Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Deep and Beautiful Secret of the Human Soul

source via Wikimedia
Driving down the highway, in the darkness of the night along the great lake Michigan I spotted across the mists of the sea the city in which I reside, lights dotting along the peninsula hanging out upon the waters.  Up in the sky, the stars were numerous, unending and unhindered by the bright lights of the city.  Out here you can see it all.  I passed by the old dam pouring thundering waters down under the bridge.  

What an amazing thing I wondered to myself, to be a human here, speeding across the night in such a technological wonder, blazing through the night in the midst of the fall of man.  What a particularly amazing state of affairs, and how thoroughly haunting to see it all playing out before me.  I could hardly believe it if I didn't experience it everyday and know little else.  The night makes it beautiful in a way, a charming stream of reality, the crusty spots hidden by the shadows, and the purity of the moment magnified by the stillness of the night. 

Again in the morning I awake because God sustains me.  In the quasi-tragedy of our times, dressed up in all manner of madness to make it seem appealing, civilization gathers and crumbles time and again.  It happens in slow motion in front of me day by day, the same city but always new.  The same buildings yet always a different and fantastic sky-scape painted across the backdrop.  

And I look at it wearily, as I jaunt about in the work vehicle, doing this and doing that.  I don't wish for something else really, I just cautiously mourn.  I mourn in the back of my mind everyday you see, with ancient yearnings that lead back to a different time.  Something of the human soul remembers it, like a perfection invisible and if consciously confronted it vanishes.  In fact it never shows itself, aside from a feeling that something is missing.  Or for those more attuned, it is the persistent suggestion that something is quite wrong with reality itself.  Reality itself is broken, not just as a reflection of the internal struggle of the individual, but as an objective reality outside the individual.  Something seems terribly wrong; no wonder so many people face depression, even more so in an advanced civilization!

It's been eluded to in writing by people like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton.  It's that slight of infinity within the human soul.  And it cries out day and night for something greater that it remembers.  It cries day and night but finds little air.  Yet the human soul tunes to it occasionally, like twisting the dials on an FM radio, the music cuts through occasionally, half remembered, twisted, and vanishes once again.  The human soul itself can sense it's own inclination to elevated realities beyond the confines of Earth.  And so we yearn for it.  When we see beauty on the horizon, it shocks and amazes us.  But many cannot face this reality, or prefer not to.  In exchange for the glory of God, they choose petty pleasures that never truly satisfy; Though they may seem insanely tantalizing in the moment.   I woke up this morning and saw the blue sky and the gorgeous clouds floating against the skyline as I did my duties.  It amazed me once again.  Beauty affects the mind like that.  It draws us in toward the sensation that makes life worth living.

In the struggle of everyday life, in the five day work week I find myself often pulling a drag behind myself.  It's not too heavy, not like the weight of my past sins had been.  Those are gone now.  It's a lighter burden but still remains with me.  It's a sort of nuclear tint on reality, as if my life were shot in the nuclear tones of Battlestar Galactica.  This is especially powerful in autumn and deep winter.  In the far north we have not only winter, but deep winter.  Deep winter comes when winter would normally burn itself out, in January.  Yet it bleeds on from February, March and April and into May.  This is the time when temperatures are often -15 degrees.  One could say the feeling is similar within my own mind on days like today, when I can't help but feel hindered by my own monotonous life.  

We all have those moments don't we, and we wonder: What is it all about?  It's at those moments when we must cling to our calling, the thing that fastens us to what we do.  What we do is not who we are, but what we do is or ought to be what God has designed us to do.  And if we aren't doing that, we'd better start.  

Is what I'm doing of eternal consequence?  Most certainly it is.  Yet even that reality can't comfort the weariness in my soul.  

Why soul are you so weary?  Why soul are you so down?  Have you been listening to the political debate on CNN?  Were you disturbed by Lester Holt and his bias?  Were you considering your own infinite finitude or the number of hours you must wait until eternity comes?  No not so, says my soul. I've really only been living moment to moment, doing my job, praying hard, writing and trying to keep going.  I wasn't really thinking about anything.  I wasn't really worried about anything.  But the truth is, I have a touch of a cold, I'm a little tired, and I really want to go home.  

Home, not being here, then, well, I must wait.  And I wait patiently knowing that my reward will be great.  Though I am wholly unable to inspect it now, I expect it later.  Life will continue I suppose and I must continue.  Life isn't easy.  It hasn't ever been easy.  But I'll continue.  I'll outlast that itch of eternity that refuses let me indulge in the daily life without considering the future and the eternal ramifications of my actions.  And better it be so. 

The dredges are out in full force, having laid their seeds seventy years ago or so.  Now the work is turning up it's terrible crop.  So to step outside the vomit fests of modern society, the flagellation, the hysterical laughter fests, the selfish self obsessed lifestyles, the constant indulgence, the decadent sex orgies, the violence, the child sacrifice, the filthy gorging of every possible pleasure to the max of utter stupefaction, to escape this and attempt by the grace of God to live a pure life; Well, that's a revolutionary act of the highest measure.  

They can't stand it you see, the celebrities, the talking heads, the upper class types; when they see someone trying to live a pure life they have to tear down that person. Like Tim Tebow, Ted Cruz, like anyone in any sort of lime light, that person enrages them.  Why?  Because everyone must, must, must be as despicable as they are.  If not, if even one stands up to say no, it is a naked indictment of their way of living.  And change is hard.  So they try with all their might to destroy anything that is good.  And the Bible said they would.  Fancy that?

Maybe I've figured it out, maybe I've come to realize that it's tough to live in a country decimated by sin.  Well it most certainly is!  We fight the good fight, but we're afraid in the cold depths of our souls, we're afraid that it's too late for a nation or a set of civilizations.  That fact chills the heart, even though this abode is only our temporary stay, we would have it be a place of liberty and justice.  Even if only for a little while.  

Every so often one comes out of the muck of the slime fests in our towns and cities, wondering if there might be something more.  There is, there really really is.  It is Jesus.  He is our King.  He is alive today, having conquered death itself.  Many trade the future kingdom for daily pleasures that never really satisfy.  

There was a documentary of a group of drug addicts in Massachusetts.  The camera man followed their lives as they went out to get their crack and came back to the room to do it.  Time and time again the cycle repeated.  One of those days the camera man watched them go through the process of finding these drugs.  And just as they sat down and began using this crack cocaine he asked them in the most honest terms: "You have your drugs, your all set, getting lit up, are you happy now?"  And one man looked over and replied grimly, "Do I look happy?"  All the men equoed his statement.  

Much the same could be asked of the young man who just plundered yet another bar girl, laying next to her planning his route of escape, one might ask him: "Are you happy now?"  Or what about the billionaire investor and entrepreneur?  He's just gathered another 1.3 billion dollars for his company.  He's ordering the new sports car, he's finishing up a night on the town, going from club to club, feeling so important, and as the evening winds down, one might ask: "Are you happy now?" 

And what about you reader, on your device, your computer, your phone... Does it satisfy you?  Are you happy now?  Or does your heart ache for something greater?  

Come to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  View the God who made the universe and crafted the human species.  Consider eternity, your life, and the future.  Consider the weight of your past.  And cry out to Jesus Christ to save you, for we are all in need of Him.  It's for you too.  It's for you.  Not only others, you.

The northern lights are said to be beautiful over northern Michigan tonight.  The beauty of the autumn season is setting in.  The schedule is busy, the election is wrapping up, and life does go on.  We consider another year ahead of us.  Though I may be sullen, melancholy on nights like these, fundamentally my life is based on hope today.  In the past my life was based fundamentally on sorrow and self destruction.  Jesus Christ reversed that system.  

Life is tough now, to try with all my might to follow the savior, and see myself often fall short.  But fundamentally the savior has set me free.  He has revealed the deep secret within my soul, the secret of Christ grafted upon my soul to repair the damage and renew me in preparation for eternity.  This is a profound truth.  

