What Others Say

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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).