Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My reaction to the movie "Nikki and the Perfect Stranger"

This is not really my review of the movie “Nikki and the Perfect Stranger” as much as it is my response to it. The movie had a big impact on me as all of the movies in that series have in their own way. It is what will probably be the final in a series of movies starring Jefferson Moore. The plot of each story in the series centers around what would happen if Jesus Christ encountered people in 21st century America. What would he say about the differing challenges people face today? Is he really saying anything different to us now than he did during his earthly ministry that ended when he ascended to Heaven approximately 2,000 years ago?

Do not worry. There are no spoilers here. I am merely giving my reaction and how I reacted to the film. I can think of many times since I made my initial profession of faith where I felt just as disconnected from God as I did before I ever knew anything about him. There are times when I take my focus off of him and still feel that way. I am sure I am not the only one that has ever felt that before so I am praying this helps someone else too. A believer can feel disconnected from God when we take our eyes off of Jesus and start focusing solely on our outward actions and our inner world that produces those actions. That is not to say that we should ignore the command given in Second Corinthians 13:5. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” We can short-circuit our faith by focusing on ourselves and not enough on Jesus however. God has forgiven your sins if you have turned from those sins and trusted in his sacrifice on the cross as payment for the penalty of those sins. I urge you to do that right now if you have not.

All of us, including myself, can easily get caught up in the trap of measuring ourselves by how well we perform on a day-to-day basis or by comparing ourselves to other people. Our outward obedience would take care of itself if we would just become so immersed in Jesus that we stop endlessly dwelling on it. Nothing I do or do not do will affect how much God loves me. Our status before God can change based on whether or not we become true born again followers of Christ or not. His love for all the people he has created never changes though. That is why Judgment Day will be so hard for him--more so for him than anyone else. He will have to look at most of the people that have ever lived and say with the most anguish any heart could ever feel: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23)!

First John 4:8 says that God is love. Love is not just an attribute of his. He is love. We were created in his image as objects of his love as the movie so wonderfully points out. He desires nothing more than to pour out his love on us if we will just get ourselves out of the way and let him. Most people do not allow him that opportunity and they rob themselves of the greatest blessings and discovering what they were created for in the process. We are actually falling from grace when we look at all the ways we fail to measure up rather than living in thankfulness for what he has done for us on the cross. That is actually what it means to fall from grace. Some churches and even whole denominations have taken falling from grace to mean sinning to the point that one loses their salvation. Galatians 5:4 actually says, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” The Lord sacrificed himself on the cross for nothing if we had any hope at all of being justified by what we do. What we do is a reflection of what we really believe but our salvation never has been and never will be a result of works! As the movie also pointed out very well, you cannot dwell on your failures and walk in faith at the same time. Confess your sins to God and repent of them if you have any that are unconfessed. Let it go and move on once you have done that though. God is still there and he still loves you.

Loving illegal immigrants doesn't equal supporting lawlessness

Galatians 3:28 says, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This verse is not about illegal immigration and cannot be rightly applied to that subject. Context is everything. You can see the context of this verse by looking at the surrounding verses: Galatians 3:26-29. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

The verse is about those who are children of God through faith in Christ. That is the only way anyone can become a child of God. Anyone who has not repented of their sins and trusted in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to forgive them for those sins is God’s creature. The unrepentant and unforgiven sinner is not God’s child. John 1:12-13 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” A person becomes God’s child when they receive Christ and believe on his name according to those verses. It has nothing to do with immigrants and everything to do whether a person is God’s child or just his creation.

Does this include illegal immigrants? The answer would be yes as far as the question goes. Some further reflection is required on that question though. The issue before our government--and us as American citizens since the government is “we the people”--is how the issue of illegal immigration should be handled under American law. We cannot apply a command that was given to individuals and make it government policy. Let us look at Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:39 as relates to whether an individual should take revenge on another individual. “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” That is good policy to live by in our everyday lives. Does that mean the United States government should have turned the other cheek and not resisted the evil of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001? No. We are dealing with two separate entities: individuals and government. How does the Bible say the government should handle the evildoer? The answer is very different from the one I just quoted. Romans 13:1-7 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” This passage does not command government to turn the other cheek. It tells the evil person--in this case the lawbreaker--to be very afraid of government because government represents God’s agents of wrath on Earth to keep order and punish wrongdoing. These are two very different responses to the same issue. Both are right though depending on whether one is referring to personal conduct or government policy.

