other political and national figures.  This experience was truly inspiring and revealing.

On the topic of President Trump, I have been very honest and open about my disdain about HOW he uses social media. He openly trashes his own staff members and he calls others by nasty and disparaging names. The bible does teach us about how we speak about others, grace to the hearer (Eph 4:29), slander (Matt 12:26, Prov 10:18, Col 3:8), etcetera. The bible also reminds us about how our tongue is strong enough to light fires (Prov 18:21), and while not vocal, our social media posts are representative of our voice. I stopped considering myself a Republican the day that he was nominated as the candidate for the republican party. However, there is MUCH more to the President than how he uses Social Media.

President Trump is fighting a war against a media (Matt 7:15) that is controlled and manipulated by the democratic party. President Trump has been fighting a relentless battle against career politicians and the inner circle of Washington DC. Dare I say that there is a deep state in operation that wants nothing more than to “take Trump down”, only because they do not like him. Over the last three years, our elected officials have spent a dominant amount of time and money working against President Trump rather than fulfilling their legislative responsibilities “for the People”. Based on this, if President Trump wants to be Sampson, then I say let him be Sampson.

Because of the war against him, within the circle and within the media, President Trump has no choice but to use Social Media to get out his message. 10% of his messages are junk and poor word choice, but the remaining 90% of his words provide a snapshot of what he is truly doing for our nation. I believe that President Trump is a patriot and is fighting to preserve our Constitution and the liberties and rights contained within. No other President in history has done more to protect our religious liberties and freedoms given to us by our Father and Creator. Not since our Founding Fathers.

The actions of President Trump are bringing to the surface, and to the light, the ugliness and bitterness that has always existed within the political arena. Without his actions, the things that we used to only think to be true or things that we used to think were nothing but conspiracy, would never have been brought to the light.  Additionally, the activities of President Trump have done more than just bring the hidden ugliness to the light, he has caused the deep state to be blatant and “in your face” about their hatred of America and, in some cases, how much they despise those that follow the truth that is found in Jesus Christ.

To be clear, President Trump DOES NOT fit the profile of a Christian. I don’t know what he believes, but I do know that he has done more for us that any President has over the last few decades, and he has worked hard to live up to his campaign promises.  If you want to consider a President that did fit the profile of a Christian, then take a look at President Carter – whom most consider to have been the worst President in modern history.  Just because someone fits a particular “profile” does not mean that they are the right person for the job.

If you also want to consider examples of those that did NOT fit a Christian profile, then we need look no further than the Old Testament. A review of Xerxes, Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus will provide examples of kings and rulers that DID NOT fit the profile of a Christian, yet, they still did good in the eyes of the Lord. In fact, the Lord refers to these leaders as “His servants”.  If President Trump does not fit the profile of a Christian, does he, as some say, fit the profile of Cyrus?  Numerous articles and books, along with Christian thought leaders, believe that President Trump is the new Cyrus.

There are some that believe President Trump is some kind of messiah, and this is almost as dangerous and gregarious as the never-Trumper’s (I refer to them as ever-Trumper’s). President Trump is not our savior, at least not mine, but he is our President and he is the right man for the job as it requires in our culture today. He is a flawed human being with a very large ego, narcissistic, and loud when he should be silent. Yet, without getting specific, he has done a lot for our nation and is fighting  a fight worthy of a man that is committed and in it to win it. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next 18 months, as more of the deep state, and the hatred within it, is revealed and brought to the light. If only those in-the-know will share the truth.

 

www.patriotacademy.com

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Democratic Socialism – Is it biblical? Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two part series. In Part 1, I spent some time defining socialism and comparing this philosophy to capitalism. While supporting with scriptures, the focus was predominantly on that of God given freedom and rights as ordained by God. I posited and argued that socialism tends to violate biblical views of freedom and God given rights while Capitalism operates in a manner more consistent with true biblical concepts of freedom and rights.  

 

So, what is the rub?

Many Christians on the Left seek to reinterpret Jesus’ earthly mission in exclusively economic and political terms. In their view, Jesus came primarily to deliver those who were poor and oppressed in a material sense. But every member of the human race is poor in the sense of being spiritually bankrupt. Jesus came to end our spiritual poverty by making available the righteousness that God demands and that only God can provide. It is heresy to state that God’s love for people varies in proportion to their wealth and social class. It is nonsense to suggest that all the poor are good and all the rich are evil.

Once we eliminate the semantics by which some refer to as a non-coercive voluntary utopian type of socialism, it becomes clear that socialism is incompatible with a truly free society. The Rev. Edmund A. Opitz was a Congregationalist minister who for decades championed the cause of a free society. He wrote;

“As History’s vice-regent, the [Socialist] Planner is forced to view men as mass; which is to deny their full stature as persons with rights endowed by the Creator, gifted with free will, possessing the capacity to order their ownlives in terms of their convictions. The man who has the authority and the power to put the masses through their paces, and to punish nonconformists, must be ruthless enough to sacrifice a person to a principle. . . a commissar who believes that each person is a child of God will eventually yield to a commissar whose ideology is consonant with the demands of his job.”

Opitz concludes that, “Socialism needs a secular religion to sanction its authoritarian politics, and it replaces the traditional moral order by a code which subordinates the individual to the collective.” All of this is wrongly justified in the cause of improving economic well-being and in the name of compassion.

Some Christian socialists profess contempt for the more coercive forms of state-socialism we witness in communist countries. They would like us to believe that a more humane, non-coercive kind of socialism is possible. They would like us to believe that there is a form of socialism, not yet tried anywhere on earth, where the central ideas are cooperation and community and where coercion and dictatorship are precluded. But they provide very little information about the workings of this more utopian kind of socialism, and they ignore the fact that however humane and voluntary their socialism is supposed to become after it has been put into effect, it will take massive amounts of coercion and theft to get things started.

Socialism is a gigantic fraud which attacks the market at the same time it is forced to utilize the market process. Unless socialists make allowance for some free markets which provide the pricing information that alone makes rational economic activity possible, socialist economies would have even more problems than those for which they are already notorious.

One dominant feature of capitalism is economic freedom, the right of people to exchange things voluntarily, free from force, fraud, and theft. Socialism, on the other hand, seeks to replace the freedom of the market with a group of central planners who exercise control over essential market functions. Basic to any form of socialism is distrust of, or contempt for, the market process and the desire to replace the freedom of the market with some form of centralized control. The best starting point for this comparison is a distinction made most recently by the American economist, Walter Williams. According to Williams, there are two and only two ways in which something may be exchanged. He called them the peaceful means of exchange and the violent means of exchange.

The peaceful means of exchange may be summed up in the phrase, “If you do something good for me, then I’ll do something good for you.” When capitalism is understood correctly, it epitomizes the peaceful means of exchange. Capitalism then should be understood as a voluntary system of relationships that utilizes the peaceful means of exchange.

In a violent means of exchange, the basic rule of thumb is: “Unless you do something good for me, I’ll do something bad to you.” This turns out to be the controlling principle of socialism. Socialism means far more than centralized control of the economic process. It entails the introduction of coercion into economic exchange in order to facilitate the attainment of the goals of the elite who function as the central planners.

 

Conclusion

One of the great ironies of Christian socialism is that its proponents in effect demand that the State get out its weapons and force people to fulfill the demands of Christian love. Even if we fail to notice any other contrast between capitalism and socialism, we already have a major difference to relate to the biblical ethic. One system stresses voluntary and peaceful exchange while the other depends on coercion and violence.

