A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

February 12, 2016

Your Local Elections Matter!

     It was a packed house.  The line was out the door and it was standing room only.  The people had come to hear and to be heard.  And unlike past years, I wanted to be a part of it.  The occasion was a Meet The Candidates forum for local elections, and in three of our most important offices.  Men running for District Judge, District Attorney and County Sheriff came to present their qualifications and why they deserved our vote.
     Before you dismiss this post as uninteresting and boring, let me tell you why I wanted to share my experience.  As do many of you, I believe this year's election cycle is the most important one in my lifetime, and if all the dire predictions and prophecies we are hearing turn out to be true, it may very well be the last election we ever participate in.  So, this subject matters!
     You could feel the anticipation in that room, and I wondered how many people felt the same as I did ... knowing that these particular offices will profoundly affect our lives in the near future.  I might have been inclined to dismiss the candidates for District Judge, until one of them pointed out that District Judges have more power over our lives than any other elected office.  They have the ability, by law, to take your property, send you to jail, take your children away from you, grant you a divorce,  and have jurisdiction over many other civil matters in a citizen's life.  How they view the law, and your rights, will have far-reaching consequences if this country slides further towards government tyranny.  Just ask the ranchers in Texas's 13th District, who are fighting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over property rights.  The question of property rights is destined to become a hot-button issue, as the UN is getting increasingly involved in this area.
     The office of District Attorney was the second of the anticipated forums, and the candidates ran the gamut in personality and positions.  They were allowed to each speak for three minutes and then answer a few selected pre-written questions from the audience.  The first candidate came off as an egotistical, hotshot lawyer who wanted everyone to know that he would be hardline against any offenders of the law... "if you break the law, I will prosecute you" ... period.  The second candidate just seemed to be the lackey for the current DA in our county, who is leaving the office (amid rumors of injustice surrounding some of his practices) ... so he suffered from the guilty-by-association factor. The third candidate was so laid-back and low key that I wondered how much energy he really had for the job, because the duties of a District Attorney will have a sweeping effect on the lives of the citizens of our county.  The DA prosecutes felony criminal cases, works with law enforcement in investigating criminal cases, presents cases to the grand jury, represents victims of violence in our county.  With the increase in drug trafficking and illegal aliens streaming into Texas from our southern border, we need to know that our District Attorney has the safety of our citizens at heart.
      I was all ready to vote in the straw poll for the hotshot lawyer-type over the sycophant or the too-relaxed lawyer until it came to how they answered one question.... A District Attorney in Houston recently filed felony charges against the filmmakers involved in the Planned Parenthood films because they forged fake California drivers licenses, which is tampering with a governmental record. Would you have charged them with a felony?  Both the hotshot lawyer and the lackey both smugly announced, "If you do something illegal, I'm prosecuting you ... period."  Then the third candidate calmly and succinctly announced, "No, I would not have charged them with a felony.  You have to have some common sense in administering the law, and it was obvious that what they were trying to do outweighed the infraction."  I know for a fact, that I wasn't the only one who changed my vote after that answer!  Then I realized why I suddenly liked this guy ... he was like Peter Falk as Columbo.  He might look harmless and innocuous, but he's the guy you want on the job!
      Lastly, came the most important race in my mind ... the election of our next County Sheriff.  Those of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning may recall a post I wrote about Sheriff Richard Mack.  He was the County Sheriff who defied the Clinton Administration and the Federal Government in regards to requiring sheriffs to conduct lengthy background checks on every potential purchaser of a handgun in their county.  Sheriff Mack fought that law all the way to the Supreme Court ... and won!
     I heard him speak nearly four years ago and what he said has made a lasting impact on me.  He said that our county sheriff's are among the most important elected officials in our lives; they are bound by their oath to the Constitution (that each took upon taking office) to stand between us and an over-reaching federal government.  In the intervening years since I heard him speak that is becoming increasingly clear.  So, I wrote my question down on a 3 x 5 card and turned it in ... As our County Sheriff, how would you protect us, the people, from the tyranny of the federal government?  Only one candidate answered to my satisfaction.  He exclaimed, "Boy, am I glad that question was asked!"  And then he proceeded to quote the 10th Amendment and how he would uphold it to his utmost.  One other candidate nonchalantly hinted that he agreed with Candidate #1, but seemed to indicate that he had the popular vote and the election in the bag.  But I liked the guy with fire in his belly; the candidate who seemed to be the grassroots candidate, and would be a "sheriff of, and for, the people", so to speak.
     After the forum finished, and this Candidate came in a distant second to the popular guy, I noticed that many in the crowd approached my selection for Sheriff, and were drawn to his enthusiasm for the office.  I told him I was the one who had asked the question on the 10th Amendment and I liked his answer.  He gripped my hand with determination, stared me boldly in the eye, and declared, "I will stand for you!"  And that is why my friend (and neighbor) and I are going to try to set up a meeting to introduce him to as many people in our sphere of influence that we can.
     It's time to get involved in local elections!  Yes, this nation is being rightfully and deservedly judged by our God.  We know that and see it clearly.  But, the Bible also tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."
     So, for those of my fellow Christians who think these elections don't matter, I submit to you that they do.  And it is very clear to me what our obligations are ... We pray and intercede on behalf of those who would have authority over us, and then we vote.  So, I hope you will take the time to go to your Town Hall meetings or your Candidate Forums and listen to what they have to say.  Are they Godly men?  Do they still believe in the Constitution?  We have a duty and a precious right to vote.  Let's pray and take it seriously.

Deuteronomy 1:13   "Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads."

February 10, 2016

Our Youth, The Socialist Message, and The Bible

     I have wanted to write about this topic for some time now, but I wanted to make sure that I would be Biblically sound in my assertions.  If you are paying attention to the platforms of the political candidates for President, then you are aware that Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is an unlikely favorite of the young voters, especially those who will be voting for the first time in 2016.
     I say "unlikely", because unlike the last couple of elections in which "young" and "hip" were the enticements to vote, Mr. Sanders is 74 years old, and doesn't appear to be technologically savvy, fashionable, possess exciting energy, or any of the other things that would draw young voters like moths to a flame.  Yet, he appears to have become the Millennial Generation's new champion.  Why?
     I would assert that these young, emerging voters are in love with an idea they think is tailor-made for their generation ... Socialism.  Sadly, they do not know the historical significance of what that system has done in the world, nor do they realize how it will actually impact them.  They only know that it promises to unburden them from an alarming financial future.
     It is actually a good thing that college students and young voters are getting engaged in the political process.  We need the next generation to care about how our country is governed.  I know that there are many of my fellow Christians who believe that the political process will not save us from the rightful judgment that is coming upon this nation -- and I totally agree with that premise -- but until the moment that I see Jesus coming on the clouds, we have to continue to live within this world system, and to abandon all efforts to try and make it as pleasing to God as we can, goes against what I believe God wants from us.
     But all that aside, what is it that Bernie offers the Millennials that has them so excited?  First, of course, there is his promise of a free public college education.  But there other issues that has them flocking to his side:  promises of a $15 minimum wage; equal pay for equal work; health care as a right; promises that he will fix America's roads and bridges; reverse climate change; expand social security; and eliminate the "too big to fail" boondoggles that have affected the American economy.  All these issues are important to the future of these young voters.  And they all lead to Socialism, which is a word that has no relevance to these Millennials.
     They equate Socialism with compassion and fairness and equality.  As Robert Knight on Barbwire.com writes, "For the past several decades, government public schools and nearly all colleges have touted socialism’s principles of redistribution, racialism and class envy, while declining to connect the dots between socialism and tyranny, examples of which abound."  Bernie Sanders presents a sort of "moral prestige" to Socialism that appeals to the emotions of young voters, who just want to correct the injustices of the generation before them.  We can all identify with that, if we are honest with ourselves.
     But what Bernie does not disclose to these voters is the symbiosis between Socialism and Communism, and the historical facts that cannot be denied ... that there has been the extermination of tens of millions of people under socialist regimes such as Stalin in Russia, Mao Zedong in China, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.  It always starts the same way ... a promise of redistribution of wealth and resources from the "haves" to the "have nots", and quickly spirals into loss of personal property, massive taxation, and ultimately coercion, tyranny, and death to millions to support "the State".  Because, we all know, that there is no way that the State can afford to provide for all those people, and so they must be eliminated.
     Sadly, Socialism even perverts the Biblical notion of charity.  It takes the Scripture presented in Acts, Chapters 2-5, and turns it into a twisted rationale for empowering the State.   It distorts the teaching of Acts to suggest that early Believers sold all their property and possessions and shared it with everyone, especially those in need.  There are those Socialists who will insist that this is a clear indication that the Bible advocates for redistribution of wealth.  It does not!
     A more careful examination of Scripture (and in context of the entire passage) notes that the believers continued to live and meet in their own homes, while engaging in periodic acts of charity as the needs arose.  So they clearly did not sell all their property or possessions.   In fact, Acts 4:34-35 says, From time to time, those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, which implies to me that the charity was voluntary, and they were generous with what they owned, donating when they could, out of the largesse of their households.
     I found an interesting article on a website called Institute For Faith Works & Economics, which pointed out that " this early sharing was voluntary, without state coercion, and did not necessitate that believers give up their rights to private property ... While this type of generous giving is a permanent norm, the particular situation in Acts 2-4 seems to have been a temporary response to a particular need [or situation]."
     I can understand the temptation that Socialism presents to this younger generation.  They are facing a dismal economic future.  Let's face it, the world is facing a dismal economic future.  And the danger is that Socialism is an old idea being touted as a new solution.  These young voters will not look to the distant past to see how Socialism leads to Communism, nor will they see the implications that are outlined by Robert Knight in his excellent article:  "In recent years, soft totalitarianism (confiscatory taxation and effective seizure of the media and private companies) has characterized socialist-led regimes in South America such as Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, where once-vibrant economies are floundering. In Europe, “democratic socialism” has weakened many nations, leaving them open to an invasion by millions of Muslim immigrants, some of whom openly advocate turning the former center of Christendom into a trophy of the Caliphate."
     Our youth is blinded by a natural, and very real, fear for their future.  And they are attracted to the empty promises of hope, financial aid, and a fair and equitable "system".  But it is the same old temptation of the Enemy, and I'm afraid that this time it will usher in the Biblical End Times "Beast System".  We must pray for the wisdom to impart to our children and grandchildren; to speak God's Truth into their lives.  It is the only thing that will overcome the world's lies and deception.

2 Corinthians 8:13-14    "For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness."


February 3, 2016

I Warned You!

     There are times that things I see seem so clear and transparent, yet I have doubts that anyone ever reads what I write, or if they do, it is too difficult to take seriously.  Yet I know that I am not the only one who has been sounding the alarm.  Others have written of the covert efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate our country -- from the highest echelons of government, to our corporate board rooms, and our children's classrooms.
     In June, 2013 I wrote a detailed blog post about the clandestine endeavors surrounding the Brotherhood's endeavors to wage "a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within."  The idea of a Global Caliphate was new and, frankly, most people in the West sneered at the notion.
     Now, nearly two-and-a-half years later, we are focused on the beheadings and exterminations of Christians in the Middle East; the exponential growth in rapes of European women by Muslim immigrants; and the growing threat of terrorist plots on our own soil.  But while we are zeroing in on these atrocities, there has been a more subtle jihad being committed in the heartland.
     In 2013, I warned you about the Cosmos Foundation, a charter school operator founded a decade ago by a group of professors and businessmen from Turkey. The group, currently using the name Harmony Schools, has become the biggest charter operation in the state of Texas, promising American parents that they could increase their children's comprehension in math and the sciences.  What concerned me was the fact that the Cosmos Foundation had also forged ongoing relationships with a close-knit network of businesses and organizations run by Turkish immigrants. Some of those founders, as well as school operators, and many of their business suppliers, were followers of a man named Fethullah Gülen.
     Since I wrote that article, it has become apparent that Turkey has regressed from a secular democracy into an Islamic state, and Imam Fethullah Gülen and his Gülen Movement (GM) had an enormous influence in setting the increasingly Islamist agenda in Turkey.  In fact, in Turkey, 75 % of the nation’s two million preparatory school students are enrolled in Gülen institutions. In America, GM runs the largest charter school network in the nation.  In 2013, I asked the following question:  When you connect the dots, don't you think all this information is worthy of our scrutiny and our concern?  And in light of the connections between GM and the political campaign of a certain candidate for the President of the United States, I still stand by that astute question.

     And apparently, so does Ariel Cohen, a writer for The Blaze.  Mr. Cohen has written an excellent article, in which he points out that the myriad of organizations affiliated with the Gülen movement include banks, newspapers, universities, charities, research institutes, and the largest network of private Muslim schools in the world. The school curriculum is not "overtly" Islamist, and claims to focus on science, technology, engineering and math (also known as STEM).  Cohen alleges that the Gülen-affiliated net business worth exceeds $25 billion, and together, they receive approximately $150 million a year in U.S. tax breaks and subsidies -- all leading to an unhealthy mix of politics, education, and religion that is infecting our nation.
     Mr. Cohen is so bold as to suggest that the Gülen organization "appears to be busy buying, using and abusing political power.... The web reaches up to the corridors of the U.S. Congress and down to local schools from Texas to Tahoe. According to a USA TODAY investigation, over 200 trips for congressmen and congressional staff have been sponsored by Gülenist entities".
     And here is something that should concern us all ... According to the Clinton Foundation website, Recep Ozkan, former president of the Gülen-connected Turkish Cultural Center, contributed between $500,000 and $1 million. Unsurprisingly, former President Bill Clinton has appeared at Gülen movement events and praised the founder’s contributions to world peace and inter-religious understanding.
     But these "Turkish operatives" are not tied to just one party.  Both Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas, and Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte have been reported to be recipients of Gülen organizational donations (although Senator Ayotte returned funds, once she discovered their origin).  Currently, the FBI is engaged in a massive probe of Gülenist activities in this country. However, the investigation is limited to the Gülen-linked schools.
     But there is some hope ... It is the task of law enforcement to protect our politics, our country, and most importantly our children, from illicit external influences. Therefore, as the FBI investigates the network, it can also look into the political donations by the members of the movement.  I hope they do so.
     It is apparent in his home country of Turkey that Imam Gülen has an agenda ... to infiltrate all the business centers, re-educate the children, and obtain State power, and a warrant for his arrest has been issued.  Does it not seem plausible that he and his followers are trying to institute the same paradigm here in the U.S.?  We need to pray that the FBI will be allowed to conduct a thorough investigate; that Congress will weed out this invasive and subversive enemy of American sovereignty; and that God will shine His light upon the organization's false motives.  I know we have ignored this enemy for far too long, but I have faith that God can destroy their plans.

Job 5:12-13     "He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise or anything of [lasting] worth.  He catches the [so-called] wise in their own trickiness, and the counsel of the schemers is brought to a quick end."

December 23, 2015

At Last, A Statesman

     Today is the day I'm going to give in to my idealism and let my sentimentality give me a notion of hope.  It's taken me awhile to get around to this, but I think it is more important than ever that we contemplate the words of the Junior Senator from Nebraska, Ben Sasse.  Among his accomplishments, he is a well-educated legislator (a Bachelor's degree, multiple Master's degrees, and a Ph.D.); he was president of a private college in Nebraska, where he ended lifetime tenure for professors; and he appears to have solid conservative credentials, while remaining his own man in Washington.  It remains to be seen if he can keep his soul in that den of thieves.
     But in November, Senator Sasse took to the floor of the Senate to give his inaugural speech and to challenge not only the lawmakers, but us citizens, to become more enlightened, nonpartisan-thinkers with a sense of history.  The occasion for his speech was his concern over the growing threat of overreaching Executive power.  I think that is something we all are watching, as each day the news media suggests that after the Christmas recess, we will see aggressive action on the part of the President regarding gun control and the limiting of our Constitutional freedoms.  
     So, read his words, as I present them here.  This is not his complete speech, and I recommend that you take the time to get to know him by reading it in its entirety.  But I want to present the highlights; the reasons why I think he gets it right, and why I think he deserves to be heard.  See if you don't agree .... Senator Sasse's remarks from the Senate Floor:

     Thank you, Mr. President. I rise to speak from the Floor for the first time today. I have never been in politics before, and I intentionally waited a year to speak here.
     ... Let me explain briefly why I chose to wait a year since Election Day before beginning to fully engage in Floor debate.
     I’ve done two things in my adult worklife: I’m a historian by training and a strategy guy by vocation. Before becoming a college president, I helped over a dozen organizations find strategies to get through some very ugly crises. One important lesson I learned over and over is that, when you walk into any troubled organization, there is a delicate balance between expressing human empathy and yet not passively sweeping hard truths under the rug. On the one hand, it is absolutely essential to listen first, to ask questions first to learn how a broken institution got to where it is – because there are reasons. Things drift and fray for reasons; people rarely set out to break special institutions they inherit.
     ... Please do not misunderstand: Do not confuse a deliberate approach [of waiting to speak] with passivity. I ran because I think that the public is right that we as a people are not tackling the generational crises that we face: We don’t have a long-term foreign policy for the age of jihad and cyberwar; our entitlement budgets are completely fake; we are entering an age where work and jobs will be more fundamentally disrupted than at any point since hunter-gatherers first settled in agrarian villages. And yet we don’t really have any plans. I think the public is right that we as a Congress are not shepherding the country through the serious debates we must have about the future of this great nation.
     ... No one in this body thinks the Senate is laser-focused on the most pressing issues facing the nation. No one. Some of us lament this fact; some are angered by it; many are resigned to it; some try to dispassionately explain how they think it came to be. But no one disputes it.
     And if I can be brutally honest for a moment: I’m home basically every weekend, and what I hear – and what I’m sure most of you hear – is some version of this: A pox on both parties and all your houses. We don’t believe politicians are even trying to fix this mess. To the Republicans, to those who claim this new majority is leading the way: Few believe that. To the grandstanders who use this institution as a platform for outside pursuits: Few believe the country’s needs are as important to you as your ambitions. To the Democrats, who did this body harm through nuclear tactics: Few believe bare-knuckled politics are a substitute for principled governing. And does anyone doubt that many on both the right and the left now salivate for more of these radical tactics? The people despise us all.

     And being the historian/college president and crisis turn-around guy that he is, Senator Sasse proceeds to "school" his fellow Senators:  This is a place that would be difficult today to describe as "the greatest deliberative body in the world" – something that has often been true historically.
     Socrates said it was dishonorable to make the lesser argument appear the greater – or to take someone else’s argument and distort it so that you don’t have to engage their strongest points. Yet here, on this Floor, we regularly devolve into bizarre partisan-politician speech. We hear robotic recitations of talking points.
     Well, guess what: Normal people don’t talk like this. They don’t like that we do. And, more importantly, they don’t trust us because we do...
    Do we think the Founders would have regarded a 9% Congressional approval rating – a stunning level of distrust in representative government – as an existential crisis? Do we? Is it conceivable that we can get away with just drifting into the future, or is it essential that we fix this?
     Count me emphatically among those who think we need to fix it. We should not be okay with this. And if we are going to restore this place, part of it will center on recovering the executive/legislative distinction. The American people should demand more of us as legislators, and they should demand more of the next president as a competent administrator of the laws that we pass. That is only possible if we again have some identity commitments that are about the Constitution’s Article I (the legislature) in tension with the duties of the Article II branch (the executive). Everything cannot be simply Republicans versus Democrats. We need Democrats to speak up when a Democratic president exceeds his or her powers. And I promise you that I plan to speak up when the next president of my party exceeds his or her proper powers.
     To that end, in the coming months, I plan a series of Floor speeches on the historic growth of the administrative state. This will not be a partisan effort; it will not be a Republican senator criticizing the current administration because it is Democratic. Rather, it will be a constructive attempt to understand how we got to the place where so much legislating now happens inside the executive branch – for this kind of executive overreach came about because of a great deal of symbiotic legislative underreach. Republicans and Democrats are both to blame for grabbing more power when they have the presidency; and Republicans and Democrats are both to blame in the legislature as well for not wanting to lead on hard issues and take hard votes, but rather to sit back and let successive presidents gobble up more authorities. We can and we must do better than this. And the century-long look at the growth of executive branch legislating over the next many months will be an attempt to contribute to the efforts of all here, both Democrats and Republicans, who would like to see the Senate recover some of its authorities and some of its trustworthiness...
     Each of us has an obligation to be able to answer our constituents’ question: "Why doesn’t the Congress work? And what is your plan for fixing the Senate in particular?" And if your only answer is that the other party is fully to blame, then we don’t get it, and the American people understandably think that we are part of the problem, not the solution...
     Representative government requires civic reengagement. Our people need to know that we in this body are up to the task of leading during this time of nearly universal angst about whether this nation is on a path of decline. I think we can do better – and I want to labor with all who want to figure out how.

     To use a sports analogy, I know that we are in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, and two strikes against us -- and I know that we have been fooled before by men and women we thought were going to uphold the legacy of Liberty that we hold so dear.  Is Ben Sasse the "real deal"?  It will remain to be seen.  He got one thing right; he says that the Senate is "a human institution populated by sinners."  As such, we cannot expect them to be perfect.  But we can -- and should -- expect them to uphold the job they have been elected to do.  And I must admit I'm not even sure that can be done in the midst of the profoundly immoral and corrupt cesspool that has become the spiritual wasteland called Washington, D.C.
     And call me the hopeless romantic that I am, but a little part of me is hoping that Senator Ben Sasse is cut out of the same cloth as one of my favorite movie characters, Jimmy Stewart as "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington".  Somehow, I think Senator Sasse would agree with Mr. Smith when he says, "Take a look at this country through [the eyes of the Statue of Liberty] if you really want to see something. And you won't just see scenery; you'll see the whole parade of what Man's carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so's he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That's what you'd see. There's no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties...  And it's not too late, because this country is bigger than the [all the corrupt politicians], or you, or me, or anything else. Great principles don't get lost once they come to light. They're right here; you just have to see them again!"
     So, will we ever see them again in this country -- in this world?  Historians say that this country was a grand experiment; no other men in history have been given the opportunity to establish a republic founded on individual liberty.  Can we keep it?  Or will we just be an asterisk in the history books?  We must not discount God, whom I firmly believe has had His hand on us since our founding.  But I cannot dismiss the fact that we have removed ourselves from under the protection of that Hand, and may be suffering the effects of our own self-worship.  I think, in effect, that is what Senator Sasse has expressed.  It remains to be seen if his speech will make a difference.  But I, for one, thank him for making the effort, and I pray that he spoke into the spiritual darkness that pervades our nation's capitol and put them on notice... 

Luke 22:26     "But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves."



December 18, 2015

Do You Need Any More Proof?

     I have often explained my position that there is no real difference in the political parties; each is not really in Washington to serve the people.  The idea that we have a representative government of the people, by the people, and for the people, has not been evident for a very long time -- at least not in my lifetime, and most likely not during the last century.  
      Those who are inclined to believe in conspiracy theories will point to the existence of organizations like the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, and the Illuminati as confirmation that an Elite group of men, all members of these secret societies, are really ruling the world.  They just let us peons think we have a say in our government to keep the masses satisfied.  But, the conspiracists will say, the curtain has been pulled back and those in power in D.C. all work for the same side; and it is against us, not for us.
     How can one argue with that premise when the supposedly conservative Republican Party controls both the House and the Senate, yet did nothing to stop the advancement of budgetary legislation that seems to be destroying the country?  Paul Ryan may be trying to disguise his true colors behind his new facial hair, but do you need any more proof that we, the people, are insignificant in the affairs of this nation?  
     Breitbart.com provides a clear and concise summary of just how the men and women who were elected to represent us have sold us out.  But, we saw it coming, didn't we?  Although House Republicans put on a good show by pushing John Boehner out and electing Paul Ryan as the new Speaker, the negotiations under the new Party leadership were, as The Washington Post expressed, "the same high-stakes, closed-door give-and-take involving only a handful of congressional leaders that has closed out virtually every fiscal deal in recent memory."  Why did we think anything would change?  So, in case you don't have the stomach to wade through all the hype, let me just spell it out for you:
     1)  This latest appropriations bill funds entirely the 2012 executive amnesty for “DREAMers”—or illegal immigrants who came to the country as minors.  The President's executive action, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), has granted around 700,000 illegal aliens with work permits, as well as the ability to receive tax credits and federal entitlement programs. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report documented how this illegal amnesty program for alien youth is, in large part, responsible for the illegal alien minor surge on our southern border.
     2)  Five months after Kate Steinle died in her father's harms -- murdered by an illegal alien in San Francisco, a sanctuary city -- Ryan’s omnibus rewards these lawless Sanctuary Cities with federal grants. To be specific, Division B Title II of Ryan’s omnibus funds various grant programs for the Department of Justice (pages 167, 168, and 169) and contains no language that would restrict the provision of such grants to sanctuary jurisdictions.
     3)  This appropriations bill will fund President Obama’s refugee resettlement operation and will allow for the admission of tens of thousands of refugees with access to federal benefits. Division H Title II of Ryan’s bill contains appropriations of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and contains no language that would restrict the program. Nor are there any restrictions for the program in Division K of Ryan’s bill, which provides funding for the Department of State, which oversees refugee admissions.  In addition, Ryan’s proposal does nothing to limit admissions from jihadist-prone regions and funds all of the Mideast immigration programs that have been exploited by terrorists in recent years.
     4)  It seems to be all about the refugees and illegal aliens in this bill.  The inflated legislation funds not only illegal alien resettlement, but funds the release of criminal aliens; quadruples H-2B visas for unskilled guest workers; and preserves the expansion of the President’s expiring child tax credits without any accompanying language to prevent illegal aliens from receiving those tax credits.
     5)  Here's an important fact for us American tax-payers:  The bill funds the Obama-Boehner budget deal, which eliminated spending caps, and will increase both defense and non-defense spending next year by $25 billion more each.  Think that is going to effect our wallets?
     6)  And finally, the American people were promised a 700-mile double-layer border fence with the passage of the 2006 Secure Fence Act.  Guess what?  It ain't gonna happen.  It should not surprise us that this bill does not require that funds be allocated to finish the construction of the 700-mile double-layer fence.
     Granted, all this is bad news.  But here's the real damage that's been done according to the folks at Breitbart ... By locking in the President’s refugee, immigration, and spending priorities, Ryan’s bill is designed to keep these fights out of Congress by getting them off the table for good. Delivering Obama these wins–and pushing these issues beyond the purview of Congress–will suppress public attention to the issues and, in so doing, will boost the candidacy of the Republican establishment’s preferred presidential contenders, who favor President Obama’s immigration agenda.
     So that brings us right back to the question of whether we really have any say in the governing of this nation.  But it is time that we quit putting our faith in men.  As Christians, we know that Satan is the prince and ruler of this world.  We know that God is Sovereign, but we also know that, in His infinite wisdom, He has allowed Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries God has set for him.  That means that Satan has domain over all unbelievers, and it is not hard to see that those who seek power and wealth for themselves, over and above serving their fellow man, will fall prey to the Deceiver's influence.  In essence, they have believed the lie that they are all "little g" gods unto themselves, and have been caught in the snare of the devil.
     But so have the ordinary citizens of this world.  2 Corinthians 4:4 says, Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.  That is plain to see as I scan the nearly 11,000 comments on the Breitbart article.  People continue to think that there is a political answer to our dilemma and the decline of this nation.  They argue back and forth, calling each other names, claiming that one Party or another is to blame.  They truly are blinded to the "glorious light of the Good News."  They don’t understand that only our confession, repentance, and faith in Jesus Christ can stop the hemorrhage.  It has to happen among the Elite of the world, the leaders of our nation, and all the way down to the common man.  We just don't get it that the Enemy has assigned rulers and principalities to each nation, and it is these spiritual entities that truly have authority and control over us.  Until each individual surrenders to Christ, no future election or change of political parties will effect our destiny.  And if the passage of this appropriations bill is any indication, there is no soul searching in sight.

John 16:8    "And He, when He comes, will convict the world about [the guilt of] sin [and the need for a Savior], and about righteousness, and about judgment..."

November 20, 2015

The Veil Is Pulled Back -- But For How Long?

     Based on news reports in the U.K.'s Daily Mail, and our own national media sources such as Breitbart, The Blaze, and The New York Post, the threats of terrorism on our home soil are greater than ever before.  In fact, all these sources report that terrorist suspects have not only been arrested over the past 18 months, but officials are openly admitting that terrorists are crossing our borders, and are, as a matter of truth, already in this country.
     Why all the transparency and truth-telling, after so many months, and even years, of denying that the threat is real?  Has God pulled the veil of deception back for just a moment -- for one last opportunity for us to get this right?  It certainly feels like that as The Daily Mail reports that over the last 18 months, nearly 70 people have been arrested for ISIS-related terror plots, including a handful of so-called "refugees".
     The frightening aspect of these arrests is that they include such unlikely suspects as a young nurse, a pizza parlor boss and schoolgirls tricked into becoming shrouded ISIS brides. They also include a husband and wife team, both of St Louis, MO,  who face trial over allegations they gathered cash to buy military equipment for ISIS fighters in Syria; six Bosnian immigrants -- three from Missouri, two from Illinois and one from New York -- who conspired to support ISIS with money and equipment.  According to the US Attorney's office, three have become naturalized citizens of the United States, and the remaining three have either refugee or legal resident status.
     There are refugees from Kenya, Somalia and Syria.  There are homegrown Muslim converts, and even an Air Force veteran who is accused of joining the ranks of ISIS to wage war on the country he once served.  The bottom line is this... what we have all sensed for so long is now being revealed -- in spite of the continuous denials of those who are charged with keeping us safe.
     We are also now seeing representatives of the Middle Eastern communities in our nation revealing what they know.  The New York Post ran an article in which Aarafat “Ralph” Succar of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (and a member of the Bay Ridge Community Council) said that ISIS terrorists have “absolutely” sneaked into America by posing as civil-war refugees — and joined sleeper cells just waiting to be activated.  “I believe the terrorists from Syria have been coming into the United States, not only in the past few years, but way before that,” he said.  “I think they’re already at work.”  Who, of us who are awake, haven't instinctively known that?
     Then there is Breitbart.com, who is reporting that Border Patrol agents are now coming forward to report that groups of illegal Middle Eastern immigrants are crossing our southern borders.  Such is the case of the five Pakistani men and one man from Afghanistan, who were captured by U.S. Border Patrol agents after having illegally crossed the porous U.S.-Mexico border in the Tucson Sector of Arizona.  We also have the two federal agents operating under the umbrella of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), who are claiming that eight Syrian illegal aliens attempted to enter Texas from Mexico in the Laredo Sector.  The question is why such crossings in the past were not prosecuted by the Department of Justice, and were dismissed "due to circumstances?"
     I truly want to grasp on to the hope of yesterday's vote in the House of Representatives, which overrode the President's veto, in regards to strengthening the vetting process of Syrian and Iraqi refugees admitted into the U.S.   According to The Blaze, the measure, which in effect would suspend admissions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, would require the FBI to conduct background checks on people coming to the U.S. from those countries. It would oblige the heads of the FBI and Homeland Security Department and the Director of National Intelligence to certify to Congress that each refugee “is not a threat to the security of the United States".
     But can we trust that show of defense on behalf of the American people?  Does this action on the part of Congress, in reality, speak of hollow promises -- especially in the light of testimony from foreign officials and intelligence officers that say there is no way to compile adequate information on any of these "refugees" from their home country?  Haven't we heard such words and rhetoric in the past that have given us a false sense of security?  Remember, the legislation still must pass through the Senate, and these bills have a habit of changing radically by the time they get to the vote.  And I think the aspect that bothers me the most is that those of us who are concerned about the possibility of a Paris-style attack (which has been promised by ISIS), are accused of somehow abandoning "age-old American values."  Is it against our values to want to protect the lives of our families and innocent victims?  Is it against our values to take a stand against man's inhumanity to man?  Is it against our values to be bold in the face of Evil?
     I am not exactly sure why it seems as if, for once, many of our leaders are refusing to play the politically correct game, and actually seem sincere in their warnings and desire to speak the truth.  How long will it last?  Will God have mercy on us; and will we, as a nation, turn to Him in repentance and hope?  I know that He can protect us, if it is His will -- even as the odds are stacking up against us.  He is Sovereign and Mighty in His power.  May He honor our obedience as we pray in the name of His Son!

Psalm 147:11     "The Lord favors those who fear and worship Him [with awe-inspired reverence and obedience], Those who wait for His mercy and lovingkindness."

October 12, 2015

A Clear Misunderstanding Of Biblical Charity

     You know that I don't like to engage in partisan politics, and prefer to look at our current political situation through the larger lens of Biblical significance.  But when a particular candidate chooses to misuse the Bible and its teachings to further his political agenda, then I feel warranted to point out where he is mistaken.
     Such is the case of Republican candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich.   I'm not here to debate his conservative credentials, but to point out that he is wrong in equating Government entitlement programs to Biblical charity, or caring for the poor.
     In recent weeks, Kasich has been coming under fire for defending the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare in his state.  Here's how that works:  Medicaid was originally enacted as a safety net to provide health coverage for poor mothers and children.  But the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Obamacare allowing individual states -- at their discretion -- to expand that coverage to cover able-bodied, working-age adults.  Federal funds will cover the costs of new enrollees, but that funding will start scaling back in 2017.  Moreover, states are on the hook for administrative costs for signing up the new enrollees, whose numbers have far exceeded estimates.  And that's not taking into account all the illegal immigrants we are expecting in the coming months and years!  So, just where do you think these federal funds and administrative costs are going to come from?  You guessed it!  We, the working American people, will be taxed into forced charity!
     But here is how Kasich personally justifies that it is our Biblical duty to accept the expansion of Medicaid and other entitlement programs for the poor (and the not-so-poor that take advantage of the system):  “When I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.”  And he wants you to be forced  to do your charitable part.
    But is that the way the Bible tells us to take care of the poor?  I submit to you that it is not.  The Greek word in the Bible for charity, or alms-giving, is eleémosuné, and it means "compassion, as exercised towards the poor; beneficence."  Jesus is referring to this form of charity in His parable of the sheep and goats (in Matthew 25), where He teaches us that when we see someone hungry, and we give food to that person; or see someone thirsty, and we offer them water, then we are doing the will of God, and caring for the poor and needy as God desires us to do.
     Also, the Apostle John asks what good is it if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds.  The way in which we care for the needy is a reflection of our love for Christ and is evidence of our salvation and the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.
     But John Kasich says we have it all wrong!  In fact, he offered to buy Bibles for those of us who might disagree with his position that expanding Medicaid is how we should care for the poor.  He seems to intimate that being a Christian means that you should support the government forcibly confiscating the tax money of other people to help the poor.  I would like to ask Mr. Kasich to consider that perhaps he is the one who misunderstands the teachings of the Bible.
     Doesn't the Good Book tell us that it is the individual person’s responsibility to help the poor?  Aren't we encouraged to give, not only out of our own pocket, put as our hearts lead us -- not as the government mandates? As Jesus noted in Matthew 25, it is one of the Christian’s highest responsibilities to give freely and voluntarily out of our own means -- and spirits -- to help the poor.
     I mean, for goodness's sake, if Mr. Kasich would take the time to really read his Bible, he would see that Paul gave Timothy detailed instructions for caring for widows in the church, complete with what type of women should be included on the list and warnings about what could happen if charity was given improperly (1 Timothy 5:3-16).  Paul warns against those widows who would take advantage of charity by being self-indulgent and undeserving.  If they had family that could help support them, then the church was not obligated to automatically supply charity; or if they were under 60 years of age, they weren't necessarily entitled to receiving charity because younger widows could easily "learn to be idlers" under an indiscriminate charity program.
     Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that, if we are to call ourselves Christian, we are called to help the poor, the widows, and the orphans.  My disagreement with Kasich's definition of charity in no way is to be taken as an excuse for abdicating our responsibilities as followers of Christ.  We are to give to those who are truly in need of our assistance, according to our means; and that is something that you need to discern with the help of the Holy Spirit.
     But for politicians to be condescending towards us, and have the audacity to lecture us on our Christian duties, is nothing less than insulting.  To try to shame us into accepting un-Biblical political positions is offensive.  They are no less guilty of being like the Pharisees, who twisted the Scriptures to propagate their political party, to promote a social movement, and to disseminate a particular school of thought in order to rule the people.
     In that vein, John Kasich tells us he wants to buy Bibles for his critics in order to silence them.  Perhaps he should read just what the Bible says about the Pharisees in Matthew 23:1-4:  Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger."  Enough said!

2 Timothy 2:15    "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of Truth."

September 29, 2015

The Constitution and Sharia Law

     Over the past week, much has made in the media about comments by GOP Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson concerning a Muslim running for President of the United States.  So that we are clear on exactly what he said, I would like to reprint the exchange between Carson and Meet The Press host, Chuck Todd...

TODD: Let me wrap this up by finally dealing with what's been going on [with] Donald Trump, and a deal with a questioner that claimed that the president was Muslim. Let me ask you the question this way: Should a president's faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?

CARSON: Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem.

CHUCK TODD: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?

DR. BEN CARSON: No, I don't, I do not.

CHUCK TODD: So you--

DR. BEN CARSON: I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

      Now, I'm sure if Dr. Carson could have that moment back, he would have elaborated on his answer, or explained it in more depth, as he has attempted to do in ensuing interviews.  As he has spelled out in the last few days, he would have no problem with a Muslim President, as long as the candidate denounces Sharia law.  And, I for one, believe that is what he meant by a potential candidate's faith being consistent with the values and principles of America.
     But that is precisely why he is still under fire ... and I have to agree with him.  From everything I have read about Sharia Law, it is not compatible with the fundamental principles of ruling our behavior in this country -- let alone being in harmony with the Constitution.  And I think that a lot of the backlash Dr. Carson has suffered is because either the Elite and the Media don't comprehend the consequences of Sharia Law in this nation -- or they understand it quite well, but are adhering to the same old tolerant, politically correct playbook.  Either way, I fear that they are misguided.
     But you don't have to take my word for it.  You can read the words of Dr. Tawfik Hamid, a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a master's degree in cognitive psychology and educational techniques.  According to his own biography, Hamid was a member of a radical Islamic organization, Jamaa Islameia JI (of Egypt), with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri, who later became the second in command of Al-Qaeda. After being radicalized in the JI (approximately thirty-five years ago), he had an awakening of his human conscience, recognized the threat of Radical Islam, and started to teach modern peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic core texts.
     Make no mistake, Hamid is still a Muslim, but he wrote this in an article regarding Dr. Ben Carson's warning about Sharia Law:  “I can state unequivocally that Dr. Carson is correct. Without a single exception, the approved Islamic literature teaches violent principles such as killing apostates, beating women, killing gays, and enslaving female war prisoners for sexual purposes.”

     So does Sharia Law look like, sound like, or resemble the Constitution in any form or matter?  I think not.  Our Constitution was written with specific goals in mind:  to form a more perfect union of the peoples of this nation; to establish justice for all;  to ensure domestic tranquility; to provide for the common defense; to promote the general welfare; and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and future generations.
     From all I can ascertain, Islamic (Shariah) Law was made to protect five things: (religion, self, mind, offspring, and property), which the Koran says are the main rights of humans in this life.  But it  is the "violent principles" of Sharia Law that Dr. Hamid says are taught in order to protect these rights that are not only "necessary rules of the religion" [of Islam], but "fly in the face of the Constitution".
     And besides considering both Hamid and Dr. Carson's comments, one must examine the facts in a  World Net Daily article:  There are now an estimated 3 million Muslims residing in the United States as citizens or with permanent legal status, and more than 250,000 new Muslim residents enter the U.S. per year as refugees, on work visas and student-based visas, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. (And that doesn't include the recent push for additional Middle Eastern refugees urged by the President and the UN).  
    The WND article also included a May 2015 poll by The Center For Security Policy that revealed the following:  a majority (51%) agreed that “Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah.”  When that question was put to the broader U.S. population, the overwhelming majority held that shariah should not displace the U.S. Constitution (86% to 2%).
     In addition, the article showed that more than half (51%) of U.S. Muslims polled also believe either that they should have the choice of American or shariah courts, or that they should have their own tribunals to apply shariah. Only 39% of those polled said that Muslims in the U.S. should be subject to American courts.  Even more troubling, is the fact that nearly a quarter of the Muslims polled believed that, “It is legitimate to use violence to punish those who give offense to Islam by, for example, portraying the prophet Mohammed.”
     So, why all the outrage and condemnation over Dr. Carson's comments?  You may not agree with him, or like his non-political and honest answer.  But can anyone legitimately say that there is no foundation for his concerns?  Where are the ardent feminists and those who celebrate the Supreme Court's recent ruling on gay marriage -- especially, when sharia law in Yemen, Saudia Arabia, Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates, Somalia, Iraq and Iran approve the death penalty for homosexuals, and women are subjugated citizens? Do they really think they will get an "Americanized" version of Sharia Law in this country?
     And why aren't those who always scream about "separation of Church and State" agreeing with Dr. Carson?  If they are being intellectually honest, it seems to me they must admit that Sharia Law would be a far more oppressive influence on our culture and society than Christianity.  Would these folks protest the restrictions that Sharia Law wants to impose on our society as much as they object to a nativity scene on the public square?
     During a Fox News video poll regarding the Constitution and Sharia Law, the most common answer given by American Muslims was the following:  “The Sharia law is made by God — by Allah; the Constitution was made by people.”  In case you don't get the implications of that statement, I believe those that wish Sharia Law to be above our Constitution would like to see it not only supersede our founding document, but replace it.
     Now, I happen to believe that our founding documents were greatly influenced by Christian-Judeo beliefs and principles, and Sharia Law is in direct conflict with the freedoms of both my faith and my country’s governing laws.  Apparently Dr. Ben Carson feels the same way, and it is refreshing and crucial that men like him have the courage to stand up and defend Christianity and the Constitution.
     All we have to do is look at Europe to see what the metamorphosis of our nation might look like.  Now is not the time for political correctness and compromise.  I say, "Bravo" to Dr. Carson for single-handedly standing for the uniqueness and sovereignty of our nation.  May God continue to give him the courage to be bold and speak the truth!

1 Timothy 2:16   "Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God."


September 18, 2015

Where Are Your "High Places"?

     As I watched the Republican Debate on CNN Wednesday night, I wondered how many Americans  were hoping that a clear winner would emerge; the one man (or woman) who could lead us out of this  morass of degeneration and degradation that has become America?  Although I do not want this to become about my own political opinions, I must say that I was shocked to find that an overwhelming majority of Americans thought Trump championed this country's values and aspirations better than any of the other candidates.  It is now clear to me that the ability to execute verbal judo counts more than substance.  I get it ... the voters in this nation are tired of "business as usual" and are excited to see a non-conformist take it to the D.C. Establishment.  But are we looking in the wrong places for our redemption and recovery?
     The Libertarians look to the Constitution as the appointed document of this nation; it is the standard by which they think this nation should be ruled.  Most Americans are going to place their bet on a specific human leader to guide us toward a better future.  And nearly all Christians will find their security and hope in Jesus Christ through regular and uniform worship at their local church.  I contend that we may all, in one form or another, be in danger of refusing to abandon our "high places".
       What am I talking about?  In order to understand where I'm going with this line of thought, you must consider the Biblical history of the kings of Israel.  We are all familiar with God's First Commandment: "Thou shall have no other gods before Me".  This was especially important to the success and blessings of the nation of Israel, because as they entered the Promised Land it was inhabited by the Canaanites, a people who were exceedingly wicked; and the essence of their wickedness was their worship of idols.  Their abominable idol worship (including the sacrifice of infant children in ovens to a god named Molech) was carried out at what they called "high places".  Before anyone thinks I am accusing them of worshipping idols or evil gods, let me explain why this subject of "high places" has caught my attention.
     The core purpose of a high place was to be a location for worshipping deities, or idols, other than Jehovah God.  God had clearly told the Israelites that they were to 1) worship only Him, and 2) He was establishing the manner in which He wanted to be worshipped, as well as the specific place (Jerusalem).  Idolatry is associated throughout the Old Testament and the history of the nation of Israel with "high places", where idolatrous worship was carried out "on the high mountains and the hills and under every green tree." (Deuteronomy 12:2).  Furthermore, He instructed all the kings of Israel, both the Northern and Southern kingdoms to "utterly destroy" all the places where these false idols were worshipped.
     Even King David's own son, Solomon, who we are told loved the Lord and followed in the statutes of his father, was tempted to sacrifice and burn incense at the high places (1 Kings 3:3).  This began a tragic pattern, which most assuredly led to the division of the nation of Israel.  All the kings of the Northern Kingdom offered sacrifices on the high places and appointed false priests.  Although the Bible tells us there were righteous kings, such as Asa, who attempted to make reforms and establish Jerusalem as the center of worship, he could not bring himself to destroy the high places.  The result:  the Northern Kingdom was taken into captivity by Assyria and the tribes scattered across the globe.
     The Southern Kingdom did not fare much better.  There were only a handful who got rid of the high places and idols, but they did not get rid of the false basis for worshipping them.  Only two, Hezekiah and Josiah, "utterly destroyed" the high places, and the tribe of Judah eventually was taken into Babylonian captivity for 70 years.  So you see that the leadership of this divided nation was a mixture of what was true and false.  The lesson is clear:  When you begin to depart a little from God's path, you will get farther and farther away from His ways the longer you go in that direction.
     And that brings me back to our current state of affairs in this nation.  Are we examining ourselves to see if we are worshipping idols and setting up "high places" as sacred places or positions?  Has the Constitution become a "high place"?  What about the White House, Congress, or the office of the Presidency?  What about our church buildings, or our doctrine, or our denomination?  Even if we are committed to worshipping the True God, have we made our attendance at the church building every Sunday a "high place"?
     For sure, neither the Constitution or a man called "The President" can deliver us from our idolatrous ways, but for those Americans who do not know YHWH, you can see how easy it would be for them to put their faith in these false idols.  But what about us Christians?
     Every Christian knows Matthew 18:20 by heart:  For where two or more are gathered together in My Name, I am there in the midst of them.  But here's what many don't know ... the Greek word translated "gathered together" is sunago, and its literal meaning is "to be led together".  So a better translation of Scripture would be For where two or more have been led together.... but led by Whom?  The Church has done a pretty good job of teaching us what it means to be born again.  But how many know that their worship is to be led by the Holy Spirit -- not the Sunday school teacher, not the choir, not the Pastor.
     I believe that the true spiritual essence of Matthew 18:20 is Jesus saying His appearance in our midst is not dependent on where two or more are gathered (the church building), but who is leading the gathering (the Holy Spirit)... wherever it may be.  It is not my intention to condemn all church buildings and their inhabitants.  I certainly believe that there are Holy Spirit-led worship services being conducted in church buildings across this nation.  But the emphasis should be on the presence of the Holy Spirit among the gathering, not the gathering being in the presence of a church building.
     When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus, the Church at Corinth, the Church at Ephesus, etc., he was writing to a gathering of people meeting together in someone's home, being led simultaneously by the Holy Spirit in worship of their Lord and Savior -- not to a congregation in a building conducting an organized service of 20 minutes of singing, a 20-minute sermon, and the passing of the collection plate.  So could it be that some Christians have made our modern church building a "high place"; a destination at which they are comfortable with its rituals and sets of rules?  Are we cognizant that God does not authorize any other basis for Christians to come together but the basis of being led by the Holy Spirit into the name of Jesus?  Any other place -- any other basis -- is a "high place".
     Just like the ancient nation of Israel, the United States is in need of serious reformation.  As invested as we may be in the next Presidential election, I do not think that we should be focusing our worship at the "high place" of the Presidency.  But neither will God restore this nation by the simple act of attendance every Sunday at a church building.  The key issue for us, as Christians, is this:  Where has God chosen to put His Name?  The answer is not in a building, nor in a nationality, nor in a denomination, nor in a particular human leader.  God has placed His name in one Person.  That Person is Jesus Christ.
     Where are we authorized to meet?  "Into" the name of Jesus. We are to gather around the invisible Person of Jesus, who meets us when we are led together by the Holy Spirit into His name.  When we, as a nation and individuals, repent of worshipping "high places" of our own choosing, we will remove barriers that have been holding us back from fulfilling our calling as God's people in the world.

Many thanks to the teachings and Biblical commentaries of Derek Prince (1915-2003).  After reading his book, "Pulling Down Strongholds", I found myself applying it to our political process and the modern-day Church.

Leviticus 26:30      "I will destroy your high places [devoted to idolatrous worship], and cut down your incense altars, and heap your dead bodies upon the [crushed] bodies of your idols, and My soul will detest you [with deep and unutterable loathing]."


August 17, 2015

Personal Reflections on Ferguson, One Year Later

     Yesterday, my sister texted me a photo of my nephew, a police officer in St. Louis County, Missouri; a photo that has appeared in countless newspapers.  He is standing with fellow officers in riot gear during a protest in Ferguson, Missouri on the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown -- a death that has polarized that community and all of America.
     It is one thing to view that image as an American concerned over the racial violence that has spread across this nation; and quite another to view the steely gaze of a loved one who is standing for law and order, and putting his life on the line to protect the community and innocent citizens from further destruction.
     I guess I thought as long as I could not distinguish him from among the policemen whose images have become part of the disturbing montage of rioting and mayhem, I could pretend that he was safe and far removed from harm.  But there he was, his eyes and features clearly distinguishable through the glare of the lights on his helmet's safety shield.  He had often texted me not to worry, he wasn't assigned to that area and he was stationed in other parts of the metroplex.  But now I know that to be an effort to calm the fears of his anxious aunt.
     So now the turbulent and unstable state of race relations are up close and personal.  After a long year of turmoil and genuine efforts to change the conditions in Ferguson that led to this point, I am desperately looking for signs that positive change is happening.
     Admittedly, there has always been an uneasy relationship between the citizenry of neighborhoods like Ferguson (and nearby East St. Louis, close to where I spent much of my childhood) and the police, whose job often seemed to be about keeping the violence from spilling over into the surrounding middle class suburbs.  It is easy to blame the disparity between education and job opportunities among the races; all of which seemed to grow worse after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal.
     It has been 51 years since this law was passed.  The Civil Rights Act was declared the most wide-ranging civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, nearly a century prior.  So what happened?  Why are we still seeing the imbalance in education, skills, and upward mobility in the black communities? Why is there still a perception that more crime is committed against blacks by white authority figures,  while statistics are ignored that suggest black on black crime is the primary cause of death among young blacks?  Why, as an article in The National Review points out, do we, as a nation not consider that "the disproportionate criminality among the black population is the reason that the police are deployed in much higher numbers in black neighborhoods, where they are trying to save innocent lives. There are thousands of law-abiding inner-city blacks who live by conventional values and who need protection from criminals. Only the police are willing to provide that protection."  Doesn't that indicate that "black lives matter" to them, too?
This photo of police officers in Trinity, TX went viral
     Are the police perfect?  Of course not!  And there will inevitably be incidents where bad cops prevail, but let me ask you this .... there are honorable black men who become police officers; is it the authority of the police department that is so despised, or just the particular skin color of the officer?  Why are we, in the 21st Century, still judging people by the color of their skin... and why is it this racial prejudice always one-sided?
     I am no social or cultural anthropologist, but it isn't hard for me to see the correlation between the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the subsequent War on Poverty, that introduced the Job Corps and Head Start (both designed to help disadvantaged youth to combat poverty and raise their standard of living), and perhaps the most damaging and divisive legislation of my lifetime -- the Food Stamp Act of 1964.  Does is strike anyone else as antithetical that these two forms of legislation were signed back to back in 1964?
      Were these components of LBJ's dream of a "Great Society" merely empty promises, that were really designed to counter any forward advancement made by the Civil Rights Act?  I know that sounds cynical and conspiratorial, but it just seems odd that at the same time that the disadvantaged segment of our society were given the keys to economic and social equality, they were also given a ball and chain called "Welfare" that enticed them to avoid employment, and kept them indebted to the politicians who controlled those welfare checks.
     And it all leads to Ferguson, Missouri. As Breitbart.com reports, there have been some positive changes .... "The city has a new police chief, a new city manager and a new municipal judge — all blacks who replaced white leaders. All Ferguson officers [now] wear body cameras. The city council has new members, too, several of whom are black. And the business district that was at the center of last year’s sometimes-violent protests is slowly rebuilding."
     It appears that this proud community is engaging with those who govern them, and both sides are listening to each other.  Ferguson's leadership is now reflective of the demographics of the community.  At the time of the Brown shooting, just three of Ferguson’s 53 officers were black. The department now has five African-Americans among a total of 50 officers, including the newly appointed interim chief, and has four budgeted positions still to fill.  Nearby West Florissant Avenue, a scene of pillaging and destruction one year ago, is poised to get $37 million in upgrades. The improvement plan is expected to include bricked sidewalks, bicycle lanes, stylish lampposts and landscaping. Those are the positive signs of change and hope.
     But the prejudice and doubt among the community is harder to transform.  It's going to take more than millions of dollars of cosmetic changes to erase the mistrust.  The peaceful protests of Ferguson residents did not fall on deaf ears, and I pray that continued efforts to heal this damaged city will be successful.  It remains to be seen if outside agitators and those who stand to profit, both politically and socially, will fail in their efforts to make the race division permanent.
     One year later, some progress has been made -- and while the peace is holding, it is not guaranteed.  I pray that Ferguson can become a model for other cities who sincerely want to see improvement in race relations, and foster mutual respect between law enforcement and the community.  As a nation, it is imperative that we succeed in this mission.  And as a concerned aunt, I would like to be able to sleep better at night.

Romans 12:9-10    "Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;"

August 8, 2015

For What It's Worth ... My Debate Analysis

     As I stated on Thursday, I don't really expect the 2016 Presidential election to miraculously change the trajectory of this nation.  I think the writing is on the wall... the global elite are inching us closer to the One World Government prophesied in the Bible, and the sovereignty of our country is being swallowed up in multilateral treaties, detrimental trade agreements, and conciliatory weapons deals with terrorist States.  We are too far in debt, morally bankrupt, and willing to sell even our own land to foreign interests just to make a buck.  I'm not sure that one man, or woman, can make a difference at this point.
     Yet I was one of the 24,000,000 people who tuned in to the Republican Primary Debate, perhaps hoping that I would see some sign from God that He's changed His mind about letting us reap the rewards of our sinful ways... not that we don't deserve whatever is in our future.  However, I didn't receive any heavenly vision, and none of the men on the stage threw down a staff that turned into a serpent and exclaimed "Follow Me!"; but I did make some interesting observations:
•  Let's start with the elephant in the room ... Donald Trump.  It seemed quite apparent from the opening salvo, that the Fox News moderators had their marching orders:  attack Trump.  They tried to make him look divisive by pointing out that if he runs as a Third Party candidate, it will most likely split the vote, and hand the victory to the Democratic Party.  The intent was clear ... marginalize him.
     In an attempt to point out his perceived arrogance and, possibly, to alienate the female vote, Megyn Kelly did a pretty good job of showing off her own ego and conceit.  It was apparent that she dislikes Trump, and by repeating some of his alleged name-calling of women, she came off as unprofessional and vitriolic.  I wonder who gave her that assignment?
     But in the end, the Donald gave a good show -- and it was just that, a show.  He gave no substantial solutions to America's problems, and no definitive answers to how he would run the country.  The rhetoric was eloquent and forceful, but I never heard how he would accomplish his lofty goals. Unfortunately, by the results of the exit polls, there are still millions of Americans who are enamored with his politically incorrect attacks against the Washington establishment.  I would at least hope that if these people are planning on voting, they will take a little more time to consider that he's merely tapping in to the frustration in the country, and look beyond the sound bite to see if there is any substance to him.  It's hard for me not to wonder if somehow he's figured out how to profit from all this showmanship.  And I'm still not convinced he's not the fox in the hen house (if you know what I mean).
•  I found it interesting who was asked repeated questions, and who must have been chomping at the bit, wondering if they were going to be allowed to take an active part in this debate.  One such candidate was Ben Carson, and I found him refreshing and a decidedly non-Washington contender.  He would obviously need some schooling on the duties of the President, but he kind of reminds me of the citizen-servant in that old Jimmy Stewart movie, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  He is suggestive of the original intention of our Founders that normal citizens would get involved in serving in our government for selfless reasons; not to enrich themselves.
     I was extremely impressed with his heartfelt closing statement; that he would "pick up the baton of freedom, because freedom is not free, and we must fight for it every day. Every one of us must fight for it, because we’re fighting for our children and the next generation."
•  I liked Ted Cruz's ideas, but not his delivery.  The endless pauses drove me crazy ... too coached, and too unnatural.  I've read that he was the best debater in law school, and that's what I felt I was watching -- a debate team competition.  Just talk to me, Ted ... let go of your "debate mode" and have a conversation with me.
•  Rand Paul seemed to have a "small man complex", pouncing on the other candidates (especially Chris Christie, who was just too much of a politician).  We get it, Rand.  You want us to see you as "a different kind of Republican" -- the one who will not cower from standing tall for the American people; which is something the Republican Party has lacked throughout the last 8 years.  But it came across a little too caustic.
•  Jeb Bush seemed dazed and confused; doesn't have the killer instinct of his big brother.
•  John Kasich shows promise and held his own; Mike Huckabee was a smooth talker (the consummate politician); sailed through any real scrutiny of his endorsement of Common Core; and Scott Walker handled the land mines laid out for him on his former position on abortion without missing a step.
•  Marco Rubio was the pleasant surprise of the night for me.  Always articulate, he looked like a statesman; like someone who would be proud of representing this country, and someone I could be proud of.  He still remembers what it was like to live paycheck to paycheck, and to owe massive student loans; yet he's been a quick learner of how to deal with Washington politics.  The real question remains... is he for real?  Can he resist the pressure that will (or has been) put on him to "play ball" with the puppet masters?
      Of all the candidates who invoked God that night, his remarks touched me the most. Not that I felt the others were insincere, but Rubio acknowledged that this nation has been extraordinarily blessed.  And you could hear the emotion in his voice when he said, "[we need to] pass a law in this country that says all human life at every stage of its development is worthy of protection.  In fact, I think that law already exists. It is called the Constitution of the United States... And let me go further. I believe that every single human being is entitled to the protection of our laws, whether they can vote or not. Whether they can speak or not. Whether they can hire a lawyer or not. Whether they have a birth certificate or not. And I think future generations will look back at this history of our country and call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies who we never gave them a chance to live."
     There was so much more to this debate that I haven't even mentioned.... immigration, the economy, our veterans and the VA, the tax code; over-regulation and small business, just to name a few.  There wasn't a real loser in the bunch, as far as being able to present a confident and impassioned strength.  The field was strong and they're ready for the opposition.  It was almost enough to give me hope that we still stand a chance with the right man in office.  It was almost enough to make me think this election still matters and that the process will be fair and honest.... almost.  There is a lot that can happen in the next 15 months, and only God knows what the outcome will be.  I just pray He will be merciful.

Psalm 33:12     "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage!"