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Anyone who is not aware that a national election is scheduled for November 6, 2018 has either been living on another planet on the far side of the universe or perhaps in an igloo in the vicinity of the North Pole and doesn’t have a radio or television set.

“Reform” and “change” are two words we have heard again and again by candidates and their surrogates in political ads that dominate every medium of communication. Why is this true? Big money, special interests, and self-promotion have produced an unhealthy amount of cynicism among voters. Promises by candidates made before elections are consistently forgotten as soon as the last vote is counted. Political platforms that claim to be a roadmap toward tomorrow regularly settle for yesterday’s status quo. This has led to millions of Americans becoming so disillusioned they do not vote.

Our democracy suffers when we choose not to participate in the electoral process. To fail to vote is to surrender our voice to those whose primary goal is to pursue personal gain and/or power. No one has a greater reason to vote than does a Christian. But do remember that God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. He has plenty of bones to pick with both political parties.

Choosing the best candidates is not always an easy task amidst the kind of mudslinging that often takes place in elections. Rabid partisanship and negative personal attacks garner too much coverage in the print and broadcast media – and spills out onto our streets and other public places in rowdy ways. Even so, to fail to vote is to surrender a sacred right for which our ancestors fought and died.

The kind of candidates who are worthy of our votes:

  • Those who are service oriented, not those who are self-centered.
  • Those who love America and believe in the principles that have made our nation great, not those with the gift of gab and the gift of grab.
  • Those who build bridges, not those who rock the boat.
  • Those who concentrate on sharing their ideas and goals for America’s future, not those whose primary objective is to tear down their opponent.
  • Those who have the kind of integrity that has never been questioned, not those whose integrity has seldom if ever been mentioned or could legitimately be questioned.
  • Those who know what they believe, but are willing to listen to the ideas of others.

The United States has had many great leaders in the past. It still has many who are worthy of our support – on November 6th and thereafter. Let me encourage you to do your very best to try to choose such persons when you cast your vote. Millions of people live in countries where the right to vote does not exist – or it is seriously infringed in some way. Thankfully, our country is not one of them.

The most dangerous votes in every election are those not cast. If you do not vote, you do not have the right to criticize what is wrong with our government. Let us be grateful that our elections are by ballots, not bullets. Jesus said to His followers: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17). It is the duty of every citizen to vote on November 6th. It is especially the duty of every Christian.

Pray for guidance, and then go vote! Our nation’s future depends on it. God bless America!

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If every single resident member of your church showed up for worship next Sunday morning, what do you think would happen? My first guess is that your pastor would faint, for I am not aware of it having ever happened before. Then, if you revived him, he would be so surprised and excited that he would possibly preach for two hours.

The Bible tells us we need to attend church so we can worship God with other believers and be taught His Word for our spiritual growth. The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). We should follow their example of devotion – and do the same things. The earliest disciples had no church building, but “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46). Wherever and whenever a church meets to worship God, believers thrive on fellowship with other believers and on the teaching of God’s Word.

Every Christian is a member of the body of Christ and has unique talents. Sharing these gifts with one another strengthens us in our common task of glorifying God. There are four things that make church attendance important:

Fellowship. Regular worship attendance allows a Christian to become part of a church family – a community of brothers and sisters in Christ who share genuine concern for one another. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (I Corinthians 12:26). We not only enjoy the security of belonging to a spiritual family, but we glorify God by revealing His character to the world.

Corporate worship. When King David was rescued from his enemies by God, he could not keep his praise to himself. He cried out, “O, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 34:3). Even Christ, in the darkest hours of His life, asked three of His closest disciples to “watch and pray” with Him (Matthew 26:41). God honors our private devotions, but there are times when nothing will do except to join with fellow Christians in praise of our great God. Jesus promised: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20).

Personal growth. Just as individual Bible study and prayer are vital to a Christian’s spiritual growth, so is consistent contact with other Christians. God commands us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:24). Meeting with other Christians is an opportunity to be encouraged in your daily walk with Christ, to receive godly advice in areas of difficulty in your life, and to be challenged by the example of more mature Christians.

Ministry. Paul tells us that God gave us “pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). Attending church allows us to receive the instruction of trained pastors and teachers, helping us to minister not just within the church family but also out in the surrounding community and the entire world. Christians not only have the responsibility to communicate the gospel to those who are unsaved, but also to minister to other members of the body of Christ who have needs.

