America: The Point of No Return?

America: The Point of No Return?

america-the-point-of-no-return

Over the last decade, I have interacted with hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow Americans, as we have shared our grave concerns over the direction of our nation.  There is no doubt that the land of the free and home of the brave is on a course that threatens our future and the very survival of our nation.  So we must ask ourselves this question.

Have we reached the point of no return?

Some may brush off such concerns, believing that America is too big to fail, and asserting that as the world’s superpower, our future remains secure.  They reject the voices that continue to warn our leaders, citizens and neighbors that something is seriously wrong, and that never before has a nation ignored and rejected so many warnings and foundational principles, and survived.   

One only needs to shuffle through history to recognize that nation after nation has ultimately stumbled and fallen when it turned its back on the basic building blocks of any exceptional civilization.  Today, I would like to briefly touch on a few of the key foundation stones.

Economically

If there is one thing that dominates the hearts and minds of Americans it’s the almighty dollar.  The economy consistently scores at the top of issues that concern Americans.  In fact, the phrase, “it’s the economy stupid” became an often used slogan during the Clinton-Bush presidential campaign in 1992.  

But with our nation’s current debt at $19,500,000,000,000 (that’s trillion) and its unfunded liabilities exceeding another $100 trillion, many would say that this issue alone has already taken us past the point of no return.  Regardless of who is elected in November, both Clinton and Trump’s plans will continue to increase the national debt, at alarming rates.

However, it may surprise you to know that according to a recent study by Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, our nation’s federal debt would fare far worse under Trump with the debt in 2026 soaring to $39.5 Trillion, double the current debt.  Under a Clinton administration, the national debt would rise to $29.6 Trillion.  While $10 Trillion less than Trump, both candidates’ plans would put the final nail in the fiscal coffin of our nation.

The idea that we can continue to spend into oblivion with no consequences whatsoever is one sign that a nation is on the path to ultimate collapse.

trump-clintonc-gross-debt-crfb

Politically

There have certainly been periods of political dysfunction and turmoil over our 240 year history as a nation.  And I suppose that occurs when men seek and desire power, often above all else.  But as we see the magnitude of the problems facing our nation increasing exponentially, the prolonged polarization we are experiencing represents an existential threat to America.  Good men and women can disagree, but at the end of the day, opposite sides of an issue must find some common ground if they are to solve problems in a republic, the system chosen by our founders.  Of course, this also assumes that both sides are honest players in their desire to solve our problems, which is no longer the case. 

Without our political leaders seeking the best for our nation, it’s unquestionable that the course we are on is headed for a ruinous conclusion.

Ethically

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” — the bedrock values of our nation.  In selecting these words, our founding fathers sought to affirm the fundamental rights granted to man by God.  By doing so they established the ground rules upon which we would live with each other.  These rules, or sacred rights, would be the basis for all future interactions between the hundreds of millions of Americans that would follow them.  

But in this era, no longer is Life revered and protected.  Liberty is being handcuffed and under constant assault.  And the Happiness one was once free to pursue is subject to approval, or disapproval, by the state.

As all of these founding rights have come under attack, corruption within our government and businesses has skyrocketed. Politicians use government as their own private wrecking ball in destroying those citizens, groups and states with whom they disagree.  Businessmen use their enterprises to achieve personal gain, irrespective of the customers they manipulate, prey on, or defraud.  Consequently, it’s only fitting that the two candidates for President exemplify the worst this nation has to offer, when it comes to candidates of high ethical standing.

We see then that as a nation’s ethics plummet and it removes the foundations of truth, the structure upon which it was built begins to sway and will ultimately topple.  

Morally

Morals, the system by which we determine good and bad, is absolutely crucial in directing the ultimate destination of one’s life, enterprise and even nation.  Morals are impacted and greatly influenced by the culture and society.  Yet all morals are not equal. 

