Would Jesus Stand or Kneel?

Pick a side.

It has to be one or the other.

That’s what we’re always told. It has to be Coke or Pepsi, Ford or Chevy, Republican or Democrat, stand or kneel. There are no other options. To choose a third option is to condone the most evil of the only two real choices. And we call this freedom.

Even Jesus was told to pick a side. He had the wonderful privilege of choosing between the lifeless Saducees and the graceless Pharisees. He had the wisdom to denounce both groups. He rejected the Pharisees with his welcoming call to, “all who are weary and heavy laden.” He rejected the Saducees with his resurrection from the grave. Neither party, in their purest form, exists today.

Jesus is doing just fine.

We made it through the first two weeks of the NFL season without much controversy over people kneeling during the national anthem. Sure, some were still doing it and ESPN was still reporting on it but it was rapidly becoming a non-issue.

And then the President of the United States decided to share his opinion. The one who so many evangelical leaders have told us is, “God’s chosen man” called NFL players a name that I will not repeat here because of their refusal to stand during the national anthem. He did not, by the way, use such strong language toward the tiki torch mob in Charlottesville. Some of those were good people, remember? And then, the man who has told us that he has never needed to ask for forgiveness, lashed out at an outspoken Christian for refusing to visit the White House with his NBA championship team.

And, just like that, guess what dominated NFL coverage on Sunday. Can we just watch a game without the government getting involved? The president’s answer over the weekend was a resounding “No.”

For reasons that I’ll likely never understand, some Christians are okay with the president, “telling it like it is” and cursing people who take a knee during the national anthem. The same group that stages silly protests against the IRS on Pulpit Freedom Sunday has no problem with that same government condemning protestors who land on a different end of the political spectrum than they do. The same group that rightly has a problem with President Obama’s tyrannical reach into the consciences of bakers has no problem whatsoever with President Trump’s tyrannical reach into the consciences of professional athletes.

I do not agree with kneeling during the anthem. I always stand and take my hat off and I teach my sons how and why they should do the same. I also teach them that those who refuse to stand have a right to do so and, whether we end up agreeing with them or not, if we’re ever going to get over our divisions, we would do well to listen to them rather than obey the marching orders handed down to us by the president and his talk radio spokespeople.

Jesus did not die for us so that we could pick a side in some ridiculous culture war. He rules over such things and his followers represent him best when they are motivated by the command to love God and love neighbor rather than the desire to tell it like it is and stick it to the folks on the other side.

It can be so much fun to tell it like it is and stick it to the folks on the other side.

It’s just too bad that so few people, including the president, see how it is destroying the fabric of our nation and the credibility of the Christian witness.

The voices on both sides are loud.

Coke or Pepsi.

Ford or Chevy.

Republican or Democrat.

Stand or kneel.

Yet over all of them there is the still small voice that spoke creation into existence, sent Satan away in the wilderness, calmed the winds and the waves and will one day strike down the nations and rule them with an iron rod.

We would be wise to listen to that voice.

Because one day soon there will be no Coke or Pepsi, Ford or Chevy, Republicans or Democrats, and standing or kneeling during the national anthem.

There will still be Jesus however and he’ll still be doing just fine.

 

So you do have a choice.

But there are more than two options.

Choose wisely.

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Antifa, The Alt-Right, And The Gates Of Hell

Remember the good old days when a military conflict or a natural disaster seemed to bring us all together, even if it was only for a few days? One would think that if anything was going to make us all join hands and buy the world a Coke it would be white supremacists radicalizing a car and using it to plow over their fellow Americans. Or maybe a crazed leftist trying to assassinate an elected official would make us take a second look and put aside our differences. Neither one did. Instead, they only highlighted the giant wall separating this country.

We are more divided than ever.

And, for some reason, many in the church feel the need to pick a side.

 

 

There should be no, “Yeah, but what about that time when they…” after attempted murder at a softball game. There should be no, “Well, the other side…” after what we just saw in Charlottesville.

But that’s what we’ve got. And many of those excuses are coming from the church. After last weekend’s violent riots in Virginia there are still those who want to remind us of something that was done by someone on the left rather than simply weeping with those who weep and doing the necessary self-evaluations to see how we got to this point. It’s easier to look down your nose than it is to look in the mirror. Even for good church folks.

