6 Officers Shot. . .

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Last night SIX officers were shot in the line of duty. Two of them are employed at my agency. Two in Kissimmee, Florida and two in Pennsylvania.

There is much in my mind to say about these incidents in light of contemporary ideas that police “must be held accountable” and “officers should be prosecuted.” I don’t know all the specifics of these incidents, but I know what it takes to do this job. I further know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a man or woman who does this job exemplifies the highest moral character imaginable when combating evil for the preservation of innocent lives.

Teddy Roosevelt well said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

 
It is to the supporters that I say thank you. Thank you for not blindly supporting us, but standing with us when we act correctly. In other words, thank you for knowing what is right and wrong. Thank you for holding us to the higher standard that we humbly accept. Know that when we hold ourselves accountable it is in keeping our collective ability to save innocent lives in mind.

It is to the undecided in this political place in time, that I say: Thank you for your care in wanting to make our world a better place, but know there are things that you must know before you rightly judge the men and women that stand in the gap for you. I ask that you learn from the people who do the job, and not ones who think they are wise in their own eyes without knowledge and experience. Don’t listen to people who call themselves experts, listen to the ones who actually are.

It is to the critics that I say, most humbly, you have not earned the right to speak ill of such noble men and women. You have not earned the right, nor do you possess the knowledge to critique their actions. Your attempt to discredit their nobility falls on the ears of good and moral men and women as nothing but abstract noise founded in prideful ignorance and/or evil. It is in your own words your character is revealed, and your soul is laid bare before the righteous.

To my brothers and sisters, I say: Remain steady. Remain calm. Remain vigilant. It is good to play these things over in your head, but clarity will come soon in your minds. Know that you are not simply employed, but you are called to the most noble profession. You are called to save innocent lives, and that entails standing fervently in the face of evil. Your abilities to defeat this foe do not come from the deep recesses of your imagination. They are found in a firmly resolute mindset that you will overcome. When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, be prepared for the moment. That moment when this is not just a part of the police officers code of ethics that you recited in the academy, but it is a moment in which your entire existence is brought into being in time and space. A time that perhaps you were born for, a time that may have been predestined for you, and your fellow officers to leave a noble and glorious mark on the pages of eternity. When that moment finds you: Seize it. Know law, know policy, know the Priority of Life scale and be guided by them. But after all of that, the most important part is the knowledge that you are called to something greater. You are called to serve your fellow man in the darkest most dangerous moments of human existence. Do not fear the valley of the shadow of death, but be the most loving and the most dangerous human being within it. Apply both in your decisions. Finally know, if you are with Christ, He is in the valley with you. He goes before you, and surrounds you in His grace.

 


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Ephesians 6:12-13 –  “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

God Bless,

Marc

Presenting your Child to God. . .

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Today, I was given the opportunity to baptize my first born daughter. We walked out into the ocean to meet our Campus Pastor Ben Phillips, and two other gentlemen who were helping with the service. As I was walking her out into the surf, my mind was whirling. Her little hand clasped onto mine, and I walked her down to show the world that she had met her Maker. We turned and saw the thousands of people from The Church of Eleven22 cheering as Ashlyn made her profession of faith public before her church body. I asked her: “Who is Jesus?” She replied: “My Lord and Savior.” Then she went down into the water, and came back up symbolizing the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. We then went out of the water as swiftly as we entered, as there were lines of people awaiting this moment before their fellow Christians.

In thinking about the events of the day, my mind keeps coming back to an idea in Scripture. I will get a little wordy here in the next few lines, but bear with me and try to follow. I guarantee it will be worth it. The word the New Testament uses for “church” is “ekklesia.” Without any context there isn’t anything new for you to know about what that word means, but in ancient Greek literature it denotes assemblies that are put together for a purpose. Furthermore, the Greek translation of the Old Testament text, called the Septuagint, uses this word for describing the “Congregation” of Israel. When we study the Hebrew word used to describe this “called out body” of people, we see the first reference to be in Exodus 12:3. Why was all of that important? Because, it points to Christ. The first reference was surrounding the shed blood of the lamb that allowed God’s righteous judgment to pass over the one’s who aligned themselves to the will of God. Exodus 12:3 is the Passover. Even the word “church” begins to be used with an account of grace covering over sin and death through the shed blood of the Lamb.

