Last month the author of the best selling Christian book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” announced that he and his wife were filing for divorce. As if that wasn’t sad enough, on the heels of that announcement, Josh Harris shocked the world by stating he was leaving Christianity. In his renouncing of a faith that he had practiced over multiple decades, Harris also recanted the views that he had affirmed and defended in his book, read by millions.
But in reality, the “gospel” according to Harris, as he eloquently authored, didn’t survive even 3 decades, much less a lifetime or a millennia. Yet many who also reject the Bible and Christianity will now point to Harris as some sort of authoritative basis for affirming their own skepticism, and attacking Christianity.
As I was pondering Josh Harris’ about face, in such a profound and public manner, it started me thinking about the Bible. No, my faith in the Bible was not shaken or challenged by Harris’ rejection of God’s Word. Rather, Harris’ flip-flop reaffirmed and strengthened my belief in the authenticity and inerrancy of the book millions embrace.
You might ask, Why?
Books come and go. Premises, thoughts and philosophies also rise and fall. This reality stands to reason since men do the same. The thoughts and theories of man are at best brilliant, but in themselves men are fallible and frequently contradicted with new discoveries. Sooner or later the words of the best men are diminished and even forgotten.
But if the Author of a book is eternal, then it would seem reasonable that His words would be eternal as well. That’s what we see with the Holy Bible, God’s Word. Consider these facts about the Bible:
Written over a span of 1500 years, By approximately 40 men, In multiple languages, Made up of 66 mini-books, Is cohesive and consistent, Banned by emperors and nations, Remains the best selling book of all time.
Beyond these facts, God informs us in His Word:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
The Bible is a spiritual book, but it is also historical, philosophical, archeological, scientific, and poetic. Yet, the more years that pass, the more the non-spiritual facts are validated.
One way we see this is the way in which the Bible describes scientific facts that are contrary to man’s understanding. What we see over time is that these “unproven” truths are ultimately validated as man’s knowledge and comprehension increases. (By the way, when a skeptic takes the time to investigate this reality, he may walk away amazed by this truth, but pride often prevents a person from actually doing this.)
If the Bible was just a book written by men in their own power and wisdom, sooner or later, many of their thoughts and assertions would be displaced as new information and facts are discovered. However, if the Bible is made up of God’s words, penned by men who were inspired and led by God’s Spirit, then its authenticity and inerrancy will forever be affirmed, even though its oldest words were written 3500 years ago.
The Bible stakes many claims, but some of the most important are those it makes of itself. Note these Truths, about how the Holy Book was actually written:
“…no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Josh Harris’ about face does not disprove God’s Word. Rather, his recanting of his marital vows, and his previous spiritual beliefs, merely reveal a man who is broken and struggling, with himself, the people he loved, and the One he at one point worshipped. He needs our prayers.
I cannot look into Harris heart and know his deepest struggles, but I can know that no man’s belief or rejection will change God’s Word, or the ultimate Truth claims the Bible makes.
So the Bible is either true or a lie. The Book is either infallible, God’s very Word, or it’s fallible, simply words of men. Ultimately what you and I do with the Bible and its Truth claims will determine our eternal destiny.
Just as Jesus Christ, referred to as “the Word” in the gospel of John, is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” so too is the Bible. It does not change. It does not wilt. And it remains immutable, regardless of shifting winds or flip-flopping authors. So when everything else around you seems unstable and in constant change, hold on to the only Book that has stood for millenniums, and make it a part of your everyday life. It’s the only Truth that will always stand firm.
I’ve been a user of Microsoft computers and apps for over 3 decades (although I’m a Mac guy at heart). So, I was recently disappointed, but not surprised, when I received one of the emails I regularly get from the tech giant. The email, which is displayed below, had nothing to do with technology, or computers, or the Microsoft products I use. Rather, it was a “prideful” endorsement and promotion of the lifestyle choices of LGBTQI+.
Let’s be clear. This grouping of letters stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and “plus” (which represent other sexual identities including pansexual, asexual, and omnisexual). So it’s literally a collection of every alternate and unnatural sexual lifestyle. Noticeably absent is the one sexual union that accounts for the very existence of each person who embraces the rainbow colored flag that they “pridefully” display. Yes, heterosexuality is the sole sexual relationship that God designed, and pronounced His blessings upon, within the confines of marital fidelity.
