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

Showing posts with label Values. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Values. Show all posts

March 29, 2023

American Values: Gone Forever or Just Forgotten?


"These are the times that try men's souls". That is the opening sentence of "The American Crisis", a series of pamphlets written by Thomas Paine, a political activist, theorist, and philosopher, long credited with inspiring the Founding Fathers to strive for independence from Great Britain. Later in this post, I will be referring to this amazing piece of historical and inspirational writing as it pertains to our American values, which is the point of this timely article. 

[NOTE: I know there will be some who disavow Paine's writings because history has painted him as an unbelieving atheist. But, it is my opinion that a more careful examination of his ideology proves that Paine was a Deist -- he believed in God, but had no tolerance for organized religion. And that is a discussion for a different day. For the purpose of this article, I am revealing his ideas on American values]. 

Now to the purpose of this post, to consider the recent Wall Street Journal poll that bodes poorly for the future of our national identity and well-being. The numbers are startling! Since the 1998 poll was taken it seems that the core values of American citizens have plummeted in the last quarter century. In just 25 years there has been a dramatic shift in what is important to the average American. There were 1,019 people who took part in the poll [mostly online] and let's take a look at what the numbers portend ...

• The importance of patriotism dropped from 70% in 1998 to 38% in 2023.

• The importance of religion dropped from 62% in 1998 to 39% now.

• Only 58% thought tolerance for others was important, compared to 80% in 1998.

• Those who thought raising children was important fell from 60% in 1998 to only 30% today.

But guess the only thing that was rated more important today than it was 25 years ago? If you guessed MONEY, you are correct. Apparently 43% rate the almighty dollar the most important value, in contrast to 31% in 1998. 

First of all, I'd like to address a couple of these statistics; namely, the tolerance issue and the matter of the importance of family and raising children. To me, both of these issues point to the injurious aftermath of Roe v Wade fifty years prior to this March 2023 poll. There is an excellent article on the Students For Life of America website which actually offers hope for the future of our nation. In an article on studentsforlife.org, SFLA President Kristan Hawkins is quoted as calling the 1973 ruling a “cancer growing in our Constitution resulting in more than 63 million deaths,”; but we know that it was a cancer for the American mind, as well. 

The article goes on to say that in the wake of the 2022 Dobbs v Jackson ruling [in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that the Constitution of the United States does not confer a right to abortion] we, as a nation have to overcome the established pro-abortion mindset that views children as "burdensome", an impediment to women's success, and devalues the concept of family -- all of which leads to intolerance towards those who cherish the role of motherhood, family, and children. All of these pro-abortion attitudes are anti-Biblical and the consequence of removing God as the center of our American values. The questions before us are these: Is it too late to restore the values that were conceived at the inception of our nation? Do we even remember the spirit of America that God put into the hearts of those men and women 247 years ago?

To answer these questions, maybe it's time to put on the brakes of running headlong towards these social reforms and take a look backwards at the mindset of those who petitioned for the new idea of a nation devoted to pursuing individual freedoms and rights conferred by God. In particular, I found myself considering the aforementioned brilliant writings of Thomas Paine. Please take the time to read the entirety of The American Crisis, presented by thefederalistpapers.org. I have read all thirteen of Paine's pamphlets because I wanted to know the mindset of those who were responsible for the birth of this extraordinary nation. But for now, in his own words, I want to share the distinctive mindset of the incomparable Thomas Paine, as he speaks across the centuries to our current decline in American values...

In regards to Patriotism:  "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: It is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated". 

"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscious approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death".

In regards to morality: "I conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America". 

In regards to valuing God and faith: Paine once declared to a man who was loyal to Great Britain that it was his opinion that God was on the side of the American colonists. The Loyalist replied, "We care nothing for that ... you may have Him, and welcome; if we have but enough of the devil on our side, we shall do". Paine responded, "However carelessly this might be spoken, matters not; 'tis still the insensible principle that directs all your conduct and will at last most assuredly deceive and ruin you".

In regards to Peace, Liberty and Safety of our nation: "These are serious things, and whatever a foolish tyrant, a debauched court, a trafficking legislature, or a blinded people may think, the national account with heaven must some day or other be settled; all countries sooner or later [have] been called to their reckoning; the proudest empires have sunk when the balance was struck;".

In regards to tolerance: "We profess liberality of sentiment to all men; with this distinction only, that those who do not deserve it would become wise and seek to deserve it. We hold the pure doctrines of universal liberty of conscience, and conceive it our duty to endeavor to secure that sacred right to others, as well as to defend it for ourselves: for we undertake not to judge of the religious rectitude of tenets, but leave the whole matter to Him who made us".

In regards to Money: "The thing which first presents itself in inspecting the state of the currency, is, that we have too much of it, and that there is a necessity of reducing the quantity, in order to increase the value. Men are daily growing poor by the very means that they take to get rich; for in the same proportion that the prices of all goods on hand are raised, the value of all money laid by is reduced". [Paine understood the source of Inflation in 1777. Why haven't we learned that lesson yet?]

Yes, we live in a very different nation than was founded in 1776. The solid values that formed the framework of America remained pretty steady and constant for a couple hundred years. But the rapid rate at which it has declined in my lifetime should be concerning to everyone who identifies as an American. Patriotism, Faith/Religion, Family and Children have been the bedrock of our society, and for good reason -- they provide a supportive framework for a moral, ethical, and principled citizenry. When, as a nation, we don't believe in God, the goodness of our country, or the sanctity of life, and our biggest focus is on the making of money, then we have lost our moral code and compass, and we are a nation who has sacrificed its values for self-aggrandizement. 

I will leave you with the prophetic words of Thomas Paine; words written in the waning years of the 1780's and could have been written for our generation: "Now our time and turn is come, and perhaps the finishing stroke is reserved for us. When we look back on the dangers we have been saved from, and reflect on the success we have been blessed with, it would be sinful either to be idle or to despair". 

Lord Jesus, do not let us forfeit the purpose for which You sent us in this season of our nation's history. Increase our faith and strength to accomplish the preservation of the values You sowed into our spirits and which birthed the great nation of the United States of America. Let us be worthy of what we've inherited. Amen!

#americanvalues #patriotism #faithinamerica #theamericancrisis #thomaspaine

Psalm 33:12   Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His own inheritance.





August 21, 2020

Culture Wars: Straight Out Of Satan's Playbook... Again!


     You've heard me say multiple times that Satan uses the same tactics over and over through the centuries. Why? Because they keep working! Mankind never seems to learn the lessons. Because of God's mercy and grace, if there is a remnant that recognizes the Enemy's strategy and repents and truly seeks righteousness, there will be a revival or movement that sets mankind back on course. But I'm beginning to wonder if we've run out of reset opportunities as I watch the world careening toward escalating chaos.

     The violence in the streets is getting worse. The hearts of men are growing colder. When you can beat a man and kick him in the head, knocking him unconscious, and then brag about it on social media, and the major news outlets refuse to report it, then I fear we have crossed into a new and deeper sphere of wickedness and lawlessness. 

     The mainstream media likes to dumb things down to keep secret the hidden agendas of those who seek to control the world by manipulation and unscrupulous control/influence. So they use terms like "culture wars" and "systemic racism" and "social justice warrior". They try to identify and define the changing morals in the world by using these coined phrases, but it's just a repeat of Satan's plan to dominate mankind and the world.

     According to Dictionary.com. the term "culture war" refers to "a cultural conflict between social groups and the struggle for dominance of their values, beliefs, and practices. It commonly refers to topics on which there is general societal disagreement and polarization in societal values is seen." In Biblical terms, that means there is a conflict between God's values and Satan's; a conflict between morality and immorality; and a conflict between righteousness and lawlessness. Those in the media and politics would have us believe that one side is being unjustly treated, therefore they have a right to use anything within their means to get what they want and equality. The end justifies the means, as long as you play the social injustice card. In other words, violence is permitted to atone for real [or perceived] ill-treatment, regardless of personal responsibility.

