Sunday, November 22, 2015
Picture by UNHCR
There’s a strange phenomenon taking place in our nation. Mention the word refugees and all of a sudden there are strong opinions from both sides of the argument. But that is oversimplifying the situation. It feels like we’ve stepped into the Twilight Zone where certain thoughts and ideas are coming from camps we thought we knew with many twists and illogical conclusions.
It’s no mystery where our president lands on his take over the refugees. He’s been expressing his views quite clearly over the years when it comes to the immigration debates. What does seem shocking is how extreme he allows his views to take him and how far he’s willing to sacrifice himself in the arena of public opinion to get there.
Where it gets bizarre is where some of the other opinions are coming from. It’s interesting to see how even in the political arena certain Democrats are siding with Republicans by saying that the President needs to do more to protect the country in vetting the refugees before allowing them to come into the country. Then there are Christians speaking out saying that it’s unchristian-like not to accept the refugees no matter the level of danger it places the country in.
But it’s not just the position certain people take on the issue that’s entirely surprising. It’s the explanations behind their views that seem to take on bizarre twists. For example, Donald Trump has apparently come out and said he would like to implement a database system for Muslims in this country. And Fox News host Shepard Smith labels people “political extremists” for objecting to Syrian refugees coming to this country. Then from unlikely sources, someone like Dianne Feinstein, an extreme liberal in her own right, cautions people about admitting Syrian refugees.
Those are only a few examples of some of the viewpoints coming from unlikely sources. There seems to be a lot of emotion tied into all sides of the debate. Some of it may be because there is a real fear of danger regarding terrorism that is gripping the world. Other feelings arise out of compassion for a people going through so much because of a civil war that has killed so many in the homeland of Syria.
But before we all act out of impulse or before we begin labeling people as either extreme, heartless, or radical, maybe we all should take a step back and breathe. There has to be a way to debate this issue without attacking each other and resulting to insults and name calling when people oppose their point of view.
In one of the more honest opinions that I’ve read regarding this subject, Matt Walsh takes an honest approach in just acknowledging there are valid opinions from all sides. Far from name calling, in a well-written and articulate article, Walsh debates the issue from the different points of view. He doesn’t pretend to be an expert in the subject and he says as much. But from my perspective, he has one of the more intelligent responses to this issue. It’s a good read for any who truly wants to open their mind and explore what others think about the refugees.
Although I agree with Walsh on much of what he says, I have to disagree on one point he makes. He argues that “the refugees probably aren’t terrorists”. Okay, I know he said “probably”. But he does go on to say that “over 850,000 refugees [have been] admitted into the United States in the last 15 years or so” and that “[none] of them have ever perpetrated attacks against this country”. He makes a valid point with a logical conclusion. However, in dealing with Muslims I personally do not believe we should be naïve in recognizing the potential danger of this population’s ideology. Logic, in a large degree, goes out the window when there is a religion that is steeped in violence and when that violence is masqueraded with lies and deception.
It is my opinion that there is more to the refugee problem than what meets the eye. In what appears to be a long-term strategy among the Muslim leaders is to overwhelm the enemy with numbers. It is irrelevant at this point that the Muslims are to some extent a fractured religion of different sects. There is an ultimate goal among them to follow a Caliphate that will unite all Muslims, “from all origins, nations, and ethnicities”. What is concerning about this idea is that certain pieces are falling in place for them to achieve this goal. If one were to look at how Muslims are populating the planet and are being strategically placed throughout the countries, it’s possible to see that if a Caliphate does occur the rest of the world is in grave danger.
But the danger of Muslim domination isn’t the real purpose of this post. The danger is, rather, a means to an end and a way for me to discuss what may actually be taking place in the world today. First let me say that I am by no means an expert in any of these matters. I am merely suggesting a hypothetical scenario that may have far-reaching implications. As another disclaimer, I am a Christian still trying to learn and understand Scripture as best as I can. I am not a pastor, elder, leader, or theologian. Many of these Christian leaders may have a different take on what I am suggesting.
In my opinion, it is possible that God is allowing the Muslims to immigrate to the United States for the purpose of disciplining us. And let’s be clear. When I’m referring to God, I’m speaking about God, the Author of life, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Savior of mankind that is of the Scriptures. The main distinction is who Christians believe Jesus was and is. Jesus died for the sins of the world and was raised again from the dead and ascended into heaven and given all authority in heaven and earth. He is the Son of God and He is God.
