Thursday, January 29, 2009

Agent of Change

With Barack Obama in office on the strength of his “Change You Can Believe In” platform, a majority of Americans are giddy. I’m hoping and praying that he succeeds, but I’m also cautious. President Obama is a charismatic figure, but he’s just a mortal man, and as Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” Our country certainly needs change for the better in many respects, but true transformation begins with the individual heart – and only Jesus Christ can bring that. Devin Schultz, a Methodist pastor in coastal Georgia, has some wise things to say on this subject. Check out his blog at

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On the Other Hand ... Part 2

My most recent post discussed George W. Bush’s role in enabling 2 million lives to be saved in Africa via HIV and AIDS relief. Continuing on this theme of American presidents with a say-so in the continuation of lives on foreign sole, I find one of Barack Obama’s first acts in office to be revealing.

On Friday, President Obama struck down a rule that prohibits U.S. money from funding international family-planning clinics that promote abortion or provide counseling or referrals about abortion services. The group Population Action International praised the move, saying it will "save women's lives around the world" and adding that “family planning should not be a political issue; it's about basic healthcare and well-being for women and children.”

I guess it all depends on your perspective and your worldview. I doubt some folks – namely, the unborn children who will die from abortions funded by this money – would agree (if they could speak) that the move was beneficial to their basic healthcare and well-being. I also doubt the same people who call Bush a murderer will level the same charge at Obama.

People are passionate about the protection of all manner of living things – trees, birds, reptiles, dogs, wetlands, the list goes on. These are God's creation and I agree that they are all worthy of our stewardship. I also agree that it’s tragic when human lives are needlessly lost, whatever the cause. So I’m tempted to question why some of the same advocates for human, animal and plant life will so vehemently defend a woman’s “right to choose” whether to end a pregnancy.

But I know why. Setting aside the issues of rape, incest and health problems (because only a very small percentage of abortions occur due to those issues), I know that people defend abortion out of selfishness. “I chose to sleep with someone … I didn’t intend to conceive a child … I don’t want to face the consequences … I want the freedom of choice to undo those consequences … It’s my body … I can do what I want with it.” Pro-choice advocates can sugar-coat the issue all they want, but like every other societal ill, the root cause is me-driven.

This issue has been passionately debated on both sides since 1973, and will continue to be so. With Obama in office, the pro-life cause is not likely to advance. But it still comes down to this: God is the author of human life. An unborn child is a human life. And no other human has the right to choose to take that life away.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On the Other Hand ...

Now that George W. Bush has left office, history can officially begin its work of judging his presidency. Whatever the final word, it cannot be denied that he did some good things, that he left a positive impact in certain areas. For all the charges leveled at Bush as a "murderer" for leading America into war in Iraq, little attention has been given to the lives he has helped save through aid to Africans with HIV/AIDS and malaria.

With regard to AIDS, Bush's PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program has introduced some 2 million people to life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. Having worked with one of the organizations on the receiving end of this initiave (Living Hope,, I've seen first-hand the good that is being done to restore health and rebuild lives in Africa. Millions of Americans may have said "good riddance" when Bush returned to Texas yesterday, but I met a lot of Africans in the healthcare arena who aren't so sure about that.

This past December 1, Bush was interviewed by Pastor Rick Warren at a World AIDS Day forum in Washington, D.C. The discussion revealed some things that weren't always reported in the mainstream media, and certainly not focused on by the Bush-haters. Here's a link to highlights of the interview:

Sunday, January 18, 2009


University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is so accomplished, his nickname is Superman. The list of tongue-in-cheek "Tebowisms" is ever-growing: "You can lead a horse to water; Tim Tebow can make him drink." ... "It takes Tim Tebow 20 minutes to watch 60 Minutes." ... And so on.

