Gender? Determined or Decided?

An article in a 2016 issue of Time Magazine is entitled, “My Brother’s Pregnancy, the Remaking of the American Family.” A growing number of teens describe themselves as gender non-conforming. This means that they do not believe that their biological sex necessarily determines their gender. Did you know that there are over 100 gender descriptions registered on social media? Where does it end? Is gender determined or decided? What is the Biblical response?

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A World Without God

The movie Yesterday poses an interesting premise. What if the world forgot The Beatles?

If you like the music of The Beatles I think you will find the film entertaining. Personally, I think there could have been so much more done with the plot, but I enjoyed it.

But what if the world didn’t just forget about a music group? What if the world forgot about God? Imagine what the world would be like if there was no belief or no concept of God in the mind of man.

The question of God is the first question of any worldview. The answer to that question makes every other decision. In this message I share four critical implications to denying there is a God. If you don’t believe in God you must:

  • Have ultimate faith that science can answer all of your questions.
  • Have ultimate faith that people will eventually make all the right decisions.
  • Have ultimate faith that government will solve all of our problems.
  • Have ultimate faith in yourself that you will find the purpose for your life.

Watch all of the messages from the Brainwashed series at Liberty.

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You Need to Know Jesus Better Than You Know Taylor Swift

I am the father of two daughters.  I have survived Dora the Explorer, Selena Gomez, The Wiggles, Hannah Montana, Blue’s Clues, That’s So Raven, and High School Musical 1, 2, and 3.  I have been married since ’97.  A wonderful Chinese girl has just moved in with us.  We have a 6 month old Shih-Poo dog who was spayed this week; a dog who I am not sure feels the same way about me now as she did last week.  I am surrounded by women.  I understand a world that cries for no apparent reason. 
There are times I stop by a field to stare at a bull just to remind myself of who I am.  I am man.
As man as I am, there is one aspect of girl culture that has captured me.  I must confess, I really like Taylor Swift.  I would not consider myself a Swiftie by any stretch, but I own 1 song of hers on iTunes and when she comes on the radio – yes – I turn it up and sing.  Hey bro, don’t diss me – shake it off!
Taylor Swift is a culture study.  Her skill as a songwriter to stick a song in your head is unmatched.  Yet it is not her ability to tell a great story and put it to a catchy tune that I find most interesting.  My interest is in her ability to be a superstar who connects.
Taylor Swift has an ability to own the world and yet convince all of her fans to root for her as an underdog.  The music community is filled with people who capture our attention because they are raunchy, angry, and/or weird.  There is no lack of artists who look at us and say, “You want to be me.”  
Taylor has an impeccable ability to look at her fans and communicate, “I am you.”  I don’t dance well.  People criticize my love life.  People said mean things to me in high school.  I dated a guy with bad teeth.  I will put on an album what you wanted to say about a breakup and sell a billion copies FOR YOU – and we believe her.
On some level, we all get Taylor.  She has an impeccable ability to make everything about her personal to her fans.
As wonderful as Taylor seems to be at communicating herself, the truth of the matter is that most of us think we know all about her, but we will never know her.  As intimate as her Swifties think they are with Taylor, the reality is everything they have of her was bought at a souvenir stand.  Whether it was a download, a video, a T-shirt, a concert, a social media update – it is pure fandom, at a distance.
You need to know Jesus better than you know Taylor Swift.
In my observations of many who profess to be Christians, I am convinced many of us know Jesus like we know Taylor, from the souvenir stand.  It goes without saying; the stark reality is that many Christians probably do know Taylor better than they know Jesus.  They have invested far more time in her than in Him.  Either way, the point is, it won’t work.
Listen to what Jesus prayed for us, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”  (John 17:20-23 ESV)   
You need to know Jesus better than you know Taylor Swift because you CAN know Jesus better than you know Taylor Swift.  I cannot imagine what it must be like to be Taylor.  Ultimately, she is like the rest of us with a limited capacity for personal relationships.  Jesus is infinitely able to know His people intimately and to be intimately known by them.  He invites us into intimacy, not religion.  
You can’t spend time with Jesus like you spend time with Taylor.  We get to know Taylor as we listen to a song, or watch a video of her surprising select fans with gifts, or follow her on Instagram.  To know Jesus is not to hear a sermon, read a 3 paragraph devotion, to have a fish on your car, buy a Christian T-Shirt, or to love Lecrae.  You may be seriously INTO Taylor Swift, to know the Savior you must be redemptively IN Christ.  
What do I mean?
First of all, to know Christ is not to appreciate Him like you do a talented artist, it is to believe in Him as your only hope for salvation.  Taylor Swift may be therapeutic for your next breakup, but broken hearts are not our biggest problem.  The problem is that we are broken people.  
We stand guilty before a Holy God.  Christ did not die on the cross to help you have a better day.  Christ died on the cross to atone for your sin and to save you from the wrath of God against sin.  We are ruined. (Romans 1:18-32).  
To know Christ is not to read the Bible because it is good for you.  To know Christ is to read the Bible because it is God’s Word to you.  For the Christian the Bible is not a moral discipline, it is a conversation.  As fun as it is to hear from Taylor and vicariously live through her lyrics, how much more important is it for us to stay our minds on the Lord and to hear with holy reverence what God has said to us?
Taylor is so socially connected it is not hard to know where she is.  The opportunity for us in the knowledge of God is to know He is there.  I am not talking about “there” in the sense of, He exists.  I am talking about “there” in the sense that He is in you, you are in Him – ONE with Christ.  
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Words fail to express what it means to be ONE with Him.  Volumes have been written about John 17, and like this post, they are an embarrassment to what the passage must fully mean.  However, I can with confidence say this, if you are to have any hope of eternal life, you must know Jesus better than you know Taylor Swift.
You CAN know Jesus better than you know Taylor Swift.
Salvation does not come from the souvenir stand.  Salvation comes through the intimate union of Christ with the sinner in mercy from God.  His death is our atonement.  His resurrection our victory.  What He has done says to us that appreciating Him from a distance will not do.  

