All of life is about giving on one level or another. We spend our lives giving to people each day. We give to people at home, work or school. And yet, while many may not realize it, all of this giving to others is just a dress rehearsal and practice for giving ourselves to the Lord. The best place to see that going on is in the story of marriage between a man and woman. This past weekend, my beloved daughter got married. I had the privilege of giving her away to her new husband. Both of them had the joy of giving themselves away to one another. The story of giving our lives to another, as seen in marriage, is the narrative of how the Lord gave Himself away for His Bride on the Cross.
Now if you look at our society today, it seems increasingly harder for people to give themselves away to anyone or anything. Ours is a society that fears commitment and sacrifice. Ours is a culture that is dominated by the self. So, the idea of completely giving oneself away to another out of love and altruism seems hard to find. That problem extends far beyond marriage to every relationship. Instead it seems that many people are more conditioned to seeing how much they can get from others. Sacrifice and giving of one's life to and for another is foreign.
Over the past couple of years, The Carlson Report has Biblically explored some of the great issues and questions of the day. However, the most basic issue in life is not about politics, prophecy, morality, new technology or something else in the news. The most basic issue of life is, "Why Are We Here?" All the rest of the issues and questions in our lives don't mean much if we can't answer that one. It seems we often end up with TMI (Too Much Information), but too little meaning and purpose about our lives. People will try to solve and deal with every issue they face each day, but their ultimate purpose for even being here on planet earth is left unsolved. If you stop and think about it, this is THE great problem of the human condition and life itself....we don't know why we are here.
Now this most basic of questions is looked at by the world's religions and philosophers all the time. And yet, most people come to accept they aren't going to find the answer, or at least one that makes sense right now. As a matter of fact, most people believe that the answers about our purpose and reason for being alive must wait for some sort of afterlife before things start to finally make sense. So, for many, about all we can do is try to live a "good life" (whatever that means) and hope for the best in some future world. But if we're honest, how satisfying can that approach really be? Does it make much sense to wander around doing a bunch of stuff every day, but in the end, have no idea why we are here in the first place?
On this Resurrection weekend, we pause and reflect on the greatest event in human history, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian Faith has always rested on the simple truth of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Simply put, without an empty tomb we have an empty faith. Without an empty tomb the Christian Faith collapses and is a fraud. The Bible is very clear on this subject according to I Corinthians 15:12-26. Christianity is the ONLY faith that builds everything on a single event... the Empty Tomb. Other faiths and religious systems have complex systems of belief and doctrine that are hard to understand, even for their own followers. On the other hand, the Lord has made the Christian Faith so simple that even a young child can understand it. Christ is raised from the dead!
For many people today, the Resurrection of our Lord is something they believe on some level, but it doesn't seem to go much deeper. It becomes an "article of faith" and not personal experience. Many people will attend Easter services, wear a new hat, have a special dinner with family, but seemingly vanish the rest of the year. Our Nation is filled with a majority of people who profess they are Christians and yet we are in the midst of being called "post Christian." How does something like that happen and what does that say about how people really see the Lord and/or the Faith? Can someone really believe in the Empty Tomb and not have that event transform their lives?
As Palm Sunday approaches this weekend, millions of Christians will be celebrating our Lord's ride into Jerusalem as the Savior of the world. This event marks the beginning of what is known of as "Holy Week," culminating with Easter Sunday or First Fruits the following Sunday. And while millions of people will be gathering for celebrations around the world, few may see the deeper meaning of Palm Sunday and our Lord's ride on the donkey as it relates to our lives in Christ.
When the Lord Jesus got on that donkey, His primary purpose was to fulfill a passage from Zechariah 9:9 that was written over 400 years earlier that said,
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
If you want to understand how to make sense of the current culture wars and the spiritual meaning behind them, you need look no further than the current nomination battle over Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. In what may turn out to be the most contested fight to seat a Supreme Court Judge in America history, the Lord is giving us a glimpse into the greater spiritual conflict between Heaven and Hell that is going on all around us. You see the candidacy of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court is a lightning rod that defines how people see not only politics and the Constitution, but ultimately the Lord Himself.
The vote to seat Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is expected sometime in April. However, the process to get there promises to be truly "ugly." Both sides in this conflict realize that the rule of law in this country hangs in the balance for the next 20 years or so. Thus, no amount of rhetoric or money can be withheld by either side to either confirm Judge Gorsuch or defeat him. As you watch this battle unfold, it will be amazing to see how it ultimately reveals the hearts of people on both sides.
