Islam And Freedom Of Religion

What is freedom of religion? Because of the Left’s new Nazi movement I doubt if many people even know any more. There is a rabid, mad dog attitude in the country today that seeks to demonize and shut up anyone who doesn’t say or believe the approved dogma of the Left.

For an hour and a half of brilliant commentary on the importance of free (and diverse) speech, watch Dinesh D’Souza speak at Brandeis University.

Everything from “Dump Trump” vitriol, to fake news, to forcing acceptance of same sex marriage and transgenderism, to insisting that climate change is man-made, to the socialist ideal of the nanny state, to providing “safe” places where students can go to avoid the anxiety of hearing someone say something they don’t agree with, to the shouting down of conservative speakers at places of higher learning (being made even higher through the legalization of pot) – everything points to our society’s growing intolerance of diversity in thought and belief.

The leftist mantra of “diversity” is non-inclusive of traditional views. In my home State of California the assembly is considering several pieces of legislation that infringe on freedom of religion. One thing they want to do is outlaw codes of conduct at Christian schools based on religious values that go counter to contemporary secular values. The Left wants government control of religion.

But the premise of freedom of religion is to protect and preserve the mutual tolerance of different faiths (pluralism), so that within the context of an open society everyone can peacefully coexist, regardless of their religious opinions and practices. Freedom is the antithesis of government control, and having the freedom to believe as one chooses also includes the option of not ascribing to any formal religious beliefs at all. Freedom of religion means government does not force you to conform.

Freedom of religion arises from our innate human desire to be free because God creates us to be free. That freedom is threatened when laws and institutions coerce us against our will. That is why this principle of human freedom is enshrined in the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof“. In other words, freedom of religion means the government will neither coerce nor restrict its citizens in how they choose to live and pursue happiness, according to their faith.

For this very reason President Thomas Jefferson wrote the Danbury Baptist association, that this constitutional principle builds “a wall of separation between Church & State”. Twisting the essential meaning of this phrase, there exists today strong political forces who interpret it to mean that religious beliefs should have no part in the governing of our nation.

But that is the opposite of what Jefferson wrote in his letter to the Danbury Baptists. He referred to the “free exercise” of religion, as among “the rights of conscience” based on his assertion that, “religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions”.

In a broader sense, this concept reflects the Biblical view of freewill. Until the mid-15th century Bibles were rare and valuable because they had to be hand-copied, one by one. Add to this a high degree of illiteracy, most Christians were dependent upon their leaders to tell them what Scripture taught. But the development of the printing press and translations from the Latin into the languages of believers set the stage for the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses challenging doctrines of the Catholic church, he was exercising both freedom of religion and freedom of speech. While this opened a debate that led to the Reformation, the personal consequence he suffered for his honest questioning of church authority was that he was excommunicated. Very basically, the Catholic church rationale was, “If you can’t accept how we do things then you can’t belong to our church”.

The practice of excommunication has a New Testament basis. Regarding a morally unregenerate man, 1 Corinthians 5:2 says, “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” And 5:5 says, “…deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” The Bible does not teach us to destroy another’s flesh. This is not a veiled command to execute this person, but to turn him over to Satan by removing him from the protection of fellowship in Christ.

Excommunication is the extreme form of non-violent banishment or “shunning”. In some cases, a church will practice a kind of disfellowship which is temporary and intended to be restorative. For those who have been hurtful, 2 Corinthians 6-8 prescribes: “For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.” And for those corrected for their sin, Galatians 6:1 instructs, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

But had Luther been a Muslim and had his 95 theses been about how Islamic leaders were misrepresenting the Quran and Hadith and abusing the integrity of Islam, he would not have simply been excommunicated. He would have been put to death for the crime of blasphemy. There are two reasons for this. First of all, Islam’s holy books – the Quran, Hadith and Sira – teach Muslims to kill blasphemers.

Secondly, where Western Civilization teaches us to seek truth by examining evidence and arriving at consensus through open debate, Eastern thought is more focused on respect and submission to authority. The act of questioning authority is seen as disrespectful and rebellious. And in Islam, challenging authority is considered blasphemy.

In the West, we cherish our Western Civilization values of inquiry and open debate of our beliefs. This is the basis for all political freedoms, including freedom of belief, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of expression, etc. In stark contrast, Eastern authoritarian values do not engender freedom of religion or plurality at all, but a homogeneous submission to authority.

In his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi writes, “People from Eastern Islamic cultures generally assess truth through lines of authority, not individual reasoning. Of course, individuals do engage in critical reasoning in the East, but on average, it is relatively less valued and less prevalent than in the West. Leaders have done the critical reasoning, and leaders know best.” (p. 79, chapter 12, “Muslims in the West”).

Because of its general cultural values and specific religious directives, Islam is by definition incompatible with the principle of freedom of religion. One of the core teachings of Islam is Jihad, which is literally fighting against all other religions in order to spread Islam. Some sects of Islam argue that Jihad does not mean violent fighting, but their arguments are silenced by the most credible Islamic scholars. Make no mistake about this. Jihad is violent and it targets anyone who is not a Muslim.

This fact alone should be sufficient to disqualify Islam from enjoying freedom of religion in any free and open society. To grant Islam freedom is to put all other religions in jeopardy, because it is the goal of Muslims to force everyone to convert to Islam.

This goal is diametrically opposed to the Christian idea of “witnessing”. To Christians, proselytizing means sharing your faith with others and respecting the free will they have to make their own decisions. But in Islam, proselytizing is more often a matter of coercion, intimidation and the use of force, which should disqualify them from enjoying the benefits of religious freedom.

This begs the question: How can our society grant freedom of religion to a religion whose very goal is to oversee the dismantling of all other religions? To welcome Islam into the community of faith under the banner of freedom of religion is to invite a murderer into a sewing circle. It makes as much sense as transplanting a cancerous growth into a healthy body.

Verses in the Quran that teach violence (over 100 of them) are in stark contrast to violence in the Bible. Biblical violence is specific to particular peoples and places at specific times in history. Quranic violence is directed to non-believers in general and are universally applicable to all peoples, places and times. The Bible does not direct believers to proselytize by the use of violence. The holy books of Islam do.

For this reason, unless a Muslim or Islamic sect is willing to disavow those portions in the Quran, Hadith and Sira that instruct believers to fight non-Muslims, they should not be allowed to legally practice their religion in America. Because of the threat they pose to all other religions, Muslims should only be allowed to practice their religion if they are willing to foreswear those portions of their holy books that urge violence agains non-Muslims.

While it is true that there are many “moderate”, peaceful Muslims who believe Allah is loving and that Muhammed was a paragon of virtue, such religious convictions come in spite of the actual teachings found in the Quran and Hadith. The idea that Islam is “the religion of peace” comes from ignorance of what the holy books of Islam actually teach, and a fantasy understanding of Muhammad that lacks historical foundation. If those “moderate” Muslims were to research into what their own scholars have to say about the life and teachings of Muhammed, they would be shocked to discover that he was nothing like the prophet of God as they have been taught.