We would do well to heed the advice of Gamaliel.

I don’t usually hold Gamaliel up as a model for us to follow. He was a religious leader who, two thousand years ago, helped oppose the early church. But in his opposition, the esteemed religious leader showed us the difference between a movement of man and the body of Christ.

Peter and the apostles were agitating. Their gospel proclamation and good works were stirring up the establishment. So they were detained and told to stop. Key leaders wanted them dead. That’s when Gamaliel spoke up.

He reminded the other leaders of a man named Theudas. Theudas was the leader of an uprising. But Theudas was overthrown and his movement came to nothing.

After him came Judas the Galilean. He too tried to start a revolution but lost his life in the process. His movement came to nothing.

And then Gamaliel dropped this nugget of wisdom about what to do with Peter and his friends.

“So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” Acts 5:39 (ESV)

Antifa is of man. It will fail and come to nothing.

The alt-right is of man. It will fail and come to nothing.

The Democratic and Republican parties are both of man and they will both fail and come to nothing.

So why, as these movements are in the process of driving off into the ditch, must Christians pick which side they want to crash on? Why must we explain one side as not being as bad as the other? Why must we place our identity in them?

The church is supposed to be different. It will last forever. This is liberating for Christians. It means that we have the freedom to say to Antifa and the white supremacists, Democrats and Republicans, “A plague on both your houses.” It frees us to call evil what it is without fear of upsetting the base, whatever that means. And it helps us to preach and live the gospel, no matter how unpopular it may be.

It’s time for our local churches to do some self-evaluation. Are we content with being the body of Christ or would we rather be a movement of man? If we choose to be the body of Christ, we may not be liked but we’ll be known for our love. If we settle for being a movement, we’ll just be known as the people who still haven’t gotten over the Broncos cutting Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick not standing up during the national anthem. And we will come to nothing.

While the world is busy trying to fight one brand of hate with another one, the church must remember that it was Christ who died for us, not a Civil War general or a flag. It means that we’d rather live in harmony with our neighbor than win a debate against him by using crime statistics we found somewhere on the Internet. It means that we love like Christ rather than arguing like a talk radio host.

Antifa’s days are numbered.

The alt-right’s days are numbered.

And the same is true for churches that settle for being movements of man rather than the body of Christ.

But not so for the true church. A few years before Peter was called to stand before Gamaliel, he stood before a much greater leader named Jesus. And Jesus told Peter an even greater word about the church that we need to hear today as we consider transferring our membership to a political party or racial identity.

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 (ESV)

The gates have opened and Hell has poured out into our streets.

But it is no match for the body of Christ.

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Thank God For CNN

I knew that I shouldn’t watch it but I did anyway. My kids were in bed and the house was quiet and dark. The week ahead looked busy so this was likely the best opportunity I would have to see it. My gut told me that this would not end well. But I didn’t let that stop me.

That night, my wife and I sat down to watch a new show on CNN called Believer where each week Reza Aslan finds a new religion to be condescending toward. The episode we were about to watch focused on the relationship between Vodou and Christianity in the small country of Haiti.

The show didn’t disappoint. When it was over, I was disappointed. That’s because Christians were presented as religious crusaders for daring to build hospitals in the nation that is saturated in corruption and poverty. Vodou, on the other hand, was presented as grossly misunderstood. If you’re keeping score at home, the religion that motivates people to build hospitals is bad and the one that gets people to sacrifice pigs to demons is good. The last few minutes of the show looked like a commercial for Vodou.

This should come as no surprise from a network that spends millions of dollars producing and promoting documentaries in an effort to, “find the real Jesus.” In the CNN lexicon, “finding the real Jesus” is code for the Jesus of the Bible being fake. That’s right. The church has gotten it wrong for two thousand years now. Thankfully, CNN is here to tell us the truth.

