Gifted Hands

     Ben was born on September 18, 1951, in Detroit, Michigan.  When he was eight years old his parents divorced.  His mother only had a third grade education, but worked hard at several menial jobs to provide for Ben and his brother Curtis.  A poor student, Ben was mocked by his classmates and he began to respond violently.  Poor and troubled, Ben’s life was in a downward spiral.    
     Concerned her sons were not doing well academically, Ben’s mother Sonya restricted their TV time requiring them to do their homework first.  She made the boys get library cards and read two books a week and submit a book report to her on what they read.  Within the year Ben’s scholastic progress amazed his teachers and fellow students.  When he won an achievement award, a white teacher ridiculed the white students for allowing a black student to best them academically.    
     Though he was improving in school, he still had a violent temper.  Once he threatened his mother with a hammer and in another incident seriously injured a classmate by bashing his head into a locker.  Then in an argument with a friend over which radio station to listen to, he tried to stab him with a knife.  The knife struck his friend’s belt buckle and broke.  Fearing he had hurt his friend he ran home and locked himself in the bathroom with a Bible.  He asked God to help him control his anger and read Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”    
     Ben graduated from Yale in 1973, and then attended the School of Medicine at the University of Michigan.  He became a resident at John Hopkins University in 1977.  Specializing in neurosurgery he made medical history when he successfully separated the craniopagus Binder twins in 1987.  It was the first time siamese twins conjoined at the head had been surgically parted and lived.    
     Today Benjamin Solomon Carson, Sr., has been the head of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins University’s Children Center for more than twenty-five years.  He continues to perform three hundred surgeries a year and is a board member of numerous educational institutions and businesses.  He is an internationally respected neurosurgeon and has earned recognition and awards that time and space prevent being shared here.  In 2008 President Bush awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States of America.    
     When Jim Wagner, President of Emory University, invited Carson to give the commencement address this past May 14, he said, “Few men or women have demonstrated to so inspiring a degree the transformational effect of liberal learning and the humanities.  Dr. Carson has transformed lives both inside the operating room and beyond.”  But four professors, one hundred sixty faculty members and a number of students protested Wagner’s choice of Carson.    
     Carson is a dedicated Christian and flatly rejects the theory of evolution.  He has said the fossil record does not “provide evidence for the evolution of humans from a common ancestor with other apes.”  Carson correctly surmises the theory of evolution is morally bankrupt, and also holds that “life is too complex to have originated by the natural process of evolution.”      
     His detractors claim “the theory of evolution is as strongly supported as the theory of gravity and the theory that infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms.”  Gravity and germs causing disease are not theories, they are observable facts.  Evolution is not even in the same ballpark, and to think it and say it is the best evidence, at least in respect to evolutionists, that they may share a simian ancestry.  Carson knows what sounds good in the classroom does not always work in the operating room.    
     The made for television movie Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story was my introduction to the life and achievements of Ben Carson.  My brother in Christ believes man is created in the image of God.  I have often said and I believe Ben would agree, that “man has an image to live up to, not a lineage to live down.”    
     One would think that out of respect for the sheer magnitude of his accomplishments and the height of his achievements, Ben Carson’s detractors could have tolerated his remarks and presence at Emory’s graduation ceremony and remained silent.  But wounded intellects seem to unerringly default to their pigheaded nature.  In the end the man whose “gifted hands” could separate the shared brains of conjoined twins could not separate the professors of evolution from their own prejudices.


We need a change within

The American Family Association (AFA) sponsors a website entitled  The AFA accuses the company of Home Depot of promoting the homosexual agenda by giving its “financial and corporate support.”  Recently, the Home Depot had its yearly meeting of shareholders.  Randy Sharp who is the director of special projects for the AFA reported a petition was presented to the chairman of Home Depot at that meeting.

Sharp said, “the American Family Association presented to the Home Depot chairman, the board of directors and the shareholders 254,000 signatures on a petition saying that they were boycotting the Home Depot until it became neutral in the culture war regarding homosexuality.”  Added to previous signatures this gives a total of almost three quarters of a million customers that are actively taking a stand against the retailer.  From what I can gather this did not illicit even a shrug from the management of Home Depot.

In the past I have participated in boycotts and walked picket lines for the “cause of Christ.”  I don’t do that anymore.  Here’s why.