You would have to be living in an alternate universe to not know that our nation, and much of the Western world, have aggressively endorsed, promoted, and demanded acceptance of these aberrant sexual choices in recent years. In addition to our government at all levels pushing the full LGBTQI+ agenda, there is a barrage of big and medium sized businesses doing the same. Microsoft’s email was just one example of a literal tidal wave of LGBTQI+ promotion and coercion. While flying Delta this week, I was also confronted multiple times with the world’s largest airline’s overt promotion of homosexual relationships via posters and video commercials (see below).
The coercive message from all those on the side of “Pride” is this: “You must and you will embrace our agenda or you are hateful and a bigot. If you choose to resist, we will not only humiliate you with our words, we will break you economically if you’re a business owner. We not only demand lockstep, but we insist that you reject God in the process.”
Of course, these folks would never openly admit that their coercion seeks to force the rejection of God. But if one spends any time in God’s Word, there is no disputing our Creator’s view of sexuality. God is abundantly clear that sexual activity outside of marriage, both heterosexual as well as LGBTQI+, is condemned and will be judged.
It’s clear that God is angered when mankind perverts the blessing of sex, particularly when an entire culture or nation begin to embrace and promote same sex relationships. As if to emphasize the priority of this issue, God dedicated numerous passages and examples in the Bible that address the repercussions to a culture or nation that does what Microsoft, Delta and America are doing.
The Apostle Paul, inspired by God, penned a poignant warning in Romans 1 about the repercussions to a society which embarks on the path our nation has taken. Note these tragic words, which describe precisely what we are seeing at this moment in America’s history:
💡“But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them… Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools… So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.” (Romans 1:18-19, 21-22, 24-32)
As the LGBTQI+ movement appears to have gained a stronghold in America’s psyche, permeating every aspect of our culture, there is a dangerous warning that is prominent in the passage above:
“God abandoned them…”
There is likely a no more hopeless phrase than this one. When God, the Author of Life and the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, chooses to abandon a person, a people or a nation, there can only be one of two options at that point.
The hopeful first option would be a humble repentance and returning to God by those who shook their fist at their Creator. But the second, and more likely, option is utter chaos as a people or nation reject the standards and order that God designed. On the heels of that chaos is certain destruction of the individual and nation who refuse to acknowledge and return to God’s good and perfect standard.
Hate & Bigotry?
No doubt some that read this will feel their own anger growing, towards the one who penned these words. And they will immediately respond, either internally, or openly, with labels of hate or bigotry, or some other derogatory terms. But such accusations couldn’t be further from the truth based on my knowledge of what resides in my heart. Consider this.
I disagree with my wife, children and business partner from time to time. But no one has ever accused me of hating any of these individuals. Why? Because disagreement is not synonymous with hatred, or bigotry, or some other outrageous and irrelevant explanation. In reality I love my wife, children, and business partner.
Similarly, I disagree with the sexual choices of those engaged in LGBTQI+ behavior, but my disagreement is not rooted in hatred or bigotry, or in a demand that they agree with me. Rather, my disagreement is simply based on what God has to say about such behavior. And my expression of this disagreement is based on my belief that I will be held accountable by God someday as to whether I shared His Truth or kept it hidden and remained silent.
Loving while Disagreeing
My Chief Mentor commanded me 2000 years ago to “love my neighbor as myself.” This Mentor, Jesus Christ, has instructed me that He will someday judge me, and all of mankind, for our individual choices and behavior, including whether I displayed love to others, while not running from His Truth. When we speak Truth that is offensive, that does not equate to hate. Rather, Love compels us to speak Truth, even though it is sometimes hard to hear.
Jesus did not shy away from speaking Truth, including when addressing sexual matters. One day He was speaking with a woman who had been married five times and the man she was living with then was not her husband. He confronted this woman’s aberrant behavior head on, and she understood from His words that her behavior did not conform to God’s perfect standard. But rather than rebuke Jesus for daring to speak Truth into her life, she responded in humility and repented of her lifestyle. She then, in her excitement, shared God’s Truth with her neighbors. There is no doubt that today Jesus would also be called a hater or bigot, given his unpopular message.
But it’s in the same spirit that Jesus shared Truth with this woman that I seek to share this Truth. I do not wish to condemn anyone but to simply speak Truth in love. The real truth is that we all have struggles in our lives, so my words are not hurled as condemning stones, but rather as somber warnings.
