Pajama Christians

Those two words caught my attention and changed the trajectory of my life.

Shortly after graduating from high school, a message about Christ’s return became a turning in my life as a rebellious youth. A team of students from BIOLA visited Grace Baptist Church in Sidney, Nebraska. One of the student’s preached a sermon titled, “Pajama Christians.” His text was Romans 13:11-14:

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Emphasis mine)

Paul referred to the return of Christ as the “blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13) John wrote that “everyone who hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John.3:3) So, anticipating Christ’s return ought to influence everything we do.

Paul was writing to the Church members in Rome. Apparently, some of their lifestyles must have reflected the culture around them rather than what they professed to believe. Like the proverbial “frog in the kettle,” they had become acclimated and failed to realize danger. They were spiritually asleep. Imagine hearing Paul’s startling warning, like a fire alarm: “The day of Christ’s return is at hand!”

It was time to wake up. Time to shed their pajamas and prepare for a very special guest—the king. It was time to put on the armor of light.

That evening, as the BIOLA student was preaching, it felt like the sermon was directed at me. I was a pastor’s son. I knew the correct answers. I could quote Scripture. I had my eschatology down pat, but I was living another life—a lie.

If Jesus had returned prior to that sermon’s conclusion, I would have been ashamed. Or, worse, I may have discovered that I really wasn’t a follower of Jesus after all.

I have asked in four previous posts, “Do we really believe Christ may return any moment?” Has this blessed hope purified our lifestyles? Do our actions affirm our words? Are we sleeping like the foolish virgins in the parable?

My original title for this post was “Just Keep Doing the Right Thing.” So, in the event Jesus would return today, live like we truly expect Him. What might “doing the right thing” involve?

I am concerned for my neighbors and friends who have not experienced God’s grace, so I pray for them and seek to build relationships with them.

Discretionary money would not simply be mine to enjoy, but to also invest in God’s Kingdom work. My checking and credit card accounts would reflect my anticipation of Jesus’ return. Jesus said it this way, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” (Matthew 5:21)

If Christ was to return today, I wouldn’t want to be “under the influence” of any substance or poring over pornography.

Finally, because I anticipate Chris’s return, I want to be doing justice.

As I wrote those last two words, I felt mild hesitation because I have friends who may push back because of the faulty view of “social justice” today. Faulty because of its wrong diagnosis and wrong prognosis as well as its prescriptions.

Unjust actions have been part of human history since our declaration of independence from God in the Garden. Prejudice and violence have been parr for the course. The strong abuse the weaker. Men have oppressed women. Children are exploited and discarded. Racial prejudice flows both directions. Even the natural environment has been exploited for selfish gain. There’s injustice wherever we look. Every nation has a history of injustice, sometimes against their own citizens. Segregation was wrong! Evil. Especially when justified by professing Christians with a Bible in their home.

Doing justice is not philosophical or political. It’s as practical as supporting a faith-based ministry responding to famine conditions or natural disasters or providing safe drinking water and basic medical treatment such as anti-malarial drugs or mosquito nets.

Biblical justice will include praying for our brothers and sisters facing persecution and death. It’s supporting widows and children of pastors in Africa who have been beheaded by Islamic terrorists. Practicing justice may include financially supporting or volunteering at a local Pregnancy Resource center or a free medical clinic or a homeless shelter or faith-based recovery ministry.

None of the above will ever earn a place in heaven, but they do reflect God’s love and grace in our lives. I believe they also reflect authentic confidence that Jesus will return.

Perhaps today.

How Can the Darkest Day be Good?

Never has there been more inhumane and unjust treatment of an innocent man.

The betrayal of a friend and the mockery of a Kangaroo Court handing Jesus over to be crucified, even though Pilate had three times declared Jesus to be innocent.

Imagine the Creator being treated as a corrupt creature unworthy of life.