That sliver of eternity cries out for that great physician to be grafted to the soul.  Yet even after being reborn in Christ, still that sense of eternity cries out, where my soul aches to be with God in a perfect state of existence, yet my mission insists that I remain, to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ into all the world, into the web, into collision with young people like myself who just don't know, because no one seems to know how to tell them.  I can tell them, uniquely so.  So I will.  And I'll go on lamenting the present, and joyfully expecting the future transposition of myself into the direct presence of God almighty, with you hopefully, for all eternity.  Amen. 

CC 2.0, source
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  4. Ancient Doorways in the Brickhouse: Fields of Green in your Dreams
  5. Depression & Meaninglessness: Where is God in the depths of sorrow?
  6. The Awe of Dreams & the Surreal
  7. Big Picture: The Solution to all the Problems of Earth
  8. What is the meaning of Life?
  9. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of God
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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Healing from Past Struggles

Message Audio:

Today we’ll address the topic of healing. In the fallen world in which we live there are many times when we experience things that harm us. We have to go through hard times. Each of I’m sure could list off traumatic experiences that we’ve been through. Whether we’re soldiers in combat, or children who went through abuse, or those who struggle with addictions, or those afflicted with the blackest depression, we all have scars along the journey of life.

I’ve been through a lot in my life. And I’d like to share a bit more of my story, as I have in the past, and then transition into 3 ways of healing. 

From birth on, it's been a struggle. Just after I was born, I would experience terrible stomach pains. When I began to learn to talk I developed a stutter, and had to work through that. In school I got bullied a great deal and spent a lot of time as an outcast. When I was 16 I saw my parents go through an ugly, protracted divorce. When I was 17 I was expelled from my high school and shunned by my former friends. When I was 18 I experienced being locked in a mental hospital. When I was 20 I became a serious drug addict. That same year I experienced serving jail time for the first time, for marijuana charges. I struggled with alcoholism and addiction for years after. I fought severe depression and anxiety on a daily basis. When I was 21 I became addicted to cigarettes. When I was 23 I was sexually assaulted by a close friend. For years I was estranged from my family. I’ve had serious health problems. When I was 25 I was hospitalized in intensive care for a drug overdose.  I almost died in ICU that night. At age 26 I experienced rock bottom, the blackest dark depression. On and on the list goes.

But, this is key: I’m not a victim. I’m not a victim. I’m an overcomer. I’m a redeemed, born again, son of the most high God. Because Jesus came to save sinners, I need never be a victim, and the moment I let myself believe that I’m a victim, I’m no longer able to heal. Life is messy. And sometimes terrible things happen. But I have to keep fighting. We all do.

During those years of my struggles, I had dreams. I would dream of walking along a beautiful green path in the forest, along a trail. I would walk through these gorgeous green forests. Sometimes it would be at night. Sometimes I would be afraid, other times I would be filled with wonder and joy. I dreamt very often of the road.  It was a respite for me, in my dreams. I didn't know it then, but that trail was the road that would eventually lead me to encounter the living Jesus Christ.

I dreamt many times of walking along this path, in search of the truth. I dreamt one night of ascending this beautiful autumn path, light cutting through the trees, leaves falling, silver birch trees along the road that drifted left and right criss-crossing up a hill. In another dream I saw a beautiful golden meadow, in which I sat down, finally discovering peace.

Yet in the real world my life had become a fading darkness. But reflected in my dreams was a future brighter than I could imagine. In the shuttering cold winds of that dark life, under uncertain skies, in the valley of cold winters, searching for something greater, dying in addiction, in sorrow, finally the twilight broke, the clouds parted, and the light of Christ shined down upon me.

Jesus changes everything. The ultimate source of healing is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the doorway, God the Father is the architect & guide of the plan, and the Spirit is the indwelling healing presence.

Jesus Christ does the mighty work within us. But it isn’t finished there. We still need to heal and grow. There is work to be done.

I was at Salvation Army men's camp last weekend.  At men’s camp I recall the speaker pastor Rod Williams sharing about Jesus moving mountains in our lives. After the Saturday morning session the camp staff asked if some of the men would help move some dirt. There was a giant pile of dirt by the kitchen entrance, and about twenty guys grabbed shovels, and started filling wheelbarrows. I recall as I stood shoveling the dirt into the wheelbarrows, that sometimes if you want God to move a mountain, you better grab a shovel.

So let’s look at three ways to gain healing from past struggles and traumas in our lives.

The foundation of these three approaches must be laid in prayer, and Bible study. We should be praying at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Preferably 3 times a day, like Daniel did. We should also be attending a regular Bible study, and be regularly studying the scriptures in our personal time as well. Those two practices are the foundation, but sometimes we must go deeper.

One of the best ways to experience healing is through study and writing things down.  God has given us wisdom through His word and through the natural world, yet we may also find wisdom in areas like science, psychology, and philosophy. (Note: We can also be deceived by false ideology in many areas, so we must always be aware of the presuppositions of the fields we study.)

The first book I really studied on healing through Christ was called “The Bondage Breaker” by Neil T. Anderson. It was an excellent book on how to challenge the lies of Satan with the truth of God’s word. Another powerful workbook I went through was called the "Freedom from Depression workbook" by Frank Minirth. It helped change a lot of my perspectives about the world. I could list off a lot of extremely helpful books, I'm a voracious reader, but the three most powerful were: "Healing for Damaged Emotions" by David Seamands, "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" by Bill Wilson, and "Love is a Choice" by Robert Hemfelt.

When we go through hard times sometimes we don’t really heal afterward and things build up within as anxiety or depression. When we write things down and learn about the inner workings of our mind, those traumas get cleared out, making way for the light of God’s presence.

I’m convinced many of us don’t experience the fullness of God’s presence because we have too much wreckage from our pasts built up within. But when we clear out those past struggles, we make room for the Spirit of God to fully consume us.

One of the most tried and true methods of experiencing healing from past struggles is by writing down an inventory. This approach was first pioneered in the 12 step program of action founded in recovery groups in the 1930s, but has since become a prominent healing technique. All one need do is write out a timeline of their lives, emphasizing important events, from birth to present. Then working from the timeline, write down in journal format with the deepest honesty exactly what happened. Once having this inventory completed, the writer takes it to a trusted friend, colleague or pastor and “confesses” it to them. And through this, healing is found.

Or as it says in James 5:16 “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Pray about it, maybe God is leading you to write out some of your past traumas to gain healing. If you'd like a more detailed inventory guide Google search "fourth step inventory guide."  You'll find quite a few documents that you can print out to guide your inventory process.

Secondly, make sure you have a good network of support. That is always key. And its usually one of the hardest things for those with past traumas to do. When you’ve been through hard times it tends to make you feel different from others. It makes reaching out and connecting with people a very hard thing to do. In fact for me it seemed near impossible. But I managed to reconnect with my family over time. And I began to develop friendships. I found older people in the church and in my recover community who I could look up to as mentors. That is a powerful thing, to have friends and mentors who speak into our lives. We have to have people we can share anything with. Otherwise it stays locked inside of us. A lost art is that of young men finding older, wiser men, who can they learn and grow from.  Trust me on this, seek out a good mentor.  Learn from him, or her.

Thirdly, if we want healing we have to look to groups where we can heal with others. One of the best options for this sort of healing is found at a program called Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is a place to come with your hurts, habits, and hangups. It’s a great program. Other programs are also available for those with alcohol, drug, or gambling problems like AA, NA, and GA.  The healing is found in these programs through blunt, honest, real discussions. 

When I work with the teens at my church, I always try to engage them in deep, real conversations. I try to get them to express their deepest thoughts, and share the struggles they go through. You’d be amazed how these blunt, real conversations can help shine the light of healing.

For those with more minor problems, a good Christian counselor can be very helpful too. 

So those are the three best ways I've found to address the issue of healing from past struggles. And we all have those struggles.

