Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Christian Cohort

I am creating a new website for my thoughts. I am joining a group of friends as we write together.

You can find my new site at www.ChristianCohort.com

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Jury Duty

**UPDATED AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE**

I am not one to shirk my responsibility to the laws and rules of this country, but today I had an encounter with the Federal Court that made my blood boil. I was, yet again, summoned to jury duty. I get selected EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I have jury duty every year. It is unavoidable that I will receive that piece of paper in the mail telling me it is my opportunity and obligation as a citizen of this nation. I used to think it was kind of annoying but I participated. Now I am wholly against this process and believe there must be a better way to have a jury of peers without burdening the citizens who are just not interested.

After the phone call I received and the letter I wrote, I am sharing here as my protest against this process that I believe is very much broken. Enjoy:

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I have been faithfully upholding my responsibilities as a citizen of the United States and of Oregon. Over time, my trust in the juror system has been compromised and I have had some other thoughts that preclude me from being a part of a system that condemns other people with limited information and in a group of people with many different views on how to treat someone accused of a crime. Here are the reasons why I cannot faithfully participate in the jury system any longer. Some of them apply here, and some may not, but these are my reasons, in full:

1) It is said every time I receive a summons, and even this morning as I filed my information online, that it is a random draw, yet I get chosen every single moment I am within the legal parameters to serve on the jury. If it is local, I get chosen every 2 years. I was deferred last time because it was the week before Christmas and was told my obligation is done. And now 1 year later, I am being summoned to Federal court. I know they are not the same and I know I can be called in to serve, but it seems odd that my name gets selected every time. I would love to be part of a lottery to win money with these odds! I was raised in California and moved to Oregon to go to school. I moved out of state for about 4 1/2 years and moved back. Whenever I have been a resident of this state, I get selected to serve. My wife, on the other hand, who was born and raised in Oregon, has not ever been selected to serve and she would like to go do it. What about those odds? I do not believe it is random. I think there is a list and that the same people get selected until they prove to be a burden upon the system and are thus removed. It is not random and they have a list they work from and I happen to be on it. I don't know why.

2) The jury system was created so that we would maintain our rights as citizens to a swift and fair trial. "A jury of our peers" as it is said. However, in recent years, I have witnessed the downfall of people becoming less informed as to how we are to serve, what information is to be considered, and that we are now inundated with people who do not know much. Case in point: I last fulfilled my responsibilities as a juror in a case where a man was accused of stealing. The District Attorney (the prosecution) tried to bring up another instance where the defendant had been caught stealing. The judge overruled the use of this information and instructed the jury to ignore this piece of information in our deliberation. We were to "pretend" we had not heard it in executing our verdict. When we had heard all evidence, and went into the deliberation room, the "chair" of the jury brought up that he has been accused of this before and should be found guilty. When I brought up the fact that the judge said that was inadmissible evidence and that the store in question did not keep the video evidence of his theft, I maintained that he was innocent because of their negligence. We had NO evidence he had done anything. I am not a lawyer, but that's an easy case in my opinion. This "chairperson" said if someone did it before they would do it again and charged his guilt with past mistakes and did not even bring into account ANY evidence that had been presented. That was our job! To look at the evidence presented and to make our decision beyond reasonable doubt with that case and our chairperson went by the fact that she "hated people who steal". But I was bullied into marking a "guilty" charge by the entire room because they disagreed and if I didn't change my vote we were going to be held overnight to continue deliberating the next day. So I changed my vote and I believe justice was not served. I believe most citizens do not understand what they are dealing with when it comes to this. This kind of thing can alter a person's life and I do not want any part of it. If I were ever accused of a crime, I would want the evidence heard by a knowledgeable judge and not random people with judgment issues (to which I will speak about in a different bullet point). The jury system is broken.

3) Thirdly, this process is an undue financial burden to many people. I know from my research that many states do not require an excuse to get removed from jury duty. They simply check the box that states that they are unable to be on the jury. I am not financially in a place where a day out of work is good for me. It also takes me out of my regular daily duties I have to perform in order to make our Sunday morning assemblies at our church encouraging and special. I am the worship and young adult minister. I have responsibilities to entire demographic groups that only I can perform. If I miss a day of work for what I consider unimportant, it takes me days to catch up and I am held responsible by our church leadership and could lose my job if I drop the ball. The anxiety of being sick for a few days is a heavy burden on me. To leave and be at jury duty instead of writing my lesson for Bible class, or creating an uplifting worship service, is a heavy burden for me to bear. Let's be completely open here: it hurts some people financially to leave work to go and sit on a jury. When I worked for Fresh Aire Air Fresheners and received the last summons I was scared about my work and getting paid. I made less than $1000 a month and only 2 days per week to finish the work. It is unfair to say that the court will pay $40 for serving. That's not enough money and that is coming from someone who made $1000 a month.