That Friday, the darkest day in history, witnessed the most unjust and violent act. Even the sunlight was smothered by dreadful darkness. Jesus’ brutalized body was hastily, yet lovingly, entombed before darkness of night fell.

Yet, that dreadful day—that darkest day in all history marred with injustice—also witnessed the most severe justice and undeserved act of love.

Severe justice was meted out upon Jesus because He had assumed, taken upon Himself, my guilt. Your guilt. Each of us are lawbreakers guilty and deserving death because our actions have consequences—a price to pay. Paul said it this way, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 3:23) Always death. That’s the Law. No exceptions. Every sin deserves death. Every sin separates us from our holy and righteous God. Someone must die.

Severe justice was severely meted out that Friday.

Intensely sacrificial love was also on display Friday. Paul, once again, helps us wrap our minds around the subject: “God demonstrated (displayed) His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Jesus voluntarily assumed my guilt and served my death sentence by dying in my place. In your place. He became our substitute—our savior.

God’s severe justice was satisfied that Friday when the midday sun surrendered to darkness. God’s relentless love was also on display Friday.

That Friday evening, a few women walked home from the grave in the dark. The sorrow in their hearts was darker than the night. Hope had been dashed.

What they didn’t realize was that Sunday would dawn with brilliant light and renewed hope.

So, that shameful Friday was good after all.

Sunday burst with good news! News so great that today, I find myself singing with Charles Wesley*:

“Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me!”

*And Can It Be?, public domain

If I Only Had Seven More Days

The previous three posts probed the question: “Do I truly believe that Christ may return soon?” An affirmative response should be reflected in my actions and my priorities.

If I knew for certain that I only had one more week of life on earth—one more post here on Standing on The Promise—what should I say? Is there an urgent message for those of us who say that we believe Christ may return at any moment?

I believe there is, and that’s why I am revisiting my previous post, “Anticipating Christ’s Return- A Thorny Issue.”

Several issues threaten the health of the American Church. Lack of unity and theological drift are obvious threats, but is there something more pervasive? Less obvious?

So, what is this present danger? Money. Affluence.

Jesus, in his Sermon on The Mount, boldly warned against the danger of wealth. He also shared stories about farmers planting and harvesting grain to illustrate the danger of affluence.

In Jesus’ story about a farmer planting seed, the focus was not on the farmer or the seed. Instead, it was the condition of the soil. Soil packed hard like a pathway or shallow and rocky produced no harvest. The third kind of soil was potentially fertile except for one fact: weeds competed with the grain for nutrients and water. At harvest there was only weeds; there was no grain. No fruit. Weeds unchecked affected the harvest.

When Jesus’ disciples asked for more details, Jesus identified the weeds as the “deceitfulness of riches and the cares of this world.” The problem was not money or wealth per se, but the negligent use of and misplaced confidence in money.

Money can be deceitful. Promising security but not delivering. The story of the “foolish” farmer was an example. After abundant harvests and granaries filled to the brim, the farmer felt he finally had enough to retire and to enjoy life. He had earned it! The problem was that his time had run out. There would be no tomorrow to enjoy what he had saved. God wrote his eulogy: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you…” The farmer had considered himself a success, and his friends affirmed him. However, he never got to spend a dime of his portfolio.

Jesus told another story about a man that had been deceived by riches. His problem was a matter of perspective and priorities. God had given him life and the ability to earn money. He had enjoyed the best clothes and gourmet food that money could buy. After all, it was “his” money.

Lying outside his gated yard lay a homeless man in dirty rags. Not just one morning but day after day and week after week there he lay. The man had a name, Lazarus, but he might as well have been invisible for all the wealthy homeowner cared. (Remember, I am not creating this story; Jesus told it first.) Like every poor man and every wealthy man, both men had an appointment with death. Both left everything behind. Lazarus’ dirty rags and the rich man’s purple linen were left for someone else to enjoy or to dispose of.

