Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Weakness of Power

President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”  No matter if someone is a leading political official, the top of a successful company, or even a parent they all have something in common.  Their position comes with power.

The need for responsible management of power is essential because it is in our human nature to use it for personal gain, and that is when self-preserving actions are taken to assert and retain it.  In the short term, these moves may bring success, however, in the long term they will bring destruction. 

These scheming efforts result from a poisonous cocktail all power-hungry people drink. It is a potent mixture of pride, arrogance and selfishness along with a shot of greed.  Interestingly though, rather than securing their position with power moves, over time, it weakens it so what they have built will mercilessly be ripped from their fingers in embarrassment and shame.     

Imagine if someone occupied a seat of power from the mindset of serving rather than receiving, humility rather than pride, generosity rather than greed?  What if they never operated out of a self-preservation motive?  What if they did what was right, good and just even if they knew it might cost them their position?

There is an example of someone who did lead that way – Jesus.  In three years, He rose from an obscure carpenter to one of the most powerful and influential figures of His day.  Today, nearly 2,000 years later, His name is known worldwide and the movement He started, Christianity, numbers in the billions of followers. 

Jesus made a startling statement that reveals His unique style of leadership, “For even the Son of Man [Jesus] came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). 

What would happen to our world if people in positions of power led in the example of Jesus?  Imagine the difference it would make.  May those with great power exercise great responsibility.  May leaders choose to humble themselves before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, calling upon Him to change their hearts and thereby change the culture of the family, organization or nation they lead. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Day God Died . . .

The day God died. The statement itself sounds odd. How could God die? Is not that what makes God, God? Immorality? Yet, when we speak of the annual Easter celebration we are talking about remembering His death.        

Jesus was considered by many of His followers to be God of heaven and earth in human flesh. Then He died a scandalous, torturous death. No doubt it left His followers confused and perplexed. How could someone who claimed to be God and did all sorts of miracles to verify it literally die before their very eyes?

Every one of us is uniquely born for a purpose. Some totally miss it while others fulfill their destiny. Jesus was no different. Before His birth it was spoken that "he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). This divine mission would bring hope to hundreds of thousands during His own generation and billions over the next two millennium. However, this mission had a high cost. It required Jesus willingly lay down His life under the most inhuman of circumstances. The provision for this forgiveness of the sins mandated it

Sin is many things. It is the pride, selfishness and rebelliousness of a person’s heart. It shows itself in practical ways through lying, sexual immorality or unforgiveness. Ultimately, it is a darkness that lay in each heart human that required the greatest force in the universe to advance against it - Jesus and His cross.

He humbly laid His life down on that cross and only He could have done it. As God Himself, He was sinless, perfect, without any fault. One sinner could not provide forgiveness for another sinner. Only a perfect man could provide forgiveness for an imperfect one. Jesus was humanity’s only hope. He lay Himself down to become mankind’s sin-bearer. He who was without sin willingly bore the sin of the world.

God gave of Himself, for His own creation. Why did He go to such lengths? Love. He saw where the path of a self-righteous and wicked heart led. The destruction it created in this life and the eternal pain in led to in the next. Compelled by love God died . . . then rose again. Yes! He rose from the grave defeating the power of sin while securing forgiveness for all who call upon Him in belief and repentance. Let the greatest power in the universe sweep clean the darkness of your soul today and bring new life.     

Monday, February 1, 2016

Casinos, Lotteries & Online Gaming – All a Pack of Lies

Gambling is a worldwide activity that has been around for much of human history.  However, in modern times it has scaled like never before due to technology and public acceptance.  Elected officials see the financial benefit of gambling, making it more accessible, and the church has muted its opposition.     
The gambling industry in partnership with government and business have conspired together to produce a masterful public relations strategy.  It promotes gambling as a fun recreational activity that also provides needed public funding for education or other worthy causes.     

On the surface it all seems innocent, but at its core gambling is a wretched vice.  This evil is built on a flashy, well-orchestrated scheme of stealing.  Except, rather than doing it secretively, players willingly fork over their cash hand over fist.  They give the card dealer, the grocery store clerk or the online website their hard earned income in return for a false hope of a jackpot rarely seen.      

This devilish vice has been destroying lives for centuries and now more than ever.  According to a Gambling treatment organization, over 80% of Americans have gambled on some level foolishly giving over $500 billion to these crafty thieves.  On top of that it costs our economy over $40 billion, which comes from credit losses to businesses due to a gamblers unpaid debt and for the expense of social services to get them help.  Additionally, gambling can lead to job loss, bankruptcy, fraud, depression, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse and much, much more.  Get the picture?  Every time I watch a TV add extolling the virtues of gambling I yell “It’s a lie!”  Ask any family member of someone who has a gambling problem if they think it is just a “harmless recreational activity that is for the good of the economy and jobs.” 

The Scripture is spot on when it comes to gambling saying, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).  The love of money drives this evil and its misplaced love has caused people to wander away from their jobs, families and God. 

Yes, our businesses and families need to make an income to survive, but let us do it with a moral conscience.  Do what is wise, right and good.  Start by turning to God for His help in providing answers where there is financial need, no matter if it is in the hundreds or millions of dollars.  Then let us patiently wait for His answer, turning from relying on our own wisdom.  Real hope is not found in dollars and cents but in Almighty God who is Creator and Owner of all.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Islam is no Peaceful Religion

 Former Republican President George W. Bush stated less than three weeks after America was attacked in 2001 that “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.  That's not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.”  Current Democratic President, Barrak Obama, agrees along with many other elected officials.  Is it true?  Is Islam a religion of peace?

 I respectfully disagree.  Yes, the majority of Muslims are peaceful but Islam itself is not.  Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, declared that “Muslims must kill non-believers wherever they are unless they convert to Islam.”  Where does Mr. Gomaa and other scholars get such ideas?  Their teachings come from Islam’s sacred text and the example of its founder, the Prophet Muhammad.  The Quran says, “Slay them (the infidels) wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out, for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter” (2:191).  Some Muslim’s may choose a moderate approach and ignore this, others may counter it with an opposing Quran teaching, but others obey this command.     

If someone is a non-Muslim, albeit an atheist, Christian, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist, and refuses to convert to Islam, they are an infidel and vulnerable to confrontation, especially if they live in an Islamic nation.  If someone abandons their Muslim faith, tries to evangelize Muslims, speaks out against Islam, or violates Islamic Sharia Law, their lives are at risk.      

Islam itself, not fringe groups or leaders, provide the foundation for the appalling Islamic-motivated atrocities we have witnessed in breaking news stories.  It is just too wide spread to deny.  One expert found that since 9/11 there have been over 20,000 of these attacks, averaging about one every five hours, somewhere in the world.   

The stark contrast between Christianity and Islam is found in Jesus’ own words when He stated that “In me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  How did He overcome?  It was not done with a sword but with His cross.  He voluntarily laid His life down on that gruesome and torturous cross that others might live.  Then, He rose again showing His power over evil and death.  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, His goodness and peace is available to all – Muslims, Jews, and people of any or no religion.  His kindness and compassion is heralded across the globe with His words “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).