You must know Jesus better than you know Taylor Swift.

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The Devil of it All in Ferguson

The story of the protests in Ferguson, MO is complex.  Why did the police officer gun down an unarmed teenager?  How will justice in the case be served?  How much of what is going on there is magnified by the angles of media coverage?  I’m sure Ferguson is a populated place.  What else is going on in the town?  There are people protesting and causing chaos in the area that are not even from Ferguson.  For that matter, many of them are not even from Missouri.  Who is sending them?  Why are they coming?  What is their agenda?  Are they being helpful or hurtful?  Who is taking advantage of the situation and who is actually working to rectify it?  Furthermore, what else has happened in the area to make the situation so volatile?  These questions need our attention, but it seems no one is interested in knowing the answers.

As a discerning Christian we should be sensitive to the specifics of the complexities of the people and issues involved.  We should not be merely image driven, but rather driven toward truth.  At the same time, a text from Scripture is very apparent in this that we cannot ignore.

In John 10:10 Jesus described the evil one as someone who comes only to “steal, kill, and destroy.”  No one can deny, those three words are inseparable from this situation.

The situation in Ferguson is a very physical reality.  It is emotionally volatile.  But what we see and hear should not serve as a camouflage for another reality that is readily apparent.  Satan is having a field day in Ferguson.

From a social perspective this is a situation that will only aggravate racial tensions.  The media capitalizes on this.  But there is more here than skin color.  This situation is an assault on life and peace.  It is the noise of demonic chaos designed to drown out the message of the gospel.  What we hear on the television is that we need the National Guard, we need Presidential policy, we need the ACLU and the NAACP.  We need judicial justice.

No sir, we need Christ in Ferguson.

In the midst of his own very tense, judgmental situation, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul pens these words:

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:13-21 ESV)

How does the gospel instruct us as we watch what is happening in Ferguson?

