Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fact Checking The Refugee Ban

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." Ephesian 4:15
It is heart-breaking to see the division and dissension in our nation over the recent Executive action placing a three-month ban on immigration from seven middle-eastern nations.
Even the Church I love and have dedicated my life to has published an official position paper opposing this action by President Trump. As much as I love The Wesleyan Church it doesn't speak for me on this issue. I want to share this article from a fellow Wesleyan pastor, Jim Garlow, that reflects my position and the rationale for that stance. While it is lengthy, it is worth the read.

After seeing a lot of the posts about the refugee ban I felt it was time for a little fact checking and clarity about this issue:
Let’s look at the FACTS:
1. The 90 day ban does not extend to Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, or (inexplicably) Pakistan. These are the largest Islamic population centers in the world. I’m not exactly sure how the connection could be made about Muslims being targeted by Trump but if you read the actual executive order (it’s readily available on CNN or online for you to read) there is no mention of any faith or for that matter any country, other than Syria. More on this later…
2. Obama implemented a SIX MONTH BAN from Iraqi refugees in 2011. No outcry there by the media, of course, because it was Obama doing it and not Trump. By the way, Jimmy Carter banned Iranian refugees during his administration, too... a specifically targeted country by an American President. Again, no media outcry there. People are acting as if this is the first time something so egregious has ever been done in modern American history. I’m sorry, but that just isn’t true.

3. The seven countries being reported by the mainstream media as affected by the ban are: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Funny thing, though, you can’t find a mention of any of those countries (except Syria) in Trump’s Executive Order. It isn’t there. None of them.

So how did those particular countries get singled out?

