“I pledge…” No. I don’t guess I do.

(Sigh) I don’t think I’m a patriot. We stood to say the pledge this morning and I couldn’t say it. (Yes, my school still recites The Pledge. But they, apparently, pledge allegiance to a vastly different nation than I am willing to offer allegiance.)

We are not one ‘one nation under God’, we have become a nation that shakes it’s fist at God.

I find myself wishing that we were not “indivisible” and I think we, collectively, lost the Civil War when the Union squashed states’ rights and paved the way for an all-powerful federal government.

There is not “liberty and justice for all” If there were justice, the whole Biden family would be in federal prison, not the White House, and half of Hollywood would be in chains awaiting capital punishment. And if there were liberty, cake-makers would be able to choose whom to bake for- or not- and Hobby Lobby would not have spent millions defending its right to deny paying for the murder of pre-born humans.

But, I’m too old and fat to sleep in the snow, and run through the mountains yelling “Wolverines!!” like the kids in ‘Red Dawn’. No matter who we elect in two and four years, the damage done will be permanent. This is not the country I grew up in. This is not the country I wanted for my kids and grandkids. I don’t think I’m a patriot.

…but, this is the United States…?

I was in my car on the way to work. I was listening to the news. They began to report that there was a fire in the World Trade Center; one of the buildings was on fire.

“Those poor people,” I thought.

Then they reported that, maybe, a plane had crashed into the tower, which was what had caused the fire.

“Must be some small plane- I guess a non-professional pilot. “Terrible accident,” I thought.

Then they talked about the possibility of a purposeful crash; maybe terrorism? “Terrible accident,” I thought.

By the time I got to school, a second plane had crashed into the other tower. Commercial jets, both of them. For sure a terrorist attack.

“Terrible accident,” I thought. “Not terrorism, That doesn’t happen here. This is the United States. No, not terrorism.”

But it was. And the Pentagon. And another in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Terrorism.

When I was a kid, born too late to be alive during the JFK Assassination, I remember adults talking about where they were and what they were doing. Even a few who remembered ‘D’ Day and other memorable, terrible days. I didn’t really understand why you would remember the tiniest details about your life in those moments when you learned of what had happened. Now I do. But, this is the United States! That doesn’t happen here! Terrorism?

But it did.

And then we promised ourselves and each other that we would “Never Forget”. We promised ourselves and others that we would “Always Remember”. We would always remember the events that claimed so many lives that day. We would always remember the day that would so deeply impact so many lives for years to come. We would always remember what happened and we would always remember why.

But I think we have. Sometimes I think we have forgotten why it happened. Sometimes I think we have lost our resolve to do what has to be done when a nation remembers what and why… We’ve forgotten. Or lost our resolve. Empty promises, I think.

Do you know what happened? Do you know why? What should you do as a result? Do you act like you remember?

Fear- You’re telling the truth

I’m pretty unhappy about some new songs that purport to be ‘Christian’ but whose lyrics read like a humanist manifesto. The songs “Fear is a Liar” by Zach Williams and “The Breakup Song” by Francesca Battistelli are, at best, disappointingly void of any Biblical content or truth and, at worst, humanistic and and dangerous in their claims of our ability to combat fear.

Now, I don’t for a moment believe that every song has to have Biblical truth, nor that every song by a ‘Christian’ artist has to contain Biblical truth. For a parent & child or bride & groom to sing “The Boat Song” by J.J. Heller to each other is perfectly fine- and maybe even cute. But for these songs, that purport to be ‘Christian’ and deal with deep personal struggles and claims of triumph, to leave God out is unconscionable, to leave out any Biblical truth or content is at least a missed opportunity, and may actually be guilty of spreading a terrible deception.

Understand that I usually like Francesca Battistelli. Her gravelly, contralto voice has real character and most of her songs have an honest and every-day outlook that appeals to young Christians. When she sings, “On my own I’m so clumsy, but on Your shoulders I can see…”, yep. That’s me. Clumsy. Spiritually clumsy, and I trip and fall down way more often than I should. But “The Breakup Song” has virtually no Biblical value. It’s cute, and has a catchy tune, but if you are bragging to ‘fear’ that have your “own identity”, you should be afraid. The Scriptures say, If you’re doing life on your own merit and strength “Let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (I Corinthians 10) But if God identifies you as one of His, you have nothing to fear. The song, however, says nothing at all about the person of Christ or why we need not fear. Fear is not a temperamental boyfriend that you can send away and forget about. Fear lives in the corners of your mind and it is based in the reality of our fallen, limited, human condition. Francesca, you can’t send fear away, but as the Psalmist says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil BECAUSE Thy rod and Thy staff…” (Psalm 23). If you walk through the valley, there’s good reason to fear, but If you walk in the shadow of the Shepherd, he conquers your fear!