Such was the experience of Nabeel Qureshi. Because he firmly believed, as he had been taught, that Islam was true and Christianity was not, he eagerly debated Christians with the goal of convincing them of the truth of Islam. He approached his dialogues with non-Muslims with the same level of scholarship and intellectual integrity he needed to use in his pre-med studies in college. Because he was motivated to win converts to Islam he not only dug deep to learn the best arguments Islamic scholars have made, but he sought to research the weaknesses of all the Christian arguments. As a result, he began to learn what the Bible really teaches and eventually he came to understand the truth.

I have read two of Qureshi’s books: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and No God But One. The first tells his personal faith story. The second is a masterful apologetic comparison of Christianity and Islam. Both books contain a wealth of insight into the religion of Islam. I highly recommend them to anyone who is honest about wanting to know the truth.

Nabeel Qureshi’s spiritual journey was only possible because freedom of religion allowed him to be authentic about his faith, seek answers to his questions, and openly discuss them without fear of being accused of blasphemy. Whether or not people are willing to respect the fact that he left Islam is a litmus test for religious freedom.

Quran 4:89 says, “They wish that you should reject faith as they reject faith, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of God; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper.”

This is just one example of many, directing Muslims how to treat apostates. As pointed out above, if a Christian converts to Islam, other Christians may feel sad, disappointed or even angry, but they aren’t going to kill him. On the other hand, Muslims killing ex-Muslims because they have abandoned Islam is commonplace.

The idea of welcoming Islam into our open society on the assumption they will simply join in and become a contributing part of the religious community is totally irrational. It expects that all Muslims will choose to remain ignorant of what Muhammad was really like, continuing to ignore teachings from their holy books. And that is suicidal because we continually are seeing all over the world the terrorism being conducted by Muslims who actually believe what their holy books teach.

Freedom of religion for Islam is a non-sequitur. Anyone whose religion approves of killing another person because they refuse to believe their way does not deserve to enjoy the free exercise of that religion.

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A Dream Of God’s Peace


You may have heard about a movie called The Shack, from a book of the same title by Wm. Paul Young (or William P. Young).  The book was hugely popular, and likely the movie will be too.  A friend loaned me a copy and I tried to read it, but I could only force myself halfway through the book.  I did not like it.  I agree with a review Tim Keller wrote, in which he said,

The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.

Something about the dream I had last night made me think of the current discussion about The Shack.  I hope it makes sense to the reader.

I woke up this morning having been dreaming about being at church. In the dream I had awakened in the morning and was anticipating being involved in some significant but unidentified church sacrament – something like baptism, only I knew I had already been baptized, so it wasn’t that. I looked at the clothes I had been sleeping in and decided they were perfectly appropriate for the occasion. Two red cords around my waist, like a belt, represented the blood of Christ. A black T-shirt meant I was dead to sin.

Church wasn’t like any actual church building I’ve ever been in, but it was comfortable and familiar, like being at home. My wife was with me (In real life she does not attend church because of her OCD).  She was talking to the pastor’s wife, and everyone was young – maybe about 30. There were no worries, no problems to be solved, no needs to be met. I felt peaceful and everyone was calm and joyful, hugging and kissing.

When I talked to the Pastor (He and his wife didn’t look like anyone I know, but in the dream we knew them well.) I had the passing thought that I should be embarrassed about what I was wearing, but I wasn’t, and everyone was fine with it. Then, as I looked at what I was wearing, it had changed. I was wearing tan Bermuda shorts and a lighter colored shirt.

The Pastor was in the kitchen and I spoke with him across the counter, recounting to him that I had remembered finding a passage – perhaps in Romans or 1 Corinthians – in my old NIV study Bible, where I had made notes about the four categories of givers: those who gave nothing, those who gave sparingly, those who gave dutifully, and those who gave generously.

But that didn’t seem as important as the fact that all was well. I was not nervous or concerned or thinking of things that needed to be done. When I awoke, I was happy and felt a peaceful confidence. It gave me some perspective on why a book and movie like The Shack might appeal to those who feel the emotional need to resolve their concerns, yet for whatever reason they avoid resolving those concerns with Scriptural understanding.

It is a wonderful experience to be at peace. But real peace can prove to be elusive because there are so many “facsimiles” out there: drugs and alcohol; games and entertainment; fantasy and pretense; power and authority; avoidance and retreat.

I can understand parents who have lost a child wanting to find peace. But the feeling of peace offered by The Shack’s message can only last if it is sustained by genuine faith in the real Jesus, as revealed in Scripture.

I know that as long as I draw breath on this physical plane I will have to deal with “The heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” But because Jesus has overcome the world, I can know peace – not the peace that the world gives, which is circumstantial and temporal – but a peace that is beyond understanding.

This is because our faith is about things that are unseen, not seen. We are more than conquerors in Christ, not because we stubbornly refuse to buckle to circumstance, but because Christ offers something greater than circumstance which The Shack does not.

We will know God’s perfect and lasting peace when we are with him in glory. Until then, we must be satisfied with glimpses. When Paul says “in all these things we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) he is referring to:

waiting for “the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23),

we hope for what we do not see” (vs. 25),

all things work together for good” (vs. 28),

those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (vs. 30),

if God is for us, who can be against us?” (vs. 31),

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (vs. 32)

Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (vs. 34)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (vs. 35)

For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (vs. 36).

So, the peace we have in Christ is something we receive by faith, not by the resolution of our temporal circumstances. Having this peace is not just a matter of our feelings. If it were, all we would need to do is take a pill. Our peace is not based on ourselves – our strengths, our victories or any external resolution of our difficulties.

Despite the death of loved ones, and even if we are killed, our peace – God’s peace – is “in Christ”, not in the world or in ourselves.

Posted in Bible, Christian Attitudes, The Supernatural | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Political Correctness Is A Wall Of Separation


Congressman Mike Bost of Illinois has apologized for his so-called “racist” remark, “…the cleansing that the Orientals used to do where you’d put one person out in front and 900 people yell at them?”

No doubt this kind of thing did happen, probably in China under Mao’s leadership, but what fascinates me is that offense was taken by his use of the word, “Orientals”. Had he used the politically correct word, “Asians”, I don’t think it would have been seen as so offensive. It is clear to me that the comparison he was making was not racial, but between mob mentality and freedom of speech.

While it would have been preferable for him to give his comparison some historical setting and explain the who, where and when of this type of “cleansing,” remember that he was the person being yelled at. And it is a rare person who can remain composed under such circumstances.

Political correctness walls in free speech. Choosing the word “Oriental” over “Asian” is seen as such an offense, that in effect, it becomes a wall that separates people and prevents real communication. Apparently in our brave new world freedom of speech is out and political correctness is in.

In Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, the neighbour says,

Good fences make good neighbours”

while the narrator states,

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know 

What I was walling in or walling out, 

And to whom I was like to give offence.”

The poem uses the object of a stone wall as a metaphor, looking at it from both sides (“walling in or walling out”). Implicit to this poem is the fact that the function of a wall – both benefit and deficit – is being openly discussed from those two views. Therefore, walls are designed to separate specific things, but not all things – in this case, the discussion of it.

