Your Tax Dollars At Work

Photo from Devin Mitchell's series documenting gay military.
Photo from Devin Mitchell’s series documenting gays in the military.

Last week I read with dismay an article in the USA Today under the headline, Military could spend up to 8.4 million annually on transgender treatment. The gest of the article is that starting the first week in October the Obama administration will pay for gender reassignment treatments and surgeries for eligible soldiers. This expense annually is estimated to be between 2.4 million and 8.4 million dollars. There are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender troops in our active-duty force of 1.3 million soldiers. The Rand Corp. estimates there are 25 -130 soldiers currently serving who would seek surgery.

The most shocking part of the article is that a former soldier convicted of leaking national security secrets, Chelsea Manning, who is serving a 35 year prison sentence is set to receive gender reassignment surgery. Chelsea Manning was born Bradley Edward Manning. He has forfeited all pay and benefits and been dishonorably discharged. For some reason the United States Army is going to pay for his surgery.  Read about Manning here.

The Bible is crystal clear that as a Christian we are to pay taxes. In Mark 12:17 Jesus said we are to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. Romans 13:6 teaches we are to pay tribute to our governmental authorities for they are God’s ministers. Here is my point of contention, I am not frustrated that we have to pay taxes. My frustration is that our tax dollars designated for the military should be used to produce soldiers that will protect our interests around the world and our freedoms at home not propagate the perversion of United States. How is our military made better by spending up to 8.4 million dollars a year on gender reassignment treatments? Are our enemies waiving the white flag because we now have soldiers who were born men and now have become women?

THEY SHOT THE GORILLA?

Harambe dragging the child
Harambe dragging the child

Yesterday through various media outlets people began to watch a video of a 4-year-old child who had gotten into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. At times the gorilla seemed to be protecting the child while at other times it was evident the gorilla was a wild animal and was not interested in nor capable of protecting a child. The decision was made to put Harambe down. Harambe was a 450 lb Western Lowland Gorilla. This fact made the decision to end Harambe’s life more painful to the experts because Western Lowland Gorillas are an extremely endangered species with less than 175,000 in the wild and fewer than a 1,000 in captivity. This story has captured our attention and people are not short of opinions on the subject.

THE APPALLED THAT THE ANIMAL WAS SHOT 

Remember this sign is being displayed on Memorial Day
Remember this sign is being displayed on Memorial Day

This group spoke quickly and clearly on the subject. They were appalled that an animal was killed. Some in this group wanted to know why the animal was not tranquilized rather than executed. Here are some comments in various articles I have read on this subject.

W. Rackley, “The gorilla should have killed the child.”

J. Lopez, “He looked like he was helping, harmless animal, poor thing…”

Damon T. “They should have let nature take its course.”

Martin R. “Arrest the mother and father…. don’t kill innocent gorillas.”

This group has moved fast to create a petition Justice for Harambe. They are calling for the investigation of the parents who they feel are responsible for Harambe’s death. To many the killing of this gorilla is equated with murder. It is hard to understand but to some in this group the killing of Harambe is considered a greater injustice than the murder of a human.

THE INCENSED OVER TERRIBLE PARENTS

The truth is the parents did allow their child to get away from them and end up in the gorilla exhibit. This is the first such occurrence since the gorilla exhibit opened in 1978. No one seems to be certain how this happened. Any person who believes a toddler can’t escape from the parents’ sight simply is not in touch with reality. It takes only a moment for an adult’s attention to be diverted and a child make an escape. As a pastor of 25 years I have much experience of helping parents look for lost/hidden children on our church grounds. I have been to emergency rooms dozens of times with children who have fallen down stairs, drank insect repellent, fallen out of tree houses, etc… Some people do not understand how a parent can lose a child. Here are some comments by the incensed.

Spirit of 1616, “This mom is completely at fault.”

Maria F. “Parents need to be arrested.”

W Morales, “…hate the parents, innocent gorilla died cause the stupid idiot parents.”

W. S. describes this mother as a “worthless piece of ‘manure’ mother.”

Luke 2:43 says of Mary and Joseph, the earthly parents of Jesus, “After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.” Mary, the woman most blessed of all women, did not know where Jesus was. I wonder if she would be called ignorant, an idiot or stupid?