Indeed, what Tebow has done on the field in three seasons is astounding: national championship his freshman year, Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, another national title as a junior. Equally impressive is his character. Check out the story link below from the Florida Baptist Witness, in which Tebow's mother shares insights on having raised her child prodigy. Even many among the anti-Gator Nation (me included) can't help but like the guy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Unsuitable Material

It’s almost that time of year – the time when the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue shows up in mailboxes around the country and millions of men fall in lust all over again. SI introduced the special issue in 1964. From that relatively modest beginning, it’s essentially turned into a soft-core pornographic piece today.

To its credit, SI allows subscribers to opt out of the swimsuit extravaganza. I don’t know how many readers take advantage of this offer, but I suspect it’s a small minority. The reason, of course, is that bare flesh is an attractive topic. And regardless of how SI tries to dress it up (pardon the pun), that’s what the swimsuit issue is about. Plain and simple, it’s a vehicle for lust.

Men try to rationalize it, saying “It’s normal,” and, “It doesn’t hurt to look,” while critics are dismissed as prudish and old-fashioned. I’m just like any other typical American male – I want to look at this stuff. But I take advantage of the subscriber opt-out offer because I believe lust of the flesh is dangerous. Why? Because Jesus said so: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). King Solomon also warned against lust and adultery: “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for … the adulteress preys upon your very life” (Proverbs 6:24-26). I believe the Bible’s teachings are true and I can’t just pick the ones I like while discarding the rest.

The Bible calls the devil “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Satan will do anything he can to lead people away from God, including the use of man-made devices that seem attractive and harmless on the surface. It is a lie to believe that lust of the flesh won’t get you into trouble. Give in to one small temptation and the next time it will seem a little easier, a little more enticing. “It doesn’t hurt to look” can easily turn into pornography addiction or marital infidelity, among other devastating consequences.

There’s a lie for women here, too. By celebrating the baring of flesh, society is saying you are inferior if you don’t look like a swimsuit model. Plant such a lie in a young girl and she will grow up practicing all sorts of unhealthy habits in an attempt to impress the world with physical beauty.

Lust for the flesh, lust for acceptance – they're both powerful forces. And that’s no lie.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Longing for Acceptance

Of the many friendships I formed during my South Africa mission trip, one in particular was quite unexpected. It involves a sales clerk at a store in the local mall.

I visited this store fairly regularly and this guy was always very friendly and chatty. One day he asked what had brought me to South Africa. I explained my short-term mission work and took that opportunity to invite him to the church I was attending, which is located right next to the mall. He said no thanks, he doesn’t do organized religion. I told him that I really don’t either, that I have a personal relationship with God that goes beyond what many think of as mere religion. I invited him to meet for coffee one morning the following week if he would be interested in hearing more about that, and he said that he would.

The night before the agreed-upon meeting, I got a text message from my friend.(Nearly everyone relies heavily on texting there, as it’s considerably cheaper than voice calls.) He was feeling dishonest about his intentions and wondering if we should cancel our plans. “You see, I like you, but not in the way that you might think,” he wrote. After exchanging several more text messages – I also tried calling him to talk further, but I think he was too embarrassed to answer – we ultimately wound up not meeting.

The point of this story is not that I can go all the way to Africa and find a guy who likes me even though I can’t find a girl here in my own country. (Although I do find that amusing.) Setting aside any debate about homosexuality, the point is that people everywhere desire meaningful relationships - and that's a desire that only God can truly fulfill.

As I told my friend, don’t put your hope in men (or women, for that matter), because we humans always let each other down. He texted back, “Doesn’t God want me to share my love with someone?” Yes, in fact, God does want every one of us to share our love. But not in the way the world thinks. God wants us to share our love with Him, because He desires a personal relationship with us. Jesus said it: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." That’s the kind of love that brings true, lasting joy, regardless of whether one is in a long-term relationship with someone else.

The God who created the entire universe, the God who reigns over all of life and death – that same God lives in me and fellowships with me and never fails me or abandons me. Even though it is on a spiritual level, my relationship with God is just as real as when I sit and talk to someone face to face. So even if I never marry the girl of my dreams, I know I have God Himself by my side, both in this life and in the life to come. And I hope my friend in Cape Town finds such a relationship with God, too.