In closing, there is something very important to remember about healing. I learned it in the past when I worked at a homeless shelter in Wausau. I remember one night I went to sleep, upset, because I couldn’t seem to reach those I felt needed my help. I fell asleep and dreamt that I was chasing this boy. I was trying to stop him, to help him. And every time I would run fast enough to reach this boy, he would jump through a portal, a wormhole into a different dimension. So I’d jump through the wormhole, and follow him, then when I was just about to reach him again, he’d jump through another wormhole and escape.

When I woke up that next day and shared my dream with a coworker it helped me realize something: A person caught up in the sorrow of trauma, addiction, and depression can’t be helped unless they want to be helped. The human mind has nearly an infinite capacity for self deception. See, every time I tried to explain to an alcoholic about what the issue was and how to deal with it, he would flee my reasoning, he would escape from my facts, into a new thought that protected him from the truth. I saw this again and again. I couldn't corner them with the truth, they'd always sneak out a back door. 

The point is this: We aren’t going to really heal unless we get totally honest with ourselves. We have to share what is really going on. We have to stop lying to ourselves, and tell the truth. The truth will set us free. If we let it. 

"Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked."
-John 5:1-9 NIV

What was the first thing Jesus asked the crippled man? The first question Jesus asked him was: “Do you want to get to well?” And that is the first question Jesus asked me when I cried out to him, and he became my savior. "Do you want to be free from drugs and alcohol?" And I said yes, I’m willing to finally get real about this problem.

I need that today too. With every issue and sin that crops up in my life. Because there are always more things to work on. So I have to say to Jesus time and again, yes Lord, now I’m ready and willing that you should have all of me. I want to get well.

The cool thing about our savior Jesus Christ is that he takes people like you and me, and heals us over time, and then compels us to go out and help those with the struggles we have gone through. As someone who has recovered from addiction issues, I can relate to and reach those with the same problems in a way others simply can not. So let me challenge you, if you’d been through some stuff, think about how God can use that to bless others who are hurting. 

Resources for Healing:
The Freedom from Depression Workbook by Frank Minirth
Free to Be God’s Child Workbook by Patricia Johnson-Laster
The Anger Workbook by Les Carter
The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson
Beating Burnout by Minirth and Meier
Everyman’s Battle: The Path to Sexual Integrity by Stephen Arterburn /
Healing the Child Within by Charles Whitfield
The Lies We Believe by Chris Thurman
Boundaries by Henry Cloud
Victory over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson
Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
The Worry Workbook by Les Carter
Self-Esteem, Gift from God by Ruth Ward

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Dead Churches, Visions of Glory, and Apologetics Blogs

The older generation, oi vey, they just don't get it do they?  They act like we're on some sort of pleasure cruise to heaven.  I really can't understand it myself.  These churches will be dead in ten, twenty, thirty, or fourty years.  Many are dead today.  Why?  There is no effort to reach out.  There is little effort to reach the young, millennials.  It's really quite concerning to me.  It's of the gravest concern.

There was a dream that William Booth had.  He was standing on a platform with many others.  And the platform stood atop a raging sea.  The people on the platform were working out, holding potlucks, playing music instruments, conducting business transactions, and other activities.  In the water were hundreds of people floating in the murky waters, on the raging sea, dying.  Only a few on the edges were tossing out life preservers to those in the water.  And he was astonished, desperately concerned for those in the waters, and disturbed by the indifference of those on the platform who seemed to pay no concern to the ones in the water.

Ellen White the founder of the SDA church had a dream of working with others picking berries from ripe bushes.  And she saw that only a few were gathering from the ripe bushes.  While the rest did many other things, stood around talking, ate fine meals with one another, and paid no attention.  She rushed to the bushes picking from them, noticing many fell over-ripe from the branches.  And she was astonished. 

K.P. Yohannan, before his fall from grace, had a vision of a great harvest.  And there were no workers in the great wheat fields.  He tried to cross into the field, but a river was blocking his path.  Then a bridge appeared before him and he crossed it.  And he was astonished.  

Does anyone care?  Are we concerned for those around us dying everyday?  Are we fighting to reach the lost with the gospel?  It's important to look to the future.  And it ain't looking good.  Yet there is reason for great hope as well.  

The church is divided.  There seem to be great variations regarding level of engagement.  Sold out on one end, barely interested on the other.  Many at various points in between.  One could say much the same for political engagement.  It's the true believers that change the world.  It's the genuine Christians who change the world.

I think many churches have missed young people, especially those between 18 and 35.

When someone feels that something has been missed, by the media, by the church, or by the political world, the natural response is to try and raise awareness. Through the internet we have that ability. 

There are hundreds of Christian apologetics blogs that cropped up over the past 10 years, because the church simply doesn't talk about apologetics enough. And young people are enthusiastic about it. 

In politics, anti-establishment movements, socialist Bernie Sanders, conservative Ted Cruz gained grassroots support through social media, everyday people trying to close the gap of the mainstream media and news. I try to do the same through social media, to compensate the lack of coverage of key issues in popular media.

In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. -Ecclesiastes 8:14b

 I was wondering to myself.. why do I feel so upset in this world? Well, I figured it out. God put a scripture before me about Lot in Sodom & Gomorrah. From 2nd Peter 2:7-8 "that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard." 

 It is downright tormenting to witness those around us, dressed the way they are, living the way they are, alcohol, drugs, selfishness, pornography, pre-marital sex, Christianity openly mocked in the media, the television, the rated R movies full of violence and sex, it's a constant bombardment everyday, and everyday more news comes in of shooting, corruption, and hostility toward religious freedom. It's a difficult thing to be a Christian in a nation that has turned from God. It really is tough.

Yet I continue to believe we have great reasons to be hopeful.  People are beginning to wake up.  The internet has provided a solid foundation for grassroots to Christianity to take off.  We get to bypass the megachurches, the money takers on television, and talk straight with one another, from small churches all over the country.  It's a great opportunity.  It's creating a movement, an awakening of knowledge and wisdom within evangelicalism.  We're connecting with one another, and reconnecting with our theological past.  We're sharing quotes, books, ideas, and theology all over the place on social media.  It's really awesome.  

Bottom line is, if we see division, corruption, false converts, and true believers mixed together in the church, then we're seeing exactly what the Bible tells us.  Jesus taught in his parables that God the Father is allowing the wheat and the weeds to grow together.  The wheat are the true believers, the weeds the false converts.  We shouldn't be surprised by these divisions.  We shouldn't be surprised when it seems like half the congregation is disengaged and the other half is on fire.  That is normal.  In fact in Paul's letters in the NT we see time and again that the churches then dealt with the most severe problems.  Many of those churches dealt with issues like sexual immorality, false doctrine, divisions, and lack of oneness.  In addition, in Revelation when Jesus Christ speaks to the seven ancient churches he points out serious concerns within all of them.  So we shouldn't be surprised.  

We shouldn't be surprised.  But we should be active.  We have to be careful to not drift away from the truth.  We have to be grounded in the truth, over the long term.  Are we part of Spirit filled churches?  Are we carrying the message into our community?  

I've learned that if I'm the only one carrying the message into the community, so be it.  Then I'll do it alone!  If I'm one of many, then all the better.  Either way, keep carrying the message.  And fight the sins that entangle us.  We aren't on a pleasure cruise to heaven, we're on a battleship fighting to keep the souls of man out of hell.

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Top 10 People I wish were running for President so I could Vote for them

CC 2.0 via Flickr
Top 10 people I wish were running for president, so I could vote for them:

1. Ted Cruz - principled constitutional conservative, what a chance we had...

2. Alan Keyes - former diplomat, constitutional lawyer, a true man of principle.

3. Allen West - retired Army Lt. Colonel, great and wise man.

4. Thomas Sowell - economics would never be a problem under a Sowell presidency

5. David Horowitz - here is a man who knows how to fight political correctness and cultural marxism.

6. Ron Paul - I don't agree with his foreign policy, but Ron Paul is a man who believes in the Constitution and the restriction of federal power.

