You Need to Lose Your Religion...

A South African man recently wrote his local television station and explained how he lost his religion and became an atheist. He claims that it was a result of his father's death. This seems fairly normal in a high schooler, but this man was in his forties. So it got me thinking and pondering. The piece is up at the local television station: Losing My Religion.

First, I would like us to say a prayer for this man.  His display name is Gert_swart. God knows the man behind the name. May he be genuinely seeking and find truth on the other side of his quest. May God reveal Himself to him in amazing ways.

Next, I would like to deal with an excerpt from his article. In it, he challenges us to also lose our religion.
But if you are a believer: a Christian, Muslim, Jew or partaker of any other religion, you should reconsider your religion because you will never be free whilst in religion. You may think you are free, but you really are not. You may think that you chose religion out of your own free will, but you did not. Religion was forced on you as a child. Even if you converted from one religion to another as an adult, you still made that decision courtesy of seeds planted in you when you were a child.

You need to undergo the process of losing your religion because if you don't, you will continue to contribute to the devision of the people of this world into christians, Muslims, Jews etc., opposing each other. You will continue sponsoring some evangelist's or preacher's mansions and luxury cars. You will continue upholding institutions which officials on an ongoing basis rape and scar young boys for life. You will be part of those who fly into buildings killing thousands of innocent people. You will share in the guilt of sending children with bombs around their waists to kill infidels. You will continue assisting in the degradading of women. You will continue in assisting to promote homofobia. You will continue to settle in other's living space only because you think you are some fictional deity's chosen people. You will continue to contribute to global tension, wars, terrorism and violence.  And you will continue assisting in the brainwashing and enslaving of children into the prison of religion.

The process of losing your religion might be painful, but if you have the confidence and self-worth to start this journey, it certainly will be worthwhile. You will be freed from the bondage of religion. You will be freed from responsibility of performing worthless religious rituals. You will be freed from guilt, shame and fear of dissappointing some non-existing deity when acting outside certain prescribed rules. You will even contribute to world peace, because if there are no us and them, there will be a lot less friction in the world. And in many cases you will be freed from staying in the closet and from enduring the suffering of listening to irrational rants every sunday and then even pretend that you actualy believe the stuff that religion are telling you. You will contribute to progress because religion is still a huge stumbling block in scientific progress.
I agree with Gert_swart. If this is your religion, then you need to lose it. If your religion causes you to divide others into some category so that you can look down on them, you need to lose it. If the leaders of your religion are living some luxurious life, you need to lose it. If the religious institution you are part of rapes young boys, you need to lose it. If the religion you are part of encourages violence toward those different, you need to lose it. If your religion degrades women, you need to lose it. If your religion hates homosexuals, you need to lose it. If your religion hampers the progress of science, you need to lose it.

If that is your religion, then you need to lose it. Losing your religion can be a great thing.

Instead, you need to find a better religion.

You need to find a religion that causes you to love everyone - Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, black and white.

You need to find a religion that has humble, servant leaders who reflect Jesus rather than  emulates the authoritarian powers who killed Him. "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all. (Mark 9:35 ESV).

You need to find a religion that empowers young boys and girls to achieve their potential. Jesus taught, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matt 18:5-6 ESV).

You need to find a religion that teaches a gospel of peace. "As shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace." (Eph 6:15 ESV).

You need to find a religion that empowers women to live the life worthy of their giftedness. "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good...All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills." (1 Cor 12:7, 11 ESV).

You need to find a religion that loves homosexuals. "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.'" (James 2:8-9 ESV).

You need to find a religion that encourages the progress of man. "And God said to them...have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 ESV).

Jesus came to establish a religion of peace, truth, and love that would (and has) transformed the world for the better. We need to discard any false teachings of man that transforms His religion into a religion of man. Selfishness, divisiveness, greed, and oppression are all instruments of evil that routinely creep into His religion and morphs it into an instrument for the power-hungry and oppressive people of this world. We need to truly follow Jesus, seek His way, and find His true religion.

