Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Having Optimism in a Chaotic World

One day as I was checking out from a store and visiting with the clerk about random things, he said to me “We are in trouble!” referring to world and national events.  He is not alone in his line of thinking.  Many people I visit with are very concerned about the state of our world no matter if they are religious or not. 

Honestly, they have a reason to be.  The natural disasters America is experiencing with monumental flooding and raging fires is displacing tens of thousands and causing hundreds of millions in damages.  The death tolls our major cities are facing due to violence are higher than what our soldiers have faced on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The effect of political ideology and battles are reaching with devastating effects, to the smallest corners of our society.  Even so, in the face of this I have tremendous optimism. 

First, I understand where all this craziness is coming from so it comes without alarm.  We live in a place where there is a God who is good, and a Devil who is evil.  These opposing forces naturally lead to ongoing spiritual battles that are revealed in our daily news headlines.  Jesus spoke of this when He said, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.  I came that they might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  The work of the thief produces chaos leading to pessimism, while the work of Jesus produces hope leading to optimism. 

The reason I believe these are great days is because of Jesus’ resurrection centuries ago.  There is a common phrase in Christian circles that goes, “Because He lives, I live.”  This speaks of the victory Jesus won through His cross.  Leading up to His epic victory, evil and its allies threw every form of attack at Him.  When He was arrested, tried and sentenced to death - they rejoiced.  When He was tortured - they cheered.  When He was nailed to the cross and died - they rose in a spirit of achievement.  When He was buried - they celebrated. 

Then three days later the tables were turned.  Suddenly, Jesus was revived!  He rose from the dead!  He walked victoriously out of His own tomb!  Evil cried out in anguish at His triumph.  He won!  Evil was defeated!  Evil no longer was the world’s Dictator.  People can now have optimism and hope in the face of violence and destruction.   

Because He lives, so can we!  Because He overcame, so can we overcome!  Because He was victorious, so can we be victorious!  Because of Jesus’ resurrection, no matter the circumstances, there is ALWAYS a future and hope!  If we turn from our sin and place our trust fully in Jesus, His victory and hope will be ours.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Police and Black Protestors - The Unnecessary Divide

The clashes between police and black protestors have riveted the nation.  Young black men have lost their lives at the hands of police and police have lost their lives in retaliation.  As a result charges of racism have been thrown back and forth by supporters and opponents.  The word that comes to mind when I ponder all this is – division, and how unnecessary it is.          

What good do protestors accomplish by cursing, yelling, throwing rocks, physical assaults and death threats?  Yes, they get the attention of the public, news media and lawmakers.  However, in the face of such lawlessness their cause has become blurred due to their egregious actions.  Furthermore, the character they have brought to the table to attain their goals has become marred. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. was adamant about his use of peaceful means for change.  He once stated, “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.”  Yes, his protests did have clashes with police but he did not provoke it with rude and crude means.  He maintained class and calmness in the face of unjust circumstances. 

There is indeed a tragedy of epic proportions among the young black men of our American inner cities.  The situation they face should alarm all Americans no matter their color.  For an inner city black baby to grow up and graduate from high school is against many odds, then adding college, finding a career, getting married and having a family is even more rare.  Unfortunately, going to prison or getting shot from gang violence or police is all too common. 

Does retaliating against police or the system help these young men?  I believe the answer starts with Jesus.  Through His suffering, death and resurrection overcame all the forces hell could assail at Him.  He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd” (John 10:10). 

If protestors sought out inner city pastors and churches and together they cried out to God against the evil and injustices in their communities, what a difference that would make!  Through Jesus division can turn to unity, evil to good and hate to love.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Global Moral Confusion

When we look at the news headlines any given week in America there is good reason to be concerned about the present state and future of our nation.  Where are we headed?  However, the concern does not stop just at our borders.  When we look at worldwide events the concern is the same. 

The Pew Research Center conducted the survey, Global Views on Morality.  They selected eight topics deemed to be moral issues and asked people from 40 nations what they thought.  The survey was telling.  When the response categories “Approve” and “Not a Moral Issue” were combined, between 17% and 75% of the world’s population does not seem to have a problem with divorce, adultery, birth control and many other moral issues.   

What makes this alarming is what scientists call the “critical mass”.  According to scientific data, it is believed that if 10% or more of a population strongly holds to an idea or belief it stands a chance at spreading to the majority. Since many moral issues have critical mass acceptance, the momentum of our moral trajectory for the future of the world is of legitimate concern.
  
Generally speaking, people may agree we are in a moral crisis.  However, when we drill down into the details, division surfaces.  One group believes the cultural acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle is a moral victory while another calls it a moral catastrophe.  And so it goes for other issues too.  Perhaps we are not so much dealing with a moral crisis as moral confusion. 

The world has always faced this, but perhaps the scale and depth of depravity in our generation is like no other time. This rising tide of moral unrest and clarity can lead people to desperately search in random directions for inner peace, a cultural savior and answers to their deepest fears.  This can lead to troubling solutions making the situation even more distressing. 

What we need is a true north on our global moral compass.  What is true north?  What should be our standard for right and wrong?  Where should we go to find meaning and purpose for our life?  Jesus!  He once said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  In Him is found everything.  When we abandon doing life our way and seek Him with a desperate heart we will find all we are searching for.  Jesus is what our world needs now more than ever. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

God Loves Gays

June is the one year anniversary of the historic Supreme Court order to make same-sex marriage legal in the United States.  When we strip away the courtrooms, activist organizations and verbal arguments back and forth there are people at the heart of this decision.  Precious people, who are made in the image of God with priceless eternal souls. 

The two main groups of people caught in all this are Christians and homosexuals.  I am in the Christian group and want to say two things to my neighbors and fellow citizens who are homosexuals.  First, as a follower of Jesus, I want to apologize on behalf of other believers who may have rejected and cursed you or talked to you with an attitude of self-righteousness.  They were wrong.  No excuses.  I hope you can forgive them for their foolishness.  Second, I want to say with deep sincerity, God loves you.  He loves every lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning person.

Though less than 5% of our nation is practicing homosexuals, a super-majority are talking about this issue and many with deep-seated convictions.  This puts the LGBTQ community under the microscope, whether they want to be or not.  No doubt, with the positive coverage this movement has received over the last year, their numbers are likely growing.  Yet, with this affirming culture fostering a sense of freedom to explore one’s sexuality, there can be a downside. It can produce a sense of inner confusion and doubt. 

Our Creator made us in His image, which means we were born with a natural instinct to seek and know Him.  However, we also were born with an inclination to live our lives our own way rather than God’s way.  This attitude, in effect, leads to inner guilt and shame producing a lack of peace, spiritual restlessness and inner turmoil.  It is the predictable effect of going against what we were made for.

Homosexuality is a lifestyle that has been around for over 5,000 years of human history.  It also goes against God’s design.  For countless millennia God has been calling men and women out of this practice and giving them transformed lives.  He sent His Son Jesus to suffer, die and rise again to give them a new identity.  Not an identity based on gender or sexual practice, but one based on the person of Jesus Christ.  The Scripture says, “. . . if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).  When a person surrenders their life wholly to Jesus, in turn they receive the purity, beauty and perfection of the Son of God poured into them.  Today, you have a choice.  Change your identity.  Turn to Jesus and let Him give you a new heart, new mind and a new future.