Why Did We Close?

Like most churches (but, unfortunately, not all), we have decided to close our doors through at least April 30 or until the stay-at-home order by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey expires.  We are not holding any classes or services and none of our groups are meeting—except for various online settings.  Our office is closed, and our staff is working out of their homes.

We were not required to do so!  The letter of the executive order allows an exemption for churches, and we could have insisted on staying open.  We chose instead to follow the spirit of the order, so it is appropriate for us to share our thinking.  There are two primary reasons why we chose to close:

  • We did so as an act of love.  Loving people is one of our core values.  To show love to all our members and guests we chose to close up to remove the chance of anyone getting the coronavirus from us.  This virus is far too easy to pass on inadvertently.  We don’t want our staff, our members, our attenders, or those in any of our ministries to get the virus.  It’s love in action.
  • We did so as an example to others. We understand we are called to be “salt” and “light” to our community. In addition to sharing the gospel, this includes setting the right kind of example to our members and those around us. We wanted to set an example of both love for others and obedience to the government.

I have talked to some pastors who feel that government has no right to ask a church to close their doors.  (If the government singled out churches, I would agree—but that’s not what’s happening.)  I’ve talked to some pastors who feel that the need for public worship and spiritual growth and health overrides the need for physical health.  (I think that is reckless and maybe even arrogant on the part of the pastor.) I’ve talked to pastors who believe that God will protect their members if they choose to gather and worship.  (I think that is a gross misinterpretation of the Bible. We are called to live with wisdom.)

We know that not everyone agrees with us—every church had to make this decision on their own—but we honestly believe that we have made the right choice.  We believe that our members will stay with us and look forward to returning as soon as we are able.  We believe that our members will continue to give generously as they always have so we can continue our ministries and come back strong when we do re-open.  We believe that our members are strongly enough committed to Christ that they won’t suffer spiritually in the meantime.

I actually believe that this time of trial (and the extra prayer that results) will lead our members to an even deeper level of spiritual commitment.  That, I believe, is part of what James 1 teaches us!

That doesn’t mean this is easy.  I’m tired already of preaching to a camera.  Our worship team misses meeting and working together.  We all miss the sense of fellowship and teamwork that meeting together gives us.  We love serving our community, and most of that ministry has been temporarily curtailed.

But I trust God for all things.  He will bring us through this temporary trial, and we will be stronger for it!

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A Plea For Truth

“”I don’t know if this is true or not.”

I know it’s not true, but I wanted to get people’s reaction.”

“I just reposted it.  It’s not my job to verify it.” 

“I know it’s not true, but it’s funny!”

“I’m not sure whether it’s true or not, but this guy shouldn’t be elected.  All is fair in politics.”

These are just a few of the responses I’ve received when I’ve pointed out—mostly to close friends and some from other ministry leaders—that their social media posts aren’t true.

And, honestly, they are all pathetic justifications of dishonesty and a direct violation of the ninth commandment, which states, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

Some of the people I’ve talked to justify their dishonesty by ignorance.  (“I didn’t know.”)  Some justify their violation of God’s commandment because of humor.  (“It was funny.”)  Some justify their deceit because the lie didn’t start with them.  (“I didn’t say it.  I just reposted it.”)  Some justified their violation of God’s command against false testimony because they wanted to start a discussion, or because of politics, or because of laziness.  (“I didn’t check it out, so don’t blame me.”)

You know the kind of posts I’m talking about.  You’ve seen them.  Posts about birth certificates, tax rates, and crime rates.  Altered pictures and manipulated videos.  Misquotes.  Innocent pictures claiming to be incriminating.  Medical misinformation.  Altered statistics.

And the worst part of it?  They are epidemic in the Christian world.  I’ve had to “hide” or “unfriend” many holding responsible positions in the church because of their continued dishonesty and their repeated justification of it.

It’s time that all Christians and especially Christian leaders read once again the 10 commandments and pay particular attention to commandment number nine.  “You shall not bear false witness” includes everything we post on social media.

So if you don’t know it’s true and you haven’t personally verified it—don’t post it or repost it.  If it’s not true but it’s funny—don’t post it.  If you want to get other’s reaction—post something you know to be true.  If you are tempted to repost something, verify it first.  If you repost, it is now posted under your name and you are responsible for the content.

We cannot claim to be preachers of truth and lie about other people.

Speak truth.  And only truth.

