Let’s Go, Brandon


I’m late to the game, I know. But a chant has grown in popularity at a number of sporting events, and it eventually became an occasion to mock. A rap song came about because of it—a song that apparently became #1 on Twitter. (Sorry, but I didn’t even know that there was a Twitter list of most popular songs. Until I heard about this one.)

cSome in the crowd of various baseball games chanted it, and so did a large segment of a crowd at a NASCAR race. The chant? F@#* Joe Biden. The chant can be heard as a news reporter interviewed the winning driver by the name of Brandon someone. Sorry, I didn’t catch his name. As the chant got louder and made it harder for the reporter to ask her questions and to hear Brandon’s answers, she editorialized and noted that the crowd was loudly saying “Let’s go, Brandon.” Which would actually make no sense since the young man had already won the race.

Many outlets realized that this reporter was not accurately reporting what the crowd was saying. Most took the tack that she was intentionally steering her listeners away from the truth—in essence lying about what was clearly a news-worthy story.

I have no way of knowing what was in her mind. But while many conservatives laugh and are clearly delighted by the negative sentiment aimed at the US President by this growing number of people in a crowd, I’m pretty horrified.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that President Biden and his policies are tearing apart the fabric of American society. I think he needs to be stopped, which is why I think the 2022 elections can’t come soon enough so that the Conservatives can gain control of Congress and stop the crazy from this government.

Think about it:

  • the on-going border crisis, with no end in sight
  • rising gas prices
  • the humiliating end to the war in Afghanistan, resulting in Americans and allies left behind 
  • inflation
  • outrageous efforts to pass “infrastructure” bills and voting “rights” bills
  • departing from energy independence and returning to buying (dirtier) coal and gas from other countries, including Russia
  • enemy nations developing weapons while our military is stripped and demoralized by teaching Critical Race Theory and forced vaccines
  • the supply-line crisis, in which a 100 ships at this writing are stacked up in harbors off the coast of California.

I could add the work force shortage, too, as business after business displays “Now hiring” signs. There is a shortage of truckers, warehouse workers, restaurant servers, grocery story personnel. You name it.  That list also does not include the government overreach which is trying to force every American, even the young and those with natural Covid immunity, to be vaccinated. 

Clearly, there are reasons Americans are unhappy with President Biden. I understand, and I share the feeling that this administration is likely the worst this country has ever seen. And yet . . .

I can’t help thinking that we are losing a great deal by showing such disrespect to the highest authority in our country. I understand that we have lost even the veneer of civility in our land, and certainly President Trump during his campaigns and his four years in office, did nothing to change that.

Nevertheless, I don’t think any of the faults of society at large or the sins of this President, the bad policies, the refusal to live by his oath of office and uphold the Constitution while refusing to do what an executive is supposed to do: see to it that the laws Congress passes are enacted—none of this gives Christians a right to blow past the stop sign of Scripture.

The Bible tells us to obey those in authority over us, and to “honor the king.” The Apostle Paul wrote those words when the “king” was the Roman Caesar who was persecuting Christians and who was living an immoral lifestyle.

If Christians in the first century were supposed to “honor” such a leader, aren’t we today in this 21st century democracy to also honor our President? That doesn’t mean we agree with him or stay silent about the wrongs he is responsible for. But any criticism we offer, I believe, should be respectful. If not to the man, certainly to the office. That’s what God’s word says. And that’s the highest authority any believer should have.

Published in: on October 20, 2021 at 5:04 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: ,


Critical Race Theory And A Confession

The term Critical Race Theory has been bandied about for some time now. For those who may not be familiar with the term, here is a short video that gives the gist of the idea.

 

I have long thought that Critical Race Theory stands in contradiction to what Dr. Martin Luther King advocated, but I hadn’t heard it so clearly articulated before.  In short, Critical Race Theory is simply a part of a movement to create a cultural revolution in America, right before our eyes.

The shocking thing to me is that I recently have bought into some of this thinking without realizing it. Not about race, but about gender. Mostly I haven’t paid much attention to the whole transgender issue because it is so lacking in factual, scientific support. One thing the anti-God crowd says over and over is that we must believe in science. But when it comes to gender, these same people on the “progressive” left ignore biology in favor of feelings. Their hypocrisy and lack of common sense have made them easy to ignore, I have believed.