However, when I mention God it is not Allah that is often translated as God from the Arabic language. Make no mistake, Allah is a false god from a false religion. It is not my intent to be offensive but any other god that is not Jehovah God of the Judeo-Christian faith is not real and should be called out as such.
Now back to my main point. Could it be that God is allowing conditions to exist that ultimately bring about the disciplining of America? Could God be using President Obama to bring the refugees to the U.S. despite all the objections and opposition of many citizens? I believe there have been events, whether natural or man-made disasters, that were designed to be wake-up calls. What do I mean by this? Consider Israel.
First, let’s look at Israel as an example in the Bible. What caused God to be angry at Israel to send them into captivity to Babylon? Israel sinned against God and didn’t heed His warnings when He sent prophets to warn them of the impending disaster. God gave them ample opportunity to turn back to Him and they didn’t. Worse yet, they seemed to harden their hearts even further against God. Israel was the chosen nation that was to be God’s people and time and time again they rebelled and God would need to discipline them. Ultimately, enough was enough and God gave them over to captivity.
But what was Israel’s sin? What was the offense that made God angry? Were they involved in oppressing other nations? Were they accumulating wealth and ignoring the poor? The sin that was most offensive to God was turning their backs on Him and worshiping false gods and idols. God’s relationship with His people is so critical that the first 3 commandments deal directly with this idea. The first is that you shouldn’t have any other gods before Him. The second is that you shouldn’t make any graven image as an object of worship. And the third is to not take God’s name in vain. Israel’s sin was grievous to God and because they refused to repent and love Him with all of their hearts, He dealt with them the only way He could. He sent them into captivity.
The interesting part of the captivity is who God used as the means of His disciplining instrument. Of course that was Babylon. But who was Babylon back in those days? Babylon was a symbol of the evil in the world. And where was it located? It was a city located near current day Baghdad in Iraq. Isn’t it interesting Babylon’s beginnings involve the Islamic religion?
Fast forward to current day events. We have transitioned from the Old Testament days of the people of Israel to the New Testament days of the Christian Church. In Christianity, we see God’s chosen people as those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And now we see persecution of God’s people being ramped up in our culture just as they have endured consistently in the past.
What is different today is that there is a country called the United States. For years the people of this country have been blessed by God primarily because of their relationship to Him. The early founding fathers built this country on the basis of Judeo-Christian values. It was ingrained in the thinking of that day so much so that even non-Christians saw the value of Christian values as provided in Scripture. This is not to say the early settlers were all godly men and women and Christian principles were adhered to in every circumstance. Obviously that was not the case as the United States erred in many areas including slavery, suppression of women, and the slaughter of the Native Americans.
The one thing that made America unique and great, and perhaps blessed by God as a result, was a majority of people who would humble their hearts and acknowledge their dependency on Him. They recognized their need for Him in their lives. They worshipped Him, they made God a priority in their lives, and they spread the Gospel message for a world to come to know Him and be saved by Him. But again, this is not to suggest Americans didn’t make any mistakes. They made plenty. However, because people had a relationship with God and didn’t turn their backs on Him, God showed great grace and mercy despite the mistakes they made.
But the days of God’s forgiveness and mercy may be coming to an end for America. The Bible talks about how God is a patient God and how He is long-suffering. But for years and decades, the United States has been in a moral downward spiral. On a whole, the country has been turning its back on God and has declared themselves a people that want to be free of His presence and influence. In other words, they are hardening their hearts against God in much the same way Israel once did. And unfortunately, God may be on the verge of giving us exactly what we have been asking for.
Consider what we have been doing here in this country. We have been sacrificing unborn babies on the altar of self and convenience. We have ignored God’s prescription for marriage and redefined it according to our own depraved ways. We have kicked God out of school and in many areas of government. And more and more, non-Christians are finding new ways to make business and life difficult for Christians to live in in this country. Even on the altar of tolerance and political correctness, we find people opposing God and pushing out the mention of His Name in traditions that are intended to recognize and celebrate His Name. Christmas anyone?
Moral depravity is increasing in our culture. Life is becoming devalued. Good is now being called evil and evil is now being called good. As more and more people are turning their backs on God and refusing to surrender to Him and acknowledge their need for Him, the closer this nation is coming to the point of no return. Maybe God has already given our warnings. Maybe God has already sent his prophets to turn our hearts back to Him. Maybe God’s anger has already been kindled and maybe judgment is at hand.
