Saturday, February 15, 2014

When you see these things ...

Civil unrest and disorder in Egypt and Ukraine.  Utter chaos in Somalia.  Civil War in South Sudan and Syria.  Terror and nuclear threats from Iran, North Korea, and Afghanistan.  A growing global al-quaeda and terror networks.  Power grid and cyber infrastructure concerns (think Eric Snowden).   US intelligence leaders in their annual reports said this month that the least secure the United States has ever been.  Decreasing our nuclear weapons, our military size, and our military presence in hostile terror environments diminishes our influence/power and makes the world a much less stable place.

On top of that are our economic concerns.  We are 17 trillion in debt and growing every day.  In just the last 5 years, our government has increased its debt by more than 60 % of its original debt (10 trillion).  Our government has spent over 6 trillion since the economic stimulus package.  Much of that money was wasted on unnecessary items.  We could be only 2-3 years from what Greece went through.  We're not talking about an economic disaster but an economic collapse.  It won't be so trivial when you drive up to the bank to get your money and its not there. A US economic collapse will effect the entire world.  
My friend just called me to inform me an earthquake that happened last night in South Carolina.  That is on top of the ice storm their state just received where there Governor stepped up to say that it worse than an hurricane in terms of damage.  Having lived in SC, I can tell you that is unusual weather. 

In Matthew 24:6, Jesus said that hearing of wars and rumors of war and having famines and earthquakes in various places are nothing but the beginning of birth pains.  Jesus went on to describe more pains and then he gave a lesson from a fig tree saying, "when you see all these things," you know the end is near. 

None of us this should catch us off guard.  We live on a fallen earth with fallen man given dominion to run the planet.  However, we don't have complete control.  There is One who keeps the planet rotating so that we can do all our tasks under the sun. 

If God thought economics was the problem, he would have sent us an economist.  If He thought education was the problem, he would have sent us an educator.  If He thought politics was the problem, he would have sent us a politician.  But God knew sin was our problem thus He sent us a Savior.

Thankfully, this Savior has promised to return and to make all things right.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Getting High on Jesus!

The moral landscape of our country is changing and changing fast.  CBS reports that 51% of the nation favors legalizing pot.  Currently 20 states have already legalized marijuana for medical purposes while 2 states (Colorado and Washington) have legalized marijuana for recreational use.  Although there may be concern for both areas, I want to focus my attention on the latter.  We have a President in office who has come out recently to state he himself used marijuana in his younger years and that it is no more dangerous than alcohol and not much different than smoking cigarettes.

First off, it is not wise for any leader, much less one in a Presidential position to say such things.  It does not send the proper message to the children and youth of our nation.  Secondly, marijuana is much different than cigarettes and can be more dangerous than alcohol.  Obviously, we know the dangers that drunkenness can bring but that is not the context that our President framed his words.  Marijuana is a mind altering substance that often produces hallucinations.  I have heard of social drinkers but not so much of social pot-heads so I would disagree here with the President's analysis.  Though it might be possible to smoke pot without getting high, who is doing that (exactly).  And last time I checked, cigarettes may provide a buzz but not a hallucination.     

According to the Bible, we can place this kind of recreational activity in the category of sorcery and witchcraft (the greek word being pharmakeia).  Our President says what is happening in Colorado and Washington is an experiment.  Well, I don't believe we should be experimenting with people's lives. 

However, marijuana isn't the only drug problem in America.  It was reported tonight about Vermont's troubles with the drug heroine.  And cocaine has not disappeared.  Wikipedia describes speed as coca leaves that are soaked in gasoline and sulfuric acid to produce the substance cocaine.  Common sense says we don't need to be putting any substance with gasoline into our bodies.

The results are a land filled with people going to rehab and family members hurting and stealing from the ones they "love" the most. 

