PRACTICE THESE THINGS J. P. Moreland’s Story of Overcoming Anxiety

PRACTICE THESE THINGS      J. P. Moreland’s Story of Overcoming Anxiety

J. P. Moreland is one of the 50 most influential living philosophers in the world. He is a distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, has degrees in philosophy, theology, and chemistry, has written numerous books, and taught all over the country.

He has also fought and won a lifelong battle with anxiety and depression.

Moreland’s new book, FINDING QUIET: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices That Brought Peace (Zondervan, 2019), is a treasure trove of practical wisdom for those who suffer from anxiety or depression. It is also another example of science “catching up” with scripture.

The Apostle Paul taught the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord, stop indulging anxious thoughts, pray about everything, and, most importantly, practice thinking about excellent and noble things. Do that, he said, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”[1] FINDING QUIET provides many biblically sound, practical steps for putting Paul’s instructions to work.

Some evangelicals will find Moreland’s recommendations on antidepressant medications and other therapies controversial and dismiss him out of hand. But they will be doing themselves and anxiety-suffering saints a great disservice. Moreland does not ignore the necessity of growing in grace, but as a committed, obedient believer and major anxiety sufferer, he recognizes the value of medication when necessary. As vitamin D supplements are to people who cannot get enough sunshine or insulin to diabetics, these medications are to people who suffer from anxiety and depression. They are a blessing from God, supplying what the body cannot or is not currently producing on its own.

Moreland offers a novel but biblically based and workable model of humanity that helps us see how body, soul, and spirit interrelate and influence each other. He explains the importance of the heart organ in the Bible and science. He records the latest findings from brain science, psychiatry, newer therapeutic approaches like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and HeartMath exercises, and shares their efficacy in his life.

But FINDING QUIET is not only about the latest science. Moreland reaches deep into the Church’s past to explain how the practice of contemplative prayer helped him learn to acknowledge God in every moment. Dallas Willard fans will find much to like. He concludes with a chapter you won’t find in many Christian books: how to deal with disappointment when God seems silent in your suffering.

At seven by five inches and 220 pages, the book will fit in a pocket as a ready resource for anxiety sufferers. It’s accompanying appendices, notes, and bibliography, also make it user friendly.

Moreland concludes, “The most important point I learned is this: anxiety and depression are significantly formed habits residing in the brain and body (especially the heart muscle and nervous system), and these habits can be largely replaced with peaceful and joyful habits by regularly engaging in the right repetitive habit-forming exercises.” Or, as the Apostle Paul taught us, “Practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.”[2]


[1] Philippians 4:4-9

[2] Philippians 4:9

MAX ANDERS: Biblical Clarity on the Current Crisis

MAX ANDERS: Biblical Clarity on the Current Crisis

Every pastor needs a few brilliant friends and advisers. Max Anders is one of mine. He is the author of over 25 books, including the bestselling 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, and his most recent work, Brave New Discipleship. He is also the creator and general editor of the 32 volume Holman Bible Commentary. His September 8 blog, AN HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY FOR CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA, caught my attention because I’ve never seen Max write on politics.

“To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17

AN HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY FOR CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA

By Max Anders

This blog post is a little long, but it’s very important, and I hope you will read through to the end.

The cultural and political upheaval we are currently experiencing in our nation is not an accident.  It is not a spontaneous uprising by sincere Americans who only want to bring about more “just” treatment for blacks by police. That may have been the motivation of some when it all started, but it has gone way beyond that now.

This is a full-throated uprising against American democracy and rule by law.  It is a premeditated campaign that is satanic and demonic in origin, infecting willing human servants (socialists and Marxists).

Spiritual/political attack on America

The uprising is now being carried out by those intent on destroying our American way of government and life.  They want to replace it with socialism/Marxism, which is violently anti-Christian and which has failed spectacularly everywhere it has ever been tried (Russia, China, Cambodia, Cuba, Venezuela).

Why in the world are people championing something that so clearly doesn’t work?  Well, Scripture tells us that Satan has the ability to deceive and blind the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4), causing them to be unable to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:24-26), generating wisdom that is earthly, natural and demonic, producing disorder and every evil thing (James 3:14-16).  Their blindness is spiritual blindness, a consequence of spiritual warfare.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s non-violent civil rights movement was governed by biblical/Christian principles and was historically effective. Two organizations, Black Lives Matter and Antifa, that are highly visible in recent riots, use violence to further their agendas and are deeply anti-Christian and anti-American.

It is helpful to understand that most riots have three types of people involved:

  1. Peaceful protestors who gathered legally with no intent to riot.
  2. Thugs and criminals who simply want to loot and destroy.
  3. Committed Marxists and Antifa members who organize and energize riots.