One of today’s hottest political issues is the building of a wall along our southern border for the purpose of reducing the illegal aliens and illicit drugs that cross into our country from Mexico. But there is another wall, more significant and more pervasive – a metaphorical wall – that has already been built. The name of that wall is Political Correctness. It not only separates people of different opinions, but it prevents any real communication across its lines of separation.

Examples of this are abundantly evident. Colleges and universities routinely cancel speakers whose conservative views are considered “controversial” and unwelcome. Whereas in the 60s students clamored for “free speech” areas where the free market of ideas could flourish, now they want “safe” spaces where they won’t be upset by philosophies or points of view they don’t agree with.

What is left of journalism is probably the most dramatic example of political correctness as a wall that prevents real communication and real debate. More often than reporting information, the media engages in propaganda by framing what they say in such a way as to push their agenda, and paint anyone who does not agree with their agenda as intellectually or morally deficient. They distort facts, misrepresent their opponents and make up outright lies. The term “fake news” actually underplays the seriousness of the media’s attack on objective reporting.

But political correctness is far more pervasive than how the news is presented. The actual substance of what we say in public has been made subordinate to how we say it. The bricks that make up the wall of political correctness are word choices. Say the wrong word and you are automatically labeled some kind of a bigot – the worst heresy a godless society can name.

Take for example the issue of racism. Back in the 60s we thought racism was on the way out. We saw the dawning of the new “Age of Aquarius” with “Black and white together singing alleluia”. But government and media tried to codify that genuine feeling of the grassroots through PC education. It was decided that “offensive” language would not be permitted. And so they instituted a list of taboo words deemed too offensive for public use.

The problem with this approach is that any time someone is offended, there are two views: who is being walled in, and who is being walled out. Yet putting a wall of separation between them does not solve the offense. The solution can only be found in being connected, not by being separated. Forgiveness and understanding are what is needed to solve the problem – neither of which can happen when a wall is blocking the way.

There are two parts of any offense: the offended and the offender. What if there was no offense intended – nothing in the heart or mind of the offender that meant to offend the other person – just the use of a black-listed word? The wall of political correctness says that the words ARE the offense, so we must not use certain words, even when we aren’t trying to offend.

The problem with this narrow view is that word usage evolves. What is considered unacceptable by one generation is perfectly OK to the next. And multiculturalism exacerbates this in that what is acceptable in one culture may be offensive to another.

When I was in school (the 50s and 60s) the word “oriental” was more commonly used than the word “Asian”, but to most people’s thinking they meant pretty much the same thing. This was in contrast to my being occidental (from the West) as opposed to being oriental (from the East). For someone to take offense at that requires they have a very thin skin, regardless of the color.

I was taught that the three main racial divisions in humans were Caucasian, Asian and negroid. In an effort to consciously offend me, I have been referred to as “Caucasoid” and “of the Caucasian persuasion” but I have chosen not to take offense. People get silly and very weird about how to identify the different races. We lump an incredible range of variations into labels like black, white, brown, yellow and red. Why?

I’ve never felt comfortable knowing just the right word to describe my darker-skinned friends. Negro, black, colored, African-American. Whatever you do, don’t slip and say Afro-American. I guess that came from Franco-American, which we now would call French-American, which I never hear anyone saying – they’re just whites now. These terms change from generation to generation and from culture to culture. How can we talk about our differences without being offensive?

It is long overdue for our politically correct society to consider the other part of an offense: the person who feels offended. Perhaps it is time they learn to forgive those who offend them. That’s the Biblical point of view (Proverbs 19:11).  And beyond that, perhaps they need to stop taking offense altogether. The Bait Of Satan by John Bevere shows how destructive taking offense can be.

In the most basic sense, self-righteously taking offense at what others say or do in effect is pointing our fingers at others and blaming them, rather than taking any of the responsibility ourselves. The big picture is that it takes two to tango. Taking offense does nothing to help the dance. It only separates the partners. An excellent resource is Resolving Everyday Conflict, Biblical answers for a common problem, by Peacemaker Ministries.

How can we stop hating? One thing we can all do right now is to stop pointing our fingers at the other guy and shouting, “You hater!”

And for those of you who persist in supporting political correctness, I urge you, “Take down that wall!”

Posted in American Culture, political correctness, Racism | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

“Borking” Trump

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article entitled, “Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy”. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/01/03/evangelicals-should-be-deeply-troubled-by-donald-trumps-attempt-to-mainstream-heresy/?postshare=8361483466894116&tid=ss_fb&utm_term=.0f92418b136f

Since my church home group is currently doing a study in the book of Colossians, which Paul wrote to confront heresy threatening the church at Colossae,  I was already focused on the danger heresy poses to the message of the gospel. Doctrinal correctness is no small matter when it comes to following the Great Commission.

Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). This doesn’t mean to teach opinions or theories.  It means to accurately and reliably spread the message of salvation given to us in Scripture.

“and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” —  2 Timothy 2:2

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” — 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

The responsibility we have as Christians to preserve the integrity of scriptural doctrines makes us “stewards of orthodoxy”. This responsibility begins by knowing Scripture, a prerequisite which sadly has been forsaken by much of the Church. And because many self-proclaimed Christians are ignorant of what the Bible actually teaches, they are as vulnerable to the slick, charismatic purveyors of heresy as a country rube to a snake oil salesman.

That having been said, the charge that Donald Trump is attempting to “mainstream heresy” falls into another category. It is a specific accusation against Trump, not just against heresy. It points the finger of blame at Trump for intentionally misrepresenting Christianity, when it just as well can be understood that because American society at large is already ignorant and confused about the message of the gospel, even the President-elect is subject to misunderstanding it.

The more important issue is what exactly is the Christian faith. In the past half century there has been an increasing amount of ignorance and misrepresentation of Christianity. That hasn’t occurred as part of the concerted efforts of heretics, and it hasn’t happened because Trump or people like Trump have tried to influence public opinion. It’s happened because our society has increasingly become secular, unfamiliar with Biblical teaching and more specifically, de-Christianized.

Pointing fingers at Trump for this is a bit of a canard, used to distract us from more substantive issues. It will be remembered that Nancy Reagan — beloved wife of a man credited to be a Christian and supportive of traditional values — regularly consulted an astrologist and is said to have influenced the President. That is no less significant than the Word of Faith heresy.

Also, remember Barack Obama’s claim to be a Christian and the infamous quote of his reverend, the Rev. Wright? (“God d— America”)? The horse has long ago left the barn. The damage has been done. But all that so many unhappy and fearful people can do is to blame Trump, just like the liberals blamed everything on Bush for problems under Obama’s watch.

A perfect example is this hysterical claim that Trump is in cahoots with Putin for the dastardly act of hacking the Democrats’ computers. The more important fact is that the information this hacking revealed (regardless of who did it) shows conclusively that the Democrat Party colluded with the media to rig the debates. That is the truth, and that is the real issue. And yet, hardly a peep is heard about it and no one in the Democrat Party or the media is paying any consequences for their deceptive, unethical and illegal acts. Instead, all we hear in the news are reports that Donald Trump is evil because he has said good things about Putin and the Russians.