I was reminded today about what the word “church” means. It doesn’t simply mean the building that we attend in worship. That is a contemporary idea that exists only in our culture. It does mean, Biblically, that at the Passover an idea was established within the Biblical narrative. That idea is that there is a group of people that our God has saved from our self-initiated wretched state. He has called us out to His service in accomplishing His will on this wretched planet spinning through time and space. He calls all people to this amazing group established in His divine, all encompassing and surrounding grace.

This group of people is also called the “Bride of Christ” in Scripture, and this was going through my mind today as I was walking her down to the water. Many fathers think of the day they will walk their little girls down the aisle when they are married to their husbands, but today that is where my mind was. I was walking her down the “aisle” to publicly say that she is now a part of the Bride of Christ. I find much greater pleasure in this marriage than any one on this planet.

I am part of this group of people that have been called out for His purpose. My wife is, and now my oldest daughter Ashlyn is. It is a good day.

If you are not a part of this “church,” the door is open to you. If you are please accept this as an encouragement. He has called you out for His purpose. Find it, and Do it.

 


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Mattew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Thanks,

Marc

Demagoguery and The Human Heart. . .

 

This morning I placed a thought that I have been pondering for quite a while on social media. I stated: “The vast success of demagoguery in American politics is an indictment on our souls.”

 
I want to take the time in this weekly study to speak a bit more about it. There are some who will quickly read it and agree or disagree without pondering the implications of the truth contained within the Scripture that I cited (Exodus 20:5-6). I believe there is a direct implication to our society today, and I encourage you to read further.

 

Introduce Demagoguery. It seems to be a buzzword used by many, but what exactly does it mean? A demagogue is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.” In short, they are telling you what they think you want to hear. We see this happening in the American political system on both sides of the spectrum. Understand deeply the difference between a person aligning with a candidate because the candidate more closely aligns to Biblical principles, and a person aligning with a candidate because they desire to follow that person. These are vastly different ideas. Simply stated: “Don’t take what is right and wrong from a candidate for political office higher than you take The Bible.” Don’t think politicians are theologians, even if they cite Scripture.

 
The concept of idolatry as described in the ancient Jewish and Christian texts that we read seem difficult to apply in our world. We read in Exodus 20:4-6: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

 

This is an uncomfortable commandment. Here we see God saying not to make idols, and worship them. This is idea foreign to us, but the concept still has firm roots in the hearts of human beings. Most people who don’t like what Scripture says like to jump on what appears to be an injustice. How can the sins of the fathers solicit God’s judgment to the children? “It doesn’t seem fair” they cry. I believe it is quite fair, and here is why. The secret is in the final part of the passage. We read “keep my commandments.” If we love God, we will keep His commandments. If we love a political leader we will keep theirs, and finally, if we love ourselves we will keep our own. We instruct our children as we live, and subsequently they receive the reward for their poor instruction that we have given them. It’s not some crazy idea that God will judge your kid for what you do. It’s the idea that your kid will do what you do, and if they make bad decisions they will pay the price just as you and I.

 

Think about leadership in the context of demagoguery. Who is leading who? If a political candidate tells you what you want to hear and you vote for them, are you leading them or are they leading you? Will they use this principle to reward the wishes of the masses? If so, are the masses leading them? If this is the case, then don’t we have the mentality of a modern day lynch mob with our victim’s falling along the way? I believe definitely the answer to the last question is yes.

 

The idea of idolatry here listed in the 10 Commandments is strictly prohibited by God, but I think the conceptual idea of idolatry is, perhaps, most fervently illustrated in Isaiah 44. An excerpt of this chapter that we will read is verses 14-20. “He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, ‘Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!’ And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’ They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, ‘Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’ He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’ ”

 

It is a very real thing to follow politicians with the fervency of following a god, and it is a very real thing to follow ourselves when we vote for the betterment of our own proclivities. I want encourage you to think differently. I want to encourage you to follow God first and obey His commandments. Then, and only then, will your thoughts be clear enough to ask the question that Isaiah cites. “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

 


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Exodus 20:5-6 – “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

 

Thanks,

Marc

The FBI, Secretary of State and the 9th Commandment. . .

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It has been a quite popular topic recently. The FBI has released a formal statement that outlined their investigation and concluded with their recommendation to the Department of Justice. Its all the rage, if you will. I view this entire ordeal simply as a symptom of a much larger problem embedded deeply within the innermost parts of our society, and more importantly our hearts. We don’t know what is right or wrong anymore, or even worse we choose to make our own wrongs right.

