Arkansas, God and Execution-4 Points

Arkansas is big in the news right now because the state is trying to get through some executions before their execution drugs expire. And some Christians are upset about it and arguing that God is against it (for the record, I love prison ministry, I share Christ with inmates several times a year and I love taking Communion with Christian inmates who are my brothers in Christ).

Now to be clear, reasonable people can disagree on the death penalty. It is harder to get executed if you’re rich and can buy the most expensive lawyer around. Every pro-bono attorney is not Atticus Finch. I’d argue those are obstacles to be overcome, not reasons to do away with capital punishment.

But there is one thing you cannot do if you take the Bible seriously:

You cannot argue that the God of the Bible is against the death penalty.

Last week Shane Claiborne, social activist, tweeted that the death penalty is a disgrace to Jesus.

FullSizeRender (2)
Sorry Shane. Not the Jesus of the Bible. Read Genesis 9:6.
Is that true? Is the death penalty a disgrace to Jesus?

I also came across an article a while back by a “pro-lifer” pleading that Christians MUST reject the death penalty in the case of people like Jack Jones (he raped and strangled Mary Phillips to death in front of her 11-year-old daughter who was tied to a chair) if they are truly pro-life.

Is that true? Does pro-life equal rejection of the death penalty?

On both questions the answer is, “No.”
Here are four reasons why:

1. God is FOR capital punishment.
No ifs, ands or buts. If you want to oppose capital punishment, don’t use God as your source. In fact, you could preface your argument with “I don’t care what God says about it!” Because that’s where you are. And that’s OK! Just be honest. I’m weary of people claiming Christ is against it. It’s in black and white.

The Words of God Himself:
 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, d8488-gen96
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in His own image.
Genesis 9:6 (ESV)

“But that’s Ooooooold Testament. We’re in the age of grace.” Ok. A statement made from ignorance. But I’ll play along.

New Testament:
For he (the govt authority) is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s
wrath on the wrongdoer. Romans 13:4

That’s New Testament. And God says “if you do wrong, BE AFRAID“. And just in case you’re unclear on the weapon, the sword was not used:

  • to shackle a person,
  • to give a person mercy,
  • to taze them,
  • to rehabilitate them,
  • or to write them a citation.

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Some brutal weapons of destruction.
The sword is a brutal, painful and bloody weapon of destruction, used to “run a person through” so to speak. In short – to execute them. And the sword bearer in Romans 13:4 is God’s instrument of justice and wrath.

So Old Testament, New Testament, God never, ever gives any indication that He is against capital punishment, and in fact, endorses it. Why? Because God values life – He made man in His own image. And He punishes the taking of it. 

2. It is a grave injustice to equate abortion and capital punishment.
When someone argues that to be truly “pro-life” you have to be anti-capital punishment, they are making a horrendously (and I’d argue inhumanly) unjust statement. It’s saying that the murder of an innocent baby is the same as the Biblically endorsed execution of a man who brutally raped and murdered a woman in front of her daughter.

That is sick and twisted and is an indication of a morally compromised mind.

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This statement is evidence of a broken moral compass.
An innocent baby is not equal in any way to a guilty murderer.

They are not the same. Not in God’s eyes. Not in any sense of justice. Only in a skewed “God’s so impotent and weak that justice is just not even in His framework” sense does this view work.

3. Pleading mercy for a murderer is not necessarily noble OR pro-life.
This point I find most offensive. There’s something particularly unsettling and untoward about Christians who are not the injured party pleading mercy for a murderer.

If you are injured, you have standing to plead for mercy for the aggressor. If your loved one is murdered, I suppose you have some standing to argue for mercy for the murderer.

But if you sit in another state, unaffected by the crime, suffering no loss, suffering none of the pain of the crime, pleading mercy for a murderer does not make you noble or necessarily pro-life. In fact, I’d argue it makes you:

arrogant,
unjust,
lacking in compassion for the true loss of the victim’s loved ones.

And I’d say you have an unhealthy appetite for mercy that doesn’t cost you a thing.

At the very least you have diminished the value of the life taken and the pain and suffering of the victim’s loved ones.

4. Capital punishment doesn’t keep a person from repenting and finding Christ.
Some, with a warped view of justice, argue that when a person is convicted of murder, that we should seek their salvation instead of their just end (according to God’s Word: Gen. 9:6, Romans 13:4).

The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not either/or. You can give the death sentence in a court of law (no one’s talking about vigilantism here) and still share Christ with someone. As mentioned before, I share Christ with inmates several times a year. I love it when anyone gives their life to Christ!

And the truth is, death sentence for a brutal crime could be a great motivator for repentance. Who wants to stand before God with the stain of brutality and murder on their soul?

