Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Same-sex marriage

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (Genesis 2:24).

Homosexuality has been around for a very long time. It is mentioned in God’s laws given through Moses some thirty-five hundred years ago. In ancient Greece, men were thought of as superior to women, so naturally the love between men was superior to the lesser kind of desire a man might feel for a woman. Over the course of centuries, some civilizations have embraced gay and lesbian sexuality as normal and natural.

These past few decades, there has been a push in America to embrace homosexuality as just another way for two people to express love. There are efforts to give legal status to gay and lesbian unions, according them the same benefits traditionally attached to marriage. Same-sex couples want tax breaks and the right to adopt children. And in some places, there is already a need for laws to help sort out the mess when such couples dissolve their domestic partnerships.

God does not view gay and lesbian unions as marriage. Through the Bible, He repeatedly tells us to avoid this kind of behavior. For example, in the Old Testament God said If a man lsleeps with a man as one sleeps with a woman, both of them have done something detestable (Leviticus 20:13). In the New Testament, Paul has this to say: They exchanged the truth of God for a lie…Because of this, God let shameful lusts take hold of them. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion (Romans 1:25-28).

God has two purposes for sex. The first is stated in Genesis and reinforced later by Jesus: a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). God designed sex to be a glue that unites a man and a woman as one in marriage. The other purpose for sex is also stated in Genesis, when God told Adam and Eve: Be fruitful and increase in number (Genesis 1:22). Same-sex couples cannot honor God’s design for marriage by conceiving children.

We are all sinners; thankfully, Jesus loves every one of us, and died for all our sins. But our Lord does not want anyone participating in gay or lesbian activity; if we want to please Him, that kind of behavior needs to stop.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


It is not good for the man to be alone. I will create a helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:18).

These past few years, there has been a lot on TV about polygamy. Polygamy is the practice of one man having several wives, all at the same time.

In the United States, polygamy is practiced in secret, because having multiple wives is against the law. Some people have been polygamists without knowing it—they are victims of a man who gets married in several different states and keeps each marriage secret from his other wives. But others go into multiple marriages with their eyes wide open. Recently there was even a cable TV series that dramatized such a family arrangement.

Most people who practice polygamy, do so on religious grounds—they believe that God approves this style of marriage. They will point to examples from the Old Testament, especially men like King David and King Solomon. But how does God really feel about such marriages?

When God created Adam, He said it is not good for the man to be alone. But God did not create Ellen and Edie and Evelyn, He only created Eve. By God’s original plan, one woman was more than enough to make a good marriage partner. Consider also the life of Abraham. When Sarah could not get pregnant, she urged her husband to have a child by their servant Hagar. Yet this situation resulted in so much domestic strife that Abraham eventually had to send Hagar and her son away, and their descendants became enemies of the Israelites. One man with two bed partners did not work out well at all.

God sometimes permits things to go on that He does not approve of. For example, He gave Moses rules by which Israelites could divorce each other, even though God hates divorce. When asked about this, Jesus said Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning (Matthew 19:8). God did bless David and Solomon during their lives, but it was in spite of their polygamous ways. A careful reading of Scripture shows that neither man enjoyed a peaceful, God-pleasing home life. God’s plan for marriage has always been one man, one woman. Anything else opposes God’s design for the family.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Lord's Prayer--Fifth Petition

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This petition is the heart and soul of the Lord’s Prayer. Every other petition stands in second place to this humble request for mercy. Without the forgiveness of our sins, how could we dare address the holy Judge of the universe as "our Father"? Without the forgiveness of sins, how could we sincerely pray for help in honoring His name, that we want His Church to grow, that we want Him to take possession of our lives? Without the forgiveness of our sins, there can be no approaching God, no appreciation for who He is or what wonderful changes He can bring about in our hearts.

There are people who feel no need to request forgiveness; they don’t believe that they do anything wrong. People like this fail to realize that Jesus taught His own disciples to pray forgive us our trespasses; even those handpicked by Jesus to build His Church failed to measure up and needed forgiveness daily. If Jesus’ own disciples needed to ask God for mercy, then certainly you and I need to do so as well.

An elderly pastor was visiting with a young man who claimed that he had never committed a sin. The pastor opened his Bible to 1st John 1:8 and read, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. The elderly churchman then added, "My young man, your first sin consists in this, that you are too proud to believe what the Lord says right here."

When you start believing that you are a pretty good person and that God must be impressed with how you are living your life, it’s time to re-examine God’s Ten Commandments. A person who never looks in a mirror might believe that they are clean, when in fact their face is smeared with dirt. In the same way, people who think that they are clean of sin would be shocked at what they see if they carefully looked into the mirror of God’s Law. We read of one example in Mark chapter 10: a man…fell on his knees before [Jesus]. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.' " "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. This man thought that he was living a God-pleasing life; he was blind to the fact that he was failing to be a good steward of the riches God had given him, by hoarding for himself instead of helping the needy. He was not living the perfect life that he thought he was.

It is easy to forget what God expects of us. We forget that He said, Be holy, because I am holy (1 Peter 5:16). We forget that anger is just as much a sin as murder, lust is just as much a sin as adultery, greed is just as much a sin as stealing, pride is just as much a sin as devotion to a false god. We forget that dark emotions and twisted thoughts are just as evil as hurtful words and abusive behavior. Jesus said, from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you (Matthew 15:19-20). God expects us to be pure, both inside and out.

