Thursday, February 18, 2021

Remembering a Conservative Icon


I don’t remember the last time I listened to Rush Limbaugh.

That might come as a surprise for people who knew me in high school and college. Back then I was one of the biggest “ditto heads” around.

I started listening to Rush shortly after his show was nationally syndicated. My dad had WHO (the great radio station from Des Moines, Iowa) on as we worked around the farm, and that meant everyday at 1pm we would listen to The Rush Limbaugh Show and for 3 hours the Doctor of Democracy taught me what I needed to know to be a good conservative in the United States.

One of the things I have grown to appreciate about Rush was his ability to hold the attention of people for 3 hours on the radio. Being a pastor I put together sermons and lessons, and what Rush did everyday was amazing. There is no way I could go on the air 5 days a week and fill a 3 hour slot and make it interesting. The skill Rush had on the radio was amazing.

He basically invented political talk radio and became the first real conservative voice in the country. The secret to his success was that he was engaging and entertaining while providing a narrative the lined up with a more conservative worldview. This was a worldview conservatives felt was under represented in the main stream media.

The things that I learned from Rush are:
  1. The value of following the Constitution. This stuck with me from the early days of listening to his show: the Constitution provides the framework for our government to follow.
  2. Making the complex simple. Rush would say he was making the complex simple. In my teaching and preaching this is something I have tried to emulate. One of the keys to good communication is making things understandable. 
  3. The importance of living out what you believe. I think it was in See I Told You So, Rush wrote something like "Be a beacon of light for that which you advocate." That phrase has stuck with me all these years, and something I try to live up to.
  4. Influence people to make the right choice. Rush was pro-life. Something that he said in those early days of the program that I continue to think about was that he was in favor of people having a choice and he wanted to make sure that choice was life. This maybe be the idea that has influenced me the most over the years. I want people to have the liberty, which means they have the ability to make choices I think are wrong. Which means as a Christian I have responsibility to help people make the right choice.
There is no doubt that my intellectual and political life was influenced by Rush. I listened to him during those years that many of us start to think for ourselves and form our own opinions. I am grateful for the positive influence that he had that still lingers in my life today.

I have tried to recreate my journey away from conservative Republican to the Christian anarchist/libertarian view I hold today and I can't with any accuracy. The dates and specifics are jumbled in my mind. So I am not entirely sure what caused me to turn Rush off. 

I do remember four reasons why I stopped trusting what Rush said on air.
  1. He wouldn't answer callers' questions directly. The older I got the more I realized that Rush didn't always answer the questions that people had. I remember talking back to the radio and saying, "But that isn't what he asked!" Or, "Rush, you are missing the point." I came to realize that he really wasn't interested in answering questions, rather he used the calls to further comment on what he wanted to say.
  2. He didn't fairly represent the news articles that used on the show. As the internet became bigger and it became easier to track down the articles Rush used, I would go and read them. More often than not I would come away thinking, "That isn't what the article was saying." I am not saying this always happened, but it happened enough for me to begin to distrust what he was saying, especially when it came to the liberal side of things. 
  3.  It seemed to me that Rush got away from promoting conservatism and started bashing the left. This was by far the biggest thing for me. I wrote the following in post titled Where have the True Conservatives Gone?: "A third observation is that talk radio, and Rush Limbaugh I am primarily talking about you because you set the standard for everyone else to follow, has become anti-liberal rather than pro-conservative. Every time I turned on Rush through December and January he was talking about the Clintons (Clinton, Inc.). He wasn't talking about why conservative ideas were superior just trashing the Clintons."
  4. His support for war changed between Clinton and Bush. During President Clinton's Bosnia War I remember Rush explained how the United States shouldn't be the policeman of the world and how we shouldn't be nation building. He also talked about how there needed to be a goal so we have a definition for what victory is and an exit strategy. Fast forward to the President Bush's second term and the United States is deeper and deeper into this so-called war on terror and as I listen to Rush continue to support this war I have this realization that every reason he gave against President Clinton's Bosnia intervention could be applied to the War on Terror. His principle changed based on who was in office.

There was a good 12 year period in my life when Rush Limbaugh was the major intellectual influence in my life, especially when it came to politics. There was another 3 or 4 years as I gradually stopped paying attention to what he had to say. In the last 12 years I haven't listened to him at all.

From this perspective I see Rush as a very flawed man who struggled with relationships and addiction issues, yet who had the strength and perseverance to continue to do a radio program while loudly being denounced by his critics and facing some major health problems. He had the talent to make politics engaging and hold people's attention for three hours a day, five days a week.

