Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Roots of Radial Islam

The news of the brutality of the ISIS fighting force has made global headlines.  ISIS is a terrorist army that has amassed a force in the tens of thousands.  Their savage march across portions of the Middle East has captured the attention of world leaders and its citizens alike.  The unashamed imagery and how they glory in their barbarism is something the world has never seen.  What motivates these fighters to do such shameless evil?   

The first motivator is their religion.  Current Muslims stand on the shoulders of millions of followers of Islam dating back over 1,200 years to their founder, Prophet Muhammad, the Quran, and the stories of their faith that have been handed down to each generation. 

Historical accounts show Muhammad engaging in brutality comparable to modern radical groups.  Some experts say 15 to 25 percent of Muslims (180-300 million) would be considered extreme similar to ISIS or Al-Qaeda.  Portions of the Quran influence their deplorable tactics with passages like “I [Allah] will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: you smite above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them” (Quran 8:12).  When bloodshed is driven by a deeply held religious belief, groups like ISIS do not see their actions as reprehensible.  They consider it honorable.  

The second motivator is money and power.  What if the money, fame, expanding territory and growth of followers were all taken away?  Would ISIS still exist?  Sometimes people can use religion as a clever mask for a deeper motivation of personal gain.   

The genuine face of peace in our world of upheaval is Jesus.  He did not come for personal gain.  He came to show us the one-true God pulling back the curtain of mystery.  Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father [God]” (John 14:9).  Sometimes our religious leaders and institutions can fall short because they are built upon flawed people.  However, when we fix our eyes on Christ we will never be disappointed. 

Jesus reveals God is not a brutal dictator.  He owns and rules the universe.  Religion, money and power do not motivate Him.  Rather, His purpose is to give.  He showed this most by giving His Son to die on a cross and rise again.  If only we would believe and turn from our sinful ways.  Then peace will reign in our hearts through His gift of forgiveness.  May Jesus be your hope and peace for today.   

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Let’s Move in Together

Clinical Psychologist Meg Jay writes about a young lady named Jennifer in a New York Times column.  She was one of Meg’s clients who lived with her boyfriend four years prior to getting married.  Then, a year after the wedding, Jennifer showed up for a session on Meg’s couch.  Jennifer told her, “We were sleeping over at each other’s places all the time.  We liked to be together, so it was cheaper and more convenient. It was a quick decision but if it didn’t work out there was a quick exit.” 

Meg states how the cohabitation rate has skyrocketed 1,500% since 1960 when there were 450,000 couples living together.  Today there are 7.5 million.  Researchers say between 50%-60% of all couples have lived or are living together with someone outside of marriage.

One report nailed it about the current state of American relationships stating, "Cohabitation is a common part of family formation in the United States, and serves both as a step toward marriage and as an alternative."

Like Jennifer couples might move in together for financial reasons or convenience, to spend more time together or to test out their relationship.  Often it is not a deliberate decision but one that couples slide into after spending a growing amount of nights together.

I truly believe if couples were asked straight up if they want a successful, healthy relationship, that 100% would give a definite yes.  I believe God has the best way to achieve that, but His way swims against popular culture.  God said, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 3:24).  God wants us to go from our parent’s home to marriage or from a season of singleness to marriage.  What is the greatest obstacle to that?  Ourselves.  We want love, happiness, companionship and sexual fulfillment and we want it yesterday!  Sometimes our path to achieve those desires is done in self-destructive ways. 

Bottom line - we need God’s help.  He sent Jesus to die and rise again that we might have victory over our lustful, impatient urges.  He came to indwell us by His Spirit and to give us power over our destructive ways.  All we need is to call upon God and say to Him, “Oh Lord, no longer my will, but only Yours be done.  Change me oh, God!” 

May Jesus be the hope of your relationship today and forever.       

Monday, August 4, 2014

Gays & Evangelicals

Almost weekly news stories appear promoting gay rights.  Currently 19 states have legalized same sex marriage while 31 states have traditional marriage laws on the books.  Additionally, President Obama has issued various executive orders furthering the equality of gays.  All this has made the gay issue a topic for public discussion.  It is not just a religious, political or social issue anymore.  It is regularly in the news and impacting many Americans on some level. 

The issue is dividing America pitting citizen against citizen.  My hope is that passionate supporters of gay rights could listen to their opponents without anger and that passionate supporters of Judeo-Christian values could listen to their opponents in the same way.     

When I step back and frame the debate in my mind I see how gays want to be acknowledged, respected and treated like everyone else.  To achieve that they feel it is necessary to push for legislative action, policy changes in business and public awareness-type initiatives.  On the other side, evangelical Christians have a traditional belief in marriage that goes back thousands of years and that homosexuality is a sin against God.  Consequently, they feel a deep conviction to stand for godly morals and against advocacy of the gay lifestyle.     

Common sense tells me there is going to be much more action taken on these issues creating more and more division.  Here is a tough question – how can gays and Christians peacefully co-exist?  The question itself is divisive because some gays believe a person can practice homosexuality and be a Christian, while evangelicals do not.  Thus my point, living peacefully will be a challenge but I believe it is possible.  Attitude is the determining factor. 

Jesus’ example and words show how it is possible.  He said, “Love your enemies, and do good . . .  expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great” (Luke 6:35).  Love does not mean approval or agreement with your opponents.  Rather, it speaks of showing kindness and compassion in the face of differences.  Jesus was strongly opposed (and eventually crucified) for His teachings and miracles.  Yet with an attitude of grace, He spoke the truth and did good for His opposition. 

This type of an attitude does not come naturally.  Our normal response is to dig in and shun or lash out.  It requires the Spirit of Jesus to create the same type of a heart that He had.  We need His help.  Let us call upon Him that He will change us.  May Jesus be our hope for today and bring peace in the face of division.          

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

America's Future

When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, our forefathers built their hopes of the nation’s survival on some important principles.  John Witherspoon, one of the Declaration signers wrote, “Nothing is more certain than that a . . . corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction.”  This is the principle of a Civil Society.  Witherspoon and other founders repeated this idea believing if America did not upkeep its civility it would become its greatest downfall.           

Would Franklin, Hancock and Adams be encouraged at the state of our union today?  According to a USA Today poll from several years ago 68% of readers thought people were more rude today then 20 to 30 years ago.     

Manners, etiquette, politeness all speak of civility.  Sandra Morisset, a professional etiquette trainer, gave ABC news an insight on a civil society saying “It's all about your self-awareness and treating others with respect. If you're not aware of your behavior, that's a problem."  I agree.  Many Americans seem to practice self-realization throwing off any concerns about “what people may think” and just “being themselves”.  Yes, we should be ourselves but not to the extent we become careless in our attitude and lifestyle to those around us.  Crime, political corruption, declining business ethics, family conflicts, broken friendships and church divisions all have their root in a lack of civility.  Since our founding we have advanced economically, educationally and technologically but plummeted in our manners. 

What did our founders believe was the foundation for a civil society?  God.  They believed if Americans chose to worship and follow Him it would lead us to become moral citizens and assure a civil society.  However, if future generations turned from God they warned that immoral behavior would rise and anarchy fill our streets.   

Jesus said, “I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  Jesus suffered, died and rose again centuries ago that we might be made into a new person.  If we believe in Him with all our being He will give us a new heart and mind.  When that happens everything changes.  We become a new person laying down our lives in love and service to others for the glory of God.  Imagine waves of people in city after city being born again and putting the concerns of others above themselves.  This is the answer for America’s future.  May Jesus be your hope for today and the next generation.