We also sin by letting opportunities to serve God slip away. James warns, Anyone…who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins (James 4:17). Back when I worked in education, one of my jobs was to write lesson plans which included ways to measure the student’s progress. I was taught the ‘Dead Man Rule’—if a dead man can do it, you aren’t really teaching anything. For instance, I could write a lesson plan to achieve the following goal: "Tommy will not interrupt the teacher." This goal fails the Dead Man Rule. Why? Because a dead man can meet the criteria: a dead man will not interrupt the teacher. True education happens when we teach Tommy to do something constructive instead, like taking notes while the teacher is talking.

Encouraging passivity is not teaching, nor is sin avoided just by resisting temptation. A person could be highly regarded by the community for never cursing, never stealing, never lying, never cheating, never getting drunk—but what does it all add up to? It adds up to zero—and God is not satisfied with a zero life. In Matthew chapter 4 Jesus says, Worship the Lord your God, and serve him. In Deuteronomy chapter 6 we are commanded, commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again. Just before He ascended into heaven, Jesus gave the following directive: go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). In Ephesians chapter four Paul urges, share with those in need. When we sit back and fail to do the good things God expects of us, we are guilty of sinning.

The worst thing about sin—any sin—is that you can never pay the penalty for it. Even if, starting today, you could obey God’s rules perfectly for the rest of your life, you would only be doing what is expected of you; there is no way you can go ‘above and beyond’ what God expects in order to pay off the backlog of sins you have accumulated from the day of your birth to today. Suppose you were to drive through a red light and got a ticket; if you were careful to never run another stoplight, would your newfound devotion to the law erase that violation? Of course not. In the same way, carefully keeping God’s Law in the future can never cancel past violations.

To make matters worse, no one can relieve you from the guilt of your sins; Psalm 49 says, no one can redeem the life of another by paying a ransom to God. Redemption does not come so easily, for no one can ever pay enough to live forever and never see the grave. No matter how much someone might love you and want to help you, your load of sin is yours alone to bear.

Nor can you be rid of your sins by shifting the blame to someone else. All the way back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve tried to play the ‘blame game.’ Adam said, The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it. Eve said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate. Both Adam and Eve claimed that there were extenuating circumstances that lead to their sins—but God was not impressed by their attempts to duck responsibility for their decisions. Both were driven out of paradise (Genesis chapter three). It doesn’t matter who or what has tempted you—the decision to sin remains yours alone, and God holds you alone as accountable.

Sin puts us in a terrible dark box from which no human being can escape. Our only hope for rescue from dying trapped in darkness comes from God Himself. God caused His Son to be born into our world, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in a human womb. He was conceived in the image of His Father, born holy and righteous. He lived a perfect life, avoiding everything that God forbids and doing everything that God commands. Peter says, He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone (1 Peter 2:22).

Jesus never sinned, yet look at what happened to Him. In 2nd Corinthians chapter 5 the Bible says, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, chose to become the One held responsible for all our sin, so that God the Father would punish Him for the evil which we were guilty of. He diverted all the wrath of God that we deserved to Himself, and in exchange gave us the gift of the righteous relationship He had with His Father, a righteous relationship that allows us to pray our Father who art in heaven.

Because of His human nature as the Son of Man, Jesus could suffer and die, thus paying the price demanded by our sins; because of His divine nature as the Son of God, the atonement offered by Jesus has infinite value, more than enough to settle the account for every sin ever committed. All of your sins, no matter how big they are or how often you have repeated them, have been taken away by the washing of forgiveness in Jesus’ holy blood, shed on the cross. 1 John 1:7 says, the blood of Jesus, [God’s] Son, purifies us from all sin. The fact that God the Father raised His Son from the dead is proof that His atoning work is done, that every last one of your sins has been paid for. All we need do is go to Jesus, honestly owning up to the evil that overshadows us: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). And so, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we can pray these words with confidence that they will be granted: forgive us our trespasses.

But there are a few more words included in this petition: as we forgive those who trespass against us. Forgiveness does not come to us and end there, it is to flow through us to touch and heal others. Love brings people together in relationships; forgiveness is the lubricant that makes long-term relationships possible. Without forgiveness, we sinners would have no relationship with God; without forgiveness, we sinners can have no healthy relationships with each other. Forgiveness is the defining element of Christianity—the cross upon which Christ died is the very image of forgiveness. To refuse to forgive is to refuse being a Christian, and so Jesus said if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15). Some people say that this is a hard thing to ask of us, especially when someone has hurt us badly and feels no regret over causing us pain. But remember Jesus’ first words as He was nailed to the cross: Father, forgive them (Luke 23:34). Jesus asked God’s mercy on men who were not at all sorry to put Him to the most painful death imaginable; as His followers, we are called to forgive in the same way. Impossible? Not according to Jesus: What is impossible with men is possible with God (Luke 18:27).

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. By praying these words, we show God that we are truly sorry for our sins, and that we trust in His promise of mercy through the blood of His Son Jesus. By praying these words, we also dedicate ourselves to being channels for Jesus’ love, showing others the merciful love that He has shown to us. By praying these words, we ask that our sick fascination with sin be removed and replaced with the love of Christ, a love that cannot help but fill us with His righteousness and spill over into the lives of those around us.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"It's my fault."

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us (1 John 1:9).

When’s the last time you said, "it’s my fault"?

Saying "I’m sorry" doesn’t count. A lot of times, we say that we’re sorry, but we really aren’t. We have learned that saying "I’m sorry" can get us off the hook. However, the only thing we’re really sorry about is that we got caught doing something that we shouldn’t have.

Sometimes when we say "I’m sorry", we go on to qualify it with a "but." When we do this, we try to pin the blame on someone else. For example, a person might say, "I’m sorry that I slapped you, but you made me so mad that I just lost control!" You’re not really sorry for doing something wrong; you were just a victim of circumstance.