However, the feminist narrative which in some ways runs counter to transgender ideas, and has its own problems with science, has become its own kind of Critical Race Theory. Just without the race. That’s right. It’s Critical Gender Theory, essentially saying, Women good, Men bad. The oppressed are women, the oppressors are men. 

It’s another insidious way to divide human beings, and I realized I have bought into the ideas more than I realized. Recently I was reading in the book of Proverbs in which the author, believed to be Solomon, was passing along counsel to his son. Get wisdom, he says, and stay away from prostitutes:

And behold, a woman comes to meet him,

Dressed as a prostitute and cunning of heart.

She is boisterous and rebellious,

Her feet do not remain at home;

She is now in the streets, now in the public squares,

And lurks by every corner. (Proverbs 7:10-12)

My first thought was, I wonder what caused this woman to go the way of a prostitute. I mean, today girls are sold into the sex slave trade. They sometimes go the way of the prostitute because they’ve been abused. Some are on drugs and look to prostitution as the only way to get money to support their habit.

See what I was doing? This girl must first have been a victim before she became a prostitute. She is actually to be pitied and not viewed as rebellious as Scripture says.

OK, that’s a scary realization. The Bible doesn’t lie. While bad circumstances do affect people, those do not mitigate against rebellion.

So the feminist message that men have always and only oppressed women and the “progressive” left with the message that anyone white has and always will operate on the basis of race, both fly in the face of God’s Word.

The Bible says clearly that in God’s eyes there is no male or female, no Greek or Jew. At the cross of Jesus, all these differences are of no account. We are one body, united, without distinctions that would tear us apart or subjugate men over women or whites over those of other races.

These ideas that are being actively taught in our schools and are designed to overthrow the American culture built upon the values taught in Scripture, are beginning to take hold in all our institutions, including our churches. And sadly, I realize in some ways they have begun to take hold in me.

Maybe more than a confession, this is a warning. We’re all susceptible to the lies that Satan would have us believe to destroy God’s pictures of our relationship with Him.

He is our Father, so manhood and family are under attack. He is the head of the body, the church, and the unity of humans is under attack. On and on. These are Satan’s lies and we have to stand against, trusting instead in the truth God teaches in His word.

Published in: on June 14, 2021 at 5:17 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: ,

Missing A Year


Since March of last year, I have felt sorry for high school and college students, especially those who were seniors.

It started when the NCAA—the governing body of college sports, canceled “March Madness,” the basketball tournament any number of players had worked hard all season to reach. If fact, some of those players had counted on performing well in the tournament in order to get a toe-hold into playing professional basketball. After all, how else did a player from a smaller school have a chance to be noticed by NBA scouts?

Of course, March Madness wasn’t the extent of what kids lost. Graduation would be another big zero, though kids had worked four long years in order to walk across a stage and receive their diploma, either as a high school graduate or a college graduate. I don’t know about elsewhere, but here in SoCal, there was no graduation. In fairness, the schools tried. At least some did. The one near me hung a big Congratulations banner across the street leading to the school. They held some sort of car ceremony, which I think gave the kids their diplomas. Later they had a students only graduation in their large football stadium. Not, I imagine, what these kids had dreamed about.

Well, actually, I don’t “imagine.” I know. The summer before I was to enter my senior year of high school, my family moved to Tanzania, East Africa. The school system was based on the British system, not American, with the various subjects I needed to graduate, and more so, to meet the requirements for entrance into college; and all the classes were in Swahili. There was no way I could finish high school there unless I took correspondence courses. This method of instruction from a distance was a lot like homeschooling, which had not yet become a thing, and a bit like remote learning, except I didn’t have a computer, which was also not yet a thing—at least not the home computers we know today.

Picture by Michael Jacobson

I had one advantage—my parents were both educators, so I had people I could ask if I needed help. But I didn’t have classmates, football games to attend, school clubs to be a part of, senior days or ditch days or graduation. I know what it feels like to look forward to something for years—I mean, I’d gone to my brother’s graduation, my sister’s graduation. and I had imagined my own. Which I never participated in.

