Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Monday, May 31, 2010

Political Discourse

Is it a wonder our country is looking less and less like the "United" States of America? People seem to disagree about every single, little thing. The irony is that one side presupposes what the opposing side thinks with very little facts or basis. But with some exception, which I'll get to.

I'm very tired of the whole thing really. There appears to be no common ground for agreement. It reminds me of the philosophical differences that exist between the Israelites and the Palestinians. There has been countless negotiations from many, so-called renowned government leaders that have tried...and broker peace relations between the two. Why? Because whether we like it or not, people hold their value systems in high regards. No difference here. These two races have had stark differences going back centuries. The main difference, of course, being the belief in who the true God really is.

I'm not saying that value systems are wrong. On the contrary, I believe that it's those values in each of us that makes us who we are. But they also tend to cause great schisms in a society when those value systems clash.

I'm not saying, either, that I'm backing down from my conservative values. Just the opposite. I will never back down because my values are tied into my beliefs. And my beliefs are irrevocably linked to the Bible. The Bible, or rather the God of the Bible, defines who I am.

What I am saying is that I'm tired of the endless debate with people who really could care less about my values and/or beliefs. Granted, I'm not always the one doing the debating. I read and listen to others that I suspect on some level have the same core beliefs as I do. And it's these people that are constantly getting lambasted by the main-stream media.

Anymore, it's like banging your head against the wall. It's futile. Useless. It's two sides that will never agree with each other and if they do it's more than likely it's due to the fact that there may be wolves in sheeps clothing. What do I mean? I mean it's likely that a man whose principles are different will masquerade with a side to promote their agenda from within. Can anyone say Arlen Specter? Deception is an ancient tool, but one that is used quite effectively even today.

And who are these groups to which I am referring? Generally speaking, there are three distict parties. Two are ideaologically opposed to each other: the conservatives and the liberals. The third, though not clearly defined nor neutral by any means, are the independents. But for now, my focus will be on the two extreme, and opposable, sides.

How is it that we have come to this point? I've read history to some degree, but I'm no expert. I know the current liberal historians will disagree, but I've heard enough and read enough from experts (for the purpose of full disclosure, these experts are Christians) who do have extensive knowledge on the subject that the USA was founded on Christian, Biblical values. Does that mean that all the founding fathers were Christian? Of course not. Even these experts concede that much.

Many of these non-Christians, though, did see something significant in the principles of the Bible. They recognized that the Bible laid out clear instructions upon which to build a nation. They agreed in part, even if they didn't fully embrace the God of the Bible, that a nation would be blessed and would have great success if they adhered to Biblical principles. The Bible even maps out how a people ought to govern and be governed. The founding fathers held to these values. To be sure, these are not unfounded claims. Thousands of documents, transcripts, and letters are found at the Library of Congress testifying to the validity of these statements. Reading just the documents that we are all familiar with, such as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, one gets a sense of the values that were tied to Judeo-Christian beliefs of these extraordinary men.

Now these values are being challenged. I shouldn't say this like it's a recent occurrence. No, it's been brewing for several years...decades! Just google "were founding fathers Christian?" You can find hundreds of sources today alone that will argue against the very notion that these men were Christian. There's a logical reason for this of course. And it really shouldn't take anyone by surprise. The bottom line is it's man's sin nature.

I've read quotes from some of our founding fathers that claimed that if a nation were to disregard God as the source of its blessings, it would then begin to fall apart. They knew that the key to America's success and existence lied within a firm belief in God's providence. But that dependence upon God and His sovereignty has been eroding from our culture for some time.

So here we are. It took some time, and some manipulation, but the liberals are getting their agenda pushed through. Despite the fact that liberals hold the majority in both the houses and in the white house too, I tend to believe that this is still more of a conservative country. Admittedly, I may be wrong. But it seems to me that people were getting tired of the direction our previous administration was taking us. Even with independents and some conservatives. That, I think, is what caused the tide to shift to the liberals.

However, I must confess that I'm seeing a shift away from traditional values to more modern, progressive ones. These ideas wouldn't be so scary if it didn't involve separating God from modern intellectual thought. I would love to see a progressive movement take place with the very intent purpose of understanding science, nature, and humanity better in direct relationship to our God, the Author and Creator of all life.

However, that is not what this progressive movement is all about. No. Their purpose, which they have all but admitted, is to remove God from our culture so they can be free to live their lives without judgment. Free from the restrictive rules and laws that are to them "antiquated" and even "oppressive" to the free-spirit and the more advanced, modern intellectuals of today.

