Let’s join together and ask God to give our president peace and wisdom as he governs the affairs of our nation. Let’s ask God to bless his family. Let’s ask God for his presence to be made known in our president’s life.
Abraham Lincoln, 153 years ago, established the national holiday of Thanksgiving. His statement is powerful, as it addresses the difficulties of the time while recognizing the need to give thanks. You can read that here.
I would like to pull a few excerpts from his proclamation in order to provide some perspective about the power of gratitude in our lives.
1. GRATITUDE GIVES US FOCUS
“In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity”
There is never a bad time to give thanks. Many people in our country are stressed, worried, or fearful about our countries future. Might we agree that being in the middle of a civil war (1861-1865) would be much worse than where we are at now? If gratitude was necessary in the middle of war, then it is equally as necessary now.
Right after making that comment, Lincoln goes on to describe the good things that were happening in the country…population growth, the growth of wealth and strength in extracting needed mineral resources for the country. If he had only focused on war, he would have missed the positive things.
Things are never all bad or even all good. Life is usually filled with a combination of both.
Might it be better for our hearts and souls to focus on that which is good?
2. GRATITUDE LEADS US TO JESUS
“They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God”
When we choose to live a life of gratitude, it always leads us to the One who has given us those things which we are thankful for. Blessed families, economic security, food at the table, great friends, and many other things that we experience don’t happen by accident. They happen because God has made them available to us.
When we exercise gratitude, we realize that there is a purpose behind all the good that we experience. Gratitude leads us to Jesus.
3. GRATITUDE LEADS US TO ASK FOR GOD’S INTERVENTION
“…commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidable engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
If we truly believe that God is the one who is responsible for our blessings, then it is also to God that we direct our requests for intervention in the difficulties we face.
Gratitude was the foundation of requesting God’s intervention in the chaos that existed.
Understand this, thanking God for the good things does not mean ignoring the difficult things that we face…whether personally or as a country. On the contrary…thanking God for that which is good sets us up to pray with faith and hope, believing that our God will intervene to bring even more of his blessings in the areas of difficulty that exist.
4. GRATITUDE LEADS US TO GENEROSITY OF HEART AND ACTION
I don’t have a quote from Abraham Lincoln on this one, but it is something I believe to be true. When we live a life of gratitude, we become others-centered rather than me-centered. In fact, gratitude is the antidote to selfishness and entitlement.
Gratitude sends us on a trajectory of living a healthy life as we focus on that which is positive and as we focus on how we can give, rather than receive.
Gratitude gives us focus.
Gratitude shows us Jesus.
Gratitude allows us to plead our cause to God.
And gratitude leads us to a lifestyle of generosity.
Donald Trump will be the new president of the United States of America. What now?
I, like many others (on both the right and the left) were completely surprised that he won. I know people on both sides of the aisle that didn’t think it was possible for him to win, yet here we are!
So, what to do? What’s the next step? What’s the next move? I believe there are a few things that you and I can do to respond to this new season that is upon is.
Before I get to that, let me give you a reference point for what I will say. Have you ever had a conversation with someone, read a blog post, or heard a sermon or podcast where the speaker/author shares a “perspective” with you, without sharing their point of view? But, when you read or listen to it, you know based off of how they’re writing or speaking what they’re really trying to say? They attempt to covertly bring you over to their side without telling you straight out.
Yeah…that is not what I want to do here today. My goal is to speak to everyone, challenging all of us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. It’s kind of like the movie Shutter Island. Is Leonardo DiCaprio’s character really a U.S. marshal, or is he actually insane? When I spoke to friends about the movie, I loved playing the “devil’s advocate”, challenging their assumptions no matter which side they fell on. I’d like to do the same today. Let’s get started!
Wisely engage your emotions. If you are happy that Trump won, then celebrate! If you are grieving about Clinton’s loss, then mourn! There is nothing wrong with what you feel. But please, for the sake of your friends, family (especially children), followers on Facebook or Twitter, etc. engage your emotions wisely. Only you can determine what wisdom looks like in the context of your emotional state. If you’re celebrating, don’t blame others for mourning. If you’re mourning, don’t blame others for celebrating.