  • There is a spiritual reality of demonic activity, in a fallen world that we cannot ignore. Humans are not well. We need miraculous intervention in our lives, not from policy, not from politicians, not from military might. We need the Lord. We do not need a change in a situation, we need a change in our nature. We must be born again (John 3).
  • The work of reconciliation should not be relegated to response in crisis. The work of reconciliation is something we are called to everyday. There should be more to the work of law enforcement to patrol a community, it should also be their work to know the community. The tensions of relationships are being exploited by the media and driving nightly ratings through the roof. The real work of reconciliation is not done with posters, T-shirts, or in protest. There is more to knowing a person than viewing his picture. The work of relationships is done at dinner tables, in homes, in church communities, and in conversations. Knowing what is in the heart of man is not a newsflash.
  • The gospel calls us to an ideal higher than ourselves. The talking heads are running to the podium to bring peace to the situation. The problem is that this situation will not be solved in pleasing a person or appealing to an ideal, the question in all of this should be asked, how does our handling of this please the Lord? The need for justice and the ensuing emotions as well as the various opinions should all be subject to the desires of a righteous God as revealed in Scripture. The Lord is not pleased in all of this. We cannot lose sight of that reality. Reconciliation will not be made by making statements. Reconciliation is made through repentance before a righteous God. All we want to do is win the argument and prove who is right. Until we are willing to kneel together and confess what we have done is wrong, there will be no peace.
  • The church must itself become a community of protest and demonstration. I do not mean this in the sense of causing chaos in the streets, but the church should rise up and articulate the implications of the gospel in the culture. The church should be able to offer a convincing narrative of what is wrong and how to make it right. If there is racial prejudice, the church should not be merely a microphone for political pundits, the church should demonstrate that the gospel creates a peaceful community for both Jews and Greeks, men and women, white and black, rich and poor, etc (Gal. 3:25-29). What is in our pews should show an alternative to what is going on in the streets. Until the church repents of its own prejudice we have no voice in this.
  • Through the lens of the gospel, Ferguson should cause us to open our eyes in our own communities. What is happening in Ferguson is merely a flashpoint for underlying tensions. We should not watch this situation from a safe distance, we should watch it and think critically about all of our communities. What is happening in Ferguson could just as easily happen in your town. We can’t turn a blind eye to this. Ferguson is a micro-narrative of a macro problem of secularism, spiritual apathy, unrestrained evil, and human rivalry that is threatening the fabric of our culture in all places. We need an awakening. We are blind. Ferguson is teaching all of us that it will cost us far more in human life and property if we wait until our problems are on the news before we begin to address them.
What we see on the news should force us to our knees. This is not a Ferguson problem, this is a gospel issue. God planted a garden on the Earth for us to tend and to keep. His desire was for us to subdue the earth, not to cause more chaos upon it. Instead of a garden, we dwell in a dangerous wilderness. We cannot neglect the hard work of spreading God’s Lordship and dominion over all the earth. We need to tame the chaos and turn wildernesses like Ferguson, like America, into gardens of God’s good graces. We should seek gospel centered reconciliation and not underestimate the power of God to bring peace to Ferguson and to our culture.

Girl on Fire (Points from Power Ballads, Psalms and Songs Series)

I grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s.  We invented the power ballad.  What child of the most eclectic and unreal generation of music hasn’t sat at a red light belting out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and actually thought you sound just like Steve Perry?  I do.

