This Valentine’s Day Beware a Cold Heart

heart-of-christ-webI was saved in a Baptist church and blessed to find myself under the tutelage of one of the finest Bible scholars I have ever heard. In that atmosphere, as a young Christian, I was happy to accept whatever doctrine was advised to me, not only by my mentor, but also by those good Baptists who surrounded me in fellowship. As a Southern Baptist, I was committed to live and die by the Southern Baptist Faith and Message. Understand that I did not follow that doctrine blindly, those who know me, know that the very idea of me following blindly is laughable. I read the Faith and Message to near memorization and I dug into the Bible with the conviction of a monk.

I accepted Southern Baptist doctrine because it made perfect sense to me… in theory, at least. It took a number of years for me to recognize that, in practice, there was a great deal of error. When the SBC changed the Faith and Message in June of 2000, adopting an exclusionary doctrine that was clearly errant and elitist, I left the confines of that fortress to “Go” into the world and seek the Kingdom of God. In the course of my search, I have rejected the model of denominational Christianity and the institutional church altogether. I find that, like all of the institutions of men, the model is broken beyond repair. I am convinced that God will soon and undeniably support my claim, for I am not alone in hearing God’s voice in the rapidly changing flood of circumstances that have come upon us.

One of the things that troubled me most within the walls of the fortress church was the tendency toward Phariseeism, a need to separate ourselves from the world based on a misunderstanding of scripture. That tendency creates an “us vs. them” view of the world that ignores the church’s true mission. In addition, the “us vs. them” worldview engenders legalism and the idea that the solutions to our nation’s problems are political, rather than spiritual. Because of this view, false prophets have entered the fellowship, “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” bringing with them the most dangerous religious thinking on earth, the worldview of Utopianism, an elitist doctrine that says, in effect, “You’re doing it wrong. Do it my way and together we can make a perfect world.”

It is the kind of thinking that, on any scale has failed over and over in the past while, on a grand scale has been responsible for great violence and suffering in the world. It is a worldview based on a doctrine that believes the end, a perfect, utopian society, justifies any means necessary to accomplish the goal.

Look around you today, look into history, and see the prevalence of Utopian theory and the dark consequences of its practice. It is Utopian Elitism that drives “us vs. them,” thinking, the kind of thinking that leads to every kind of violence men can conceive.

Utopianism within any institution can only lead to division and strife. It becomes fortress thinking, the building of walls to separate one group from another. It is the enemy of freedom and leads to endless, restrictive rules, and enforcement intended to control every behavior, even one’s thoughts. It is a worldview that enslaves populations, especially those who are not members of the elitist party in power. Remember, it was Joseph Stalin who said, “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not allow our enemies to have guns, why should we let them have ideas.”

I say all this to set the stage for a scripture that spoke very loudly to me this week, a word from God that ought to be preached from every pulpit in our land. It is one of those obscure scriptures that compels you to stop and think, to reassess doctrine you have come to accept, and cause you to question the security of your own salvation. It is one of those hard scriptures that includes the words, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

We are living in a time of great division and strife that is being driven by spiritual forces invisible to this temporal world. We are living in a time long prophesied in many scriptures of the Bible, as far back as the days of Noah, or the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. We are living in the day of Romans, chapter one when God is pouring out the poison of our own depravity upon a world that has despised His Son and turned its back on Him. The stage is being set for the grand entrance of the Man of Lawlessness and the final confrontation between good and evil. As I watch, I have seen the church fall into the lie of utopianism. I have watched the walls go up and seen the fortress gates closed, locking the “elect” inside. That’s why I am calling to you today, warning you of the danger, speaking with the very words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 24:12, 13

I implore you to search yourself. Can you feel the cold creeping over you as the love of Christ fades from your heart? Are you thinking more in terms of us, vs. them? Do you seek solutions in politics and the institutions of men? If so, you have believed in a lie called Utopianism. I implore you to come out from behind the shuttered gates, come out from the fortress walls. Repent of the seat of judgement, fill yourself with the love of Christ and GO into a lost world with His gospel. GO with nothing, willing to suffer and to sacrifice, as He did, for the mission we have all been given, to share the good news that has overcome the world so that many will be saved.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Posted in Discipleship | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Year’s Resolution

Redefining Purpose:


I’ve been very neglectful of this blog over the past year. There are innumerable reasons for that, among them, a great deal of tragedy and suffering and the ministry related to it, but also family, travel, and a major focus on completing my latest novel. It’s that focus that has to change in the coming year.

A while back I read Bruce Wilkerson’s excellent advice in his great book, “The Dream Giver.” A truth lies in that book that I have struggled with ever since I finished reading it. The truth it revealed to me is the principle of the New Testament tithe, a principle that is well and intentionally misunderstood by the church, who conveniently adopt the old testament tithe of ten percent. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t represent the call of Christ that we are to die to self, so we might “live as Christ.” (Ref. Mark 12:41-44)

In the New Testament there are many examples of the principle Wilkerson suggests. Overall, the clear message from Jesus to His disciples is what I call, The Change.” The change is a paradigm shift, announced by John the Baptist, whom Jesus referred to as the “Greatest of Prophets,” a change that says we cannot be constrained by the law alone, living only for the flesh. History, and the record of the Old Testament have proven Him right again and again. Jesus teaches us that, what is important to God is not so much our behavior, as our motivation. God would prefer that we be motivated by our love for Him, more than our fear of the law and its consequences. Jesus led a selfless life in just that way, by loving God more than He loved Himself.