But saying "it’s my fault" is different—when you speak these words, you assume responsibility for your actions. You’re not making excuses or trying to shift the blame. When you say "it’s my fault," you are acting like a responsible adult.

Owning up to your mistakes is scary. No one likes to be punished, and admitting that you screwed up invites punishment. Painful situations are unpleasant, and we instinctively do whatever we can to avoid them. It goes against our instincts to step forward and face the music; we know that forgiveness generally comes with a price tag attached.

But you don’t have to hide your sins from Jesus. Frankly, you couldn’t if you tried. The Lord knows everything you think, hears everything you say, sees everything you do. You can’t lie to Him. He won’t let you push the blame off onto somebody else. But there is no reason to try and hide your guilt. If you tell Jesus "it’s my fault" and ask His help in doing better from now on, the Lord will forgive you. There will be no demand for suffering to make things right; on the cross, Jesus has already done the suffering for you. All He asks is that you place your life in His hands, trusting in His love and following His teachings. Don’t waste any more time trying to hide from your mistakes; admit your sins to God, and enjoy the relief that comes from receiving His gift of forgiveness.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior (Psalm 25:5).

No matter where you live, you are part of a community. Whether you reside on a farm or have an apartment in a large metropolitan area, there are several hundred people that you see often enough to recognize on sight. Most are casual acquaintances, while some know your habits well enough to predict what you’ll order from the menu or which section of the store you prefer to browse. The point is that you know these people, and to some extent, their opinion of you matters.

It starts in school. We don’t like being singled out as the oddball. If someone seems to be out of step with most of the other kids, there is pressure to conform. This continues into adulthood; the people you work with, the people in your neighborhood, the people you see in the store or walking down the street—they all react negatively if you dress or behave outside of what’s expected.

The pressure to conform can be a good thing—it can limit behavior that is dangerous or antisocial. But the Internet has changed all that. Through the World Wide Web, people who have felt pressured to conform can get in touch with others who share their interests. The Internet has allowed people to form communities that celebrate racism, eating disorders, violence, and child molestation, among other things. In the past, few people were willing to act on their secret desires for fear of community backlash; but with the support of friends connected by the Internet, more people have become willing to say and do things that defy community standards.

We need to belong to a community that holds us accountable for our actions. We need to belong to a community that encourages the best in human behavior. We need the guiding influence of the community founded by Jesus, the holy Christian Church. The Church is not holy because of its members—we are all sinners who disappoint and anger God with our foolish and selfish decisions. The Church is holy because it offers us a connection with the only one who is holy, the Son of God. Through the Church, Jesus shows us what holiness is. He calls us on our bad behavior, and forgives us when we try to put evil ways behind us. With the Lord’s help, we can have success conforming to God’s holy ways and in suppressing the evil desires that want to control us.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Lord's Prayer--Fourth Petition

Give us this day our daily bread.

Of the seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, only this one speaks to the needs of our bodies; the other six petitions address the health of our souls, our relationship with God, and our relationships with each other. Obviously, Jesus wants the bulk of our prayer life to be focused on the spiritual and relational, as opposed to spending much of our time worrying about material things. Indeed, Jesus taught His disciples: do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' For the unbelievers chase after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:31-22).

However, Jesus also devoted much of His attention to the physical needs of His followers. Following a sermon given in a remote area, He fed over 5,000 people who were far from home, using a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. He healed a woman who had suffered from continual bleeding for 12 years. He gave sight to a man who had been blind from birth. And He taught us to pray give us this day our daily bread.

Since this petition is the only one that speaks to our physical welfare, it must therefore include every blessing that we need for earthly life and comfort. In the Catechism, Luther lists what this all includes: "food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, land and cattle, money and goods, a godly spouse, godly children, godly workers, godly and faithful leaders, good government, good weather, peace and order, health, a good name, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like." The fourth petition is a prayer for everything that we need to live our lives here on earth.

A farmer came to his pastor during a dry spell and said, "Pastor, it’s been dry for a month now; we ought to have a prayer in the church service for rain." While there is nothing wrong with praying for such things specifically, that farmer had forgotten that in the Lord’s Prayer, the congregation was already praying for rain. Give us this day our daily bread is a prayer for rain when the fields are dry, and a prayer for sunshine when the fields are muddy. It’s a prayer to God for the kind of weather that we need so we can have our daily bread.

This petition is a prayer for the necessities of life. It is not a prayer for luxuries or riches—Jesus taught us to ask for our daily bread, not our daily cake or pie. It is easy to become obsessed with things that aren’t really necessary—this is called greed, and is something that God repeatedly warns us against. Jesus said, watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15). Writing to Timothy, Paul offers the following words of wisdom: godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

There’s a story about a foreign tribe that would give any person all the land he wanted, provided that he could completely circle his claim on foot between sunup and sundown. A middle-aged man, who had a comfortable home and was making a good living for his family, sold all that he had and traveled to this distant country. As the sun rose early in the morning, he started walking. He was about to walk around a beautiful farm, when he saw a glistening lake filled with fish just a short distance beyond. He adjusted his course to include the lake in his circle, but on the far side he found a woods filled with trees just perfect for logging. He had to include that. As he rounded the far end of the woods, he found a large pasture filled with grazing cattle; he had to have that too. Suddenly it occurred to him to check his watch. It was already past noon! According to the tribe’s offer, he could have whatever land he had walked around before the sun set. But on the way back he came upon another tempting farm; he couldn’t let it slip through his fingers. By now the sun was low in the sky. He started to push himself; soon, he was running. Now the sun was touching the horizon. Onlookers stood rooting for him as he urged each aching muscle for a final sprint to his starting point. Just as the sun set, he made it. All the people cheered. Then he promptly suffered a massive heart attack and sank to the ground, dead. The tribe gave him all the land he could use—a plot measuring six feet by three.