And, Zach, fear was right, you are not good enough, you’re not right or strong or worthy. That’s not a lie that fear is telling, that’s reality and the frailty of the human condition. It is true that, “in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8) but “Fear is a Liar” says absolutely nothing about Him or conquering THROUGH Him. Rather, it stamps its petulant little foot and balls up it’s pudgy little fist and declares, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me!” (-Smalley). No, Zach, you’re not good enough; but God is WAY more than good enough, and if you conquer anything, it’s through Him. Better to say, like George MacDonald, “I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinkinge.”

You think you’re good enough, strong enough? The Apostle Paul, a man chosen by God to bring us the majority of the New Testament by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a man chosen by God to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles, is the man who claimed to be the worst of sinners. (I Timothy 1) Paul, after enumerating all his human advantages and accomplishments and bravery in the face of suffering (II Corinthians 11), and after recounting his impressive human pedigree and commendations (Philippians 3) concludes that all of his accomplishments are just a loss. Not just worthless, mind you, Paul puts them all in the NEGATIVE balance column of his life. And Isaiah agrees (Isaiah 64) that all or our human righteousness, our BEST efforts, are like filthy rags. If this is the best you can do on your own, you have good reason to fear.

You see, EVERY time God’s word tells us not to fear, it also tells us WHY; and every time, it’s because of Him. The angel told the terrified shepherds, “Do not fear, I bring your good tidings of great joy for all people!” (Luke 2) Why no fear? Because tonight the Christ of God came to Earth! Talk about banishing fear! And instead of trembling in fear, the shepherds went away rejoicing.

I’m reminded of a time when Joshua knelt on a mountain top, praying about an upcoming battle. Suddenly there stood before him the most impressive warrior Joshua had ever seen! Joshua knew power and capability when he saw it- and the warrior had the drop on him! Joshua stammered, “Are… are you with us or with them?” The warrior, very likely the pre-incarnate Christ, answered, “No.”

It’s as if the Caption of The Lord’s Army said, “Am I on your side? No. Joshua, you asked the wrong question. You want to know if I’m on your side? You should have asked if you are on My side! You want to know if your side will win the battle today? No, Joshua, your side won’t win the battle today. Your enemy’s side won’t win the battle today. Today, and every day, My side will win the battle. So, Joshua, whose side are you on?”

Reader, will you set out to conquer fear- or anything else- without Him? Don’t. But if you are on His side, He can do great and courageous things for you that you can’t even imagine. Whose side are you on?

(P.s. By the same token, I love some of the new songs like, “Even If” by MercyMe and, “Trust In You” by Lauren Daigle, that unabashedly confess to God that we may not always understand His plan, but He is good, and He is sovereign. Compare Lauren Daigle’s “You Say” wherein the prayer is one that confesses to God the inadequacies and frailty of the human condition, but credits God with any triumph or victory over insecurity.)

The Plague; and how the cats caused it. Probably.

Once upon a time, there was a terrible plague. Many people died. The death of so many children was especially tragic. Nobody could explain why so many people had to die. There was no good explanation for the deaths and blame was laid on almost everything and everyone at some point. Some said, “It’s a judgement from God!” And others said, “Blame the foreigners!” Some people even said, “Its the rats! Why can’t you see it?” Predictably, many different groups, individuals, products, and even animals were blamed. Many of the people took up the cry, “Why doesn’t the government DO something?!?”

Eventually someone noticed that there seemed to be a lot of cats around when some of the kids got sick. Gradually, citizen groups and and individuals within the government began to convince more and more people that cats were to blame. The press was ecstatic, as they had been against cats all along; they were firmly, objectively, on the side of the anti-cat people. They told horror stories of feral cats in every broadcast; they interviewed panels of cat experts (most of whom had never touched a cat) to talk about the evils of feline kind. The press corps were as happy as pigs in slop. They even made up the term “assault cat” to show just how nefarious those green-eyed Grim Reapers could be. “They look so scary with a flashlight attached to their collar under their chin.”

The anti-cat people didn’t seem to understand the irony that many of the people who were dying, were in cat-free zones. Thus, once, when someone suggested that teachers should keep a cat in their classrooms to kill the rats if they showed up, the anti-cat people howled and threw poo like a troupe of deranged baboons. The cat people, of course, objected strongly, “I have cats all over my house and none of us are sick!” They said, “I only use my cat for target shooting or hunting and I have never even tried to kill anyone with it.” But, little by little, public and governmental opinions began to shift toward blaming cats for all the deaths.