You have to look no further that the thief on the cross in Luke 23. It was on the cross, hours away from death…when faced with his own mortality that the thief repented and was granted salvation by none other than Jesus in the flesh. Jesus didn’t save him from execution. Jesus saved him from hell. A much better salvation. 

Why does this matter?

Because Christians need to be people of the Word. People who know it, understand it, and follow it. People who do not misquote it or use it as a shill for their own agenda. And Christians need to be people of justice. Seeking justice and mercy for the victim, whether the victim is a baby killed in the womb, or a man or woman murdered on the street.

God is very clear on capital punishment. He offers salvation to all – the liar, the gossip, the thief and even the murderer. But nowhere in Scripture, NOWHERE in Scripture, does He offer rescue from the just punishment for crime. Rather He sets up governments to institute that justice and defend the defenseless.

God is for capital punishment.

 

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Mike Pence = Taliban

Washington DC is #1!  Washington DC is #1!

#1 for what David?

Ok – I exaggerated. DC is #4. DC is in fourth place in the US regarding Ashley Madison cheaters, with 50,000 members looking to discreetly commit adultery (the website connects married folks who want to cheat).

But Mike Pence is the freak.

An article came out in the Washington Post about the Vice Presidents’ wife. The article revealed how disturbingly deviant Mike Pence really is. He said (HIDE THE CHILDREN’S EYES – IT’S HORRIFYING!):

He doesn’t dine alone with a woman other than his wife.

Some people got the vapors over this. Here are a few choice tweets:

  • I wonder what happened that led to these rules?
  • Sounds like someone who knows he has no self-control.
  • God spare us the Jesus freaks.
  • Would love to see what’s hiding inside Pence’s closet.
  • He is extremely creepy. Just makes my flesh crawl.
  • American Taliban.

    Stymie
    If this causes you to hyperventilate, you a) never saw the full Little Rascals episode (the boys realize the error of their ways) and, b) take yourself way too seriously. This is hilarious!

The consensus of the left is that Mike Pence (and every Christian) is part of the He-Man Woman Haters Club.

In response to all of that craziness, here is a great tweet:

“Bill Clinton never dines alone with his wife. Who’s REALLY crazy?”

I know I know. So unkind. But the truth of our day is that for many, a serial adulterer is a hero and the man who sets boundaries for himself is the freak (and he just said dining alone with a woman so spare me the histrionics about not meeting with women – he didn’t say that).

But guess what? 

Billy Graham has a similar rule. No one has ever accused him of being a member of the He-Man Woman Haters Club OR of having an affair.

Cal Thomas said years ago, “The Puritans may have had some problems. But AIDS was not one of them.”

Rick Warren has been preaching this for years. From his 10 Commandments to Help Staff Maintain Moral Purity, the first two (which don’t apply to singles) are:

  1. Thou shalt not go to lunch alone with the opposite sex.
  2. Thou shalt not have the opposite sex pick you up or drive you places when it is just the two of you.

“Too much purity!” Not our problem today.
“Not enough adultery!” No one is claiming this is our problem.
“We need more divorces!” said no one ever (divorce lawyers excluded).

Here’s my thought: In a career and town that is known for cheaters (Clinton, Weiner, Gingrich, even Petraeus) Mike Pence is wise to set boundaries to protect his marriage, and every man and woman should set their own similar boundaries so they can keep that marriage that God gave them! In other words, don’t be an idiot!

In marriage, you’ve got a GREAT thing! What’s so great about it you ask? Just this:  Genesis 2:24 (love this) says  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

One flesh. That is great news if you’re like me. I married waaaaay above my station! And because my wife and I are “one flesh” – on the day we were married, I instantly became a much, much better person because I’m part her.  Yay me!

And marriage is such a great gift that God wants you to pull a “Mike Pence” and do whatever is necessary to protect it. 

In the NIV, Genesis 2:24 says a man should be united to his wife. “Be united” is so tame and sounds wussified to me (wussified? see definition here – it’s really good!). It doesn’t suit the need of the day. King James says “cleave,” which is a better action word, but no one today knows what it means since it’s a 16th-century word. The ESV says, “hold fast.” That’s an action word.

Hold fast to that marriage. 

Brings to mind a picture of an angry sea that is rocking and a rollin’ and the ship is about to capsize. The captain lashes himself to the ship’s wheel, so he can’t be thrown overboard. He’s holding fast to the ship’s wheel. If the ship goes down, so does he (I have no knowledge of sailing ships – I just made this up – but it is a good picture of the verse).

What God intends in Genesis 2 and what we need today are people who leave mom and dad and everything else that might get in the way and hold onto that marriage like grim death!

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Actual photo of Grim Reaper. Snapped it with my Iphone and ran like the wind!

“Hold on like grim death” = to hold tightly to something, despite great difficulty.