Pride Goes Before Destruction
In closing, it’s ironic that the LGBTQI+ proponents have adopted as the rallying cry the word “Pride,” suggesting that there there should be no shame or guilt surrounding an identification with such sexual choices. But as I was writing this article, a verse in the Bible came to mind:
💡“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
Clearly, the connotation of “Pride” in this verse is related to conceit and haughtiness. But there’s a parallel application, which while not intended from Scripture, is nonetheless relevant.
God judges all sin, and He has clearly characterized all sexual activity outside of a heterosexual marital relationship as sin. Additionally, God’s pattern of judgment, throughout the many biblical examples, is that He destroys cultures, civilizations, and nations who embrace and celebrate their sins. So as America has embraced “Pride” as the buzzword for the LGBTQI+ movement, in a sense they have predicted their own ultimate outcome: Destruction.
There is risk these days in writing an article like this, that is so out of line with the tidal wave of sexual “freedom” that allows for anything and judges nothing, except those who would share God’s Truth. But should one with Truth remain silent when being coerced to embrace a lie? Or does Truth demand we stand firmly when others buckle?
History is replete with examples of both, yet the ones we remember the most are those who stood for Truth, even if it meant standing alone.
So I hope, as you consider these meager thoughts, that you will discover God’s words of Truth, and that He will give you the courage to also follow and stand for His Truth.
Stand Firm. Speak Truth. In Love.
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rates, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved. And to be steady on all the battle fields besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” Martin Luther
Simon rolled over as he heard the rooster crow. It was still dark outside. He lay there recalling the dream from the night before. It was the same recurring dream he’d had over the last year, since the previous time he had visited Jerusalem. He had dreamt of the man they called Jesus, who had so captivated his attention. This man who attracted such large crowds, and was somehow able to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf, had invaded his dreams. And just as all the other dreams, he would hear the voice of Jesus saying,
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
Through his dreams over the last year, those words from Jesus had become so familiar to him. But he wondered, what did they mean? Take up your cross? Follow Jesus? Give up your life? Good News? What good news? Gaining the world? Losing your soul?
He lay there pondering… wondering… and then the rooster crowed again.
He jumped up and hurriedly dressed. He had a busy day ahead of him. But as was his custom each morning, he opened his small scroll. On it he had written key passages from the prophets that had always been an encouragement to him. He skimmed down the parchment and read these words from the prophet Isaiah:
“He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:3-7)
Some had told Simon this passage referred to Israel’s coming Messiah but he struggled to understand why He would be oppressed. If only Simon’s Messiah would come during his lifetime. What a joy that would be.
Simon reached for some bread as he left the small inn he frequented when visiting Jerusalem. He needed to take care of some business while in Jerusalem that day. Tomorrow he would visit the Temple for Passover before beginning his journey back to Cyrene the following week. He was eager to return to his family, and be reunited with his wife and sons, Alexander and Rufus.
The sun was shining through the clouds as Simon made his way into Jerusalem. While there were always many people coming and going, he detected that something was different. There was a huge commotion up ahead and he quickened his pace to draw closer to see what all the yelling was about. He rounded a corner in the road and all of a sudden he came face to face with a threatening group of Roman soldiers. They were stopped and screaming at a man who had fallen to the ground with a large wooden cross pinning him to the ground. The man hardly looked human, and his clothes were soaked in blood as he struggled and moaned.
As Simon took this all in, he heard the taunts and yells of many of the religious elite along the road. He recognized some of them from his time in the Temple. He wondered what would cause these men to express such anger and hatred towards the man who had stumbled and fallen beneath the weight of the large cross he was bearing.
As he was processing all of this, Simon was immediately jolted from his thoughts by one of the foreboding Roman soldiers, who grabbed Simon by the arm. The soldier’s grip was powerful. Simon was tempted to confront the Roman, but he quickly thought better as he counted the number of Roman soldiers that surrounded him.
The soldier barked out his order: “Hey! You! Get down there and pick up that cross. Give a hand to Israel’s King and Messiah,” the soldier mockingly jeered. The order was clear and threatening. Simon had no choice. It was either acquiesce or perhaps meet the same fate as this poor soul, who was clearly headed for his own demise soon.
Simon leaned down, pickup up the wooden cross, and began to heave it onto his broad shoulders. Simon was no small man, but the weight of the burden was a challenge, even for him. As he began to rise, he caught a quick glimpse of the disfigured and bloody man who was attempting to get back up to his feet. He looked familiar. Had Simon seen him before? How could he have?