One story read the child had been told several times,”No, you can’t get in the water.” The child repeatedly asked to get in the water. I have no idea if that is true or not. What I will say is it is poor, lazy parenting to allow your child to ignore your decisions and continue to labor for their way. Such a child needs to be taught submission to authority, they will have to practice submission the rest of their lives.

THE REAL EXPERTS

On Monday armchair quarterbacks overran social media with their opinions on what the gorilla was doing, and how the child was not in danger, and the gorilla was protecting the child. Thane Maynard is an American Zookeeper and the director of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. He said there was no other option than putting Harambe down. He explained how tranquilizing a silver back, especially one that is annoyed, would cause him to jump in a rage. It could take up to 10 minutes for the animal to go down from the effects of the tranquilizer. As hard as it is to believe possible a tranquilizer would have put the child at an even greater risk. Jack Hanna was interviewed on CBS This Morning. Certainly Jack Hanna is an expert on wildlife, raising enormous amounts of money for the preservation of Gorillas. He concluded killing this gorilla was the only solution.

The experts, the very ones who have dedicated their lives to animal care, concluded a full-grown silver back gorilla’s life is not as precious as the human’s life. I am grateful the experts who determined the course of action to be taken in Cincinnati were persuaded this course need to be taken.

THE BIBLE

As a Christian I am persuaded the only opinion that really matters on any subject is God’s. We learn how God feels on any subject by studying His Word, the Holy Bible. As Christians we often discuss and celebrate the sanctity of human life. The Bible is clear that human life is the supreme life on earth.

In Genesis 1:26 the Bible says that man is created in the image of God, animals nor angels have this distinction. This verse goes on to say that humans have dominion over animals. Dominion means that animals are to be subjugated by humans, they are to be reigned over by humans. This verse alone is all that is needed to understand in God’s eyes a child is more significant than an animal.

In Mark 5:1-13 Jesus encounters a man who was possessed by a multitude of demons. Jesus cast the demons out of this poor man AND INTO A HERD OF PIGS who then drowned in a lake. It can be concluded from Jesus’ actions the man was more important than the pigs.

Matthew 6:26 plainly says, “Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” Jesus asks a rhetorical question where the answer is understood to be of course you are more important than the birds of the sky.

I do not recognize the world we live in today. A child climbed into a gorilla exhibit and there is outrage the child was saved by killing the gorilla. Today some are outraged and protest over any and every thing. What people fail to realize is their continual protests and outrage turn their voices into background noise. I like for my voice to be heard on certain unjust causes, the saving of a child from maiming and death is not one of those causes.

How I Failed As A Father

movingdayThe last few weeks have been a special time for my family. Our oldest son has graduated from high school and is enrolled in college at Ole Miss. The last month may be the best month we have ever had as a family. We have gone to parent/student meals, had a baccalaureate service at the church I pastor, had family and friends in for a weekend of celebrating and then the graduation service itself. Micah, my son, was successful as a high school student and was recognized for his accomplishments. He is a good person who has demonstrated he loves Jesus. Not wanting to sound like a proud Papa, but the truth is everyone looking from the outside would say to Cheryl and me, “Job well done.” Cheryl is an incredible mother and has done a remarkable job. She deserves the credit for being the parent that has produced good boys. However, as I look at pictures of Micah as a young boy and then see the man he is today I must confess my heart is filled with regret. In this blog I want to share with you how I failed as a father.

I DID NOT ENCOURAGE ENOUGH

This is tough to type. I feel I have the gift of encouragement. All along my ministry people have thanked me for encouraging them. I especially love to encourage other pastors. I thank people for any service they do unto the Lord and our church and lavish them with sincere praise. Something happened when I came home. The encourager disappeared. I have never been an absentee Dad. I have always been involved in every aspect of my kids’ lives. I was not only at ballgames, I was at practice, I helped their teams anyway I could. I attended all the award ceremonies, helped with camping trips and took my sons fishing. I made time for my family. However, I did not encourage my oldest son enough. I look back now and I see how foolish I have been. Pay attention to little boys, they flex muscles, they wear superman capes, and dress like warriors, soldiers and heroes. James Dobson says boys have a “will to power and that is why they fight, climb, wrestle, strut and showoff.” As Micah participated, contributed or even excelled in sports, school, or whatever, I was always there but I always found something that was wrong. I am afraid maybe in my own insecurities I always found something that could be better because I wanted to be the alpha male in the Stewart house. Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” “Exasperate” gives the idea of stirring up your children to anger. If someone feels nothing they do is good enough they will lose heart. I have been a hands on dad but I failed in this area because I did not encourage enough.