Genesis 2:24  ESV    Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

What Billy Graham and Rick Warren and Mike Pence know, is one of the best ways to hold fast to a marriage, is to make sure you don’t ever put yourself in a compromising position. Almost nobody ever says, “When I get married I want to commit adultery.” Yet somehow, millions commit adultery every day. 

Why? Because it’s MUCH easier to cheat than to celebrate your 50th wedding anniversary.

So hold fast to your husband or your wife! Not in some weird/controlling/stalker/creeper/abusive kind of way. That’s just crazy. But hold fast through the hard times and tempting times with an understanding of the weaknesses and frailty of all men and women and do whatever is necessary to protect that great gift of oneness. And never apologize for that.

And if you’ve already blown it? Repent, stop it, reject the sin, and move forward with Jesus.

American Taliban indeed. Oh geez.

Amen and amen.

 

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Live Today FOR Forever

Everybody Dies!

George Bernard Shaw famously said, “the statistics on death are quite impressive, 1 out of 1 people die.

And mostly we think of death as a bad thing.

Mostly. Because fire ant death is good.

flamethrower-640x533
An absolutely rational response to fire ants.

As a kid, a friend and I discovered you could light a Wonder Bread bag on fire, and it will drop flaming balls of plastic – kind of like napalm. So what did we do? We napalmed the ants!

Even to this day, I do not grieve one single ant death.

As the Ortho Fire Ant Killer commercial says, “There’s nothing good about fire ants…All they do is build a big mound in your yard and bite the heck out of anyone who gets near it…you cannot rehabilitate a fire ant. You have to kill him, his little red friends, and that big fat queen down there making more fire ants.”

The commercial ends with that universal principle of life (which is joyous in regards to fire ants), “Everybody dies!”

We all die! Death is total and universal in each and every generation.

And we don’t know when. Your time could be right now…or maybe…now…or maybe…now. Still reading? Guess it’s not your time. Yet.

One time during a sermon on the unpredictability of death I paused and said, “Let’s see if anyone’s time is right now.” Nobody died. No one’s time then either. Although later one guy did say my comment was in bad taste. Maybe.

But we all do die. Which means our time is limited. So how best to use the time? 

Grinch
One way to spend a day.

Simple. Live for eternity. This life is limited-but eternity is UNlimited.  Zig Ziglar said, “You’re going to be dead a lot longer than you’ll be alive, so you better have some really long-term goals.” And I’d add, you’d better invest for the long-term too.

Live forever. Live today for forever.

“Great! Excellent David! How? How do I do this living today for forever?”

Consider the options: 

I could live for my house. It’s not gonna last forever.

I could live for my country. As great as it is (and the US is the greatest country in the world), it probably won’t be around in a thousand years (I’m very patriotic and believe we should serve our country and I thank God for our country. Just realize it’s not “the” end game).

I could live for my company. Oh – you mean like EF Hutton, RCA, AOL, Enron? All huge enterprises that have vanished forever (I’m not suggesting you don’t work hard at your job and give your very best – the Bible says to that – Col 3:23).

None of those are “forever” kinds of things that have a payoff in eternity.

So what lasts forever? 

Jesus does. Jesus lasts forever. So live for Jesus.

“How do I do that, David? Talk is cheap! A lot of people say they, ‘live for Jesus’ but it kind of looks like they spend all their time on themselves and ask Jesus to bless all of that.”

Join Him in what He’s doing.

You do know He’s doing something right? He’s building His church. Adding people to His Church one person at a time, through thousands of local churches (He calls them His body) all over the world.  He said in Matthew 6:18, “I will build My church.” And He’s been working on it for 2000 years. As Rick Warren said, “Nothing on earth will last forever – no business, government, or nation. But the Church will.” And that’s why he (Rick Warren) has given his life to building the local church.

So you want to live today, for forever? Join Jesus in what He’s doing. Take all that stuff He’s given you – your time, your talent, your treasure, your experiences, your heart and mind and soul – and jump in and get to work. Put all of that to work for Jesus.

Build His church.

Build His church by serving faithfully in your church (this is so important He talks about it a lot in His Book – like how you are part of His body – 1 Cor. 12).
Build His church by working for Jesus on your job – with honor and integrity and a faithful witness in action and word.
Build His church by serving Jesus through serving your community.
Build His church by loving Jesus through loving your neighbor.

Build His church by…

living and
breathing and
talking and
praying and
celebrating and
mourning and
dying…
in and for….Jesus.

Live today for forever.

Live it for Jesus.

Amen and amen.

 

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12 Important Things About Angels

I’m starting a message series on Revelation, and there are a few angel references in there. And for many folks, it’s easy to pass over the angels. We read like this, “blah blah blah blah angel blah blah blah.”

But if we were living what we were reading, like Daniel being visited by Gabriel in Daniel 8, we might react this way, “OH MY GOODNESS!!! IT’S AN ANGEL! I THINK HE MAY CRUSH ME WITH HIS STARE! HE’S FANTASTICALLY INCREDIBLY MASSIVELY POWERFUL AND AMAZING!!!!” Then we might faint.