We all have had moments of clarity when we recognized our need for God. Remember 9/11? What about Katrina? What about the several school shootings over the years? Is God allowing events to happen to get our attention? Is He trying to get us to turn back to Him, repent from our sins, and get us to ask for forgiveness so He can heal our land?
Like God did with Israel, maybe God is using the refugees and immigrants as a means to an end. It wouldn’t be surprising if one day the Muslims achieve their goal of a Caliphate and all Muslims from all sects band together. If Muslims have already been brought up with the teachings of the Koran and the influence of the Muslim culture, how much of a stretch is it to believe they could all come together as one to bring down America? Maybe the United States being defeated and taken over by ISIS, Al-Qaeda, or some other terrorist group is exactly God’s way of disciplining America for turning their backs to Him.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Ask yourself this question. Do you know Jesus? Stop. Think about this for a minute. Let it sink in.
I didn’t ask, “Do you know about Jesus?” or “Do you know who Jesus is?” There is a difference.
For true Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, they would know that they know that they know that they truly know Jesus. How? Have they seen Jesus face to face? Have they sat down at a table across from Jesus and had a conversation while sipping tea?
How do you know? How do they know?
This is, really, a crucial question. Because if you don’t know Jesus experientially then you’re not a Christian. Obviously, then, what is meant by experientially. Simply put, this means you’ve encountered Jesus and He’s changed your life. From there the experience comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes.
Suffice it to say that if you’ve met Jesus and have come to know Jesus, you’ve had an experience where Jesus has changed your life. For some, that means He’s freed you from addictions. Others, maybe you’ve experienced healing that goes beyond human reasoning. Maybe there was a relationship that was fractured and He brought you back together. There could be a million ways where He has touched your life. But you know one thing. Only God could have stepped in and done this thing.
It’s complicated. It’s complicated because no one person can adequately explain it. It’s a mystery.
But then again, it’s simple. It’s so simple that even a child can receive Jesus into his or her heart and know Jesus.
Is it a paradox? Or is it simply truth?
The Bible, which is God’s Word, says, “…walk by faith, not by sight.”
The Christian world is filled with seemingly complicated and contradictory statements. But to the Christian, it makes absolute sense. For example, Jesus said, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” He also said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” At the same time, God says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”
Is God a God of love or judgment? Yes. Contradictory? No.
That’s where coming to know Jesus comes in. It’s in a personal relationship with Jesus, He reveals truth to you. His truth. Jesus prayed to the Father, “…I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” The Apostle Paul said regarding this, “…these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.” Jesus added, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
Do you know Jesus?
Many people know about Jesus. Many people can recite Scripture. But has the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, changed your life?
If someone were to ask you today, “If you were to die tonight in your sleep, do you know where you would spend eternity”? For the Christian, it would be clear. Yes, with Jesus in heaven for all eternity.
But what about you? Is He some distant deity, a fairy tale, or maybe someone you learned about in Sunday school but never gave a second thought? Maybe the world is such that you have a hard time wrapping your mind around the fact that there is a God? There is, after all, so much corruption, greed, and anger to name a few that it’s difficult to believe that there is an All-Powerful God.
You may not believe it, or understand it, but you do not have to give up your sense of reason or rationalization to believe in God. It is a matter of faith, however. Scripture says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” It’s a matter of trusting God by faith, not by things you can actually see.
Do you know Jesus?
If you do know Jesus, then there are certain things that you know to be true. You know that Jesus is the living Son of God. You know that He died on the cross for your sins. You know that you are a sinner deserving of judgment and death. You know that if it weren’t for the shed blood of Christ on the cross that you’d be damned to hell for eternity. You know that God paid the price for your sins and justified you to God the Father not by your righteousness, but by Christ’s righteousness. You know that you’re not deserving but eternally thankful that you’re forgiven. You know that Jesus gave His all for you so He demands that you give your all to Him…and you do. You repent, you ask for forgiveness, you believe, and you are saved.
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
Do you know Jesus?
If you don’t know Jesus, then you’re lost. You’re condemned. You’re an enemy of God. You are already lost in your sins and destined to live in hell, separated from God, for all eternity. You have no hope and you have no peace. You will never experience the joy, happiness, and love that awaits God’s children.
But you don’t have to stay that way. You can change the course of your life and destiny. You can make a choice. Right here, right where you are.
Do you know Jesus?