I MADE UNIMPORTANT THINGS IMPORTANT

I don’t want to give the impression that I am a tyrant. My home has been peaceful through 25 years of marriage and 19 years with children in the house. We all have thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. We have countless memories of playing games, cooking and eating, traveling, and just sitting outside with one another and laughing like hounds. However, I was a strong disciplinarian. I do not apologize. Now that my son is moving out some things I thought were important really were not. Does it really matter if the house gets cluttered? Those that know me know I am kind of OCD. I want things to be in their place. I can tolerate a few things out of place but not for long. I remember Micah looking at me in confusion as I gathered up the scattered toys into a pile in the living room and declared my intention to crush them all if they were not put up immediately. As a five year old he gave me a look like, “This fool is crazy.” Through the years I have made neatness a hill worth dying on. He is moving out soon and I can tell you it was not worth it. He did not have to volunteer for everything. As a pastor I constantly ask for volunteer help. It is a requirement to be a pastor. I expected my boys to volunteer. They have picked up garbage, limbs, folded bulletins, washed church buses, washed cars, helped serve meals, helped in vacation Bible school, helped with the homeless, gone to nursing homes and hospitals. A few times Micah did not want to help with church or school functions. My goodness you should have heard the sermons I gave to him about how good God and the church has been to us and you are not going to volunteer to escort senior adults at the nursing home just because it is prom night? What kind of person are you? It didn’t take him long to learn to let my shame roll off his back. Through the years I made volunteering for good causes so important I felt my boys needed to volunteer every time. He is a man now and will soon be gone and I can assure it was not that important. Wanting to be the dominant male, I made demonstrations of respect too important. My sons have always been respectful to every adult they come in contact with. Cheryl and I have had complete strangers stop us and tell us how refreshing it is to hear respectful kids. They are respectful. However, I demanded respect be demonstrated to me always. When I am talking I always demand they look at me and not a phone or cpu. I took it as an offense against humanity and wrath usually fell if they turned away while I was speaking. When asked to do something if it was not done instantly I felt they were being disrespectful and corrected them sternly. Micah is moving out and I can assure you today it really doesn’t matter if he looked at his phone while we were talking.

A thousand words are about all my readers are going to put up with from me so let me summarize this blog by just reminding you all that the baby you have on your lap today will be on your heart tomorrow. Make every second with your kids count because you will never get that second again. Oh yeah, I don’t know a thing about flim flam or bim bam but as long as Ole Miss is paying for his school, “HOTTY TODDY.”

TRAGEDY IN MISSISSIPPI

casketThe subject I am delving into day is one that contains several hot-buttons. I am sure to push several people’s buttons with this blog.

In the last two weeks Mississippi has had two small children die due to being left in hot cars. Shania Cardine, 8 months old succumbed to heat exhaustion last week in Grenada, MS when her father, Joshua Blunt, left her in a car while at his place of employment. Joshua says he forgot Shania was in the car. Two weeks ago Caroline Bryant, 2 years of age, died from the results of being left in a hot car by her mother, Amy Bryant. Amy thought she had dropped her daughter off at daycare before she went to work. Here is a news report of Joshua Blunt and Shania. Here is a news report on Amy Bryant and Caroline. I want to share a few of my thoughts on these tragedies.

ANYONE CAN LEAVE A CHILD IN A CAR.

In the days following the first tragedy I read many people on social media lampoon parents who would leave a child in a hot car by accident. I understand such a mistake will leave one scratching their head. However, there are on average 37 deaths a year due to leaving a child in a hot car. That is about one every 9.5 days. This is a common occurrence.