To them, it's complete and utter nonsense that anyone would succumb to the brainwashing of religion. It is these sort of progressives that are the primary danger to liberal ideology. The more they're able to manipulate the average American into believing a fabricated aspect of their agenda (i.e. it's all about you), the closer they're able to get to their real purpose.

Which brings me to my original point. Liberals and conservatives will continue to push toward what they believe to be a better way of life. Part of that is not letting facts get in the way. Facts seem almost irrelevant. Even opposed. As does the practice of deductive reasoning.

This was in full display when deductive reasoning was vehemently and diametrically opposed by liberals, who quite conveniently control a major source of how information is dispersed through the main-stream media. When conservatives naturally saw how certain aspects of the health care bill would affect the elderly, the liberals created a media-blitz not just to dispute the claim, but discredit it. Because express language wasn't used to show that health care would be rationed and the elderly would face death panels, it was passed off as absurd and ignorant. Instead of arguing how certain events could lead to these very possible scenarios, liberals instead went on the attack to discredit the character of the person or persons making these claims.

It's a complete lack of intellectual honesty. And the liberals use that maneuver quite effectively even when they're the ones most guilty of it.

So again, I ask, in the grand scheme of things, is the "United" States really united? With the political discourse going its current direction in our country, I just don't see us ever going back. I, personally, will never concede on social issues that I believe affect our country such as abortion, same-sex marriage, or embryonic stem-cell research. And there are others who will never concede their positions.

Wouldn't it be great if we could split the country in half and say you go your way and I'll go mine? Unfortunately, that may never be an option. Then what? Civil war? Maybe. But if Jesus doesn't come back soon, things are bound to get really ugly and in a hurry. Come quickly Lord Jesus. Come.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Unforgivable Sin

Since I was little I can remember hearing something about an unforgivable sin. I also remember being really confused. What was it? No one really made that clear. I think I asked maybe a couple people back then and obviously didn't get a satisfactory answer because I remained confused.

I even remember at some point watching movies thinking that maybe they understood what it was. Not that I was actively looking for the explanation in movies, but they did regularly portray the catholic church and I somehow thought I'd learn something about it. I even got the sense that movies began to center their plot along these lines. Especially horror movies. They mentioned many times about the seven deadly sins.

Now I see that not only was this naive, but dangerous. Dangerous because I was looking to hollywood for spiritual direction. Wow. I can't imagine why I would have done that except that I was lost.

Over time, even before I was saved through Jesus Christ, I think I began to see how ridiculous that notion was. But the question was still out there. What was this sin that was so bad that even God wouldn't forgive it?

As a teenager I began going to a nondenominational church with my mom. We had attended a Lutheran church prior to that but it became clear after my mom was saved that we needed to go to church elsewhere. Ironically, this church was where I stood up and raised my hand, made a statement of faith, and prayed the sinner's prayer. I considered myself "saved" by Christ at that time. But I was only giving lip service to God. I really didn't want Him to be the Lord of my life.

I say this only to make a point, not to discredit the church. Even if the church had been right on in their teaching of Scripture, I wouldn't have known it. I was still lost. So I never learned anything and was still confused...about salvation obviously, and about this particular sin.

Further, it wasn't until years later after many mistakes and many heartbreaks did I come to realize how wrong I was about my so-called salvation. I was so sure that I was a believer saved by the grace of God. But now that I look back, there was no evidence of God's changing power in my life. There was NO fruit, as the Bible puts it. I clearly was a sinner doing things my way and totally making a mess of it.

So there I am. Lost and even more confused than ever. Then the miracle happened. God got my attention. And this time I listened. It wasn't immediately clear what had happened to me, but I knew something was going on. My interests changed, albeit slowly, and I was being convicted of sin on a regular basis. There was a certainty this time that I knew I wanted Jesus as my own personal Lord and Savior. I wanted Him to be in control of my life. I wanted Him to change me and make me more like Him.

And Scripture began opening up to me. Things that made no sense to me before began to make sense to me this time. God was revealing Himself and it was exciting!

But again, I was still somewhat confused about this unforgivable sin. Reading Hebrews in the Bible put a scare in me. Hebrews Chapter 6 to be exact. I read this and thought it was describing me. I was one who heard the gospel and fell away. The author was saying that it was impossible for this person to be brought back to repentance. I began to think that I committed the unforgivable sin and I wasn't saved after all.

I even started asking other believers and they weren't even sure what that sin was. They didn't even know how to explain Hebrews to me. But to be fair to them, Hebrews is a weighty book. It's a little difficult to digest much like Revelations and Daniel. They assured me, at least as much as they were able, that I was indeed saved and that they could tell God was working in my life. So I didn't dwell on it and moved on.

