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The Drought Offers Common Ground: #PrayForRain

The Drought Offers Common Ground: #PrayForRain

the-drought-offers-common-ground

Photo credit: Derek Daniel http://bit.ly/2fFj186

Democrats/Liberals and Republicans/Conservatives can’t seem to agree on much these days. And probably a lot of the reason for that is because we are so focused on all the things that divide us, and many of those issues are in Washington. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have served to drive a wedge further into a division that was already deep to start with.

But, I believe that a time of crisis can, or perhaps should, drive us to find what unites us, rather than belaboring what divides us.

There is a dire crisis our community is facing. It is a crisis of rain, or lack thereof. We are facing one of the worst drought in years. This is a crisis that affects us all.  

Black. White. Democrat. Republican. Woman. Man. Rich. Poor. Gay. Straight.  

It matters not who you are, where you live, or the balance in your bank account. While Obama winds down, Trump revs up, and Hillary moves on, we have an urgent need for rain in our region.

So in this time of crisis, where neighbors’ properties are consumed, health is impacted, agriculture and farming are threatened, and first responders are working feverishly, can we as a community draw together? Can we begin to call out to God? Can we reach out to our friends, neighbors and co-workers, regardless of our backgrounds or political views, and drop to our knees, bow our heads and #PrayForRain?

Can we focus on that which we agree? Can we as Chattanoogans (or whatever town you live in) come together on this issue? Can you imagine if we all began doing this as a community? Singularly, then in small groups, in our churches, and perhaps even across our entire community? What if our elected officials, on both sides of the aisles, came together to pray? What if pastors of all denominations, including the black and white community, united in prayer? What if corporate executives and front line workers began to pray together? What if those neighborhoods that are being shattered with violence came together to pray? What if broken families were reunited in prayer?

What if we are experiencing this drought to unite us in prayer? To turn our hearts and minds back to God. To seek God’s forgiveness where we have failed Him. To find God’s strength and direction to move forward. To break down the walls that have divided us for too long.

If so, then what could we expect, if we turn to God in prayer?

Perhaps we could see God smile as we work to unite versus remaining so divided. And perhaps God’s pleasure might be revealed as His tears of joy flowed down in showers of blessings.

I am reminded that God said in Psalm 133, “How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” And just two verses later in the same passage we read this relevant description of unity: “It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion.”

Do we want unity that is like dew in this time of drought?  

Then why don’t we as a community draw together in unity to #PrayForRain?  

And as we do, perhaps the unity that so many of us seek will be revealed as we see God work in a mighty and powerful way, because we know that #PrayerChangesThings

Will you join me?

If so, then begin praying, and inviting others to join you. And share this article with others, using the hash tag #PrayForRain, as we acknowledge God’s omnipotence and seek His forgiveness and blessings in our community.

Mark

Photo credit:  Derek Daniel:  http://bit.ly/2fFj186
Should a Christian Vote for the Lesser Evil?

Should a Christian Vote for the Lesser Evil?

christian-vote-lesser-evil

Over the course of my years of engaging in politics, I have often heard the phrase “the lesser of two evils” used about the choices offered up to voters.  But never has that phrase been used more than in the 2016 election.  One wonders if all the “lesser evil” choices of prior elections have ultimately culminated in the two worst choices of our lifetimes?  Time will certainly tell.

As I’ve witnessed the ongoing debate on the Republican side of the discussion over Donald Trump, supposedly the lesser evil, I have seen two arguments arise.  The #NeverTrump side asserts that they must follow their conscience, drawn from a biblical/absolute moral standard.  The other side argues that in doing so, one would invariably allow a greater evil, in this case Hillary Clinton, to prevail in our nation.  This second group asserts that selecting the “lesser evil,” in this case Trump, is a better choice, even a good choice, because it would lessen or slow the advance of evil.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that under a Trump administration, evil would in fact advance at a slower pace. If that were true, then is a vote for someone who has a lifetime of the behavior below someone a Christian should vote for, regardless of the evil character of the other option?

Three wives

Serial adulterer

Affiliated with Strip clubs

Rejects his need of God

Utilizes racial and misogynist slurs routinely

Acknowledged his propensity to prey on women, including those married

Routinely defrauded individuals out of monetary claims

Pride, arrogance and greed are prominent character flaws

And so much more…

To be clear, as I enumerated Donald Trump’s behavior, lifestyle and choices, I struggled doing so.  The struggle was not because I was unsure as to whether those things are morally reprehensible.  Rather, I struggled because I too am a sinner and were my life laid bare, there would no doubt be many choices of which I would be ashamed.  So I do not enumerate Trump’s choices and lifestyle to suggest I am better.  However, there is a distinct difference between Trump and someone who embraces the Christian message.  

