Category Archives: World Events

Paris Reflections

On a cold rainy overcast morning last week, Robyn and I took a short walk uphill from our apartment in the Latin Quarter of Paris to stand at the front door of an apartment building where Ernest Hemingway, the prolific American journalist and author lived with his wife in the roaring 1920’s. In 1964, his memoirs of these days in Paris were released by his family under the title of “A Moveable Feast”, interestingly enough once again after the terrorist attacks in Paris this book has become a best seller.

The phrase “a moveable feast” seems fitting for our trip to Paris last week, which marked our celebration of our baby girl Madison graduating from high school. What had started out to be a trip of three ballooned into a traveling party of seven (my wife and three daughters Kalie, Lorin, and Madison, along with two of Madison’s close friends). So do the math, I went to Paris as the chaperon of six beautiful young women. Talking about dying and going to heaven! Some of you may remember the days from long ago when after a vacation a friend or family member would sit you down to show you the slides of their trip on a tiny screen in the living room using a carousel slide project, well sit back and enjoy (or endure) a few reflections with devotional twists from my own “moveable feast.”

After a long red eye flight from El Paso to Paris by way of Dallas, we step off the plane blurry eyed and tired. We are ready to get to our apartment but first we must make our way through customs. Customs goes smoother than expected and Robyn had arranged for a shuttle service to pick us up but we anticipated a long wait, however the moment we exited customs with our bags we saw a smiling face of a Frenchman holding a sign with Robyn’s name on it. He welcomed us in English and in a matter of minutes escorted us to a Mercedes Benz van with leather captains seats, and a large cargo hold which easily held our luggage (remember I am traveling with a large number of beautiful women who need fashion options.) In less than 15 minutes we find ourselves being whisked into Paris. I was stunned as we raced toward the “city of lights.”

As I reflect on that joyous moment of our arrival and seeing Robyn’s name, I thought one day when we will cross over to the other side and the joy we will feel when we see our names written in the Lamb’s book of life. By the way that shuttle service was expensive, but not nearly as expensive as our welcome to the ultimate “city of lights” which Jesus paid for on the cross. Make sure you make arrangements in advance to be picked up then. When you arrive it will be too late.

I witnessed French soldiers carrying machine guns at the ready guarding the entrances to cathedrals, synagogues, and mosques. Sadly in our world today faith divides us and the faithful become targets. Oh how we need the reign of the Prince of Peace.

Like countless others we found ourselves drawn to stand in front of the Bataclan Theatre where 89 innocent people were gunned down by terrorists. With flowers scattered on the ground as a memorial, we were vividly reminded of precious value of life and how quickly it slips through our fingers like a “mist” as the Scripture remind us.

After church on Sunday at the American Church, I spoke with Scott Herr, the pastor, about lessons learned from the darks days in our own community when the streets of Juarez ran with blood. We reflected on how our presence in the city offers hope to the people living in the darkness. Even though the doors of most of the stunning cathedrals stand open all day long mostly tourists enter to snap pictures rather than to pray. May the day never come on our watch when our houses of worship become museums of a long forgotten faith.

As you can see in the “city of lights” Jesus reminded us that the light shines brightest in the darkness. So let your light shine this week!

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Petraeus Affair: Hard Lessons for Leaders

The public fall of General David Petraeus sent shock waves through the nation, especially the military community. Petraeus represent for all Americans what was good and right about “citizen soldiers” of the United States. From all accounts he talked the talk and walked the walk. Then suddenly his reputation came crashing down around his feet. A lifetime of service and sacrifice for a grateful nation tarnish by incredible poor judgment.

Just days ago, Newsweek ran an article praising the general for his leadership and example. His principles of humble leadership called the readers to a higher standard. His first and foremost principle of leadership stated:

“Lead by example from the front of the formation. Take your performance personally—if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops.”

Can you imagine how much these words–though true to the core–must haunt General Petraeus as he wrestles with the aftermath of violating his own core beliefs. I fear all of us who live in the public light and on the stage know all too well the struggles of living up to the standards and virtues we lay on the shoulders of others. Years ago during my doctoral studies I participated in a seminar on “The Private Life of a Public Person.” We dug deep into the motivations and actions of those who live in the spotlight while President Clinton lived out the scandal and shame of his moral failures in the White House.

The writer of Proverbs centuries before noted in military terms the dangers of having a lack of self-control. He wrote:

“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” Proverbs 25:28 NIV

Discipline and self-control protect us from ourselves. The sinful nature stirs deep within the heart and only a fool would believe he or she cannot fall. The old Puritan John Owen warned: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” For years this quote hung above a study desk as a constant reminder that my enemy within and without plays for keeps.