Rush became the voice for people who felt like their principles and beliefs were under represented in the mainstream press. He became the leader of the opposition in a world of progressivism. After all, that is what conservatism is: opposition. It opposes the changes offered by progressivism.

Though I a grateful for the influence he had on me and my thinking, I had moved on from Rush. In the end there are too many differences in our thoughts for me to call him a hero. He was a radio legend who brought  thousands of hours of enjoyment to millions of people and for that he deserves respect.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Reflecting on a Scandal

I originally posted this to my Facebook page, but thought it was worthy posting here:

This past week the board of directors of RZIM posted this letter concerning the double life of Ravi Zacharias. You can find the letter here Open Letter from the International Board of Directors of RZIM on the Investigation of Ravi Zacharias.

Ravi Zacharias had a ministry that influenced many people. The news that has been confirmed recently of his moral failure is disheartening, especially if he and his arguments helped strengthen your faith. 

In the light of this  I want to remind us of a few truths. First, truth is not dependent on the life of the messenger. When Ravi spoke truth about God, about the condition of the world, and about Jesus all that continues to be true. His grievous sin does not invalidate the truth he taught.

Second, the way that we live totally impacts the message that we have. Unfortunately, the revelation of Ravi’s double life is going to undo all his years of public life. This is why Jesus taught his disciples to be salt and light. Both of those metaphors deal with living in such a way that we are able to influence the world around us. Our lives provide evidence that our message is true. When we don’t live up to the message it will cause people to doubt our message.

Third, we have a choice to make when it comes to sin. It is probably true, as the letter indicates, that more accountably would have prevented some of this from happening, but accountability is overrated when it comes to transforming our lives. Accountability might help us manage the sin, but it falls short of creating holiness in our lives. When we have sin we need to confess it and seek ways to get rid of it. The Holy Spirit is able to transform our lives, but we need to give Him room to work.

The greatest tragedy here is not the moral failure of Ravi but the women he abused and their reputations that were ruined in order protect Ravi’s reputation. This is what should truly break our hearts.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Move Forward in Courage

Many men, at the core of their being, long to be courageous. 

A man desires to stand alone and face to face the danger and become the hero. 

This is certainly true with me. 

Ever since I was a young boy I have wanted to defeat the bad guys, defend the ones I love, and rescue the beauty from the clutches of evil.

This craving in my soul comes from the reality that God made me to live a courageous life and to face the dangers of life. 

Often the danger which exists in our lives bears little resemblance to the danger faced by James Bond or Batman on the movie screen. Therefore, it is easy to convince ourselves that no real danger exists and all this talk of courage is just an exaggeration to play on the imaginations of men.

Our daily lives don't seem to be dangerous because we are rarely in physical danger. We don't have bullets whizzing past our heads or bombs exploding around us. This is why we are lulled into a sense of safety and convince ourselves that danger doesn’t exist in our lives. 
Just because our lives aren’t in physical danger doesn’t mean a threat doesn't exist.

One of our main threats is the same threat Adam faced from the beginning. It is the threat of following our definitions of good and bad rather than holding on to God’s definitions. It was easy to buckle under the words of the serpent and Eve than it was to stand firm against their temptations.

Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection the failure of Adam is being reversed. 

If we are going to participate with God to bring restoration to creation we need to stand firm in this very area that Adam fell. 

The apostle Paul wrote:
A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against the wicked spirits in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:10-11; NLT)

I am convinced that when we experience fear in our relationships, doing what is right, or fear changing our lives, that is the enemy trying to convince us to surrender without a fight. 

Why does a husband fear talking to his wife? 

Ultimately because Satan is out there seeking destroy the marriage. 

Why does creating a budget and tithing cause fear to run through your body? 

The reason is Satan wants you to hoard what you have rather than being generous with God's provision. 

Why does the thought of giving up Facebook and Instagram cause you to fear that you might miss out on something?

Perhaps it is because Satan wants us distracted by insignificant things so we are unable to give our full attention to what really matters.

When we give into our fears we play right into Satan's hands.

God created us to live with courage! 

This doesn't mean that our lives should be absent of fear. What it means is that we trust God for the provisions we need for life, including the spiritual provisions of strength, hope, and confidence. 

When we live lives of courage we experience God's power at work in the world around us. Even if things don't turn out the way we would like, our faith is strengthened as we experience God at work in our lives.

Yet, if we live lives of fear at least two things will happen. 

