Monthly Archives: June 2015

On America Today – Psalm 12 Works

Psalm 12 is right for today. Not June 26, 2015 today. Not “SCOTUS has spoken about institutionalizing marriage” today. But “this time we find ourselves in” which includes June 26th. Which includes SCOTUS, which includes the shouts of “Bigot!” if you dare differ on an issue. Which includes so much more..

This time we find ourselves in is comprised of all sorts of “things”. Things like:

  • Pressure to not speak out a certain way
    • Born from a pressure to not think a certain way
      • Born from a desire to suppress a certain thought or set of thoughts.
    • Full throated endorsement of relativistic thoughts.
      • In morals
      • In ethics
      • In integrity
      • It’s all situational. It’s all relative. There is no right or wrong.
        • This isn’t just in liberal progressive, atheistic circles..
          • It’s in churches who say “no way man.. it’s love. That’s all there is.. stop hating.. love”
          • It’s in the GOP
          • It’s in Liberalism (obviously)
        • These things are not taught in universities… They are indoctrinated and demanded.
        • We are made to care about everything:
          • It is not safe to say “I don’t believe in it and I oppose it but whatever you want is fine”. This is evidenced by:
            • Bakers being shut down and then decimated in Court
            • Same bakers losing funding from a fundraising site
            • CEO of Mozilla losing his job for expressing a view in his past
            • An Atlanta Fire Chief being fired for writing a book in his own time that dared make a (tolerant, but firm) stand on an issue
            • Lynch mob interviews like the Pizza Parlor who was asked the worst hypothetical question ever and then gave an honest answer and paid the ultimate price
          • Outrage and Impassioned Overreaction Rule the Day:
            • On a college campus you just need to say “I was raped” and the media, elected officials and the blogosphere are on your side. Instantly. With no questions
            • The Rolling Stone can publish a cover photo of a terrorist who bombed in one issue. In the other they publish a totally false story about a rape that never happened to push a narrative – and nothing happens.
            • Brian Williams can do an unapology tour and be given a role behind the newsdesk at a cable network (granted it’s MSNBC.. Where well..)
            • The Dukes of Hazard can become a symbol of racism and oppression because of a flag from Dixie.
            • Common sense calls to take down a flag at a public building with near unanimous support has turned into Apple removing historical games because of inclusion of a flag, talk from a NY Post film critic of retiring Gone With The Wind to the museum and anyone who says anything good about the character of the men and women who died fighting for their states in the Civil War is an instant racist now
          • Tolerance has been rebranded from “I don’t agree, but man I support your right to ____ and I am not going to attack you personally for thinking ______” to “You will think like I think or we will call you a bigot, shame you and destroy your career, life and fortunes”
          • We are at about a 50/50 ratio of abortion/attempt to carry to term. Maybe more like 60/40 when you look deep enough (60% live or miscarry unintentionally).. That’s about 1 million babies a year in this nation alone.
          • In record time we went from “no marriage for two of the same couple” to “law of the land” and rainbow flag decorated celebrations.. Regardless of where one stands on the question – the reactionary time and time to impact was impressively short. Just 7 years ago President Obama was against it publicly. Just 12 years ago the Clintons were.
          • Church organizations are under attack for daring to proclaim the Bible
          • Recent polls show majorities of Democrats and almost majorities of Conservatives in favor of hate speech legislation.
          • In Europe and Canada there have been civil and criminal offenses for simply stating what the Bible says about something.

 

I could keep going. There are categories of “shaming” now to whip folks who dare talk about health, modesty, abstinence, moderation, paying attention to school, athletics, etc. Anytime something sounds like “harsh words” it gets a “____ shaming” meme and category on social media.. Feminism has been rebranded so many times that it actually looks nothing like what pioneers of woman’s rights fought for back in the days of suffrage or fair labor laws.

