More Thoughts on Refugees

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote some initial thoughts on the refugee crisis.  I mentioned that there is so much we cannot know in order to determine whether or not we should support taking in refugees.  After listening to endless officials and pundits over the last several weeks analyze and argue their views, I still don’t know if letting refugees in is safe or not.

What I do know is that the idea of absolute physical safety is an illusion.  I’m sitting in front of the TV now watching reports of a mass shooting in San Bernadino, California that is unfolding live before my eyes.  There are no details yet on who did it or why, but if follows closely on the heals of another shooting that took place in Colorado less than a week ago.

My point is simply that whether or not there are refugees, there will be danger.  Always.  Danger is already here.  The potential for and reality of mass killing is a domestic problem as much as a foreign one.  Terrorists can already get into our country and reports are they’re already here.  All of this is outside of my control.  What is not outside of my control is how I think about and what I do for people in need.  I can allow myself to become fearful, paranoid and cynical, or I can choose to live a life of fearless compassion in a dangerous world.

I have no control over who does or does not come into the Unites States.  So, with so many unknown variables, I fall back on who I am, who I’m called to be and what I believe about God and about people.  I am called to love and care for those God brings to me to love and care for.

Because of what I don’t know, I neither argue for nor against the acceptance of refugees.  As I stated in my last post, there are really good arguments on both sides.  Frankly, I don’t see a reason to pick a side.  I can look at it philosophically, theologically and ethically and argue a position, but last I checked, those who make the decision don’t ask what my views are.  That’s not to say that speaking up isn’t important, but on this issue, I can’t know what I don’t know; I can’t make a fully informed opinion (and there are enough uniformed opinions already out there).

What I CAN do is respond to what actually happens.  I can work towards helping those families who might enter the Country and do what I can to show them the love of Christ, if it is determined that they will be allowed to do so.  That’s what I’m called to already, even though I so often do an inadequate job as it is…but I can work on improving.  I can refuse to operate out of fear. I can trust in a sovereign God who will ultimately determine whether or not refugees from Syria or any other nation enter our borders.  Many times, God calls us out to the Nations…sometimes, God calls the Nations to us.

I can’t decide what will happen.  I can decide how I will respond.

Quick Thoughts on Refugees

As hard as it is, I am trying to look at the current refugee crisis carefully, thoughfully, morally and ethically.  As I think about this, I have to realize there are so many unknowns behind the scenes that make it impossible for me, with all certainty, to take a “right” position.  I find I have to remind myself to approach this very humbly.  

On the one hand, it is true that as a Christian, I am called to care for the poor.  I believe that something must be done for the refugees.  I’m not sure what that something is, because, at the same time, it seems incredibly unwise to open the door for what could allow terrorists to attempt a “trojan horse” operation as it has been reported that at least one did in Paris, and kill more.  God calls us to be compassionate, but He also calls us to be wise.

It is hard for me to outright support an influx of refugees, whatever their religious orientation, if it cannot be guaranteed that the people who are already here will not be safe.  We have a responsibility for them, too.  To be perfectly candid, there is no way I would welcome someone who looked potentially dangerous into my house with my family present, yet that is what we are doing if we are not careful and get this right.  At this point, I don’t have that confidence.  

So, what do we do?  Honestly, this is a tough one for me.  I am not at all comfortable with the extremes I’m reading about on Facebook.  I’m not comfortable hearing Christians speaking coldly about those who are running for their lives, thinking only about ourselves, and speaking poorly about the refugees, in general.  It doesn’t sound like Jesus talking.  On the other hand, I’m not comfortable with people saying that we are not acting like Jesus or aren’t being Christian unless we blindly welcome in whoever says they are a part of those legitimately escaping persecution.  I think it’s a bit more complex than that.  

Personally,  before I make a statement about how we need to take in and care for refugees, I need to answer the question, “What am I, personally, willing to do to help these refugees?”  It’s easy to take a position if I’m not directly affected; if it’s going to cost me nothing but a few more tax dollars.  So, am I willing and ready to personally get my hands dirty and provide for refugees?  If not and yet I say that it is un-Christlike not to take them in, I have to question if I, myself, am actually being Christlike.