Hold on to your hats here. It was done in the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 and signed into law in December of 2015 as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act by… President Barack Obama. That’s right. These countries that Trump is being castigated for “singling out” were originally singled out by an act that was signed into law by the Obama Administration. This so called “Muslim ban” was actually implemented by the Obama Administration but nobody said a word (again) because… well… it was the Obama Administration and he is a media darling. The bias of this is staggering.
4. But is it actually a Muslim ban? Nope. In the 2015 Terrorist Travel Prevention Act that Obama signed and nor in Trump’s Executive Order is there one mention of the Muslim faith. Read it for yourself. It isn’t there. It is the liberal media blowing this up into an anti Muslim ban and many are willingly feeding on the frenzy.
5. It’s for 90 days. This is to let the US border security breathe and better vet all people coming into this country. I’m all for immigrants coming to our country… LEGALLY. But if they’ve had ties to terrorist organizations then they shouldn’t be allowed. Where is the common sense among us? Shouldn’t this TEMPORARY ban be in place to make certain we’re all safe? Isn’t it worth vetting these immigrants to keep out radical Islamists who are hell bent on blowing us up and taking over the world? And what about refugees? I agree they should be able to come... again... LEGALLY.
6. The slowing of immigrants to the U.S. has been going on since the 1980’s. When Reagan took office, the number of annual immigrants was at about 210,000. (This is according to the Migration Policy Institute if you’re interested in researching it for yourself). It dropped to about 100,000 during his administration. Under Bush 41 and Clinton it climbed again to 122,000 but declined to 70,000 before Clinton left office in 2000. It dropped dramatically in 2001 (for obvious reasons) to 25,000 and has slowly but steadily climbed since then but has ALWAYS remained low (60,000 or less). It took its greatest jump in the last 2 years of Obama’s administration and (it’s interesting to note) the vast majority were from Muslim controlled countries. Trump's proposal TEMPORARILY caps it at 50,000. That’s hardly a dramatic cut and not nearly what was implemented in previous administrations. With the threats to the United States it seems perfectly acceptable to me.
7. “But the ones who committed terrorist acts in the US weren’t immigrants!” That’s not exactly correct. Many of them (including the shooter in the often ignored massacre in my hometown of Chattanooga) were children of immigrants from these countries. There is also strong evidence that many of them traveled to these countries to receive their indoctrination and training.
8. “But Trump is giving preferential treatment to Christians”. Here is where my view is admittedly biased. According to a January, 2017 report by a Research Firm in Massachusetts, over 900,000 Christians have been martyred worldwide in the last 10 years, many of those in Muslim controlled countries. They are fleeing for their lives and for the right to freely practice their religion, which many cannot do in their home countries for fear of death. Do you hear or read about that in the media? No. All that we hear reported is “All Muslims are peaceful people”. I’m sorry, that’s just not true. Radical Islam is a reality and, contrary to the previous administration’s assertion, is the most dangerous enemy the world is facing today.
And if you’re going to cite the Crusades as evidence of violent Christians, please spare me. That was in the Middle Ages and few of those Christians read nor knew what the Bible actually said. If you’re going to cite others today who supposedly are Christians but commit violence against abortion clinics and other people spare me as well. Here is the difference: When a “Christian” commits violence they are acting in a way that is diametrically opposed to the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. When a radical Muslim commits Jihad they are acting in a way that is precisely in line with what is commanded in the Koran and they feel zero remorse for it.
Are there peaceful Muslims? Sure. There are unorthodox believers in every religion. But Radical Islamics have but one mission: to take over the world and convert every person to the Muslim faith or kill the ones who refuse to convert. They feel justified in lying, stealing, cheating, murdering, subjugating women (I’m consistently amazed when a feminist defends Islam), and sending their own children in as suicide bombers. This is what we’re fighting against. Negotiation will not work as they teach lying is perfectly acceptable if it accomplishes its purpose of converting infidels or eradicating them from existence. Toleration is not in their creed.
9. Last of all, It has been astounding to the point of ludicrous to hear some the same people who applauded when our country was declared a secular country now call for us to act more “compassionately Christian.” Which one is it? You can’t have it both ways.
Those who are saying it is the Christian thing to do to allow these refugees into our country and cite Scriptures of “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” and “suffer not the little children to come unto me”, let’s look at those.
First of all, to apply these Scriptures to the refugees is way out of context. “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not” was Jesus reaching out to the children for faith in Him. It would be more applicable to sharing Christ in public forums to children than to these refugees. And neither Scripture is talking about a country inviting refugees into it. It’s talking about Christians inviting them into their homes. I dare say many of the people decrying the plight of these refugees would change their convictions if it meant inviting people into their homes. Secondly, the mandate of Christ is not “allow people not like you into your country”. It is “Go make disciples of all nations.” The mandate of Christ is clearly for Christians to GO into the world and make disciples.
If all these refugees were allowed in… 100% of them…. actually… let’s double that: 200% of them, it still wouldn’t scratch the surface of poverty in the world. America can do so much more by being a safe, strong, prosperous nation and rendering assistance through financial means and missionary work than we can by simply opening our borders to everyone. That is insanity.
This temporary ban will ensure America is safer. It is the right thing to do until our vetting process is in place. Nancy Pelosi said the Statue of Liberty is shedding tears today. I would say she’s not shedding nearly as many as she did on 9/11. Legal immigration is fine as long as there is screening and vetting in place. Illegal immigration is not ok. We are a nation of freedom but we are also a nation of laws and those laws must be obeyed.

I pray that God the Holy Spirit will give my brothers and sisters in my beloved Wesleyan Church grace to disagree agreeably so we can remain focused on the task of reaching our world for Jesus Christ.

I also pray for wisdom for President Trump and his advisers that they can devise an immigration policy that will keep the terrorists out while making it easier for refugees to come to the U.S.A. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

January 31, 2017

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

One of the important principles we are learning during this sermon series is that your heart will follow your treasures. Some, even preachers, quote it incorrectly saying, "Where your heart is there will your treasures be."

That is not what Jesus said! And since Jesus says what He means, it is not what He meant. 

If you will be absolutely honest with yourself you will acknowledge that it's true in your heart. Your heart is drawn to the things you value the most! So, you must be very sure that you invest in eternal matters first.

No wonder the standard for giving throughout the Bible is to give the tithe first!

Think about it!

When you receive your paycheck and you choose to cut the first check as a tithe to God and your local church, guess where your heart will be drawn?

Toward God! You're right!

