Twenty-Five Years After a Rwandan Genocide and Genocide of Another Kind

23 06 2017

The Rwandan government is speaking and teaching there is only one people group in the nation of Rwanda. There are no longer tribes and factions. On paper and in speech this sounds fine, but there’s a deep wound in Rwanda that is still not healed.

To speak “one nation” without major heart transformation, forgiveness and blessing rather than cursing would seem like empty and hollow words. Words that mean well, spoken to move the country forward, but words, nonetheless. Unity cannot be legislated while a process of healing cannot be forfeited.

I just returned from this beautiful, clean and prosperous nation in Africa. The Rwandans from the churches that I was part of are dealing afresh with trauma as many of those persons who were incarcerated for their crimes against humanity are now being released from their prison cells. These persons are once again walking the streets and it is causing a response of fear and unrest.

There was so much blood spilled on this soil, but it seems the best answer the world or a government has is to put it out of your mind and move on. How does one reach forgiveness of those who now walk free while their fathers and close family members are in the grave? How does one obey the law of the land while at the same time find freedom from some of the deepest pain a human can endure? Genesis three and verse seventeen records God’s response to Adam concerning the ground he was working. Due to his disobedience God told him, “Cursed is the ground because of you…”

Does the blood of thousands of innocent Rwandans soaking this ground bring life or a curse to this soil?

Thank God that His Son became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). The Son of God died on a Roman cross and was placed into the cursed ground only to be miraculously resurrected. Our King became victorious over death, hell and the grave. The soil could not hold Him. The blood He shed would break the curses of generations.

I was seated at a local church in Kigali, Rwanda waiting for my time to speak thinking about the entirety of the above and actually thanking God that my home nation has not experienced such horrific pain and suffering, at least in my lifetime.

Almost immediately I had this thought, “Not true of America, your home.” And then my next thought was concerning the present holocaust: abortion. Everyday my nation is killing babies in the womb, spilling innocent blood and everyday we walk through life as though it is a normal occurrence to be accepted. My government protects this practice and calls it “a choice.” There is no choice for the baby found living in the womb.  

According to the World Health Organization, every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day. In America there are 1.3 million abortions a year, that’s 3,562 per day!

The definition of genocide is: The deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group. Between April and June of 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. Since Roe vs. Wade we, America,  have realized almost 60 million killings!

Can you imagine that we have politician after politician, governors, presidents and Supreme Court members who work tirelessly to keep this crime of abortion alive? Can you imagine that people vote for these politicians dedicated to keep babies torn to pieces by the thousands per day? Rwanda’s genocide is over and has been for many years while ours continues on and on and on, day after day after day and year after year.

Governments will never find the solution for the broken human heart. Legislation cannot change our blood-saturated soil. Even our national leaders would call those leaders who kill their own people uncivilized barbaric murderers. And yet, they themselves are doing similar.

Judas, after betraying his Master, Jesus, said that he had “betrayed innocent blood.” (Matthew 27:4) The Psalmist describes this sin of shedding the innocent blood of children when he writes, “They shed innocence blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood.” (Psalm 106:38)

Their blood desecrated the land and themselves (v.39); do we get that?

I am extremely grateful that the tide is turning and the younger generation is far more pro-life today, but I also hear the present generation say to me that they are not one-issue voters. Could this aberration, this abnormality called abortion be normal now in the mind of a believer in Jesus? Could this injustice and lack of mercy toward the unborn be a curse in our land as this innocent blood is shed daily?

In Rwanda there was a tribe dedicated to killing another tribe. And in America there is a demonic tribe dedicated to eradicating the lives of the unborn. If it’s murder to kill a child outside the womb, is it not murder to kill a child inside the womb? I agree that abortion is not the only important issue, but it is foundational to values that we hold dear. It is foundational to what we call life and it is foundational to how we respond at every other level of life.

It was Mother Teresa who said that if we do not respect life in the womb, we would not respect life at any stage of life. We experienced the first school shooting in our nation right after she spoke these words while in Washington, D.C.

The blood of the innocent cries out in Rwanda for sure, but the blood of the innocent child cries out in America too. Are we listening? Are we speaking up for them? Are we a voice for those who have no voice?

Endnote: In the time that it took you to read this there were approximately 80 abortions performed in America.