When I was a pastor at Corinth Baptist in Magee, MS, I went to play golf in my hometown about 60 or so miles away. I made that trip to my hometown golf course several times each month. On this particular day I carried my son, Micah, who was less than a year old to drop off at my mother’s house so she could visit with her grandson. I strapped Micah into the car seat and began my hour-long trip. He dozed off immediately. When I reached highway 589 I began to turn left to go to the golf course when Micah moaned. He had been asleep for an hour and I hadn’t checked on him in several minutes. Terror gripped my soul as I thought about what could have happened if Micah hadn’t moaned. Would I have forgotten him while I played golf? Would I have seen him when I got out of the truck? I shudder to think about what might have happened. It was the middle of the Summer in South Mississippi; he would have perished quickly. People, it happens, it can happen to anyone.

I read a great tip last year, one mother takes her shoe off and puts beside her baby’s car seat every morning when they load up. This way she will always have a reminder her most precious cargo is riding in the back.

BOTH OF THESE FAMILIES NEED PRAYER.

Let’s be real for a moment, every one of us who are honest live with some level of guilt. We have all said an unkind word, done something that does not honor Christ or failed to do things we should have. Did you show enough love to your parents before they died?  In spite of all I just said, I doubt any of us feel the guilt these parents must be feeling. Their grief is filled with responsibility. Can you imagine the strain on marriages and relationships?

Psalm 103:13-14 says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Our Heavenly Father can provide what these wounded souls need if they will call on Him. Pray for them. Pray for them. Pray for them.

IF ONE IS PROSECUTED THEN BOTH SHOULD BE PROSECUTED.

As I write this Joshua Blunt is being charged with a crime while Amy Bryant is not being charged. To complicate this matter more I live in Mississippi and Blunt is black and Bryant in white. I live between the two communities of Grenada and Madison. Grenada has a larger black racial composition than Madison. I despise how the race card is always pulled out in any situation, especially concerning the South. The South of today is not the one of yesteryear and deserves to be applauded for gains that have been made in race relations. However, I have a hard time seeing a difference in these two cases, unless there is more to the cases than we are hearing. Blunt’s attorney, Carlos Moore, said the only reason Joshua Blunt is being prosecuted is because he is black. I am trying to work through my thoughts on prosecuting such cases. Is Amy Bryant being treated differently because she is white? Is Amy Bryant getting special consideration because she is a woman? I cannot convince myself that both should be prosecuted. I am certain that if a white woman and a black man do the same thing it makes no sense for one to be prosecuted and the other not be charged. Mississippi is a great place to live and raise children. I challenge everyone to mourn with Joshua Blunt and Amy Bryant who are both created in the image of God and both are brokenhearted. We should come together to honor Shania and Caroline, not divide into sides.

Bathrooms, Bills and Boycotts

no hate in my stateRecently my home state of Mississippi and the state of North Carolina caused a stir when they passed laws that are believed by some to be anti-LBGT. The Mississippi law, HB1523, known as the Religious Liberty Accommodation Act is the one I am most familiar with. If you read the headlines from around the world you would believe this law is hateful. The liberal website slate.com called it a bill that would result in segregation of LBGT. Another article read, “Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Signs Anti-LBGT Bill Into Law.” So there you have it, Mississippi wants to segregate the LBGT and our state is anti-LBGT. Many on the left have reminded everyone how Mississippi had Jim Crow laws and abused black people in the days of Civil Rights Movement. Here is a tip, if you go back 50+ years to find events and equate that with today’s South you are not to be taken seriously. Equating this law with Jim Crow is just plain nonsense. The bill that was signed into law will do none of the things that have been said. It protects churches and business owners from violating their religious beliefs by allowing them to refuse to be a part of a same-sex marriage ceremony.

The simple truth is the first chapter of Christians’ sacred writing, the Bible, clearly states in verses 27, 28, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them and God said be fruitful and multiply…” If this was the only chapter in the Bible we have enough standard to believe same-sex marriage is against Biblical teaching. However, the New Testament is teeming with verses that describe the relationship of the church and Christ as bride/Bridegroom. To me, the pinnacle of such imagery is found in Ephesians 5 when Paul gives instructions for the husband and the bride. He says in verses 29-32,
“29  For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church,
30  since we are members of His body.
31  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
32  This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. “

The imagery of Christ being the Bridegroom and the church being the bride is a huge, sacred part of our teaching. It makes sense a state would not force a private business owner to violate this sacred belief. What this law does not do is allow you to say, “I won’t serve queer.” There is nothing sacred about donuts, apple strudels, or cupcakes. The LGBT can buy these all day. No business owner should be able to deny service simply because they don’t like “that kind.”  A business owner should not have to violate his convictions about marriage. Should a bakery be required to bake a bachelor’s party cake even if such shenanigans are against their religious beliefs? What about Halloween? Should a bakery be required to bake Halloween goodies if as a Christian they do not want to? OF COURSE THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE TO.