But, if you take the first portion of that check and use it to  buy something for yourself or to pay a bill, guess where your heart will be drawn?

If you are feeling distant from God or indifferent toward God you may need look no further than your checkbook ledger to discover why.

So, what should you do to close that gap and draw near Him again?

That's right, move your treasures (time, talents, passions, finances) back to Him! Your heart will follow!

So, you want to know how you can have a greater heart for God?

Invest more of your treasures in Him and your heart will follow.

I'm not making this up! It is what Jesus said!

Learn it!

Live it!

You will love it!


Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 30, 2017

"Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath." Romans 12:14

Getting a grip on grace requires releasing grudges. Let's talk about how that happens.

Here's a story to help illustrate this truth:

An interesting system has been used for capturing monkeys in the jungles of Africa. The goal is to take the monkeys alive and unharmed for shipment to zoos of America. In an extremely humane way, the captors use heavy bottles, with long narrow necks, into which they deposit a handful of sweet-smelling nuts. The bottles are dropped on the jungle floor, and the captors return the next morning to find a monkey trapped next to each bottle.

How is it accomplished? The monkey, attracted by the aromatic scent of the nuts, comes to investigate the bottle, the nuts, and is trapped. The monkey can't take its hand out of the bottle as long it's holding the nuts, but it is unwilling to open its hand and let them go. The bottle is too heavy to carry away, so the monkey is trapped.

You hold onto a grudge out of a desire to get even with someone who has hurt you or wronged you. But in the attempt to do so, and even in the desire to do so, you are trapped by your own devices. Just like the monkeys, your stubborn refusal to release the grudge keeps you trapped like them. And like them, all you need to do is let go.

But in fact, it is more than letting go, it is grabing something else - GRACE! You release the negative so you can possess the positive. Grace is an incredible gift that is yours for the taking, but to take it you need a free hand. If I held out a gift to you, I could offer it but it would not be yours until you received it. You have to reach out and receive it with open hands.

Grace is a gift that must be received freely and once received it must be passed on to others. You cannot do either if you are trapped in vindictiveness and resentment.

Spring the grudge trap and escape to the freedom of grace!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

January 29, 2017

"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you ask, 'How have we robbed you?' In tithes and offerings." Malachi 3:8

When a Christ-follower forgets, or refuses or neglects bringing His tithe to the Lord he is robbing God.

It is that simple and straight forward. The tithe belongs to the Lord so if you keep it rather that giving it to Him that is robbery in God's eyes.

When you faithfully and obediently tithe you come under God's extravagant blessed! But when you withhold the tithe and neglect giving you are under a curse.

And yet, some believers insist on arguing against tithing.

One argument you might hear and hopefully will never offer is, "I am under God's blessing so I can't be placed under a curse."

So does that mean that because Jesus bore our sins on the cross we can live any way we want to live without consequences?

Of course not.

Or, let me put it another way. Did Jesus bear our sin on the cross? Yes, the Bible says He did.

But, let me ask you, have you ever sinned?

Sure you have!

And the Bible says that Jesus died to take our diseases. But have you ever been sick?

So, Jesus died to take our sins and He died to bear our sickness, but we still sin occasionally and we still get ill once in awhile.

So just because you are under a blessing doesn't mean you can be disobedient or rebellious and do whatever you want to do and not come under the curse.

Disobedience has consequences and those consequences can remove you from God's blessing and place you under a curse.

So, don't rob God if you don't want to be cursed!

Another argument is this, "Well tithing was under the old law and I am under grace so I don't have to tithe."

Okay, let's take that thought and frame it like this, "I can tell terrible harmful lies about you because lying is under the law and I am under grace."

Does that make sense? 

Of course not!

Oh, how about this? I can rob you and take whatever you have that I want because stealing is under the law and I am under grace! So stealing is fine!

Of course that is wrong!

If something was wrong under the commandments it is still wrong under grace!

If something was right under the law it is still right today!

There isn't an Old Testament God and a New Testament God there is just God! So there isn't one morality under law and a different morality under grace.

One of the clear messages of the Sermon on the Mount was that Jesus didn't come to destroy the law but to fulfill it!