The “inconvenient truth”, to use a loaded phrase, is that historically, it’s been the Democrats and those on the Left who have been buddy-buddy with the Russians. But in their twisted perspective it is diplomatic statesmanship when they do it, but un-American and unforgivable when their political opponents do it. When the Left is out to “Bork” an opponent, they will stop at nothing, which is exactly what they are doing to Trump.  And for the most part, the media is complicit in their unending repetition of the party line.

Most people have either been caught up unawares in this propaganda aimed at controlling public opinion, or they haven’t paid any attention at all. The task of true believers is to know the truth, and our source for the truth is Scripture. We need to focus on that truth, speak it whenever we can and reflect it in how we live our lives. All around us people keep repeating not just lies but half-truths that tempt us away from our message and point fingers at whomever is the whipping boy du jour.

We must be vigilant to remain undistracted from the greater truth. It is our responsibility to share the truth of the gospel. Will the Church do that? Or will they choose to complain that the job isn’t being done because the President-elect has selected heretics as speakers?

Every time I walk to the store I pass a Presbyterian church that proudly flies the rainbow flag. I say a prayer when I do, and I wonder if their consciences are seared or if they will respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. The Church in America is in serious trouble, a trouble we cannot lay at the feet of Trump.

Popular trends in evangelicalism defy Scriptural teaching, such as the idea that Hell does not exist or that faith in Jesus isn’t the only way of salvation or that our redemption is the result of the “social justice” our governments bring about. Barely noticed in a quiet corner, away from the spotlight, is the centrality of Biblical faith — that our sin separates us from our Creator and only brings death; but that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross gives us the opportunity to have our sins forgiven if we only accept it and receive him as our Lord.

The good news is that while there is no human solution to the dilemma of sin, we can have fellowship with God and eternal life through Christ. That requires standing before the One who has all authority in heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18) and being honest about ourselves — honest about our sin.

Focusing the blame on Trump is a sure way of avoiding that reality.

Posted in Discipleship, Heresy, the gospel, Trump | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

The Obama Legacy

President Obama, in a pathetic attempt to shore up some semblance of a respectable legacy, took a parting shot at Fox News and “conservative media” by saying they “vilified” him throughout his presidency. As he has made abundantly clear throughout his two terms in office, he is so self-absorbed that he is out of touch with reality. Factual data show that it’s the liberal media and Obama himself who have consistently vilified conservatives.

But, “Conservative media”? Where exactly can I find conservative media? Those of us who actually are conservative understand that Fox News isn’t really conservative. They are merely less liberal than every other news outlet. And even though they do air some conservative views, they still push the globalist agenda, just the same as other news outlets. There aren’t enough truly conservative spokespersons out there to be cobbled together to even make a media. They are too rare.

What Obama means by conservative media is any commentator who disagrees with what he says or does – or anyone who dares to question his policies or decisions. Obama’s America consists only of those who see him as their savior and champion. At the start of Obama’s first term, he told the Republican leaders in Congress, “We won,” meaning they were on notice to either get on board with his “fundamental change” or get out of town. The concept of a loyal opposition never had any part in Obama’s America.

Those who did not want to board the Obama train were called “conservatives”, “racists”, “bigots” and “haters”. No longer were political decisions debatable, but with a fervor that can only be described as religious zealotry, those who opposed the Obama steam roller were shouted down, their arguments were ignored or belittled, or they weren’t allowed to be heard, they were demonized, lied about, called every name in the book and accused of hatred and intolerance. But the real hatred and intolerance came from Obama and his supporters.

One of Obama’s legacies is the creation of “safe zones” at colleges and universities, replacing the historically honored freedom of speech our founders fought and died for to win. This phenomenon represents students’ refusal to civilly discuss disagreements with those who have opposing views, and instead, go off by themselves and pout.

And this is just one spin-off of Obama’s major legacy, which is that he has successfully brought every radical, aberrant element of what used to be called “the lunatic fringe” into the so-called mainstream, displacing the traditional moral majority into the category of irrelevance.

The social acceptance of same-sex marriage came at the price of denying a person’s right to the free exercise of religion. Insisting that homosexuals have an “equal right” to marry someone of their own gender is an intellectual lie (Their equal right is to marry someone of the opposite sex – just like everyone else. To marry someone of the same gender is a special, additional right, specifically tailored for them.)

Acceptance of this lie has been forced on the public by denying citizens the right to abstain from activities that can be seen to approve of or support participation in the celebration of same-sex marriages. That’s part of the Obama legacy. A Christian who bakes wedding cakes for a living no longer has the right to refuse to make a cake for a homosexual couple. And Obama supporters think that’s a good thing.

In a word, the Obama legacy is a lie. Fanatic mobs shouting “Hands up, don’t shoot!” protesting what they called racist police brutality in Ferguson…it was all a lie. And then when real brutality came, in the form of Islamic terrorism, Obama minimized it, focusing instead on what he thought the more important problem was: American racial intolerance and hatred of Muslims.

This of course is all a very loose condensation of the past eight years. In the end, it isn’t just one person, such as Obama, who can be blamed for our current social unrest or political polarity. But Obama is a poster boy for the changes happening in our culture – changes that have been going on for some time.

Analysts have also been discussing those changes for some time. But the national “conversation” has been fraught with such an impassioned intensity that it comes down to who can talk the fastest or loudest as to whether or not they will be heard. Those who hear them in turn become polarized, repeating their talking points like slogans and shouting intolerant epithets back and forth, with little real communication going on.

When our social interaction is flooded with this kind of adversarial consciousness, it’s hard for us to hear the calm voices of reason and wisdom. That is why I was delighted recently to hear some wise words from Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. Of course, for many, the mere mention of the word Christian is enough to turn them away and close themselves off from any wisdom this man has to offer. So, if that is you, my advice is don’t worry about it. Take a deep breath, relax and hear what this man has to say. You might learn something.

In the video below Ravi Zacharias answers the question:

How do you respond to nonbelievers who accuse Christians of being hateful to people who support lifestyles that are not according to the precepts of our faith?

His answer is in three parts. First he discusses the sociological dilemma of an autonomous culture. He names three categories of culture: theonomous, in which moral law is derived from the universal acceptance of God’s laws (as in Natural law, and “We hold these truths to be self-evident”); heteronomous, in which the leadership at the top dictates to the masses below (as in Marxism and Islam); and autonomous, “each person dictates their own prerogatives”.

If we are in an autonomous culture, as proponents of same-sex marriage believe, a problem arises when one person or group sees their prerogative as something they may force on everyone. By so doing they are abandoning the idea of an autonomous culture and exercising the dictatorial practice of a heteronomous culture.

The second part of Zacharias’ answer deals with the theological problem. Speaking of marriage, he said it is the only human relationship that embodies the meaning of all four words in the Greek that we translate as love (agápē, phileó, storgē and érōs). If we reduce the meaning of love to just one of those, such as érōs (romantic love), we violate the sacredness of love in marriage.

