TRUST GOD AND BUCKLE YOUR SEAT BELT Dealing With Life’s Disasters

TRUST GOD AND BUCKLE YOUR SEAT BELT Dealing With Life’s Disasters

Denny Hamlin’s win in the Daytona 500 was particularly poignant for Joe Gibbs Racing. The team had just buried their former president, Joe’s 49-year-old son, J. D., who died of a neurological disorder in January. I bet Joe’s family would happily forfeit the trophy and all their successes if they could have J.D. back. But that’s not how they roll.

It reminded me of other personal disasters I’ve witnessed.

Seventeen years ago, this week, I walked with my friends Phil and Shelley Ramsey, as we buried their eighteen-year-old son, Joseph, who died in a car wreck.

A late-night phone call, “Pastor, can you come? Our baby was born with undeveloped lungs and isn’t going to survive.”

A distraught counselee, “I’m thirty-nine and pregnant with our second child and my husband just left me. Where is God?”

Pregnancies that miscarry, dream jobs that become soul shredders, the number and diversity of things that can disappoint and disillusion in life is endless. But it’s worse when we think God has somehow let us down.

Evangelicals are particularly prone to this. We’re taught all our lives that God loves and cares for us: “His eye is on the sparrow,” said Jesus. “Cast your cares upon him, for he cares for you,” wrote Peter. That’s true, but not the whole story. Most of us have a truncated biblical world-view about suffering and it costs us dearly when trouble comes. We cherry-pick the verses we like and forget the context. We think life is supposed to be a Disney World ride when it’s more like the Daytona 500, where the big wreck is always in the offing.

Life’s inevitable disappointments are often about unmet expectations, of God, others, and our selves. When we line them up with what the Bible actually reveals about people, life, death, the world, and God they may not be easier to bear but they do leave us less confused and better prepared to overcome.

Scripture tells us: “time and chance happen to everyone,” including us. “His eye is on the sparrow,” but all sparrows fall. “He knows the number of the hairs on your head,” but they will turn white and turn loose. “We have this treasure in jars of clay,” that can be expected to crack without warning. All humans are “slaves of sin,” prone to follow our self-destructive passions and hurt those we’re supposed to protect. The heart is “deceitful above all things … who can really understand it?”[1]

Depressed yet? I’m not aiming for that, but it’s imperative to see that nowhere in the Bible does God promise us sunshine without sweat and smiles without sorrow. Aligning expectations with revelation dilutes frustration.

What has he promised?

To make us part of his tribe. To share with us his joy. To suffer with us when we hurt. To give us his strength. To counsel and comfort us. To love us even when we don’t love ourselves. To stand with us in life’s battles. To shape us into little Christs. To providentially provide for us and through us the things we need to survive. To empower us to participate in the awesome and terrifying task of advancing his kingdom. To give us a purpose, a future, and a hope, a reason for joy in the midst of pain. And to glorify us with Christ when he returns.[2]

Joy and sorrow will ever run parallel tracks until that day.

Joe Gibbs Racing took their fifty-four-pound trophy to Steak ‘n Shake, Sunday night, just like they did after their first win in 1993. It was the biblical thing to do.

Life is like the Daytona 500, a difficult, fascinating, disappointing, exhilarating, often dangerous, always high-stakes ride. Trust God and buckle your seat belt.

[1] See: Eccl. 9:11; Matt. 10:29-30; 2 Cor. 4:7; Rom. 6:6-22; Jer. 17:9

[2] See: Eph. 2:19; John 17:13; Matt. 28:20; Rom. 8:26; John 15:5; John 14:16; 2 Cor. 1:3-7; Rom. 8:35-39; Rom. 8:15-17; Rom. 8:29; Phil. 4:19; Acts 1:8; 1Pet. 1:3; Eph. 2:12; Rom. 8:18.

STRAIGHT LINES WITH CROOKED STICKS An Evangelical Response to the State of the Union Speech

STRAIGHT LINES WITH CROOKED STICKS    An Evangelical Response to the State of the Union Speech

Parents of young children need eight hands, I thought as the mom and dad juggled tiny baby, luggage, diaper bag, car-seat, boarding passes, and ID while shepherding their toddler through Phoenix Sky Harbor security. I wish they’d hurry up. Then the agent slowed things down even more by starting a conversation with the little guy.

“Is this your daddy? Uh huh. No, you don’t have to take off your shoes. Is this your mommy? Uh huh, you can hold your bear. Is that your baby sister?”

C’mon dude! Any idiot can see he’s their son! Stop harassing these people and let us in so we can all go home! If TSA agents could read minds I’d be in jail.