So, tithing may have been instituted during the Old Testament system but nothing stated in the New Testament changes that system!

It's this simple. If you want to please God and enjoy His favor and blessing then tithe. But if you are not bothered by living under disobedience and the removal of God's blessings, then He will not stop you.

But, if you can live under God's blessing for your life and be delivered from the power of the curse why wouldn't you? If that is what you desire tithing is one of the practices you must adopt.

Friday, January 27, 2017

January 28, 2017

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty." Malachi 3:10-12

This is a significant portion of Scripture! Read it again and see if you can see why I make that statement.

Did you see it?

This is the only verse in all the Bible where God says, "Test me!"

Notice, He says test me in THIS. What is THIS? It is in this area of tithing. Essentially, God is saying, "Give tithing a try and just see for yourself if I am trust worthy in my promises to bless you financially AND spiritually!"

What part of "I will open up the floodgates of heaven" don't you believe? Why would God make that promise if He didn't mean it? When has He ever lied?

In addition to God flooding you with blessings He promises to guard and protect your current sources of income!

Can you trust God? Do you believe He will keep His promise to bless you? If you are struggling in your faith then put Him to the test!

What do you have to lose? The most you could lose would be 10% and that would leave you with 90% at the worst. How much of a risk is that?

For a 10% risk you stand to gain the blessing and favor of God!

Over the years I have offered a 10/90 challenge to people in the churches I served. What is the 10/90 challenge? Here's how it works. If a non-tither will agree to tithe regularly for 90 days and at the end of the 90 days he feels he hasn't been blessed I will agree to refund every dollar he tithed to the church.

I have never had anyone collect on that offer. Every person who committed to trust God with the tithe and test God has found it a worthwhile practice.

If you have never tithed or haven't tithed regularly isn't it worth a try? Doesn't God deserve a chance to prove His faithfulness to His promises? Couldn't you use some blessings in your life?

God is testing you by inviting you to test His promise to bless you! This is one test you don't want to pass on!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

10: The Number of Testing

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it." Malachi 3:8-10

You are going to think I am strange when I tell you this but when I was in high school and college I liked tests.

Go ahead, hate me.

At least I liked them when they were announced in advance, as in the teacher saying on Monday, "Take good notes this week because there will be a test on Friday." I took that as a challenge like game day and I wanted to be prepared to win!

Of course, I was also the guy who wanted to be at the free throw line when the game was on the line, or the batter coming to the plate with the winning run on base, or the one who has to sink the four-foot putt to sin the match.

A little weird, I know.

On the other hand, I cringed with everyone at the words, "Good morning class! Please pull out a clean sheet of notebook paper and a sharp number two pencil. We will have a pop quiz this morning.

Pop quizzes must be unconstitutional or something! At least they should be!

Malachi Chapter shows us that God gives you a test. What test?

Every time you get paid you are faced with a test whether you will worship God with the tithe or not. If you bring the first ten percent to God you will past the test and receive His blessing. If you don't God will not bless you and you will bring a curse on yourself.

Where do I get that?

The word "tithe" means "ten" and the number ten is the number for testing throughout the Bible. For example:

How many plagues did God send to test the Pharaoh in Egypt?

10! You're right!

How many commandments did God give Moses?


How many times did God test Israel in the wilderness?


How many times were Jacob's wages changed by Laban?


How many days was Daniel tested?


How many virgins were tested in Matthew 25?


There's a theme developing here, right?

But, if you pass the test there is something much better than a smiley face or a gold star! Listen to this amazing promise:

"Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it."

When it comes to tithing, there is no pop quiz! God has given notice for thousands of years that He will test us every time payday comes!

So, are you prepared for the test?

January 26, 2017

"Where your treasure is there will your heart be also." Matthew 6:21

Sunday I preached a message entitled "It's All About the Heart" and I challenged people to examine their hearts by studying the Sermon on the Mount over the next few weeks. To illustrate that point and serve as a reminder I put a small heart in the bulletin for people to keep with them as they meditate in the Word.