This is a parable. Yet don’t you know people just like this man, people who drive themselves to sickness and death because they always want more? They have not learned that happiness cannot be bought or won, it only comes from within. Money and possessions cannot guarantee peace or happiness; all they give your life are more things to worry about! How will my investments hold up in this economy? How can I afford the payments on my big house? Wealth and material goods can easily distract us from our Lord, who in the First Commandment tells us that He is to have first place in our lives. In Colossians chapter three, Paul equates greed with idolatry, the worship of something else besides God. Jesus said to his disciples, I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23).

But Jesus tells us to pray for our daily bread, because having too little can be just as much a problem for the soul as having too much. Wealth tends to make people feel that they can take care of their needs without having to lean on the Lord for help; poverty, on the other hand, can lead people to become bitter and curse the Lord for their situation. This is why Proverbs chapter 30 offers us the following prayer: LORD…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, `The Lord? Who's that?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. This attitude is exactly what Jesus looks for in our hearts when we pray give us this day our daily bread. Give us what we need for a happy life—enough to eat, a safe place to sleep, the love of family and friends, and good health—not too much or too little, just enough that we can live and be satisfied.

Give us this day our daily bread is also a prayer to free us from worrying. Jesus did not teach us to pray "give us this week our weekly bread" or "give us this month our monthly bread." He taught us to pray for today’s bread because He doesn’t want us fretting about a tomorrow that hasn’t happened yet, but to live in the now that He has graciously given us. Continually worrying about the future wears us down. Worrying about today, tomorrow, next week, and the coming month all at the same time; it’s just too much—it’s mentally exhausting. Trying to live too much in the future robs you of today’s joys, and can cripple your ability to get anything done by splintering your attention among too many things.

It is not wrong to plan for the future. A wise college student declares a major and then chooses classes accordingly. A wise administrator sets yearly goals for the company and then works with the employees on ways to achieve those goals. What Jesus warns against is worrying, because to worry is to fear that things are going to go horribly wrong, and you have to figure out how to protect yourself in advance. In Romans chapter eight Paul assures us, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love [Him]; when we worry, we show that we don’t really believe this promise.

Give us this day our daily bread is a prayer that reminds us where everything good in our lives comes from. It is God who gives. It is God who causes plants to grow, and who placed minerals in the earth. It is God who gives us the strength to grow crops and to mine the ground. It is God who gives us the knowledge to convert these raw materials into clothing and homes and medicines. Moses cautions, You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).

Some people grumble that God is stingy with them. They have a list of things they claim are essential for them to be happy, and they believe that God owes them everything on that list. Such presumption is completely unwarranted; God doesn’t owe us anything. He is the Maker—we are merely His creations. In addition, by nature we are worthless; sin has made us defective. We neither honor our Maker as we should, nor do we love our neighbors as ourselves. Our worth comes solely through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. It is only because Jesus suffered and died for our sins that God is willing to forgive our flaws. This is a free gift which we did nothing to deserve; it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:5). Everything we have is an undeserved gift of God; instead of complaining about what we feel we lack, we would do well to thank our Lord for all that He has chosen to give us.

Give us this day our daily bread reminds us of one thing more—you are not to live for yourself alone. Jesus didn’t teach us to pray "give me my daily bread;" in this prayer, He reminds us that we are to be concerned about each other. God gives to us so that we can share with others. James is quite blunt: Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16) Paul tells us that we are to be generous and willing to share. At the same time, we must be careful not to become lazy and sponge off the generosity of others; Paul warned: Whoever does not work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Keeping our desires for material things in perspective can be hard, so it is helpful to remember why God created us in the first place. We are alive for the purpose of praising God and serving Him. We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Ephesians 2:10); Jesus tells us that the purpose for doing good works is this: let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). When we pray for our daily bread, we are asking for those things needed by our minds and bodies so that we can do the good works which bring glory to our heavenly Father. Viewed from this perspective, much of what clutters our lives diminishes in importance. Do you need a large house to serve the Lord? Do you need the newest fashions or latest technological gadgets to be about His work? If you have more money than most, do you see yourself as unusually blessed with resources that can be put to use in supporting the mission of the Church? Can you honestly say that everything you want is necessary to keeping you physically and emotionally fresh, and ready to serve the Lord with gladness? Or has the Lord actually given you more than you need from Him? When you look at your material life from the proper perspective, it is easy to see that the Lord is quite generous, and more than amply answers our prayer give us this day our daily bread.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stingy with time

Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening (1 Samuel 3:9).

Growing up in Wisconsin, I didn’t know that I talked fast. After all, everyone I knew talked at the same speed that I did. It was only after I moved to Nebraska and got a job in education that I started forcing myself to speak more slowly. When teaching, it is important that you don’t get in such a rush that your students end up left behind.

Lately, I’ve noticed that more and more people are in a rush when they communicate. Anchors on television news programs talk very fast, probably because every minute of airtime is so expensive. Lots of folks are using text messaging, but in order to keep up with a running conversation, they have to use all sorts of abbreviations and limit themselves to brief sentences. Years ago, a half-hour soap opera would focus on a couple of lengthy conversations; these days, soaps juggle several different story lines each episode, and no scene is allowed to run longer than a few minutes at a time. I assume that this fast pace is because viewers are quick to reach for the remote if their attention starts to wander.

