What Others Say

Thank you for using your gifts to help others see faith in their creator and their savior in God's son Jesus Christ.
Brian M.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Lessons from the Border


The America I grew up in was seen as the shining light on a hill.  We took pride in the inscription on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Instead of decimating our enemies after World War II, we helped them rebuild.  Germany and Japan embraced freedom and prosperity and became two of our strongest allies.  

We fought and died in the jungles of Vietnam, not for ourselves, but for others.  In its aftermath we welcomed Vietnamese and Hmong refugees who integrated into our cities.  Christian churches sprang up among various groups: Vietnamese, Chinese, Laotian, Thai, Korean, Liberian, Nigerian and many others.  Spanish speaking churches exploded and continue to thrive.  The Christian faith swept across South Korea until it became the second largest mission sending nation in the world.

When I visited Brazil I was welcomed as a celebrity because I was an American.  Children ran through the streets and people crowded in the windows to see someone from the United States. When I served briefly as pastor of an English speaking church in Nuremburg Germany older Germans often expressed their gratitude for GIs who helped them rebuild their nation.  We thought of ourselves as a generous and welcoming nation, blessed by God to bless the nations of the world.

But all of that seems to be changing.  We are well down the road of putting “America first.”  The question is no longer, what is best for mankind, for the world and for posterity, but what is best for us.  The MAGA has transitioned into a “me first” mentality.

Instead of asking, how can we help out neighbor nations fight the gang violence and corruption that causes families to flee to our borders, we ask only, “how can we keep these people out?” Children are torn from the arms of their desperate parents as punishment for seeking a safe asylum in the United States.  In our efforts to “make American great again” we seem to be losing the values that made America great in the first place.

Our movies, our media and our politics portray us as a covetous people.  We seem to have adopted Gordon Gekko’s maxim that “greed is good.”  We have turned a deaf ear to the tenth commandment: “You shall not covet.” (Exodus 20:17).

The Apostle Paul confessed that this commandment was his undoing. “I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting.’” Romans 7:7-8).

When we start down this self-centered path we sow the seeds of future calamity in our communities, our nation and the world. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet, but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” (James 4:1-2).

Paul’s conclusion is applicable for all of us: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” You shall not steal, “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Romans 13:9).

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Crisis of Deception - Who Can We Trust?


There was a day when we felt we could trust those who spoke to us, the Presidents who led us and the journalists who interpreted the news.  We believed Washington “could not tell a lie.”  Lincoln was known for his honesty.  We always knew we could trust Walter Cronkite, whether he was reporting the assassination of JFK or describing the first lunar landing. But those days seem naive and far away. 

The world has become much more complex.  The truth is far more difficult to discern.  Nixon’s claim that he was no crook and Clinton’s assertion that he “never had sex with that woman,” eroded our trust in the Presidency.  Today we feel caught between “fake news” and “alternate realities.”  Brian Williams and Matt Lauer left us disillusioned with journalists.  We hardly know who to believe.

Former NY Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, speaking at Rice University’s commencement, stated that we are facing “an epidemic of dishonesty … an endless barrage of lies and alternate realities.”  …“ The greatest threat to American democracy isn’t communism, jihadism or any other external force or foreign power,” he said. “It’s our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party, and in pursuit of power.” 

NBC News reporter Andrew Rafferty said, “We live in a world where lying has become an art.  Politicians, celebrities, characters on the screen, all lie.  They do so convincingly and without remorse.  And technology has moved prevarication into a whole new realm.  The world where ‘seeing is believing’ has vanished.”

The ninth commandment is essential to personal, relational and societal health. “You must not lie.” (Exodus 20:16 Living Bible).

When we ignore God’s instructions on truthfulness and honesty, we sow the seeds of our own misery and destruction. Whether marriage, family, business or politics; in the home, the school, the work place and the world.  

So, what should we do?  First, we must practice telling the truth to our children, to one another, in business and personal relationships.  Above all, we must be known to be honest. We must not lie.