People said things like, “Well, maybe it’s not cats, but we have to start somewhere.” And, “You cat people are just being blind and selfish- if there were no cats at all, our children would still be alive!” They said things like, “If we can save the life of one child, why wouldn’t you agree to do this?” Others said, “My cats aren’t hurting anyone; they protect my family!” Some of the cat people knew that the cats were doing more to deter the plague than to harm people, but so feverish and rabid were the cries of anti-cat people that their protests fell on deaf ears. Soon, even the National Cat Association (NCA), which had millions of members, was vilified for attempting to protect cats, even though their deeds were lawful and they had never hurt anyone.

It wasn’t easy, but eventually, enough people acknowledged cats as the problem and there were laws passed and soon all cats were hunted down, rounded up and eliminated. Some of the bird and dog people said things like, “I’m not a cat person, what do I care?” The anti-cat people kept insisting, “We’re not trying to take away all your pets! You’re being paranoid. We just want common sense pet control.” Soon, there were even some laws passed about eliminating everything from parakeets to dogs and horses. For any pets they weren’t able to outlaw, they simply outlawed the food supply and starved the poor things.

The government said, “You don’t need cats, anyway. You can’t hunt with them. Nobody needs a cat.” They assured the people, “If you need pest control, we’ll arrive some time after you’ve been bitten with our weasels and ferrets and they will protect you.” By now, of course, even the good and noble cats, formerly employed by the government, had been replaced by the aforementioned weasels and ferrets that were just as likely to bite the citizens as help them. The cats, and most other pets, were gone. And there was great rejoicing.

Except that, of course, children kept dying. It seems that cats weren’t to blame after all. No, in fact, the fleas carried on rats had been the problem the whole time. And now the government had a worse dilemma because so many resources- both fiscal and influential- had been used in convincing people to eliminate the cats that, now, convincing people, and financing the effort to eliminate the rats, was exponentially more difficult- and now there were no cats to help out! Sadly, the cat people had been correct and now the very thing that might have stopped the plague had been systematically vilified, outlawed, and destroyed. Perhaps that was why the wise framers of The Constitution had tried to outlaw such restrictions on the very thing that might have been the means to preserve the people.

It must be understood that, by now, having gotten rid of the cats, as well as most of the dogs, birds and horses, the government had no intention whatsoever of reversing itself and legalizing any kind of pets. So, without any cats, dogs, birds, or horses, the rats ran wild and unchecked. It seems that people like Mr. Obama, Mr. Soros, Mrs. Pelosi, and Mrs. Clinton, had also been breeding rats and were releasing them in the cities hoping that they would solve the problem. Of course, they only made it worse. Also true was that some unscrupulous cat people had kept a few flea-bitten, mangy death machines and now they sold them along with black-market deals in cat nip, alpo, and heroin.

Furthermore, the cat people were by now either quietly or overtly rebellious because they knew all along that their cats were not the problem; they had tried to say so! Truly, those cats had been keeping some of the plague in check. Also, they had been the pets and personal property of the cat people, and some of them had been extremely expensive, but they had been confiscated and destroyed without mercy. The government had lost credibility. Cat people had been deprived of their mostly-innocent pets (true, a few cats got fleas from the rats, but the vast majority of cats were innocent) and were never going to get them back. Now, the reputable cat breeders had gone out of business and the only cats you could get were mangy, unreliable things purchased in a back alley somewhere in Detroit- and they were still illegal anyway.

The problem with blaming the wrong thing; the problem with the “You’ve got to start somewhere” argument is that if you start in the wrong place and go in the wrong direction, you will never, ever solve the problem at all. You’ll make it worse without it ever getting better. If you destroy the cats, that’s not a good first step in getting rid of the rats.

Dear reader, sometimes it IS better to do nothing at all then to ‘do something.’

Sometimes doing ‘something’ is worse than doing nothing, when doing ‘something’ will eventually prevent you from doing the right thing.

Doing nothing is better than doing ‘something’ when doing ‘something’ is doing the wrong thing.

When they come for my cats, I will give them up. I am too old and fat to fight city hall. I won’t be burying rubbermades of cats and cat food in the back forty. I won’t modify my house to hide cats in the walls and under the floor. I can’t sleep in the snow and run through the woods, like the kids in Red Dawn, screaming “Wolverines!” I am an honest, law-abiding cat person and I won’t sic my cats on the police and National Guardsmen who come to get them. With a sad shake of my head, I’ll turn them over and shed a tear for the children yet to die; and no one, no cats, left to defend them while the rats prosper and do what they’ve always done. But when the cats are gone and people are dying of the plague unabated, I will be grimly thinking, “I told you so.”

are Christians… different?