4) Next, I am a man who believes in safety and security in my own person. I do not like feeling unsafe. I am a large man. I could hold my own if I were attacked. But I do not like to use my ability to defend myself. I have religious reasons why I do not like using my fists to hurt another person. I have only been in one fight my entire life and it was when I was in the 6th Grade. Another kid was bullying my younger brother (3rd Grade). I pushed the kid and he fell over. I knew right there the power I had and refused to use it. We walked away from any further skirmish that could have resulted had I kept hitting him while he was down. I have been bullied my entire life and have always hated the way bullies treat people.

With the election of Donald Trump (I did not vote for either of the two major party candidates, but a third-party candidate) I have watched and witnessed the way our more liberal communities respond when they don't get their way. Time after time, when something happens to someone they disagree with, they go into major cities and riot; breaking windows, setting fires, damaging cars, etc. I have worked downtown Portland for a brief 2 years as I was a tech/sales person for Fresh Aire Air Fresheners. I was constantly harassed by the citizens of the college, people who lived in the apartment buildings, and business owners, as well as the homeless. I would get my work done as quickly as possible to get the heck out of there every day. I have been harassed and chased by people who would ask me to sign their petitions for various amendments and bills that would be on the future ballot. If I refused they would swear and cuss and chase me for being "a white male with privilege" and a "racist".

I watched how people rioted when Trump was elected. I saw how Michael Strickland was treated for defending himself with his handgun...now he is in jail for defending himself with the Second Amendment rights our Constitution guarantees. A journalist who protected himself as he reported on the riots was arrested for pulling out his legal concealed weapon. He never had his finger on the trigger and once he was out of harm's way, re-holstered it. He was punished for doing everything in accordance with the law.

As of today, I refuse to go into Multnomah County for any reason. It is not worth the possibility of being accosted for disagreeing with the views of the governmental leadership that is housed down there. Portland is not safe whether the Mayor or our Representatives say so or not. I grew up in Stockton, California and know too well what safe cities are and are not. Portland is not safe. I know from experience and it has nothing to do with what the media have reported. I also have a non-life threatening, undiagnosed anxiety about traveling and walking around in Multnomah County. Downtown Portland is no longer a fun destination to shop, eat, or take in a show. I feel it every time I have to go there. It is personal and I cannot perform to my fullest ability while there.

5) As I have researched, it is said that religious reasons are not considered for being excused from jury duty. I heard it again today. I know that is what the law says, but I disagree. As a minister (of a combined 12+ years), I cannot participate in a system that has ignorant and sinful people making judgments upon others. I am sure you are familiar with the passage in Matthew 7:1 where Jesus tells the listeners (in His Sermon on the Mount --Matthew 5-7) that they are to "[J]udge not, that you be not judged." I would make sure that we know not to take this out of context so if we keep reading in verses 2-5, "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log our of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Clearly Jesus is telling the listeners to not judge someone upon which you hold the same offense. There is a time to make a judgment of moral decisions. We are called to "judge with right judgment" (John 7:24) when someone is doing wrong. But in the passage in Matthew 7, Jesus is telling the hearer that if we judge the same measure will be used to judge us in eternity. Without knowing what the case is about, I cannot know if I would be fit to make a decision (judge) whether someone is guilty or innocent and to make such a decision would require me to go outside of my faith with which I hold to be the first and most important thing in my life. No government, no power, no authority comes before God.

In Titus 1:5 and 1 Peter 2:13-17, it could be said that no matter who is in power, who is in authority, we are to submit our will to them and obey them. But we also know that in those passages, it clearly states that all authority in those positions come from God and He is the final authority with which they submit and it is not without God that they hold their positions and they are not free from rebuke when they do not follow God's will. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego all defied the orders of the Kings they were under. Daniel continued to pray to God even though Darius had decreed that no one pray to anyone but him. Daniel was thrown into a den of lions but God shut their mouths (Daniel chapter 6). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, taken from their heritage and their names changed from Hebrew names to exile names refused to bow to the golden statue of the King. They were ordered to be thrown into the fiery furnace. God saved them from the fire (Daniel 3:8-30).

John the Baptist confronted King Herod with his sin of taking his brother's wife from his brother Philip. The daughter of Herodias asked for John the Baptist to be beheaded for this. But the King was sorry for this oath and promise he made to her. When Jesus heard about this he went to be alone (Matthew 14:1-13). When David sinned by taking Bathsheba and having relations with her and getting her pregnant, he put Uriah (her husband) to the front line of the battle they were fighting so he would die. Nathan confronted David and said you are despising the Word of the Lord and doing evil. (2 Samuel 12).

I have many other examples I could give, but I will stop there. It is one thing to obey basic laws and rules. We are commanded to do so. It is another to defy the will of God and obey orders, rules, and laws that go against His will. I will not be a part of that. I cannot judge another person based on the limited evidence seen within a summons. I would not know whether I could uphold the basic functions of a jury if I do not know ahead of time what the case is about. Even so, I am commanded by God to not judge another person because if I am ever in the same situation, God will judge me according to the measure used to make a judgment in a courtroom. Religious objections should and do matter in whether one is fit to serve on a jury and I would hope to see this taken into account in jury pool creation.

I hope you will respect my positions and take me out of the jury pool. I understand you probably receive ridiculous excuses for why one cannot fulfill the obligations placed on them. I hope you do not see this as ridiculous but as a real, sincere, and highly personal conscientious objection to the jury process. It is one I once did not care for but complied. Today, I am firmly against this process and would be unable to commit time and would be unprepared to perform properly. I do not believe this process is fair or just.

Thank you for your time. I respect the difficult job you have and the time it takes to present information and to deal with such a process. I have nothing personal against you or the court. It is that I believe that there are many issues and believe they will never be fully resolved for the citizens of this state or the country until people receive a better education in how to conduct themselves, how to allow conscientious religious objections, and to fix and reform frivolous lawsuits.
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I thanked them for their time. They excused me for financial hardship, but that isn't my point in item #3 at least not really. It goes deeper than that and it seems like she just didn't want to deal with me any longer today. But I will receive another summons next year to serve on the county court. I went on to send this to our Governor and our State Senator and Representative. I will have to wait and see if they respond with a real response or another form letter like the ones I receive from Suzanne Bonamici every time I write to her.

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UPDATE!!! April 3, 2017
My letter was shared with the jury judge and he wrote back:


"Dear Mr. Lewis -
My name is Paul Papak and I am a United States Magistrate Judge. One of my duties, assigned by our Chief Judge, is to manage the grand jury and petit jury panels. It is in that capacity that I am responding to your email of 3/30/2017.

I did not read your thoughtful email as "ridiculous" or "insincere." Instead, I read it as intended - as a real, sincere and highly personal response to the obligations of jury service. And while I respect your view, it is precisely the thoughtfulness of your position that leads me to conclude that you should not be excused from jury service. As you know, our jury system offers a guarantees to a criminal defendant that his charges will be determined by a jury of his peers. That jury should be composed of a fair cross section of the people living in the jurisdiction where the alleged crime occurred. Your view of the jury system, while perhaps a minority view, is part of the views that make up that fair cross-section and to the guarantee of a trial by jury. Of course, you are free to express those views in more detail if you are actually chosen for a jury panel and it is possible that one of the lawyers may choose to strike you from service. But that is exactly how the system is supposed to work.

I have been trying cases for twelve years as a judge and for almost thirty years before that as a lawyer. While I often didn't agree with a jury verdict I was always impressed by the hard work and responsibility that the jurors put into their decision. I hope a time will come when you serve as a juror in federal court and I that the experience will change your current opinion.
Sincerely, Paul Papak"

So I wrote back to the jury court liaison and told her I appreciated it. She responded that I was now supposed to be there at 8am tomorrow. What? I thought I was deferred...no he is overturning it and has the final say.

Wow. So now I have to figure out how to get my children to school and home. Find someone to watch my new dog. AND let work know I won't be there.

She responded I didn't ever say anything about needing childcare. I responded that I didn't know I needed to say anything about having to get childcare because it wasn't an issue on the day I sent my email. Now the day before I have to report, it IS an issue.

I maintain this system is broken and needs serious reform. It is an undue burden to the people.
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She wrote back and asked if I would like to be deferred again now that childcare is an issue. I responded, "The child care isn't an issue if I know I have to be there and have time to plan ahead. I didn't think I needed to include that with all of my other positions. Does my entire life have to be the business of the government? I want the government to leave me alone. I guess I need to expand my letter to 6 through 8 points. I need to be let out of jury duty, please."

And she again deferred my service.

This system is broken people. I am sure my case is mild compared to the hardships some have to live in and try to fulfill the burden the court system places on people.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

An Open Letter To The “Christian” Hellfire Preachers Outside The Concert

Greetings to you in Christ Jesus,
I hope you are having a great day. I debated not saying anything publicly about this. I did not want to be put in the same category as your group. I know you feel like you accomplished a lot for the kingdom the other night outside the Rock & Worship Roadshow. I could tell you were super passionate about what you were saying because you were screaming louder than anyone else and calling everyone walking out of the arena sinners. I realize your goal was to get people to repent of sin and realize that rock concerts don’t glorify God.

Granted, I don’t know that all the attendees went to the concert to necessarily “glorify” God. I saw a lot of people dancing, singing, and just happy to hear some good music. For their credit, many of the artists songs were about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, worship, salvation, discipleship, and, yes, the rejection of sin. There were one or two that sang songs that had nothing to do with any of that. And I didn’t particularly enjoy those bands.

Can I level with you Mr. Brimstone? There was a time when a preacher in a church I used to attend made fun of guys like you (true story). The minister called what you were doing fruitless and ineffective. What you were doing was a slight to Christianity. As he made fun of you, the rest of the church laughed and giggled at the parody that was on display from the pulpit. It angered me that they would be so cruel. I was in tears. I shouted “This is so inappropriate!” as I walked to the restroom to weep. My thoughts were that you were doing what you believed you were called to do even if it was not the proper way. I was sad that my church was making fun of someone even though they were poking at a fanatic. I was crying that perhaps they would do that to me if I went and shared my faith in an unorthodox way. I rejected that church. They all had sunk to a low that they could not gain back favor in my eyes. You were na├»ve people teaching the law without the Gospel of Jesus, but you were sincere. You just needed a shepherd to teach you the proper Gospel. You need the Savior too.

But, I have to say, the other night you made me feel less sorry for you. As we walked out, you were screaming at people and treating them like they were crap to be trampled on. Your legalistic ranting was from a place of moral superiority. I could have easily gone over to you and shared the true teachings, but you wouldn’t have listened. I’m sure many people tried that night and you’ve probably heard all of their arguments before. Would you care? Did you know that you are a sinner too? Did you know that Jesus asked for mercy first over sacrifice? Did you know that the Gospel is for everyone? Do you know that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works? Do you ever feel real compassion for the lost, not the displayed anger-condemnation that you think is the loving response to sin?

As we walked swiftly around your gathered group, my children gripped my hands tightly. They were terrified of these people shouting, wearing shirts with flames on them, and proclaiming that we were all headed to the gates of hell. My daughter, whom we are teaching to take a breath before she responds, because she gets angry easily, was so confused. How could these people preach the same Jesus we preach while screaming at the masses of people who had just spent 5 hours together worshiping the God of the Universe?

I told my daughter that your group was not following Christ. I told my children that you don’t know your Bibles. I told them that there are groups like yours that have distorted God’s Word to make yourselves feel more righteous and pious. Thank you for scaring my children and making them feel unsafe around other “Christians”. It is no wonder the people of our nation reject Christianity when they see groups like yours. And, you cannot claim the Scriptures that speak about the world persecuting you. You put yourselves in that position. The only Christians being persecuted were the ones leaving the arena that night.

As a minister, I am using every ounce of my energy to teach the young people of our church what it means to be a mature follower of Jesus. It means giving up a lot of our selfishness. It means not exploding in anger. It means taking responsibility for our actions and committing to the body of Christ. What you are teaching is immature beyond the scope of the cross. You show that you still need milk because you have rejected the solid food of Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). People are more likely to listen when you teach from a place of gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

I won’t defend you any longer. I won’t put up with people who continue to mock you, but I won’t defend you either. I pity you. I will pray for you (Matthew 5:44). In Jesus’ holy name.

Signed,
Mike Lewis
Follower of Christ Jesus
Minister of the Gospel
Attendee of the Rock & Worship Roadshow 2016

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Monday, November 02, 2015

Yes, We Can Be Objective

It is common to hear in many critical circles that people read the Bible through a lens of subjectivity depending on where one was born, where one lives, what kind of governmental system one is subject to, and many other factors.

We all have things that affect how we read and interpret Scripture, but it is a fallacy to say that one cannot be objective in the way they approach and read God's Word. Our lens is just that; a lens. We see things through it, but some of the things we see are plain for everyone to see. The better question is can you accept what God has said in the Bible?

The problem with critics of this truth is they want us to believe that we are incapable of understanding Scripture unless they help us to interpret it "correctly" which usually means to see it through their lens. Isn't that a biased way of approaching Scripture in itself? By this reasoning, there is no way to know anything in the world objectively--Nonsense! And that is where the postmodern movement has directed us. I think we are very intelligent people who can come to a valid conclusion of what Scripture is saying whether we are prosperous Americans or poor Asians, or whether we are in a male dominated society or whether our society is dominated by feminists. It is possible to remove a presupposition and to analyze what we are reading in order to come to a basic conclusion. What we need is honest study and to dig into the Word to examine what it says.

I believe the bigger issue is an overcontextualization in saying that since this writing was for a Hebrew audience, it has nothing to say to us in 21st century America. I've heard it said that since Paul's letter was for a Roman church, for example, it was only for the Roman church. The problem with this is that Paul himself said that he taught every church the same thing.

I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. -- 1 Corinthians 4:14-17 (ESV)

We have been given the Bible to understand God's will which includes some instruction, some direction, some prescription, and some description (this will be a future post).

Some things are just plain to see. Truth is universal and absolute. Because truth is absolute and universal, it is possible for one to read God's Word and find the truth. When you find it, it should change the way you think and how you react to the world around you.

God has given us ears to hear and eyes to see. We should be well equipped to use them as He has seen fit to give them to us. Let us be humble in our approach to Scripture. Let us be honest when it says something that doesn't fit what our itching ears want to hear.

May our God of wisdom and understanding allow you to find His truth. (He will. He always does.)

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Friday, July 03, 2015

The Law of the Lord

"I just don't know how God could condemn him. He's such a good person."

"He is kind and helps others. He gives money to the homeless and volunteers at the soup kitchen."

"She has been to other countries to help orphanages."


I am sure you have heard many similar platitudes describing people you know. I have heard these types of statements made about people who do these nice things for others but aren't Christians. In fact I have heard these things said about people who are outright pagans and mock Christ and those that believe in God's Word, His church, and believe it is all true.

Even in our own circles of Christian friends I know many people who believe God is saving every "good" person simply because they do nice things for others. For example, Ellen DeGeneres is lauded for the nice things she does for people. As a celebrity with a network television budget, she is able to frequently give away gobs of money and, taking after Oprah, every Christmas spends time giving the whole audience presents. I've seen countless times when someone is sick or has a life problem, Ellen will hear about it and surprise them with monetary help. Many Christians I know believe Ellen will one day occupy heaven because she does nice things for so many people.

So, what about it? Are there really non-Christians, people who do not hold to the teaching in Scripture, who are kind, helpful, good, and nice who will be in heaven with those who lived their lives following Christ, His teaching, believing in Him, having faith, struggling with sin, striving to overcome it, and persevering to be what Scripture has called us to be?

Unfortunately, I don't believe that is true (and I'm not just talking about Ellen or homosexuality). In fact Scripture explains this dichotomy really well.

When Moses brought back the commandments of God, he also reported to the Israelites that God had heard their cries. He wanted to help them. It is why they were rescued from Egypt. God also longed for His people to remember always their love for Him.

"Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!" -- Deuteronomy 5:29 [ESV]

Our God said yes! He would free them! But, He also wanted them to remember how much they loved and want to obey Him. He knew they would forget. So, He had Moses there and spoke more to him about what was next and Moses reported:

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." -- Deuteronomy 6:4-9 [ESV]

God knew His people would forget. But, these were things that were natural, perfect laws. They are just, right, and good. God wrote these laws on our hearts. Even still, He commanded His people to write these commands everywhere so that they would see them all the time and be reminded. [At this time, I am brought to mind that in this country, we are removing these commands as monuments from our city and county squares because people don't want to see it...irony of ironies.] God also commanded that these be taught diligently to our children and we should speak of them all times of the day so that their entire families will be familiar and knowledgeable about His commands.

The author of Hebrews (in chapter 8) reminds his readers that God's commands are written on all our hearts. It was God's covenant. For those who are arguing that this was the old covenant and it no longer applies, I appeal to Paul's words to the Greeks at Corinth. He spoke of the old covenant written on stone, but that the new covenant, spoken with words from flesh and bone, written by the Spirit, is also written on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

He also writes to the Roman church that God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

God's commands; His law, is written on our hearts.

When Paul writes to the Roman church:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. -- Romans 1:20-21 [ESV]

he is reminding them that God has written His will on our hearts including those who do not obey Him. So, what about the good, kind, and helpful people who do not follow or obey God? What does this have to do with them?

Those "good people" do good things because deep down, they know what is good and will do some good things. It is written on their hearts. It is only natural. Even the most despicable people have done good, kind, and nice things for others. You'll often hear of someone who does something really horrible and the news reporters ask their neighbors if they ever saw anything. Their neighbors usually say something to the effect of, "No, they were really quiet, but nice to me every time I saw them." "Good people" also do bad things. Some do very bad things and are unrepentant for it. They think their good will outweigh their bad. Thus, they have no need for a Savior. They will do life on their own.

God's people embody and reflect the fruit of the Spirit. Not just some of the fruit. All of the fruit. It comes from a life living for Him and a life that is daily being saved by Him. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I have yet to meet someone who lives all nine of these attributes who does not follow Christ. Believers do. And when they fall short, they repent.

Are those people really good? Even Jesus did not call himself good. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus:

"Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." -- Luke 18:18-19 [ESV]

Jesus wasn't trying to ask a trick question. He was serious. Why are you calling someone good simply because they do good, kind, helpful things for people? Our works do not make us good. They are a reflection of the Spirit living in us; the fruit of the Spirit. An unbeliever cannot reflect the fruit of a Spirit they ignore.

Finally, Paul's words to the Romans about "good people":

"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
"Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive."
"The venom of asps is under their lips."
"Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. -- Romans 3:10-20 [ESV]

We all sin. We all have faults. We all need Jesus. It is only in Him that we find eternal life. Our friends who are unrepentant in sinning are not saved simply because they are nice people, tell funny jokes, like the same music as us, watch the same television shows, are fans of the same sports teams, and might some day perform a grand gesture to someone that might make a Christian look foolish in comparison.

Lying, gossip, sexual immorality, stealing, murder, disobeying our parents, homosexuality, filthy language, envy, slander, and a host of other sins are all wrong and God will be the only one who will decide our sentence. But if we don't care and don't repent, we won't be saved. Telling people we accept them as they are and never telling them they are wrong is not kind. It is not good. It is not helpful. We are just as guilty when we "tolerate" sinful behavior. We should always be gentle. Always be loving. Always be kind. Our gentleness, love, and kindness (fruit of the Spirit) must be tempered with faithfulness, patience, and self-control along the truth of God's Word. We speak in Spirit (from fruit) and in truth. (John 4:24)

People are in our lives for us to share the Good News of Jesus' saving grace. Unless we do, they will not spend eternity with us nor with Christ. Share the Gospel with every person you meet.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: Rules For Radicals

Rules For Radicals by Saul Alinsky is the primer many community voices have used in the 20th century as their guide to organize labor, industry, and education. Ironically, Alinsky claims some sense of Christian ethic yet uses a quote from Lucifer in the opening of Rules (though he seems to reject Christianity because he believes it is all part of the bourgeois class structure that got us where we are today--and he isn't praising it--so there is a bit of confusion from the get go).

Alinsky suggests that power is corrupt yet his goal is to teach the organizer how to gain more and more power (pg. 10). So, like Marx and Engels teach in The Communist Manifesto, he teaches against something he himself wishes to have because in his mind, having power is bad unless he gets it because he would use it the benevolently. As we know though, Marx was a contemptible person who abused his power. I doubt Alinsky would have used his power well. He admits several times his crimes and his frequency in jail.

Alinsky also speaks like a relativist and outright claims that the organizer begins without truth--because truth is relative and changing (pg. 11). A person of Scripture would disagree with this statement as Jesus and his disciples after him frequently made truth claims.

Another value Alinsky has is to eliminate freedom and the will of governing oneself. He speaks again from Karl Marx's playbook that "The greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself...People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests...(pg. xxv from the Prologue)."

I found it quite interesting that much of what Alinsky writes has been, at least in part, directly used and quoted by President Barack Obama, confirming what many know is true--he is a Marxist, and he is very familiar with the tactics Marx, Engels, and Alinsky use to usher in political, social, and theological ideals that run counter to everything we hold to be true. "But those who know the interdependence of man to be his major strength in the struggle out of the muck have not been wise in their exhortations and moral pronouncements that man is his brother's keeper...He is beginning to learn that he will either share part of his material wealth or lose all of it; that he will respect and learn to live with other political ideologies if he wants civilization to go on (pg. 23)."

The problem with this thinking is the many political and theological ideologies are completely different and run counter to one another and cannot coexist in our world. Most ideologies hold the belief that their ideology is correct and cannot work with others. Other ideologies hold at their core belief the desire to destroy anyone who holds a different ideology. They then cannot "learn to live with" other ideologies, though the truly benevolent, loving, and tolerant do.

Yet civilization goes on. It goes on because of the worldview of justice and lawfulness and the civil society that only a few are willing to hold and maintain in our world. It is those that believe in freedom and justice who lead by example and prohibit this Marxist ideology and others like it from gaining ground. It is no wonder then that the Radicals ideology fails. Because if it were to become the majority ideology, we would all be in serious trouble. Because of successful societies (say the United States' for example) we prohibit people like Alinsky from stealing from his neighbor for the good of the many, though that is also becoming more prevalent.

In our society, many see Alinsky's as a viable ideology in part because of Alinsky's own tactics. Rule 13 is how the radical organizers have achieved this disheartening of the people: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it (pg. 130)."

Instead of having a rational discussion about issues; instead of looking at reasonable data; instead of arguing principles we have name calling and smear campaigns. If you think President Obama was very even keeled and didn't resort to smearing opponents, then you were duped. Any disagreement with President Obama is immediately countered with "racist" smears even though most of those who disagree with him do so because of principle, not his race. He makes sure this happens while he sits back and says not a word.