Ravi Zacharias wrote in his recent article The Soul of America, a statement that is readily observed today. “If we abide in God’s truth revealed in His son, then we shall know the truth and the truth will set us free. That is why I say again and again that we must dispense with our verbal arsenal that speaks only in terms of right and left. We have forgotten there is an up and down.” Dr. Zacharias hits the nail on the head once again. Here in our country today people’s decisions morally are more driven by their party affiliation than driven by what is right. Why is this? It is my position that the answer can be summed up in the following blunt statement: It is because many people allow politicians to tell them what is right instead of God. This may be for a lack of understanding of what God says, and if this is the case for you, I wish to fill that void from within the Christian worldview.

Jesus was asked by a lawyer what the greatest commandment was. We read in Matthew 22:36-40:  ” ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’  And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’ ” When we understand Jesus’ ideas concerning the interpretation of these commandments we see that the 10 Commandments can be rightly divided into two groups. The first dealing with the love that you should possess for God, and the second the love that you should possess to your fellow human beings as people who were created in God’s image. Subsequently, the decisions you make here in this life that affect people should be motivated out of love for people.  In order to understand the commandments we must understand how to interpret and apply them.

Contrary to many people’s opinions, the 9th Commandment does not say: You shall not lie. It does say in Exodus 20:16: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Two things that are removed from this commandment in our unreasonable, yet so popular idea that this commandment simply means we shouldn’t lie. It removes the legal context, and the relational aspect that Jesus instructs us is so vital to applying these 10 Commandments.

We must understand that the legal context supports the importance of the application of justice within society. Truth, not departure from it, is needed to carry out justice, and justice is needed for any society to continue its existence. The knowledge that our leaders submit to this authority within their own lives is paramount for our society to function within Godly parameters. If we don’t have leaders that uphold these God given values then we must consent to having decisions made by them that are void of Godly intention, and this should rock all Christians to their core. It doesn’t matter if you are on the left or the right politically.

The second, and perhaps the most important is the understanding of “neighbor.” If you are wondering exactly how to view the word “neighbor,” we are fortunate that Jesus addressed this as well. We read in Luke 10:29-37 where Jesus answered that exact question. He answers by setting the stage where a man was victimized by robbers who stripped him of his clothes, beat him and left him dying. A Priest, Levite and Samaritan all saw him lying there, but only the Samaritan did something about it. The Priest and Levite both of whom were known well by their titles walked by without lending a hand. The Samaritan was also known by a title, but it was not a title that carried a high view of the person. I think this delineation is important because titles don’t matter in God’s eyes and they shouldn’t in our either. What matters is your actions being motivated by righteousness no matter what your sphere of influence may be. The conclusion is simply the Samaritan was more neighborly than the others because he acted out of compassion to the victim of this crime.  His actions were motivated out of love for the innocent.

What are the implications in evaluating this contemporary issue? I will let you decide for yourself in this, but I encourage you to consider what is right and wrong before considering left or right. Do you observe justice, or a miscarriage of it? Do you observe a deep and significant care for the people in a “neighborly” way? I exhort you to stop getting ideas of what is right and wrong by the left and right wings of politics, and start getting your ideas of right and wrong by the up and down view. This is the view that we rightfully should have as beings who were created by a God who loves us, and corrects our actions towards both Himself and others that He created.  Our current president is not the Savior, and the next one won’t be either. Jesus the Christ IS, and there is no other.

I am sure many will read this and say that I am endorsing the Republican Candidate with this message. If you see that, than I humbly say that you have missed the entire point. I furthermore agree that much can be written on this side of the house as well. My whole point is that politicians are not the ultimate authority on what is right and wrong. God is, and we will all one day give an account for our decisions here in this world. Let’s measure things by His standard in our own lives, and in evaluating the actions of our governmental leaders.


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Exodus 20:16 – “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

 

Thanks,

Marc

What is Truth?

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I was fortunate enough to speak with a group of people a while back on the topic of violence. I remember looking around the room at a sea of about a hundred young faces. Their eyes filled with the wonder of this new world they were about to encounter. Most in the room were young college students preparing themselves for what they thought the world was going to hand them. As I spoke, I read the faces of these young people and it was obvious that many disagreed with me when it came to the topic of morality.