So what is the solution?  Ultimately, we cannot blame politicians.  As God's people, we must look ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves if we are praying for our country.  Are we caring enough to consistently pray for lost people (that includes the druggie) and then share God's love with them?  Are we praying for our nation or is the church's head stuck in the sand?  Are we praying for our President?  In the 70's, a great movement known as the Jesus Movement began where many hippies (yes, I'm sure many pot smokers) came to know the Jesus that radically transformed their lives and for that matter the church itself!  But all movements begin and end with prayer.  We need a new movement today.  A gospel movement that begins and ends with prayer! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


A new movie entitled Lone Survivor is set to open within the next month.  The film is based on SEAL Team 10's failed mission: Operation Red Wings on June 28, 2005, to capture or kill a notorious Taliban leader during the War in Afghanistan (Wikipedia).  Actor Mark Wahlberg plays real life lone survivor SO2 Marcus Luttrell. 

Lone Survivor tells the incredible tale of four Navy SEALs on a covert mission to neutralize a high-level al-Qaeda operative who are ambushed by the enemy in the mountains of Afghanistan. Faced with an impossible moral decision, the small band is isolated from help and surrounded by a much larger force of Taliban ready for war. As they confront unthinkable odds together, the four men find reserves of strength and resilience as they stay in the fight to the finish.

CBS's interview with Luttrell and his Vice Admiral is below:

"Marcus Luttrell's three SEAL team mates weren't the only American casualties in the battle. A chopper with 16 other Special Operations forces that had rushed to help Luttrell and his team was shot out of the sky. Everyone on board was killed.

At the time, in June 2005, it was the largest loss of life in one day for Naval Special Warfare since World War II. A former commander of Marcus Luttrell's, retired Vice Admiral Joe Maguire, told us no SEAL will ever forget that terrible day.

Anderson Cooper: Was that the toughest day for you as a Special Forces commander?

Joe Maguire: Yes. You know, most people of my generation, they ask the question, you know, do you remember when Kennedy was shot? Well I remember that as well, but a much more moving day for me and one that's more defining is the 28th of June, 2005, when that helicopter was shot down and three of my men were killed on the ground.

Nineteen men lost their lives. Vice Admiral Joe Maguire was head of SEAL training at the time.

Joe Maguire: You would have to go back to World War II to have had one day where we experienced that many casualties at one time."

In one of the more moving parts of the interview, Luttrell stated he was a coward because he put his gun down in a fight and covered his ears because he could not stand anymore to listen to his best friend die.  Luttrell stated the only way to break a Seal was to kill them but at that point in time he had reached his breaking point.

Luttrell was right in his interview when he stated that it is said every man has his breaking point.  In physical and even spiritual battles, we are only human.  Many times our best efforts are in vain.  But there is One that came down on our behalf to make up for our failures.  And this individual could bend without breaking because he was more than man.  This man was Jesus but this man was also God.  The enemy did everything possible to Him, hung Him on a cross with all of our sins attached, yet He did not break.  He endured the cross for us, his joy.  The grave couldn't hold Him and death couldn't defeat Him.  You can't kill what won't die.  When death looked Him in the eye, He responded like Clint Eastwood, "make my day."  For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Disciples or Drones?

Last week, CBS's 60 Minutes produced an intriguing piece on the future of the company Amazon by interviewing its founder Jeff Bezos:   Innovative technology stood at the forefront of the interview with one idea standing heads and shoulders above the rest:  Autonomous drones or octacopters (8 blades) with "amazon prime air" written on them that fly out of fulfillment or distribution centers that will fly to GPS locations (your home or your front porch) dropping off packages (up to 5 pounds) that you order in 30 minute delivery times.  The drones would operate within a 10 mile radius from their fulfillment centers. 

There are many parallels here that can be made to The Church.

The church has likewise been given a gospel message to deliver that is much weightier than 5 lbs.  The church is autonomous.  The church is like a distribution and a fulfillment center in that it distributes the good news or the gospel and provides people fulfillment found in Christ alone.  The church can use GPS to locate people within a 10 mile radius to share the gospel with.

However, there is one major difference between Amazon's new technology and The Church.  The Church will never have the luxury to rely solely on drones to deliver the good news.  That's because the gospel was never meant just to be handed out.  It was meant first and foremost to be lived out.  Robots can go but robots can never live.  Only casual Christianity would call for a robot to do what we were commanded to be.  We were never called to solely deliver good news.  We were called to be Disciple Makers.   If all we had to do was get the message out, using drones would be a great route to take.  But we have been called to so much more.