Critics of capitalism claim that capitalism must be abolished or restricted because it is unjust or because it restricts important human freedoms. They argue that capitalism is unchristian because it allegedly gives a predominant place to greed and other unchristian values. It is alleged to increase poverty and the misery of the poor while making a few rich at the expense of the many. Socialism, on the other hand, is portrayed as the compassionate economic system of people who really care for the less fortunate members of society. Socialism is also recommended on the ground that it encourages other basic Christian values such as community.

The truth is that capitalism is not economic anarchy. It presupposes a system of morality as well as the existence of inherent human rights, such as the right to make decisions, the right to be free, the right to hold property, and the right to exchange what one owns for something else. Capitalism should be thought of as a system of voluntary relationships within a framework of laws which protect peoples’ rights against force, fraud, theft, and violations of contracts. “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not lie” are part of the underlying moral constraints of the system. Economic exchanges can hardly be voluntary if one participant is coerced, deceived, defrauded, or robbed.

The limited government willed to Americans by the Founding Fathers was influenced in large measure by biblical considerations about human sin. If one of the more effective ways of mitigating the effects of human sin in society is dispersing and decentralizing power, the conservative view of government, as is the conservative vision of economics, is on the right track.

The truth turns out to be something quite different from this widely accepted myth. It is not the free market that produces monopolies; rather it is governmental intervention with the market that creates the conditions that encourage monopoly.

Various people often approach economic exchanges with motives and objectives that fall short of the biblical ideal. But no matter how base or selfish a person’s motives may be, so long as the rights of the other parties are protected, the greed of the first individual cannot harm them. As long as greedy individuals are prohibited from introducing force, fraud, and theft into the exchange process, their greed must be channeled into the discovery of products or services for which people are willing to exchange their holdings. Every person in a market economy has to be other-directed.

The alternative to free exchange is violence. Capitalism is a mechanism that allows natural human desires to be satisfied in a nonviolent way. Little can be done to prevent human beings from wanting to be rich. But what capitalism does is channel that desire into peaceful means that benefit many besides those who wish to improve their own situation.

Capitalism is quite simply the most moral system, the most effective system, and the most equitable system of economic exchange. When capitalism, the system of free economic exchange, is described fairly, there can be no question that it, rather than socialism or interventionism, comes closer to matching the demands of biblical ethics and morality.

 

References:

 

  1. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/ocasio-cortez-its-immoral-for-a-system-to-allow-billionaires-amid-such-poverty-2019-01-22, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  2. https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1099133711986163713, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  3. https://www.rollcall.com/news/congress/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-call-living-wage-starts-office, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  4. http://money.com/money/5636654/aoc-living-wage-staff-52000-white-house/, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  5. https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1105968192889982976, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  1. Thomas Jefferson, “To Joseph Milligan, 6 April 1816,” The Founders’ Constitution, http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch15s64.html, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  2. https://www.summit.org/resources/articles/socialism-capitalism-and-the-bible/, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  3. https://www.hungryforlife.org/blog/does-the-bible-support-capitalism-or-socialism, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  4. https://www.gotquestions.org/socialism-Christian.html, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  5. https://www.christianpost.com/news/5-reasons-socialism-is-not-christian-opinion.html, accessed 26 Aug 2019

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Democratic Socialism – Is it biblical? Part 1

As I prayed about, meditated on, and researched the impacts of the “democratic socialist progressive” movement on both American and Religious liberties, I was inundated with enough material to write a very serious book on the subject. However, a book on this specific topic is not something the Lord is directing me to do; therefore, I pray that you find this two part blog post adequate enough to draw, at a minimum, a black and white picture.

At issue is the growth in interest in Democratic Socialism.  To remove any ambiguity, I believe that the future of the democratic party is one where they will eventually be overcome and overwhelmed by the loud and vicious extremes of what is referred to as “the far left”, or “leftists”.  The democratic party is no longer recognizable as the party of Kennedy, or even Bill Clinton for that matter. While I do not believe that all democrats are in agreement with the leftist shift of the party, the shift is strong, with members almost becoming cannabalistic – each competing to be more extreme than the other just to remain consequential. As a sign of things to come, democratic presidential candidates that tended to be very centrist in their views are starting to drop from the race. They are not extreme, or leftist enough.

Socialism is taking over the democratic party; and this is not good news for them. The democratic party is becoming ever more aggressive in their immorality, violence, and completely ungodly and unbiblical views and policies. While this post will posit an argument against the proposed economic plans of Democratic Presidential Candidates, it does not suppose that all Democrats agree with this ideal. There are still some moderate democrats out there; nonetheless, people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are dominating the public image of the democratic party, and it is not good for the American nation nor those that enjoy life as an American Christian.  Yet, there are Christian Socialists that are completely on board with the movement underway within the democratic socialist agenda.

A review of writings and opinions on both proponents and opponents of Christian Socialism, I found that both sides have scriptures that seem to support their points of views. This validates the argument that if you want to find scripture to support an argument, you will be successful. The issue of debate is the context of the scripture, the full story if you will. One must also consider the world in which the writers of the scriptures existed at that time. Democracy was non-existent and economics was one of barter, trade, and “value of the moment”. However, what they all had at their disposal was the actions of biblical moral behavior, scriptures from the old covenant, and a somewhat godly worldview (though the people of Israel were still tribal with a little theocracy and monarchy tossed in). 

Finally, scriptures that support socialism lean very heavily on those that discuss actions for the poor and love of our brothers and neighbors. In opposition, scriptures that discuss capitalism lean very heavily on talents, performance, and trade while also being very critical of those that are lazy or the husband that fails to take care of his family.   What I noticed missing, somewhat abstractly, were components of God given rights and freedom as ordained by God. When we consider biblical morality when it comes to our God given rights and freedom, the argument against Socialism becomes very clear while support for a free market economy (Capitalism) is also very clear – to me anyway. Socialism is fundamentally at odds with the Christian worldview and seeks to suppress all peoples in support of the state.

What almost all Christians will agree is that Christian’s must consider economic options based on a standard of biblical morality, and ask which system is more consistent with the entire Christian worldview. This does require that we consider the biblical worldview first and foremost, before we consider a political worldview. When properly considered, we find that the most obvious differences between socialism and capitalism is one of unalienable rights. The question then becomes, do you value your freedom and rights as ordained by God while respecting the same rights and freedom of others, or, are you ok with sacrificing some of your God given freedom and rights as decided on by government bodies.

The biblical worldview implies that since God is the creator of all that exists, He ultimately is the rightful owner of all that exists. Whatever possessions a human has is temporary and is ultimately accountable to God for how he uses them. The biblical worldview also contains claims about human rights and liberties. Human beings have certain natural rights inherent in their created nature and have certain moral obligations to respect the rights of others.

The possibility of human freedom is not a gift of government but a gift from God. The Old Testament tends to focus on the economic and social dimensions of freedom while the New Testament leans on a more spiritual dimension of freedom. Freedom in the New Testament is deliverance from bondage to sin and is available only to those who come to know God’s truth through Christ. Within both Testaments, freedom always has God as its ultimate ground and must always exist in relationship to law. Liberty should never be turned into license.

The moralistic system of the Ten Commandments does not constitute the entire biblical ethic, therefore, it is important to notice other biblically relevant dimensions. Christians on the Left insist that the biblical ethic condemns individual actions and social structures that favor some at the expense of others. While in partial agreement, where the Left makes a slip is by further claiming that capitalism inevitably encourages individual actions and social structures that intentianally oppresses and harm people. On this point, they are dead wrong as the question if which system (socialism and capitalism) actually harms or helps different classes of people is an empirical and not a normative matter.  Leftists simply have their facts wrong.