Simon fell in behind the condemned man as the soldiers led the way up the hill. As Simon trudged along, all of a sudden the wounded, struggling man in front of him spoke out:
“Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children…”
The man continued speaking but Simon was no longer listening to his words. Rather, he was trying to place where he had heard that voice before. The face was familiar. Now the voice was also. Simon struggled under the load of the cross…
The cross! That was it!
Those recurring dreams all of a sudden burst into Simon’s mind. The voice and face in his dreams. They were the same ones as the man struggling to walk in front of him. Could it be that this was Jesus, the one whom Simon had heard over and over in his dreams, yet he had never met?
As they turned a corner, the bloodied man in front of Simon turned ever so slightly and Jesus’ eyes caught the eyes of Simon for a brief moment. In that millisecond he knew that Jesus understood everything about him. The battered and bloodied man knew Simon’s innermost thoughts, secrets, struggles and failures. Simon shuddered. He felt ashamed. He felt needy. It was as if God Himself had just peered into the very recesses of Simon’s heart and soul. Yet, he also sensed a deep love from that glance from Jesus. But how could that be?
As Simon neared the hill that everyone knew as Golgotha, he realized that this was their destination. He wondered how it was that the man who had performed such wonderful deeds and miracles for so many could now be facing this brutal fate? What could Jesus have done that could have been worthy of death by crucifixion?
All of a sudden the soldiers barked out some orders and Simon’s thoughts were interrupted. They had arrived at their destination and he eagerly dropped the heavy load on the ground and carefully backed away from the soldiers. As he did so, the words of Jesus all of a sudden resonated in his thoughts: “Take up your cross and follow me.”
Simon fell back into the crowd of onlookers. His clothes were stained with the blood of Jesus that covered the cross. His body ached. His mind was swirling. He had literally taken up the cross of Jesus and followed him. But is this what Jesus meant when He challenged so many with those words a year ago and in his dreams so many times? As he continued to try to reconcile the events of the morning with the words of Jesus, Simon heard Jesus pleading from the cross,
“Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”
By now it was midday, but for some unexplained reason, the sky was growing dark and black. It was as if night had descended on the world. Fear began to grip Simon, as did many others watching this gruesome execution. Simon could stand it no more. As the tears welled up in his eyes, Simon turned to go down the hill, and as he did, he heard Jesus cry out one final time,
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
As Jesus’ lifeless body hung silent and still, it seemed as if the world was coming to an end. The ground began to shake and rocks on the side of the hill began to split and tumble down. People were running and screaming. Simon was terrified. He began to run as well.
Why was this happening? Did the death of Jesus cause all this? Simon ran back to his room at the inn where he had been staying. He was overwhelmed with emotion and his mind was swirling.
Simon entered his room and collapsed onto his bed, sobbing as if his own soul had been torn in two. As he lay there for what seemed like an eternity, Simon was processing the events of the day. He recalled the soldier mocking Jesus, referring to the bloody man as “Israel’s King and Messiah.”
The words from his scroll that morning came to mind.
“Despised. Rejected. Pierced. Crushed. Beaten. Whipped. The Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.”
Over the next three days, Simon remained close to the inn where he was staying. He was overwhelmed with the crucifixion and the role he had played in it. Yet, as he remained transfixed with the event, the mystery was becoming more and more clear to Simon, almost supernaturally.
Jesus was the Messiah! His coming as Israel’s Savior, and death as their Redeemer, was predicted 700 years earlier by Isaiah, the prophet. Jesus had willingly taken up the cross that He knew would ultimately bring His own death. But it was necessary because of Simon’s sins. That’s why he had felt so ashamed, and also loved simultaneously, when Jesus peered into Simon’s eyes along the road to Golgotha, the hill where Jesus died.
But how could a dead man be the Messiah? Jesus seemed to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy perfectly, but if He was dead, what purpose did His death serve? How could Jesus be Israel’s Savior?
Simon decided to revisit the place that had caused his entire life to come to an abrupt pause. Perhaps by returning to the place of death he could make sense of life.
On his way to Golgotha, Simon’s route took him by a garden that he recognized as a place to bury the dead. As he passed the entrance, he tossed a quick glance into the lush garden. But what he saw next stopped him abruptly in his tracks. Just 30 feet away, he saw a large round tombstone rolled away from the entrance to a tomb. At the entrance, a man glowing in a radiant white was speaking to a woman who had fallen down at the man’s feet.