It’s so easy to post a picture, share someone else’s profound-sounding post, or like comments made who share my position.  It’s harder to step back, think soberly and honestly about what really is Christ’s position; to consider Christ’s call…I’m talking about the one that says that, like the apostles sent out among wolves, we are to be both wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).  I’m not sure how much of either of those are being put on display at this point.

So, maybe we can ease up on the rhetoric, the chest-bumping, the guilt trips and the finger-wagging and spend a little more time sincerely praying for the mind of Christ and asking how we, as Christ-followers, can be part of the solution and live, first, as citizens of Heaven rather than citizens of the world.  

I’m not there yet.  I don’t have an answer.  In this very emotionally charged time, mine are all over the place and I vascillate between the different options with almost every news report of victims being killed in Paris and Beirut or displaced families running from ISIS.  I don’t see an easy answer.  That shows me that I’ve yet to find the mind of Christ here.  So, until I do, I will be quiet.

God, have mercy. 

Taking Down the Giant

ppIf you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I have been singing a song with essentially one verse of late: Stop abortion!  Now, you may reasonably ask, “Are you just jumping on the anti-abortion bandwagon since that’s the popular issue of the day?”  My response to such a question would be, “No…and yes.”

I have actually been on this particular bandwagon for many, many years, writing several articles published on my previous blog on the subject.  I have long been repulsed and broken over the reality that up to 57 million babies have been killed in the most barbaric and inhumane ways before they have ever taken their first breath.  I have written on the absurdity that a fetus is considered a child, protected by law, only if the mother wants it.  In such a case, a person can be charged with 1st degree murder for killing an unborn child, if the mother wants it, thus arbitrarily declaring that it is a human being with rights.  Otherwise, it is nothing more than the “product of conception,” legally exterminated with little more concern than killing a cockroach.

At the same time, as many other Americans, I have grown complacent in my fervor against abortion.  I have been lulled into the false-notion that long-standing laws cannot or will not be changed, especially over those that have been in place for over 40 years.  That being said, I have, indeed, jumped on the recent bandwagon.  If there is one thing the LGBT community has taught me, it’s that public opinion can change.  Laws can be reversed and public opinion can shift…if enough people let their voices be heard and do not let up.

I gladly jump on that bandwagon and pray I never fall off until the day when, like the slave trade in England fell as a result of the lifelong effort of William Wilberforce, abortion is no more.  If this battle for the unborn is to be won, we must commit to the fight.  We must determine that ALL life is valuable, regardless of the stage of development it happens to be in.  It is illogical and foolish to believe that a trip down a birth canal can transform non-human into human.  We must trumpet these false assertions.  How do we do it?

First, we commit ourselves to the battle for life.  Determine to be a part of the solution, prayerfully considering how God wants you to be involved in a way that will glorify Christ.

Secondly, we make our voices heard in standing against the funding of abortion using our tax dollars.  Think about that: you and I are indirectly paying for abortions right now!  This must stop!  Contact your representative and demand they stand…really stand against continuing funding Planned Parenthood.  Use the avenues you have been given such as Twitter and Facebook to give voice to the millions of children who have been killed throughout the years along with the hundreds, if not thousands, worldwide that have been killed since you began reading this short article.<

Thirdly, we make certain that our spending habits don’t inadvertently fund abortions through the companies we do business with.  Will this be inconvenient and take sacrifice on your part?  Yes, in that you may have to look for alternate cellular companies or home improvement stores, but the impact we can have on our nation can be profound if we refuse to do business with those who support the business of legalized murder.  Let these companies know why you are taking your business elsewhere.  To date, several companies who were staunch supporters of Planned Parenthood have withdrawn their funding because of the public backlash.

Fourthly, we actively support those organizations that work directly and tirelessly to truly care for women in difficult positions by providing other options besides abortion.  In the Chattanooga area (a city I am proud to say has no abortion facilities), Choices Pregnancy Center is a great resource for women who are concerned about an unplanned pregnancy and are considering abortion.  Volunteer and/or contribute financially to an organization like Choices that offers alternatives to abortion such as adoption, along with extensive counseling to help those moving towards abortion as well as young women who have already gone through with it and are suffering from the results.  Along with this, be the Church: reach out to those around you who need the love and support of godly people before they ever get into these situations. Prevention is always the best remedy.