Finally, an oft argued aspect of the Christian worldview is the inescapable fact of human sin and depravity. No man made economic or political system that assumes the essential goodness of human nature or holds out the dream of a utopia can possibly be consistent with the biblical worldview.

 

What is Socialism?

Socialism is a societal system in which property, natural resources, and the means of production are owned and controlled by the state rather than by individuals or private companies. A basic belief of socialism is that society as a whole should share in all goods produced, as everyone lives in cooperation with one another.  Socialism necessitates a government that is free from corruption and negates the possibility of elitism within its ranks. If history has shown anything, it is that power corrupts fallen mankind, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Socialism is wrong in teaching that a person’s identity is bound up in the work that he does. Although secular society certainly promotes this belief, the Bible says that all have equal worth because all are created in the image of the eternal God. True, intrinsic human value lies in God’s creation of us.

Socialism is not a biblical model for society. In opposition to socialism, the Bible promotes the idea of private property and issues commands to respect it: commands such as “You shall not steal” (Deut 5:19) are meaningless without private property. Unlike what we see in failed experiments in socialism, the Bible honors work and teaches that individuals are responsible to support themselves: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (2 Thess 3:10). The redistribution of wealth foundational to socialism destroys accountability and the biblical work ethic. Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14–30 clearly teaches our responsibility to serve God with our (private) resources.

In the Parable of the Talents, we see that Jesus acknowledges the differences in an individual’s skill and work ethic AND that individuals are treated differently based on performance: Matt 25:14-15:  “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.” When the master later checked on the three, he found one had produced an additional five portions; the second, two more portions; but the third had done absolutely nothing. He rewarded the three based on what each had individually done. This is the basic tenet of a free-market system.

In Jesus’s parable, there was neither a bottom nor a top wage; each individual was rewarded “according to his own ability.”As Jesus affirmed in Matt 25:29, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

This economic principle articulated by Jesus has proven to be sound across the ages. In fact, almost two millennia later, Thomas Jefferson expressed Jesus’s principle in these words:

“To take from one because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare [give] to others, who (or whose fathers) have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association: the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry [hard work] and the fruits acquired by it.”

Reflective of her socialist beliefs and rejecting the free-market approach set forth by Jesus, she announced: “I decided that no one on my staff will make less than $52k/year. It’s likely one of the highest entry-level salaries on the Hill.” But for high-performing staffers, she capped their salaries at $80,000, which is “well below the median pay for Hill chiefs of staff at $154,634….And it’s a fraction of what experienced staffers could make in other jobs in Washington.” 

Incidentally, while AOC insists on “wage fairness” for her employees, she does not believe in it for herself. She currently has an annual salary of $174,000, and is calling for a significant raise in her own paycheck because, as she explains, she is working so much harder than others. In socialistic systems, the elites nearly never apply to themselves the standard they demand for the rest; they regularly exempt themselves from their insistence on equality for all.

The Bible teaches us to work hard and take personal responsibility for our actions and for our families. It teaches us not to be lazy and to enjoy the work of our hands. The Bible doesn’t teach that wealth is wrong, but that the love of it is. The Bible also teaches us to look after the poor, the sick and the vulnerable. It teaches us to share. It also teaches us to not judge whether we think people are deserving of our generosity or if they are truly worthy of help. It teaches us to give until it hurts and to constantly be moving toward greater generosity. The Bible also teaches that our possessions are not our own and that we are only stewards of what belongs to God. It teaches that to whom much is given, much is required. In fact, the Bible teaches Capitalism as the means of our generosity.

1. Socialism is Based on a Materialistic Worldview

According to socialists like Bernie Sanders, the greatest problem in the world is the unequal distribution of wealth. All that really exists is the material world. Karl Marx believed that matter contains a creative power within itself. This enabled Marx to eliminate the need for a creator, essentially erasing the existence of anything non-material. To socialists, suffering is caused by the unequal distribution of stuff — and salvation is achieved by the re-distribution of stuff. It is assumed that if everyone is given equal stuff, all the problems in society will somehow dissolve.

This worldview contradicts Christianity, which affirms the existence of both a material and a non-material world — and teaches that mankind’s greatest problems are spiritual. The Bible says the cause of suffering is sin. Because of sin, there will always be inequalities in wealth. As the parable of the talents shows, those with good character tend to accumulate more; those with bad character may lose everything they have. Christianity teaches that we can still have an abundant life because our quality of life is not determined by how much stuff we have, but by our relationship to Christ.

2. Socialism Punishes Virtue

Socialists want to distribute wealth to individuals according to their need, regardless of virtue. Karl Marx said, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Whenever any institution provides aid, it runs the risk of removing God-designed rewards and consequences. It can punish those who are industrious by making them pay for those who are not, and, it rewards those who aren’t industrious by giving them the fruits of another man’s labor. This is precisely what socialism does.

The Bible teaches that aid should be tied to responsibility. First, anyone who refuses to work should be refused aid. As 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” The Apostle Paul said that a man who fails to provide for his family is “worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim. 5:8)

3. Socialism Indirectly Endorses Theft

Barack Obama once defended his socialist policies to a little girl by saying, “We’ve got to make sure that people who have more money help the people who have less money.”  Sounds Christian, right? However, Obama wasn’t endorsing people voluntarily sharing their wealth with others; he was endorsing the government forcibly taking a piece of the pie from one person and giving it to someone else. That’s not Christian; that’s stealing!

Socialists don’t believe in private property while some Christian socialists actually assert that the Bible doesn’t either. That’s preposterous. Both the Old Testament and New Testament unequivocally affirm private property. We can’t even obey the eighth commandment to not steal, unless we accept the notion of private ownership. Nor, can we steward our money as the Bible commands if the state owns our money.

4. Socialism Encourages Envy and Class Warfare

Socialists demonize the rich, blaming all of society’s problems on them. Bernie Sanders once posted to Facebook: “Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.”

Sanders is mimicking Karl Marx, who viewed history as a series of class struggles between the rich and the poor — and advocated overthrowing the ruling class.

Scripture strongly warns the rich and powerful not to oppress the poor. In fact, Proverbs 14:31 says, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for his maker . . .” But, Sanders — and other Leftists, including Hillary Clinton — go far beyond decrying specific acts of injustice. They basically condemn an entire class of people simply for possessing wealth. And, they encourage those who are poor to overthrow them. In fact, Clinton once said the U.S. economy required a “toppling” of the wealthiest 1%.  There will always be a top 1%, even in a socialist culture where the socialist planners and elitists reside.

The rich are not causing all the problems in American society. People like Bill Gates are not acquiring wealth by stealing from the masses. They’re creating products, which produce wealth, and provide jobs. Nowhere does Scripture support the have-nots demanding money from the haves. Instead, it teaches that we should not covet (Exodus 20:17) and should be content in all circumstances (Phil. 4:11-13).

5. Socialism Seeks to Destroy Marriage & Family

A little known fact about socialism is that, from its beginning, it has sought to destroy marriage and family. Grove City Professor Paul Kengor explains that socialism seeks for the state to replace the family. That way, it can indoctrinate children and remove from them any notions of God and religion.

Friedrich Engels, co-author with Marx of the “The Communist Manifesto,” referenced a society where “the single family ceases to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is transformed into a social industry. The care and education of the children becomes a public affair.”

