Solving the Mystery of God

God is actually unknowable—unless, of course, He chooses to reveal himself.  This is true of every human being by the way. If I don’t open up to you and share myself, you will never know me, not really.

What’s Behind the Curtain? Poor Dorothy, She truly believed the man behind the curtain was a Wizard.  But when the curtain opened, he was just a carnival huckster. Imagine a curtain, behind which lies the ultimate truth of God and the universe. Many, like Dorothy, believe they know what’s behind it, but are they right?   Continue reading

Is God a Republican or a Democrat?

Why Most God Fearing Americans are Republicans  Back in the 70’s when “born again” came into prominence,  sociologists studied Americans who claimed to be born again Christians. The one common trait they found was 90 per cent were Republicans.  Today, we read how 1000 Evangelical leaders met with Trump but we read nothing of a meeting with Hilary, so it’s probably still true. Why?

Evangelicals Focus on Only One Commandment. The Ten Commandments lists six things God hates, yet we tell the world we are concerned only with sexual sins. The sexual revolution has clearly corrupted our nation. Yet God has given us six commandments expressing his hatred for sin, not just the seventh.

Republicans Support Our Favorite Issues which all relate to sexual sins. Democrats oppose Evangelicals regarding these issues: They are:

  1. Abortion: While abortion primarily is concerned with the murder of the unborn, it also relates to sexual promiscuity, since most abortions are performed on single females. It is the Democrats who pushed through laws legalizing abortion in the U.S.  Efforts by Republicans to fight this law are consistently opposed by Democrats.
  2. Homosexuality. Democrats fight to make gays as normal as non-gays, culminating in laws giving gays equal rights to the benefit of marriage. They also pushed for the ban against “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Republicans tend to oppose these.
  3. Explicit Sex in Media: While James Dobson, Phyllis Schafly, and Jerry Falwell fought for decency in media, Democrats saw little problem with declining sexual mores. Republicans do see it and thank God they do.
  4. Ditto Pornography:

But God Also Hates Greed:  The apostles taught that lust of the flesh is for both unlawful sex and the lust for material gain, i.e. greed.  St. Paul equates them”  ”Lust for sexual pleasure… and lust for material gain must not even be named among you. (Ephesians 5:3). Jesus taught more about the evils of greed than any other moral issue, including sexual sins.  The two great evils in the book of Revelation are the Beast, symbolizing the worship of the state and Babylon, symbolizing the worship of luxuries and material things

Greed is Idolatry. Everyone greedy for money is guilty of idolatry and has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Ephesians 5:5). And…”Don’t be greedy. It’s the same as worshiping idols”. (Col 3:5)

What About the Democrats?  They are just as out of balance as the Republicans. Fifteen of the 25 issues in their political platform deal  with  economic injustice. Their only plank on sexual mores defends abortion and the civil rights of LGBT ‘s.

Is Either Party Correct to be Moral Specialists? To fight against lust for sex and ignore lust for material gain is just as wrong as opposing lust for things and ignoring lust for sexual pleasure.

Jesus called us to be “the light of the world” and “the salt of the earth.” Did He ever mean for us to do shine for Him and preserve moral values through the state?  Have we even been successful trying to change public morality through the political process?  Is this really what Jesus meant when he said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. “ (Matthew 22:21

 What do you believe?  Please tell us. We want to know.

 

 

 

How to Attract People to your Church.

”May they be one” My wife and I came to Florida with a dream and a mission—some say an impossible one. But it’s not ours at all. It’s the one Jesus stressed in his high priestly prayer for his church, then and now. When he repeated something once, we know how important it was. This request he repeats six (6) times. Count ‘em:  21 that they all may be one; as you and I are one, that they also may be one in us that the world may believe 22 …that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 may they be made perfect in oneness that the world may know you sent me. (John 17:21-23)

 What Legitimizes Our Witness? Jesus never taught his believers to attract unbelievers to church by clever promotions and signs, sound doctrines, great preaching and music in worship or outreach programs. It isn’t even the love we show unbelieving neighbors. It’s the unity and love we demonstrate to the world among ourselves. How are you doing with that?

