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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Commencement Address for Every Graduate

This month millions of students will be graduating from high school and college.  The majority of these graduates will be teenagers and twenty-somethings.  They will have achieved a worthy and important milestone for themselves.  If I had a chance to speak at their graduations here are some life lessons I would love to pass along.       

Rejoice and celebrate your achievement.  So far you have invested 12 years, maybe 16 or even more to this point.  Do not let it slide by without enjoying the moment.  Celebrate!   


Recall the people that helped you make it.  No man or woman is an island to him or herself.  Thank your parents.  Take time to understand the emotions they are experiencing, as their little boy or girl will soon be leaving home.  Thank your teachers and professors for their hard work.  Thank the friends who were always there.

Release the heartache connected with the journey.  Your celebration may be bittersweet.  Perhaps there is conflict within your family.  Maybe you have not fit in well with other students or carry a broken heart.  Whatever it is, you can choose to hold onto the pain or release it.  Vow to let go of the past when you receive your diploma and embrace a new future.   

Resolve to never give up.  There were challenges in reaching this day and there will be challenges tomorrow.  Researchers say that this year’s high school graduating class should be much higher because close to one-third of the students did not graduate.  And the college graduating class should be much higher because nearly 50% of those who started, never finished.   But, you did!  You overcame! 

Remember the Creator.  A wise old King once said, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  It is very easy to forget God or to no longer believe He exists in the days of youth.  A sense of adventure, a desire to question, being at the peak of energy and strength, living for the moment and a feeling of independence can all lead there.  There are many benefits with youth, but some drawbacks too.  In the zeal for life, the tendency to live for self and forget God is a major one.  Yet, He has a way of keeping us in-check.  God has said there will be a day of reckoning, where we must stand before Him and give an account for how we have lived. 

With diploma in hand, consider there is one final commencement for us all.  Someday we will face Life’s Graduation and pass from earth into eternity.  Age is no indicator of when that graduation will come.  Each day prepares us for it.  Make the most of today, tomorrow and your future by becoming a follower of God’s only Son, Jesus.  Turn from your ways and seek His, the One who made you and knows you best. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Who’s The World’s Most Polarizing Figure?

I have had the privilege of being Guest Chaplain at the U.S. Senate and House of Representative as well as the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives. I took these opportunities, not to religiously grandstand, but to genuinely pray for the legislators before me and for my state and country. Only one time did I ever experience push-back. After reviewing my prayer, the Chaplain sent it back and suggested some changes. I did my best to honor him, but after the fourth revision, with great respect I finally said, "I understand the position you are in, but I must close my prayer with 'In the name of Jesus.'" Reluctantly, he permitted it.
 
The Chaplain was a good Christian, but concerned over the fallout he would receive. He knew that some legislators, because of their religious position, would be offended at the use of Jesus’ name.

David Limbaugh, who wrote the book Persecution, summed it up when he stated "Jesus is offensive." And Jesus Himself explained "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before . . . you" (John 15:18).

From the moment of His birth to the present, Jesus has consistently topped the Who's Who List for the world's most polarizing figure. On the one hand, every Sunday millions gather to worship and adore Him as Savior and Lord. And on the other, over 60 nations are imprisoning, killing or culturally ostracizing followers of Jesus.

What is so offensive? It is His name. Jesus, means Savior. He is a Savior from sin, and since no one can forgive sins but God, He is also deity. These two truths inflame His adversaries and cause His followers to worship Him.

The deeper reason for the offensiveness of Jesus is the sinfulness found in human hearts. Whether it is an individual, government or a religion, we all want to do life our way. We want to be in control, make our own choices and pursue our own path. That is sin. And if the affects of our sin rise to unbearable levels we mask it with work, addictions or trying to be a good person. Yes, we may acknowledge Jesus was a good teacher and person, but stop short of changing our ways for Him. In a sense, when He comes knocking we hold up a sign in our hearts that says "Resist!"