Finally, pray! This is never a last resort. It’s the first (I just saved the best for last!).  Our efforts can go a long way to change a mind; to alter public opinion, but only God can change a heart…something He’s been in the business of doing since He created time.  Pray for the names of those you have seen on some of the horrible videos that have come out.  Pray for women everywhere who are considering or are in process of having abortions right now and the activists, men and women, who benefit by keeping the abortion machine running under the guise of “guarding a woman’s right to choose.”  Pray for our leadership in Washington and in our state that God will change their hearts and give those who are already opposed to abortion the courage and will to engage in the fight for as long as it takes.

William Wilberforce is famously quoted as saying to those first exposed to the horrors of the slave trade, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”  Watch the videos. Become informed. Stand together. Refuse to bury your head in the sand.  This is not a political issue.  It never was.

Kirsten Powers: “Crush Planned Parenthood” Article

  Kudos to Kirsten Powers, an evangelical, independent-minded Democrat, for having the courage and conviction to stand against the political pressure of conformity and speak the truth about a glaring, yet legal, atrocity in our world today.  For so long, we have turned a blind eye to the systematic, legal and profitable killing of unborn children now exceeds 57 million in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” where “every life matters.”  Now, Planned Parenthood has been forced to remove the mask, allowing everyone to see just how horrible this culture of killing really is.

In her recent article in USA Today, Ms. Powers pulls no punches in her indictments against Planned Parenthood, clearly defining how ihuman these practices are and how out-of-touch with reality this organization is as master’s of missing the point, focusing on tone rather than substance:

This is stomach-turning stuff. But the problem here is not one of tone. It’s the crushing. It’s the organ harvesting of fetuses that abortion-rights activists want us to believe have no more moral value than a fingernail. It’s the lie that these are not human beings worthy of protection. There is no nice way to talk about this. As my friend and former Obama White House staffer Michael Wear tweeted, “It should bother us as a society that we have use for aborted human organs, but not the baby that provides them.”

Powers goes on to point out how even the most ardent supporters of Planned Parenthood have suddenly gone quiet, though, of course, there are some so blind to their own ideology, they continue to punch the air with empty excuses and straw man arguments or outright denial.  One of the most common cries of foul has been that these videos were secretly taped, thus nullifying their relevance.  Ms Powers rightly responds with a resounding, “Big deal.”

Richards intoned menacingly that the video was “secretly recorded.” So what? When Mitt Romney was caught by “secret video” making his 47% remarks, the means of attaining the information was not the focus of the story.

Put simply, there is no way to effectively spin this to come out looking noble.  No matter how a pig wallows in the pen, he still comes out muddy.

The most jaw-dropping part of Ms. Power’s article was the revelation of an abortion doctor from my home state of Mississippi, who has been guided by a profoundly MIS-understanding of Christianity that has informed his position and led him to what is later in the article referred to by one as a “Christ-like” persecution:

Mississippi abortion doctor Willie Parker — who was lauded by Esquire for his “abortion ministry” — ran with the trope that direct quotes from a Planned Parenthood doctor constitute a vicious attack, but went a step further: He compared Nucatola to Jesus. “It’s no secret that my frame of reference for the work that I do and in terms of generating compassion is related to my religious understanding and, in particular, my Christian religious understanding,” Parker told Cosmopolitan magazine.

Planned Parenthood has, thankfully, been exposed. The masks are off. The truth is evident.  My question is whether or not we will finally do something about this.  We are so good at compartmentalizing atrosities and quickly forgetting the unforgetable, that I wonder if we have the collective resolve to demand the changes that this kind of evil requires.  As Ms. Powers rightly concludes, “When abortion doctors are elevated to gods who may not be questioned or held accountable, society has officially gone off the rails.”  Sadly, that train wrecked a long time ago.

I encourage you to read the full article here.

The Sky Isn’t Falling

There has been a great deal of chatter, as well as no small measure of fear and trepidation among the Christian community following the release of a Pew Research Poll that Christianity in America is in decline.  This cartoon pretty well sums up the reality of what is happening. 2015-05-27-dying1

2015-05-27-dying22015-05-27-dying32015-05-27-dying4Credit: http://adam4d.com/death-of-christianity/

Boys Will Can’t Be Boys

As the father of two active boys, I need to remind myself regularly of the truth that is found in the following video.