     But my purpose is not to debate whether injustice has been carried out against any social group, or whether violence should be stopped at any cost. I want us to realize that division within a nation has been a popular [and successful] tool of the Enemy. Currently there are conflicts and clashes between Black Americans and White Americans; between Republicans and Democrats; between Fascists and Marxists; between Believers and non-Believers. But these conflicts are nothing new. From the very beginning of time, a "culture war" was created in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose to follow Satan's temptation and believed his lie that God's value system and culture was contrary to their best interests. That clash between values can be seen throughout history.

     You have the clash between Cain and Abel; between the Fallen Angels and mankind in Genesis 6; between the nation of Israel and the pagan nations; between Jesus and the Pharisees/Sadducees; between the Jews and Gentiles; between Christians and Muslims in the Crusades; between Jews and Arabs today... the list can go on and on. All serve Satan's purpose to cause division and chaos in the world. We can even see the culture war that destroyed the ancient nation of Israel -- resulting in both the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern (Judah) eventually being taken into captivity because they abandoned the values of God and disobeyed His commandments. 

     The kingdom of Israel fell into apostasy and worshiped false gods and adopted the rituals and belief systems of Baal. Heavier taxes on the people and the abandonment of  Jerusalem as the home of the House of the Lord, in favor of two golden calves to submit sacrifices to [one placed in Bethel and one in Dan], led to the eventual capture by the Assyrians and the disbursement of the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom across the globe. The southern kingdom and the people of Judah "did evil in the sight of the Lord. They provoked Him to jealousy more than all that their fathers had done, with their sins which they had committed. For they also built for themselves high places [to worship idols] and sacred pillars and Asherim poles [for the goddess Asherah]. These were on every high hill and under every luxuriant tree. There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They committed all the repulsive acts of the nations which the Lord dispossessed before the Israelites" (1 Kings 14:22-24).  

     Can we say that our nation has sinned any less? Abortion, same-sex marriage, human trafficking, child porn, greed, corruption, idolatry with false gods -- all are against God's values and His commandments and the culture of Heaven. Are we any less deserving to be taken into captivity? 

     The Enemy is bolder than I've ever seen him. Is it because he has been so successful in tempting hearts away from God? Or has man willingly chosen to disobey God's commands to serve his ultimate god ... himself? And I know we, the remnant, see clearly the machinations of the Evil One, and some of us may be getting weary. But we cannot take a break from these "culture wars"; we cannot let our guard down. We are engaged in a very real war; one that will decide the destinies of many people on earth. We cannot relinquish the field of battle to the Enemy. 

     We must remain stalwart and unwavering in our purpose -- to bring the Kingdom of God to bear against the kingdom of darkness. The culture war in our nation right now is increasing and becoming more violent and resistant to the Lord and to our presence. But we do not fight alone! The King of kings and the Lord of lords is fighting with us! He has told us to occupy territory until He returns. We must stand our ground and fight back alongside the Heavenly Host. The war is being hotly contested from both sides and we cannot give an inch. And we can't escape this war, even if we want to -- we are here for a reason in this season of the history of the world. We must remember that God is sovereign over the kings and the kingdoms of the earth. The Enemy will be defeated! The victory is already the Lord's! But until He comes with His army of angels, we represent the Light in this present darkness. Let's hold the line!

 1 Chronicles 29:11   Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all.



November 10, 2017

Are You A Sinner or A Saint?

     This question really makes you stop and think, doesn't it?  I have to admit that when my husband, Mark, posited it to me, my immediate thought was, "Well, of course, I am a sinner.  There was only one human being who wasn't, and that is Jesus".  But then, I hesitated, and thought, "Wait a minute, but how does my Lord see me?  Isn't that my true identity"?
     If you scour the internet, you will find a wide variety of opinions ... some theologians and Bible teachers will call Christians sinners; while others declare we are all saints; and yet others try to walk the line and call us both saint and sinner.  But I wanted to definitively know in my heart what I believed, and the only resource that mattered to me was the Bible.  So, I began my quest to determine who I am ... sinner or saint.
     In a sense, all human beings, as a category, are sinners because we are born in sin.  So, it is not difficult to think of ourselves as sinners because we know we are capable of sinning. But when we take a look at the word "saint" in the original Greek (hagios) it is used to designate all believers or people set apart for the Lord and His Kingdom.  It is not used to typify those Christians of exceptional holiness, or those who have gone on to be with the Lord in heaven, but rather any and all who are reborn into a new identity.
     And Scripture backs this up in 2 Thessalonians 1:10, which reads, "... when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day [that is, glorified through the changed lives of those who have accepted Him as Savior and have been set apart for His purpose], and to be marveled at among all who have believed...".  
     Now, there will always be those Christians who don't see themselves as this new creation called "saint" and want to cling to their old identity.  They will tell you that if we don't still see ourselves as sinners, then what value does the Cross have to us?  My answer to that is simple: the Cross is the reason that my identity has changed from sinner to saint; it is the catalyst that transformed me. Did not the Apostle Paul say, "If any man is in Christ he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new."
     True, Paul called himself "the foremost of sinners" in 1 Timothy 1:15.  But, as is often the case, we tend to read Scripture out of context. A more careful study shows that he is referring to his former self, i.e., the "old Paul" rather than the new one.  And that may be why he tends to refer to the readers of his letters as "saints" to remind them of who they are, and who they have been called to be.  And that is an important distinction.
     "Saint" is both a description and a calling of the Christian. This is made very clear in Paul's letter to the Corinthians: "To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified (set apart, made holy) in Christ Jesus, who are selected and called as saints (God’s people), together with all those who in every place call on and honor the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours...".
     To be a sinner is to be separated from God, with no relationship.  But Scripture tells us in Ephesians 2,  that "through Him we have a [direct] way of approach in one Spirit to the Father".  When we are reborn we enter into a new relationship with our Creator, and we are"fellow citizens with the saints (God’s people), and are [members] of God’s household".  We now identify as a saint!
     But what about the times we hurt others with our sins?  How can we possibly think of ourselves as a saint then?  That is where repentance comes in.  With this act of confession and asking God for forgiveness, we show a new nature that is in relationship with God; a new nature that is growing towards the image of Christ -- and which definitely is not the nature of a sinner.
     So, after all this discussion, and back and forth, how do you view yourself?  Are you a saved sinner, or a sinning saint?  I will tell you how I have determined this question for myself... I know I am a Christian who is growing in holiness, while still struggling with sin in my life.  But that is the old nature that is still trying to control me.  I KNOW I am a new creation.  I KNOW I have been called to a special purpose and called to be holy because God is holy.  And I know Jesus is the ultimate picture of saint.  I also know that when we are saved, we are identified with Christ by grace through faith.  And I believe that my faith in Christ radically changes not only my identity and my walk, but how God sees me.  He no longer sees a broken vessel, but a renewed and restored receptacle of His grace and mercy.  How can that be labeled a sinner?  From now on, I will only answer to the name Saint. So, I ask my original question to you ... Are you a sinner or a saint?

 1 Corinthians 6:11   And such were some of you [before you believed]. But you were washed [by the atoning sacrifice of Christ], you were sanctified [set apart for God, and made holy], you were justified [declared free of guilt] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the [Holy] Spirit of our God [the source of the believer’s new life and changed behavior]. 

