Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Nation of Uncivil Cry-Babies

Barronelle Stutzman, floral artist


Barronelle Stutzman thought she knew the young man who had been her customer for several years. Whenever he came into her shop where she created her floral artistry, he always asked for her. They shared many cordial conversations. She knew he was gay; he knew she was a Christian.

Then one day he announced he was getting "married" to his partner, and he wanted her to create the floral arrangements for their union. Barronelle respectfully explained to him that she could not do that. As a follower of Christ, she accepted God's definition of marriage as being a sacred ceremony among one man, one woman, and Christ. She told her friend that it was a covenant with the church. To use her art to celebrate something that would violate her core beliefs was unthinkable. Her customer seemed to understand. She went on to recommend other florists in the area who could do the job. He seemed to accept her answer.

Some time later, she was notified that she was being sued. Since then, she has be harassed and maligned by members and supporters of the LGBTQ faction of our country.

Barronelle is not the only victim of our current uncivil disobedience. Most of America is aware of Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, and his legal battles to save his business after he refused to use his amazing artistic gift to create a cake for another gay "marriage." It took the Supreme Court to vindicate him.

Then there's Maxine Waters, California senator (D), who loathes all things Trump, including his cabinet. Who hasn't seen and heard her curbside harangue in which she gathers a crowd of rabble-rousers and incites them to violence and harassment against President Trump, Vice-President Pence, and all cabinet members and appointees. That is one angry, bitter woman. Unfortunately, many are listening to her and following her orders.

Our liberties are being trampled underfoot. Many of those who perform these egregious deeds have never read the First Amendment, let alone the U.S. Constitution, short document that it is. The Declaration of Independence also has much to say that relates to what we now experience.

What we are seeing in our country today is reminiscent of the early days of the French Revolution, and the vitriol is aimed at Christians, conservatives, and anyone who dares to stand against the ultra-liberal agenda. A few days ago, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family were asked to leave the Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, for the horrible crime of being a member of the President's staff. Threats have been made against her family, including her children.

Recently, at Kilroy's, an Indianapolis, Indiana, bar and grill, a man was refused service and escorted out the door by the bouncer. His friends left with him. What had he done to deserve this kind of treatment. Was he drunk and disorderly? Had he tried to start a barroom brawl? Was he not wearing a shirt and shoes? What? None of the above. He was wearing a cross necklace that the bouncer deemed "too big." It was perhaps 1-1/2-inches tall. Others in the restaurant were wearing larger pieces of jewelry and chains, according to customers who witnessed the incident.

Essentially, the Red Hen manager and the Kilroy's bouncer were saying, "We don't serve your kind." Jack Phillips, Barronelle Stutzman, and others who are faithful believers and live their lives according to the Bible have a good reason for declining business that would violate their faith. Why would LGBTQ customers even want someone to make a cake, create floral arrangements, take photographs, provide music, etc., who would not want to be there, who would not support and celebrate the event?

I, too, am a follower of Jesus Christ. I do not do that which would violate my faith. I'm a storyteller. I don't tell for Hallowe'en events. There are other events I would and have declined.

Please understand this truth. If a Christian declines to provide a service or product for a particular event, that event is the reason for the declination. It is not a personal attack against you. Barronelle says she misses her gay customer and hopes he'll come back to visit. I'm sure Jack feels the same way about the ones who sued him. Christ's followers are not haters. Quite the contrary is true.

The actions taken by the eateries I cited were personal. That was obvious. They declined service because they opposed the man wearing a cross and the woman who served on the President's staff. Kilroy's and Red Hen's way of acting out their dislike was with rudeness. Both Barronelle Stutzman and Jack Phillips were kind, courteous, and respectful.
Let the free market work. 
You don't like "my kind"? Fine. I'll go elsewhere. I'm civilized. I treat people respectfully because I'm the Christ-following kind, and He tells me that all humanity is created in His image. He tells me to love my enemies and to return unkindness with kindness. He says I should pray for my enemies. He tells me that He loves those who would mock me as much as He loves me. Can you believe that? That's called grace. And He has given me so much grace that I'm compelled to serve it to others.
I do need to give you a word or two of caution, though. If you make it personal, and it's obvious that you don't like my kind and word of that gets out, my kind will do you a favor. We won't patronize your business, because we don't want to cause you undue stress by our presence. We'll stay away, but we won't spit at you. We won't take you to court just for refusing to accept our business. We won't trash your business or attack your family. We won't yell obscenities at you or incite a mob of rabble-rousers to surround you and your family. We won't try to shame you or threaten to kidnap your children. We'll just go elsewhere to do our business. And when your bottom line turns from black to red, you'll understand why.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The God of the Impossible