Recently, a story broke that should get everyone's attention in the Church world. That story was the closing in late February of Family Christian Stores, the nation's largest chain of Christian book and merchandise stores after 85 years in business. The announcement will affect more than 3,000 employees at more than 240 stores around the nation. For many, a story like this is "no big deal." After all, in an age of Amazon.com and less serious reading by the public, one might not think too much on this story. Few would think that such a financial bankruptcy pointed to an even deeper spiritual one in the Church. You see, what we are watching today are signs of a major spiritual decline in the American Church and a movement away from Biblical foundations and literacy.
From the beginning, the Bible has been the cornerstone of Christian Faith and discipleship. While Bibles may have to be smuggled into some nations today, just about every American has access to as many as they want for a low price. The problem that has come up in the last 50 years or so is that our consumer driven culture has created a demand for millions of other books about the Bible and the Christian Faith that are being promoted and read instead. And while some of this is good, we are beginning to see the downside of the Christian consumer world we have created. Instead of reading and studying the Word today, many Christian consumers are lost in a sea of shallow, pop culture books and literature. Many of these books are written by famous celebrities and mega church pastors that are about the latest spiritual fashions and fads that tell their audiences how to lose weight, deal with a difficult person, become a better parent or how to be more successful and blessed. Instead of just reading and studying the Word and hiding it in our hearts, we have been buying Bible verses for our refrigerator magnets and wall hangings.
One of the most interesting words that have emerged in our culture in the last year or so has been the use of the word "fake." The word came out of the last Presidential campaign. The word was used to describe the chaos that was created by the media, in which few seemed to really know what was genuine or fake news. This movement away from reality and truth to the counterfeit and fake is at the heart of a growing spiritual climate going on today. This emergence of the "fake" has begun to transform everything in our world from Presidential elections to our relationships with others and even the Lord Himself.
A generation or so ago, most people had some idea of what was meant by a friend. Back then, when people used the term "friend" they meant something by it. It normally meant you knew someone, spent time with them and had developed a relationship with them that you valued and was worth something to you. Back in the "good old days," friendships were often connected to people you could count on to do something for you or even would be willing to make a sacrifice for you when the going got tough. Real friends tended to stick together and defend one another through the ups and downs of life.
One of the most incredible things to watch today is the changing role of Donald Trump as President. When Donald Trump first announced his desire to be President, it was considered a "bad joke" by many people. More recently the laughter has died down. Not only did Donald Trump become President against impossible odds, but his first address to a joint session of Congress this past Tuesday surprised many. Some people simply could not believe that President Trump's speech sounded "Presidential." In slightly over an hour, President Trump delivered one of the more powerful, substantive and effective speeches to the Nation in recent memory. People from all political persuasions were shocked at how well the speech came across. Simply put, something is underway now that is surprising almost everyone, except the Lord of glory that planned it all for His purposes and our good.
Anytime you see the emergence of a new and transformational leader on the world stage, you can be sure the Lord is at work for His purposes and that BIG things are underway in His Kingdom. The Prophet Daniel said in Daniel 2:21,
Praise be to the name of the Lord for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
There is no question that President Trump is such a world leader and that his influence and role in history is going to be greater than anyone realizes at the present time. That has already happened in just a few weeks. None of us can even begin to imagine what his influence will be over the next 4-8 years, should he remain in office.
One of the most deadly and destructive forms of public discourse today is rooted and grounded in accusation. Accusation is the idea that someone has done something wrong, sinned or broken the rules without any clear and verifiable evidence, facts or truth to establish it. In a way, accusation has become the new public courtroom in America where everyone is on trial for something that goes against what the cultural agenda has established by the media and those in power. If someone dares to stand up for anything these days they are often torn apart under a torrent of media attacks, fake news and accusations by nameless sources with unproven facts. These personal attacks have changed the world as we know it, and the worst is yet to come.
Media attacks and accusations are all based on the premise that there is something "right" and something "wrong." Since the Lord has hardwired us for morality through the Law and our conscience, it is impossible to move totally away from morality on some level, however it might be manipulated. The goal of all accusation is to declare that someone is guilty in order to bring about public shame and destroy their voice in the public square.
Happy Valentine's Day! If you go to a store today you will see a frenzy of people buying cards, flowers and candy for the people in their lives. Valentine's Day is the third biggest day in the floral industry, following Christmas and Mother's Day. Valentine's Day is the second largest greeting card holiday after Christmas. Valentine's Day is the fourth largest candy day following Halloween, Easter and Christmas. So, Valentine's Day and the love connected to it is BIG business. The holiday has its roots in the early history of the Church. According to Wikipedia,
Valentine's Day, also called Saint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is an annual holiday celebrated on February 14. It originated as a Western Christian liturgical feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus, and is recognized as a significant cultural and commercial celebration in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country.