He once had been asked, “Christians are generally against racism but when it comes to the homosexual, they discriminate against the homosexual. How do you explain that?” Pointing out the logical inconsistency of the question, of equating an ism to an individual, he said that Christians view both race and sexuality as sacred, adding, “Tell me why you would treat race as sacred but desacredize sexuality?”

The third part of his answer is the relational problem, what he calls the hard part. Bottom line, “Accept people with a love and genuineness regardless of what their view is on anything.” We are called to love others, so when we speak the truth, we need to do it in love. That is what the Bible tells us. We should know that. But the truth is a two-edged sword.

To those who would choose to rebel against God, Ravi Zacharias says, “God gives you the most sacred gift of the prerogative of choice, but God does not give you the privilege of determining a different outcome to what the choice will entail. The consequences are bound to the choice.”

This is wisdom that needs to be heard in the national conversation. It is a far cry from the hatred and intolerance Christians are accused of. The Obama legacy is that not many people – particularly young people whose minds should be open to examine such things – are willing to listen, learn, grow and work together.

If we as a nation ever hope to live in a civil society again we’ll need to get beyond what I call the Obama legacy, and unless we can do that and be civil to one another, our “civilization” is meaningless.

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Merry Christmas Or Joyous Advent?

In recent years the iconic greeting, “Merry Christmas”, has become somewhat politically incorrect, and deemed offensive by those who feel it is religion intruding into a public that is religiously diverse on the one hand and largely secular on the other.

And yet not everyone who celebrates Christmas considers it a religious holiday. A secular version of Christmas is very common, focusing on the love of family and friends. To many Americans who are not Christians, Christmas is a special holiday of fun – home decorations and lights, Christmas trees and presents, turkey and eggnog, parties and get-togethers, mistletoe and Santa Claus. Things like Christmas carols and the Salvation Army collecting donations are just part of the ambiance – nothing to take too seriously.

When someone who isn’t a Christian says, “Merry Christmas”, they aren’t thinking about the Biblical account of the birth of Christ. They aren’t trying to convert anyone. It’s just another way of saying, “Happy Holidays”. They aren’t thinking, “I need to be inclusive by saying ‘Happy Holidays,'” because their secular Christmas is already inclusive.

Whichever greeting a person uses, they are saying, “Have fun!”, “Have a nice day!”, “Enjoy yourself!” It’s a universal feeling shared by all people, regardless of culture or religion. Even though they may celebrate different things, all people love gathering together to enjoy good music, good food, the giving of gifts and sharing the things we value with the people we care for the most.

That’s what “Happy Holidays” means, and that’s what “Merry Christmas” means in the secular world. But for Christians there is something much more important about Christmas than being merry. It is the very thing that is absent from any secular Christmas – it’s the Advent of the Christ.

Advent means a momentous arrival. The birth of the Christ or Messiah (the “anointed one”) is momentous for various reasons. First of all, this baby called the Son of God was God incarnate, meaning in the flesh. The infinite God, Creator of the entire universe condescended to be born into human form to live among us. Implicit in this is that the Son of God is God, the Son; the “child” born unto us in Isaiah 9:6 is called “Everlasting Father”. In the beginning the Word (Christ) was with God and was God, he made everything (John 1:1-3).

Secondly, Advent is momentous because it did not just happen. Centuries before, it had been foretold by the Hebrew prophets. That is why his arrival was so keenly anticipated by the Jews. One such person anticipating Messiah was Simeon in Luke 2:25-32. He was waiting for the “consolation of Israel” (see Isaiah 40:1-5). Upon seeing the baby Jesus, he said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

And here is a third reason why the Advent of Christ is momentous: He not only came to offer salvation to the Jews, but to the Gentiles also. That means to everyone, since a Gentile is anyone who isn’t a Jew. When the angel announced the birth of the Christ-child to shepherds (social outcasts of the day) he said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

The Advent of Christ is about the coming of salvation – salvation from sin for all who receive Christ, that is believe in his name (John 1:12). It’s not about a birthday. It’s about an event that has been saving and changing the lives of billions of individuals for almost 2,000 years.

No one really knows the actual date of the birth of Jesus, and that doesn’t really matter. December 25 is a traditional date, borrowed from a forgotten pagan celebration that predates Christmas. While those pagan folks “back in the day” enjoyed their celebrations very much as we do now, with family & friends, food & fun, they had no idea of what new life in Christ means. They had no idea of the joy available to true Christians in the celebration of the Advent of Christ.

Many of today’s pagans enjoy what they call Christmas. A merry Christmas to them is nothing more than a happy holiday. And there is nothing wrong with that. We need to understand that they are living in darkness, and we are called to bring the light of God into the world so that they can see who Jesus is and understand why he made such a momentous arrival. And don’t forget, he’s coming again in glory!

Have a joyous Advent season.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.  Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.  John 12:46

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16

 

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The Doubting Christian, Or Feeling Condemned

You want to do the right thing, but you just don’t do it. You know you shouldn’t do the wrong thing, but you do it anyway. “Why am I like this?”, you ask yourself, wondering how your life can have so many ups and downs. “Am I a hypocrite?”, you ask yourself. “Am I a failure?” “Who am I?”

That’s ambivalence. My dictionary defines ambivalence as, “The existence of mutually conflicting feelings or thoughts, such as love and hate together, about some person, object or idea.”

Paul was a Jewish rabbi, steeped in the teachings of the Torah which was known as “the Law”. He was trained to look at sins in what we would consider a “legal” way, which declared a sinner guilty and demanded a price be paid for that guilt. In Romans 7:14-25 we read what can only be described as ambivalence about his innocence or guilt before the God of the universe.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

I am confident in saying that there isn’t a Christian alive, or one who ever lived, who hasn’t faced this conflict between our internal and external lives. So often, even though we know what’s right, and want to do what’s right, we do what’s wrong. Then we feel guilty and ashamed. Our “religion”, if you can call it that, becomes one of alternating back and forth, between sinning and repenting.

1 John 1:8-2:1 confirms this fact, and reminds us that in Christ our struggle against sin does not condemn us: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

This ambivalence was a reality check for Paul. In his spirit he loved the LORD, but in his flesh he could not help but live life in such a way that led him to break God’s laws. In John 12:47-48 Jesus says, “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”

Paul knew that the old Mosaic law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Matthew 5:17 records that Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” A lot rides on how we understand that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, fulfills the “law” of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Fulfilling the law doesn’t mean Jesus comes down to make sure every sin is punished. The law still needs to be upheld, in the sense that right is still right and wrong is still wrong. But Jesus paid the price for all sins by his crucifixion. All that remains is for sinners to receive him in faith.

Now elsewhere (John 14:15), Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” But, returning to Paul’s ambivalence, when I sin I’m not keeping the commandments of Jesus; I’m not loving Jesus; I’m violating the very law he has fulfilled. What then? Have I rejected Christ and separated myself from God? Have I lost my salvation? Do my sins condemn me? And am I now to be judged?