I have my feelings, but most would not know them on Facebook, partly because I don’t even know how to express them properly in a way that everyone would understand…so I have chosen to engage my emotions a little more privately. If airing them in a public manner is helpful to you and others, then do that as well! I’m in no way creating rules here…just inviting you to exercise wisdom in your response.
Exercise EMPATHY over JUDGMENT. This one is huge. In fact, I may write a separate post just about this one. Between last night and this morning, I have been reading hundreds of people’s comments on Facebook and other locations. I am discouraged to see so many people ascribe motives to another person for their vote. That is judgment, nothing more and nothing less. It especially saddens me to see Clinton supporters think of all Trump supporters as racists, or to see Trump supporters think of all Clinton supporters as baby killers (abortion).
Listen my friends, there is only one person who knows the heart of man, and that is God himself. Second to that, we cannot begin to understand a person’s feelings unless we actually know the person. When we choose empathy, we choose to step into the other person’s shoes. I believe that most people voted out of fear during this election cycle. Those who supported Trump were afraid of losing jobs, losing the Supreme Court, etc. Those who supported Clinton were/are afraid that Trump’s election will bring about waves of discrimination against different minority (ethnic, social, etc.) groups. When we step into someone else’s shoes, we begin to know them for who they truly are, which increases our ability to engage them and love them. Choose to step into someone else’s shoes and see what you learn.
Pray. Did God place Trump as president? Was it up to the free will of the people who voted? Different Christians have different theological viewpoints on how man’s free will and God’s sovereignty plays out. I happen to think there is a combination of both at work. Either way, 1 Timothy 2:1-3 states, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.3 This is good and pleases God our Savior,4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”
I get three important things from this call to pray. First, when we pray for Trump, for our nation, for Democrats and for Republicans (and all others), the end result may be peace! Second, this is pleasing to God. And last, there seems to be a direct relationship between people coming to salvation and our decision to pray. Being driven by our desperation, by our fear, or even by our victories can easily jeopardize an opportunity for someone to come to faith in Christ through our example.
Hope. God’s kingdom is eternal. The reigns of Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, etc. are not! Even the worst dictator has an end to his reign. We place our hope, not in a political system, but in a savior who came to bring his life to the entire world.
If your hope was placed in Clinton, it was in the wrong place. If your hope was (and still is) placed in Trump, your hope is in the wrong place. The end has not arrived, and when it does, Jesus will be right there in the middle of it. Let’s choose to place our trust in the one who has the ultimate say about how all of this will play out in the end.
And lastly, come to church on Sunday. We are followers of Jesus first of all. Regardless of where we land in politics, we are brothers and sisters, part of a great family. We need each other at a moment like this.
If you’re in the L.A. area, you’re welcome to join us! citylifela.org
But, the reality of the matter is that the propositions in our state have a lot more of an immediate impact on our lives. If you want fuller descriptions of the propositions, you can go here.
I have a few different guiding values that help me in making decisions about propositions. They are:
Simple is better, especially when it comes to taxes
Local (taxes, decisions, management, etc.) is better than statewide
Value life and freedom above all
So, here goes!
51 – Public School bonds. I say no. In many cases, bonds turn into taxes later on. A bond is essentially a deferred tax. It would be much simpler for the government to have certain tax rates, then make a budget according to income.
52 – Medi-Cal hospital fee. I say no. This was supposed to be a temporary fee. If the original plan was temporary, then let’s keep it that way. Also, charging hospitals in order to supposedly turn around and re-invest in those same hospitals is a waste of time and money.
53 – Voter Approval for $2+ Billion Bonds. I say yes. I don’t want to say yes, because our form of government is a representative one, where we vote people into office in order to make decisions on our behalf. But, many legislators have taken so much advantage of their role, that I think this would be a worthwhile opportunity for the large projects in our state.
54 – Public Viewing of Legislative Bills for 3 Days. I say yes. Again, same as 53, I don’t want to have to say yes, but I think this is necessary for more transparency.
55 – Extension of Income Tax Increase. I say no for a few reasons. First, this tax was supposed to be temporary. So, let’s keep it that way. Second, while many would say “Hey, no problem, it’s a higher tax rate on the rich”, the reality is that it starts higher rates at the $250,000 income level. Many people at that level are small business owners who would be adversely impacted as a result.