When a power ballad charts it defines a moment for a generation.  Power ballads make a strong statement about empowerment and overcoming some of life’s most difficult trials.  
The Book of Psalms also has a collection of power ballads.  Psalm 30 provides an example of a redeeming moment in David’s life when he was struck down, but somehow rose again.  The result is a classic for his generation that would also be used at the dedication of the Temple.  
Yet in comparing Psalm 30 with the power ballads of our culture’s pop music we find a major difference.  Today’s power ballads are about self-sufficiency; yet it was David’s self-sufficiency that was also his undoing.  “As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved.  By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong.”  
David was on top of the world.  Even though he was enjoying the blessings of God, he forgot his benefactor.  The end result was that he was dismayed when God turned His favor away from David (30:7b).  The lyric in verse 2 implies that he must have gone from being on top of the world to being gravely ill.  In the end David cried out to God and rose again a worshiper instead of a self-promoter (30:8-12).  
What you overcome may not be as important as how you overcome it.  
We all go through trials, but when you land on your feet is the resulting power ballad of your story full of pride, determination, and self-promotion or is it a story of contrition, spiritual growth, and a marked change of direction?
Alicia Keys is arguably our generation’s most talented singer, songwriter, and musician.  She is Whitney Houston with a keyboard.  When she released the chart topping Girl on Fire, she also released this statement to her fans.
“Girl On Fire is about new beginnings, new perspectives and fresh starts. It’s about finding your own inner strength and channeling it in a way you’ve never tried before. To be “on fire” is to allow yourself the freedom to take full control of who you are and how you want to live your life. To live your passion and shine your light unabashedly!! It’s that moment you choose to claim your power and be extraordinary!With this album, I hope to empower you in the way you have me… I hope to move you to be your own phenomenal self in life. Thank you for your tremendous support throughout my career and for being a part of my journey as an artist. I’m so proud to share Girl On Fire with you all. I can’t contain the flame!!!! Never contain yours!!!”
While this statement sounds encouraging and persuasive, it is ultimately empty and void of truth.  Look at it.  Over and over again by affirming one’s self-sufficiency Keys is declaring that we are ultimately on our own.  The world is all about you, “allow yourself the freedom to take full control of who you are and how you want to live your life?”  Really?  I’m sure if she said that in a concert the crowd would give her an uncritical and thoughtless roar of approval, but tell me on what planet that ideology actually works.
She goes on to say,
It doesn’t matter who you are,” she continued, “how you are, in what way you express it – that’s what’s important about it.” 
I’m sure she means that as a statement to lift our self-esteem, but in the end it is self-defeating, empty propaganda.  Think about it, “It doesn’t matter who you are.”  Oprah would applaud her here, but is there any worth in us if it doesn’t matter who we are?  Keys says, “it doesn’t matter how you are.  It doesn’t matter in what way you express it.” 
What she is trying to say is that you are so incredible what ever you do is acceptable, but what she ends up saying is that you are worthless. Why?  If you can do whatever you want to do, be however you want to be, and do it any way you want to do it and it doesn’t matter – well then, “you don’t matter.”
But we do.
The problem with the philosophy of self-sufficiency is the misguided belief that value is drawn from the well of self.  Yet when we lower the bucket into the pool of self-sufficiency we find nothing there.  You may have a lot of confidence in yourself as a serial killer, but you are worthless to society.  You may have a lot of confidence in yourself as a child molester, but you are worthless to a society that values children.  You may have a lot of confidence in your ability to conquer every Halo world in 2 hours, but the time you spend sitting for days on end in a basement by yourself with a video game is worthless to a society in desperate need of productivity.
The Bible teaches that we are not autonomous.  We live in a world created by a moral God who is aware and responsive to our actions.  What we do matters.  How we do it matter.  Who you are – matters!
In Psalm 30 David tried to be his own man on top of the mountain.  Borrowing a lyric from Alicia, David felt like a “Man on fire.”  “I shall not be moved.”  But in the next breath, he found himself dismayed.
We will all need at some point to overcome and land on our feet, but what sort of person will you be on the other side?  Will you be more confident but clueless?  Will you be more skeptical or hopeful?  Will you be a self-promoter or a worshiper?
Katy Perry – Roaring
Katy Perry’s lyrical journey is proof that what you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.  She is representative of a generation of kids raised in church who rejected faith as they entered adult life.  In 2001 she was Katy Hudson singing Faith Won’t Fail.  In 2008 she was Katy Perry singing I Kissed a Girl.  A few years later came the power ballad for homosexual teens, Firework.  After a difficult separation from Russell Brand, Perry came out with Wide Awake.  It was sort of her power ballad of the fallen ready to rebound.  She even included lyrics which recalled her former faith.
I’m wide awake
Yeah, I am born again
Out of the lion’s den
I don’t have to pretend
And it’s too late
The story’s over now, the end”
Next from Perry came Roar.  Roar is a me against the world type power ballad that expresses her intent to voice a new message.  A message once censored by her past will soon be proclaimed.
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now
[Chorus]
I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar
What is that message?  Perry is currently topping the charts with Dark Horse.  The accompanying video and performances have been laced with unmistakably dark pagan and satanic themes.  In response to her Grammy performance of the song E! news tweeted, “”Um, did we just witness actual witchcraft during Katy Perry’s #Grammys performance?”
What you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.
No matter the trial of life, do you want to come out on the other side saddled to a witch’s broomstick?  If we come out on the other side and hate life more, love God less, and as Perry proclaims in Dark Horse, a perfect storm of black magic that is more dangerous than ever before, are we really better off or simply poised for an even more tragic mistake?