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Before I vote

Questions I Ask Before I Vote

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As a pastor, I do not publicly endorse candidates, nor do I share my party affiliations publicly.  I’d rather be known as a follower of Jesus than a supporter of ‘Candidate X.’  In the same way, our church does not endorse a candidate, and we try to keep political arguments out of the fellowship.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have strong political opinions.  And since we do, we want our faith to inform our politics.

Since my faith comes first in my life, I work hard to look at politics and politicians through the eyes of my faith in God and in the Bible.  As a result, I spend a lot of time thinking, praying, studying the Bible for insights, and talking with trusted people.  But it is hard to vote Biblically when candidates don’t tell you where they stand on important issues—or when they tell you one thing and do another when they are in office.

So I have some serious questions I consider before I vote.  I hope you think through these same questions as well—and more—before you vote.  The following questions all have a Biblical basis.  Unfortunately, not many of these questions are addressed in a campaign, so I have to work hard to discern the answers to these questions from political candidates before I decide who to vote for. 

Here are some things I want to know about a candidate before I vote: 

  • Do you believe in a balanced budget and prudent spending?  (See Proverbs 27:23-27.)  I usually hear—but only from the out-of-power-party—that spending is out of control and we need to balance the budget.  This seems to be forgotten once in office.  Do you believe it enough to do something about it?  And if so, how would you (1) cut spending, and/or (2) increase taxes?
  • Do you believe in religious liberty for all?  The first amendment to our constitution guarantees all Americans the freedom of religion.  Do you only believe in religious liberty for Christians?  Or do you only apply it to members of minority religions?  And what does freedom of religion mean to you?
  • What do you believe about war and peace?  All Christians desire and pray for peace, but we also know that war is sometimes necessary.  When it is appropriate to use military force or to go to war?  What is your plan for promoting world peace?  How involved should we be in wars in other countries?
  • Do you practice personal generosity by giving to churches, charities, and those in need?  (See 1 Timothy 6:17-19.)  I believe that the values of your public life should be evident in your private life, so can you show (via statements or tax returns) that you are personally generous and charitable?
  • Do you believe in protecting the environment?  Or, to use Biblical terms, do you believe in good stewardship of our air, water, land, and resources?  Who should make decisions on what is appropriate—the government?  Businesses?  Individuals?  What do you believe is an appropriate way to be faithful stewards of our planet for the next generations?
  • Do you believe that, to use a Biblical phrase, a “worker is worthy of his wages?”  How do you apply that to the concept of a minimum wage?  Should we have one?  Is the current $7.25 federal wage sufficient?  If not, what should it be?
  • The Old Testament says much about foreigners living within the land of Israel.  For example, Exodus 22:21 says, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”  Does this concept have any bearing on current immigration laws, asylum seekers, border issues, dreamers, etc.?  What should be our stance on immigration?
  • Both parties believe in caring for and protecting underprivileged and under-represented people, though they talk about it in different ways.  What is the government’s role in caring for seniors, widows, the homeless, the mentally ill, and the poor?  And do you believe in extending that caring to the unborn? 

Obviously, there are no perfect political candidates, for all are human and all human beings are imperfect.  Still, though, I use the Bible as a standard for my faith and politics, and these questions—and many others—are important to me!

I am a man of faith—an imperfect one, of course. But my faith is important to me.  So I work hard to make sure that my politics are informed by my faith!

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Happy Thanksgiving From President Lincoln

We trace the history of Thanksgiving in the United States of America to 1621, when the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest in the New world.  It was a three-day feast attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. 

It was celebrated by our nation on-and-off from 1789, when President Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving.  President Jefferson chose not to celebrate it, and its celebration was intermittent and celebrated on different dates in different states until the time of President Abraham Lincoln. 

In 1863, in the midst of the civil war, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national observance of a day of Thanksgiving. His proclamation is a beautiful statement of how to be both thankful and prayerful in the midst of tough times.

 I encourage you to read the following proclomation prayerfully and carefully.  It is a significant and Godly statement of a man who was grateful to God for the blessings of life while maintaining a humble, repentant, and prayerful heart.  

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

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Respect at the World Series

I’ve sung this song before, but it needs to be repeated.  RESPECT—in American culture—is sorely lacking.

The latest issue that led to this blog is the booing of the President at a World Series game and the crowd chants of “lock him up” that occurred in Washington D.C. on Sunday, October 27. That is a complete lack of respect for the President.

