Righteousness Exalts a Nation

ballot

In the past weeks I’ve been reminding my congregation of two important facts:

(1) Pastors who are not urging their congregations to vote, and vote responsibly as Biblically-minded citizens, are negligent of their pastoral duties; and believers who do not vote are disobedient to God, for we are commanded by Jesus to Give unto Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and the things that belong to God, unto God (Matthew 22:21).

(2) Christians must be informed on issues and the character and beliefs of candidates on the ballot, and then vote as Christians – not as political partisans. If we as salt and light, do not speak as the voice of morality and godliness in our land, who will?

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people (Proverbs 14:34, NIV).

I Beat His Mommy

big stick

The door to my church office slammed open against the wall. There stood a woman, hands formed as fists, yelling, “I knew you were a fraud. I knew there was something that just wasn’t real about you.”

Behind her stood my son, only about 4-years old, and frightened at what he was caught up in.

This woman routinely came by the church to clean or do odd chores, but her real motive was to spend time with Daniel. She delighted in my son.

I asked what she was yelling about and she explained. “Daniel and I were talking and he just said, ‘My Daddy beat my Mommy.’  I knew you were a phony.

Daniel ran and hopped up into my lap and blurted innocently, “And you beat me too!

Daniel went on to explain that a few nights before, the three of us had been outside, and as parents often do with their young children, we were racing. I ran faster than either him or his mother could run. I’d indeed “beat” them both.

How dangerous it is to make assumptions, even when based on what we believe is the “whole truth and nothing but the truth.” What Daniel had said was true, but it wasn’t the whole of the truth. A judge must know the whole of the truth before making a decision.

Jumping to conclusions is not an Olympic sport, nor should gossip be the sport of God’s people.

The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity … out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not be so (James 3:6, 10).

 

In Case of Beer

case of beer

Friday I made a quick stop at the grocery store. In the checkout line in front of me were two young men in their early 20s. Each man had a case of beer. One of them also had a pre-packaged salad.

The man with the salad said to his friend, “I want to eat healthy for the weekend.”

Bodily exercise profits little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having a promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8).

Numbers

Wayne Bouck and me

“Numbers have never been very important to me. It’s something I learned from my years in the US Navy.”

Wayne Bouck was a United States Navy Chaplain for many years. It was his duty to conduct religious services for the sailors and marines on each ship.

Each service day, he’d arrive early, set up a display of signal flags, and have it announced that the chaplain was aboard to hold “divine services.”

The ships operated in a three-shift rotation; while one-third of the crew was on duty, one-third had shore leave and the final third was asleep. Many times, the only person who showed up for the service was Wayne!

He viewed his work as a service to God.

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (First Corinthians 10:31)

Phones and Parental Aggravation

texting

The world felt as if it was falling-in around me and there was no answer from my 15-year old son. Each text and phone call went unanswered and I was thousands of miles away from home. His phone was either dead, turned off, or as usual, he was ignoring my attempts to reach him.

What is it with teenagers? They insist on having cellular phones, which you pay for, then they refuse to answer you unless it’s something they want. It is aggravating to the parental mind.

God has been trying to reach you. Do you reply to His text messages? Do you even check your spiritual “phone”? Though written long ago, the Bible is God’s voice speaking to you today.

At the same time, He is always eager to hear from you. If you are one of His children through new birth by faith, He hears every word you utter and think. No prayer of your heart ever goes unheard or unanswered.

The fact that God hears your every prayer doesn’t mean that He is going to do things the way you ask, but it does mean that He is working all things together for good in your life (Romans 8:28).

Call to Me, and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you know not (Jeremiah 33:3).

The Right Thing

Papusa

I’ve fallen into a life a crime: two traffic tickets and now this!

We went to our favorite restaurant for El Salvadoran food and placed an order of tamales, tacos, and papusas to go. While waiting for our order we got to talking to the restaurant owner’s wife as she folded napkins for the dinner service.

Maria shared for 20 minutes about how God gave them their restaurant and has made it prosperous. Again and again in her broken English she said, It is all by the grace of God … He is so awesome.

The restaurant began to get busy and Maria excused herself to greet her customers. We picked up our food and drove home.

At home, we set out the food on the table, gave thanks for God’s provision for us and for His grace upon Juan and Maria, and began to eat.  In a moment of strange revelation I asked, Did you pay for the food? My wife answered, No. Did you pay for the food? We put down our forks and drove back to the restaurant.

When we walked into the bustling business, Juan and Maria were both standing at the counter. Maria poked her husband in the arm and smiled. He laughed and said, My wife said you’d be back tomorrow.

They trusted us to do the right thing.

Be blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15).

Doing Good or Doing Grace

Motives

She’s known as the “Mother Teresa” of her town. She collects clothes for the naked. She’s spearheaded a city-wide Christmas food drive for the hungry. She collects materials the poor can use to earn a living. She also provides a mighty stern look to those who might think of crossing her.

Much of her later years in life have been devoted to doing “good.”

At this point, I was impressed … and a bit fearful of receiving that stern look I’d seen her give others.

In my brief time with her, she bragged long about all of her good-deed doing. Her face then twisted in disgust as she described someone she’d helped and then that person didn’t help her when she needed it.

She does “good” for others, but she then tallies her deeds like an accountant, keeping track of what she thinks others now owe her. Her good deeds are an appearance of goodness, but really a prideful means of personal gain. They are good deeds without any hint of grace. The sad things about it is that she doesn’t see her own motive in being a do-gooder.

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven (Matthew 6:1).

PS: By the time we were done, I got her stern look and a tongue-lashing too.

The Further I Walk

A long walk

The will of the Lord can seem like a difficult thing, but it is of the greatest sweetness.

There are many things about what He does that I do not understand, but I trust Him fully. He knows things I will never know and sees the path ahead that I can’t foresee. I may stumble along the roadway, and cry out in distress, but His way, like Him, is perfect. The further I walk, the more I trust Him.

While the way He leads is often a mystery, sometimes fraught with difficulty and even pain, I do not question the depth of His love or the wisdom and goodness of His plan for me.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).

Progressives in a Prius

prius

The other day I sat in my car waiting to pick someone up.  Soon an elderly couple drove up in a new Prius hybrid and parked. The back of their blue car had stickers for liberal politicians, free healthcare for all, one for evolution, one that all religions were the same and should get along, one against oil use, and one for clean air. When the couple got out of the car … both were smoking cigarettes and cussing at each other.

Whatever your political or religious views …  Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no’ lest you fall into judgment (James 5:12).

Christ is Not a Crutch

crutches

One of my great frustrations as a pastor has been those people whose lives are at rock bottom, with no where but God to turn to. They feel disabled and out of sorts, needing a crutch to get them through the brokenness. They come searching for God, but then refuse to follow God’s Word.

If you want to call yourself a Christian, go right ahead.

If you want to believe Bible stories, that’s fine.

If you want to go to church and feel like you’re a part of a great support group where you get lifted up for the week ahead, do so.

The problem is that you don’t want Christ to affect the way you’re living your life. You’re happy being on-fire for Jesus today as long as it doesn’t change the way you vote … or spend your money … or talk to other people … or enjoy the things you like … or engage the culture … or live your relationships tomorrow.

If all that Christianity does is change the label you give yourself today or the crowd you hang with on Sunday morning, what’s the point? Christ is the Healer, not a crutch to get you through your hurt so you can then walk away on your own terms. Christianity is not another feel-good fad in a do-good religion; it is a transforming relationship with the living God.

Do not  be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1).