First, our relationship with God will be stunted. Relationships grow with experience, and when we don’t allow God to provide for what we need, then we will miss out on experiencing Him.

Second, we put our families and friends at risk. Christians are to stand in the gap for their loved ones. My children do not have another dad who will be praying for them and loving them. I am it. I need to do that job. Likewise, I am the pastor at the church I lead, there is no one else who has been called to pray, teach, and lead like I have. It is my responsibility to do that.

It is crucial to remember: When we face our fears, it is not for us alone, but it is for all those we know and love. 

We need to resist the temptation to take the easy path and avoid our fears. The path of discipleship, the path of becoming the person God created us to be, is found on the other side of our fears. 

Today is the day to live with courage.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Following Jesus Isn’t Easy

Take a moment and consider your life. Examine your lifestyle and the desires of your heart. 
Now answer this question: “Is that what Jesus wants from your life?”

Here is the problem with the way many of us live. At least I know it is a problem for me. We want the promises of God, but we are not willing to live like a follower of Jesus. 

If all that was required to be a Christian was to show up on Sunday morning and sing few songs and listen to a sermon, then being a disciple of Jesus would be easy. A seat in the sanctuary would offer us safety and security.

Being a true follower of Jesus is anything but it easy and it certainly isn’t safe. 

It requires getting out of the sanctuary and living to a moral standard, a standard that makes us seem like fools or prudes in this world: as aliens and strangers (1 Peter 2:11; NASB). If people don’t think we are strange for the way we live, then we are not living the way God’s wants us to live. 

Let’s face it, it is hard to be different and stand out from the crowd.

Being a disciple of Christ requires a new set of dreams: 
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20; NASB). 
When we made the decision to accept Jesus as our Savior we gave up the right to decide what we will do with our lives. Our lives becomes a matter of God’s will. 

It is hard to give up on our dreams and follow after Jesus.

This is the point that I want you to understand: When we stay in the sanctuary we miss out on the best that God wants for us. 

The life God has created us to live is discovered in living out what we belief. This is what actual faith is all about.

The life of faith isn’t safe. It beckons us to leave our comfort zones. It asks us to risks the way we learned to live life so we can discover true life.

John 15:9-13 (NASB)
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

A question for you to ponder: Was Jesus safe in loving us?

Absolutely not! 

By loving us he made himself vulnerable to rejection. By loving us he served people who hated him. By loving us he gave up heaven and lived on this earth. By loving us he died a cruel death on the cross, taking on our sins. 

Jesus did not live a neat little safe life. Jesus faced struggles. Jesus had hardships. 

Do you know what? 

Jesus also knew love and joy. In spite of all the terrible things Jesus experienced, he still experienced the best life has to offer.

We don’t equate pain and joy. 

For us in order to be happy our lives have to be pain free.

According to Jesus the route to a full and joyous life is the route of pain. 

We discover the life God has for us when we live lives of love. Not just a life when we feel nice about other people, but when we make sacrifices to bring the Gospel into the world.

We don’t equate serving with love. 

For us love is about what other people do for us and how they make us feel. 

We discover love when we humble ourselves and become a servant to those around us. 

It doesn’t sound glamorous or fun. It is the way that we make the Gospel come alive in the world.

Jesus promised us a full life, but He did not promise a life that was comfortable and safe. 

The full and joyful life Jesus promised is discovered by loving God and loving people. 

Do you want the full life? Get out of the sanctuary and trust God with your life and love the people who live around you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Assume the Best

Why is it that we want to believe the worst about other people?

It seems like humans have a tendency to attribute bad motives to the things people do and to believe the negative things we hear about people.

I think one reason is why we do this is because it is an easy way to feel better about ourselves.  

All of us have our own issues that we struggle with, those things that we would like to change about ourselves. When we hear about a person making a positive change or impact we become envious of their success. Rather than celebrating their success, we look for ways to tear them down (even if we would never verbally say anything).

This means when we hear something negative about someone else we secretly feel better about our situation, because we tell ourselves that they are not as good as they seem. 

Believing the worst about people helps us feel superior to them.

This is a terrible thing to do.

One reason it is terrible is because life is not a competition. Someone else’s success doesn’t diminish who I am one bit. We should be able to rejoice with those who achieve success and experience good things in life. 

The opposite is also true, someone else’s struggle doesn’t make us any better of a person. We should be able to empathize with people who are struggling because we have our own set of struggles.
Matthew 7:12 (NIV)
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Another great reason why we should assume the best about other people is because that is how we would like to be treated. When we stumble and fall we don’t want people thinking the worst about us. Rather, we want people to be sympathetic to our situation.