Most of the stories and possible myths surrounding this holiday connect it to the martyrdom of Christians serving others. So, the idea of Christian love and sacrifice seems to be at the heart of the holiday's origins long before people were sending flowers, candy and cards.
There is no question that this past Sunday's Super Bowl game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons was one of the greatest football games ever played, some are saying THE greatest. But the reason the game was so amazing and memorable was because of what the superstar of the game, Patriot quarterback Tom Brady, did in rallying his team back to a comeback victory from a 25 point deficit in the 3rd quarter to win in overtime. Nothing like it had ever happened in Super Bowl history. People will be talking about this game for a long time. It was the kind of game that no one could forget. Some sports writers are calling it a, "Game for the ages." It was a game that seemed for a moment to move from a sporting event to mythology and legend.
Whenever you see something amazing out there, you can always be sure there is something in it about the Lord. We are hardwired to react to certain things in certain ways because they reflect important things about the Lord. Whether we understand it or not, we are hardwired to rejoice when we see our heroes make comebacks. For many people, Tom Brady is some sort of sports hero. Before Sunday's game, many football fans and players said he was the greatest quarterback in NFL history. After what happened in the game, few have any doubts left. Tom Brady's legacy and place in history has been established as part of his sports legend. For the rest of his life, Tom Brady will walk around and people will say, "There goes Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback that ever lived."
Ever since Donald Trump was sworn into the office of President of the United States on Friday, January 20, 2017, the world has somehow changed. Do you feel it? Never in our lifetime has a President been more controversial, colorful or courageous. Things are happening so fast in just his first week in office that the press and world at large is dumbfounded. Whatever is under way now with President Trump, it will surely have a major role in shaping prophetic events and our Lord's return. Hang on everybody; this is NOT going to be boring.
As all of these events are rapidly evolving day by day, very few are able to fully understand how Trump has been able to take the Nation and world by storm. What happened??? Trump has started some sort of political revolution. Most of our political pundits and commentators are largely clueless as to what is unfolding and what it means. However, what Donald Trump has tapped into and doing is very simple to understand because it has its basis in the Bible and what the Bible says about leadership and power.
We are surely living in exciting days as we watch the Lord's purposes for Israel unfold before our eyes. Some of the most prophetically important moments for Israel in her history are under way right now. In the past, the United States has been a stalwart friend to Israel from her beginning as a nation in 1948. However, recent actions by the outgoing Obama Administration and Secretary of State John Kerry reflect a deep enmity against Israel that has seemingly been hidden and building for the past eight years.
As a case in point, on December 23, 2016 the United Nation's Security Council voted to condemn Israel's building of new settlements in the West Bank as a "flagrant violation of international law." The United States had the power to stop this action, as a permanent member of the Security Council, but chose to abstain from the vote, thereby insuring that the measure would pass. Secretary Kerry defended the decision to abandon Israel by stating that Israel "can be Jewish or it can be democratic." In other words, if Israel continues to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank, areas contested since the Six Day War in 1967, there will never be any way for there to be a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
One of the great mysteries of life is time. Nobody really knows much about it, other than it passes by and people get older and die. But outside of the obvious, the real meaning of time is hidden from us right now. One day there won't be any more time because we will be living in the eternal now forever. You see the Lord doesn't wear a wrist watch and there aren't any wall clocks in Heaven. The Lord operates outside of time as we know it, and as His people that will be our experience of time one day as well.
For many people today, the idea of time is connected to the New Year's Eve party the world held a few days ago, some fireworks and perhaps watching a ball drop from a tower in Time Square in New York City on December 31 at midnight. New Year's Eve can be a time to celebrate new beginnings, but honestly most people have no idea of why the year is new or if anything new will happen to them or the world that they haven't seen before. That is true because without the Lord nothing is ever really new....no it was here long ago as the Bible tells us (Ecclesiastes 1:10.)
As Christmas approaches this year, one must wonder what most people are really thinking about this holiday based on what we see going on in our society and even the Church. For many, Christmas does commemorate Christ's birth, but beyond that one is not really sure who they think is in that Manger. For some, it is a dusty throwback to a time gone by when people used to believe in traditional "religious stuff." All of that seems to be increasingly less important today in an age of tolerance and multiculturalism. For others, about all the holiday symbolizes is shopping, busyness and a season of parties and families getting together.