Mainstream Democrats do not necessarily agree with far-left socialists, but they have joined forces with them because they cannot get elected without them, and they are willing to pay nearly any price to defeat President Trump. As a result, the Democrats have been pushed so far to the left during campaigning that they have made promises they will have to keep. They are feeding the beast that will destroy them.

Where did this upheaval come from?

One might be excused for thinking that this has all come about suddenly.  But such is not the case.  Things have been deteriorating below the radar for decades, and just now have gotten to the point that they have broken out into the open.

In the 19th century, Karl Marx tried to conquer England with Marxism in his lifetime, but it didn’t work.  Author and freelance columnist Larry Taunton explained that the church was too strong, had too much cultural influence.

Later, Italian Antonio Gramsci concluded that for Marxism to succeed, a culture must first be softened up from within.

Socialism will triumph,” he wrote, “by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”

Socialism/Cultural Marxism is a Trojan Horse designed to:

  1. Subvert families, traditional morality, and the symbols of national identity.
  2. Infiltrate educational institutions, the church and the legal system.
  3. Watch the country fall like a ripe fruit.

To accomplish this, Saul Alinsky wrote the Marxist playbook, Rules for Radicals, which Larry Taunton summarized here:

  1. Divide and conquer: drive wedges between as many different groups as you can (rich/poor, black/white, conservative/liberal, laborers/professionals, etc.)
  2. Create scapegoats: Your problems are never your fault.  They are someone else’s fault.
  3. Create chaos: Riots, strikes, controversies (kneeling during anthem, etc.).
  4. Trash talk: Use outrageous language, verbally bully others.
  5. Spread disinformation: Tell strategic lies, repeat incessantly, accuse the other side of what you are doing.
  6. Exploit morality: Use others’ moral principles against them. Attack them when they try to be reasonable and gracious.  Use their morals as a weapon against them.  Do to them things they would never do to you because of their moral standards.
  7. Ridicule/attack common values: religion, patriotism, traditional values.

The playbook is working spectacularly well in the United States.  Our schools have been infiltrated (with Marxism openly taught in our universities for decades), our churches have been infiltrated, and our legal system has been infiltrated with Marxist values and sympathizers, and we are well on the way to Gramsci’s goal of softening us up so that we fall, like a ripe fruit, into the hands of Marxists.

Among other things, this is how we are seeing this worked out:

  1. Identity politics in which individual minority groups promote self-interest rather than the interest of the whole (Divide and conquer).
  2. The assertion that the problems of all minorities are the fault of white privilege and racism (Create scapegoats).
  3. Riots and destruction in cities (Create chaos).
  4. False charges and accusing others of the same thing you are doing (Trash talk).
  5. The rise of opinion journalism and fake news (Spread disinformation).
  6. Rioting in streets, destroying family businesses, patrolling suburbs (exploit morality).
  7. Destruction of statues, memorials, Marxist Black Lives Matter rallies (Ridicule/attack common values).

If this movement is successful, it will change America as we have known it.

What should the Christian response be?

Christians must rise up to stop this godless assault on our country and the church.  There are so many of us that we can do it. We have the votes. All we have to do is act… and vote our values.  Not to do so is to bring on our nation, and on the church, calamities I have listed here.

There are some Christians who are too unaware to get involved.  They are not naturally interested in political things, and they spend their lives occupied with “spiritual” things, assuming that everything is going to work out fine. I’m not criticizing these Christians. I used to be one of them. I just didn’t fully realize what was going on. Plus, more is going on now than ever before.

There are other Christians who think they shouldn’t get involved. In one article I read, a pastor said one reason he did not get involved is that “God is in control.”  He said he is working for the heavenly kingdom and doesn’t want to get distracted by the earthly kingdom.

But how would that perspective play itself out in other areas of life if lived consistently?

  • If someone broke into your house to harm you and your family, would you stand by idly and say, “God is in control?”
  • Would you turn the other cheek for the malicious intruder?
  • Would you let the invader have his way and say, “God causes all things to work together for good?”

Of course not! You’d try to protect those God has given you!

I see this as the same situation. Evil people are breaking into our national home. How can we, who have the ability to stop them, not stop them? Even Jesus said, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed” (Luke 11:21).  There are so many evangelical Christians that if we would simply “guard our house,” we could avert disaster.

More than America is at stake

This is not just about our comfort and safety. It is about having the knowledge, technology, and money to…

  • finish Bible translations around the world,
  • help start churches in emerging nations,
  • help advance the gospel around the world,
  • help reduce the pain of poverty,
  • help bring medical supplies and advances to those who need them,
  • help reduce the profound discrimination and suffering of Christians around the world.