Conversation is becoming a lost art. It used to be that friends would sit down with a light refreshment and talk for an hour or more about any number of subjects. But these days, many people are in too much of a rush to settle in for a lengthy chat. Most families hardly ever sit down for a meal together, where everyone can share the events of the day. Instead, many call their friends on the cell phone while shopping for groceries, or check in on the kids while driving from one activity to another.

We hurt people when we don’t take the time to carefully listen. We often cause emotional pain when we’re in such a rush that we don’t think before opening our mouths. For relationships to grow strong, we need to make a commitment to good conversation—listening closely, respectfully sharing what we think and feel, and allowing enough time to talk matters over thoroughly. This is especially true of our relationship with Jesus. He has a lot to say—important things that cannot be boiled down into a few quick sound bites. Jesus wants your undivided attention. And He also wants you to speak with Him in prayer, sharing your hopes and joys as well as your fears and frustrations. You cannot experience closeness to God if you are stingy with the time that you give Him.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me (Psalm 22:19).

Addiction—all of us suffer from some form of it. Some cannot control the urge to eat or drink more than they should. Others are addicted to substances that harm the body, like cigarettes or meth. Money can lead to addictions like compulsive gambling or shopping. You can be addicted to the Internet, pornography, or video games. Some people need painkillers and caffeine to get them through the day, then take a pill to help them fall asleep at bedtime. If it makes you feel good, almost anything can become addictive.

Addiction can be expensive. Some addictive habits demand a constant stream of money, and that cost can really mount up over time. How much did you spend on an addiction over the past twelve months? Couldn’t that amount have been used for something more worthwhile, like building up a retirement account or supporting a charity?

But the cost of addiction goes beyond just money. Addictions can destroy relationships. It is easy for a compulsive habit to so dominate your time and energy that the people closest to you start to question how much you really care about them.

Some addictions end up costing you your health. Alcohol, nicotine, and drugs all cause damage, weakening the body and increasing the risk of serious illness or an early death.

No matter what form it takes, every addiction takes away your freedom. The need to satisfy a craving limits your choices. You are not in control of your life, the addiction is. A strong addiction will drive you to do almost anything to satisfy it, resulting in behavior that is embarrassing and undermines your self-worth.

We are all addicts of some type, and while our habits make us feel good for the moment, the overall cost is one that ultimately pulls us down. This is why we need Jesus in our lives. He makes clear what our priorities should be, if we want to be truly happy. He forgives us for being weak in the face of temptation. He gives us strength to pull away from our addictions, and He gives us comfort when we miss them. Addiction is problem that we face every day, so make time for Jesus a part of every day’s routine.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Lord's Prayer--Third Petition

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Of all the petitions in the Lord’s prayer, this one is the hardest for us to pray sincerely. In this petition, we willingly surrender control of our lives and turn ourselves over to God’s leadership. With these words, we place God’s priorities and goals above our own.

Why is submission to the Lord such a hard thing? It’s because of sin. Sin opposes God; sin wants things that God warns are bad for us. Sin tempts children to play with matches. Sin lures teenagers to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage without thought of the consequences. Sin urges frustrated men to use a weapon to achieve their goals. Sin encourages women in troubled relationships to resort to lies. Sin promises fun and quick relief from life’s problems, but what it delivers is health ravaged by disease and addiction, relationships destroyed by impulsiveness and selfishness, souls plunged into despair by feelings of helplessness and futility, and, ultimately, death. Because of sin, we do not have the ability to fully comprehend the consequences of our actions and left to our own impulses, we inevitably make a mess of our lives.

If all we had to struggle with were our own frailties and limitations, they would be more than enough to make our lives miserable. But every day, we also face the constant pressure of other peoples’ misguided ways. At school, there are kids who want you to let them cheat off of your test, or teach you a new curse word. When you are at the bar, there are people who urge you to drink too much or to participate in casual sex. At work there are others who want you to ease up on your morals for the sake of increased profits, or to look the other way when rules are ignored. And because we want to fit in and be liked, it is hard to say no.

And as if all this were not enough, we have someone actively working to trip us up, an enemy worse than any hostile foreign dictator or soap opera villain, who constantly cooks up plans to trick us into making the very worst decisions possible. That enemy is Satan, the adversary who tries to ruin our relationship with God. He does this by telling us lies. He tries to get us to believe that we don’t need God, that we know what is best to make our lives happy. He tries to convince us that because God loves us, He is indulgent and doesn’t really care what we do. Satan even tries to fool us into believing that neither he nor hell really exists, so that we won’t be afraid of an angry God sending us to join him there when we die.

This is why it is so important that we turn to God for His wisdom and His leadership. Only He can reveal the truths that we need to know. Only He can bring us to where everlasting happiness may be found.

What is the will of God? In His holy Word, the Lord reveals two things that He wants above all others. The first is nicely summarized in 1st Timothy chapter two, where Paul writes: God our Savior…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. More than anything else, the Lord Almighty wants everyone to know who He is, to understand what a terrible hateful thing sin is, and to realize that all are sinners and subject to God’s wrath. More than anything else, the King of the universe wants everyone to know His Son Jesus, that Jesus lived on earth to be perfect in our place, that He suffered hell on the cross in payment for our sins, that He died and rose from the grave to give us new life in exchange for everlasting death. More than anything else, our Lord wants every man, woman and child to know the truth about our sin and God’s mercy shown through Jesus Christ.

Secondly, it is God’s will that we lead lives that obey His rules. Peter writes, you must be holy in everything you do (1 Peter 1:15). This is why God gave us the Ten Commandments. This is why He gave us the Golden Rule. He wants us to obey His rules because He is a God of order, not chaos. He wants us to obey His rules, because by so doing we show Him our love and respect. He wants us to obey His rules, because when we live by them we are demonstrating His love and care to every other child of God. He wants us to obey His rules because He loves us, and it is only by following His rules that we can have real, lasting peace and contentment.