James taught, "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.(James 1:26-27 ESV)

That, my friends, is true religion. Let's discard the religions that man makes up in order to satisfy their own selfish desires. Instead, let us cling to a religion that brings peace, love, and truth. A religion that spurs us on to love those who can't pay us back. A religion that keeps us set apart for a higher mission than gratifying the desires of our flesh.

Secret Love and Dwindling Lights

But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:3-4)
I was in a conversation on Saturday night with a friend in which this passage was brought up as a reason that the church shouldn't be involved in corporate loving, i.e. loving people through the church with church funds. In their view, loving others should be done on an individual basis and in a completely private way. We were working through our thoughts, so I don't really know if that is the conclusion that he is going to end up at. However, I do think it is the conclusion that many Christians have ended up at.

This teaching of giving your alms in secret comes from Jesus in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, right after the section on loving your enemies and right before two other similar sections about praying and fasting in secret.

Right at the beginning of this same sermon, Jesus taught a principle that rubs differently:
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matt 5:14-16).
Despite popular thinking in the other direction, Jesus taught that we are to do our good works so that others may see them. There isn't any secret meaning to that teaching, no hidden message. It flat out says that our good works are supposed to be seen by others. So if you have been using "do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing" to not do loving actions, I think you are sadly mistaken.

So what was Jesus saying? How do we do our good works so that others may see them if we are supposed to keep our good works secret? It seems very consistent with the Old Testament prophets. Religious acts like prayer, fasting, and tithing are not to be done for show because God is not glorified by other people seeing someone doing religion acts. It brings no attention to God, just attention to the doer. So if you are a great tither, or a powerful person of prayer, or an incredible and dilligent faster - keep it up but keep that to yourself. It doesn't bring God any glory for you to share your spiritual prowess.

However, good works, by their very nature, involve other people. They can't be done without another person. But here is the key. The passage ends with the reason of why we do good works: "So that they may see your good works and give glory to God." We live a life of love so that God may be glorified. If we do loving actions so that the attention is drawn to us, then I would say the principle that was expressed in the alms section applies to us. The principle to not do the things of God for the attention of others would be broken. However, loving actions always involves others so we need to make sure that our hearts are in the right place. Getting hung up on doing loving actions in secret is often an excuse to not love and a hindrance to us loving effectively. Instead of being a place of rescue for the emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally wounded, we just become a church of pious, religious people.

There is no verse that teaches us to love people in secret so that our light doesn't shine. We need to love others so that people will see those acts of love and - this is the main point - give glory to our Father in heaven.

Back Toward Parenting - To Instill a Moral Compass

“I bought into the fashionable philosophy of not interfering; letting the children find themselves. When they were getting into trouble -- at school, or later with their relationships -- I would just bite my lip and tell myself, ‘Don’t butt in, it’s their lives.’”
This quote came from Nick Crews in an article in the British telegraph: I haven't done well as a father, have I? Softer side of the man who fired off 'Crews missile'. When raising his children, Nick had bought into the popular parenting philosophy that we do not interfere in the life of our children. Now that his children are in their late thirties, he is disappointed in them. From the sounds of it, rightfully so. Through living selfishly, they are not providing the safe and stable family that good parents should provide. Realizing this led to him writing a scathing letter to his children. (This letter is reproduced at the end of this post).

The writer of Proverbs taught us to "train up our child in the way he should go." Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, wrote that we are to bring up our children "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." If we have been blessed with children, we have also been given the opportunity/responsibility to raise them.

The Israelites took seriously God's instruction to raise their children. The law taught:
You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21 ESV).
If the truth is really in our heart and in our soul, we will have no problem passing it on to our children. Our society might try to teach us not to instruct our children on certain issues, but we won't let that peer pressure stop us. We might feel compelled to not interfere, but we know that passing down spiritual teachings to our children and learning how to handle whatever life may bring is more important than insuring that they know how to read, write, and do arithmetic. That might seem like crazy talk. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are great and essential, but they do not provide the moral compass that instructs us on how we should use our reading, writing, and arithmetic to make this world a better place.