Never before in the history of the Church has there been so much potential to take the Great Commission to the entire planet. There is a world of good to be done, but if the U.S. falls to socialism, it will deal a grave blow to all that potential.

James 4:17 says, “To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” My goal in writing this blog post is to help convince you that to vote Christian values for the sake of stopping anti-Christian socialism is the right thing to do.

As I see it, the choice is very clear: Christians must vote, and we must vote Republican if we do not want the United States to be overtaken by socialism/Marxism.  The traditional understanding of Republicans and Democrats is out the window in this election because Democrats have sold out to socialism. Today’s Democrat Party is not the same party of yester-years. If you vote Democrat because you or your family has “always voted” Democrat, please understand that today’s Democrat Party is not your parents’ party and please take the time to investigate their platform and policies before casting your vote. If you don’t want socialism, you don’t want a Democrat party platform.

It is a stewardship responsibility.  How can we neglect this gift the Lord has given us?  We have the power – God has given us the power through prayer and the privilege of informed voting – to prevent this calamity. We should be praying! But if we pray without also exercising our responsibility of voting, we have only done half the job. 

This is an historic moment for Christians in America. Help keep the Church in America strong so that we can use our knowledge, technology, and money to energize the Great Commission on a level we have never seen before.

Let’s rise to the challenge! Let’s pray and vote!

Max Anders is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and has taught on the college and seminary level. He was an original team member with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries and the author of over twenty-five books. He has pastored small, medium and large churches spanning over 25 years, including currently serving as Senior Pastor at Geist Chapel in Indianapolis, IN.

AN ALIEN IN YOUR DRIVEWAY

AN ALIEN IN YOUR DRIVEWAY

Imagine an alien from outer space landed in your driveway and asked, “What are all those buildings in your town with pointy spires and crosses on top? What is that about?” Could you answer accurately?

That’s the question C.S. Lewis—author of the Chronicles of Narnia—and Oxford College Chaplain, Walter Hooper, knocked around one day. “We wondered how many people, (who did not flee) apart from voicing their prejudices about the Church, could supply them with much in the way of accurate information. On the whole, we doubted whether the aliens would take back to their world much that is worth having.”

Hooper and Lewis were speculating because at that time, in the mid-twentieth century, several autobiographies of former bishops and preachers had flooded the market, explaining why they could no longer accept the faith. Lewis believed the ignorance of true Christianity was due to the flood of “liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel.”

Not much has changed. Today, many people reject Christianity because of prejudice or personal failure that seemed to disqualify them from the faith. Others were injured by fraudulent Christians and left the faith out of anger. A spate of recent books by former evangelicals such as the late Rachel Held Evans, and ex-pastors Rob Bell and Joshua Harris contribute to the confusion. “If professionals can’t follow it, how can I?”

But as Hooper writes in his preface to God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics by C.S. Lewis, “…it is impossible to decide whether Christianity is true or false if you do not know what it is about.” Spiritually hungry skeptics must ask themselves, “Am I rejecting something I fully understand? Or am I using negative examples as an excuse not to investigate it?”

That is why we offer the Alpha Course every fall. It’s a ten-week introduction to basic Christianity that’s designed to encourage questions and build friendships with others on the same journey. It covers the ten most common questions people have about Christianity, including Who is Jesus? Why Did He Die? Can I Trust the Bible? How Does God Guide Us? What Does the Holy Spirit Do? Why and How Do I Pray?

Our Church is hosting its ninth Alpha Course this year. If you’ve never attended one, I encourage you to find a course near you and go. Click here to find one in your area: https://alphausa.org/try.

HUNGRY FOR COMMUNITY?

HUNGRY FOR COMMUNITY?

I have a confession to make. I hunt for reasons to leave my office and run errands. I spend too much time on Facebook. I linger and chat with the grocery clerk and the guy at the gas station and just about anybody else I can find out in public. I like people. I don’t like being alone. AND I’M REALLY SICK OF SOCIAL DISTANCING! 

If you can identify, and I know most of you can, I want to encourage you to find a friend and bring them to our Alpha Course that begins September 15. Why? Alpha does four things that most of us need right now.

First, Alpha ignores politics. It seems that every four years, we find ourselves in “the most contentious political climate ever.” Politics is a necessary evil, but it need not consume all of our attention every day. Alpha is a beautiful break from the political storm.

Second, Alpha is not trying to sell you anything. Marketing expert Dr. Jeffery Lant developed something called The Rule of Seven. The Rule of Seven states that “to penetrate the buyer’s consciousness and make significant penetration in a given market, you have to contact the prospect a minimum of seven times within an 18-month period.”[1] My dad, who sold life insurance, among other things, summarized it thus: “It takes six NO’s to get a YES.”

