Baltimore – A Rush to Judgement?


I wish everyone would shut up for a minute.

But probably not for the reason you think.

    I waited a long time to write anything about the riots in Ferguson, Missouri because I wanted to try to understand the issues.   
    But this time, after watching and listening to media outlets talk about what is happening in Baltimore I don’t want to wait.  I am posting now, not because I think I understand what is happening, but because I am convinced that almost no one does.
Every media outlet, every reporter, every politician, and a great many bystanders have taken sides.
    Just like the Ferguson case, and the Travon Martin case, and so many others, everyone seems to be absolutely certain that they know exactly what is happening and why.
Everyone is rushing to judgement.
    They judge the police.  They judge Freddie Gray.  They judge the mayor.  They judge the President.  They judge the protestors, the rioters (those are vastly different groups), they judge the victims of the violence, and people are even judging the parents of the people in the streets. 
    Christians are often accused of being judgmental, but this is ridiculous.  Everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike seems to think that they know so much about what is happening hundreds of miles away in Baltimore that they can stand in judgement of people they’ve never met and who they know almost nothing about.
I wish everyone would all shut up and listen for a change.
As I watch and listen to the reporting from Baltimore, all I seem to find is more questions.
What exactly happened in police custody that led to the death of Freddie Gray?
Did Mr. Gray really have surgery on his spine only weeks before his arrest?
Did that matter?
Did the mayor tell the police to allow the mayhem to continue when it might have been stopped much earlier?
I could ask questions all day but it seems clear that, so far, there aren’t very many answers.
    And without answers, all the self-proclaimed experts (left, right and center) should slow down their rush to judgement until they actually have some facts.  Right now there are too many things that we just don’t know.   
Instead of rushing to judgement, why don’t we listen instead?
We all want justice.
    But we should be careful to find the facts so that there can be justice for everyone.  There needs to be justice for the police, the demonstrators, the rioters, the politicians, and especially for the victims.
Investigating, finding, and sorting through the facts are all things that will take time.
While we wait, instead of judging everyone, why don’t we do something helpful?
    Why don’t we try to find ways to help those who lost homes, jobs, and businesses?  Can our politicians and academics find ways to reduce poverty and joblessness instead of just pointing fingers at each other?  Why not volunteer with some charity or aid group to clean up and rebuild Baltimore?  We should all take the time to listen and understand people with whom we disagree.
    Instead of pretending that we know exactly what is going on and who is to blame, our time would be better spent trying to fix the problem and help Baltimore heal.  And while we’re doing that, we should talk less and listen more.
Instead of judging, try donating.
And if you are so inclined, I’m sure that everyone involved could use your prayers.

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Immigration: A Christian Dilemma


    Should we build a wall at the border, or should we let everyone through?  As I scroll through my social media feeds, I see posts by friends that seem to support both extremes.  Some say that, as a matter of security, out nation must seal the border.  Others say that as a matter of Christian compassion, we must care for the foreigners among us and allow them in. 
So what should a faithful Christian believe?
Is there a “right” answer?
Honestly, I don’t know. 
    What I do know, is that both extremes miss the mark.  I recognize that both “sides” are represented by people of faith who believe in the message of the gospel.  But at the same time, each group ignores vital and valid points that are made by the other.
    In the interests of full disclosure, I am the product of an immigrant family.  My grandparents came here from Germany, as did my Mother-in-law.  Our family is certainly sympathetic to the cause of immigrants.  But even so, I understand that the discussion pulls us in different directions.
Here are some points of discussion worth considering:
1)      As followers of God, we are called to be the voice for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8) as well as to care for the foreigners among us (Exodus 22, Jeremiah 22, Ezekiel 22, Zechariah 7)
2)      There are limited resources with which to care for them and a limited number of volunteers who can provide care.
3)     Border crossings that avoid official checkpoints, cross deserts and other  inhospitable territory.  As a result, men, women and children die crossing the border.
4)      Unscrupulous people, who are hired to guide others across the border, often abandon their charges or sell them into various forms of human trafficking.
5)      Whenever the chance of success is higher, or the rewards for success become greater, more people attempt to cross the border.
6)      Is it fair, or just, to those who are following the law and applying for proper documentation, to allow undocumented immigrants to flow across the border?
7)      Is it fair, or just, for native born citizens to compete for employment against undocumented migrants?
8)      There are valid local and national security concerns related to some of the people who are crossing the border.  Is it justice to put others at risk by allowing known criminals into the country without a background check?
   Clearly, we are called to be compassionate and to care for the foreigners among us, but the most compassionate, caring, and just thing to do may not be found at either extreme.  Building walls and returning undocumented migrants results in injustice, but opening the floodgates and allowing everyone in creates a different kind of injustice.  Making it easier to cross the border will increase the number of people who die crossing it.  And the failure to regulate who is crossing, will drive migrants into the hands of human traffickers. 
    When the waiting list for legal documentation can drag on for years, how are those applicants harmed by migrants who are given such documentation after crossing the border in the dark of night?
    We have seen similar waves of immigration.  There were waves of Irish, Germans, Czechs, Chinese, Vietnamese, and others.  Perhaps with this wave of immigrants from Central America, we might reconsider an old idea.  What if we built a new “Ellis Island” on our border with Mexico?  It would be a place where migrants would be welcomed, cared for, and kept safe, but also a place where they could be documented, we could conduct background checks, and verify that they met other requirements. 
    At Ellis Island, migrants were tested for disease, and were required to provide documentation that they had employment and a place to live in their new country.  While most migrants passed through Ellis Island in a day or two, my grandfather was detained for a week because the man who was supposed to verify his employment was delayed.  He was finally approved for entry after that man sent a telegram which verified his status.
Once again, I don’t know what the answer is.  Most likely, there is no single answer.

But each extreme carries us toward injustice. 
Justice and compassion demand that we try to find a way between these conflicting demands. 

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Why this Conservative Evangelical Stopped Supporting the Death Penalty


    I used to support the death penalty.  After all, that’s what good Christians did, right?  Murderers received what they had measured out to others.  The death penalty was in the Bible and that was good enough for me.  But as the years went by, I began to wrestle with facts and ideas that didn’t fit.  It took time, years, even decades before I realized that I was changing my mind.  Even then, as a member in, and then as a pastor of, conservative congregations, I didn’t talk much about it. 

    I was troubled as I wondered how grace and mercy were served by the death penalty.  I was also troubled as I heard more about the costs of a death penalty conviction.  I suppose the last straw was when I first heard about the number of convictions being thrown out as DNA testing was first being used in the legal system.  Over the years, the evidence piled up until I had to surrender a notion that I once thought was reasonable.  I am not any different than I used to be.  My political and religious leanings are not significantly different than they ever were but I now believe that it is both logical and reasonable to oppose the death penalty from both a practical and a religious point of view.  Here’s why…
The Death Penalty is Not a Deterrent–Crime statistics in places where there is a death penalty are not statistically different from places where there is not.
Cost – It costs more to incarcerate a death row inmate.  Prisoners convicted under a death penalty statute are granted mandatory appeals and that process is expensive.  Estimates are that a death penalty inmate costs 2 to 5 times more over his or her lifetime than one who is incarcerated for life.
Fairness and Justice – The scriptural standard of evidence, particularly for murder, was from the beginning (Deuteronomy 17), two eyewitnesses.  In our modern world, having two witnesses is rare.  Mistaken identity is now one of the leading causes of error in our legal system.   Add a host of other errors, and suddenly a lot of people find themselves wrongly convicted.  For the last decade or so, an average of 18 death row residents per year were cleared by DNA evidence.  It’s so bad, that nationwide, a Columbia University study found serious errors in 68% of all death penalty cases and 2 out of 3 death penalty cases were overturned on appeal.  Of those overturned, 82% were retried on lesser charges.  Granted, no system is foolproof, but when ours is so messed up that we get it wrong 2 out of 3 times, its time to try something else.
Consistency – The church is usually among those who proclaim the sanctity of all life and declare to the world how God loves all people.  If we really believe that, then why is the life of a murderer not just as sacred?  Does God love murderers less? 
Grace, Forgiveness and Redemption – If we believe (and I do) that the Gospel message is all about grace, forgiveness and redemption, how do we justify the state sponsored killing of incarcerated criminals?  Where’s the grace and forgiveness in that?  How can God do a work of redemption in someone’s life when they’re already dead?  If we believe that God can change the hearts of human beings, then why are we so quick to assume that these men and women are unredeemable?
    As I wrestled with these questions, I realized that I didn’t have any answers that could make my continued support of the death penalty make any logical or spiritual sense.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a part of me that thinks the perpetrators of particularly horrible crimes shouldn’t die in some particularly painful way.   
What it means, I think, is that I’m beginning to understand the difference between retribution and justice.

Why the Russian Adoption Ban is a Disaster in Slow Motion

    By now most of you have heard about the adoption ban put into law in Russia.  It all began with an attempt by our United States government to rein in human rights violations in Russia.  President Obama signed the Magnitsky Act, which provides sanctions against Russian citizens deemed by the US to have violated human rights.  Prior to this, the Russian government was concerned about the abuse some Russian children have received at the hands of their adoptive parents in the United States but had only recently, in November, 2012, signed a new treaty designed to provide greater access for Russian officials who desired to review the treatment of adopted children.  This new agreement was only in place for eight weeks before the adoption ban was signed by President Putin.

    The Russian government claims that the adoption ban was necessary because they were not getting access to the documents that the new treaty was supposed to give them and the American government claims that the whole thing is just retaliation for passing the Magnitsky Act.  Whichever is true, it is neither the American nor the Russian government that is the big loser.  The big losers remain the children who will remain in Russian orphanages instead of in loving homes.
    I know something about this.  Our family includes two children who were adopted from a Russian orphanage.  The trauma that they suffered in their first year of life has been a real education.  Before we witnessed it firsthand, I never would have believed that children could be so damaged in their first year of life.  We were always told that “Love heals all wounds,” and “Love conquers all,” and things like that.  We genuinely believed it when people told us that all we had to do was take them home and love them.  But sometimes love isn’t enough.  Thankfully, the problems that our children have, though not insignificant, are not nearly what other parents, whom we’ve met, live with every day.  Some of the neurological, emotional and psychological problems that grow out of living in an orphanage, even for a few months, are frightening. 
 
    While I could not ever condone abuse, I have seen enough to understand how parents of some of these children could reach a point where they simply don’t know what else to do.  Many parents do not abuse these damaged children but recognize that they cannot cope with the behaviors of their children and choose to dissolve or disrupt the adoption.  That means what it sounds like; they go in front of a judge and declare that they are no longer the parents.  This frees them, but makes the children orphans yet again and turns their care over to the state in which they live, or to yet another set of adoptive parent and cause still more emotional and psychological damage.
    Children from former Eastern bloc countries (primarily Russia and Ukraine) bear a higher risk for behavioral problems and eventual adoption disruption.  We don’t completely know why, but although similar problems are seen in children from other nations, these children see higher rates of disruption than any others.  I cannot quote any particular sources but I have heard estimates as high as 10-20 percent.  That means that even with the resources of wealthier American parents, even with parents who love them, even with access to modern medical and psychological care, between one in ten and one in five of these kids have real, serious problems.   Do the Russians have a right to be concerned about what is happening to their children?  Certainly.  But what happens if they don’t come here, don’t have parents, and don’t have access to care?  Russia does not have a history of adoption.  Adoption is not a part of their culture.  While adoption does happen, fewer Russian children are adopted by Russians than by Americans, and we are just one country among many who has, until now, been able to adopt from Russia.  Children who remain in Russian orphanages are likely to stay there until they “age out,” until they are old enough that the Russian government turns them loose on the streets with no support whatsoever.  The majority of children who age out of Russian orphanages will end up dead or in prison within two years.
    Yes, these children can be scarred and damaged by even a few months in an orphanage.  Yes, we should strive with all that is within us to do a better job than we are doing.  No.  No child should suffer abuse at the hands of their parents regardless of their behavior.  But the Russian government needs to look in the mirror as well.  Our system may not be perfect, but an adoption ban that prohibits these children from coming home to loving parents doesn’t fix the problem and in reality only makes it worse.

As usual, when grown-ups fight, the ones who lose… are the children.

Today Is Not Barbeque Day

   
This morning I got up and continued our weekend festivities, packing.  My goal was to finish packing most of our den/office with all its books and our desks.  Patti’s desk can be taped shut and moved whole but mine must be disassembled.  While doing these things I kept an eye on the clock so that I wouldn’t miss my appointment to speak at our village Memorial Day service where I was to be the keynote speaker.  I stopped work, got dressed and left so that I would be a little early (but not too early) only to discover that while my calendar said the service started at 12:00, it actually had started at 11:00 and I arrived just as it was ending.  I am terribly embarrassed at my mistake but in any case, here are the words that I had prepared for today.  Despite my error, I still think that they are worthwhile…

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    Today is not barbeque day.  It is not “just” a part of “just another” long weekend.  Today is not dedicated to automobile races and baseball games.  Today is not another excuse to go camping.  Today we have gathered here to remember.  We have not come to thank our veterans; we do that in November, but to remember those who have fallen, those who have given their lives, so that we might have freedom and liberty.  We gather to remember men and women for whom words like duty, honor, and country have meaning and because of whom, these words are themselves more meaningful.

    During the War in Vietnam, Marine Private First Class Gary Martini, braving intense enemy fire, raced through an open field to drag a fallen comrade back to a friendly position.  Seeing a second fallen Marine just 20 meters from the enemy position, Martini once again risked his life to bring the man back to safety.  Upon reaching the fallen Marine, Martini was mortally wounded but continued to drag his comrade back to his platoon’s position, telling his men to remain under cover.  As he finally struggled to pull the man to safety, Private First Class Martini fell and succumbed to his wounds.

     Sergeant First Class Paul Smith, while under enemy fire in Iraq, organized the evacuation of three soldiers who had been wounded in an attack on their vehicle.  Sergeant Smith manned the machine gun mounted on their vehicle, maintaining an exposed position as he engaged the enemy forces, allowing the safe withdrawal of wounded soldiers.  He was mortally wounded in the attack but not before killing as many as 50 enemy fighters in order to save his injured comrades.

    During the Second World War, First Lieutenant Jack Mathis, flying a bomb run over Vegesack, Germany, was hit by enemy antiaircraft fire.  His right arm was shattered above the elbow, and he suffered a large wound on his side and abdomen.  Knowing that the success of the mission depended upon him, Lieutenant Mathis, mortally wounded, dragged himself of to his sights and released his bombs on target before he died.

    These few examples give us only a flavor of the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have made for our freedom and for the freedom of others, often total strangers, in other nations.  So highly do we value this gift we call liberty, that we are willing to expend the blood of our own sons and daughters so that others might enjoy this gift also.

    Brave men and women wearing the uniform of the United States have fought and bled and died in places like Bunker Hill, Yorktown, Concord, Lexington, Saratoga, Bazentin Ridge, Belleau Wood, Manila Bay, Guantanamo, Gettysburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Beruit, Okinawa, Pork Chop Hill, Hamburger Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, Pusan, Inchon, Bastogne, the Ardennes Forest, Pearl Harbor, Midway, Saipan, Medina Ridge, Al Busayyah, Wadi Al-Batin, Baghdad, Kandahar, Khaz Oruzgan, Musa Qala and thousands of other places most of us have never heard of as well as places so remote that the places don’t even have names.

     On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania four and one half months after the Union victory over the Confederate Army in the Battle of Gettysburg.  On this day or remembrance, it is good to remember the words that President Lincoln spoke.

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.


    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    This day is very much like the hallowed ground of Gettysburg.  There is little that our feeble efforts or words can do to consecrate this day beyond what the blood of patriots has already done.  As we gather here today our task is to heed the words of Abraham Lincoln.  It is for us, the living, to dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work for which these brave men and women have given their lives.  We must be resolved that these patriots did not die in vain.  It is too painful for us to remember their sacrifice each day, but on this precious and hallowed day we should take the time to remember.  We should honor their sacrifice by appreciating the things that they have purchased with their blood. 

     Be sure to avail yourselves of the freedoms that their sacrifices have purchased on our behalf.  Vote.  Don’t just vote for the politician that promises to give us the most stuff, vote for the men and women who hold dear the ideals of freedom and liberty.  Honor the flag that they fought for, it is more than just a piece of cloth because it stands for the things those patriots fought and bled and died for.  Stand when the flag passes by, sing the national anthem, and teach your children to stand, teach them to take their hats off and to hold their hands over their hearts.  It seems that lately I have been at sporting events where I see far too many people who are oblivious to the ceremony of the national anthem, while others are standing, they sit, while others are standing at attention with their hats held over their hearts, these others are busy talking on their cell phones.  We honor the blood of heroes by being courteous and respectful. 
Now, I fully realize that all of us who put on the uniform of the United States did so to defend your rights not to stand, not to sing and not to hold your hand over your heart.  That’s fine.  If you are one of those who takes issue with it, what I ask of you is that you do so respectfully and that while the rest of us are standing and singing, you share a moment of silence and remember those brave men and women who gave you that right.

    Finally, I ask that you honor the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform with your prayers.  You don’t have to pray to the God I worship, feel free to pray to whatever deity you choose, but pray for all of the men and women who, even now, are away from their families, friends and homes.  Pray for those who today, instead of attending backyard barbecues and swim parties with their friends, are far out at sea, standing guard or even laying in a bunk half-way around the world or eating cold Meals Ready to Eat out of a foil envelope while they huddle in a foxhole in the sand waiting for the next mortar round to drop on their heads.  Pray for the families of those who are away from home.  Today wives and husbands of these brave soldiers are doing what they can to hold their families together and their children are growing up wondering when, or if, their father or mothers are ever coming home again.

    Pray also for those who are missing.  Right now, Bo Bergdahl, a 25-year-old U.S. Army sergeant from Hailey, Idaho is believed to be in the hands of the Taliban.  At this moment, Sgt. Bergdahl is believed to be the only American held captive by these insurgents but he has been in their hands since June 30, 2009, almost three years ago.  In that time we have seen video footage that gives us hope that he is still alive, although his condition is deteriorating.  Last December there were reports that Sgt. Bergdahl had made a daring attempt to escape but was recaptured.  Since that time there has been no further information regarding his captivity, whereabouts or status.  Please pray for Sgt. Bergdahl and for his family.

    Today is not barbeque day.  It is not just a part of just another long weekend.  Today is not dedicated to automobile races and baseball games.  Today is not another excuse to go camping.  Today we have gathered here to remember.  Today let us remember the sacrifices that made us what we are and have given us freedom and liberty.  Today has been set aside as a special day of remembrance. 

Let us all pause to remember…

                                                   …and may we never forget.

* Special thanks go to the Disabled American Veterans (www,dav.org) who provided some of the stories of bravery and patriotism contained in these remarks.

God Will Destroy the Fat Cats – A word about the Occupy Wall Street movement

    As I prepare sermons each week, I download and read the scriptures called out in the Common Lectionary, a three year plan that walks us through most major teachings in the Bible.  I don’t always use every selection but as I was reading these scriptures recently I was struck by a passage in Ezekiel that would, on the surface, seem to be a rallying place for the Occupy Wall Street movement and I was, frankly, surprised that it had not already been used to proclaim that GOD WILL DESTROY THE FAT CATS’.  On the surface, this  seems to be the message but that didn’t seem quite right, and it bothered me.  Before we go any farther, here is Ezekiel 34:16 (NIV)

 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
    God says that he will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak but he will destroy the strong and the sleek. Many translations declare that God will destroy the strong and the fat.  That certainly sounds like a condemnation of the Wall Street bankers, politicians in Washington, and most other ‘fat cats’ but, as I noted earlier, something about that bothered me and it didn’t take too long to figure out why.  The Bible is full of sheep/shepherd imagery. God, kings and church leaders are often compared to shepherds and the people of God are likened to sheep under God’s care.  This imagery is common because it was (and still is) a good picture of how we relate to God and most people who read the story understand how sheep (and shepherds) act.  The problem that I have with this particular passage is that destroying strong sheep and fat sheep is not what shepherds would normally do.  Most responsible shepherds want strong sheep and fat sheep.  Breeding for these characteristics improves the flock as a whole and makes it both stronger and more valuable.  It would be irresponsible for any shepherd to destroy his best breeding stock, so what is it that Ezekiel is trying to tell us?
    As is often the case, the key to interpreting this is found not simply in reading to find what seems to agree with your cause, but in reading more of the passage to put things in context.  Knowing the analogy, that a good and wise shepherd would not normally destroy his best breeding stock is a good start and ignites our curiosity to look deeper.  If we keep reading from Ezekiel we discover these verses as well:
18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? 19Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
And this:
See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. 
    If we read what comes prior to verse 16, we discover that the entire section is a condemnation upon the leaders of God’s people, the shepherds who have neglected their duty to God and have scattered the sheep.  It is these fat sheep that God condemns.  Unlike some in the Occupy movement, God does not declare that wealth equates with evil, that all rick and powerful people are bad, or that they should be destroyed.  God’s proclamation is that wealth and power are given along with a responsibility to care for those that have been entrusted to you.  God condemns Israel’s leaders because they have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost and they have ruled harshly and brutally while enriching themselves.
Simply put, the strong and the fat are not condemned because they are strong and fat, but because they used their strength to abuse the weak instead of using it to care for them.  

    In my ministry I have had the good fortune to meet several people who have significant wealth, but many of them are also kind, compassionate and generous followers of Jesus Christ who treat their employees well and who use their wealth to care for others as well as the church.  In these words of Ezekiel we do not find a broad condemnation of everyone with wealth and power, but only those who do not use what they have been given in a responsible way.  This is not a condemnation of wealth and power, but a caution to all of us who lead others, whether as pastors, doctors, lawyers, employers, shop foremen, teachers, committee chairpersons or any other position of responsibility. God does not intend to destroy the ‘fat cats’ but he will do whatever he needs to do to protect his flock.  

    All of God’s people are expected to heal the sick, strengthen the weak, bind the wounds of the injured, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and to lead with tenderness and compassion.  If we fail to do that, then we are in serious trouble regardless of our relative wealth or power.

Are You Afraid?

Are you afraid?   
    Every day we open the newspaper or we turn on the radio or the television and we hear bad news.  Our economy is not in great shape.  Our government is spending more than it can afford.  Unemployment is at near historic levels and showing no sign of getting better soon.  We hear reports of doom and gloom almost constantly. 
How has this constant barrage of bad news affected you?
    As I have been reading reports from churches and other charities across the country the reports seem to share a common thread.  Fear.  After listening to the constant cries of disaster and doom people begin to grow afraid for their future.  When people are afraid, they begin to act in ways that reflect their fear.  When we are afraid, we become far more conservative financially, our worries for the future cause us to spend less, pay down credit cards and even save a little more in the bank.  When we are afraid, sometimes without even being consciously aware of it, we pull back and prepare for a rainy day; we are, as a society, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  This mentality is widespread.  The stock markets react violently to even the tiniest piece of bad news and only hesitantly move forward when there is good news.  Retail sales and other measures of consumer spending are not especially good at least partially because people are not confident of how things will be next month, or next year.  People are afraid.
The funny thing is that most of us have no real reason to be afraid.  
    Most of us have the same jobs that we had last year and the year before that.  Many of us have continued to get the same sorts of raises that we have always gotten.  Except for what we seem to be spending on gasoline, our expenses are not significantly changed from what we have been accustomed to for a long time.  Obviously there are exceptions.  One of my brothers has been out of work for more than two years and he is not alone.  Many folks are hurting.  The rest of us however, are living pretty much the same lives that we were living before the recession began several years ago.  For us, our fear has little or no basis in reality.  We are afraid, only because the evening news seems to tell us that we should be and something about that is not right.  

Why should we act as if we are afraid if we have no real reason to actually be afraid?

    As Christians we have another, even better, reason to resist this kind of fear.  Our fear seems to come from our worries about what the President or the Congress will or will not do.  Our fear seems to come from our worries about the economy and other things far outside out control or understanding.  Instead of allowing these worrisome times to make us afraid, we should remember who is in control.  Psalm 20:7 reminds us that “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  And if we even momentarily considered putting our trust in our bank accounts or in our government, Job is there to remind us that “What they trust in is fragile what they rely on is a spider’s web.  They lean on the web, but it gives way; they cling to it, but it does not hold.”  Nahum 1:7 tells us that “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”  Just because we are people of faith, does not mean that we are immune to fear, but the when fear springs up inside of us we remember this: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust and am not afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)
    As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to put our trust in him and not in the fluctuations of economies and governments that we cannot control.  All of these things are under his command and it is our job to trust in him.  Daniel was literally thrown to the lions but we should remember that “when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” (Daniel 6:23) 
    We hear bad news every day and honestly, I have begun to listen to the news less often because of it.  I am not hiding from the truth, but I don’t need to be constantly beaten with it either.  I hope that you will remember that we have no need to fear.  Whenever we are tempted to be afraid, we need to ask ourselves a single important question…
Who do you trust?