If you expect to be present “when the roll is called up yonder”, you should also give serious attention to being present more than just occasionally “when the roll is called each Sunday at your church.” The Postmaster in my home town in Georgia in the 1940’s regularly placed on the Post Office bulletin board poems he liked. One of the poems emphasized the importance of church attendance. It impressed me so much I still remember it:

“Often when I pass the church,
I stop in for a visit,
So that when I’m finally carried in
The Lord won’t ask, ‘Who is it?’’”

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In speaking of His second coming, Jesus Christ said, “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37). What were the days of Noah like? Genesis 6:5 tells us, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This is the description of the society that was swept away by the Flood.

Any person who is keenly observant would have to say that the moral compass of our nation at the current time no longer has a true north. II Timothy 3:1-5 tells us: “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

Paul was not saying that in the days before the second coming of Christ everyone living would be depraved. He was giving us in very understandable terms the picture of the culture that will exist in the world before Christ returns. His description reads like today’s newspaper headlines, doesn’t it? The moral decline and depravity of our nation is a symptom of our isolation from God. Without God at the steering wheel of the human heart, we are like a driverless car careening down the freeway toward an inevitable crash.

The moral decline in our nation can be seen in many ways. For example, in a recent year the Internet’s largest online pornography website reported that consumers watched 87,849,731,608 X-rated videos. Over 87 billion! That adds up to twelve videos for every person living on the face of the earth. And the picture is even worse than that, for over one-fourth of Internet pornography is child-related.

The young Jewish writer Ben Shapiro wrote in his book Porn Generation, “I am a member of a lost generation. We have lost our values. In a world where all values are equal, where everything is simply a matter of choice, narcissism rules the day. The acceptance of pornography has become a social fact.”

Moral depravity in our nation is also seen in how marriage and the human family is defined. Jesus described marriage in this way: “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:6-8). But in the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote took it upon itself to redefine marriage more broadly than God does.

We cannot control what a secular society does, but as Christians we can demonstrate a better way and let the Word of God govern our convictions and our conduct. Nevertheless, the ruling by the Supreme Court undeniably puts Bible believers in a tough spot. Justice Samuel Alito, in his dissent to the majority opinion, predicted that this decision in years to come would become a basis for aggressive legal discrimination against those who hold a biblical view of marriage. His prediction is already coming true.

Space will not allow me in one article to survey the many other areas of societal moral decay –- the loss of ethics in business, the breakdown of family life, the out-of-wedlock birthrate, the loss of the concept of fatherhood in our society, well over one million abortions every year since 1975, rampant materialism, substance abuse, gambling and gaming, the crime rate, our rapidly increasing national debt, etc.

Romans 1:18-32 describes in a graphic way how God feels about what is happening in our nation. These fifteen verses, unless things change, accurately describe America’s future. Please read them, for America has largely forgotten the truth found in Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

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“What if . . . ?”

“What if . . . ?” Depending on how, when, where and why this is asked, it is an interesting question.

Several years ago, a computer manufacturer ran a commercial on television that featured this two-word question. Obviously, the bottom line goal of the commercial was to get those who were in the market to buy a new computer to purchase the one they were selling.

Companies pay millions of dollars to advertising experts to design commercials that both attract attention and leave a positive impression. It is why the ears of those who listen regularly to the radio are assaulted by so many commercials. Click on a video via the Internet and you likely will find several commercials attached. Many of them are annoying and inane; others are obnoxiously redundant.

But, I like a commercial that begins by asking the question, “What if . . . ?” It refuses to accept the status quo. It says unashamedly and with a degree of excitement that improvement is both desirable and possible. It calls for action. It is positive rather than negative. It focuses on the future, not on the past. This two-word question can be asked in ways other than in a commercial. For example:

WHAT IF . . . all the people who say they are Christians were genuinely dedicated to the task of carrying out the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20? What impact would this make on our churches, our nation, and our world?

WHAT IF . . . every person who says he/she believes that the Bible is God’s Word read it regularly and made an earnest effort to incorporate the truth found on its pages into their daily lives? What difference would it have on their attitude — toward themselves, toward others, and toward their daily work?

WHAT IF . . . every Christian who professes to believe in prayer actually engaged in prayer every single day? How much more could be accomplished that would never be accomplished otherwise?