If you give skills to a person without a moral compass, then you have just created a more empowered monster. They would be good at exporting jobs without caring about the people left unemployed, accumulating wealth just to selfishly indulge, and creating new and inventive ways to screw other people out of their money. A moral compass guides us into using our skills to make our communities a better place.

If we aren't willing to provide a moral compass to our kids, someone is going to instill their moral compass in them. If not us, then who? A popular musician? A wayward teacher? A deceased and disgruntled philosopher? The list goes on and on of people who are willing to raise our children for us and instill in them beliefs that are contrary to what we hold dear. They might grow up to be selfish, self-absorbed leeches on others rather than the blessings that God wants them to be.

Do you really hold dear the teachings of Jesus? You can see whether you do or not by whether you try to pass them down to your children. Do you teach your children to love those picking on them, to try to be a friend to the "unpopular" kids, or to give to others generously? Or do you teach them to fight back, avoid unpopular kids, and to live selfishly? None of us deliberately teach the latter two, but our actions speak much louder than our words.

Most of us don't have the teachings of Jesus written on our our door frames. You can go ahead and do that if you would like, but it is most important to have the teachings of Jesus written all over the way we live. We need to be living the life that we want our children to live. We need to be loving others the way that we want our children to love. We need to be seeking after God the way that we want our children to seek after Him. If there is something in our lives that we don't want our children to do, then we need to stop doing it ourselves. Otherwise, our children are more than likely going to do the things we don't want them to do. Likewise, is there something that you want your children to do? Then you need to start doing it with them now. Serve others together. Worship God together. Study together. Be the parent God created you to be.

If you don't do it now, it will be too late. And someone else will gladly take your place. Someone is going to instill their beliefs into your children. Is it going to be you? Someone else? Or some stranger? If you let a stranger do it, you increase the chance that you will see your grown up kids living in such a way that it is going to result in messed up grandkids. Nick Crews realized this too late. May we learn from his mistake. We aren't given a second chance when it comes to raising our children. Change today. Our children don't have time for us to change tomorrow.


Nick Crews' letter to his children:

Dear All Three,

With last evening's crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.

We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don't ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.

Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.

So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretense to ask for our advice.

In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn't for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.

I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children's underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don't want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes - it's not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace - far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won't do it by simply whingeing and saying you don't like it. You'll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn't possible, or you simply can't be bothered, then I rest my case.

I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.


The only thing that I would change if I were Nick Crews is that I wouldn't make it about myself. Nick should want his children's lives to be better for their sake, not for his bragging rights to friends. Not that that was his goal, but I can see that his children might take it that way.

If we fail to raise our children properly, our grandchildren will be the one's that suffer. And in some cases, we will get a chance to raise them. We need to do it right the first time because we will never get a second, except with grandkids. But that doesn't really count.

It is my hope that Nick Crews' family will grow closer and stronger as a result of this. It doesn't seem that way as I write this. So please shoot a prayer up for them. It is very unfortunate that this all became public over the Internet, but I hope that we will all be encouraged to be more of who God wants us to be as a result of seeing the Crews' family situation.


For a sarcastic take on this subject, read My Precious Little Criminals.

Ice Cream Hunger

The United Nations says that it would only take $30 billion per year to solve world hunger.

Western Europe and the United States spend $37.5 billion per year on frozen deserts.

If you are lucky enough to have ever tasted ice cream, you would understand why we don’t help with this problem.

Only 10.6% of the world's population lives in Western Europe and the United States.

LA Times article The Price of Hunger.
Does Any Company Still Make All-Natural Ice Cream without Gums or Stabilizers?

Israel, Bad Theology, and The Resultant Quagmire

"For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God." Romans 2:28-29 (ESV).