Simon recognized the woman as one of the ladies who had been at Golgotha just three days earlier when Jesus was crucified. She was shaking uncontrollably, but he wasn’t certain whether it was out of fear or joy, or perhaps both. As Simon’s eyes moved from the woman up to the man with the glowing face, he nearly collapsed. His heart stopped. His eyes were affirming that the man he was peering at was Jesus. But his mind could not process what he was seeing. How could this be? He had seen Jesus die. But now here He was… ALIVE!
And then, in a millisecond, Jesus turned his gaze to Simon and their eyes met. In that instant, Simon’s eyes, mind, and heart affirmed the truth of what he was seeing. The same gaze that three days earlier had looked deep into Simon’s soul as Simon bore the bloody cross of Jesus, was once again looking into Simon’s heart. Simon fell to the ground, in submission and adoration, and as he did he yelled out, “Jesus, my Lord and my Messiah!”
The dreams now made sense. Simon understood that following Jesus might mean losing his life, but his soul would be eternally saved. He knew that there was nothing more valuable than his soul… not his business, not the prestige he sought, not even his wife and children. He would pick up his cross from that day forward and follow Jesus, no matter what it might cost him. How could he do less when Jesus had given His all?
Years later, the Apostle Paul referenced a man named Rufus, and his mother, in Romans 16:13:
“Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me.”
Tradition suggests that this Rufus was the same Rufus that Mark described as the son of Simon, the Cyrene, who carried the cross of Jesus, in Mark 15:21:
“A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.)”
So while much of this Easter story involves my own imagination, it’s entirely possible that the personal encounter between Simon and Jesus on the road to Golgotha may have in fact led Simon to “pick up his cross and follow Jesus.” And if so, his example likely led his wife and children to follow Christ as well.
So what about you? Will you this Easter make the greatest decision you will ever make, and choose to take up your cross and follow Jesus?
America is a mess. The world is in even greater turmoil. If one is a prognosticator, the outlook for the future is less than favorable.
An honest assessment of our nation would leave any young person discouraged and depressed. Bankrupt is the word that might best describe our current status in these areas and so many more:
As someone who is the father of two millennial young men, I look at the condition of our nation, our communities, and our families, and there is only one place I can go to ascribe blame.
Yes, my generation, and perhaps those before, are accountable for the drastic decline in the bankrupt conditions we are grappling with today. Our focus, our attention, and our priorities shifted little by little, year after year, decade after decade. And this slight change of direction over the years has veered us of course from much that is good, pure, and God-honoring.
It’s possible that many of us in my generation are beginning to see the errors of our ways, and we are seeking to acknowledge before God Almighty, and a searching world, that we have wronged Him. But as we have wronged our Creator, we have inadvertently wronged our posterity.
But, while I may have run my leg of this ongoing relay race poorly, and while I may have even dropped the baton I was carrying, as I pick it up and hand it off to the next generation of millennials, there is only one way that this new generation can run a better race than their forefathers, and have hope for their own future.
That hope is in change. And the hope I am referring to is not in some change in a political message. Or a social justice message. Or an environmental message. Or even in a message of tolerance.
Rather, the hope for this next generation is in God, the One who has never stumbled, never faltered, and never wavered. Consider what the Psalmist had to say about the hope for each new generation, including millennials:
“So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors— stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.” Psalms 78:7-8
Yes, my generation was, and perhaps still is, stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful. We have refused to give our hearts entirely to God, being lured into many “good” things, but perhaps not the best. But if we are honest, we may have also been lured into many bad things as well.
But lest any of you millennials begin to pile on the criticism of your parents and forefathers, I caution you to consider that the same temptations and struggles that we have experienced will be presented to you as well. A foolish response would conclude that “I can stand; or I will withstand, the temptations that derailed my fathers.”
But God warns, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” A common thread that binds all generations to each other are the frailties, the struggles, and the failures that each of us experiences. We are all infected with a spiritual virus that, if left untreated, will always result in national, cultural, moral, and individual spiritual bankruptcy.
But there is hope by returning to God.
Perhaps that sounds trite, so just what does a life that “returns to God” look like? Does that person put on the attire of a monk or nun, and then retreat to a secluded corner of the earth somewhere? Or is it possible to have a fully engaged, productive, and exciting life, while still returning to God?
Yes, Yes, and Yes again!