Consider that under the teachings of Muhammed, the founder of Islam, it is appropriate to lie to advance the cause of Islam.  It is also valid to subjugate non-Muslims, since they are deemed to be inferior people, referred to as kafirs.  In contrast, the teachings of Jesus Christ instruct humanity to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the golden rule.  And Christ also taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Clearly, these two ideologies, Islam and Christianity, are at two extremes in defining their morals, what is good and bad.  

Over the last half century or so, our culture has radically redefined our morals.  What was good 50 years ago is now bad, and what was bad then is now good.  I could spend the next several paragraphs providing examples, but if you’re awake, you know how what was considered evil just a few decades ago, is now embraced, celebrated and promoted.

Morals, like ideas, matter.  When a nation rejects good and elevates evil, and when that same nation punishes those who embrace good, and it codifies that which is bad, there can be no doubt that such nation is on a short path to collapse.

Spiritually 

For America, perhaps this is the seminal issue upon which the ones above all rest.  A skyscraper is only as sturdy and secure as the foundation upon which it rests.  Likewise, the American experiment over these last 240 years has been an extraordinary success because of the Judeo-Christian values upon which it rested.  But as those values have not only been attacked, but ultimately replaced over the last few decades with secularism, it’s clear that the experiment has begun to falter.  And as it falters, we will have reached the point of no return.

We read in Scripture this promise, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”  But we also read that “A nation without God’s guidance is a nation without order.”  Could there be any more fitting description of the condition of our nation today?  And if God is the same yesterday, today and forever, as He declares, then we must certainly expect the coming extreme judgment of a Holy God as He has shown in so many other examples over the millenniums.

Ronald Reagan, our 40th President, while imperfect, exemplified the values of our founders and sought to redirect the trajectory of our nation.  The course we were on was taking us to the point of no return but Reagan’s commitment to revitalize our economy, politics, ethics and morals, while elevating the spiritual, slowed our nation’s arrival at the edge of the cliff.  

In one of Reagan’s most famous speeches entitled “A Time For Choosing,” first delivered in 1964, Reagan exposed the threat to peace by the Soviet Union.  But his comments then are likewise applicable to my discussion today.  In his closing remarks, Reagan stated:

“Someday… our surrender will be voluntary because by that time, we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally and economically… You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.  We’ll preserve for our children this the last best hope of man on earth or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”

Our rendezvous with destiny is upon us.  By our choices and priorities over these last 50 years, we have established that destiny.  And while our national destiny is perhaps past the point of no return, individually we can and must establish our own personal destiny, which does not have to mirror that of America’s.  I pray you will embark on a plan to secure your destiny, economically, morally and spiritually.

To find out how, check out this previous article I wrote providing some specific and practical steps that we can all take.

Mark

Do Your Failures Haunt You? Two Strategies to Overcome Them

Do Your Failures Haunt You? Two Strategies to Overcome Them

Do Your Failures Haunt You

If you’re alive, then you’ve failed.  And if you’re honest, you’ve failed a lot.  I know I have.  In fact, I’m confident that my failures outnumber my successes by a multiple of many.  

But the truth is that you and I are not alone.  In fact, we are in great company.  The greatest athletes, entrepreneurs, and even religious leaders will all admit, if they’re honest, that their failures are numerous.

Of course, there are many types of failures.  There are athletic failures, such as missing the winning shot in the NBA finals.  And there are business failures, such as filing bankruptcy when the entrepreneur can no longer satisfy his creditors.  There are parental failures, where we may find we have dropped the ball in the raising of our children.  And there are personal defeats, where we fail to live up to a standard we set for ourselves.  There are moral failures, where one may violate a professional or personal relationship.  And there are spiritual failures, where our behavior or choices fall short of the standard established by God Himself.

The first step in overcoming a failure is to acknowledge it, seek forgiveness from those you have wronged, and then put the mechanisms in place to avoid repeating those same failures again, and again, and again.