And yet as we look around us, it becomes abundantly clear that God’s will is not always done. It was not God’s intention that Adam and Eve should sin, but they did. It was not the will of God that Judas be eternally lost to hell for betraying Jesus, yet Judas turned traitor for a sack of money, committed suicide rather than come to Jesus in shame, and is now suffering eternally for turning away from His Lord. The world is filled with hatred, violence, perversions, and dishonesty, yet these are not the will of God.

Jesus told us to pray Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. He told us to pray these words because earth is filled with the suffering caused by our sins, the sins of those around us, and the plotting of the devil. Our Father in heaven did not create mindless puppets who dance on His strings for His amusement; no, our Father in heaven gave us life that we might respond to Him with a love that reflects His own, a love that no robot could ever give its creator. Sadly, many refuse to acknowledge His love or return it.

The mighty Ruler of all creation has given us a blessed gift—He has allowed us to come to Him in prayer, and takes our requests into consideration. He doesn’t have to. No one could keep God’s people from leaving their slavery in Egypt; no one could prevent their settling in the land that God had promised them. No one could stop Jesus going to the cross to suffer and die for our sins. No one could keep Jesus from leaving the tomb alive to give joy and hope to His faithful followers. And no one can avoid being judged by the Lord on the Last Day; we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). God is ruler of all, and when He has determined that something must be done, nothing can oppose His will.

Scripture tells us that this most powerful of all beings is willing to be flexible—otherwise, there would be no point in praying. God extended King Hezekiah’s life by 15 years in response to the man’s heartfelt prayer. God was willing to alter His planned destruction of Sodom in response to Abraham’s repeated pleadings. Scripture promises, The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5:16).

And yet we must be prepared for those times when the will of God results in our prayers being answered with a no. Sometimes we ask for something that is not appropriate, and God turns down our request. An example is given us in Mark chapter 10: the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him…"Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. There are also times when what we request does not dovetail with God’s plan for our lives. Paul complained of an unnamed ailment that troubled him; in 2nd Corinthians chapter 12 he tells us of his prayers to God and the response that he was given: Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." There are times when our current situation serves God best just as it is.

When we pray, are there things that we should not ask for? Yes—we should never ask for something that we know will displease God. While it is certainly appropriate to ask for victory over those who oppose God, we should never pray that they be denied mercy and be sent to hell. Nor should we ever ask the Lord to bless us as we go about breaking any of His commandments.

We know that there are certain things God always wants us to pray for—mercy for ourselves and all other sinners, and the proclamation of the Gospel everywhere. God wants us to pray for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and for the spiritual gifts that he brings—love, patience, kindness and all the rest. God wants us to pray for His wisdom so that we can see what we should be doing for Him in this world, and ask Him for the strength and skills we need to serve Him effectively.

But what about the rest? What about all the things we want or need that are neither clearly included in God’s will or clearly excluded from it? In all these cases we must pray as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, not my will, but yours be done (Luke 22:42). Who knows if moving to that new house will be for the best in the long run? Who knows if marriage to that person will result in a family dedicated to the Lord in all things? Who knows if more or less rain today will ultimately result in a better harvest down the road? No one can see the future—no one but the Lord. So when we come before Him on bended knee seeking His help, we show our trust in His wisdom by praying Thy will be done.

Thy will be done are among the hardest words for us to pray, right up there with "I admit that I have sinned." But when we pray Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven and put ourselves into the Lord’s hands, it takes a tremendous burden off our shoulders. It is no longer up to us to come up with the answers; we need no longer fear the consequences of our actions. When we let God lead, we can trust that He knows where He’s leading us, and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Not my will, Lord, but Yours be done.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Shine a light in the darkness

Let your light shine before men (Matthew 5:16).

Back in the days of steam ships, a man was crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner.
It was not turning out to be a pleasant trip—the ship had encountered a storm, and the rough seas kept the traveler in his bed, desperately seasick.

It was dark outside, the wind was howling, and the ship was constantly rolling back and forth. The passenger clutched his bunk, wishing for the weather to clear. Then he heard a voice crying in alarm, "Man overboard!" The sick man thought to himself, "God help the poor fellow. There is nothing I can do." After a moment’s thought, he decided that he could at least put his lantern in the porthole, which he got up and did. Thankfully, some time later news came that the man in the water had been found and brought aboard safely.

The next day, the man who had been rescued told his story to the passengers and crew. He finished by saying, "I was going down in the darkness for the last time when someone put a light in a porthole. It shone on my hand, and a sailor in a lifeboat grabbed my hand and pulled me in." The actions of one seasick passenger had made the difference between life and death.

So often in life, we feel completely inadequate. It seems as if nothing we do makes any sort of difference. We feel powerless and stupid. We are tempted to give up even trying. But before you put your life on cruise control, remember the two men out on the Atlantic on a stormy night. One man had been swept overboard and seemed certain to die. Yet another man, a complete stranger, who was too sick to do anything except shine a little light out into the darkness, was instrumental to the rescue effort. You can be like that seasick passenger. Don’t assume there is nothing you can do, just because you are not healthy or well educated. God has given you a lantern—your faith, which burns brightly with the light of Christ. We live in a world that is dark and stormy—filled with all sorts of disasters and disappointments. There are a lot of people out there who feel as if they are going under. You can help them; you can shine God’s light out into the darkness, aiding in the rescue. When someone pays you a compliment, give Jesus the credit. When you are eating out, fold your hands and say grace before you eat. There are many easy ways to let the light of Christ shine, and you never know who that light might save.

