Thursday, June 28, 2012

How Should a Christian Respond to the Obamacare Decision?

I listened to the verdict on Obamacare this morning and I was appalled.  How can citizens in America be forced to buy something we don’t want?  And if we don’t buy it, we will be taxed on something we refuse to own!  How does that make sense?  It doesn’t.  

As I struggled with this issue, I couldn't get II Chronicles 7:14 out of my head.  
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

This is a promise to Israel, but it can also be a promise to Christians (His people) as well.  We Christians have quoted this verse for years to encourage all Christians to ask God to heal our land.  But America has gotten worse during that time. Why?  That's when I realized there are key elements to God’s promise that I have overlooked and skimmed over for years.  

We are called to humble ourselves and turn from our wicked ways before God will heal our land.  These are commands directed to us as individuals.  God is pleading with us as individuals to humble ourselves and turn from our wicked ways. 

Humble and turn? 

God warned Israel in Isaiah 9:8 – 21, but Israel resisted God’s warnings and were destroyed and taken into captivity by the Assyrians.

I now believe God has been warning us for at least 50 years, but I did see them as warnings at the time. I'm sure that I missed others, but I now believe the Supreme Court's ruling to eliminate prayer from public schools was a warning.  I now believe legalizing the murder of the unborn to be a warning.  I now believe 9/11 to be a warning.  And I believe today’s decision by the Supreme Court to fundamentally change America from the “land of the free enterprise” to a totalitarian system of government is a warning. 

How many warnings will we miss/ignore?

God has been warning us for years to become humble and turn from our wicked ways, but our personal morality and our nation’s morality has fallen so low that research has shown there is very little difference between Christians’ behavior and the behavior of non-Christians. 

And instead of becoming humble, we have reduced our faith to a defacto political voting block in hopes politicians will heal our land! Isn't it God's job to heal our land?  To make it worse, we have cut ourselves off from more than half of the people in our nation because of our political views.  That isn't humility.  That's foolish!  

The Christian church in China has grown exponentially during the last 60 years while under a heavy handed totalitarian rule.  The Church in China has grown so much in the last 60 years that they now greatly outnumber American Christians!  During that same 60 year period, the Christian church in America has learned to compromise with the values of this world and to develop into a political voting unit.

Maybe, today’s decision is another warning from God to repent before we are totally destroyed by our foolish and selfish behavior. 

I don’t expect my words to be popular.  I know I am preaching to myself and even I don’t like to hear what I am saying. I’ve been trying to justify my past behavior while I have been writing this. I have been a political wonk for years.  I have ignored God’s warnings.  Oh I have asked God to heal our land, but my prayers were secondary to my political concerns. 

I will continue to support the politicians who I believe will help us get back to our Constitution and to limit government, but my top priority will be asking God to forgive me and to forgive our country for not relying on Him to heal our land.  Will you join me? 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Have Been Wrong And I Ask Your Forgiveness

I HAVE BEEN WRONG AND I ASK FOR YOUR FORGIVENESS.

The following are a series of my recent Facebook posts I made on political issues.  God has been working on my heart to get my priorities in order. Recently I expressed my political opinion when I should have been expressing biblical insight. God has been dealing with me on this and I thought you might be interested in reading what He has been teaching me.  Let me know what you think.

Post 1. I HAVE BEEN WRONG AND I ASK FOR YOUR FORGIVENESS.
I make no apologies about being a Constitutionalist and for wanting a smaller government and a balanced budget but I have had wrong priorities in my previous political responses (not shown).

I’ve been studying how Israel responded to God’s warning to repent and it is eerily similar to America’s response.  “We will rebuild” not “We will repent.”  I believe what America has been experiencing since 9/11 has been God’s warning for our nation to get our spiritual act together. Instead of encouraging a godly response, my posts have been encouraging Christians to look for a political answer to solve our problems. How foolish. Our nation’s problems will never be solved by politics. I believe our problems are God’s warning to us to repent. 