Another impressive technology (also on the video) found in Amazon is their Amazon Web Services (AWS).  To keep track of its massive online orders, Amazon created a large and sophisticated computing infrastructure called AWS.  Amzaon then found out it could expand the infrastructure for hundreds of thousands of companies (Netflix for one) and government agencies (the CIA, etc.) in what is known as "The Cloud."  Perhaps you have heard this expression in your company that some pertinent information was lost in the clouds (referring to internet space) and later you may get the good news that the information was found.    

I find "The Cloud" to be a fascinating concept.  Daniel went through his own cloud like experience (Read Daniel 10).  Sometimes our prayers are just floating up there and God's answer hasn't gotten to us yet. We can't see the heavenly realm but spiritual warfare is taking place.  The thing we must remember is God's answers to us are always in His time and they are always on time.   

Jeff Bezos also noted Amazon's big ideas to be customer centricity and invention which he said included going down the dark alley to see what's on the other side.  In contrast to Jeff's company, I believe some of the big ideas in God's Church leading to personal and corporate revival include Christocentric preaching (emphasis is on Christ compared to the consumer) and consistently incorporating the spiritual disciplines in our life (what we should heavily do when we find ourselves in those dark night of the soul moments) which lead us into approaching God and His holiness.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Political Transformation?

Last night, I listened to the new President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission speak at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s event called Casual Conversations.  His position is basically one that gives a public address for stances that Southern Baptists take concerning moral and religious issues.  There are many issues and topics on the table now that include same-sex marriage, gender identity, and contraception laws, human trafficking, cloning, and the affordable care act among others. 

We need more Christian leaders and church members who will answer God’s call to have a voice in American politics.  I would like to take a moment to briefly discuss the grave injustice that has taken place in our country and the solution to the problem.  Much of my information will be drawn from Wayne Grudem’s book Politics According to the Bible (ch. 5) and the website  I strongly encourage for every believer to read pages 124-154 in Grudem’s book and to regularly visit Pastor Rit Varriale’s website. 

In short, the Supreme Court has gradually discovered they could have unlimited power in our country and has thus become the most powerful group in the nation.  Rather than interpreting the original intent of the constitution, these justices go beyond the law now making new laws based on what it thinks is best for the nation.  At present, there are 4 liberal “activist” justices and 4 conservative “originalist” justices.  The swing vote is a justice by the name of Anthony Kennedy who often sides with the “originalist” justices.  In essence, this one justice has more power than the President of the United States.  Together, these 9 justices are unelected by the people (they are appointed for life by the President), are unaccountable to the people, and decide nearly all the important laws of our land. 

This idea goes against the original idea of our Forefathers and the original intent of the constitution and the original intent of the Supreme Court.  Judges were to have absolutely no role in the process of making laws or in the difficult process of amending the Constitution.  They were to judge according to a standard of laws outside of themselves.  Now they themselves have become the standard.  The result is they have determined national laws concerning abortion, homosexuality, and the removal of religion from public events and public places.  And this goes against what the majority of American citizens would vote for given the chance. 
As a country, we have drifted far away from our true founding.  In the documentary Monumental, Professor David Barton states that beginning in 1782 Congress printed and issued out 10,000 Bibles to be used in the America's school houses and that in 1798 signers of the declaration and of the constitution were funding family Bibles.

In the name of constitutionality and human rights, the courts have dominated Western society by stripping the majority of their right to live out their faith in the public square.  Our government today is no longer of the people, by the people, and for the people.  It is a government of the courts, by the secularists, and for the minority.  In essence, 2% of people decide for what 98% of people are against.    

So what do we do?  We need to remember the power of one.  The gospel doesn’t begin with societal transformation.  It begins with personal redemption in that as the gospel works its way out in individuals, societal structures will automatically be transformed.  The African slave trade is a great example.  In its day, it was a grave injustice that still has ramifications today.  However, in an optimal world, where the gospel is front and center, slavery would be obsolete.  Today, we find ourselves enslaved to the laws made by the Supreme Court.  The gospel answer is love, not hate.  When the hearts of people and communities are transformed by the gospel, there will be hope that the Supreme Court can be transformed as well!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Charlie Brown had it right!