We should be very quick to examine CNN’s version of the truth. This is, after all, the same network that likes to feed debate questions to presidential candidates of a certain party in order to help them to prepare beforehand. Truth, we should all know by now, isn’t so high on CNN’s list of priorities. It appears that trying to discredit Christianity is.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve noticed that CNN doesn’t take time out of its regular programming each year when Ramadan rolls around to, “find the real Mohammed.” You know, the rapist and child molester. Some of that could be out of fear. CNN probably doesn’t want the same fate that their counterparts at Charlie Hebdo suffered. To them, Christianity is a much easier target.

That’s because, in large part, Islam is built on the blood of the so called infidels. Christianity is grounded in and saturated with the blood of Jesus. In our world, acts of terror are much less offensive than God dying for the sins that we committed.

Islam is advanced by the sword. Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword (Matthew 26:52-53).

If anyone, even a bestselling author with his own show about religion on CNN, ever tells you that all religions are the same, you can be certain that they have no clue what they are talking about.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an appeal to boycott CNN. I watch CNN regularly and if you care about getting a glimpse into the secular worldview, I suggest that you do the same. Just know that you are being lied to.

But don’t let those lies get you down.

The book of Acts will help you to put CNN and their constant jabs at Christianity into perspective. Slander and persecution are the fertilizer from which the church grows. Acts is filled with accounts of the church being persecuted. And the persecution is much more intense than anything CNN has thrown the church’s way. But notice what happens after each instance of persecution. The church grows exponentially.

After the disciples are mocked and written off as drunks, three thousand people were added to the church (Acts 2).

After Stephen is martyred, Saul, the man who helped to make it happen, becomes a follower of Christ (Acts 7 – 9).

When Paul is kicked out of one region, he moves to another one and gospel growth follows (Acts 17).

And so on.

Christian, don’t let opposition, slander and media misrepresentations about your faith get you down. Be encouraged and know that it is from this that real growth comes. For a few decades now, some churches have tried to grow their numbers through gimmicks and give aways. At best, all those techniques ever do is draw a crowd. Real growth, or discipleship, comes when the church keeps its course through opposition.

CNN is no threat to the body of Jesus Christ. In reality, they are like a kid kicking over dandelions in the front yard. He thinks he’s getting rid of the weeds but all he’s really doing is making them spread.

So thank God for CNN.

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Benevolent Dictators, The Gospel And Georgia’s Burqa Ban

Update: Jason Spencer has decided to withdraw House Bill 3.

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You might have a hard time believing this but there’s a really bad bill scheduled to come before the Georgia Legislature. This one has nothing to do with raising taxes or making grits the official breakfast food of Georgia. House Bill 3, if passed as written, would prohibit the wearing of any device that would hide a person’s face while taking a photo for a driver’s license, driving a car or, get this, while on, “any public way or public property.” 

To be clear, the bill’s sponsor, Jason Spencer, isn’t trying to crack down on young suburbanite women at the Mall of Georgia who wear their scarfs too high up on their face. This is a ban on burqas.

I can understand the problems of a concealed face during a driver’s license photo but using the power of the sate to prohibit the wearing of a burqa while driving a car or “on public property” is very problematic.

It matters how Christians respond to this.

We must be firm in our theological disagreement with our fellow Americans who are Muslims. No man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) and it is clear that the God of Christianity and the god of Islam are not the same. However, we must be just as firm in defending the rights of our Muslim neighbors. Believe it or not, this can be done without compromising the faith.

There’s something very troubling about so-called conservative evangelicals. As I’ve always understood it, conservatism referred to limited government. Recent history reveals that conservatism really means government that’s just as big as the kind that progressives prefer, only with conservatives instead of liberals reaching into our lives. Simply put, many conservatives have abandoned the concept of liberty in favor of a benevolent dictatorship.

And make no mistake, a government that can tell people what they can and cannot wear on “public property” is a dictatorship. I guess it depends on who you ask as to whether or not it’s benevolent. And a government that can tell Muslim women that they have to put their faith in the backseat while driving or in the public square can just as easily tell Christian families that they can’t homeschool their children and tell Christian churches that they can’t refuse someone for baptism or membership.

This bill is rooted in fear. Spencer reasons, “This bill is simply a response to constituents that do have concerns of the rise of Islamic terrorism, and we in the State of Georgia do not want our laws used against us.”

