Archive | February 2016

Our Love for the Failed Drug War

The war on drugs has failed

Former President Richard Nixon established the war on drugs in 1971. At that time the size and presence of federal control agencies were increased significantly and measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants were introduced. Since that time the war on drugs has been a constant reminder of how prohibition fails to address the real problems. The following statistics demonstrate how the war on drugs has failed…

  • Amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs: More than $51,000,000,000
  • Number of arrests in 2014 in the U.S. for drug law violations: 1,561,231
    Number of these arrests that were for possession only: 1,297,384 (83 percent)
  • Number of arrests in 2014 in the U.S. for marijuana law violations: 700,993
    Number of these arrests that were for possession only: 619,809 (88 percent)
  • Number of Americans incarcerated in 2014 in federal, state and local prisons and jails: 2,224,400 or 1 in every 111 adults, the highest incarceration rate in the world

Essentially, our nation spends tens of billions of dollars annually to imprison drug dealers or drug users. In many cases drug dealers go back to dealing once released and drug users go back to using drugs after they serve their time. In some cases, those drug dealers and drug users commit worse crimes once they are released from prison. And while drug dealers and drug users go to prison, recreational drug use continues to flourish.

Eliminate the war on drugs

Even though the statistics demonstrate otherwise, we still believe that we can solve the drug problem by imprisoning those who use and sell drugs. Unfortunately, the drug problem will never be resolved entirely. Our society has a sin problem (Romans 3:23), which is what has led to a drug problem. And that is the reason that prohibition of substances like drugs or alcohol fails. We cannot prevent people from using ‘harmful’ substances by imprisoning them. Instead drug users and drug dealers need freedom from their sin.

The truth is, some laws are necessary for a society to function (Romans 13:1-7), but not all laws are beneficial to society. There could be some unexpected benefits to legalizing drugs or decriminalizing the use of drugs…

Restoring individuals with the Gospel

Our disdain for those who break the law by using drugs has clouded our vision for helping to restore them. Our desire for restoration has been less of a priority then our desire for justice. Our idea of restoration has been based on government intervention instead of the body of Christ reaching out to those who need help.

We have given up on our love for people in lieu of sending them to prison. We may have great intentions, but we may be making life more difficult for our neighbor by supporting the war on drugs. Only God can restore drug abusers, but he can use us to do so. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

Once again, we are witnessing the affects of the lack of presence that the Church has in society and the government has filled our role by punishing non-violent criminals. Loving and caring for sinners may sound oversimplified, but it is exactly what Christ wants us to do. There are churches that support ending the drug war and promote individual responsibility among Christians. We should hope that more Christians begin to realize that they can do more to help those who abuse drugs, by loving and caring for them, one individual at a time.


The ‘How’ in Talking Politics

What we talk about

Some Christians have a lot to say when it comes to politics. And there is nothing wrong with that. It could be argued that we need more of that. The topics that we choose to discuss are important. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about current events or historical events that relate to politics. We should be encouraged to do so.

If you spend any time on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media networks, you may notice that some Christians aren’t afraid to give a piece of their mind to anyone discussing politics. You may even notice some of these debates getting heated. As Christians, we have a message and we want the world to know it. And while there may be good intentions behind our message, we may not always express ourselves in the most loving way.

When we give someone a piece of our mind, we may be doing more damage than good. Again that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t debate or have in depth discussions, but we should be careful in how we communicate during those discussions. In discussing politics, our testimony is not ruined by the topic as much as it is by how we discuss the topic. In the midst of these discussions, we must remember that God’s message is more important than our message. We should be asking ourselves how we should discuss politics, instead of avoiding those types of discussions.

How we talk about the what

How do we talk about politics or other emotional topics? The truth is, we should discuss politics in the same way that we are called to discuss our faith. Here are five things to remember when discussing politics…

  1. Be sure to communicate God’s message “Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” Isaiah 8:20
  2. Be loving in all of your discussions with others “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” 1 John 3:11
  3. Be a good listener and do not become easily angered “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20
  4. Be careful with the words you choose “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26
  5. Be consistent in the way you speak “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:9-10

A good example

When we discuss politics, we often allow our emotions to control our thinking and our behavior. However, this should not be so. We must control our emotions and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us. When we get to the boiling point, we need to remember that God is listening to us. We must resist the temptation to put winning the debate above loving the person involved, by simply sharing God’s truths and allowing the truth to do the rest of the work. And we need to remember to speak softly when confronted in anger… “A gentle answer turns away wrath” Proverbs 15:1

We should be a good example to the people we talk to. We should speak and act respectfully, so that our representation of the Lord is not spoiled. We should be obedient to God and his commands when we discuss politics. And we should speak the truth in love in any situation, regardless of how we feel… “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15



The Myth of Peace by Force

Constant conflict

Our nation has been involved in some sort of conflict for most of the last thirty years.  During that time we have been involved in wars around the world with many different nations.  The reasons for these wars vary and can differ depending on who you listen to.  One of the constant statements throughout the years has been in reference to a quote from a former President.  While in office, Ronald Reagan said… “We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.”