I’ve heard all of the excuses, explanations, and rationalizations.  I don’t buy them, but here they are.  You will hear them:

  • It’s democracy in action.  Every American has a right to share their opinion.  I agree that every American has a right to speak their mind.  You disagree with the president?  You have a right to say so.  Blog. Tweet. Debate. Post. Vote. Speak up. Write letters. Find a crowd and speak. Run for office. But do it all respectfully.
  • He started it at his rallies with cries like “Lock her upand other disrespectful remarks.  One person’s disrespect is never an excuse for mine—or ours.  We are all responsible for our own actions.  “He started it” sounds like something I expect to hear in a preschool class, not from adults.
  • We have a right to stand up to what we perceive as wrong.  Of course we do.  And if we see anyone doing wrong—a president, a senator, a governor, a mayor, a pastor, or a police officer—we have the right to speak up and take appropriate action.  Petty and disrespectful chants in a baseball stadium are neither appropriate nor respectful.

Our nation is strongest when we can learn to stand up for our beliefs respectfully. 

Am I defending the President? 

No.  I am neither defending him nor accusing him.  It’s not about Donald Trump the man. 

What I am saying is that the office of the President demands a level of respect whether we agree with him or not.  If you know me, you know that I apply this to other leaders as well. I apply it to this president and the previous one. It applies to senators, congressmen, judges, governors, mayors, teachers, police officers, referees, and pastors.   

As the Bible says (in 1 Peter 2:17, NIV), “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

That verse is often quoted, but we need to do more than quote it. We need to live it.

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Freedom of Religion

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Those are the opening words of the very first amendment to the constitution of the United States of America’s in the portion known as the Bill of Rights.  If you know your United States history, then you probably know that our constitution would not have been ratified without the Bill of Rights.  Citizens—especially the members of churches—insisted that freedom of religion be included before they would ratify the new constitution.  The constitution called for a much stronger government than the previously existing Articles of Confederation, and citizens did not want a document guaranteeing a stronger government unless certain rights were guaranteed in that document, starting with the freedom of religion.

Our citizens showed great wisdom, for now—232 years later—a constitution guaranteeing the freedom of religion is needed more than ever.

Those of you who know me know that as a pastor, I do not endorse a political party or a candidate for office.  But that does not prohibit me from calling out leaders or candidates when they are Biblically or morally wrong.  So I believe it is necessary for me to say that one candidate for president, Beto O’Rourke, was dead wrong when he said that we should remove the tax-exempt status of churches (and colleges and charities) who aren’t pro-gay marriage.

In order for that to happen, congress would have to pass a law that would call some religions “correct” and therefore tax-exempt and some other religions “incorrect” and therefore ineligible for the tax-exempt status.  That law would immediately be declared unconstitutional by any honest judge who has read the Bill of Rights.  (Maybe I’m naïve, but I believe that all of our Supreme Court Justices—both conservative and liberal, anti-gay marriage and pro-gay marriage—would be honest enough to align together on this issue and unanimously declare it unconstitutional.) 

When Congress, or the President, or the courts, begin to decide which religions are valid and which are not, then we no longer have freedom of religion.

There are some strange (in my opinion) beliefs in the world of religion.  And I am well aware that there are some people who believe that I have some strange opinions.  In our Bill of Rights, however, we are given the right and the freedom to hold to our opinions.  And our government cannot tell us that one religious opinion is more valid than another.

So what should happen now that this issue has been brought out into the open?

  • Candidate O’Rourke should acknowledge his mistake and reaffirm his belief in our Bill of Rights.
  • Other presidential candidates should tell us where they stand on this crucial issue.  (To his credit, openly gay candidate Pete Buttigieg has already publicly disagreed with O’Rourke’s statement.)
  • The Democratic Party (it was, after all, a Democrat who made this shocking statement) should let us know where they stand as a party on this important issue. 
  • And churches, pastors, believers, and even non-believers should loudly remind our officers, candidates, judges, and politicians that freedom of religion is a cherished and guaranteed right that cannot and should not be tampered with.

All Americans, apparently, would benefit from a rereading and a renewed understanding of our constitution.  It’s not a perfect document, but it gives us some incredibly important freedoms that cannot be taken away by our government. 

And no candidate for our highest office should even hint that these freedoms could be taken away.  They are too important to us to be trifled with.

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The Good Samaritan Retold

Most people have heard the story of the Good Samaritan.  It may be the most widely known of all of Jesus’ parables. What you may not know is that the story was particularly and even purposely offensive to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  The “experts in the law,” the “priests,” and the “Levites” that Jesus referred to in the text would have understood that Jesus had picked on them intentionally. And they would have been even more deeply offended by his choice of a Samaritan as the hero of the story, for the Samaritans were among the “most despised” people of their day. 

