Sunday, January 29, 2017

God's Got This Too

Exactly 22 months ago today, after an interview with George Stephanopoulos, many of the "talking heads" and political elites pronounced then Gov. Mike Pence's career dead. A few days later I joined his staff.
It amazes me, as I reflect on this part of my journey, how God had a plan all along. The pundits and the politicians (friend & foe) didn't have a clue. Then again, neither did any of the rest of us. But God knew.
It's just another reminder for me, and maybe for you too, that no matter the prognosis, no matter the "disaster" that just occurred, no matter how unlikely it might seem, no matter how dire the future looks right now ... God's got this too.
There is only One who knows what your tomorrow looks like. He loves you. You can trust him.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

I am tired … more than that, I am weary

I am tired … more than that, I am weary.
I am weary of brothers and sisters in Christ (people who should know better – who do know better) who easily abandon bedrock principles of Christianity to attack or defend someone they have never met, simply because they are on one side (or the other) of an artificially drawn line that defines an imaginary isle.
We celebrate and share articles with leading sentences like, “Many Americans appear ready to give [insert name of current or former President here] a pass when it comes to his lack of religious knowledge, sensibilities or behavior, but I think that’s a mistake.” Would we use that same language to describe the visitor on the back pew, or the neighbor we’ve been praying for down the street?
Many believers eagerly embraced the idea this past fall that half of a particular candidate’s followers were irredeemable. And that was a gracious description compared to what they reserved for the candidate. Do we really believe that anyone is irredeemable?
Why do many of my Christian friends champion a march that deliberately excluded people who cherish and value the right to life? Can these positions really be held by people who claim that “Jesus is the subject” and “Our banner is love”?
I’ve heard some defend their views with the excuse, “I’ve heard with my own ears, and seen with my own eyes.” (Forgetting that they saw and heard through news sources that were skewed both right and left and none coming from a spiritual perspective). Did first hand testimony matter (testimony NOT filtered through electronic media and shaped by editors, and producers) when our Redeemer stooped down and started writing in the dust at the feet of those accusers? Was He only the Redeemer of the accusers?
I’m weary. And I long for the church to mature, understand its identity, and reclaim its mission to advance the Kingdom of God. For now, we live in an age of faith “tribes”, nation-state citizenship, regional pride, sports team allegiance, and personal preference. We should celebrate our strengths and appreciate our differences.
I long for the day when political ideology no longer trumps foundational principles of the faith. Unfortunately, I believe we are as stiff-necked as our Old Testament forbearers. In the meantime, if you wish to pass judgment on me please use the one found in Matthew 22:34-40:

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Long-awaited, Unexpected

Long-awaited, unexpected.

They had waited so long for the Messiah, but they did not expect a child. Mary and Joseph did not expect a pregnancy. The shepherds did not expect a sky full of angels. Herod did not expect the Magi.

The wedding guests did not expect the best wine at the end of the reception. The fishermen did not expect their nets to break. The blind did not expect to see, the lame did not expect to dance.

The woman caught in adultery did not expect forgiveness. Zacchaeus did not expect a dinner guest. The five thousand did not expect a meal. 

Peter, James, & John did not expect to see Moses & Elijah. The mourners did not expect to see Lazarus. Pilate did not expect the Truth. The disciples did not expect the cross. 

The thief did not expect Paradise. The soldiers did not expect the earthquake. Peter & John did not expect an empty tomb. Mary did not expect to hear her name. Thomas did not expect to see the scars. Peter did not expect restoration. 

They did not expect the way that He left. 

He is the God of unexpected surprises. 

We await His return, but we are unable to even imagine the unexpected ways he will appear in our daily lives. 

Expect the unexpected - that's who He is. 

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fifteen years and counting ...

Fifteen years ago I was in a Coordinating Council meeting at church. It was a Monday night. I can't remember what we were discussing, but at the time it seemed very important. Little did we know that tomorrow morning our part of the world would change forever. 

Tuesday morning four planes altered their original course for new destinations. Three found their targets, one fell short in a field in Pennsylvania. 

Within minutes all of the contrails disappeared from the sky. Questions erupted like spring dandelions. Who did it? Why did they do it? Were there more to come? 

On that Monday there was no TSA. There was no national police force called Homeland Security. There was no Patriot Act. We are more secure now, but we've bought that security by selling some of our freedom.

On Monday we were mostly focused on our own lives and our own interests. After Tuesday we looked at strangers on the street or in the grocery store more closely - not in suspicion but to give an encouraging smile or nod. We held the door for others more frequently. The pews in churches were more full, as were the military recruiting centers.

A lot has happened in 15 years. A lot happened between Monday night and Tuesday morning. What does our tomorrow hold? We won't know till we get there. The world could look very different. 

So say what you need to say to the people you love. Look strangers in the eye and give them an encouraging nod and a smile. Hold the door for others. Look at the sky and enjoy creation. Look at your life and enjoy your freedom. Pray for your nation and those protecting it. Pray for first responders - those who run toward danger, those who open the doors without knowing what's behind them. Hug your family and friends. 

Life is unpredictable. Live intentionally. 
God is good. Love unconditionally.
The choice is yours ... choose well.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What's In A Name? ... For the Third Time

This post is from December 7, 2015 where I reposted an earlier post. I am reposting because Mr. Trump has again criticized the President for using the term ISIL. Regardless of how you feel about Trump or the President, do your own research - don't be ignorant...

December 7, 2015: I first posted the following on June 30, 2014. Last night, Donald Trump criticized the president for using the term "ISIL". I believe NOT calling this enemy ISIL reveals an ignorance of the nature of this radical group. I continue to stand by these words and believe the term "ISIS" masks the true purpose of the Islamic State:

June 30, 2014: What's in a name? A lot, and we need to pay attention.

We've recently seen a very violent jihadist form of Islam emerge in the chaos of Syria and Iraq. Many news organizations are calling it ISIS - the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But up until Sunday, June 29th [2014] that's not what they called themselves. Now they just call themselves the Islamic State, but the shortened name is because of growing ambitions.

Beginning in April of last year [2013] , this group called themselves the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham. The Arabic word Sham translates to the word Levant. Our State Department calls them the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

Most Americans don't know what the word Levant means. It is actually a very old term that originated when the economic world centered around the Mediterranean Sea. 

Levant literally means "rising" referring to the place where the sun rises - or the eastern Mediterranean coastline. It refers to all of the territory of the following countries: Cyprus, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, part of southern Turkey, and Israel. It is used frequently by individuals, countries, and nations that refuse to recognize the State of Israel.

So, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant - (ISIL) reveals, by the name they chose, that they intend to expand into these other nations. Cyprus, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, part of southern Turkey, and Israel will all be replaced by ISIL if they have their way.

The name change on Sunday indicates even greater ambitions. When they changed their name to the Islamic State, they declared that they [intend to be] one nation-state, or caliphate, for every true Muslim. The idea is to unify all Muslims around the world and control as much territory as possible.

ISIS is a "cute" sounding name, reminding many from my generation of Saturday Morning live-action shows with Shazam!, Captain Marvel, and Isis. And the initials that ISIS represents makes telling the news easy; most people know where Iraq and Syria are - or at least know that they are countries in the Middle East. But it masks the true intentions of ISIL and now the Islamic State.

We are living at a time when people want to be entertained and the news media is lazy and ignorant. Just be aware that this group, if not addressed, will impact our future headlines with "unforeseen" horrors. Wake up. We are not fighting a war on terror, we are in a battle with a ruthless ideology and we need to realize what’s going. If we remain asleep while this evil grows, what happens in the future will make 9/11 look like a common traffic accident.

Don’t be afraid, be aware. Pay attention. 

"The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt." - 1790 speech by Irish orator John Philpot Curran.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

My Heart Is Heavy ...

My heart is heavy tonight. I pray for Justice Scalia's wife and family. May they find peace during these days and weeks. 

The halls of the building I stood in front of in 2014 will echo emptier because of the events of today. 

But the heaviness I feel is for the nation and the integrity of the U. S. Constitution. The fundamental transformation of the nation may, in fact, be sealed. God is still on the throne, and our future is, and has always been, in His hands. But the nation my future grandchildren inherit will be very different from the one I grew up in. 

Our selection of Presidential and Senatorial candidates will have great consequence. The choice is yours ... choose well. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

30 Questions To Help You Choose Leaders

Our process of electing leaders has devolved into voting against the person we can tolerate the least. The next nine months we will be inundated with reasons NOT to vote for the 'other guy' (or gal). Fortunately, scripture gives us another option. 

Most people assume we live in a democracy - and they would be wrong. We live in a republic. But few know that the idea of a republic is rooted in scripture. The founders used Scripture to argue for a republic and write it into the Constitution.

“Select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” - Ex. 18:21

This passage reveals three questions we should ask about our prospective leaders:
Is this person capable of holding this office?
Is this person seeking and following God?
Does this person hate dishonest gain (Do they play fair)?

When the disciples needed to staff a food pantry/visitation ministry, they said to choose leaders “who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” - Acts 6:3

If those are requirements for individuals who serve food to widows, our leaders should have those same qualities. But how can we tell if someone is "full of the Spirit"?

Paul wrote, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” - Galatians 5:22-23

That gives us 12 additional questions:
Does this person display wisdom? Do they make wise decisions?
Is this person full of the Spirit?
Is this person loving?
Are they joyful?
Are they at peace?
Do they have patient endurance?
Is this person kind?
Can you describe this person as a good person?
Are they faithful?
Are they gentle?
Does this person display self-control?

In our overly sensualized culture, we need to unpack what it means to be loving. The church in Corinth needed help defining love, so Paul wrote them a letter. 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

This gives us 15 more questions:
Is this candidate patient?
Are they kind?
Are they envious?
Is this person boastful and proud?
Do they dishonor others?
Are they self-seeking?
Is this person easily angered?
Do they hold grudges?
Do they find joy in hurtful or evil things?
Are they concerned about seeking truth?
Can you say that they ALWAYS protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere?
Does this person follow through?

Sometimes as we choose leaders we try to compensate for our weaknesses. 

We've lost our voice in this culture, so we choose the loudest candidate. We feel we've lost almost everything that makes us great, so we choose someone who promises to make us great again. We feel that we are part of the 90%, so we choose someone who will give us everything the 10% take for granted. We feel we've been lied to and we hate "nuanced" answers, so we find someone who "shoots straight" and says the first thing that pops into their head.

I Samuel reveals what happens when people reject God's wisdom and choose a king using their own set of qualifications. It was disastrous. But their fate doesn't have to be our fate. We have a choice.

Word of caution: no one is perfect. Don't be discouraged if you can't find a candidate who successfully navigates all of these questions. But you should be able to find someone who comes very close. 

And don't reject a candidate who made one decision you disagree with. Those who crave political power often use one controversial decision to divide and conquer. Even if all the power-seekers accomplish is to convince you to stay home and not vote, they've won.

You probably don't agree with every opinion your spouse has. You don't agree with every decision your pastor makes, or every choice your boss makes. But would you walk away from any of them, if you agree on every other choice or opinion?

In a republic we elect people to make decisions on our behalf. You and I choose who makes those decisions. The pundits, and polls, and talking heads, can not force us into predetermined conclusions. The choice is ours not theirs.

Face your fears. Reject choosing the popular candidate simply because they are popular. Hold your favorite candidates up to these 30 questions. If they fare well, you can be sure that they will represent you well.

If your candidate does not line up with biblical guidance, maybe you should reconsider. If they aren't qualified to even serve food to widows, why would you trust them to make decisions on weightier issues?

The choice is yours ... choose well.