“Many argue that Christianity is “different” from other religions – that it is primarily about love of one’s fellow man. The Crusades, The Inquisition, Calvin’s Geneva all prove that this is not the case. These events were pre-eminently about obedience to authority.” —Andrew Bernstein

Well, but… that’s you, Mr. Bernstein, saying what “many argue” and I do not agree with your starting premise.  You can’t give me my argument and then provide the rebuttal as if the argument you supplied is mine.  What if many don’t argue that Christianity “is primarily about the love of one’s fellow man” but that it is about- something else? And, in fact, it is about something else.

There are at least two problems here:

1) Christianity as a religion is no different than any other religion.  True christianity is not a religion; it is a condition of one’s standing before God as an individual, and regardless of any organization. (More of that later.) (Notice also that I shall capitalize Christianity when referring to the religion, but shall write christianity when referring to that individual, personal condition)

2) Nor does Christianity, either as a religion or as a personal reality, argue that it is primarily about love for one’s fellow man.  Christianity, in both its religious and personal realities, teaches obedience to God.  christianity teaches salvation through Christ alone.  christianity is primarily about one’s relationship with God, and the various aspects of relationship with fellow man are merely a side product.

Thus it is that, being someone who identifies as ‘christian’, I do not feel the need to fully identify with everyone else who identifies himself as ‘Christian’, and certainly not with others that Mr. Bernstein identifies as ‘Christians’.

Notice also, that in order to find widespread blame of ‘Christians’, Mr. Bernstein had to go back 700 years to the Crusades, 500 years to the Spanish Inquisition, to find an extreme case of the “seamy underside” of Christianity. In fact, Christianity is NOT the same as other religions. But, more importantly, true christianity is not a religion at all.

I have a family member whom I would identify as a christian (not as someone who merely practices the religion of Christianity, but as someone who is truly regenerate- again, more of that later), yet this person was so pleased that the new Pope was descended from a similar nationality as our family. I submit to you that 1) the new Pope has shown himself to be a person who is not especially righteous, nor even especially faithful to the teachings of his religion; and 2) that as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, he is a religious Christian, but that there is no evidence whatever that he is truly regenerate, and therefore has as little in common with me as someone avowedly anti-Christian.

A blogger I occasionally read recently challenged his followers, “‪To those of you saying that it’s appeasement to suggest the average Muslim is peace-loving, and who call on us to see Islam as the enemy and declare war on it, what exactly would that look like?”

Well, it would be ugly.

I think the problem is one of religion. I don’t for a minute believe that all Christians are truly regenerate (Ie: Christians, with upper case, being part of a religion; christians, with a lower case, meaning personally regenerate regardless of which church or religion they are a part of). If one is a Christian and not a christian- not truly, personally regenerate- then one’s Christianity is of no more value than any other religion. The scriptures talk about christians in terms of ‘regeneration’- “a new creature”, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17. Jesus told Nicodemus that this was a process of being “born again” (John 3:3-21). This is a process- a belief -that is individual and personal and it’s effects touch one person at a time, regardless of their past, their family, their race, or their religion.

That makes what Christianity does a moot point, because religions are not what God wants (Romans 3:23, John 14:6, Acts 4:12, John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 15:3, Acts 16:31). If Christians declare war on Muslims, or anybody else, it is just ugly. But christians don’t declare war, they declare evangelism- and there’s just as much rejoicing in heaven if the Ayatollah were to acknowledge his sin and come to Christ for salvation as if a little boy whose parents had been taking him to the “right” church since he was born were to do the same. The church is made up of all those who have truly acknowledged Jesus as savior, not people who attend a certain church and claim to be Christians. What religions do is no more sanctified than what other godless organizations do- it’s not the job of christians or Christians to be declaring ‘war’.

That having been said, it is also untrue that Islam is a peaceful religion.  Certainly some Muslims are peaceful people, but as a religion, Islam is not peaceful.  Indeed, even “objective” school history books- and Muslims themselves- acknowledge the violent origins of the religion itself, and many of its holy days and commemorations- many even involving violence between different Muslim sects.  Now, please don’t mistake my brutal honesty about the shortcomings of this religion to mean that I’m claiming other religions are above reproach!  No, I’m blaming all religions, including Christianity.