January 7, 2016

Our Nation Is In Danger

     It seems that most of the people I know sense that 2016 is going to be a watershed year; a turning point towards massive change.  The question is... will it be a change that will better our lives, or changes that finally drive us over the cliff?
Graham on his "Decision America 2016" tour
     I must say that I have to agree with the sentiments that I am hearing from Franklin Graham, the 63-year-old son of Billy Graham, the most renowned Christian evangelical preacher of the last seven decades.  As Graham says, we all instinctively know that our country is "in big-time trouble".  He says, "We’re in trouble spiritually. We’re in trouble economically. We’re in trouble racially."  Who can deny that?  Even if you are an American who agrees with our cultural swing towards abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism, you cannot deny that the racial divide in this country is snowballing and the job prospects for the next generation(s) are not looking good.  As a nation, we are becoming fractured and are in danger of splitting beyond repair.
     Unfortunately, the answer to our troubles will not be found in politics, and specifically in neither major political party.  We have a spiritual problem, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.  In fact, just as Graham expressed at a recent rally, "The moral and political walls of our country are crumbling... Our educators and our politicians and our churches seem, many times, to be more concerned about political correctness than God’s Truth and Righteousness."
     Graham points to Godlessness as the culprit.  He points out that our nation was built on Biblical principles, and we have strayed from them -- and he especially identifies the time period after WW II and the successful battle to defeat the threat of Communism.  But I believe the spirit of Godlessness began far earlier than that.  And if you ask my husband, he will tell you that he believes that from the beginning, the Founders didn't do enough to establish this as a God-fearing nation; allowing Freemasonry to co-exist alongside Christian values in shaping the foundation and direction of our country.
     This is a different topic for a different day -- actually tomorrow, I will attempt to examine this paradox further.  But let me just wrap up this point by saying my personal view is that God intended for this nation to be dedicated to Him; and those who first settled here believed that they were doing so as part of a covenantal relationship with God, and with clear intentions to glorify Him in the advancement of the Christian faith.  The fact that it quickly got off track does not negate the original plan.  But more on that tomorrow... back to the appropriateness of Franklin Graham's call to action.
     He asserts that it is time Christians get in the game; to run for office, to vote, to pray for our country, and to get involved in our education system, and every avenue of society.  “Our job as Christians is to make the impact of Christ felt in every phase of life—religious, social, economic, and political,” Graham continued.  I agree!  Where are the Christians who are willing to declare and live their faith as mayors, city council members, county commissioners, judges, school board presidents?
     In fact, in an attempt to overcome the growing secular mindset of this nation, Graham has gone so far as to prevail upon all Americans to take a pledge honoring God at home (by living biblical principles through marriage), in public (by standing for biblical principles and serving those in need), and with their vote (by supporting candidates who uphold biblical principles).  He also asks Christian Americans to pray fervently and faithfully for America, agreeing to register to vote and to prayerfully consider running for office.
     While I agree that if every Christian in America was faithful to fulfill all the aspects of this pledge, we would begin to see a difference in the cultural and political spheres of our nation, I believe that our commission from the Lord goes beyond these measures.
     At a recent discussion in the awesome Ladies Bible Study that I attend, the subject came up of discipling Christians; that, as the Church, we Christians don't do enough to guide and counsel new members of the faith in the way of Godly living --- which, I think we would all agree, would greatly strengthen the Church.  But I would to add to that my fervent belief that we need to not only educate, encourage, and strengthen the Church; but we need to introduce those outside the Church  -- those "of the world" -- about Godly living and their need for a Savior.  THAT is how we change and revive our nation!  I contend that it is precisely because we Christians have tended to concentrate our efforts inside the four walls of the Church that our nation and the world has gotten into such a big mess.
     My husband and I have been meeting and talking with several people in our home who are like-minded about the state of the world, and have expressed their innate sense that they need to get right with God in the midst of this chaos.  But they would never have been comfortable in approaching a church; nor would the church have had any viable way of coming into contact with them... the two groups were on isolated and parallel paths, and were never going to intersect.
     If we are going to truly avert the dangerous course this nation is set upon, we Christians must engage with the world.  We must leave our comfort zones and "church bubbles", as a good friend of mine describes it, and be bold in sharing our faith in every circumstance and to every person, in order to attract those who "sitting the fence" and who are capable of making a decision for God.  We all know that there are those who have committed their lives to evil or whose spirit is just dead within them; they have no desire for God.
     But I promise you there are millions who long for Him, but just don't know how to go about it, or who feel they might be embarrassed in a "formal" Church setting, so they never pursue it on their own.  It is up to us to pursue them!  We are all spirit beings, and as we grow closer in our spirits to the Lord, we will be able to discern those whose spirits are in need of Him, and we will be drawn to them.  Just think ... if every Christian made it his pledge to God to seek after one lost sheep to bring them into the fold ... can you envision how that would begin to change this nation?
     So, I applaud Franklin Graham for his efforts to wake up America to our shared plight.  Our fall cannot be fixed politically or by political correctness.  BUT, we can begin to turn towards God and blaze a new trail of American commitment to our Creator.  It's time we take that path ... we MUST take that path... before it is too late!  C'mon, Christians ... get in the fight, because we are in a battle for our nation and the eternal lives of millions!

Isaiah 6:8      And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”


September 11, 2015

If We Could Erase Time...

