I want you to meet an everyday saint named Travis Bishop. He is a Christian business owner from Martinsburg, West Virginia. Brother Travis saw the devastation brought on by the floods that are ravishing his neighbors in nearby Clendenin. Travis decided to do something about it. Brother Travis has been leading a rescue operation for the past seven days, closing up his business and spearheading an effort to meet the needs of people. You can listen to an interview he did on my friend Tom Roten’s radio show here:
One of my greatest challenges as a Christian is being judgmental. At times it seems like there is a fine line between standing on the word of God and casting my personal judgments upon another. If I am going to be a dispenser of grace, I have to take into account the dual nature of a Christian. This does not mean that I excuse sin, but I should not be quick to judge a person as lost because of their behavior. As my pastor says, “Sometimes are beliefs don’t match our behavior.”
Pastor Dennis was talking of the time when David pretended to be insane in the land of Gath, the home of Goliath. Saul had been pursuing David to kill him out of jealousy and David fearfully fled to enemy territory instead of relying on God to protect him. This is why in his later years David could write:
This past Sunday, our Youth Pastor Andrew Bosak said that refusing to forgive is a disgrace to the cross. That immediately struck a chord in my spirit because I personally know what bitterness can do to a person’s soul. My angst towards my father for more than twenty years almost ruined me emotionally. When I finally recommitted my life to Christ, surrendering all control to Him, the first thing the Holy Spirit instructed me to do was to forgive my father.
I was overwhelmed by the thought. I thought getting back to Christ and living a sold out life to Him would be incremental. It has been, but Jesus knows my heart and He knew that the biggest stumbling block in my life was my bitterness towards my father. I had to forgive him if I wanted to grow in my walk with Christ. Andrew reminded me of the verse that God showed me to help me along:
The Christian life has been described as a journey or a marathon. The Bible describes it as a race, but it is a long one not unlike a marathon. However, it is a journey in which we should not only strive to finish, but also to enjoy and mature. At the end of my life, I want to be able to utter the same words as the Apostle Paul:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was a little chant we were taught to say as kids when someone said something mean to us. However, it was only half true. Words can hurt us and we are capable of saying some of the meanest things when we are upset or even impatient with someone.
Some of the meanest words I’ve seen recently has been from those commenting on presidential candidates, including from presidential candidates themselves. Somehow in our society we’ve come to point where we think insults, off-color humor, and snarkiness are the only means of persuasion. King Solomon knew better:
Yesterday I was meditating on a bible lesson I had taught the previous night about failure. I sensed a great spirit of hurt in my group, some of it visible on faces.
It occurred to me that some in the room had been hurt while in love. Failing at love can cause you to never want to love again. The hurt can be so devastating that you imagine never recovering. A part of you does not want to recover because it means giving up. That’s only half-true; you may be moving on from a love lost forever, but you’ve not given up on love.
Men are using ladies’ bathrooms. Government is so corrupt that we willingly support morally corrupt candidates. Society is so debased that it opposes any biblical standards. Christians compromise their beliefs because it is the road less traveled. Is there any hope remaining for this nation? The answer is, of course, yes.
However, for that hope to be realized Americans in general, and Christians specifically, are going to have to understand the root of America’s problems. America is not facing a political or economic problem. If that were the case our country’s issues would have been resolved long ago. America’s national malady is that we are spiritually sick. We no longer, outside and inside the church, allow the Bible to be our moral compass.
As Christians, we are not saved by good works; we are saved by grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor towards us through the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. He paid for our sins, and when we accept that payment we receive redemption. To redeem something, such as a coupon, it must be acted upon. So we’re not save by Christ’s sacrifice until we see our need for it and then accept it.
However, once we become Christians, our works are very important to God. They are evidence of being a child of God. I’ve written before that a stingy Christian is an oxymoron. We should be the most caring and giving people in society, and for the most part we are. It pleases our Heavenly Father when we do good works:
Outside of Islam, the greatest threat to America is our national debt. The amount of money our government spends on trivial and unconstitutional entitlements is the product of a deep-seated malady. Americans have a stuff problem, otherwise known as materialism.
Of course, material goods on their own are not bad. Goods and services produced and provided for are needed for a society to flourish. It is the engine to a free economy. So I am not talking about the private sector when looking at our nation’s woes. I am talking about when government tries to pick winners and losers in a free market economy.
Regardless the candidate for president, no man or woman can save America. No man or woman can make America great again. No man or woman alone is trustworthy enough to not have to be under constitutional checks and balances. No man or woman has all the answers to the needs of our nation. That is the description of a king or queen. We threw off the tyranny of king during the American Revolution.