I could keep going. I won’t. These aren’t scary things to the believer. We owe our obedience to the God who has told us such things as “They meant it for evil, I worked it for Good”, “Then there will be a new heaven, and a new earth”, “Come to me all who are weary and rest….My yoke is easy, my burden is light”.. We serve a God who is good, patient and kind and one who will make all things right. One who turns ashes into beauty. One who wrote the end of the story and it ends as it is supposed to. As Christians, we find ourselves in His clutches – in spite of our weakness, our insecurities, our sins and our total lack of deserve and redeeming quality. I don’t share these thoughts to say woe is us then! I share them with the underpinning trust, faith and hope I have through Christ in me. The same Christ who turned this dead sinner’s heart into an alive to love and alive to obedience heart. A heart that still messes up – but one that understands what He means when tells me that nothing can separate me from the love of His father. So it is with a peculiar mixture of faith, hope, love, excitement that I serve God who rises above all of these things and a mixture of head shaking at just how far we’ve gone and how fast the pace is quickening on our decline that I share all of these thoughts – wherever they end up.

That’s today. A world that very much looks different than our founding. A world that looks very different from how it should look if we are His people. The church in America isn’t off the hook here either! Yes – the culture outside of the church is broken more. It’s crack is splitting faster. But let’s not make any mistakes here.. The foundations are shaken inside of the body of believers in this nation. I could give as many examples as above about how and where I’ve personally fallen and fall or will fall tomorrow or the next day. Where I’ve personally failed and fail to keep His commands or where I disobey His will for my life – willingly far too often. Where I’ve committed a sin for selfish reasons. Where I’ve not loved as I should. Where I’ve failed in compassion. Where I’ve celebrated in the downfall of someone who stands against what I stand for.

I could make a list equally large with where the church has let its role and guard down. Things like:

  • We’ve allowed racism to circle and swirl around in many of our churches and our actions – overtly sometimes.. Covertly at other times. But we know it is there and we’ve ignored it.
  • We’re allowing a generation of orphans to remain orphans (again)
  • We’re cold and judgmental – judging is not proscribed in the Bible.. but judgmental pharisaical hearts and holier than thou actions and words is dealt with quite often.
  • Our wallets are too tight to the needs around us.
  • We’ve largely allowed idiots to define us. Political idiots. Fox news idiots. Instead of thinking for ourselves – we’ve let them be our spokespeople and either endorsed their message loudly – or endorsed it through silence
  • We’ve tried to wear the tight jeans, cool glasses and sport the hipster beards trying to look like the world – but in the process we’ve left the full weight of the Gospel on the shelf for fear of offending those people looking to come to a place where they can be “seekers” and we can be “sensitive” to their seeking heart…
  • We’ve let doctrine take a backseat and been overreactive and overemphatic of one or two of God’s natures instead of balance how we talk about his balanced natures. We’ve forgotten that “Wrath” and “Love” peacefully and properly coexist in God without any contradiction, discomfort or confusion – and we’ve tried to explain it away for fear of sounding like the bigots we get accused of being.
  • We’ve gotten selfish individually. We’ve gotten selfish Corporately.
  • While rushing to build something that is appealing and feels homey to all – we’ve built a big empty bounce house void of meaning or truth and folks are running from it realizing a great big gust of wind will send it cartwheeling through the air.
  • We sin no differently than those outside the church.
  • We look the other way and make excuses when one of our own fails – but we allow ourselves to fall into the celebratory party when one of theirs fails.
  • We’ve bottled up our beliefs to not make folks feel uncomfortable
  • We’ve fought the political end of all the big fights the culture is winning on. But we’ve not actively done our part on the spiritual side of the battles.
  • We’re hypocrites and we make labels..

I could go on here also. We do some of the same overreaction and outrage politics. We get known only for what we are against sometimes. We spit and shout without listening and reading. We have our channels and our “spokespeople”.