So as Jesus told the story, the religious leaders must have squirmed and flinched as their anger grew.

It’s worth another reading—before we retell it in terms that might make us squirm today.  Here is Luke 10:25-37 in the NIV:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

That is the familiar story of Jesus’ day, but since most of us do not identify as priests or Levites, nor do we understand their hatred of Samaritans, it doesn’t make us squirm today as it did them. To get the same response as the original, I offer this simple retelling.  If it makes you squirm—or if it makes you mad—then you can understand the intent of the original more clearly:

An expert in theology and ethics asked Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what does it mean to be a Christian?”

“Haven’t you read the Bible?” he replied. “What does it say?”

He answered, “The heart of the Bible’s teaching is found in ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“That is correct,” Jesus replied. “Do these things if you want to follow me.”

But the expert wanted to feel good about himself, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was traveling from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, when he was attacked by robbers. They stole his car and his wallet, beat him horribly, shot him, and left him on the side of the road, near death.

A conservative evangelical leader happened to be on the same highway and saw the man.  He stopped, but with no wallet, he could not verify the man’s citizenship, so he left him there on the side of the road and went on his way.

So too, a progressive leader of a mainline denomination came to the place.  He stopped, saw the man, tweeted a passionate cry for gun control, and went on his way, leaving the man on the side of the road.

But an Arab on a student visa saw the man and stopped.  He took pity on him.  He used his belt for a tourniquet and his shirt for a bandage to stop the bleeding, put him in his car, and drove him to the nearest emergency room.  With no wallet, the hospital could not verify the man’s identity or insurance status, so the Arab paid $500 of his own money and asked to be called later that day with more details.

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “Obviously, the last of the three—the one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “You have your answer.  Go and do likewise if you want to be my follower.”

Jesus’ teaching was incredibly simple even if it was offensive.  We are called to love people—all people.  It doesn’t matter where their citizenship lies.  It doesn’t matter what political party they belong to.  It doesn’t matter what skin color they possess or what language they speak or where they are from.  It doesn’t even matter if they share my faith.

All men are my neighbors.

Jesus made that clear. And he was perfectly willing to upset some people in order to make it abundantly clear.

“Loving my neighbor as myself” means loving all people.

That’s what Jesus taught. I hope I made that as abundantly clear as Jesus did.

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Honor The Emperor

We’re doing it wrong.

Christians are fond of quoting 1 Peter 2:17, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”  We have no emperor (or king, as in some translations) so we correctly apply the verse to mean that we are to respect and honor the President.

But we’re doing it wrong.  What I’m seeing is that our partisanship has overridden our belief in the Bible.  Republican Christians are fond of insisting that we apply that verse to the current President.  Democratic Christians were fond of insisting that we apply it to the previous President.

It’s wrong to limit the verse only to presidents that we approve of.  Remember that the Christians of the first century didn’t approve of their Emperor—but they were commanded to honor and respect him anyway.   The same is true today. Our faith and obedience to the Bible must be far more important to us than our political affiliation.  So the command is to honor and respect all presidents.

But honor and respect don’t stop with the President. 

In order to make my point, a little lesson in American Constitutional Government is in order.  We don’t have an emperor.  In our system, the responsibilities of an emperor are divided into executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.  If that verse applies to believers today—and it does—then we are to respect the leaders of all three branches of government.  It’s not just presidents.  It includes senators, representatives and judges as well.

So let me be clear. 

If you only apply the command to those in your party, you are disobeying the Bible.  If you show respect to this President but not to the last one, you are disobeying the Bible.  If you show respect to the President but you feel free to disrespect the Speaker of the House, you are disobeying the Bible.  If you show respect to the President but you feel free to disrespect the Supreme Court Justices, you are disobeying the Bible.  If you show respect to the senators and representatives of your own party but feel free to put down the senators and representatives of the other party, you are disobeying the Bible.

Believers need to obey the Bible when it is easy and when it is not. 

So respect this President and the last one.  Respect senators, representatives, and judges.  And do so whether you agree with them or not. 

Honor the Emperor.

And if I can make a literary allusion, honor him even when he’s wearing no clothes.

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An Open Letter To Congress

With copies to Senator Martha McSally, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Congressman Paul Gosar, and Congressman Raul Grijalva.

I’m a pastor, not a politician.

I usually focus on theological, moral, church leadership, religious, and family issues, rather than political issues. But I love my country and I take a deep interest in our history and our future. And since the United States Constitution gives me the right to write and speak openly, I am publishing this open letter to Congress as a whole. 