Similarly today, Bernie Sanders calls for a “revolution” in childcare and for the government to provide early childhood education beginning with children as young as six-weeks-old, and, he’s a proud supporter of gay marriage — what Kengor calls “communism’s Trojan Horse” to secure the final takedown of traditional marriage.

There’s nothing Christian about socialism — and there’s absolutely no way Jesus would ever support it.

 

In Part 2, I will close with “What is the rub?”, and a concluding argument about the violence of socialism as compared to the non-violence of Capitalism.
 

References:

  1. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/ocasio-cortez-its-immoral-for-a-system-to-allow-billionaires-amid-such-poverty-2019-01-22, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  2. https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1099133711986163713, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  3. https://www.rollcall.com/news/congress/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-call-living-wage-starts-office, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  4. http://money.com/money/5636654/aoc-living-wage-staff-52000-white-house/, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  5. https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1105968192889982976, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  1. Thomas Jefferson, “To Joseph Milligan, 6 April 1816,” The Founders’ Constitution, http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch15s64.html, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  2. https://www.summit.org/resources/articles/socialism-capitalism-and-the-bible/, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  3. https://www.hungryforlife.org/blog/does-the-bible-support-capitalism-or-socialism, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  4. https://www.gotquestions.org/socialism-Christian.html, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  5. https://www.christianpost.com/news/5-reasons-socialism-is-not-christian-opinion.html, accessed 26 Aug 2019
 

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Christ Redemption Through Grace (Identity and Purpose)

On 12 August, I was honored to share my Redemption Testimony in front of the CR Group for Journey Community Church in Augusta, Georgia. I was not allowed to record the session due to sensitivities surrounding the CR Group, but below is a transcript of my notes as I shared my own personal redemption through the loving grace of Jesus Christ.

Some have been Christians their entire lives, or at least for as long as they can remember; I myself am coming up on 11 years next month – to this, I give Him all of the Glory and Honor – Praise God!!  But, does my 11 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.

From my earliest memories as a toddler through roughly my pre-teen years, my dad would regularly remind me that I was not worth it, that I would not amount to anything. That I was worthless. When I reached my pre-teen years, this changed to silence and abstinence. We did manage 2 week vacations practically every year, but we were never close as father and son. We were not a part of each others lives. Thank God I recognized later how limited my thought processes were. My dad was doing the best he could based on his own flawed relationship with his father. 

Somehow, I managed to attend a Christian Elementary School (K-6) but my formative teenage years were stereotypical of a southern Californian kid during the 1980’s. Drugs, bicycling, boarding, and partying.  
 
I joined the Army in 1987 right out of high school. I needed to get away from dad and family, needed a new beginning, a purpose, a new identity. 
 
It was not long before I started to destroy people around me, which I did for more than 20 years afterwards. “Get out of my way” with a little bit of collateral damage along the way.
 
There were times when satan tried to take me out before I received Christ, and after. Physically, mentally, financially, relationally, and emotionally. Every time, every occasion, the hand of the Lord was there for me and my family. I just did not see Him.
 
What I realized after coming to Christ is that growing up through adult hood, I never knew my true identity. Because I did not know my identity, I did not understand my purpose.
 
I was orphaned as a sinner.  I did not know the names the Lord had given me.  I was victim to whatever the world threw at me, enveloped into the fallen world of Adam.
 
What do you believe your name to me?  Liar, thief, failure, unworthy, unloveable and unlikeable for starters? These were the names that I received from my father and I carried with me for almost 40 years.
 
I did not love myself, even with 20 years of military service how could my brothers in arms love me? I was not worthy of love and I was in short supply of love to give out.
 
It was during Desert Storm that I experience my first true “life pivot”. The details of this story can be found in my book titled “My Personal Desert Storm: Eating Crow and Humble Pie”, but in short, I managed to turn my life around, but I became obsessed with success – “Success Sickness”. I pivoted from the extreme right of the heart spectrum to the extreme left of the spectrum.
 
My wife recommitted to Christ while I was deployed to Desert Storm. She would pray for me for the next two decades. I experienced a very real and physical born again experience over labor day weekend in 2008. God did not give me a second chance, He gave me a new life.
 
Ephesians 1:18 (NLT)  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
 
For me, Jesus came to me as the Light of the world and saved me from the darkness I was just as written in John 8:12.  As we also read in 1 Peter 2:9, He called me out of the darkness and into His light.  This allows the character of Jesus to come out when I realize that what was once weak has been raised in glory (1 Cor 15:43). But the struggle is still real.
 
It was a few years after my born again experience that I recognized the wounds of my heart, given to me from the wounds of my father. Chains had been passed from son to son. -hurting people hurt people. My father had inherited chains from his father and so he passed them on to me. These are the results of generational sins and curses. Unfortunately, I would also pass my inherited chains and my own chains on to my first born son Christoffer.
 
I would later learn about the power of forgiveness. I also learned that it is not our parents fault. 
 
I would eventually tell my father that I forgive him -which I share in some detail in my book- after I had established a relationship with my heavenly Father. I was no longer orphaned. I had new names as I now recognize myself based on the Heart of my Father and Jesus Christ who died for me.
 
Jesus Christ did not die just so we could have a good day or get away with sinning on a regular basis. Galatians 5:13 reminds us that we shall not abuse the freedom we now have in Christ. The names of God (Holy Spirit): Advocate, Comforter, intercessor, spirit of Truth, spirit of God, helper (paraclete), Counselor, teacher,
 
1 John 2:1 ….And if anyone sins, we have an Advocatewith the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous John 14:16…. He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever
John 14:26. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teachyou all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you
Rom 8:26-27….the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered…..He makes intercessionfor the saints according to the will of God.
Isaiah 11:2. The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counseland might, The Spirit of knowledgeand of the fear of the Lord
 
Once baptized in the Holy Spirit, I was awakened to my new names:  worthy, trustworthy, lover, friend, and when my wife is angry at me, “Marcus Johnson!”.
 
We are flawed, 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. 
 
In February 2011, satan executed a massive attack on my family when he took our oldest son from us. Killed in action in the middle east, this one almost worked, took me down. Even though it took a few years to recover from this one, if I had not had the Word of God in me and my wife, I would not be standing here in front of you today. His Word is clear to me in my heart and my mind. Though I flailed a bit like a chicken with his head cut off, I eventually recovered, stronger than ever.  The lesson is one of victimhood.
 
I am no longer a victim of what happened, I am now an expert in recovery from action.
 
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. The challenge is whether you identify yourself as the victim, or the victimizer – and admitting/confessing 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.
 
My born again experience was over powering and so over whelming that I instantly knew that I had been wrong my entire life. I had the epiphany that “I am all in and I guess I am now one of ‘them’”. I started in faith, I started going, and I started to press forward.
 
Some Christians are really skilled at covering their flaws and look pretty externally. And even those that look pretty on the outside usually get disillusioned or just end up judgmental because they are “nailing it” (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.
 
The Lord reminded me that no matter who you are or what you do, God has chosen you. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you live, how much money you have, your position, whether you are articulate or not. Let Him fulfill all your desires and worship Him.
 
But I learned, the hard way, that we have got to have a fresh encounter with God – every day.
 
I would not know my purpose if I had never learned of my true identity. My identity is as a warrior for Christ. Every warrior needs a kingdom to defend and a King to fight for. Therefore, my purpose is to serve as a soldier for Christ and the Kingdom of God. Wherever this takes me and whatever task He gives me, I am there for Him.
 