One day, love Him or hate Him, He will bring the whole world to its knees. The Scripture says, "God has highly exalted him . . . so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord . . ." (Philippians 2:9,10,11). Instead of raising up your defenses towards Jesus, consider humbling yourself and discovering His joy and peace.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Let the Protestors Voices be Heard

For much of human history, regardless of the chosen nation's political ideology, the human voice has never been silenced. From Russia and China to the United States and around the world – voices have risen up no matter the cost. As a minister of the gospel I have read the history books where Christians rose up against the religious establishment centuries ago. They became known as Protestants because they protested a series of religious injustices, and many were martyred for their stance.

In keeping with the human spirit to give voice to grievances, let those who oppose President Donald Trump's election and policies have their say. At the same time, the means by which these voices protest - I stand against.

The Bible says, “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy” (Proverbs 12:20). The spirit and culture of the Trump protests resemble nothing of peace, but rather the marks of evil. The torching of cars, breaking of windows in local businesses and hurling of bricks - is evil. The intimidation of children, physical assaulting of women and spewing of vulgar laced rants - is evil.

Voices of opposition and criticism are not evil. They are helpful, providing needed checks and balances among those who hold positions of power. However, when the message of opposition is cloaked in immoral, wicked and inhumane conduct, it becomes evil and should be condemned and delegitimized.

The late Dr. Saul Alinski, author of the highly influential Rules for Radicals, wrote “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.” Alinski's values are no doubt having an influence on the shadow-like leaders behind these dangerous protests. These tactics are the embodiment of evil, resembling nothing of peace.

Yes, these methods will win some battles in the short-term, but in the long-term they will lose the war. Their cause wields the weapons of evil, unknowingly stepping into a spiritual battle with God. It goes way beyond political parties, people or institutions. Evil's greatest foe is God and He always wins.

What do you stand against? What are you opposing? Let your voice be heard, but avoid using evil means to call attention to it. Rather, seek just, moral and peaceful methods to advance your cause. Additionally, lay your conviction before God. He is the ultimate whistle blower and standard of truth. Follow His wisdom through His Word in pursuit of justice.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Praying For Our New President

I believe in the importance and power of prayer.  Very few times in my life have I had someone refuse it.  Mostly, whether they were religious or not they seemed to welcome prayer.  Elected officials are among those.  I have heard of some who were extremely grateful that people were praying for them.  During President Obama’s administration I was one of probably hundreds of thousands that regularly prayed for him.  I plan to do the same for President Trump as well. 

While reading my Bible I came across a story that highlighted the value of prayer at the highest levels of government.  It took place in the transition of power from David, King of Israel, to his son Solomon who would succeed him.  In the midst of this, King David offered a public prayer for his country.

He prayed for his people saying to God, “. . . direct their hearts toward you” (1 Chronicles 29:18).  The old, wise King knew who was really over the affairs of his country – God.  Therefore, he prayed that the affections of the people would first and foremost be toward Him.  This is something we can learn from.  If our hearts are bent chiefly toward a political party or ideology then we are on a crooked path to an eventual downfall.  However, if we fix our eyes straight ahead and walk according to God’s purposes, the foundation of our nation will be made secure.     

He also prayed for the new King saying to God, “. . . may he keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all” (1 Chronicles 29:19).  Again, the experienced King knew who was the author of blessing and cursing on his nation – God.  And He knew how to remain in a healthy relationship with Him and how to follow His counsel in governing.  He knew all these answers were found in the Scriptures and prayed the next King, his son, would give himself to knowing and following God through His Word.

As the seasoned King prayed, he was aware of the price of neglect.  He knew that each person, his son and the entire nation, could choose to do as they wished.  As a result, he warned them not to abandon God and go their own way.  For the price would be great for his country if they did. 

Join me in praying for our new President.  As we do, let us also commit ourselves afresh toward God.  May our hearts be fixed on Him.  Additionally, let us pray that President Trump will know God personally and walk in accordance with His holy Word for the welfare of his own soul and our nation.