February 22, 2017

The Long Way

When I go home from just about anywhere in my city there are two ways to get there. Two roads lead to my neighborhood. From just about any location, one of those two roads feels and seems to be the shortest route. As the crow flies there's no doubt. That said, I'm no crow and I can't fly. What tends to almost always be the case is that what seems to be the short way winds up being the long way.

The seemingly short route is currently plagued with construction. If you drive down that road at the wrong time of the morning you will get backed up in traffic and sit for 20 minutes. If you’re lucky. This road is well trafficked because it's more well-known. Nathan always wants to debate with me that it's shorter. So every once in a while – against my better judgment – we will give it a shot. And we always regret it. What seems to be the short route very often winds up being the long road.

If I could just once and for all learn this lesson as a leader. Almost every time I get anxious, impatient, or forget that why and how are just as important as what, it seems to always come back to haunt me. You and I both know that the journey is just as important (if not more) than the destination. But we get so in a hurry to arrive that we're not even sure what happened in the wake of getting there.

Very often, the short way winds up being the long way. But in all honesty, short and long aren't nearly as important as right and wrong. Often there's a right way. It's usually also the hard way. And my estimation is…it's highly likely to be the long way as well.

What takes more time now: Doing it myself...or building a team? The answer to that question – especially if I'm more concerned with right now and getting it done – is to build a team. It takes more time to cultivate people. It takes more time to invest and build. But in the long run…it's worth the investment. The short way winds up being the long way.

What takes more time now: Unilaterally making a change and letting everyone know about it...or walking everyone through the change with you? If your theory & mentality is “My way or the highway” or “Get on the bus…of get left behind!", then just go ahead and make the change. Drop it like a bomb! But if you want to not only sustain your leadership, but also actually grow the people and the organization you're leading, then take the time to walk them through it with you. If you have a vision worth selling and you're a leader worth following, then take the time to share that vision with the people you want to follow you. I know it feels like the long way, but it winds up being the short way.

“…the prudent gives thoughts to his steps.” Proverbs 14:15
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22
“Train up a child in the way he should go; in the end he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Leading an organization? Building a team? Do it the right way. It’s worth it.

Raising a child? Discipling your son or daughter? Man, don’t we all wish there were some shortcuts. Sorry. No dice. It’s long, hard work. And it’s worth every moment, every tear, every prayer, and every opportunity of shepherding their heart toward Jesus.

If we embrace and enjoy and savor the journey, the destination will be that much more satisfying. 

The long way sometimes winds up being the short way.
The long way very often ends up being the right way.

Who cares about shortcuts, anyway? 

February 21, 2017

How Do We Select Elders?

In my previous post, Why Do We Have Elders, we looked at the biblical mandate, calling, and role of the elders in the church. The pastors and elders are called to "shepherd God's people"; to humbly oversee the church as servant leaders. Here I would like to share how we go about selecting, examining, and affirming these men.

First off, each new year begins an informal NOMINATION process. What does this mean? Great question. Each year the current elders begin praying through the question: Are there certain men within our church family who meet the qualifications described by Paul to Timothy and Titus of an elder? We start making a list. We then continue praying through that list together. After a certain period of time, if we come to unanimous agreement on a particular man (or men), we approach him and ask him to prayerfully consider if the Lord might be calling him to this role. As an example, this past year our list began with 4 men. Over a month's time, we all felt very strongly about 2 specific men. They both agreed to prayerfully consider the question: Is God calling me to be an elder? 1 of those 2 men overwhelmingly sensed that affirmation and the other did not. That's one way that a man enters into this process.

Along with that, a couple of other initial scenarios can happen. One being that a man can nominate himself. This may sound or seem egotistical or prideful to some, but to be honest, if that was the driving force behind a man's self-nomination, it would almost certainly be visible. Self-promotion is pretty tough to disguise. Having said that, there have been times when a member has come to us and asked us to consider a man for nomination. One man in our church (who would probably be shocked by this due to his humility) has had multiple people over the last years come to me and "nominate" him - meaning they've come and asked, "Why isn't so & so an elder? He would make a great elder!" This man clearly meets the qualifications, yet very clearly has told me (on mulitple occasions) that he does not sense the Lord's calling and leading to take on that role or responsibility. I would also like to add that there are multiple men within our church body who have been approached by the elders because of the clear evidence of their character, who have not felt the call of God to the role. The calling is critical!