Here's your assignment. You have 21 days to come from the other side of the world with a family immigrating to the United States, a family that speaks very little English. Once here, you must help them get to the little mission house serving as a landing place for them while they get oriented; gather documentation needed for ... everything; help the husband to navigate the job-search jungle; tap into every resource you can think of to locate and secure clean, affordable, safe lodging; find reliable transportation to and from the job; and get your own furniture and household goods out of storage and make arrangements for transporting those items to their new home. Twenty-one days, two of which were consumed with the effects of jet lag at the beginning. How will you ever do that? It's daunting. No. More than that. IT'S IMPOSSIBLE!

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”*

You see, God has a people, a band of bold believers willing to say, "I can help with that!" God is always right on time! That's how God works. He's seldom early, but He's never late.

Get them to the mission house with their luggage? Check!

Documentation? Check!

Job? Check!
Lodging? Check!

Transportation? Still to be discovered. 

Household goods moved? Pending, but arranged.

Six days left. Hey! That's exactly how long God used to speak the universe into being and form man to be His image bearers.
To God be the glory!

*Matthew 9:26
Any names used have been changed to protect their privacy. Thank you for reading.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dead in 20 Minutes!



"EMERGENCY ALERT! Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. 

Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill!"

You may recognize that message as one sent out to mobile phones and television stations in Hawaii on the morning of Saturday, 14 January. For months, our 50th state has been preparing for a missile attack from the crazy man in North Korea. Part of that preparation includes drills, of course. Apparently, there have been other drills, but this time someone pressed the wrong button, and the message exploded. It was at the time of a shift change. Someone may have gotten distracted. A few minutes later, a tweet went out cancelling the alert. At the time of this writing, we've yet to hear of the far-reaching consequences of this OOPS! moment.
A missile's trip from North Korea to Hawaii would take about 20 minutes. That set me to thinking, If I had 20 minutes to live, 20 minutes before I and everyone within miles of me would be vaporized, 20 minutes before my faith in Jesus Christ would become sight, as I suddenly saw Him Face to face, what would I do?
I would hope I wouldn't panic. Testimony from other Christians who have received a death sentence or a close call, say, from a cancer diagnosis, help to inform me about that. God often imparts an almost supernatural peace. (Search this blog to find the entries of a series I wrote a few years ago entitled The Gospel According Joe. "Joe," a friend of mine, is now with the Lord.)
So what would I do? Call people I love and express to them the depth of my love? They already know it. I have no problem telling folks that I love them. It comes naturally because God first loved me and tells or shows me so all of the time.
The first thing I'd do is call one person. He says he's an atheist. He wants nothing to do with God. He's convinced that those who follow Christ are mentally unstable. If someone tries to discuss spiritual issues, he mutters and walks away. He's cold to the Gospel.
I'd prayerfully try to contact him, praying that he'd answer his cell phone and actually listen to me--praying that, before the missile hit, my friend would repent and accept Christ. If any time remained, I'd go looking for others to tell. It would be a crisis witness, with no time to be gentle, no time to establish a relationship.
That's what I believe I would do. I wouldn't worry a whole lot about offending people in those moments. I would simply speak Truth quickly.
What would you do with that 20 minutes?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

What's to Fear?



As I consider all of my fellow believers, business owners, who are targeted by the secular religionists bent on suppressing the freedom of Christians to live out their faith, I wonder what it is about Christ followers that presents such a dangerous threat to the secular religionists? Is it our love for humanity? Our honesty? Our desire to be responsible stewards of God's creation? Our humanitarian works here in this country and around the world? Our strong work ethic? Our charitable giving? Our respect for the rule of law, the U.S.Constitution, and those entrusted with the protection of our citizens? What is it?
Sure, we're people of the Book. We live our lives according to its teachings because every word in the original languages is God-breathed, inspired. But we don't force our beliefs on anyone else. God tells us to share the Gospel, the Good News, but we do that only with those willing to listen. Even then, their response is up to them. So why do the secular religionists feel so threatened that they go on the offensive to squelch our Constitutional freedoms? Are they afraid that if we're allowed to share our beliefs with others, those who listen might begin to think for themselves; they might inexplicably start to reason on their own? Then that could possibly lead to accepting the Bible as Truth and becoming Christ followers themselves? Is that the core fear?
The question is rhetorical, of course. We know the answer.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Church Discipline: A Loving Act?