For me, there was so much more that I gained, however. I mean, I was living in a different culture, experiencing a whole different world. I can’t begin to explain what all I learned, how my whole worldview changed because of that “not in school” year.

I hope the students of today will some time in their future look back and say that the Corid year was actually a good thing for them.

Here in California, if nothing else, it has removed them from the pressure of curriculum that many don’t subscribe to. The whole “critical race theory” instruction that is taking over schools is one example

Parents are also more aware of the course work their kids are being exposed to. They are more involved with their children and their learning. Families are closer and have shared experiences. I’ve heard of families instituting game nights when once they all scattered in their many different directions. In other words, the “missing year” doesn’t actually have to be missing. There might be a lot more benefits that we just haven’t uncovered yet. And one thing seems apparent: we probably aren’t going to take “going to school” for granted for some time. And that’s a good thing.

God has a way of turning tough things into purposeful things that can accomplish much.

Sort of like the events leading up to the first Easter. Things looked pretty dark for the people who believed Jesus was their Messiah. I mean, can it get any darker than to see the man you believe would save your nation, dying as a criminal on a Roman cross? Maybe they were thinking they had lost, not just a year, but three years, and all their hopes and dreams. But then Easter. And the days that followed. God took what seemed to be a tragedy and turned it into triumph. He has a way of doing that.

Published in: on March 26, 2021 at 4:57 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,

Hate Speech And The Christian


A couple things seem clear for Christians. First, hate speech is not right for someone following Jesus Christ. I just heard earlier today from a black pastor who said in his younger days when he lived in Atlanta he was not allowed to attend a white church. The church actually split over the decision, and the whole experience affected his understanding of race relations and reconciliation. I’m referring to Dr. Tony Evans who spoke on race relations at the height of the BLM protests and riots. He’s also written a book on the subject. Here’s part of the description:

Oneness is hard achieve. Let the kingdom unity of Scripture point the way.

Today’s world is torn apart. Tension is everywhere. Brother is pitted against brother, sister against sister, citizen against citizen, even Christian against Christian. It’s so hard to find agreement—much less real harmony—in our polarized society. Can there be a way forward?

Tony Evans knows how elusive unity can be. As a black man who’s also a leader in white evangelicalism, he understands how hard it can be to bring these worlds together. Yet he’s convinced that the gospel provides a way for Christians to find oneness despite the things that divide us.

If you’ve never heard him speak, here’s a video I chose randomly. He’s Biblical.

All that to say, Christians of many races believe in the unity of believers that crosses racial and ethnic lines. Christians around the world understand that hate speech is against God’s plan. I mean, if a person believes the Bible, he’ll see right there in 1 John 4:21:

If someone says, “I love God,” and yet he hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother and sister whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

The second thing that should be clear is that we believers will soon become the target of those who accuse of hate speech, with the accusations will come the whole cancel culture pressure.

Why do I think this? If Christians are not to engage in hate speech, how is it that we will be accused of it?

We’ve already seen this. In a recent election, Christian business owners who supported voting for a heterosexual definition of marriage, were boycotted, and some were harassed. Since then, the concept of “hate speech” has only grown.

As long as Christians teach what the Bible does—that God created us in His image, but sin entered the world and marred His good creation; ever since, every human alive struggles with a sin nature that only Christ can take care of—we will be the target of hate speech. People who are deceiving themselves don’t like to be told they are sinners in need of a Savior. I even had one atheist who used to visit here some years ago, tell me that teaching children that they are sinners is akin to child abuse.

It’s not. It’s actually the most loving thing a person can do, on the par with a doctor telling a patient that he has cancer, but that there is a treatment that has 100% success rate. That doctor would be accused of malpractice if he “loved” his patient so much he didn’t want to give him the bad news about the cancer.

In the same way, Christians show our love for the broken and dying world by telling them the good news—which, of course, follows the bad news of our condition.

In reality, broken people know they are broken. They might not want to admit it. They may dress up their circumstances to look a if they are not broken, but they aren’t fooling anyone else. Just themselves. Their spouse, their kids, their boss, their fellow employees, even their good friends know the flaws and foibles. Because we try so desperately to hide our sin condition, someone needs to tell us the truth.