     How many remember exactly where you were fourteen years ago this morning?  Every American over the age of 25 most likely has a distinct memory of that tragic day ... the ash-colored faces of panicking people rushing to escape the falling Towers behind them; the grief-stricken families wandering the streets of New York City in the aftermath, holding photos of their loved ones and hoping beyond hope that someone would tell them their son/daughter/father/mother/spouse had been spotted among the injured; the images of NYC firefighters atop mountains of rubble continuing to do their jobs after 343 of their comrades died trying to rescue those trapped in the buildings.
     Sadly, there is a generation of children growing up who don't remember; and for most of them, this all seems like ancient history.  They have lived their entire lives in the effects, results, and consequences of that horrific day, yet they have no emotional connection to the nearly 3,000 Americans who perished that day.  And there are the peripheral statistics:  the documented 863 firefighters and ambulance workers with cancers certified as relating to their work on September 11 2001 (although Mount Sinai Hospital's World Trade Center Health Program -- which is run for police officers, construction workers, sanitation staff and other New York City employees and volunteers -- reports it is treating 1,655 patients with cancer out of the 37,000 who worked at the site of the 9/11 attacks).
     And we mustn't forget the nearly 6,650 Americans who have died in the ensuing Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, along with the more than 50,000 wounded troops -- 16,000 of them so seriously that they would certainly have died had they suffered an equivalent wound in any prior conflict.  It has been suggested that nearly 1/5 of all military personnel who served in the Middle East since 9/11 suffer from some form of PTSD.
     All this is the aftermath of that terrible day.  Is there any remnant of what we used to be before?  And how many of us would like to turn back the clock and live in a simpler America; one less adorned with the complexities of what modern America has become, and in a way that is reminiscent of bygone days?  Unfortunately, we can't erase time, but I'm happy to say that my Godson, Hunter, is able to experience a piece of that picturesque Americana.
     You see, Hunter will be six years old this fall, and he just started Kindergarten at Pine Creek School in Montana.  This small, rural school is similar to the old one-room school house; although in reality, it consists of three rooms.  Kindergarten through Second Grade comprise one room, and Grades 3-5 and 6-8 take up class in the other two rooms.  This year Hunter is one of only 4 Kindergartners, and there are no 8th Graders for the 2015-16 school year.
     The original Pine Creek School held its first class in 1893, and the school building was made of logs.  It has been updated and upgraded in the years since.  Up until the 1950’s there was an outhouse, no running water, a wood burning stove, and kerosene lamps for light.  Sometime in the 50's the school acquired a well, bathrooms in the basement, electricity, and finally an oil burning furnace, which was a blessing till it belched and covered the schoolrooms in soot.
     While Pine Creek School is the picture postcard of a rural school from a bygone era, it is thriving in 21st Century America.   Even though there are only three teachers, plus some part time professionals, it functions as a modern K-8 education system.  As of 2014, Pine Creek School has ten top-of-the-line, i7,  all-in-one,  touch screen computers with a dedicated internet connection, along with iPads and laptops, as well as a collegiate connection in educational technology.
     Pine Creek may be a throwback to earlier rural education models, but it is co-developing curriculum and implementing the Next Generation Science Standards with the current Montana Science standards, and working with the Montana Outdoor Science School.   This small rural school is determined to navigate into a leadership role in educating its students in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM).
     Yet Hunter will have the old-fashioned benefits that many city-educated kids will never know.  Learning in a classroom with older kids, I suspect he will be motivated and challenged by listening to the older kids studying their lessons.  If he excels beyond his grade level, he will be seamlessly integrated into the lesson plans for the higher grades.  Likewise, if a fellow student can't quite keep up, he will be allowed to continue studying with the lower grades until he becomes academically proficient for that grade's requirements.  In this manner, students are not overtly singled out as being smarter or slower than others.  They all work at the pace they can accomplish, and receive individual attention by the teacher(s).
     But here's the part I really love .... each morning the entire school gathers on the playground and faces the flag.  They place their hand over their heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance together.  They say "one nation under God" (although Hunter says, "one nation under Jesus and God"), and they do it with pride and conviction.  There's no room for political correctness at Pine Creek School!
     Each day Hunter and the other kids go outside to play at recess, and they are already forming a community... the older kids looking out for the younger, and all of them sharing a unique identity associated with this rare and exceptional experience.  Most of the kids come from surrounding ranches and the rural countryside, and I suspect there won't be any concerns about disrespect towards each other or the teachers.  In fact, Hunter's teacher has already commented to his mom that she was delighted when Hunter answered "Please" and "Yes, Ma'am" on his first day of school.
     The principal reported that Hunter was "polite, and interested in the environment and the safety of the other kids".  (His mom and I laughed about that because we know that he is as rough and tumble as they come, and there might be future calls from the principal that relate to another side of this thoroughly rowdy ranch kid).  But at least I don't think that this school system will try to change who he is.  I am thrilled (and a little jealous) that Hunter is able to experience this nearly extinct chapter in American education.  As I worry about the level of education that our kids are getting in the modern school system, I know that Hunter is getting the best ... an educational experience that is suited to his curious and demanding mind; a respect for what it means to be an American citizen; and the kinds of friendships that will last for a lifetime.
     We mustn't forget the significance of this historic day.  It is burned into the souls of Americans who lived the nightmare that was 9/11.  I pray that Hunter will not have to experience any thing close to that tragedy, but no matter what lies ahead of him, he will have a foundation built on the historic values of one-room school houses and those who attended them before him.  He is inheriting the philosophy of the one-room schoolhouse, which stressed family involvement.  It stressed helping one another, and there was a sense of belonging to one place, and "this is our place."  We can't turn back time, no matter how much we care to.  September 11, 2001 stripped away much of our nation's innocence, but it's nice to know that there are still oases where our traditional values are still honored and appreciated.  And for that, I'm grateful this day.

2 Thessalonians 2:15:  "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter."

May 23, 2015

Scientists and Sin: What They Don't Understand

     In light of yesterday's post, I just want to point out the obvious.  Now that the futurists and scientists are gleefully clapping their hands over the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a powerful possibility for the human race, they are contemplating a new reality and philosophical question ... what if AI decides to turn on its creators; and can it be pre-programmed to make moral and ethical decisions?  Will it be responsible for its actions?
     Hmmm, don't those considerations sound, well, distinctly "human"?  Is the Intelligentsia unknowingly coming into conflict with what we Christians innately know as flaws in our human nature ... Sin?  Could it be that even if they are able to create a "being" that is as much computer as it is human, they cannot escape the inevitable sins that serve to endanger the existence of not only the created robots, but their human creators, as well?
     Secularists and Scientists and Skeptics, through medicine and philosophy, have tried to cure humanity of the pesky reality called "sin" for several generations now.  Moral relativism and Atheism have done their best to convince society that God is unnecessary, and we are capable of managing ourselves and plotting our own future.  Just in the last 100 years, we have had two World Wars, countless regional conflicts, and at least 7 attempted genocides resulting in nearly 18,000,000 deaths  (Armenians in Turkey; Stalin's forced famine; the Japanese atrocities at Nanking; the Nazi Holocaust; Pol Pot in Cambodia; Rwanda; and Bosnia-Herzegovina) ... so how has that worked for us?  Do they really think if they create drones that can decide for themselves when to pull the trigger, that it will result in a better outcome?  Or that they can avoid that annoying certainty called "death" by developing ways to isolate our brains from our decaying bodies?  If they only knew how disdainfully their Creator looks upon their schemes.
     There is no better description of the vanity of man and the depravity of human nature, than that described by David in the Bible:  The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?  (Psalm 1-4).
     Yet, it is amazing to me how safe and secure these small "c" creators feel in their godless world.  They do not see their wickedness, their folly, or the danger they are in.  They are what the Bible calls "workers of iniquity".  As the noted theologian Matthew Henry describes them:  "they design it, they practice it, and take as much pleasure in it as ever any man did in his business."  They refuse to acknowledge the role God plays in His Universe, and their view of themselves as superior in the knowledge of what the future holds, only serves to showcase their blind and selfish motivations, as well as their utter foolishness. They mock God and they have no idea of the eternal danger in which they have placed their souls.
     But wait ... they aren't interested in "souls", are they?  After all, they are trying to redesign human existence and remove the "spirit" component from the human mind/body/spirit bond, which was made in God's image.  Yet, they will one day learn that those who refuse to fear God will reap the rewards of their folly.  They, who refused to admit His existence; who saw themselves above His Righteous Judgment and Sovereignty, and felt capable of creating their own eternity, will stand in awe and abject terror at what their pride has cost them.  Oh, they will experience eternity, alright -- it just won't be where, or when, or how they convinced themselves it would be.

Proverbs 17:24    "The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth."


April 10, 2015

What's Missing?

     If you are like me, you eye each new announced candidacy for the President of the United States with suspicion.  The latest self-proclaimed "Savior" of our nation is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.  There was a time when all that he promised in his announcement speech would have resonated with me ...  He's for a government restrained by the Constitution.  He wants to eliminate the national debt that "threatens not just our economy, but our security".  He employed all the buzz words that used to ignite my patriotic soul ... privacy, opportunity, liberty, justice, and freedom.
     He was bold in his willingness to actually name our foreign enemy as radical Islam; and he is a proponent of a national defense that is "unparalleled, undefeatable, and unencumbered by overseas nation-building" (there's a nod to his Libertarian base).  I am in total agreement with him when he says it angers him "to see mobs burning our flag and chanting 'Death to America' in countries that receive millions of dollars in foreign aid."
     As a patriotic American, I find no fault in any of these statements.  I believe his stance on all these positions to be in alignment with my own.   But the positions that are important to me as a Christian stand above my nationalistic leanings.  I don't know -- maybe it's because I am so ready to be in God's system rather than this world's system ... [but since I am stuck here in the world], there are "issues" that are more important than the success of our economy or national defense.  And, on these positions, I heard nothing from the good Senator.
     At the top of that list, I would like to know what his opinions would be, as President, on such issues as the Sanctity of Life; my freedom to worship my God; the preservation of the Biblical model of marriage and family; how he views the Nation of Israel; and it would have been nice to hear any kind of statement about his personal faith.  The answers to those questions will go a long way in determining if he is the man I wish to govern my nation.  Yet, he was silent on all these issues.  And perhaps, worse still, he is already dodging questions in the media on how he would regard exceptions to abortions.  All the "rah-rah America" speeches in the world amount to nothing if I do not know the man's heart on issues that matter to God.
     In case you can't tell, I am longing more for my heavenly home, and becoming more cynical about this temporary residence on earth.  I see the hand-writing on the wall ... this Age of humanity is declining at a furious pace.  On one hand, we are racing to annihilate each other.  On the other hand, we are recklessly and rapidly seeking to become immortal by integrating what God made in His image with machines.  How can a political election really have any saving grace for us?
     You see, for all the patriotic fervor that we will experience during the next two years, we Americans would be better off to concentrate on where we will spend our eternal citizenship.  Remember, if we call ourselves Christians, we are not of this world.  The problem is that our patriotism can become a pseudo-religion, and takes our eyes off God and our real role on this earth ... to bring others out of this world system and into relationship with Christ.
     Yes, we must live in this world -- but not be "of the world".  And, yes, there will be a man elected to lead our nation in the fall of 2016.  Whether he will be a man that is pleasing to God, remains to be seen.  But I am discovering that my zeal as an American is being replaced with a passion to live my life as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  Don't get me wrong -- I am still patriotic; I love my country. But in these days, I am more inclined to be a loyal-to-the-death defender of God's traditions and values.  And that is what I would love to see mirrored in my nation's leaders.