The positive message of 1 John 2:1 and 3 is, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, …And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”

But the following verses seem to have negative implications: “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (verses 4-6)

How do we reconcile the fact that we unquestionably sin, despite the fact that we have been born again through the love of Christ, who tells us to go and sin no more? And most importantly, does the fact that we sin disprove or disallow our standing as children of God and members in the body of Christ?

When Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48), did he mean if you didn’t behave perfectly you would no longer be allowed to remain in him as a born-again child of God? In that regard, is believing in Jesus any different from Old Testament Judaism, in which every sin required a sacrifice, day by day and year by year?

Paul, in his legal, Hebraic way of thinking, wrote in Romans 8:1-11:

1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

And this is what Christianity is: a spiritual relationship with the Spirit of God, not a religion of rules that when followed make you better than anyone else, not a religion that justifies pointing your finger at the faults of others, or even condemning yourself when you fall.

When the world calls us haters, remember that it is sin we hate, not because we feel superior to it, but because God hated sin first. The greater truth is that we love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).

When they call us “holier than thou”, remember that holy simply means “set aside”. God has set us aside for his purposes, not our own. And he declares us holy, not because we’ve earned it, but because God ordained it through Christ (2 Timothy 1:9).

When they call us hypocrites, remember that everyone, from time to time, is an actor wearing a mask. LORD, help us to be aware of ourselves. Help us to take off our masks and be real.

When they call us fools, remember the word of God when it tells us, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). And we are in good company, for even the apostles were considered fools for Christ (1 Corinthians 4:10).

And when people hate you, remember what he said in places like Luke 6:22, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” and John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

Being a Christian doesn’t mean we are holy or perfect. It means God calls us to be holy and perfect. As often as we fail to measure up to that calling, we need to simply confess it to the LORD, pick ourselves up, and start again. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

As the old bumper-stickers used to say, “Christians aren’t perfect. They’re forgiven.” That is how we should be living out our faith, neither considering ourselves “holier than thou” nor taking advantage of cheap grace by making excuses for our sinful habits.

Paul disabused us of that notion in Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” And in verse 6 he explains, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

Galatians 2:20 explains it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Isn’t this the very thing Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”? (Luke 9:23)

When we sin, it is the old self. That’s the self we need to deny. It isn’t what defines us. Paul told the Ephesians (4:22-24), “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

That is our spiritual journey, one of learning to put off the old self and put on the new, one of learning to walk in the light, as children of light, letting the blood of Jesus wash away our sins. And that is something we are to learn to do together, in fellowship, in the Spirit, according to 1 John 1:7: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

If you, as a Christian, struggle with sin, you aren’t alone. That’s the nature of our spiritual journey. When we first are born again, we are mere babes in Christ. But gradually we grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). Our sanctification is a process. And while we are making daily choices to do the right thing, God is at work, molding us as only he can. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

So, as Dr. Laura used to say, “Now go do the right thing.” Admittedly, that isn’t always going to be easy. But don’t let ambivalence get you down. The God we serve is mightier than that.

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Don’t Be A Fool

Today, Saturday October 22, 2016 Donald Trump gave what I consider the most important speech of his presidential campaign. He chose to give this speech at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania because of the association we make with President Lincoln’s famous address, in which the phrase, “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is forever enshrined.

If you love Mr. Trump, you will see his choice to speak in Gettysburg as meaningful and appropriate. If you hate him, you will consider it nothing more than a political ploy. So much about this election seems to hinge on how we feel about the candidates. And so much of what we feel comes from who we believe.

So many people are outraged by accusations that paint a picture of Mr. Trump as a moral degenerate who preys on women. Yet, he has not only denied those accusations, but says that he did not even know these women who are accusing him, and that they all are lying.

In my previous post I asked who is lying. In an age when scandal and lying are commonplace and propaganda has replaced journalism, truth has become a rare and precious commodity. It seems to come down to who is the slickest at manipulating your feelings. And frankly, for many years I have seen both government and media doing a yeoman’s job of doing just that. Michael Savage has called it “the government-media complex”, building on President Eisenhower’s phrase, “the military-industrial complex” which described the power broker system of the 50s and 60s that threatened our form of representational government set forth by the Constitution.

In 2001, our President was the likable George W. Bush. Like many other American conservatives, I had high hopes for his presidency. If you recall, Bush had the blessing of a Republican Congress – for the first time in something like 40 years, if I recall correctly. He even called himself a “compassionate conservative”.

But before very long I began to have grave misgivings about this President. 9-11 put us into a “war on terrorism”. At the time, 15 of the 19 terrorists responsible for 9-11 were citizens of Saudi Arabia. And yet we took no actions against that country. In fact, our State Department continued to authorize the Saudis to issue U.S. visas themselves! We took no security precautions to protect our own nation from the now-established threat posed by terrorists entering our country as easily as tourists.

I couldn’t understand how a responsible State Department could do that. They were more concerned with keeping the Saudis happy than with keeping American citizens safe. But Bush made a big show of being a military tough guy by dramatically invading Iraq. It allowed Americans to vent their rage, and many Americans cheered.

But then I noticed something very peculiar. After a certain point, our forces didn’t seem to be fighting to win. One day I was watching coverage of the Iraq war on TV. A large jeep-type truck could be seen from overhead, driving along a desert road. The announcer said that riding in this truck was an important enemy leader and some of his lieutenants. In those days, the military had made up a sort of deck of cards with the faces of all the bad guys on them. This constituted a ‘hit’ list of the most dangerous leaders. And the man in the truck was one of the faces in that deck of cards.

The TV announcer was saying that at any moment they could obliterate the target with a “smart bomb” that was already targeted on the truck and that observers on the ground were just waiting for authorization to fire. I watched as the truck continued for some time to drive down the road, yet nothing happened. All the time, the announcer continued talking and waiting. Eventually, the truck drove out of danger and disappeared. The authorization to fire never came.

This whole episode only lasted a few minutes. There was a very brief window of opportunity, and we had failed to act. But who was it who failed to act? The military? No. The rules of engagement did not give the military the authority to decide when to shoot at the enemy. So, who was given that authority, under the Commander-in-Chief, to decide when and where the military may pull the trigger?

That authority was given to the CIA. The authorization that our ground forces had waited for was from a CIA control center, here in our own country. The decision of whether or not to blow up a truck known to be transporting a major enemy leader was not being made by a commander of the units that were fighting, nor by a person who was even there. We were fighting the war just as if we were running a huge, faceless bureaucracy. Who was the person who failed to act in time? Was it someone under the direction and scrutiny of the Commander-in-Chief?

I sent letters and emails to Bush, asking him what incompetent person was running the show. But of course, I never got a reply, because little tax-paying citizens like me don’t matter one whit to the big brothers of the globalist “community”, of which Bush and his Republican majority were proven members.

This was when I realized the Republican Party no longer stood for conservative principles. They were no more concerned about preserving the Constitution than their Democrat pals on the other side of the aisle. No better. Under Bush (the self-proclaimed “compassionate conservative”) the size of government exploded – a sure sign that he never really was a conservative. You can’t be a conservative without being opposed to big government. It’s that simple.