7. Marco Rubio - here is a solid conservative, not as consistent as Cruz, but certainly would make a great president.

8. Ben Sasse - This senator is a gifted communicator, Youtube his speech at the Heritage Action conservative summit; he receives a 97% from Heritage's conservative scorecard.

9. Justin Amash - this Rep from Michigan is a rising star, a solid libertarian inspired by the Ron Paul movement to run for Congress. He is a principled libertarian who firmly supports the Constitution.

10. Michelle Bachmann - the media pundits and insiders laughed at Bachmann when she suggested that ISIS was attempting to form an Islamic caliphate in the middle east, years later, she was proved correct.

Honorable mention: Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, Clarence Thomas, Carly Fiorina, Mark Levin (if he would run), Trey Gowdy, and Rand Paul.

Who did I forget? Who would you most want to vote for? Who would you want to see run in 2020?

Ben Sasse via Flickr CC 2.0
Clarence Thomas cc 2.0 via Wikimedia

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Living in a Mad World: The Entire Spectrum of Life & Jesus

I woke up this morning, and God was good.  When I lay down to sleep, God will be good.  And when I wake up again tomorrow, God will be so good.  God remains holy, true, and good.  He never changes. 

The Lord Jesus has really changed my life.  It's been several years now.  It's amazing to look back and see how God has gathered the pieces of my broken life and formed it into something new.  It's simply astounding.  It's quite interesting.  Addiction had me by the throat, it really did.  It's amazing how dead I used to be.  I really was dead to the core, living in a state of perpetual frustration and irritating dissatisfaction.  

Nothing ever worked in my life.  Whether it was a job, or an idea or a relationship or a friendship, it always melted like sand in my hands.  That can be particularly devastating over a period of years, don't you think?  

We young folks have been through a real hell.  Especially in the last twenty or so years.  We've been screwed over from every direction imaginable, mainly from our deadbeat parents and grandparents who screwed up the world, spent away the future, and now attempt to con us into their doomed false worldview.  

Plus they charge us 1000% of what they paid for college (it's true) to teach us their half-baked hippie worldview that sucks, and is clearly systemically contradictory.  Many of us, myself included we're caught by that con, the college con: That we needed this degree, and we did, but we didn't realize they'd jacked up the price.  When my parents graduated college they had a few thousand of debt that they paid off in a few years.  No one told me it wasn't normal that I would end up with over $25,000 of debt that will take me 10+ years to pay off. Many are much worse off though, with a hundred thousand dollar degrees in philosophy or feminism, and they're working as chefs or at the local coffee shop.  "Should I leave room for cream?"  

That's just one example of how we young people face an uphill battle.  Another is drug addiction.  Many, many young people I talk to about addiction tell me they got started by going to the doctor, receiving pain pills, and they got hooked on them.  Meth and heroin, on the rise as well.  Children fed ritalin and amphetamines for being too excitable.  Moral foundations of the society, rescinding quickly.  And the public education system, well, it's a disaster area.  The churches, the hope and salvation of a society, seemingly half asleep, manned by people who don't seem to really believe what they preach.  And everyone is trying to sell you something, usually junk, made poorly that will fall apart in a year or two.  Thousands of advertisements.  The televisions in every living room screaming at us day and night.  It's pretty crazy.  I often think it's amazing anyone makes it out without being totally mind raped and soul savaged to utter decimation.  But the odds have always been against us haven't they? 

The moral arc of the universe bends toward tyranny.  It's true.  Time and again the world comes to the brink.  Think of Hitler, think of Stalin's genocide.  Think of the Napoleonic wars.  Think of the global economy today.  Time and again the universe seems to conspire toward evil, in massive ways, World Wars, genocidal regimes, world poverty, diseases, and of course the tyranny of the experts, mounting trillion dollar debt and political correctness today.  

We're in our bubble in America, with our rose colored glasses on.  But the snow-globe is starting to crack along the edges.  We're starting to notice that false reality dripping through the cracks.  We're starting to look up and see the truth about life.  We're seeing that God is real; and we're on an eternal path, not a temporal one.  

We live in a world of meth, lies, feel the bern, hurricane Hermine, Hillary's emails, child sacrifice, radical Islamic terrorism, political correctness, your a racist, your a sexist, everyone is a bigot, cops murdered, socialism on college campuses, Nigel Farage brexit, Donald Trumpism, heart disease, diabetes, new technologies, medical advancements, punctuated equilibrium, Alinsky radicals, conservative Constitutionalists, missing emails, NSA mass surveillance, evangelism outlawed in Russia, and the persecuted church crumbling in the middle east.  Just to name a few things!  And we thought we knew it all, didn't we?  Fascinating, quite interesting.  It's interesting what one discovers one does not know.  

I was once a secular blue liberal, 100% sure I was right and they were the devil.  But when it came down to it... I had no idea why I was a liberal.  Because... save the whales?  I don't know.  Because save the environment?  Because of that one Disney cartoon with the miniature guy trying to save the rain forest?  Maybe it was because my 4th grade elementary school teacher told me Democrats were better than Republicans.  And secular because, well, I was raised Catholic and it seemed really dumb and fake.  And exceedingly boring!  We all heard about those priests molesting boys on the news too. 

Yet despite all the politics, struggles, persecutions, abortions, pedophilia, social justice warriors, and dead movie stars, God almighty remains in charge of the universe.  God remains sovereign.  Steven Crowder a political satirist commented recently that when he goes to pray at night he thinks of people like Amy Schumer and thinks Lord... really?  

Free will you see.  God set rules like that, free will, the ability for humans to make free decisions.  It was a dangerous decision don't you think? Maybe so!  One can criticize a pretty sunset but how can they criticize the eyes they see it with? Never the less, here we are making our choices, then blaming God when things go south. 

I watch things roll on day by day in this world, in the media world, in the computer inter-webs, the news, and think to myself; this is really mad isn't it?  It truly is quite mad, not to mention exceedingly exciting.

Sometimes I can't sleep at night.  I set the word of God playing, and listen as my mind flies through the memories and thoughts of the past few weeks.  And life is simply astounding.  At times it can be quite mundane, dull, and hopeless.  But other times it's really quite beautiful and amazing.  This is the human condition, front and center.  This is the spiritual struggle of man kind, everyday, playing out before us.  

Me and you, well, we're just a little blip on the radar.  Billions have come before us, lived and died, watching just the same demented theater play itself out.  And they've wondered.  And they've believed in Jesus.  Many have, many haven't.  

It's really quite astounding given the stakes.  Everything is at stake, everyday.  Every action we take, every thought we think is considered accountable before the creator of life, the universe, and the human race.  That's a reality many will fight tooth and nail to escape, dreaming up false worldviews aplenty.

I know that mentally, I know every action I take is being measured.  I'm fully aware of it.  But my goodness, when that sin is before my eyes and offering it's fleeting pleasure I find myself defeated.  I know that when I indulge in sin I put my very soul on the line.  But at that moment I cannot muster the recognition necessary to resist.  And time and again I find myself falling to a sin of the flesh.  Astounding, and disheartening.  But coming once again to the throne of grace, I find the grace that keeps me clean in this world.  And I rise to fight the battle again tomorrow. 

Despite the struggle, the temptations, the chaos in the world, God remains good.  Amazing.  God reaches out his hand all day long to an obstinate and despicable human race.  And yet we being so obstinate and despicable, we are also deemed 100% worthy of God's trouble to redeem this human race; adopted, glorified, sanctified and placed into leadership as parts of his eternal kingdom.  Amazing!  

Jesus Christ is Lord.  He is God come to save us.  I'm amazed by His character and His mission.  I'm astounded by the accounts of his life in the gospels.  It changes everything.  I'm most mystified by His present ministry in the world.  The amazing thing is that He is presently active and at work in the world.  His Spirit rides from coast to coast you see, like Gandalf the White riding upon Shadowfax in a mad rush to unite the kingdoms of Middle Earth against the invading armies of Mordor.  