John 17:15-17     "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth."

March 10, 2015

Where Are We Headed?

     I don't know if you can identify, but there are days that it just seems too much ... too much to cope with; too much to look at; and too much to bear.  I never would have imagined that I would see such public displays of barbarity-- crucifixions, beheadings, mass murders -- as I have seen coming from religious fanatics in the Middle East.  Nor could I have imagined people losing their businesses because of their religious faith in this country; or the very image of who we are as a country turned upside down.  Everything from our ability to make a living, to feeling free to express our faith, to our right to speak out against injustices is now at stake.
     I read ridiculous stories of women losing their gym memberships because of violating a "no judgment policy" for complaining of having to share a restroom with a transgender man.  Then there are all the really serious stories of the breakdown in ethics, morality, and human dignity -- and it is happening in all spheres of our existence; from our governing bodies, to our schools, to our personal lives.  It's as if there are no longer any rules; anything goes, as long as you don't get caught! And tolerance is the byword of the culture -- unless you disagree with their agenda.
     Open up any newspaper, magazine, or website and you are inundated with nightmarish stories.  We, as a society, are so hungry for good, wholesome news, that any act of kindness or compassion becomes a viral success on the internet -- millions of hits by people who need to know that the human race is still capable of showing charity to another human being.
     Have you tried having a serious conversation about the state of the world with anyone lately?  I get remarks like, "Oh, I just don't know what the big deal is ... why should we care about that?"  Sometimes I even get the statement, "Nothing has really changed in the world ... it's been like this for centuries; everything will turn out alright."  Don't you just want to shout, "No, it's not the same ... and if we don't stop where the world is headed, everything WON'T be alright!!!"
     I just wish I could make people realize that there are pivot points in the history of mankind.  Things happen that either propel societies and civilizations to new and greater heights of creativity that benefit man; and which include empathy and mercy towards each other --- OR events occur that stifle and suppress the innovation and resourcefulness of men, which in turn seems to result in plunging humankind to the very depths of indifference and cruelty.  Which era do you think we are in today?
     There will be people who will tell us that we are making too much of things ... that we are evolving as a society and culture; we are more inclusive and less intolerant; and we are entering a new cycle of vision and enterprise in "the computer age".
     Unfortunately, I see far too much negative impact from our so-called "evolution"; much more than any positive effect.  It's true that in the recent past, the Industrial Revolution brought mind-blowing conveniences to mankind; inventions that relieved hard, menial work and raised the quality of living for millions world-wide.  But the natural evolution of that period in history has led to the Technology Revolution, and I honestly fear what we are evolving towards.
     A company in Sweden has micro-chipped its employees for the sake of convenience (so they say); and Ray Kurzweil, the famous futurist and Director of Engineering at Google predicts that 2045 is the magic year in which we will be uploading our entire minds to computers.  That says nothing of plans to place computers/robots in the role of your doctor and pharmacist; your lawyer; store clerks; soldiers (that terrifies me!); and babysitters.  This stuff is no longer part of science fiction stories or conspiracy theories ... major developers like Foster-Miller, who has designed the MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic) system for use in Iraq; and Google who has plans to introduce automated cars, both point towards a future where computers replace people.  As of 2013, it was estimated that 1.2 million industrial robots were working worldwide — that's one robot for every 5,000 people, according to Marshall Brain, founder of How Stuff Works and author of Robotic Nation.
     But, it's not just technology that is streaming us towards a future that lacks the human imprint.  Even our interactions, the structure of our families, and our faith all point to a decrease in the human element.  Interpersonal feedback -- whether between two friends, or between citizen and government -- is no longer done face to face.  It's all done through a text or email.  What's more, the culture is driving us towards a new definition of "family"; one that is often-times created in a laboratory, because it can't be done naturally by humans.  And then there is our faith.  It has been mythologized, stripped of its historic authenticity, and reduced to an "as-needed" basis -- our lives are all about self-worship.  The commandments to "love your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and your neighbor as yourself" just don't apply to our self-centered world.
     So, how much longer can this ol' world continue on the path we are on today?  Do you think that the barbarity of ISIS will just go away?  Do you think that Technology will advance the human state?  Do you think that we will just wake up one morning, and the world will have returned to a desire for moral absolutes and personal freedom to live our lives as we choose?
     Think about it ... it's all about control, don't you think? Mankind has mandated climate control, population control, and gun control.  The sense of "true freedom" is slipping through our fingers.  And not only that, we are losing the sense of what it means to be an individual, a unique creation, and to be respected for our differences.  Maybe the history of mankind has always been this volatile and tenuous.  But this is what the deterioration of man's humanity feels like to me ... in my lifetime.  I know that God is ultimately in control, and believe me, that is what sustains me.  I remain focused on Him, and my strength is renewed daily in the knowledge of Him.  He is my comfort on the days when it is all too much.
Proverbs 14:12     "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death."

February 28, 2015

"I Will Not Back Down"