But we must remember that fear is the enemy of liberty. When we allow ourselves to be ruled by fear, we can be sure that there will be scores of benevolent dictators eager to fix the problem. And we can be just as sure that the fix will be worse than the problem.

A while back I was driving my family to a soccer tournament that my son would be playing in. It was a trip like most others but this time we had an extra passenger. My son’s teammate came along for the ride because his parents had to work. My son’s teammate was Muslim.

Now, we could have performed our own stop and frisk on this young boy before letting him into our car. We wouldn’t want him setting off a bomb in the back seat of our Camry, now would we? Call me a bad parent, but we didn’t screen this young man. And somehow, no bomb went off.

But something else happened.

For the entire hour of our drive, I played the music of Lecrae. He’s a rapper who frequently references the gospel. And while Lecrae’s music was playing, I was praying. I was praying that the light of Christ would shine through our family as we interacted with one another and through Lecrae’s lyrics as they blew through our speakers.

When we got to the soccer fields, my son’s friend didn’t get out of the car and pray to make Jesus Christ his Lord and Savior. He did something very different from that.

He threw up.

Now, I don’t know what that has to say about me and my family but I think that it was an answer to prayer. While I was cleaning up vomit, my wife was comforting this young Muslim boy as if he was her own. The light of Christ shone through her that afternoon. And I’m still praying that it penetrates the heart of that young man.

Muslim’s suffer. Sometimes their suffering comes from being car sick. Sometimes it comes from ridiculous laws. Either way, it is the job of followers of Christ to be there for them, with love and truth, when that suffering comes.

It’s the sacrificial love and truth of God and his people that removes burqas.

Not ridiculous laws from benevolent dictators.

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Teachers, Never Stop Displaying Christ!

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Recently, I was informed of a new directive from a local school district. It had nothing to do  with how much homework teachers can give. It focused more on what teachers can hang on the walls of their classrooms. Or wear around their necks. Or have written under their name on the e-mails they send out.

Teachers in this particular school district, right smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt, are being told that they are no longer allowed to display crosses, prayers, Bible verses or even angels in a place where others might see them. But, on the bright side, teachers are allowed to keep a religious symbol in their desk or filing cabinet as long as no one else sees it. Gee, thanks, government!

Yet again, those in power wishing to suppress the free exercise of religion have gotten it all wrong, at least in regards to Christianity. Yes, Christians sometimes hang crosses on our walls. Some of us put angels atop our Christmas trees. We even decorate our homes with Bible verses. But the heart of our faith runs deeper than that. Our faith is one of devotion, not decoration.

So what should you do if you’re a Christian teacher who has committed the terrible crime of displaying the Lord’s Prayer in your classroom? Is it somehow a compromise of your faith if you obey your power-hungry overseers and take the cross off of your wall and put it in your drawer?

The answer to that question rests in the other place where you choose to display your Bible passages. You see, the government can tell you to take your favorite Bible verse down off of their wall. But they can’t make you take it down from your heart.

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 (ESV) 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing for Christians to keep their faith private. A faith that is always kept private is a dead faith (James 2:14-26). I’m arguing for quite the opposite, really.

When you became a Christian, the Holy Spirit took up residence within you. And, more than simply receiving a Get Out of Hell Free Card, you were given the power to live in obedience to the commands of Christ. Paul calls it the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

While some of your colleagues may simply be drawing a paycheck and counting down the days until Christmas break, you have an opportunity here. You know that kid that all of the other teachers hate? Love him with the radical love of Christ. When racial tensions spill out into the cafeteria, be an agent of peace for the glory of Christ and the good of those under your care. While the state’s curriculum focuses on teaching kids how to put condoms on bananas and calling it health, teach them instead what is good. Teach them self-control. Model gentleness. And do it with patience and faithfulness.

To put it another way, the state can use its power to make you take a religious display off of your wall but there is nothing they can do to keep you from displaying the real, risen Jesus through your life. Do your job with excellence for the glory of Jesus Christ. And if one of your bosses tells you to stop doing that, remember who your real boss is. And if it costs you your retirement, remember the real inheritance that awaits you.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)

Here’s something you can count on. At some point, tragedy will strike your school. I wish it wasn’t that way but it is. It might be an automobile accident or a national catastrophe. It may lead to an empty desk in your classroom or few unplanned days out of school. Either way, tragedy will come. Count on it.