It wasn't until a few years later that I heard a pastor teach on Hebrews. I thought he explained it pretty well. He admitted that there were varying opinions, but I believed his understanding of the text. The sermon was awhile ago and I'm not sure I can remember it very well. So, I looked for an explanation online that jogged my memory. Although there may be some differences as to the sermon and this commentary, I believe that they're pretty much in agreement.

So, in my mind, what I understand anyway, is that the one sin God will not forgive is really the one sin that an unbeliever chooses for himself. And that is to reject God's gift of salvation. This is an apostate that has completely rejected Christ.

Now does that mean that when we're mad at God and we say things or think things that we shouldn't that we're committing this sin? That's not how I understand it, no. And it's not even a mere refusal to believe the gospel message the first, second, or hundredth time you've heard it.

What I understand it to mean is that this person would blatantly reject God even after knowing and hearing and understanding the gift that God is offering him. This person would deny the witness of the Holy Spirit, the witness that testifies to Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. The witness that testifies that Jesus is the living Son of God to whom the world is reconciled to God. This person would deliberately reject and refuse Jesus Christ as his/her Lord and Savior. And they would also deliberately and consciously reject repentance and forgiveness. They would be like the sow that returned to its mud hole or a dog that eats its own vomit.

So is every unbeliever like that? No. Some are ignorant of the truth. Some don't know that they're living a lie and really haven't made Jesus the Lord of their life. There's certainly other situations and circumstances, but it doesn't mean they've committed the unforgivable sin.

Unfortunately, many will go through life and never truly understand. They're given chance after second chance after second chance. We don't know when God's patience will run out, but the Bible does tell us there is an end. For those who have the opportunity to embrace Christ and they know it, today would be the day to do something about it...because we're not guaranteed a tomorrow or even an unlimited number of second chances. It's a risk one should not be willing to take.

There is no excuse. Even if you've never heard the gospel explained to you to your satisfaction, you really don't have any excuses. The Bible tells us that all of creation testifies to His glory and that even our consciences bear witness to His existence. If you don't pray at least that He would reveal Himself to you, you really have no leg to stand on.

 So if today you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. Pray to God, receive Him into your life, and hold firm to your faith to the end.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Salvation: The Good News

The GOOD NEWS! That just brings a smile to my face. I love how God is able to take a really, really bad situation and do something good with it. AND to top it off, to bring Him glory!

Now, if all you know is that there is good news, then you're not going to understand why it's so good. And believe me, it's the kind of news that in human terms it's better than winning the lottery. It's better than getting married. Better than having a baby. Better than anything you could dream up, conjure up, or imagine. In fact, IT IS EVERYTHING!

So why is it good news? Because the alternative is really bad. In my last post I kind of went through that. I mentioned sin and how we're deserving of God's wrath. But what I didn't say is what I believe is the worst part. If one were to die in that sin state, that person would be separated from his/her Creator for all eternity.

That may not sound like such a big deal, but it is. More than you know. Imagine the worst feeling you ever experienced. Think about how you felt. Were you alone and empty? Were you depressed or in anguish? Take that experience and multiply that by a gazillion. That's still not enough to describe what that would be like. The Bible describes it like the weeping and gnashing of teeth. Eternal torment.

But there's good news. God had a plan...from the very beginning! He saw our sin nature and knew we would need a Savior. However, who could fit that bill? Certainly no man or woman in all of history. This person would need to be perfect. And only God is perfect.

So God decided that He Himself would have to save us. And He would have to ensure that everything would happen in the right way. From the beginning God put into motion events that would one day lead to His Son, Jesus Christ (who being fully man in all his humanity and fully God in all His deity), dying on the cross to pay the just penalty for our sins.

There is no way to explain this in detail here in this blog, and I probably wouldn't do it justice anyway. The simple truth is that the Bible lays out the sin problem and through God's promises through many, many prophecies (which all came true) He brought about the incarnation through the virgin birth of His Son Jesus. Which is by the way how Jesus circumvented the sin nature.

Jesus came onto the scene and turned the world upside down. He made claims that He was the Son of God and that He was to fulfill all righteousness. And He did. He lived among us, was perfect and sinless, He taught us about our Heavenly Father and showed us a more perfect way. He looked beyond just mere words and actions and dug deep into the heart. This, in itself, infuriated the religious leaders of that day. It forced them to recognize their own sin, which they weren't willing to do. But when all was said and done, Jesus fulfilled His ultimate purpose and became the sacrifice that would reconcile us to God. Through the cross, His excruciating pain, the torment and anguish, the mocking and scourging, Jesus laid his life down and suffered the most painful death imaginable. The movie, The Passion of the Christ, does an excellent depiction of what Jesus went through for us. And He did this because He loved us.