     Yesterday, I talked about the very real danger of this nation losing its identity as independent free-thinkers and upholders of our inherited freedoms.  But I'd like to tell you two stories of individuals that have decided to stand up for our fading values.
     You might recall an essay I wrote last summer that involved William Baer, who appeared at a meeting of his local School Board to protest a book that had been assigned to his 14-year-old daughter.  Mr. Baer stood up to say that he felt the sexual content of the book was inappropriate, and he wanted to voice his objection.  However, the members of the school board didn't want to hear it, and asked him to sit down.  Apparently he wasn't being "respectful" of other audience members.
     Understandably, this offended the conscientious parent and he said he didn't appreciate the school being disrespectful to his daughter by requiring a book (that he clearly felt was immoral) to be read.  He was then told that he had violated the 2-minute rule for speaking and was escorted out of the room and arrested.
     As World Net Daily reports, his "unlawful arrest" and the criminal charges that were filed against him were eventually thrown out of court, but Mr. Baer has decided that "it’s time for elected leaders to stop trampling the First Amendment rights of citizens," and he is fighting back with a lawsuit against the officer who made the arrest, then-acting Police Chief James Leach.  For the past seven months, Leach, along with the subsequently appointed Police Chief, continued to prosecute the case against Mr. Baer, until County Judge James Carroll tossed the case out of court.
     Baer said his lawsuit is as much about stopping the national trend as it is seeking justice for himself.  “These men abused their authority and their positions under color of law. The ‘law enforcers’ became lawbreakers and must be held to account.”
     Mr. Baer is among a growing number of law-abiding citizens who have been arrested for speaking up for their principles.  Parents who disapprove of the Common Core educational system are being harassed at public meetings, and in one such case, in Baltimore County, Maryland, a parent was approached by a burly security guard, pushed, shoved, threatened and eventually handcuffed and forced to leave the meeting.
     It is just such treatment that is behind Mr. Baer's lawsuit.  Baer maintains that the three charges of disorderly conduct brought against him were unwarranted and he wants justice for himself and his family.  “After seven-and-a-half months of being pursued by the State of New Hampshire, through the Gilford Police Department and School Board, I am obviously pleased that all charges have been dismissed. Belknap County Judge James Carroll showed me there still is some justice in our system,” he said.  But he makes it clear that this is not about vindictiveness ... it's about standing up for our First Amendment rights.
     I also want to tell you about the story of a 70-year-old Christian florist in Washington state who is being sued for refusing to provide floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding.  Although she offered to help the couple find a florist who would service them, that wasn't good enough.  The inevitable lawsuit was filed and Barronelle Stutzman was found guilty of violating Washington's nondiscriminatory statute.
     But here's what is so disturbing to me about this story ... According to The Christian Post, the man filing the lawsuit has been a customer of Stutzman's for the past nine years!  She had built great rapport with the customer and an obviously satisfactory business relationship.  But when she honestly confided that due to her faith, she felt she had to decline his request for his wedding, any friendship went out the window.  The "guilty" sentence and summary judgment could involve Stutzman losing not only her business, but her home and savings.
     The state's Attorney General offered Barronelle a way out of the overwhelming judgment ... simply pay $2001 in fines and legal costs -- and agree to service gay weddings in the future -- and it would all go away.  But Ms. Stutzman is no "luke-warm" Christian.  In response to the Attorney General's letter, she replied with a letter of her own:  "Washington's constitution guarantees us 'freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.' I cannot sell that precious freedom," Stutzman's letter asserts. "You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do."
     She also managed to school the AG on exactly what the word "freedom" means.  "Your offer reveals that you don't really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It's about freedom, not money," Stutzman wrote. "I certainly don't relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important."
     This florist certainly has the courage to stand behind her faith and convictions.  "I pray that you reconsider your position. I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend," Stutzman's letter stated. "I've also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating and having a home."
     Not only is she clear about how she wants to be understood, but she speaks for me and, I believe, many more Christians across this nation when she says, "Our state would be a better place if we respected each other's differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences," Stutzman wrote. "Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible's teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs."  Well said!
     In the stories of these two people, we have excellent examples of standing for our principles and values, as well as our religious beliefs.  It would be simple for each to accept the olive branch that has been offered after the miscarriage of justice against them.  For each, it is not about profiting from injustice, but about fighting back against a system that is one-sided and tyrannical.  It is about standing up for their God-given and Constitutional rights.  It's really that simple ... and that necessary.

Proverbs 25:26   "Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked."



February 25, 2015

In Defiance of the Culture

     It is becoming increasingly difficult to write about any advancement in the state of human affairs.  Every report, or announcement, or news item sounds as if mankind, those ruling over them, and the very planet itself have become disconnected from reality.  You have stories of giant sinkholes appearing around the globe; strange "booming sounds" being heard across the country; economic meltdowns forecast in Ukraine, Greece, Europe, and right here at home.
     Christians are being tortured, burned and crucified in the Middle East -- the very birthplace of our faith.  The fate of 90 more are in the balance after being abducted by ISIS fighters in northern Syria.  Historic Middle Eastern books, numbering over 8,000, have been burned in Mosul, Iraq in barbaric acts that have seen shrines, tombs, books, and ancient manuscripts destroyed in the effort to establish an Islamic caliphate.
     The very freedom of ideas is at stake as we await the ruling on net neutrality.  And the very existence of the world is at risk as nations are rightfully concerned about the terms of the Iran nuclear talks.  Will Iran be limited in their pursuit of nuclear capabilities?  At the same time, what does it mean that Russia’s state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec has offered to sell advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran?
     The freedom of speech and religion are under attack when a 70-year-old women can be threatened with the loss of her business, home, and personal assets for refusing to compromise her faith and sell flowers for a same-sex wedding.  At the same time Oklahoma law allows for religious statues as long as they are paid for with private donations.  So that's why The Satanic Temple intends to plant the goat god, Baphomet, on the lawn of the Oklahoma state Capitol, alongside a monument of the Ten Commandments.  This statue of Baphomet portrays him as a horned, winged, sexually ambiguous, goat-like deity, with a goat's body and cloven hooves; with a smooth and muscular chest, thin shapely lips and rectangular pupils.  A flame protrudes from the top of his head, and from his lap a staff with two snakes wrapped around it: a caduceus. When the piece is completed, Baphomet will be seated on a throne underneath an inverted pentagram. On either side of him, two children — a boy and a girl — will gaze up adoringly.  So I guess it depends on which religion you promote, whether you are free to express it, right?
     Let's not forget "designer babies", and babies born with three or more parents.  Nothing is impossible or forbidden!  And this is just scratching the surface!  What has happened to logic and order and morality?  What has happened to standards of decency and the recognition that "moral relevancy" is out of control -- that mankind is incapable of judging the right and wrong of his own selfish and depraved desires?
     I'm not saying that there is no good left in the world.  There will always be those who shine God's light into this dark world; and those who rise above humanity's baser tendencies.  God will see to that.  But I fear that rarely has history seen such a confluence of man's authority on this earth in such rapid decline -- whether it pertains to such spheres as societies, governments, political systems, militaries, religions, educational systems, scientific advancements, technological developments, medical imperatives, or how he perceives himself in relation to his Creator ... it all speaks to man's inability to look beyond his own narrow existence.  We have become products of our own self-centeredness, and our high opinions of ourselves.
    But the good news is that there is a noticeable shift and a rising up of people who are willing to become "counter culturalists" as author Joe Battaglia calls them.  There is a courage and a sense of power and strength in standing for one's holy convictions.  We are tired of the intellectual dishonesty, the unbridled pride of men, the overwhelming presence of unbelief ... and we are more than willing to speak in absolutes; categorical, unconditional, and incontrovertible truths.  We are not willing to compromise our words or morals to please the majority or a vocal minority.  I know that it is an unpopular stance in this day of "tolerance" and "equality".  And we can expect to be ostracized, excluded, shouted down, and eventually persecuted.  But there's one thing the Enemy can count on: we will be unmoved in our purpose and our intention.  We were created for this time, and no amount of deception will discourage us.

Matthew 24:45    "Who then is the faithful, thoughtful, and wise servant, whom his master has put in charge of his household to give to the others the food and supplies at the proper time?"



February 13, 2015

What Happened To America's Pride?