In the future, every time a political or financial decision happens that you believe is harmful to America, don’t get angry.  Use it as a reminder for you to humble yourself before God and ask Him to forgive our country for turning away from Him.  (II Chron 7:14)

Post 2. In Isaiah 9:8–12, God allowed the Assyrians to attack Israel because they turned away from God. Israel’s response to the attack was to “rebuild their defenses” instead of turning back to God. America is making the same mistake as Israel. Many Christians are trying to “get back to Reagan” instead of trying to get back to God. I believe a Constitutional and smaller government with a balanced budget is the right “political” answer – if our problems could be solved through politics. But politics never will fix our problems.  I believe without a doubt that our nation’s problems are spiritual.  

Israel was destroyed because they didn’t repent when God warned them. Let’s not make the same mistake. God is giving us time to repent.  Please pray for our nation to repent. (II Chon 7:14) Remember our calling is to be like Christ and worship God. We shouldn’t confuse our priorities. Our goals should be eternal. Politics is temporal. It is more important for us to show “the opposition” the love of Christ than it is to convince them to vote for our candidate.

Post 3: Just to be clear! I didn't post the above apology because I was afraid of offending someone or because someone was upset with me. I apologized because I was wrong and misleading people. Period! I appreciate the many who contacted me privately and encouraged me not to be afraid of speaking my mind. I'm not! I am speaking my mind!

I'm just now completing a book on worshiping God and this week I am writing the final chapter on developing proper priorities - and I have had MY priorities in the wrong order. I had to apologize because I realized my actions didn't match my belief.

Many of you know my life verse is Col 2:8 which commands us to not be taken in by the empty philosophies of this world. Empty philosophies aren't only sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. Empty philosophies can also be "rely on politics to fix our country." Politics CANNOT fix our country. Hence it’s an empty philosophy.  I will always believe our Constitution is the best document this side of Scripture. I will always believe smaller government is better than large government and a balanced budget is better than debt. But having more of a focus on “getting back to Reagan” instead of getting back to God is the wrong focus. Even a "good philosophy" can be wrong if you have it in the wrong priority.

POST 4: The point for Christians to understand is politics WILL NOT change our nation. I apologized because I had been part of the problem. Period! I didn't say I wasn't going to vote nor did I say Christians shouldn't participate in the political process. But I don't want anyone to think politics will change anything. Our nation and the whole world are on a beeline to destruction. One party may slow the process a little, but they will not change the direction - unless we humble ourselves as a nation, beg God to forgive us, and turn from our ungodly ways. (II Chron 7:14)

I came out publicly on this issue because, as a minister, I was publicly advocating the "empty philosophy" of politics as the answer. I was wrong. Reread my posts above on where I stand politically. I still hold those opinions. But we shouldn't be more concerned about spreading our political beliefs to others than in spreading the love of Christ to others.

I love you all, but you will not be hearing me make political statements in a public forum again. I don't want my message of God's Grace to be diluted with the "empty philosophy" of politics.

Post 5: Our "wicked ways" can be expressed as (1) depending on self instead of depending on God.  And (2) Not loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Please study Matt 5. That's how Christ wants us to behave. If we incorporate Matt 5 and Galatians 5 in our lives, especially Gal 5: 13-26, our country wouldn't have the issues we are having because our hope would be in Him, not in our politicians.

We need Christians to live as Christ taught. We need to realize America is NOT OUR FINAL HOME. America is a wonderful place to live temporarily until we reach our home with Christ, but we should never confuse America with our eternal home. The Bible tells us we are to be "ambassadors" for Christ. Ambassadors represent another homeland. Our "home" is heaven with Christ and we should be representing Him as He taught us. (Matt 5)

When arguing politics, there will be a "winner" and "loser." When you "win" the argument about a political issue, do you believe the "loser" will be open to listening to you talk about Jesus? Since you are Christ's ambassador, did your argument just show your neighbor a good image of Christ? What's more important, 1) Winning your political argument and creating a barrier between you and your opponent? Or 2) not arguing and humbly showing your "opponent" the love of Christ? I had been foolishly choosing number one. That's why I apologized and will choose option two in the future.  Please join me.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012