Alpha is not a sales pitch of the gospel. It is a course, Christianity 101, if you will, founded instead on two fundamentals: Process and Community. Those two make up the third and fourth things Alpha does for us: create community and allow us to process some of life’s most profound questions.

Covid-19 is forcing many of us to sit still and ask serious questions, some for the first time in our lives. Questions like: Is this all there is? What is life about? Why do bad things like this happen? What’s my purpose? Where is it all headed? Am I ready to die? Alpha provides ancient wisdom on those topics as well as a safe space to process them.

And finally, friends! Alpha helps us meet that gnawing need for community. That is what makes Alpha so enjoyable and encouraging. No one will pressure you, and all questions are welcome in a fellowship of friends who’ve gotten to know one another through shared time and laughter.

Alpha is for everyone. If you’ve been a church member all your life, you will enjoy it. If you have never entered a church or considered Christianity, you will enjoy it and come away enriched with new understanding and new friends. Want to register yourself or a friend? Click here: FIND AN ALPHA.


[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-contacts-does-it-take-before-someone-buys-your-product-2011-7#ixzz3kaienRL6

TOP TEN MENTAL HEALTH TIPS

TOP TEN MENTAL HEALTH TIPS

In 2007-2009, my middle daughter, Emarie, passed through a time of deep testing. By God’s grace, she came through with her life and faith intact. She now works as an architect and Jiu Jitsu instructor in Billings, Montana. As I am at a conference this week, I thought you would appreciate her insights.

1) Find the balance between a healthy amount of time to reflect and too much introspection. Do you never slow down long enough to hear the silence? Or do you tie yourself in knots over-thinking? Develop habits that help you strike a middle-ground and pay attention to how you’re doing every now and then.

2) Journal often. It will help you do step one.

3) Take care of your body. Drink water, sleep, eat your veggies! Move yourself!  I know you know how, but are you DOING it? It might take discipline and accountability to develop healthy habits, but you’ll never get there if you don’t go for it. Your brain feels better when you feel better.

4) Talk to people you trust regularly. If you can’t come up with 1-3 people you’re close enough to do this regularly, consider a counselor. Professional talk therapists are better for preventative maintenance than crisis management; they’re objective, they don’t have to be your best friend, and they won’t be part of your life forever.

5) Do something productive. Change the oil. Clean the house. Mow the lawn. Savor the accomplishment of a small job well done.

6) Cry. Everybody does, and there are things in life that merit it. If you can’t grieve, you can’t heal. In retrospect, I find it interesting that my deep-dive into depression involved no tears. I wouldn’t let myself cry, and for a long time, I didn’t heal. The frequency of a need to cry varies from person to person and across the seasons of life, but it’s safe to say that you’re overdue if you can’t remember the last time. I keep a playlist of sad instrumental music, and when I’m feeling down, I turn it up and sit in the feeling until I figure out why. Usually, it merits a good cry.

7) Sing. I learned this from my younger sister, and it works! When her bedroom door slammed, and the soundtrack to Sweeney Todd started at full volume, there was no doubt she was upset. There’s music to suit most any feeling; head out in the car alone, turn it up, and sing along.

8) Get straight with your creator. If you feel like you’re bent double under the weight of something you can’t even see, go to the one who accepts burdens. Go screaming, go fighting, go doubting, but go.

9) Worship. Once you know who God is glory in it. Meditate on it. Sing about it. If you’ve never done #8, this may seem silly, but participating in worship has never failed to change my day regardless of my mental/emotional state, attitude, energy level, or even intention.

10) Put yourself on a brain diet. I’m not talking about food. Pay attention to the information, images, and implied messages you are consuming, especially through social media and entertainment. You KNOW the stuff that’s junk-brain-food. Junk-brain-food is just like junk food-food, it tastes good, at least for a moment. It strokes your ego, suits your fantasies, and captivates your attention. Stop taking it in. It may seem harmless, but it’s poison for your brain. Unplug entirely if you have to.

For example, I like country music (not all of it, but, you know, more than 50%); however, I won’t listen to some THEMES of country music. The feelings/attitudes those songs generate aren’t worth it. I also don’t watch horror movies. I know they’re dumb, I don’t believe any of it is real, and I know many of them are funny, silly, suspenseful, thrilling, or well-written. But I don’t watch any of them because I find them disturbing and unenjoyable. Further, I think that if I liked a horror movie, I would like it the same way I like the third piece of chocolate cake, more in the having than the actual eating and not at all once it’s finished. It’s junk-brain-food, and my mental health is better without it.

LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM A LIVING LEGEND

LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM A LIVING LEGEND

Sonlight, the college vocal group I traveled with from 1981-83, was lost in New York City after dark. The passenger van was vibrating so badly that it felt like it might come apart. We stopped, and I crawled underneath to check the driveshaft, but without a flashlight, I could not see anything. I got back in the van, and one of the other guys figured out we were in Harlem and needed to make a few more turns to reach the expressway and head north to our hotel. We rounded a corner and saw a man lying in the street, suffering from a gunshot. No police cars yet. “We gotta get out of here!” we said. One more turn and we were on the expressway. Less than a mile later, the driveshaft let go with a loud BANG, and we were stranded.

That event sticks in my mind not only because of the location and time but mostly for the way our leader, First Baptist Church of Atlanta Worship Ministry Director, John V. Glover, handled the situation. Without losing his cool, he loaded all 12 kids into the equipment van and gave directions to the hotel. Then he began whistling as he stuck out his thumb. He’s whistling! I thought. He is not shouting, or cussing, or blaming anyone. He’s whistling. The fact that he did not seem worried helped the rest of us not to. Then a big two-tone Cadillac coupe pulled over, and a huge guy with a gray beard offered him a ride. I thought, “That’s it. The Mafia’s got Johnny, and we are never going to get out of here.”

My friend, Johnny, produced and directed the Atlanta Passion Play that ran for 35 years and played to over one million patrons. He has led choral groups for 60 years, produced and conducted more musicals than I can count, and mentored hundreds of young men and women into life and ministry. Via Facebook, his family helped us celebrate his 80th birthday this week with memories and gratitude for all he meant to us. He did it with legendary energy and positivity, but the leadership principles he taught us will be most valuable to you. Former FBCA Orchestra Director John Gage summed them up.

– It is more important to develop your spiritual life than it is to build your vocational/ministry life.

– Excellence is always critical and worth the time and effort.

– Collaboration is better than trying to do it all yourself.

– Trust those you hire, but help them develop as well, and they will become a valuable asset to your ministry.

– Give guidance but get out of the way and let your employees take responsibility for their areas of expertise.

– Pray first.

– Be creative but not at the expense of comprehension.

– Love your staff and let them know you love them by investing time in them.

– Family is more important than work.

– Always allow your boss to make the final decision after stating your case.

Johnny’s impact on me is immeasurable. I learned to trust God in impossible situations when he showed up the next day after spending all night in a truck stop getting our van fixed.  I courted my wife of 36 years backstage in the Civic Center during the Passion Play, and three years later, he performed the ceremony. I received the confirmation of my call to ministry in response to a challenge he gave Sonlight on the way home from a Jamaica trip. I memorized Romans 6 on that same trip because he challenged us to do it, and I still teach young men facing temptation to do it today. I learned to speak to churches on those Sonlight trips and what to do when the accompaniment tape breaks. And I participated as he took a few professional musicians and hundreds of average singers and molded us into a powerful community of praise. The list could go on, but most of all, Johnny became one of three key men God put in my life as mentors in those days to replace the father I lost when I was fifteen. I will never stop being grateful for him. So, Happy Birthday, Johnny! And here’s to another 80!

WE ARE CAESAR: Christians and Politics in 2020

WE ARE CAESAR: Christians and Politics in 2020

A national election looms, and the contrasts between the candidates and their platforms could not be more distinct. How should we choose? Do the life and teaching of Jesus give us any guidelines?

Yes! Jesus faced a hotly contested political issue. His epic reply was: “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God, what is God’s.” (See Matthew 22:15-22). The story behind the quote is rife with political tensions that make ours seem mild.

The Story

Judea became a Roman Province in 6 AD after the failed tetrarchy of Herod Archelaus. After the census, the Romans levied a head tax on top of the property tax customs tax. Judas of Galilee led a revolt over it. The debate that raged at the time was whether a good Jew should pay the fee.

We can paraphrase the question to Jesus like this: “Can we pay taxes to Caesar and still give allegiance to God? Are we traitors to God for supporting this pagan leader’s rule over His land?”

The question was a trap. If Jesus rejected the head tax, he was liable to Caesar’s court. If he supported the tax, the Zealots—a violent political movement—would turn on him.

Every resident of Palestine knew someone, a brother, a father, a cousin, a neighbor, whom the Romans had victimized. They were sold into slavery, forced off their land, or executed for speaking out against oppression.

Moreover, the Messiah, like the judges of old, was expected to depose tyrants and enforce justice. Would Jesus measure up?

Jesus turned the tables and set a trap of his own. “Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” He said.