North Carolina’s new law oversimplified demands a person use the corresponding bathroom based on the sex they were at birth. The hot-button term is “self identify.” A person born female can self identify as a male. I will remove the person who has had gender reassignment surgery from this conversation and deal with people who have the same anatomy they were born with. The debate on self identifying is really a debate on what is truth. I am 48 years old but most days because of arthritis in my back and hips I feel like I am 65. Can I self identify as a senior adult and start drawing social security? What about the 30-year-old man who self identifies as a 16-year-old and has sex with a teenage girl? We live in a time when truth changes like the minutes on the clock. It is frightening to consider what many, if not most, Americans are now willing to say is no longer true. Marriage is a sacred union between a man and woman – not anymore. A man should not use a ladies’ restroom or shower facilities – not anymore.  As believers in Christ we believe the absolute truth of God’s Word and ways never change. Part of that truth is we must engage people in a way that shows love, respect and compassion without compromising. This is becoming more challenging in the days we live in for people are wanting to fight us because of our beliefs. Several celebrities have boycotted these two states. Mississippi will have to struggle to live without Brian Adams and North Carolina will have to be brave in the face of the news Bruce Springsteen will not be coming. In the days ahead probably both of these laws will be repealed or overturned. If that happens Christians should not view these as losses because

ANOTHER PART OF THAT TRUTH IS GOD ALWAYS WINS.

Can Christians Think For Themselves?

starbucks-cupsjpg-64ad43b291e9a692We Christians now have another war to wage. We have boycotted Levi’s and Lee jean companies. We have boycotted Walt Disney. We have boycotted Target. We have been told not to shop at Home Depot. There has been a call to boycott Apple. To be honest, we have boycotted so many things it’s easy to lose track why the boycott was called and what products are now off-limits.  This latest war is against Starbucks. If you read much at all you are probably familiar with this dust-up. Starbucks has started using their holiday cups to serve their coffee. This year they are using a plain, red cup with their familiar green logo. It seems this is offensive to some Christians because in the past they put Merry Christmas or snowflakes or snow men on their cups.  Joshua Feuerstein somehow has become an internet celebrity with quite a following. He may be the point man in this latest battle. Here is his video:

 I have a few takes about Joshua’s video.
1) He admits to lying. He says, “My name is Merry Christmas.” He then brags, “I tricked you.” I Peter 2:1 says we are to lay aside “guile.” This word means to deceive or mislead someone. It draws the image of baiting a trap to catch someone.
2) He admits to wearing a shirt for the purpose of being offensive to Starbucks. He is offended by the red cup and wants to offend Starbucks in return. Jesus was clear in Matthew 5:44 we are to love our enemies. If a Christian considers Starbucks their enemy then they should love and pray for Starbucks.
3) He says it is against Starbucks’ policy for its employees to say “Merry Christmas.” I made a call today to the company headquarters and spoke to a lady named Alice. She spoke to her superiors and I was given a clear and concise answer that is not their policy and they have nothing close to this as a policy. Either Joshua or Starbucks is not telling the truth. If it is necessary to level an accusation, as believers, we certainly need to make sure it is the truth.
4) Does a grown man really want to wear his hat backwards?
Finally, let me say, you certainly don’t need my blessing to be offended. If you are offended by this red cup then don’t go to Starbucks. However, from my perspective, many believers are offended because they were told to be offended. The cafe’ I eat at the most has plain, white, Styrofoam cups. Maybe I should organize a boycott against Linda’s Downtown Cafe’. Believers need to understand that around the world Christians are losing their lives, their families and their homes because of their faith. Please, please, please stop acting like we are in a war because someone serves us our Latte in a plain, red cup.

CHRISTIAN, TAKE AMERICA FORWARD NOT BACK.