I hope you are one who is taking that challenge. I invite you to give your heart back to me once you are sure your heart is right.

As Jesus teaches in this verse from the Sermon on the Mount, one way to get your heart right is to put your treasures in the right place so your heart will follow. 

Thinking about this gets me excited about our "Compelled By Love" Capital Campaign. You already love FredWes and the amazing people who are part of it. And you already give faithfully to support the ministry. But imagine how much more you will love the Lord and the church when you pledge some serious treasure toward the campaign! You heart will follow your treasure!

Now multiply that by 40 or 50 times as our FredWes families commit more treasure to the future of our church! Imagine what an environment and spiritual climate that will create each Sunday as we gather for worship at FredWes!

"Compelled By Love" is a catching phrase right now as we plan and promote the upcoming campaign but for the two years following the April 2nd commitments it will be a reality! We will have put our treasure in FredWes' future and our hearts are going to follow!

It's all about the heart!

How's your heart?

Why not take your heart and hang out in Matthew Chapters 5 and 6 and 7? God will do some precious things to your heart!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The First 10th Belongs To The Lord

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings." Malachi 3:6-9

When you were a child one of the first lessons your parents taught you was not to take things that do not belong to you. That is called stealing and it is wrong. No doubt they made their point by reminding you how you hate it when someone takes something that belongs to you. If you don't people taking your stuff then don't take theirs.

If you had brothers and sisters you were taught to respect them and their toys by not taking them without their permission. To do so is stealing and stealing is wrong. 

Perhaps, if you were brought up in a Christian home you were taught that stealing is not only wrong it is a sin because it violates one of God's commandments - "Thou shall not steal".

Later, when you started going to school your teacher forbade you from stealing from the other students in the class. If you stole lunch money or a candy bar or a pencil from another student and you got caught, you were sent immediately to the principal's office and that visit didn't end well. Or, shall I say it didn't end well on the end part of your body!

One way or another you learned that stealing is wrong and that you should not do it! That was an important lesson to learn!

While all responsible parents teach their children not to steal from others, how many parents teach their children not to steal from from God?

Were you taught not to steal from God?

Have you taught you children not to steal from God?

As indicated in these verses above it is possible to rob God and it is a very serious offense. Very serious!

That is why God is reminding His children and chastising them that failure to give their tithes is the same as robbing Him.

What is the tithe?

The tithe is the first tenth of the income you receive. That first tenth belongs to the Lord, so if you keep it and fail to offer it to Him you become a thief.

In these verses above, the Prophet Malachi writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit notes that robbing God of His tithe caused Him to turn away from them.

Did you know that God requires the tithe of you?

Do you know that tithing brings God's blessing on your life?

Have you taught that to your children?

Did you know that failure to bring the tithe to God is a sin?

Do you know sin separates you from God?

You'd better remember what your mom and dad told you about stealing!

January 24, 2017

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

It has been said, "You can't take it with you but you can send it ahead."

How does that happen? How do I turn temporary tangible objects into eternal treasures?

You do that by using them in support for the evangelistic work of the Gospel!

When you financially support your local church you are using something temporary (money) to support something eternal (The Kingdom). That then, becomes a heavenly treasure as hearts are transformed and lives are changed!

Your heart will follow your treasure! Jesus said so! 

If you want your heart to end up in Heaven then send your treasures there!

What are treasures?

People are treasures!

They are the only thing that Jesus died for and the only thing that can last forever.

What do you treasure more than your family?

Possessions are treasures!

Look for ways to use the material things God has blessed you with to reach people with the Gospel of Christ. 

Use your car to bring people to church or to run errands for a home bound person.

Open your house to welcome a hurting person or someone who is homeless.

Withdraw some savings to give to a person in need.

These are some ways to leverage material possessions to win eternal people into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Passions are treasures!

Everyone is passionate about something! 

What excites you?

What motivates you?

What brings you joy as you use it, do it or think about it?

What moves other people when you say it or do it?

What do you feel God wired you to do with your talents and gifts?

Whatever it is that makes you passionate use it to draw people closer to Jesus!

So, what on earth will you do today for Heaven's sake?