The full spectrum is covered in the Christian worldview.  It's all there.  It goes all the way from nasty, awful people like Amy Schumer all the way to Jesus Christ the perfect, sinless, holy son of God.  And in between is the human race, and the angels, the demons, the entirety of human good and evil, from Mother Teresa to Adolf Hitler.  

It's a crazy ride.  It's a crazy rollercoaster ride on this planet.  The black death, feudal lords, ancient kingdoms, Roman conquests to cable television, electrical engineering, sanitizing dish soap, open heart surgery, and nuclear warheads air-burst over population centers.  It's a wild ride.  It's real.  It's scary.  It's fun.  It's joyous.  It's serene.  It's nutty.  It's stranger than fiction.  One person breaths smoke and molests children, another loves the poor, serves the lost, and gives their life to the service of Jesus.  The craziest part maybe is that it could be the same person who once molested children and smoked 3 packs a day that later in life serves the poor and follows Jesus with a whole redeemed heart.  

I must say the truth as a human imageo dei, made in the image of God yet exposed to the inverse effects of the fall man, the tendency to self-deify, self-interest, and self-exalt inevitably cause this effect: It is truly very hard to see Jesus.  It's a reality one has to fight for on a daily basis.  

But in walking that path everyday it makes more sense to me.  It's like coming slowly out of utter darkness.  At first the cross is the faintest light on the horizon.  Day by day, step by step that faint light grows brighter.  And eventually you can make out the cross shape, just barely.  Day by day, month by month and year by year the cross grows in light; grows closer.  Eventually one can see the savior there nailed to the rough boards, blood pouring from His open side.  One can make out the look on His face as he cries out in sorrow "Father forgive them they don't know what they're doing" as God the Father turns his presence away.  And I realize that Jesus is there on the cross, pouring out his blood for me.  I realize he has walked into the court room of my endless bad deeds, all the women I've hurt, all the broken relationships, all the sins that I've committed across my whole life, and Jesus looks at the judge and says, "Let this man go free, I will take the punishment for his sins."  Justice must be done, and Jesus takes the penalty for me.  Not only that, but upon dying for me, He resurrects from the dead and gives me His very Spirit, grafting it onto my broken soul, to transform me into His likeness over time.  And Jesus becomes my best friend, the one who will walk beside me all the days of my life, and lead me home to a perfected eternal reality where I will reign with him in glory forever.  I don't have to die anymore, or fail anymore, or fall to the schemes of the world anymore, Jesus gives me life.  He gives us life.  

"We are saved from the lawful penalty of sin (justification) are being saved from the power of sin in our present lives (sanctification) and will be saved from the judgment and presence of sin in the life to come (glorification)" -Julie Ann Barnhill

Through all of this we are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us.  Despite all the madness of the world, and the terrible people who mock us and our faith.  Despite the wars, the Hitlers, and even the new technologies and the fine delicacies of life Jesus Christ is exalted throughout human history.  The truth of Christianity may be hard to see, due to the lies we've believed and the false worldviews roaming about destroying the world, but the truth is, our Christian faith is the only worldview that adequately explains life, death, morality, human worth, consciousness, nuclear bombs, mass genocides, love, heroes, and charitable endeavors.  Jesus covers the entire spectrum of life. He is the truth come to us.  He lives, and He reigns. There are only two options for us and no middle ground: We can be one of his enemies or one of his heroes.

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  2. What is the matrix?
  3. Living in the Suburban Sprawl (Mountains beyond Mountains)
  4. Ancient Doorways in the Brickhouse: Fields of Green in your Dreams
  5. Depression & Meaninglessness: Where is God in the depths of sorrow?
  6. The Awe of Dreams & the Surreal
  7. Big Picture: The Solution to all the Problems of Earth
  8. What is the meaning of Life?
  9. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of God
  10. Daybreak: Examining the Problem of Pain

Friday, September 9, 2016

How has God blessed you in the Last Year?

I always think of this time of year as the beginning of the year. Probably because this is when school starts again, and summer is ending. So I’d like to share with you the blessings I’ve experienced over the past year. What’s amazing is that Jesus not only removed my sins and gave me eternal life, he’s not done with me yet! He’s actively at work in my life, our living savior.

So over the past year, wow. Just wow. Let me tell you, when I first began the moving process from Wausau to Escanaba I was terrified. I was petrified. I thought my goodness how am I going to do this. How can I handle all the challenges that will be ahead? It’s much too much for me.

I have these issues in my life, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, recovery from addiction, and lots of fear. This is just too much. And I’ll be leaving all my friends behind in Wausau. All my friends at Wausau corps. All the people I love and my family.

But what happened as I moved here and as I started working was this: God made possible what had been impossible. My part was to step out in faith and believe He would go before me. God has blessed me in so many ways. 

I used to be the worst of the worst.  Believe me!  One account in the scriptures relates specifically to my past struggles.  And his whole world changed when he encountered the Son of God.

The word of God says: "They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. 

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”" -Mark 5:1-8 (NIV)

Madness! He wandered about graveyards and tombs, and catacombs. The truth is, that was me. I was the lost, hopeless man wandering the tombs. Self destructive.

God’s blessing to me first and foremost is that he took a hopeless drug addict, someone caught in so many snares and webs, someone wrapped up in so much sin it seemed impossible to escape, someone who’s body was crippled, someone whose soul was darkened, someone who had lost all hope for a brighter future, at the age of 27, and God took him, me, and put a Bible in his hands, and put a song in his heart, and the Gospel of John before him, and then in darkness, near death, this hopeless junkie fell on his knees near the fire place at his mom’s old house, and cried out from the depths of his soul, a literal verbal cry desperately flying to Jesus Christ the son of God for salvation, mercy, and freedom from destruction.

Jesus heard the call and answered it completely. The ground shook where I knelt, I’d been afraid to share that part for years because I thought people would think I was crazy, but I don’t care, the ground underneath me shook and I was terrified. The cry went out, and oh how the heavens must’ve rejoiced at that moment, a sustained shout of joy of every angel in heaven, as this awful sinner fled to Christ and found total redemption in the blood of the lamb.

It’s true, it’s real, Jesus Christ still saves sinners, even today. He saved me. The light shined in the darkness of my deathly parade. Shining all the brighter to today.

Since I’ve come to Escanaba I’ve grown and matured a lot, into a man of God. One year ago, the greatest blessing is when I first walked in those doors. And I was so scared. I didn’t know if you were all a bunch of jerks. But Major Ralph encouraged you to shake my hand and welcome me. And you could’ve snubbed me. But you didn’t. You welcomed me, warmly. Incredibly warmly. I got about 20 hand shakes that day, and the warmest welcomes.

And from that day until now, I’ve had the strangest feeling. Like when I came to Escanaba, to this church, that I’d come home to a family I’d never known. I felt like I’d come home to people I already knew. You were already family, that I hadn’t seen in a long time. That was the first blessing.

Next, there was Major Ralph. He took me under his wing. He’s taught me so much. He’s been a leader that I can look up to. What Major Ralph has taught me is how to work hard. It sounds simple, but it’s very profound. He’s taught me to work, and to work, and to keep working and to never give up. And I appreciate his example.

Next, there was Bev. A few months into my move, I needed surgery. She came to the hospital with me. And sat there with me. And encouraged me. She was like a mother to me, when I was afraid.

Another blessing was through my friend Rick. He was one of the first people who came in asking me about Jesus, 1 year ago. He said he felt he wanted to step up and join a church. And he started coming here, started volunteering at the kitchen, coming to Bible study, and today he’s a vital part of this family. That’s a real blessing.

Another blessing was Stanley. He’s helped with so many random projects. And got me involved at Bishop Noa. He’s one of the few people in my life who were willing to help out in just about any situation. Most times with people you can expect the answer to almost always be “no” when you ask them for help or to step up, and with Stanley, it’s “yes.” It gave me confidence that I could lead & people would follow.

Another blessing was working with boys club and vacation bible school and finding a passion for working with kids.

So many blessings. Yet I’ve also been so tired at times, and so sick at times since I’ve been here. Yet that also turned out to be a blessing. God gave me a message, a theme verse for this time in Escanaba. 

 It goes like this: "Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint." -Isaiah 40:30-31 

I didn’t realize it at first but God was telling me that I would have to wait on him for the next few years. God was saying that I would be weak, tired, and weary, and that I would stumble and fall. But that I would also hope in Him. And that eventually my strength would be renewed. And I would soar like the eagles. And run and not be tired. 

Sometimes in life we have to wait and wait and continue waiting. And hope in the Lord, when we aren’t where we’d like to be, when we’re single, we don’t have many friends, we’re tired everyday, overweight, we’re depressed, we’re anxious. And we have to wait on the Lord. And keep a steadfast daily hope in Him. 

God has taught me to rely on Him. He’s built up my spiritual muscles, the maturity of my soul, and my ability to persevere through difficulties. He’s taught me so much over the past year… to make pasties, to wax floors, to count kettles, to hand out food, to work long hours, to lead bible studies, to do home visits, to visit nursing homes, to counsel those who struggle, to pray the hurting, to stand up for what I believe in, to carry his gospel, and to serve His people. 

God has blessed me over the past year. I’ve grown so much. Now I’m wondering about you. How has God blessed you in the past year?  Take some time and write out a list of the ways you've seen God work in your life in the last year.  And post that list on your fridge or somewhere in your home, or at work.  We must always remind ourselves how God has blessed us and how he has worked in our lives.  When we recognize our blessings we recognize God's sovereign presence in our lives.  We acknowledge his greatness when we look back to the blessings, and we invite God to work in the future.  God is great.  His blessings are many.  

 Related Posts:

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  3. The Divine Mysteries of Jesus Christ
  4. Sermon: Fighting the Good Fight of the Faith
  5. The Great Pillars of Society: Morality & Religion
  6. The War on Principles & the Hope in our Worldview
  7. Take a Stand on Key Issues: Addiction, Abortion
  8. Politics & God
  9. Comprehending the Truth about America
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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Overcoming through Suffering in Ministry and the Salvation Army

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. -2 Corinthians 4:8-10 ESV

I’d like to begin with the example of Richard Wurmbrand. His is a famous struggle against true evil. He was born in Armenia in 1909. He was a minister in Romania during the spread of communism across the globe. Communism swept through Russia, and into Romania, which was controlled by the Soviet union. Richard Wurmbrand watched as communists took over the churches in his country and begin using those churches to spread communism. He instead preached against communism, and preached the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which the communists despised.

For this Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned. He had to be isolated in solitary confinement because every time they put him in with the general population he would preach the gospel to the other prisoners. They offered to release him many times if he would just reject Christ and become a good communist atheist. He refused.

They tortured him to discover the names and locations of the secret underground churches in Romania. In 14 years he gave no names. His imprisonment separated him from his wife and his son. He was left in solitary confinement for a total of 14 years. He never gave up.

Have you been through struggles? Have you been through suffering? Has it made you question your faith? Has it made you wonder if God is really good? Asked the question: If God really loves me why would he let me go through this?

Pastor Wurmbrand recalled in his book “Tortured for Christ” how he had to sit in a straight upright position and listen to the propaganda on the loud speaker “communism is good, communism is good, Christianity is stupid, Christianity is stupid, No one believes it anymore.” On and on and on. And he recalls a time when the walls of the cell seemed to shine like diamonds, and he knew Christ was there with him and he didn’t even know he was in jail anymore, he was so close with Christ.

Pastor Wurmbrand said that he could see no colors, only the gray of the walls and the gray of the jail uniform. He could not see sky, nor sun, nor moon, nor stars, he could see nothing. He forgot that such things existed over the years of time. He saw no women, no children. He heard nothing, for the cells themselves were sound proof. He lived underground, in this jail, harassed and beaten and abused, and left alone, fed perhaps a piece of bread a week. He heard silence.

And one day he prayed to the Lord saying, Lord I have no one, I can see no one, I do not have your word even Lord, I am in silence, I have nothing, I have become nothing, so would you speak to me Lord and talk with me?

And he heard God say in an audible voice a single question: “What is your name?” He didn’t know how to answer. He wasn’t Richard anymore. He wasn’t simply a Christian or a pastor. He paused & replied, “Jesus, I have no name. Allow me to bear your name.” He said that Paul understood this when he wrote, “Not I live, not the old Paul, not the new Paul. The “I” has been abolished. “Not I live, but Christ lives in me.“

What is your name?

What makes us think God owes us a perfect existence? Our suffering is guaranteed. We can expect it. We must endure it. And remember that we are nothing, and Christ is everything.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I live now in the body, I live for the son of God who loves me and gave himself for me.”

I’d like to share about a few experiences in my life where I’ve experienced the grace of God, which enabled me to overcome through suffering.

Let me preface by saying I’ve rarely had the opportunity to suffer for Christ. But I have seen times when God has gotten me through the dark times.

The first one I recall is when I was in jail about 10 years ago. I spent over two weeks in jail detoxing from drugs, shaking, sweating, hallucinating, weeping, unsure of what reality was, in a state of intense confusion. I was having nightmares every night. I was so scared. All I had was a Bible. I wasn’t saved at this point in my life. But I clung to that Bible. I read it day and night. I hugged it to my chest, because I was so scared.

But Christ was there in the darkness. Let me tell you, some might say all those years of drug addiction, jails, institutions, probation, family chaos, and isolation were meaningless. But they weren’t meaningless to me. Because God was giving me exactly what I needed, to crush my ego, to crush my pride, to burn away all the “self” and “selfishness” of my life, so he could replace my me centered life, with a Christ centered life. Sometimes God allows suffering to teach us not to sin and to free us from pride and ego.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. -1 Peter 5:10 ESV

A second example is when I was newly clean and sober, and when I had just called out to Jesus Christ. I had called out to Him. Jesus was at work in my heart and life. But there was foot work in front of me to do. If I had just called out to Jesus and done nothing, I would be dead today.

Christ does the inner transformation, he does the miracle, we do the daily footwork. So the first thing I did was I found a church in my area and started going to it every week. I started attending 12 step groups, tons of them, I went to 5-8 meetings a week. I filled myself with that message of recovery. I had a Bible my grandpa gave to me as a gift, and I started reading it everyday. Every night I got on my knees, very low before my Lord and worshiped Him and spoke to him from the heart. I kept doing it, week by week, month by month, even when I really didn’t want to.

I was suffering through those times, quite a bit. I was very depressed. I was very anxious, and broken, and disturbed. I was a mess, overall. But I fought through the darkness, believing that God would lead me through all of it. I brought all the sorrow to God in prayer. Through the suffering he molded me into a new growing Christ follower.

Third example, 2 years later I started working at the Salvation Army homeless shelter. I got hired there. And I knew it was of God.

I was a bit naïve at this point in my walk with God. I thought that perhaps this would be a break through of blessings. And it was, just not in the way I expected. On my first night I had to work the weekend alone, because there was a staff shortage and they were in the process of hiring new people. The 36 bed homeless shelter was packed to the brim, and they all knew I was the new guy. And they decided to see how far they could push me.

On that first night, a young man came to the office complaining of severe chest pains, and I had to call an ambulance for him. Not a few minutes later the fire alarm started going off. Someone had burnt a pizza, no big deal. Around 9pm that night several residents ran to the office and told me Paul and Mike were fighting. And I ran into the commons area and had to get between them. I led Mike back to the office and realized he was roaring drunk. So I gave him a breathalyzer, and told him to leave. I called Paul to the office and I realized he was drunk too. So I kicked him out as well. They were very angry. And I was feeling a bit threatened. A resident told me most of them out there were drunk, and they having a little party at the expense of the new guy. So I brought the breathalyzer out there and lined up all the residents, and gave each of them a breathalyzer. I kicked out a total of five people that night. After I’d completed that process, I came to back to discover that Paul and Mike had snuck back and were slamming beers in the bathroom together. Mike snuck off, but Paul refused to leave, a large man about 2 inches taller than me. He insisted I find him a place to stay. I brought him back to the office, and had to call the police when he started becoming angry, and threatening to kill himself.

I still think of that first day as my baptism by fire into the Salvation Army. Over that long year of struggles, I experienced many things. I had to call the police to come pick up a young girl with blacked eyes who was very drunk and facing a lot of jail time. I met a man in his fourties who had been a drug dealer and gun runner, a monster, who had come to Jesus Christ, and was putting his life together, and was a minister in training at the SDA church in town, later he was found in a coma in our bathroom, and died days later. I did case managing for troubled souls. I led alcohol and drug recovery groups. I had the chance to share the gospel with dozens of people. God was preparing me, through suffering, for a mission ahead. And boy was I surprised.

When we suffer in life, it can cause us to become disillusioned, and to question God. But maybe we don’t understand as well as he does. Maybe we can't see it from his perspective. And as we go through struggles everyday, we maybe don’t realize that on the other side of the planet, Christians face the possibility of death and imprisonment.

All suffering in our lives should lead is in one direction, to God. To Christ. In all these situations I fled to Christ. It forced me into His arms time and again. And each time I fled to Christ and wept in his arms, I knew more and more, it wasn’t really about me. More and more I would realize, I am nothing, Christ is everything. Christ is all. All to his glory, my wants and desires are nothing, His will be done. 

Related Posts:

  1. Take a Stand Like Daniel: Being a counter-culture warrior
  2. Sermon: Purity of the Heart & Holiness
  3. The Divine Mysteries of Jesus Christ
  4. Sermon: Fighting the Good Fight of the Faith
  5. The Great Pillars of Society: Morality & Religion
  6. The War on Principles & the Hope in our Worldview
  7. Take a Stand on Key Issues: Addiction, Abortion
  8. Politics & God
  9. Comprehending the Truth about America
  10. Be a Powerhouse Christian Battleship

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Four Foundational Disagreements between Left and Right

How can you help create a better future?  That is the question. In modern society, we find ourselves split on many values that were once shared values.  Whether left or right, both sides seek to help create a better future.  Both sides base their approaches on presuppositions regarding ethics, philosophy, government, and policy.

As a Christian I know that the principles I live by can be applied to any situation, on any level.  The nice thing about Christian ethics is that they transfer into modern life quite well.  Of course, there is a required effort to help translate principles into practical application.

There are two primary principles within the Christian worldview, they are love and truth.  We stand for love and truth foundationally as Christians.  We believe in loving others, caring about others, and helping our neighbors to succeed.  We believe in mercy, we believe in second chances.  

We also believe in truth.  We believe in foundational objective principles that don't change with the whims of the majority.  In fact that very principle of unchanging foundations was written into our system of government, it was written into the Constitution.  See the Constitution is our agreed rule book for life in the United States.  Our government leaders agree, or at least they should, that the Constitution is the rule book.  Laws can be passed and policies executed with the condition that these laws and policies are in line with the Constitution.  The Constitution restrains government and safe guards the rights of the people.  

In the United States an irate authoritarian majority may not run rough shod over the entire country with 51% of the vote.  The Constitution prevents such a possibility.  The founders knew that man would tend toward ignorance, fear, and the desire to gather power and become corrupt.  Therefore the founders built in foundational principles, outlined in the Constitution as the playbook for life.  They wrote universal truths into our system.  This is a Christian viewpoint, that truth does not change, that truth is fixed and unchanging. 

Love and truth.  We offer love freely, through charities, non-profits, and personal acts of kindness.  One could say that our Christian love is linked inexorably to freedom.  We voluntarily and freely give our love and at times with-hold it if we choose.  Truth also is inexorably linked to liberty.  The truth of our worldview is applied through government and the Constitution to the extent that it provides freedom and liberty for the population, while restraining government from exceeding it's primary mandate of providing safety and liberty to the people.

Of course in the area of truth, there are many areas where foundations can't be rewritten or removed.  Or at least that was the intention. Unfortunately we find ourselves in a day and age when nearly all the foundations of our system are under daily attack.  Amazingly, they are now being successfully circumvented in many cases.  

In the ideological struggle within the United States and western civilization all together there seem to be two sets of presuppositions vying for control.  There are many layers to these presuppositions.  One could say that it's fundamentally about a religious vs. secular perspective.  That's certainly an aspect of this struggle.  One could also say it's a contest regarding systems of government, say free market capitalism vs. government controlled capitalism.  Or even capitalism vs. a hybrid capitalist-Marxist system.  Or even simply capitalism vs. socialism.  One could go even deeper and say that it's really a contest of ideologies, philosophies underpinning two perspectives of existence: one side defends naturalism, the idea that all life is evolved and there is nothing beyond the material vs. an intelligent design position that posits inalienable rights and a sovereign creator.  Another layer is of political ideology: One could say it's about conservatism vs. progressivism.  Left vs. right as they say, democrat vs. republican, federalist vs. anti-federalist, and many other such dichotomies.  There are many ways to look at it.  

Today we'll look at four foundational disagreements between these two groups.  There is certainly a fair amount of crossover between these two groups at war, you'll see many points of overlap.  But there are also noticeable patterns.  You'll much more often see that naturalists tend toward Marxist ideology, greater government control, collective group rights, materialist underpinnings and progressive political causes.  And generally on the other side you'd see Christians tending toward capitalist voluntaryist ideology, limits on government, inalienable personal rights, deistic underpinnings and conservative political causes.  We'll preface that there is a great deal of overlap, including recently with many atheists and agnostics abandoning ship on the left, moving toward more libertarian and classical liberal views on government and personal liberty.  

The Four Key Disagreements

1. Personal Responsibility vs. Societal Responsibility
A man walks into a bar, has a few too many drinks, gets into a bar fight, and shoots another man with a hand gun.  Who is at fault?  From the Christian perspective, the individual is at fault for making a poor decision.  The individual ought to be charged with a crime, given a fair hearing, punished if found guilty, and provided with the chance of rehabilitation.  The fundamental view is of personal responsibility.  It's the same way with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It doesn't matter if my dad follows Jesus, or my grandparents followed Jesus, what matters is that I personally, individually have that one on one relationship with Jesus.  

The opposing perspective is that society is to blame for this crime.  The appeal is made to society.  Society and government need to take away the man's gun.  Society and government need to regulate the bar, and instruct the people in how to conduct themselves in such a situation on a mass level.  Education programs are put into place.  New laws are passed to try to control the conduct of the people, and remove the guns to prevent the crime.  The person is seen as a victim of the failures of social institutions to make change.

2. Personal Empowerment vs. Personal Victimhood
A young African-American is raised by a single mother who doesn't know how to read. Is he a victim or a potential victor? In the case of Dr. Ben Carson, this African-American decides to do great things in his life.  And he does just that.  He overcomes every barrier, he makes good choices, and reads lots of books.  He decides internally that he is not going to be the victim and he is therefore personally empowered.  The Christian perspective of personal empowerment is that the individual is able, God-willing, to take a stand and rise out of poverty, crime, addiction and depression to achieve anything they set their mind to.  

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God the human race fell away from truth.  We learned to victimize ourselves.  When God asked Adam about why he had eaten from the tree he was told not to eat from, the first words out of Adam's mouth were: "The woman, who you gave me, she gave me the fruit and I ate it."  He transferred the blame for the fall away from himself.  First he pushed it upon the woman, then he pushed it all the way back to God himself.  Because after all, didn't God make the woman?  If we go back far enough we can all find something to play the victim of.  An African-American today could look back to slavery and say that this makes him a victim.  A man of polish heritage like myself could look back to the Nazi genocide in Poland during World War II and I could say that this situation makes me a victim.  A girl could look back to when she was raped, and say that this makes her a permanent victim.  A drug addict could say that this is a state of victimhood, and that no one could expect him to get clean since he has been so victimized.  I could and often did point back to the divorce of my parents as a reason that I was an eternal victim.  If we go back far enough, we can all play the victim to something.  But when we decide that it is within our power to overcome every obstacle then nothing can stop us.  

The New Testament scriptures affirm this empowerment in these words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  Even when we are weakened by past struggles and sorrows, and our tendency is think of ourselves as victims, we are actually strong thanks to Christ and His power working in us.  

The opposing viewpoint would say that people groups, like african americans, women, hispanics, and LGBTQ persons are actually victims of society and mainly victims of white Americans.  The view is that these people need to be advocated for, given benefits and support, and provided for by government.  The Christian perspective would certainly agree with advocating for those who are minimized and harmed.  That's why there are charity organizations like the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and many others that advocate for the lost and hurting.  But when that compassion goes too far, into the realm of providing free food, free college, free housing, and free everything we would recognize that as crossing the line and moving outside of Christian values.  As it's written, he who does not work does not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  In addition, mandating through government that people be forced to give up their money to have it redistributed to those who don't work is completely anti-Christian.  

Ephesians 4:28 (ESV) "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need."  Ephesians 4:28 should forever put to rest the false notion that Jesus was a socialist or that the Bible teaches redistribution of wealth.  It most certainly does not.  It does certainly teach sharing and giving of each other's possessions and wealth voluntarily.  Government coercion is never suggested and is instead flatly rejected. 

3. Knowledge vs. Emotion
Recently a prominent atheist suggested that the most perfect form of government possible would be "Rationalia" where every policy would be based on the weight of evidence.  That seems very noble.  But too often, especially on the progressive side, facts are manufactured to fit the agenda.  Much the same is done through evolutionary biology to support the presuppositional position, naturalism.  If facts don't fit the narrative, they are discarded.  If statistics don't match the preset conclusion, such as climate change, or gender ideology, or gay marriage or gun control or socialism or big government programs, then those statistics are discarded while others, often disproven studies are magnified.  It's a troubling situation.  

Yet more often than not the fundamental divide seems to be between knowledge and emotion.  The knowledge side often matches up with the Christian and conservative group, not always, but most of the time.  Conservatives look to the past, they look to history to see what has worked and what hasn't worked.  Christians look to morality, principles, religious faith, and such solid bedrocks for the course of the future.  The foundations of the government, and the Constitution rest on the theories, philosophies and ideas of the past.  This is all from knowledge of the past.

On the opposing side, there is primarily an emotional response.  The goal is to push for compassion and fairness.  The primary goal is for equality.  But the interesting thing on the progressive side is that definitions change, the theories are always evolving, and the past tends to get ignored, while utopian ideas tend to prompt the naturalists to push into the future through discussion, consensus, and scientific inquiry.  Compassion and fairness are good things.  But when knowledge in the forms of history, analysis, statistics, and science are ignored to push an ideology then compassion and fairness can quickly become bullying and tyranny. 

There is a balance at work between knowledge and emotion.  Many times in the past the conservative side has allowed knowledge to go to far in a way where the letter of the law, and the traditions of the past become dogmatic and without compassion or consideration of the minimized minority.  On the other side, and more recently compassion can go too far as well.  And knowledge gets thrown out the door.  Eventually you have open borders leaving the door open to terrorist attacks, you have all kinds of benefits and government programs but the 20 trillion dollar national debt is carefully ignored.  The balance is vital, we must center ourselves on knowledge while making sure it remains balanced with compassion and fairness.

Both sides of our national struggle are quite useful in many ways.  Throughout the history of the United States there were great awakenings and temperance movements that helped keep the United States population grounded in Christian values, strong morals, service to the poor, social stability, and foundational principles.  At the same time and just as important are the American enlightenments prompting incredible scientific discoveries, engineering innovations, medical progress, new technologies, and powerful philosophical ideas tending to be bedded in ancient Greek and Roman ideology and government.  This is the primary reason I don't view the other side as enemies.  They have most often been our friends and allies in making America great.  But as this side steps from classical liberalism (liberty) to progressivism (authoritarian elitism) more and more I have to battle with their worldview.  But we aren't enemies, we've often been the best of friends, thinking all the way back to John Adams the conservative Christian and Thomas Jefferson the liberal deist.  How can we restore that coalition of left and right working together, not in some ridiculous John Kasich "reach across the aisle" lie where both sides join together to expand government and increase spending, but more so how can both sides rejoin hands in common pursuit and philosophical alliance? We need each other, I'll be big enough to admit that. Food for thought.

4. Liberty vs. Control 
Finally the great divide of liberty vs. control.  If your more to the left you might say it's a division between liberty and equality.  But this is one of the biggest questions of government: How much control is too much control?  On one end is the authoritarian and on the other is the libertarian.  I come down much closer to the libertarian side.  In the past many on the conservative side have actually tended more toward authoritarianism and big government.  Often on the left the focus was on more liberty and more freedom.  That has really flipped in the past ten years or so.  

Conservatives and Christians should always affirm liberty as the very highest virtue of American civilization.  The second would be justice.  Justice is presuppositioned on due process and receiving a fair hearing.  Enforced equality is not.  Liberty and justice are the primary values of American society. 

On one side you have the desire for gun control, economic control, higher taxation, government controlled healthcare, government run industries, redistribution of wealth, redefinition of marriage, forcing federal decisions on the states, and the like.  

On the other side you have the desire for free markets, 2nd amendment rights, freedom of speech, freedom of conscientious  objection, personal property rights, states rights, natural marriage, the right to life, and many other positions.

Fundamentally the question is: Should a single person be free and at liberty to make choices, good and bad?  Or should government and an intellectual class provide constant input, instruction, boundaries, laws, and if necessary, coercion to enforce the views of the majority?  Ultimately I have to believe the most fundamental right is that of a person's ability to be free and at liberty of choice.  Secondly this person ought to have the right to justice when his right to liberty is violated or someone else violates his or her rights. Personal liberty is scandalous and more dangerous.  It is only able to function properly when the morals and religious principles of the society are in tact.  The person then self-imposes restraints on his own actions.  The man is a moral authority unto himself and accountable to God.  The person is free to worship or not to worship.  The free person can be either a menace to society or a blessing to society.  That is the danger of freedom and the triumph of freedom.  We must advocate for freedom always.  What did Jesus say about liberty?  What does the Bible say about freedom?

It has a great deal to say about it:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. -Galatians 5:1 ESV

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. -1 Peter 2:16 ESV

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. -Galatians 5:13 ESV

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. -John 8:32 ESV

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.-2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Our Christian principles and values, matched with the innovation and genius of the liberal and the freedom loving deists and naturalists have made the United States and western society in general highly prosperous, free and just.  There is always work to be done of course.  Unfortunately there is a growing divide between these two forces, with authoritarianism, militant atheism, and Marxist socialism beginning to push us away from the vision the founders laid out in the Constitution.  

As Christians we are builders of societies, of liberties, of philosophies, and of civilization itself.  We must be builders again, because the foundations constructed by our ancestors are being crippled and subverted by a militant new progressivism pushing our society, young people, and social institutions toward disaster.  We can build a better future.  

It's time for a new renaissance of innovations, ideas, and breakthroughs.  We need people willing to start now in the spreading of our ideas, and in the propagation of our principles to the masses, especially the young.  We can still win the day.  We are entrepreneurs and idealists.  We are dreamers.  We are followers of the greatest revolutionary of all time, Jesus Christ the son of God.  By His power we can build a better future by striking out boldly into new areas, hatching new ideas and starting businesses, in creating academic institutions, media megaphones, and internet outreaches to send our conservative, Christian, creationist views across the entire face of the Earth.  We can do it, one day at a time, build that future, it's never too late, and we will win the day.  We'll be dogged, constant, fighting day and night, year after year, never giving up, never losing hope, and never fearing the night we see before us.  Though evil may prevail for a little while, soon the bright morning of liberty, justice, and truth must break forth. 

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