Now that brings this back around to the subject of illegal immigration. What should an individual response be to the illegal immigrant? The response should be the same as it is with every other individual we encounter. We appeal to what Jesus said the two greatest commands are: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Our responsibility is to love everyone we meet. That command includes the legal and illegal immigrant. The government has a different responsibility when it comes to how to express love though. I point to the referenced Scripture above in Romans 13:1-7 again. A person who is in this country illegally whether they snuck in, overstayed their visas, or any other possible circumstance is rebelling against the governing authorities. You cannot fulfill the command to submit to the governing authorities if your very presence in the country violates the law and therefore is a rebellion. The government is required to rectify the situation because that is what a righteous government does. The illegal alien should be removed therefore.

We are New Testament Christians. The Old Testament can guide us in helping decide what the appropriate course of action is though. We can understand God’s mind on the issue even though he was primarily speaking to Old Testament Israel at that time. Leviticus 19:34 says of the legal immigrant who would become a citizen, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Just because we love people does not mean we should overlook their lawlessness. God loves everyone and yet the unrepentant sinner that does not get right with him still has to face eternal consequences. It should be the same with a lawbreaker in our country. Having them face consequences does not mean we hate them. The Bible calls the Antichrist the lawless one in Second Thessalonians 2:3. We are actually acting more like the Antichrist than Jesus Christ when we behave in a lawless manner or become an enabler of lawlessness by the policies we support. Judges 17:6 says, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” We live in disorder and chaos when everyone does as they see fit. God is a God of order. He is not a God of chaos. First Corinthians 14:33 says, “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” We can truly show that we love people and love God by obeying him and those in authority over us when their laws do not contradict our service to God. First Peter 2:13-16 sums this up perfectly by saying, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.”

Friday, March 18, 2016

March Madness: the basketball and political versions

Basketball has something in common with politics. It is a bunch of people running back and forth trying to score points in order to win. The only difference between basketball and politics is when the Republican Party helps the other team score and then goes farther by blocking its teammates that are still trying to win. Anyway, I got my bracket done before I went to bed last night. I picked Michigan State over Kansas in the National Championship game. Their game back in November helped me make that final decision. This had nothing to do with bias, but I also have Indiana making it to the final four before losing to Michigan State. Before watching the games, I managed to get all of the dirty dishes done and eat six waffles without missing too much. Never mind that I ripped the package they were in and sent the frozen waffles flying at first. But anyway, the tournament started out great for me. I was five for five at the beginning. Then Baylor had to ruin by losing to Yale. It still surprises me that Yale has a basketball team even though this is not their first year of making the tournament. I always thought the guys from Yale were the ones getting the excellent grades that were stuffed into lockers by the real basketball players and other athletes. Then they grew up, took over the world, hired the mean people from high school that didn’t get as far, and made them pay for it for the rest of their lives. I guess Baylor found out differently today. So that messed up my chance at having a perfect bracket, but the team that really screwed up my bracket irreparably was Purdue when they lost to Arkansas-Little Rock in double overtime, 85-83. I had Purdue going to the regional final and they didn’t even make it out of round one. At least Indiana easily won their game against Chattanooga tonight even though I missed it because we were out getting pizza and grocery shopping. We needed to get out for a while though because I kept dozing off due to the little amount of sleep I had the night before.

As I said in my opening sentence though, March Madness goes beyond the basketball court and is contagious apparently. After all, it is March and it is safe to say America has gone mad. How else does one explain Donald Trump having a significant lead in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination? The latest thing I heard about him today was that Trump said his disenfranchised voters would riot if he came close to the nomination, but someone else ended up being chosen. Of course there would be a riot. He has trained his followers to react in irrational ways in every other political circumstance, why not at the convention too? At least we can rest assured that Donald said he would have nothing personally to do with causing said riots (suuuure he wouldn't).