Life will never be experienced to its fullest and it will never truly be fulfilling until a person embraces God fully. To embrace God though, it may require you and me to change our behavior, our priorities, and our values. So here’s a quick list of some things that will characterize a person who is embracing God:
Bible — this will become the most important Book in your life and you will seek after it like a thirsty man seeks water. So a life that returns to God will read the Bible, everyday, for the rest of his life. And read it a lot.
Pray — you and I will communicate with God many times daily, sharing our deepest secrets, struggles, needs and victories, just as we would our closest friend.
Repent — as we fail God, falling short of His clear standard, we will promptly acknowledge our sin, and in a spirit of humility and sorrow, repent of our transgressions to God, because of the forgiveness that is offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son.
Return — When we repent, we will return to the top of this list and begin reading and praying again.
Serve — Jesus taught, both in word and deed, that the greatest among us would be a servant. So one of God’s way to the hearts of men is through service. Ask God to soften your heart, seek humility, and then walk through the doors God opens as you begin to live the life of a servant. You will be amazed at the abundant opportunities that are all around you to demonstrate the heart of Jesus via service.
Glorify — man’s chief aim and purpose is to glorify God. That is what you and I were created to do. While this may seem like a vague purpose, if you begin to meditate on just what this means, and find how you can do so via God’s Word, God will begin to quicken your mind to the unlimited ways in which you can glorify the One who has given you the breath of life, and everything else you have. Remember, “whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31
So as you consider the many bankruptcies confronting you and me, “let’s not get tired of doing what is good.” We will all be judged individually, regardless of what an entire nation is doing. The old, godly way is the one that will lead to true fulfillment in life, and it’s the only one that offers peace in the midst of the storms surrounding us.
I pray that you will grab the baton, and run the race, in a way that you will look back and know that God is pleased. In so doing, you will be assured of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And the eternity ahead, will be one beyond your wildest imaginations!
“This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’” Jeremiah 6:16
“Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young…” Ecclesiastes 12:6
I was recently reading an email from a friend of mine who was warning about the threat of Islam in America. It caught my attention because for many years I too warned folks about the threat of radical Islam. In fact, following an attack by a deranged Muslim in Chattanooga a few years ago, I personally organized an event that featured a prominent international expert on Islam. That event drew over 400 individuals, garnered plenty of media attention and as you can imagine, created a fair amount of controversy as well.
My friend’s email went on to warn that “the hand writing is on the wall” with regard to the Islamist incursion into America’s government. While I don’t disagree with the assessment in general, the “hand writing on the wall” took my mind to a verse I read a few days ago. Jesus was speaking with His disciples when He shared this truth:
“…You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present times.” Luke 12:56
It’s likely many Americans are well versed in interpreting the dozens of warning signs that have been apparent for decades now in our nation. We see the threat of radical Islam, the pending repercussions of an exploding debt, the impact of a crumbling moral decline, the results of a failing educational system, along with the too many other obvious threats to mention here. And these threats are all real, without question.
But these threats, are merely signs of a much greater storm that is brewing — an eternal one. While the aforementioned threats pose great danger to the future of a nation, and they have no doubt awakened the passion and activism of many to expose and defeat them, I question whether there are some greater signs, of eternal consequence, that we are missing or perhaps ignoring?
I don’t assume that everyone who might read these thoughts will embrace the Bible, but I would venture to guess that many do. So if this is true, I’m also reminded of the verse that asserts, “What does it profit a man if he gains the world but loses his soul?” Perhaps an amplification of this verse (which I believe is true based on numerous other passages) could be “What does it profit a man if he gains a nation, but loses the souls of his fellow citizens?”
As real as the threat of radical Islam is to our nation, the truth is that each Muslim has a soul. God loves every one of them. And God’s Son Jesus died for each Muslim. For that matter, He died for each of us. So as we may warn about the ideology of radical Islam, and its questionable history, (of which I am quite familiar), there is a greater sign that I believe Jesus was referencing when He warned His disciples. (By the way, I’m reminded of a radical Jew who went about persecuting and killing Christians, until Jesus transformed his life and he became one of the most widely read authors in the New Testament, who we know as the Apostle Paul.)
There is nothing bad about being informed about today’s highs and tonight’s lows when it comes to our weather. But the greatest value of forecasts is when a tornado or hurricane is bearing down on your home. At that point, having the most relevant info to protect against such a storm, is of great value.