Do you want to know love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? You can. You can know Jesus.
There is a website that explains how you can know Jesus personally. Go to CRU by following this link: http://www.cru.org/how-to-know-god/would-you-like-to-know-god-personally.html.
If you do, please let me know and I’ll pray for you. Ultimately, it’s between you and the Lord. I hope that you do know Jesus or come to know Jesus. Because He’s the most important One you’ll ever know. It really is a matter of life and death.
Monday, February 16, 2015
Where do our rights come from? This should be a rhetorical question, shouldn’t it? But in a world that is increasingly pushing God out of our culture, it’s one that probably should be addressed.
Over two hundred years ago, the forefathers of the United States drafted a famous document called the Declaration of Independence. In that document, it was apparent that an overwhelming majority of these men believed that our rights came from God. Can there be any doubt what they believed as they wrote the following?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
What is the value of life? This is a difficult question. It’s the kind of question that depending on the various people you ask, you may receive a million different responses. Not only is this question open-ended, it is multifaceted. What do I mean by that? Take for example pro-life organizations that argue against abortion. They argue that all human lives have value because they’re created in the image of God. Certain animal rights activists, on the other hand, will argue that animals have the same rights as people. Some others would go so far as to argue that “Mother Earth” is more important, thus arguing against overpopulation.
I could take the time to try to argue for or against these certain varying opinions. Maybe I will another day. However, I believe it would be an exercise in futility. People are going to have their opinions and very little is going to sway them from their viewpoint. Can they be persuaded otherwise? Yes, but there is only One who is capable of reaching down to the core of a person’s heart and only He can change their belief system and help them to see truth. God does value life and in Scripture has placed greater significance in human life above all others. He values our lives so much so that the Gospels tell us about the lengths God will go to redeem our lives.
The Bible talks about how God changes a person’s heart. He does a miraculous thing when He introduces His Son, Jesus, into our world. Of course, Jesus came in the form of flesh a couple thousand years ago. What I’m talking about is our own individual little worlds. As we grow up as children, we grow into intelligent beings with the ability to learn and create. We have consciences that help us understand right from wrong. But we also have something called a sin nature. Because of that sin nature, we find ourselves living against, or contrary, to the character and will of God. This brings us at odds with God as we are tainted by the world system. The Bible talks about us being at enmity with Him. God, knowing our fallen nature, brought about a plan to restore us into a right relationship with Himself. He sent Jesus to take on the sin of the world and die in our place on a cross. He died as the penalty for those sins. But God raised His Son from the dead, essentially defeating death, hell, and our greatest enemy, Satan himself. What God did was to essentially provide a way for us to be justified through Jesus. “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The issue for the world, however, is that it is turning itself away from God and from His gift. The evidence of that is becoming clearer by the day. Obviously, with all the terrorist activity from ISIS to Boko Haram to Al Qaeda, among others, there are plenty of examples of the types of atrocities man is capable of. Life is certainly a commodity to be exchanged, extorted, and even written off when it comes to these types of organizations. These are the sort of things we have come to expect in these remote parts of the world distanced from civilized society. And this is true despite the fact these activities sometimes hit closer to home.
But maybe the callousness of man’s heart isn’t so far removed. In developed nations, we would certainly expect attitudes and behaviors to be different than the thuggish and barbaric behavior of terrorists in third world nations. However, the sin nature isn’t monopolized by terrorists. It is alive and well in places like Ferguson, MO, Memphis, TN, and even Des Moines, IA.
Of course, we can all point to criminal behavior that is problematic in all small towns and cities. We all wag our fingers, shake our heads, and belittle certain criminal elements that commit felonious acts in our civilized societies. We tend to agree, on some levels, that there are certain acts of behavior that is not acceptable and devalues life. Activities such as rape, kidnapping, and murder are atrocities that we abhor. That’s why they’re called crimes and are rightly punished under a court of law. (For now, let’s make the assumption that the legal system works.)
Other activities and behaviors we may disagree with but too often tolerate. When it comes to abuse, it takes an action that crosses the line before we cry foul. Many kids in schools see this on a daily basis with bullies and the like. We typically chalk it up as childish behavior and assume they’ll grow out of it. However, more and more we see this same behavior in adults displayed on national television. First, we found it entertaining on shows like the Jerry Springer show. Then reality shows aired this adolescent behavior on a regular basis and society began to see this as some kind of norm. It isn’t until a sports figure beats his fiancé unconscious does our collective conscious tell us something isn’t right. But then we find a way to excuse it, move past it, and hope it doesn’t happen again. Nothing to see here folks, move on.
Life is often devalued and diminished in ways that over time we become desensitized to it. Homelessness, for example, has been a fact of life as long as societies have existed. But how we respond to homelessness certainly speaks volumes as to the kind of society we live in. Too often, we either ignore the issue, pretend it doesn’t affect us, believe it’s too big a problem to deal with, or attempt to ease our conscience in some small, insignificant way (e.g. giving $10 or $20 to the Salvation Army during the holidays). These are real people with real problems and in the United States we have plenty of resources available to come up with real solutions. But because we don’t value life the way we should, we ignore the problem or expect someone else, perhaps the cold, heavy-handed government, to take care of the problem for us.
What are other ways we devalue life? Aren’t women objectified in public and in the media? Somehow we have come to accept a perverse view of sexualized behavior as normal. As a result, prostitution (including the sex-slave trade), homosexuality (along with same-sex marriage), and pornography (in its varied forms) no longer seem to carry the stigma that they once did. In some ways, it seems it’s celebrated. Those that one would think (such as progressive women) would find society’s treatment of women objectionable are actually condoning this behavior. If you think differently, consider those who are defending the novel, Fifty Shades of Grey.
In truth, life has become a commodity even in civilized society. It has been marketed in a way to disguise the vulgar nature and shock value. How else can a society comes to terms with treating abortions as some kind of normalized behavior? Life, at this point, becomes measured in terms of convenience or cost effectiveness. What is life’s value to society overall? What can a person born in an inopportune time or with certain physical or mental defects possibly contribute to society? This is a question recently presented to a father whose son was born with Down syndrome. The wife, and mother of this child, determined this condition to be so reprehensible to her that she provided an ultimatum to the father that it was either her or the child.
The question for all of us is this, “What is happening to us?” How did we get so far from God as to treat life as inconsequential? The answer, despite our desire to think otherwise, is that sin is winning out. Our hearts have become cold and insensitive to the things of God. Even as Christians, we need to take stock of how life is valued. Christians typically fight and defend life when it comes to abortion, the sex slave trade, euthanasia, etc., but often we fail when it comes to the weightier matters of life. How about eternal life? Most people recognize Penn Jillette of the magician duo, Penn & Teller. Jillette is an atheist and often makes references regarding religion that I find distasteful and completely disagree with. But there is one quote that does speak volumes and every Christian ought to hear:
“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
The reality is that life, especially eternal life, is something that should be considered with greater weight and significance than we give it today. Society is failing and is only going to get worse. However, what is more concerning is the attitudes of many Christians today, including myself. If someone like Jillette, an atheist, can point out the problem of many Christians’ lack of compassion, then it’s something that needs to be addressed and dealt with. The Church has a problem and it needs Christians to get on their knees and seek God’s compassion for people.
In a world that is dying and becoming increasingly desensitized to the value of life, we need a spiritual barometer. Ultimately, it’s only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that can change our thinking and direction. But even as Christians, we need to stop and reflect on our own attitudes and behaviors. Dr. Charles Stanley, a pastor, theologian, and author, has noted something similar in regards to spiritual growth. Our spiritual growth should be reflected in our desires, understanding, and selflessness to care for people enough to meet their physical and spiritual needs.
What is happening to us? Hopefully, we’re being changed by Christ. If not, then what we’re witnessing today will only get worse.
Saturday, January 10, 2015
Not everyone will agree, but America is failing and is headed toward irrelevance. One could argue that the country is actually improving by some standards. If that’s the case, it’s the standards that should be questioned.
There is one website in particular, Citizens Fed Up, that distorts the results of President Obama’s administration. They would say that according to government statistics, or other such data, that he has “doubled the stock market, cut the unemployment rate in half, ended the shrub’s recession, stabilized the housing market, helped bring back American manufacturing, cut the uninsured rate in half, and cut the shrub’s budget deficit, by 2/3rds”. Despite the condescending tone of their rhetoric, there’s a lot of debate on not only the accuracy of these claims but also on the validity of the data.
The point right now, however, is not to go through each claim and fact check or debate them. Let’s, for now, take these claims at face value. We might say that the economy is improving, that more people are employed, and that the country is better off financially than before President Obama took office.
The question really is what is the standard by which we claim America is improving?