I question the effectiveness of such practices.  I question whether or not the AFA boycott has seriously affected the profit margin of Home Depot.  It is easy to sign a petition, for whatever reason, to boycott a business; it is a different matter to actually boycott it.  If Home Depot has been significantly impacted by this boycott I cannot tell it, and evidently, neither can they.

I question the motive behind such practices.  I do not believe the Church of Jesus Christ should force acceptance of its beliefs and practices by financially bullying a company into submission.  What about the Christian employees who are trying to be a witness on the job, and could be adversely affected by the boycott?  If you are going to bully them into being neutral, why not bully them into supporting the Christian agenda?  Is that what Jesus would do?

I question the singling out of Home Depot.  Given our nation’s increasing materialism and its bent toward consumerism, there probably exists within corporate America a plethora of practices that are not Christian.  AFA may be advocating the boycott of other companies, but how is one to pick and choose who to boycott?  Why should Home Depot be singled out?

I question the goal of such practices.  Has God called Christians to lobby the boardrooms of America, or have we been called to “make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19)?”  I do not believe the Church will change our world by employing the practices of the world.  We will only change people by obeying our scriptural mandate.  Boycotting and picketing are inadequate substitutes for witnessing and praying.

I remember an issue that arose years ago in my hometown, Jacksonville, Florida.  Churches were in an uproar over liquor stores and bars opening and operating too close.  They were concerned about the presence and influence of these businesses on the churches.  I thought at that time this was a reversal of the climate in the book of Acts.

There was a time when the disciples were accused of having “upset the world (Acts 17:6, NASB).”  In the King James Version this same passage reads the believers were charged with having “turned the world upside down.”  They did not do that by boycotting and picketing.  Later a silversmith named Demetrius, who earned his living sculpting statues of the Greek goddess Artemis, complained to his fellow tradesmen that they were in jeopardy of loss (Acts 19:23-27).  He said Paul was preaching “gods made with hands are no gods at all (Acts 19:26, NASB).”  What I thought was a good point made by Paul, Demetrius found offensive.

I look forward to the day when churches are not concerned about the presence and influence of society and businesses, but society and businesses are challenged by the presence and influence of the churches.  Boycotting will not clean things out, it will only cover things up.  Lives that are changed by the transforming power of the Gospel will change our culture, industry, and government.  We need a change within, not one from without.

Prayer and the Polls

Before last week he would hedge on the issue.  He had said his position was “evolving.”  But the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” regarding the handling of homosexual issues in the Armed Forces of the United States was overturned under his watch, and he ordered the Attorney General of the United States to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act.  So when President Obama said he approves of same-sex marriage earlier this week, it was merely an announcement of what his actions have already signaled.  It was not a surprise.

Some have ventured to say his statement was pressured by Vice President Joe Biden’s comments supporting legalization of same-sex marriages a few days before, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s outspoken agreement with Biden.  Whatever the impetus we can now say with certitude where the President stands on the issue and his evolution on the matter has come to an end.

Tony Perkins who is the president of the Family Research Council believes this announcement by President Obama defines the sharp difference of opinion between him and the presumptive Republican nominee for the Presidency, Mitt Romney.  Perkins said, “The President has provided a clear contrast between him and his challenger Mitt Romney.”  I disagree with Perkins; I don’t think the contrast is quite that clear.

Mitt Romney says we should “continue to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman” and then states “If two people of the same gender want to live together, want to have a loving relationship and even want to adopt children,…In my view that’s something which people have the right to do, but to call that marriage is…a departure for the real meaning of that word.”  Romney seems to be concerned about how marriage is defined, but not about its role in society in raising children.  Marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, but that is not how he defines parenting.

Tricia Erickson commented “This is a great example of how Mitt Romney is trying to be all things to all people.”  She added, “Romney saying he supports the right of same-sex couples to adopt in one sentence and then saying he feels marriage should be between a man and a woman in another shows he has no core convictions.”  Erickson is making a good point here.  It seems the only core conviction Romney has is to get elected.  Of course this is no different than Obama’s core conviction to get re-elected.