A true Christian acknowledges his sinful choices and routinely seeks God’s forgiveness for his actions that violate God’s standard.  And because his faith rests in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, he has forgiveness from God, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God.  So repentance and forgiveness are key to a Christian’s relationship with God.

When Trump was asked in 2015 about whether he had ever asked God for forgiveness, he stated the following:

“I am not sure I have.  I just go on and try to do a better job from there.  I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right.  I don’t bring God into that picture.  I don’t.”

I do not share this to condemn Trump but merely to explain the man.  With a philosophy as Donald revealed, it is no wonder that so many of his choices are immoral.  But worse, it does not appear that Trump sees any need to correct or improve on his degenerate behavior. To be fair, in the last few months, there have been unsubstantiated reports that perhaps Donald has turned to God.  I can only hope and pray that this has in fact occurred.  If so, it would be an earth shattering development that could at the very minimum eternally secure the soul of Donald Trump.  

But back to the original discussion.  Is Donald Trump someone a Christian should vote for, simply because he is the “lesser of two evils” in the minds of some?

In tandem with that question though, and perhaps of greater importance, is this question:

In a world of lesser evils, are God’s principals universal?  

We can no doubt find countless examples of choices that are both evil, but one is lesser.  So what should a Christian do in these instances?  

In America we are sheltered and removed from the reality of the rest of the world.  But for too many Christians around the world, the lesser of two evils is a dramatic reality, and results in their rejecting both options. 

Christians & The Egyptian Election

Take for instance the runoff election in 2012 in Egypt that pitted the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi against Ahmed Shafik, a holdover from the former strong-armed President Hosni Mubarak.  If one delves into the backgrounds of both of these men, and what they supported, there can be no doubt that their views, values and track records were at extreme odds with biblical values.  So in that instance, should an Egyptian Christian have selected a Muslim, tied to a former dictator, or should the Christian have chosen the second candidate, someone who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a known terrorist group?  Neither choice is a good one.  Truthfully, they are both evil.

God’s standards and principles must be universal and timeless or they are not of God. 

If one must resort to solely human logic, reasoning or even situational ethics, that should be the first clue that the conclusion one is coming to is likely not of God.  Secondly, if the conclusion one is coming to would not work in another place or in another era, then that conclusion must also be suspect.  

As Americans, and Christians specifically, have continued to chose “the lesser of two evils” over the years, we have seen the quality of the candidates continue to degenerate.  This approach has led us to the point where in 2016, the two major options presented to Americans are the two most debased and immoral options perhaps our nation has ever seen.  But rest assured, if Americans willingly, and in many cases gleefully, select one of the two options, you can be confident that the choices that will presented in 2020 and beyond will be even worse.  Contrary to the theory of evolution, things do not naturally get better.  Rather, it’s clear that the world is continuously devolving, absent God’s intervention through spiritual revivals.

Consider this truth.  If we continue to follow the path of the “lesser of two evils” where might that lead us in the future? There will always be a lesser of two evils, no matter how low on the scale the candidates descend.  We could one day be faced with voting for one candidate that believes in abortion while the other believes in euthanasia, or both could believe in such.  So it should be clear that at some point the “lesser of two evils” falls apart.

So, what should you do if you are a person that has a gnawing feeling that something is not right? Or perhaps you have a quiet voice pricking your conscience to reject both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, even though your human logic or friends suggest that Trump would be better because he will do this or do that.

If this is you, then I would encourage you to turn to God.  As a believer, every consequential decision in your life should have a foundation in and be supported by God’s Word.  If not, then question that decision.  So if you are a follower of Christ, consider these passages, pray earnestly and seek God’s direction on November 8.

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

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, have a form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!  2 Peter 3:1-5

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

I believe that fear is one of the greatest motivators of this election.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of Hillary.  Fear of the Supreme Court.  Fear of our borders opening up further.  Fear of increased corruption.  Fear.  Fear.  Fear.  But consider this:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  2 Timothy 1:7

Do you feel powerless?  Do you feel anger and even hatred perhaps?  Is your mind clouded?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, then perhaps fear is motivating you.  Turn your attention back to God, particularly in this election cycle.  Trust Him.  Refuse to succumb to your own logic.  And God will direct you to the proper choice in just a few days.  

It may be that God is leading you to reject both candidates and to either not vote, or to select one of the 3rd party or independent candidates.  Life is not about winning, in a worldly sense, but about doing what is right from a divine perspective.  Personally I find both Trump and Clinton objectionable, one perhaps more than the other, but both a shame for a country that was founded upon biblical principles.  So I have been challenged to pray for Trump and Clinton.  That I can do.

Next Blog Post: Voting Recommendations

In my next blog post later this week, I will provide my thoughts on what to do if, like me,  you cannot vote for Trump or Hillary.  Rest assured there are other candidates that, while they will not win politically, they will provide you with the option to follow your conscience in a way that reconciles with Scripture.  And when you do this, I would suggest that you have won in a manner that trumps any American political battle.  (Here’s the post:  If You Reject Hillary & Trump, Here are Some Options)

Obviously, my thoughts  are not the “final word” on this subject matter.  I continue to seek out God and the spiritual perspectives of others.  So if you disagree with my thoughts or have some other ideas about this, please email me, or comment on social media.  I relish your input.

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

A Second American Revolution: Defeating The Enemy Within

A Second American Revolution: Defeating The Enemy Within

A Second American Revolution And The Enemy Within

When our founding fathers penned their names in 1776 to perhaps our nation’s greatest document, the Declaration of Independence, they attempted what we now know was a glorious and courageous feat. Singling out King George as the object of their contempt was viewed by many of their contemporaries as not only foolish, but it would likely cost those 56 men their “lives, fortune and sacred honor.”  

Two hundred and forty years later, we marvel at the resolute and unsurpassed character of our founding fathers and the thousands of others who rose up to revolt against Great Britain, their formidable enemy.

Following a brutal and what oftentimes appeared a hopeless cause, George Washington and his ragtag group of soldiers, realized a miraculous and no doubt, Providential victory. As the thirteen colonies concluded their Constitutional Convention in 1787, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”  To which he replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.

“If you can keep it…”

This has always been the challenge to every American citizen over the last 240 years, keeping our Republic. Of course there have been many instances over these many years where we have faced enemies from without, foes that at the time were no doubt powerful and threatening.

Today though, with the ever increasing threat of terrorism, some would suggest that Islamic terrorists have now become our greatest enemy.  Others would argue that Russia or China, both nuclear nations which seek superpower status, are our nation’s greatest threat.  

Looking closer to home, some would suggest that a President who looks with contempt at the people whom he represents as a serious threat.  Others point to our Congress as the greatest threat, as Senators and Congressmen continuously erode our liberties with each passing year.  Still others, concerned with the expanding role of the SCOTUS, view our nation’s men and women in black robes as the greatest threat to the permanence of our Republic.

No doubt all of these threats represent real and present dangers to our nation’s survival.   

But today we face an even greater enemy than those just enumerated.  While each preceding generation has stood resolute as they were tested by the enemies of their time, I fear that the present generation, yours and mine, is not only failing to overcome our enemy, but worse, we lack the will or discipline to do so. 

It was Sun Tzu who declared 2500 years ago in The Art of War, “if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear a hundred battles.”

Today we do not know the real enemy we face.  That enemy is within.  And that enemy is you… and me. 

We are the greatest threat our nation faces. 

As a populace:

  • We are uniformed and disengaged, caring little about the affairs of their government.
  • We devote more time to our favorite pastimes, hobbies, or reality shows, than to holding our governmental representatives accountable, at all levels.
  • We are engrossed in the statistics of our favorite sports team but know virtually nothing about our nation’s exploding and threatening national debt.
  • We spent 10x more on lottery tickets ($70 billion) in 2014 than we did in the previous Presidential election year.
  • We care little about the character of our representatives, whether in Congress or in the Oval Office, preferring their promises over their principles.
  • Our voter turnout trails nearly every other developed country in the world, with a measly 53% in 2012, and we engage at an even lower rate in local elections.
  • Our moral, religious and ethical standards continue to slide at ever increasing rates.

Consequently, as you and I have chosen to be distant, apathetic and careless toward our government, we have seen that same government become dysfunctional, corrupt and an ever growing threat to our “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” 

As a constitutional republic, the United States is dependent on its citizens to select men and women of exceptional skills and character to lead their nation. And it’s incumbent on those same citizens to make the necessary corrections when their leaders veer off course and threaten our nation’s future.  

Just this week we witnessed corruption of the worst kind when the FBI, an agency of the Department of Justice, exonerated Hillary Clinton from the admitted criminal violations she was involved in with her illegal email scheme.  And yet, it’s highly likely this corruption will be rewarded with the keys to the Oval Office in November.

So what is the answer?  And what is the solution?  First and foremost we are beyond “political solutions.”  You cannot solve a heart problem with a political strategy.  And we are informed of this truth by this verse, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”  

To restore the foundations, we must restore our hearts.  And the restoration of our heart begins with the bending of our knees. 

Our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln, understood this truth all too well when he published this solemn challenge to all Americans, and it’s one we would do well to heed today:

Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

“And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of the civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?  We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven.  We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity.  We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown.  But we have forgotten God.  We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.  Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

“It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

And so there it is, the formula to overcome the enemy within and launch our nation’s Second Revolution:

Humility. Sorrow. Prayer. Confession. Repentance. Dependence. Assurance. Hope. Blessings.

Mark