I just heard a program by Focus on the Family today which featured two guests who were both formerly in the transgender lifestyle. One man who had presented as a woman. One woman who had presented as a man. The woman said she finally came to understand her need to leave that life when, as a Christian seeking God, she read Psalm 139. Here are the pertinent verses:

For You created my innermost parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, because I am awesomely and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully formed in the depths of the earth;

She asked herself then, What have I done?

Praise God she and the male guest both “came to their senses,” much like the prodigal son in the Biblical parable, and returned to the life God had intended for them.

But how long will Christians be allowed to say things like God heals the broken gender-confused individual? We are on a course in which that statement will soon be considered hate speech.

The main thing, I think, is for Christians to do what Daniel did: when confronted with compromise, he made up his mind to do things God’s way. We today must make up our mind, and the sooner, the better. Are we going to continue preaching what the Bible says, or are we going to bow to the culture? Many Christians have already decided to follow the culture when it comes to child rearing. Many follow the culture in the matter of woman pastors. Where is our line in the sand, that point where we say, as the apostles said, We ought to obey God rather than man? At that point, we will likely be accused of hate speech.

Published in: on March 24, 2021 at 5:10 pm  Comments (14)  
Tags: , , ,

Hate Speech—Some Implications


I have to admit— twenty years ago I did not see “cancel culture” coming. I did not see the US President being banned from a social media platform. I did not see censorship of books in print, of cartoons. But sadly, in the name of “protecting” the world from “hate speech,” that’s where we are. I suspect we have only begun to see the tip of the iceberg.

For instance, some may not realize that back in January the San Francisco School Board voted to change the names of 44 different schools. Fortunately the decision has been stalled, but the intent is to eliminate such school names as Abraham Lincoln High School, George Washington High School, Dianne Feinstein Elementary, Roosevelt Middle School, Jefferson Elementary and Alamo Elementary. When I saw those names I thought it an odd list. Here’s the explanation, according to CNN, including one that explains why the current sitting Democrat California US Senator is included:

Lincoln was chosen based on “his treatment of First Nation peoples,” teacher Jeremiah Jeffries told the San Francisco Chronicle in December 2020.
Washington and Jefferson were slaveowners.

Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, was listed for reportedly ordering a Confederate flag to be replaced after it was torn down, according to the Sacramento Bee. (CNN)

This movement to expunge American history of names and statues and pictures of people associated in some way with what today’s culture has ruled harmful, is just beginning. The pictures of African-American business innovators, Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima, have been removed or changed on their product. Why? I guess because they don’t look like African-Americans of today.

And so goes the culture under the iron hand of “hate speech.” That’s why the Washington Redskins is now the Washington Football Team, and their once proud logo that depicted a fierce Indian wearing a headdress, has now become WFT printed in caps on the helmet.

Surprisingly logos such as Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers which also single out a specific group of people as representative of their respective team, have received no criticism. So, practically speaking, logos that identify minorities that have not received the “hate speech” label are OK . . . today. But tomorrow, that could change.

After all, if Diane Feinstein can be reelected to the Senate five times and receive “the most popular votes in any U.S. Senate election in history,” yet still have her name scrubbed from the name of an elementary school in her home state, then clearly the tide can turn on anyone at any time.

Perhaps the ridiculousness of this “hate speech” run amok is best seen in the censorship of six Dr. Seuss titles (they call it “self-censorship, but the media pressure spurred the action) and in the cancellation of a cartoon featuring a skunk, Pepe Le Pew.

The sad thing is, removing books like Huckleberry Finn and Uncle Tom’s Cabin from libraries because they contain the n___ word or because they depict slavery, means we are to deny a great chunk of history—not our own only, but also of the rest of the world. Certainly we should not glorify the stereotypes of old or the evils of the past, but acknowledging them seems vital. How can a people learn from their mistakes if we are never allowed to talk about them?

In addition, how are we to learn that people are not just all evil or all good—as if Abraham Lincoln, who signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery, was a wicked man because of some report that his treatment of Native Americans didn’t meet the 21st Century standards. Was he perfect? Of course not. But he has rightly been celebrated because of his stand against Southern secession and ultimately against slavery.