Marriage is more than a definition.  Before the institutions of government, education and finance were even conceived, God instituted marriage and the home.  The marriage and the home have proven to be the foundational, bedrock unit of every culture and society.  No human civilization has ever been predicated or prospered on homosexual relationships.  That is a historical, biological fact.  To the degree that any culture allows itself to be eroded by acceptance of homosexual practices, to that degree its very existence is compromised.

I do not see any clear Christian actions or convictions in Obama or Romney.  It is foolish for anyone to think politics will ultimately save our country and pull us back from the brink of moral collapse.  All out nation’s ill can be traced to moral and spiritual Obama is committed to another path and Romney lacks Christian conviction.  What are believers to do?

In Proverbs 21:1 we read, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.”  God is sovereign in the affairs of men and that includes the realm of politics.  Believers need to pray for those who lead us.  We enjoy the privilege afforded every person of a free democracy to vote, and this privilege is joined by a responsibility to inform ourselves on the issues and vote our conscience.  Probably the most important decisions will not involve who is elected to the Presidency, but who is elected to Congress and other offices.  Whatever transpires this November prayer will remain paramount.

The Apostle Paul has wrote, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity (1 Timothy 2:1-2).”  The Christian will also exert greater influence in prayer than he will at the polls.

Saying is not Believing

I recall a story told by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, founder of Evangelism Explosion, a program for training believers to effectively share the Gospel.  He was a man who led by example and shared an experience that I found insightful.  After witnessing to a woman he asked her if she would like to receive Christ as her Savior.  She asked him if all she had to do was say she believed.  Dr. Kennedy replied no, she must believe to be saved.

The point Dr. Kennedy was attempting to make to this woman is there is a difference in saying one believes and believing.  This is an important distinction.  It is a distinction that can mean the difference between heaven and hell.  It is the same distinction Jesus was making in Matthew 7:21, “Nor everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.”  What we do will always be the criterion by which what we say will be judged, here and later.

I think many well-meaning believers in ignorance accept what people say and ignore what they do believing we should “not judge” so they “will not be judged.”  But Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1-5 have been misinterpreted repeatedly.  Jesus is condemning hypocritical judgment.  He is not saying all human judgment is wrong.  In fact He tells us we have a responsibility to make righteous judgments in John 7:24, and Paul writes, “Do you not know that we will judges angels?  How much more matters of this life (1 Corinthians 6:3)?”

Christians are not called to be shallow-minded simpletons.  We must make judgments every day.    We are making judgments every time we buy a car, choose a college, or cast a ballot.  When we view the way others live their lives we make judgments as to whether or not we want to emulate what we see.  We must determine what is right and wrong conduct so we can live as God would want us to.  Whether we are making a decision as to what is in our best interest practically or spiritually, we are making judgments.

Back when Donald Trump was contemplating a run for the Presidency, he was interviewed by David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network.  In the interview Brody asked Trump, “Do you actively go to church?”  Trump replied, “I’m a Sunday church person.  I’ll go when I can.”  In an article I wrote about the interview I had said Trump should clear his calendar for his appointment with God each Sunday.

I was criticized for what I wrote then (and will probably be criticized again now) for imposing my standard of church attendance on Donald Trump, but that was not the case.  I called Trump to task for what he said.  It is hypocritical to say “I’m a Sunday church person” and in the next breath say “I’ll go when I can.”  Does he make business appointments on Sundays that keep him from church?  Did his chauffeur get sick, or did his limousine run out of gas?  What stops him from being the “Sunday church person” he claimed to be.  Surely it is not because he lacked the means to get there.

Regarding church attendance I have heard countless times the claim that one can be a Christian without going to church.  This is usually said by someone who has never read the Bible, or having read it has forgotten what they read.  Being a Christian means being Christ-like, doing the things He did.  While Christ taught in homes, by a lake, on a mountain, and in the streets, we also see Him repeatedly in the synagogue teaching and healing.  Why, because He made it His practice to be in His place of worship on His day of worship (Luke 4:16).

Why do people claim to be Christian, but shun the very institution that He founded and shed His blood to establish?  Because it is easier to say one is a Christian than it is to be a Christian.  Why do they shun the fellowship of their brothers and sisters in Christ?  Because it is easier to say you love these Christ died for than to love them.

At the end of the day there is no dichotomy between faith and practice.  What you do is what you believe and what you believe is what you do.  Saying is not believing.