Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Kings and Queens of January 22

When I restarted my blog, I had every good intention of being more intentional about writing.  Truth be told, I have started to write my next blog five different times, but each time I started, a major news event seemed to take over my thoughts as I was trying to write. This day however, is NOT going to get by without a blog post. 
January 22 is one of the saddest days in this country’s history.  Forty years ago today, Roe vs. Wade was made to become the law of the land.  Fifty five million of our brothers and sisters have been aborted in those 40 years.  When you think of that number in terms of actual people, 55,000,000, the majority of that number would be working citizens who would be helping us reduce our national debt through the taxes they would pay.  Think of the additional income that this nation would have if they hadn’t been aborted.  How many of us know someone who has cancer?  One of those aborted children could have discovered the cure so that the millions who have died from cancer could have been cured, but we’ll never know because they weren’t given the chance to live. 
The late Whitney Houston used to sing that “the children are our future”.  Here in America, to put it bluntly, our future is being killed off.  We don’t value family anymore because we don’t value children.  In Matthew 18, the disciples were discussing who the greatest was going to be in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus used children as an example to explain that the greatest in the kingdom will be the least of these, and the least significant in the kingdom will be ones that are most powerful here on earth.  In Matthew 19, Jesus had children around Him, and He laid hands on them, all of them that had come to see him.  In Biblical times, the laying on of hands on a child was a sign of a blessing on their life.  Jesus cared about children.  I’ll go so far as to say that they were considered as kings and queens to Christ.
Unfortunately, the majority of Americans don’t hold that same view of unborn children, let alone their own children.  However, as Christians we have Scripture such as those in Matthew to teach us that boys will be kings and girls will be queens, if we think of the Kingdom of Heaven the way Christ explains it to be.  That being said, it’s our responsibility as Christians to stand up for the kings and queens who can’t speak for themselves.  Engage people in conversations about the need for our country to start valuing life.  Start spending part of your prayer time petitioning God about what our nation is doing.  My good friends at Vital Signs Ministries have a great prayer plan for the unborn called “the 3 for 5 prayer program”.  You can click on the link and you'll go right to it.  I use it and it has helped me concentrate my prayer life on this issue.  It’s an easy to use program that guides you through five days of prayer with things to pray over for each day. 
Another way to help the cause for life is to volunteer with your local crisis pregnancy center.  Whether it be giving baby clothes or cribs, or whether you want to be trained to help counsel women who are coming to these centers, there are plenty of things to do.  I’m sure that if you seek them out, there would be something that you could do for them.  If you are in the Omaha area, the number for our local CPC is (402) 397-0600.  I know a few of the ladies over there and I’m sure if you took the time to call, you would be welcomed to help. 
America has just inaugurated the most liberal President that this nation has ever lived under.  If we truly expect God to be gracious to us as a nation, then we must start by protecting the most innocent of all.  All of us as Christians must plead for the grace and mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ for our nation.  We need a renewed hunger for the Word of God.  We need once again to make a solemn commitment to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit from this day forward.  May God help us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