In each of those stories lies a clear and present danger that is relevant today. Our affluence, like weeds threaten to choke out potential fruit from our lives. Money cannot satisfy our deepest hunger. God has promised His children the bare necessities of shelter and nourishment. Anything more is a gift to enjoy and to invest in God’s kingdom. It’s a balancing act requiring discretion and wisdom.

Speaking of wisdom, I am reminded of an even greater fool than the wealthy men in Jesus’ stories. The greatest fool in the Bible was also the wisest man who ever lived. Solomon inherited amazing wealth and a position of power that had been earned through his father’s sweat and blood. God offered Solomon, the young king, anything he asked. Solomon humbly asked for wisdom to rule well. God granted Solomon’s request and so much more including lavish wealth.

Solomon’s wisdom was featured in his first recorded legal decision. The challenge before him was to determine which of two women, each claiming to be the mother of an infant son, was the real mother. Solomon’s perception was as precise as the blade of the sword he had raised to dissect the baby.

However, Solomon’s thirst for more wealth, more pleasure, more prestige and more of everything his heart desired was a dead-end street. He was deceived by his fortune and fame. The potential fruit from his life withered and died. He, like the rich farmer, left everything behind for others to squander. After his death, the kingdom was severed with ten tribes heading north to follow Jeroboam.

So, back to the subject at hand: Do I truly believe Jesus could return momentarily? Do my actions and priorities support my claim? Or am I squandering good things that God has given me to enjoy. Am I investing in things eternal? Am I pursuing justice for the invisible people in my world?

Anticipating Christ’s Return – A Thorny Issue

Today’s post is the third in a series about expecting Christ’s return..

The Good Samaritan and the Sower and the Seed may be the most familiar parables Jesus shared. Both parables, I believe, are applicable to the question of whether or not I truly believe Jesus may return at any moment.

First, let’s consider the parable about the seed. The farmer and the seed are almost incidental to the story. The focus is on four types of soil. Each received seeds from the Sower. Every kernel came from the same container. Every seed had potential to produce fruit. The only difference was the condition of the soil. Only one soil produced fruit.

The third soil permitted the seeds to germinate. But tiny weed seeds in the soil also sprouted and grew among the good plants. Competing for nutrients they began to choke the good seed. The plants grew and produced leaves, but there were no kernels of grain at harvest.

So, what’s the point of this parable? What was the take-away for the listeners—for us? To ask that another way, what were these weeds that choked the plants?

Here’s Jesus’ answer: “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:14–15, ESV)

Consider the phrase, “as they go on their way.” The struggle to be fruitful is part of everyday life. We may begin loving God’s Word and desiring to follow Jesus. We anticipate seeing Him and hearing His affirmation. But concerns began to distract us. That’s life. Trials become detours rather than opportunities for faith to grow deeply.

It’s the next two “weeds” in the parable that may challenge us most today: “riches and the pleasures of life.”

Both wealth and pleasure were meant to be enjoyed. Matthew quotes Jesus, “the deceitfulness of riches.” It’s as if wealth is a living organism—a weed seed—seeking to germinate and wage war against my soul and choke out my anticipation of Christ’s return. Distorting my priorities. Telling me, “It’s mine to enjoy; I earned it.” Justifying what I have by comparing my cache with others. A siren singing, “More!” A security blanket destined to become moth-eaten. Certainly, to be left behind when Jesus returns or I die.

Those are strong words meant to warn me and you about the deceitfulness of riches and the pursuit of pleasure in our pleasure-driven culture.

So, if I truly believe that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead, it should be reflected by my bank account and my daily calendar.

Am I investing resources and time in things eternal? How do I spend discretionary money? Do I care that children are dying from filthy water or lack of food? In this hungry world, am I a sheep or a goat? A good Samaritan or a pre-occupied priest? A foolish farmer building bigger barns?