If the Bible can be reduced into two ideas they would be grace and truth, but sadly many Christians don’t understand either one of them. They are independent ideas, but they cannot exist apart from each other. Grace is the part that people think they like because its nice and flowery. Truth is the part that people don’t like because its controlling, and simply put within the Scriptural lens, it is damning. Grace, Scripturally speaking, can only come when one believes in truth, violates truth and is subject to something unpleasant by a higher power. Subsequently, this grace that people love to love comes only after consenting to truth. This is the part that people miss, especially within the church.

The night before Jesus’ crucifixion at Golgotha he was brought before Pontius Pilate who was the fifth prefect of the Judean province under Roman rule. A conversation ensues between the two and we read in John 18:33-38: “So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’ After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, ‘I find no guilt in him.’ ”

The most interesting part of this conversation between Jesus the Christ and Pontius Pilate is when Pilate says “What is truth?” I find this to be exceedingly interesting because he does not ask this question, but he says this question. A word typically used within the Greek to ask a question is ε͗περωτάω, but we don’t see that here. We see the word λέγω, which is used as an opening to direct speech. Pilate didn’t ask this question for an answer, he asked it rhetorically. He asked it without wanting an answer, and perhaps this is why the text does not record Jesus’ answer. Its probable Jesus didn’t say a word back to him. He let Pilate rest in his unbelief.

Pilate didn’t know what truth was even when he was looking truth in the eyes.

Going back to when I was speaking with this group of young people on the topic of violence, I vividly remember a young lady coming up to me after the event was concluded. She asked me if I had any ideas to help her narrow down her studies within the realm of societal morality. I responded that I didn’t believe in societal morality, but believed morality existed apart from all of us. What is right is right, no matter how I feel about it is a short way of saying it. She repeated the question almost to the letter again, as if to say she didn’t like my answer and I should try again. I did, and a third time she repeats the question almost to the letter. This was one of those times that we have all experienced in our lives. We think of better things to say after the conversation is over and our friends have left. I answered her third question by saying she should study the application of the case law system as begun by Christopher Columbus Langdell, but I have so many more answers for her today. I want to tell her that she should study the implications of man making his own judgments of what is right and wrong. I want to tell her to study the rise to power of Adolf Hitler. I want to tell her to study the horrible lynchings that occurred within the history of the world. I want to tell her to study mob mentality, and how mass chaos and riots harm innocent people. I want to tell her to study the lives of all the people who were brutally murdered because other people became illegitimately angered without checking themselves against a standard that should control us all. Most of all, I want her to conclude that society is not the center of the universe. I want her to conclude that societal trends are driven by human beings. I want her to conclude that human beings are not the center of the universe. I want her to conclude that God is.

We live in a world that is dark because people refuse to see the light, and people who have the light refuse to share it. Ladies and Gentlemen, morality is commanded by God. His morality is superior to mine in every facet of this life that He has given me. I encourage you to live as His morality is better than yours. Read the Scriptures and look at this person we call Jesus of Nazareth. Do what God has instructed us in His Word for a year, and your life will never be the same.

 


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John 18:37 – “Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ ”

 

God Bless,

Marc

Fuzzy Bunnies and Blood Soaked Wood. . .

BEARING THE SWORD: A Christian Ministry

To people living in the United States in the year 2015 the word “Easter” conjures up images of little, cute and furry bunny rabbits. It brings to memory the taste of chocolate and the joy of watching your young children walk past plastic eggs that are 14 inches away from them on their Easter egg hunt. It is a time of family, community and church celebration, but I think we sometimes miss what this celebration is supposed to represent. In keeping to the true fashion of this ministry that is written to warrior men and women, I wish to bring to remembrance what this celebration is meant to cause us to remember. The eggs are only symbols of the new birth that we have in Christ, and it is imperative that we remember the price of this freedom. This is quite an abbreviated study, and I encourage you to study…

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Confusing our Children. . .

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A couple of nights ago I was having a great conversation about raising children with a good friend of mine. We spoke of the joys and difficulties of shaping the minds and hearts of the children that God has entrusted us with. In our conversation, I brought up perhaps one of the most insightful statements that I have ever heard on this topic. When my oldest was born, I started conversations with many people on the topic of raising children, and sought advice from many sources. Many wise people gave me many insights they have learned over the years, and I am grateful for all of their time and thought in these conversations. The most insightful for me was a statement that my mother-in-law made to me in a conversation, and this statement has two separate and distinct implications for parents. She said: “What is right today is right tomorrow, and what is wrong today is wrong tomorrow.”

Let’s think about that for a minute. “What is right today is right tomorrow, and what is wrong today is wrong tomorrow.” In the realm of raising children the first implication is one that I personally have little trouble with. We must as parents be consistent in all that we do. If we correct our children for doing something wrong today, we must correct them tomorrow for the same thing. A more significant application is when we fail to correct our children today, and try to correct a behavior that has become ingrained into our children. The problems seem to grow pretty fast when we don’t nip it in the bud. The second implication is one that I have trouble with, and have to continually correct my thinking before speaking.

Imagine with me that you are doing a task and your young one is doing something that slows you down. Perhaps, you are tired from work, washing the dishes, and your toddler takes out the pots and pans from the cabinet. Immediately for me, my mind goes towards sharply correcting my child, but I think there is more that should be noted. Is it wrong for this child to play with the pots and pans? Is it a moral issue for him or her to have fun in this manner? Let’s engage Scripture for a clearer answer.

 


On a housekeeping note, I’m sure you have noticed that I haven’t been a punctual as normal with these studies. My apologies for this, but I can’t say it won’t happen again over the course of the next few months as I am preparing for a rather large examination at work. If you get this study only through the website or social media, I encourage you to sign up via email so that you will get every one no matter when they come out.


 

In the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul gives us a bit of clarity by rightfully helping us to understand the promise of the 5th Commandment. He writes beginning in 6:1: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise),  ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” We remember the 10 Commandments were given right after the Nation of Israel was freed from the bonds of Egyptian slavery, and the nation didn’t have a practical understanding of relational parameters. Think about that. You get up in the morning, make bricks, get beat, make bricks, go to sleep, and repeat. There was little room for independent thought that drove parameters in relationships. God instructed the young Israelite Nation to respect their fathers and mothers, so they may learn how to rightly live from them. This will then translate into a strong society that will be established in the Promised Land. Whether they actually lived correctly or not in the Promised Land is another story, but the principle remains the same. Having a strong moral family value system is the first block in teaching our children to have a strong moral family value.

Circling back to our toddler who is making more work for us by taking out the pots and pans, we revisit the question: Is it wrong? The answer is a clear and resounding no. It is not wrong. Paul encourages us here to pick our battles with our children. We are to focus on the teaching of what is right and wrong. If we are the parent that constantly yells at our kids for everything they will never learn what is a big deal and what isn’t that big of a deal.  They must have clarity, because if they don’t receive it from us, they will not receive it.

So, let your kids play with the pots and pans, but teach them fervently what our God says about the Big 10. We have little moral clarity in our world today, and the rising tide of immorality can overtake young minds and hearts. This is not the church’s responsibility. It is yours. The Bible teaches that our lives are subsequent to our actions. It teaches that a person who lives in opposition to God is subject to His judgment in both this world and beyond. Our children’s very existence is preserved in our efforts here. There is much on the line.

 


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Ephesians 6:4 – “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

God Bless,

Marc

 

I Don’t Like Black Lives Matter. . .

 

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I don’t like black lives matter. I don’t like white lives matter, and even as a police officer, I don’t like blue lives matter. I don’t like all lives matter either. Why? Because, none of it makes any sense, and it’s all divisive. These slogans distract from the real issues at hand.

I was vividly introduced to racial hatred, in my second day of field training as a police officer. I was patrolling an area that was, and still is, statistically high in violent crimes. In this area it is quite normal to work calls with dead bodies laying in the street as their blood washes down towards the gutter. I stopped for lunch with my training officer in a local sandwich shop, and a little boy approached me. I could see the spirit in his eyes that the experiences of living had yet to dampen. He was a child that could not have been more than 5 or so. I dropped down on my knees and began to speak with him. We spoke for about a minute. I still remember his gleaming smile, but then his mother saw what was happening. Her son, a little black boy, was talking to a white police officer, and this enraged her. She swiftly came over, and pulled him away from our conversation. She then said words to him that have stuck in my memory firmly and probably always will. I will not use her exact words in this forum, but it should suffice to say she told him that I hated him because he was black and I was white. She verbally, yet forcefully chastised him for speaking with me. I had a rush of several conflicting emotions at that time. Mind you, I was an experienced 2 day officer. I knew nothing except my sheltered world that so many people live within devoid of the realities of life in difficult areas of town. I felt perplexed, and angry that she would levy such a harsh judgment concerning my morality. I was upset that she was quite literally teaching her young son to hate me because of the color of my skin and my occupation. I was embarrassed because when I looked up, everyone seemed to know that this is just how it works, and I was clueless.