The Jews were God's chosen people to bring about God's will on earth. That does not mean they were automatically right with God because of their ethnicity. Throughout the Old Testament, we see many ethnic Jews who were enemies of God and many Gentiles (non-Jews) who were exalted. Some Gentiles were even recorded in the genealogy of Jesus: Rahab the Canaanite and Ruth the Moabite.

Israel is now the Church. Or to put it another way, the Church is now Israel. God's people are now, and always were, all the faithful people form all the various races. That does not mean that we hate Israel or have the right to be anti-semitic. Our Savior was a Jew. Jews are made right with God the same way we all are, through the blood of Jesus. They are called to the same sacrifice that we all are, to surrender their lives to Jesus and bring about His kingdom here on earth. 

Politically, the bad theology that the ethnic Israel is still God's kingdom and that the promised land still belongs to them has led to problems in our attempts to restore an earthly, boundary-bound kingdom of Israel. We need to realize that our bad theology has put us in an extremely difficult situation. Holding onto that bad theology, even after seeing what it has caused, will lead to more hatred and violence. If those who claim to be followers of Jesus would acknowledge that our bad theology has empowered atrocities - some even in Jesus' name - and combine that with with prayer, repentance, and seeking a peaceful way through the quagmire we find ourselves in, God will be faithful and provide a way through.

As Christians, we are citizens in a kingdom without boundaries and ethnic barriers. Our goal is not to take over and profit off of the rest of the world but to serve others and transform, as best as we can, the world into what God designed it to be. We do that through grace, peace, and love.

This will not happen until we stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated by the powers of this world into attacking and killing others for the advancement of these earthly powers. Under the guise of freedom and security, we are tricked into falling lock, stock, and barrel with those who don't know Jesus in advancing their temporary and earthly kingdoms.

As Christians, we are called turn the other cheek. We are called to love our enemies. We are called to be known by our love. We we will never bring about God's kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven if we continue to invest our lives in fighting for the twisted kingdoms of this world.

Let us avoid bad theology that causes us to condone actions that are contrary to the will and the kingdom of God.

A Series Of Doubts

I wish that I couldn’t honestly say this, but I can and should if I am to be honest with myself and others. I have a lot in common with the Israelites in the Old Testament. I doubt.

They saw God miraculously deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians with the ten plagues. Afterward, they find themselves backed up against the Red Sea with the Egyptian army coming after them. They come up with what would seem to be a rational conclusion given their circumstances: God brought them out there to die.

I remember God providing miraculously for me to minister in Antwerp. Three times now our church has peered over the precipice of being financially broke. Each time, I despaired. Did you bring us this far God just to close this church?

And then God parted the Red Sea. Miraculously, the Egyptians walked across dry ground to get to the other side. And in the process, God even took care of their enemies.

It’s been nearly a year now since we last peered into the precipice. God is good. And each time that we have peered into the precipice, we have received what would seem to be nothing sort of miraculous provisions from God.

Soon after the Israelites reached the other side of the Red Sea, they accused God of bringing them out the wilderness to die. They felt that it would have been better to die as slaves in captivity than to starve to death in the wilderness.

Then I sit down and watch a tragic documentary taken from live video footage of the 2004 Tsunami. People dying. Helpless. Standing there one moment and disappearing into the ocean the next. I wished that it was some fake Hollywood film. And in the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder if there really is a God. And if there is a God, why did He allow that to happen?

Then God miraculously provides manna from heaven for the Israelites to eat. These miracles don’t make sense. Food appearing on the ground in the morning. Food enough for the day but that will rot if you save it for the next. Miracles don’t have to make sense. That’s why they’re miracles.

And God reassures me through a hug from a child that He still loves me. It doesn’t make sense. The death and the tragedy of what I just saw makes God’s love hard to believe. But something is going on with the Spirit in that little hug from a child, and God uses that moment to reassure me.