Then I remembered a recent news report: Human-trafficking is everywhere all the time and it is not all about sex. The Hispanic, and Romanian house-keepers in my hotels, the Moroccan Uber driver in Austin, the Russian donut shop clerk in Williamsburg, the Asian and Latino cooks who work seven-days-a-week in local restaurants. All might be in a form of slavery, working themselves to death to pay off enormous immigration debt to ruthless traffickers. Some surely are.[1]

Then there are the so-called “sex-workers”: Children, even infants, stolen, smuggled, sold into the sex trade to grow up—if they live that long—with no identity, no power, no voice, no skills and no hope. People who want to do immoral things often plan to do them on vacation. Susie Harville, who fights trafficking in Biloxi, Mississippi casino culture, told World Radio: “We had a person come down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast on a convention and um, while he was here he actually ordered a 12 year-old and a 16 year-old. One was a boy and one was a girl. What we found out was this Montana man was a deacon in his church, was married and had two children at home.”[2]

Twenty years after NAFTA—which George H. W. Bush negotiated and was ratified under Bill Clinton—killed our local textile economy, our still-struggling region is considering Casino gambling to create jobs. Really.[3]

My gut clinches in anger and grief at such stories. Doesn’t yours? But that’s not all. Scripture commands more than sympathy. “Welcome the stranger,” said Jesus. “Provide for the poor and the sojourner,” wrote Moses. Protect the immigrant, the fatherless, and the widow,” preached Jeremiah.[4]

All these ideas and one more simmered in my mind as I read the State of the Union Speech. (I no longer watch. The circus takes too long). God draws straight lines with crooked sticks. Trump the former casino owner advocates for a border solution that will choke entry points for traffickers. Who isn’t for that? Trump, who said “They have to go …” during the campaign argues for fair treatment of the dreamers while fixing our decades old immigration problems. Trump the thrice-married adulterer who has feasted on the fruits of the sexual revolution advocates for that revolution’s greatest victims—the unborn—because we are made “in the image of a holy God.”

Presidents “learn as they go” on the job, said the Arizona sheriff who called Trump’s campaign concrete wall idea a medieval solution to a 21st Century problem. “I support his current position.”[5]

Whether his policies indicate a shift in his personal morality—and I pray they do—is irrelevant. Franklin Roosevelt broke the law by providing covert support for Great Britain from 1936 to 1939 and died in the presence of his paramour in Georgia.[6] Serial adulterer John F. Kennedy[7] solved the Cuban missile crisis, preventing World War III. Rabid anti-communist “Tricky Dick” Nixon ended the Vietnam war and normalized relations with Red China, stifling communism and laying the foundation for global trade which brought billions of Chinese out of poverty and made Dollar General possible.

God draws straight lines with crooked sticks.

That’s why evangelicals like me voted for Donald Trump. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We pray for his soul while we pull for his policies. If he succeeds in choking the flow of human trafficking and building a barrier wall against abortion, we will rejoice. Hillary Clinton would have done the opposite. It’s that simple.

I’ll try to remember that the next time TSA grills a toddler and Trump tries to privatize air traffic control, which I think is insane. Will you?

[1] https://worldandeverything.org/2019/01/listening-in-raleigh-sadler/

[2] https://worldandeverything.org/2019/02/protecting-children-on-the-gulf-coast-part-1/

[3] https://www.wsls.com/news/virginia/southside/a-casino-in-danville-it-could-happen

[4] Matthew 25:32-40; Leviticus 19:33-34; Jeremiah 7:5-7.

[5] https://worldandeverything.org/2019/01/washington-wednesday-border-security-2/

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Mercer_Rutherfurd

[7] https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/reliable-source/post/jfk-intern-mimi-alford-shares-story-of-her-affair-with-kennedy-in-new-book-relevant-historian-robert-dallek-says-yes/2012/02/06/gIQAFgF1uQ_blog.html?utm_term=.d3b02518f54c

TRUMP AND THE DECLINE OF ABORTION

The inauguration of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth president of the United States is just two days away and many Americans still cannot believe it’s happening, or how he won in the first place. Some say, “The Russians did it!” Others point to corruption in the Clinton camp that predated any FBI investigation. Most, however, miss a critical moment in the last debate when Mr. Trump described late-term abortion, and called it “not acceptable.”

Clinton’s connection to and unconditional support for the abortion industry were pillars of her campaign. Trump’s statement, connected to his promises to repeal Obamacare– which promoted, mandated, and funded abortion at every turn–and to nominate conservative justices to the Supreme Court, who will no doubt hear more challenges to abortion rights, probably did more to persuade conservative evangelicals to hold their noses and vote for him than anything else.