I have thought about that encounter many times since that event. I think of it now as I write these words. I am saddened that there are so many people in this world that still judge others by the color of their skin. In a famous speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on August 23rd, 1963, he said these words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I have heard this quoted many times, but very few times have I heard the part about “content of character.” Stop, go back and read his words again. He knew that people are to be judged upon their actions, and not on what they cannot nor should not change. In an effort to make my position exceedingly clear. I fervently agree with Dr. King’s statement here, he is completely correct. It is a travesty of epic proportions for a person to judge another person based upon what they look like, and men who propagate this evil should be removed from their position of influence over others if Scriptural morality is to be seeded and take root again within our culture. This isn’t black against white, or white vs. black. This is good vs. evil. There are good white people, and there are evil ones. There are good black people, and there are evil ones. Sin has no color.

We scream for equality as human beings, and ring the bells for what is referred to as social justice with blood on our hands. I say “we” here purposefully and forcefully. I think it’s time that someone starts speaking to and with everyone, instead of just yelling at the other side. There are no sides that matter to God, except His side, and those who oppose Him in thought and subsequent deed. Our Heavenly Father is the great equalizer. We are all equally bound under Him as sinners who have need of repentance before a righteous, just, yet loving God.

The Bible has given us a way out of all of this mess that we have created. It is for each one of us to humble ourselves, look within ourselves, and challenge our thoughts in the backdrop of God’s teachings. We must be intentional here. Let us consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:3-5: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye, when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” These are powerful words, that allow us to see clearly, and not be caught up in the rhetoric. They allow us to see inwardly prior to seeing outwardly. Jesus didn’t say a speck/log that was on your shirt, He said a speck/log in your eye. When we do this something supernatural happens. We are humbled, and our anger leaves. We find the solace that only God can provide, and we find it easier to look at Jesus’ words when he commanded us to love our enemies. This is the first step in reconciling differences between people, because it allows us the ability to think and communicate, before lashing out in anger.

We were all created in the Image of God, and we should act like that if we are to serve Him. Every single one of us. I find it is much easier to call someone my brother or sister when we share the same Father.

 


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Matthew 7:5 – “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

God Bless,

Marc

Broken Praise. . .

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The story of Samson brings up images of a beast of a man. A man that slew 1,000  people with a blunt object, and in a final push of intestinal fortitude a man who detached pillars of structure causing the death of about 3,000 enemies of the God who taught what was right and wrong in life, but there is more.

Before we open the text, we remember that Samson has fought with the Philistines who were an occupying force. This is the same Philistines that David later stood toe to toe against when he slew Goliath. In Samson’s time they ruled over Israel as explicitly evidenced in Judges 13:1, 14:4, and 15:11. In order to fully understand this we have to  understand the morality of the Philistines as driven by Dagon their god. As an example of social justice under Dagon, we observe Samson’s wife and father-in-law, who were Philistines themselves, being burned to death because Samson set a grain field on fire after his wife was taken from him and given to his best man. Not necessarily the perfect picture of doing the right thing by your fellow man, I suppose. Of course contrary to what our God commanded in Deuteronomy 24:16: “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.” Furthermore, we should look at how Samson perceived his acts of violence in his own words as recorded in Judges 15:18 where Samson says to The LORD “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant. . .” The text surely places Samson as one who believed that what The LORD said was right, was right.

But then, he had a flaw, and his story is unfortunately remembered for his flaw more than his passion for justice. He was seduced by Delilah who found the key to his great strength, and he was taken into custody by his enemy. They gouged out his eyes, threw him in prison, BUT the hair of his head began to grow again. With all of that background, we enter the text in Judges 16:23 and following: “Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, ‘Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.’ And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, ‘Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.’ And when their hearts were merry, they said, ‘Call Samson, that he may entertain us.’ So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, ‘Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.’ Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained. Then Samson called to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.’ And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other.”