So whether nominated by a church member, himself, or the current elders, if a man accepts that nomination we then begin what we call the EXAMINATION process. [This usually lasts around 6 months.] We have a fairly thorough 6-page application that an elder candidate fills out, including everything from family history, to testimony and personal salvation experience, to doctrinal and theological questions. We also ask for references. We want to talk to people who can verify that what we see in an elder candidate's life is being seen by others and has been seen by those surrounding him for some time now. During this time, our pastors and elders are encouraged to meet with him, spend time with him and his family, get to know who he is and pray for the Lord's clear wisdom and discernment concerning this man. We also require him to do a bit of reading, wanting to make sure he understands (as fully as possible) the role and responsibilies he is considering. He needs to know that he is not becoming a member of a board or group of trustees or a personnel committee. First and foremost, he is yielding to God's call on his life to "shepherd and oversee" the people of God.

When (and if) our pastors and elders come to unanimous resolution that we have fully examined this man's life and we not only see clear evidence of him meeting the qualifications, but also that he is surrendering to the call of God on his life to step into this role, we will then present him to the church family for a brief time of examination. [This usually lasts around 4-6 weeks.] This time allows anyone to come and ask questions of the elders, bring up anything that may have slipped past us in regards to his character or actions, but also (and hopefully more prevalently) provides an opportunity for people to get to know him, pray for him, and see the evidence of why we nominated him in the first place. 

At the end of this process, after the entire church body (pastors, elders, staff, members) has had time to examine this man's life, if we (the elders) are still in unanimous agreement, we will then AFFIRM him as an elder before the entire congregation. We have always done this on a Sunday during our services because we believe it is something the entire church body should be involved in. While what we do is very simple, it is also very meaningful. The pastors and elders will gather around the elder candidate, lay hands on him, and pray over him. This is not a magical transference of "elder powers" or some sort of mystical ceremony. Paul laid hands on Timothy as he prayed over him. The apostles "prayed and laid their hands on" Stephen and the others they had chosen to be deacons. We do the same.

While we desire every part of WHAT we do to be driven, catalyzed, and mandated from and by the scriptures, we are aware that a portion of HOW we go about it comes from us. This is why we never stop asking, "How can we do this more effectively? What can we do better?" 

I hope these posts have given greater clarity and understanding to what our elders do, why we do it, and how we are chosen to do it. We would be glad to answer any questions you may have about biblical elders and church leadership.

"The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task." 1 Timothy 3:1

February 8, 2017

Why Do We Have Elders?

When something is foundational – a ground-level, concrete, nonnegotiable part of who you are & what you do & why & how you do it – it's not only healthy, but essential to re-visit and remind yourself of it often. With that understanding in mind, I'd like to talk a little bit about what the Bible says about elders and why we have them at The Brook.

Let's begin by establishing what an elder is not: Someone who is older than you. Culturally this is what we have meant and implied when we say: “Respect your elders!” or "Take care of the elderly." This is not the biblical definition or implication of an elder.

Elders are also not a board of trustees or a management team. Jeramie Rinne, in his book Church Elders (from 9Marks) puts it this way: "When elders see themselves primarily as members of a board of trustees, they perceive their purpose as managing the organizational elements of the chruch. "Success" likely means keeping balance sheets in the black, maintaining the facilities, and sponsoring high-quality, well-attended programs and events. Trustee elders are tempted to emphasize managing the machine over maturing the members." Don't misunderstand: many of those things mentioned are important, but they are not the priorities of the elders of the church.

An elder (as described and defined in the New Testament) is a shepherd & overseer. It's the same word used for Pastor (poimen). When we read the New Testament as a whole, we understand there are certain aspects and characteristics of an elder. Pastors and elders are called by God to shepherd his people. The apostle Paul makes it clear to Timothy (1 Timothy 3) that any man who takes on this role without the calling of God will most certainly regret it; it is a weighty responsibility. He calls it “a noble task”. Paul gives Timothy and Titus (Titus 1) very similar, yet distinct descriptions of an elder. (You can take a look at those for yourself.) For our purposes in this post I would like to specifically address some FAQs and what I will call "frequently misunderstood ideas" about elders, while also addressing the specifics of the role and function of elders within our church.

One FAQ we have heard and addressed is this: If pastors and elders are from the same word, and both are shepherds and overseers, then what is the difference?

At The Brook, while pastors and elders primary calling and function overlaps (to shepherd, guide, and “pastor” the people of the church), there are also several functions and roles that are equally distinct. Specifically in our context, pastors are men who not only heed the call to shepherd God’s people, but also feel led to vocationally lead the strategy and ministries of the church. They have also answered a call to preach the Word of God, very closely mirroring what the disciples gave as the reason for appointing the first deacons: “we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Conversely, elders do not necessarily have this sense of vocational calling, nor do they feel called to preach. They do, however, have a burden and responsibility to attend to the governance of the church. They pay attention to how we are stewarding the gifts of the Lord; specifically our tithes and offerings. And while our elders may not preach on a Sunday, they are all capable of teaching (and are currently doing so in some capacity), and are responsible (along with the pastors) for ensuring that what we do preach is biblically, doctrinally correct. This is what Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to do in Acts 20: guard the doctrine of the church.

Now, let’s get even more practical. Another FAQ is (to put it bluntly): So…what do our elders actually do?

Once a month (at minimum) our pastors and elders gather together. While our meetings will frequently involve discussions over current ministry strategies, decisions over present issues and/or future opportunities, that time will always be prioritized by our praying over and for one another, our church, and our people. To be candid, we spend much time laboring for marriages to be healed, for the Lord’s guidance and provision in decisions we must make, for the healing of those who are sick, and the deliverance of those who are burdened. This is the “noble task” Paul spoke of to Timothy. Our elders humbly serve. These men often lose sleep on behalf of our people. Their first and primary concern is for the spiritual well-being of the sheep because they know (ultimately) they will answer to the Good Shepherd. I don’t write this so anyone will pity or feel sorry for them. Actually, on the contrary, I exhort you to love and respect and pray for the men in your church who have taken on this burden and responsibility.

In my next post I’m going to talk about the process of finding, examining, and affirming elders at The Brook.  

December 22, 2016

The Soul Felt It's Worth

O Holy Night!

The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

You've probably sung those lyrics many times. I know I have. Maybe we've sung them so many times that we've stopped really hearing what it is we're singing. Or maybe we never really took the time to prayerfully consider all the theological implications of these truths. I spent some time thinking and praying over these lyrics today and there are a few things that stood out to me.

"Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth"

The soul felt its worth. The soul had never truly felt its worth before then. The only way for the soul to feel its "worth" is for it to be liberated from the thing that enslaves it. What was enslaving our souls? Sin.

The world was laying - trapped and helpless - in sin. Until something happened. The Son of God appeared. He appeared. Lived a perfect, sinless life. He willingly laid his life down, was brutally beaten, murdered, executed, and crucified for our sin. The sin that the whole world was laying in. He died so that we might be freed from that sin. He died and rose from the dead so that we would no longer go on walking in darkness, but we would walk in the light.

"Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease"

Make no mistake, the chains He came to break were chains of sin.
The slave is my brother. Any slave, anywhere. Because I was a slave to sin.
But in Jesus name - the name that is above every name - the name that one day will bend every knee - in Jesus name "all oppression shall cease" because the oppression of sin has been defeated.

O holy night!
What a night it must have been...when holiness erupted into the world so quietly through a baby in a manger. Holiness that is now available to you and me. Righteousness that has now been imparted to us because the light of the world chose to defeat the darkness.

May we walk in the light this Christmas.
May we shine the light of life to all those around us because our souls have felt their worth. Because the oppression of our sin has been defeated.

Merry Christmas!

December 7, 2016

What To Do With the "Toxic" Christian

There's this new idea floating around (which is just an old idea packaged up in different paper) that as a Christian I can self-determine that another Christian has become "toxic". That there's a brother or sister whose decisions or choices have moved them outside of the realm of the level of grace, mercy & forgiveness that I've been allowed & allotted to divvy out. I’ve seen and heard this out of other people’s mouths…and I’ve witnessed it running through my own heart and mind as well. This is not of God. This is not of Jesus. This is not Biblical.

Jesus didn't give any sub categories, asterisks, sidenotes, or escape routes for John 13:34-35. He said, "The world will know you are my disciples by your love for one another."

Matthew 5:23-24 & Matthew 18:15-17 were mandates that were to be exhaustively pursued before ever entertaining the idea of severing a relationship with another child of God.

Jesus went after the lost sheep to bring them back home. He said he would leave the 99 to go after the 1. At times, it seems as though we want to gather the 99 and tell them, “It’s just better that he left. Just let him go.”

Is there a "toxic" person out there? Most certainly there is. Are there people who claim the name of Jesus over their lives while walking as reprobate sinners? I'm sure there are. But if we reach the point of divisively & decisively removing a person from our lives, should it not be only after making every attempt to either lead them to repentance or lead us both to reconciliation?

If you and I choose to humbly & lovingly "part ways" because of major theological differences - issues of essential orthodoxy - that might be a healthy decision. But if you and I ultimately walk away from one another because one of us has relationally wounded the other - because pride or bitterness hinders us from repairing the fractures in our friendship – then we are an awfully sad lot.

You and I don't get to "wash our hands of one another". When we choose that route we're not following Jesus. We're following Pilate. 

Pilate washed his own hands: "I'll have nothing to do with this or with you." 

In that climactic moment the night before Jesus went to the cross, when he could have and should have washed his hands of the delinquents and the repeat offenders, he instead did something else. He got down on his knees and washed the betrayer's feet: I still love you.

Pilate washed hands. Jesus washed feet.

Why do we give up so easily?

Why are we so quick to wash our hands instead of wash each other's feet?

Why are we so fragile and easily offended?

How does the cup of grace that the Lord fills on our behalf run dry so quickly that we have none left to pour out on others?

We are ministers of reconciliation. (See 2 Corinthians 5:11-21)

We are agents of forgiveness. (See Matthew 18:21-35)

If there are some among us who have wandered back into the land of the "toxic", may we have the Christ-centered, Spirit-filled perseverance, courage, and determination to go in after them. And may we remember, when the fear of being poisoned by the toxic overwhelms us, that we were once the poison ourselves. 

May those of us called to “shine like stars in the universe” remember that we were once darkness. (See Ephesians 5:8)

May we love like you, Lord Jesus. Help us. 

January 5, 2016

How Long, Lord?

The day you start to think, "Surely I've seen it all" will most certainly be the day you not only learn you haven't, but you also start wishing more and more that you had.

I want more and more every single day to believe that surely the lies & deceptions of the prosperity gospel are going to be fully exposed and realized for what they really are: lies. I pray all the time that those who are being deceived into its sway will be set free to the liberty of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - to discover that only in "losing my life will I find true life". The battle rages on. And at the end of the day, we are not surprised. Remember what Paul told his young disciple, Timothy:

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."

Friends, the prosperity gospel - the idea that Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we could be financially blessed - the thought that the God of the Universe wants to shower us with abundance just because we deserve it - is a lie from the pit of hell. And it's the lie that false teachers like Creflo Dollar keep on preaching:

As you may know, Creflo really stirred things up last year when he made a big fuss about the possibility of losing his $50,000,000 jet. (No, I didn't add too many zeros.) Well, today I watched an exchange between Kenneth Copeland and Jesse Duplantis that certainly rivals Creflo's scripture-twisted, materialistic, self-centered, unbiblical theology. Watch for yourself:

I don't even know where to begin.

"The world is in such shape... We've got to have this."

You can't be famous and "get in a looong tube filled with demons. It's deadly!"

Hey! All you African & Indian preachers who walk barefooted for days to get to a village so you can preach the Gospel to the lost: STOP! God doesn't want you to walk. He'll send a Cessna your way to pick you up. Just light up the strip where you want it to land.

Hey! All you humble preachers and evangelists flying in coach with the demons: Are you crazy? We're here to preach to stadiums and arenas full of people who want God to give them money and comfort, not to the lost, broken, and hopeless who simply want to know that Christ died for them and has reconciled them back from death to life. 

Rather than going on and on with sarcastic anecdotes, let's just address this biblically. And let's address it from the very angle that "Reverend" Duplantis was attempting to corner. During the video you hear him begin to mention Amos 6, which he's going to go on to pitch that, "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure..." is God's warning to any of us who begin to "let our faith stagnate" is a word he received from the Lord. He was letting his faith "stagnate" because he had started believing that this really nice jet was all he was going to settle for. As if the Lord was inquiring of him: "Is this the best you think I can do? You don't think I can get you a better airplane?"

Friends, Amos 6 is written to the Israelites who were drowning in the pleasures of life rather than mourning and grieving their own sin. They were immersed in wealth. They had no moderation or restraint. They accepted nothing but extravagance for themselves while ignoring the needs of others. Jesse Duplantis even breathing this scripture reference in the same sentence of defending his need for a jet - defending the need to get as far away as possible from those "demons" who might be flying on a commercial airliner - is one of the most self-indicting things I've seen in a long time. I would challenge him to go on reading in Amos 6 about the enemy that God himself raised up to come against Israel and rid them of their pagan, materialistic, self-centered lives. 

Some may listen to Creflo and Joel and Kenneth and Jesse and their counterparts and call it serious audacity. I call it heresy. I don't know if it's intentional scripture twisting or the greatest level of ignorance possible. Either way, it is NOT the Gospel.

How long, Lord, will you put up with this?

December 16, 2015

Guns, Terrorism, Racism, Refugees & Jesus [Part 2]

If you haven't read Part 1, I would encourage you to take 5 minutes and begin there. We are all - like it or not - a part of the discussion that needs to take place in our culture about GUNS. Hope you'll give serious, prayerful consideration to the matter. That said, moving on...

Let's talk about TERRORISM

Terrorism is an idea, concept, and word that has become as commonplace in our day and culture as the words internet or exercise. (Maybe even more so than the latter.) I think it's important to define it so the we can confront it:

Terrorism (n.) - An act of violence or intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.

While I think this is a fairly simple and accurate working definition, I believe that to be closer to the current center of the target, we would have to alter it to read "political and/or religious aims". Much of what can be labeled terrorism today is being driven and catalyzed by those who think and believe they are agents of "god" for a holy war he has called for. Quite obviously, they aren't working with the same definition of "holy" that I've been given or that the Bible presents. Nonetheless, I think the most important thing for us to keep in mind - for followers of Jesus Christ to remember - is the real underlying objective of almost all acts of terrorism in our day & time. Quite simple, the goal is FEAR.

Don't misunderstand me; the motivation and catalyst behind these acts is hate, prejudice, self-righteousness, and evil. But the goal is fear. To put it this way: HATE may be the driver of the car - the one who has also metaphorically (and hopefully only metaphorically) tied you up and locked you in the trunk - but FEAR is the place that hate wants to take you. Drop you off. Abandon you. And leave you for dead. 

Fear isolates. 

Fear polarizes and paralyzes.

Fear is notorious for "making a mountain out of a molehill".

Fear divides and disrupts. 

Which helps us better understand and accept that fear is absolutely not from God.

Paul says "God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7)

John declares, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18)

When we understand what God - who himself is the definition, source, and author of LOVE - has to say about fear, we begin to understand why HATE - the complete antithesis of love - has no greater mission or satisfaction than to lure and seduce us down a path that leads straight to fear. Love drives out fear. Hate...drives head-on into it. And it's becoming apparent that many who believe they are acting out of love are actually being manipulated by hate to act out of fear. And the way we know this is by the things they say.

Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34)

The way we talk is rooted in the way we see things.
The way we see things is rooted in the way we think. This is called our worldview.
The way we think is rooted in what we believe, about God & about ourselves.
This means that as God's people, we must carefully allow the Spirit of God to examine, shape, form, and lead what we say and how we say it.

A Presidential candidate has suggested that we should "ban all muslims" from traveling to the United States. I would submit to you that this is rooted in fear. When thousands of refugees are homeless, running from TERRORISM - being driven from their home country - and we simply refuse to take them in because we FEAR the terrorists could possibly infiltrate their ranks - they have (to a degree) already won. Hate has accomplished it's goal. Love was sacrificed and handed over. Fear has taken it's place. 

Last week, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. made some incredibly controversial and polarizing remarks in his address to the students at the school's convocation. Out of the overflow of Jerry's heart, he said:

"I've always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those muslims before they ever walked in and killed." He followed that by adding his encouragement for every student to get a permit and gun so they will all be ready to "teach them a lesson if they ever show up here." (italics mine)

I want to encourage you to think and meditate on these words for just a moment. First off, determine if you could ever, under any circumstance whatsoever known to mankind, imagine Jesus saying this. Maybe to Peter. In the garden. When the soldiers came. 

"Dangit, Peter. If you had only brought your 9mm, we could have ended those punk soldiers before they ever walked up."

Spin it however you want to. You won't make this fit with Jesus.

While we could debate for quite some time how Dr. Falwell comes up with his classification for "good people", I think the more puzzling question in desperate need of an answer is this: How many good people out there are sitting around waiting to "end those muslims"? 

