20 June 2014

Breaking the Curse

The prophet said, “He (God) will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”  (Malachi 4:6)

The curse is the result of fatherlessness.  The absence of fathers destroys both a family and a nation.  One of the greatest problems facing our world today is the absentee father.  When we look at history, the record shows that many of the leaders who brought the world its greatest pain did not have good fathers. From men like Adolf Hitler to Osama bin Laden, their pain became our pain.  There’s a strong correlation between bad fathers and dysfunctional families.

I’ve watched the decisions made by our current president, Mr. Obama, and tried to understand what motivates him.  It’s obvious he has a completely different set of values than I do, but the reasoning behind some of his decisions has been a mystery to me. It was only after reading his book, Dreams of my Father, and seeing the dysfunctional family into which he was born, that I began to understand his thought process.  It is the curse of fatherlessness.  In his biography, he describes growing up longing to understand the mysterious young man who met and married his mother, but shortly after Barack’s birth, his father left them to return to his native country of Kenya, then was killed in an accident before his son was able to visit him.  When he was grown, Barack made a trip to Kenya in a search of the father he was never able to know.  There, he found his father’s dreams, but the man he sought was gone, so he began his journey of trying to live out his dead father’s dreams.  Of course, this is impossible to do, but I believe it gives us clues into why our president makes some of his decisions.  He’s trying to live his father’s dreams.

Something inside the child makes him desire to be like his father or to find a mate like her father.  Without what the prophet called “turning the heart to the father,” there’s some type of disconnection which brings a curse.  Statistics have shown that children growing up in father-less homes are more likely to commit crime and end up in prison.  The lack of fathers has cursed their lives.  They either hate him, wanting nothing to do with the man whose DNA they carry; or they idolize him and attempt to live like the man they never knew.  Either way, they’ve received the curse of fatherlessness.

What can be done to rectify this terrible situation?  First, as Christians, we must tell everyone about our Heavenly Father.  This is the good news of Jesus Christ:  He came to reveal The Father us.  Jesus said, “He who has seen Me, has seen the Father.”  (John 14:9)  In the Old Testament, God was seen as the all-powerful Creator who was unapproachable in His holiness.  The Israelites were afraid they would die if they came close to Him.  In the New Testament, the greatest revelation Jesus came to give us was that God is our heavenly Father.  He loves us.  He doesn’t want to destroy us; instead like a good Father, He invites us to come to Him and desires to deliver us from the curse of sin.  The world has the wrong opinion of God.  He’s not an unapproachable God of wrath; He’s a loving Father.  The revelation of a good heavenly Father heals many of the dysfunctions from a natural family.

Secondly, as Christian men, we should accept our responsibility of adopting the orphans around us.  One of our greatest opportunities in life is helping people around us grow into maturity.  We should continually be looking for people who for whatever reasons have grown up in dysfunctional families and, whenever possible, we should begin relationships to help them become healthy adults.  We need to help these young men understand what it means to be a man and help the young women understand the abuser is an imposter, not a real man.  We can’t help everybody, but we can help someone, and it’s our responsibility to help those whom we can.

Without fathers, our nation will die as orphans.  The United States is a great nation and it is worth investing our lives to help the young people around us.  I challenge you to adopt someone, someone who needs a father.  Become a father to the fatherless.  Let’s break the curse.

11 June 2014

The Beauty of "No"

The world in which we live has forgotten the word “No.”  We live in a crazy, mixed-up mess where whatever I want is what I ought to do.  Like the song-writer who said, “How could it be wrong, when it feels so good?”  We’ve lost the discipline of saying, “No,” to our passions and desires, and as a result, we live like selfish children.

There are so many things which other people desire that leave me shaking my head and trying hard to understand.  For example, I don’t understand a man desiring an intimate sexual relationship with another man.  The very thought of such an experience is nauseating to me.  I don’t understand because that isn’t the way I’m made.  On the other hand, I can understand why a man would be attracted to a beautiful woman because, to me, that’s a natural attraction.  However, simply experiencing such a desire or thought doesn’t make it the right choice for me to pursue.  Just being physically attracted to another person, any person, does not make pursuing that attraction right, any more than it would be right for a married man to make advances toward a woman who isn’t his wife.  There are many other examples of this principle such as:  people who are tempted to steal, or those who are tempted to lie or cause bodily harm to another.  Just having the desire doesn’t justify us in fulfilling it.

If we try to fulfill every desire, our lives become more and more dysfunctional.  Society is built upon mutual respect for each other, but this respect breaks down when we are focused entirely on ourselves and our wants.  We also cannot use our personal desires to justify our actions because, complicating the situation, our desires constantly change. Anyone who has ever followed politics or even fashion trends knows how fickle human opinion and tastes can be.  And because our desires are constantly changing, we cannot trust them—or the equally-changeable feelings of others—to become our standard for living.  This is one reason why the Bible is so important; it gives us time-tested principles by which to guide our lives.  We are not the first age of humanity to look for meaning in life, and we won’t be the last.  From the dawn of civilization, people have searched for ways to build productive lives, and the Bible is the best textbook, written from antiquity, on how we should or should not live our lives.