That’s why I decided to affiliate with the Constitution Party. They are a tiny party, but I agree with their principles and can vote for them with a clear conscience – that is, if a Constitution Party candidate is allowed on the ballot – something that has become increasingly difficult to accomplish, as the “Big Two” tighten their strangle-hold to control elections.

Now, some 15 years later, I can’t even vote for Darrell Castle as a write-in candidate in California because the Constitution Party has failed to produce the 55 Presidential Electors needed to authorize a write-in candidacy. That makes it impossible for me to “vote my conscience”, something jaded Cruz supporters have complained a lot about.

So offended are they – that the Republican candidate isn’t really a Republican, and certainly not a conservative – that they refuse to give their vote to a man who has betrayed their party values! They portray their principled outrage to be as pure as the wind-driven snow. And to those conservatives and (God help us) Christians who will cast their votes for Trump, the self-proclaimed purists cast aspersions of whoring after the devil and accuse them of being lead down a primrose path of false promises by a false messiah.

My, oh my. To you purists – my dear colleagues – I want you to know that the shock and distress over your party abandoning it principles will fade in time. Please wake up to the fact that the Republican Party no longer represents your values and ideals. Eventually, you will see a much bigger picture – one in which all Americans, liberal, moderate and conservative, must live together, in communities, united as a people – one nation under God, indivisible.

That means we have to stop falling prey to emotions that divide us. We have to stop hating, stop condemning and start trying to work together with what we have. That means you may have to vote for a candidate who isn’t a Republican. But it also means you may have to vote for a Republican candidate with whom you have substantial disagreements.

If you listen to Donald Trump’s Gettysburg speech, I think you will agree that what he offers as a candidate is the genuine hope and vision that we as Americans can begin to work together towards real goals which we can share and take credible and intelligent steps to achieve. But under Hillary, I see nothing other than the perpetuation, growth and eventual collapse of a totally unrealistic Nanny State.

A vote for Trump isn’t a vote for an idealistically pure Republican Party. They have long since ceased to stand for republican ideals and have sold themselves down the river of globalism. A vote for Trump isn’t a vote for pure conservatism. True conservatives are a rare breed today. A truly conservative party, the Constitution Party is a very tiny entity compared to either of the mega parties.

Finally, a vote for Trump isn’t a vote for pure Biblical faith. According to one study, only 9% of “Christians” even have a Biblical world view. We live in a society that more than just being diverse, has become primarily secular. It is unrealistic to expect a candidate with popular appeal to be a Bible-believing Christian. For true believers, it should be enough to recognize that Trump is pro-life and supports various issues that come under the heading, freedom of religion.

My unsolicited advice to all readers is, don’t be a fool. Don’t allow your judgment to be manipulated by your emotions. Don’t abrogate your responsibility to vote simply because you don’t like a candidate. All humans are imperfect. We aren’t electing a preacher or a Pope or a saint. This election has exposed the weaknesses and failings of both candidates. Neither Trump nor Clinton have been able to hide behind the respective labels of their political parties. Hopefully, they both will be seen for the individuals they are, although among Democrats, there is a much greater tendency to vote party, disregarding the actual qualities of a candidate.

But Trump’s Gettysburg speech makes it clear to me, that I would be a fool not to vote for him. Not because he is a Republican, for I am not. Not because he is a conservative, for he is more a moderate, compared to me. Not because he is a “Christian”. That label means different things to different people. But to me, he seems to respect the concerns of Christians. I would be a fool not to vote for Trump because he at least has a rational, cogent plan to correct many of the problems that plague our nation.

A world in which Hillary Clinton is the President of the United States would be a nightmare. Delusion, distortion, anguish and destruction. A road of lies leading to a future of loss. Don’t be fooled and don’t be a fool.

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Who Is Lying?

After more than a year of grinding political campaigns, the presidential election is only weeks away. I heard a joke the other day that asked if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are in a boat and it capsizes, who survives? The punchline answer was, “America”, and I must confess that I laughed. The reality is that gallows humor does give us something to laugh about. Emotionally speaking, it helps to deflect what feels like a devastating gut punch when our world is falling apart around us.

The first presidential election I can remember was in 1952. I was 7 years old. I remember enjoying the animated ads on TV that proclaimed, “I like Ike!”. When my father would be talking politics with his friends, he’d trot me out and have me tell them who I wanted to win. My enthusiastic response (“I like Ike!”) always brought smiles to their faces.

For the next 8 years, as I was growing up, I saw President Eisenhower many times on TV, and once in person, as I watched his motorcade pass by. In those years, I was not concerned with politics, per se. But each time I saw him and heard him speak, I felt pride in my nation and confidence in his strong and proven leadership.

Since that time, I have witnessed the performance of 10 subsequent individuals who have occupied the office of President of the United States of America. This is not a history that I have read about in books. This has been part of the life I have lived. I think that qualifies me as having a deeper and more meaningful perspective than much of what passes as informed commentary today.

I have never before seen a presidential election like the one in which we are currently embroiled. I have never seen a sitting (“lame duck”) President so intimately involved in his party’s campaign efforts as to slam their opponent with personal attacks. And not only the President, but the First Lady. Both of them have been busy slinging mud in the media, doing everything they can to paint a picture of Donald Trump as an utter moral reprobate.

In the past, sitting presidents (and their wives) have had the dignity of statesmanship to at least appear to stay out of the business of politics – particularly dirty politics. As the President of all Americans, previous presidents wisely and honorably did their best to remain above the fray. But not Obama and Michelle. They’ve gotten down and dirty, and the saddest thing for me is that to many Americans, their behavior seems to be acceptable.

The dirt is one thing. The lie is another. Trump’s enemies say he is unfit to be President because of morally despicable things he has said. And yet, nothing they accuse him of can be separated from their own hypocrisy. And I wonder how anyone can consider Trump’s accusers to be morally superior to him. When I think of society’s values today – the things we see in movies, the subjects of comedy routines, how overt sexuality has become commonplace and the level of crudity we tolerate as the social norm – aren’t they all being a bit hypocritical? Are we voting for a real human being or are we putting a chaste fantasy up on a pedestal?

Trump has never held public office. He has never had a fiduciary relationship to the people of this nation. He has never held the public trust. What he has done is succeeded as a businessman.

On the other hand, Hillary has held the public trust. Under her leadership Americans have died as a result of her incompetency – incompetency she lied about to cover up. As a politician, her success has mainly been in getting into office. She smiles, says how much she’s going to do for everyone…but she’s long on talk, long on excuses. She offers a fantasy, sustained on lies.

While Hillary’s husband was Governor of Arkansas and President of the United States, scandal after scandal plagued him, and yet nothing ever stuck. Accusers were paid off, witnesses disappeared, and people who were key to investigations mysteriously died. These prevailing scandals earned Mr. Clinton the moniker, “slick Willie”. I stand amazed that any rational person would think the wife of this impeached president would be any better than he was. The fact that they consider Trump disqualified by things he has said, while excusing Bill for things he’s actually done takes the nub of the debate well beyond the pot calling the kettle black.