Yes, I know, he was talking about the 2 muslims that walked into an office party a couple of weeks ago in San Bernardino, California, and started killing people. But what he apparently is missing is that he is ultimately feeding the beast, fanning the fire, and perpetuating the cycle. Falwell (like many others) isn't seeing that FEAR - being driven and manipulated by HATE - is fostering more HATE. When a Christian leader stands in front of a mass of Christian students and asserts that we need to be ready to "end those muslims"....FEAR has taken over. HATE has won. It may sound real cavalier and cowboy-like, but it's fear all the sameAnd what we've really become blind to is that the people on the opposite side of whatever fence we’re standing next to don't see our fear as fear; they see it as hate. When I hear someone say they want to "silence those Christians" (and yes, it's been said), there's never anyone conveniently around to classify or distinguish who those Christians are that they're referring to. And yes, Falwell attempted some forced patronizing backpedaling - realizing the reaction and backlash it was causing. But what most everyone saw was not someone remorseful for what they said or how they said it, but for how it was received. Not the same thing.

What so very often looks like hate these days is actually fear with a puffed-out chest, trying to call someone's bluff. 

Friends....Jesus didn't bluff. He didn't retaliate. He didn't puff out His chest.

Is WHAT we're saying and HOW we're saying it exposing a heart within us that is still kicking and screaming and refusing the radical way of Jesus?

While you're thinking on that for a moment, allow me to interject a COUNTERPOINT

Please know that I am not submitting or suggesting that we are never to defend or protect. We are called by a Holy God to protect the innocent and the weak from those who would maliciously attempt to abuse and/or destroy. I believe a holistic view of God's heart in the scriptures lead us to actively standing up against evil in the world. And so in these days and times, when a terrorist organization like ISIS or al Qaeda have made it clear that their sole intent and purpose is to attack, abuse, and destroy anyone and everyone in the world - particularly the West - who doesn't submit to their way of thinking, believing, and living, we have to (at some point) stand up to them, fight them, and defeat them.

Here in the United States we have thousands of men and women who have felt a calling on their lives to defend the freedom and liberty of humans - the "inalienable rights" endowed on us by our Creator. It's hard to forget the resurgence of enlisting soldiers after 9/11 - people stepping forward to say, "Here I am. Send me. I will go and take the fight to those who would dare to harm, abuse and kill the innocent and the defenseless." I bring this up to come back to the counterpoint: Is it possible that many are 1) allowing other's hate to lead them into fear and are 2) beginning to reconstruct walls that spent hundreds of years knocking down because for some reason unbeknownst to most of us, the leadership of our country has decided, "We'll just let them bring the fight to us."

Allow me to be blunt for a moment.

When TERRORISM is spreading all over the globe like an epidemic and FRANCE steps out to take the lead to fight against it, something has radically shifted in our country.

When the President of the United States refuses to send our troops (who have stepped forward to go) into harm's way - when we refuse to stand up, step out, and lead the way against evil - because we're afraid of offending someone, something is radically wrong with our country.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer - who gave his life attempting to overthrow Hitler and Nazi Germany - once said, "Silence in the face of evil is evil itself; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."

I'm not talking out of both sides of my mouth here. I'm not attempting to defend or justify what Jerry Falwell said or Donald Trump suggested or a million other people thought. But I am submitting to you that much of this might not be going on if the United States of America wasn't sitting on it's hands for the first time in my lifetime, just waiting - almost beckoning - for the devil to bring destruction to our own doorstep. 

It's become a greater offense in this country to malign than to murder.

Apparently words are more powerful than sticks and stones and guns and bombs.

Friends, I write this post first and foremost to expose TERRORISM. This is what it's doing to us - inside and out. It's spreading fear. The fear of another attack. The fear of losing a way of life (which is not necessarily the way of the One we say we're following). The fear of offending someone. 

If I'm being honest, what I fear more than anything is fear ruling my life. 

Don't let it rule yours.

We know there are always going to be people in power making the wrong decisions.

We know there are always going to be people speaking for God that don't represent God.

But more importantly, we know that the God of the Universe is almighty, sovereign, just, merciful, gracious, faithful, all-knowing, omnipresent, sufficient, right and true. He is the Great Shepherd. The King of Kings. He is coming again. And He will make all things right and all things new.

TERRORISM will be done. FEAR will be erased.

Let's keep those things in mind.