Likewise, there is a spiritual storm brewing. The eternal implications vastly exceed the temporal impact of the myriad of issues, many of them good, that can distract us from one day to the next. But the truth is that the battle that is raging is for “all the marbles” and those “marbles” are the souls of men and women, not merely the future of a nation.
I do not share these thoughts to judge or convict anyone who might read this, as they are written to me as much as to anyone else. These are thoughts I have been thinking through for some time.
Someday each of us will stand before our Creator to answer for the use of our time, treasure and talent. Personally I must confess I’ve misused all three of these over the years. So I have wondered if attempts to save a nation, will be impressive to God, or will He ask me and you, a different set of questions?
What about your neighbor? Did you love him/her? Did you share My truths with him? Did you reach out to that one that you disagree with, but I died for? Did you show him the love My Son expressed towards Him? Did you love your enemies (as I instructed you to)? Did you forgive your enemies, as Stephen did when he was being stoned to death by his enemies?
Only you can weigh whether these questions are valid. Only you can evaluate what you believe to be the pressing “signs of the times” to which Jesus alluded. But as you consider these thoughts, and evaluate the signs, I would encourage you to read the entire chapter of Luke 12 so as to gain the context within which Jesus warned His disciples about the “signs of the times.” For me it was instructive to better understand just what Jesus was discussing.
I look forward to any thoughts you might share as you consider my thoughts and this verse. And may we all be like the sons of Issachar who we are told were men who “understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” (I Chronicles 12:32)
The election season is over. For some voters, going to the polls was merely a civic duty. For others voting was a matter of stewardship, understanding that God gives us this American privilege, and we will be held accountable for every vote we cast.
But my real focus of this article is not on voters, but rather it’s a message to the newly elected (or re-elected) officials.
God has given me the opportunity (and sobering responsibility) to meet and get to know dozens of politicians, from councilmen to several Presidential candidates. While I’m no longer active in political endeavors, many of these friends or acquaintances were elected to office this last cycle. These offices range from school board members to US Senators, and many offices in between.
So with this as a backdrop, the following verse jumped out at me this week from the book of Daniel:
“For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” Daniel 4:17
The Instruction Manual
The book of Daniel is the instruction manual on how Christians in government should behave. Daniel also illustrates to believers how we should respond to government, particularly adversarial ones.
As we read this manual, for guidance both in civics and governance, it’s important to understand that the government officials we are introduced to in Daniel are both followers of (the one true) God, as well as pagans (followers of someone or something other than the one true God). In addition to Daniel, there are many other books and passages in the Bible that offer insights into God’s view of government officials, and their role in serving Him.
God Elevates Both Believers and Unbelievers to Government
This is the first principle that each recently elected government official should understand. Regardless of whether you believe in and follow God, or not, it is God that has given you the victory you are celebrating. It’s not the voters. It’s Him. Sure, the voters all cast a vote, some for you and some against you.
But ascribing your victory to voters is akin to thanking a courier who hands you the keys to your new car, that your rich uncle just bought for you. Your uncle deserves the acknowledgement and thanks, not the courier.
God “gives them (kingdoms) to anyone he chooses — even to the lowliest of people” affirms this principle. So whether you were elected the county dog catcher, or the President of the United States, God has lent you the office to test your stewardship. That’s not only an awesome opportunity, but it’s more importantly a sobering responsibility. You will be held accountable, not merely by the voters, but more importantly by God Almighty.
God is Testing Your Humility (or Pride)
In Daniel, we read about the story of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and a powerful ruler of his day. But with that power, we also see a man who grew very proud. We read in Daniel 4:30 these words:
“As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’” (Daniel 4:30)
If ever there was a man who embodied the spirit of the “self-made” man, King Nebuchadnezzar was that man. Note how his power led to pride. (And we’ll find out in our next principle, what the king’s pride led to.)
It’s a very difficult task to resist the temptation of pride. Power and pride seem to go hand and hand. So as someone is elevated to a position of power, who was a “no one” or perhaps a “lesser one” before his election, it’s so easy to become prideful in that new found position. A politician can easily look at himself as important. As special. As above others. As privileged. As deserving.
But all those attitudes are not only false, they are Pride whispering lies to us. It’s incumbent on you as an elected official to resist such temptations, and rebuke those attitudes. But if you fail this test, you will soon experience the warning from Proverbs 16:18 where we’re told:
“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”
How many politicians do you know that seem to struggle with pride? If we’re all honest though, this is a sin many of us have succumbed to in our own lives. So Mr/Ms Politician, resist this huge temptation that comes to all of us, but particularly those with power. If you don’t, you may find yourself experiencing the next principle.