Second, we must practice discernment. We cannot believe everything we hear and see at face value, especially social media that has little or no accountability.   “Do not be deceived,” the Bible says, “God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7).  And again, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.  Every good thing given and every perfect gift from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:16-17).


Third, we must place our trust in the One who alone is truthful, honest and above reproach.  We must trust God, confident that He knows our hearts, our secret thoughts and every word we speak.  “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” (Romans 3:4).  Jesus said, “If you continue in my word then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32).

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Eighth Commandment Property Priorities


An Atlanta businessman boarded MARTA to make his daily commute to work.  He stood in the crowded car scanning the newspaper accounts of crime when he felt a stranger bump him.  He instinctively felt for the wallet in his back pocket and found it missing.  He folded the paper and kept his eye on the stranger who had moved to the opposite side of the car.  When the train stopped and the stranger exited, he followed.  His rage continuing to grow, he grabbed the stranger and threw him up against the wall.  His face crimson with wrath he demanded, “Okay Bub, hand over that wallet.”  The stranger, trembling, placed the wallet in his hand. Without looking the businessman shoved the wallet into his pocket and stomped off to work.  When he arrived at his office his secretary stopped him.  “You  have a message from your wife,” She said.  “You left your wallet on the night stand at home!”

I suppose all of us have been victims of theft.  Shortly after we married we drove to Houston to visit my wife’s mother in the hospital.  I left our car parked on the street filled with our clothes on hanging rods. When we returned, we were clothes-less.  Most of us have lost bicycles at college. Some have had home break-ins with far more serious losses. My wallet fell out of my pocket at a theater once.  I found it a few days later, sans cash and credit cards. 

Theft is widespread.   Every day the eighth commandment is broken: “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15).

The first step in respecting other people is respecting property.  It is one of the first lessons we teach to toddlers.  Some toys belong to them. Some toys belong to their friends. It is not an easy lesson for a toddler, and some never learn it.

The Atlantic cited a study that concluded that out of 1 million self-check transactions totaling $21 million, merchandise totaling $850,000 left the store without being scanned. 

The rich and the well-off are just as guilty as the poor, maybe moreso. We only need launch a Google search for a list of celebrities who have been convicted of shoplifting. White collar crime is rampant. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimated businesses lost $895 billion to fraud in 2016.

As always, Jesus raised the commandment to another level.  We have not fulfilled the heart of the commandment when we refuse to take something that does not belong to us.  We fulfill the commandment when we move beyond seeing property and possession as primary.   People are primary. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well … give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:40-42). 

We can keep the eighth commandment and still live a selfish and self-centered life.

The Bible says, “Give generously and do so without a grudging heart; then, because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land.  Therefore I command you to be openhanded.” (Deuteronomy 15:10-11).

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Seventh Commandment: Exalting Marriage


Young families embody the hope and dreams of our future.  Few scenes move me as much as a young couple strolling along the seawall pushing a stroller; fathers splashing in the surf with their children while young mothers lounge on the beach; children laughing in the park flying kites with their fathers, giggling on playgrounds with their mothers.

It is this special bond that God’s seventh commandment seeks to nourish and protect: “You shall not commit adultery.”   Sex, in all of its beauty and pleasure, was given to men and women to celebrate the mystery by which human life is conceived, cradled and nurtured.

The world seemed to stand still a few weeks ago when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchanged vows in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.  The pomp and pageantry, as only the British can do, touched something in all of us regarding the majesty of marriage.

This year my wife and I celebrate our 50th anniversary along with many of our friends who “pledged their troth” about the same time as we in 1968.  Marriage is worth holding on to, worth working through the difficulties, worth the investment.  The seventh commandment provides the foundation for trust and a love that lasts. It is the foundation of the family where children are born, nurtured and loved.

Many have rejected the Biblical view of marriage.  Somewhere along the way sex became recreational.  I guess this happened around the time birth control was introduced.  It revolutionized sex in the 1960s: free sex with whomever without the consequences of conception. 

Melissa Batchelor Warnke, writing in the L.A. Times expressed current sexual values, I believe that everyone should have exactly as much sex as they do or don't want to have, with whomever they do or don't want to have it, in whatever fashion they do or don't want to have it. So long as consent is present in any resultant exchange, one need not justify their choices.”  

We are witnessing the consequences of the cavalier attitudes spawned over the last half-century. Women are speaking up.  Sexual misconduct and harassment is widespread. Last week Harvey Weinstein returned to court.  Matt Lauer, Bill Cosby and other household names that once commanded respect and adulation are gone leaving behind a trail of disgrace and embarrassment.

As with other commandments, Jesus raised the bar.  “You have heard that it has been said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ but I say to you, he who looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27).

I like what Jeff Christopherson wrote in his book, Kingdom First, “The husband who faithfully and sacrificially loves his wife over a lifetime not only receives the personal blessing of a joyous marriage, but further, the Kingdom ripples of that union emanate through generations.   Children, grandchildren, colleagues, friends, and neighbors are all secondary recipients of the grace experienced in a godly marriage.”

Monday, May 21, 2018

Sixth Commandment: You Shall Not Murder


It didn’t take long to record the first murder in human history. The Bible’s first death was a homicide.  Cain, enraged with resentment, jealousy and anger attacked his brother and killed him.  Since that moment much of human history has been written in blood. 

We are all too familiar with headline news for mass shootings, terrorist attacks and violent conflict around the world. Just last week another school shooting took place in Santa Fe, Texas. Even small towns are not immune.  Murders occur in every city in every region.  Globally more than one person dies every minute of every day as the result of violence. 

Most of us abhor murder. But we cannot ignore its presence.  On the other hand, most of us accept the necessity of killing in warfare.  We spend billions of dollars every year to make sure our young men and women are equipped and trained to kill on the battlefield.

But, there are exceptions.

Desmond Doss, who served in World War II,   was committed to honor the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” He refused to carry a firearm or weapon of any kind into combat.  Instead, he served as an unarmed Medic.  Doss was twice awarded the Bronze Star for exceptional valor under fire in Guam and the Philippines.  At Okinawa he served on Hacksaw Ridge, a particularly vicious battle in which he personally saved the lives of 75 wounded GIs. He was wounded four times and survived with seventeen pieces of shrapnel embedded in his body. He became the first pacifist to be awarded the Medal of Honor.  His story has been captured in several books and a documentary, The Conscientious Objector, along with the movie, Hacksaw Ridge.

Hacksaw Ridge was released on November 4, 2016.  It went on to receive six Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor.  It also received Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor and was chosen as one of the ten best movies of the year by the American Film Institute.

Jesus took the sixth commandment to a new level.  He said, ““You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder,’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Jesus dug beneath the surface and unearthed the significance of the sixth commandment.  It is all about how we see another human being.  Every person is valuable. Every person deserves respect. Regardless of culture, gender, age or race, every human life is to be treasured.

Jesus was consistent in living out what he taught.  He embraced the outcast and the poor. Every person he met was precious in his sight.  When He was crucified he prayed that God would forgive those who nailed him to the cross and promised paradise to the dying thief.  To obey the sixth commandment, we must do more than refrain from inflicting harm on our enemy, we must embrace every person as a precious creation of God.  

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The First Step for a Whole and Healthy Life

Restaurants were packed, flower shops put on extra staff, greeting card racks were picked over as we honored our mothers.  Next month we will fire up the back yard grills and head to the lakes to honor our fathers.  We know intuitively that this is right. Regardless of our nationality or ethnicity; regardless of whether we are rich or poor, we have this urge inside of us to keep the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and your mother.” It is, as the Apostle Paul reminded us, the first commandment with a promise: “that your days may be long upon the earth.”

My father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and died when he was 53.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table with him and asking him what he expected.  He said he expected a year of health and a year of decline.   His faith in Christ and the resurrection was strong. As it turned out he had less than four months before he lay dying in a hospital bed while I held his hand.

I never heard one word of profanity from his lips. He loved our mother and he loved us.  He was always full of laughter. I saw him repeatedly choose to be wronged rather than to risk wronging someone else.  The night before he died, he sent a get well card to a friend who was on another floor of the hospital. 

My mother likewise loved God and sought to serve others. She lived as a widow after my father’s death for 35 years.  She chaperoned special-needs kids on the bus and sat with them at church. The day before she died my children gathered around her bed and she blessed them. Most people, like me, have fond memories and great admiration for their mother and father. 

Of course not all fathers and mothers are good.  The relationship between parent and child can be the source of life’s greatest joy as well as its greatest pain. Some live their lives, even into old age, haunted by resentment and anger toward their parents. 

We somehow sense, as witnessed by our obsession with the parent-child relationship in books and movies, that this relationships is essential to health and wholeness. We hear it in King Lear’s complaint, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child!”  We find it in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Luke Skywalker’s discovery that Darth Vador is his father, or Ray Kinsella building a baseball diamond in his Iowa corn field to “ease his pain.”    All of all these stories, and thousands more, reflect our urge to be reconciled to those who gave us birth. 


Health and wholeness for each of us starts with obedience to the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and mother.”  There are no exceptions.  We are not exhorted to “honor those who deserve to be honored.”  Regardless of past hurts, oversights or failures, regardless of our parents’ response, we are to honor mother and father because we are honorable.  In this relationship above all we must apply the admonition of Scripture: “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32).

Monday, May 7, 2018

Rest for the Weary - 4th Commandment


We live in a time-crunched world. Parents whip up a quick breakfast for bleary-eyed children before bundling them into cars to be dropped off at day-care and school.  Some grab a drive-through burrito before negotiating traffic on the freeways while juggling cell phones. Weary from long hours at work, the same commuters make their way home past memorized billboards. Weekends are filled with a hundred errands, second jobs, T-ball, soccer, football. Church is squeezed into an already full schedule that has no margins. 

The opioid crisis in America may be a symptom of our over-extended and anxious culture. Overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999.  Over 42,000 Americans died of opioid overdose in 2016.  The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction stated, “Readily available opioids have become “drugs of solace” that mask physical and emotional pain in a world offering little hope that conditions will improve.”
A recent report from the American Psychological Association stated, “Chronic stress is increasingly eating away at our overall well-being.” … “The psychological and physical toll of stress in America will undoubtedly continue to snowball if something doesn't change.”

Somewhere along the way we eliminated the fourth commandment as irrelevant and archaic: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” A half-century ago, most businesses were closed on Sunday and youth sporting events recognized Sunday as a day for worship. All that has changed. Today our calendars are filled up to a 24/7 frenzy.

When Jesus said that man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath was made for man, he affirmed the need for the Sabbath in our lives. He underscored the importance of the Sabbath to all of us for mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.

In 1924 Scotland’s Eric Liddell, the fastest runner in the world, refused to compete at the Olympics on the Sabbath.  When the King of England commanded him to run for his country on Sunday, Liddell respectfully replied he had a higher king.  The Academy Award winning movie, Chariots of Fire portrays Liddell reading Isaiah 40:31 to a congregation on Sunday while young men stumble and fall on the mud-splattered track. “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not faint.”  The next week, Liddell ran the 400 meter and won the gold. In 1925 he gave up his athletic career to serve as a missionary in China where he died 20 years later in a Japanese prison camp.

Sabbath requires time for rest, silence, solitude and worship, but it is more than a day of rest. It is a way of life that is filled with wonder, worship, awe and delight. When Jesus declared himself the Lord of the Sabbath, he offered to us a better way. He said, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest to your souls.”