But when you’ve done this, it’s possible and perhaps even likely that the failures in your life occasionally or even frequently raise their ugly heads to remind you of your shortcomings.  It’s human nature for us to replay them over and over in our minds.

It hurts to fail just as it hurts to get thrown from a horse.  But if you are going to learn to ride that bucking bronco, there’s only one way to do so and that is to climb back on and try again.

In Psalm 40:12 we read this from King David, “For troubles surround me, too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage.” That’s a lot of failures, and we see what happened when David was focused on his sins.  He couldn’t see his way out and he lost all courage.

Bottom line, he was remembering and rehearsing his failures and the more he did, the weaker and more discouraged he became.

We also see there were those who were more than willing to remind David of his failures in the following verse, “May those who try to destroy me be humiliated and put to shame.  May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace.  Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, ‘Aha! We’ve got him now!’”

Note that if we’re not reminding ourselves of our failures, there is usually someone in our life who is more than willing to do so.  And their intent is generally malicious and destructive.

But thankfully, we also read that David found his strength in God when he said, “Please Lord, rescue me!  Come quickly, Lord, and help me.

Like David, we must recognize that when our failures seem to overwhelm us, whether business, personal, moral or spiritual, there is One to whom we can turn.  Doing so requires humility, dependence, and repentance, particularly if the failure is a violation of God’s law.  But when we humble ourselves, and seek God’s forgiveness, strength and deliverance, it is then that we can regain the courage that was lost by focusing on our failures.  

There is another step to be taken in overcoming your failures which we learn from another great historical figure, the Apostle Paul, when he shares, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…

We must bury the past and turn our focus to the future, knowing that what is done is done.  The only chapter of our lives that you and I can still affect is the one yet unwritten.  So forget those past failures and turn your focus to the future.

So if your failures have haunted you and your courage has been waning, practice the strategies that David and Paul both used: seek God’s deliverance and strength, and forget the past while focusing on the future.  Doing so will unleash a new sense of optimism and hope as you fulfill the purpose that God has for your life.

Mark

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Knowing the Facts is Easy but…

Knowing the Facts is Easy but…

Knowing the Facts is Easy but...

“Knowing the facts is easy. Knowing how to act based on the facts is difficult.”  Han Feizi

A good friend and mentor shared the above quote with me this last week and it got me thinking…  In this age of Google and Siri, it has become commonplace to find out the answer to nearly any question we have.  No longer do we need to go to a bookshelf, pull out a volume of the World Book encyclopedia, to find out the answer to a problem we might be having. 

Case in point.  A couple days ago I was struggling to remember the name of the runner from Jamaica who just won gold for the third time in the Olympics in the 100 meter race.  So I picked up my phone, and asked my digital assistant: “Siri, who is the world’s fastest man?”  In just moments I had the answer along with more facts than I ever asked for:  Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man.

Yet, with our 21st century capacity to know the facts on nearly any subject matter known to man in mere seconds, what has not changed for mankind is the ability to know how to act based on the facts.  In fact, it remains just as difficult today as it was for our ancestors thousands of years ago.

The truth is, it matters not whether we are talking about our personal life, business, political choices, moral dilemmas, or spiritual quandaries, we often know the facts of a matter, but struggle to make the right choices based on those facts.

Uncertainty

There are times when we know the facts, but the proper response to the facts is difficult to discern.  It may be that the proper choice is not totally clear.  Or it could appear that there are pros and cons to all the various options.  So discerning which is the best option can be difficult. 

This can occur when we are too close to the matter, or our experience with the facts at hand is limited.  When this happens, a second set of eyes, a new perspective, greater wisdom, or even a personal coach, can bring clarity to the matter, resulting in the proper choice coming into focus.  So we should never hesitate to bring mentors, counselors or trusted advisors into the picture, whether in our personal, business or spiritual life.  