Pride Leads to Bad Stuff
I suppose I could have been more “sophisticated” in describing this principle, but “bad stuff” really is the result of Pride in the life of an elected official. The prophet Daniel, who was also a high government official in King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, warned the King of what would occur if he took credit for “his” achievements versus ascribing any success to God. Note Daniel’s warning:
“You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses… King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.” (Daniel 4:25, 27)
Sadly though, this is what occurred when Nebuchadnezzar refused to heed God’s warning, spoken through Daniel:
“…A voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’” (Daniel 4:31-32)
What a great fall King Nebuchadnezzar experienced! From the height of world power, to the lowliness of an animal — simply because he allowed the spirit of pride to rule in his life.
It’s uncanny, but should not be surprising, that 600 years later, Jesus, the Son of the Voice from heaven who spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, reminded us again of the repercussions of pride in our lives:
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
So be sure of this elected official. Pride will tempt you, but you can resist it in your live, and as you do, and take the less travelled path of humility, God will exalt you, according to Jesus, God’s Son.
Nebuchadnezzar’s own life is a reflection of this reality for when the king finally humbled himself and acknowledged the One who had exalted him to begin with, this is what the king had to say:
“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.” (Daniel 4:34, 36-37)
We’ve all heard of the “servant leadership” principle. It’s a teaching that’s hip these days, and often promoted in corporate entities. But long before motivational coaches latched onto this truth, Jesus had this to say about the role servant leadership should play in all of our lives, including elected officials:
“But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27)
Having been around elected officials for many, many years now, I have seen a spirit that is often anything but “servant leadership.” The head tables, the honored seats, and the best of everything is always reserved for politicians. And yet, the elite status most politicians enjoy is entirely at odds with their self-assigned title of “servants of the people.”
So if you were just elected and want to be different and break the political mold, what if you were to truly embrace the idea of “servant leadership” in your elected role? Perhaps one antidote against the pride that will lead to destruction and fall, is to simply commit oneself to truly being a servant in practice versus simply in words.
There are at least two reasons to do so. The first is because Jesus modeled such leadership and what better person to pattern our lives after than the Son of God? But there is another reason, and it has to do with future rewards:
“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
God’s Elevating of An Individual Does NOT Suggest He Endorses That Individual
We often misunderstand God’s actions and choices, assuming that because He places certain individuals in positions of authority, that God must then endorse such an individual. This fallacy has been a huge stumbling block for Christians, particularly over the last couple years. But this could not be further from the truth, as taught throughout Scripture.
God elevates individuals to positions of authority for several reasons including 1) to achieve God’s greater Plan, 2) to test that individual, 3) to punish, test, or refine those who are under the ruler’s authority, or some other purposes. We cannot always be certain of God’s reasons, but we can know this:
“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
We also know that at times God will even elevate evil or immoral rulers to achieve His greater Plan. But when that Plan is achieved, God will discard the ruler, when he does not turn to God and acknowledge His sovereignty. The examples of the numerous kings of Judah and Israel in the Old Testament are an affirmation of this principle, as God used both good and evil kings to continue to advance His objectives. But as soon as God finished with an immoral ruler, God always discarded him.
So the lesson any elected official should learn from this truth, is that God’s selection of you for the office you now hold, is not necessarily an endorsement of you, your political solutions, ambitions, or even your character. Rather, He has placed you there for His purposes. So it’s incumbent on every elected official to ask these questions:
“Why did God elevate me? What does He want to achieve through me? How can I best serve God in this capacity? Am I ready to give account to Him for my actions in my current position?”
All these questions require one particular attitude which we referenced earlier: Humility.
In closing, I trust as you assume the new office or term, which you have been given for a brief moment, that you will ponder these truths from God’s Word. I trust you will acknowledge Whom it is that elevated you, that you will remain humble, that you will truly model servant leadership, and that you will never assume that God endorses all you do, simply because He has granted you this position of authority.
Remember what Jesus said to Pilate when He, as the Son of God, stood before the government official who had been lent the power of life or death:
“Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11)
So if your authority is given to you by God Himself, then this should be your response:
“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Blessings to you as you move into what has often been portrayed as “The Swamp.” But in reality, it may be your greatest opportunity and responsibility to:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
(If you know an elected official, and agree with this message, would you forward this to him/her?)