When Tithing Really Counts: The Trust Factor

7 05 2017

Recently I read some research on charitable giving. It was amazing to see how generous Americans are. Last year, 2016, Americans donated $358 billion to numerous charities. That’s the good news.

The bad news is unbelievable when it comes to unscrupulous nonprofits that exist today. For example, the Cancer Fund of America based in Knoxville, TN has a record of only 3% of all funds donated directly aid anyone with cancer. What happened to the 97%? According to the Federal Trade Commission the money was spent on the charity’s staff with trips to Disney World, trips to Vegas, exorbitant salaries, cars, luxury cruises and even college funds for the executive’s children.

This one really bothers me as I travel to this nation annually. In 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti killing tens of thousands of Haitians, while many more lost their homes. Generous U.S. citizens donated approximately $488 million to the Red Cross. A year later the Red Cross announced that it expected to spend $100 million constructing permanent homes and various community development projects. Four years from this time NPR reported, “Despite having spent nearly half a billion dollars…the Red Cross had built a grand total of six new homes in Haiti.”

When we are tithing to our local church, we know we can trust the leadership to make right decisions with the money we’re giving to God. And as we share our offerings to that trusted missionary organization or homeless shelter in our community, we can literally see the difference that our giving makes. Use wisdom in your giving; do your research before you donate. Check out the ministry/organization on their website and do not hesitate to call and request them to verify the percentage of your donation that will be used for administration. You worked hard for your income; be sure to pray and ask God about your giving. Imagine inadvertently donating to some nonprofit executive’s children’s college fund when you have yet to start a college fund for your child.

Sanctuary Cities: We Desperately Need Them

6 03 2017

images-10I’ve never heard of a sanctuary city until recent news, but it made me think how we are desperately in need of such. In the Old Testament, the sanctuary was the inner court where atonement for sin would take place. The sanctuary was a place of God’s dwelling (“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” Ex. 25:8). According to Numbers 8:19 it was a place of safety from the plagues. In I Chronicles 28 God instructed Solomon to build Him a temple, a sanctuary. Importantly, while Israel was away from their homeland and scattered throughout different countries, the Lord said that He was a sanctuary to them. (Ez. 11:16)images-9

Regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or age people are hurting and they need a sanctuary place. They need a place to find God. Would your city be friendly to them? Would your home be a sanctuary? Would they feel God’s presence in your life and see His love reflected in your eyes? Have you asked that person who stands on a street corner with a cardboard sign their name? Are you a safe place for disclosure, for someone to open up about his or her life without judgment? Hebrews 9:24 states there is no longer a man-made sanctuary, for it was only a copy of the true one. You and I are that sanctuary, practicing the presence of God to the lost, misplaced, adrift, disoriented and confused ones.

Women, Feminism and Jesus

27 02 2017

imagesI have watched with interest over many years of my life the “women’s movement.” I am delighted that women can vote, wear pants in public and play an equal role in so many areas of our culture today. I am pleased to see women being urged to lead in many arenas. I love how God placed a part of His nature in women that all of us are in need of and benefit from. After all, without women, none of us would be here.

That said, I dislike how the movement portrays today that men are not important to women. I dislike that women are told, “It’s your body and you can do anything you desire with it.” We know this to be a reference to the killing of a child within their womb. (What about those pre-born women?) I dislike that one sex feels a need to rise above the other in order to feel valued or appreciated. After all, we are ‘opposite sex’ for many specific reasons. God undoubtedly planned it that way.

I find it hard to see some of the points being made today in a personal attempt to excuse rebellion against something. I openly wonder, “Who is lying to our culture in an effort to create these wars?” War doesn’t always bring about the changes desired. Certainly we each have needs that we are trying to meet, but to constantly and consistently battle one another seems unhealthy. Perhaps we have brought much of this on ourselves from our history, but today is so different from yesterday. I wish more people could appreciate where we have come to rather than continually fighting over where we once were and staying so stuck in the past.images-2

For numerous personal reasons, I set out in my devotional time to catch the scriptures I found in a couple of the gospels in which Jesus connected to women and how He connected. It blessed me to see how He, in the middle of the Old Testament and the Law of Moses, embraced women, even within His ministry life. I love how He loves us and sees the value in each and every human being that He has created, regardless of race, religion or sex. In its simplest form, feminism is simply the act of advocating social, political and all other rights of women equal to men. I believe that Jesus operated that way and would never, ever desire women to be seen as less-than in any area of life, especially in relation to men.