Since I mentioned the constitution, let me start by reminding our senators and congressmen of your place in our constitution. The legislative branch of the United States is described in “Article 1.” A description of your work follows immediately after the short preamble (“We the people . . .) that we love so deeply. Your job is described before the work of either our executive or judicial branches. That prime constitutional position means that your work is highly important and highly necessary. 

So my message to you is short, simple and straightforward.

Do your job. Our nation is in immediate need of strong legislation to deal with the issues we face. And as you do your job, I will do my job and lead my church to do the same. Biblically and morally, our job is pray for you, to respect you, and to work with you as we can.

I can see how it might be more fun to hold hearings in front of the cameras, especially if it leads to the embarrassment of the other party. I can also see how it might be exciting to conduct investigations in the hope that it will help your party in the next election. I know that it is controversial (and therefore attention-getting) to subpoena cabinet members and call for documents.

I know that those things are part of your job, but they are secondary. Your primary job is to legislate. It’s your job to propose, debate, modify, and then pass bills that are needed. I am well aware that the President can veto the bills you pass and send them back to you. That’s his job. However, fear of a veto shouldn’t stop you from doing your job. America has some issues that cannot be solved by either the President or the courts. 

Currently Democrats complain that President Trump has made too many executive decisions. Republicans voiced the same complaint about President Obama. And, of course, some of these actions have been modified, delayed, or nullified by the courts. But I won’t criticize either the Presidents or the courts too harshly, for some of their actions were necessary because of the inaction of Congress to address the issue.

It’s your job to legislate. We have many issues that are crying out for responsible legislation. Here are a few of them:

  • We need a responsible budget. Our national debt is more than our entire national gross domestic product. (This hasn’t occurred since the end of World War 2.) Kicking the can down the road a few months at a time is highly irresponsible. We need a reasonable budget that will give us the government we need and still reduce our debt. It won’t be easy to do but it’s your job.
  • We need a solution to Social Security. It is unsustainable in its current form. The longer changes are put off, the more drastic (in the form of higher taxes or reduced benefits) the solutions will have to be. I know that any proposed fix will anger some people, but it’s your job to fix it—soon.
  • We need an immigration solution. I know that this is a highly contentious issue, but we need immediate solutions. We can argue all day about whether we face “an emergency,” a “crisis,” or a “problem.” No matter what you call it, nearly all Americans agree that our immigration policy needs your attention. The current flood of asylum seekers is crying out for your attention. And while you’re at it, we also need a long-term fix for a weak border, overwhelmed ports of entry, a solution to the ease of bringing in drugs and weapons, and an answer to “Dreamers.” Of course, any laws you propose will be heavily criticized for our country is divided on what is best, but it’s your job to deal with the hard issues and then defend your legislation.
  • We need improved infrastructure. National roads are in bad shape. Bridges are collapsing. National Parks are in disrepair. Airports and ports are overcrowded. And fixing all of this will cost money that is hard to come by. There is not an easy solution to fixing our infrastructure, but it’s your job to find a way to do the hard jobs.
  • We need improved healthcare and insurance. We have incredible doctors and technology in America, but the costs are quickly getting out-of-hand for most of us. Again, this is a highly challenging issue, but we’ve elected you to deal with the tough issues.
  • We need an answer on climate and the environment. Like every other issue I’ve mentioned, there is much disagreement on the problem and the solution, but we need a legislative branch that will look for long-term solutions. At the very least, most Americans see the need for clean air, cost-affordable clean energy, reduced CO2 emissions, and cooperation with other nations. It’s your job to do something about it. 

You get my point. I could bring up dozens—even hundreds—of issues to work on. But from my far-from-Washington-point-of-view, most of you seem to be more focused on investigations, hearings, and running for re-election than you are on legislation.

I understand the need for some of these secondary issues. But I’ve always told my children in school that the extra-curricular activities and after-hour items are fun, but don’t forget your real job.  If you’re a student, your real job is to go to class and learn.  If you’re in Congress, your real job is to legislate.

So please do your job.

I do want you to know that the church will do our job. We will pray for you. And, of course, because we won’t always agree with you, we will voice our opinions, but we will do so respectfully. But we will challenge you to do your job and work on the issues that are crying out for solutions.

In a divided Congress, that means that you can’t continue just to vote with your party on every issue. Congress is simply too divided for that model to work. And since you will need to work across the aisle, you should probably avoid the frequent verbal potshots many of you seem to enjoy. You may need to offend your own political base in order to compromise and actually pass meaningful legislation. And you might even have to be willing to sacrifice your political future in order to get things done.  