It Can Happen Here
Religious Freedom Threatened
June 26, 2012
Reprinted from Breaking Point, 
Christians are often asked by gay activists why they oppose same-sex “marriage.” “How does our marriage hurt you?” they ask.
Well, I can think of one significant way it will hurt us: It will destroy religious freedom and free speech rights.
The handwriting is on the wall in Canada, which legalized same-sex “marriage” in 2005, in effect completely changing its true meaning. Since then, as Michael Coren notes in National Review Online, “there have been between 200 and 300 proceedings … against critics and opponents of same-sex marriage.” Of course he means legal proceedings.
For instance, in Saskatchewan, a homosexual man called a state marriage commissioner, wanting to “marry” his partner. The commissioner, an evangelical Christian, declined to conduct the ceremony for religious reasons. He simply referred the man to another commissioner.
But that was not enough for the gay couple. Even though they got their ceremony, they wanted to punish the Christian who had declined to conduct it.  The case ended up in the courts. And the result? Those with religious objections to conducting such ceremonies now face the loss of their jobs.
Canadian churches are also under attack. Coren writes that when Fred Henry, the Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary, Alberta, sent a letter to churches explaining traditional Catholic teaching on marriage, he was “charged with a human-rights violation” and “threatened with litigation.”
Churches with theological objections to performing same-sex “wedding” ceremonies are being threatened with the loss of their tax-free status. In British Columbia, the Knights of Columbus agreed to rent its building for a wedding reception before finding out that the couple was lesbian. When they did find out, they apologized to the women and agreed to both find an alternative venue and pay the costs for printing new invitations: But that wasn’t good enough. The women prosecuted, and the Human Rights Commission ordered the Knights of Columbus to pay a fine.
Of course, the lesbians knew perfectly well what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage, but they sought out a Catholic-owned building, anyway. As Michael Coren puts it, “it's becoming obvious that Christian people, leaders, and organizations are being targeted, almost certainly to create legal precedents”—precedents intended to silence and punish anyone who dares to disagree with so-called gay “marriage.”
If you think this couldn’t happen here, think again. This year we've seen ObamaCare attack the autonomy of Catholic churches by attempting to force them, in violation of Catholic teaching, to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients for church employees. And just last week, a lesbian employee of a Catholic hospital in New York sued the hospital for denying her partner spousal health benefits.
This is what we need to tell our neighbors when they ask us, “How does gay ‘marriage’ hurt us?” It means that those hostile to our beliefs will attempt to bend us to their will to force us to not only accept gay “marriage,” but to condone it as well.
This is why I urge you to join the half-million Christians who have signed the Manhattan Declaration. Please sign it yourself by going tomanhattandeclaration.org.
You and I must demonstrate love to our gay neighbors, of course, remembering that we are ultimately engaged in spiritual warfare. But we should boldly stand up when our rights as citizens and the demands of our conscience are threatened.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Why Teens Are Leaving the Church

Why Teens Are Leaving the Church
Posted By Mark Gregston On June 15, 2012 http://www.heartlightministries.org/blogs/markgregston -

How many times have you walked into your teen’s room on a Sunday morning, stepped over wrinkled clothes and half-eaten sandwiches, shook the snoring lump between the covers and informed them to get up for church, only to hear a muffled, “No thanks”?

If this describes a scene in your household, you are not alone.  Teens are leaving the church in droves.  According to a recent study by the Barna Group, close to 60% of kids leave church after age fifteen.  Three out of every five kids in your church’s youth group will eventually shrug off the institution entirely.  What’s the cause for this exodus?  Why is this next generation leaving churches en masse?