Conscience 

We’ve all heard the phrase, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  Well, so is a conscience.  Our God-given “inner voice” can serve as a guide in leading us to the proper decision in a matter.  While this is true, at times we choose to ignore or question the voice.  We know what we ought to do, but we resist doing so.  The sad reality of this scenario though is that if we do this often enough, at some point our conscience will grow weaker and weaker, to a point that it no longer serves as a voice of discernment in our lives.  And what was designed into us as a guide can over time lose its influence, and even grow silent.

There’s a passage in Romans 7 that speaks specifically to this quandary:

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate… I want do do what is good, but I don’t.  I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.”

Situational Ethics

We’re all familiar with the philosophy “the end justifies the means” and most would likely reject it. But the truth is that many of us will at times embrace this reasoning when it can benefit us personally.  The opening quote of this post says, “Knowing how to act based on the facts is difficult.”  If I were to re-write the quote I would revise it to say, “Knowing how to act correctly based on the facts is difficult.”

Situational ethics can frequently lead us to a justifiable option, but it may be the wrong choice.  My set of facts may reveal that I am broke and don’t know how I’m going to put gas in my tank.  While I’m in the break room at work I find a $20 bill laying on the counter.  No one is around so I justify taking the cash because no one will ever know, “finders keepers, losers weepers” or some other rationalization.  I need to put gas in my tank to get home to my family, so I’m ok with doing the wrong thing.  So that $20 is now mine.  Simple.  The end justifies the means.

We know better but we justify our decision, and thus we act based on the facts, but our action is flawed and incorrect.  James 4:17 addresses this particular dilemma quite succinctly:  “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

At the end of the day, it’s critical to look beyond the facts and seek to respond to those facts in the correct manner.  Whether we seek out a coach or mentor, or we respond to the truth we know to do, or we resist the temptation to justify inappropriate behavior, if we want to succeed and grow in life, we must all too frequently make the tough but difficult choice.

Are there other ways you’ve found to do what is right but difficult?  If so, send me an email or post a comment below and let me know your thoughts.  

Mark

#MakeAmericaGoodAgain

#MakeAmericaGoodAgain

Make America Good Again

“No people can be great, who have ceased to be virtuous.”  Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)

This week I am witnessing first hand the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. As I’ve been observing the happenings within the Quicken Arena, the one theme that continues to pop up again and again, is Make America Great Again.  Of course, that being the Trump campaign motto, it should come as no surprise.  From t-shirts to ball caps, street vendors to banners, the motto is everywhere I look, here in Cleveland.  

The brilliantly conceived message is one that plays well with disillusioned and disgusted voters, who have experienced the last seven years of an Obama Presidency and grown increasingly skeptical and angry with Washington DC.  But to add to that anger, Republican voters have had to endure a party establishment who cares more about power and reelections than they do about upholding the Constitution, and fighting back against Obama’s all out assault on our freedoms, national security and economic revitalization.  So Trump stepped into a perfect storm and has been a master at tapping into the base emotions of voters, with a message that sells to the disgruntled masses.

While the overriding theme of the Convention this week is Make America Great Again, the Trump campaign has played brilliantly off that theme to devise a relevant emphasis each day as follows:

Monday:  Make America Safe Again

Tuesday:  Make America Work Again

Wednesday:  Make America First Again

Thursday:  Make America One Again

I wouldn’t deny that these are all worthy topics and aspirations, but as I’ve considered Trump’s Make America Great Again theme, I believe the New York billionaire is attempting to place the cart before the horse. It’s as if Trump’s seeking to build one of his skyscrapers before digging the foundation.  Sadly, many of the American people have eagerly embraced Donald’s message, believing they can simply don a baseball cap, elect a businessman, and the nation’s course will be reversed, with Great days ahead, absent any personal sacrifice or change.

In order for a business to achieve greatness, it requires a superior product or service, with a comprehensive approach and attention to the way it treats its employees, suppliers, investors and even its community.  Similarly, a person will only be truly great, if that person possesses the inner qualities that lead to greatness: humility, service, wisdom, courage, forgiveness, trustworthiness, and more.  In years gone by, the word that was often used to describe these qualities was virtue:  “behavior showing high moral standards.

