Anything “Made in the U.S.A” is antique.  We now export our profits by subcontracting our freedoms for the sake of short-term shareholder satisfaction.  Our commitment to hard work, charity, civility and sacrifice are glory days of a bygone era.  We sold our birthright and expect government to give it back.    

 

American professing Christians have hijacked words like “Republican,” “Pro-life” and “Compassionate Conservative” and even “Christian” itself to serve their political agendas.  It’s now hard to tell whether one is talking about orthodox Christian faith or patriotic political rhetoric or if they’re one in the same.  Claiming to worship the One True God, we’ve made idols out of conservative talk and democracy. 

What is “Christian” in our culture has very little to do with the “Christ.”  American Christians assume our country is (or was) a Christian nation, but the Bible gives us no reason to think so.  National Israel was neither a “Christian” nation in the Old Testament nor a favored nation by God today.  God favors no one who denies Jesus as the Christ.  

 

“Compassionate conservativism,” for example, is an oxymoron.  True compassion is never conservative.  It is always extravagant as it derives from our extravagant God.  Compassion is lavish and nondiscriminatory.  “Conservative” best describes how Christians tip at restaurants, but it’s certainly not appropriate to describe compassion.

 

What does it mean to be “pro-life”?  Do we mean merely “pro-biological existence” or is there more to “life.”  Being consistent “pro-life” means tangibly helping the single mother or abortion-minded teenager.  It means refusing to settle for our current pathetic child welfare system.  Perhaps we need fewer Pat Robertsons and more George Muellers, who give their life to care for the unwanted children.   Who channels millions of dollars to feed, house, and educate the orphans?  Who cares for the widow and the weak?  Where are the pro-life, conservative Christians who complain about big government, Obama speeches, and socialism and yet say nothing about mega-church buildings and budgets that do not include the helpless?  We invest more in technology, space, and comforts than we do people. Maybe if the church were more liberal (in the truest sense of the word) then government wouldn’t have to be so big.

 

The “conservative” church has subcontracted with Republican suits in order to do God’s will.  Many “born again Christians” applaud Joe Wilson for calling the President a liar, but lie to the widows, orphans, and neighbors about caring for them.  Many Christians boycotted the President’s address to school children, but permit far worse through their children’s iPods and televisions.  I liked the educational speech of which “priests” Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh were so were fearful.  President Obama is not our country’s threat.  Our pride and selfishness are. 

 

God has established only one Christian nation: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ who will one day enjoy the New Heaven and Earth.  May God renew our minds in order to understand His will and love that nation.

There were about two thousand in the local herd. When one thought of the word “Gadarenes,” it was the equivalent of “Jimmy Dean’s;” perhaps the number one producer of pork products and Gentile pride. These were not your typical buttermilk washed curly tail pets we think of called “Wilbur.”  This fine herd put the Gadarenes on the map and was the driving force of its economy and trade… 

Nearby lived the maniac known as Legion; he was psychotic and the curse of the country. He was a man tormented by Satan; that evil one who has come to steal, kill, and destroy everything he touches.  He lived among the tombs and no one could bind him anymore, not even with chains.  He was out of his mind and out of control.  The local jail could not hold him and the country men soon learned that he was beyond rehabilitation.  Night and day he could be heard howling like a wounded animal as he cut himself and begged for death to hurry up. Maybe there was enough humanity to stay away from populated areas for the common good.  Or maybe he was kept for this very moment so that Jesus might be made known. 

It is insulting that demons see Jesus and make a right confession of who He is and where He comes from (and we don’t). Not only that, but they yield to his power and acknowledge his Sovereign control of all things in fear (Mk.5:7). These demons are territorial and do not want to give up their fortress among humanity. They are in the business of torture and making life miserable for everyone.  Like most parasites, demons need a host in order to do their work (this would not be a good place to argue for human free-will). 

It was the herd of demons that brought the man to the shores of the sea to beg for mercy at the feet of Jesus. They knew their business had met the Lord.  No man in his sin- depraved mind would come running to Jesus on his own unless they knew who Jesus was – unless the sinner knows who he really is. The torturers now kneel to Jesus asking not to be tortured. There were no willing hosts around and so Legion reasoned with Jesus to be cast into the swine nearby. So be it! Jesus sent them into a herd of soulless swine and the rest is history: The swine jumped over the cliff. 

Soon the entire country heard the news of Jesus and the man without a name who was beyond help. There he sat; dressed and in his right mind.  He became a friend of God though he was an enemy.  He was given his right mind and a reason for living.  He was fully clothed in the love of Christ and His righteousness.  And he was sent to do what everyone does given their right minds – telling the world about the greatness and mercy of Jesus.  Everyone else who does not go and tell is surely… out of their mind.

I can take no credit except for the sin that caused my death.  I am good at only one thing; my natural inclination to do what I most want to do. I was unable to do the good I ought to do. I was not free to choose contrary to my nature. There are so many ways to say the same thing but the conclusion of the matter is that I should be dead. What happened? 

