Coarse and Crude Comments

The chicken or the egg?  Which came first?

Similarly, one might ask if our culture produces the coarse and crude comments heard by today’s undisciplined, political candidates? Or, do the candidates themselves foster this kind of banal and base behavior on our culture—debasing political debate, while exalting political correctness?

A current example of this might be California Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista). A nine-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Issa was first a successful businessman in Southern California’s usually-conservative 49th District.  As a popular conservative politician, he built a reputation over the Obama years as a fierce partisan—staging high-profile hearings and appearing before any microphone he could find.

But, the political winds may be changing. In his northern San Diego County district, which Trump lost by more than seven points, Issa barely held onto his seat last year. Now, as the L.A. Times staffer Sarah Wire recently reported, Issa has taken a series of steps toward the center.

The congressman ignobly rejected such alleged, political repositioning (in an interview for the Times’ article, no less!) as “bullxxxt.”

Profanity, like this, seems to flow all too easily these days, in both private and public conversations. From television and movies to the mouths of parents (at their kid’s sports events) to politicians (trying to gain attention or the upper hand in a debate or a town hall meeting), foul language clutters our airwaves and contributes to the corrupting of our private and public morals.

Even guests for Tony and Grammy Award Winning productions are frequently accosted by foul language, from the very first minutes of the special presentations. Having paid exorbitant amounts for tickets to these productions, most choose to sit through the verbal assaults, for which they had little or no advanced warnings.

Online responses to attempts by others to present a position or question/clarify a characterization in a public post, often result in obnoxious and offensive epithets by often “anonymous” data-revolutionaries. Some online forums have resorted to software subsystems, known as “profanity filters,” in attempts to modify or remove coarse or crude words deemed offensive by the administrator or community.

According to the website “cuss control,” swearing is bad for the following reasons:  Continue reading

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The Hope of Holy Week

We recently downsized and moved to a smaller home. Even though we had tried to give away or throw away much of the extraneous “stuff” we had seemed to acquire over the years before the moving van came, there were still more boxes and furniture than we comfortably had room. Christmas decorations and other seasonal things got moved to the attic.

But, the one thing I was careful to set aside was a simple, vertical banner with a colorful display of Easter lilies and the words, “Easter brings HOPE.” I was anxious to display this small declaration in the exterior entryway to our new home, in hopes that our neighbors would see it, be inspired by it, or even ask us questions about it.

You see, as much as we love the pageantry and celebration of Christmas, if it were not for “The Hope of Holy Week” Christmas would mean nothing.

The story of a newborn baby in a manger somewhere in the Middle East is just a happy beginning to something without eternal consequence. We need the “rest of the story,” beyond the miracle of God taking on human flesh.

We need to know and believe He lived a sinless, holy life and then was brutally beaten and bloodied and died an ignominious death for us! He willfully endured this disdain, discomfort, and depravity and gave up His life on the cross because He loves us unconditionally!

Then, after three days in a borrowed grave, He rose from the dead and was seen by hundreds, before He ascended to heaven to prepare an eternal home for His disciples, where they can live with Him forever. Without this hope-filled conclusion, Christmas is just a story and occasion for secular celebrations, with twinkling lights, silver bells, and eggnog.

Barbara Rainey, who with her husband Dennis, lead the large outreach Family Life Ministries (Help for today; Hope for tomorrow) reminds us that Jesus never asked us to commemorate His birth, but He did command us to… Continue reading

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Happy Purim!

This week, activists advocated that women celebrate Woman’s Day by staying home and not spending money, in “A Day Without a Woman.” This female focus followed last month’s Women’s March on Washington, during inaugural week. In each event, women were honored and their roles in our society highlighted, in unique and unusual ways.

Also, this weekend, Jews around the world celebrate the Feast of Purim, a one-day event, honoring an orphan girl, who stopped a plot to murder masses of Jews, in ancient Persia. Like Halloween, celebrators use Purim as an opportunity to dress up in crazy costumes—sometimes all week.

But, Purim is more than crazy costumes. The celebration is rooted in an amazing biblical story of rescue and redemption, from the brief, biblical Book of Esther. The true event centers on a young Jewish girl who was raised by her cousin Mordecai. He was the son of Jair, of the tribe of Benjamin. Generations before, her family, with many others from Judah, was carried into exile to Babylon, in what is Iraq now.

In the course of time, the Persians defeated the Babylonians. King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I of Persia) wanted a new queen and there was a contest held. Esther, a beautiful Jewish girl, won the contest and went from being just one of the many unknown minorities in the land to becoming the Queen of Persia.

Esther’s story is a study of the survival of God’s people, in the face of harassment, hostility, and hatred. The king’s second in command was a vengeful anti-Semitic, named Haman. He wanted all the Jews destroyed and he manipulated the king to call for their demise.

Then, God chooses to elevate Esther and use her to save her people. Her cousin Mordechai counseled her with words that have become famous:

 “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

Esther risked her life, fearing God more than men, in order to save her Jewish people from certain extinction. [See Video: “One Night with the King”] She heroically summoned the courage, to meet her destiny. She courageously approached the king on behalf of her people and this resulted in saving them from annihilation, by the evil Haman (Boo! Hiss!).

As a result, Haman is hanged and her cousin Mordecai, a leader to the Jews in the Persian Empire, became prime minister.

So, what is the message of The Feast of Purim and this heroic Hebrew woman? It is, as Pastor Ron Cantor at Tel Aviv’s Messiah’s Mandate explains, “no matter who you are or how insignificant you feel, God can use you to do remarkable things if you will choose courage.”

“God is to us a God of deliverance!” 
—Psalm 68:20 NASB

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A Pentecostal Takes a New Look at Lent

ash-wednesdayAs one raised and trained in non-liturgical, evangelical, and Pentecostal environments, the observance of Lent has never been much on my religious radar.

I recall seeing some kids in school or friends at work that showed up one day with ashen crosses marked on their foreheads. Some seemed a little embarrassed if I commented on it. Others, quietly explained this is something they do in their church on “Ash Wednesday.” Apparently, it marks the six-week season that culminates with Christ’s resurrection, which is observed on Easter Sunday. During those next weeks, some might say they had given up this or that (usually a certain food, beverage or activity) “for Lent.”

This religious holy day and practiced deprivation are not mentioned in the Bible. But, as a structured reminder of the many biblical events which occurred in the weeks just before Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, it may serve to help reflect on His determined pathway to Calvary. I’m open to learning from the observance of Lent. How about you?

For instance, the observance of Lent may help even devoted disciples to think anew about what Jesus’ death means for us today and in the future. As we contemplate afresh Jesus’ sufferings, death, and resurrection, we can rejoice, in anticipation of the place which He is preparing for His people (John 14:2-3), who have sincerely repented of their sins and received His promise of eternal life (John 3:16-17).

Lent can prepare us to celebrate more fully our complete salvation. We have been saved from the guilt of our sins, in the past. We are being saved from the power of sin, in the present. And, we will be saved from the very presence of sin, in heaven’s eternal future. Therefore, Lent can help us better appreciate our complete salvation and also serve a threefold gospel purpose.

First, the application of the ashes can… Continue reading

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Standing for Life and Against Infanticide

stop-abortionsToday there were “peaceful protests and prayer vigils at 40+ locations in California” to oppose taxpayer dollars going to enrich Planned Parenthood so they can continue their killing of baby humans. These non-violent advocates for the sanctity of human life reminded us that some PP clinics have, reportedly, even arranged to sell baby-body-parts, as part of their business plan.

Sadly, one of PP’s key clinics in Los Angeles County is located just blocks from our church, in the center of the San Fernando Valley.  They have strategically located there in order to prey upon the Latino and African American communities, which surround our church campus.

Abortion activists argue for absolute individual autonomy. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards repeatedly tells audiences that she and women around the country are “so sick of men telling us what to do with our bodies.” No one has a right, she and her “social warriors” insist, to tell them what to do with their own bodies or with what or who is growing inside those bodies.

This tyranny of the individual callously ignores Continue reading

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Priest-WesternWall-JerusalemAs a child, I learned that I could remember how to spell the big word “Jerusalem” if I just put the letters “USA” in the middle of it. Since then, I’ve learned that the “U.S.A.” has been in the middle of Jerusalem-issues since modern Israel’s founding, in 1948.

Yet, with all of our international leadership and involvement in Jerusalem’s affairs, over these nearly 70 years, we have sheepishly “followed the crowd” and built our embassy in Tel Aviv, rather than the nation’s capital of Jerusalem. Why is that?

Last December, the U.N. Security Council’s Resolution 2334 declared sections of Jerusalem’s Old City, including the historic Jewish Quarter, the revered Western Wall, and the millennia-old Temple Mount itself, were “occupied territory” and any Jewish presence there illegal, if it is without Palestinian consent. This followed the unbelievable UNESCO October 2016 resolution, stubbornly ignoring historic, Jewish links to the ancient Temple Mount and even modern history.

During the British Mandate, after World War I, the modern, western side of Jerusalem grew as Jewish immigrants joined generations of Jewish residents there. In 1948, by the authority of the United Nations, Israel declared itself a nation, with Jerusalem as its capital. It was immediately attacked by six Arab countries, seeking to destroy it. Against all odds, Israel survived and an armistice was signed in 1949. Soon, western Jerusalem blossomed, as the new capital of the modern state of Israel.

After 19 years of true “occupation” by the artificially-crafted country of Jordan (from 1948 to 1967), the Old City of Jerusalem was liberated by Israeli forces, fifty years ago–during the 1967 Six Day War. The capture of this historic site meant the capital of the Jewish people was once again united and undivided.

Though Israel gained control of the Old City and provided security for the historic areas, it allowed the Muslim Wakf authority over their prayer mosques, which had been built on the former Jewish Temple Mount. The three major religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam once again had peaceful access to their holy sites, in the “Holy City.”

Yet, because the 1948 war of independence ended with an armistice, rather than a capitulation of a losing side, the Arab nations Continue reading

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Were Prayers at Trump’s Inauguration Legal?

58th-presidential-inaugurationThe 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee has invited six faith leaders to participate in the Trump/Pence swearing-in ceremony. The announcement of the diverse and broad clergy lineup affirmed the new administration’s commitment to “honor the vital role religious faith plays in our multicultural, vibrant nation.”

The formal announcement identified those scheduled to give scriptural readings, invocations, or benedictions at this public ritual as Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan (Archbishop of New York), and Reverend Dr. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

In addition, the swearing-in ceremonies will feature Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, Pastor Paula White of New Destiny Christian Center in Florida, and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Detroit’s Great Faith Ministries International.

Apparently, blessings at presidential inaugurations have been a part these ceremonies for more than two centuries and were initially conducted by the salaried Senate chaplain. However, since 1933, various clergy have been invited to participate by the president-elect. Billy Graham, Franklin Graham’s famous-evangelist father, offered prayers at the presidential inaugurations of Richard Nixon (in 1969), George H.W. Bush (in 1989) and Bill Clinton (in 1993 and 1997). Additionally, known as the “pastor to presidents,” the senior Graham has also led private prayer services before the inaugural ceremonies.

However, in our hyper and politically correct society, inviting clergy involvement in recent inaugural ceremonies has been criticized on the basis of “separation of church and state.” Or, if Jesus Christ or of the Trinity were mentioned in these “parochial prayers,” some have been accused of offending non-Christian citizens.

Author and historian Bill Federer has written on this subject and has collected segments of judicial rulings, proving that the U.S. Constitution does not require complete “separation of Church and State.”  Here are just a few Continue reading

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