The Key to Life

The Key to Life

What if I told you that the Key to Life was just one word?  Would you believe it?  Could you guess the word?  

I believe most, if not all, of humanity has often wondered what that Key is.  The fact is most who have searched for the Key have never found it because they have gone down the wrong path looking for it.  Without the Truth to instruct them, they invariably realize the key they’ve pursued has failed to open the door to Life. 

So just what is that Key?  I believe we can find it over and over in God’s Word, but perhaps the following verses are as plain as it can be made:

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life…”  (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

Did you catch that?  The Key to Life is a Choice. And that Choice is a deliberate decision: “…loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him.”

It’s really that simple. A Choice. 

But to be honest, while simple, it is quite hard, as far as I’ve discovered — hard because we live in a difficult, broken world. 

This “Hard” is realized each day because, while we may make this Choice in the morning, by noon, or even earlier, the enemy (Satan) has likely tempted us to forget that Choice.  And because we are frail, and our “spirit is willing but our flesh is weak” we may fall, again and again. 

But God recognized this trait of humanity. He understood that “the godly may trip seven times, but he will get up again.” (Prov. 24:16)  To be clear, this is not because the godly are good, or better or stronger than others, but rather because God promised that “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

In my own life, I have found myself failing and falling way more often than succeeding. Why is this?  I believe it’s because we are truly engaged in the war of the ages. It has been going on since the beginning of time “for we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”  (Ephesians 6:12)

I have often met to discuss God, the Bible and spiritual matters with friends who question, scoff at, or even reject God.  My heart is often heavy for them. But I believe if they are honest with themselves, they too will admit that they are engaged in an inner struggle — one which they most likely cannot understand or explain. Yet God did not desire us to be ignorant concerning Life or these deep personal struggles.  Because God “is not willing that any should perish…” (2 Peter 3:9)

But God is also not one to demand or force someone to do something they do not want to do.  And so we come back to that simple truth:

🔑 The Key to Life is a Choice. 

And it’s our decision. No one else’s.  But even though we choose God once and for all for our eternal destination (heaven), we must also continuously choose God moment by moment in order to have the “rich and satisfying life” that Jesus promised (John 10:10).

So Choose God… and Live!

Muslim Refugees, Catastrophes & Christ

Muslim Refugees, Catastrophes & Christ

Rasha was beyond excited as she skipped out of her house. She’d been dating Nazir for several months now and the more she was away from him, the more she longed to be with him.

She accelerated her pace as she saw the bus approaching the corner. From there it was just a short 15 minute ride to the shop where her beloved Nazir worked.

Ever since she and Nazir had met she had been praying for him. As a former Muslim who had found Jesus to be “the way, the truth and the life,” Rasha believed that Jesus would reveal Himself to Nazir just as He had to her. She thought back to how much her life had changed since accepting Jesus as the Son of God, who forgave her of her sins. Things were not easy, with her family shunning her and threatening to disown her now that she was a Christian.  But she had a peace that she could not explain.

The bus came to an abrupt and startling stop, jolting Rasha from her thoughts. Sirens were going off again, signaling the potential of falling bombs or mortars. She had grown accustomed to the sirens, but she knew there was always a real threat. The bus remained stopped for another several minutes before they began moving again.

As they rounded the corner, Rasha could see Nazir’s little shop. She jumped off the bus and jogged towards the spot where she would see the love of her life. She hoped she could talk again with him about Jesus.  

As Rasha approached the large glass picture window at the front of the shop, she could see Nazir inside. Her pulse quickened. Their eyes met. Smiles spread across their faces. And…

Boom!! Boom!! Boom!!

The concussion from the bombs threw Nazir across the room as the glass from the front window exploded into the shop. Rasha was gone. Those dark beautiful eyes that had always penetrated his soul were there just a moment before. But now a huge fireball marked the spot where she had stood.

Nazir screamed. Tears poured down his cheeks as he yelled Rasha’s name over and over. Shuffling through the shards of glass and debris that now littered his shop, he crawled out through the gaping hole that was just moments earlier a window, through which he and Rasha had smiled.

Rasha was nowhere to be seen. It was as if she had vanished into thin air. But then he noticed a strange smell. A burning smell. One that brought a sickening feeling to his stomach. And then he saw them. Black charred bodies that had been burned beyond recognition.  He collapsed. The sense of loss was too great to bear. How could someone he loved so much be gone forever?

How could humans hate humans this much?

How could Muslims kill Muslims?