I used to be a solder for the US Army (20 years), this has instilled certain things in me, values, character traits (some good, some bad) and discipline. I have a voice that carries, I have passion, I get enthusiastic. I zig and I zag. I mentioned this to the Lord when clarifying His plans. The Lord chastized me with vibrant YES, He wants to use that, He has called me to transition from soldier to warrior. I am now a warrior for the Kingdom. But every warrior needs a weapon, warriors need a sword. Ephesians 6:17 tells us about the “The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”.
 

Logos – written word of God

Rhema – Spoken Word of God

God’s Word speaks to me, it lives in me. While challenged to memorize specific scriptures, I recognize God’s character.

John 7:38“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”
 
We MUST arm our new warriors and we MUST get them their sword, else they are always on the defense and cannot take the offense. This is what excites me today. God took me from being rebellious to a revolutionist for Jesus Christ. Satan may have thought that he was winning at those moments where he tried to take me out but all he did was make me angry and strengthen my resolve to work harder for the Lord. I am tired of playing defense. His attacks on me have lit a fire in me to proclaim victory but that means we have to take spiritual action. I am in ministry training today but each day, through the gift of His spirit, I grow closer to Him, I know Him more intimately, and I will run the race He has set before me. We need to go out and take possession of the gift – the gift of the Holy Spirit.
 

Tit 3:5  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

Rom 5:5  …. hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
 
I know that I am a flawed human being, but I also know that God loves me 100%, as is, right now. There are some church people that are good at following the rules but there are also many Christians out there acting out in judgment instead of compassion and love.
 
Like many here, 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 see’s opportunity for growth. When I want to give up, He whispers “No, you can make it”. This is why, even if I may 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 Gods love is wholly separate from our actions or our problems, receive it and give it to others, maybe then we’d have more Christians that look like Christ. Christians that don’t feel its important to beat people down with their theology or doctrine, but instead spend their lives in the gutter bleeding alongside other people.
 
Maybe then, even millennials will stop looking at Christians as bigoted and judgmental and out of touch with the times. I think that maybe then, we might even just see Christs kingdom here on earth. Here is the race set before me and others!
 
This is what I have learned based on this question – I have been in training for this my entire life, I just didn’t know it.
 
If you still don’t believe in miracles then ask my wife how long she prayed for my deliverance. Ask her if she ever thought that I would be standing in front of a group of people like this talking about Jesus and the life He has in store for us. 
 
I found my purpose. I found my strength. I want others to find theirs. No matter what it takes!
 

Amen


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God ~IN~ Country: Part 9 – By The Grace of God

The key to a Christian view of citizenship is moderation and balance between the extremes of placing too much trust and energy into human efforts to change the world and the opposite error of sitting back and doing nothing because we feel the situation is hopeless.

The Christian should not have an overly optimistic view of human efforts as human affairs are so corrupt that they can never be corrected by human effort. Injustice is always present in the world and it will remain till judgment day. No amount of utopian dreaming, no amount of human effort is going to remove it. Dreams of an earthly utopia based on human effort are doomed to failure. As long as we are in the world, we will have to live with evil.

Simultaneously, our role is not fulfilled by standing on the sidelines of life, bemoaning the evil condition of the world and longing for the return of the ”good old days.” There never have been any “good old days” since Eden. We are here to use the gifts God has given us to the best of our ability in the present. God tells us not to trust in human effort and not to worry about the future. But he also tells us just as emphatically to get to work to serve the best interest of his kingdom and of our neighbors.

Someone unknown wrote, “I am only one man, but I am one man. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.”

Biblical characters such as Joseph, Daniel, and Naaman actively served their governments without compromising their principles. In this area, too, we must not be paralyzed into inaction by fear of failure, but trust God’s guidance and forgiveness. Who can serve the government better then a Christian?

Only a true Christian can have truly unselfish motivation, for he realizes that true happiness is not a life cluttered with possessions and accomplishments, but a life filled by Christ. A Christian citizen does not have to grasp and claw for his own advantage. He can risk himself and his own interests. He can let go of self-interest because he knows that Christ is his solid possession.

“Dangerous times call for leaders that threaten to undo everything Hell is trying to pull off. NOW is the time for a gathering of enlightened warriors. No more timid dreams. The battle of your lifetime rages in the heavenlies and God answers by releasing new champions to the field. THIS IS YOUR HOUR!” ~ Lance Wallnau


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God ~IN~ Country: Part 8 – Christian Dual Citizenship

As Christians, our dual citizenship in the Kingdom and our nation involve dual obligations and loyalties.

Consider this “definition” of dual citizenship found on the U.S. Immigration website: Dual citizenship means that an individual is a citizen of two countries at the same time…Dual citizenship is not something that can be applied for. It is a process that happens when a person becomes a citizen of another country, in addition to his or her country of birth. Dual citizenship occurs automatically for some individuals. 

Citizenship is a publicly recognized legal status that authorizes someone to be a citizen—that is, a full and functioning member of a civitas, a social and political community, along with the rights and duties that come along with it. Unlike someone who is merely a subject in a kingdom, a citizen participates in the community to help maintain civic order.

If you put your faith in Christ the Bible tells us that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). However Jesus, before going to the cross, prayed for his disciples and for us because he knew that we “are still in the world” (John 17:11).  The dual citizenship we have often leaves us struggling.  We want to honor our heavenly citizenship, but we also want to enjoy the worldly benefits of our “natural” citizenship. Don’t check out of the world.  Remember that you are in Christ AND in America.

As such, we should be among the foremost champions of freedom of speech and of religion for all. Even Muslims, Hindu’s, and Buddha’s, amongst others, should want Christians involved in politics. Christian citizens benefit American society as a while because Christians understand that they must respect the right of other Americans to believe differently—or not believe at all—even as they earnestly contend to communicate their faith.

Christians must understand the fundamental reality that creating a tolerant and fair playing field for Christians means creating one for everyone. This means we should practice our faith with certain degrees of caution while also being bold. Coerced faith is no faith at all.

As briefly highlighted earlier, our Declaration is filled predominantly with references to God and/or filled with sermon messages. Therefore, the argument that our nation was not founded based upon Judeo Christian values is a lie, people just want to ignore the truth because it does not fit their definition of morality and behavior. It is the first sentence of the second paragraph that lays out the statement that we “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”.

Our elected officials derive their power from the consent of the governed; our Congressmen and Women are NOT our boss, even if they say they are. The Declaration is then filled with 27 grievances against the monarchy, which violate our rights ordained from God. All of these “rights and grievances” are derived from sermons as written and preached from Reverend John Wise of Massachusetts some 80-90 years before the Declaration was written.

Finally, the first sentence of the last paragraph concludes by “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world”. The last sentence of the last paragraph declares “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence”.  It is adamantly clear that our Founding Fathers placed a heavy reliance on God to guide the future of our nation. So, does any of this matter today?

The Declaration is our National Philosophy which, in turn, guides the principles and morals covered in our US Constitution, so, yes, it matters. If we neglect or rule out the providence that is the basis of our Constitution, then how can we sustain and maintain our constitutional freedoms. Our forefathers were also concerned about this and wrote numerous letters of warning and concern about this, but that is unfortunately for another time.

A Christian does not participate or engage in civil affairs just to serve his own interests. His purposes are to glorify God in his works, to promote conditions in which the Gospel may be preached freely, and to serve the best interests of his neighbors by seeking justice for all, by protecting the rights of individuals, and by hindering evil.

Christians must always guide their conduct by God’s law. Even when the standards of society crumble, Christians have a firm foundation to build on. No matter how much man’s decisions and decrees undermine moral foundations, this truth remains “God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2 Tim 2:19).


