The Decision Maker

President Donald Trump is unlike any other president this country has ever had. Every day of the week, even the usually slow news days of the weekend, gives us a new earth-shattering story about him. The kind of stories that once broke only three or four times during a presidency now come at us with each new day. Depending on your source for information, the news can be favorable or condemning of the president.

How should we respond to this?

The answer is easier than you might imagine. And, in what has become all too rare for these days, it’s an answer that conservatives and progressives can come to an agreement on.

Here it is.

We need to stop thinking about the president so much.

For some on the right, President Trump lives in their hearts as their functional god. Nothing he says can be questioned. Every transgression he has committed is simply the result of media bias. For some on the left, President Trump lives in their heads, like an opponent who has masterfully used his trash-talking skills to gain control of their minds and keep them out of the game. So every tweet has to be examined by a team of psychologists and equated to something Hitler said.

Each day, the president has a countless amount of decisions before him. These are important decisions that will impact the lives of many and even the direction of our country. But the president is by no means the most important decision maker in your life. It’s not even close.

When a father tells his young daughter to clean her room and she fails to obey, he has a decision to make. He can respond in anger and crush her, he can respond with apathy and fail her, or he can respond in love and correct her. In the moments like that in your life, what President Trump tweets doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you respond.

Decisions have been made and will continue to be made about immigration in this country. But what happens when those immigrants move into your neighborhood? You have a choice to make. You can either respond by submitting to the talking points of your favorite political hack or you can obey Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God and love neighbor. In the economy of heaven, the decision you make in that moment will matter much more to you than whatever decision the president makes.

When someone disagrees with you, you have a choice to make. You can follow the trends of the day and resort to name-calling, shunning, and victimhood. Getting blocked by someone on social media can become one of your sacraments. Or you can learn how to love the other guy, even if you fail to come to an agreement and even if they don’t love you back. You won’t have to give an account for the words that the president spoke or tweeted. You have enough of your own words and tweets to worry about. Consider the words of Jesus.

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37 (ESV)

There are people on the right who are so busy defending the indefensible decisions of the president that they no longer have the time, energy, or credibility to make the really important decisions in their lives. And there are people on the left whose rambling on and on about “speaking truth to power” really boils down to their resentment that their person isn’t in power. So in response to the president’s careless words, bigotry, and corruption, they give Hillary Clinton an open mic at the Grammy’s as if she didn’t build her political career by referring to black youths as “super-predators” or shaming the victims of her husband’s unwanted sexual advances. An inordinate focus on presidential power will turn us into deadbeats and hypocrites.

None of this is to say that we should be unengaged and never speak out against or in favor of something a government official does. Rather, we are to keep things in their proper perspective. The office of the president is a very powerful decision but it’s not as powerful as you think. Just because Hannity or Madow aren’t talking about the way you did or did not interact with your kids over the weekend doesn’t mean that it’s insignificant.

We would all be much better off if we devoted less of our energy to the decision maker in Washington D.C. and more of our energy to the the decision-maker in the mirror. The one in D.C. changes every four to eight years. You have to live with the one in the mirror for the rest of your life.

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Can We Please Stop Talking About Race?

Can we please stop talking about race? Probably not. But I think that we’d be better off if we did.

No, I’m not saying that we need to start ignoring the racism that obviously still exists in our culture. And I’m not telling victims of racism to get over it. I’m just saying that maybe it’s time for a new approach.

For years we’ve been told that we need to have a national conversation about race. So that’s what we’ve done. But the results have been less than stellar. Instead of harmony, this long conversation has left us confused, scared and even more angry than before.

Earlier this week I read an article that was a part of our long national conversation on race. The article was basically saying that everything from your choice of cupcakes at the bakery  to the names you give to your offspring can reveal your level of racism. Pardon my confusion, but how exactly does such a conversation help the fact that we just simply can’t get along in this country? Do we need a National Summit on Cupcake Buying?

Ironically, this so-called conversation has ruined our ability to talk. Shortly after the terror attacks in Paris I was watching a live television news report of the aftermath where two talking heads were giving play-by-play of what was happening on the screen. At one point, a black man stepped into the camera’s view. Here’s how it was described.

Talking Head #1: “The building in question is the one that the African American gentleman just walked out of.”

Talking Head #2: “We don’t know if he’s African. Or American. This is Paris, remember?”

Reports are still coming in but I believe that the man drove an African American car and had a Caucasian American tablecloth in his kitchen.

The end result of our constant conversing about race is that it’s all turned into a joke. Everything is racist. The Academy Awards are racist. The Grammy’s are racist. The guy who wasn’t a big fan of Selma is a racist. The girl who really does believe that Beyoncé’s album was better than Beck’s is a racist.

Everything is racist.

Well, except for the stuff that actually is.

But no one is talking about that. Who has the time with all of the Oscar and Grammy buzz along with that African American fellow in Paris who has probably never set foot in African or America?