Nothing made sense…



The above story is based on a real incident which happened to Nazir (name changed to protect his identity) in Damascus, Syria. The name “Rasha” and the moments leading up to her death are my imagination, but the explosion, her relationship with Nazir, his love for her, and the remaining facts are as reported to us by Nazir.  

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to travel to Greece by way of Albania. I was joined there with several other men who live in that part of the world, and we were engaged in what was to become a series of life altering meetings.

We had the opportunity and privilege to interview a number of refugees, including Nazir, who had fled from cities in Syria, Iran and Iraq, mostly because of the wars and conflicts there. Many of these former Muslims are now living in crowded refugee camps throughout Greece.

In addition to Nazir’s story above, below is a sampling of some of the comments of these refugees that will give you just a small glimpse into the catastrophes they fled that led to their new life in Christ:

  • As I made the decision to accept Christ, I realized that my Christian girlfriend gave her life so that I would know Jesus.
  • I heard a voice say, “I’m with you” while I was in the hospital but I knew the voice was not from the god of Islam because Allah does not speak with people.
  • After fleeing Aleppo, I began questioning Islam’s teachings.  If God created me, how could he tell me to kill people?
  • If you want to be a Muslim you must close your mind.
  • When ISIS came to Mosul they killed my brother, and Christians, and did awful things to girls, destroying everything.  
  • ISIS put me in jail twice: once for failing to pray and the second time for smoking.  The second time they placed a loaded and cocked gun to my head.
  • ISIS is still looking for me and would kill me if they found me.
  • As I was going home from work one day in Aleppo, a bomb exploded near me and I suffered injuries in my arms and legs.
  • Because of the war in Aleppo I fled to Turkey.  While there, I met a Christian who I fell in love with, even though I was a Muslim.  When I told my family that he wanted to marry me, they told me they would disown me and I would never be welcome to come home again.
  • While living in my home country of Iran, I met some Christians there and I became a Christian.  But because of my conversion, my life was threatened so I had to flee from Iran to Turkey. While there I met a Muslim girl who I was attracted to.  But she was from Syria and spoke Kurdish so I had to use a translator. After several months I asked her to marry me, but I could still not speak Kurdish with her.  I needed to be able to communicate with her so I had been praying about this. One night I went to bed, unable to speak Kurdish. The next morning I woke up and could speak Kurdish fluently.  When I met my girlfriend the next time, she thought I had been lying to her about my inability to speak Kurdish but I explained to her that it was Jesus who had given me the ability to speak her language.  I can still speak it fluently to this day.
  • We got married and 5 months later left Turkey, ending up in a refugee camp in Greece.  My wife miscarried our first baby and became deathly ill in the camp. One night, I was praying for my wife to be healed and a dark smoke filled our tent (which I believe was demonic).  As I continued to pray to God I saw a bright white light outside our tent and I heard a voice telling me that my wife was going to be fine in the morning. The next morning two women I had never seen before came to our tent and they said, “We have come from the hospital and are here to help. Where is Amanda?”  They prayed over my wife and took her to the hospital.
  • While I was crying in the hospital I saw visions of Jesus smiling at me and He told me I would be ok. I cried out to Jesus and asked Him to help me and I trusted Him.  Later, as I was sleeping, I saw Jesus in white clothes and He touched my forehead and healed me. When I woke up I walked out of the hospital fully healed and my life has changed forever now that Jesus is my Savior.

The Bible is full of stories of our miracle working God, many as dramatic as the ones above.  Of course, in America, we see evidence of His miraculous work every time we look in the mirror, look out our window, look into the sky or see a new baby.  But how often do we see God working in ways like those experienced by these Muslim refugees? In my case, never. But that does not mean that God is silent.  To the contrary.

God promises to be found to those who earnestly seek Him.  The more than half-dozen individuals that we interviewed are all powerful testimonies of individuals who were calling out to God in their time of dire distress. They were diligently seeking God.  And God in miraculous ways showed Himself through Jesus. Their lives have been transformed for eternity. And these new believers are now reproducing themselves in the lives of dozens of other refugees within the camps scattered around Greece and beyond.  

As I was reading through Scripture this week, I came across this verse:

“He showed you these things so you would know that the Lord is God and there is no other. He let you hear his voice from heaven so he could instruct you. He let you see his great fire here on earth so he could speak to you from it.” (Deuteronomy 4:35-36)

Many of these refugees heard God’s voice in Jesus.  They witnessed “these things” in order that they would distinguish between Allah, the god of Islam, and the one true God, who not only created the universe, but also sent His Son Jesus to die for them (and you, and me).  When God showed Himself to be real to these refugees, they embraced Him completely. And every one of these refugees were promptly baptized, to present a public testimony of the fact that they left Islam and embraced Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

My good friend Nathan has aptly described what is occurring as a result of the war-torn conflicts throughout the middle east in this manner:  “From Catastrophe to Christ.”  He is planning a book by that name, as a sequel to his more recent book, that he co-authored with Joel Richardson:  The Mystery of Catastrophe.