So if Jesus went through all this for us, then what's the big deal? Aren't we all saved and now we all can go to heaven? There is a hitch. Jesus doesn't force His gift of salvation upon anyone. Think about it. A gift is something you can either accept or refuse. That is what He has done. The Bible says that, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Okay then, how does one receive this gift? First, it's not something you initiate at all. Surprising? Confusing? Yes. The Bible tells us that God is the author and perfecter of our faith. And it's through faith that you believe. And believing is what you need to do in order to receive God's gift. The question right now is, "Do you feel the conviction of God tugging at your heart trying to get your attention?" My suspicion is that you do. If you're an unbeliever that is. God has a way of putting people at the right place and at the right time so they can believe. And how does that happen? By faith. And faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God. So if you see Scripture, the Bible, then you are being confronted by the Word of God.

If you are being convicted and sense God trying to get your attention, my advise is to pay attention. Because one way or another He's going to get it. The problem is is when? My prayer is that if you are an unbeliever, someone who hasn't made the decision to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, that today would be the day. It really is that simple. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 THAT'S the Good News!

There is so much more to say on this subject of baptism, but I won't get into that here. The emphasis here is salvation. If for some reason, you hear a pastor or a friend or anyone who is coercing you to make a quick decision to say, "I believe. I want to be saved. I want to be a Christian," then I would strongly encourage you to stop and think about it. It's not a decision to be taken lightly. Even Jesus said that His followers should count the cost. Unless it comes from a sincere heart, and God knows if it is or not, then any declaration you make will be pointless. You must be sincere, you must want to receive God's gift, and then you have to pray. A good resource to understand salvation better and to ensure that you have the heart and intent first and foremost is the Bible. But a website that can help you understand this very important step is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  Not that it's the only place, but it's a start. Perhaps a church where the Bible is taught would be an even better place. But if you sense God's conviction on you, above everything else don't ignore it. Ask Him to help you and He will.

Salvation: The Bad News

Let me say this right from the start. I am not a theologian. I am not a pastor, group leader, elder, deacon, teacher, or any of those highly gifted students of God's Word. I am, nonetheless, a student of His Word and will always be. I'm flawed, imperfect and sinful, but shown grace upon grace by God.

I believe that God reveals His Truth to each believer. And as such, He has shown me and opened my eyes to some amazing truths. And this is my feeble attempt at sharing what I believe God has revealed to me.

What is salvation? What does it mean? Who needs it? And, if life is going along just fine, why should I worry about it?

I meet people everyday and I wonder just what is it that they believe. I'm a little timid on broaching the subject with them but it is an important question. Most times I never get to asking.

But what if I were to ask? What would their response be?

Don't know, don't care?
Something I try not to think about?
and how about:

I think in the end when my life is summed up, God [or their version of God] will see that my good outweighs my bad and I'll probably go to heaven.

I've heard the latter response before. It's scary that man can think that he can be good enough. So, how good is good enough? Is it on a grading scale? Do I just have to do my best 51% of the time? And do I actually have to care about it while I'm doing something good? Or is it good enough that I actually do the good deed? You know...get 'er done! That's what they say.

Wow, that's a lot of stuff to mull over. I mean, if I go out and party, get drunk, become obnoxious and rude, AND then get a DUI or worse...I hit somebody with my car and they die...well, surely I can't be good enough to make up for all that! I'm definitely going to hell. No use trying now. Might as well have fun and make the most of it.

But what if I don't kill somebody. What if I just go out Saturday night and have a good time? I might swear a little. I might be rude. But hey, in the morning I can sober up and get my bearings and be ready for Monday. NOW doing good stuff for the rest of the week seems manageable. I mean I wasn't that bad. It shouldn't take much for me to get right with the Man upstairs! I still got a shot at them pearly gates!

BUT what if you're measured up to a higher standard? What if you have to be REALLY good like Billy Graham or Mother Theresa? Oh boy, I'm in trouble.

The thing is is that God looks at our righteousness and sees nothing but filthy rags. But wait a minute, which god are we talking about? Who is it that we have to appease and is it possible that there are different gods and many ways to heaven? In fact, I think I've heard that reasoning before.

To answer that question, it would take MUCH more space than I have here. Let's just TRY to break it down some. First, what distinguishes the God of the Bible from every other god? Well, He's perfect. His character is WAY above reproach. He's the only One to love us enough to send His Son to die on the cross for us. The vast majority of human kind has come to recognize Him as THE only God and hope for the world (past, present, and future.) And He's the only One who stirs our hearts and grabs our attention. No one is as talked about, written about, studied about, or even debated about more than the God of the Bible, and more particularly, His one and only Son Jesus Christ.