The point is we find ourselves in sinful times. That isn’t any different than what Nahum could have said when he was writing. Or John when he was. Or Paul when he was. Or the early church fathers. Or Calvin. Or when Billy Graham started preaching. Or when Christ walked on earth. Or when Moses was dealing with his murmuring flock. Sin is sin. Rebellion is rebellion and our hearts are corrupt, wicked and set on themselves. This is not new and will be happening as long as free will and humans are allowed to coexist.

But. These times are interesting all the same. They are interesting for America. They are interesting for His church in America. This nation had a special sense about its founding. We had a concept of liberty and a hardiness against offense. We had a gritty and pragmatic, sort of libertarian approach. We largely obeyed and worshiped God – we differed in denomination and degree, but we didn’t try and wholesale hack him out of our culture and our worlds. We didn’t try and ostracize believers and tear down all God stands for. We didn’t care so much if someone else thought different or worshipped differently. Sure we cared personally and cared because we cared for their soul, but we didn’t let that interfere with how we handled them. We didn’t start screaming names at them. We didn’t start screaming BIGOT!!! So it’s with that backdrop that Psalm 12 speaks to me about this time we find ourselves in:

 

 

Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?” “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. You, O LORD, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man. (Psalm 12 (ESV) )

 

 

See that?

 

1 Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.

 

The faithful are vanishing. At least from public view.. Some by choice and self-censorship for fear of offending others. Some for fear of losing a job. Some because they are too busy trying to make a buck or scratch whatever their itch is.

 

2 Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

 

I don’t know if any commentary is required here. If this doesn’t call out “times like this” – then I am surprised you read this far. We are flatterers. Flattery is “easier”. Flattery is “safer”. Flattery avoids offending. It avoids being a “____ shamer” it avoids telling anyone anything that harms their status quo..

But it is lies! It is double hearted for the Christian to say “God loves you.. He wants you to be happy and whatever makes you happy makes him happy” It’s a lamentable, woeful message to give to someone and it tears me up just hearing it. Not anger. Not some pride because “I have it all figured out and am above it “ – but a sorrow. A deep sorrow for other sin sick souls. I know their plight – because I’ve tasted grace and understand how sick sin sick is.

The Bible doesn’t tell me I’m better than anyone. It tells me I’m a sinner and deserve Hell apart from Grace – and grace alone – nothing from me. I know how I was. I know how I am. I know what I’ve earned and stored up for myself if it weren’t for grace. I’m humbled and blown away by God’s election and redemption – even now where I still fail daily. And it makes me sad – more than sad really – to think of the lie behind “Just be happy.. God’s on your side”.  That’s poison. And it isn’t love at all. So we lie to our neighbors by and large in this church body. We’re making them comfortable on their way to hell…

 

 

3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts,4 those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?”

 

May He indeed. That’s hard to type. But this nation is storing up wrath for herself. The culture is going to go downhill over time, we should expect that. We shouldn’t be shocked that the same court who said you have a right to kill a separate living human being growing inside of the home created to grow that life has also gotten something like marriage wrong. We shouldn’t be surprised that God’s word is confusing to the world. We shouldn’t be surprised that the cross is an offensive stumbling block! These things are expected. But we should be disgusted when we lie and flatter in the church to fit in. We should be ashamed that the speed of the decline and institutionalization of sin quickens.

 

Verse 4 talks about an open rebellion. A common attitude you see emerge is “sure.. maybe God is real.. forget him and what he says… Who is he to say what I can do with ____” This rebellion isn’t new. I mean this Psalm wasn’t written in 1995. It’s always been there since pride existed. Since Satan fell. Since they tasted the fruit in the garden hoping to be like God themselves. But we should look to the things listed above as forms of rebellion. That deranged young man who killed 9 in a church was in rebellion. He rebelled against God in many ways. This quest for the institutionalization of same-sex marriage and the demonization of those who dare think differently than the culture is rebellion against God. The fight for using medical science to double down on delusions about one’s body is rebellion.. These things are clearly rebellion. But it is also rebellion to have grace and not share it. It’s rebellion to lie to preserve comfort and condemn our fellow image bearers to hell because we want to be “good” neighbors.