Those are severe questions, I know. But Jesus warned about letting weeds choking and rendering unfruitful. Choking may be subtle, but it is always lethal if ignored.

When I am choking in my affluence, I welcome anybody to wake me up with a spiritual Heimlich maneuver.

Choking may be subtle or gradual, but always lethal.

But, when I am choking in my affluence, I welcome anybody to wake me up with a spiritual Heimlich maneuver.

Do We Really Anticipate Christ’s Return? (part 2)

(Today’s post is the second in a series about anticipating Christ’s return.)

The Importance of Last Words

If you have stood at the bedside of a loved one facing imminent death, you never forget their last words.

The most common last words often affirm love for a spouse or a family member. Here are a few quotes from the lips of famous people facing imminent death:

When Michael Landon’s son knew that his father’s death was imminent, he is reported to have said, “It’s okay, Dad. It’s time.” Michael responded, “You’re right. It’s time. I love you all.”

Leonardo Da Vinci: “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”

Winston Churchill: “I’m bored with it all.”

Comedian W.C. Fields, when asked why he was reading a Bible on his deathbed replied: “I’m looking for loopholes.”

Frank Sinatra, famous for those lyrics, “I did it my way,” is reported to have said, “I’m losing.” (Ponder the stark contrast between the bravado of the song with Sinatra’s last regret.)

D. L. Moody: “This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! It is glorious!”

Jesus, just moments before he ascended to heaven, responding to his disciples’ question about his second coming, said: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7)

Those words—Jesus’ last words—should affect every moment of our lives if we truly love him and anticipate his second advent to earth. Jesus virtually ignored their request for details about his future return, but he reminded them of his promise to send the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ last words consisted of two promises: The disciples would “receive power” and they would “be his witnesses.” Both promises were guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who would not only be with them but dwell in them.

Those words were barely out of Jesus’ mouth when he was “lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” The disciples stood there, mouths gaping, when two angelic messengers appeared and said, “… why do you stand here looking into heaven? This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

That’s all they needed to know about Christ’s return at the moment. Anticipation of Jesus’ return became—and still ought to be—motivation to follow Jesus obediently. It was the assurance of Christ’s resurrection and the anticipation of his future return that enabled Paul to endure persecution and to courageously face martyrdom.

The question facing me today is whether anticipation of Christ’s return motivates me to follow him and influences my decisions and my priorities?

It’s easy to verbally affirm that I believe Christ will return physically and visibly just like he departed that day while his disciples trembled with awe-inspired amazement. However, it’s not my words but my actions that confirm whether I truly anticipate Christ’s return. Am I like Noah who anticipated the promised flood and faithfully constructed the great life boat to save him and his family? Or am part of the distracted multitude caught up in the routines of life until it was too late and the door was closed? (See Jesus’ warning in Mathew 24:36-42)

Jesus also told a story about three employees entrusted by their master to manage his investments while he was on a long journey. Each employee heard the master’s promise to return and to reward them if they were faithful. Two invested wisely. One ignored the maser’s instructions. All three expected the master’s homecoming. Two with anticipation. The other with dread.

Which employee do I reflect in my daily life? You don’t know for certain, and I can even deceive myself. The Lord knows.

It is not for me to know the times and seasons surrounding that climactic historical moment when the resurrected and ruling Jesus appears again. It is for me to obey His command to make disciples. It is for me to submit to the Holy Spirit who gives boldness and wisdom.

Approaching the big 80—4 decades—I realize that I have few years left. I pray almost daily that I will finish strongly. So whether Christ returns first or I die, I want live with anticipation of that encounter with Christ when He will evaluate my life.

So, do I truly believe Christ may return any moment?

When I reflect on Jesus’ last words, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”, I hear this inner voice: “What about V and G across the street? What about A and L next door? Do they know Jesus? Do they know He is coming back to judge everybody? Do they know that I know Jesus? Have I been His witness here on SW 24th Street?”