And when it does, the same state that told you to take down your cross will send in their grief counselors to counsel kids and their families. But their thoughts and godless prayers won’t be able to help. Anyone who has abandoned the truth of the gospel ultimately has no hope to offer to those in need. But that doesn’t take away the pain of those in need. So guess where those hurting hearts are going to turn?

You.

The teacher who was forced to take the cross down from your wall but who absolutely refused to remove its impact from your heart and your words and your actions.

Anyone can put a cross on a wall. But only a truly devoted follower of Jesus Christ lives with that cross at the center of everything. As you do that, something is happening.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (ESV)

That light shining through you is not your award-winning personality or superior teaching abilities. Let’s face it, we all have our days. No, the light is Jesus himself.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)

Remember, they can take the display of Jesus off of your wall but they can’t take him out of you.

In what sound like something straight out of George Orwell’s 1984, the school district is telling teachers and other employees to inspect properties in case any religious symbols got overlooked during the initial cleansing. And then there is the reminder that these properties are under the ownership and control of the government.

That may be true of the walls in your classroom but it is not true of you. You are under the ownership and control of Christ. So let the government inspect you all they want to. Just so long as when they do, they find Christ.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:27-29 (ESV)

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The Devil’s Dictionary Of American Religious Words And Phrases

Think

With words and phrases, there are the actual definitions and the practical definitions. The actual definitions are the ones that have been assigned to words for centuries. The practical definitions are what we really mean. Here’s a look at what a lot of people really mean when they use certain religious terms.

Sin – an archaic term that has largely fallen out of use in modern times but is occasionally used to describe how hot it is outside or how bad people other than me are

Sample Sentence 1: “Man, it’s hot as sin out here.”

Sample Sentence 2: “Jesus didn’t care near as much about sin as today’s Christians do.”

Church – a group of people with nothing better to do with their weekends than sitting around with a bunch of hypocrites

Sample Sentence: “I’m glad I’m better than all of those people at that church who think that they’re better than everyone.”

Hypocrite – anyone who disagrees with me

Sample Sentence: “No I do not have a meth problem. I have it completely under control. Now let’s talk about all of those soft drinks you gulp down, hypocrite!”

Bible – an instrument intended for selective use in order to win an argument or prove a point; anything more than selective use and argument winning is only for hypocrites

Sample Sentence: “Well, the Bible says, ‘Judge not lest ye be not judgeth,’ so take that you block-headed little fool!”

Pharisee – any person whose devotion or self-discipline forces me to come to grips with my own lack of meaningful devotion and/or self-discipline

Sample Sentence: “Yeah, I guess he’s an alright guy but he’s sort of a Pharisee. I mean look at him. He’s been married to the same woman for over five years. Oh, and that perfect little haircut. Give me a break!”

Organic – any music, teaching, book or worship service that meets my approval and contains no unnecessary ingredients such as people, music and/or ideas that I do not like

Sample Sentence: “I love our small group because it’s very organic. I just hope no one else comes and messes things up.”

Judgmental – when one person addresses the sin of another person, regardless of the sin and no matter how horrific the sin is

Sample Sentence: “Stop being so judgmental! What I do with my neighbor’s wife at the pool hall is my business.”

Authentic – when I or someone I approve of indulges in a horrific sin

Sample Sentence: “Did you hear about him and his neighbor’s wife at the pool hall? He’s so authentic. I hope he writes a book.”

Love – when other people affirm me or someone I approve of in our sin, no matter how horrific said sin is

Sample Sentence: “I want to thank all of those who have committed to love me as I have committed to continue hanging out at the pool hall with my neighbor’s wife.”

Jesus – a great teacher who lived a long time ago and, if he were with us today, would most certainly approve of my horrific sin

Sample Sentence: “The Jesus I know would be at the pool hall with me and the neighbor’s wife before he’d ever be seen in some old church.”

So now, thanks to The Devil’s Dictionary of American Religious Words and Phrases, you can finally understand what’s really being said in the comments section.