(At this point let me admit that it rankles me to refer to Christianity as if it has ANYTHING to do with christianity.  The religions that use the Bible, meet in churches, have pastors and/or priests, baptize people, and claim Jesus as their founder- you know who you are- may or may not have christians among their ranks. Doing all those things does not guarantee that the activities of the religion, its leaders, or its members, will be in any way sanctified.  In fact, the more formalized the organization is, the less likely it is that its activities will have any true, spiritual, biblical validity.  Certainly there are groups, churches, comprised heavily/mostly of people who are regenerate, and whose leadership is comprised of people who have personally come to Christ for salvation, and who shepherd those entrusted to their care.  But their job, as a leadership or as an organization, is not to be a religion- to tell people what to do and what not to do- it is to edify its members, to equip them to know God’s Word and live by its principals and precepts, and to shine the Light of the gospel into a dark world.  As was recently stated from the platform at my church, “God doesn’t have any grandchildren, only children.” That is, having the right family, church or whatever does ot make you a christian, only a Christian- which has no eternal value. You are a child of God if, and only if, you have acknowledged your sin, your need of a savior, and accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on your behalf as satisfying a holy God’s demand for penalty for sin.  Then you are a christian.  But neither your children, nor anybody else, gets to go along for the ride- each one, individually, must take the same step of faith in believing in Jesus’ death on their behalf.)

So, no. Christians are not any different. But christians ought to be very different. christians ought to care about one thing first- that any and all people hear the good news of the Gospel- the Gospel that all mankind is sinful, that holy God cannot abide sin and therefore all mankind falls under the judgement of God, BUT that a loving God is also not willing for any to perish (Matthew 8:14, John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9), and so provided for salvation from judgement in the person and work of His perfect and sinless Son, Jesus Christ, which salvation is free, and universal, and necessary, and effective for every single member of the human race if they will simply believe, and has nothing to do with any worth, or work, or act on the part of we sinful creatures. How we christians are to act after becoming regenerate is another mater, but ours is not to condemn, not to declare war.

Am I …Deplorable?!?

January 20, 2017

I guess I’m deplorable.  Mrs. Clinton clearly believed that President Obama was on the right track politically and socially when she indicated her intention to continue or expand many of his policies, and accused people who thought differently of being deplorable; I think she meant me.  In the wake of the recent election, a friend posted a request asking that people should not try to reassure others of her friends that ‘everything will be all right’- because those people found themselves living in genuine fear of what the president-elect would do, and what his supporters would do.  Her friends, she explained, did not need or deserve such platitudes of reassurance.

But, she missed a very key piece, and that is; I (and many other ‘conservatives’ …deplorables?) have lived with just such fear for the last eight years.  No, it wasn’t a fear that I would find some kind of politics to disagree with, it was a very real fear for the free and peaceful way of life we have lived.  We feared that our president and the first lady were not patriotic Americans, that for all their class and dignity, they didn’t love the United States; We watched the first lady texting while others were saying the Pledge; we watched the President disrespect and fail to salute his Marine guard who would, nevertheless, literally have taken a bullet for him; we watched our President stand on a podium with his hands clasped while others covered their hearts and said the pledge or sang the National Anthem- more than once.  For MANY of us, every time we saw images of our president sitting at his desk with a pen, every time we saw him standing at a podium festooned with microphones, we felt a new fear grip our hearts.

We feared that the rights of the unborn- the simple right to life- would be further degraded.  We feared that we would be forced to choose between our biblical convictions and the law (this happened- ask David Green and Hobby Lobby).  We feared that, in spite of a direct promise, we would in fact not be able to keep a doctor or insurance policy we liked (this happened) or that, instead of ‘affordable’ our insurance premiums would skyrocket (this happened).  We feared that our friend and ally, Israel, would be insulted or marginalized (this happened).  We feared that more dangerous individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay would be released (this happened) or that the facility would be vacated completely (this didn’t happen, making the campaign promise to do so a lie) and that it’s prisoners would be moved onto mainland U.S.A. (this nearly happened).  We feared that our church would be declared a ‘hate group’ for proclaiming the Word of God.  We feared that owning a Bible would mark us as haters- even worse if we had the audacity to believe and proclaim it faithfully.  We feared that sky-blue-helmeted troops would soon be going door-to-door demanding our guns (seriously).  We feared a new assault on the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution (this happened).  We feared that (again) a police officer would be ‘thrown under the bus’ for doing his job (this happened) or at least before all the facts were known (this happened).  We feared that Americans overseas would be targeted and killed (this happened) and Americans at home would be targeted and killed (this happened) by people claiming religious reasons to murder them (this happened) and that such claims would be ignored (this happened- but only in the case of certain religions).  We didn’t know that we had to fear for our little girls and their safety in the bathroom (but this happened as well).  We feared that rioters and looters would (again) be told that their activities were to be considered ‘protests’ and were a valid expression of their valid frustrations (this happened)(…and when such activities during the inauguration were planned, threatened and known, a friend asked, why didn’t the president appeal to his ‘60%’ supporters to make it stop- instead, silence from the Whitehouse).

