Response to Evil


Orlando mass murders.  Stanford rape.  Taliban.  Isis.  It has been a rough week in the land of the free and the brave.  People have chosen to use their freedom for evil and have chosen cowardice over bravery.

The following information is shared with you in large part to the work of Pastor Jack Dodgen of Mannford, OK.  He shared four helpful insights as to how Christians can respond to evil not only in America but also in the world.

When people have a choice between good and evil there will always be some that choose evil. Even though we know this to be true we are still shocked and sometimes even caught off guard when evil people do evil things. This surprise causes us to do strange, sometimes unchristian, things. Today I want to look at four ways Christians should respond to evil and why it’s necessary that we respond in this way.

Christians Need to Respond with Love

In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus ended his run of six contrasts by telling the God-fearing crowd how they should react to those that are “enemies” (Mt. 5:43-48). In Jesus’ mind an enemy is anyone who persecutes you (5:44), is unjust (5:45), or just doesn’t love you (5:46). In other words the role of enemy is not limited to those that do evil, but includes those that we don’t like, don’t like us, don’t agree with us, etc.

Concerning our so called enemies Jesus commands us to “love” our enemies. This “love” is the love that wants what is best for another person. It’s easy for us to want what is best for our neighbor or our brother, but Jesus asks us to show that same love to everyone we encounter, including our enemies (a sentiment echoed later in 7:12). When evil occurs what is our first response? For many it’s anger or the posting of incendiary Facebook memes. Jesus asks us to respond in love. How do we show our enemies love? The next three points are a good place to start.

Christians Need to Respond with Prayer

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). When evil occurs Christians should be seen extending prayers to God on behalf of the ones hurt and the ones doing the hurting. It’s easy for us to pray for the ones damaged by evil, but hard to pray for those that caused the damage. If we even get around to thinking about the bad guys our response is to pray that they’d be brought to justice and spread the information of their evil acts across of our social media pages. It’s not that praying for justice is wrong, but the lack of positive prayer on behalf of the evil one is. We can pray for justice, but let’s also pray that those we wish to be brought to justice will be brought to Christ as well. When we pray we pray to a God who punishes for evil actions, but grants forgiveness to those who repent. We need to remember the evil God has forgiven in our lives and pray that those doing evil actions today will be forgiven upon their repentance too.

Christians Need to Respond with Kindness

When evil occurs in our nation it’s not uncommon for me to see quotes of Romans 13:1-7 citing that God has given the government authority to punish evil. While this is true, I think Christians need to go back and read what Paul writes at the end of Romans chapter 12:

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:19-21)

Does the government have the authority to be God’s “avenger?” Yes, but that doesn’t mean we root for that vengeance to take place. God sometimes uses the governing authorities to carry out vengeance on evildoers, but He never uses the Christian to do so. God, through Paul, tells us to not seek out vengeance, but to instead show kindness. If our enemy is hungry we feed him, if he is thirsty we give him something to drink. We respond to evil actions with goodness and evil people with kindness. Burning coals may be heaped upon the head of those evil people who remain evil in spite of our goodness, but Christians do not hope for that. Christians respond to evil with kindness in the hopes that the evil one will be overcome with good and change his ways.

Christians Need to Respond with Hope

When evil occurs many people, Christian and non-Christian, respond with fear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Christians talk about how the world is going to come to an end because of such and such military power/terrorist group. Why do we fear? First of all Christians, we need to realize that persecution is something that follows Christianity around. Jesus told the apostles that (Mt. 10:16-25) and then immediately told them three times not to fear mankind (10:26-32). Second, we need to stop responding with fear as if this world was our home. As long as I’m a Christian my home is not of this world. We poke fun at the Jewish people in the Bible for expecting a physical kingdom and then cower in fear when our physical kingdom is threatened. We need to quit responding in fear and start responding to evil with hope. Evil men may be able to take our land and our bodies, but they cannot take away our Christ. If we proclaimed that hope in the midst of evil actions we may change the minds of many evil people around us.

When evil occurs Christians need to respond with love, prayer, kindness, and hope. Doing so could result in the salvation of many evil people and at the end of the day that’s the Christian mission.

Debbie Briones – Humble Inspiration!

DebbieandDan.jpgToday, May 20th, 2016, a dear friend of mine turns 60 years young.   She is on the natant side of “old.”  What is remarkable about my humble com-padre is that she also was just diagnosed as being in “remission” from the dread “C” (cancer).
In the past year, she has struggled and celebrated, she has been fiercely faithful and flooded with doubt.  Her introverted nature has been tested by public attention to her “condition.”
What I L-O-V-E about my dear friend is her faith.  Hers is an honest faith.  She questions, wonders, challenges, debates, embraces her Savior Jesus.  She is honest about her flaws and particularly aware of God’s grace  Her faith is real.  Her faith is inspiring.
Certainly my sister has flaws.  It should be shouted in the streets that she hordes ore and wheat in Settlers of Catan, she makes caramel brownies for friends who are on a diet, and her penchant to send birthday cards to people she loves all year round is just socially abnormal.
Debbie is married to a remarkable man.  Dan Briones is her perfect suitor.  He is patient, loyal and quite the encourager extraordinaire.  I lovingly refer to her hubby as my twin because  we make a nearly unbeatable team in Pegs and Jokers.  This last statement is often challenged but, hey, the truth is the truth!
I asked Debbie, my sister in Jesus, for some advice for others who have been given a deadly diagnosis.  The following are her words:
>Follow your doctor’s instructions.
>If you have time before you start chemotherapy, and you are physically able, start walking to build up your strength so your are better able to tolerate treatment.
>Rest as needed, but don’t become a couch potato. Push yourself to be as active as you are allowed. There will be times when you don’t want to do anything. Sometimes this is physical, but often it is emotional fatigue.  Push through it.
>Tell you doctor or nurses about any concerns or changes you may have. Don’t try to be strong and just put up with it. Take medications, etc. as ordered.
>Follow the Great Physician’s instructions. 🙂
>”Come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Now that I said that, it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. As a matter-of-fact, it can be almost impossible at times. Fear of death, and it’s ramifications for those left behind can occupy your thoughts. Add that to the side effects from the treatment and you can find it hard to give it up to Christ and rest in Him.
>Cling to Christ, knowing that more importantly, He is always clinging to you and will not let you go.
>If you are a private person like I am, and don’t want people to know you are ill, get over it! Without my consent, a friend announced to the entire congregation that I was diagnosed with leukemia, and again when I had to start chemotherapy.  She continued to request prayers for me during services throughout my treatment. She shouldn’t have done this without my consent; however, the more people bombarding the throne of God on your behalf, the better. You are allowing people to serve you, to be Jesus to you, and you are Jesus to them….”Whatever you did to the least of these, you did it to me.”
>Speak to you pastor……again and again. It allowed me to express my fears, doubts, anger (yes, at God…He can handle it) and allowed God to speak words of comfort and encouragement to me through him and to remind me that He loves me, is always with me, and has promised never for forsake me. Your pastor is a good sounding board for feelings with which you don’t want to burden your family over and over.
>Make it a priority to be in God’s word and go to Him in prayer. If this becomes difficult, listen to online sermons or the Bible read on your iPod, CD, etc., listen to good Christian music, etc. Ask your pastor to pray with you often. Even when you can’t seem to concentrate on praying, try to remember that the Holy Spirit and Christ himself intercede for you to your Heavenly Father, who already knows what you need.
>Dark thoughts and sadness will come.  Satan loves to try to steal your comfort in Christ and lead you into despair. Only allow yourself a limited time to dwell on dark thoughts. Those thoughts are often very real concerns and fears, but dwelling on them can get you into a vicious downward spiral. Acknowledge them, and where appropriate, write down a plan of action should any of thoughts and fears come to pass. If necessary, include your loved ones in making this plan of action. This can give them some way to help and support you and some control over what affects them. If you find yourself repeating some thoughts over and over in your head, try speaking Christ’s promises or reading scripture aloud. The words go from your mouth and into your ears, reinforcing the truths you are speaking.
>Continue to come to church often, if able. Christ comes to serve us in the Word and Sacraments. Here you can find comfort. Relax and let Christ serve you what you need through your brothers and sisters in Christ.
>Your faith depends on Christ not your feelings. When you don’t “feel” Christ is near, go with what you know about Christ. You know Christ promises to be with you, to never leave you or forsake you. When you receive the bread and wine in Communion,  you know you receive Him into yourself for strengthening of your faith and forgiveness of your sins. You know in your baptism Christ made you His own and nothing can snatch you from His grasp. You know “God so loved you that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”.
> Even if you cannot seem to pray for what you need, give thanks to God for all His good gifts, for His grace and mercy, especially in sending Jesus to die and rise again so that your sins are forgiven and eternal life is yours. Thank Him for giving you what you need before you even ask, and for always hearing and answering your prayers.
 >Sometimes surviving cancer doesn’t mean not dying. It may mean living life to the best of your ability and clinging to Jesus until He takes you home to be with Him.  (emphasis mine)
Debbie will most likely not be thrilled about this blog.  Even reading it she will get red-faced and feel the discomfort that shy people know all too well.  But then again, it is her fault–she picked me to be a friend!
Happy Birthday, Debbie.  My life and my faith are better because of you!

Aggressive Christianity

DovesThere are a lot of traits one might wish upon Jesus Followers. Holiness,
selflessness, humility…but I find that most of them embody such traits.

So if there is one trait that I would wish upon people of faith, it would be a trait that many do not already have or aspire to; a trait strikingly absent.

Christians need to become more aggressive.

If your mind instantly leaps to someone who starts fights or quarrels, that’s not where I’m going.

I mean aggressive in the best sense of the word. I’m talking about the aggressive Webster’s defines as “ready or willing to take issue and engage in direct action; full of enterprise and initiative; bold and active; pushing.” You could even insert the word assertive as a synonym for aggressive.

When I think of aggressive believers, I think of, James Emery White, founding pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC,  who describes aggressive Christians as:

  • “make it happen” people
  • people who don’t immediately take “no” for “no,”
  • catalysts for change,
  • those who take charge in the heat of battle,
  • upsetters of the status quo,
  • backbone,
  • righteous anger,
  • creators of action,
  • courage,
  • someone who is “hungry,”
  • top-of-the-line, competitive athletes for the Kingdom of God.

Name TagThis assertive aggressiveness can quickly become negative if we forget to remain humble. This may seem like a contradiction, but acting with confidence and determination should never mean assuming we are better or more important than others. Instead, it means being bold and self-assured in Christ but still open and honest about our mistakes and shortcomings. It means admitting when we’re wrong and recognizing those around us – even those who aren’t easy to work with – also have great purpose and worth.

May that kind of aggression mark us all.

Thief of Joy

“Don’t look to the left to comparison or to the right to competition, look straight ahead to Jesus.” Gail Ficken

2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”Comparison

We need to refrain from comparing ourselves to anyone else because God doesn’t want us to be frustrated and feel unworthy of the lives entrusted to our care.

Comparing our lives with others is unfair-to them and to us. It’s unfair to them because if we become jealous of what they have, what they know, how they look, etc., we start to resent them. Then we can no longer appreciate them as the wonderful person God made them to be.

It’s unfair to us because it limits God’s plan for our lives. Comparison says to God, ‘I want to limit Your work in my life to this and nothing else. I just want to be like this other person.’

But God has an individual plan for each of us. His plan for you is greater than you could possibly imagine. Rejoice in God’s plans for others so you can rejoice in God’s plan He for you!

CompetitionWe find our joy not in winning or losing to others, but rather in the ultimate victory of our Savior Jesus! In Jesus, we find our fulfillment, our purpose, and our joy!

Our worth comes from the God who made us and saves us! Our value rests in the name of Jesus who gives us his victory!   My need to find worth by comparison with others melts away when I have all I need for eternity in Jesus!

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Political Amnesia

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams

We are forgetting our beginning!   As a nation, amnesia has settled into one of the primary reasons we exist: Religious Liberty.

Edwin Meese III reminds us that:

“America was founded to be a beacon of liberty, particularly religious liberty. The framers of our Constitution sought to preserve religious liberty to such an extent that they made it the first right protected in the Bill of Rights. In countless instances we’re seeing government exceed its proper constitutional role, ignore the constitutional limits placed on its power, and interfere with the constitutionally guaranteed liberties of its citizens — especially eroding religious liberty.”

Meece sites recent examples of this failure to protect individual religious liberty:

In August, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment does not protect a Christian photographer’s right to decline to take pictures of a same-sex commitment ceremony-even though doing so would violate the photographer’s deeply held religious beliefs.

Christian adoption and foster care agencies have been forced to stop providing those services because they object to placing children in same-sex households. Other cases infringing on religious freedom are aimed at a baker, a florist, a bed-and-breakfast, a T-shirt company, a student counselor and even the Salvation Army.

We have a distinct call as Jesus followers to respect the leaders of our nation. President Washington reminded Americans in his Farewell Address. He added: “And let us with caution indulge the opposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.”

As a pastor, I have a charge to engage in the betterment of the political process. It is in the realm of my responsibilities to:

  • help those under my care to be active in their faith
  • know what we believe and why we believe it
  • use my Christian freedom to extend freedom
  • encourage voting that honors liberty
  • support godly values

In the United States, we are doubly blessed! We have great freedoms and great resources. Both are a gift from God’s goodness and both require accountable stewardship.

For further discussion on this necessary discussion that influenced this blog, I encourage you to visit the following site:

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” (Psalm 33:12 ESV)

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)

You Owe It to Yourself to Read This Book!

Randy Alcorn has written a book, Prolife Answers to Prochoice Arguments, that ought to be read by every Christian. In his book, Randy logically and biblically answers every major argument put forth by the pro-choice groups. Below is a sample of the chapter titles and discussion headings in his book. The chapter heading is the argument for abortion and the discussion is the pro-life answer to the argument. You owe it to yourself to read this book!

Chapter 1: “It is uncertain when human life begins; that’s a religious question that cannot be answered by science.”

  • If there is uncertainty about when human life begins, the benefit of the doubt should go to preserving life.
  • Medical textbooks and scientific reference works consistently agree that human life begins at conception.
  • Some of the world’s most prominent scientists and physicians testified to a U.S. Senate committee that human life begins at conception.

Chapter 2: “The fetus is just a part of the pregnant woman’s body, like her tonsils or appendix. You can’t seriously believe a frozen embryo is an actual person.”

  • A body part is defined by the common genetic code it shares with the rest of its body; the unborn’s genetic code differs from his mother’s.
  • The child may die and the mother live, or the mother may die and the child live, proving that they are two separate individuals.
  • Being inside something is not the same as being part of something.

Chapter 3: “The unborn is an embryo or a fetus—just a simple blob of tissue, a product of conception—not a baby. Abortion is terminating a pregnancy, not killing a child.”

  • Like toddler and adolescent, the terms embryo and fetus do not refer to nonhumans, but to humans at particular stages of development.
  • Semantics affect perceptions, but they do not change realities; a baby is a baby no matter what we call her.
  • Prior to the earliest abortions, the unborn already has every body part she will ever have.
  • Every abortion stops a beating heart and terminates measurable brain waves.
  • Even in the earliest surgical abortions, the unborn child is clearly human in appearance.
  • Even before the unborn is obviously human in appearance, she is what she is—a human being.

Chapter 9: “Even if the unborn are human beings, they have fewer rights than the woman. No one should be expected to donate her body as a life-support system for someone else.”

  • Once we grant that the unborn are human beings, it should settle the question of their right to live.

Chapter 10: “Every person has the right to choose. It would be unfair to restrict a woman’s choice by prohibiting abortion.”

  • Any civilized society restricts the individual’s freedom to choose whenever that choice would harm an innocent person.

Psalm 139:13-17

For it was You (God) who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know [this] very well.
My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all [my] days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.
God, how difficult Your thoughts are for me [to comprehend]; how vast their sum is!   

The credit for the direction and substance of this blog is based on the work of Pastor Rick Powell:  (

Toxic Charity

Is Our Charity Really Charitable?

I encourage you to read a thought-provoking book called  Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton.  His writing challenges us to look at the motivation behind charitable giving to those in material need.  His book centers on the damage done to the recipients of toxic charity with (1) deepened dependency and (2) diminished dignity which both lead to (3) disempowerment.

In a simple summary statement:  When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.

Mr. Lupton points out that:

For all our efforts to eliminate poverty—our entitlements, our programs, our charities—we have succeeded only in creating a permanent underclass, dismantling their family structures, and eroding their ethic of work. Therefore, our poor continue to become poorer.

The book hit home for me when he pointed out:

And religiously motivated charity is often the most irresponsible. Our free food and clothing distribution encourages ever-growing handout lines, diminishing the dignity of the poor while increasing their dependency.

Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people.

Lupton gives these suggestions to those seeking to empower people and not create dependence:

  • Don’t subsidize poverty.
  • Reinforce productive work.
  • Create producers, not beggars.
  • Invest in self-sufficiency.

Lupton acknowledges that, “The hard part is rethinking the entrenched giveaway mentality and restructuring an established one-way charity system.”

He suggests churches and non-profits ask these questions:

  • Are recipients assuming greater levels of control over their own lives or do they show up, year after year, with their hands out?
  • Is leadership emerging among the served?
  • Are their aspirations on the rise?
  • Is there a positive trajectory?

This book has me thinking of my often self-centered motivations for giving.  Give the book a read, and let me know what you think.