Boys are not like girls and it’s past time we stop treating them in the same way with the same expectations. Boys tend to be more active, sillier and LOUDER.  That’s not abnormal and attempts to medicate away or stifle normal boyish behavior is incredibly detrimental to our kids.  Yes, I understand and agree there are circumstances in which medication is appropriate, but I’m certain not nearly as often as it is used.  Age and maturity will usually take care of most of those problems in due time.

Maybe, like me, you’ve fallen into the trap of placing unrealistic expectations on your boys from time-to-time.  I believe we need to re-think how we’re treating our boys and how we can let them be boys while still maintaining reasonable expectations for their general behavior (and we must be honest that we sometimes fail miserably at the latter, as well).

Our goal for our boys is that they grow up to be strong, godly gentlemen.  It is impossible for that to happen if I do not allow them to run a lot, climb trees, explore, wrestle, fall (repeatedly), make noise and make mistakes, all the while teaching them what they did wrong and how to avoid the same results again without crushing their spirit because they made them in the first place!  I have failed at that more than once, which has given me the opportunity to show them what repentance looks like.  By now they should have a thorough understanding of that concept!

Boys aren’t girls.

They mature slower and learn differently.  My neighbor, who is an elementary school teacher, told me just last week that modern-day schools aren’t designed for the learning styles of boys.  They tend to be most conducive to girls.  When I asked why, she stated almost the exact same things that I heard in this video. She said they don’t allow enough time for kids to play and exert pent-up energy, they expect quiet all the time (which is nearly impossible when the former is not provided for) and punish them when they can’t.  I’m starting to understand this as my youngest bundle of talkative energy does much better after he’s unloaded a couple thousand kilowatts.  Most of the time, he doesn’t get that opportunity at school.

Will the situation change?

I don’t know, but let’s start the conversation with each other and with our teaching professionals and see.  I agree with Ms. Sommers that something needs to change in our expectations and practices in teaching children and unless we are prepared to address it, we’ll continue to see mal-adjusted young men failing to reach their God-given potential because we failed to help them do so in a way in which they understand.  We (and their teachers!) need to learn to “speak their language.”  When we do, I think we’ll start seeing little, immature boys becoming young, mature men, ready to meet the challenges of life with confidence and intelligence.  If that happens, we will all benefit…but perhaps, especially, our little girls!

Feel free to share your reaction to the video or your own story and thoughts on raising healthy boys.

Video: The Calling of Parenthood

Sunday, I dealt with very touchy issues related to parenting at The Gathering. These included the challenges of parenting and the pain that comes from the inability to have children, along with the dangers of engaging in extraordinary means of impregnation, such as IVF.

My goal was to deal with these issues from a biblical, rather than an emotional perspective. Below is the video of that message. The length of the video is because we included child dedication and special prayer for various groups within the sermon time. I hope it’s a blessing and encouragement to you. Feel free to leave feedback or questions.

The Gathering Chattanooga 05-12-13 – Sermon from The Gathering on Vimeo.

Culture Warrior

boycottStarbucks

I hate that term. I hate the concept, too. “Culture Wars.” Who came up with that anyway? I mean, I understand the thinking: “Our Country is going to hell and it’s our responsibility as Christians to stand up and prevent it!” I think that’s what bothers me the most. Is that really our calling? Is it even within our ability to do so?

I’m not saying it’s not our responsibility to stand up, and I’m not saying it’s not our responsibility to stand against sin in our world. The greater question to me is how are we supposed to do it and what is our ultimate goal?

For so many (which, I admit, included me at one time), the idea of “fighting sin” was more along the lines of boycotting and writing senators and picketing and the like. While I readily admit there may be instances where people are genuinely called to take a similar stand as was the case with Francis Schaeffer, who at times picketed abortion clinics, I think that sort of action usually has limited results, often at the expense of the spreading of the Gospel. More importantly, I think the motivation must be checked before anything is done.

I have found that the usual motivation for taking a stand has less to do with wanting to see people come to know Christ and more to do with protecting our own way of life. While I understand the fear, I don’t share it.

Look at Jesus. When he ministered on earth, the Jews were under the rule of the Romans. Many who hailed the coming of Christ understood Him to be a great military and political deliverer. They were hoping for another Maccabean revolt, only this time with better results. They had no concept of the kind of Messiah He turned out to be.