Monday, July 06, 2009

If your right hand causes you to sin...

If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell (Matthew 5:30).

"I see you have had the misfortune of losing one of your hands." The remark was addressed to man who was otherwise good looking and smartly dressed. The gentleman smiled, and thought for a moment before he replied: "Yes, or the good fortune. While a man can't exactly rejoice that he must go through life with only one hand, he must acknowledge that it is better than not going through life at all. The loss of that hand saved my life. It was this way: Some years ago I bought a large manufacturing plant, and while I knew nothing about machinery, it always was a wild fascination for me. In spite of the warnings of the work crew, I was always poking about into places that I had been told were dangerous. One day (I never knew just how it happened) my hand was caught in the machine, and in an instant I felt myself drawn into the very jaws of the machine that would have crushed my body into pulp. The foreman saw my danger; however, he knew that by the time the machinery could be stopped, it would be too late. Without the least hesitation he seized a great cleaver and, with an accurate blow, severed my hand from my arm. It was heroic treatment, and for awhile it looked as though I should die from the effects of it. You see that I did not."

Jesus said, If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. When we hear these somewhat disturbing words, we assume that Jesus was exaggerating for effect. But the man who lost his hand in order to save his life shows us exactly what Jesus was getting at.

Throughout the Bible, God tells us of the danger that results from putting our hands where they don’t belong. Yet in spite of every warning, people keep getting caught in situations that are painful and won’t let them go. Jesus has the right of it: when sin grabs hold of you, drastic action is necessary or you will be lost. It can hurt terribly to cut sinful things out of your life, but with Jesus at your side tending the wounds, you will survive and eventually heal. Because of the trauma caused by sin, many folks end up permanently scarred. While they are grateful to have a new lease on life, they are a living testimony to how badly sin can injure the unwary.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Lord's Prayer--Second Petition

Thy kingdom come.

Many kingdoms have come and gone since Jesus spoke these words. The Roman Empire of Jesus’ day is no more. The Germanic, French and British kingdoms of Martin Luther’s day are only pale shadows of their former worldwide power. In our own era, we have seen the end of rulers like Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein. If history teaches us anything, it is that kings, and their kingdoms all eventually die.

Jesus instructs us to pray Thy kingdom come. But our Lord is not asking us to pray for an earthly kingdom that will eventually fade into history. In every age, there have been people who have misunderstood the concept of God’s kingdom. In Jesus’ time, some of the Jews believed that when the promised Messiah came, He would overthrow the occupation forces of the Roman ‘peacekeepers’ and establish a Jewish kingdom to rule the people. In our own day, some Millenialists believe that when Jesus returns, He will reign here on earth as king for a thousand years before passing final judgement upon us.

When Governor Pilate was interrogating Jesus, our Lord said: My kingdom is not of this world…my kingdom is from another place (John 18:36). Jesus was speaking of an empire far greater than any earthly nation, a kingdom that is supernatural, spiritual, and will never come to an end because its king is God Himself. Now, it is true that the Lord is ruler over everything—Psalm 24 says: The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him. But it is also true that much of this world refuses to accept the rulership of the King of the universe; the only place where the Lord’s rule is acknowledged and accepted is among those who belong to the Savior. This group of people, the Church, is the kingdom Jesus had in mind when He preached: The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news! (Mark 1:15) Admission into the kingdom of God is as close as the words "Jesus, please forgive me and make Your home in my heart."

Consider the words of Luke chapter 17: One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, "When will the Kingdom of God come?" Jesus replied, "The Kingdom of God isn't ushered in with visible signs. You won't be able to say, `Here it is!' or `It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is within you." You are a member of the kingdom of God when you permit Jesus to rule in your heart. Think of it this way. You are an American. You are an American not because of where you live, because you can move to anyplace in the world and still be an American. What makes you an American is your loyalty to your country—your commitment to the guiding principles found in the Constitution, and you willingness to obey the laws made by the government.

Membership in the kingdom of God works the same way. It doesn’t matter where you live—you can be a citizen of the kingdom here on earth just as much as you can when living in heaven. What matters is your loyalty. Americans willingly submit to the leadership of their President, Congress, and Supreme Court; Christians willingly submit to the leadership of their Triune King, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Americans are committed to the ideals contained by the United States Constitution; Christians are committed to God’s ideals given in His Bible. Americans pledge allegiance to the red, white, and blue; Christians pledge allegiance to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The kingdom of God is the Lord’s Church—all people who believe in Christ. It includes all true believers in Asia, Africa, South America, Europe and the Middle East. It includes the youngest baby made a child of the kingdom through the new birth in baptism, as well as the oldest grandparent who trusts in the forgiving power of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. It includes everyone who has admitted their sins to God and asked Jesus to help them live a new life by following Him.

The kingdom of God is completely different from any earthly kingdom; in Romans chapter 14 Paul tells us: the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. This kind of kingdom is not built on military force but on the preaching of the Gospel. No one is drafted into unwilling service; the citizenship consists exclusively in those who have accepted Christ’s invitation. No one enforces the collection of taxes; offerings are given to God freely, in proportion to how we have been blessed by the Lord. Earthly nations lose their leaders and fall into decay; our King has risen from His grave never to die again, and His kingdom will last forever.

When we see that Thy kingdom come is a prayer for the Church, then we realize that this petition is a prayer for evangelism and mission work. It’s a prayer for the conversion of unbelievers, that they might join us in the ranks of those who have been saved from the sick perversions of sin and the cold grasp of the grave. It’s a prayer that God would be with us as we teach His Word to our children, as we tell our unbelieving friends and neighbors about the joy He’s placed in our hearts, as we send missionaries to every corner of the globe.