I haven’t even mentioned the change of rules in the US House of Representatives:

The 117th Congress altered the definition of “relative” to be gender-neutral and succinct. That change, in full:

(3) In clause 8(c)(3) of rule XXIII, strike “father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister, grandson, or granddaughter” and insert “parent, child, sibling, parent’s sibling, first cousin, sibling’s child, spouse, parent-in-law, child-in-law, sibling-in-law, stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, half-sibling, or grandchild” (WUSA9).

Or what about YouTube removing some 30,000 videos created by doctors and health workers who discussed reasons not to receive the Covid vaccine? Apparently it’s “hateful” to think for yourself today.

How many other businesses or books or historical figures will we lose along the way to the far, far left’s dream of a classless, sexless, “woke” society under their control?

Published in: on March 19, 2021 at 5:51 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags:

Hate Speech, An Introduction


I think the topic of “hate speech” is so significant, it needs a lengthy treatment, but I don’t think I can or should put it all into one post. First, some initial thoughts.

Hate speech fits into a wider contest of censorship, cancel culture, and the role of the press—at least it does here in the US.

Essentially the cat got out when journalists crossed a line and started calling President Trump a liar, right in their headlines of their newspapers, and then those words were quoted (or parroted) by the “legacy” broadcast media. Of course, this negative slant, not the unbiased reporting which has marked journalism over the years, fit in well with the social media bans on whatever they deemed “hate speech.”

We already had a growth in “cancel culture,” which had it’s roots in boycotts and other shaming tactics bent on hurting a company or a person financially. Initially these methods were used to foster change—such as South Africa ending apartheid. But the tool has become a sledge hammer designed more to punish than to correct.

What ironically ends up taking place is one side declares a party guilty of hate speech, then heaps hateful invective on them in a way that causes others to do the same. In other words, this atmosphere of cancel culture approves of hate speech that attacks hate speech.

Of course, the supposed goal of this process is to bring an end to ugly disagreements and disharmony. The answer is the same that the Soviet Union settled on: eliminate opposition by silencing people with opposing views. Then all can appear calm and unified.

Some may think this is an extreme way of describing what’s happening in Western culture, but it’s not. Silencing and censoring people start with small steps. The greatest surprise is that the social media giants have moved as quickly as they have.

When I first joined Facebook some ten years ago, I refused to create content on their site. As I read their agreement (well, skimmed it) I realized they were claiming the right over my work. They could use it or delete it at will. But they never actually ever did. Until now.

First, the Big Tech communication platform groups stopped acting like a platform and started acting like publishers. It was their opinion and theirs alone that decided what was “hate speech,” and would therefore be censored or not.

The greatest example of this was the successful squelching of the Hunter Biden/China story before the election. The New York Post, the fourth largest newspaper in the US, published a story about Hunter’s activities and the possibility that his father knew about what he was doing, but before many could share the story, the social media gurus labeled this fact-based story as “false,” and therefore hateful. Further, the legacy media outlets claimed, without any basis in fact, that the story was “Russian disinformation.”

In other words, people who wanted to repeat the story, to let others know what it said, were silenced, or at least restricted from passing the information along to a wide audience.

In many ways a similar treatment of the riots that erupted from BLM protests, was handled in the same way. Not completely because most people knew there was something going on. But when a reporter stands in front of a burning building and claims that the protests are “mostly peaceful,” there is a problem.

In other words, as I see it, there is a connection with “hate speech” labeling, cancel culture, and honest reporting. Now, apparently, “legacy media” outlets have no qualms about slanting their stories to meet their own particular biases. Or, more accurately, the biases of the owners and editors that run the show.

I honestly can’t remember how I found this video, but the point for this article is, this speaker is an “insider,” a journalist who knows what she’s talking about. The video is long, but I thought she was an interesting speaker and supported her claims with specific examples. I had intended to listen to a few minutes in order to get the gist of what she was saying, but ended up listening to the whole video.

More on hate speech another day.

Featured Photo by Lina Kivaka from Pexels

Take Courage. Fear Not.


I’ve discovered in the last ten years or so just how relevant the various books of prophecy are. Some of them seem as if they could have been written about contemporary America. So I was not surprised when I came upon a verse that speaks to many in today’s climate of . . . worry.

I don’t know how else to say it, but there are small businesses that have had to close their doors; people who have lost their jobs; others who are worried about finding the paper products they need, when they need them; people who are concerned about getting sick or wearing masks or getting a vaccine or not getting a vaccine.

Isaiah comes along in chapter 35 and says

Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not. (vv 3-4a)

Interestingly, the passage starts out by announcing a reason for nature to be glad and to rejoice: “They will see the glory of the LORD/The majesty of our God.”

Essentially Isaiah is describing how things will be when Messiah comes again. He will set things right—bring His vengeance on those who deserve vengeance, save those who trust in Him, provide a “Highway of Holiness” to the redeemed, to enable gladness and joy to the ransomed of the LORD, to chase away sorrow and sighing.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it a relief, refreshing, to hear good news. Not only that, this passage reinforces the fact that God is in control, even when circumstances seem so far from what we imagined or hoped for.

For instance, I grew up in the era which taught that the US is a melting pot. We all have one thing in common: we have come from somewhere else, whether recently or in the distant past, and we have come together, blending our identities into Americans. It’s a wonderful ideal.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would see the day when students are taught “Critical Race Theory,” such that they had to identify which racial, religious, economic, gender, sexual preference oppressed group they belonged to. Those who could not, were part of the oppressors. In other words, these ideas are Marxist and they are the antithesis of the American ideal based on the creed that all people are created equal.

That idea is clearly one embedded in the Bible. God loves the whole world, for instance, and promised a blessing through Abraham for all the world. Paul specifically said all the divisions of ethnicity, gender, economics melted away at the foot of the cross. In the Church, made up of those who are reconciled to God through the sacrifice, the payment for sin, which Jesus provided, there are no distinctions.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:21-24–emphasis mine)

So in the face of the many difficulties in 2020, our hope does not lie in a change in the calendar. I know a lot of people are talking about how they can’t wait to be done with 2020, as if the covid virus will disappear at midnight New Year’s Eve. Or jobs will suddenly come back and restaurants will miraculously open or racial tension will vanish or any number of other problems this year has uncovered, will suddenly be solved.

The change of calendar is not the answer, but the knowledge that Jesus, our Savior, will indeed come to reign as our King eternal, heaping gladness and joy on our heads and driving sorrow and sighing away, gives us a reason to take courage, to fear not.

God will handle the problems. He will set things right. It’s in the bank, a done deal. And we have His word on it.

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:17-18)

So now we can ask—are we in the company of those who have taken refuge in the promise of God? If so, Scripture gives us strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. Which means we can take courage. We can fear not.

Published in: on December 29, 2020 at 5:24 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

A Revolution In Culture


From time to time I have listed the various inventions in my life time. Once I listed the things I knew about that had come into existence and went extinct. You know, things like cassettes and VCRs.

What I haven’t thought about before are the many cultural changes. For instance, when I was growing up, grocery stores weren’t open on Sunday. They also didn’t sell liquor. That seems a little shocking, I know, because it’s so far from what we know today.

Here’s another one. When I was young we had one person come to our door and ask for a handout. We lived next to a building that had once been a church, and possibly this man though this was where the parish priest lived. Today, I routinely see homeless people when I’m on my walk. I mean, pretty much every day.

There are lots of other things. For instance, gambling was against the law. Now various states encourage it with their state-run lotteries. Colorado has approved sports betting. And any number of states have casinos.

Maybe the biggest change has been in church. When I grew up, most churches had a Sunday morning service, Sunday school, a Sunday evening service, and a midweek service, usually on Wednesday. Now very few churches have a Sunday evening service (I’m speaking Pre-Pandemic), and the only midweek services are small groups that meet in homes (if that).

When I went to “middle school” which we called “junior high,” the girls wore dresses to school. “Transgender” was not a teenage issue yet and “homosexual” still appeared in the college psychology books under deviant behavior.

Were there problems with drugs? The use of hallucinogens took hold during the hippie era and the Viet Nam War, so people might think there has been no change there. But wait. There are prescription drugs that are in common use now that no one had even heard of. So many more people, adults and children, take drugs of one sort or the other. Reminds me of the dystopian novel that had the whole society taking drugs, which kept them under control.

When I was a kid, people would whisper about someone who grew up with divorced parents. Now divorce is common, and so is living together and not marrying.

Have I mentioned abortion? Well, yes, there were whispered “back alley” abortions. But all that changed in 1973 (in the name of “choice”) when the flood gates opened for the abortion of thousands upon thousands of babies.

Of course, the problem was that many of the cultural mores of those days were not based on anything more than tradition. There was not a particular reason grocery stores didn’t open on Sunday. Once there had been a reason—Sunday was the Lord’s day, not a day for commerce. But when Sunday changed from being the Lord’s day to being a day off work, there was no more motivation to keeping grocery stores closed for business. (Which, of course, meant that more and more people began to work on Sunday. And not go to church.)

There was not a reason for people to refrain from divorce, or to stay celibate until their wedding night, or even to get married.

The point is simple. As we see racial tension grow and riots and hatred fanned in various cities across the US, so many people have said, I just want my country back. But we aren’t “getting our country back” until the heart of our country changes.

Here’s one woman who gave her thoughts on the matter.

I admit, I stopped listening when she got to the part about the guns, but I went back to it, and I’m glad I did because she got to the crux of the issue: prayer.

Well, actually, God.

We have left our first love. We Christians have adopted many of the same attitudes and beliefs that our secular neighbors hold. We are listening more to athletes and stars than we are to Scripture.

The Bible says the beginning of wisdom, and of knowledge, is the fear of the LORD.

I can’t say there’s much fear—awesome respect and reverence—for God these days. In fact as the elements of our society march us toward anarchy, there’s seemingly a disregard for all forms of authority.

While God is a loving heavenly Father, He is still the ultimate authority. He is the One True Judge who, James says, is able to save and to destroy.

When we return to the fear of the LORD, when we bow before Him and admit our sin, maybe then we can have our nation back.

There’s actually something better. Maranatha. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Published in: on September 25, 2020 at 6:03 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , ,

Hard Of Hearing


I don’t think any group of people illustrates better how those rejecting God simply refuse to hear God speak than do the people of Judah who Jeremiah prophesied to. Amazingly, God warned Jeremiah, who was apparently a young man when he started prophesying, that the people would not do what he was telling them to do. But still, God wanted him to keep on warning them.

So Jeremiah did. For decades.

He warned that if the people didn’t repent, God would bring an end to the nation just as He had sent Israel, their northern neighbor, into exile. God had Jeremiah give a number of object lessons to illustrate the things He wanted Judah to understand.

One was a potter and the clay he was using to make his pots. Another was a cloth belt he was to take and bury near the river. Of course, when God sent him back to reclaim it, it was ruined. God’s pronouncement followed:

‘This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband which is totally worthless. For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.’ (Jer. 13:10-11; emphasis mine)

Still, no one believed him.

Ripe_Figs_-_c._1773Even when the Babylonians came up against them and defeated them, carrying the leaders into exile, even when they removed the rightful king and set his uncle on the throne, even when they stripped the gold from the temple and pillaged everything of value, Judah still held fast to the idea that they’d prevail.

God had Jeremiah put before them two baskets of figs, one filled with good figs and the other with over-ripe ones that were worthless. Then he prophesied:

“Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. 6 For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart. (Jer. 24:5-7)

But those who remained in the land—Jeremiah, under God’s direction, said they were like the basket of bad figs and as such were worthless, fit only to be destroyed:

I will send the sword, the famine and the pestilence upon them until they are destroyed from the land which I gave to them and their forefathers. (Jer. 24:10)

At another time, Jeremiah put a wooden yoke on his neck and prophesied:

“It will be, that the nation or the kingdom which will not serve him, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and which will not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine and with pestilence,” declares the LORD, “until I have destroyed it by his hand. (Jer. 27:8)

But he was up against some false prophets and those “diviners, dreamers, soothsayers or sorcerers” were giving the people the opposite message. One of them took the yoke from Jeremiah and broke it in two. He falsely prophesied that in two years God would break the yoke of Babylon, that the exiles would be returned to Judah, that the temple vessels would be restored to them.

No, Jeremiah countered. That false prophet had just insured that the yoke Judah would wear, was made of iron. And then this:

“Listen now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the LORD.’”

So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month. (Jer. 28:15b-17)

Yep, two months after breaking the wooden yoke, Hananiah died.