On  December 9, 1965, CBS launched "A Charlie Brown Christmas."  I always enjoyed watching the short 30 minute cartoon as child so I thought I would re-watch the episode on ABC last night.  ABC took over the television rights beginning in 2001.  Although the show is nearly 50 years old, it would do people of all ages a service to watch it for the first time or to watch it again. 

Despite our postmodernity, this cartoon remains applicable in our time --- in ways, I must admit that I did not even realize until watching the replay.  So let me take some time to break down this show and relate it to where and how we are living today.  Charlie Brown is suffering from a mental illness, depression.  He can't figure out why he cannot enjoy Christmas and pays Lucy 5 cents for psychiatric help at the local booth.  It surprised me to see that the word "psychiatric" appeared in this 1965 show.

Though mental illnesses have rapidly increased and are now experienced by 1 out of every 5 Americans, they were not nonexistent in 1965.  Doctor Lucy mentions all kinds of phobias that Charlie Brown may be experiencing and at last mentions that maybe he just has a fear of everything.  Though Charlie Brown payed the doctor for his visit, he left unsatisfied (sound familiar). 

Charlie finds his free answer to his struggles when his friend Linus tells Charlie at play practice what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.  You can watch the 2 minute video here:  Linus actually quotes Luke 2:8-14.  Charlie Brown had it right.  Christmas isn't about secularization, commercialism, or materialism.  It's about the simple gospel answer that was provided to us in swaddling cloths. 

Perhaps you know some individuals who are depressed and can't enjoy the Christmas season.  Will you be like Linus, a true friend, and share the real reason for the season.  The show ends with a Charlie Brown greeting and a hymn that all the kids sing together, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the Newborn King." 

Children and Adults used to get out more and sing hymns like this to the community during the Christmas season.  Yes, times have changed and door to door visits do not take place like they did 30 years ago due to safety concerns, etc.  But maybe we should look into the mirror and call a spade a spade.  Maybe rather than saying times have changed, we should say our hearts have changed.  Are you compelled out of God's love for you to tell the world what He has done for you?  If so, and especially in a free country like the one we live in, a door won't seem like such a big obstacle. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Happy Happy Thanksgiving!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  Happy has become a popular word as of late...just think Duck Dynasty...HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY.... but what exactly is happiness.  In America, our view of happiness is very skewed.  Some would say happiness is a state of mind.  Others say that it is getting things they want that make them happy.  I believe happiness is a good attribute that God has given us that reveals His goodness and His image upon us as human beings.  But I also believe that Scripture teaches us that happiness is so much more.

If you want to find a happy individual, look no further than Psalms 1.  The very first word in the first verse, "blessed" has also been translated as "happy."  Happy is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.  Isaiah 26:3 puts it another way: You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. 

Bible study, memorization, meditation, and application are not just spiritual exercises.  They are the pathway to happiness and peace.  Not only happiness and peace but also success.  God told Joshua to meditate on the book of the law both day and night so he would be careful to do everything written in it.  Then God says to Joshua that by doing so he would be both prosperous and successful.

So we can see what happiness is and what it is not.  Happiness is not seeing the external expectations you have in life come to be.  Simply put, you are not happy because you get what you want or what your heart desires.  In fact, I have noticed the opposite to be true.  Those who get often want more and are never satisfied.  The lust for more never brings contentment.  I have seen many unhappy marriages, unhappy customers, unhappy kids, unhappy employees, etc.  That is because idols never deliver.  People, families, jobs, things can never fill the happy void.

Happiness is an inner satisfaction in and a loving relationship with a Holy God.  Only God can bring fulfillment in one's life and this takes place in spite of outside circumstances one finds him or herself in.  Reread Psalms 1.  In today's case, you won't ultimately be forever happy because you ate to your heart's content.  At best, you will wonder why you can't eat like this every day.  At worse, you will wonder why you ate too much.  No, happiness is much more than a state of mind.  Happiness is a gift from God!