American Jail Cell
American Jail Cell

In this blog I will share my thoughts on what the Bible says about how Christians should respond in the face of persecution. Christians are being persecuted around the world. Most believe Christians will eventually face some form of persecution in America. How should we respond?

I spend a great deal of time interacting with Christian leaders. Some of these are leaders of local churches. Some of these are leaders on a larger scale. If a handful of believers get together, regardless of position, the conversation will soon turn to the state of our nation. The general consensus is America is headed in a downward spiral spiritually. I usually sit silently with thoughts I dare not verbalize, such as, was our nation better off spiritually when we stole land from natives, practiced legalized slavery and institutional racism? I am quite certain from studying God’s Word the only nation truly set aside as God’s people was Israel and it is worth pointing out they were failures spiritually. The conversation among my brothers usually moves to the topic of what is in store for believers. Again, the consensus is believers will soon face persecution in America. REST ASSURED THE BELIEVER WILL SUFFER PERSECUTION, GOD’S WORD SAYS IT IS SO. However, these conversations usually move to the topic of how should believers respond. These thoughts run the gamut. Some are full-blown pacifist while others have an arsenal of weapons stockpiled and seem to welcome conflict. I hear talk among believers of an uprising and taking America back. I want to share a couple of thoughts about the Christian response to persecution.

 

I am comfortable making a distinction. 

I feel there needs to be a distinction between persecution of Christians versus the actions of a madman. Around the world Christians are being beheaded, starved, imprisoned and drowned for their faith. Some nations have laws that call for the death of believers if they evangelize. This is persecution of Christianity.

In America today we have witnessed many madmen go on rampages killing and injuring innocent bystanders. One has a machete, another has a pistol, one has a rifle. They kill in stores, movie theaters, churches and school campuses. I do not view this as Christian persecution.

In the latter case, I am comfortable, as a believer, practicing self-defense. In Acts 13, on Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey they encountered a sorcerer who opposed their work. Paul spoke up declaring the man would be struck blind for a season. He was blinded. In Exodus 22:2, 3 the teaching is if a thief breaks in your house at night the child of God is allowed to defend his home and family even to the killing of the intruder. As a believer, I am comfortable defending myself, family and property from an individual madman. I recommend each church have a plan to respond if a dangerous individual intrudes a service for the purpose of injury or death or even disruption.

A believer is instructed on how to respond to persecution. 

Examine a few verses with from the Holy Bible.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Romans 12:17 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.”

1 Peter 2:20, “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.”

Remember my distinction. Persecution is facing opposition because one is a believer. The New Testament believers and writers faced persecution because they were Christians. Christianity was being opposed. When the writers speak of enemies they are speaking of enemies of our Lord.

Based on the totality of Scripture if the U.S. government comes for the believers of VBC we will be more Biblical if we surrender peacefully rather than take up arms to offer a defense.

We will impact the world more through love and forgiveness than we will with guns and grenades.

I personally am not comfortable with the notion of believers declaring, “Let’s take America back.” Take America back to what – slavery, the sexual revolution, sanctioned racism, the drug experience?  I have a greater desire take America to where she has never been before than to any place she has been in the past. This may be accomplished if we love the enemies of the Cross. This will not be accomplished through violence and protests.

John Lennon’s America

John and Yoko
John and Yoko

Take your mind back to 1971 and remember what the times were like. There was a counter culture movement that was taking place across America and much of the world. To put it in the simplest terms, hippies did not want to walk instep with mainstream America. They marched to the beat of their own drums. The movement began on our college campuses and arose out of opposition to the Vietnam War. The hippies were marked by a unique look consisting of beards and long hair for the men and granny dresses, no-rimmed glasses and beads for the women. This movement was marked by a call for peace, “make love not war” was a common cry. Those who opposed the war in Vietnam and embraced this movement were known as flower children.

This counter culture movement influenced a great deal of the music in the 60’s and 70’s. I will make a confession to you that I enjoy the music from this era. I do listen to praise and worship most of the time. However, if you see me on my lawnmower cutting my grass and my head bobbing back and forth you can make the assumption it is 60’s and 70’s rock-n-roll I am listening to in my earphones. My youth was marked by a devotion to Jefferson Airplane, The Allman Brothers, America and similar groups. The most influential group during this time was the Beetles, in particular, John Lennon. I was never a huge Beetles fan though I know most of their music by heart.