Then Moses goes away too long. Too long, yet all of this takes place within one hundred days of the exodus, the parting of the Red Sea, and the manna from heaven. But their leader disappears. He went up to the mountain, and he still has not come down. They despair and build a golden calf to worship.

Sometimes I think that we, ministers, don’t express our doubts enough. We’re scared that we will lose our job if we do. So we pretend at times to have super faith, one where we never doubt. And in a weird, twisted way, we are wrongly setting ourselves up to be an idol rather than direct people to the true mentor and Father of us all. And we despair in the fakeness of ourselves.

If we sit still in the midst of all of our searing doubts. If the baby doesn’t move on the ultrasound. If our dearly loved one parts. If that ailment won’t lighten up. If our house is gone from under us or we find ourselves without a job. If during our darkest hour, we take time to be still and silent. If we would just tell God that we want to see Him, we will be satisfied.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:7-11 (ESV).

God Things Comin'

Jack McGuckin of Wycliffe Bible translator’s Jungle Aviation Service was on one of his first missionary flights in Peru. The mission director had a rule to build good relationships with the authorities: “Always cooperate with the government people whenever possible. We are in their country by permission, to preach the Gospel. So be courteous!” This sometimes meant that they would do things to please the leaders that they might not be comfortable with, as long as the action wasn’t a morally compromising request.  

Jack faced one of those moments. A sergeant had captured an ocelot and wanted Jack to deliver it to an army officer at another base. He had placed the South American panther in a huge wicker basket. The sergeant exclaimed, “The tiger cannot possibly escape from the basket.” So Jack begrudgingly loaded the ocelot into the plane, along with supplies for other mission stations, some chickens and turtles.

After Jack was steadily flying three thousand feet above the Peruvian jungles, chaos erupted in the back of his plane. The ocelot had broken free from the “impossible to escape from” basket. The chickens distracted the ocelot for a little while, but then the ocelot decided to focus on Jack.

Desperately, Jack looked for a place to land while praying for help. He noticed a small settlement and landed the floatplane on the water next to it. The men from the settlement immediately helped him gain control and recapture the ocelot. Then, they thanked him for landing there. One of the villagers had just had a heart attack and would die without quick medical attention in a hospital. Something the villages did not have the capability to pull off. And Jack’s plane provided just that capability.

Jack thought, “So the Lord had a purpose in allowing the tiger cat to break loose. God used a snarling ocelot and a scared pilot to get His plane to the right place and save a man’s life.”

Without the chaos in the plane, without the abrupt interruption to his plans, without the fear to his life – or should I say – because of the chaos in the plane, because of the abrupt interruption to his plans, because of the fear to his life, God used Jack McGuckin to save a man’s life. When bad things happen, God things are coming.  (Story adapted from Missionary Stories with the Millers by Mildred A. Martin)

Paul taught us that God will use all things for the good of those who love him. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV).

This isn’t just on the missionary field in Peru. This isn’t just some truth from Scripture that is thousands of years old.

Recently, I was blessed to hear Charles Recker speak to the Antwerp Rotary Club. Last June, Charles, while checking on his farmland on his ATV, accidentally pulled in front of Buick heading down the road at full speed. A full-sized car at full speed hammering into an ATV is not a pretty site. Charles was flipped up into the air, crashed into the windshield and landed on the side of the road.

Since I already told you that I recently was blessed to hear Charles speak, you know that he is doing well. Praise God for his healing. He had a full recovery after spending much time in the hospital, receiving treatments, and going through therapy. But the thing that stuck out to me in the telling of his story is the story of the driver of the Buick that hit him.

Because of the accident, the cuts she received on her face from the windshield breaking, and the following treatment, the doctors discovered a cancerous tumor that was previously undetected. They were able to treat the cancer and she was fine besides a few cuts that needed healing. She was probably saved that day from a tumor that would have remained undetected until it was too big.

Interruptions. Accidents. Could they be God things? When bad things happen, God things are coming.