While wars and violence are horrendous, and any person would seek to avoid, we can clearly see God’s sovereignty at work in a mighty way through these ongoing catastrophes. And each one of these refugees is eternally grateful for the catastrophe they experienced, for without it, they would likely have never met Christ.   

Racial Strife: Finding the Antidote to the Enemy Within

Racial Strife: Finding the Antidote to the Enemy Within

If you’ve ever watched the movie Independence Day, or one of the many other films that have been made over the years about aliens attacking the world, you know there’s one consistent theme with all of them: There is a common enemy that seeks to annihilate mankind, and this common threat brings together people of every race, background, and even religion to fight the enemy. The myriad of differences of the people no longer matter. Rather, the people become united as one because without such unity they will surely die. 

 

Abraham Lincoln once said:

“American will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

The President who led our nation to battle the evil of racism, which resulted in the deaths of 620,000 Americans, had a front row view of the hatred that nearly destroyed our nation. And he ultimately lost his life because of that hate.  

Since the founding of our great nation, the scourge of racism has pulsated through our communities. If we are honest with ourselves though, racism flows in all directions. It is not limited to a particular race or skin color. 

But racism is not the root of the problem, any more than the spaceships of the aliens were the underlying threat to mankind. Rather, the aliens within the spaceships were driving the threat to annihilate mankind. 

Likewise, racism is merely the vehicle that carries the real threat: Hate.  We hate others because of their skin color, or their socio-economic status, or their geographic location in our nation, or the wealth they possess, or the education they were provided, or the President they voted for, or a host of other reasons. 

Pure and simple, Americans Hate. And the latest stage where we have seen that hate playing out is in the streets of Charlottesville as KKK and other white racist groups battled with BLM and other black racist groups. Sadly, if we’re honest with ourselves, hate is often present in our own hearts and lives. As we view the bloody scenes of men and women clashing in the streets, what wells up in our hearts?  Is it anger or sorrow?  Is it the desire for retribution or forgiveness?  Is it rationalization or condemnation?

Jesus said that we should be willing to forgive our brothers up to seventy times seven, symbolizing an unending flow of forgiveness. Yet, are we willing to do so?

Consider that unforgiveness is a sin that directly severs our relationship with God, as Jesus affirmed:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Matthew 6:14-15

Later, when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied:

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

The antidote to the poison of hate is a two step process: forgiveness and love. This process requires a daily commitment on our part to insure that the enemy of mankind, hate, does not well back up in our hearts. Unless we commit ourselves to the discipline of forgiveness and love, the future of the union for which so many bled and died is at stake. But more importantly, the eternal destiny of our own souls hangs in the balance. 

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this post, would you mind forwarding it to a few friends?  Thank you.

Chattanooga: A Polluted City

Chattanooga: A Polluted City

I remember first moving to Chattanooga when I was 18.  Excited to move south, I was eager to complete my college education and then launch out into the real world.  

Having grown up in Madrid, Spain, I was accustomed to pollution, given Madrid’s awful track record in the 1960’s and ’70’s.  But despite this, one of the first things I noticed as I settled into my new home city in Tennessee was its own pollution.  It was just a decade earlier when Chattanooga had been declared to have the worst air pollution in America, and there was no avoiding the dirt, filth and smog.

But nearly forty years later, one of Chattanooga’s claim to fame is the way in which it acknowledged its worst standing in America.  As the #1 polluted city, Chattanooga put a plan in place to tackle the scourge for which it had become known.  Government officials, agencies, businesses, and civic leaders all came together to lead in confronting the literal cloud that hung over them.  Today Chattanooga is known for its vibrant and rejuvenated downtown and is now regularly acknowledged for the beautiful city it has become.  

But in spite of the pride Chattanoogans have for the city we all love, there is another pollution that is much more serious than the smog and dirt that permeated our air just a few decades ago.

I was recently reading in the Bible in Numbers 35:33 (in the Old Testament) and I came across this astonishing statement:  “Murder pollutes the land.”  Stop for just a moment and let that statement sink in.  I wonder how many of us have ever truly considered the impact that a murder has on a city, or nation?  