Pray for General Petraeus and his family. His fall need not be the final word on his life and career, nor does it negate all the good he has accomplished with his life, but his fall warns us all to guard our hearts with all vigilence lest we too fall.

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Obama Days Ahead

The voters of the United States have spoken and the will of our LORD has been accomplished President Obama will lead our land four more years. At a glance it is clear our nation continues to be highly divided about the future. In addition, the face of American and its values are changing. Some would argue for worse while others would argue the transitions are for the good of the land.

Regardless of which side of the arguement you fall on, we now know who will be our president for the next chapter of our journey. As as citizen of both the United States and the Kingdom of God, I pledge my prayerful support to our president. Even though on a number of key issues I do not agree with his policies and values, I believe him to be a man who geniunely wants what is best for our land. He has inherited challenges that would make the strongest among us cringe and the wisest among us scratch their heads with construnation. He desperately needs our prayers more than our critique and criticisim.

Pray for wisdom and moral courage. Pray for his selection of his cabinet and advisors. Pray for his relationships with international leaders who shape the course of the human race. Pray for his relationships with the key leaders in Congress that must find a way to work for “win/win” soluations for a brighter future for our children and grandchildren. Most importantly, pray for his relationship with God. On more than one occasion Obama has spoken of his Christian faith I believe we need to build on his confession and pray that in trying days ahead that he like Solomon will plead for wisdom that can only come from above and stir within.

I know for many dark clouds hover over the horizon, and for some “the sky is falling.” But let me remind you of the words that came off the lips of Daniel who found himself an exile in a foreign land under the rule of a ruthless leader. Daniel prayed:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
 He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
 He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him. Daniel 2:20-22 NIV

If you could peer into the throne room of the LORD you would not find our LORD wringing his hands in dismay wondering what in the world He is going to do about this mess. You would not see sweat on his brow as He struggles with what to do. No, you would see God confidently at work among the nations to bring about His ulitmate purposes and prayers. God heard our prayers. God is answering. We may not fully understand His ways, but we should never doubt His heart and His hands. We rest securely in His nail-scarred hands today and everyday.

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Obama’s Crisis of Faith: Same-Sex Marriage

This week President Obama shocked many in the nation by coming out so boldly in favor of “same-sex marriage.” By his own confession he acknowledged that he had “evolved” on this issue over the years.

One of the most interesting aspects of Obama’s pronouncement revolved around his faith statements. In the interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts he said that when he and his wife:

…“think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

I must admit it is refreshing to hear the President speak so openly about his faith in Christ and the implications of the cross on his self understanding, but sadly his quest for grace has led him down a path of “foggy theology.” The same Scriptures that declare the “Golden Rule” as a life principle also point to the destructiveness of sinful behaviors and attitudes of all shades of color and depth.

Sadly, I regret that President Obama did not stick with his position that he articulated so well. In 2004 in an interview with WTTW, a Chicago public television station, he said:

“What I believe, in my faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it’s not simply the two persons who are meeting,”

In this statement Obama clearly expressed the Christian or biblical view of marriage. He stated articulately that marriage was far more than a civil ceremony or legal contract or covenant. He believed marriage between a man and woman was “something before God.” When you bring God into the equation this the debate on Same Sex marriage ends for those who use the Bible as a life guide. The God of the Bible does not encourage nor sanction “same-sex” marriage. In fact, He identifies this lifestyle also with many others as sinful, unhealthy, and fundamentally wrong.

Obama, the theologian, has fallen on the slippery slope of picking and choosing positions based on predetermined outcomes, or to support positions already chosen due to personal or political pressure. One simple cannot put words into God’s mouth. How can He be true to himself and call one lifestyle sinful yet sacred at the same time.

In the “same-sex” marriage debate in North Carolina last week, Billy Graham, the voice of faith for our nation for decades, stated:

“The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.

Simply put marriage is the union of a man and a woman made “one” by the touch of God upon their hearts and life. As a nation we would be wise and prudent to not redefine marriage in trying to be “fair” or “just” to all. Without doubt every citizen in our nation regardless of color, creed, or orientation deserves to be treated with the utmost respect yet marriage must not be redefined regardless of the political pressure of “correctness”  We must not sway to the opinions of “enlightened” and powerful on this vital issue that strikes at the core of the moral fabric of our nation.

When God spoke the “Golden Rule” challenging men and women of faith to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” by no means was He creating a “situational theology” that suggest that we must affirm and support the actions of those who openly choose to live in rebellion against the Word of God.

Sadly this debate once again will draw lines in the sand between the faith community and the secular world. It saddens me that to stand up for right often is perceived as rejection of others. The power of the gospel rests not in policies or laws. The power of the gospel moves through channels of relationships. Jesus, on a quest to refine reality, did not stoop to political maneuvers to implement meaningful change–rather He chose to become the “friend of tax collectors and sinners” knowing that life on life, love on love, grace on grace alone can move the world toward wholeness.

I pray we will take Jesus’ stance on this issue:

Pro-marriage/Pro-people

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The Savage Truth: A Response to Dan Savage’s Speech

When was the last time a keynote speaker at a high school journalism conference captured headlines across the nation? Frankly, I cannot think of a time in my lifetime, but last week Dan Savage, a vocal activist against bullying, found himself squarely in the spot light because of some very pointed and at times harsh condemnations aimed at the Bible, and at those who hold the Bible to be true and authoritative.

At one point in his speech to an unsuspecting crowd of teenagers Savage informed the audience that they could “ignore the __________ in the Bible” about homosexuality and a number of other subjects. As he continued his condemnation of the hypocrisy of those who hold to one text in Leviticus and not others, a handful of students began to walk out in protest. At this point, Savage ridicules them for not being able to take his criticism calling them a derogatory name. Like most of us learned in the halls of the junior hall, name calling is one of the basic forms of bullying. I fear Savage forgot that simple truth.

In fairness to Savage he tried to mend fences over the weekend by apologizing and trying to explain himself, but as I watched the video on YouTube I must admit the most disturbing parts to me were the reactions of the crowd—many of whom rallied to Savage’s criticism of the students who walked out and cheered loudly for some of his snide comments about the Bible.

Like the classic line from the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy observed:

“We are not in Kansas anymore”

This event illustrated vividly how rapidly our culture has shifted. No longer does Christianity and its moral framework and values color the way people view reality. I suspect Dallas Willard was right in his observation that our nation has taken this course not in spite of what we have done, but because of what we have done. Sadly, the Western church has sold out to either the extremes of conforming to or condemning our culture, when Jesus called us to transform it from the inside out.

Andy Stanley, in his sermon “Separation of Church and Hate”, noted that too often the church has tried to:

“make a point rather than make a difference”

Savage’s comments and observations reveal what happens when we “make a point.” Granted, I believe the Bible is the Word of God, and the Bible calls “sin—sin.” But I am intellectually honest enough to admit that too often the church picks and chooses what sins to highlight and condemn. When the church climbs into the judgment seat, we can with authority say, “Thus saith the LORD” but a society cannot be saved by ruling from on high.

Our world needs more light not more judges

Jesus called us to be “salt” and “light.” Both work best in environments that are foreign and often hostile to them. In the days of Jesus salt was used to preserve meat and keep it from rotting or to treat a wound. Light then and now drives back the darkness with its penetrating presence. Jesus was our model of what it means to be salt and light and earned the critical nickname “the friend of tax-collectors and sinners.”

I believe the events of the weekend must call the followers of Jesus to renew our efforts to “make a difference” through loving actions of compassion rather than simply trying to prove our way is right by “making a point.” Without doubt Savage has been savagely attacked and condemned by sincere men and women of faith who have attack “him” while seeking to attack his “lifestyle.” He struck back.

We will not make a difference by walking out. We will make a difference by walking beside men and women like Dan Savage. We will make a difference by getting to know them as people and not as labels. We will make a difference when our actions speak louder than our words and rhetoric. Jesus showed us the way—let’s follow Him—but never forget His path led to a cross.

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Change the Face of the World: 19 or 12

The ten-year remembrance of September 11, 2001 has come and gone. The attention of the nation once again was drawn to that dark fateful day when nineteen young terrorist set out to change the face of the world. Without doubt these sold-out young men accomplished their mission by projecting vividly the face of hatred and evil by the smoke pouring out of Manhattan after the collapse of the Twin Towers.

As I reflected on this dark day and its death toll over the past ten years, it was truly a game changer. The world will never really be the same. As our church remembered the events of ten years ago we prayed over a handful of young men who will be deployed this week to a field of battle. The march continues.

Jesus confronted injustice, hatred, and evil in a totally different way. He too changed the world and continues to change the world for good. He started with twelve men who were equally sold-out. Men willing to lay down their lives for what they believe. Men willing to love rather than hate. Men willing to build bridges of hope rather than walls of hostility.

I believe as a follower of Jesus it is more important to look forward rather than backwards. We need to learn from the past but not live there. Our gaze must be on the future–God’s future. I believe today God is looking for a generation of young men and women who are willing to sell-out to His vision of tomorrow. A world marching in step with the beat of the Kingdom of God rather than the kingdoms of this world.

We will not win this war on terror fighting fire with fire alone. I believe we must take Jesus’ commands and example seriously. I wonder what would happen if we implemented His strategic plan found in His “Sermon on the Mount”? I wonder how the face of the world would look different if we truly “loved our enemies and blessed those who cursed us.” I suspect many in the “real world” would argue Jesus was out of touch, but what if His ways are right?

Ten years ago nineteen young men set out to change the world and did. I wonder what would happen if as few as twelve of us who are followers of Jesus set out to change the world for good. Can you imagine what God could do in the next ten years if we willing to give our lives for His cause?

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Same Sex Marriage Debate: A Huge Generation Gap

In recent weeks, the “same sex marriage” debate heated up again as the State of New York voted to legalize such unions. During the midst of the debate I have the opportunity to visit Albany, New York and to sit in on a session of the New York Senate. The capital grounds were abuzz with activity as loyal supporters of both side of the issue tried to make their presence felt. Songs rang out in the capital building ranging from the sounds of “Amazing Grace” to “I’ll Meet You in the Chapel.”

In May, a Gallop poll was released that noted a dramatic change in the public opinions of the American people toward the issue of “same sex marriage.” Back in 1996, only 27% supported legalizing “same sex marriage.” In May the number grew to 53%. For the first time since the polling had been done a majority of Americans polled supported the legalization of “same sex marriage.” In fact, in the last year there was a 7% change in favor of legalization.

One aspect of the report that tells a dramatic story is how these numbers change along generational lines. 70% of those surveyed between the ages of 18-34 favored the legalization. In 2010 only 54% of the same age group supported the change. What happened in one year to make such a dramatic difference?

Another tale of the survey was the fact that only 39% of those 55+ supported the legalization of “same sex marriage.”  Clearly the young and old see this issue from dramatically different perspectives. So how did this divide happen? Why do these generations see the situation through different eyes?

As a pastor, I suspect this divide has its roots in each generation’s ideas about truth–right and wrong. There was a day when our nation operated in the atmosphere of a biblical world view, but that day is long gone.  Many of our moral decisions rested on principles mined from the Bible. Marriage began with the union of “Adam and Eve.” Certain behaviors were sinful and wrong because God said so in the Bible. I must admit that my basic core values find their roots in the principles of the Bible. Homosexual behavior is a sinful unhealthy lifestyle because this is what I believe the Bible teaches, and I believe that life bears testimony to its truth. I am trying to choose my words carefully on this matter. I believe homosexual behavior is sinful and unhealthy. However, I am not suggesting that homosexual orientation is any more sinful than my heterosexual orientation–or my love for chocolate for that matter. The Bible establishes healthy boundaries for all kinds of behavior and homosexual behavior is one of many including adultery, lying, stealing, gluttony and greed.

Here is where the rub comes, if you don’t find your moral compass in the Bible then where do you establish your values of right and wrong. As the father of four young adults in the younger age group I can attest to the influence of the culture, entertainment, and media on this generation. Over the last twenty years our nation has been fed the concept that homosexuality is healthy, normal, and part of everyday life. Try to think of a popular television series that does not have at least one happy homosexual friend or couple. Night after night this generation has seen happy, normal, fun homosexual behavior. Meanwhile, this same generation is ignorant to the basic story line of the Bible. Tolerance has replaced a biblical world view and now my generation is view as closed minded, judgmental and out of touch with reality.

This generation gap will continue to create tension within the church and the culture. I fear the gap will only increase in the years to come unless a systemic change happens within American culture. The kind of change needed is “God-sized” and would probably finds its origin in another “Great Awakening” ignited by a national concert of prayer and repentance.

A beginning point would be getting the Bible off the coffee table or out of the back seat of the car and into the hearts and minds of the young. The Bible has a power from above to transform the hearts and minds of those seeking truth and guidance. Parents and teachers need to point young minds to the pages of God’s Word as “the” source of life and not one of many paths to truth. Holding the Bible high as a Word from above is critical if we have any hope of closing the generation gap and restoring a biblical worldview.

My simple first step in the journey as a pastor and leader revolves around preaching and teaching the Word of God day in and day out. I believe in the power of the unleashed Word of God. I have seen its power in my life, and in the lives of those I love. Let’s begin by teaching our children and grandchildren to love and revere God and His Word as the light of our path into the future.

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