WHAT IF . . . those who are not Christians in the community could say of every Christian family and every church congregation, “My, how they love one another?” This is what was said of the Christians in the first century A.D. The way they loved one another was a major reason why Josephus, the early Jewish historian, described them as “those who are turning the world upside down.”

WHAT IF . . . every Christian attended Bible study and corporate worship every Sunday unless he/she had a valid reason not to attend? How much more effective would your church and my church be?

WHAT IF . . . every Christian couple who stood before God’s altar to pledge their lives to each other in marriage “until death parts us” kept those vows all the way to the end of their lives? What impact would their determination to keep Christ central to everything their family does have upon their children — and especially upon the people they know who have never accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord?

WHAT IF . . . every Christian patterned his/her lifestyle after the Good Samaritan rather than after the self-righteous priest and Levite described in one of our Lord’s best-known parables?

“WHAT IF . . .? “ Just wondering!

 

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A few years ago, newspapers and television networks carried a news story that literally grabbed my attention. It involved a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Seattle. There is nothing unusual about an airplane flight, for thousands of passenger planes are in the air over our country at all times. But this flight had an interesting passenger on board – a huge pig. I had not heard of a flying pig before – even in comic books.

Two passengers convinced the airline representative that the pig needed to fly with them as a “therapeutic companion pet” – like a seeing-eye dog – so the US Airways representative decided to permit the pig to sit with them in the first-class cabin of the plane. It was a decision he was destined to regret – and it didn’t take long for a high level of regret to begin.

Passengers described the 300-pound pig as “enormous, brown, angry, and honking.” He was seated in three seats near the front of the plane, but the attendants reportedly had difficulty strapping him in: “He became restless after takeoff and began to saunter through the cabin,” one passenger said. “He kept rubbing his nose on people’s legs trying to get them to give him some food and to stroke him.”

Upon landing, things only got worse. The pig panicked, running up and down through economy class and squealing. Many passengers, also screaming, stood on their seats. It took four attendants to escort the beast off the plane. And when they reached the terminal, the pig escaped only to be recaptured in another part of the airport. When asked to comment on the story, US Airways spokesman David Castelveter said, “We can confirm that the pig traveled, and we can confirm that it will never happen again.”

Have you ever had a day like the one the pig’s fellow passengers had? Who hasn’t? You have undoubtedly never been on a flight that had a 300-pound pig on board, but you have probably made a decision about something you regretted and later said, “That will never happen again.” Every day we make decisions, big and small, that determine our future. Decisions determine our destiny. It only stands to reason that the best way to minimize your regrets is to learn how to make good decisions, quality decisions. This is true in every area of life – especially with regard to our relationships with others.

There are three decisions we should make concerning our relationships that are always right:

Decide to apologize when you are wrong. “I’m sorry!” When was the last time you uttered these two words? More important, when was the last time you knew you needed to apologize, and didn’t? One of the most productive decisions you will ever make is to apologize when you are wrong. Saying “I’m sorry” has the power to repair harm, mend relationships, soothe wounds, and heal broken hearts. It has the power to both disarm others of their anger and prevent further misunderstandings. An apology involves three R’s: Responsibility – “I know I hurt your feelings”; Regret – “I feel terrible that I hurt you”; Remedy – “I won’t do it again.”

Decide to tell the truth when tempted not to. Telling the truth is better than telling a lie. A lie may help you to escape from a problem momentarily, but it contains within itself the seed that will sooner or later reap a harvest of difficulty. Therefore, always tell the truth – even when you are tempted not to do so.

Decide always to give your best. When you decide to give your best, it is because you are emphasizing the importance of serving the best interest of others. When you give less than your best, it is because you are looking out for your own interests. The reward you receive from serving others is the satisfaction you have in your own heart. The roots of happiness grow deepest in the soil of service.

 

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“What does God look like, daddy?” a preschool child asked his father. It is the kind of question small children often ask without any warning whatsoever – and usually at a time when fathers least expect it. Trying to sound wise, dads would probably stall for time and search for a suitable answer, one that a four-year-old can understand. They would swallow hard, and say something like, “Well, what do you think God looks like?”

“I don’t know,” the child might say. “But you know what God looks like, don’t you, daddy?” At this point fathers find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. They either ignore their child’s curiosity or change the subject (and miss a golden opportunity), or they deal with the question in an honest and forthright manner.

If a father is asked this question and is wise, he will seriously ponder it, “What does God look like?” How can he answer his child’s question correctly and intelligently? He tosses it over and over in his mind until he realizes that it is not just a question children ask. Adults also need to know what God looks like.