When I can affirm those questions, I will then be living as if I truly believe Christ may return today.

Do We Really Anticipate Christ’s Return?

The January, 1970 edition of “The Shoppers Compass”, a free circulation sent to every mailbox in Morrow County Ohio, included a frontpage column entitled “The Sound of the 70’s—a Trumpet.” Mr. Walsh, a conservative Catholic and owner of the paper had asked me to submit an article to be included in every edition.

Anti-Vietnam war protests, nuclear threat and the Civil Rights movement dominated evening television newscasts. I felt confident that Christ’s return was imminent, and I wasn’t alone. Hal Lindsey’s best seller, The Late Great Planet Earth, reflected the focus of a majority of evangelical Christians.

Obviously, my confidence that the rapture was certain to happen at any moment proved to be wrong. There was no angelic trumpet blast that year and no rapture that decade. Nor since. However, I still anticipate Jesus’ visible, physical return.

Or, do I?

My former confidence in a pre-tribulation-rapture has been replaced with something less specific, and I am not alone. Men who preached and wrote books “proving” the rapture of The Church would happen prior to the seven-year tribulation are now writing books predicting a mid-tribulation or even post-tribulation return of Christ.

One thing is obvious: nobody knows for certain when Christ will return to earth. We should have realized that because Jesus warned His curious disciples, “…concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, not the Son but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36, esv)

The prophecy of Christ’s return appears throughout Scripture. I am confident that He will return to earth, and I still believe it could happen any moment.

Or, do I?

I no longer draw timelines on charts nor dogmatically preach that Jesus will return prior to the great tribulation. I avoid debates on the subject that tend to create more heat than light. Not that prophecy isn’t important, but I realize no biblical scholar knows every detail about the timing of Christ’s return. How arrogant to dogmatically claim that I have the inside track on God’s timeline. We tend to adopt a particular position such as pre-tribulation and then see every potential verse as a “proof text” to support our views. Verses that others use to support a different view. Seems to me it’s better to say something like, “As I understand this particular passage, I believe it points to or supports a pre-tribulation or a mid-tribulation return of Christ.”

Conservative theologians hold a variety of eschatological positions about the return of Christ including premillennial, postmillennial and amillennial. The differences between each of these is so great they cannot all be correct. Each may contain errors in their understanding of future events surrounding the return of Christ. However, each of them agrees on one fact: Christ will literally and physically return to rule on the earth. I agree with them.

Or, do I?

I say that I believe Christ may return today, and I can recite the ancient creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Powerful statement! Christians since the 1st Century have declared those truths.

But, do I really believe that He will come to judge the living and the dead?

That’s the challenge! That’s where rubber meets the road. That’s the fork in the road—the dividing line between living or dead faith. Between foolish or wise? Between sheep and goats. Professing or possessing. Between lovers of theology and those who truly love (anticipate) Christ’s return.

So, the answer—the proof in the pudding–as to the question whether I truly believe that Jesus may return today will be demonstrated by my actions or lack thereof.

Amidst the chaos in our culture and global unrest, many of my friends say they believe Jesus will return very soon. Sometimes I nod my head but prefer to ask them, “Do you really believe that?”

In future posts, I will be sharing biblical examples on how we ought to be living if we truly believed that Jesus will return to judge those who are still alive and those who have passed this way before us.

The Christian Cancel Culture

Alistair Begg, respected Bible teacher, recently shared an illustration about counsel he had given to a grandmother regarding whether to attend her grandson’s “gay marriage.” The response to Begg’s comment was swift and severe. In essence, Begg was cancelled by many followers of his radio messages and by other respected Christian leaders.

I am not writing to debate whether Allister’s counsel was appropriate, but I am concerned about the message that has been given to the secular culture. Cable News channels picked up the story focusing on Begg’s words and the immediate harsh response from former friends and supporters of Alistair.