We must remember that Samson was more than just a strong guy who lived a long time ago. He was a man that was knowledgable. His wit is evidenced in his riddles to the Philistines in Judges 14, but more importantly he was a judge over Israel for twenty years. He was the man that people would come to help decide what was right in situations. When Samson’s flaw came to the surface with Delilah, he not only became a prisoner, but he alienated his people. His sin caused a vacuum in leadership. There was more on the line than just a hair cut. He lost his throne of leadership that caused God’s justice to be manifest to God’s people. This is huge when we look at this passage, but that wasn’t the end for him.

When Samson was taken to Dagon’s temple to entertain his enemy. He pleaded with God for one more chance to do justice, even if it meant his demise. He knew that he was under the reign of a God that was bigger than himself. He knew his life was subject to his God. This wasn’t just an idea in his mind, it was a force that has been used many, many times over the centuries of mankind’s existence. Men who have fought for the cause of right and wrong, and the intentional subjugation of their own lives come from this idea. It is powerful beyond measure, and found plainly within the text of Scripture.

Imagine the scene with me. The same people, the lords of the Philistines, that tried several times to bind this man are in the temple of their god, Dagon. They are preparing a “great sacrifice” to Dagon, and saying “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” They believed that they have won, there was no one who would stand in their way while the delighted in doing their evil deeds. They mocked the man who once did, but then. . . He began to speak “O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” The place probably went silent, as all wanted to hear what he said. Perhaps, some murmured to other’s asking what he said for clarity. Then this beast of a man lays his hands on two pillars that were holding up the roof and began to squeeze every last bit of intestinal fortitude that he possessed. He laid it all out, he gave it all he had, and the roof came down upon them all.

Samson was a faulty human being, just as I am, and just as you are. However, he believed in a God that was not, is not and will never be faulty. He served a God that was his God. We see this when he uses the word “Adonai” which is rightly translated “my lord” right before the word Lord in our English Bibles. He is saying my lord, The LORD, and in doing so makes it personal. Sampson was not doing this for God, he was doing this for His God, and in his death he praised his God. He let out a burst of broken praise to our God, and placed his life in line with his words.

Samson was a man’s man, but he served God with every fiber of his being. He was broken, but still gave what he had. He was blind, but made it work. He sinned against The LORD, but in the end he forcefully gave his life into the hands of The LORD. He, quite literally, pushed his demise into action. When he knew there was no way out, he praised God with his last breath.

We should rightfully look at the account of his life in admiration of his ability to stay the course and stand up for what is right even as a broken and sinful person.  Let us not remember Samson simply as a strong man who was weak in the knees when it came to women. Let us remember him as a faulty human being that placed his God over his own life. Let us remember him as a man who praised The LORD in his life and his death. A broken nobility turned into broken praise to our God.

 


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Judges 16:30 –  “And Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it.”

God Bless,

Marc

The Rest Afforded a Warrior. . .

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There are times when we all get a bit stressed out. Life throws us curve balls, and even the most hardened warrior can feel overwhelmed. We have seen and done things that can weigh heavily on our minds. We can have draining responsibilities pulling us in every direction, and sometimes, frankly, we just need a break. King David, a tremendously successful warrior, writes for us to read his perspective.

In the 23rd Psalm we read in verse 2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.”  This follows the statement that the Lord is David’s shepherd and he continues with this metaphor. Sheep like lying down in green pastures. There is plenty to eat and it’s a great place for a good nap. Sheep like the still waters. It’s a great place to hang out and take a sip or two to wash down all of the tasty green grass. These places provide for the needs of the sheep.

David is describing a sheep’s paradise here. He is stating poetically that God provides for his needs. This passage is not about sheep, green grass, still waters, and a guy with a stick. It is about God’s provision in our lives. When we turn to Him, He causes us to lie down in tranquility despite our circumstances, and he leads us to be refreshed when needed.

Let us be ever mindful this week that our circumstances do not control our tranquility as human beings. It is the presence of God in our own green pastures that provide this. When you find yourself in this position, slow down and think of your Shepherd. Allow His leadership in your life and the lives of your family. Let the rest roll off.

 


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Psalm 23:2 –He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters.”

God Bless,

Marc

 

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