The Culture
On matters of religion and the family, our culture fosters confusion in our teens.  In a society that craves entertainment, teens have an aversion to lectures.  They would rather not sit and listen to someone preach for an hour every Sunday.  Church is seen as “boring” or “lame.”  It fails to offer fun or amusement.  Once the Sunday school curriculum moves past puppet shows into a more serious application of Christian principles, many teens abandon the notion that the church holds any relevance to their lives.

Our culture also preaches that church is antiquated.  The cynics have concluded that pastors and church leaders are incapable of understanding the new sexual norms, modern media, changing gender roles, or even recent scientific discoveries.  The Barna Group revealed that 40% of 18 to 29 year olds believe the church’s teachings on sexuality and birth control are outdated.

Whether or not the church has done a good job refuting this view or not, the growing perception among young adults is that the church is no longer in touch with the modern world.

The Church
Another reason teens are leaving the church has to do with the church itself.  Don’t misunderstand—the point is not to bash churches or assign blame.  There are many factors to the departure of teens from their faith.  However, like a doctor who identifies the disease before treatments, if we can diagnose why teens struggle with church, we can better cure what ails them.

For many teens, church has become judgmental and hypocritical.  On our radio program this week, you’ll hear one of our students from the Heartlight residential program explain that he left church because he felt judged and looked down upon.  Kids make mistakes and misconstrue, of course, and they may feel like church unfairly shines a spotlight on their weaknesses.  But this is also the most inclusive generation in history.  The way they embrace diversity is remarkable and inspiring.  However, with that commendable sense of tolerance, young people today struggle with the exclusivity of Christianity.  Why does the church act like it knows everything? Who’s to say they have the market on truth or right?  For them, the church looks like an elite country club, where those who don’t fit the mold are denied acceptance.

Of course, we know this is a skewed view of the church.  Not all Christians are hypocritical or judgmental.  I have been in churches where the members have been the most loving and divergent group of people I have ever seen.  But because your son or daughter may have an immature picture of religion doesn’t mean we should disregard their concerns.  We can shatter this perception by celebrating Christian models who disdain hypocrisy.  Point out to your teen those Christians who are living changed and transformed lives.  Jesus unleashed His deepest anger at hypocritical religious zealots who twisted authentic Christianity.

Sometimes it’s healthy to get your teen exposed to Christian missionaries or volunteers who are building houses in third world countries, adopting children, or digging wells in Africa.  Show your son and daughter the transforming work of the church right in their own backyard and around the world.  If your teen is struggling with the church, perhaps you can find someone who will take your child under his or her wing and develop a friendship with them.  Interviews with rebellious young people who eventually persevered in their faith report having a friendship with an adult who was not their parent in the church.

David Kinnman, president of Barna Group, conducted his own studies on this issue and revealed that churches that integrate vocation and faith have a better retention rate among teens.  Kids want to see how Christianity converges with their aspirations to become graphic artists, civil engineers, biologists, lawyers, or doctors.  So, when somebody comes alongside them and says, Look, here’s how that vocation lines up with our faith, it debunks the notion that says church is irrelevant.  If the church holds any hope of engaging with today’s teens, we must deliver the consistent message that our faith speaks to every issue in their lives.

The Teen
Sometimes it’s the culture, sometimes it’s the church, but many times, it’s the teen himself that makes the decision to shrug off church.  Even in the best-case scenarios, it’s quite normal to find resistance from your teen on this matter of church attendance.  Work hard at not taking it so personally, or as an affront to your success as a parent.

Start discussing this matter with your child long before he or she becomes a teenager.  Start going to church as a family when the kids are small, and show them that it’s not a duty, but a privilege and something your whole family is committed to.  Then give your teen a timeline.  I advise moms and dads to sit down and present a plan to their kids.  It gives you a foundation to work from, and gives your teen a basis for freedom and responsibility for their own walk with God.  

It could look something like this …
At 13, you need to go to youth group, church on Sunday, Bible study on Wednesday, and camp in the summer.
At 15, you need to go to youth group and church on Sunday.
At 17, you need to go to church on Sunday.
At 18, we won’t make you go, but we would encourage you to go anyway, because church will equip you with life-skills, purpose and meaning.