Some would argue that Dark Horse is not about Katy Perry, it is a song about drugs.  Oh.  My mistake.  But is that progress or a sign that a girl that God loves is even more deeply disturbed?

I pray Katy Perry finds what David found in Psalm 30.  Can you imagine a redeemed singer standing up at the Grammy’s, not simply thanking God for “this award” but actually saying what David said in his Psalm?  Can you imagine Katy Perry standing on the world stage saying that she has been to Hell and back (Psalm 30:3) and has found that “His anger is but for a moment, and his favor for a lifetime (30:5).”  Can you imagine Katy Perry standing before millions saying at a time in my life when I was least committed to Him, Christ remained committed to me?  It is only when we become “wide awake” to this reality that we can truly overcome.

In Psalm 30 David cried out to a  God who heals and restores.  He was crushed as a dismayed self-promoter, but raised from the dust of death a worshiper.  In the end David proclaims that if he dies, the only thing God has done is that He has lost another worshiper.
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!”  (Psalm 30:9-10 ESV)
I want to reprint a testimony from Sarah who grew up in the church I pastored in Birmingham.  As her pastor, I saw Sarah, her mother and sisters go through some very tumultuous circumstances.  Sarah certainly had a lot to overcome.  A year and a half ago, Sarah made a tragic mistake that took her to the place David found himself, the dust of death.  As you read her testimony, notice the absence of self-promotion and the sense that she has been raised purposefully by God as a worshiper.  What you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.
“Today marks 18 months that I should have died. I was supposed to be taking care of a 98 year old lady (who is now 100 years old!), but instead, she saved my life. My dependence on pain medication was no joke, and my senseless choice of drinking vodka on top of popping pills inevitably stopped my breathing. I should have died. My GOD SAVED ME by having this amazing woman make the calls for an ambulance to come. She had seen my heart and stomach convulsing, and the paramedics said that they were seriously about to intubate me- right as I finally started breathing. For so long, I was ashamed. Yes, I was angry at myself for making such stupid decisions to put those things in my body. I was very upset when I saw the faces of the people I love, and who love me, not just in the emergency room, but even after that horrible night for a long, long time. You think you’re in control until you aren’t. I wouldn’t have known how people would have reacted, but the thought of my family and friends hearing the news of my death due to an accidental overdose had me in tears. How selfish of me to be so careless. Hurting people I love is unbearable. Then that guilt and shame comes with coping, analyzing why we do certain things, and opening up to work through the issues. Negative people will easily remind you of your mistakes and problems which will bring back that guilt. I am not ashamed anymore, and I want to help people who have been stuck in this awful place. I am not using Facebook as a platform for gaining attention, and I am definitely not bragging about my weaknesses and issues with addiction. If you struggle with meds (prescribed or not), or know someone who is, I encourage you to get help. Accountability is the most important way to keep on track (for me, anyway). I HAVE to testify and exclaim that my Savior has me here, still, and here for a reason. For His Glory, I must live. So many awful things happen to good people as well as good things happen to awful people. I do not know why I was given another chance… but I will definitely take it. To the wonderful family I was working for, who I’ve known my whole life, You know who you all are, and I am thankful for you brothers and sisters in Christ. I still think about Mamaw everyday. I don’t know if she would remember me, but please tell her- the girl whose life she saved says Hello and that I thank God for her everyday (I thank God for all of you and the lengths you all went to so that my family would know).”
“Life is SO short, as we all know. But seriously, use this time to not only tell the people you love that you love them, but show it to them. I love you all!”
That is a girl on fire!

How to Pray for Our President When You Are Disgusted with Him

In times like these it is especially difficult to take seriously a passage like 1 Timothy 2:1-4. 
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)
Since Barack Obama assumed office in 2009 it has been hard to personally stomach the illogical ideological and moral collapse of the United States of America.  Never has there been a more blatant disregard for the constitution, religious freedom, free speech, and inalienable rights.  Politically, this has been the most frustrating period of my life as we watch our nation no longer promote work and education but instead reward the lazy and encourage ignorance.  
Yet, in all of this, I have done as the Bible says and prayed for our President.  
When I awoke Sunday morning to the news reports that we had negotiated the release of an American soldier in exchange for the release of 5 high ranking Taliban officers, I was immediately shocked.  Without needing one contextual caveat to the story, I understood that this was unprecedented for America.  Yet, I also suspected that as the context of the story was unveiled, that the situation would grow more disgraceful.  And it certainly has done so. 
For those of you who will say, “But what if that was your son?”  If that were my son, I would be ashamed of him for committing treason against his country.  I would be ashamed of him for disobeying orders.  I would be ashamed that he abandoned other sons and daughters on the battlefield.
I would not raise my son in any way that would lead him to have sympathy with terrorists.  I would not speak in Arabic to his captors and praise a false god even if it meant my son would be released.  I am sensitive not only to treason against my country, but apostasy against my God.  What about the sons of the soldiers who died when they, like a good solider would, followed the orders of their nation and looked for this coward?  What about the sons of every family that has been put at risk because of his actions?  What about the families of those who have died, and will die because of the 5 moral monsters we released?  In a society that has a moral compass, Bergdahl would not be welcomed as a hero.  He would be hauled in for court-marshal.  The man deserves to stand trial not only for treason to his country, for disobeying orders, but also for the deaths for which his cowardice is responsible.  If you should ask me how I would feel if that was my son – your question alone disgusts me.  There is no amount of emotion and sympathy that is a sufficient substitute for truth.  Your question disgusts me as a man, as a Christian, and as an American.
And don’t tell me it is the policy of our nation not to leave anyone behind.  I have 1 question, what about Saeed Abedini, an American pastor who has been detained in Iran since 2012?  Mr. President, your silence on this issue is hypocritical and deafening.
Yet somehow, Biblically, today, I am commanded to pray for my President.  1 Timothy being written to a pastor, I am not only to pray for my President, but I am to lead my church to do so as well.  As a good soldier of the gospel this is a command on which I cannot relent.  By order of God I cannot spiritually abandon my President.  I must obey.
So how do we pray today?  
1)  We pray that our President would make decisions that would foster peace.
The desire of the Christian for society is the desire of God, peace on earth, goodwill toward men.  Yet we are a more divided country than we have ever been.  The last decade of national elections has bore this out statistically.  This is not a problem invented by Obama, but one that has been certainly exasperated by him.  We need to pray for our President and for all of our nation’s leaders that the peace of our nation, its dignity, and its morality would return as a platform issue that would replace all of the partisan squabbling over things that ultimately make no difference when a people is so divided.
2)  We need to pray for our President publicly and privately.
The heart of 1 Timothy 2 is instruction for corporate and private worship.  I must say that praying for my President and my country before my church is something that I have neglected to do.  He is a man who carries an incredible weight of responsibility not only as a steward of our nation and its resources, but as a steward of God’s grace.  If we have a proper Christian worldview, we see politics not as secular leadership, but as spiritual leadership.  Every politician in office, whether they acknowledge God or not, holds a significant office of spiritual leadership (Rom. 13:1-7).  If you read Romans 13 correctly, you will see that political leadership is either a detriment to the grace of God or a conduit of it.  Political officials are either agents of confusion for the gospel and morality, or they are advocates for it.  
The Christians and politicians who try to stay neutral on religious issues and separate faith from state are on the most asinine of quests.  Churches that refuse to acknowledge God and country dismember the gospel at one of its central values.  We have a sovereign God who has a heart for the nations, who desires for them to be governed as He would govern them, and without them being governed as such there is a serious disruption to life and the tranquility of life the church pursues for all people.  National leadership that leads people into unrighteouness is not neutral, it is an enemy of the cross of Christ.  When the church fails to pray privately and publicly for its nation’s leaders it exhibits a failure to understand the meta-narrative of Scripture and the commission of Christ to spread the gospel to all the earth.
3)  We need to pray purposefully for our President.      
At this point, I must call attention to Paul’s use of the word “quiet.”  Does the word quiet mean that posts like this, as well as other criticisms from Jesus followers are out of line?  Does this mean we are to remain uncritical and uninvolved in the political process?  Not at all.
The word quiet as it is used in I Tim. 2:2 means that the church is absent of bustle and commotion.  I take this understanding of the word to refer more to the content of the church’s message rather than its decibel level.  If Facebook is any judge of the church’s quietness we are at a fever pitch over things that make no difference.  We are in commotion.  Quiet in this sense does not mean that we say nothing, but it rather means we are concerned to say things that make a difference.  Quiet means that when you do speak, it is significant.  
Quiet means we are not just hollering and whining, we are offering solutions and exhibiting community.  We demonstrate in the church what we want our nation to be.  If the inner-workings of the church are any indication, we are sick as a community of faith which is why we appear to be nothing but hypocritical loudmouths, a nuisance rather than a blessing to a nation that is imploding.     
We are in this mess not because we lack volume, but because we lack volume on things that really matter.  We have been “quiet” on true Biblical convictions for far too long.  Instead of proof texting one another from some article posted by the Gospel Coalition, why don’t we preach the gospel to our nation?  Instead of squabbling over some minute point over sanctification that only 1% of us can even understand, why don’t we speak righteousness, judgment, and the holiness of God into the lostness of our nation?  We are in commotion and we are way too quiet.  Let us pray with a purpose for our President.
We need to pray that God would give our President wisdom that leads to righteous rule.  We need to pray for advisors in his life who would not steer him toward commotion, but toward calculated quiet that is the fruit of one who observes law, constitutional process, and order.  We need to pray for prophet politicians who can walk into the climate of national leadership and proclaim the Word of God.  We need to pray for citizens of Christ’s Kingdom who are convicted about justice and can demonstrate the benefit of holiness to any people.  
4)  We pray for our president that he would make decisions that would bring people to a saving relationship with Christ.  
Some may object to this point by saying that the President is not a pastor.  While he may not be a pastor, his office is no less evangelistic.  His decisions are based on a message and they do advocate a way of life.  While in office, our President has done much to promote Islam, homosexuality, and to demean human life.  His title may be President, but the man is no less of a preacher!
Paul tells Timothy that we have a God who desires for all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  We need to pray that our President would be born again.  We should also pray that his actions would help, not hinder the spread of the gospel.  The big picture for the believer is not just economy, national defense, or policy making, the big picture for the Christ follower is what does all of this have to do with the gospel?  
Political decisions are ultimately gospel ones.  They either isolate people from the message of the gospel, or they foster an environment in which people can be more easily reached.  When we empower the Taliban, we inevitably disconnect massive groups of people from hearing the Word of God.  How many people will go to Hell because the Taliban received 5 of its leaders back?  A Christian worldview demands that we view the news through this lens.  
Now that terrorists can blatantly see that our nation is cowardly, I fear what may happen to our missionaries everywhere.  There has always been something dangerous about the gospel, but I think the climate fostered by this most recent action will make it even more so.  Yet we cannot relent on our commands.  We must proceed prayerfully and carefully.  We need to pray that our President would not hinder the spread of the gospel.
5)  We pray for our President out of precedent.
You may be a dyed in the wool Republican and you cannot stomach the thoughts of praying for a far left ideological Democrat.  Yet, can you imagine praying for Nero or Domition?  In the context Paul wrote 1 Timothy Christians were being sawn in two, used as torches for garden parties, being fed to vicious animals, and being boiled in oil.  Yet Paul tells pastor Timothy to lead his church in worship to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions.”  Not to only pray for themselves, but for their persecutors in office.    
The difficulty of the day does not dilute the commands of God, rather it magnifies them.  I am ashamed to say that as a pastor of a local church, I, like many in Christendom, have been disgusted by what I see happening in our nation, but I have not been on my knees as I should.  National crisis should not drive us to a panel on Fox News, it should drive us to God.  The habit of the Kingdom of Heaven is not to spiritually abandon national leaders, but to pray for them.  

As aggravated and hurt as you and I may be by what we see happening in America, we stand in blatant disobedience to the commands of God if we neglect to pray for our President.  

Noah – What we should be talking about.

As a follow up to my review of Noah posted yesterday; the film leaves us with some incredible opportunities for conversations with unbelievers who will see it. 

  1. Let’s talk Bible, particularly Genesis 6-9.  The film gives us a marvelous opportunity to discuss the differences in Aronofsky’s film and the Biblical story.  It will not be helpful to be irritatingly know-it-all about this.  Let’s not point out the differences for difference sake.  Let’s talk differences because the Bible’s account is much more hopeful.  If anything Aronofsky does, he gives us a darker backdrop on which we can bring the Biblical epic to light.  I think after people watch the film they will be relieved to hear the real thing.
  2. Let’s talk God.  If non-believers walk away from this film without conversation I think it will be like Adam and Eve’s journey from the garden.  The question Satan posed is about what God actually said and believing the lie cost them dearly.  I think it is critical that we bring to light the goodness and grace of God as revealed in Scripture.
  3. Let’s talk sin.  Aronofsky’s offers an insightful exploration of depravity and sin.  It is in all of us.  Are we any better off after the ark?  With the film Aronofsky seems to mix messages here.  In one sense he seems to say, perhaps there is enough good in man to be great without God’s help.  On the other hand, Aronofsky seems to say that post-ark, in and of himself, man has no chance.  I would agree with the latter assessment if it is what Aronofsky is saying.  But when it comes to sin, we should point out, we cannot help ourselves, but indeed it is God who has provided for us a way of escape once again.  The new world is not one that emerges from water, the new world is the one that will emerge from those who become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17).
  4. Let’s talk green.  There is an important conversation that should be had concerning Christians and the  environment.  God’s people, as Noah rightly portrays, should be the ultimate environmentalists.  We have done a poor job communicating the environmental concerns of the gospel.  This is a message we need to recover quickly.
  5. Let’s talk judgment.  I think Aronofsky has invited Christians to come to the table and offer a Biblical explanation of God’s judgment.  I think the film alludes to the fact that the water was merely round 1, fire comes next.  Noah offers a great line, water cleanses, it separates the innocent from the guilty.  It brings new life while fire completely destroys.  What a great opportunity to talk about the New Heavens and the New Earth that is to come post-fire.  God is about new life and He wants a redeemed people to be a part of the truest of new worlds.  The Noah film is a great conversation starter.  People need to realize another judgment is coming and God has provided in Christ, like He did for Noah in the ark, a way of escape.
  6. Let’s talk life.  I loved the emphasis on life Aronofsky brought to the film.  In a culture in which life is minimized, particularly human life, I think the film championed the importance of humanity.  I found it ironic that in such a moment of time in which we hear so much of the homosexual agenda, the importance of man and woman and their capacity to bring forth the blessing of life found a prominent place in the film.  Even in the end, it was Shem and Ila who have the only hope of fulfilling The Creator’s initial agenda of being fruitful, multiplying, and filling the earth.  Furthermore, as we are bombarded with secular environmentalist concerns of population control and man being so bad for the planet, this final scene that emphasizes the blessing of birth and population multiplication was refreshing.  Man is not a burden to the planet, he is its greatest blessing.
There are probably a dozen other talking points that could be raised here, but I’ve said enough.  I would like to thank Aronofsky for his film.  I enjoyed it and will be talking about it for quite some time.