56 – Tobacco Tax Increase. I say no. Do I like smoking? Not at all. Would I love it if no one smoked? Absolutely! But once again, there is no need to continue complicated the tax system by putting a separate tax on a certain segment of society, especially when there is no guaranteed place where the money will go.
57 – Juvenile Parole. I say no. On its face, this sounds like a good proposition, but the reality is different. For example, if someone originally did time for a small offense, then is now doing time for a bigger offense, they may get parole based off of their original small offense, regardless of what their current offense is. This doesn’t make sense. They need to go back to the drawing board on this one and rework it.
58 – Non-English Language Teaching in Public School. I say no. I believe that kids should speak many languages, but that is not what this proposition is about. The easiest way for a non-English speaker to learn English is to learn by full immersion. I have five children who have all learned Spanish at home and have had no problem going into an English-speaking school and picking it up. There are still opportunities for children who have difficulty learning English to learn in their own language. This proposition would simply create a situation where many of our students are not ready for the workforce due to limited English skills.
59 – Overturn Citizens United. I say no. Regardless of all the rhetoric out there, such as, “Big corporations can influence elections however they want”, the reality is that certain big corporations were already doing that before Citizens United. Simple case in point: media conglomerates, whether they tend to lean left (NBC), or whether they tend to lean right (FOX), already used their money to influence elections. Citizens United simply gave the opportunity to all businesses to have a voice. I believe that the best way to increase people’s knowledge is not to have limited access to information, but rather to hear from more voices, rather than just a few.
60 – Condoms in Porn Films. I say yes. Now, I am typically in favor of adults being able to choose what they want to do with their lives, even if that’s the porn industry (which does much damage to our country and the people involved in it). But there is another element to consider. There is a connection between pornography and sex trafficking. While this does not solve sex trafficking, it may provide some limited protection to those who are victims of it. For that reason, I think it’s worth it to say yes.
61 – Drug Price Standards. I say no. While on its face this proposition looks good (in order to save money on drugs), it suffers from what everyone knows as “cause and effect”. Once California departments are no longer legally allowed to purchase drugs above a certain price, certain drug companies will not sell their drugs to those departments, thus depriving people of the drugs they need. That would not be good.
62 – Repeal death penalty. I say no. I recommend that you vote your conscience on this one. Maybe on a later date I will post a fuller explanation, but put simply it’s this: Because I value life, especially the life of the victim, I believe there are certain cases where the death penalty is the only just punishment for what was done to the victim. My eyes are focused more on what is just for the victim of the crime, rather than the perpetrator of the crime.
63 – Background checks for Ammunition. I say no. It’s one thing to have it for guns. It’s a whole other thing to have it for ammunition. I don’t believe that this would actually eliminate gun crimes.
64 – Marijuana legalization. I say no. Yeah, I know how many people say that there’s no long-term harm, it’s a low-level drug, etc., but I think it’s still beneficial to use the force of law to outlaw certain things that have no proven benefit to society. Marijuana does not.
65 – Bag Revenue to go to Wildlife Conservation Fund. I say no. Basically, many grocery stores and others would be forced to no longer use disposable plastic bags (prop 67), and would be forced to charge consumers to pay for other types of bags. Then, the money charged would go to a certain fund. Why do I say no? Two reasons. First, this is more complication of taxes in our state. I already said that I like simplicity. Second, this is essentially an additional sales tax on every person in the state. For these reasons I say no.
66 – Death Penalty Quicker. I say no. While I like to streamline processes as much as possible, many people on death row who are found to be innocent of a crime are cleared of it much later than five years, which is the limit imposed on this proposition. While in this case a longer process is more complicated, I value life more than a complicated process…so “no” it is for me.
67 – Plastic Bags. I vote no. Why? I simply believe that local jurisdictions would be better to decide on this one rather than the state at large. Jobs are lost because of this. I want to take care of the environment, but I think this decision would simply be best at the local level.
I hope this was helpful! Now, if you have more questions, agree or disagree, or anything else, feel free to comment below and I’ll respond!
This is quite possibly the craziest political season that our country has ever experienced, at least in modern memory. Voters all over the country are getting ready to vote into office one of two people who are dishonest, potentially (or completely) crooked, and who have used their connections or resources (whether political, financial, or both) for their own personal benefit. So, who will get your vote?
Now, stick with me here…I’ve got a lot to say! My goal today is to share with you a perspective on how you should process your vote, not necessarily who you should vote for.
I have typically refrained from giving specific commentary on this blog about specific issues or candidates. As a pastor, there is one principal reason why I do this. I desire to be the pastor of everyone who is a part of my church (whether they attend my church in person or watch online). There are so many political beliefs out there, and I never want my personal beliefs to be an obstacle to my most important belief: Jesus Christ!
Faith in Jesus Christ has survived (and thrived) in every political system and has crossed every cultural, ethnic, and national boundary. Jesus is universal! I never want a subset of political beliefs, even if they are rooted in faith, to be an obstacle to my most important belief…my belief in Jesus. I get frustrated when political figures try to attach Jesus to their political philosophy, to somehow convince everyone that Jesus is on their side.
Now, that being said, let me be clear about something: while I have very specific political beliefs, I am not a partisan. You know who the partisans are. They are those “friends” on Facebook (or elsewhere) who never listen to reason, blindly follow, and vote the party line above all else. Some of them resort to name calling. Their opinion can’t be changed because they have an emotional attachment to their opinion, which can’t be changed with logic. These people exist on the right and the left in American politics. Some are Democrats. Others are Republicans. Others are Libertarians, or Green Party, or other political parties.
Partisan is not a word that I use to describe myself. I am not beholden to a certain group, person, or political party. I happen to be registered with one, but I don’t blindly follow. I study positions and am willing to change if I believe it more closely reflects my values. In practice, I am probably more of an independent. There is a set of values that I hold dear. These values are informed by my faith in Jesus. I vote according to those values, looking at all the candidates that might potentially be the best fit for the values I have. I hold my values strongly, but my opinions loosely, choosing to see if there might be other truth out there that I might have missed.
With all of that said, I have been thinking through who I will vote for. But, more than that, I have been thinking about what’s going on underneath the political scene. What are the currents of belief that influence this election? What are people actually looking for when voting for a specific candidate? What should we look for when voting for a particular candidate? Can you still be a good citizen if you choose to vote for neither candidate (talking about Trump and Clinton here)? If you go for a third party candidate (like Stein, Johnson, or McMullin) is that throwing away your vote?
What I’d like to do is simply invite you to think through a few things that might form how you think about who to vote for.
First, your vote needs to be earned.
Your vote does not belong to a political party, whether you are registered with them or not. While your vote needs to be given (or potentially withheld purposefully), it does not need to be given freely. The candidate needs to prove their worthiness for the office that they seek. Simply saying that you might vote for thelesser of two evils requires nothing of the candidate to earn your vote. It’s ok to have expectations of the candidates and to vote accordingly.
Second, you must view your vote as having weight in two important areas: policy and culture.
Let me expand on this a bit. The human body needs two things to function: systems and blood flow. The systems of the body include systems like the circulatory, muscular, nervous, and others. But, even if every system is in perfect working condition, if there is no flow of blood, there is no life. In fact, you can live life without complete use of all your systems…but if there is no flow of blood, you’re dead!
Put simply, the blood is the life of the body, and the systems carry the life of the body.
I view the country in a similar way.
Policies = systems. Culture = blood flow.
Most people tend to view their vote only in the context of policy. They ask questions like: Does this candidate believe what I believe? Will this candidate enact the policies that I believe will benefit this country? Etc.
Those are good questions to ask. But they are not the only questions.
The questions of culture have to do with how our society functions, responds, and interacts, regardless of the policies that exist. Questions for this might be like: Does this candidate behave how I want them to behave? Does this candidate represent the character that this nation should have?
The relationship between policies and culture is symbiotic.
This means that they both influence each other. But, this leads me to my third point, which happens to be personal opinion.
Third, CULTURE trumps (no pun intended) POLICY every day of the week.
I believe who we are as a nation is quite possibly more important than what we do as a nation. Now, some of you might disagree. That’s ok! You might think that policy trumps culture. Or, you might believe that they are equally important. I can respect those viewpoints. All I ask of you is to take them into account in order to make your decision.
And, this is what makes it so hard. If you believe that culture trumps policy, then you might look at both principal candidates as being unfit for office. Or, you might believe one truly does have the character needed to be in office and to move our country in the direction it needs to go. Regardless of which way you go, I encourage you to evaluate the candidates according to this framework.
Fourth (and last), Jesus is above every political system.
The kingdom of God is not a human kingdom. While I love the United States of America, and consider it a privilege to live here, this country is not the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is eternal. His kingdom rests in our hearts, not in a political system.
Now, is it important to vote in the political system so that we might continue to live our faith freely in this country? Absolutely. But let me remind you: some of the greatest countries for the expansion of God’s kingdom on earth are also the most restrictive towards exercising faith. Think of China as one example.
I believe politics is downstream of culture. The reason why Christianity might be losing in the political arena is because it’s already losing in the hearts of the population. If we want God’s kingdom to spread in this country, it won’t happen because we get the right leader to be president…it will happen because the Church reaches people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because of this, my hope is not in a political system, party, or leader. My hope is in Jesus! Choose to trust in Jesus, regardless of which way our political system goes in the coming years.
So, who will you vote for? Choose to think critically, using the wisdom that God gives, to come to the conclusion that you believe is best.
I tend to pay quite a bit of attention to what’s going on in the world, whether it be politics, international news, or other things. With that comes a healthy dose of people’s opinions about why all of these things are happening.
One of the most used arguments for the way things are in the world has to do with what I call poverty of circumstance. Secretary of State John Kerry blamed terrorism on poverty, calling it the “root cause”.
The argument basically goes like this: Because “x” person grew up in “y” circumstances, it led them to take “z” action.
Now, this may be partially true. There has always been the “nature vs. nurture” argument for why people do what they do. People’s external influences play a large role in determining who a person becomes.
While all of that may be true, it ignores the most basic truth: Every human being is born with poverty of heart.
No matter whether someone is rich or poor, educated or uneducated, from North America or Asia, black or white, or any other defining characteristic, we are ALL born with poverty of heart.
Psalm 51:5 says, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”
Romans 3:23 states, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
Cause simply means that one thing causes another to happen. Correlation simply means that two things happen (together), but one is not necessarily the cause of the other.
So, in most arguments, people believe that poverty of circumstance CAUSES all sorts of evil in the world. Others would argue that there is a correlation between the two, meaning that we tend to see poverty of circumstance in the same places (or people) where evil is perpetrated.
I would differ with both of those viewpoints and add a third. I will call this one context.
I believe that it’s important to understand the context in which someone becomes the person they are, without making that circumstance out to be the cause or a direct correlation.
Let’s use terrorism as an example. If someone can be rich or poor and become a terrorist, it would be hard to say that terrorism is caused by poverty. Also, we would have a hard time making a correlation between the two, because rich and poor are distinctly different, while leading to the same result (terrorism).
But, what is worth taking a look at is context. What is the person’s context (their influences, beliefs, circumstances, etc.) that contribute to making the person who they are? And, most importantly, how does that context play into the poverty of heartthat already exists inside of that person?
I believe the main cause for all of the evil in the world, no matter where it’s found or who commits it, is poverty of heart. There is no greater cause than a heart that is desirous of doing wrong. Now, the context for each person’s evil actions is different and may have some amount of influence on that particular person. But, it is not the primary influence.
Understanding the context is important, but it should never replace the simple belief that evil actions are produced from an evil heart. There is no greater cause of evil in the world than the evil that already exists inside a person’s heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
While we must work in society to have justice, we must never forget that no government or private institution has the power to change the human heart – only God can do that. While we try to alleviate poverty, we must not blame poverty for violence…we must do the hard work leading people with love to a changed heart.
For this reason, our hope must never be placed in political figures, business leaders, government directors, celebrities, or any other person or group.
In fact, I think part of the reason our political system has produced the two principal candidates we have is because for too long people on both the right and the left have looked to their political leaders as their saviors or America’s saviors.
Let me be clear: America doesn’t need a savior. America, while a great nation, does not need one political representative to somehow change the course of our nation. When we place our hope in one person to change whatever it is we want changed, we are already doomed.
The only thing that changes America is changed hearts of those who live in this country.
And, the only thing that changes people’s hearts is Jesus.
This is why the church is so important. There is no greater tool in Jesus’ toolbox than his church. While Jesus is the Instigator of change, he causes that change through the church.
So, what am I trying to say with this post? I’m probably saying quite a few things, but most of all, it’s this: The biggest problems we face in the world today are caused by poverty of heart. The greatest solution to poverty of heart is spreading the light and love of Jesus.
I encourage you to be as big a Jesus person as you can be in the world today. That is what people need. That is what our country needs. And, that is what this world is desperately longing for.
Terrorist attacks, police officers being killed indiscriminately, African-American men killed for small infractions of the law, and much more. I’m sick and tired of this.
But I’m not going to blame a group. I’m not going to place the blame at the feet of some group on the political left or right. I’m not going to blame the system, whether that system is a government system, or economic system, or any other system.
It’s not that there isn’t potentially some blame in any of those places. But let’s be clear: any system, or any group, is led by people. In the case of government systems, those who lead have many times been voted into their positions by, guess who? People!
And guess what? People are imperfect, broken, incomplete, and sometimes filled with all sorts of evil.
And, if there is someone to specifically blame, it’s the devil himself. And yes, I do believe he exists. He is the enemy of our souls. He is the enemy of all that is right and good. He is the enemy of people. He sows disunity, discord, anger, rage, bitterness, racism, injustice, and much more. He uses every opportunity he gets to ruin our lives.
And yes, I am sick and tired of this.
And you know what else I’m sick and tired of? I’m sick and tired of people ignoring all of this, thinking that as long as my life is good, I have nothing to worry about.
Let me be clear: if your life is good, but the world is going to hell, eventually hell will come knocking on your door. Evil spreads.
There is only one answer to this. The power of GOOD. And the power of good is only possible through the power of GOD.
And here’s why it’s good to be sick and tired. When we are sick and tired of something, it means we are ready for action.
So, what action is required of us? Put simply, we must choose to live our lives beyond ourselves, living for a purpose greater than our own momentary blessing.
If the purpose of our lives is to get our dream job, make good money, have a good family, and live in a nice house, what do we do once we achieve all that? What is your purpose then? All of those things are fine and good, but our purpose calls us to something bigger and greater than those things.
Here’s my question for you: Are you living your life with eternal purpose?
This world needs the children of God. It is crying out for people who will step in to the difficult spots…to step in with prayer, to step in with action, to step in with words of life.
Will you step out of your blessed life and step in to a spiritual war that is raging in our country and beyond? Now, more than ever, we cannot place our trust in a politician, or a corporation, or a national leader for our salvation. We must place our trust in Christ and Christ alone, then commit ourselves to action.
A lot has been going on this week in the U.S. and around the world. I thought I’d sum up for you some of the biggest things that are going on in the news. There is a lot of information to sort through on the Internet, so sometimes it can seem overwhelming. But, we must make sure to stay engaged with what’s going on around us!
Pastor Perry Noble was fired from Newspring Church – I have heard him speak before. He’s an incredible speaker and an impactful pastor in Anderson, South Carolina. It’s sad to see that he let an addiction get the best of him, but our prayers should be that God restores him and his family.
Terrorist attack in Nice, France – At least 80 have been killed in this senseless attack. France has been dealing with many terrorist attacks recently, but they are not the only ones. This is truly becoming a worldwide problem, affecting many countries. My prayer is that the Lord does a miracle!
Pokemon Go – A new Nintendo app. It’s spreading like wildfire. Millions of people are using it. My son wants in on it! Ahhhhhhhh! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Just read.
President Obama speaks at a town hall meeting – In a meeting related to the deaths of two African-American men at the hands of police, and the attack in Dallas that killed five police officers, President Obama held a town meeting. There’s a lot I disagree with when I listen to politicians across the political spectrum. I thought he said some good things here, so I included this one. Let’s continue to pray for God’s peace and justice in our nation.
The last couple of days I’ve been extremely busy…meetings, email, event preparation. It’s all been a bit crazy.
As I was checking my Facebook news feed I noticed friends of mine posting about some shootings that had happened. I didn’t think much of it at the time, since I was so occupied in my work.
Not until earlier yesterday did I get a chance to actually read about the police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the police shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota.
Then, while in the midst of other meetings in the evening, I noticed a news article about the shootings of multiple police officers in Dallas, Texas, which has led to five deaths. As I write this early Friday morning, the police are still in a standoff with one other suspect.
We have no idea if the Dallas police officer shootings are related to the protests in Dallas about the deaths of the two African-American men mentioned above, or if they are related to Islamic terrorism, or if they are some type of homegrown terrorism. I’m sure those answers will come out in due time.
The following are a few thoughts:
We must be willing to empathize with anyone who suffers. Regardless of the evidence and reasons for certain shootings, all who suffer need to experience our empathy and sympathy. I’ve never been personally big into hashtag campaigns like #blacklivesmatter -or- #alllivesmatter -or- #bluelivesmatter (or any others). What I definitely am into is the fact that Jesus suffers when humans suffer. We must suffer along with our brothers and sisters in the human race. This is a week of suffering for all of us.
Evil is real. And no, I’m not trying to call the snipers evil who took out the police officers, or the police officers evil who killed Alton or Philando. There is an evil one, Satan himself, who desires nothing less than the destruction of God’s most valuable creation – humanity. He loves war, hate, disunity, bitterness, racism, and anything else that can come between God’s most favored creation. How do we combat this? With the love of God.
Prayer is powerful. Is prayer our only tool? No! Must justice be served? Absolutely! While prayer does not eliminate the need for human action, human action does not eliminate the need for prayer! Human action can lead to justice. Prayer can lead to changed hearts. While we desire justice, we desire EVEN MORE the changing of people’s hearts. This is done through prayer.
Justice is needed. Remember this: true justice ALWAYS focuses on the victim of the crime, not the perpetrator of the crime. What is just is determined by what the victim deserves. So whether it’s justice for Alton, or Philando, or any of the police officers who lost their lives, they all deserve justice. Will it look the same in every case? I imagine not. Every case is unique with its own circumstances. Regardless, justice must prevail.
Wait for the evidence. It was so interesting to watch on the news tonight (on various channels) as commentators attempted to explain their own beliefs about what happened in Dallas. I guess that’s what they’re paid to do. Regardless, I found it less than helpful. They were proclaiming opinions/judgments before any facts or evidence of the case were known. While we must empathize quickly, we must be slow to judge. Most people do the reverse…they judge quickly and empathize slowly (if even at all). This should not be the case, especially for those of us who call ourselves Christ followers. Let’s empathize quickly, but let’s be slow to judge until we have more evidence.
We need Jesus. You might be a reader of my blog and have no particular faith, or you have a faith that is different than my own. No problem! But, I cannot shy away from the fact that I believe Jesus is the hope of this world and that he is the answer to all that is sick in our society and on our planet. I encourage you to invite Jesus to become real in your life. If you need help with this, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those are the main things I’m thinking about right now. Did I catch every possible thought about these occurrences? Absolutely not. If you’ve got more to add, feel free to reply in the comments section.
For 240 years we have experienced this experiment of freedom known as America.
Many people have believed and continue to believe that it has been God who has blessed this nation. I am one of those.
God’s blessings upon this country have been abundant. Does this mean we are a perfect country? By no means! As humans, everything we do will always be imperfect, including the countries we lead. But, as a Christian, I believe in God’s abundant grace. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. And God’s grace has been upon this country.
I’ve been thinking about our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. The anthem was originally written as a poem by Francis Scott Key, called Defence of Fort McHenry. It was later put to music using The Anacreon in Heaven, written by John Stafford Smith.
That original poem you Key has four verses. The fourth verse says,
O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Key wrote the poem in 1814, during the War of 1812. He believed that it was God’s providence that made, preserved, and rescued our nation. His words In God is our trust define how we are called to live as free people and as a country as well.
When we choose to put our hope and trust in God, we are available to experience his blessings and favor upon our lives. May that fourth verse of Key’s poem be a description of our country for 240 years to come!
JeffTolle.org is home to the writings of Pastor Jeff Tolle, a local church pastor in Los Angeles, California. He loves to write about living a life of influence.