Just because more young adults are leaving the church every year doesn’t mean we need to keel to the trend.  Some say, Relax, they’ll come back.  But I’m not willing to be a passive onlooker as kids abandon the institution of the church.  This is a battle that deserves a valiant effort that requires discernment, grace and skill.  The community of believers is not only essential in a teen’s life, but in our lives as well.  It won’t be easy, and it will take persistence, but with God’s help, we can instill values in our children they will one day pass along to their own.



Monday, June 11, 2012

Tips for a Healthy Media Diet

Tips for a Healthy Media Diet
In Family media management by Caroline Knorr, first published in CommonSenseMedia.org (11.14.2011) 
The facts: Kids spend more than 7.5 hours a day with media, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation
       A 2011 study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that watching fast-paced cartoons can have an immediate negative impact on kids' ability to plan and think ahead.
       Also according to Pediatrics, excessive television exposure in the preschool years leads to diminished school performance
       Kids who watch more television than their peers during the middle and high school years have less healthy diets five years later, according to a 2009 study by the University of Minnesota
       Girls with a heavy sexual media diet engage in sexual activity younger than their peers, according to a 2007 poll by Harris Interactive
       Children who watch between two and four hours of television a day are two-and-a-half times more likely to have high blood pressure, according to a 2007 study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
What's a healthy media diet?
Here's a sobering fact: Average American children now spend more time with media and technology (almost eight hours a day!) than they do with their parents or in school. With television, computers, video games, smartphones, MP3 players, and other devices vying for kids' attention, raising them with a balanced media diet has never been more challenging. But it's an essential part of parenting in the digital age.
A healthy media diet means balancing three things: What kids do, how much time they spend doing it, and making age-appropriate content choices. Now that kids interact with media through personal technologies that increasingly put them in charge of selecting their own entertainment, it's never been more important to maintain oversight.
Learning how to have a balanced diet is a critical life skill we have to teach our kids –- as important as eating right, learning to swim, or driving a car. Fortunately, because there are so many choices now, it's gotten easier to find healthy ways to say yes.
Why does it matter?
Media and technology run right through the center of our kids' lives. And what kids see and do profoundly impacts their emotional, physical, and social development. Media acts as a super-peer for kids, giving them a sense of what's normal, desirable, or cool. But the messages in media may not be what you and your family value, so if you don't get involved and help kids learn to think critically about role models, activities, and media content, then they're absorbing things unquestionably that you might want them to question.
In addition, since media and technology have become the way that kids socialize and communicate, we have to help them learn what is and isn't responsible behavior. Kids need to be able to balance the potential in online or mobile communication with the wisdom they need to use these powerful tools in ways that don't hurt others or become addictive.
How to give your kids a healthy media diet
With so many new programs and technology coming out all the time -- many of which are aimed at kids -- it's hard to tell what's good, what's age-appropriate, and what has the "nutritional value" to entertain -- and hopefully educate -- your kids.
But by keeping three simple rules in mind, you can help serve your kids a healthy media diet. Here's how:
Use media together. Whenever you can, watch, play, and listen with your kids. Talk about the content. When you can't be there, ask them about the media they've used. Help kids question and analyze media messages. Share your own values. Let them know how you feel about solving problems with violence, stereotyping people, selling products using sex or cartoon characters, or advertising to kids in schools or movie theaters. Help kids connect what they learn in the media to events and other activities in which they're involved -- like playing sports and creating art -- in order to broaden their understanding of the world.
Be a role model. When kids are around, set an example by using media the way you want them to use it. Don't bring your phone to the dinner table, and turn the television off when it's not actively being watched. Record shows that may be inappropriate for your kids to watch -- even the news -- and watch them later, when kids aren't around.
Keep an eye on the clock. Keep an eye on how long kids spend online, in front of the television, watching movies, playing video games. The secret to healthy media use is to establish time limits and stick to them -- before your kids turn on and tune in.