Again and again, He made a point of the priority of spirit over flesh. For example, in Mat. 5:27, 28, Jesus tells us that Moses has said, “do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (And ladies, you are not pardoned from this charge.) Also, as example, in the case of Annanias and Saphira, beyond their lie and at its root, is the selfish motivation of their hearts.

In conclusion, the only way for us to be changed is to die to self, as we symbolically represented in our baptism. The challenge to us all, following that symbolic commitment, is the requirement for our intentional effort to accomplish it, to “pick up our cross, daily, and follow Him.”

So the tithe is no longer ten percent, but our willing sacrifice of the whole check, placing it before Him as our voluntary offering, motivated by our love for Him, and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us from there, asking only for “our daily bread” in return. In the same way as that symbolic check, we must also place our dreams, that thing we perhaps covet, we must place it on the Alter of God, for His determination.

In “The Dream Giver,” Wilkerson puts it this way, “When your relationship with God deepens into a genuine trust in His character, you will be ready for the final invitation. … Now God will ask you to consecrate yourself to Him — and surrender your dream.”

That’s the threshold I stand on today. Having completed the first draft of the manuscript for my next novel, the time has come for me to take my dream of being a novelist, and surrender it to Him. I do so with a trembling heart and the knowledge that I must trust Him in every area of my life. I must commit myself now to prayer and meditation on His word, to discipleship, worship, ministry, fellowship and to sowing the seed of His Truth, while I wait for His determination in my life.

Posted in Commentary, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Lasko Strong

Again I must apologize for not having posted in a very long time. As before it has been a matter of priorities, where we each place our hearts in the day to day circumstances of life. It’s not that I don’t think my followers important, I do, but there are things in life, people and events, that must take precedence, even over this.14022253_10207104679004437_4880648477642960711_n Having said that, I can explain that for the past twenty months we have been ministering to a dear friend whom we consider family, as she and her family have struggled with brain cancer. Last week, our beloved Lisa went home to be with the Lord. It is difficult to express our feelings right now and impossible to sum up her life in a few words, but here are my thoughts:

First I want to offer my deepest condolences to Tim, Lindsey, Timmy, Andrea, Theresa and the rest of the family. I want you to know that I sincerely feel your loss and pain and, In that pain I offer a warning about the spirit of grief whose desire is to destroy your relationship with God, by dragging you back to the pit of grief and holding you there until you give in to it and give up on life. Don’t go there. Pick up the pieces of your life, with your loving memories of Lisa and walk away from the circumstance of her death. Move forward with her legacy and with your own, show the world that Lasko Strong means strong of faith in the resurrection of Christ and His promise that, “If you obey my commands, you will never experience death;” that is, to pass from this life to the next in an instant.

To defeat the spirit of grief, we need a new paradigm, an attitude that Lisa would encourage. Ellen G. White described it well when she wrote thus,

Praise the Lord, even when you fall into darkness. Praise him even in temptation. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” says the apostle; “and again I say rejoice.” Will that bring darkness and gloom into your families? No, indeed; it will bring a sunbeam. It will be the gathering of rays of eternal light from the throne of glory, and scattering them around you. Let me exhort you to engage in this work, scatter this light and life around you, not only in your own path, but in the paths of others with whom you associate. Let it be your object to make those around you better; to elevate them; to point them to Heaven and glory and lead them to seek, above all earthly things, the eternal substance, the immortal inheritance, and the riches which are imperishable.”

I assure you that, today, Lisa has gotten what she deserves. Today she knows the joy of Heaven, in part because Lisa was all about determination.

Nancy and I call Tim and Lisa our kids, them among many others who are here today. Together, we were the ROCK class. We met each Sunday for Bible study and the only way up to our classroom was a steep, exterior stairway, twenty six of them in fact, steel, like the stairs of a fire escape. Lisa was very pregnant with Lindsey at the time she first started coming, and I remember being concerned about her making that climb in the summer heat. Concerned that it would be too much for her, concerned that if she made it to the top that Sunday, she would never be back, but I didn’t know Lisa very well, did I? My concerns were unfounded, because Lisa was determined that she and Tim would have a church family and a relationship with the Lord before they started their own family. Because of her determination, she reached the top of those stairs each Sunday for many years to follow and, when she arrived, it was with that beautiful smile of hers, a smile that exudes the joy that fills her heart even now.

Lisa was a person filled with Joy. If some considered her a Pollyanna, then we need more Pollyannas in this present darkness. More families like hers, who model the love of Christ in their daily lives. More joy to push the darkness away. It may seem that her joy has been taken from us, but I implore you, even in the midst of your pain to look to the Holy Spirit and find her there, Lisa and her joy, made bigger than ever by the most powerful force in all the universe, that is, God’s eternal love for those who will love Him back.

That Love has been modeled to all of us, over the past twenty months, by Lisa’s beautiful family. Modeled by a husband and children and an extended network of friends who have cared for Lisa with a devotion that can only be born of the love of God, a model of The Body of Christ in action, for all to see. I truly feel that in future editions of the dictionary, beside the word, “Devotion,” there should be a picture of Lisa, Tim and their children.

Know this, and write it on your hearts, we will see her again in a place where every tear will be wiped away by the hand of a loving God. Lisa has finished her climb to the top of the stairs. She arrived with her trademark smile and her joy in the Lord. Her reward was waiting for her there the moment she arrived, along with the words, “well done my good and faithful servant.”

We love you Lisa. We give thanks for the model of your joy, devotion and determination.


Posted in OpEd | 2 Comments

Speaking of Suffering

2 Chronicles 15:5 “And in those times there was no peace to the one who went out, nor to the one who came in, but great turmoil was on all the inhabitants of the lands. 6-7 So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity. But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”

As with most other scripture in the Bible, this one speaks on many levels and with layers of meaning. I present it to you today in its role as prophesy. It was originally written as an historical record, a chronicle of events that had occurred in Israel’s  past, in particular, in a time when the people had “forsaken” God. In chapter 15 Azariah, a profit of God, is warning the king, Asa, that he sees the same pattern of “forsaking God” taking shape in the Kingdom of Judah.

The pattern is familiar and repeated throughout the old testament, the Bible and through all the written history of man in his relationship with the living God. The judges of old, the prophets, and the apostles, all addressed this problem of apostasy among the people of God. The cycle begins in suffering, when the people cry out to God in earnest, pleading for His help. God hears their cry and in His mercy, He rescues them from their own foolishness, protecting them from the consequences of their own sinful desertion. They repent, He forgives, they obey, He blesses, they travel a road He has made straight for them, finding their way back to prosperity, abundance and self reliance. Self reliance leads them to apostasy, the people turn their backs on God, seeking their own way, seeking their own pleasure. They turn their backs on God and God turns His back on them, thus they are returned to suffering, the very state in which they began their journey.

In the scripture Azariah warns Asa of impending disaster, but the record of his warning is historical. In creating the chronicle, the Jews of his posterity were warned and in their turn the early Christians and then Paul warns the Romans in the first chapter of his letter to the church in Rome. Thus the pattern, the cycle of apostasy, and the warning about its consequences echoes through the ages to every generation, right up to the present. In his letter, Paul speaks very specifically to the people of this age, who are about to experience the suffering that comes from “forsaking” our relationship with the Living God. In his warning he describes the state of affairs as follows:

“For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.
Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:18-25)

If I read the signs correctly, the suffering we see in the world today is nothing compared to what is soon to come. So, knowing that, how will you respond? I urge you to repent, to fall on your face before the Living God and cry out to Him for his mercy.

“We beg you please, don’t squander one more moment of the marvelous life God offers. As He reminds us, ‘I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me I was there to help.’ Don’t wait another moment. I tell you now is the time of God’s grace. Today is the day of salvation!” (Paraphrase 2Cor. 6:1-2)

Posted in A Seed Sown, Commentary, Discipleship | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Season of Suffering

“Do you not comprehend that, as you stand on the Earth, you are standing at the very conjunction of Heaven and Hell, the gate of which lies before you.”

(B. James Wilson, “Kingdom of Light“)


Who among you, who confesses their faith publicly, has not been challenged by the plaintiff accusation, “If your God is so loving, why would he let this, (some earthbound suffering), happen?”

Indeed, why?angels-army_00238476-1

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matt. 10:34

It seems to me there is enormous misunderstanding among both believers and non-believers regarding the nature of suffering in the world and the nature of God, and His will, in that suffering; so much misunderstanding, in fact, that the question itself requires examination.

First, in the usual case of the non-believer, the question is not so much a question, as an accusation, rhetoric, that requires no answer at all. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. ” (Isaiah 53:7)

And as it is for the Teacher, so it will be for His disciple. In such a case it is better to pray for that person than to give answer, because the question is not a question, it’s a debate, a challenge to God’s sovereignty and authority in the world. In its nature, the question, asked in this way, becomes the very illustration of the problem. It is the heart of rebellion against God, the very heart of sin and not deserving of the knowledge of the mystery of His grace and mercy. Better to pray.

Sometimes, however, the question is truly a plaintiff cry, a wounded heart who cries out seeking answer, seeking understanding. In this case the answer is simply the gospel of God’s love for the individual. Not a defense of His authority, or sovereignty, but an outpouring of His love and compassion through the believer, His ambassador on Earth. God points out His role to us in Job 5:18, “For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.”

Perhaps you note here that God accepts responsibility for Job’s suffering. Such is the nature of a great king, the seal of His sovereignty, accepting the reality that “the buck stops here.” God has never been shy to announce His involvement in human suffering. He clearly accepts responsibility for the Great Flood, for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, even for the destruction of His people in Israel and Judah in their exile, Amos speaking for God, in 3:6, “If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?”

This reality may be shocking to some, but God has a purpose in human suffering, just as He had a purpose in the suffering of Christ Jesus, His own son, whom He sent to die on a cruel cross, saying through Him, In John 10:17-18 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

In these words of Jesus, lies the key to our misperception of suffering and death. You see, as much as you may not like to hear it, God does not place the same value on our temporal lives, here, on Earth, as we do. As Jesus points out to us, He has the power to lay down life and to pick it up again. He proves it again and again from creation to Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones, and from Jonah to Lazarus, of whom Jesus said, In John 11:14-15 “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

I repeat, “that you may believe.” You see, what is important to God is your faith, not your life; not that life is not precious to God. It is, and He has plenty to say about that, but your life here, on temporal Earth, is not as precious to Him as His purpose for it. So the real question to be asked is not, “Why would God allow this suffering,” but, “What is God’s purpose in this suffering?”

Believers suffer too. And, like Job, they cry out to God wanting to understand the reason for it. The answer today is the same as it was for Job, in his day. That answer lies, veiled, in the opening scripture of Job’s story, That Satan, a fallen angel, leader of a rebellion against God, is free within God’s permissive will, to challenge faith by bringing suffering upon the faithful. What we, the faithful, fail to understand and what we fail to teach, or even speak of in our churches, is the fact that we are the subjects of a war, an invisible war that surrounds us every day in this temporal world; a war in which we are forced to choose one side or another. That truth is well put in the song, “You Gotta Serve Somebody“, by Bob Dillon. We are free each day, in joy or suffering, to choose between God, or Satan, between goodness, or evil, between darkness, or light. The Gray Empire in which we try to live our lives, to hide from our responsibilities and to hide from God, does not truly exist. It is a myth, it is the only true myth, for all other mythology has some basis in truth. Unfortunately, our fallen nature leaves us more prone to making the best choices while we suffer than when we live in joy and, so, God allows suffering to come to us. Sometimes as an attack on our righteousness, but mostly just the coincidental result of the fallen world we live in.

For those who believe, those of us who recognize the battle that surrounds our lives here, on Earth, the refrain, “onward Christian soldier, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before,” takes on a special meaning. Paul reminds us of this purpose for our lives in his letter to the Ephesians, when he says, in 6:14-18 “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—”

These are our draft notice, our marching orders, announcing that we are at war, and war always brings suffering, especially to the “innocent”, those who are lost and confused.

There is one other purpose for the suffering of the faithful. Jesus promised that it would come to us as it came to Him, but there is another purpose.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.”

In the end, as difficult as it may be to accept, God allows us to suffer when we deserve to suffer, or when our suffering can turn us to Him, or when our suffering can prepare us to serve Him. The patterns of suffering in the Bible clearly demonstrate that when God’s people are living according to His will, that is, his moral will and His specific will, suffering in their world is greatly reduced. The opposite is true when the situation is reversed. So what is God’s purpose? It is to put an end to the rebellion that has torn His Kingdom in two. Unfortunately part of that process includes a great deal of suffering. More importantly, however, is God’s will in all of this. His will clearly demonstrates that His love is the driving motivation behind all His actions, from creation to the fact that He sustains us from breath to breath. God’s will is that all should be saved and none lost, as in 1 Timothy 2:3-6, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,”

So, take joy in your suffering, for in it lies the perfect will of God.

Posted in Discipleship | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A National Day of Prayer Challenge



What’s on my mind? The National Day of Prayer and the message from God through Rabbi Cahn, which I missed in the live feed. It is far too important and too inspiring to be missed, however, so I share it with you now. Click on the link in his name to hear what he has to say.

Posted in OpEd | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What Would Amos Do?


Please forgive my absence over the past several weeks. Life once again interferes with schedule. It’s okay really, life is more important. In that time I have watched and listened in disgust to the developments of the presidential campaign, especially on the Republican side. I don’t like politics and I like even less bringing it up in this blog, but I am shocked by what I see among my fellow Christians and in the various polls related to this race.

For that reason, I’m getting ready to donate to Ben Carson’s campaign. I was following Marco Rubio because of his greater political experience, but in learning that he voted for TPP and TPA, I was disappointed. Now, in his sudden change of campaign strategy, adopting Trump’s style, probably because his managers point out the it works for Trump, I am put off by seeing that he is a chameleon, willing to forgo his own principles in order to please his handlers, or accomplish a desired result. So, even though I don’t believe he has a chance of winning, I’m voting for Ben Carson. As a Christian, he’s the only option left to me, the only candidate out there who believes in unity in the fear of God.

How do I know he can’t win? Because “winning”, “making America great again”, is not in God’s agenda right now. This nation and, indeed, the world have come to a place where the cup of iniquity is filled to overflowing. “Just as in the days of Noah,” we are undeserving of righteous leaders, only prophets, like Amos, can save us, rising up to point out our wickedness and call for our judgment.

We need God to raise up these prophets more than we need Jesus to return. If you’re a Christian, that may seem a shocking statement to you, but believe me it’s true. Jesus will not return to us a lamb, ready for the slaughter. When He comes, He will come in power and glory, for judgment, not for grace. God has said of that day, “Woe to you who long for the Day of The Lord! What will the Day of The Lord be for you? It will be darkness and not light. It will be like a man who flees from a lion, only to have a bear confront him…” Won’t the Day of The Lord be darkness rather than light, even gloom without any brightness in it?”

Better to pray for forgiveness, repentance, revival and the prophets needed to bring those things about. Without listing our atrocious sins against God, because you know them well whether you confess them or not, how could anyone today believe that God is not angry with this nation in the same way that He displayed his righteous anger against ancient Israel, Judah and the nations that surrounded them. (ref. Amos 1 – 5) And, for them, did He raise up leaders who could lead them to greatness again? No, He raised up prophets to bring them to repentance, prophets who were ignored, beaten and murdered by a nation who had become contemptuous of their God. So, instead of prophets, God raised up their enemies, the Assyrians, in the case of Israel, the Babylonians, in the case of Judah, and He cleared the way for their enemies to destroy the nations of His own people. Such is the judgment of our God, or had you, in your familiarity, forgotten who He is.

On the political side, there are many who will say that a vote for Ben Carson is a vote for Hillary Clinton and I clearly understand that logic, but I say to them, “so be it.” I have always believed that America gets the leaders America deserves. It’s the principle by which I see God’s anger against this nation, by seeing whom He raises up to lead us. So, no matter who wins the next presidency, I know it will be because that’s who God chose for us, based on what we deserve.

If you’re a person who believes in prayer, better to pray for more time, time to repent. Better to pray for prophets, better to pray for God to relent from His anger. Pray also for our nation, that God will raise up real leaders, not necessarily those we deserve, but leaders who can lead this nation back from the edge of the abyss, back to unity, all together in the fear of God, not familiarity. pray for Ben Carson.

Posted in Commentary | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Taking Responsibility


Genesis 3:9-13

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

Then he said, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid, so I hid, because I was naked.”

And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?”

Then the man said, “The woman, whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.”

And the Lord God said to the women, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

Adam’s second sin, following the original, was the sin of irresponsibility. In fact, Adam was so irresponsible that he actually blamed God for his sin. Did you catch that? He first pointed the finger at Eve and then at God, saying, “the woman that you gave me.”

Really Adam? You threw Eve under the bus and then blamed God for the whole mess? Does this remind you of anyone you know? The fact is that this glaring flaw in Adam, like sin itself, has become intrinsic to human nature. It is the single most important issue for discipleship in the church and thus, the major issue for all of us in the community of Christ and the wider community in general. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the situation is getting worse, not better.

In any community there has to be rules of behavior. Without them, things begin to fall apart rather quickly. There are thousands of illustrations of this principle, in the Bible, in history, in life and in literature. One such example comes to mind in the novel, “Lord of The Flies”, by William Golding. If you’ve never read this book, I thoroughly recommend it to you. But among the rules that make a community function well is the rule of responsibility.

Be Responsible: Take responsibility for your words, your actions, and your thoughts, they all have an impact, positive, or negative upon the community in which you live, work, worship and play. Be responsible in the words you choose. If you said it, own it. Speak words that build up and heal rather than words that tear down and injure.

The Bible has much to say about our words, advising that we should let them be few and that our “yes” should mean yes and our “no” should mean no. The reason is that, in the image of God, He gave us the power to create the nature of the world around us, unfortunately, now, that power is exercised through the knowledge of good and evil. By our words, our actions, and our thoughts, we have the power to evoke the Kingdom of God as the nature of our community, or to make its nature as the Kingdoms of This World. If something you’ve said has hurt someone, or caused derision among us, then you need to own it and take action to correct those things. Remember that what you speak cannot be recalled, but, in God’s image, it can be forgiven and forgotten.

Further, in being responsible, take responsibility for your actions. If you got it out, you put it away, if you broke it, you fix it, if it’s your duty, you see that it’s done. Don’t be slothful. In every relationship, carry your part of the load, remembering, that Jesus calls you to more than just that. (ref. Matt. 5:38-42)

It’s really a simple matter to render the Kingdom of God out of the chaos of this world, but to do so requires us to do battle with our worst and most powerful enemy, that is, SELF. You see, we are our own worst enemy. We make the title, “Sleeping With The Enemy”, a true statement. Jesus said, “…and love your neighbor as yourself.” I wonder if you’ve ever thought seriously about that command and all that it entails. Certainly it involves the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” (ref. Luke 6:31) But Jesus’ full meaning goes much deeper, going as far as to say that we are to put our neighbor before ourselves, to act unselfishly toward our neighbors, as our Lord acted unselfishly in all that He did.

When the Pharisees challenged him asking, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded with the parable of the good Samaritan. (ref. Luke 10:29-37) Notice that Jesus made the hero of the story a Samaritan, not the religious pharisee, who despised the Samaritan as unorthodox and a sinner. There is great significance for the church today, in His choice of heroes. How about you? Are you a self righteous pharisee, who prays standing, thanking God that you are not like those sinners you see around you? (ref. Luke 18:10-14). Or do you live your faith in action each day, humbling yourself before God in the knowledge that you are no better than the lost world that surrounds you.

Finally, be responsible for your thoughts. It is said that, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” If you take that proverb, as I do, to mean that ideas, well communicated, are the force that wields the sword, then you see the importance of controlling your thoughts. Joseph Stalin said, “Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We wouldn’t let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?”

Stalin recognized that, throughout history, indeed his own history, ideas have been the force that drives change in this world for either good or evil, change that is only brought about by sacrifice, violence and death. Hundreds of millions have died for the evil thoughts that consume men’s minds. In fact, when you think about it, the whole story is about poor thinking. It begins in the Garden, when Satan tempted Adam and Eve to think for themselves, to think of themselves. That self awareness led to covetousness and distrust which, in turn, led to disobedience and disobedience to the sad history that leads to men such as Joseph Stalin, men who lead whole nations to murder millions.

The Bible tells us to, “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” (2Cor. 10:5b), because no one understands the importance of responsibly in filtering our thoughts than Christ himself, who has suffered greatly for our sin. Our thoughts lead to our ideas and ideas to words and words to action. These things are intrinsically connected in a positive, or negative feedback loop, a loop that can lead worlds to wickedness and death, or to life, with peace, hope love and joy. Our choice, our responsibility.

Posted in Discipleship | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Message on Gun Control


I don’t often use this pulpit to enter the realms of politics, but Godless culture makes a habit of forcing morality into that arena; I could cite many examples, abortion being only one. But this week I saw President Obama become tearful as he spoke about the carnage wrought every year in our nation by people who have no business being in possession of a firearm. I refrain from expressing my political opinion of the president’s plan for “fixing” the problem, except to say, in my own words, that any law in the hands of government functionaries, has the potential to become draconian at the point of enforcement, whether it be by legislation, or by executive order. We see it all the time, on every level of the spectrum of political bent, from the cop’s errant misinterpretation of a “No Parking” sign, to the supreme court’s misinterpretations of Constitutional law in rulings like Roe v. Wade.

The solution, of course, lies in the words of Jesus, to “Love your neighbor” and to enforce the Golden Rule before you enforce the law, especially at a point of conflict. So, the subject this week is “Gun Control”, as it is referred to in the political arena. In the arena of morality, however, it is better said that “two wrongs don’t make a right”, or, as Neal Young put it in the sixties, “No body’s right, if everybody’s wrong.”

It is said that the truth has no friends, and the saying is true. I’m sure that many of my friends will be unhappy with what I have to say, no matter what side of the issue they stand on. I point out that most views on the subject are tainted by worldly opinion rather than being seen through the clearly focused lens of the Cross of Jesus. The worldly view accepted, this essay will be centered on the Constitution of the United States and not necessarily the Bible. As such, I begin with the words of that inspired document’s Bill of Rights and specifically, the Second Amendment, written as follows:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. “

You must first understand that the words of this one, vital sentence were not penned easily. They were not applied to our founding document without much wrangling and painful debate among the fathers of our nation, but the final syntax came from a wisdom beyond those men, as did every other ideal expressed in our constitution. What I have said, of course, is a religious belief that certainly is not shared by everyone who lives under the protections of our nations founding law. I would add, at this point, however, that I don’t believe the framers of the constitution ever conceived a day when the people who live under its protection would refute the very belief in God. For that reason there is a great divide between us in the interpretation of its words, a divide that forces me to approach this argument from a legal and logical frame, rather than the moral. As the document must be interpreted logically, we begin at the end, where logic puts the emphasis of the principle being expressed.

The words, “…shall not be infringed,” are an emphatic commandment to all three branches of government that the preceding condition is not to be wrongfully limited, or restricted. The wisdom that chose these words did not use the word “should”, implying that the condition is only a guideline, or the word “may”, implying options. They chose the word, “shall”, because it implies an absolute, a law of the Medes, if you will; meaning a law that cannot be changed or withdrawn. Therefore, let us begin with a clear understanding that the adherence of all three branches of government to the preceding condition of this amendment, or right of the people, is absolute and irrevocable.

So, what is the condition that has been so carefully protected and preserved by the wisdom that founded our nation? Lets examine, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

Certainly our forefathers could no more see the future than we can, so their view of “arms” is pretty much restricted to the knowledge and technology of the time, but that does not preclude their guiding wisdom. The Bill of Rights, sent to the states for ratification in August of 1789, was written in a time when weapons technology consisted of a muzzle-loaded flintlock using ball shot. The quality of such weapons was comparatively poor and standards were virtually non-existent. Since these weapons were hand made by only a comparative few craftsmen, as a collective, there was no interchangeability of parts. Even the ball shot varied greatly in size and weight. That said, there was certainly no question in the eyes of a Tory government, nor in the minds of the fathers of our constitution that the people had the right to keep such arms.

Most of the protein consumed each day in the colonies came from hunting game, not from breeding cattle, and the existing government depended on the people, not just to provide fresh meat, but also to defend themselves and their communities from frequent attacks by warring, native tribes and many European enemies, (not the people’s enemies, but the government’s enemies.) Thus, there can be no question concerning the interpretation of the people’s right to “keep”, that word meaning to “own” fire arms of the same type that was “kept” by government sponsored military forces.

That is not to say that the military didn’t keep arms beyond the ability of the average citizen, cannon bearing caissons, mortars and exploding projectiles, fighting frigates and other weapons platforms capable of devastating firepower. However, even these types of weapons are included under the second amendment, but there are conditions concerning them that I will discuss shortly. For now, I want to keep this at the level of personal, defensive weapons, capable of being carried by one man. So we move on to the word, “bear.”

This word has many meanings, so we have to find a way to focus on the meaning, or meanings intended by the framers of the constitution. Certainly it is clear from our knowledge of the period that the right to “carry” arms was included in the word “bear.” The survival of the colonies was dependent on hunting for meat, and civil defense, so it was not only permitted, but expected, by a Tory government, that every man would own, or “keep” a firearm and be seen “bearing”, or carrying such in the course of any given day. It’s an interesting side-note that violent crime was virtually unknown outside the occasional bar fight, or the even rarer duel, but that was a matter of morality, not the ubiquitous presence of firearms.

On the side of the rebellion, from which the Bill of Rights was born, there was a similar expectation proven in the existence of organized militias such as “The Regulators” and “The Minute Men”, formed in secret, to protect the people from their own government’s wrongful aggression. Like the citizen of the Tory government, the Minute Men were expected to provide their own weapons for such defense. So there can be no doubt that one intended meaning in the word “bear”, is to take up and “carry” said arms, even in clear view of the public and its legitimate government.

There is yet another applicable meaning for the word, “bear”, however, and that is to be worthy of something, to deserve something and therefore be allowed to have it. This reference is extremely important in its deeper, moral meaning. To begin with, in August of 1789, a culture existed that assumed men, in general, though possibly not specifically, were worthy of the trust of their neighbors and their government to “bear” arms as defined above. It was a trust assumed to be deserved by way of an individual’s proof of personal responsibility within the community, proofs that were assumed almost on a daily basis. Keeping such a culture in mind, our forefathers saw their neighbors as worthy of, and deserving of the right to keep and bear arms among them, based on a level of trust, rooted in a culture of individual responsibility and community awareness. So, the right of the people to keep and bear arms was, first, assumed.

That established, we should next address the real, intended purpose for the second amendment, the underlying motivation at the very root of its creation, “the security of a free state.” What was, and therefore is the intended interpretation of these words?

First I want to deal with the concept of a “free state” and, for a better understanding of that concept, we should turn first to The Declaration of Independence. One must remember that, at the time, no such, “free state”, existed in our world, nor had any ever existed, certainly not in the form conceived within our constitution. Here are the precious words that cried out to the winds of change:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

First and foremost, that governments should derive their power by the consent of the governed, and, second, that when said government becomes destructive of a responsible, community minded people’s freedoms, it becomes, not only the right of said people, but their duty to abolish that government. If the meaning were otherwise, those men would not have put their lives and fortunes on the line to accomplish that very end for themselves and their posterity.

Having established this, one can clearly see that the intended purpose for the people’s right to keep and bear arms was to defend themselves from their enemies, both without and within said free state. In a strong sense, the right to keep and bear arms is intended to restrain government from overflowing the boundaries established for it. Thus it is the people’s right and duty to control that tendency, even to the point of overthrowing such government, by force, if necessary. It is precisely what Benjamin Franklin meant when he referred to our new government as “a republic, if you can keep it.”

Finally we look at the phrase, “A well regulated militia.”

A militia is the means by which the rest is accomplished and it is a vital part of the rights given to the people under the second amendment. A militia is a group of citizens who are not part of the armed forces of a nation, but are trained like soldiers. Given what has gone before, what do you think was intended by our forefathers in this opening phrase of the second amendment? I think it’s quite clear that a militia is intended to counterbalance the government’s armed forces; not only for that purpose, but primarily so. The second amendment refers to a militia as, “being necessary to the security of a free state,” that is, a state in which the people’s rights are both honored and protected. What could be clearer?

Since a militia is not the same as an army, in that it is formed independent of the government, there are only a few things that could be meant by “the security of a free state.” One is to protect a community from outside attack as a first line of defense, since government backed troops cannot be everywhere at once, but also it refers to Franklin’s warning, “…if you can keep it.” Keep it from what? The answer is obvious, we must keep our own government from usurping our freedoms by growing so powerful that our rights are overcome by its gluttony. We must prevent a federal government from bluring the lines between state’s rights and the interests of the federal government. The insideous insertion of federal authority into local communities over the past 150 years has become a great danger to our freedoms. We find ourselves at the mercy of such as the FBI, Homeland Security, the U.S. Treasury and all its many arms of enforcement, along with many other entities of the executive branch. A strong militia is a deterrent to government’s natural tendency for “scope creep”, that is, to overflow the bounds of its constitutional authority. The constitution calls for the different branches of government to act as that deterrent through checks and balances, but, as is obvious in the present as it was also in the past, government continues to grow in the shadows of gridlock caused by its constitutional checks and balances; “…if you can keep it”. But, a well regulated militia, being the means by which we can protect ourselves from an over-reaching federal government, also becomes a way for us to control guns in our communities.

It is unfortunate that few among us, including the local sheriff, understand the historical purpose for the office of sheriff being an elected position. It is because, in his domain of authority, the sheriff is an official who independently represents the will of a community with regard to its relationship to the federal government. The federal government should be forbidden, by a state’s constitution, to exercise its authority for enforcement within the domain of any local sheriff without the express permission of said sheriff. The only person in any state who should be able to legally override the sheriff’s authority within his domain is the governor of the state. No representative of the federal government should have the legal authority to do so and, if your state constitution does not so authorize the office of sheriff, then it has been ratified by the grossest of errors.

A properly drawn state constitution means that when one of the federal government’s hundreds of strong arm SWAT teams wants to perform a raid on a local company accused of violating a U.S. Customs rule regarding the importation of some restricted wood products, they cannot legally perform such raid without the express permission of the local sheriff. Without that permission, the local sheriff has the right, authority and obligation to protect said company from such a raid, by use of force, if necessary.

But the county sheriff may not have the manpower to mount such a deterrent, and that’s where the local militia comes in. Our constitution says, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…” The word necessary implies a mandate for every community to mount and maintain a “well regulated militia.” As a nation, we have failed miserably in this regard and there is a reason for it, a reason that is exclusive to the freedoms we enjoy. We’ve become a selfish people who don’t want to give of our time, especially when it comes to the matter of security and defense, but we are constitutionally obligated to do so, though not legally bound.

Still, many Americans join local militias which I refer to as Hobby Armies. These militias are not “well regulated”, by constitutional standards and, as such, amount to nothing more than armed gangs, who’s purpose and practice are defined by the whims of their local leaders. But a well regulated militia should fall under the authority of the local sheriff, who is not a representative of government, but an independent representative of the people who elected him and who’s responsibilities include the safety and protection of their communities.

The sheriff would not be in direct command of the militia, but he would be the overarching authority that legitimizes their existence. The office of Sheriff would provide the budget for maintaining the militia and provide an armory where militia weapons would be kept. “Militia weapons” are defined as offensive weapons such as assault rifles, automatic weapons, explosives, motorized armored weapons platforms, etc.; basically, any weapon that is not used for hunting or personal defense.

There is an arguable note to the above definition, so I will specify my meaning. Semi-automatic assault rifles, or any weapons that have a clip load greater than ten are defined as “militia weapons”, their acquisition and ownership should be licensed and regulated through a local militia, of which the owner must be a member. Ammunition for such weapons should only be available through the local militia who’s command structure is responsible for training its members and assessing their “proof of individual responsibility”, as in the days of the Minute Men, when the second amendment was conceived.

So, under the second amendment of the constitution, the right of ownership and possession of weapons that are not used for hunting, or personal protection, more specifically, “Militia Weapons”, should be licensed and controlled under the authority of a well regulated, local militia. These local militias may be networked throughout a state for the purpose of supporting neighboring local sheriffs, or the governor of the state, but no command or control of local militias should extend beyond a state’s borders. Given this restriction, if every sheriff in the nation was supporting a militia of three percent of the local population, nationally, that would represent a force of twelve million men and women. Such a force would most assuredly represent a substantial deterrent to any threat by enemies of our constitution, whether within our borders, or without.

All that said, let’s return to the clearer lens of the Cross of Jesus, where we can see and confess through scripture that none of the above need apply to a disciple of Christ, for the Kingdom of God is very different from the kingdoms of this world and requires no other defense than that which God Himself is able and willing to provide. For those who are more inclined to personal defense and armed deterrent, you are free to choose your own way both under God and the constitution of the United States. Whatever your choice may be, however, I urge you to be sure you are acting within God’s will for your life and not by fear, or your own, selfish desires.

Posted in OpEd | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Discipleship And The Church of Two


Are you a disciple of Christ, or are you a hanger-on, who only follows for the miracles? (ref. John 6:26)

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)

The consistent error of “God’s People” has been to interpret God’s word in the flesh, that is, to see God’s meaning as relating to the physical world, and in that interpretation, failing to see the spiritual message and spiritual meaning. For example, when we look at the apostolic church in Acts, we see it as a model for the church today. We try to force the physical existence of the church today into the mold we see in scripture and we fail again and again. But the model has a spiritual aspect that doesn’t require us to sell all our worldly goods and give the proceeds to the church, or to live together in commune, as monks, or to eat our meals as progressive dinners each day, or to gather as the larger church, every day, for worship and study of the word, as if we were a cult.

The more powerful, spiritual message, is telling us to be His church in every aspect of our lives, that is, to be the Body of Christ, with the resources God has given us and to be such every day of the week in every place that we find ourselves. We are called to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, first, and then to meet the needs of the world beyond, only as God directs us to do so.*

For example, we are called to hospitality, that is, to provide shelter and care for those among our brothers and sisters as their need may arise, and then for the traveler, (the homeless), as God directs *, not necessarily in our own homes, though our hearts should be open to the possibility.

God calls us to form our lives around Christ each and every day, all through the day, in prayer, worship and meditation on His word.

“But I can’t spend all day in prayer and worship,” you say.

I would dispute that, but for now my advice is to begin right where you stand, “Stop and Pray!” Give God praise, offer thanks for some small thing, pray for some circumstance. Do you have a prayer life at all, or do you prefer someone else to do your praying for you, perhaps only on Sunday? It won’t work that way if you are truly His disciple. Set aside a time today and pray. Do it regularly, every day and as you grow in the Spirit, you will find that you can continue prayer long after you rise from your knees. Continuing in prayer this way will become easier and easier, and soon you will recognize that you are in a conversation with God, that you can talk to Him about anything, about your successes, your failures, your needs and any other aspect of your life.

God wants to have this conversation with you. He wants you to learn to hear his voice also, to understand His desire and His plan for your life each day. He wants you to grow in His grace and develop an awareness and concern for His Kingdom and its place and priority in your life and in the world around you.*

Worship, it turns out, can be most effective in work. Put another way, work can easily be an effective form of worship; it is in fact, or, at least it should be. Not only did Jesus model this for us in the scriptures, but many examples come to mind from the church’s early history. One modern example is found in the roots of Negro spirituals, many of which were created and sung. in the midst of brutal working conditions, as a form of prayer and worship, a dependence on God, conforming one’s heart and circumstances to God’s will, setting a rhythm for the work, unifying the workers in practice of becoming One with God, that is, the Body of Christ, unity, becoming One with God.

Be in daily meditation on His word. Throughout history God has provided the means to promote and enhance the study of His word. The early church had no choice but to gather in large community to study and meditate on Gods word because copies of Holy Scriptures were rare and often guarded by elitist priests and rabbis. But, as time and technology allowed, the Bible has become ubiquitous and more accessible to every person in the world, in nearly every language. I have two Bibles on my phone and every form of translation and interpretation available, via the Internet. Therefore, I have no excuse for not having a time daily dedicated to its prayerful reading and understanding. As a matter of fact, we are all without excuse, as the Apostle Paul informs us in Romans 1:20b..

In summation, the True Church cannot exist for two hours on Sunday and then disappear into the Kingdoms of The World. To do so is not The Church, it’s rather, some sort of hybrid religious priesthood leading people astray. The True Church exists within The Kingdom of God, in the presence of the world, each hour of every day. It must be lived out in our daily routines as The Way, The Truth and The Life that Jesus intended it to be. You and I need to be The Church every moment, in every circumstance, every day. It is both our privilege and our duty.

The Church exists within us and is made powerful whenever and wherever two, or more are gathered in His name. The church is the glue that binds us together in every partnership of life, but, even when we are alone, we are two, in partnership with Christ. The Church of Two, CO2, is where church begins, in our own hearts, worshiping, discipling, meditating on His word, ministering in fellowship and prayer, each and every day of the week. Only then will we be prepared for larger, corporate worship on Sunday and perhaps, on Sunday, in unity of purpose, guided by the Holy Spirit, we will see the model of Christ, that He worshiped in good works, telling those who knew only religion, and nothing of God, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5:17)

I pray that the church of the third millennium will be a Church of Two, a working church and not one that sleeps all week, waking only for two hours on Sunday, “lukewarm.”

Posted in Discipleship | Tagged , , | 1 Comment