As I write this, I'm listening to John MacArthur give the most beautiful, most comprehensive explanation of church discipline I've ever heard. He's framing it as a great act of love. We know the Good Shepherd goes after that one lost (straying, also?) lamb, but through church discipline, administered according to the Scriptures with compassion, humility (for none of us are without sin), love, and truth, Father allows us to be a part of that act of drawing the wayward lamb to repentance and restoration. He does not simply let His sinning child wander farther from the Savior. That would be cruel.
Why does He let us have a part in the reclaiming and restoring of that person from our faith community? I think it gives each member of the body opportunity to closely examine his own spiritual condition. We're not to exercise church discipline to make ourselves feel self-righteous, for we have no grounds for such arrogance. We're all wretched sinners, even on our best days.
Of course, the one being disciplined may refuse to accept it. The Bible also instructs us on how to respond to that circumstance. Whatever the outcome, we cannot cease to pray.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Note: Type "The Gospel According to Joe" in the blog search window to read previous epistles.

The Gospel According to Joe: HOME AT LAST!


O, GLORIOUS MORNING!
I'M HOME AT LAST!

I'm looking upon His Face, the One Who saved me by His GRACE!

("Joe" entered the presence of our Saviour and Lord at 3:16 a.m. this morning.)

Monday, March 21, 2016

A View Toward Calvary




At the Cross
© 2007, 2014, and 2016 by Sharon Kirk Clifton

I huddle at the foot of the Cross.
My arms stretched to grasp it,
my head bowed,
eyes pinched so tightly they hurt.
Silent sobs wrack my being.

The men are gone.
The Brotherhood, save one, has forsaken the Master.


Other women stand,
bow,
lie prostrate nearby,
each alone,
forsaken,
desperate,
desolate.
I hear their weeping off in the distance,
at the perimeter of my own sorrow.

Roman soldiers stand silent,
stone-faced,

trying to understand,
yet bound merely to duty.
Scribes, 

Pharisees, 
Sadducees
cluster together and mutter into their self-righteous beards,
rehearsing their excuses.
Their mumbling blends, segues 

into the rumbling of a gathering storm.

Messiah, on the Cross, lifts His head to Heaven.
With one last lingering remnant of strength,
He pushes against the spike that impales His feet,
pulls up on the nails that pierce His wrists,
draws in a gurgling breath,
licks His lips to moisten them, to make speech possible,
And cries out to the Father Whose Face is turned away.

"It is finished!"

A pronouncement that will echo throughout Eternity.

I look up as His weary, abused head
sinks to His bosom,
where so many children had rested their heads
and received His blessing.

A drop of His vermillion Blood
rolls down one of the thorns
that comprises a crude crown.
In one interminable moment,
I watch it
fall;
I tip my face downward in shame,
knowing my own unworthiness,
yet yearning for His anointing.
That Sacred Drop
Splashes on my head and covers me o'er.

A mourning veil shrouds the sky.

Night invades midday

The Earth shakes.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Crisis in Nepal

I just tweeted:
India has Nepal under siege. Pls pray! Pls contact gov't reps to pressure India: "Lift blockade!" Ppl are dying w/o food, fuel, and medical!
Nepal recently held an election and adopted a new constitution. Because the people chose not to return their country to being declared a Hindu nation, the prime minister of India, an ardent Hindu, is enraged. Nepal is its own sovereign country, but the PM of India is bullying India's northern neighbor in an effort to force the people to renounce the constitution. He has set up a blockade to keep all supplies out of Nepal. That includes fuel, food, safe drinking water, medical supplies and trade items. Further, he is inciting border thugs to riot along the border. People are dying in the skirmishes, and millions more will die of starvation, exposure, and lack of medical care, if the blockade continues. Also, Nepal depends heavily on the tourism of trekkers and mountain climbers. They're not likely to go to Nepal if they have no guarantee of being able to get around in the country or secure supplies. Nepal is a country in crisis.