Because of our president (many of us sincerely believe), in the last eight years, as a nation, we are more divided racially, less trusting and less supportive of local law enforcement, more socialistic and dependent on government, less respected internationally by our enemies and less trusted by our allies, we are less free, we are less ‘Christian’, we are less moral, we are less law-abiding, we are less safe at home and abroad.

I am sorry, my friend, but I know what it is to live in fear of my president and of his supporters.  Please don’t mistake my meaning; It is not simply disagreement with some political ideology of the economy, taxation, the Federal Reserve, legalized marijuana, or who the U.N. ambassador is…  I tell you honestly, I was JUST as disappointed in the previous president’s elections, and scared at the thought of Mrs. Clinton’s presidency, as many are with President Trump.  I know real fear about what my president and those who supported him could do to me, my family, my friends, my church, my country and its Constitution.  …but I didn’t throw bricks or Molotov cocktails, I didn’t go off the grid and hide in the hills waiting for an apocalypse, I didn’t disobey (civilly or otherwise), I didn’t take up arms against what I saw as gross violations of the Constitution (the highest law of the land) or of Biblical morality (the highest law for mankind), I didn’t go to Democratic events and spit on candidates or run around naked to show my disapproval of Mrs. Clinton’s blaming her husband’s victims…  And very few other ‘deplorables’ did these things; but we DID fear what our government was doing, and we waited, and we obeyed the law, and (many of us) tried to continue to be respectful of a government that had lost our respect.

No, my friend, it IS time for reassurances, for healing, for faith, for trust in God’s sovereignty.

I know that I don’t speak for every American, nor even all of my friends or family.  But I know that millions of Americans agree with me.  We voted for a candidate who claims to be very different than the former president or the Democratic hopeful, Mrs. Clinton.  We voted for a candidate who, in many ways, is a political unknown and clearly inexperienced.  And, yes, we also know that he is not righteous.  He is lecherous, he is foul-mouthed, he is greedy (and the fact than many others of our Presidents have been so does not excuse him, but it also makes him by a long way, ‘not the first’).  I know that some people genuinely fear Mr. Trump- they fear that he will pursue policies that will target them.  For those whose activities are illegal or immoral, I have no sympathy (Romans 13:4).  For those who fear that their legal activities will, none-the-less, cause them to be targeted by this administration, I deeply regret the need for such fear.  I regret that we have entered a period of American politics where we don’t simply disagree amicably over political and governmental issues, waiting for the next election, but where nearly half the population, on one side or the other, genuinely fears for their own safety because of our elected officials.  This should not be.  While he will make personal and governmental mistakes, for law-abiding citizens, there should never be a need to overtly fear the government.  Mr. Trump certainly has and will make mistakes, and some of them will be costly.  There are others I would have voted for gladly, but our two-party system left me with little choice.  No, I do not ‘support’ the new president.  But I do not fear him, which is more than I can say about the former president or about Mrs. Clinton.

I do not know what our new president will do (I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet), but I hope he will be the person he currently claims to be, not the person he seemed to be three years ago.  I hope he will keep his campaign promises and pursue policies consistent with his campaign platform.  I hope he will replace the A.C.A. with a good solution, rather than just destroying it.  I hope he will chose a Supreme Court Justice(s) who is interested in upholding the law, and not pursuing other ideologies.  I do not have great respect for his moral compass, but I do not doubt his patriotism.  Although he does not seem to be personally obedient to the Scriptures, I do not believe he or his policies will threaten Christians or the right to proclaim the Word of God in Its entirety.  I also do not expect him to pursue policies that will harm Americans of other religious beliefs (but he may try to exclude non-Americans from immigrating if their religious beliefs are extreme and suspect).  I do not think he dislikes and distrusts our nation’s neighbors, or their law-abiding citizens, but I do believe he intends to take measures to secure our nation’s borders against those who would break the law.  I do not expect him to undo the damage that has been done to the right to life or the Biblical sanctity of marriage, but I also do not expect him to choose Supreme Court members, and pursue other policies, that will further degrade these areas of morality.  I do not think he personally treats women (and others) with respect, but I will be very surprised if these failings lead to policies and legislation that normalize this behavior for all Americans.

To wit: I do not entirely trust him; I do not appreciate his egotism and immoral behavior; but I do not fear him.  I hope- I PRAY- for his success, and that his leadership will be strong, and fair, Constitutional, restorative, and patriotic…  I pray that the leader will be more than the man, as was the case with Samson, David, and Solomon.  I pray that we may [continue to] lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

A Deal With the Devil

You all know the story.  Someone wants something so badly, they are willing to do anything to get it.  A guy comes along and offers to get it for him, all he has to do is sign over his soul to the devil.  In some versions, he doesn’t believe the guy really is the devil.  Other times he thinks there will be some way out of it later on.  The guy always knows there’s evil in the offer, and the one who’s making it, but he convinces himself that it’ll be okay, or pretends that he doesn’t know.