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Steven Anderson, Grace And Orlando

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Religious people are often accused of hate. On many occasions, those accusations are unfounded. People just don’t like being disagreed with these days and their natural impulse is to categorize any opposition as hate. But there are times when religious people are rightfully accused of hate.

Like when an Islamic terrorist kills people in the name of his religion.

Or when a pastor who calls himself a Christian delights in the carnage.

Steven Anderson is the pastor who made a name for himself through YouTube videos where he ranted on the proper way for men to use the restroom and who he thought God should kill. If he happens to be your pastor, repent, leave his cult and find a legitimate church.

Just a short time after the Islamic radical killed dozens of people in Orlando, Steven Anderson posted a video sharing his thoughts on the massacre. I won’t post the video here but here’s an excerpt of Anderson’s comments.

“So, you know, the good news is that at least 50 of these pedophiles are not gonna be harming children anymore. The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive, so they’re gonna continue to molest children and recruit people into their filthy homosexual lifestyle. I’m not sad about it, I’m not gonna cry about it. Because these 50 people in a gay bar that got shot up, they were gonna die of AIDS, and syphilis, and whatever else. They were all gonna die early, anyway, because homosexuals have a 20-year shorter life-span than normal people, anyway.”

In his short commentary on the homosexuals getting what they deserved, Steven Anderson conveniently left something out. By not being murdered that night, Steven Anderson did not get what he deserved. Neither did Jay Sanders. Neither did you.

Tragedies aren’t knew. In some form or another, they’ve been around since Adam and Eve’s sin. They were around in Jesus’ day too. On one occasion, a government ruler named Pilate ordered his soldiers to murder a group of Galileans during a worship ceremony. The public response to this tragedy wasn’t any different than it is today. People wanted answers. Some of them took their questions to Jesus.

His answer likely wasn’t what they expected.

And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? Luke 13:2 (ESV)

Jesus was addressing a popular belief that still exists today, some two thousand years later. People have a tendency to believe that if something bad happens, it is automatically God’s punishment. Sometimes this is the case. God does punish sin and he is always just in doing so. But Jesus’ answer cuts to the heart and exposes the self-righteousness we all carry from one degree or another.

The Galileans who were murdered were no worse sinners than those who got to live that day. And the homosexuals who were murdered early Sunday morning by an ISIS devotee were no worse sinners than Steven Anderson. Or Jay Sanders. Or you.

The Bible is clear. Homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). But the Bible is also clear that pride (1 John 2:16) is a sin. And lust. Yes, even good old heterosexual lust (Matthew 5:27-30). And whatever socially, religiously acceptable sins you and I are prone to.

Which leads to the rest of Jesus’ answer.

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:3 (ESV)

It’s not just the first century Galileans who fail to measure up to God’s perfect standard. And it’s not just today’s LGBTQ community either. It’s all of us. We all deserve death. Even the straightest and most moral among us.

Whenever something bad happens, it’s like there’s an alarm that goes off somewhere that makes so-called Christian leaders tell us who God was punishing through the tragedy.

“God sent Katrina to wash away the homosexuality from New Orleans!” they told us gleefully.

We would be foolish to say that God would never use a natural disaster or national tragedy to bring about punishment for sin (Psalm 46). But we would be arrogant and self-righteous to say that God would only punish the sin of those other guys. We should wake up every morning thanking God for his mercy in not sending Katrina or ISIS to our front door.

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

All.

Not just the Galileans.

Not just the homosexuals at a club.

All means the self-righteous church leader who privately pays for his daughter’s abortion because he worries about what a very public unplanned pregnancy could do to his career advancement plans.

All means the hypocritical progressive who is so full of love that he absolutely hates anyone who doesn’t agree with his definition of love.

All means you.

And all means me.

Christ’s call to repentance wasn’t some empty chatter like the guy on the side of the busy street yelling about hell and the end. It was a warning. But it was also an invitation to his grace.

Some time after Jesus spoke the surprising words, the same Pilate who massacred the Galileans would put Jesus on a cross. But it is in that great tragedy that we can find hope. By God’s grace and through faith, we can be set free from the death sentence that we all deserve.