It is true that I am evil (I am not free not to be) but that is coming to an end because now a new nature has been given to me and a new Spirit blows through my affections. The old me is passing away. Now I have been set free from the law of sin and death; the law that informed me who I was. No longer am I bound by the law for the law has been kept by one who lives and took my death. He not only took my death caused by my sin but he now gives me his life and legal status of freedom.  The justice I deserve is satisfied and now I have received mercy. 

Now, Jesus did not die to give me health, wealth, and prosperity – my sinful nature will abuse those good things like I do an ice cold Pepsi. But he did die and lives; one day giving me a healthy body, a wealthy inheritance, and a prosperous future in eternity. And when that happens I will know how to make use of all things imperishable.  I will perfectly praise and worship the one true God who saves me.  

Once a person knows Jesus by grace through faith, then they have real choices that matter. Otherwise, death is your master and Hell will welcome you home. To some, this all sounds like foolishness. If you are not interested then that only proves one thing….you are dead.

In 1969, Armstrong made his descent to the Moon’s surface and spoke his famous line “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Man is sinfully impressed with useless accomplishments. Whether space walking, moon walking (including Michael Jackson), or walking on the bottom of the Ocean, none of these in a long list of others has improved man’s relationship with his Creator and each other. All these “impressive things” have only proven that man seeks to worship himself.

From the looks of things, man is not evolving; he is dissolving back into a heap of ash and none of his accomplishments will serve him once the trumpet sounds. In Mark 7, Jesus confronts the established code of religious piety and their doctors. The problem is that the code was written by men (scribes) in an effort to build a fence around the God given law. These rules stacked the deck against civilization that proved to be no more than a social club made up of the elite. Instead of God dictating to man, it was the religious CEOs of the world who controlled the doors of worship and acceptance to God. Now that is the lowest form of malpractice ever.

To think that man can create a code of conduct in order to be clean before a Holy God is the fanciest masquerade in the history of depravity. That’s why Jesus called them hypocrites. Before we blame it all on the traditions of man, we must look in the mirror of God’s law. No one can keep God’s law; not even in a monastery or seminary. The bar of perfection is set and all fall short of it’s glory. Rightfully, Jesus became angry at these religious professionals. His rebuke was sharp and only served to store up man’s rage against his Kingdom.

Although man still pans the dunghills of depravity in search of the golden key to heaven’s gate, his search is in vain. Striving to tip the scales of justice in our favor with ceremonial good behavior will only kindle the fires of Hell that much more. The only person in history that is worthy of our attention and worthy of our study belongs to one man; the man Jesus Christ. All the books in the world could not contain His works. He alone is impressive and all his accomplishments make man’s list a dunghill.

After the divorce life got real interesting. Mother, a school teacher, took on a part-time job 30 miles away at K-mart. From Jr. High through High School, K-mart was cool. It was not long until I learned of the Lay-a-way plan. Twice a year, summer and fall, we would shop in the men’s section and place several items of clothing in Lay-a-way. After 8 to 12 weeks of payment, we introduced ourselves to the clothes we had purchased and could finally take the goods home. What a deal.

We often view God much like a lay-a-way plan. Our vision of His glory and goodness is impaired by our earthly limitations. We often think that God holds back something from us until we can make sufficient payment for those blessings. We don’t say this out loud but it shows in our behavior and lack of faith. Prayer is usually the last exercise in our minds until its the last resort.

How quickly we forget that Jesus not only atoned for our sin but He ripped down the barrier of any works/payment plan in order to access the steady stream of God’s love and favor toward his children. The full clothing store of God’s grace is available to us without money, without merit, and without measure. Any lay-a-way relationship with our Lord creates a spiritual and emotional roller coaster. I always wondered why those things made me sick.

I was in K-mart the other day and a voice came over the intercom and announced that the lay-a-way department would be closing in 10 minutes. I smiled and thanked my Lord that I have free unlimited access to the throne of grace by the authority of Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

You made a choice that seemed convenient to you.

You blamed my heart for a conception I did not do.

I pleaded for help but you could not hear

My little voice drowned by selfishness and fear.

Convinced there was no other way

You took us down to the clinic one day.

A simple procedure seemed easy to handle

A day you chose to blow out my candle.

That day – I was born to the family of grace

held by caring hands; I see my Abba’s face.

I am wanted, I am free, and there are many just like me.

He, who made my toes, invites you to come and see.

Mama, I forgive; you knew not what you had done

That’s why God sent to die, His only beloved son.

He came not to condemn but save us from our choice

The price is paid in full; though aborted I rejoice.

Come quickly while grace is still to be found.

Come through the cross; escape what has you bound.

It will cost you your life, one you call your own

Sin will one day kill but Jesus called me home.

Come to the fountain of forgiveness that’s free

Come like a child to simply believe.

Ask to be born again; receive a new heart

Ask for the light to be rid of the dark.

Join me for a walk in the Father’s new creation

Rest for weary souls whose sins have been forsaken.

Come taste the salty air along the crystal seas

Swing me in your arms in life abundantly.

