Church massacre; prayer works?

Shouldn’t a life dedicated to Jesus mean bad things won’t happen to good people? Not ironically, the sermon at my church, only minutes before the shooting would begin, was from the text in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (NKJV)

All things.

What was meant for harm, God uses for good. (Genesis 50:20). In other words, if you think the story is over in Sutherland Springs, Tx, with the saddest possible conclusion, stay tuned. God makes beauty from the ashes.

In the aftermath of the horrific church shooting on Sunday, if you’re sincerely or derisively asking if prayer works, I will stand up and resoundingly shout “ABSOLUTELY!”

I have seen miracles as the result of prayer. Too many to list. From finding a lost wedding ring in a huge field that had been occupied by thousands of people, to loved ones healed from stage 4 cancer, to lives being delivered from crippling addictions.

The answer to prayers in the wake of Sunday are yet to happen, or yet to be made public. Wait for it. In the days, weeks, months, maybe even years to come, the stories of answered prayers and miracles will come to light. The evil visited upon that small church in that tiny town was not a result of the impotence of prayer, but the depravity of man, underscoring the very need for prayer.

Those who were tragically lost on Sunday are today in the presence of Jesus. Those who survived are, themselves, the result of miracles. They will tell you of the power of prayer.

Faith is not strengthened when everything is going right. It is perfected through fiery trials. It is precisely in times like this when God’s strength, mercy, and grace are made perfect.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord , the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1‭-‬2 NIV

Advertisements

My Vote

Very little polarizes people, including friends and family, like politics. There hasn’t been a more controversial, confusing election cycle like this in 50 years. My point in this post isn’t to tell you who you should or shouldn’t vote for. I’m not going to tell you who I’m going to vote for…since I don’t even know yet. I’m just going to lay it out what will drive my decision, if it even matters to anyone other than myself.

You’re going to see that s a registered Republican, that is not the deciding factor because it votedoesn’t define my standards. It seems to be expected of me that I should support the candidate who bears an R next to their name. I have had people suggest to me that if I don’t vote for Trump, I am casting a vote for Hillary.

Huh? Is there a new system I don’t know about? What happens if I don’t vote for Hillary? Is that a vote for Trump? I’m really confused. In case you didn’t realize, there is no such thing as a national election. There are fifty individual statewide elections. I live in Rhode Island, and my vote only counts here. If Trump wants my vote, he’s going to have to earn it with more than party affiliation.

Here’s the thing. My vote belongs to me. My vote is currency. It is bestowed up on me to offer to a single candidate I ultimately endorse and wish to hold the office for which they pursue. With that as the mindset, I offer a list of five qualities that define me and will determine my choice. In descending order of influence, they are:

  1. I am a Christian. This is the fundamental influence in every detail of my life. While I understand I am not voting for a pastor or spiritual leader, they must demonstrate to me consistent character and integrity. Even if they are not, themselves, Christian, they will defend and respect my faith and not minimize it, silence my voice or demonize my beliefs and values. They will respect the office and remember they serve the people.
  2. I am soon to be a husband and stepfather. I will vote for a person whose values and agenda is, in my estimation, in the best interests of my family, both now and moving forward into the future.
  3. I am an American. What is in the best interests of my country outweigh those of other countries. I do not want conflict, but if it is necessary in order to preserve our freedom and lives, so be it. I believe in American exceptionalism. We are not perfect, but we are the greatest country in the history of the planet. It is not our role to make everyone like us or to emulate us. But we must set and live by a high standard, and hold ourselves to it.
  4. I am a Constitutionalist. I believe this document empowers the people and limits the government, not the other way around. Rather than seek to throw out things that don’t fit an agenda, they see the wisdom and time-tested value of this document and the men who sacrificed everything to draft and ratify it.
  5. I am a Conservative. As such, I support the individual over the collective. I believe in personal liberty and responsibility. Government needs to be reduced, not an obstacle to a citizen’s inalienable rights. While the government cannot and should not compel Americans to practice a particular religion, We must remember that this country was founded on, and is inextricably linked to Christianity. Our Christian values demand that we love others, even those with whom we disagree. Even those who worship differently, or not at all. Our values do not discriminate against anyone for any reason.

Some have justified supporting Donald Trump as, “the lesser of two evils.” Do you know what the lesser of two evils is? Still evil. Before anyone takes this as me calling anyone evil, that is not my meaning, and that is not my job. The phrase is an idiom, and that is the context in which I mean it. The point is, my vote is not simply for the person who is less awful than the other. My vote will go for the person I believe is best suited for the job based, at least on the criteria I listed above, even if that individual has no chance to win. My vote is sacred to me, and I will not give it to someone who hasn’t earned it.

