Looking for Loopholes

He was born William Claude Dukenfield, but his stage name was W. C. Fields. In the 1930’s and 40’s he parlayed his Vaudeville experience into a film career. As a comedic actor he was renowned for his salacious levity. Though he was an inveterate drunk and adamant atheist, surprisingly, he enjoyed studying theology. Shocked, a friend once asked him if that was a Bible he was reading. Holding little sacred and always looking for a laugh Fields replied, “Yes, I was looking for loopholes.”

I fear there are many people who read their Bible in the same way; they are looking for loopholes. They claim to be Christians and want people to think they are the salt of the earth, but they say some of the most ridiculous things as if they know what they are talking about.

This is something I have heard ad nauseum over the years, “You do not need to go to church to be a Christian.” That statement is nonsense on so many different levels. If being a Christian means to live as Christ lived, then they need to read their Bibles, Jesus did. He read and knew the Scriptures so to be like Him would require one to do the same.

Back to going to church, we read, “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read,” Luke 4:16. The Son of God was in His place of worship on His day of worship, and to be like Him we should be in our place of worship on our day of worship.

Christ did not “need” to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath but He did: it was His custom, his practice. He came to this earth to serve (Mark 10:45) so He went to the synagogue to do that very thing. Scattered throughout the Gospels one cannot deny Jesus was in the synagogues regularly and many of his miracles of healing occurred there.

I know there are people in church for the wrong reasons; Jesus called them hypocrites. You see He had them in His day, and he did not let them stand between Him and doing what was right.

Many say they hate organized religion, but I know something they would hate even worse, disorganized religion. Jesus had the same problem way back then, the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to kill Him, and eventually succeeded, because He upset the status quo of their organized religion.

Jesus Christ instituted the Church so that we as believers could work together to make disciples of all nations. None of us can do it alone, we will always be “better together” than we would ever be as a “lone stone.” If you are a Christian your brothers and sisters need your help; quit looking for loopholes.

What is a journalist?

It was a stunning victory. Despite the bias of the liberal press, the lack of support from his party’s big hitters, and Hillary Clinton’s professional, well-oiled campaign machine, Donald Trump emerged the winner on Election Day. I do not know about anyone else, but I was surprised.

Polls revealed that approximately eighty percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, and in the post-election they made no effort to hide their joyous celebrations. I think they were just as surprised as me.

In contradistinction, Clinton’s supporters have done nothing to hide their disappointment over her loss, whining and protesting the outcome of our democratic process. I think they were just as surprised as me also.

In the wake of the election many question how Christians could so strongly support a man so lacking in Christian character and who is unapologetically immoral. A recent article in the Washington Post, titled “What is a Christian,” highlights this kind of thinking and shines a spotlight on the bias of a liberal press.

I think it is unwise to try and judge an electorate’s Christianity based on the outcome of a political contest, but that did not stop the Washington Post. People, believers and unbelievers, cast their ballots based on a host of reasons that have nothing to do with faith. Donald Trump was not elected on the white evangelical vote alone.

More importantly, and though the percentage was smaller, why didn’t the Washington Post question the Christianity of those who voted for Clinton? She defends Planned Parenthood’s harvesting, and selling to the highest bidder, body parts of aborted babies, supports abortion on demand, and sanctions same-sex marriages just as immoral as Donald Trump’s adulterous affairs.

The truth is neither political party gave us a clear moral choice. But the bigger question here is, why many in the media, like the Washington Post, question the Christianity of Trump’s supporters, but not the Christianity of Clinton’s supporters? The only explanation is the unmitigated bias that exists in liberal journalism.

I thought it was a mater of journalistic ethics to be fair and objective when reporting the news, but we are increasingly subjected to more opinion and commentary than we are information. One exit poll said fifty-three percent of white women voted for Trump, but no one is asking, “What is a white woman?” One thing the Washington Post can count on is genuine Christianity will not be defined by the bias of a liberal press.

In his Sermon on the Mount, specifically Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus decries hypocritical judgment. One of the dangers of hypocritical judgments are the tables can be turned on you. Jesus said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged,” Matthew 7:1-2.

So here is my question, why is the Washington Post asking its readers, “What is a Christian?” when they should be asking themselves, “What is a journalist?”

Discrimination is a two way street

Barronelle Stutzman is a florist in Richland, Washington. When a gay couple, which she had sold flowers to before, asked her to do the floral arrangement to commemorate their same-sex marriage, she refused because it violated her Christian beliefs.

The couple complained and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing Stutzman under the state’s consumer protection and anti-discrimination laws. The problem with anti-discrimination laws is they ultimately discriminate against someone, and in this case it is Stutzman and her Christian beliefs.

There are similar cases around the country, bakers refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage, photographers refusing to take pictures to commemorate a same-sex wedding, and more. In every case I have read, those being sued have served same-sex couples until they were requested to participate in something that violated their Christian conscience.

The very definition of discrimination is “to note or observe a difference; distinguish accurately.” I think every one would agree it is a good thing to discriminate between right and wrong. It was true in Washington State until what Stutzman thought was wrong, this couple thought was right.

Government is responsible to provide its services and benefits without discrimination to every tax-paying citizen. But whether one wants to admit it or not the purpose of the First Amendment was to allow every person the right to discriminate in what they believe, what they say, and whom they associate with. The right to do something is very different from the right to force another in helping you do it.

While Obergefell v. Hodges gave same-sex couples the right to marry, it did not create an obligation on the part of another to help them secure that right. I have the constitutional right to own a firearm, but that does not create an obligation on another citizen to buy me one or supply the ammunition.

Any legislature that enacts anti-discrimination laws like those of Washington State that enslave one class of citizens to do the bidding of another class of citizens is on a collision course with the Constitution. Of course, it is not what the Constitution says that counts, it’s what those, now eight black-robed justices say it says that counts.

Christians are not asking the LGBT community to bake us a cake, bring us flowers, or commemorate our traditional marriages with colored photos. The LGBT community has won the right to do as they please, and we simply want the right to do, as we believe. Genuine Christians bear no hatred for the LGBT community, but neither can we condone what the Bible condemns.

Government would do well to leave the freedoms that have served us so well for over two hundred years in place, and leave its citizen’s free to work out their differences peaceably or to disagree. Government should heed what God through Moses told Pharaoh, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me,” Exodus 8:1, and not discriminate against believers with supposedly anti-discrimination laws.

It’s a boy

I do not think it too far a stretch to liken this past campaign year to a difficult pregnancy. As the end nears one is weary with the burden, and longs for the birth whatever attends it so long as it is over.

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, America’s due date arrived and our nation went into electoral labor. I went to sleep that night not knowing if it would be a boy or a girl. During the night and before I awoke, our democratic process gave birth to a new President, and it’s a boy.

Donald Trump promised to make “America great again” and Hillary Clinton declared “America is great, because America is good.” Hillary’s words are a quote from a bit of prosaic verse titled “America’s Greatness” often attributed to the late French statesman and political observer Alexis de Tocqueville.

Tocqueville’s authorship has been called into question, but there are two points I think are important; somebody wrote it and it is a well-worded observation. Here is the quote in its entirety.

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and her boundless forests, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her public school system and her institutions of higher learning, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her democratic congress and her matchless constitution, and it was not there.

Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.

America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

The writer is correct when he surmised America’s goodness and subsequent greatness are directly attributable to the righteous influence of her churches. I do not think America is as great as it has been because America is not as good as it has been, and I do not think Donald Trump can make America great again, at least not alone.

If America ever hopes to be great again its churches must resurrect godly goodness through the righteous example of their words and deeds. The petty bickering, name-calling, and bitter rhetoric that has attended this political season among those who Christ commanded to “love one another” must cease.

If we have wronged another we must repent. If we have been wronged we must forgive. We must look to our Father for healing in the church, so we can help heal our land.

“I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men…who are in authority,” 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

Hacksaw Ridge and The Conscientious Objector

He was a Seventh Day Adventist, an ordinary man whose extraordinary faith and courage has left an indelible mark on the combat history of our nation. He never touched a gun or killed an enemy soldier, but the heroic exploits of Alvin York and Audie Murphy cannot compare to what he did. He was the first conscientious objector to win our nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor. His name is Desmond T. Doss.

Growing up in a Christian home Desmond was appalled to learn of the story of Cain and Abel. He could not understand why a man would kill his own brother. As a boy he vowed to never take another man’s life.

When the attack on Pearl Harbor ushered the United States into World War II, Doss thought it was his patriotic duty to enlist. That first night in the barracks he was taunted for praying while his fellow recruits threw their boots at him. When he refused to train on the Sabbath or touch a firearm, he was ridiculed. Doss vowed while others would take lives he would be by their side to save lives.

Despite the repeated humiliation heaped on him, he never took offense nor compromised his faith. When the 77th was deployed to the Pacific Theatre, in one engagement after another, this man his fellow soldiers called a coward distinguished himself in providing lifesaving aid to those who fell in combat.

Eventually the 77th was sent to Okinawa to reinforce the American troops attempting to take the island. The Japanese had retreated to the Shuri escarpment, a plateau three hundred feet above the island. The last fifty feet was a vertical climb made possible only by the use of cargo nets. The Americans called it Hacksaw Ridge.

The Japanese were well entrenched. In nine successive assaults the Americans had reached the plateau only to be thrown back by withering fire. On April 29, 1945, A Company tried again. As the day closed, A Company was forced to retreat leaving seventy-five casualties behind.

During the next twelve hours, under cover of darkness, Doss climbed to the top, alone and under constant fire from enemy snipers, he rescued every single man by dragging each one to the edge of the escarpment and letting them down by a rope. Doss prayed, as he let each man down to safety, “Lord, let me get one more.”

Mel Gibson is bringing this remarkably true story of faith and courage to moviegoers this November 4th, titled “Hacksaw Ridge.” While I do not normally recommend faith-based films, having seen the trailer to the movie, I believe it will prove to be a “must see” for the Christian patriot.

Doss said of himself, “I was not a conscientious objector, I was a conscientious cooperator.” Doss exemplified the words of Christ, who said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:13.

Is the church alive?

Well over a hundred years ago the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche declared, “God is dead.” He suffered a mental collapse in January of 1989, and spent the remaining ten years of his life mentally ill dying on August 25, 1900. Philosophers have debated what Nietzsche meant when he said, “God is dead,” but no one is debating whether Nietzsche is dead.

The cover story of the April 8, 1966, edition of Time magazine asked, “Is God dead?” The cover provoked popular criticism drawing attention away from the actual content of the article. The article addressed the theological problem of making God relevant in an increasingly secular and scientific society.

Of course, Time magazine was merely following Nietzsche’s lead, and the Church would have done well to contemplate why the question was being asked?

The Church of England recently relaxed its requirement that the faithful attend weekly services. Poor attendance, a symptom of disinterest, was blamed. The waning of Christian influence in Great Britain is currently highlighted here in the policies and character of our two candidates for the Presidency and the lessening of evangelical influence not only in the electoral process but also in our culture.

The question is not, is God dead, but is the church alive to God?

Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me,” Matthew 15:7-8.

Biblical faith has always been intended to restore and foster a relationship with our Father. Our first parents forfeited their relationship with God when they decided to disobey. We inherited the inclination to sin from them, and in doing as they did, we surrender our hope of a relationship with the Father.

Jesus came to satisfy our sin debt so that we could be restored to right standing and a relationship with Father God. By repenting of our sins and turning in faith to Christ for forgiveness that relationship is restored. But when Christianity devolves into meaningless routine and religious practice it sucks the life out of the relationship.

In Isaiah’s day the people of God had lapsed into idolatry and the true worship of God was just traditional formality; their heart was far from God. Praise was mere lipservice and rituals were empty routine. In Jesus’ day idolatry was supplanted by self-righteousness, much like today.

The church is no longer hallowed by this generation, but seen as hollow, empty of life. I believe there are people in America who hunger for a real relationship with the Father, and they will only find it in those who are alive to God.

John wrote of Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men,” John 1:4. That is the life we have to share with others, and we cannot wait for them to stumble into our world, we need to step into theirs.

Perry Noble’s Return

There is a well-known saying circulated among believers about the nature of sin. “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, it will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you more than you want to pay.”

I thought about those words as I read an interview with Perry Noble who resigned his pastorate of the church that he founded sixteen years ago, NewSpring Church in South Carolina, because of a drinking problem. Perry speaks openly about how his growing dependence on alcohol to help cope with the pressures of pastoring cost him that very pastorate, and strained his relationship with his family. His counselor advised him to share some “extremely unwise decisions” he had made.

“I chose isolation over community,” Perry said. Shame and the fear of discovery caused him to withdraw within himself and from the life of the church, the very people whose help he so desperately needed. “I was a hypocrite” he said, “I preached, ‘you can’t do life alone’ and then went out and lived the opposite.”

The most hurtful decision Perry said was “choosing alcohol over his wife…and daughter.” Retreating into himself he deprived them of a needed husband and father. This almost cost him his family.

Another bad decision was not asking for help. Perry admitted, “I chose to remain silent.” Of course this goes hand-in-hand with isolation; whom can you speak with if you withdraw from their company?

I have already addressed whether drinking alcohol is a sin back when the news of Perry’s resignation became known and will not readdress it here. But drinking had become a sin for Perry when it became a substitute for his dependence on God. He knows “I’ve been forgiven for the sin, but I must now deal with the consequences.”

This is the heartbreak of sin, the consequences. A pastorate lost, a family almost destroyed, and a tarnished testimony seen by all. I think Perry would admit sin took him father than he wanted to go, made him stay longer than he wanted to stay, and cost him more than he wanted to pay.

Perry’s story is painful to write about. He had critics in the church and enemies without, but this is not the time for those who were jealous of him for building a home Bible study into a megachurch to gloat, or for his critics to kick him while he is down.

Paul enjoins us when he writes, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted,” Galatians 6:1.

I think Perry has learned his lesson and been forgiven, and I pray his return to the Gospel ministry will be attended by even greater success than before.