Surely a huge part of this cultural war is the devaluing of women and men. I’ve never read words recorded from the mouth of our Lord while He was on the earth that helps to incite this cultural war, but rather, His words provide answers to those relationships. I love how He often had a piercing question to ask in return to a culturally sensitive question being asked of Him. For example, once the Pharisees’ were “testing” Him and asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” His answer was,Haven’t you read the scripture? (Question) And, didn’t you read that from the beginning God made them male and female; they would leave father and mother to be one? (Another question) Didn’t you realize they are no longer two persons, but one?” (My paraphrase)

In other words, Jesus, the Son of God, was valuing the woman in that she is equally one with her husband, not less than her husband. In the culture of the time in which these words were written, a man could legally divorce his wife for practically any cause. Jesus had every opportunity under the Law to say, “You’re correct; trash her; put her away never to be anyone’s wife again.” He didn’t. He was the Author of marriage, He wrote the book on marriage and then said, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Husbands and wives are a single unit. To love your wife is to love yourself and to love your husband is to love yourself; two have become one.

But the value of a woman started far earlier than this encounter that Jesus had. His Father chose to send Him, His Son, to earth. He did this by placing a seed from the Holy Spirit into a very young woman named Mary. Jesus could have come to earth with an army, with the angels or by simply dropping out of the clouds as a full-grown man. God chose a virgin to give birth to Him. The scripture records an angel speaking to Mary and telling her, “Mary, you have found favor with God.” (Matthew 1: 30) A woman found favor with the Creator. God looks favorably over every woman He has created.

On another occasion, one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to his home for a dinner. While Jesus was there reclining at the table, the Bible indicates that a woman who had lived a “sinful life” brought some perfume to wash Jesus’ feet and then actually cried tears over Him. She then wiped those tears with her hair. I can imagine this scene with all the men in the room aghast in unbelief and displeasure at the actions of this “sinful” woman. But instead of ridiculing her, Jesus used this act as a life lesson to those who were observing. Jesus sensed her heart, her repentance and moved toward her with words of forgiveness and justification. He actually said, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7: 47)

Jesus had every right to send her away, back on the street to do what she did. The Son of God could have blinded her or sent her away crippled as her punishment, but He chose to receive her gift, her heart, and to forgive her – not a very popular thing to do.

images-3Did you know that not only did the disciples travel with Jesus, but that women traveled with Him as well? In the gospel of Luke, chapter 8 and verse 2, we are told that women traveled with Jesus and His disciples. What were they doing? Luke shares that these women were actually…”helping to support them [Jesus and His disciples] out of their own means.” (Luke 8: 3) Jesus had women with Him who were helping to pay for the needs of the ministry team. He valued their support and the important role they played with the team.

Later in this same chapter we have a little girl who needed healing and a woman who was bold enough to step up and touch Him. When she did, her faith was that she would be healed. Jesus knew someone touched Him desiring a miracle. She fell at His feet “trembling” in fear and their eyes met. She blurted out her story hoping someone would understand. She was instantly healed the scripture says and then Jesus said this, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” The woman who was bleeding and unclean under the Law, was not only healed, but He called her “Daughter.” How honoring.

There were two special women in Jesus’ life: Mary and Martha. One day at their home, Jesus was sharing, as I presume He often did. Certainly customary for the day, the two sisters should have been busy preparing the meal and serving the men in any way they could. But it was Mary who just couldn’t pull herself away from sitting at His feet. Martha complained about her sister not helping and Jesus’ reply was keenly insightful, “Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10: 41, 42)

Jesus not only affirmed these two women, but also longed for them to both sit at His feet together, receiving equally from Him. He loved them, spoke to them directly and said for them to not be taken away from the most important thing for men and women, sitting at His feet and learning of Him.

Jesus protected women’s sexuality and told us that it was wrong to look at woman lustfully. He was far harsher on adultery than the Old Testament was. He said that if you even look at a woman lustfully, you have already committed adultery. (Matthew 5: 29)

Jesus told us to honor our father and our mother, treating these roles equally. He said that if you curse father or mother, death was imminent.