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God ~IN~ Country: Part 7 – Christians Must Be Engaged

As citizens of America, we have spent too much time running with mindless sheep strictly following the will of man. Now, these same people (the mindless sheep), think it strange that you do not run with them anymore and they now speak behind your back or spew hatred at you directly. In either case, our current political and cultural environment is impacting your ability to preach the Gospel beyond the walls of your church building. Therefore, Christians MUST be engaged in politics and culture; else the attempts to “privatize” Christian values can prevail. “Well, God will take care of it.” God takes care of things through His people.

We have people at work to privatize our cultural values. Privatization is a process that forces a disconnect between private and public lives. Basically, keep your most sacred beliefs private.  The secular, and liberal, mindset is to keep church in church and don’t you dare do it anywhere else. I use to believe that, even telling my wife after she came to Christ to keep at the door of our house. Man, was I wrong! It is these sets of man made rules that impact what you do every day. Politics AFFECTS what you say from the pulpit and what and how you operate beyond the walls of the Church.

Jesus chastised the Pharisee’s in Matthew 23 for having neglected the more important matters of the law (justice, mercy, etc). Sometimes Jesus was right in your face and telling you that you need to change. Jesus was tough, not the politically correct, feminized Jesus.  We have a party that does not care if you have religious objections against abortion or homosexuality and their positions are becoming significantly more aggressive and open. You either comply or we will persecute you, we will hurt you, we will remove you.

In Canada, after significant Christian activism, theaters finally relented and planned to show the movie “Unplanned”. However, soon after they made this decision, they received death threats as well as threats of mass violence if they did this. The result was that the theaters removed the movie again. This is what the progressive movement is all about – forcing you to comply, or else!  And, making it worse, the current senior politicians in office in Canada, support the removal of this movie and are speaking out against its message. The issues are real and the threat is real – but we cannot sit back, we have an opportunity in America to be engaged, be involved, in civil engagement.

Christians have a wide variety of political notions but we need to be informed of the policies, engaged in the process, and active in the promotion of godly discourse. As we live our lives, we are to keep our eye on the permanent Kingdom of Heaven, but we should also keep our other eye on the culture in which we live.  We should never come to a place where we are Hope-less, where we despair.

Kings rule, and while there may be people at work to influence who that is going to be, but God over-rules. Here, today, American’s live in a nation that, as Lincoln put it, “in a Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”  Jesus said to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; but, we get to vote in our Caesar, the people of Jesus time did not. So, in order to obey that command, remember our dual citizenship; responsible in the Kingdom and responsible on the earth as well.

Christian citizens support their nation best when they are both patriotic and prophetic. From a Christian perspective, patriotism entails a healthy love of country that recognizes their nation state as a gift of God. That gift is good, but like all of God’s earthly gifts, it is temporal and imperfect. Also like other divine gifts, it requires careful stewardship. Christians, then, do not have the option to opt out of the system. Rendering to Caesar means voting, paying taxes, and being informed about issues, both national and local.


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The Johnson Amendment of 1954

Know how to bring some excitement about the Tax Code into the church?  Talk about the Johnson Amendment.

After the election season of 1954, Lyndon Johnson (a Democrat) was upset that two businessmen (Frank Gannett and H.L. Hunt) had opposed him during his reelection bid through their charitable non for profit organizations. They had opposed him because they felt he was too soft on communism. This is, of course, during the height of McCarthyism. Nonetheless, Johnson’s ego and pride had been bruised by these two guys.  

When a bill in the Senate was introduced to overhaul the tax code, Johnson added a few words to the tax code that would restrict affected organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. What later became known as the Johnson Amendment passed with no discussion and only a voice vote. It was actually a bi-partisan amendment, pushed by the GOP and signed off by President Eisenhower.   When President Reagan revisited the Tax Code in 1986, it was decided to leave that amendment in there.

Out of twenty-nine 501c not-for-profit categories, Johnson only added language to muzzle the c3 category, which all churches are part of. Ironically, Johnson was not after the church, he was after those charitable organizations that had opposed him. The church, as a result, became an unintended victim.

This amendment made it “illegal” for pastors too include language in their sermons that might be construed to either support or endorse political candidates for office. However, while many agree about specific lines that cannot be crossed, what was not fully defined is how to decide what “oppose” or “support” fully means from an IRS code perspective; therefore, the analysis is somewhat subjective based on the IRS agents involved.

At conflict is the fact that the First Amendment of the US Constitution restricts the IRS from being the “pulpit police”. The truth of the matter is that the IRS is not allowed to dictate what a pastor can say from the pulpit.  However (there it is again) – when a church applies for a 501C(3) status,  there is a degree of honor to be expected from the church, that they will adhere to the agreements set forth in the 501C(3) section of the IRS code.  A church DOES NOT have to apply for c3 status.

Since 2008, 3000 pastors, along with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) have publicly endorsed or supported political candidates from the pulpit. They recorded these sermons and mailed them directly to the IRS.  As of late 2018, the IRS has not taken any action against any of them – not one. Many agree that this is primarily due to man power issues at the IRS. However, in 1995, the IRS did go after a church in upstate New York that ran active campaigns against Bill Clinton. That church did lose its tax exempt status.

The bottom line is that the First Amendment protects what pastors can, and cannot say, from the pulpit. But, many pastors have bought into the Johnson Amendment anyway, primarily because of the tax exempt status. I wonder how many churches would be willing, or capable, to toss away their tax exempt status to take back some of their religious liberty?  How many churches would survive, or die, as a result? 

I heard a pastor tell me over the last few weeks that he believes in the Separation of Church and State, which does not exist. Separation of Church and State (a misappropriated statement from Thomas Jefferson) is sometimes confused with the establishment clause. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. From a pastors perspective, there you go – that’s all there is.

Fortunately, even with 501C3 status, Pastors are NOT restricted from discussing government or cultural affairs. We have bought into the myth that pastors must remain silent. Because the church has remained – almost – silent over the last 60 years or so, we have a new generation of church goers that have been raised up into a myth that has become their reality. The result is that because we have a silent pulpit, we now have a silent pew. A silent pew has resulted in an uninformed electorate. An uninformed electorate will never know what God might have to say about how civil government should be run.

It generally boils down to the basic principal of government versus liberty, and liberty should always win.

This begs a good question: If the church could reconstruct government today – what would it look like? As I believe that church denominational lines have been drawn along political lines, I am not sure that the church today, in the US, could reconstruct government. That is my opinion anyway.

We love all of you. God bless.

 

References:

 

https://davidfiorazo.com/2015/05/the-johnson-amendment-and-the-agenda-to-silence-christians/

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otOYnmGHT_s


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God ~IN~ Country: Part 6 – Our National Birth Certificate

Our Declaration of Independence is our nations birth certificate – it sets forth the philosophy of our country. It is also noteworthy that every single right written on the Declaration had been preached from the pulpit prior to 1773. Basically, the Declaration of Independence is a set of sermon topics. The Declaration of Independence concludes, in the last paragraph, by appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world. That can only be our Lord and Father.

We have those in service in the government that continue to push to turn portions of God’s word into political issues, thereby, causing Churches to break the law if they speak on it. Unfortunately, I continue to read about and see videos where Christians support these moves in government. We might as well start tearing chapters of the bible out of our books, else we will break the law if we speak on it.

Christians cannot remain silent. Christians should not wait until election seasons to be engaged and involved. The Lord warns us in Isaiah 56:10 that His Leaders, of His people, are blind and ignorant, like watchdogs with no bark. They would rather be lazy, sleeping and dreaming.