 

5 “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” 6The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.

 

The poor are plundered. We are letting them be. While we blindly shout whatever party platform “our party” tells us to shout. We store up treasure while we say “get a job you bum” without even considering the deeper dynamics or humanity of our fellow humans. We let others in this generation we live in suffer while we live in a period and nation of unprecedented excess. We’ve labeled anything that fights oppression or justice as “social justice” and shot it down because it didn’t focus first on a Biblical message in our specific formula. We shout about the sins of others and the sins of the culture – who God tells us will sin and will disobey – while perhaps secretly hoping our shouts are loud enough to cover up our own failings.. Our own secret sins.

 

God’s “I will now arise” is a heart stopping answer, when you think about it. This is a horrible image and one not very Biblical: But I see this as the 1950s image of “dad” closing the legs of his recliner with a belt in his hand saying “That’s it.. I’m getting up”. It’s not that. It’s purer than that. It’s deeper than that. But God still judges nations today. And while all the nations and all the people in all the nations owe Him obedience and glory and honor – he expects more out of us in the church. He judged Sodom and Gomorrah because the church there couldn’t even produce and ever dwindling number of faithful.

 

7 You, O LORD, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. 8 On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

 

 

The NASB translates verse 8 this way – “The wicked strut about on every side
When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.”

 

In times like these we see celebration – intense celebration of evil. We see strutting while vileness is exalted among the sons of men. The party has begun. The celebration has begun and it will be loud. It will be proud. It will be complete. And that celebration may have parts about a misguided and broken form of love. It may be thought to be about “identity” but it’s a broken and sinful identity. But it will happen. And vileness is exalted among the sons of men in the process. We’ve exchanged the truth for a lie.

This post isn’t resignation. This isn’t murmuring. I actually have mixed emotions in a sense about the court ruling specifically today. Let the people do what the people will do is how I look at it. If we want it – we can have it.

But I think the celebration. The desire to get what we got – all these things come from rebellious and sin sickened hearts. I know because I have that same heart by nature. It’s been purified in spite of myself. It’s been made whole in spite of my will and rebellion. So I don’t share this to gloat about having something. Because what I have I didn’t deserve and what I deserve I won’t get. I share this out of a position of humility and love. And with a truly broken heart for my land. I have a hope for revival. I have confidence and faith that God has the story written and the end written already. So this isn’t a woeful lament. It’s not a teeth chattering fear. My marriage isn’t impacted. I care about a great many true friends who are celebrating today. But this is an observation about how far we’ve gone. How far we’re going. It’s an observation about the lie of sin. The lie of the devil and the rebellion in our land. It’s sad. It’s not hopeless. God wins in the end. Every knee will bend or be bent. But it’s a lament and plea for my nation. It’s a cry for those who are deceived and deceiving and exchanging God’s great truth for lies.

 

Maranatha.

Kalief Browder – We Failed Him. We Disobeyed God.

About a year ago I read an article in the NY Post about a teen who spent far too long(*) in jail awaiting trial for trumped up charges he was probably innocent of. I was incensed when I read the story. I was furious at this peek into the system that would put him there for this. It wasn’t a fear induced anger – I wasn’t afraid of this happening to me or my children. It isn’t a problem that would face us.. Perhaps that’s why I became so angry. I was mad at the injustice shown to a human being who lives on the same sphere I live on. Who was made in the same image I was made in.

To me this case summed up a lot of injustice that still exists in the Criminal Justice system in this nation. Call it race. Call it socio-economic status. Call it both. But this story peeled back the veneer I’ve seen over our justice system. The veneer that says “nah.. it’s not really that bad.. if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” I’m not saying I disagree with personal accountability after reading of his story. I’m just saying that things are not always as they appear to be. By all accounts and by the integrity and courage and decisions this young man (well he was a boy when he entered jail waiting 3 years for his trial.. he was a man when he was finally left when the state dropped their charges…) was innocent of the charges lobbed at him.  I don’t fear this happening to me because he lacked four things I possess:

  • The ability to afford – or easily find a way to afford bail
  • The ability to afford – or easily find a way to afford a lawyer
  • White skin (as much as I wish this wasn’t a factor, I can’t say that and feel like I’m telling the truth)
  • I don’t live in the inner city

(* – Actually it is even more than far too long. 1 minute in jail for trumped up charges from a confused witness who changed his story a couple times to the cops and has zero other proof just “yeah that looks like the guy” with no other evidence whatsoever is far too long.. And I.. And most of the folks who read my technical blog wouldn’t even spend a second in a police cruiser or a second in handcuffs here.)

What Happened?

Really simply? This young man had one incident with police (cleared off of his record) that was a dumb thing his friends did and he was there and went along as a teen. That’s it though.  This time – he and a friend were walking. A cop came up to them and accused them of stealing. He told the cop “check my pockets I don’t have anything!” cop said “no a backpack” and then the cop said it was a week or so ago but the victim said he identified them on the street and knew it was them.. That’s it. No videos, no evidence, no proof, no nothing. And he got arrested, processed, bail was set (too high for his struggling adoptive mom – he was the 8th she adopted) and he went to Rikers island. Once there he had a tough time and ended up in solitary confinement for a lot of his stay.. While he waited for trial. For three years. THREE YEARS.. THREE.YEARS. The system is busy. And most folks end up waiting and waiting and then the prosecutors and judges offer a pretty good plea deal and they take it out of a desire to leave Rikers. He never took a deal. Even at the end when the deal was plead down to a misdemeanor, no big deal on the record, and get out on time served. He refused. He was tortured in his heart about it but he said he was innocent and he wasn’t going to do that. Instead he’d risk trial and risk 15 years in prison if found guilty… Ultimately.. The state dropped the charges when the “victim” went back to Mexico – and there was no other evidence, just a statement of one victim..

So I was pretty mad – and broken up about this case. Well today – I stumbled on a story about Kalief. The adopted son. The brother. The friend. The kid trying in school and getting C’s. The kid who didn’t want to just waste his life and had plans and dreams.

He’s dead. (Link to NY Post article about that)

This past weekend, his adoptive mother who was there for him for every single one of the court hearings (where the prosecutor asked for a continuance and then he went back to Rikers waiting again for his right to a speedy trial…), who raised him and loved him and helped instill integrity in him – found him hanged. She found his limp body hanging out of a window in their home. He never escaped the torture he suffered in Rikers. The solitary confinement during his growing and building years. The beatings. The starvation from angry COs. The humiliation. The destruction of his pride. He may have been free from Rikers physically, but it never left him mentally.

The system killed that young man. The attorneys and judges and policy makers and COs and Prison officials didn’t push him out that window. But they systematically sucked his life from him. They destroyed his will, his identity and his desire to live. They turned him from a vibrant youth with potential into a meek,quiet, broken young man who lost three years of education. Who lost three critical development years as a teenager.

The story about his death is here in the NY Post – from the same reporter who first told us about his plight in the earlier link.

This story has crushed my heart in more ways than I can count. The knowledge that he is most assuredly not the only person suffering like this wrecks me.

There were no kickstarter campaigns for his bail money. There were for my football team the New England Patriots and their star Quarterback Tom Brady when the NFL fined them. The system failed him. The media failed him. Our attention was diverted to many false shouts of “Racist!!” over on MSNBC or defense of said racism over on Fox News or 6 way video chats about missing airplanes on CNN.. But his story never got the time of day. It got a little after he was out – but not much.

We disobeyed God, Too

Yes. We disobey him in a lot of ways. We kill our unborn children. We tighten our wallets and close our clean hands inside and outside the church to real suffering. We have our quiet sins, too.

But we let this young man suffer. And we are letting others like him suffer. His mother was obedient. Obedient to care for the orphans and give this boy a second chance on life and a home. His adoptive father was obedient in a sense – even while separated he supported the children and was there for them.

Here’s the deal – Kalief’s problem is our problem. We are called to minister to the world. We are called to love justice and seek to end oppression. We are called to help. I harped on this in an earlier blog post about a problem in the church here.

As we stay silent and ignore the plight of this young man and let the media that tries to tell us what our religion says or the “Christian” politicians who try to tell us “everything is fine.. it’s just those bad sinners and criminals we have to fix then we’ll be all good” we become complicit in these crimes.

This isn’t as obvious as the Selma moment in our history; it isn’t outright and obvious, in your face oppression of basic rights like voting and public beatings for daring to try. This is just as important, though, and we cannot call our justice system just if there are men and women in the same predicament as him today in jails throughout America. If no one is held accountable for indirectly causing this young man’s death – or at the very least destroying his civil rights and inhumanely treating him.

His death must be transformative – if it isn’t then the atrocious waste of a life is made worse. His death must become a pivot point where we wake up and care. Where we seek to at least try and understand the plight of others. Where we stop ourselves from justifying this as “well.. just a bunch of thugs.. that’s what happens” like the commentators who try and tell Christians how to think say. If the nation doesn’t rise up and shout ENOUGH! then there will continue to be more Kaliefs out there. They may not kill themselves. They may not even be fully innocent of the original crime they were accused of. But the message this treatment sends is “that’s all you are. It’s all your kind are… Abandon all hope and be broken” – This treatment, this unjust justice system will continue perpetuating the problem. More lives will be ruined. More destructive recidivism cycles will be put into action by the flywheel of injustice. And we’ll continue spending our time arguing and talking about unimportant items while nothing changes. We’ll eat our cake and fight about the issues the politicians and media want us to fight about – and pain and suffering and loss will continue…  It’s time to snap out of this slumber we’ve allowed ourselves to be lulled into.

Life is better for a factory raised chicken than what he endured at Rikers.

Isaiah 1:17 says:

 learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause.

 

Micah 6:8 says:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[a]
    and to walk humbly with your God?

 

Jesus told us about the Good Samaritan to tell us that we are not to be passive inhabitants of this world ignoring the problems that “others” have. But to be an active participant in being an instrument of His grace unto the world.  James’ reiterates that a lot in his epistle.

The system failed here. But the church failed here as well when we let injustice and oppression reign and ignore it. It’s the same as when we ignore the oppression of abortion that happens down the road from our churches.  It’s the same as when we ignore the hungry and hurting in our world or in our midst.

We all fail when we see injustice and our first instinct is to reply to that injustice with “well.. they probably deserve it.. Maybe if they just listened.. Maybe… What if” – sometimes those are the correct assumptions. And we do no good jumping to conclusions. But it really feels like a lot of the visible church (especially the REALLY VISIBLE church and the intersection that I call FoxNewsianity and Republiianity) has a default of ignoring these things as someone else’s problems.. And focusing on ours.  I spent some of my time recently arguing with Amazon about my kids birthday present not shipping when they said it would (in two days because of Prime).. That was my hassle.. There are people in jail cells waiting years for trial in NY because they can’t afford a lawyer who isn’t overburdened with legal aid cases or bail.. Or because they are black. Or because they come from the wrong neighborhood.

And I’m not saying that all who break the law do so because we make them. I think fatherless children is a real problem out there. I think multi generational welfare is a real problem. I think gangs are too appealing. But I have to say there is something to this quote from the Prince Caspian movie:

You get treated like a dumb animal long enough, that’s what you become. You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember.

 

What a shame. I pray that he knew Christ. I pray that his mom and dad and family are receiving the help they need. I pray for justice. I mourn and weep with his family.

(Note – I am sharing this because I can’t do anything else to help. I do a search and there are a scant 200 news articles containing Kalief.. While there are already over 2,000 containing the term McKinney and 2,000 containing the term Jenner… Let this be one more link about a young man the system, the country and his fellow citizens and fellow image bearers forgot about and basically let perish a few years before his suicide.)