You, Me and the Christmas Tree

The most magical time of the year is upon us: Christmas!  Houses light up with brilliant colors along with the scents that stimulate our senses and put us in a festive mood that accentuates the season.  Most spectacularly are the Christmas trees that are on display.  Christmas trees come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are short, some are tall, some have full branches, and some...well, not so much.  Let’s just say that there are trees that only Charlie Brown could love.  Even though each tree is unique in its own character, they all are the same, they are a tree. 
Christmas trees are a lot like people.  We all have our unique characteristics and traits, but yet we are all different.  Some are short, some are tall, some are male, and some are female.  Each person is unique in their own character, we are all the same; we are human beings. 
In this day and age many people have artificial trees, so you’ll have to think back to a time when there were only real trees, and you used to go get your tree annually from a tree lot.  If there are those of you who still purchase your Christmas tree each year, I applaud you!  There are still purists in the world, but I digress.  When you go to the Christmas tree lot, you look the trees over and you pick one out.  If you’re the typical male, you go pick a tree put it on the car roof and go home.  If you’re a typical female you shop and shop all day and finally after hours of walking the tree lots you FINALLY find a tree that you can live with.  OK, OK, I’m exaggerating, but not too much!  Sorry, back to the point!  The point is we all are picked.  More specifically, we are all picked by God.  Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”  Even before you were a speck in your mother and father’s eyes, God knew you and was forming you.  Just as we take great care in picking out the perfect tree; making sure it’s not too tall and that it will fit in the perfect spot right by the front window for all the neighborhood to see, so God takes great effort in creating life and giving each person specific characteristics that will enhance other people’s lives.  In Acts 26:16 Paul is recounting the experience he had with God on the road to Damascus.  There on that road God tells Paul, “I have appeared to you, because I have chosen you to be my servant.”  All life is sacred, all life has importance, and all of us have a role to play in each others’ lives.
Once a tree has been picked, it must be purchased.  There is a price to be paid for the tree that you tie to the roof of the car. There is a salesman usually helping you pick out a tree, and when you find the tree you want, he says the price.  You have the right to purchase it or to look further for another tree, but when you find the one you want; you have to pay the man.  In the same way, we have to be purchased.   First Corinthians 6:19, 20 says “You are not your own, you were bought with a price.”  Here on earth we are imperfect people.  In Heaven everything is perfect, because God is perfect.  At Christmas we celebrate the birth of our “Savior” who was born specifically to pay the ultimate price of His life so that the imperfect people that we are could enjoy an eternity in a perfect Heaven.  No matter how long you look for a Christmas tree, there will be imperfections; it will either tilt too much or maybe one side is flatter than the other side.  Just like a tree we all have imperfections.  When we are left on our own to find a way to heaven our sins (imperfections) will eliminate us from an entrance into a perfect Heaven. 
Now that we have our tree picked and purchased we need to bring it into our house.  The tree comes off the roof of the car and the family is proudly carrying it into the house when all of a sudden, NO!   It won’t fit through the door!  Or maybe you get it in the door, but you stand it up, and you realized you picked the leaning tower of Pisa!  Whatever the situation, since we know that each tree has flaws, we need to prune our tree before we actually bring it in the house.  In the same way God is pruning us throughout this life to prepare us to bring us in to His House.  John 15:2 says “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  Most Christmas trees are labeled with the tag “all sales final”.  There is no taking it back.  So what’s a person to do?  Well, you get the saw and cut away some branches to make a better fit.  Maybe you even have to cut the stump.  Whatever pruning you have to do, you do it so that you can have the best looking tree possible.  If the Christmas tree could talk, I’m sure that it would be none too pleased that its branches are being plucked, and I’m sure it would scream in pain when things are cut off.  In the same way when we are pruned, there isn’t much that we really like about it.  It’s sure to be painful.  We may not scream in pain, but don’t we wonder why God is doing this?  Left as we are we can’t be presented in a perfect Heaven.   Left as it is a tree can’t be brought into our home, it must be pruned. 
Part of the pruning process is after we get the tree in the house we get to decorate it.  That is the fun part of pruning!  Memories are made when the family gets together and puts the lights on the tree and the many different ornaments that make the tree unique.  When a tree is decorated, it sparkles!  Once a tree is decorated, there are presents to be put under the tree for people to discover and open up.  Each tree is unique in that fact; because each tree won’t have the same exact gifts underneath it each tree is different in that way.   As individuals, God decorates us with different ornaments that show off the beauty of His creative work.  When He decorates us we sparkle!  God puts gifts under our “tree” for people to find as well.  Someone might find compassion, some might for humility, and so on.  It’s up to us to let those gifts be found. 
The Christmas tree is an attractive thing to behold at this time of the year.  When you see one, take time to discover its true beauty, flaws and all.  People are attracted to our “tree beauty” because they see in us the love that we have for God and for each other.  It’s my prayer all of us “trees” would let God do His work in our lives, so that others discover the Christmas gifts that are in all of our lives.
I want to thank Max Lucado for the basic outline of this piece.  I heard a sermon from him on this subject, and it stuck with me.  I also want to thank Denny Hartford for rekindling the writing gift that God has given me.  I might not write novels or have anything ever published, and I’m sure that my “technical” style might make English teachers cringe, but what I write comes from within.  Thanks for taking time to read this.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State: Conspiracy of Cowards