If you really want to do something about racism in this country, stop listening to and participating in the conversation. Start examining your own heart. If you look hard enough, you’ll find some racism. And then repent. But remember, repentance doesn’t mean just saying that you’re sorry or feeling guilty.

Anyone can apologize for the racist actions of his forefathers hundreds of years ago.

Only the truly repentant can apologize for his own racist actions last Tuesday.

But it doesn’t stop there. True repentance will carry over into another conversation. A different one. One that is more sincere. One that does not involve Academy Awards, Al Sharpton or Beck. It’s one that just involves you. And the guy across the street with the different color skin. And maybe your kitchen table and a good home cooked meal.

Racism will never be stopped by some federal summit, confusing newspaper articles or guilt tripping national conversations. Before the return of Christ, racism will always be with us. But that doesn’t mean that we have to get used to it, learn to accept it or participate in it ourselves.

It just means that we need to come to grips with the fact that our long national conversation isn’t working.

What we really need is a long look into our own hearts.

And then a long meal, cup of coffee or talk at your kid’s practice with that guy down the street who looks different from you.

When you actually get to know that guy, he suddenly stops being, “the African American gentleman” or “the white guy in the big truck” and he starts being another human being created in the image of God and in need of a Savior. In other words, he’s just like you.

So can we please stop talking about race?

Instead, maybe we could just start talking to people of another race?

This kind of conversation may not get a lot of media attention.

But it’s likely to change our hearts.

And that just might change the world.

Bad Rap: A Response to Macklemore’s Same Love

I tried to ignore this song. It’s just a pop song. And the thing about pop songs, no matter what it is that they’re saying, is that they usually don’t stick around long enough to make a lasting impression. When’s the last time that someone told you that their life was changed by a Neneh Cherry song?

But then Christians started to respond. And not with the “Get this garbage off of my radio” reaction that one might expect. Many were accepting the song. And many more who may not have ever even heard the song are okay with the message. Sometimes pop music can be more influential than we think.

The song is from a rapper named Macklemore and it’s called Same Love. The message is simple. Gay is normal. It should be accepted. Opposition is intolerant. Get with the times.

“The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision

And you can be cured with some treatment and religion

Man-made rewiring of a predisposition

Playing God, aw nah here we go

America the brave still fears what we don’t know

And God loves all his children is somehow forgotten

But we paraphrase a book written thirty five hundred years ago”

Don’t you just love it when people condemn making judgements on large segments of the population by making judgments on large segments of the population?

This song is a good example of what it looks like when we craft theology to meet our agendas and create a god in our own image. This man-made religion applies the status of Scripture to feel-good sayings (“God loves all his children”) while questioning the status of actual Scripture. Hey, why let the truth get in the way of a lifestyle when it’s so much easier to make up your own truth?

The Bible never classifies all people as God’s children. In our natural, sinful state, we are all God’s enemies. Not just the homosexuals. But the Southern Baptist pastors. And the politicians. As well as socially-conscious rappers. We are all God’s enemies apart from his grace. Yes, we’re children alright. Children of wrath, fighting against God (Ephesians 2:1-3).

“When I was at church they taught me something else

If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed”

Intolerant. Hateful. Homophobic. That’s how you are classified if you believe that homosexuality is a sin. D.A. Carson calls this the intolerance of tolerance. You don’t have to be in the Westboro cult to get that label. You can serve AIDS patients and develop friendly relationships with homosexuals but that one belief earns you the scarlet letter.

But it is myopic to classify the Bible’s message on homosexuality as hateful, intolerant or homophobic. God hates sin. And that’s where most people cover their eyes and ears and begin repeating the mantra.

Hateful. Homophobic. Intolerant.

Hateful. Homophobic. Intolerant.

So, with ears covered, the rest of the message isn’t received. Yes, God hates sin. But he loves you and sent Jesus to take the punishment for your sin. This is why Paul can speak the way that he does to the sexually progressive Corinthians.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. 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. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)

Were can be a beautiful word.

“Such were some of you.”

Sexually immoral. Idolaters. Homosexuals. Thieves.

Were.

It’s not like the sin of homosexuality is any worse than the others Paul listed. He wasn’t trying to cure gays, as if that alone could somehow make them right with God. The real issue here isn’t homosexuality. It’s pride. Pride convinces me to keep my identity in myself. My sexuality. My accomplishments. My heritage. But Jesus calls for men to lay down their identity and to find their true identity in him. The gospel frees us to abandon who we were while embracing who we are in Christ.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

Any person who stands before God under his own identity is doomed. Eventually, our own identity will weigh us down. Real rest is only found in Jesus.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

Macklemore says that If you’re gay, it’s your predisposition. So live on and be yourself.

Jesus pleads with us to do just the opposite. And his plea is loving.

It’s just not the same love as anything else the world has ever known.