     The word "PRIDE" is defined as "a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired; the consciousness of one's own dignity."  In this sense, "pride" is a good thing; it insinuates a common theme of respect, esteem, and worthiness.
     Do you remember when our country and countrymen used to be proud of who we were; that our traditions and institutions were worthy of honor and respect?  When what we stood for, and our appearance, mattered?
     Maybe I'm just too old, but I remember store owners sweeping out front of their entrances; streets and roadways clean of litter; and community parks and byways mowed and manicured.  I remember when it was a matter of pride to be selected to raise and lower the flag in the school courtyard; when people dressed up to worship in God's House; and when immorality was not tolerated in our public officials.
     I don't know about where you live, but gang graffiti is written across every bridge overpass and on the sides of every train car.  Unsightly litter is strewn everywhere; the streets of my little rural town have potholes you could swim in; and the right-of-ways have weeds and grass growing to your knees.
     Even big metropolitan cities are pictures of "urban decay"... both spiritual and physical.  Flags in front of Federal buildings are often faded, tattered and torn.  The trendy, popular mega-churches are filled with worshippers dressed in t-shirts and flip-flops; or they look as if they just threw on last night's party clothes.  And the immorality that is tolerated!  It seems that moral standards and principles of behavior no longer apply --- from the pastors of our Churches; to the administrators of our Schools; to the bureaucrats elected to represent us and oversee justice in the land.
     I know that there are those who would say those are old-fashioned and intolerant opinions.  That we have "progressed" to a more open and permissive society; one that allows for "relativity" and "diversity" in our shared communities.  They would tell us that we have evolved from a White, Protestant culture to a multi-colored, multi-cultured society; therefore, there is no longer a set of absolute standards or the need (or desire) for a universal pattern to follow.  
     I agree that we have been enriched from the ever-changing dynamics of the American population.  I believe that God designed this nation to be the melting pot of all those He created; that the blessings of this nation have grown as we adopted the noble and worthy attributes of all those who found their way to our shores.  I believe all that ... as long as we continue to build on, and maintain, the original foundation of this national venture; to take pride in mutual ownership, so to speak.
     It seems that "America", itself,  has gotten lost in the national dialogue.  Those who celebrate the idea of a "Progressive America" are so consumed with allowing for our cultural differences, that the common denominator of who and where we have fallen on the timeline of history is no longer on our national conscience.  Pride has taken a back seat to affirmation... every cultural nuance must be given equal status and support, with no consideration to what binds us together.  Where are the "widely admired qualities" of what it means to live in America?  Or, in other words, do we even possess a common standard in which we can view each other as fellow Americans?  Are we invested in our joint occupation of this blessed land?
     I'm afraid I don't see it anymore.  Faith has become a lightening rod.  We can't even agree on the definition of Marriage or Family.  The Constitution used to guarantee us certain freedoms and rights, but even that venerable document has become a wedge between us.
     The way I see it, throughout our history Pride has been the glue in the fabric of this nation's consciousness.  Each new cultural group, through struggle and perseverance, melded into the formation that is America.  They brought the best of their values and principles to the composition of this nation, and the fabric was made stronger in a renewed covenant as Americans.  But with the deterioration of Pride in identifying oneself as American, the fabric has begun to fray and disintegrate.
      I began this post talking about how the outward appearance of Pride in America is disappearing.  However, I think that is just a manifestation of the lack of internal pride in who we are as a nation and a people.  "Relative standards" cannot bind a people together; they can only serve to separate and divide.

1 Corinthians 1:10    "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment."

February 7, 2015

Words Don't Lie

     I cannot let the President's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast go unanswered.  But before I give you my own assessment, I would like you to read the following comments by some of the more celebrated of our Presidents in the last three-quarters of a century (during their Prayer Breakfast addresses):

President Dwight D. Eisenhower (The first President to speak at the newly inaugurated National Prayer Breakfast):  First, there is a need we all have in these days and times for some help which comes from outside ourselves as we face the multitude of problems that are part of this confusing situation. I do not mean merely help for your leaders or the people in Congress, in the Cabinet and others in authority, because these problems are part of all of us. They face each one of us because we are a free country ... Once in a while it might be a good thing for us to turn back to history. Let us study a little bit of what happened at the founding of this Nation ... We have begun in our grasp of that basis of understanding, which is that all free government is firmly founded in a deeply-felt religious faith ... (Read full speech here.)

President John F. Kennedy:  You and I are charged with obligations to serve the Great Republic in years of great crisis. The problems we face are complex; the pressures are immense, and both the perils and the opportunities are greater than any nation ever faced. In such a time, the limits of mere human endeavor become more apparent than ever. We cannot depend solely on our material wealth, on our military might, or on our intellectual skill or physical courage to see us safely through the seas that we must sail in the months and years to come.
     Along with all of these we need faith. We need the faith with which our first settlers crossed the sea to carve out a state in the wilderness, a mission they said in the Pilgrims' Compact, the Mayflower Compact, undertaken for the glory of God. We need the faith with which our Founding Fathers proudly proclaimed the independence of this country to what seemed at that time an almost hopeless struggle, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence. We need the faith which has sustained and guided this Nation for 175 long and short years. We are all builders of the future, and whether we build as public servants or private citizens, whether we build at the national or the local level, whether we build in foreign or domestic affairs, we know the truth of the ancient Psalm, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it."  (Read full speech here).

President Ronald Reagan:  We all in this room, I know, and we know many millions more everywhere, turn to God in prayer, believe in the power and the spirit of prayer. And yet so often, we direct our prayers to those problems that are immediate to us, knowing that He has promised His help to us when we turn to Him. And yet in a world today that is so torn with strife where the divisions seem to be increasing, not people coming together, within countries, divisions within the people, themselves and all, I wonder if we have ever thought about the greatest tool that we have—that power of prayer and God's help.
     This power of prayer can be illustrated by a story that goes back to the fourth century. The Asian monk living in a little remote village, spending most of his time in prayer or tending the garden from which he obtained his sustenance—I hesitate to say the name because I'm not sure I know the pronunciation, but let me take a chance. It was Telemacmus, back in the fourth century. And then one day, he thought he heard the voice of God telling him to go to Rome. And believing that he had heard, he set out. And weeks and weeks later, he arrived there, having traveled most of the way on foot.
     And it was at a time of a festival in Rome. They were celebrating a triumph over the Goths. And he followed a crowd into the Colosseum, and then there in the midst of this great crowd, he saw the gladiators come forth, stand before the Emperor, and say, "We who are about to die salute you." And he realized they were going to fight to the death for the entertainment of the crowds. And he cried out, "In the name of Christ, stop!" And his voice was lost in the tumult there in the great Colosseum.
     And as the games began, he made his way down through the crowd and climbed over the wall and dropped to the floor of the arena. Suddenly the crowds saw this scrawny little figure making his way out to the gladiators and saying, over and over again, "In the name of Christ, stop." And they thought it was part of the entertainment, and at first they were amused. But then, when they realized it wasn't, they grew belligerent and angry. And as he was pleading with the gladiators, "In the name of Christ, stop," one of them plunged his sword into his body. And as he fell to the sand of the arena in death, his last words were, "In the name of Christ, stop."
     And suddenly, a strange thing happened. The gladiators stood looking at this tiny form lying in the sand. A silence fell over the Colosseum. And then, someplace up in the upper tiers, an individual made his way to an exit and left, and others began to follow. And in the dead silence, everyone left the Colosseum. That was the last battle to the death between gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. Never again did anyone kill or did men kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd.
     One tiny voice that could hardly be heard above the tumult. "In the name of Christ, stop." It is something we could be saying to each other throughout the world today.
     And then President Reagan quoted the farewell message of the Ambassador from the Philippines, General Romulo, as he returned to his home after 17 years in diplomatic service: "Never forget, Americans, that yours is a spiritual country. Yes, I know you're a practical people. Like others, I've marveled at your factories, your skyscrapers, and your arsenals. But underlying everything else is the fact that America began as a God-loving, God-fearing, God-worshiping people, knowing that there is a spark of the divine in each one of us. It is this respect for the dignity of the human spirit which keeps America invincible.  May you always endure and, as I say again in parting, thank you, America, and farewell. May God keep you always, and may you always keep God."
      President Reagan informed the Congressional crowd at the National Prayer Breakfast, that this farewell address was a tribute, as well as a warning. (Read full speech here).

