Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Truth is Out There

We’re in an election year, which means we’re buried in political advertisements, debates and promises. Every election cycle the pattern repeats itself with enthusiastic candidates pitching ideas to voters about how they will shake up Washington. The more unrealistic the promise, the more excited their supporters become. Why do these improbable, if not impossible, ideas generate so much excitement?

The phenomenon is not new and is not isolated to politics. It is common practice to make promises based on half-truths, or full lies, to endorse a product or idea. Sometimes these empty promises are harmless, but sometimes these promises can lead to real suffering. In Matthew 7:15-16, 21 we read, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves”. We also read in 2 Corinthinans 11:3-4, 13-14, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray…For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus…you receive a different spirit…or a different gospel…you submit to readily enough…Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light”.

Our discussion this week focused on several African governments who are proposing some regulations on churches to prevent thieves from using religion to manipulate people out of their assets or cause them other harm. Ideas ranged from government regulation to regulation within the church. Government involvement in church is not an ideal solution as religious freedoms could be violated. Regulation from within the church is also complicated as there are multiple legitimate sects of Christianity, some of which have practices that appear on the fringe as compared to larger denominations. Is there really a fair and balanced way to regulate religion?  
As Christians we must come to know God’s word as this is our only defense against false prophets. Any glimmer of hope is welcome when we’re at our lowest points. It is at those moments when we’re most vulnerable to succumbing to false prophets who “promise” to fix our problems. As appealing as those promises appear, always keep God’s word in mind. God does not promise to fix our problems, but rather provides us the tools to get through our problems. We are not always given the answer we want, or expect, but that does not mean our prayers are not answered.

Politicians are an easy mark when it comes to empty promises, but I do believe most politicians take office with the best of intentions. Once they take up their new office and realize they are no longer speaking to cheering crowds of supporters, the reality of being an elected official sets in. The difference with well-intentioned politicians and false prophets is what they do once they understand their decisions will directly impact people’s lives. False prophets carry on with their message, regardless the cost to their followers, to continue building themselves up. Well-intentioned politicians make decisions based on what they believe is best for their constituents, even when it is unpopular.

The truth is false prophets are obvious when you know God’s word. Every week we meet at Grace Baptist Church to learn more about God’s word together and we hope you’ll join us!

I Am Not a Comedian

If you’ve ever watched a comedian perform, you’ll notice they always have a perfect anecdotal story which complements their comedy routine. The story is intended to feel just authentic enough to connect the audience with the comedian and allow the audience to enter the comedian’s world. If the audience relates to the story, they’re drawn in. This tactic is not limited to comedians but their approach is the most direct as they often set the stage by saying something like, “You won’t believe what happened to me the other day…”.

A few weeks ago we met again in the boardroom at Grace Baptist Church on Sunday morning and this time we discussed miracles. We started our discussion with learning about the story of a 4 year old little girl who nearly died from the flu. Initially she seemed to recover using medication and getting rest. But shortly thereafter she succumbed again to the illness. Her parents planned to take her to the pediatrician but decided it best to go to the ER. She went into cardiac arrest. After 45 minutes of CPR, the pediatric heart surgeon put her on life support equipment to sustain her. Her parents asked for prayers at Catholic masses in their home countries, Hungary and Brazil, as well as from friends and family in Argentina, Italy, Miami and Boston. That night her heart began beating on its own. The doctors cannot explain why her heart resumed functioning. God has a plan for this little girl.

This story is miraculous as it demonstrates God at work. There is no question the medical care she received played a large part in her survival, but we have to look at a broader view. One of the discussion points focused on the words of Jesus from Matthew 17:18-20 where he tells the disciples if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could move mountains as nothing would be impossible. This little girl’s parents “mountain” was getting her heart beating again. God answered their prayers with guidance, whether the parents realized it or not. She may not be alive today had they taken her to the pediatrician rather than the ER. 

Which reminds me, you won’t believe what happened to me the other day. During our meeting we shared what “mountains” we needed to have moved. I shared about the house my wife and I have been unable to sell for several years. We decided to begin renting the house a few years ago and our current tenants were scheduled to move out last month. Our “mountain” was finding a new tenant in January in the Northeast US! Three hours after church I found out about potential new tenants and a few days later a lease was signed. Within hours of sharing our “mountain”, it started to move. Is this miraculous?

Our lives are full of things which at the time might seem inconsequential. We might not even notice some everyday miracles. When we look back retrospectively miracles become more evident. Many people have much larger “mountains” to move and it is important to note the answer to our prayers is not always the one we’re expecting. I was told to treat prayer like a conversation. There is no right way or wrong way; the important thing is that you spend time doing it. The more you converse, the more likely you are to notice God at work.

We hope to see you next time in the boardroom at Grace Baptist Church.