Electoral College 101 - A Brief Explanation of the Electoral College

The electoral college is an obstacle to people who desire the Presidency to be decided by the nationwide popular vote. Four times in our history, the President has not defeated his opponent in the popular vote. In 1824, John Quincy Adams lost in both the popular vote and electoral college, making his election the only case in our history where the President was chosen by the House of Representatives. In recent history, we have George W. Bush beating Al Gore in the electoral vote in 2000 while losing in the popular vote. Similar situations to this arose in 1876 (Rutherford B. Hayes beating Samuel Tilden) and 1888 (Benjamin Harrison beating Grover Cleveland).

The battle against the electoral college is centers on whether we are a collection of states versus us being one federal state. With that said, there are still some lesser issues that are still pertinent.

The electoral college serves no role after the first vote. Twenty-nine states have legally bound their electors to vote for their candidate. The others, who are not legally obligated, are still strong party supporters chosen by the party, so they typically do not stray. Straying, or what is known as being a faithless elector, has only happened 158 times in our nation's history. None of those 158 times have ever swung an election. If a candidate does not have a majority of the electoral vote after the one vote of the electoral college, the President would be immediately decided by the House of Representatives, which happened in 1824.

The electoral college system might not be the best thought out system in the world for a democracy, but this is not due to elections being stolen by the electors. It will run into problems if a third or fourth party ever arises. In Europe, a multitude of parties run in a preliminary election followed by a final election in which the two highest vote getters in the preliminary election run off against each other. This is preferable compared to a third party candidate, if they were to ever gain traction again, causing the candidate they are pulling votes from to lose. Or even worse, causing the outgoing, lame-duck session of the House of Representatives to choose the President. The biggest problem with the electoral college, as with many of the systems in place for presidential campaigns, is that it discourages a third, fourth, or fifth party. Most political issues have more than two sides. Having more parties involved in the public discussion would create more constructive policy debate rather than the tit-for-tat we are wallowing in.

Despite the drawbacks of the electoral college, I would like to propose that it is beneficial to keep an electoral system where votes are given by state rather than purely by popular vote. If we moved to selecting the President through popular vote, the President would be decided by a few major cities rather than the nation as a whole. The campaigns would focus on city issues and ignore the rest of America. The electoral college insures that each state matters.

The main change that needs to happen is not the abolishment of the electoral college but the institution of a preliminary election. After each party has their primary, an election would be held in which every party could run against one another. This preliminary election would empower everyone to vote for the candidate they want without "wasting" a vote rather than just voting for "the lesser of two evils." Having a preliminary election would help move our nation away from party-centered politics toward issue-centered politics. This preliminary election would be followed by a runoff election between the two candidates who received the most votes in the preliminary election. This system is normal election procedure in many nations around the world and would help promote additional parties, bringing additional solutions, to the political arena.

It doesn't hurt for us to evaluate the antiquated systems our founding fathers developed. They were radical and revolutionary for their time, but since then many of their great and original ideas have been improved upon by other nations experimenting with them. I would love for the grand experiment that is America to keep on experimenting.

John Wesley on Election Day

I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them
1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.

From John Wesley, October 6, 1774.

Stopping Your Mr. Hyde - A Halloween Message

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

We always hear the names Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but most of us don’t actually know the story. 

Dr. Jekyll created Mr. Hyde. He thought that he would be happier if he could create an evil half of himself who could do all the sin he desired without feeling any of the guilt that came along with that sin. In the end, it proved to not be the case. The sin – the evil side - Mr. Hyde - when left unchecked, overtook the good side.

Do you flirt with evil? Do you desire to do evil and expect it to not damage you?

Do we even recognize evil when we see it? Unfortunately, evil doesn't typically come looking like Mr. Hyde. It looks like a small compromise. A little lie to get your way, to win an argument, or to just cause others to think better about you. Some gossip to make you feel better by tearing someone else down. It comes by turning your head when you see suffering. Evil is anything in our life that causes us to miss out on the life that God has intended for us.