You’re welcome to disagree with my standard. Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether you do or don’t. I’m only sharing this with you because I have had my position and values questioned and mocked. That doesn’t bother me one bit. I’d much rather be mocked for upholding a high standard than cave in and throw my support to someone I wouldn’t even want to have dinner with. I’d rather be wrong and have the person for whom I didn’t vote prove to be a wonderful president than hold my nose, vote for them, and they turn out to be what I predicted, or worse.

If you find my reasoning flawed, that’s ok. But at least you now understand it. Donald Trump has not earned my vote. I have almost no faith that he will, but it’s not the first Tuesday in November yet. I just see no evidence that he will. Miracles can happen. But if one doesn’t, I cannot, in good conscience, cast my vote for the lesser of two evils.

That day

That day. We were all covered in the debris of the World Trade Center. We were neither 9-11AshVictimsDemocrat, nor Republican. We were neither male, nor female. We weren’t black or white, Asian or Hispanic. That day, we were defined by our unity. We were all Americans. We rallied together. We filled our churches. We had American flags waving from every highway overpass. We were outraged by the evil visited upon us that day.

Today, we have forgotten. We have returned to the pettiness which divides. Evil remains, and tries to get our attention with the public murder of innocent people. Wickedness resides within our borders. Evil will rise again.

God got our attention that day. How quickly we have gotten distracted. I pray that it doesn’t take a similar, or worse act of evil to get our attention again. May we turn from our distractions and be mindful of what is truly important. May we be civil, even loving to our fellow man, rather than so judgmental and critical.

That day began just as any other. But it turned out to be the day that changed the world. Forever. Let us learn by the events of that day. And never forget the lessons that were forced upon us.

Lord, you have my attention today. Help me stay focused. Help our leaders stay focused, not on their own interests, but those of our citizens. Our lives are in your hands. Your loving, capable hands. Protect us. There is a day that lies ahead when we will all meet our end on this earth. Cleanse us from the debris which covers us.

On that day, let us be pure in your sight.

Sacrifice

It is a fact of life and nature. In order for something to live unmolested, there must be some sacrifice. Often, this sacrifice is unseen and unnoticed by the beneficiaries. 

The majority of us never served in the United States Armed Forces. And fewer still have feltservice_flag_1-gold_star the direct pain of sacrifice in their service. It is incumbent upon us to do what is uncomfortable and inconvenient by taking time to consider the price that was paid by so many so we can enjoy every single detail of our lives of freedom.

As a Christian, I recognize that my life, my eternal soul, was purchased and secured by a sacrifice I can never repay. As an American, the freedom I enjoy to even write this without fear of imprisonment or death was also paid for by the ultimate in sacrifice.

Enjoy your day with your family and friends. If you are fortunate enough to spend any of it with a man or woman who has served, or is serving in the military, do yourself a favor. Listen to their stories. Learn from them. Get to know the honor by which they served. Listen to them as they share about those they knew who, as Abraham Lincoln said, “laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

God bless those who paid the price for us. God bless their families. And God bless the United States of America.

Christmas, Duck Dynasty and Gay Marriage

For a few weeks now, I’ve been seriously contemplating writing about today’s politically “correct” environment and how it has affected some of the most wonderful things in our culture, such as Christmas. As I’ve thought about it over the past few weeks, I just haven’t had, or taken the time to sit down at the computer and write it out.

Then the recent “controversy” with Phil Robertson, of the TV show Duck Dynasty, hit the news.

My original premise to the post I intended to write was about how thankful I am for those I consider friends, especially those who don’t agree with me in the areas that are lifestyle sensitive. Again, I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. Two days ago, just hours before I caught a flight to New England from California, I bumped into a good friend of mine. She happens to be a lesbian. We shared a hug and chatted for a few minutes. We each were up against the clock, so we couldn’t talk long. I was about to run into the Sam’s Club, from which she was just leaving. She mentioned to me that her partner was working inside the store. As I was going about my business in the store, I bumped into her, and we enjoyed a fun, brief conversation.

While my friends and I do not agree on the topic of gay marriage, each with our own reasons that are very personal and deep, we are still friends. In fact, we find there is much more we share in common than that one topic in which we differ. I’m thankful to have friends who can receive and give respect even when the topic is personal and a cultural lighting rod.

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan, recently conducted an interview for a magazine I will not dignify by identifying it in my blog. During the course of the conversation, they predictably baited him by bringing up the topic of homosexuality…as if they didn’t know his position on the topic. His response was to paraphrase the bible, as well as share his own personal preference. Upon doing so, the network on which Duck Dynasty is broadcast has put him on “indefinite hiatus”.

I’m all for spirited debate. But when did we become a society that punishes people for talking about the values by which they live?

voltaire-as-bad-jew

Again, I’m thankful for the maturity in the friendships I have. My friends understand that I am a Christian, and I consider the bible to be the inspired Word of God. My friends also believe in God and have good families. We are also Americans who believe that the Constitution is the law of the land. This includes the First Amendment, which applies to all of us. Well, at least it’s supposed to.