They paid it with a Tiberian denarius, propaganda disguised as currency. One side had a profile of the emperor and a superscription that read: TI CAESAR DIVI AUGUSTI FILIUS AUGUSTUS (Tiberius Caesar, August Son of the Divine Augustus). The other side had a picture of a woman seated on a throne holding an inverted spear in her right hand and a palm branch in the left. The superscription read “PONTIFEX MAXIMUS” (High Priest). The Jews saw it as a portable idol promoting a pagan religion and hated it. So it was funny to watch the questioner dig around to find one, and then realize with embarrassment that all the Jews in the courtyard were frowning at the fact that he would have it on his person.

When he handed it over, Jesus nailed them with three piercing facts. The meaning of his reply runs something like this.

“Hypocrites!” He said. “Since you don’t seem to have any problem doing business with Caesar’s coins, you had better pay his taxes. Second, as much as you pretend to be offended by Caesar’s claims on deity, you have no qualms about bringing this pagan symbol into God’s holy temple. And third, by holding his coin, you already pay tribute to him, let Caesar have his idols.”

“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, namely the thing that bears his image and name. But give to God also what bears his image and name – yourself.”God made us in his image. God saved us and called us his own. We owe him our entire being. Jesus is saying, “Caesar owns your money. God owns you. Don’t confuse the two.”

The Principle

The principle is this: Get your allegiances right, and your obligations will come clear. Render to the government what you owe to the government, and to God what you owe to God.

How does this story guide us today? To answer that question, we have to recognize the differences between our government and theirs. Our political systems are completely different. Thus our obligations are different.

Jesus and his contemporaries lived in a conquered country occupied by hostile troops and governed by foreigners. They had no vote or representation in government; they faced imprisonment, slavery, or death for protesting, and had no power short of open rebellion.

Thankfully, our system of government is different. We have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to vote, and freedom to sue the government for justice. We also have the freedom to live and do business publicly as our religious conscious requires. We have not only the right but also the obligation to participate in government at every level. ‘We, the people’, are Caesar. But just as it was in those days, so it is today, Caesar isn’t Lord. God is. ‘We the people’ – in the form of the legislature, the courts or the executive branch – might make a law or ruling that runs contrary to the will of God. Because Christians have the option, we also must promote government for the common good and oppose or change those laws and rulings that are opposed to the common good. That is our obligation to Caesar.

Applying the Principle

To apply the principle, we need to think about both sides of the political equation: our allegiances and our obligations.

The Christian’s first allegiance is to the gospel. Our primary mission is the proclamation of the gospel, which alone can change the heart of a nation. Thus, we need to be wary about aligning ourselves with a particular individual or party.

Our allegiance to God, who commanded us to ‘love your neighbor’ motivates us to work for the good of all our neighbors, not just the advancement of our religion. Therefore, Christians must be impartial advocates of truth, no matter the political consequences.

What are God’s values concerning the political issues of the day, and what is our obligation as participants in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people?

Abortion – God is the creator of life. Children in the womb are the most defenseless. Isa 1:17 says: Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (NIV) Christians should vote for the people who will do the best job of defending the unborn.[1]

Marriage – God established the moral order for the world he created. If we abide by it, things go well. If we abandon it, we can expect trouble. Christians should vote for people who will honor God by maintaining the traditional definition of marriage.

Religious Freedom & Freedom of Speech – Jesus commanded: “Go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Religious freedom and freedom of speech are the two most important founding principles of America. Religious freedom is broader than the so-called freedom of worship. And freedom of speech is central to our ability to function as a civil society. Christians should vote for officials who will protect religious freedom and freedom of expression.

Economics

Jesus was clear about our obligations to the poor. But scripture also teaches, “He that will not work, should not eat,” and that all men should be responsible for providing for their families. No fair-minded person could look at the multitude of social services offered in this country and conclude that our government isn’t caring for the poor. Yet welfare fraud totaled $99.1 billion in fiscal year 2019. Christians should vote for officials who will do a better job of managing that system and reign in the abuses.

Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.” As we consider our civic responsibilities, let’s get our allegiances right, and our obligations will become clear.

[1] Biden’s VP Choice Expected, World News 8/11/2020.

LAST RIDE WITH BIG MIKE

LAST RIDE WITH BIG MIKE

Dealing with Covid-19 has been hard on all of us, but especially those with mental health issues. Since today is the tenth anniversary of his passing, I thought I would re-post this story about my brother, who fought a great battle for his mental health and won.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Heb 12:1 NIV)

Nitrogen fumes from the Shell premium gas Mike burned in his Honda CBR 1100 XX drifted back to us, threading their way into our helmets along with the mountain aromas of cool granite, green laurel, and fresh-cut grass. I kept pace with Mike and his passenger, my daughter Mikeala, on a borrowed BMW, railing the tight curves and slowing to a walk on the switchbacks of Georgia SR 180 as we wound our way up Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state.  It would be our last motorcycle ride together before he died on August 5th, 2010—and one of the best—climaxing as it did with a view of the world from 4,784 feet. He had already covered 200 of the 350 miles he would ride that day and wasn’t even tired.

My older brother Mike suffered from atypical bipolar disorder. This disease, or something like it, was not new to our family. Our aunt suffered for years before taking her own life. Our grandfather was also disabled by it. It hit Mike in his 39th year, brought on (we believe) by a reaction to a blood pressure medication that works fine for millions, but not for him.

Big Mike, his nickname in the neighborhood, was always bigger and stronger than most of my friends and me. He was also a rock when I needed him most. Watching him break into a thousand mental pieces was almost more than I could bear. But watching him climb up out of that psychological black hole, a place from which few men return, was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever witnessed. We talked about writing a book on it. I’m writing this today to encourage you and anyone else that you know who has a mental disorder.

Three things marked Mike’s journey from the pit of despair back to mental health.

Humility. Mike was a proud man, a strong man that submitted himself to hospitalization under the care of competent professionals who prescribed medication and psychotherapy. Once out of the hospital, Mike took responsibility for himself and worked the program. It took years. And like many bipolar patients, along the way, Mike decided he no longer needed the meds. Stopping the meds led to a relapse and another hospital stay. But the second time was the charm. He humbled himself by taking his medicine every day and visiting a counselor every week for years. Even when he no longer needed the counselor, he stayed on the medication and visited a therapist now and then to keep a check on himself. He knew the disease too well and as strong as he was, knew he couldn’t handle it alone.

The second thing was his faith. In all the years of his suffering, Mike never turned his back on Jesus Christ. I never heard him blame God or use his illness and disappointment as an excuse to quit worshiping or neglect his devotions or stop fellowshiping with other believers. He wanted to be well, and he knew that in the end, only walking with Jesus would give him the strength to get there.

Perseverance. Sadly, many suffering people give up and let their illness define them for the rest of their days, or take their life. Mike never gave up. Even after two years of unemployment due to his disease, he kept his courage up. He was as healthy on that day at the top of the world as I have ever known him, enjoying the good gifts God gave, enjoying the ride, and discussing plans for his new business. No one knew that even though his mind had healed, his heart was diseased. He was working on a motorcycle in his garage on the day his heart stopped.

So, if you know someone who is struggling with a mental disorder, tell them about my brother. Tell them they can recover. And tell them there’s a big guy in that great cloud of witnesses, cheering them on.

HYDROXY-CHLOROQUINE ZINC & Z-PAK: Quackery or Solid Science?

HYDROXY-CHLOROQUINE ZINC & Z-PAK: Quackery or Solid Science?

AUGUST 5 UPDATE: Last week, I quoted with approval Yale epidemiologist Dr. Harvey Risch’s review of reports on the efficacy of HCQ against early stage Covid-19. This link will take you to his faculty colleague’s rebuttal. Their bottom line: “Let us be clear: we are unanimous in our desire to see the development of therapies to treat COVID-19 and to prevent the transmission or acquisition of SARS-CoV-2. If HCQ was shown to be effective, even among subgroups of patients with COVID-19 in ongoing high-quality trials, we would join our colleagues in promoting access to it for all who need it. However, the evidence thus far has been unambiguous in refuting the premise that HCQ is a potentially effective early therapy for COVID-19.”

Over fourteen million people watched a Facebook Live press conference in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building by the group, America’s Frontline Doctors, on Monday. By Tuesday, all social media platforms had pulled it, and fact-checking sites everywhere were dismissing it as quackery. Even their website was gone. Why? Because the doctors at the conference were calling—loudly in one case—for Hydroxychloroquine, Zinc, and Azithromycin (Z-Pak) to be made available to the public as the standard of care for early symptomatic Covid-19, and as prophylaxis against catching the disease.

I thought their arguments were sound and their experience as primary care physicians and ER docs credible. That’s why I was discouraged to find sources quoting Nigerian native Dr. Stella Emmanuel—the most passionate and combative of the group—as saying some rather outlandish things about other topics. I liked Dr. Emmanuel’s sincerity, but her comments in other fields—if accurately reported—diminished the credibility of the group.

Still, the absolute silencing, eerily similar to twentieth-century Soviet erasure of opposition voices from the public record, disturbed me. Dismissing them as “doctors with a conservative agenda” does nothing to address the facts. Do these medicines work, or not? That’s all that matters.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. But people on the political left are just as passionate about their convictions as I am about mine. And sometimes, passion and cynicism about the other side blind us to facts.

That is what I think is happening with Hydroxychloroquine, Zinc, and Z-Pak. But I still wasn’t prepared to write about it until I read Dr. Harvey A. Risch’s Newsweek article from July 23. Dr. Risch, a Yale epidemiologist, has the academic credentials and publishing record that America’s Frontline Doctors, despite their clinical experience, lack.

A few of his most cogent comments from the article:

“I am usually accustomed to advocating for positions within the mainstream of medicine, so have been flummoxed to find that, in the midst of a crisis, I am fighting for a treatment that the data fully support but which, for reasons having nothing to do with a correct understanding of the science, has been pushed to the sidelines. As a result, tens of thousands of patients with COVID-19 are dying unnecessarily.”

“I am referring, of course, to the medication hydroxychloroquine. When this inexpensive oral medication is given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control, it has shown to be highly effective, especially when given in combination with the antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline and the nutritional supplement zinc.”

Risch goes on to mention doctors he knows who’ve risked their careers to prescribe these medications for their patients, governments that have reversed course on banning the drug, and mistakes in the FDA’s reporting on the risks associated with its use. Like Dr. Emmanuel and Dr. Gold of America’s Frontline Doctors, he recognizes that patient health is more important than politics.

Do we?

TRUE SCAM STORY and how to avoid it

TRUE SCAM STORY and how to avoid it

It started with a friendly phone call about software support. It ended up costing the church over $700 and a boatload of trouble. Just to relieve your mind, no church member’s Social Security numbers were exposed, and we’ve contacted the half dozen employees and former employees that might have been.

On May 20, 2019, our office received a call from a nice guy named Matt Roberts, claiming that he was our new Quickbooks account representative and providing a phone number for product support (note: Intuit owns Quickbooks). We wrote the number down and thought nothing of it. In March of 2020, we had an issue and called Matt. They forwarded us to Lisa, who explained that we had a corrupted file, and to fix it, we needed a new software support subscription. We thought we had all the support subscriptions we needed but, I was in a hurry that day, we couldn’t issue a payroll check until the problem was solved, and software support is always expensive. We had just switched to Windows 10 and knew that there were potential issues with corrupted files. Finally, we believed we were talking to Intuit.

We weren’t. We were talking to a shadow software support firm called QB Support Solutions. But we still did not know that. They required a $700 one year subscription and remote access to our computer to fix the problem. My office admin assistant said, “Something doesn’t seem right about this.” I should have listened. But Quickbooks is not my thing, I don’t know how to fix corrupted files, the people sounded genuine, and as I said, we were in a hurry. We paid with an e-check straight from our bank, gave them access to the computer, and they fixed it—end of the story.

Except it wasn’t. Two weeks ago we had another issue with the computer. The office admin called QB Support and got the run-around. In the meantime, we thought we had evidence that someone was trying to access the office computer without permission remotely. We finally started digging. We called Intuit directly. They fixed the problem in about an hour. That’s when we discovered that Intuit won’t call you unless you request it and they will always leave a case number for the call. QB Support Solutions is not an Intuit company or contractor, Matt and Lisa are not and never have been Intuit employees, and their phone numbers have never been Intuit numbers. We also discovered that the physical address on QB Support Solutions letterhead did not match the same on their website, GoogleMaps cannot find their physical address, and they won’t return our phone calls.

We froze all outgoing checks from our account for two days, opened a new account, consulted with an IT specialist, closed the old account, and got the computer fixed.

We got scammed. But it could have been worse

Software scams are much like spiritual scams. Jesus said the devil is a thief and a liar. The Apostle Paul warned us to be wary of the devil’s schemes. He deceived us in the garden, and he is still deceiving today. A few parallels with our spiritual lives might help us avoid both kinds.

Deception is most potent when we have a pressing need, we don’t know how to meet it, and we’re in too much of a hurry to think it through. We’re lonely but can’t find the relationship we need. We need money and don’t know how to get it. We’re goal-oriented but feel stifled. Or we need to process a paycheck but can’t make the software work.

Deception looks like the real thing and sounds genuine. It fits a pattern that worked in the past and fulfills a need in the short term. It plays on our trust. Alarm bells may sound, but we don’t have time. A short-cut appears, and we take it. In the end, it “bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.”

These may seem obvious, but a few things to do if your alarm bells are sounding:

  1. Listen to the alarm. Pay attention to what it is telling you. (Gal. 5:21; 6:7-8; Acts 20:31).
  2. Slow down. Postpone whatever is next on your list—it probably wasn’t that important anyway—and work the problem. (Prov. 19:2; 25:8).
  3. Dig deeper. Go to the source. Read the Scriptures. (Matt. 22:29; Acts 17:11).
  4. Take action. (Prov. 6:1-5; 1 Cor. 6:18; 10:14; 1Tim. 6:2-12).