Now, in truth, the devil is not in charge down in hell.  And he doesn’t collect souls that God wants.  And there is no “good versus evil” struggle in the world where we are waiting around to see who wins.  Fact: God is the creator and the devil is a creature and subject to God, even though he has a rebellious spirit, and he is compelled to do what God requires (Job 1:6, 2:1) and he only does what God allows him (Job 1:12, 2:6).  Fact: God saves whom He will, Christ adds to His church (Matt 16:18) and nothing can stop it including “hell”; salvation is based upon belief in Christ’s substitutionary death (Acts 16:31) wherein He paid the penalty for our sin.

But it’s a good expression if it refers to the FICTIONAL story about someone getting intimately involved with evil and failing to take into account the repercussions.  There’s evil in the offer even if we pretend not to know it’s there.  Sadly, I’ve seen it happen time and again and the recent flap about Phil Robertson brings it into sharp focus.

Growing up, I knew about a man who was a friend of my father’s.  He got involved in politics and big business and it wasn’t long before he discovered that the world of politics was impossible to negotiate with his “soul” intact.  He made a deal with the devil.  And when he thought better of it and tried to back out, his former associates simply turned over evidence of his wrongdoing and he lost his political office, his financial wealth, and his freedom (he went to jail).

A close relative of mine wanted to make reforms in his area, so he ran for office.  He declared himself to be affiliated with the more “conservative” political party and ran under their banner.  He made a deal with the devil.  The party supported him with funding and advertising, but soon they required him to do and say some things that he thought were wrong.  When he refused, they told him that, as a member of their party, they had the right to make statements on his behalf and that he was going to “say” what they wanted one way or the other.  Statements he found repugnant, attributed to him, began appearing in local newspapers and advertising.  Fortunately, he managed to lose the election and withdrew from the party.

Another friend took a job in his company which he knew would require him to do things that compromise his principles.  He couldn’t pass up the pay raise.  He made a deal with the devil.  Finally, after refusing to entertain business contacts in the way his superiors were demanding, he lost his job, but he still feels guilty about some of the things he said and did before putting a stop to it.

So, what about Phil Robertson, the so-called “Duck Commander”?  He agreed to be featured in a show on the A&E Network.  Now truthfully, there is nothing righteous about A&E and its programming decisions.  They asked the Robertson family to participate in the show because they thought there would be some entertainment value in it.  It was never their intent to allow the Robertson’s to use the show to talk about their spiritual convictions.  A&E wanted the entertainment value of an outspoken, provincial bunch of religious red-necks.

So why the surprise when one of them turns out to be… an outspoken religious red-neck?  And why am I being asked to “jump on the bandwagon” in support of… an outspoken, religious red-neck.  Especially when he really just shot his mouth off in a crude and vulgar way?  I may not strongly disagree with him, but, frankly, there’s not much about what he said to agree with, either.

So, that’s where I stand.  He made a deal with the devil.  Then the devil came back and bit him.

You’re on your own, Phil.  Clean up your mouth and maybe we can talk about me supporting you.  Until then, I say enough stupid, offensive things on my own, I don’t need to support you when you do it.

It’s just a day

That’s how this morning started.  Just a day. April 24, 2014.  Rainy, a little cool.  I didn’t even remember, at first.  But then, as I was eating my breakfast and reading some facebook posts, the birthday wishes started rolling in.  It’s 50 years between 1964 and 2014, if you didn’t already know.  So is it just a day?  What’s so different about today than any other day?

So, I guess one day isn’t really much different than the others, but we creatures of time do lots of things to try to mark time, measure time, keep track of time.  We’re forgetful beings.  (Some more than others.)  I guess our attempts to keep track of time are good for helping us remember…

I shared a birthday with my Aunt Dora.  Aunt Dora was THAT aunt.  You know, the one who wasn’t married, with children of her ‘own’, but loved her nieces and nephews with a humbling, expansive love.  She indulged us, spoiled us, loved us, taught us, and quite often forgave us.  She touched lives, and not just us nieces and nephews.  She was a great elementary school teacher and her principals and fellow teachers knew it.  I don’t even remember how many of them showed up at her funeral.  A whole generation of girl’s campers were directly effected by her loving care.  She marshaled the considerable power and talent of dozens of co-directors and counselors to provide her campers with the best possible experience.  There is no way to count how many girls heard and responded to the gospel because of her efforts.  The staff she trained continue, decades later, now, teaching God’s word and spreading the gospel using the skills training and enthusiasm she generously shared.  She led AWANA and taught Sunday school, and countless other things that touched lives.

So why did I say, that one year, that I wanted my OWN birthday?  …that I didn’t want to share my birthday with my Aunt Dora?  Honestly, I don’t know why, I just know it happened, fool that I was.  I guess I got over my selfishness, because, by a year later, I was back to loving sharing my birthday with someone I loved.  I guess kids do stupid things sometimes.

April 24 1983.  My birthday.  The day my grandpa died.  We were all there.  Virtually all of his eight children, and most of his grandchildren, almost 100 of us in all.  Sitting in his room, playing in the yard, grouped around the kitchen and dining room tables- we were all there at his house; and by the end of the day he had gone Home.  I turned 19 years old that day.  It was not a day like any other day.

So, what about April 24, 2014?  A day to remember and miss my grandpa.  A day to miss my Aunt Dora and wish that we still had a party together.  April 24, 2014- Fifty years after April 24, 1964.  Just a day like any other day?  I guess so.

In God We Trust (or at least we used to)

We no longer live in a Christian nation. I know, I know… I can hear you out there saying that we never did- that the writings and behavior of many founders show that they weren’t all that “Christian” to begin with.  If you are one of those people who think that we never were a Christian nation, you are, at least in some respects, incorrect.  If it is not individually true of each of the founding fathers of The United States of America, it is true that the basic principles upon which this country was founded are Christian and scriptural. And so we continued for many years. As to the individuals, I would not dare to argue that each one was a genuinely regenerate follower of Christ (a Christian in the truest sense). As to the values and principles that shaped the formation of this nation, they were definitely Christian.

The Declaration of Independence states that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  That is, the way we act, the way we treat each other, the way we govern is based upon our belief that there IS a creator, that He cares how we act and treat each other, and that He wants His creatures to be treated with dignity.  The very reason they declared independence from what they considered to be a tyrannical and harsh government that did not treat it subjects with dignity was because government ought to honor the Creator’s intentions for his creatures.  While you may argue with the details of exactly which rights and responsibilities the Creator gave his creatures, you must recognize the effort to acknowledge the Creator and the importance of His desires to the authors and signatories of that document.  Were we just now declaring independence from some foreign power, we would certainly not cite the desires of the Creator as our chief reason for doing so.

Recite the Pledge of Allegiance to yourself.  Did you know that the pledge was changed to add the words “under God” fairly recently?  On June 14, 1954, president Eisenhower made the addition of those words official saying, “From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. … In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”  As it turned out, that future of which he spoke was to be a very short period of history.  Not only would those words NOT be added in 2012 if they weren’t already there, but in some places school children aren’t even allowed to recite the pledge because of them.  We no longer have a president, nor many other members of government, who acknowledge the Almighty and certainly not the “religious faith in America’s heritage and future.”

Christians should be thankful that we still live in a land where outright religious persecution is not the norm, even as it is in many other modern nations.  We should take full advantage of the privilege to meet with fellow Christians and openly proclaim the word of God.  We should be glad that, while our nation has laws allowing immorality, we do not yet suffer under legislation which requires us to choose disobedience to the law rather than disobedience to God.  Pray that that day never comes.  I fear that the election of 2012 has brought us one step closer.

Best Intentions – Worst Results

So, one time I said something I didn’t mean, it didn’t come out the right way, and it was meant to be kind but it came out hurtful.

What do you do when that happens? I tried to find a way to fix what I had said, but everything I thought to say would have made it worse. I said something I thought would be clever and funny but it meant something I didn’t intend AT ALL, and as soon as those words left my lips, her face just fell. I know she understood it the way it sounded, not the way I intended- not what I MEANT. And there was no way to fix it.

This I carry around with me. I think of what I did at the oddest of times.  I can hope that she has since forgotten. I haven’t seen her in years- not since then, actually. Or maybe instead of being insulted and feeling badly about herself, she just thinks I’m rude and insensitive. She’d be right.

The scriptures say, “When there are many words, sin is unavoidable” Apparently, for some of us, it doesn’t even take “many words.”

I once knew a wise man who was very slow to speak. He took some teasing over his slow and deliberate manner, but he endured it with a smile. He told me that, as a young man, someone told him that he was very intelligent- but that he had a very sarcastic and caustic tongue. “If you want to have a ministry for the Lord,” the man told him, “you’ll have to learn to control your tongue.” He learned. I never heard him say an unkind thing- even though he dealt with some people that “deserved” it.

That’s how I want to be.  Hear something.  Smile.  Deep breath .  Smile.    Say something helpful, something kind, something righteous.