David, come on. Really? Are you kidding? Angels are NOT that big a deal. I googled the word “angel” and here’s what I now know:

  • Angels are always women or squishy chubby babies.
  • Angels are people who died (Clarence from It’s A Wonderful Life).
  • You can attract angels with “angel treats” like candles and fragrances.
  • With the right internet guru, you can get “messages from your personal angel.” And if that doesn’t work for you the same website will help you with past life regressions, numerology and tin foil hats.
  • Angels always wear long robes and look like they’re ready for the spa.
  • You can put a pin shaped like an angel on your lapel, and it will magically be your guardian angel.
  • You should pray to your angel. His name will be revealed through hypnosis or LSD or the purchase of a sea monkey farm.
  • Your dog has a personal angel unless of course he IS an angel.
  •  If you dream you are falling and hit bottom, you actually die in real life.
  • JOKING! I made that last one up – just like some yahoo made up the other eight! Crazy stuff.

Angels are awe-inspiring and astounding, and if you ever saw one in its natural form, you’d probably fall to the ground in shock. 

baby
This is not an angel. It’s a baby. A really really cute baby.  

So that you don’t go around spreading crazy angel myths, here are some things you have to know about angels:

1. Only three angels are named in the Bible – two are Gabriel and Michael. Both are excellent and uber impressive (not car ride Uber, excellent uber). The third is Lucifer – and he’s also impressive but for all the wrong reasons. Satan was an angel before he rebelled against God.

2. Angels are never presented in the Bible as squishy infants or women, but always tough men or warriors. Like “bad-to-the-bone” warriors. More on this when we get to number five below.

3. Angels are created beings. Angels were never people. People will never be angels. Angels are God’s servants and only carry out His will. People are created by God and if in Christ will live with God forever as…people. With glorified bodies that don’t have any defects and never get hurt or get tired. But still people. Even those who reject Jesus will live forever in hell as…people.

4. You can’t attract angels with fragrances or scented candles (but don’t let that deter you from using deodorant “fragrances”). You can’t attract angels with anything! They do what God tells them to do.

5. Angels don’t show up dressed for the spa. In fact, when Elisha prays that his servant can see the army of angels in 2 Kings, the Scripture says it’s an “army of angels.”  Not a “coffee klatch” of angels, or a, “gaggle of angels,” “flock of angels,” or a “sorority of angels.”

God says “army.” MAJOR point to remember for reading the Bible:  God is never at a loss for words or tongue-tied or uses the wrong words. So when He says an “army of angels,” He says that knowing that you and I will picture a group of burly warriors ready to rain down fire and destruction on the enemy’s forces (see picture below).

angel-02
A Biblical guess illustration of an angel.

6. You should never pray to angels. Prayer is an act of worship and we only worship God. Also, Jesus was very clear about how to pray. He said to pray like this, “Our Father…”. Anakin Skywalker may be Luke’s father, but no angel will ever be your father. Pray to your Father. Pray like Jesus.

7. The Bible doesn’t say your dog can’t be an angel. I suppose an angel can show up in whatever form God wants it to. But if that’s the case, it’s not your dog. It’s God’s angel. And no…your dog does NOT have a personal angel.

8. Angels can appear as people. This happens with Abraham in Genesis 8:2.

9. Angels can bring death, but only when sent by the Lord. There is no specific “angel of death” mentioned in the Bible. In 2 Kings 19 an “Angel of the Lord” brings about death.

10. Just because something a beautiful doesn’t mean it’s of God. Satan, that former angel of the Lord, can masquerade as an “angel of light.” Sometimes kittens are cute. But they still grow up to be cats.

Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. Or kitty.  2 Ecclesians 11:4

11. You may have been around angels in your life and didn’t even realize it. Hebrews 13:2 says “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”

Abraham didn’t recognize when angels came to see him. Jacob sure didn’t (although he didn’t show hospitality – he wrestled with the angel all night!).

So there you go – 11 great things to know about angels.

______________________________________

SO WHAT IS THE “SO WHAT?” David?

Here’s the “so what,” and it does boggle the mind a bit:

God, the Creator and Master of all that exists, has armies of angels loaded for bear.

And what does He do with them? Our loving and compassionate and ridiculously wonderful God “will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Psalm 91:11.

Concerning me? Who am I? I’m a nothing! I’m a nobody! I’m one of seven billion on the planet.

And yet time and again in Scripture, He commands His armies to watch over His people, protect His people, and even serve His people. For those in Christ, God is always and in every way taking care of business and employing His massive resources, which includes armies of angels that may be around you right now, and He does it to “guard you in all your ways.”

So take heart.  God is good. And He’s commanding His angels…concerning you.

Amen.

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