It would be convenient if evil came up to our house dressed in horns and a pitchfork and like a little trick-or-treater when they ask “Trick or treat?”, evil would ask, “Life or death?” No one would choose the death that evil brings if phrased in such a way. We would choose life. But evil comes in disguise. 

Jesus taught:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20 ESV).
Sinclair Lewis wrote, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross" (From It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis). Leaders, even those who are well-intentioned yet misguided, must wrap the oppressive policies in the ideals of safety, patriotism, and spirituality if they want to slide them by the American people.

Evil does likewise; it does not knock on the door of our lives dressed in a pitch fork and horns. It comes to our door dressed as convenience or pleasure. A quicker way to do something. Getting what we want – just easier. Just one little step in the wrong direction. And then, after taking little wrong step after little wrong step, one more in the wrong direction followed by another, we find our lives way off course from where God wanted them. Instead of being free from sin so that we can be a blessing, we find ourselves enslaved to sin, living for ourselves, slowly destroying the life intended for us to live.

Ron Philipose was at the doctor’s office with his wife and three year old son, when he received a call from the police after a neighbor had called in a disturbance due to repeated glass breaking in his house. Upon his arrival at the scene, Ron and the police noticed blood on the couch and wall. The cops asked Ron to step back for his safety as they went further into the home to investigate. In the back room, they found the intruder, a 300 pound deer, who had broke a window to gain entry into the home, who couldn’t figure out a way to get out with his goods. (From Surprise intruder breaks into Philadelphia home: 300-pound deer).

Unfortunately, Satan doesn’t come into our life like a 300 pound deer. If he did, unleashing that sort of massive destruction, we would stay away from him. Nobody would be willing to live with a wild 300 pound deer in their house. 

Unlike a wild 300 pound deer, Satan’s more like a mouse. 

I’m talking about the mouse that sneaks out in the night and destroys where others can’t see. In the cabinets. In the pantry. Behind the stove. In the basement. In the wall. If left unchecked, a mouse problem will get out of control. And the problem that once could be hidden, can no longer be concealed.

To stop a mouse infestation, you have to kill the mice. You have to patch up the path that the mice were using to get into the house. And then you have to clean up the mess.

Sounds a lot like sin. If you have a sin problem, you need to stop the sin. And then you need to deal with the path that is being used in your life to make that sin appealing. And then you need to start mending all the relationships and damage to your own health that the sin has caused.

But to move to the mending and damage control without actually dealing with the sin itself is like cleaning up mouse droppings in the midst of a mouse infestation. It might help for a day, but as soon as the mice have their way again in the dark of the night, the cleanup will have to happen all over again.

And it will start to wear us out until we reach the point of no longer caring to clean up the mess. Soon, one will find themselves living in the midst of mouse droppings all of the time. Pretty disgusting, isn’t it? That’s sin. Filth. Morphing God’s intended beauty for our life.

If you don’t deal with the mice, Mr. Hyde wins.

Sin must be dealt with when we discover it in our life. Not tomorrow. Not even tonight. Right now.

Jesus continued in the passage we started reading earlier: 
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV).
If this passage doesn’t put a spooky, chill down your spine – If it doesn’t get you alert like an unexpected bump in the night - If it doesn’t make you wonder about whether you are serving right, then I’m fearful for you.

These people prophesied in Jesus’ name. These people casted out demons. And they did mighty works. But they were not right with God. Jesus said, “Depart from me.” Those aren’t the words I want to hear when I see Jesus.

God doesn’t care about the greatness of what you do. He cares about our faithfulness in all the things that we do. Notice that he says the one who will enter the kingdom of heaven is the one who does the will of God.
Now, we have this tendency to talk about works as a bad thing in the church. But that is because we’re hung up on the question of how can I be saved? What minimal steps do I have to do to be right with God and enter the kingdom of heaven. God is not concerned about what minimally saves a person because there is no such thing as a person barely saved.

Either you are his disciple, or you’re not. This passage of Scripture has nothing to do with the elementary teaching of what saves a person. It’s talking about whether you have lived the life of a person who has been saved. We must be about doing the will of God. If that is not our focus in every area of our life, then we are living in sin. Mouse droppings. Filth. It doesn’t matter what job you have that pays your bills – your primary job, the primary job of everyone who claims to follow Jesus, is to do the will of God.

Jesus went on: 
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV).
If a house has a week point in the foundation, it will eventually crumble if left unmended. I read an article this week about bridges collapsing and how they are working on creating a self-healing plastic. Pretty amazing stuff.

A bridge doesn’t just immediately collapse. It gets a small crack. And this small crack turns into a larger crack until it reaches a point where it no longer keeps its structural integrity. The idea of the self-healing plastic is that it will be filled with a liquid epoxy that solidifies upon contact with air. The small cracks would then never develop into great weaknesses that would cause collapse.

If our spiritual house is going to stand when the rains come and the winds blow, which they surely will, we must make sure that we are built on the rock. That we do not suffer from any long-term structural weaknesses.

What is your foundation?

In 1995, they reintroduced Wolves to Yellowstone park. The last wolf was killed in Yellowstone in 1926. The unintended consequence of the death of all of the wolves was that the population of elk and other large animals soared to an unsustainable level for growth of certain new vegetations. What that means is that the animals were eating all the young starts and would eventually, if left unchecked, have eliminated certain species of trees from the forest. 

The wolf is now doing its intended job. The elk population is being diminished to sustainable levels. When a pack of wolves spots a herd of elk or bison, they only need to kill the weakest one in order to feed.  

 Here's a wolf video that illustrates this point.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 ESV).
A lion does the same tactic as a wolf. It just needs to attack the weakest animal in the herd in order to get a meal.

The same is true with Satan in your life. He only needs to get you at your weakest point. And boom, death ensues. We, like a bridge, are only as strong as our weakest point. And if we have a weak point that Satan can attack, then everything else in our life will crumble.

The problem Dr. Jekyll faced is that he decided to ignore his dark side. And if you choose to do likewise – ignore your dark side - , it will be like an infected wound that will fester. The disease will spread. It needs to be removed. But the longer you ignore it, the more difficult it becomes until it eventually overtakes all of your health and kills you.

To build on the rock, as Jesus describes, means that we aren’t like Dr. Jekyll. We aren’t secretly wanting to indulge in the sins of this world. Instead, we are hearing God’s teachings and doing His work. And in doing that, we are building on a foundation that can withstand whatever life will bring us.

I always feel sorry for families who don’t know God when they go through a time of crisis. And this world will send times of crisis our way. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we won’t go through bad things; it means that when we go through bad things we will have the foundation built beforehand to get us through in a good state of mind, ready to continue building on to the house we were working on beforehand. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we won’t go through bad things, it means that we won’t go through bad things alone.

Now, it won’t be easy.

Jesus also taught,
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26 ESV).
Satan doesn’t take defeat lightly. He wants you. He wants you to not focus on bringing about God’s will into this world. He wants you to be distracted by satisfying every one of your selfish desires. You might have cast some sin out of your life, but it’s going to try and come back stronger than before. It’s like a lone wolf who was unable to take you down, but now he has returned with the pack.

But as that video showed, if you stand your ground, with Jesus, you can defeat the wolves.

In the teachings of Jesus that we read earlier, we see Jesus teach how to withstand falling prey to wolves in sheep’s clothing – to be focused on doing the will of God. In the Luke passage, he shares a similar conclusion in this teaching on the return of the spirits.
As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28 ESV).
The sad thing about the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is that Dr. Jekyll realized his problem too late. He reached the end and gave up. He said, "I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.” But the truth of the gospel is that sin does not have to be victorious in your life. The mouse can be trapped. The wolf can be killed. The crack can be mended. As long as you are still breathing, you can be who God wants you to be. You can make that choice. You have heard the word of God. Now it’s up to you to keep it.