Anyone who wants to see a portrait of God needs to look no further than the opening statements of the gospel of John in the New Testament. John declares that God came to earth in human flesh as a baby and later walked among us. In an amazing touch of wonder this Galilean carpenter – fully divine and fully human – walked the dusty streets of first-century Palestine. He wore our skin. He showed how great our Creator’s love is and how far He would go to make reconciliation and redemption not just possible, but available, for sinful humankind. To be in the Son’s presence was to be in the presence of God. Every place He went, God was there. Every person He healed was healed by God. He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

God did more than come near — He came here. He left His footprints in our sand. He breathed the air we breathe. His tears spotted our dirt. He was nailed to a Roman cross made of wood that had grown as a tree out of the earth’s soil where we live. His blood spilled from that cross to the ground on which I personally walked in 1973 when I was in Israel. It is not that He was “like us.” He became one “of us” — born of woman.

I tried to express these thoughts in a poem I wrote in 1981 that I entitled, “The King.”

“The rulers of this world march by

In purple and in gold;

They rise, they flourish, and they die,

And their entire story is told;

One king alone is divine,

One banner triumphs still;

He’s King and servant – and His sign

Is a cross on a hill.”

It is time to return to the child’s question, “What does God look like?” He looks just like Jesus!

 

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Tell God about it!

Are you deeply bothered by something that you have done in the past? If so, you can stop it! The past is over. It belongs in your yesterdays. The greatest days of your life can start today – if that I what you choose can happen. God wants you to believe that things in your past — whatever they may be, or however difficult you assume them to be – do not have to keep you from having a productive today or a wonderful future.

Consider Moses, the lawgiver and liberator of Israel, to whom God gave the Ten Commandments, who wrote the first five books of the Bible. He was a murderer, and was on Egypt’s Most Wanted List. He became a fugitive and fled to the backside of the wilderness. Though he did not know it at the time, God was just getting him ready for a major assignment.

Or consider King David, the young shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath of Gath. After David became King of Israel he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in cold blood. Yet he confessed (see Psalm 51) and was restored to fellowship with God. God did not allow his past to determine his future. He also has the power to keep problems that happened in your yesterdays from stealing your joys today or from determining what happens in your future.

When Jesus called Simon Peter to follow Him, He knew what a tremendous vessel he would be. Yet, even after three years of intimate fellowship with Jesus, watching Him perform miracles, and listening to Him teach, Peter denied three different times that he ever knew Jesus. It was definitely not one of Simon Peter’s better moments. Jesus not only forgave him, but He called Him back to be a rock and to feed His flock.

Is there anything in your past that paralyzes your potential and fills your heart with shame? If God forgave Moses, King David, and Simon Peter, what makes you think that He will not also forgive you? Confess your past sins to God and ask Him to cleanse your life. He has forgiven everyone who has ever asked Him to do that. He will also forgive you. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 NIV).

You do not have to live your life in a way that leaves you totally or partially paralyzed by past decisions and/or actions. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone goes through adversity, rejection, and reversal at one time or another. God’s Word says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It also reminds us that sin – any sin, all sin – if confessed – will be forgiven. You can believe it.

Have you been hurt? Tell God about it!

Have you been criticized? Tell God about it!

Have you been betrayed? Tell God about it!

Have you wronged another person? Tell God about it!

Have you sinned against God? Tell Him about it.

It would be impossible to estimate the number of jobs lost, promotions missed, sales not made, opportunities not accepted, friendships destroyed, marriages ruined, and churches divided and detoured from their assigned mission by people without determination, focus, or fortitude who were having a pity party.

If you are held hostage by anything in the past, why not try what the Apostle Paul suggested to the Christians in Thessalonica: “In everything give thanks.”

When you are living on easy street or dwelling down deep in the dumps, give thanks. In prosperity or in poverty, give thanks. In health or in pain, give thanks. “Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting” (Psalm 100:4-5). When you are able and are willing to demonstrate gratitude, God will give you a new attitude. He or she who forgets the language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with happiness.

When your outlook is bad, I recommend that you try the “up look.” Nothing is outside the reach of prayer except that which is outside the will of God. He is greater than any difficulty you have ever had, now have, or will ever face – and He is never more than a prayer away.

In other words, every time you have a problem or a burden, tell God about it!

 

 

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