Again, there is so much more to be said about why the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the God that became man and died on the cross for our sins is the one and only true God. On this subject alone many books have been written.

So, with God in mind as the One who will judge us, can you honestly say that you want Him to measure you up by the good you have done? That's a frightful proposition. Even if you are like Mother Theresa. The Bible says there is no one good. Not one. (Psalm 14:1-3) Whoa. Now what?

The thing is is that we don't see things the way God does. His ways are higher than ours and His thoughts are greater than ours. He can see the very intent of our hearts. And therein lies the problem.

We're born sinners. There's been wickedness in our hearts from the very beginning. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In a sense, we're dead where we stand. Spiritually speaking of course we are.

But what is sin? And are some sins worse than others? Well, first you have to understand what sin is. Sin is missing the perfect, righteous standards of God. The laws (God's commandments...which by the way are not just 10) and the prophets (all written out in the Bible) tells us what His perfect standards are. But don't try justifying yourself or try to make yourself believe you kept them like the Pharisees did. That in itself is a form of denial and may lead to self-righteousness.

So you say that you're not even sure you have sinned? Even if you said you never committed adulterycommitting murder.

We're all sinners. And we all are guilty and deserving of God's wrath. Because He is the perfect and ultimate Judge, God can forever condemn us to everlasting death and torment.

That's the bad news. Praise God He didn't leave us that way. God had a plan from the very beginning. And that's the Good News...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Environmentalism - Part II

I mentioned last time that Christians can be blindsided as we consider our roles in protecting the environment. There are Biblical reasons, to be sure, to have a sound environmental position as it relates to being stewards of God's creation. But again, I fall back to the position that in my study of Scripture there is usually a balance in issues that are common to man.Unless I'm taking Paul's comments in 1 Corinthians out of context, I believe that as Christians we need to examine the circumstances that are before us and recognize what good can come from a certain decision and whether or not it is beneficial.

Part of that balance is understanding that on either end of the spectrum (for this topic of environmentalism) is apathy and oppression. It's certainly not good that we do nothing. To not care about the environment could be detrimental to our health and our future. And our children's future. On the other hand, to take it to the other extreme would be equally as foolish. And that's the part that concerns me.

So what is the concern here? The antonym of apathy of course is interest, care, concern, or sympathy. How can we care too much? Is it that we can end up being clean freaks? That somehow we'll find ourselves acting and behaving like Felix Unger? Oh the horrors! Of course not.

As I eluded to last time, I believe there's a power struggle taking place for control of our country. Bear with me. I believe this has some serious implications. What I see is that liberals, who became of age during great civil and political unrest during the 60's and 70's, are now in positions of authority in government. They are now able to manipulate a majority through the will of a minority.

How do they accomplish this? And what does the environment have to do with it? Well, first you have to recognize that to have control is to control communication. In order to get a majority of people to fall in line with your agenda, you have to control the means by which they receive their information. Little by little, the main-stream media (MSM), controlled primarily by liberals and their ideologies, have successfully hand-fed the American people their points of view, passions, and interests. On a grand scale, it's mind control. It's manipulation at its worse.

The only thing that's slowing the liberals agenda at all is the emergence of conservative voices on the radio, cable, and now internet. But is it too little too late? I don't know. I'd like to think the more people are informed about the issues from both sides, people are able to make better decisions in regards to those issues. But unfortunately, the liberals have yet another scheme in play to silence the opposition. If that happens, America will be no better off than a country like China that controls all the information their people receive and keeps them in the dark as much as possible. Many persecuted Chinese Christians can testify to that. Even information (i.e. Bible, tracts) is kept from them so they can freely worship as believers in Jesus Christ.

So how does the environment, government, communication, control, and religion tie together in this subject called environmentalism? If you understand the power struggle for control and domination, it would make perfect sense to you. But if you only think this is bogus, conjecture, or just some conspiracy theory you won't see any connection and brush it all to the side. You may even argue that the liberals have nothing but pure intentions. But before you do, consider this...

What are some of the ways environmental issues can play into the hands of liberals? It allows the government greater control over our lives. It creates more bureaucracy. It could possibly cause greater costs to energy and loss of jobs. Those are the effects. But what makes it dangerous for you and me is that it would force us to be more reliant on government. They want us to believe that we need them and that we want them to be in control our lives and our welfare. Take care of us that is. And that's where they get you. Then they're able to promote their lifestyles and their views. It's a dangerous proposition and could drastically change the landscape of our core values and principles that we hold as conservatives and, more importantly, as Christians. The problem goes against the very core of our founding fathers' principles as well, who by the way were Christians to a large degree. But it also goes against the principles of those who are conservative Christians today that I hope are paying attention.