In our day, Jesus would be expected to march on the Capitol, rebuke senators and call the president out to be the antichrist he surely is. However, Jesus didn’t do that in His own day, and I’m not sure He would do it in ours. He seemed to have a different agenda. It was a Kingdom of God agenda, which was more focused on spreading the good news that this, regardless of how good or bad it got, was not your best life now. There was much more to life than current experience. So, he didn’t overthrow the Roman rule (which was the vehicle God used to carry out His death). He essentially overthrew the Pharisee rule (which was the vehicle God used to bring about His death). He had more to say about the problems within the current religious establishment than the governmental one.

That is not to say that there are not plenty of problems with the governmental rule we are under here in the United States. There are a plethora of problems and we should stand against those that run contrary to Scripture. The issue I raise is how we go about it.

We will never be able to legislate morality and, because of that, we’ll not be able to win on all of the cultural battlefields that exist in our world today. These include everything from gay marriage to abortion to general corruption in government. It won’t happen. The only thing that WILL happen is that the Church of Jesus Christ will continue to be marginalized as just another right-wing, special interest group of the Republican Party (much the same way that the liberal churches are of the Democratic Party). When this happens, we lose our voice as The Church: The voice of God called out to speak to all of culture from a biblical perspective, NOT from a political one.

So, what are our options? As I see it, we have two very powerful ones:

1. Preach the Gospel. In Romans 1:16, Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”. This is an important point we must not miss. The gospel of Christ is the power we possess and through it, change occurs. We cannot legislate morality, but if, through the gospel, men and women are saved bringing about transformation in their lives, culture will change. Now, let me say something to clarify: I do not believe that everyone is going to be saved, nor do I believe that all the problems in this world are going away this side of Christ’s return. We’re told they won’t. Our goal is not to establish Utopia on earth. However, the goal of the Church is to be used of God to establish His Kingdom, not any earthly one. Preaching the Gospel addresses the issues we face, but does so in such a way that the Church maintains both her integrity before The Lord and also a humble, grace-filled reputation before the world. I rarely see “political Christians” with either.

2. Pray. Sounds like an over-simplified Sunday School answer, I know. Be that as it may, it is a powerful weapon against the evil in our world. Look at what God said to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

The healing of the land does not come through cultural warfare, but spiritual warfare. The problem is we are a people of action who want to see immediate results and if we’re not standing against those godless people in our world, we’re losing ground. The reality is that that view is short-sighted Christianity. It demonstrates we don’t have a clear understanding of either the warfare or the enemy. Paul was clear to point out who the enemy is:

…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against lthe cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

If we understand this, our culture war will be replaced with the spiritual one, we’ll do battle through prayer against satanic forces and, unless Scripture is wrong, we may actually see the tides turn. We may actually see people coming to Christ, having their minds renewed, lifestyles altered and hearts softened, rather than the hardened attitude towards the things of God because of the actions of the people of God.

You may very well be called to take a particular action in the face of atrocities like abortion. That’s great with one condition: You have spent long, intensive amounts of time in prayer and are motivated from the grace of God to see people’s hearts change so that they will be internally motivated to cease the support of such atrocities. Then, and only then, do I think the glory of God will be revealed through His people in such a way that the battles will actually be won.

They’re Not YOUR Kids

MelissaHarrisPerryNot sure if you saw this or not, but a recent commercial on MSNBC has one of its hosts claiming that we have to get past the notion that our kids are actually “our” kids.  Instead, they belong to the community.

I don’t disagree with her basic idea of the importance of looking after each other and helping take care of each other, including our children.  Certainly, it’s what we do in the Church and in our communities.  At The Gathering, our children are “our” children to the degree that we love them all and will do whatever we can to help them, but we never claim that they are our kids to the degree that we usurp the authority and responsibility from the actual parents.  We come alongside them to support them and encourage them.  This host takes this idea to an alarming extreme, advocating a very dangerous ideology.

Too many people are already having kids and turning to the government to provide  for them because they cannot do so themselves.  Some to the sad degree that they continue to have children because they can get more money through welfare programs without taking personal responsibility.  Claims such as this one will only embolden and empower parents to forego their responsibility for their children and encourage government to do what it was never intended to do.

This is a very blatant move to solidify the United States as a pure welfare state, but to a shocking degree.  Though there are increasing assaults on the family as it has historically been understood, this is one I didn’t see coming.

Watch the video yourself and, if you have reaction, let me hear it in the comments below.

[HT: Denny Burk]

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