Things haven’t changed since the 1st century church in Corinth. We still tend to divide the body of Christ over gifted teachers. No longer is it Apollos or Peter or Paul (1 Corinthians 3:4) but gifted authors or radio/TV preachers. The preacher may not be seeking honor.

We can dispute Alistair Begg’s counsel but not his motive. Only God knows our motives. Did Alistair seek to appease a grandmother or to appear to be more open minded to our sexually perverted culture? Or, did he truly and prayerfully seek to understand Scripture as it relates to the issue? Only God knows! Paul warned about playing “judge” over one another for there is only one final judge over each of us. As servants of Christ, each of us must give an account for what we have said and done. (1 Corinthians 4:1-5)That includes Pastor Begg and his critics.

Paul warned the Corinthian church to expose and remove a church member guilty of sexual immorality—to not to even eat with such a person. (1 Corinthians 5) Christians are to live a holy life because our body is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit. However, Paul also warned that we are not responsible to judge unbelievers. After all they are spiritually dead and totally addicted to sin.

True believers are called to flee immorality and to not abuse grace or the freedom that we enjoy in Christ. 1 Corinthians 8 through 10 lay out principles that are relevant to Alistair Begg’s decision to say what he said and has defended. It doesn’t necessarily make him right, but he deserves the opportunity to defend himself. There is no specific biblical text to support or refute his counsel to the grandmother. Jesus befriended sinners and ate with them, but He never excused sin. He did call for repentance and forgave them, but first he befriended them,

1 Cor. 11 also seems to relate to the controversy.  Paul corrected the Corinthian church for abusing of the Lord’s Table by the way they treated one another while sharing the common cup and loaf that are meant to portray unity and authentic love. Has a member of the Body of Christ and a faithful teacher of Scripture been treated unjustly?

Finally, I am drawn to the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians—that beautiful description of love—sandwiched between two chapters dealing with the proper us of spiritual gifts. I grieve when I remember the severe treatment that I/we evangelicals once leveled at our charismatic brothers and how our verbal battles were observed by those outside the Church. I wonder, what did they witness?  Christ-like love or noisy gongs and clanging symbols?

Was Christ-like love demonstrated toward Pastor Begg? Was kindness? The love that endures and bears all things?

Has the Church reflected the “cancel culture” that we claim to despise when a well-respected pastor and radio teacher is cancelled so abruptly and publicly?

Seems to me, once again, we have given the secular culture evidence to justify their negative perception of evangelicalism and of the Christian Church and to cancel us.

I long to for the evidence of Jesus’ words: “By this they (the world) will know that you are my disciples that you love one another.”

I encourage your feedback, and I wonder how many followers may cancel me as a result of this post.

Depreciating the Value of Children

A 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture report estimated the cost of raising a child was $233,610. That figure from an editorial by Janie B. Cheaney in the February 2024 edition of World Magazine caught my attention, but it was Cheaney’s closing sentence that captured not only my mind but my heart. (I’ll share the almost electrical sentence later.)

First, I shall revisit Psalm 127:
“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3–5, ESV)

I understand that Psalm 127 was composed by a poet living in an agrarian culture when sons labored alongside their fathers to raise livestock and to harvest fruit and grain. Modern city dwellers seldom need children as co-laborers to provide for the family.

The Bible consistently values children and calls for the protection of orphans. Jesus delighted in children and rebuked his disciples for attempting to keep them at bay. A child served as Jesus’ example of “saving faith” when he said that unless we come to God as a child, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

China, Japan and several nations are facing a potential economic crisis because of low birth rates. Their population is aging with fewer young people to replace their elders who are dying. After decades of China’s “one child policy” and now, even with government funding encouraging parents to have more children, the decline in childbirths continues. It is no longer a matter of the cost of rearing a child but the inconvenience of parenting.Sadly, that is not just a China problem or mindset.