Somewhere in this mixture of beliefs people have lost the immensity of what Christmas is really about....even in the Church. You see, the Babe in the Manger is Lord of all. As a result, everything that exists is about that Child, created by Him and for Him as the Bible tells us in Colossians 1:16. That Child created the Heavens and Earth and designed His own body and birth as a way to enter the world and save it from sin. Christ's birth demonstrated His own majesty and glory as our Creator and Redeemer at the same time. Let's spend a little time exploring the mystery, majesty and magnitude of the Manger this Christmas and let the Lord amaze us.
As the dust finally begins to settle from our recent Presidential election, a fairly scary phenomenon has emerged.....Fake News. This is a term that we are just beginning to hear about more and more every day. While campaigning in the recent election for Hillary Clinton here in Michigan, President Obama said,
"And people, if they just repeat attacks enough and outright lies over and over again, as long as it's on Facebook and people can see it, as long as it's on social media, people start believing it. And it creates this dust cloud of nonsense."
It appears that this recent election has truly brought out the worst in our media and public in general. Few people seem to know whether anything they hear anymore is true. The pubic is increasingly being left with a nagging feeling that everything they hear might really end up being "Fake." And this Fake News is not just coming from our major media outlets; it is also coming from just about everyone. You see through the explosion of technology, the average person is a media outlet themselves because of social media, blogs, emails, texting, Twitter and just about every other possible way to pass on information to others electronically.
The original Thanksgiving holiday we are celebrating this Thursday had its roots with 90 Indians and 53 Pilgrims at a meal in the fall of 1621 on the Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. This thanking of the Lord for His many blessings was continued by Presidents Washington and Lincoln in national proclamations after great battles that helped to keep the Nation free. Eventually, the idea of a national thanksgiving was fixed on the calendar to the last Thursday of November by President Lincoln on October 3, 1863.
Many today have lost sight of who the Pilgrims were and what their lives were all about. The Pilgrims stood for much more than saying grace at a big meal. The Pilgrims were a group of people that believed their lives totally belonged to the Lord. They were a group of people that were willing to make any sacrifice for their faith. No price was too big to pay, including crossing an ocean and starting over. The Pilgrims never had any idea of living the good life, remodeling their kitchen or enjoying the American Dream. The Pilgrims were not looking for anything this world had to offer. Deep down inside of them was a desire for the Lord and the great future that the Lord alone would give them one day. As the writer of Hebrews said,
"Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." Hebrews 11:16
The Pilgrims were on a journey to the Promised Land. And like the Lord's people throughout history, they knew the Lord has saved the best for last. Heaven was not something that was going to be fully realized in this life. The real joy and meaning of life was yet to come in a heavenly City, the New Jerusalem.
Every election, including this coming one, is ultimately about a choice that people make regarding the rule of law over their lives. So when America goes to vote this coming Tuesday in the presidential election, people will NOT just be voting for a candidate. In the end, people will be voting for whether or not the rule of law will be upheld. This is true because the next President will be deciding what happens to the Supreme Court through their nomination of a judge to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. America's entire Supreme Court and the rule of law hangs in the balance.
Our Constitution gives the president the power to nominate judges to the Supreme Court in Article II Section II. These nominations are evaluated, reviewed and either ratified or rejected by the Senate. Every president appoints justices to the Court that either sees the Constitution as a fixed body of unchanging law OR something that changes with the culture and needs of the people. Sadly, because several justices on the Supreme Court over the years have seen the Constitution as a culturally conditioned document, our nation has increasingly become lawless. After all, how does the Constitution ever provide legal cover to justify abortion/infanticide or gay marriage as an example? Both of these current Supreme Court "laws" never had any basis in the original intent of Founders when the Constitution was written.
With so much attention focused on the next President and the coming new administration in January 2017, it might be a good time to look at what is going to happen in the future. A thousand years from tonight there won't be any more partisan politics. The media and self-seeking politicians won't have any power or influence. Christians tend to get lost in politics and fail to see the key lessons that politics teach us about the Lord Jesus Christ and His Coming Kingdom. Perhaps this Biblical perspective can help us weather the coming election results and new administration and give us real hope for the future. If the Christian Church talked more about the coming new Administration, we might have fewer problems with the current ones.
Every four years we Americans choose a new President. When the election is over and the dust settles, each President-elect begins to put together their transition team to help facilitate their new administration. Most Americans don't realize what a BIG transition it involves. That is true because the new President will need to fill and appoint hundreds of people to key positions in their administration. These positions cover everything from their cabinet to scores of other positions related to running the Executive Branch from the White House staff to nominating Supreme Court judges and ambassadorships for the whole world. It is truly amazing the amount of work required, along with the need for great wisdom and judgment to pick the right people for the right job. It is the ultimate personnel assignment ever given to any person on earth.