Again, we must be informed citizens. To be sure, the environment is important. But we have to be careful at what we accept as solutions to the issues. Like Jesus said, "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Obviously, this passage deals more with our interaction with the lost and sharing the gospel with them. But the principle can be true here as well. We must have a Biblical worldview if we're to understand our role in it. And we must be wise as we approach those worldviews and not be so easily drawn in by the way the world operates. If we do, we will see our Christian values deteriorate. And that to me is a greater concern. And when we could quite possibly lose our freedoms.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Environmentalism - Part I

Big word. Big controversy. Just mentioning the E word sometimes gets my blood boiling. Question is...why?!?

Isn't conserving, reusing and recycling good things? My wife thinks so. So does my cousin. So why am I having such a difficult time with it?

In fact, "protecting" the environment would seem to fall in line with Scripture. Doesn't it? God tells us that we should be good stewards (Luke 12:42; Matthew 25:14-30) of what He has given and entrusted to us. To be sure that covers a lot of area. But the environment certainly falls into that. And going back to the beginning, in the account of creation (Genesis 1:27-29), didn't God entrust man with the responsibility to subdue the earth and rule over it. A great responsibility. If we understand then that the Scriptures must have continuity, then we have to say we need to take charge of the earth and manage it WELL.

So why am I so anti-environment? Well, I'm not...completely. To be clear here, I'm not even touching on global warming or climate change or whatever they're going to call that tomorrow. I'm just talking about taking care of our natural resources and stuff like that.

I guess why it bugs me is because the liberals are SO for it. I'm okay with doing more in moderation. I'm okay with being more responsible. I'm even okay with recycling...I guess. But what I'm not okay with is the government taking environmentalism to the extreme.

The E.P.A. Announces a New Rule on Polluters
Abortion Debate Thwarts U.S. Fight Against China's One-Child Policy
Corruption, Collusion, or Legal Thievery

So, how does one deal with being concerned about these extreme points of view and reconciling this with the right attitude as pointed out by Scripture? The key I think is to seek to view the world through the filter of God's eyes (His Word). And pray. Pray a lot. Ultimately, with what we do and how we take care of His creation we are setting an example to the lost people that we want to point to Jesus for their ultimate hope.

So, here's the question. How do the lost see us? Many liberals, and others who aren't, probably watch Christians and wonder why we don't care. Where's our compassion? Where's our sense of right and wrong? Why don't we care about the destructive way in which we (man) pollute and mismanage natural resources? Those are legitimate questions.

The Church has stepped up in recent years. And there are considerable Christians who do care and are taking it more seriously. But Christianity as a whole seems to have already received a black mark on this point. So how do we respond to the world after we have dropped the ball?

Carefully. There's still much to consider as we broach this topic. Though Christians may find a Biblical basis to take care of our environment, we must not be blindsided by the fact that there is a power struggle taking place which may have significant implications to our future in other ways. Next time, that is what I intend on talking about. Until then.may God bless you! And keep your eyes fixed on Jesus!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Immigration - Part III

Last time I asked, “Is it not compassionate to bring ALL who wish to come within our borders so they too may get the same benefits that all Americans enjoy?” Under an ideal situation, the answer would be yes.  However, there seems to be an ulterior motive hidden behind the sudden “compassion” found within the liberal circles.

The reason I question their motives is because under current federal law, it is illegal to come into the United States to work and/or live without going through the proper channels. Go to Wikipedia and you can get a sense of some of the benefits and drawbacks to illegal immigration. The thing that I can’t get past is that many people are trying to sugar-coat the several benefits (and to be sure there are benefits) to having minority groups come into the country and to fill in the gaps in our society that provide certain things in regards to employment, tax revenue, consumer spending and boosting the GDP.

However, the primary motive I believe for the liberal is that immigrants provide a political base. As long as liberals keep the focus on providing more and more benefits for illegal immigrants, there's a reasonable assumption that in return, these same immigrants will be around to vote and keep these liberals in power. It's a powerful scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. The same can be true for certain group as well, like the unions and environmentalists. However, in the end, there's only so much of the pie that can be shared and someone is going to be left out. For many Americans, it's those of us who are already citizens. And it seems like that we are the ones paying the bill.