How would you feel if your human father felt about you that way? Would you do anything to change his mind?

So, the number of messages and issues are huge, I am overwhelmed and feel like a fish out of water. What do I do with all of this? Not every issue will resonate with you, not every issue will hold a place in your heart; but there are those that will. When you hear of, or read about, something happening in our culture, be it in government or something else, and it resonates with you: you think on it (meditate), you learn all you can about it (study), and you get informed (you gain knowledge).

You do this long enough to get prepared, ready, and vigilant. We can then respond accurately, and with specificity, in prayer and in our activities. We absolutely need Christians involved in the actual cultural and political processes, we need to help shape policy.

We keep one eye, always, on God and trusting Him, but, the only thing needed for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing. So, if you are ok with things getting worse, then do nothing. If you are NOT ok with things getting worse, then do something.

The role of the church and the role of the Christian are not the same.  The church should be more careful than the Christian as we interact in our communities and society. I do believe it to be true that Pastors must focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but I do not believe that Pastors should be avoiding topics about our national climate or current events. As a matter of fact, I believe this to be dangerous. Recall the story from Jeremiah where we had Jews exiled in Babylon and their lives were miserable because they refused to pray for their government and speak out about issues that impacted their community.

It has been said, by some ministers and pastors, that when a Pastor dabbles in politics, he is prostituting himself away from the Gospels. This could not be further from the truth and history indicates this. Our culture is in crisis and it is because influential ministers have been sharing the wrong message and driving Christians away from the culture. What about the Pastors that do not speak about politics and culture because they are afraid of the government, or, they are afraid that they will offend some of their constituents?  Fear is faith too. Some believe that the Church thrives best when it is under persecution.

Who is he that will harm you, if you follow what is good? When they defame you, those who revile your good conduct in Christ will eventually be ashamed.


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God ~IN~ Country: Part 5 – Christian Profile of Leadership

God becomes your problem when you remove Him. If, then, God is your problem, your first concern should not be who is in the White House, but who is in your house.  If He is causing your distress, then time shouldn’t be wasted on putting someone into office who can take care of our distress, but on getting God back on our side. We can operate by ensuring our candidates will hold up to His principles. We also do this be reviving the church back to the glory that God expects and desires. It is not that Jesus Church is not operating in glory for the Kingdom, but, glory is waning in the nation, where we, and the flock lives. 

AID’s is a disease that does not kill you, but it does destroy your immune system which allows other diseases to come in and kill your body. God’s immune system in our culture, is the Church. When the immune system breaks down, culture breaks down. Until the immune system of God, the church, is brought back up, the viruses of destruction will continue to destabilize our country, ebb away at our freedoms, and take away our liberty.

There are forces at work to remove, or rewrite, the true founding of America which is part of the makeup of our heritage. These same forces are working diligently and strategically to remove the basic foundational truths of God’s Word from our culture. They are stealing godly “moral correctness” and are misappropriating it by stating that true moral correctness is whatever we, as men, decide it is. Therefore, biblical moral correctness is now immoral because it violates whatever a person determines to be morally correct at that point in time.

Karl Marx said, “Take away the heritage of the people, and they are easily persuaded”.  It is also written in Psalm 11:3 “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”  This is what the evil forces are doing.

Some believe that Trump does not fit the profile that Christians want in their President but let’s be clear, I do not believe that it is he that is destroying our national foundations, he is fighting to protect them. Trump is working as hard as possible to protect both our heritage and our religious freedom, and he is fighting against extraordinary forces to do this. Trump hates politics, although he loves the challenge. Trump may speak like a soldier in combat (via Twitter), but he will not back down and take flak from anyone. In the face of adversity, Trump is displaying more courage than many of us today.

Trump is extremely egotistical and he may even be a narcissist, but I believe that he loves this country – even if for selfish reasons. However, it does seem that there are other opposing forces that are, in fact, working diligently, piece by piece, to take away our American heritage and our religious liberties.

Regarding Trump not fitting a profile that many Christians expect or demand, we can take a look at some characters from the Bible. Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar, and Xerxes amongst others, were pagan leaders that most definitely did not fit the godly profile of a leader, yet, they allowed, supported, endorsed, or pursued things that were good in the eyes of the Lord and for His people. God even referred to them as His servants. Can God not do this anymore? Have we boxed God in because Trump does not fit the profile of who we might consider a great and positive Christian man? 

Lets take a look at Jimmy Carter, who in the eyes of people at the time, absolutely fit the bill and profileof a born again believer. Many considered this critical and fit the desired profile, but is this what qualified him for the position?  While he was tremendously successful after his Presidency, with habitat for humanity and other philanthropic efforts, he is considered by many to have been the worse President in history, yet he espoused Christianity and his beliefs to anyone that would hear him.

Proverbs 13:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation”. How do you measure righteousness? God’s standards. How do you get God’s standards for a nation? In one particular verse, Isaiah 1:26, God is speaking to Isaiah, “Then I will give you good judges again and wise counselors like you used to have. Then Jerusalem will again be called the Home of Justice and the Faithful City.”

This verse tells us that righteousness is tied to a nation based on the types of judges you have.Who appoints judges in the US? The President. So, while most think that it is the President that exalts righteousness on a nation, it is really the judges that he appoints; this is why we have seen so much attention on judge appointments since President Trump has taken office. 

So, if during a Presidential election you cannot make a clear decision on which candidate to vote for, take a look at the types of judges they will appoint, for that is what exalts righteousness on a nation. Also remind yourself that most of these appointments are for life, so, as judges are appointed, they could impact the court systems for 3-4 decades.

Finally, watch what our current leaders and potential future leaders exhibit regarding their positions about Israel. When it comes to perspectives on executive, judicial and legislative activity, we shall never forget what God told Abraham in Genesis 12, in that He was going to make a nation out of Abraham and “whomever blesses I will bless and whomever curses I will curse”. Based on that, if we ever have legislation that passes in opposition to Israel, then God will, in turn, oppose our nation. We should continue to monitor what our elected officials are doing in office, and, the stance of candidates during election cycles.


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God ~IN~ Country: Part 4 – God Removed From Culture

Too many people are NOT standing on Gods Word, they are being swayed by culture and they are unfortunately adapting to cultural issues that are contrary to God’s Word. We have denominational divides that look eerily similar to those we see in political parties. It is a fascinating thing to review if you care to look at political parties and our denominational churches. It is glaringly obvious that man has infiltrated his ways into God’s Church.

However, we can see by Paul’s example, that he did not isolate himself from culture, but he also did not immerse himself in it, he strived to influence and impact culture. Review the story in Acts about Mars Hill.

Everywhere he went, he was engaged. Sometimes it resulted in revolt, but other times it resulted in revival. Not because he was hiding his light, he was open and he was bold. Sometimes, they chased him out of town with clubs. Should we, as a body, be afraid of that ourselves? Should we be afraid of people telling us that “we are narrow minded”? No. We need to retain focus, in the back of our minds, that we follow a crucified Christ.

Jesus tells us in Matthew that the gate is narrow, that it will be hard.  So we have to accept the idea that we may live in a culture that is not going to praise us. But God looks at us and He is pleased.

Robert Charles Sproul (a theological leader of the Presbyterian church (d. 2017)) said that “There are lots of people that say that the church or Christians should never say anything about what the government does, but that ignores the whole history of redemption all the way up to John the Baptist where the church has always been given the responsibility of prophetic criticism. Not that we want the state to be the church, but we do want the state to be the state. And when the state rebels against its God ordained responsibility, the church not only may, but it must, speak out against it.” 

Christ commanded us to take the Gospels to the nations. When we, as Americans think of this, we generally think of other nations but never our own. The USA is also one of the nations. Shall we not also work on our own backyard? It starts with the people, where the Church is primarily focused, in the hopes that the people will thrive and drive the culture of their nation.

Are there areas of our own nation that we are missing because we think someone else is working on that problem? If the church cannot or does not speak to community, state and national issues, then we are missing a big piece of the Gospel. 

We have forces on our government that want to make the people completely reliant on them, they say that we, the people, can depend on them; that they have our best interests in mind and will provide all our needs. I heard a pastor, Tony Evans, describe the children’s fable about Humpty Dumpty in a way that I had never heard before, and it is brilliantly fitting and ironic:

“When Humpty Dumpy fell off the wall, even all of the Kings Men and all the Kings horses could not put Humpy Dumpty together again.  The government could not help Humpty Dumpty in his most dire time of need. This is not a partisan statement, this is statement about government in general. We should never depend on our government. We must learn how to fish the way our Father intended and manage our own lives [the way our Founding Fathers intended]. Too many believe that our government will put our country back together again, as if we are expecting all of the answers to come from our elected officials. It is unfortunate today that far too many believers, are expecting the solutions to our problems to land on Air Force one.”

“2 Chron 15:3-6 reminds us that there was a time where the land was without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law. Therefore, the result was that there was no peace, nation rose against nation, city against city, and there was no peace for him who came in nor him who went out. God had troubled them with every kind of distress.  What this tells us is that if God is the problem, then only God is your solution. God becomes our problem when we remove Him from the equation.”


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God ~IN~ Country: Part 3 – God’s Word vs. Political Parties

The solution to how Christians might behave can actually be found in Jeremiah Chapter 29, versus 1-13. But first, we need to recognize that our hope is not, and can not, be built into any political party nor in any person, our hope is in the Father. We can look at the officials representative of the leading parties and then look to the Father to help us identify the officials that best represent the true biblical values we find in Scripture. The Biblical values and principles we should be concerned with will not impede, stop, or harass our ability to follow the prime commandments left to us by Jesus Christ. True Kingdom-like principles. But, until the Kingdom of Heaven comes to earth, we are here. We are here, and until then we, as Christians, have dual citizenship. What is the responsibility of the Christian community to the political environment? What about our responsibilities to the nation that we live in? How are we to act and behave in political seasons or the current cultural dilemma’s we now face? Uninformed, informed, sit it out, do anything, do nothing. And, if appropriate, at what level do we do something at?

  1. We should be responsible – Jeremiah 29:1-6, be responsible in your culture, be involved (this letter was sent to the exiles in Babylon, encouraging them because they were in a world that did not understand nor support their belief system, they did not sympathize with their values, and were even hostile to their values; similar to what Christians are living in today in Western Culture). We need Christians who are responsible in their culture.
  2. We should be prayerful – Jeremiah 29:7, be prayerful for your country. Your welfare is bound up in the welfare of your country. If you want God involved, then pray for your leaders, pray for your nation. Refusing to pray for our President, or condemning pastors that pray over him is, dare I say, not biblical.
  3. We should be careful – Jeremiah 29:8-9, be careful who you consider; the people in Babylon were becoming complacent in allowing things to run their natural course rather than operating in careful consideration
  4. And, we should be hopeful – Jeremiah 29:10-13, be hopeful in your calling. The Lord tells us that if we seek Him with all our heart, He listens and we will find Him, He will give us a future and a hope.

No matter what is happening today and no matter what happens in 2020, we have a future and a hope in God. You can always do more than pray after you’ve prayed, but you can never do more until you pray. This is where we start and the foundation of all of our activities.

Abraham Lincoln said that “those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”  Ronald Reagan said “that without God, democracy will not and can not endure. If we ever forget that we are one nation Under God then we will become one nation gone under.”

Some people, believers or not, would agree that our country is dividing more and more to a point where we wonder if it is even recoverable – another civil war is looming across the horizon. Some believe that there is no leader that can polarize our nation enough to bring us back together, or at least narrow the divide. However, we have a great God that is looking to the church to stand up, to look to Him, and bring in the LIGHT.

There are those that believe, with the right leader, the right person, we can bring our nation back together. America can be redeemed, but the difference is in our belief that we need God’s help. When Christians refuse to take a clear stand on specific issues, the church/the body of Christ is weakened.

How do we deal with all of this? We start in God’s Word first. Even as culture changes, God’s Word does not. Our foundation, when engaging in our culture, is to stick to the foundational truths of Scripture. Even if our culture changes, we still stand on TRUTH. We still stand on God’s Word.


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God ~IN~ Country: Part 2 – Jesus, Democrat, and Republican

If Jesus were walking the earth today, I think many would agree that He would not be a member of a political party – He would be independent. Yet, these same people remain along the party line anyway. The Old and New Testament tribes have morphed into Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Socialist, Communist, Green Party and Tea Party amongst others. In the church, they have morphed into Presbyterian, Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, Charismatic, Methodist, Episcopalian, and on and on. Back to the topic of politics, we would all agree that Democrats and Republicans own the political stage. This is good and bad.

The problem is that Democrats and Republicans are tailored made to resist one another (which is good and bad), they will never get along and will rarely agree (again, good and bad). There is nothing you can do to put Democrats and Republicans on the same page. If you consider yourself a Democrat, then I would encourage you to think “Democrat-lite”; likewise, if you consider yourself a republican, then I would encourage you to think “republican-lite”. But we also have a third element, another team of officials that I would encourage you to be a part of.

These officials are in the game, but they are not of the game. They are in the middle of the chaos but they do not belong to the chaos. It is not the job of these officials to listen to the roar of the crowd, be it boos or cheers, nor to the factions that are against each other. These officials belong to another Kingdom and they make their decisions reflective of the book handed to them from the Kingdom that they represent.

Because, it is our job, as Soldiers of Christ, to bring in the L-I-G-H-T, representing a different King in another Kingdom. So let’s represent the King.

Christians should serve as “a” moral compass for the nation, something that is sometimes hard to do if Christians allow themselves to become the property of one political party or subservient to one set of special interests. Like the court prophets of Ahab (1 Kings 22, 2 Chronicles 18), we lose our credibility and doom our listeners if we begin to parrot anyone’s party line rather than the ethical and moral principles we have gleaned from Scripture. Christian citizens serve their nation best when they can both love what is best about our nation and also insist on the freedom to hold our leaders and ourselves accountable when necessary.

The bible tells us in Romans 13 that God ordained human government. That chapter also tells us that we are subject to that government we are in. It seems odd to think that God would ordain government and then want Christians to stay out of it, it doesn’t make sense. In American culture, we don’t live in a totalitarian regime, we live in a culture that is constructed to involve ALL of its citizens.

In a pluralistic culture, the freedom to believe and disbelieve is made there; but what is happening is our nation is forming a monopoly, one that is starting to refuse to give you the freedom to express your belief. This is where we need to change and this change is not going to happen if Christians are not engaged, or not involved, in influencing our culture.

It is possible to be political and not truly spiritual, but, it is not possible to be genuinely spiritual and not touch politics. Example: life and death issues and abortion are moral issues but they are now ingrained in the political arena. Politics, to some degree, intercepts with every single person. Politics is the art of living together in a community. The current political climate is working diligently to politicize and appropriate your spirituality and spiritual beliefs. 

Plato said, that “the penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics, is to be governed by those worse than themselves”.


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