President William J. Clinton:  I helped to start the first Governor's prayer breakfast in my State ... And every year I had the pleasure of delegating two Arkansans, one a clergyman or -woman and one a citizen, to come to this wonderful event.
     I thought about the first time I ever saw Billy Graham—appropriate to mention now. He came in the 1950's, in the heat of all our racial trouble, to Arkansas to have a crusade. And the white citizens council tried to get him, because of the tensions of the moment, to agree to segregate his crusade in the fifties in the South. And he said, "If I have to do that, I'm not coming." And I remember I got a Sunday school teacher in my church—and I was about 11 years old—to take me 50 miles to Little Rock so I could hear a man preach who was trying to live by what he said. And then I remember, for a good while thereafter, trying to send a little bit of my allowance to the Billy Graham crusade because of the impression he made on me then.
     I am honored that all of you are here not for a political purpose. We come here to seek the help and guidance of our Lord, putting aside our differences, as men and women who freely acknowledge that we don't have all the answers. And we come here seeking to restore and renew and strengthen our faith.
     I have always been touched by the living example of Jesus Christ and moved particularly by all the religious leaders of His day who were suspicious of Him and always trying to trap Him because He was so at ease with the hurting and the hungry and the lonely and, yes, the sinners. And in one of those marvelous attempts to trick Christ, He was asked, "What is the greatest Commandment?" And He answered, quoting Moses, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." And then He added, as we should add, "This is the great and foremost Commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Read full speech here).

President George W. Bush: We are a nation of prayer; America prays. Each day, millions of our citizens bow their heads in silence and solitude, or they offer up prayers in fellowship with others. They pray for themselves; they pray for their families; they pray for their neighbors and their communities. In many congregations and homes across this great land, people also set a time—set aside time to pray for our Nation and those entrusted with authority, including our elected leaders...
     The greatest gift a citizen of this country can give those of us entrusted with political office is to pray for us. And I thank those in our Nation who lift all of us up in prayer...
     Many in our country know the power of prayer. Prayer changes hearts, prayer changes lives, and prayer makes us a more compassionate and giving people. When we pray, we surrender our will to the Almighty and open ourselves up to His priorities and His touch. His call to love our neighbors as we would like to be loved ourselves is something that we hear when we pray. And we answer that call by reaching out to feed the hungry and clothe the poor and aid the widow and the orphan. By helping our brothers and sisters in need, we find our own faith strengthened and we receive the grace to lead lives of dignity and purpose...
      In the quiet of prayer, we leave behind our own cares, and we take up the cares of the Almighty. And in answering His call to service, we find that, in the words of Isaiah: "We will gain new strength. We will run and not get tired. We will walk and not become weary."  (Read full speech here).

President Barack Obama (Let me say that it was more difficult to extract the essence of this President's speech than it was the other Presidents.  His speech was three or four times longer, and seemed to be crafted to present an underlying message.  Read it in its entirety yourself, to get the full impression; but here are the highlights that jumped out at me):  
     Now, over the last few months, we’ve seen a number of challenges -- certainly over the last six years.  But part of what I want to touch on today is the degree to which we've seen professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil...
     So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities -- the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?
     Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India -- an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity -- but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs -- acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation...
     Our job is not to ask that God respond to our notion of truth -- our job is to be true to Him, His word, and His commandments.  And we should assume humbly that we’re confused and don’t always know what we’re doing and we’re staggering and stumbling towards Him, and have some humility in that process.  And that means we have to speak up against those who would misuse His name to justify oppression, or violence, or hatred with that fierce certainty.  No God condones terror.  No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number...
     There’s wisdom in our founders writing in those documents that help found this nation the notion of freedom of religion, because they understood the need for humility.  They also understood the need to uphold freedom of speech, that there was a connection between freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  For to infringe on one right under the pretext of protecting another is a betrayal of both...
     But part of humility is also recognizing in modern, complicated, diverse societies, the functioning of these rights, the concern for the protection of these rights calls for each of us to exercise civility and restraint and judgment.  And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults -- (applause) -- and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks.  Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t question those who would insult others in the name of free speech.  Because we know that our nations are stronger when people of all faiths feel that they are welcome, that they, too, are full and equal members of our countries...
     Humility; a suspicion of government getting between us and our faiths, or trying to dictate our faiths, or elevate one faith over another.  And, finally, let’s remember that if there is one law that we can all be most certain of that seems to bind people of all faiths, and people who are still finding their way towards faith but have a sense of ethics and morality in them -- that one law, that Golden Rule that we should treat one another as we wish to be treated.  The Torah says “Love thy neighbor as yourself.”  In Islam, there is a Hadith that states: "None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”  The Holy Bible tells us to “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  Put on love.
     As children of God, let’s work to end injustice -- injustice of poverty and hunger.  No one should ever suffer from such want amidst such plenty.  As children of God, let’s work to eliminate the scourge of homelessness, because, as Sister Mary says, “None of us are home until all of us are home.”  None of us are home until all of us are home.
     As children of God, let’s stand up for the dignity and value of every woman, and man, and child, because we are all equal in His eyes, and work to send the scourge and the sin of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, and “set the oppressed free.”  (Applause.)
     If we are properly humble, if we drop to our knees on occasion, we will acknowledge that we never fully know God’s purpose.  We can never fully fathom His amazing grace.  “We see through a glass, darkly” -- grappling with the expanse of His awesome love.  But even with our limits, we can heed that which is required:  To do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

     MY FINAL THOUGHTS:  If you have taken the time to read my selected highlights, or waded through the speeches in their entirety, I think you get a sense of those who were genuinely expressing faith, and those who saw it as a somewhat political function of the Office.  There were a couple of glaringly obvious aspects of the speeches that I would like to point out.
     First, to a man, each President introduced the historical significance that faith has played in either his life or the history of our nation.  All of the Presidents, except one, lauded the great lengths to which the Christian faith had positively influenced the world and/or the founding of this great nation.
     Most of the Presidents refrained from bringing their political agendas into a speech whose purpose is to acknowledge the importance of prayer in our national dialogue and administration of government.  However, the Presidents who have held office since 9/11 inserted both their personal and political agendas into the conversation.
     All the Presidents, save one, painted positive pictures of our national history.  All the Presidents, save one, shed the spotlight on Christianity alone, which is the historical bedrock of this nation.  Only one President attempted to equalize other religions with our Christian faith, and then point out that, historically, "evil deeds were done in the name of Christ".  Instead of pointing out that evil deeds have been done by men throughout history in the name of religion, this is a duplicitous tactic to smear  the name of Christ.
     Our national history and that of the world is not perfect.  On that, we can all agree.  But to insinuate that the Crusades had anything to do with the teachings of Christ is a gross misinterpretation of the political and unholy wars fought by both Christians and Muslims.  Furthermore, to connect slavery and Jim Crow laws to the "injustice" of Christianity is ludicrous.  It was the Christian faith that led the way to the repudiation of slavery.  The obvious attempt to equivocate recent Muslim atrocities had no place at an annual U.S. Prayer breakfast.
     Of course, there will be a momentary uproar among the talking heads of the media circus; ironically, it is obvious that many of them are speaking from a position of unbelief.  And I can sum up the lack of true concern with this statement by Lynn Sweet, of The Chicago Sun-Times:  "Did [the President's remarks] merit being mentioned on the nightly news?  I don't think so.  There's a lot going on in the world."
     That's right.  The focus of most people is on the world.  Perhaps we should re-focus on the original intent of the National Prayer Breakfast --- our need for national prayer to our God.  I would suggest we do more than "drop to our knees on occasion" as was suggested in the latest Prayer Breakfast address.  I would also disagree with the statement that "we [will] acknowledge that we never fully know God’s purpose".  The One True God's purpose is clear if you read the Bible --- not the Koran, nor the Hindu Vedas, or the Buddhist Tipitaka.  His purpose is to reconcile His creation with Himself through our acceptance of His son, Jesus Christ, and His sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.
     It is all so sad to me.  What was once an occasion for the Leader of our country to give thanks to the providence of God, and to exhort the nation to pray for His continued guidance and protection, has turned into a self-serving excuse to promote personal ideologies and insult YHWH.  Now, more than ever, we need to heed the warning of the Philippine Ambassador:  May God keep you always, and may you always keep God.

Psalm 2:1-4    "Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision."