A letter America needs to read again today

Posted by    |    January 15th, 2018 at 5:54 am

If this were a typical Monday morning, I would have begun this Daily Article by commenting on the false ballistic missile warning in Hawaii over the weekend. I would probably have linked the story to the earthquake in Peru and the airplane that skidded off a runway in Turkey and plunged down a steep slope, nearly landing in the Black Sea.

I might even have found a way to comment on yesterday’s amazing playoff win by Jacksonville, followed by Minnesota’s astounding last-second victory.

But this is not a typical Monday. Today we mark the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 15, 1929. His extraordinary importance to America and the world calls us to set aside all other news as we remember his historic life and legacy.

“God shows no partiality”

Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Dr. King was a writer, speaker, and leader of singular gifts and transformative significance. As an ordained Baptist minister, he knew well that God’s word consistently condemns racism in all its forms:

• “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
• God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26).
• “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34).
• “If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).

Nonetheless, as an African American, he faced racism in all its ugly forms and consistently called God’s people to embrace God’s love for all of God’s children.

The example that stands above all others is Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” He wrote this letter after he was arrested in April 1963 for participating in nonviolent protests. While in Birmingham’s city jail, he learned of a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen criticizing him and his methods.

Dr. King’s response is a masterpiece of American literature. It is as relevant and prophetic today as when he wrote it nearly fifty-five years ago.

Befitting his brilliant intellect and remarkable scholarship, he quoted Reinhold Niebuhr, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Buber, Paul Tillich, and T. S. Eliot. I urge you to take time on this special day to read his letter in full.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

For our purposes today, rather than speak for Dr. King, I would like him to speak for himself. As I read his “Letter,” I listed some of his statements that most impressed me:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

“We have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.”

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God.”

“Right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

“We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.”

Those who engaged in nonviolent protests “were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”

Dr. King closed his letter: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

How will you join God in lifting “the dark clouds of racial prejudice” today?

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Robin Roberts: My sister saved my life

Posted by    |    January 12th, 2018 at 5:58 am

Sally-Ann Roberts has worked for a New Orleans television station for forty years, twenty-six of them as co-anchor of its morning show. She will be retiring next month. Why is this story making national news?

Because her sister is Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts. And because, as Robin explained, “the only reason I’m here living, is she was my bone marrow donor.” When Robin was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder in 2012, her sister’s sacrifice saved her life.

In other words, Robin Roberts is alive because her healthy sister made Robin’s problem her problem.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reports that every day, the number of people in the world living in extreme poverty goes down by 217,000. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity; 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water. In another fifteen years, illiteracy and extreme poverty will mostly be gone.

Since 1990, the lives of more than 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, breastfeeding promotion, diarrhea treatment, and other simple steps. These remarkable advances were facilitated by people who did not have the problem they set out to solve.

In other news, a sophomore basketball player at the University of Texas is generating headlines today, not for what he has done on the court but for what he must now do off it. Andrew Jones has been diagnosed with leukemia and has begun treatment.

His jersey now occupies a spot on the Texas bench. A halftime video offered tributes from nearly every UT team. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins have voiced their encouragement.

None of them has Andrew Jones’s disease, but he has their support.

The trust revolution

Who Can You Trust? is an illuminating new book by Oxford scholar Rachel Botsman. Her research documents the breakdown of institutional trust in our culture.

Recent years have seen an inequality of accountability as corporate leaders have failed their constituents but been rewarded with lucrative buyout packages. Political leaders have faced little accountability for their personal and leadership failings.

The digital age has made it easier than ever to voice allegations against those in power. Social media enables us to confine our news to sources with which we agree.

The results are startling.

In the 1970s, according to Gallup surveys, 70 percent of Americans believed they could trust key institutions to do the right thing most of the time. In 2016, such confidence had fallen to 32 percent. Trust in Congress fell from 49 to 9 percent. Trust in the church fell from 65 to 41 percent.

Millennials are the most dubious. According to a 2015 Harvard study, 86 percent distrust financial institutions. Three in four “sometimes or never” trust the federal government to do the right thing; 88 percent “sometimes or never” trust the media.

At the same time, we are learning to trust strangers in entirely new ways. We rent homes on Airbnb; we arrange transportation on Uber; we buy products on Amazon.

But before we engage in such digital transactions, we check the reviews. Airbnb properties and guests are rated, as are Uber drivers and passengers. Products on Amazon get “stars” and voluminous consumer reports.

According to Botsman, the key trust indicators are competence, reliability, and honesty.

Anne Frank was right

What does this “trust revolution” mean for those of us who seek to change our culture for Christ?

Ezra 9 finds the Jewish people back home from exile in Babylon. However, many have intermarried with Gentiles in the land. Ezra, their spiritual leader, must now respond to their grievous sin.

Here’s how his prayer begins: “O my God, I am ashamed to blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens” (v. 6). Even though he committed none of these sins personally, he identified with his people. Their failures became his failures. Years later, Nehemiah confessed the sins of the nation by expressing the same solidarity with his people (Nehemiah 1:6-7).

The old truism is true: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If we make the problems of society our problems, we earn the right to share our solutions.

Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, followers of Jesus should be especially competent, reliable, and honest. Because we serve a sinless Savior, we should be sacrificial in addressing problems that we do not face personally.

And because tomorrow is promised to no one, we should find a need to meet today. Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

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Injured NFL star: ‘I want to thank the Lord’

Posted by    |    January 11th, 2018 at 5:59 am

Ryan Shazier joined his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates for practice yesterday as they prepared for Sunday’s playoff game against Jacksonville. This would not have been news a few weeks ago, as Shazier is one of his team’s most disciplined and valuable players. He was a first-team All-American in college and has been named to the Pro Bowl the last two years.

However, on December 4, Shazier suffered a severe injury after a tackle. He underwent spinal stabilization surgery three days later to secure his injured spine and help with neurological recovery.

He explained his presence at Wednesday’s practice: “I want to thank the Lord for the first downs that he has been allowing me to achieve. The touchdown is going to come in his timing, but today was a first down. I was finally able to make it to practice with my teammates.” He added, “The Lord has not finished his work yet.”

Shazier suffers from alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. He was taunted and ridiculed as a child. His parents helped him develop an altruistic attitude he carries with him to this day.

His father, who is a pastor and a football coach, explains: “My message is always to act like a champion.” His son has Philippians 4:13 written on his left arm: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“There was no king in Israel”

Living by the biblical worldview can be discouraging these days.

Actor Alan Cumming will play the first openly gay lead character in a network TV drama when he stars in CBS’s Instinct this March. Cumming’s character is in a same-sex marriage, as is the actor himself. He told reporters, “I applaud everyone at CBS for having the courage to put that on.”

Which is more courageous in today’s culture–endorsing homosexuality or speaking biblical truth about it?

The Colson Center’s John Stonestreet is reporting on the degeneration of free speech across our country. He quotes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, himself a committed liberal who openly identifies as gay: “What has happened to our discourse, and how do we make necessary progress–when hate is answered by hate, prejudice by prejudice, extremism begets extremism and ostensible liberalism practices illiberalism?”

For decades now, our culture has denied absolute truth and objective morality. Tolerance is our supreme value–unless, of course, we consider someone intolerant. Those who embrace biblical sexuality face more ridicule today than at any time in our nation’s history.

The writer of Judges explained his culture: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Where we have no king, we are our own king.

“God has always had a people”

However, it is always too soon to give up on God. Discouragement is the enemy of hope. You might not know it from the evening news, but the church of Jesus Christ is alive and well today.

Ryan Shazier is just one of many outstanding athletes who love and serve Jesus. Tua Tagovailoa, the freshman quarterback whose heroics won the national title for Alabama last Monday night, chose the university in large part because of its vibrant Christian community.

Eric Metaxas recently profiled Jose Altuve, the American League’s Most Valuable Player and leader of the World Series champion Houston Astros. Despite being the smallest player in Major League Baseball, Altuve is its best hitter and probably its best player. Yet Altuve says that “the best success is to live your life the way God wants you to.”

Steph Curry has been ranked the second-best NBA player of all time, after Michael Jordan. And yet his priorities are clear: “Whether it is winning games, losing games, making shots, missing shots–it is all about giving glory to God.”

I could go on. My point is that, as the Gaither Vocal Band testifies, “God has always had a people, men that could not be bought and women who were beyond purchase.”

There are times when we feel like saying with Elijah, “I, even I only, am left” to serve God (1 Kings 19:10). But it wasn’t true: the Lord had “seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal” (v. 18). And it’s not true for us.

“A great cloud of witnesses”

The Bible declares that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). That “cloud” is present not just in heaven but on earth as well. Now it’s our turn to join them.

When we trust God in hard places, others take note and Jesus is glorified. I did not know of Ryan Shazier’s faith until I read about his courage. If we are ready to serve Jesus in every circumstance, like Tua Tagovailoa, our chance may come when we least expect it.

King David, no stranger to adversity, testified: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7). Can you say the same?

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North Korea will send athletes to Olympics in South Korea

Posted by    |    January 10th, 2018 at 6:00 am

North and South Korea agreed yesterday on negotiations to resolve problems and military talks intended to avert accidental conflict. In a joint statement after their first official dialogue in more than two years, the North also pledged to send a large delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Its delegation will be comprised of athletes, high-ranking officials, a cheering squad, art performers, and reporters and spectators. Working talks will be held soon to clarify the details of bringing the North Koreans to the Olympics.

“We have high expectations that the Olympics will turn out to be a peace festival with special guests from the North,” said South Korea’s unification minister, Cho Myoung-gyon. The discussions came after the US and South Korea announced last Thursday the suspension of military exercises during the Games.

A South Korean official explained: “When the ancient Greeks used to hold the Olympics, they held a truce. We are living in a civilized world. It is the logical choice.”

He is right. In addition, the modern Olympic Games were begun with the hope that cooperation by the world’s nations could prevent conflict and promote peace.

“Overcoming the divisions of our age”

Building community in response to conflict is more urgent today than ever.

In The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism, Yuval Levin makes the persuasive argument that our national future depends on rebuilding families, schools, churches, charities, markets, and local governments. He believes that the prevailing options in our society–empowering government vs. promoting individualism–are nostalgic desires for bygone eras.

According to Levin, the federal government grew exponentially as it responded to the Great Depression and two world wars. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society codified this approach to social improvement, offering government-sponsored programs intended to address our greatest challenges.

The failure of centralized, top-down government to resolve our social problems fostered a new era of limited government and enhanced personal activism during the Reagan years, an approach largely continued under Bill Clinton and both Bush administrations. In Levin’s view, the Obama administration then sought to rebuild a Great Society-like government expansion with programs such as the Affordable Care Act.

The problem with too much or too little government, however, is that contemporary society is too diverse and fragmented for a single solution to our challenges. The internet and social media have produced enclaves of like-minded consumers who follow only the news sources they like and the leaders they support. Today’s economy fosters individualism over corporations (think Uber vs. cab companies, Tesla vs. General Motors).

In such a day, government cannot be big enough or small enough to meet our challenges.

Levin therefore calls for “a recovery of the model of community as the basic pattern of American life.” He claims that such a model “holds out the promise of overcoming the divisions of our age of fracture without surrendering the advances of our era of liberalization and diversity.” He believes that when we rebuild the structures that span the gap between us and Washington, they will facilitate the solutions we need.

“Salvation for all people”

Here’s the good news: Christians, uniquely among the world’s religions and ideologies, offer humanity God’s invitation to join a community founded on grace and open to every person on earth. In Jesus, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11).

There are no laws to keep, no creeds to memorize, no rituals to perform in order to experience our Father’s unconditional love and join his family. All who ask for Jesus to forgive their sin and become their Lord experience his transforming grace.

If you feel excluded by life today, know that you are included in God’s love. There is no place you can go that he is not present (Psalm 139:7-12). There is no sin you can commit that he cannot forgive (1 John 1:9). He loves you as much as he loves his own Son (John 17:23, 26).

If you have experienced God’s inclusive love, ask him to help you share it with someone today. You know people you can impact as no one else can. You have the privilege of sharing the greatest news in human history, the answer to the deepest needs of the human heart.

“Become the Light”

The International Olympic Committee’s new brand campaign is “Become the Light.” The campaign “aims to promote the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect.” Its practical goal is to “bring sustainable, solar powered lighting solutions to refugee camps” around the world.

The timing of the IOC’s campaign is interesting given yesterday’s talks between North and South Korea. Hopefully, the Olympics will once again lift the light of redemptive community in a dark world.

The Winter Olympics, however, will be over on February 25. But a community centered in Christ will continue to advance God’s Kingdom until that day when we join “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

What a day that will be.

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Christian quarterback becomes ‘unlikely legend’ at age of 19

Posted by    |    January 9th, 2018 at 6:04 am

“I would say my poise comes from my faith. I just pray for peace.” That’s how Alabama’s freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa explained his amazing calm in leading his team to an incredible overtime victory in last night’s College Football Playoff championship game.

It was one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen. Georgia was up by thirteen points at halftime and firmly in control of the game. Alabama’s legendary coach Nick Saban went to Tagovailoa, who had not been on the field for a meaningful play all year. The Hawaiian phenom proceeded to become an “unlikely legend” at the age of nineteen.

Lost in all the attention Tagovailoa is receiving today is the fact that the Georgia Bulldogs had an amazing season. For perspective: 129 schools were eligible to compete for the NCAA Championship and, as of this morning, the Georgia Bulldogs outrank 127 of them. After their loss to Alabama, however, they will soon be an asterisk on the season, the answer to a trivia question.

Why?

Our culture celebrates winners

Vince Lombardi famously declared, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Paul Bryant said it a little differently: “Winning isn’t everything, but it beats anything that comes in second.” Tiger Woods claimed that “winning solves everything.”

Of course, we should applaud those who win significant contests. The level of discipline required to achieve such a level of success is remarkable. Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, noted: “Winning is something that builds physically and mentally every day that you train and every night that you dream.”

At the same time, winning can be arbitrary at best. Alabama got into the College Football Playoff despite losing its conference championship. A committee decided its loss to Auburn was less detrimental than the losses of teams such as Ohio State, which won its conference championship.

The University of Central Florida (UCF) was the only major college team to go undefeated this year. In their bowl game, they defeated Auburn, the only team to defeat both Georgia and Alabama. However, UCF wasn’t invited by the committee to compete in the playoff. So, it has declared itself the national champion.

Why our culture celebrates winners

Why does our society place such a premium on winning?

Winning is obviously the reason athletes compete in a game. But Western culture, with our emphasis on the individual, especially focuses on personal success. Socrates taught us that the path to wisdom is to “know thyself.” From his day to ours, the West has emphasized the individual over the collective.

By contrast, many people I have met in Asian countries value their family before themselves. It is not unusual in Japan for those who shame their relatives to choose suicide to restore their family’s honor. Muslims consider themselves part of the ummah, the global Muslim community, and typically place its success ahead of their own.

Our growing secularism adds to our emphasis on winning. If this world is all there is, we must achieve as much success as we can while we can. The person who finishes second is just the “first place loser,” as Dale Earnhardt Sr. claimed.

By contrast, the biblical worldview values people for who they are more than for what they do. We know that every human being is created by God “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). Every person you know is someone the Father considered worth the death of his Son (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:15).

Success is measured by significance

Tim Tebow, one of the most decorated college athletes in history, reflected the biblical worldview with his perspective: “We play a sport. It’s a game. At the end of the day, that’s all it is, is a game. It doesn’t make you any better or any worse than anybody else. So by winning a game, you’re no better. By losing a game, you’re no worse. I think by keeping that mentality, it really keeps things in perspective for me to treat everybody the same.”

In God’s eyes, success is measured by significance and significance is measured by obedience. The more we commit ourselves to God’s purpose for our lives, the more we bring honor to our Lord as we advance his kingdom on earth (Matthew 6:10). And the more we plant trees we’ll never sit under.

Paul testified: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Many years later, facing martyrdom, he could say confidently, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). And so, he would receive the “crown of righteousness” that the Lord will award in eternity (v. 8).

Tua Tagovailoa won a game for the ages last night. Then he publicly praised “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and told an interviewer, “All glory goes to God.”

Success or significance: Which race are you running today?

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Dying woman’s ‘life advice’ goes viral

Posted by    |    January 8th, 2018 at 5:59 am

“It’s a strange thing to realize and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming. Until the unexpected happens.”

This is how a dying woman’s letter to the world begins.

Holly Butcher was from Grafton, in New South Wales, Australia. She was an athlete, representing her state in squash and hockey. But she developed Ewing sarcoma, an extremely rare form of cancer, and died last week.

Her family then posted her letter on Facebook. It is making global headlines today.

Holly notes that life is “fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right.” She advises us to “work to live, don’t live to work” and to “do what makes your heart feel happy.”

She realizes that time spent on small frustrations–“You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short”–is time wasted: “I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go.”

And she notes that life is not in our control: “I don’t want to go. I love my life. I am happy . . . I owe that to my loved ones. But the control is out of my hands.” However, this is in our control: “Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.”

Facing death can bring great clarity to life.

Two men who “walked with God”

I have been thinking recently about Enoch, a man who “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). According to the English Standard Version Study Bible, “walked” translates a Hebrew verb that “conveys a sense of an ongoing intimacy with God.”

What does it mean to “walk with God” in this way?

A few verses later we read, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). “Righteous” translates a Hebrew word meaning to be “just” or “have a just cause.” “Blameless” translates a different Hebrew word meaning to be “complete, intact, whole.”

Taken together, they tell us that Noah focused every dimension of his life on the highest purpose for his life. As a result, he “walked” with God–the text uses the same Hebrew term as with Enoch.

The Lord could therefore use Noah to build an ark that would save humanity. Only a person whose entire life was centered on God’s call could be trusted with such an undertaking.

And God could commission him to warn the world that divine judgment was coming (2 Peter 2:5). Only a person of great integrity could preach of judgment without being rejected for personal failings.

The Golden Globes and biblical morality

Today, we find ourselves in Noah’s position. Scripture teaches that judgment is coming to our world as surely as it came to Noah’s world:

• “The world is passing away along with its desires” (1 John 2:17).
• “The heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:7).
• All people will “give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5).

In the meantime, we must take up Noah’s calling to “warn the world of God’s righteous judgment” (2 Peter 2:5 NLT).

For instance, at last night’s Golden Globes, The Handmaid’s Tale was named “Best Television Series.” While I will not see the show due to its offensive and sexually explicit nature, I am saddened by its “vicious assault on Christian beliefs.” Big Little Lies, another sexually explicit television series, won numerous Golden Globes as well.

Our culture deserves biblical truth about our moral trajectory. But we must live the truth we proclaim.

A thought experiment

As Holly Butcher learned, tomorrow is promised to no one. However, my goal this morning is not to frighten you but to encourage you: God has given you another day to align your life with its highest purpose.

To that end, let’s close with a thought experiment: Imagine that, like Holly, you knew that your last day on earth was coming soon. Can you say that, like Noah, your entire life is centered on God’s purpose for you?

If not, what would you change today?

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Jack in the Box celebrates marijuana with ‘Merry Munchie Meal’

Posted by    |    January 5th, 2018 at 5:56 am

Jack in the Box restaurants became famous as the first major chain to use an intercom and the first to focus on drive-through food service. Now they’re making news for a different reason: in honor of California’s legalization of recreational marijuana, they are offering the “Merry Munchie Meal.” The combo includes “the most craveable and snackable products that Jack in the Box has to offer.”

The marijuana debate

On January 1, California began selling recreational marijuana. Lines formed outside stores licensed to sell the drug long before opening hours. The state is expected to become the world’s largest market for legal recreational marijuana.

In related news, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era policy that paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the nation. Federal law continues to prohibit growing, buying, or using the drug. However, numerous states have legalized these activities.

The Obama administration announced in 2013 that it would not stand in the way of these states, so long as officials kept marijuana from migrating to places where it remained outlawed and out of the hands of criminal gangs and children. Sessions is rescinding this policy, allowing US attorneys across the country to decide what kinds of federal resources to devote to marijuana enforcement based on priorities in their districts.

I have voiced my opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana in the past. Health issues associated with the drug are enough to raise significant concerns.

For instance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana use significantly increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes and has been connected with cancer. Long-term use of marijuana negatively affects brain development. It also harms the lungs.

One in ten marijuana users will become addicted to the drug. Addicts may be at a higher risk of problems with attention, memory, and learning.

According to the CDC website, “Marijuana users are significantly more likely than nonusers to develop chronic mental disorders, including schizophrenia.” The drug has also been linked to depression and anxiety. Marijuana “edibles” pose a greater risk of poisoning. And secondhand marijuana smoke could affect the health of nonsmokers, including babies and children.

Since marijuana laws were liberalized in Colorado, the state is experiencing more car crash fatalities involving marijuana-using drivers, along with accidental ingestion and poisoning of children who inadvertently consume edibles packaged as candy and soda.

Four values that changed the world

Our laws reflect our values. In the case of legalizing recreational marijuana, the values of financial gain, popular opinion, and personal freedom are apparently more important than the values of physical, mental, and emotional health.

The marijuana debate illustrates the fact that we cannot legislate morality effectively. Laws compete with each other, as in the case of federal and state laws regarding marijuana enforcement. Laws can be interpreted in various ways. And it is impossible for lawmakers to anticipate every potential ethical problem.

As a result, we need values that will guide our decisions and form our character. On this first Friday of the new year, I’d like to offer four such values for consideration.

After the miracle of Pentecost, we read that the early Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). “Devoted themselves” translates proskartereo, meaning “to be committed exclusively to.” These believers oriented their lives around four practices that they valued above all others:

• “The apostles’ teaching”–a doctrinal worldview taught by church leaders.
• “The fellowship”–not just relationships in general, but intentional relationships with fellow believers.
• “The breaking of bread”–likely a reference to the Lord’s Supper and the larger experience of Christian worship.
• “The prayers”–not just individual, spontaneous prayer, but organized, structured times of prayer with God.

As a result, “awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles” (v. 43). The believers helped each other while “praising God and having favor with all the people” (v. 47a). And “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (v. 47b).

These believers soon “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) and sparked a movement that transformed their world. If we wish to impact our culture this year as they impacted theirs, perhaps we should make their values ours.

So, ask yourself these diagnostic questions: When last did reading Scripture change your life? With whom are you doing life intentionally? Is worship a daily priority for you or just a Sunday program? Do you pray systematically and passionately?

If you were to take a step closer to Acts 2 Christianity, what would you do next?

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