Proposing, debating, and passing meaningful legislation is your job.

It’s time you did it.

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Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day. It isn’t normally considered a Christian holiday.  But I think it should be.

earthUnfortunately, I have some Christian friends who consider Earth Day as an anti-Christian holiday, because they lump anything from the environmental movement into the “anti-god and almost atheistic” category.  I have many Republican friends who ignore environmental issues altogether because they are normally thought of as a Democratic party issue, and they don’t want to be aligned with the “other party.”  And I have some Christian friends who are so “heavenly-minded” that they believe they can ignore earthly issues altogether.  After all, as one friend told me, “It’s all going to burn anyway.”

I recognize that there are those in the environmental movement who deny the existence of a Creator.  And I have no doubt that there are many politicians who promote environmental issues that I do not want to be affiliated with.  And I believe strongly in heaven and have dedicated my life to preaching Jesus, so I understand the thoughts of the “heavenly minded.”

But I don’t allow the extremists who deny God or who have different political or theological views to alter my own personal beliefs.  I see taking care of our environment—planet Earth—as a Biblical issue.

I believe strongly in the Creator and the Bible He has inspired.  The very first verse of the Bible proclaims, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  I see His Creation as one of His crowning achievements.

The more I study and read (and look at the pictures) the more obvious it is that our universe is an awesome reflection of an awesome God.  And though I’ve seen only a tiny portion of Earth (mostly limited to the western United States), I recognize that it is incredibly beautiful.  I’m amazed at the loveliness and the diversity of the land, the waters, and the creatures that inhabit Earth, and I want to see more.

Unfortunately, however, we’re doing an excellent job of trashing the land, polluting the air and the oceans, and wasting our resources.  As Christians, we need to do more to take care of what God has created.

And so my reason for recognizing Earth Day is simple.  If God created the Earth—and He did—then we are under an obligation to take care of it. We are, to use a Biblical world, “stewards” or managers of God’s creation.  We are to keep it clean.  We are to use our resources as wisely as possible.  We are to clean up our own messes.  We are to keep it as unpolluted as possible.  And we are to protect the land, the air, the waters, and the animals that inhabit it.

Earth Day, then, is a great day to recognize and celebrate God’s creation!

I’m not a global or even national decision maker, so I have a limited ability to make a huge impact.  But I can do small things.  And if others join me, it can make a big impact.

Here are some small things and some practical steps that I am undertaking to help manage God’s creation well:

  •  I will stop using drive-throughs. Cars pollute more at idle speeds than at operating speeds.  By going in, I save gas, reduce pollution, and get to walk instead of sit.  I’ve also found that lines are usually shorter inside than outside, so I often save time.
  • I will reduce my own plastic use. I’ve stopped purchasing disposable plastic water bottles.  Instead, I use refillable bottles with a filter.  I get good water and I don’t pollute.  And over the long-term, I save money.  When I have no choice but to use a disposable cup, I don’t use a lid or a straw.
  • I will compost instead of throwing away food and yard waste, saving land-fill space.
  • I will drive less and walk more to limit the use of gasoline. In public buildings, I will use stairs instead of elevators.  (It’s better for my health and it reduces electricity usage.)
  • I will watch my energy usage more closely by using programmable thermostats and LED lighting—and making sure I turn things off when not in use.
  • This one may be hard, because I like meat, but I will find ways to reduce my intake of meat.  Experts say the production of meat uses an abundance of resources and energy compared to other food sources.
  • When I’m hiking (which I like to do), I will stay on trails and I will pick up trash that others have left behind.
  • I will plant trees, for nothing reduces carbon in the atmosphere better than trees. And since I live in a desert, I will choose drought-resistant trees that don’t waste water.
  • And I will consider a politician’s stance on the environment as one of many issues I want to know before I vote.

Will my small changes make a huge impact?  No.  But if all of us make small changes, the impact will be huge.  Each one of us can do our part.

God created our entire universe and our planet.  It is beautiful. It is His handiwork.  God is the Creator, the designer, and the one that brought it all into existence. And it is incredible.

If you want to call me an environmentalist, that’s okay with me.  But please understand me.  I don’t worship creation.  I’m not going to chain myself to trees and you most likely won’t see me marching in environmental rallies. Bud since I worship the Creator, I will take care of his creation.

I like to think of myself as a Biblical environmentalist.  And there should be more of us.

Happy Earth Day!

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