The thing that troubles me most is the generalization that they are both equally bad candidates, equally bad choices. That was the point of the joke I began with. If you really believe they are equally bad, then they must also be equally good — merely two sides of the same coin. Are you willing to make this decision by the toss of a coin?

As the song says, “Time goes by so slowly, and time can do so much”. The winner of this presidential election will only be in office for 4 to 8 years. But long after that person is no longer serving, their appointees will continue to influence law and government. The most important and influential presidential appointees are the Supreme Court Justices, who may remain in their position for the rest of their lives. Over time, a president’s judicial appointments will potentially be their greatest impact on American culture and history. This fact alone prompts me to take the long view.

Out here on the left coast, in the People’s Republik of Culifoania, conservatives have looked for a third option, in the form of the Constitution Party’s Darrell Castle. Our new “open primary” has gone a long way to ensure that voters have a real choice between the top two Democrats. And with options like that, it’s even harder for third parties to even qualify for official recognition. Still, if the Constitution Party had 55 presidential electors, the state would recognize Darrell Castle as a write-in candidate. Without those 55 electors, write-in votes for Darrell Castle will not be counted.

As of October 12, according to http://www.constitutionpartyofcalifornia.org/faq.html there have only been 10 declarations for write-in electors for the Constitution Party. So much for a conservative choice in a state known for its fruits and nuts.

Bottom line, this election doesn’t give us a clear choice between pure political philosophies. But based on that, I do not see our choice as simply between two comparative evils or two comparative goods. What I see is a choice between a man who has been in private business all his life, administered a large organization and succeeded at that, vs a woman whose entire career has been in public life. And for all that time, she has made smiling promises on the one hand, and lied to cover up her blunders on the other hand. Everything about Hillary is based on perception.

How people vote will come down to what they believe. And what people believe seems to be rooted and grounded in what they want to be true. What do you want to be true?

I believe that in a totally different political world, some 2,000 years ago, Jesus told us we needed to vote when he said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”. Caesar represented the governing authorities. Today in America, we elect those governing authorities, and they are supposed to represent our values and our interests. That’s what representational government is all about. It begins with the responsibility of every citizen to vote.

Christians especially are called to vote rationally and wisely. When we are confused, Scripture tells us to pray for wisdom and the LORD promises to supply us with wisdom. (“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5)

And while you are seeking God’s wisdom, remember that the enemy is using deceptions and lies to confuse you. The Bible teaches that the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. We are to be watchful and sober-minded (1 Peter 5:8). Finally, 2 Thessalonians 2:8 tells us that when the lawless one is revealed the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth.

Understand this symbolism. In John 1 Jesus is called the Word. And 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” These verses are talking about truth. Jesus described himself as the truth. When he spoke before Pilate he said, “…For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37).

Ephesians 6:17 calls the word of God the “sword of the Spirit”. Revelation 19:13-15 reads: “He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.”

In the end, the truth will destroy the lie.

In the meantime, Christians, be wary of deception. Don’t believe the lie.

Posted in Christian Attitudes, Vote | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Like Sheep

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

That of course was written some 2,700 years ago in the context of an agrarian culture, where pretty much everyone was aware of the typical behavior of sheep. Even today, one of the most important jobs of a shepherd is to round-up and rescue the sheep that have unknowingly wandered away from the protective eyes of the shepherd.

But most of us today are unfamiliar with agrarian realities. As urbanites and suburbanites, our exposure to sheep is limited to things like the animated Shaun The Sheep series.

Perhaps we are not as different from sheep as we would like to think. But we often don’t grasp the Biblical comparison of people to sheep, other than perhaps feeling it is a bit of a put-down. So, let’s be clear about what the phrase, “we like sheep have gone astray” really means.

Sheep are not wary. They naturally wander without giving a thought to where they are headed. They blissfully browse for things to eat. They don’t see the dangers around them, consider the risks they might be taking or anticipate any consequences for what they do. And because sheep simply do what they do without thinking about it, their survival and welfare depend on the shepherd who watches and cares for them.

Dumb animal” behavior is a natural thing. But for humans, the Creator has provided a supernatural Shepherd to save us from our natural wanderings. Isaiah called those wanderings “iniquities”, which like immorality or wickedness, is just another word for sin.

Sin is a red-flag word. Some people associate sin with the feeling of guilt or the breaking of some religious rule. And some people consider such rules arbitrary – just something someone else made up. Still, others follow the rules so religiously that they proudly consider themselves morally superior.

None of these attitudes are accurate. Sin isn’t a matter of rule-breaking. It’s simply our natural behavior causing us to wander away from the Shepherd. And since “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” we can remain safe by staying close to him. Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).

So here is the reason we pray. It’s how we stay close to the Shepherd. We cannot abide in Christ without prayer. We cannot walk in his light unless we stick close to him. Maintaining our relationship with him requires a lot of prayer.

When we pray we stop our natural wandering and begin to allow the Shepherd to show us the way. He does this by teaching us to develop the wisdom to make the best choices. The LORD is not a relentless taskmaster with a whip, forcing us to submit to his will. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. Our Shepherd’s rod and staff are a comfort to us, not an affliction. That’s why he invites us to come to him: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Seeking the LORD, walking with the LORD, learning his ways and trusting in him with all our heart requires constant prayer. Consider for a moment what that means, and what it does not mean. Prayer isn’t just putting into words what is in our hearts or minds. God does not expect our prayers to be a sort of religious explanation or analysis or announcement or commentary that comes from our human wisdom or insight. He wants us to be constantly staying close to his love and protection, looking for his guidance, seeking his wisdom.

Christian prayer is not about following religious rules. It’s about maintaining a close relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we do not make prayer our regular practice we fall back on our natural inclinations, we wander off on our own, we lean on our own understanding, and we tend to forget we need the Shepherd’s loving presence.

1 Corinthians 8:2 tells us, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” We always need to temper our knowledge with God’s love. No matter how well we think we’re doing in our Christian walk, we always need to stay close to God and keep the conversation – and our relationships – going. So, lets not live like straying sheep, but remain in him through prayer, praying both privately and together as a body.

Verses for meditation:

Psalm 23             http://biblehub.com/esv/psalms/23.htm

Psalm 37:5-7       http://biblehub.com/psalms/37-5.htm

Psalm 37:23        http://biblehub.com/psalms/37-23.htm

Psalm 86:11        http://biblehub.com/psalms/86-11.htm

Psalm 119:133    http://biblehub.com/psalms/119-133.htm

Psalm 139:23-24 http://biblehub.com/psalms/139-23.htm

Proverbs 3:5-8    http://biblehub.com/proverbs/3-5.htm

1 John 1:7          http://biblehub.com/1_john/1-7.htm

Acts 1:14            http://biblehub.com/acts/1-14.htm

Colossians 4:2     http://biblehub.com/colossians/4-2.htm

Posted in Prayer, The Church | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments