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Friday
Jul202018

Is the Free Press Free? 

Steven Spielberg directed a movie recently called “The Post.” It was the story of how a newspaper risked violating a court order by publishing “The Pentagon Papers,” a classified study of the Vietnam War. 

(The Pentagon Papers was the top-secret Department of Defense study of our nation's political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.)

 

In the movie there was a quote from one of the Supreme Court Justices that rule in favor of the press having the freedom to publish information that was critical of its government. Here is what he said.

"In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors." (Judge Hugo Black, writing for the 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court majority that decided in favor of the press.)

 

The movie was good, and of course it portrayed The Washington Post newspaper doing what many would call today a righteous deed in exposing the lies and cover-ups of our government concerning the Vietnam War. 

This got me thinking.

If the press is free enough to keep our government honest, then who keeps the press honest? No one wants to censor the exchange of ideas and opinions, yet the majority of the press does just that. Who checks out the media’s facts and opinions?  Broadcast outfits have the power of the news hours to peddle almost any slant they desire on the news of the day with little to no pushback on their stories. 

Judge Hugo Blackhad a good idea in his quote, and for his day it was appropriate. Today, however, the media is no longer representing the governed, it is representing an ideology that pushes against the Judeo-Christian values that founded our country. If there is a story in the news about abortion, the story is about rights, not the ramifications brought about by this procedure. I remember not too many years ago we had stories about AIDS and the epidemic it created. Today, it seems that we have cured AIDS since it is no longer a topic of discussion anywhere. The point I am making is that the media is a poor way of getting any kind of reliable information. Journalists write and produce their stories according to how they are politically wired, and rarely do they simply present the facts, because all facts can be manipulated to support a cause. 

Is the press free?  Yes it is free to mislead, misrepresent, misdiagnose, miss the point, and miss the boat. Like so many other industries in our day there is very little integrity anymore when it comes to telling the truth. This is primarily because we don’t believe there is an ultimate truth teller in the universe. Everyone has to fend for himself or herself when it comes to discovering what kind of truth is appropriate. Without a gold standard for truth, you have fake truth, which is everywhere today, and most people can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is not. That is the goal of our age to create an environment where you keep people guessing and the opinions are a dime a dozen. The media contributes nicely to this agenda. 

I am reminded of what Jesus said in John 8:31-32 So He said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and thetruth will set you free.” 

There is only one free press and that is God’s Word. There you will never be disappointed by what you read and you will never be overwhelmed by fake news. 

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

Tuesday
Jul172018

I Don’t Want To Be That Guy

Matthew 25:24-27

 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,  so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’  But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.

I suppose there are many people in the Bible that you would not want to be like, let alone suffer their fate. Out of all the characters in the Bible, which ones come to mind where you wouldn’t want to be “that guy”?

For me, it is the guy in the parable of the talents who hide what God had given him to invest and when it came time to give an account of what he did with the talent, he basically said, “I didn’t lose it”.  

Now think about that. He didn’t lose it. So what else did he do with it? He didn’t gamble it because he didn’t have more nor did he have less. He didn’t waste it in riotous living like the prodigal son, because he still had all that was given to him. In general, he was probably a pretty responsible person and he didn’t want to take a risk with someone else’s money, so he hid it. Sounds fairly reasonable, but that is not what the owner wanted him to do. He wanted the man to invest the money he was given in some kind of way that it would make more money, just like the other two counterparts that did invest.

In the end, this seemingly honest man was overtaken by his fear, his preoccupation with safety and security, and probably just didn’t want the responsibility of doing anything but keeping the one talent safe.

This story shows how many of us live our Christian lives. Some will go to the ends of the earth with their investment of faith, while others will be faithful at home working with ministries that help people. Yet others like this fellow with one talent who was content with going to church every week and hearing a sermon. He was hiding in church and hiding behind a sermon or two. There is not a lot of investment by hiding in church. The investment that God makes in you is always based upon His assessment of whether you are a good investment with His treasure of the gospel.

Are you a good investment?  What will you do with the treasure of the gospel?  Will you keep it to yourself by hiding it in a church, or will you invest it somehow in the in the lives of others? 

The end result did not go well for this man with one talent; he was stripped of what he did have and thrown out into the outer darkness. Was he no longer a servant, you ask? You have to wonder since he was not invited to stay with his master. I believe there will be many who are hiding in our churches and pretending to be Christians. The investment of the talents as I understand them, was always a test to see how faithful each servant was to the master and to the treasure he entrusted to them.

I just know that I don’t want to be that guy with just the one talent who was busy being spiritual at church and hiding within the Christian culture.  He did not understand how to invest the gift of the gospel that he was given. Do you? 