If water-boarding is now unconstitutional, torturous, and offensive toward the enemies of the State then what is abortion? The same conservatives (SBC) who shout “pro-life” just cut $700,000 from the operating budget of the Tennessee Baptist Children’s home.  I don’t understand, the convention has created useless or unnecessary jobs while slashing funds to care for the fatherless, orphaned, and neglected and abused children. While the nations plot in vain against the Kingdom of God, the Church stumbles over its priorities and builds upon its hypocritical sand castle.

For years the State has enlarged its borders while the Church has lost its marching orders. God is not interested in establishing a Christian State or a theocracy.  God desires his Church to care for their neighbors, defend and protect the weak, and even sell all our riches and give to the poor. The State has not pushed the Church away with a wall of separation. The Church has separated itself from the State in defensive position.  Hell trembles at its defeat and pending judgment but there is no pressure on darkness to flee. The State increases and the Church decreases its participation in the market place of ideas and funding.  Why?

Jesus prayed in John 17 to keep them in the world but protect them from the evil one.  The nations rage and plot in vain but the Church runs the other way. Should there be more zeal for foreign missions than domestic visions? O God, may Christians stop expecting a “Christian nation” when the Bible does not even give us an example of one.  Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Dear Church, who told You to flee? The wrath of God has been satisfied for You. God has crushed Your enemy. Go! build orphanages again, fund the homeless shelters, adopt the rejected, support the weak and widows, and let the elderly die with dignity.  Let the State see your good work so that they might turn and say, “Christians really do have a God and He must be good.”

Church – stop the rage against the State. Go into the world and be salt and light! Lead them out of darkness with the lamp You have been given.

Ever met a flower too afraid to touch

a beauty so rare; couldn’t say much?

Forsaken all else to know her face

Finding her design a gift of grace.

A name only heaven could perfectly sound

the company of love; inspiration found.

Delightful harmony; her presence sweet

Our warm embrace, death ne’er can cheat.

Delicate orchid needing gentle care

Her glory, my crown, flows lovely hair.

Eyes of blue bonnets capture my heart

Courage to lead and shield fiery darts.

Strength in the blossom of her fair name

Character in the roots of her father’s fame.

A crocus in late winter; the hope of spring

the smile of daffodils send me caroling.

I sing of our love of rarest bloom

To have and to hold; the flower’s groom.

Forsaking all else to know her face

Only to find she is a gift of grace.

Christmas 08

The reunion of Sgt. Dad and his children was a monumental day; sweet relief June 9, 2006. CPS made a hash of things and yet the battle was ne’er over. Visits with the mother and the trickle-down effects of divorce now threatened the reunion. Over the course of the next six months more investigative referrals would come in on the mother when she had the kids. Bound by law, Dad had to yield to visitation while he held his breath. God would use this to teach Dad the beauty of trusting Him. Not so beautiful if you ask Dad (more like water boarding).

More help came in the form of a new found lady who loved Dad’s heart. His pain and loss and broken marriages could not scare her away.  She saw in him what she had longed to find; tenderness, a friend, someone she could respect, and most important a man who would love and appreciate her while being faithful to her.  O, how he longed to just give himself to someone who would respect him and love ONLY him (and she looks good, too).

Together they would face new challenges that threaten everything virtuous.  They would fight for the safety and well being of their children.  And God in Christ would fight for their true love and affection for HIM. It was July 07, on the back porch where they made that confession of faith and the adoption papers where signed in blood for their salvation. They were soon baptized in the heavenly waters of amazing grace and their sins where washed down the drain of past, present, and future disgrace. Finally free not to sin.

They were married some weeks later and the sight was glorious. Jesus makes all things new and hope grows where pain and loss once broke their hearts. I hear those sweet words of the Savior now … “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  –Jeremiah 29:11

Over two years ago I met the Sergeant whose life was staring over a dark abyss. His two young children were taken from their mother and placed in foster care.  All Zach and Lilli had were each other as they rode off into the unknown; fearful and confused. 

Mom and Dad had irreparable problems. The children suffered from their narcissism. Mom was so damaged by childhood neglect and abuse that she did not have the capacity for healthy, stable relationships with husband or child.  She covered the pain with the attention of anyone who would look her way while her husband tried to do the right thing. But in the end, the right thing became the wrong thing. Eventually, they both failed to protect their children at the interpretation of Child Protective Services. The case was so poorly handled and manipulated by one sick mother that it cost the children four months in foster care before being returned to their Dad.

I found dad under great distress.  Love for his children could not be denied but he was caught in a legal web with CPS rules defended by an incompetent attorney that cost him his last cent.  He was financially, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt.  Supervised visits with his children were torture to him and the kids. 

 

Today, I look back in amazement as to what has happened in such a short time.  When Jesus said that he can do the impossible; that’s what happened for Sergeant Dad. He’s a long way from looking over that abyss and I had the privilege of playing a small role in God’s goodness to help him get his life and children back and know some sense of security and hope.  Things aren’t perfect for this Dad but he’s back on his feet walking in the right direction, taking things one day at a time.  And those two kids…their daddy has a heart that would go to hell and back for them… and he did.  That is why he is Sgt. Dad. So, if he finds this journal entry he needs to know that he has a Father and Friend in Jesus.