When did we become a culture that wishes to silence those for their religious beliefs? Even the atheist groups that are purposefully out to offend Christians, particularly at this time of the year, have the right to their opinions. Since when did Christianity, and those with opinions and values that echo biblical standards become anathema?

I wish our society was more like my friends.

Finding success in failure

I posted a lot of what you’re about to read and see on Facebook, but I understand not all of you use Facebook or are connected to my page to have seen it. I have enhanced my thoughts on this matter here, so even if you did read my Facebook rant, there is more to it here.

Here is a video I hope you’ll watch. It’s only 78 seconds long. But it is very revealing. This is a political issue, but the final takeaway is something that applies to all of us in life. Thus, I believe this is a teachable moment no matter your political leaning, or lack thereof.

In this video, the President is blaming Republicans for the disastrous results and the humiliation of it STILL being in a state of disrepair? This is shameful. Can you imagine the neverending victory lap he’d be on if things had worked out the way he sold it?

Let’s just say a friend of mine is thinking of buying a house in a terrible town and neighborhood. I advise him repeatedly that he is setting himself up for disaster. Even so, he does it anyway. When he runs into the inevitable and predicted results, am I somehow to blame for what he did on his own, against my protestation and without my involvement? Am I somehow responsible to get him out of the problem he brought on himself and those under his care? I’m not keeping him from fixing it. I’m not interfering. Was I “invested in failure”, or did I just have the wisdom of forethought? He got what he wanted, and is facing the consequences. How he responds to those consequences is revealing, and something we all can learn from.

The takeaway:  A real leader, a real man of character takes responsibility for his own character_humility_Snapseedactions. He doesn’t blame others. A real leader, a real man of character attributes success to all those who made it happen, yet takes full responsibility for failure. Real character can be thankless. It is humble. Real character may not be recognized as such immediately. True character doesn’t seek applause.

In life, we will make good decisions, while others will blow up in our faces. Most decisions allow us time to think things through. We can get advice. We can do research. We can weigh the pros and cons. Whether or not we have the luxury of time, we make decisions based on the best information we have at the moment. Sometimes thing will work out well, and other times, unforeseen things can happen that ruin everything. No matter what, we must stand by our decisions. Our character is revealed in how we respond to the successes and failures. When we maintain our integrity, we have ultimate success regardless of how the decisions turn out.

Results can vary. Good character is consistent, regardless.

Crying out for leadership

This week, something happened that I’ve been aching to see for some time. It was true leadership. It was someone with the courage of conviction, standing up, (literally), in the face of those who oppose him. But it turns out, he also stood up and called out those who are supposedly on his team.

Texas senator Ted Cruz did an extraordinary thing this week. According to Senate rules, a senator may control the floor for as long as he or she is able to stand and speak. Though it technically wasn’t a filibuster, the rules of one applied. That means he was required to stand the entire time, was not allowed to sit, lean, use a chair in any way, nor eat, drink or use the bathroom. They must basically speak continuously the entire time.

I’m not going to go into a civics lesson or anything. The point is, it is physically demanding. Senator Cruz held the floor of the senate for 21 hours, 19 minutes. The point of this extraordinary measure was to draw attention to his opposition of ObamaCare, or, the Affordable Care Act. Not only his opposition, but that of a majority of Americans. Certainly those he represents in Texas.

During and after Cruz’s extended floor speech, colleagues from both sides of the aisle criticized him. Those opposed to his views attempted to brush off his commentary by calling him an anarchist. Even some who supposedly share his views criticized him. They felt that his tactic was, “a waste of time”, that it wouldn’t change anything.

But here’s the thing. To those of us who are sick and tired of the status quo of political blowhards in both parties, this act of courage resonated with millions and millions of Americans. We are screaming out for leadership. We are crying out for someone to stand up and refuse to go down without a fight.

Passion and conviction. Dying commodities, it seems. Yes, maybe the outcome will not be affected by Ted Cruz’s speech. But what has happened is the status quo has been served notice. If those who have held positions in the Senate for decades got their feelings hurt by being called out for not fighting hard enough, GOOD! If “leaders” of the Senate Republicans were bent out of shape because a freshman dared to speak up without their blessing, GOOD! True leadership doesn’t create dependence. It enables and empowers INdependence!

America is crying out for leadership. We are aching for someone to stand up and fight the good fight. Rather than acquiesce and give in to defeat, we are desperate for someone to make their voice heard, even if it ruffles some feathers. We’re looking for someone who shares our views who will not fade silently into the night. That’s not who we are. We’re tired of being represented by people who are more interested in their own image, popularity, power and prestige.

I love the movie Braveheart. Though it’s based on a true story, it’s largely fiction, I know. But the movie still moves me. The passion of one man who is willing to die in order to achieve something for which he is passionate. He is confident he will not live long enough to see what he’s fighting for, but he fights anyway. That inspires me. I end this post with a scene from this movie. It completely summarizes the point I’m trying to make. America needs TRUE leadership!