In 1971 John Lennon released the perfect anthem for the counter culture movement, “Imagine.” Read the lyrics to this short song.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

John Lennon’s song stands in direct opposition to God’s Word. The opening line of the song imagines no heaven. Genesis 14:19 describes God as the Creator of heaven and earth. Revelation 21:1 describes a new heaven and a new earth where God dwells with men. The opening and closing pages of the Bible describe God as creating heaven and dwelling there. John Lennon imagines undoing what God has done.

He continues in the opening lines to imagine no hell below us. In Matthew 5:30 Jesus claims it is better for a person to lose their body parts than to enter into hell with your whole body. Colossians 1:16 says of Jesus, “By Him were all things created.” Lennon attacks the concept of hell which was created by our Lord Jesus.

He continues dreaming that all the people are living for today. Matthew 6:20 shares the words of Jesus, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Lennon said live for today; Jesus said live with eternity in mind by storing up treasures in heaven.

In the next stanza of the song Lennon dreams of no countries, nothing to kill or die for. Romans 13 teaches the governments of nations are instruments of God. God has established the concept of nations and governments. Nothing to kill or die for? John 15:13 records Jesus saying, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ecclesiastes 3 teaches there is a time to kill and a time for war. Lennon’s dream of nothing to kill or die for are opposed by Jesus and the Bible.

Lennon calls for no religion and no personal possessions. In his imagination this would mean no one would be hungry and no one would be greedy. This song was written at the height of the Cold War. It is clear that Lennon embraced Communism in its purist form. He dreams of a godless society, where there is no national boundaries to defend and everyone has only what they need, nothing more. This is the song that became the anthem in many ways to the counter culture supporters in the early 70’s.

While having contempt for the song because it attacks Christians’ core beliefs, what is heartbreaking is this song in many ways has been prophetic concerning America. Our nation’s laws, decrees and decisions are now made with no consideration of God. Our nation has embraced the notion of redistributing wealth. The working class in many ways is being impacted by those who don’t work but live from the American coffer. Our nation is losing its sovereignty. Our borders and citizenship laws are not kept or respected. Our citizens have enough sense to know we must have stock laws with required fences to keep what is mine from becoming yours and vice versa. Our national leaders seem to lack this common sense. We live in a time where our nation in many ways has embraced Lennon’s song, we have no God, we have no boundaries, we share our possessions and everyone is living for today.

John Lennon’s imagination may be playing out before our very eyes BUT rest assured there is a heaven above and a hell below and one God. No song or people can undo these truths. I promise you, right now John Lennon knows there is a God and a place where people spend eternity – either heaven or hell.

And The Band Played On

brandon bandThe small town of Brandon, MS has gained quite an amount of attention over the last week. The attention stems from the Brandon High School band’s plans to play the Christian classic, “How Great Thou Art.” The local school board ordered the band off the field, forbidding them to perform at halftime of the opening football game of the season. The reason the school board reached such a decision is because a student, Magdalene Bedi, sued the school district in 2013, claiming her first amendment rights had been violated by sermons, prayers and religious activities conducted at the school. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves found in favor of Bedi and fined the school $7,500. He subsequently declared a $10,000 fine for any future violations. With the school playing up to 13 football games the school board did not chance such an enormous fine and ordered the band off the field. The rest of the story, as I read it, is a lone voice in the bleachers began singing the lyrics of “How Great Thou Art.” Soon the stadium was full of voices in unison singing the classic hymn. What would have been simply an instrumental performance by the band was now a Bill Gather sing along. Satan tried to give God a black eye and got knocked out. I suspect over the next few weeks there will be a movement of God among the students of Brandon. We need to remember what some intend for evil God uses for good. This is what Joseph told his brother in Genesis 50:20. I thank God for the display of the citizens of Brandon. They did not break the law. They submitted to authority and they glorified Jesus. God will honor such a demonstration.

My final thought on this matter is are we really going to ban classic Christian anthems from school music programs? I have always thought school music classes and programs were a way of celebrating our culture. America doesn’t have much culture because our nation is so young compared to the rest of the world. As a child, in music, we sang “Home on the Range,” “America the Beautiful,” “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Red River Valley,” and added to those we sang “Amazing Grace.” Christianity is a real part of our culture. Bands perform Motown and Punk Rock songs at halftime. I suspect somewhere a band will perform John Lennon’s song, “Imagine” that romanticizes about a Godless, communist society. All of these, while not necessarily my cup of tea, are acceptable to reasonable people because these genres are part of the American history.  The liberal revisionists want to rewrite history where Christianity is not a major portion of our cultural history. Well, after last Friday night Christianity might still be more a part of our culture than we imagined.

THERE IS NO ONE LIKE GOD.

the holy bibleI hear a lot of people describe their notion of who God is or what God is like. In Exodus 20:4 one of the Ten Commandments says that Israel was not to make any graven images to worship. I have not read of many people worshiping  graven images in America today. However, I do believe many are guilty of creating their own concept of God that is different from what the Bible teaches. Worshiping a false god is sinful whether it is made of gold or is a figment of your imagination. In this blog I want to share with you the seven natural attributes of God. Now it is important to understand that natural attributes describe God’s existence and not His character. I may write a second blog dealing with God’s moral attributes which teach us of His character. Here are some of God’s natural attributes.

SELF EXISTENCE.

The Bible offers no proof of God’s existence. It has been said a God who can be proven is no God at all. Genesis opens with the words, “In the beginning God…” God is self-existent. His existence is independent of everything else in the universe. Our existence depends on several things. God’s does not. Our planet’s existence is dependent upon several things such as the existence of the sun. God’s name, Jehovah, gives the idea of “the existing one” or “the self existing one.” I am glad our God is not dependent upon anything or anyone to remain or exist.

IMMUTABILITY.

The immutability of God is extremely important. This means God does not change. He is the unchanging God. This is important because God’s existence is necessary for everything else to exist and function properly. If God were to undergo change or cease to exist the universe we live in would come apart. Psalm 102:27 gives us the assurance God does not change, “But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.”

OMNIPRESENCE.

The omnipresence of God means God is present in all space and time. It is wonderful to know everyone around the world, in each hemisphere, at every moment of the day, is in the presence of God. God is present in hell as those who reject Christ are punished. This judgment is surely a sign of His presence. God is present in heaven where saints bask in His glory and love. Read Psalm 139:7-10, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10  even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. I choose to explain God’s omnipresence as “everything takes place in God’s presence.”

IMMENSITY.

God’s immensity means He is not confined to space and its laws. This is complicated so I am offering a short, concise thought. Countless books have been written about the immensity of God so this sentence or two will not do the thought justice. An object is confined to space. If an object is in a space it cannot be in another at the same time. We measure the greatness of an object by how much space they occupy. For instance, which is greater the Superdome or Cowboy Stadium? We determine that by the space they occupy. Here is the thing about God, He made the universe and all the space in it. Before there was space there was God. The rules of space do not apply to God. We speak of God being somewhere but God can’t be located on a map with a set of coordinates. Acts 17:24 says, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” Omnipresence and immensity work hand-in-hand. There is no place you can say God is for the rules of space do not apply to Him but there is no place God can’t be found, everywhere is in His presence.

ETERNAL

Our God is eternal. This means God has no beginning and end and time is not happening for God. He does not live moment by moment. He has already experienced all of eternity past and eternity future and lives only in the present. It is a blessing to consider God is not growing older. He is the eternal God. Psalm 109:2 reads, “Before, the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God. 

OMNISCIENCE.

The omniscience of God simply means God knows everything. I John 3:20 reads, “For if our heart condemn  us, God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things.” God does not have to wait on x-ray and scan results. He knows all things. God does not have to wonder if your heart is breaking, He knows all things. Because He knows all things He knows all things we need.

OMNIPOTENCE.

God’s omnipotence means God is all-powerful. Every now and then a preacher or theologian will speak of “the conflict of the ages” when describing Satan’s struggle against God. The truth is there is no struggle at all for God. He is all-powerful.  Genesis 17:1 records God speaking to Abram when He says, “I am the Almighty God.” God is almighty.” This is why with God all things are possible.

The next time you hear someone speaking of the “man upstairs” or some other slang, irreverent expression for God please remember His attributes and commit to worshiping Him accordingly.