What many voters, regardless the candidate, are seeking from whom they support is some form of kingship or soft tyranny. Our government was designed to not allow one person to have that type of power. Somehow we believe if it is our guy or gal then they will not be corrupted by the power and stay on the straight and narrow. As James Madison once said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
You’ve no doubt heard that all religions lead to heaven and worship the same god. If this is true, then Christianity is a lie. Christianity is the only religion where salvation comes through grace alone, by faith in Christ. All other religions require some sort of works to receive salvation. This means Christianity is the opposite of all other religions. Two opposing belief systems can be wrong, or one can be right. However, both cannot be right.
Believers around the world celebrated Christianity’s holiest day yesterday. Most call it Easter; others prefer to call it Resurrection Sunday. Regardless its name, a Risen Savior is the center of the celebration. Many denominations are now rejecting a crucified and risen Christ. This too is a false Christianity. The Bible declares as much:
So now the Republican Presidential Primary race has gotten personal, where a political action group opposing Donald Trump posted a tasteless tweet about Mr. Trump’s wife. Mr. Trump responded in kind by threatening Ted Cruz’s wife and then posted a classless tweet about Heidi Cruz. This is why Ronald Reagan once said, “Politics is supposed to be be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”
The nastiness of our national dialogue has descended into the sewer, in no small part because of social media. People who would never think twice about saying something to a person’s face, eagerly posts vicious and vitriolic words. I understand that our politics has always been dirty, but now we’re like pigs in a sty. We no longer notice the mud.
Author and Pastor John Ortberg tells the story of when he first began his preaching ministry, no less than five minutes into his sermon, he would pass out cold. He would just faint right in the middle of his message. He jokingly says this is not a good attribute for an aspiring preacher. Thankfully he’s overcome this tendency, although the feelings do arise at times.
While physically fainting can be an intimidating condition to deal with, spiritual fainting is an even greater obstacle to overcome. Whenever tribulation comes, we can either fight through it or faint because of it. It all depends on our spiritual strength:
One thing I’ve learned about other Christians and myself during this election cycle is too often we see things through our own eyes instead of eyes of faith. We fear what man is and can do to us, thereby no longer fearing God and rejecting His will for our lives. We trust in our own strength and wiles instead of seeking deliverance and forgiveness from God.
Some have given up. They believe there is no hope for America and are waiting for God’s judgment to fall on our nation. This defeatist attitude comes from weariness and a misplaced focus on man. Too many churches across America have checked out of society to the point that the church as a whole is no longer sought out for its take on current issues.
One of the more concerning things I’ve heard Donald Trump say is that he has never sought forgiveness from God because he’s never seen a need to. This is not exclusive to Mr. Trump; I myself once believed this. So did most Christians before they saw their need for Christ. As much as I needed Jesus Christ to save me, so does The Donald and all who believe as him. This is not my political opinion; this is what the Bible teaches:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10)
Work and responsibilities take up the majority of our awaken hours. Whether we are going to a job or raising a family, the responsibilities of our labors are always before us. It is easy to get caught in the rat race, even though we are not rats. If we allow it, toiling the day away ends up being the sum of who we are. Solomon warned against this:
“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:2)
In this election season, like never before in my lifetime, religious freedom is under attack and promises are being made by many candidates to protect it. While this might be comforting to some, the track record of political promise keepers is reason for doubt. Even if we do elect a president who will defend religious liberty, eventually Christianity will be persecuted worldwide. This is not my prediction; Jesus Christ predicted this:
“You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.” (Matthew 10:18)
I know people who make worrying an Olympic sport. I don’t mean to insult those who worry, but I want those who are habitual worriers to lean in a little closer and listen carefully. Never in the Bible are we told to worry; quite the opposite. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we are told to “fear not” and “do not worry.” When we are commanded to do something and we do the opposite, we sin.
No doubt none of you worriers consider yourselves a sinner for this reason. I understand that, but just as important as overcoming sin, I want you to realize that worry steals your joy and affects your health. The Apostle Paul was a man greatly persecuted for his faith and in fact he wrote the following words from a Roman jail:
Anger and fear are two emotions that can overtake our lives and bring us to destruction. There are cases of righteous anger and healthy fear, but usually those are not what consume us. Our imaginations can be preoccupied with fret, worry, and thoughts of revenge that lead us down the wrong path. Those paths always lead to wickedness:
“Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on.” (Proverbs 4:14-15)
The devil does a good job of convincing us to sin through temptation. After we sin, he does an even better job on us by getting us to believe the lie that God would never forgive such a horrible sin. If that doesn’t work, Satan will try to convince you that your sin isn’t that bad, and that God is just trying to keep you from enjoying life to its fullest. It’s literally the oldest trick in the book; the Bible that is:
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made…For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1a, 5)