We can see that this will be the meme when Hillary Clinton runs for President in 2016, only then it will be "sexist/war on women". Yet, we never heard this come from the Republican side when Clarence Thomas was smeared, Condoleezza Rice on Iraq, Herman Cain for President in 2008, Allen West from Florida, Sarah Palin in 2008, Michelle Bachmann, et al. I could go on all day and include Ben Carson who is currently getting attacked from all sides because of his opposition to the ideals of the President.

Alinsky is no Christian (and he would agree) but he is no scholar either. His cry of hypocrisy is steeped in hypocrisy and misuse of context throughout. It is the way of Alinsky to live and breathe his own ideology which lives in continual contradictions which actually runs counter to his own rule #4: "Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules (pg. 128)." We see this from many today who cry that the world, church, culture is unjust and recites out of context quotes which they do not understand.

I urge everyone to read Rules For Radicals in order to know and understand what we are up against. This ideology is now the vessel that the coming generations will be using to oppose any moral compass whether it be political or theological. I see much of Alinsky's thoughts in the church as well. Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, and Jim Wallis have used similar teaching and that should disturb any student of the Word of God.

I'm not going to give this a star rating. I think it is good information to have but I do not endorse any of what Saul Alinsky writes.

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I realize there are dozens of printings of this book and no two are the same. The version I own and read is the Vintage Books edition from 1989 and the page numbers quoted reflect this printing. Your copy will likely have different page numbers depending on size of print and page.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Rundown - 10

Here is how my week is going:
- We don't watch movies right when they come out in our home. It's too expensive. So, with Netflix, we catch movies when we have time.
- Just saw Moneyball. Great movie.
- Then watched Knuckleball! a documentary about MLB pitchers who have used this pitch.
- It will be tricky in the Fall when Gotham premiers at the same time Big Bang Theory is on. CBS has Thursday night Football until the end of October, so they moved BBT to Mondays. Gotham has to compete with BBT. Fox likes to cancel shows within a few weeks if people aren't watching. I predict Gotham won't make it to 2 seasons. It will join the ranks of other Fox shows like Firefly and Terra Nova that get cancelled too soon.
- Our zip code is changing. First time that has happened to us. I guess the population is going up around here.
- For all the useless information Jeopardy! contestants know, they NEVER know the Bible questions and they are usually in the form of the Catholic church vocabulary and that's sad...and there's probably a commentary about our society in this somewhere.

And for the more serious:
- It seems to me (my opinion) that the most accepted theology isn't coming from the most intelligent minds. By that I mean that it isn't necessarily coming from a place of trying to find the best and most reliable scholarship. The most accepted theology I see is coming from what people already believe and want to force into Scripture to make it right. And it's coming from smart people, don't get me wrong. I don't mean the people bringing it aren't intelligent. But it is coming from the people that are most liked rather than folks that may not have a large "fan" following.
- We have this need to create new perspectives when the old ones aren't necessarily problematic or wrong. Change for change's sake?
- This summer, our main adult Bible class is going through John MacArthur's book Twelve Ordinary Men on the apostles. Each class is going to be taught by different people. I am teaching 2 classes: Judas Iscariot and another (I haven't chosen yet). Blessed to be given the opportunity to teach the Word.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Gospel and Grief

I have some hesitation in making this post. It is something I believe in very strongly, but I don't know how it will be received. I don't want to give any hint that I have no sympathy for those who grieve. I have great love and respect for my family and for anyone who has lost a loved one. I know I won't completely cover every aspect and angle of this so it is incomplete. I am a sinner and a flawed human being. I recognize that. But as I discuss this concept with people I trust, I am finding that there is something huge here.

It has been nearly a year since my Mom passed away. From time to time I will have a moment of grief and shed some tears, but overall I feel like I have a grasp on my grief. Others seem to be having a difficult time with their own loss. It makes me sad to watch them deal with it so hard. I know everyone deals with grief differently and in their own time frame. I recognize and respect that. I freely give room for that.

However, I made some observations about the differences I have. It made me realize something about the theology of those who teach a social gospel and a "Kingdom of this world" theology. When we make the gospel "...Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." and social justice, we focus on here and now. It doesn't give those who have lost everything the faith and hope of tomorrow. They will see their loved ones again if they have faith in Christ which is why we need to share that Gospel (The only true Gospel) with people more than the social gospel of a romanticized love which accepts sinfulness at any cost. True love "...does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth..." (1 Cor. 13:6) and John's account of Jesus says that "[His] kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews...” (John 18:36)

I know too many in our churches that feed at the well of social justice as primary news. This missional theology wants us to lessen our focus on saving people's souls and think about how we change this world now. I have witnessed this teaching give those in grief no hope for tomorrow. They have lost their faith. They have lost their way. We can read loads of articles on how we can better reach millennials who are not interested in the answers we used to have. The cynicism that is created is helping our friends and family run from Christ. And the solutions they seem to give are just more of the same nonsense that will lead to deeper despair or worse, lead us to accepting sin without repentance. The latter is rampant in our world today.

What does scripture say about those who teach? That they are judged more severely (James 3:1). These men and women who teach this need to think about what they are promising people in their "gospel". We absolutely should take care of the poor, the needy, the desperate, the sinner. But when we substitute that as the Gospel instead of the fruit of the Gospel (Gal. 5:22-23), we leave people to deal with life's traumas on their own.

I sometimes still have moments of sadness when I think about my Mom and how much I miss her. But only if I dwell on just that aspect. When I think about heaven and seeing her again, and knowing she is no longer in pain, I rejoice. Also, knowing the large number of my friends in Christ's Church who pray for me makes my faith even stronger. I don't get desperate. I don't despair. I think about how lost the grieving are when they don't have the true Jesus who heals. It is sad but it makes me angry with the teachers in our brotherhood who have been given a huge responsibility and don't find this message urgent enough so they teach this other "gospel" and they do it in the guise of scholarship and "a better understanding". They misuse scripture when it suits them but when you use their own methods on their theology, they get mad or say it's not the same thing. They are hypocrites. It's Pharisaical.

Strong words, I know. But I'm tired of it. They are stealing hope from people who need it. And our brotherhood eats it up. Where are our elders and leaders who have knowledge in the Word and the strength and perseverance to stand up and say, "Enough!"? They've been charged with protecting the flock from wolves and they are asleep in the fields while the sheep are carried away.

I, for one, am not an elder but I am a leader and I'm calling out the hypocrisy and the false religion being substituted for the Gospel of Jesus. You are hurting Christ's people and I will continue to teach the truth.
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*As I prefaced, this isn't everything. It doesn't encompass all of what grieving people deal with. I understand that. I'm not saying this is all of it. But, it is definitely a large part of it from my perspective and experience and we need more people willing to stand up boldly and say it out loud. I know I am not alone. I talk to brothers and sisters ALL THE TIME who agree with me and struggle with the same thing.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

The Rundown - 9

Here are the random ramblings my brain yelled at me this week:


- I had a great time seeing my brother and his family this week. We got to talk about a lot. He and I generally have similar minds. I think it is why I am so close to him.
- I was reminded this week that without the care and love of a church family, there really isn't much hope when times are difficult.
- So, suddenly, a lot of people are big fans of the pope. Many of them hated the previous popes. I don't think they like this one because he is making Christianity clear and true. I think it is because it is the first time a pope is making Christianity more palatable to a sinful world. This pope is willing to sacrifice clear Bible teachings to gain acceptance from the world. Not surprisingly, the world is reciprocating and willing to love a man who will defend sinfulness and false teaching. There is nothing new under the sun.
- When we lay down for sin, we stand for nothing.
- A verse I keep coming back to is 1 Corinthians 13:6 "...love rejoices in the truth..." There's a lot in this.
- I am content in knowing that I will never be accepted among my peers for my point of view. I feel sorry for my detractors, but I'm okay with it. I know Whom I believe in.
- I am feeling a bit melancholy for Father's Day this year. Not really looking forward to it. I'm glad to be a dad, but it is the year marker now for when my mom passed away.
- It has been difficult for me to really pay attention to my favorite sports teams lately. First, it is because we don't have cable and a lot of sports are being sent to cable channels rather than the networks as they were in the past. Second, it is because all my teams are not local so they don't show them here. Third, it is because I'm too busy and tired to focus on a game.
- That said, I am excited for the return of football. Chicago has some great draft picks this season.
- First Smallville, then Arrow. Now there will be The Flash and Gotham. Marvel may have the monopoly on great comic book movies, but DC is killing it with comic book television.

What is on your mind this week?

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day Without Mom

This will be my first Mother's Day following the death of my Mother. It will be difficult, but I am thankful for her. It will be a day of remembering how she loved me, helped me grow up, showed me faithfulness, encouraged me when I was sad, took me to numerous doctor appointments as my body grew extremely fast as I got older, and explained the attitudes a good adult man should have with others.

My Mom and I didn't always get along. I was a good kid and didn't really get into much trouble, but as an adult we drifted in some of our political and theological beliefs. She was supportive of my work in ministry and loved to hear me talk about the things I was working on. She loved that I found leadership important and saw when bad leadership by others bothered me. And she was encouraging.

On Sunday, I will be attempting to lead worship on Mother's Day. I know I will get through it. I count myself among the numerous people who find Mother's Day difficult, but I am going to celebrate. I have a wonderful church family full of Mothers. I have a wonderful Mother-in-law. My wife is an awesome Mother to our two kids. We will all honor moms together because Jesus Christ made it possible for us to reunite again.

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