Keeping it honest and truthful…K 

Wednesday
Jul112018

What prevents us from drawing closer to God? 

Your deeds won't let you return to your God. You are a prostitute through and through, and you do not know the LORD.                             -Hosea 5:4

I never have thought about being a ‘prostitute’ with my thoughts and deeds. The scripture uses this terminology quite often as it refers to Israel giving herself to other gods in the land. In a recent conversation I had about a church whose reputation has been tarnished by cult-like practices of its staff, it was mentioned that the people at this church love the Lord but they remain deceived. In light of what Hosea is saying here, do we prostitute ourselves through the kind of theology we choose to practice? I have been around preachers who are so entrenched in their theological foundation that you would think their theology had replaced Jesus as their first love. I think the question should be asked, “Have I prostituted myself in such a manner that my ability to know God has been curtailed or denied?” The great myth we adhere to is that our faith in God is determined by simply a decision we made for Christ. Granted, accepting Christ is the beginning of our journey with God and nothing else is required for salvation other than believing in Him, yet our lifestyle must change to reflect that decision, and a lifestyle change is directly connected to a changed heart. That is why Jesus said you would know a tree by its fruit. You can’t make a decision for Christ and keep your lifestyle in violation of His principles and values. When I first came to Christ my mentors taught me that you make wrong things right, and you constantly work at keeping things right, every day of your life. The term used back then was “keeping short accounts;” in other words, don’t let the sun go down without making things right - first with God, and then with people.

Prostitution is so degrading and it cheapens life at the core of who a person is and enslaves them to a lifestyle of captivity. Yet God says we have prostituted ourselves by our deeds, by making them the love of our lives. We eventually become what we love, what we spend our time doing, and what we support. The simplest way to analyze our behavior is through reflection and prayer. 

Psalm 5:10 says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Pastor John Piper writes, Jesus knows everyone’s idol. Jesus knows perfectly what is competing in your heart with affection for him. He looks every one of us in the face and sees right to our heart.

What is competing with God in your heart? 

Churches have felt this competition as the Star and Tribune has reported in a series of articles in the Star and Tribune called “Christianity at a Crossroads”. The author says, Steep drops in church attendance, aging congregations, and cultural shifts away from organized religion have left most of Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations facing unprecedented declines.” 

http://m.startribune.com/as-minnesota-churches-close-a-way-of-life-fades/486037461/

Modern life is in competition for your soul and it is being felt throughout Christianity. Most of these churches mentioned in the Strib article have left true Christianity and it is only their tradition that keeps the congregation on life support. Churches that offer the hope of a life-changing Christianity are growing and pushing back against the modern lifestyle that ignores God. 

This is why the Prophet Hosea wrote to ancient Israel; they too had issues with living their lives without God, and their deeds proved it. They loved their deeds more than they did God, and that is mirrored around us today. 

Competition for your attention and allegiance is finding people compromising their beliefs for the easier lifestyle without the foundation of faith and it’s principles. Without a transfusion of Godly principles we will continue to promote deeds that will keep people from knowing God. In another article by the Star and Tribune, they write about a library reading program that is being done by libraries in St Paul. Here is the headline: 

The St. Paul Public Library's Drag Story Hour celebrates Pride while teaching self-acceptance.”

With big lavender hair, spiraled silver sequins and a mermaid fit-and-flare skirt, she was ready to read.

Fierce, 24, is one of six drag performers to participate in the St. Paul Public Library’s Drag Story Hour program, which invites them to public libraries around St. Paul to read a book of their choosing, followed by a musical performance.

“There’s an adult sphere and there’s a sphere for children,” said Kim Crockett, vice president of the think tank Center for the American Experiment. “It is very clear to me that the St. Paul Library has forgotten that.”

http://m.startribune.com/as-minnesota-churches-close-a-way-of-life-fades/486037461/ 

The age of innocence is slowly being lost to programs that indoctrinate children to adult perversion. This is yet another example of how evil is competing to corrupt the souls of human beings. 

I cannot help but hear the echo of the prophet’s warning of how the indoctrination of deeds will keep us from knowing the one true God.

Your deeds won't let you return to your God. You are a prostitute through and through, and you do not know the LORD.       -Hosea 5:4

Keeping it honest and truthful. 

Thursday
Jul052018

The Humble Have All The Advantages With God

If there has been a theme that God has me consistently studying it would be the theme of character. As a Christian who believes that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still in operation today, the basis for those gifts is a godly character. My greatest battles in life happen inside of me trying to conform to God’s ways and refusing to accept the ways of the world around me. Humility is the greatest character struggle because human pride is the easiest element to manipulate. 

The Psalmist says the humble person gets God’s attention and receives His guidance:

 

  • “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”  
    -Psalm 25:9
  • “He has no use for conceited people, but shows favor to those who are humble.” 
      -Proverbs 3:34  
  • “But the grace that God gives is even stronger. As the scripture says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”   - James 4:6

So as you can see, the humble have all the advantages with God, so why do we spend so much time trying to impress people with who we are or with what we know? God is impressed with those who know that everything good comes from Him, and there is nothing good in who we are or in what we do apart from Him. I love what the Psalmist says in Psalm 119:32b “For you will enlarge my heart.”  He believes God will enlarge his heart with the fullness of His Word as he humbles himself to pursue God. I like that kind of prosperity because it has a sincere application of humility and the desire to know God. Jesus talked about the duplicity of serving two masters:

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  -Matthew 6:24

I believe the same is true with serving yourself and serving God. One of those two masters will get the best of who you are while the other will be found lacking. Most of the time it is the dedication to the Lord that loses that battle. That is why there is always this inner battle for the control over your life. 

However, when we are talking about leadership, the characteristics of leadership, and the ability to lead others, God looks to humility as a characteristic of a true leader. Now that is not what most of us think; most of us see leadership in people who are bold, authoritative, decisive, and persuasive. We never see people who are humble as real leaders, yet it is humility that is the critical characteristic for a leader to possess because he or she knows they are only the conduits for God to use. 

Again if we were to use a checklist to evaluate how we see our role in this world it might look something like this:

  1. Who is on the pedestal of my life? Do I look for credit or acknowledgment from others as a reward for what I do? 
  2. Do I feel insecure around people I don’t know and do I try to impress them with who I know, or what I know? 
  3. Do I need to control the outcome of every situation or can I trust others to act on my behalf with my full support? 
  4. Is being right a value I pursue and as a result I have become a know-it-all?
  5. Does it bother me that others get more credit than I do? 

Humility isn’t a floor mat that people walk on, but it is a characteristic that is essential for God’s interaction in your life. As I said, the humble have all the advantages with God.

Keeping it honest and truthful…K 

Tuesday
Jul032018

When the Food is Tainted

2 Kings 4:39-40

One of them went out to the field to gather herbs, and he found a wild vine from which he gathered as many wild gourds as his garment could hold. Then he came back and cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. And they poured it out for the men to eat, but when they tasted the stew they cried out,“There is death in the pot, O man of God!” And they could not eat it.

I love this story because it is indicative of what happens when we are given something that is not right. Would you be that perceptive if you were given something that was not right? I think we have become a society where we don’t want to offend anyone so we do not speak up. Had these perceptive men not spoken up and cried out against the tainted food, many could have become sick and even died. The problem was the man grabbed whatever looked good and assumed it would be good for the stew without ever knowing what the strange gourd was, yet he served it anyway. 

I have always equated this story to what is taught in the Church. We have many voices all contributing to the ministry yet there may be some parts of the contributions that are not quite right in following God’s Word. Like the strange gourd, it may lead people down a different path and take them away from healthy Christianity. 

I have pastored three churches in my pastoral career. Those three churches were quite unique from each other and all of them had some healthy strengths. They also at times demonstrated the dark side of a church where people pretended to be something they were not. In all three churches we had people pretending to be strong Christians, yet when the problems were beyond an easy fix, those who were pretending were the first to exit the church. 

Pretenders are everywhere in society, and they are also everywhere in the Church. These are the people who have strong opinions but their spiritual root in Christ is very shallow. They are also the type of people who would look for strange gourds to be thrown into the kettle of common belief. Sometimes we see these strange gourds to be masquerading as revivals. Real revivals change lives and communities, not theatric demonstrations of strange laughter, uncontrollable emotional outbursts, or people falling over. These are all strange gourds that people have brought and put into the Christian stew. 

Many of these people have a strong emotional side to their lives that affects their perception and understanding of the gospel message. Some have even thrown the strange gourd of Islam and Yoga into the pot. 

As you can see there are many strange gourds that have found their way into mainline Christianity. Some of you may think that I am too narrow in my approach, but remember not everything is profitable for you to practice as the Apostle Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 6:11-12:

11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 12“Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me,” but Iwill not be mastered by anything.

Just one wrong ingredient in a recipe can mean the difference between success and failure, and that is true in our spiritual lives as well. We don’t have to look for demons under every rock, but we do have to have discernment about the things we incorporate into our lives and call ‘Christian’. Remember the last days will be days we dilute what is real and incorporate the false. It is a slow process of acceptance and ultimately evil wears down any resistance to anything false, until everything is accepted as normal. 

That is the process we see in society and it is happening too often to many of us in the Church. The scripture teaches us to be watchful, sober minded and prayerful so we don’t end up with strange gourds in the pot. 

Keeping it honest and truthful…K 

 

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