Remember, our failures aren’t always the result of sin on our part. 

Sometimes our failure is due to life circumstances. We fail to keep a promise because we had some sort of an emergency that prevented us for doing what we said we would do. 

There are other times when we are in the midst of making progress in overcoming some bad habit, and we have a moment of weakness and slip into our old behavior. Focusing on the failure overlooks the progress we have made.

There is one more reason why we should be generous and assume the best about other people: people are mean.

It could be that what we hear about another person isn’t even true, that it was made up be someone to discredit our friend.  If we cannot verify whether or not the story is true, we should trust our friend’s character.

Divisions happen in families, teams, organizations, and churches because people tend to believe the negative about each other. As followers of Jesus we should break that tendency and assume the best about one another. 

All of us are in the process of becoming better people and what we need is encouragement, rather than condemnation, along the way.

Monday, January 18, 2021

More than Just Words

 What we believe matters. Our beliefs have the ability to shape our thoughts, world views, and behaviors. This is why we need to make sure what we believe is true.

With that being said, we have to recognize that understanding certain doctrines doesn’t mean we have faith in God. We can intellectually affirm that God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, but that doesn’t mean that we actually have faith in God.

What is also true is that we can understand what those words mean, but still not understand God's character. If our relationship with God is based purely on definitions and doctrines, then we will miss experiencing God for who He truly is.

To gain a better understanding of God requires moving away from the intellectual pursuit of knowing about God to the pursuit of actually knowing God. That can only happen as we trust our lives to Him.

It is one thing to say that God is the great provider, but it is another thing to experience God providing for our needs. 

We can say that God is the Great Physician, but it is another thing to experience God’s healing power in our lives.

Our ideas of God fall short of who God is.

Hebrews 11:29-31 (NLT)
It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.
It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.
It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Each of these examples mentioned in Hebrews 11 remind us what made the difference was the response of faith that allowed people to experience God’s power. Because of faith God parted the Red Sea, because of faith God tore down the walls of Jericho, and because of faith Rahab was rescued from Jericho.

All these people had an incomplete understanding of God, but because of their faithful actions they experienced God in a real way. This allowed them to see God in a more true sense then a careful study of Scripture is able to do.

Living by faith adds a real dimension to our understanding of God that our academic and devotional study are not able to provide.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sunday Prayer: Keep Doing Good


Heavenly Father, I ask for the strength to do good. You have blessed me to be a blessing those around me, and that is what I want to do.

Give me hope to continue to bear Your image in this world. It is easy to become discouraged when I think what I am doing is not making any difference. Give me little glimpse of the difference my love and action is having in the world.

Open my eyes to the opportunities to show Your love to other people. I confess that too often I keep my attention focused on myself and the things I need to take care of. I want to see the world through the eyes of Jesus so I can discern the true need of people.

I give my life to You and Your Kingdom. Use me to make a difference in the lives of others. I pray this in the name of Jesus, amen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Keep Moving in the Right Direction

 I need this reminder.

With the enthusiasm of New Year's Resolutions fading away, I am guessing you may need to hear it too.

Changing our behavior is hard work and it takes time. 

Very rarely are people able to make significant life changes over night. Not only do we have undo years of habit development, but often we have to deal with our own negative self talk. 

At times it really seems like there is a part of us that doesn't want to change, regardless of how bad and unhealthy our behavior may be.

Something that I have been dealing with the last few weeks is the voice that tells me, "That is too little and too late." There is a part of me that wants me to believe that it doesn't matter what I do, all my effort will be a waste in the end. At times it feels like true lasting change is a hopeless dream.

When I listen to that voice I fall back on my old habits. When that I happens I want to throw in the towel and give up.

This is why it is crucial to remember that a mistake is not an excuse to give up. Nothing would ever change if we gave up when a mistake was made.

We need to remember that mistakes happen. They are part of learning a new skill, and it is okay if we are not perfect. The more we work on what we are changing, the easier it will become.

Remember what John wrote; "But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness." (1 John 1:9; NLT)

God provided a way for us to leave our sin in the past. He knew that we were going to stumble and fall, and so He made sure that even in our sin there would be an opportunity to return to Him.

Because of forgiveness, our sin is not an excuse to give up.

If that is true for sin, how much more true is it for the mistakes we make as we try to alter our habits and change our lives?

Since God forgives our sins, then we should be able to forgive ourselves of the mistakes we make, and keep moving in the direction of becoming a better person.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

We Need to Discuss Truth


This tweet from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is true. 