But it goes beyond even Donald Trump. Let’s look at another example: John Kasich. What planet does this guy come from where he thinks he actually has a shot at becoming President of the United States? He has won one state so far, one single state. To make it even better, it was his home state! If you can’t win in your home state, that should tell you a lot right there. (Oops, sorry Rubio fans. No offense intended). Even if Trump or Cruz don’t have enough delegates to get the nomination at the convention, what makes him think all those freed up delegates are going to just have a collective epiphany and go, “Hey, you know who would be really good? John Kasich! You know, that guy that only won one state.” Yet, if you listened to the tone of his speech, you would think it was already over. Somebody needs to wake him up and let him know that it is over...for him. The eventual Republican nominee will have to have at least 1,237 delegates to claim the Republican presidential nomination. John Kasich currently has 143. There are 1,061 delegates still available. If Kasich won every delegate from every state from here on out--and I don’t think there has been enough spiked Kool-Aid made in the history of the universe to make that happen--he would only have a total of 1,204 delegates. That is 33 short of what he would need to get the nomination. He is not going to get this nomination. I have heard some suggest he is sticking it out to become the eventual nominee’s running mate for Vice-President, but come on. Again, of all the people that the nominee could choose from, who is going to all of the sudden go, “I need John Kasich if I am going to win this thing.” Only in John Kasich’s mind is that a possibility.

Then for the Democrats, we have Bernie Sanders, the self-admitted socialist who still thinks he has a chance even though the deck has been stacked against him from the beginning in the form of superdelegates that were already set on Hillary Clinton before this ever started. The Democrat Party never meant for Bernie to win their party's nomination. They just wanted to make Hillary look good (if it is possible to make a criminal who should be in jail rather than running for President look good) so that it will boost her for the general election. I hate to sound like Bernie, but the system was rigged against him from the start. The Democrat Party picks their nominee with only input from the people. I hate to say it, but the Republican Party isn’t getting much better these days as far as that goes. Then of course, there is the frontrunner for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton who, as I said above, should be in jail. This whole email scandal is just the icing on the cake of an entire lifetime of corruption and breaking the law.

Finally, we have a once in a lifetime candidate in Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz has been a consistent conservative his entire life. Nowhere can that be seen better than during his time in the United States Senate. John McCain likes to portray himself as a maverick who takes on his own party. What he really means is he is a Republican In Name Only (RINO) who routinely takes on the conservative base of his own party with the full blessing of his colleagues in the Republican establishment who loathe the conservative base as well. Cruz has been the true leader of the conservative movement in Washington D.C. who was even willing to stand 21 hours straight on the Senate floor in opposition to Obamacare. Here is a guy who puts principle over politics and country over party. Yet he is a distant second right now to a lifelong liberal who supposedly converted to conservatism without any evidence of it and who can’t articulate hardly anything about the Constitution, conservatism, or what made America great in the first place (even though he says he wants to “make America great again”). This is definitely March Madness all right. And unlike the basketball version, the political version is in desperate need of a cure.

Monday, March 14, 2016

My day at the Ted Cruz rally in Concord, NC

What a great day my wife, daughter, aunt, and I had! Well it didn’t start out that way. In fact, I thought the day was going to be over before it started due to some health issues, but I was determined that we were going to do our best to make it to Concord, North Carolina today for the Ted Cruz rally sponsored by Keep The Promise. We got there a few minutes later than the listed scheduled time, but fortunately they seemed to be delayed as well so it all worked out perfectly.

There were a lot of great speakers there, despite the fact that Chuck Norris decided he couldn’t make it. However, it was great to see Dana Loesch, Glenn Beck, and of course Ted Cruz speak along with many other great American conservatives. It was totally worth the two and a half hours we spent there. I have heard most of Ted Cruz’s speeches and interviews so he did not say a lot today that I was not already familiar with, but it is an entirely different experience to be there with other people who are just as committed to see Ted Cruz become the next President of the United States. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to meet Ted, Glenn, or Dana which is something I was really looking forward to doing. I had trouble finding a wheelchair-accessible path in the venue to be able to get down to the stage area, assuming they even had time to meet and talk with people afterwards. The dinner at Steak n’ Shake did make me feel a little better about it all I must admit.

The one thing I heard from him today that I had not heard yet was that the race is tightening between he and Donald Trump. So when we got home tonight, I looked up the polling data. I wanted to see this good news for myself. I believe the poll Cruz was talking about today was one done by North Carolina conservative Civitas Institute. The “survey of 500 likely Republican North Carolina primary voters has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.38 percent. The survey was taken March 5-7, 2016.” The question was asked, “If the Republican Primary for President were being held today and you had to make a choice, for whom would you vote between?” 32% of respondents said Donald Trump. 26% said Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio got only 11%. When asked the same question among the people still running, 28% said Ted Cruz. Only 14% said Donald Trump. 24% were undecided. John Kasich got 19%. Rubio comes in last among the candidates at 12%. That is the good news poll if you are a Cruz supporter.