Of course, murders happen everywhere.  But in some places murders happen in more frequency.  Chattanooga is one of those places.  Sadly, in 2016, Chattanooga ranked as the #9 most dangerous cities in America for crime (in the under 200,000 population category).  Much of the reason the city known for conquering its air pollution problem, sank to a #9 ranking in crime, is due to its increasing murder rate.  

If murder pollutes the land, then Chattanooga is being polluted at an ever increasing rate.  But unlike the air pollution of the 60’s and 70’s, the impact of murder is a permanent one.  The loss of a life is perhaps the worst kind of tragedy that one can experience.  The families, friends, neighbors and co-workers of a murder victim are forever changed.  

Americans are known for our interest in cleaning up our environment, protecting our natural resources, and generally tackling problems until we find their solution.  But to date, the pollution of murder in Chattanooga is not seen as a crisis for our city.  And until it is, or until we begin to recognize that murder is polluting our land, I fear we will continue to see this scourge poisoning our lives and that of our fellow citizens.  

I have come to realize this truth over the years: “That on which we focus we excel.”

To date, Chattanooga has offered much lip service to tackling the scourge of murder in our midst, but the focus has been lacking.  And by focus, I mean across the board, from all corners of our community.  The underlying factors that brought us to a #9 rating did not happen overnight, anymore than sinking to the worst air polluted city in America did.  And just like reversing our air pollution took a multi-disciplinary approach, likewise, saving lives by reducing our murders will require the same.  Government officials, agencies, courts, business leaders, churches and individuals must all come together to lead in finding the solutions.  And we must continue to do so until the solutions work. Unless or until we do, the pollution of our city will continue, and likely worsen.

In the second half of the verse in Numbers we read this:  “No sacrifice except the execution of the murderer can purify the land from murder.”  While it may sound insensitive or old fashion to some, the truth is that prompt and commensurate punishment is a strong deterrent to crime.  So when it comes to the taking of life, the way to purify the land from this pollution is to execute the one who took the life.  This is harsh, but this is justice.  And this is God’s remedy.

Finally, I have learned that what we see on the outside flows from what is in the inside.  The murders and other crimes we continue to see proliferated through our city and nation are merely a symptom of what is inside us.  Until we clean up the pollution inside our own lives, we will never clean up the pollution of murder, as hard as we try.

So what about it Chattanoogans?  Or for that matter Americans, since murder happens across this land.  It’s time to step up and tackle the pollution of murder in our midst.

“…for murder pollutes the land.”

Manchester Terror: When Nails Become Neurotoxins, Hundreds Will Be Thousands

Manchester Terror: When Nails Become Neurotoxins, Hundreds Will Be Thousands

Manchester. Paris. London. Berlin. Stockholm. Nice. Brussels. Boston. San Bernardino. Orlando. These are just a few of the many cities in the Western world that have felt the scourge of Islamic Terrorism. Sadly, my hometown, Chattanooga, has also experienced Islamic Terrorism, as I wrote about a couple years ago in my article When Evil Visited Our City.

The Manchester massacre at an Ariana Grande concert this week, is yet another reminder that Islamic terrorism remain alive and well, in its diabolical quest to subject the masses. Once again, ISIS and their radical accomplices dealt a vicious blow to innocent lives. Over one hundred children and adults were injured or murdered at the hands of a brutal suicide bomber, as he detonated an improvised explosive device full of nails and ball bearings.  

As tragic as this attack was, it could be a precursor to something so much worse and massive in terms of loss of life, as noted in this headline from earlier this week:  

Isis tests chemical weapons on ‘human guinea pigs’, secret documents reveal

Dirty bombs, whether radioactive or chemical in nature, pose a mounting threat in this escalating battle between Islamic ideology and the Western world. These weapons of mass destruction, small in relative size, but enormous in destructive potential, have been a threat for years. As ISIS pursues chemical weapons to inflict even greater terror, harm, and death, it’s likely just a matter of time before neurotoxins replace nails.

I shudder to think of the future attacks by Islamic terrorists at concerts, sporting events, or other such “soft” targets. And as awful as the Manchester attack was, it could be dwarfed by an ISIS inspired suicide bomber, carrying a backpack with a chemical weapon. The impact from such an attack could be well into the multiple of thousands. And so, the threat could not be more grave and the urgency could not be greater to crush, root out, and thoroughly obliterate the scourge of Islamic terrorism.

President Trump’s trip this week to the the Middle East was extraordinarily timely, as he met with high profile Islamic states and their representatives. His message to them was clear. While America is committed to annihilating the cancer of Islamic terrorism, the ultimate responsibility for destroying this belief system lies at the feet of Islam itself. Will Muslims around the world, step up and purge their cultures, societies, mosques and madrasas? And if not, will our own political leaders take the necessary steps to protect our citizens?