Cheaney points out that estimating the cost of raising a child began after Roe v. Wade. Coincidence? Reproductive freedom—the slogan of today’s culture—has become a license to eliminate anybody that makes life less convenient. Today it is a baby; tomorrow? How about the infirm and elderly?

So, now, I share Janie B. Cheaney’s parting shot:
“When did we start talking about what they cost instead of what they’re worth?”

Missing on The Ballot

The name of a leading presidential candidate was missing on the ballot in New Hampshire so his supporters wrote in his name. The candidate from the other party is presently involved in a legal battle to keep his name on the ballot in Colorado. But, one thing is certain, the Messiah’s name will not appear on any ballot in any state.

You probably noticed that I didn’t identify either candidate by name. My intention is to demonstrate that neither party or candidate can make America Great in the eyes of God.

Do I lean toward one party? If you’ve followed my posts here on Standing on The Promise, it should be obvious because of my strong conviction about the sanctity of all human life. One party supports legal abortion for any reason by any method and at any time during pregnancy. The same party seems committed to destroy the sacredness of marriage and the priority of the family. I consider each of those issues a direct assault against our Creator.

So, my question is “what would make America great again?”

That word “again” suggests America was once great or at least greater today. I believe America was founded upon biblical principles, but we have never been a perfect nation. No human government has been perfect—not even Israel under the rule of David. Imperfect politicians can’t create utopia.

A couple of decades ago, evangelical leaders that were critical of the president, said a president’s moral character mattered. Today, some of the same evangelical leaders, when asked if moral character of a president matters, they answer “no.” My question is how can this double-speak come from the same evangelical mouth?

So, what will make America great? Will it be a robust economy? Borders that are safe? Will a strong military make America great? Will the rule of Law in our cities make us greater? Will the return to “blind justice” regardless of color, gender, economic status or political persuasion make us greater?

To all the above, I say “yes!” But I’m not holding my breath considering our current, dysfunctional government.

The greater question is how can we who claim to follow Jesus help make America great? Get involved. Vote. Pray fervently. Pray for all in authority, not just the president. It’s always safe to pray God’s will be done because it will be done. Even if that means my candidate may lose.

So how can we pray for our nation? I suggest we begin by praying for the Church. Some churches have drifted so far from biblical truth they no longer have a message that transforms. Pray for pastors and congregations to humble themselves and to confess their lukewarmness and lack of compassion. Pray that the Holy Spirit will convict and call us back to God.

“Repent, remember and return” was Jesus’ challenge to five of the seven churches in Revelation 2 & 3. The church in America is in desperate need to listen to Jesus’ harsh evaluation.

Repent! Turn back and walk in truth.

Remember! Remember who we are and to whom we owe allegiance. Remember how amazing the gospel of salvation by grace alone once seemed.

Return! Return to your passionate love for Him and for one another. Return to the authority of God’s Word.

No political party or presidential candidate or slogan can save America from imploding on itself. Our hope must not be in a politician or a party but the one savior and Lord who will return again—not as a baby in swaddling clothes but in royal robe and golden crown. He will bring the peace we pursue. He will make new all that was broken through sin.

Sadly, His name is not on the ballot, but one day everyone will submit to Him as Supreme Ruler and judge.

Do you know Him?

Are you as passionate about Him as you are for your favorite presidential candidate?

 A Lasting Legacy

“Finish Strongly!” That’s been my stated goal since retiring from full-time ministry. I prefer to call it retreading, because I can’t imagine a pastor or any believer discarding their spiritual gifts or passion to proclaim the good news. I know that I can’t. I appreciate the extra free-time to read the Bible more leisurely—not seeking sermon fodder—but for the sheer pleasure of new discoveries. Having read through the five books of Moses over the past several months was an amazing journey.