Now for the potential bad news poll. The Civitas Institute poll was done between March 5-7. A High Point University poll taken on March 9-10 tells a much different story. “All interviews were completed after results of the 03/08/16 primary contests in Michigan and Mississippi were known, but before the CNN Republican Presidential debate in Miami on 03/10/16...Donald Trump leads Ted Cruz 48% to 28% in the NC Republican Primary for President of the United States” in that poll.

So what can be learned when you put all of this together? The race could be tightening between Cruz and Trump as Cruz said today or this could be a runaway win for “The Donald.” When the field is most divided, Trump greatly benefits. When the field narrows, Cruz’s numbers go up. This lends credence to the fact that Cruz keeps repeating in debates, interviews, and speeches--a point he continued to reiterate this afternoon. A large majority of Republican primary voters are not voting for Donald Trump. If they could all unite behind the candidate that actually has a chance of beating Trump, behind a candidate that has demonstrated in several states during this primary season that he has beaten Donald Trump, then there is no way Trump could get the Republican nomination. Look how the numbers switch from a possibly tight race to big Cruz lead when the choices dwindle and the lower tier candidates finally take a hint and bow out.

Also, that undecided number is pretty high in the Civitas poll. That can be a good thing for Cruz because, if recent history teaches us anything, it shows us that Cruz does extremely well among voters who are choosing their candidate late. If that holds true along with these poll numbers, that could be very good for Ted Cruz on Tuesday.

The numbers show another recurring theme that has played itself out so far. Marco Rubio has turned into nothing but the spoiler in this race. If he dropped out, it is likely that a lot of that Rubio vote would go to Cruz. Rubio has no chance of catching either Cruz or Trump in any of these states or in the overall delegate count. Marco Rubio has a responsibility to the country he says he wants to serve. That responsibility is to finally realize where he stands in this election and get out before it is too late to stop Donald Trump from getting the nomination and we end up saying “President Hillary Clinton” in January. If the Republican Party thought it was bad when conservatives did not vote for Republicans in Name Only (RINO) candidates like McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012, they haven’t seen anything yet. Donald Trump is the epitome of the term RINO and all of that rinocity (that’s my newest “Steveism”) will cost him the real conservatives that have not forgotten what conservatism means.

North Carolina is not the only state with a vote coming up (there are also primaries in Ohio, Illinois, Florida, and Missouri), but it is the state I have been living in now for almost 14 years. It is those friends, acquaintances, and other North Carolina conservatives I am speaking to. If you do not want the disaster of a Donald Trump nomination--or worse, a Donald Trump presidency--I PLEAD with you to make the best choice for America and vote for Ted Cruz on Tuesday. The next President will nominate four Supreme Court justices. Do you want to roll the dice with a lifetime liberal who now claims to be a conservative without any prior evidence to support his claim or do you want to go with the only candidate that has an unwavering, proven conservative constitutionalist record not just during his time in the Senate, but during his entire life. America’s future is literally in your hands!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Nominal Christians mixed in with "evangelicals"

When you dig deeper into the exit polls in most if not all the states, you find that "evangelicals" who go to church rarely (like on Christmas & Easter) or who are less serious about the faith they profess to have go to Trump while committed followers of Christ go to Cruz, Rubio, or Carson. But the media labels them all evangelicals. This really helped me out the more I looked into it.

People are angry. They are bitter because they feel like they have been betrayed. That usually doesn't lead to rational thinking. How many people really make good decisions with that kind of mindset? Glenn Beck has made that same point on his show a lot that people tend not to make the best decisions when they are made in anger, But to me, there is an even bigger problem than people making decisions out of anger. We have a situation where this shows the lack of validity for "nominal" Christianity. It would be like me talking to someone I know once a year and then saying "Yep that person is my best friend." What it all boils down to is a nominal Christian is just a lost person that goes to church.

So those people are easily deceived because they think they are okay when they are not. They are what Jesus meant by saying "I wish that you were hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm I will vomit you out of my mouth." So these people "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" are leaning on their own understanding rather than trusting in the Lord to provide wisdom, which is exactly what Proverbs 3:5-6 warns against. That is why so many of them can go for Trump and still call themselves Christians because they have a relationship with their religious checklist rather than Jesus. So can we really expect them to vote the Bible?