What did Reagan mean by peace through strength?  Was he trying to say that in order to demonstrate our strength we must force ourselves upon other nations?  In that same speech, Reagan also said… “I believe with all my heart that our first priority must be world peace, and that use of force is always and only a last resort, when everything else has failed, and then only with regard to our national security.” Ronald Reagan

Reagan’s notion of peace through strength was more about promoting peace, while being prepared for war, then it was about demonstrating how dominant we can be.  It is clear that Reagan desired peace above anything else, as demonstrated by his words and the fact that our nation experienced relatively little conflict while he was in office.  He believed that force was a last resort as opposed to a highlight of our foreign policy.  If you study the words of our Founding Father’s, you will find that they said similar things…

“Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.” Thomas Jefferson

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” James Madison

Our policy of force

For many of us, there is a major disconnect between our nation’s recent foreign policy and the phrase “peace through strength”.  A more fitting phrase for our recent foreign policy is “peace through force”.  Our nation’s leaders have decided to use our military to forcefully impose our values through nation building efforts around the world.  This is in direct contrast to Reagan’s idea of the United States not being an antagonist to other nations.

US Armed Forces have become a tool for establishing dominance around the world in order to bring peace to other nations and protect our so called interests.  While that type of foreign policy seems to be accepted by most Americans, it is a policy that leads to what is commonly referred to as blowback.  Blowback is unintended consequences suffered by the aggressor for an offensive action.  Until we admit that is exactly what has happened here, we will continue to suffer the consequences.

While many believe that foreigners hate us for our freedom, it could be easily argued that they hate us more for our acts of aggression against them.  That is exactly why the Founding Fathers warned us about entangling alliances with foreign nations.  As Thomas Jefferson said… “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.”

Achieving peace

Although, we will likely never achieve what most people consider world peace, we can experience more peace than we have in recent times.  However, that will mean that Christians will need to pray for peace.  We will need to be peaceful ourselves.  We will need to desire peace through strength (the peaceful kind of strength), not peace through force.  We will need to overcome evil by doing good. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

We should heed the words of Ronald Reagan when he said, “The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights.  We will never be an aggressor.  We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression – to preserve freedom and peace.”

Most of all, we should remember what Jesus said in regards to how we treat our enemies… “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:35

Let us go to God to find His way for peace and let us demonstrate peace through strength the way it was intended.  “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14

God Gave us More than One Mission

The Great Commission

We should only be spending our time sharing the gospel.  Have you ever heard someone in church say this?  Maybe it was a Pastor, or a friend, or even someone you don’t know.  If so, what was your response?  It seems that many Christians feel this way about life… all we should do is share the gospel.  What does that mean, though?

There have been instances when I have told other believers about my passion for politics.  Occasionally I am told that all we should be doing is sharing the gospel.  When someone tells me that, it makes me wonder how they arrived at that conclusion.  I wonder if they just don’t like politics or maybe they believe that the separation of church and state means something other than keeping the state out of the church.

The truth is that we should be spending our time sharing the gospel.  In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded us to do so… “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

How we share the gospel

What does Jesus want us to do with the Great Commission?  And what didn’t He want us to do with it?  First of all, notice that the scripture in Matthew in this context is referred to as the ‘Great Commission’ and not the ‘Only Commission’.  In this passage of scripture, Jesus did not limit us to only talking about the gospel.  Think about what we would not be able to do, if that was so.  We couldn’t sleep, eat, work, play, create, etc.  Is that what He meant for us?

Does sharing the gospel mean that you have to give up everything else you do?  Absolutely not!  It means that you share the gospel right where you are, and in everything you do and say.  God wants us to live our lives for Him, but He does not call us to stop living.  Even the disciples kept on fishing after they met Jesus.  They did not stop living their lives in order to share the gospel.  They sacrificed and their lives changed, but they continued to sleep, eat, work and play.  They shared the gospel by their words and actions in the things that they were already doing.

Yes, we are called to go.  However, the ‘go’ is different for everyone.  Some believers are called to go outside of the country to minister to an unbelieving world.  And some believers are called to go to a different state or city.  And some believers are called to go to their next door neighbors, or their co-workers, or anyone else they may know.  We are all called to share the gospel, but we are not all called to reach the same people.

We have more than one mission

God wants us to share the gospel in everything we do, as opposed to quitting life in order to share the gospel.  He clearly gave us more than one mission in life.  God called us to look after others in need… “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

The gospel is filled with scripture referencing many missions (Matthew 5:16, Matthew 7:12, Matthew 9:37–38) that God has planned for us.  Yes, we should be sharing the gospel and it should be our highest priority as followers of Jesus.  However, that means that we should be living and sharing the gospel in the things we do.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to stop doing the things we are doing.