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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.            

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why Forgive?

I will never forgive him for what he did!” Have you ever said that to yourself about someone who deeply hurt you?    

When someone you trust lies, physically abuses, verbally intimidates, tricks or uses you – it hurts. It causes emotional injuries that swell up into resentment, anger or bitterness, which all have rooms at Hotel Unforgiveness.  Margaret Stunt once said that “unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” 

What are the options we have when someone has hurt us?  Should we just bury it, sever the relationship or plot some type of nasty revenge?  I believe there is a better way - forgiveness. When someone has hurt or injured us emotionally they instantly become a “debtor” to us and do not even know it. This means they owe us. They owe an apology, the effort to make things right or just something for the pain they have caused.

Here is the real challenge of forgiveness.  If we choose to forgive someone that means we choose to “write off” their debt.  We no longer demand they fix what we believe they broke.  Instead, we set the person free. 

Why should we forgive? First, because it is realistic and pro-active. In real life, the person who hurt us probably will not or simply cannot make things right on our terms. Therefore, forgiveness takes the first step, releasing the person, rather than waiting year after year. Second, forgiveness heals. It heals the resentment, anger or bitterness that surfaced in our hearts. It is a self-healing medication that we have the ability to administer our self. Otherwise, we will carry the injury for the rest of our life.

The ultimate example on how to forgive is found in God. You and I hurt God through our sins. They were an offense and angered Him. As a result, we became a “debtor” to God. Even so, in an act of amazing grace and mercy, He took initiative to provide a way for our forgiveness. He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the debt for our sins.

I pray that we can learn from God’s example. As He extended grace and mercy to us who offended Him, may we extend the same towards those who have offended us.Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). In Jesus, may you find forgiveness for others and hope for today.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

America’s Defense

The United States was born in 1776. Since then America has been involved in over 40 wars and other military operations from the American Revolution, Iraq and Afghanistan wars to lesser known operations like the Banana Wars and Utah War. Over 1.3 million U.S. soldiers have died through all these engagements.

The brutality of war is seen at Arlington National Cemetery and other military cemeteries. If Americans explore their family linage they will likely discover relatives who died while taking up arms in defense of our country. In the midst of these cemeteries we might ask, "How can our nation truly be protected? When war takes life after life, who is left to defend when all is gone?"

America has always had two lines of defense. Our heroic soldiers and Almighty God. Our first President, George Washington, was also General Washington who led our nation’s first army in the Revolutionary War. In a letter he once wrote, "By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability and expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, altho' death was leveling my companions on every side." Washington knew if America was to succeed it required skilled soldiers and a military that trusted in God’s divine protection. He was so committed to this he took steps to create a military chaplaincy so America’s soldiers would walk in a manner worthy of God’s protection.

Centuries before Washington there was another great military leader who rose to lead his nation, King David. He also sought not just the skill of a soldier and effective weapons but of God Himself. He once said, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. O Lord, save the king! (Psalm 20:7, 9).

Our history is rich, lined with stories about the providence of God in battle. What will our future look like? Is God’s protection always guaranteed? He is not beholden to one race, ethnic group, nation or tribe. Therefore, may our nation’s leaders and military personnel be a people who are worthy of God’s guidance and divine protection. May Jesus be our nation’s hope for today and generations to come.