Lies are contrary to the truth and are not just mere opinions.

As a Christian I want to seek, believe, and even defend the truth.

Here is the thing, it isn’t always easy to tell what the truth is.

For example, I like to say that love is the central command of Christianity and the resurrection is the central truth of Christianity. 

I believe the resurrection of Jesus is true and not a lie. There are different pieces of evidences that I use to support that belief. 

Yet, there are very smart people who will offer their evidence on why the resurrection never happened.

In other words, there is a difference of opinion when it comes to how we arrive at something being truth or a lie.

I bring this example up because I think many things within the realm of politics fall into this same sort of category. When trying to arriving at what is true, we have to discuss our perspective about why we believe something is true or not. 

It is not good enough to simply declare something to be true or false. We need to be wiling to share our thoughts and listen to why someone else believes what they do.

To simply declare something to be true or false causes dialogue to end and division between people to increase.

Here is another example.

On Wednesday, January 6, 2021 a violent mob stormed the Capitol Building in Washington D. C.

That is a statement that virtually everyone would agree to be true.

What isn’t agreed about, and the areas of opinion that should be discussed are: 

  1. Whether that mob was incited by President Trump? 
  2. Was it an insurrection or coup attempt?
  3. What defines someone as a domestic terrorist?
Here is my point: Our different perspectives give us a different understanding of truth. If we are truly committed to truth then we should be willing to hear those different perspectives.

This is precisely why freedom of speech is such an important part of life. It allows us to dialogue with one another. It helps us refine our arguments and beliefs. It gives us a chance to demonstrate why certain things are lies.

A major problem we are facing in the United States is the inability to really participate in the process of free speech. We want to be able to say what we believe the truth to be, but we don’t other people to respond with their perspective. We would much rather stay within our own little echo chamber, having our world view confirmed, than stepping outside that bubble and having it challenged.

We need to be brave enough to have civil conversation with people, seeking to understand why they believe what they believe, rather than just declaring the other side is lying and walking away. 

The true benefit found in the freedom of speech is the opportunity to point out the inconstancies, errors, and false beliefs the other side has. It gives you the ability to answer those who promote a different ideology than you do and make the case for why your beliefs are true.

This is such an important freedom, and skill, to have.

Monday, January 11, 2021

What Really Matters

Remember the t-shirts that had the message: “______________ is life, the rest is just details” written on it?

It is not uncommon for people to have one or two passions that dominate their lives.

Some live as if football is life and others live as if politics are life and still others live as if family is life. We have a tendency to make something the focal point of our lives. 

Disciples of Jesus need to recognize our tendency to elevate a passion to the ultimate position in our lives. It could be a good thing like family and career or it could be a destructive thing like drugs and partying. 

It doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is that we recognize our ability to let one passion dominate our lives.

Perhaps this tendency is behind Paul’s prayer for the Philippians — he wanted his readers to know what mattered most in life. 

For Paul what mattered in life wasn’t who controlled the government, who would play in the Super Bowl, what the number on the scale is, or the amount of money in your bank account. It is not that these things don't matter, but they are secondary issues.

What ultimately matters is the way we live. 

In other words, Paul wanted to make sure his readers lived lives that represented Jesus and honored God.

Living that way is hard to do. 

We usually think in terms of how we can avoid bringing dishonor to God’s name. Trying not to dishonor God is not the same as choosing to do those things that honor Him. 

I think this is place where many of us are at in our walk with Jesus. 

We are satisfied with trying not to sin, trying to avoid what God prohibits, but we are not trying to demonstrate God's character to the world. We are content with not hating our neighbor rather than truly loving him.

For us to have a passion for following Jesus it is essential that we move past just trying not to sin to living a life that demonstrates God’s character. A life that is is characterized by love, joy, kindness, generosity, and forgiveness.

What we need is a shirt that says, “Following Jesus is life. The rest is just details.” 

Following Jesus through the ups and downs of life is the way we demonstrate his character in this world. 

That is precisely what we are created to do.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sunday Prayer: Set My Mind

Heavenly Father,

I humbly confess that I allow the things of this world to distract me from the life You have called me to live. The distractions politics, entertainment, fun, and pleasure prevent me from truly setting my mind and my heart on those heavenly things which lead to life.

Renew my heart and mind so I will desire heavenly things. Strengthen my will so I can say no to the things of this world. Give me eyes to see from an eternal perspective. Empower me to live a life that glorifies you. This is the true desire of my heart. Help me Father to pursue You with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.


The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...