Time will tell, but the sad reality is that the fundamentals taught within the Islamic trilogy (Koran, Hadith and Sira) and the example offered by Islam’s founder, Mohammed, are at odds with an ideology that our politically correct world fancies the “religion of peace.”  Sure, there are passages that speak of peace, and there were times in Mohammed’s life that he was peaceful, but the actual meaning of the word Islam is “submission,” although your Muslim friend might tell you it is peace. And one only need read the passages and examples offered by the Trilogy and Mohammed himself, to see where ISIS gains the inspiration for its barbarism and depravity.  

Saffie Rose Roussos

So in an age of tolerance, there can be no tolerance for an ideology that seeks to kill us all, including eight year old girls like Saffie Rose Roussos, as she was enjoying a music concert with her friends this week.  An attack on Manchester by Islamic terrorists is an attack on us all. But to eradicate this scourge from amongst us, it will require political leaders to first acknowledge the truth of this ideology.  Until then, the attacks will not only continue, but they will grow in severity as the body count increases.  

The Utter Selfishness of Radical Feminists

The Utter Selfishness of Radical Feminists

This last weekend, as tens of thousands of radical feminists marched in cities around the nation, their vulgar and “nasty” remarks received prime coverage by a media eager to feature their heinous and godless tirades. Their despicable comments were beamed to homes and mobile devices everywhere.

The profane shouts and signs of these self-oppressed radicals, declared their bodies were their own, and that government should keep its hands and policies off of their sacred reproductive organs.  With clenched fists to the sky, these women affirmed to the world, and even to God Himself, that their bodies were sacrosanct, and that NO ONE, could, should, or would diminish their “women’s rights!”

But what struck me was the utter selfishness of these radical feminists.  It was on full display for anyone honest enough to acknowledge their despicable self-absorption. As a godless media deified them, these radicals felt no shame in their self-exaltation. 

Lost in all the rancor, protests, profanity and threats though, were the feminists’ lies. Also missing was one glaring truth.

The radical feminist’s message could not be more aptly illustrated than with these tragic feminists’ attitudes (where “My” is the feminist and “her” is the innocent child in the womb):

    “My body supersedes her life…”

            “My career displaces her future…”

                    “My freedom destroys her existence…”

This selfish, morally debased, and evil philosophy is what permeates the radical feminist movement.  These feminists’ rabid torrents of anger are the antithesis of what God designed and ordained in the beginning.

Sadly, the vile beliefs of these rabid feminists assault the tender sweetness of those that are disparaged in the debate.  The innocence of these children emanate from:  

The smoothness of her soft, untainted features and delicate skin.
The sweet sounds of his new lungs as he inhales the breath of life for the first time.
The tenderness of her astonished cries as she leaves the warmth and security of her mother’s womb.
The fragility of that little child, who only desires the love and care of the one who chose to conceive him.
The very image of God, implanted in her DNA.

But tragically, the little ones whom Jesus blessed as “the least of these” are the very ones that tens of thousands of angry, abusive, blustering feminists will continue to condemn to a trash bag, incinerator or some Frankenstein-type “health-care experiment.”

What has been merely a “choice” to millions over the last 34 years since Roe vs Wade, has been a tragic death sentence for more than 55 million innocent children.  It is a scourge of a nation that has turned its back on what God loves.

As Jesus hung on the cross, presenting His innocent life as a sacrifice for all, His death was the ultimate example of selflessness. He gave His perfect, sinless life in death, in order to offer life to all of sinful mankind.  

Tragically though, the polar opposite of that selfless sacrifice by Jesus, is the abhorrent selfishness that is exemplified by radical feminists. In the name of choice, they will continue to demand “reproductive rights” and “equality”— their unacknowledged code words for snuffing out the lives of those they deem unworthy of life.  

Over the course of one week, the despicable acts and philosophy of the pro-death feminists will be juxtaposed with the peaceful and loving throngs of pro-life supporters, who will march this Friday, seeking merely to bring an end to the murderous act that was legalized by Roe v Wade in 1973.  There could be no greater contrast in the messages of these two groups than the feminists versus those who are pro-life. 

And there is no greater disparity between life and death, as God reminds all of mankind:

“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”

May our nation, and our people come to our senses and move diligently to protect the most innocent and fragile, and in so doing, may we find the mercy and grace that only a sovereign and forgiving God can extend.