Regardless of Mike Pence’s and other notable evangelicals’ support, whether or not conservative Christians have made a deal with the devil remains to be seen. I give it a fifty-fifty chance of being just that. What is clear is that the cultural winds are shifting away from abortion and in favor of life.

Some notable facts are worth mentioning:

The callousness and corruption of the abortion industry have been exposed in stories like that of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, and Planned Parenthood’s sale of baby parts for profit. Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who catered to immigrants and minorities in a grimy inner city clinic, was convicted on three of eight counts of murder for taking the lives of infants who survived birth in his facility. A documentary movie about Gosnell and the abortion industry, American Tragedy, has been produced and is now making its way across the country.

Planned Parenthood representatives were filmed making deals for baby parts, and bragging about how careful their abortionists were to preserve vital organs for research during the process. The mammoth abortion provider viciously fought back against the producers, The Center for Medical Progress, managing to have them arrested and charged for tactics developed by news organizations like 60 Minutes. But all charges were dropped and, most importantly, the truth got out.

The Freedom of Choice Act, which Mr. Obama promised to sign in his first term, and would have made it illegal and actionable in all fifty states to restrict abortion in any way, never made it out of committee.

Twenty states have passed incremental restraints on abortion and more are on the way.

Obamacare and its onerous mandates requiring all insurance plans to fund and all healthcare providers to offer abortion, have been resoundingly rejected in a national election.

Most encouraging of all, abortions in the United States dropped below one million for the first time in over forty years.

Those of us who have prayed, paid, and worked to end abortion for the past forty-four years have much for which to give thanks. But we dare not put our hopes in this, or any other, president or politician. We need to keep praying, keep paying, and keep working until every human life, inside the womb and out, is equally valued.

REAL HEAD SCRATCHERS

Things that make us scratch our heads:

Christians line up by the thousands to vote for an arrogant, rude, reckless, serial adulterer. Huh?

Once staunchly-biblical denominations line up to support blatantly anti-biblical forms of marriage. Wha?

Liberals of all stripes line up to support the right of Islamists to impose Sharia law in European democracies and American Universities. Really?

What’s up with that? How did we arrive at this state of confusion? The answer, in one word, is tolerance. Tolerance is the virtue most exalted in the last thirty years of Western Civilization. The thoughtless embrace of it has led us to this point.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “How can you say that? Tolerance is a good thing.” And I agree with you. But the late John R.W. Stott, in his book Contemporary Christian, outlined three kinds of tolerance. Christians ought to support the first two to the hilt and oppose the last kind to the last man.

Legal Tolerance
You and I should be committed to everyone’s right to think or say or preach anything he believes. It is the basic ‘freedom of religion’ that this country was founded upon. If someone wants to say that the rapture will happen next week he should have the freedom to do that. If someone wants to say that gender-dysphoric people should have the right to use the restroom of their choice, he or she should have the freedom to say that. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us should run up our credit cards because Jesus is coming back on Friday, or that we should allow biologically male teens to use the girl’s restroom at the high school with our daughters. The freedom to believe and say something does not imply the obligation of everyone else to agree with us.

Social Tolerance
You and I should be equally careful to protect social tolerance. Social tolerance means respect for all people, regardless of the views they may hold.

I think gambling is a bad idea. I can argue against its legalization and preach against its corruptive power. I am not at liberty however to label every person who gambles as a supporter of the Mafia. Social tolerance means I try to understand the values and convictions of others without passing judgment on them.

Christians believe that all humans are made in the image of God and that He wants us to live together in harmony. “As much as it lies with you, be at peace with everyone,” said the Apostle Paul to the Romans. That’s social tolerance.

Intellectual Tolerance
Intellectual tolerance is something we should beware of and oppose. Intellectual tolerance means that we’re supposed to accept every idea and philosophy and doctrine uncritically as equal in value and virtue with every other idea.

Stott said it this way, “To cultivate a mind so broad that it can accommodate every opinion, however false or evil, without ever detecting anything to reject, is not a virtue; it is the vice of the feebleminded and amoral. It ends up in an unprincipled confusion of truth with error and goodness with evil.”

It leads to Evangelicals supporting an ungodly, unprincipled opportunist; to pastors and parishioners supporting same-sex marriage; to intellectual liberals supporting a political ideology dressed up as religion that oppresses minorities, abuses women, sponsors terrorism, and murders gays.

That confusion of truth with error and goodness with evil is why so many of us are scratching our heads. Intellectual tolerance is a subtle but powerful cultural current and it is easy to go with the flow. We who stake our lives on biblical truth are swimming upstream against it. But swim we must, trusting God that as we do truth will prevail.