Thy kingdom come is a prayer for our Christian colleges and seminaries, a prayer that more of our gifted men and women would enter study for a career in church work, regardless of their age. It is a prayer that the Lord would protect His missionaries wherever they might be, and keep them enthused about their service in spite of every difficulty. It is a prayer that the teaching of pastors and missionaries, parochial school and Sunday school teachers, parents and grandparents might move the hearts of those who listen, provoke true repentance of sin, bring the comfort of Jesus’ forgiveness, and lead them to follow our Lord. Thy kingdom come is a mission prayer, a prayer for the souls of the lost.

But it is also a prayer for ourselves, for the security of our own salvation. Luther said: "God’s kingdom certainly comes by itself even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us." Even though Paul was an apostle of God and had met Jesus personally, he did not take membership in the kingdom of God for granted: I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). Regrettably, not every person who is baptized ends up in heaven; far too many lose interest in the Church, in being citizens of the kingdom of God. They let worldly interests distract them; they let their passions control their lives; they let Satan convince them that religion is for when you get old or sick, or that it is only for people who are too weak to live life on their own terms. The promise of baptism never fades—until the day of death, our heavenly Father waits for His prodigal children to return, waits to forgive us and welcome us back into the kingdom. But many forget about their baptism, in which God promised to always be there for them—and when they die, having forgotten God or ignored Him, they will find heaven’s gate closed, and when they pound on it desperately to get in, they will hear Him say: I don’t know you (Matthew 25:12). It is so that we might never face such an end that we pray Thy kingdom come—to us.

Thy kingdom come is also a prayer for the end of life on earth as it is now. Let’s face it—because of sin, our world is often a very unpleasant place to live. Paul says: we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering (Romans 8:22-23). We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Because of the sin that humankind has inflicted upon the world, there is pain and frustration everywhere—storms uproot trees, disease kills animals, and earthquakes damage the land. Because of sin, people struggle with birth defects, degenerative nerve and muscle disorders, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and, ultimately, death. And besides all this, our sins against each other continually ruin lives and destroy relationships. Even the most trouble-free of lives know the foul touch of sin every day, in one way or another.

In chapter one of his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote: I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but…that my life will always honor Christ, whether I live or I die. For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. Yet if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don't know which is better. I'm torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. Like Paul, we feel both pulls—the pull to go on living because we want more time to serve our Lord in gratitude for all that He’s done for us, and the pull of heaven and the escape it offers from all the frustrations and pains of life. And so we pray for an end to this wrestling match—Thy kingdom come. We want our King to come in glory and put an end to injustice, conflict, and betrayal. We want Him to permanently rescue us from disease, disability, and the weaknesses of old age. And so we invite our Lord to come—come take us from this sin-sick world and give us unending life where the problems of sin had been done away with forever. Thy kingdom come tells our Lord that we are ready, whether He chooses to call us to Himself before this day is done, or He comes on clouds of glory with all the angelic host to send away sin and remake the world in its lost perfection. Either way, we would welcome coming into the presence of our Father, the King.

This means that when we pray Thy kingdom come, we are making a pledge. If we want this wretched existence of sin to come to an end sooner rather than later, then we must commit ourselves to a tight schedule, for the days remaining in which we can work for the Lord are few. We don’t want anyone to be eternally lost, locked out of heaven because they are not citizens of the kingdom of God. So we must use every opportunity that remains to share Jesus’ message: The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news! Do you know a relative or a friend who is not a child of God? Do you know anyone in your county, your state or anywhere in the world who does not pledge allegiance to the cross? Do you know a church member who is slipping away or drifting towards the brink? Then pray Thy kingdom come, and dedicate yourself to serving the Lord to help make that prayer come true. The Lord will bless your efforts and His kingdom will come.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD (Psalm 33:12).

What does it mean to be a patriot? A patriot is loyal to his country. A patriot respects America’s heritage and wants the best for her nation’s future.

But people who love America often get into fights, calling each other ‘unpatriotic.’ Some think that criticizing anything about our country is disloyal and disrespectful; others believe that America can made even better if we are willing to admit past mistakes and change how we do things in the future. Some believe that America should lead the world, using force if necessary; others feel that our nation should lead by example, preferring negotiation and diplomacy over intimidation or the threat of war.

So long as your goal is making America the best it can be, you are a patriot. But our country is filled with people who are not patriotic. This includes individuals who criticize America but aren’t willing to roll up their sleeves to make things better. This includes those who shut their eyes to America’s faults and refuse to even discuss making changes. The unpatriotic members of our country include folks who are bigots, treating non-Americans as inferior, even though our Constitution and Bill of Rights acknowledge the equality of all mankind. The unpatriotic also include those who want us to give up that which makes America special, for the sake of harmony with other cultures.

Patriotism is dangerous if it does not look at the world with eyes wide open. The Bible teaches us an unpleasant truth—all mankind is sinful. Jesus said that poverty and war will always be a part of the human condition. Our nation was founded by sinners. Our government is operated by sinners. Sinners have control of our nuclear arsenal. Sinners have control of our news agencies and economy. The same is true in every other country as well. Some lands are more Christian, others less, but every nation needs God’s help to keep it from making costly mistakes.

A true patriot prays for his country. He wants the laws of the land to be in harmony with God’s holy will. A true patriot knows that you cannot use evil methods to establish something good. She is dedicated to making America better by doing things right. To be a patriot, you must be aware of evil wherever it is, and be willing to fight against it.

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