Will you please PRAY, tweet, and post on your social media platforms about this situation? Will you contact your representatives on Nepal's behalf? It's worse than the chain of earthquakes Nepal suffered earlier this year because the blockade affects EVERYONE! It's winter here; it's winter there. They have no fuel to heat their humble homes, very little food and medical supplies. I feel this very personally because my family soon will return there and soon will resume serving "the least of these," children, people they love very much, the poorest of the poor--people who are just like you in the ways that really matter.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Gospel According to Joe: Celebrate Me [Nearly] Home!

Today's update is brought to you by God, author of the Number One Best Seller, the Holy Bible

First a note from Joe's Pastor

My heart is overwhelmed with both joy and sadness. It is right to grieve, but I will not grieve as Joe's wife or children will—and perhaps others. I grieve as pastor, a brother in the Lord, a friend and as one of those who have been greatly impacted by Joe's influence. No one else has had a more significant impact on my adult life than Joe - particularly on my role as a husband and a father. His unity in the gospel has been a unique privilege. There's just so many times he has been used by the Lord as I have served Christ as a pastor to minister to me I don't know where to begin. For now, I simply send this to you all - the church family he has so loved. I will travel this Monday with my friend Andy McCracken to visit Joe and his family. We all would do well to read this final note - repent of our idols and seek to live in light of eternity. His idols are mine as well. I'm broken.

With a heavy heart and much hope in Christ,

Kevin R. 
Pastor

*******
I have had a great life: 57 years. A wonderful childhood, a loving family—Mom and Dad, sisters and brother, an aunt and uncle who loved me more than I can know, great childhood friends—Jim, Roger, Brett, Steve, Tim, and many more whom I can’t remember right now.
I’ve enjoyed freedom to explore, freedom to make mistakes, freedom to take risks. I have traveled to all 50 states and several other countries. I’ve taken trips to some of the most wonderful places on Earth, spent two summers running a fishing camp in Canada, made four trips to Hawaii, including one for five weeks.
I earned a master’s degree from the #1 business school in the country and exercised that knowledge through great careers spanning 35 years, leading and helping others reach their potential.
God has blessed me with a wonderful church family and pastor, great friends, amazing in-laws, a wonderful Godly wife, seven great children, two wonderful daughters-in-law, and a son-in-law who is a wonderful mate for my daughter.
For 56 years I was in great health. During that time, we built my dream house, a 6,000-square-ft. log home on a secluded and beautiful property that we named Utopia (thanks Linda for loaning us the name). I acquired tractors, motorcycles, ATVs, a powered parachute, guns, snowmobiles, and basically anything my heart desired. If it sounds boastful or prideful, I apologize. I am merely stating facts to make a point.

So what is that point? All the above were idols for me. ALL. Of my 57 years this last year with this lousy cancer has been my best! None come close to being as good. It has been the hardest and longest year of my life but I would not trade one day of it for the any of the 56 years prior.
How can this be, you might ask. Because God, through His Son Jesus Christ and with the work of the Holy Spirit, has redeemed me. He has saved my soul. He has striped me of every idol mentioned above. He has shown me that He alone is worthy of my love and praise. He has proven over and over that He is completely trustworthy. He has opened my eyes. This is my best year!

Today Hospice takes over my care. I have stopped all treatment. The side effects of the drugs aren’t worth it to me. After four different chemo regimens that didn’t work, it’s time to throw in the towel. I am so happy that the end is near for me. I won’t miss anyone or anything here because I will be in the presence of Jesus Christ, worshipping Him forever!
Obviously, I don’t know my time. Only God does, and I trust His timing. Would you pray a specific prayer with me that God will take me soon and peacefully? My prayer is tonight, but again, it is His will, not mine. But I do know He answers the prayers of the righteous. Please stop praying for my healing. I want to go Home. My wife and family are in agreement, as well.
So I leave you with this: Trust Jesus, Trust Jesus, Trust Jesus. He alone is worthy. He alone saves—not any of your good works or good intentions will get you to Heaven, but they will send you to Hell. If He can save a wretch like me with all my idols, He can save you. Trust Jesus, Trust Jesus, Trust Jesus.
If you know me and can do so, I hope you will make it a priority to come to my funeral in Columbus Indiana. It will be a great time of celebrating!
Good bye and I will see some of you in Glory.
Love,
Joe

And as always if you ever want to start at the beginning of these updates then please check out the link posted by my dear sister in Christ Sharon at http://sweetwaterfromtherock.blogspot.com/