Many women were at His crucifixion. (Matthew 27: 55) Why wouldn’t they be? This was the Man that treated them with dignity and the position within culture that they deserved. This was the Man they traveled with and who had forgiven them of their sin. This was the Man who loved them purely and without critical judgment.

My last scriptural expression of inclusion and equality is my favorite. The resurrected Christ could have first showed Himself to anyone He wanted to, any King, Priest or earthly authority. It was a couple of woman who first showed up at the grave. Two Mary’s arrived at the tomb early Sunday morning. Once again an angel comes to these women and declares during an earthquake, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he is risen, just as he said.” (Matthew 28: 5, 6) It was the women in His life who were “looking” for Him.images-5

In fear the women began to run off and suddenly Jesus was standing before them. They recognized Him and grabbed His feet and worshiped Him in jubilant praise while He spoke to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers…” The Son of God declared His resurrection first to two of His female friends and commissioned them to tell the brothers, the men.

Jesus was an advocate of woman by treating them with purity, with respect, with honor, with protection, with equality and with dignity. It is a lesson for us as men to do the same. Any woman treated in this way by a father, brothers or a husband doesn’t need “equal rights” because she knows she is honored far above just an equal portion.

images-4I need women in my life. I need what they bring by being who they are. My daughter is in no way less than her brothers in our family. My wife is my partner and I am hers. Your female boss deserves every bit of respect that you would give a male boss. Paul said it so well when he wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3: 28)

Let’s be part of stopping the cultural slide of anger by being an advocate for all women just like our Lord was. Let’s be on a daily march of loving, respecting and honoring women. Let’s serve the women in our lives through the spirit of Christ who allowed “sinful” women to approach Him for forgiveness without judgment. Let’s tell the world of women in our circle that equal rights with men is not something they need to attain, because the Savior of the world has already pronounced their approval, their acceptance and all of their rights.

Women, all women, come find your place of freedom at His feet.

A Secularized Golden Rule

26 12 2016

imagesListening to a recent National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast about the Golden Rule was intriguing to me. The “expert” went on and on about this “rule” as it crossed cultures and religions and apparently she even gives speeches on the subject. But, the truly interesting part was that during the time I was listening to the segment, I never heard the Author mentioned, credited or cited: Jesus. Matthew 7:12 records it, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

In the book, Living the Secular Life, Phil Zuckerman (according to a NY Times article),”Extols a secular morality grounded in the empathetic reciprocity embedded in the Golden Rule.” He states that the Golden Rule “…is a touchstone for atheists if they feel obliged to prove that they follow a moral code.” Hmm, the Golden Rule without heart change? Perhaps mankind somehow sees themselves with the ability to ascend to a mental state of intellectual “empathetic reciprocity,” but I repeatedly find my own selfishness getting in the way.images-2

Without the Spirit of Christ and the One who gave His life a ransom for you and me the Golden Rule can be just that, a rule. However, when Christ takes up residence in our heart the motivation to do to others becomes less and less about me. Jesus spoke, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing they do not hear or understand.” (Matthew 13:13)

The Divorce Rate IS Declining

28 11 2016

imagesWe started writing about, training counselors and actually mentoring couples in pre- and postmarital counseling in 1989. Our primary goal as stated in our book, Called Together, Asks the Difficult Questions that all Couples Must Answer Before and After They say “I Do,” was to better prepare couples before marriage and follow-up with them after marriage using this book as a resource in the hands of trained counselors. The ultimate goal of accomplishing this was to have an effect upon the divorce rate of our day. We longed for, worked toward and prayed to see it lowered.

Imagine our surprise when reading the following in USA Today dated, November 23, 2016 on a return flight back into the United States, “Divorce rates have dropped three years in a row and are at their lowest level in 35 years. From 23 divorces per 1,000…in 1980…to 17 divorces per 1,000 in 2015, according to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research.” And the article went on to say that the rate of marriage is increasing slowly. Hopefully, that statistic speaks to fewer couples electing to live together unmarried.images

Perhaps these stats do not excite you, but for Mary and me it means so much. It means more intact families with fewer children living through the divorce of their parents. It means more stable households contributing to their communities, schools and local churches. It’s positive news for the economy with combined incomes purchasing homes, going on vacations together and providing for their children. But most of all, it means honoring the One who created this thing we call marriage, our heavenly Father.