The Church’s PR Problem We began our mission by asking unbelievers how they viewed the church? It’s very clear that folks out there have a declining interest in what the church down the street is doing or saying. They tend to either ignore us or ridicule us. Experts tell us the church has a huge PR problem.

 Our Shameful Divisions. A major cause is our disregard for Jesus plea to the Father for his people to be strive for unity. Upon witnessing a doctrinal debate between two Christians, an unbeliever interrupted by asking, “Tell me, why is it you church folks have so much trouble getting along?” How can we sing “we are one in the Spirit” anymore with a straight face? Consider these realities:

  • Neighboring churches pretty much ignore each other
  • We are at ease arguing doctrine with each other but struggle to witness to the lost.
  • We have embarrassing “denominationalism” on one hand
  • And churches that brag, “we are independent,” on the other.
  • Congregations in trouble are unwilling to pool resources with other churches.

Crisis of Leadership? When things aren’t going well in government, politicians may not take responsibility themselves, but they never blame the electorate. Yet when we talked with church leaders, the few who admitted Christianity in the U.S. is in trouble, tended to blame the sheep. One pastor confided that “today it’s all about the Christian and little about the Christ.” Another was frustrated his flock didn’t invite folks to church. One said, “my people are happy in their comfort zone.” Some saw the lack of unity in the body of Christ as a problem, but only a few were doing anything about it.

“Every congregation for itself?” We’ve seen evidence that committed Christians in the pews are ready for change. They are willing to put aside the quarrels that divide us, competition for members and lack of cooperation with other churches. Pastors, on the other hand, are caught in the struggle to keep their church afloat, retaining the members they have and gaining new ones. They tend to resist change and rarely reach out to other congregations facing similar problems. It comes down to “every congregation for itself.”

What about in your congregation?  Are you all doing anything to see Christ’s prayer answered?

 

 

 

 

Should Christians Legislate Family Values? WWJD?

Some History In the 70’s, Evangelicals like myself followed the same path mainline liberals had taken. Troubled by legalized abortion, we began lobbying legislatures. Now I ask myself why we took this approach. Liberals failed to change society’s attitudes of race and social justice through political action. What made us think we would succeed?

In the 80”s James Dobson led the fight against the sexual revolution. He sought to get legislation passed limiting overt sexuality in media and pornography. Many of us hopped on the Focus on the Family bandwagon. One reason was to protect our kids from rampant immorality. So, how did we do? Are things better? More importantly—What Would Jesus Have Done?

1)  God or Caesar Did Jesus teach us we could change public morality by cooperating with Caesar, i.e. the government?  He said  “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s?” (Matthew 22:21). Did he mean we should make Caesar our ally? Has our enormous investment in the political process paid off? Has society’s sexual values and behavior improved for the better over the last 40 years? I won’t bore you with the sad statistics. Can we just agree America’s sexual behavior is much worse now than then?

2) If the Definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over with only negative results, why do we keep appealing to Caesar?

3) Should We Give Up? Absolutely not. He told his church “You are the light of the world… You are the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5: 13, 14) In Jesus day salt’s major function was to preserve. He expected his people would not only preserve society good values, but improve them. We just need to render the things that are God’s by following Jesus’ methods, not Caesar’s to preserve and improve family values.

4) Can the Church Change Public Morality? Absolutely, and there are many examples. The best one is the how the early church transformed a culture far worse than ours. We complain about our woes, but consider theirs! They faced the Roman world, rampant with lascivious idolatry, public debauchery, deadly circus games, cruel slavery and a culture where men ruled families with an iron fist. Historians agree the church was a major factor. Gradually, like salt infiltrating and flavoring food, these terrible things grew out of favor in the empire. In fact, paganism and idolatry vanished altogether.  How did they do it?

5) Attraction Not Promotion. The first church is our model. We can make a difference by doing what they did. Luke makes it clear how turned to Jesus by:

  • Obeying his command to: “love one another” (John 13: 37-39; 15: 12, 19)
  • Following his strategy to: “be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)
  • Pursuing his commission to: “make disciples”(Matthew 23:20)

3) Being Before Doing or Saying: What did Christ mean by, “You shall be my witnesses?” (Acts 1:8). The first church needed no political action committee or evangelism campaign. They didn’t give classes in effective witnessing. They turned their world upside down by who they were and how they behaved among themselves. They earned credibility by their example before they took action to change their world. What were these things?

  • They demonstrated genuine love for God and obeyed his word: They devoted themselves to obeying what the apostles’ taught…and breaking of bread and prayers…praising God.” (Acts 2:42, 47)
  • They had a united front— Translators say it in many ways: ”they were in one accord”; “complete agreement of heart and soul;” “they were of one heart and mind.” (Acts 1:14; 2: 1, 46; 4:24; 5:12).
  • They had a joyful sense of community: they broke bread in one another’s home with gladness and singleness of heart (Acts 2:46).
  • They took care of one another: “A wonderful spirit of generosity pervaded the whole fellowship. Indeed, there was not a single person in need among them (Acts 2:45.)
  • They had a great reputation: “they won the favor of all the people.” What was the result? “The Lord added to their number daily (Acts 2:47). That’s the wonderful part. They became fruitful and grew—more by attraction than promotion and without evangelism campaigns or political action committees.

They showed how God’s love worked, both among themselves and with their neighbors. Outsiders marveled, “Look at those Christians,” they said, “how they love one another!”

What To Do?

  • We can encourage and pray for our leaders
  • Ask them to give up politics to use their gift to help local churches cooperate with one another to make a difference in our world.
  • We can turn the tide by our example of right relationships, right living and a spirit of love for our neighbor and one another.

Let us pray our leaders will help us demonstrate a united moral front to our world.

We value your insights and comments. Please join the conversation

Do Christians Need More Political Clout?

When I was a member of the liberal church, we spent hours debating and voting on  resolutions to legislatures supporting leftist causes and opposing racism and greed. At the time I wondered, what would the  apostles think of this method to improve public morality?

In the 70’s, Evangelicals joined the political game by actively lobbying to make abortion illegal, not just for believers, but for everyone. Later James Dobson led the fight to get legislation passed against the sexual revolution, including sexuality in the media and  pornography.  This was done largely to protect America’s families and children from growing promiscuity. Many Evangelicals, including myself, hopped on the Focus on the Family bandwagon. How did we do?

Now candidate Trump woos religious conservatives, promising them more political clout by repealing an old law prescribing tax penalties for religious groups who get involved in politics. Many of our leaders applaud this, but is this really a good thing for the cause of Christ? And what has been the fruit of this push by Christians to change public morality through political action?

  • Results The liberal church made no dent in eliminating racism and greed. How about our Evangelical efforts in the political ring? Has America’s morality improved over the last 40 years? Can we point to any real gains in issues of abortions? How about homosexual marriage, pornography and sexual morality in general?
  • History  And what does history teach us about Christian crusades to improve public morality by political means? Consider prohibition, the largely Christian movement which resulted in getting a constitutional ban on alcohol passed in 1920. How did that work out?  We’ve heard that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, failing each time,  yet continue to expect different results. Isn’t that us?
  • Reputation. How do folks outside the church view us today? Does the man in the street see us as a positive force for morality or as sanctimonious spoil sports—self-appointed policemen of the bedroom?
  • Mission. When believers campaign against sin in elections, in public courts and political arenas, are we truly obeying Christ’s command to love one another and make disciples?  Do we demonstrate our love for God and our fellow-man by demonstrating against sin?
  • Job Description Is it the job of the Christian church to convince the world of sin? “When the Holy Spirit  comes, he will show the people of the world how wrong they are about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment.” (John 16:8) Is it possible we try to play God when we shout our indignation to an unsaved world at how badly they are behaving?
  • Our Children. We got into this fight for them. Is our world a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren? Are we winning our youth to Christ or turning them off?
  • Membership. Has the church gained or lost members over the last 40 years?

In short, has our plunge into the political arena stirred the moral conscience of society or is it costing us our authentic witness and losing the ear of the American public?

Our next post addresses the question, “What does Jesus and the apostles say about our modern obsession with politics?”

We value your insights and comments. Please join the conversation.

 

Why Have Evangelicals Jumped on the Trump Bandwagon?

Like many Americans, I’m not happy with our choices for president. But if I do vote for Trump, it’s not because I’m convinced he’s a great Christian or even a great guy. I really don’t know. My vote would be rather against his opponent’s policies, who, like Obama, wants more and bigger government to cure all our ills. Remember how Samuel warned Israel about requesting a king, to be governed like their neighbors? God told Samuel, “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (I Samuel 8:7). Are God’s people today looking too much to government to provide for them and to little to God?

Trump wants to be president. He says it’s because, “I want to make America great again.” His latest strategy to woo Evangelicals features choosing an Evangelical, Gov. Mike Pense to be his running mate. He also met with a thousand evangelical leaders, including Billy’s kid, Franklin Graham, Jerry’s boy, Jerry Falwell Jr and Ralph Reed. He apparently won them over by Trump-eting the Bible and shouting his undying love for Evangelicals. He wowed them and vowed them. Among other things, he promised to give Christians more religious freedom and even more political clout than we presently enjoy.

Is He a Wolf in Sheepskin?  I don’t know, but how might we tell if he’s genuine and means what he says? Jesus gave us a tried and true formula:  “By their fruits you shall know them.”[Matt. 7:16]. One paraphrase puts it this way,  “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with charisma and practiced sincerity. They are out to deceive you. Don’t be impressed with their words but with their character. It’s not what they say that’s important, it’s how they behave.”  

He’s a great talker. At the very least, we should be wary of giving him our Christian imprimatur. So far his speeches have included many words ballyhooing the Bible, but has he personally confessed Christ as his savior? What actions of his can we point to that demonstrate he’s genuine? Again, I can’t, but neither do I believe him just because he says so.  There are a few things that should raise some red flags however.

Have we forgotten the statement he made while campaigning against his rival, Ted Cruz? I don’t have the exact quote, but I’ll never forget how he put down Cruz’s evangelical faith, assuring his audience that he was not a member of a far-out fringe group like Cruz, but of an old, established, main-line and liberal denomination. Moreover, when he was interviewed by CNN’s Frank Luntz, his answer to whether he ever asked God for forgiveness was, “I’m not sure I have…if I do something wrong, I think I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture.”

He brags a lot and seems to lack humility, one of the characteristic Christian virtues. It’s not hard for me to believe that this proud man  ever feels the need to ask God or anyone else to forgive him for his wrongs.

His body language I watched him carefully during his 60 Minutes interview with Governor Pense at his side.  First, he gave his new partner little chance to talk. He dominated and controlled the interview, even interrupting Pense more than once.  I saw how Pense tried several times to get Trump to engage him with eye contact. But he never once really looked at his running mate. His aggressive speech and body language said to me, “I’m not comfortable sharing the stage with him, or anyone else. It’s about me.” We saw this also  by the lack of courtesy he offered his running mate when he introduced him. He used the opportunity instead, to make another speech, ignoring and excluding his new partner, who later ate alone at Chili’s.

“I don’t Lie”  This is a common theme of his. Aren’t we to be wary of those who loudly proclaim their own righteousness while putting down others—in this case Hilary, who he often accuses of being a liar. It stretches my credulity to believe, knowing our common human weakness and sinfulness, that either of them are always truthful. Has this wheeler-dealer who loves “the deal” always been above board, dripping with integrity over each and every transaction he has made?

Like Glen Beck, I have doubts about Trump. I also feel sad that Evangelical leaders have been so quick to endorse him when they really don’t have much evidence that he’s all that he says he is.

We love to hear from you. Please give us your thoughts.

Are You a Fan or a Spectator?

Enthusiastic Participation: Back in the day, on a Friday night in October, football was a big deal. But if you weren’t a player, a coach, a cheerleader or in the band, you were just a spectator. Today sporting events are quite different. As an old comedian used to say, “Everybody wants to get into the act.” Often we see: fans wearing team colors or crazy  get-ups; macho guys with no shirts in December; painted faces;  “No. 1” fingers and  John 3:16 waving, while everyone does “the wave.” While some of the antics are odd, we can’t help but feel this trend of enthusiastic participation is a good thing. Continue reading