I'm not going to sit here and deride immigration altogether though. There are all positive effects to immigration as well, as I already mentioned. But let’s not gloss over the negative side of illegal immigration either. If compassion truly is our motive to support amnesty and inclusion of all forms of immigration, we must not look past the darker side of this issue. In some ways, but not all, immigration helps increase the current rate of criminal activity. This can involve identity theft, drug trafficking, gang violence, effects on the environment, and an increase level of terrorist activity. They also tend to widen the socioeconomical gulf between the rich and the poor. The view is is that they take jobs that “drive down wages for certain sectors of the American populace.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to make immigration out to be a bad thing.  Immigration does work and it works well when done correctly.  But I also understand that immigration done legally in the United States sometimes can be a huge hurdle to overcome.  For those families or individuals who are wishing for a better life and opportunity, to take the risk of entering illegally, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

But as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and the God of the Bible, I understand as well that in many things in life there is a delicate balance to the human condition and to our plight as a human race.  I’m not saying I completely understand God’s point of view on this particular subject.  That would be arrogant.  I am merely suggesting that there are two sides that we must constantly be aware of (maybe more) and, in my opinion, prayerfully consider all options.

Let’s not forget that it’s by grace, and grace alone, that as believers we are adopted into God’s family.  We didn’t have to jump through hurdles, have the proper documentation, be considered worthy (or legal) to have the privilege to enter into His kingdom.

That last part needs clarification.  First, and foremost, let’s acknowledge that there is a “requirement” in order to be saved and go to heaven.  Salvation is a gift of God, but given to only those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and in Jesus alone, as their only Savior and hope for life in heaven with Him. But, let us also acknowledge that we did nothing to deserve His favor and not think that somehow through our own righteousness that we bring something to the table to earn salvation.

I believe that there should be compassion for the plight of our fellow man. But with God, I also see order.  Back in the Old Testament days, God gave the Israelites His laws and commands. It illustrated the need for order and structure within community. Especially with His community. Throughout Deuteronomy, God shows us how to be in connection with Him and with each other in a society.  Many of His commandments show us His character and ultimately, draw us to a place of humility and a need for Him.  The first commandment, Jesus points out, “is to '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.” But God also saw a need for us to have a proper relationship with each other.  He even orders the Israelites to set up a system of government. There’s an understanding that order is needed.

Now getting back to our immigration discussion... If immigration, as was suggested last time, and discussed further here can have negative effects on society, shouldn’t our government help structure our society in such a way that we can integrate people into our nation and decrease the chance of the negative impacts? So, if the liberals have such great compassion for people, then why are they glossing over these pertinent details? The sex slave trade, for example, is one of those very real problems. Shouldn't our government try to prevent these kind of atrocities?

And if all of a sudden we provide amnesty and allow all people to come and go freely from this country, will that help make these problems go away? No, and not only that, but we may end up doing more harm than good. I don't think our country could adequately sustain that kind of influx in our immigration population. We just don't have the kind of resources to handle the new problems that would come as a result. And besides, we do have laws that exist to help us control the illegal immigration problem. We just don't do an adequate job at enforcing them. But are these laws the answer to all our problems?  Obviously not.  But again, we cannot gloss over the fact that there are laws that currently exist and we should abide by them.  The liberals seem to want to conveniently forget these facts and ignore the laws and do as we please.

The thing that probably perturbs me the most, though, is that I’m reading in articles, papers, blogs, etc. where liberals are trying to use Jesus and the Bible as a means to distort what the Word of God says on this subject to promote their agenda. I’ve read comments like, “Jesus was about love and compassion for other people.  It’s the right and moral thing to do to bring immigrants in and give them free health care, education, and other government resources to help them.” While some of this may seem true to a degree, it does ignore some other basic Biblical principles. God has established the leaders over our nation. And He does tell us to obey them. So then, given that our authority has laws in regards to illegal immigration (and isn’t that what Arizona’s laws are?), shouldn’t we respect those authorities and obey them?  Of course, if it’s a decision between God and man, I choose to obey God. However, if the Bible shows us that there must be order within community and gives our government its authority that doesn’t directly contradict with God’s laws and commands, isn’t it a fair assumption that we shouldn’t ignore those laws?

But what's even worse than that is the liberals use of invoking God into the discussion that really sets me off. If they are so concerned about what the Bible says and want to use God’s Word as the basis for their rationale, shouldn’t they first turn to God and ask Him for guidance and direction? For many, I assume the answer is no. Because if they did, they would be confronted with their sin. God has a way of exposing our sin and our unrepentant hearts. After many years of going out of their way to exclude God out of their lives (i.e. government, schools, public buildings, history, etc.), why in the world would they even think that God and/or Christians would listen to anything they have to say?