It is very important for Christians to address sin. This is no call to tone down the gospel. But when we address sin, we must remember that the personal sins we accept are just as disgusting to God as the public sins committed by others. And we must also remember grace.

Grace is not God turning a blind eye to our sin. It is God turning his wrath that we deserve onto his Son and giving us his Son’s perfect righteousness in exchange (2 Corinthians 5:21). And what a great exchange it is.

It’s an exchange that is available to the homosexual.

And the self-righteous religious person.

And to Steven Anderson.

And to me and you.

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You Don’t Really Want Prayer Back In Public Schools

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I grew up thinking that every problem in the country, at least the educational problems, would be solved if the government would just allowing prayer in our schools again. Now that I’ve got a few more gray hairs, I’ve come to realize that I’m not really for “putting prayer back in public schools.”

To be clear, I haven’t gone off the deep end, traded in my Bible for the writings of Gandhi and replaced the preaching time in my church with yoga. I’m firmly committed to Christ, his word and his people.

It’s my faith in how good of a job the government would do at leading and teaching legitimate prayer that is lacking.

At some point long ago, we started believing that in order for our prayers to really work, they need to be said by the principal every morning on the intercom right after reminding everyone that prom fees are due by next week. Before we get what we ask for, let’s take a moment to consider what would happen if prayer were allowed back in public schools.

There are a lot of Christlike teachers, teacher’s aides and principals working in public schools all across this country. But can you be certain that one of them will always be leading your fourth grader in that day’s prayer? Of course not. There is the very real likelihood that your fourth grader will be led by his teacher in a prayer to Lothi the Tree God followed by an interpretive dance to Hillary the God of Womanhood. Are you sure that you want that kind of prayer in school?

A while back I heard a guy talking about the school that his kid goes to. Here’s a quick recap of what he said.

“Man, it’s a great school but they push Jesus too much.”

And here’s the funny part.

His kid goes to a Christian school.

Rule of thumb: if your kid goes to a school with Christian in the name, unless of course that school is Christian Laettner Elementary School, don’t be surprised if he comes home having been taught a Christian worldview. It’s what Christian schools do. Well, at least the good ones. But it doesn’t stop there. If your kid goes to a public school, that is one that is funded and operated by the government, don’t be surprised if she comes home having been taught a secular worldview. You know, how to put condoms on bananas and that sort of thing. No matter the educational setting, it is your job as the Christin parent to use the Bible to either affirm or deny what your children have been taught that day.

If you insist on sending your kid to a public school, teach him to pray. Teach him that prayer doesn’t always have to be out loud. Teach him that God hears the prayers of his people wherever they are. Teach him that some prayers are made without a sound.

But if you prefer to send your kid to a school where teachers and administrators pray to the Father by the help of the Spirit and in the name of Jesus, don’t hold your breath waiting for the government to give that to you. Find a good Christian school.

Putting prayer back in schools is one of those loaded political phrases like, “Hope and Change” or “Make America Great Again” that either has no meaning at all or more meanings than you would like to know. Don’t get me wrong on this. I believe that prayer in school is a good thing. I think that kids are better off starting out the day with their teacher or principal leading them in a legitimate Christian prayer. I think that coaches should be free to pray with their teams. But in a religiously diverse society such as ours, we must remember that in many institutions, prayer would mean nothing more than public statements of whatever faith, or lack thereof, rules the day at that school. At a school in rural Georgia, that could mean praying to God. In Madison, Wisconsin it will likely mean something completely different.

So before we start repeating the talking points about putting prayer back in school, perhaps we should start praying that genuine repentance and renewal would happen in our homes, churches and communities. Without that, your kid would be left with nothing more than diversity day if his school were to start throwing in public prayers every morning.

Prayer never was taken out of public schools. I went to a public school for seven years and prayed frequently. Especially during those moments when the teacher asked everyone to turn in their 12 page paper on the complexities of thermonuclear physics and all I had was a notecard reminding me that some really long paper about something that sounds really hard was due sometime in the distant future. As long as that happens, as long as a girl comes to school after having just watched her family fall apart, as long as classmates die and as long as terror looms, there will always be prayer in school.

No government can stop that.

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