The final chapter of Deuteronomy describes the death of Moses when the 120- year-old veteran climbed Mt. Nebo to meet with the Lord one last time and to see the Promised Land. Standing on the summit of Nebo on my first visit to Israel and Jordan, I tried to imagine Moses’ emotions while he was observing the land but knew that he would not enter it. Instead, he died there on the summit. His race finished. Israel mourned Moses’ death for thirty days. Imagine what people were saying about this great leader who for forty years had led them through the wilderness.

What others may say to my face or behind my back is not as important as their eulogies after I’m dead. That will be my legacy—how I will be remembered. But far more vital is what the Lord will say about me.

Moses’ legacy is captured in this Spirit-inspired eulogy:

“… there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” (Dt. 34:10–12, ESV. emphasis mine)

Moses was the prophet par excellence—the greatest of all the great prophets throughout history. He was greater because of his intimate relationship with Yahweh who is so glorious that no human eye can tolerate. Yet, Moses’ relationship with God grew so deep they spoke as “a friend with a friend.” However, it wasn’t always so intimate. To appreciate Moses’ relationship with God, we must consider the roots and the life experiences that shaped the great prophet.

Moses was the third child of a Hebrew peasant family living as immigrants and slaves in Egypt. He was sentenced to death at birth but was spared by his mother’s ingenuity and the grace of God. He was adopted by an Egyptian princess and enjoyed royal wealth. He was educated in the wisdom of Egypt and on the fast track to political greatness, but he remained a Hebrew at heart. At age forty, his sense of justice turned him into a fugitive in the wilderness where the “son of Pharaoh” became a common shepherd. Forty years enduring sandstorms, severe heat and solitude.

Drawn by curiosity over a burning bush, Moses’ first conversation with the God of Abraham began with a severe warning: “Take off your sandals. This is holy ground.” Moses “hid his face for he was afraid to look…” (Exodus 3:6) The conversation did not end but would grow more and more intimate through experiences such as the plagues that God released upon Egypt to break the stubborn will of Pharaoh. Moses, with the “staff of God”, would lead Israel forty years performing miracles at God’s command.

But it was the occasional encounters with this amazing God on the summit of Sinai that drew the two friends more tightly together. Still respectful, but no longer shaking with fear, Moses became so bold that he would ask to see God in all His glory. (No one dared ask, nor could they survive such exposure.) The Lord invited Moses to meet on the summit where Moses would be protected while seeing only God’s “passing” glory. Another line had been crossed and the friendship deepened until Moses would meet with God, “as friend with friend” in their “meeting place”—a tent outside the camp.

Finally, on the summit of Nebo these two “best friends” met for the final time before Moses’ death. Imagine with me this final conversation as God pointed out landmarks and borders of the Promised Land. Last words are important. Precious. Memorable. I know, because I have stood with families around the bed of a loved one as he or she slipped into eternity. Even the breathless silence of the occasion is holy.

Here’s what the Holy Spirit records after the news of Moses’ death on Nebo:

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.” (Joshua 1:1–2, ESV. emphasis mine)

If you continue to read the rest of the above quotation, Moses will be called “The servant of the Lord” again and again. Please note that Moses is called, “The servant”—not merely “a servant”—of the Lord. Forty difficult years, God’ faithful servant led a band of rebels and faced natural disasters including drought and plagues as well as military attacks. His leadership was challenged; even his own brother and sister criticized him. Moses never resigned his post but finished strongly to hear these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

But, the rest of the story is even better.

Almost 1,500 hundred years later, Jesus invites his three closest friends to join him on a hilltop where they will be startled by an amazing sight. Jesus was transformed into brilliance almost beyond description—perhaps like a burning bush—and Moses was also standing there with the Lord Jesus, the God he had met on Sinai. The prophet par excellence was standing in the Promised Land with his best friend at last.

In Revelation 11, we discover Moses as God’s prophet once again performing miracles in The Promised Land. He will be martyred and his death celebrated. But a loud voice from heaven will call, “Come up here!”

Can you imagine the conversation between these two best friends that will follow?

That’s a lasting legacy.