So can a nation be Great, as in “superior in character or quality” without being Good or virtuous?  Clearly Trump’s message suggests, by the use of the word “Again,” that America is no longer Great.  And if that is accurate, which I believe it is, then what was it that led to America’s greatness in the past?  Was it merely the desire or goal of being great, by those before us, that led to America becoming great?  Or was it based on some other qualities our forefathers and grandfathers possessed, that led to our nation becoming the greatest nation this world has ever known?

I would suggest that to be great, America cannot simply seek to be great, anymore than wishing to be a great company can cause a business to excel.  Greatness results from small, daily routines when others are not watching that flow from conscious decisions that ultimately develop into one’s character.  Greatness is not the end goal but rather it is a by-product of other disciplines. 

If America is to become great again, it will not be as a result of a mere focus on greatness but it will rather flow from a commitment to the individual attributes that lead to greatness.  Those attributes must be developed in our lives, and consciously taught and passed on to the lives of our children.  There is a famous quote that we have all heard before: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”  

Sadly, the current destiny of our nation has resulted from the thoughts, actions, habits and character that we have developed individually and collectively as a people.  Our fall from greatness will not be restored with mere political victories and cheap cliches that induce warm and fuzzy emotions.  Rather, it will require each of us to take serious inventory of our own character to determine how and where we have contributed to the current course of our nation.  And as we identify our own flaws and weaknesses, we must then be willing to make the hard changes in our own lives and thus begin the more difficult but absolutely crucial changes to right the course of our nation.  Only when we do so can we #MakeAmericaGoodAgain.

Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”   Patrick Henry

Mark

 

There is a God in Heaven… And Here’s why that Matters

There is a God in Heaven… And Here’s why that Matters

There is a God in Heaven

Chaos.  Crime.  Corruption.  Shootings.  Terrorism.  Political upheaval.  Racial strife.  Economic catastrophe.  Family breakdown.  Societal unrest.  Moral disintegration.

Does it feel like our communities, culture, nation and world are coming apart at the seams?  Does it seem like everyday we wake up to another crisis that threatens you, your family or our nation?  If you are a business owner or an employee, does it feel like even your livelihood is at risk?

Are there any solutions to the seemingly insurmountable and existential problems facing us?

Is there anyone who can really bring the dissension, turmoil, chaos, and violence to an end via some new solutions that have yet to be revealed?

Has this kind of scenario ever been experienced by our nation in the past?  If so, when and how did our countrymen respond?

Truthfully, our nation has faced similar challenges in the past, including what seemed like overwhelming cultural degradation and moral depravity, with men and women showing little care or respect for others or God. 

Specifically, in the early 1700’s Americans were living in darkness.  Political leaders were corrupt. The King was oppressive. The culture was coarse.  Morals were exceedingly low.  The Church was weak and anemic with those Christians who did attend church having little impact on those around them, preferring to keep their beliefs to themselves and within the four walls of the church. 

The outlook for the colonies was bleak.  

And yet, a group of men and women, seeing the moral and spiritual condition around them, began to earnestly pray for revival in the colonies over the course of years.  They understood the truth that there is no political or economic solution for a heart problem.  There’s so much more to the story of the First Great Awakening, led by men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and John & Charles Wesley.  But the truth is the entire course of our nation was changed because people prayed, God moved and individuals responded.  In fact, millions of individuals and families were transformed because of the restoration of their hearts back to God.

But it was less than 100 years later, and once again Americans fell back into their old ways.  Quoting from Joel Rosenberg’s book Implosion we see this:

“Following the Revolutionary War, America experienced a period of moral decline.  Spiritual devotion waned and social problems proliferated.  From the late 1770’s until the late 1820’s, per capita consumption of alcohol in America rose dramatically, to about four or five times what it is today… The social consequences were predictable.  Illegitimate births were rampant. Thomas Paine was proclaiming Christianity was dead — and certainly the body of faith appeared to be in a coma.  Yet even as church rolls were shrinking and greed, sensuality and family breakdown were becoming widespread, America was about to experience a great spiritual revival.

“Slowly at first, then building over the next several decades, one wave of spiritual renewal and religious rededication after another swept the country, in what historians now call America’s ‘Second Great Awakening.’  In one community after another, people began to wake up from their moral and spiritual slumber as though saying, ‘If we’re going to have a self-governing nation, it must be occupied by self-governing people.’  Within one generation, alcohol consumption fell by two-thirds.”

It’s worthwhile to note that the common thread between both the First and Second Great Awakenings was prayer.  Men and women, recognizing that there is a God in heaven who cares infinitely about the affairs of men, began to call out to Him in prayer with great diligence, urgency and consistency.  And as they prayed and followed God’s leading, He answered their prayers in a glorious and supernatural manner, and the hearts of Americans were turned back to God.

As we fast forward to 2016, we see a nation whose future is becoming more and more bleak.  Just as in our past, greed, sensuality, family breakdown, racial strife and violence characterize our nation.  Political leaders, whether democrats, republicans or independents, all profess to hold the magic ointment to heal all of our woes.  And yet, as we continue to place our hopes in a political figure or party, we see how consistent they are in failing us. 

Following this week’s shootings of eleven Dallas police officers, with five of them dying, the video interview below of Kellon Nixon, a witness of the shootings, is particularly relevant to this discussion.  I would encourage you to listen to the entire video but here are a few highlights of Kellon’s thoughts:

When asked by the MSNBC reporter, “How are you today?” Kellon responded:

“Today I am recovering spiritually.  Last night, when you start to see the shooting… you start to think, ‘It’s me against the world.’ But with that type of mentality we’ll implode as a people, not as ethnicity, but as a people, period.  We’re all one race at the end of the day… We have to be a Christian nation. We have to be governed by a higher authority. We can see what governing ourselves has proved… The best thing we can do is to value lives over the economy. I think that is one of our biggest problems in America.  The economy is stronger than our moral fiber.  Our desire for prosperity is so much greater than our desire to be moral, to be humane, to love, to care, that we’ll risk our children or the sanctity of marriage, just for money, just to stay on top as a nation. When we lose our hearts, when we lose our souls, we’re really at the bottom.  We’re the worst of people, no matter how materially rich we are.”

Did you catch that?  Losing our hearts and souls?  I believe Mr. Nixon has hit on the crux of the challenge we face.  We as a people have lost our heart and soul, and consequently we have seen the crumbling of a once great nation.  

But just as our countrymen of prior centuries realized, there is a path back to God.  And it begins in Prayer and a change of my heart and yours.  

Our political leaders have no answers to the unsolvable problems of our day.  Given that the root of the problem is the heart and spiritual in nature, we will remain disillusioned if we simply look horizontally for fixes.

The only solution to the vexing problems of our day is to bow our heads while directing our hearts upward towards heaven.  

Psalm 20:7 instructs us of this truth:  “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”  

What is your chariot?  In what are you trusting?  Who are you looking to for the solutions to your problems?  If it’s someone other than God, then you will remain disappointed and unfulfilled, with no hope.  

As the famous revivalist Gypsy Smith would say, “Do you really want to see a revival begin?  Draw a circle around you on the floor. Then get down on your knees in the middle of the circle and ask God to convert everybody inside that circle.  When you do that, and God answers, you are experiencing the start of a revival.”

So how about it?  Must we wait for more lives lost?  For more economic collapse?  For more violence?  For more dissension?  For more political corruption and disappointments?  For more moral decline?  

Or can you and I, individually, persistently and urgently call out to the God in heaven with this prayer:

“God, forgive me.  Change me.  Revive me.  Show me.  Strengthen me.”  

And then get up, go out and begin to share our commitment with others, encouraging them to join us in their own personal restoration with God. 

And when we do this, we will know this truth from Daniel 2:28:  “There is a God in heaven… and He holds the answers to our deepest problems and struggles.

Mark

To Judge or Not to Judge?

To Judge or Not to Judge?

To Judge or Not to Judge

 

In this day in time, there’s hardly a week that passes where some major moral issue isn’t being debated in the court of public opinion.  Whether it’s via the courts, primetime TV or social media, it seems more and more of the values that many of us and our parents and grandparents grew up with are now on trial and under full attack.  From marriage and abortion, to homosexuality and transgender facilities, the standards that have been in place for generations are now being undermined in an ever more intense manner.

At the same time as these cultural and political battles are taking place, there is an effort by the same elite to stamp out all dissent, whether via political correctness, so-called tolerance, or even through courts, legislation and government regulation. One other popular method that those attacking our most fundamental values are fond to employ is by using the Bible itself to silence Christians.  In particular, those who frequently despise the Holy Book, are all too eager to use select passages to either advance their agenda or hush poorly informed Christians, who may not dust their Bible off that often. 

A passage that is continuously misquoted, perhaps more than any other in the Bible, is in Matthew 7 where we read, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  And so it would seem that with one short verse, the entire Christian argument on any of today’s difficult issues is silenced.  As the passage goes on to say, “why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

No one wants to be a hypocrite, even though, if we are honest with ourselves, there are areas in our lives where we all say one thing and sadly live another.  So doesn’t this passage clearly say we must remove the plank out of our eye before we can remove the speck out of someone else’s eye?  So how can we ever speak out or “judge” any matters of any importance that involve our “brothers” or even our friends or neighbors?  

The truth is that if you and I are the judge and it’s our own law, then we clearly cannot judge others.  If the standard by which we evaluate others and their actions is a subjective, personal standard, then who are we to tell someone else what is right or wrong?  In fact, if the standard is my own, and thus subjective, then you likely have your own as well.  And so then there is no objective, absolute standard, and thus no right or wrong.

But there are in fact absolutes, contrary to today’s prevailing philosophy.  We all know this both inherently and because we have experienced these absolutes.  The law and even nature are both quick to remind us of them.  Break the speed limit, and blue lights will remind you of certain absolutes.  Leave a few dollars off your tax return, and the nation’s favorite governmental agency will send you a bill with interest and penalties for forgetting that income.  Strike someone with malice, and a man in a black robe may sentence you to years behind bars.  Walk off a building, and you’ll quickly learn that nature itself attests to absolutes.  So it’s clear we live accountable to absolutes all the time, whether we like them or not.  

But back to the “judge not” passage.  The Bible is a book of history, prophecy, morality and spirituality, but it is ultimately God’s message to mankind.  The Bible instructs mankind on matters of morality and from those precepts, man is then able to discern right and wrong.  He is not the judge, as God established the law.  Man is simply one who discerns right from wrong, good from evil, based on God’s absolute standard.  So God judges.  Man discerns.

When you or I speak out on a moral issue that is delineated in Scripture, the judgment being made is not merely our own, but it is one based on a moral standard that supersedes our own.  In this case, it is God’s.  The Bible is clear in its admonition to reject evil, embrace good and expose darkness, as these passages clearly illustrate:

Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”  Ephesians 5:11

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”  Isaiah 5:20

Depart from evil and do good.”  Psalm 37:27

Putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor.”  Ephesians 4:25

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:21

Finally, we are called in John 7:24 (just a few verses after the “judge not” passage) to actually “judge with righteous judgment.”  This passage clearly suggests that when “judging” is done righteously, meaning according to God’s perfect standard, then that judgment is not only appropriate but it is commanded.

So the next time you hear someone misquote Matthew 7:1 by telling you to stop judging, consider that they are doing so out of either ignorance, or worse, they seek to simply silence you.  But now you know better.