If there is one spiritual principle in play during this year's Presidential election cycle it is the power of the media to corrupt the truth. Simply put, the media and the press are now defining the "truth" and creating reality for most people. They have the ability to make anyone into a sinner or a saint and to get the public to believe just about anything, whether it is true or not. What everyone needs to understand in this hour is that the patterns we are seeing rapidly emerging in our nation have a prophetic fulfillment in the Bible.
Every person makes decisions based on the information they have been given. Whether we fully understand it or not, we usually end up doing what we have been conditioned to do. As an example, if people hear stories that drinking water in plastic bottles causes cancer, people will drink less water in plastic bottles, even if there is no data or research to prove it. In a similar way, when people hear that one candidate is "good" or another candidate is "bad" they vote accordingly. Few people seem to realize that these decisions are often not entirely "free," but have been carefully influenced by others with a hidden agenda. As a result, independent and objective thinking by the public is an increasingly rare phenomenon.
In what has to be one of the most astonishing cases of moral hypocrisy in political history, Democratic Candidate for President, Hillary Clinton has asked the voters of America to abandon Republican candidate Donald Trump over a recently released video/audio tape. The tape in question shows Mr. Trump engaging in a sexually explicit and degrading conversation about women with a reporter that was recorded over 10 years ago while he was a private citizen.
Response to the tape has been strong from both Democrats and Republics alike. Some are publicly distancing themselves from Mr. Trump, while others have called for him to drop out of the race altogether. And while Mr. Trump has apologized for his behavior and comments to the nation in Sunday's Presidential Debate, the controversy will continue in the minds of many and may even affect the results of the election.
What is simply amazing about this recent turn of events is that Candidate Clinton and her husband, former President Clinton, seem to expect the nation to support them in their moral outrage regarding Mr. Trump's behavior regarding some comments about women. Somehow their personal behavior, the last 50 years of a liberal, progressive agenda in government and the moral collapse of the nation under their direct influence seems to be conveniently forgotten in their quest to gain power and return to office again.
Well, the countdown has begun. In a few weeks another President will be elected. The nation has been obsessed with this election, perhaps more than at any other time in recent memory. The stakes are large for all of us and the world. And yet, whoever is elected President they will fail on some level. It always turns out that way. Anytime people are placed in elected office it seems that many of us end up disappointed. Has there ever been a President that always did the right thing? We vote people in with high hopes for great things and often sit back 4 years or so later with sadness and regret over what went wrong. Such is the state of politics in America and the world.
Now the really sad thing about politics is that few learn anything from this disillusioning pattern. You see the very idea that we need a good leader is nothing more than Heaven speaking to us. We want a good leader because we were wired to have one. The Lord wired all of us with the idea of needing good leaders because we ultimately needed the Lord to rule over us. Human government is at best a poor stand in for the Lord of Glory.
Do you like surprises? Most people might say "Yes," but then again, it might depend on what kind of "surprise" you are talking about. Now when it comes to our Lord, all of us should be asking ourselves if we think the Lord has any "surprises" left for us. The answer to that question is the foundation of the Bible, our Faith and the future of the world.
Most Christians need to be reminded now and then that our Faith started out as a BIG "surprise." The disciples surely never planned on the Lord Jesus resurrecting from the dead. And even though our Lord told them over and over that He would rise from the dead, they just didn't fully understand or believe it ( Matthew 16:21). Even on Resurrection Morning, disciples like the Apostle Peter found the Lord gone from the Tomb and walked away wondering "What happened?" (Luke 24:12).
If you walk up to someone in any church these days and ask, "Hey, do you think the Lord has any BIG 'surprise' planned for His people?" you might get blank stares, questions or discomfort. Most Christians don't even know how to answer a question like that. They may even think you are weird for asking it. And yet, IF the Lord of glory does not have anything amazing and exciting ahead for us, we have lost the heart of our Faith. A Faith without surprises ends up being very predictable....at times routine and maybe for a few boring. After all, if church life is too much about potlucks or special speakers things can honestly become a little stale. Of course this is exactly what is happening to the American Church. Christiainity is on the decline in our nation. Some seem to be leaving the true Faith for other things that seem more real or a better use of their time. When you leave out the excitement and wonder of the future that the Lord gives us in Christ you can't really blame them.