We live in a world which denies there is anything called sin.  Sin has simply become whatever you don’t want to do.  Our leaders tell us, “If it’s wrong to you, then it’s wrong, and you shouldn’t do it.  If it’s not wrong to you, then it’s okay for you to do it.”  This is nonsense.  The true meaning of the word “sin” means to miss the mark.  What mark?  There must be a standard which is more reliable than my random feelings or the shifting desires of society.  Appetites come and go, but the Word of God endures.  As a man I’ve experienced many changing desires throughout my lifetime, and I would’ve been foolish to try to fulfill some of them.  They would’ve hurt me and everyone around me.  I’m thankful that I discovered the Word of God and have used it as a guide for my life; it is what has brought stability, happiness, and blessings to me and my family.

I’ve discovered the best thing I can say to many desires is simply, “No.”  “No,” becomes a blessing to deliver me from a curse.  “No,” sets me free from the bondage of selfishness.  “No,” liberates me to do the things I should do.  It is well said, “Liberty is not the freedom to do what I want to do, but rather the freedom to do what I ought to do.”  When I say, “No” to the wrong things, it empowers me to say “Yes” to the right things.  We need to rediscover the beauty of “No.” 

04 June 2014

When Governments Play God

There’s a lot of talk in the United States currently about the responsibility of the government to help people better their lives.  Social programs are viewed by many as the solution to poverty.  I’ve traveled over 5,000,000 miles in my ministry (like circling this globe over 200 times), and as a world traveler, I’ve never seen one government which attempted to meet all of the needs of its people succeed. 

I’ve just returned from a ministry trip to Romania, so these thoughts are heavy on my mind.  Romania is making good economic progress but still suffers from forty years of communistic government.  The main problem with the socialistic government is that people begin seeing the government as the solution to their problems and the government begins enjoying its new role as the provider of people’s needs.

There are two main problems with this viewpoint:

First, government isn’t God.  Only God can meet all the needs of mankind.  I know there are many who object to this reasoning because they believe we are responsible to help the poor.  It’s true we should help the poor, but there’s a big difference in helping someone and in carrying someone.  When we take responsibility for people’s, lives we’ve begun to play God.  In my world travels, I’ve listened to socialistic leaders with lofty ideas about government elevating the poor from ignorance and poverty.  The problem is there’s a big difference in talk and reality.  Talk is cheap.  It’s easy to talk about such beautiful ideas, but in reality, they have never worked in any nation which attempt to practice them, because government simply isn’t God.  It doesn’t have the resources to meet all the needs of its people.  Only God can do that.

Secondly, social programs cannot deal with the problem of sin.  It’s the zenith of ignorance for us to pretend mankind doesn’t have a sin problem.  “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1)  The human heart is incurably sick with sin, and it’s not within mankind’s power to change that.  Only Christ can forgive sin and redeem the sinner.  Because of the sin inherent in human nature, government programs soon become bogged down in corruption.  The greater control government gains over our lives, the more we find ourselves becoming slaves to the social system.  And because the government officials running the social programs have the same sin nature as the people they’re trying to help, it’s not long before the government officials are abusing the very people they were hired to help.  They begin treating people with contempt as though they’re in a class beneath themselves, and begin acting like they are lords above the common people.  This leads to greater and greater abuse of authority.

Only Jesus Christ has the power to change human nature.  Of course, Jesus cannot help everyone because everyone will not accept His help, but the good news of Jesus is the best solution to changing people’s lives.  The gospel changes the way people think of themselves and causes them to take responsibility for their lives.  I’ve personally witnessed the power of the gospel not only help the individual; but to also change their families.  Families change communities, and communities change the nation.  The power of the gospel is the power of God to change the human nature.  It changes our heart from its incurable disease of selfishness to a caring heart of compassion.  It empowers people to live the type of life which God intended from His creation.  It gives them power over sin so that they begin to live righteous lives, and righteousness exalts a nation.

The good news of Jesus Christ not only deals with our guilt problem for the things we’ve done wrong; it gives us the ability to break free from the power of sin.  There are basically two ways to live above sin:  First, by serving others, we overcome selfishness.  Secondly, by becoming generous people and giving, we overcome greed.  When we choose to live a life of generosity and unselfishness, our lives are totally changed.  We become persons of value who have the power to make our world a better place.

The good news is that, though government isn’t God, there’s a God in heaven who is ready to help us, and, no matter what problem we are facing, there is no problem too big for God.  We aren’t helpless victims waiting for government social programs to give us a better life.  We are the people of God living above the selfishness of sin, and by doing so, we not only become better people, we also live better lives.