A myriad of people had knowledge of the situation including now former head coach, Joe Paterno.  And they did nothing.  What took place was a conspiracy of cowards that were on the Penn State payroll.  They had the power to do more than what they did.  And they did nothing.  They had the chance to stop the heinous acts.  And they did nothing.   By doing nothing they enabled the monster to continue his predatory acts.  No one who had knowledge of the “elephant in the room” did what was morally right.  They were afraid of doing the right thing and contacting the authorities, because they didn’t want to upset powers that be who were sitting on their hands with the knowledge of what was happening.  They were cowards and they conspired to keep quiet, instead of doing what was morally right.

The unspeakable events that have taken place at Penn State University are incredibly horrific.  The lives of young boys, who are now twenty-something adults, are scarred for life.  One can only hope that they will be able to find some sense of peace in their life. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Am I Serving a Counterfeit God?

I’m reading a book by Timothy Keller called Counterfeit Gods, and I am being challenged in my thinking, I hope what is said will stimulate you to think about this as well.

To contemporary people the word idolatry brings up the Biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  The book of Acts also contains vivid descriptions of the cultures of the ancient Greco-Roman world.  When Paul went to Athens he saw that it was literally filled with these images (Acts 17:16). 

Our contemporary society is not fundamentally different from these ancient ones.  Each culture is dominated by its own set of idols.  Each one has its shrines – whether office towers, spas and gyms, studios and stadiums – where sacrifices must be made in order to procure the blessings of the good life and ward off disaster.  We may not physically kneel before a statue, but when climbing the corporate ladder replaces the importance of being a father and a husband and when obsessing over trying to look like the current supermodel we perform the same ritual that people in Paul’s time did. 

So many people are concerned with the vertical ladder of success that they disregard the horizontal relationships of spouses, friends and family.  They sacrifice everything to the god of success, but find out in the end that it was never enough. In ancient times the deities were bloodthirsty and hard to appease.  They still are.

When we begin to recover, we ask, “What were we thinking?  How could we have been so blind?”  We wake up like people with a hangover who can hardly remember the night before.  Why do we act so irrationally?  Why did we completely lose sight of what is right?

The Bible’s answer is that our human heart is an “idol factory”.  It’s more than literal statues as in ancient times, and it’s more than the creation of a phenomenon by Simon Cowell.  In Ezekiel 14:3 God says about the elders of Israel, “These men have set up their idols in their hearts.”  God is saying that we take good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things.  Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.

In his Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tolkien writes a terrific story of the power that the ring has over people. It corrupts anyone who tries to use it, however good his or her intentions seem to be.  It takes the heart’s fondest desires and magnifies them to idolatrous proportions. The Ring makes people willing to do anything to achieve what they set out to do.  It turns the good thing into an absolute that overturns every other allegiance or value.  The wearer of the Ring becomes increasingly enslaved and addicted to it, for an idol is something we cannot live without.  We must have it, and therefore it drives us to break rules we once honored, to harm others and even ourselves in order to get it.  Idols are spiritual addictions that lead to terrible evil, in Tolkien’s world and in real life. 

In Exodus 20, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments.  The very first commandment in verse three is “I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before Me.”  What are those “other gods”?  In verses four and five God says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them…”  If I’m reading this right, then ANYTHING can be an idol, a God alternative, a counterfeit god.  The very things upon which people build all their happiness turns to dust in their hands because they had built all their happiness upon them.  A good thing among many was turned into a supreme thing, so that its demands overrode all competing values.  Counterfeit gods always disappoint, and often destructively so.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.

Until next time...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remebering 9/11

The morning of September 11, 2001 started like any normal Tuesday morning.  I got ready for work early, because it was my day to pray at the 46th and Farnam abortion clinic with the sidewalk counselor.  On the way I would normally listen to KGBI which had Christian music playing in the morning.  It would help me focus on the task at hand which was praying for the women who would make the decision to abort their child, hoping and praying that my presence would help persuade them to change their mind.  As I got closer to the clinic, for some reason I changed the station to ESPN radio.  That wasn’t something that I normally do, but for some reason I did on that morning.  The hour proceeded like normal, with Claire Hartford talking to the girls as they went in, while I stood with my prolife sign and prayed.  After the hour was up, I got in my car and headed off to work.  I remember hearing the ESPN announcers when I turned the car off, but when the radio came on, it was ABC news.  My initial thought was that someone had broken into my car and switched stations on me.  Realizing that the car was locked and I never saw anyone near my car during the hour, I listened closer to hear what was going on.  By this time, the first tower had been struck, but nothing else had happened.  Of course we all know what happened from that point on, but I was driving to work, and during that time I was horrified by what I heard was happening. 

This morning, September 11, 2011, I decided to get up early before church and watch the news coverage of events as they happened.  As the bell would sound its toll when the time came for the remembrance, all the memories and emotions came flooding back as if it was happening all over again.  As I was watching, our National Anthem was played, as well as “God Bless America”, all the traditional songs.  There was a song that I heard just once today, but I kept playing it over and over again in my mind.  It was the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and it was played at the Pentagon remembrance.  Now, I’ve heard that song countless times before, but this morning, I HEARD it.  This is my interpretation of what I heard. 

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on.”

When I read this verse, I realize that God is setting apart those who are for Him, and those who are against Him.  When you trample grapes, you are separating the pulp from the juice.  The juice is the best part, and God is working in people’s hearts to separate the people who are with Him from those who are against Him.  If you are against Him, then His swift sword will be your fate, and you won’t survive because His sword cut right through man.  This is the truth of the Gospel, and it is as relevant today as it ever has been. 

“I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps; they have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps; I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps, His day is marching on.”

When I read this verse, I can see families setting around the dinner table reading stories from Scripture.  Dad would read daily devotions with his family after dinner was over before mom would have the kids help her clean up the dishes from the day.  The family would read the Bible and it would be passed on from generation to generation.  The faith of fathers would be passed down, and would keep going through many generations.

“He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat; He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat; O be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant my feet Our God is marching on.”

The fight against the enemies of the United States will continue on.  The fight against Satan is a battle that we as Christians are called to never stop fighting as well.  We cannot retreat from the call that God has given all Believers.  To be on our guard and to rescue people from the darkness of Satan is what we are called to do.  The battle is never fun, but we have the joy of the Lord in our lives knowing that what we do for the Kingdom is of great importance.  The day of salvation for people is today, and we as the church of God need to be marching on our knees towards His Kingdom.

“In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; as He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, while God is marching on.”

Christ came to this earth over 2000 years ago, and He gave up His life willingly so that all humanity would have the opportunity to be spared eternal separation from God.  By accepting His death and resurrection as the payment for all of our sins, we will be transformed into new men and women that will live forever in a new Heaven and a new Earth.  God is on the move for hearts of men and women who are willing to die if need be to see people come to Christ.  In countries across the globe, people are being martyred for their faith, willing to die so that the truth of the Gospel will continue to move forward from generation to generation.

“Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.”

In today’s world of moral relativism, where people believe that morality is subject to your point of view, God’s truth is still relative today.  You can choose to not believe His truth, but in the end, THE Truth will prevail.  God’s truth will trump all others.  Glory Hallelujah!