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Voting for the President of the United States

31 10 2016

 imagesThis will most likely be my one and only blog on the upcoming election. It is not written to change anyone’s mind, but rather to calm our minds and spirits.

 I love this nation and I love how God has used this nation and continues to use this nation to care for others around the world.  I love our freedoms and I love our Christian heritage.  I love the many cultures found in America and I love the church in this nation.  I love the fact that we have been given the freedom to vote and elect candidates for office and I love that everyone can freely voice their opinion.

 I do not love the disunity I see and feel in our nation today.  I dislike the factions over important issues like national debt, cultural values, immigration, abortion, taxes, jobs and so many others.  I have prayed for and hoped that the present administration would help bring unity and focus to this great county.  I dislike how opposing views have become even more venomous and further apart.  I dislike and have been discouraged by the lack of leadership displayed in our nation that has allowed this and has participated in it.  The selfishness and immaturity among our leaders is astounding.images-2

 The list of why Donald Trump is unfit and his multiple sins exposed is getting longer, as the same list continues to grow with Hilary Clinton.  There are so many things wrong with both candidates that many people are saying they cannot vote for either one.  Still others find one candidate more evil than the other and are not voting for a candidate but rather against a candidate.  Like them or not, these are the choices.  It truly speaks to the division in this nation and it speaks to how truly shallow American values have become.  As I heard someone say recently, there is so much di-vision because there is so little vision, so little leadership.  How true.  Was it John Maxwell who said that everything rises and falls on leadership?

 I wish it was over and we could all go home.  But it’s not over.  In fact, November 8th is just the beginning.  It will continue for four years, likely eight.  And that is my point.  We need to look down the road, beyond the election and all the faults in both candidates.  We need to ask ourselves which party stands for our personal biblical values because that party will either stay the same and continue on with its agenda or that party will change and work toward its agenda.

 For the godly, arguing with your neighbor or posting on-line why your candidate is better by putting the other candidate down, in my opinion, is simply operating in the same spirit that these two candidates operate. You see it in each debate, i.e., the anger, the hate, the division, the immaturity and the lack of integrity, character and leadership.  Don’t fall prey to it; rise above it and pray against the spirit that is attempting to separate and divide.

 So many today who claim Christ remind me of the disciples, who when they discovered that the Lord was not welcome in a certain Samaritan village asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”  (Luke 9:54)  In other words, burn those to ashes who do not welcome you or receive you.  Jesus calmly rebuked them and they simply moved on to a village that would receive them.

 images-3As I consider that second Tuesday of November, I find myself required to look beyond these two candidates and instead looking to the party that best represents my beliefs and my values.  Daniel did it in his day and Joseph did it in his.  Jesus certainly did it best as He represented His Father’s kingdom here on earth.  I suppose it is these words of Christ that help me the most when it comes to this election and its candidates, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.  So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example.  For they don’t practice what they teach.  They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.  Everything they do is for show.”  (Matthew 23: 1-5)  Certainly seems that Jesus understood it, while giving practical advice at how to walk it out.

 The sign in your yard will most likely not change anyone’s mind, but it just might inhibit your ability to share about a kingdom that is not part of this world system with your neighbors.  Eventually we need to ask ourselves, do we want to be right or do we want to be in relationship? Do we only want to share our political “truth” or do we long to share THE Truth? Your neighbor’s need or fear defines your obligation of serving them; it is the love of God. No political party can save them. Remember, Jesus washed the feet of Judas who hours later betrayed Him. Do you think that Jesus assaulted Judas verbally or was especially rough on his feet during that moment?

 II Chronicles 7:14 is still the best advice from God’s word for a hurting nation, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

 Father, please come and restore this land called the USA with Your love, Your heart and Your unity.  Please forgive us of our disunity in direct disobedience to the prayer of Your Son recorded in John 17, “May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”  Give us such a heart for this nation that we will pray for and love whichever candidate wins this election, because ultimately our trust, our hope and our life is in You and Your hands.  

Please make your voice heard by voting and in the meantime represent the kingdom of God well.

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