Illegal immigration is a problem. It’s probably one that will never go away either. I’m not saying I have all the answers. But I know the One who does. And unless we as a country turn back to God and humble ourselves and seek His face, this issue will never truly go away. It’s not that as Americans we don’t have compassion for people and don’t want to see immigrants realize their dreams. We do. There are way too many other issues and/or factors that go into this. But without God leading the way, the issues will continue to get cloudier, muddier, and messier than ever.

Let’s consider what God says:

2 Corinthians 7:13-15 

13 "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Immigration - Part II

The United States is bitterly divided over immigration reform. On one side you have the liberals (and most moderates). On the other you have the conservatives. The main-stream media more or less represents the liberal side. Whereas Christians arguably represent the conservative.

First, let me just say that I understand that I'm lumping people into two camps. Ironically, Christians don't all agree. Liberals and moderates probably don't either. Conservatives aren't all Christians. And Christians aren't all conservative. (That part I'm having a difficult time wrapping my head around.) Then you have to deal with the issue of race. You can't possibly lump hispanics and blacks with the liberal side anymore than you can lump the whites, African American, Asian American, or any other ethnicity into the conservative camp. It just seems easier to say conservative and liberal. And that's what I'm going to go with for the purpose of this discussion.

It seems interesting how the main-stream media uses language that appears almost...human. It's almost as if they somehow have grabbed hold of the only position on compassion and have successfully portrayed conservatives, and even many Christians, as out-of-touch. Uncaring. Inhumane if you will.

On the surface, it seems to have merit. Because, as I suggested last time, God doesn't even show favoritism toward the Israelites over the aliens living among them. Certainly there is a basic hierarchy toward this structure of society, but God didn't exclude them. So then, do the MSM understand compassion better than conservatives?

The main argument from the conservatives that I see is the issue of fairness. Does it seem right that a person from another country can come into our borders and take advantage of what our nation offers (i.e. entitlements) without contributing back? Some argue that these undocumented aliens do contribute and give back.

But is that the case as a whole? I mean, do undocumented aliens truly help society? Doesn't common sense have a place here at all? If someone (or rather many someones) is in the country illegally, isn't a good bet that there are activities going on behind the scenes that we can't possibly quantify...or even identify for that matter? Drug trade, sex trade (slaves), illegal id's and passports, gaining access to goverment services with falsified documents are only a few activities which come to mind.

But you say let's just bring them all in and make them legal. Why not? Wouldn't that take away many of the illegal activities? The Heritage Foundation says a lot about this. They share a lot in regards to protecting our borders. They don't recommend amnesty because they believe it would be too much for our system (of government) to withstand. It would be too much at one time. So, it's not that conservatives are against legal immigration (i.e. done the right way), it's that we need to ensure that our system can sustain any influx in the population. Otherwise, there won't be any kind of help when the system collapses.

So, going back to what the MSM is arguing, is it not compassionate to bring ALL who wish to come within our borders so they too may get the same benefits that all Americans enjoy? I personally don't think that is what the liberals primary motive is. This, and more, I will get into in my next post.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Immigration - Part I

There seems to be a lot of stuff being said these days about immigration and immigration reform. Some of it is true and some...not so true. It seems to be a cantankerous issue that can't be resolved. Or can it?

Who can you rely on to give you the truth? The unbiased, unadulterated truth that is. The conservatives? The liberals? The moderates? Come on, get real. The problem is is that any facts or data collected on immigration can be easily manipulated to bring about any desired result. There's no one that you can truly say doesn't have an opinion or position on this issue. That person would have to be a robot.

So what do you do? Who can you get answers from that isn't slanted from an ideological standpoint? For me, I look to God for the answers. Jesus was even recognized by the religious leaders of His day when one of them said Jesus teaches truth without the regard for men and what they think. (Matthew 22:15-17) He was essentially saying that Jesus, who is God and who is the Word, doesn't have the disadvantage of ideology.

So what does the Bible say? I'm not an expert in theology but I don't think the Bible is completely silent on the subject. God did have something to say about the aliens that were living among the Israelites. He was basically including them as part of the people of Israel when it came to rights and responsibilities. (Exodus 12:48) But even more importantly, God tells the Israelites not to mistreat the alien or oppress them either. (Exodus 22:21)

With that in mind, how is that supposed to look for us here in the USA in our time? Are we supposed to just allow anyone to come in the country illegally? That doesn't make sense in the realm of fairness. For immigrants to come in and take advantage of our system, with no regard for those that are here legally, seems wrong.

That's what I intend to discuss further next time. How do we reconcile this unfairness to our system of government with how God has shown us to interact with those who are aliens in our land?