You’d think that would be convincing evidence that Jeremiah was the real deal, a prophet who spoke the words of the Lord. But no.

Jeremiah was arrested, an attempt was made to kill him, and he was accused repeatedly of treason. You see, he was begging the people to surrender. It was the only way they could be saved, he said, as God’s spokesman. If they would turn themselves over to the Babylonians, they’d come away with their lives.

As the days drew closer to the final exile, Jeremiah wrote to the first group of exiles and told them to make themselves at home because the exile would last for seventy years, but after that, they’d be restored to their land.

Judah ignored even this word of hope. In fact, when word came to Jerusalem about Jeremiah’s message, it was one of the bits of evidence against him that he was counseling treason.

God had him perform another object lesson. He bought a piece of land from his cousin, then had the deeds sealed up in a clay jar. The message was that when God restored the people to the land, they would once again thrive.

No matter. The people didn’t want to hear it. They’d closed their ears to the warning that they needed to repent or face destruction. Now they closed their ears to the promise of restoration.

The last we know of Jeremiah, after Jerusalem was destroyed and only the poorest of the poor remained, a group of people wanted to leave for Egypt. They asked Jeremiah whether that’s what they should do. He said he’d ask God. When he returned and told them that no, they should not go to Egypt, again they refused to listen. No matter that they’d given their word that whatever Jeremiah told them, that would be their decision. Instead they did just the opposite.

The people of Judah during this period are a real study of what it means to have hard hearts. They listened to those who said the things they wanted to hear, not to God’s word delivered in an unambiguous way by His prophet who had the credentials of one whose word came true.

But they didn’t want to hear THAT message—the one from God that told of the consequences for their sin, that talked about exile and repentance, about putting away their idols and ignoring the false prophets and the sorcerers. So they stopped their ears and went with the beautiful message of peace—the one that was completely NOT TRUE.

Seems to me our society is still refusing to listen to God’s warnings.

This article is an edited version of one originally published here in March, 2015.

Published in: on June 11, 2020 at 4:15 pm  Comments Off on Hard Of Hearing  
Tags: , , ,

Assassination


In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s actual birthday, I’m reprising this article that is a lot about him, but also about authority and . . . (gulp) race.

Some years ago I read a biography by Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, martyr, prophet, spy. You may know that Bonhoeffer was one of the Germans involved in the unsuccessful plot to assassinate Hitler.

Everything I’d heard about Bonhoeffer was positive. Specifically people refer to his strong Christian beliefs. I have a copy of his book The Cost of Discipleship, though I’ve never read it. You see, I have this problem with plotting an assassination.

Granted, Hitler was an evil man, but so were the Roman Caesars under which the early church came into being. Yet Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said to be subject to rulers and Peter echoed the concept:

Submit yourselves to every human institution, whether to the king as the one in authority or to governors as sent by him . . . (1 Peter 2:13-14a)

So I’ve always had a problem thinking of Bonhoeffer as a hero of the Christian faith or even of the human race. Is it ever right to do wrong?

Our times are troubled, too. When the 2016 political conventions drew near, the news referred to the tightening of security and the barriers and the buffer zone those tasked with keeping the candidates safe had to erect. Of course they replayed footage of a crazed spectator at one of Donald Trump’s rallies jumping onto the stage, and another clip of the police leading away a man who said he came to shoot Mr. Trump.

Shortly thereafter assassinations of the five Dallas policemen (and the wounding of more officers and a few civilians) made the news.

I thought back to the assassination of President Kennedy (yes, I can remember it). He’d been elected by the slimmest of margins, but the whole nation mourned his death. I suspect if there were to be such a tragedy today involving our President or any of the candidates, we would not pull together. We might actually see a deepening of the bitterness and hatred that has been seething in our country.

All this brought to mind another assassination—perhaps the worst crime in America—that by John Wilkes Booth of President Abraham Lincoln. I say “the worst crime” because I believe, apart from slavery itself, the period after the Civil War is most responsible for the roots of racism and poverty and injustice we see in America today.

President Lincoln had a plan for reconstruction of the South. Had he continued to serve as President until the end of his term, I suspect there would not have been Carpetbaggers or Shanty Towns or Ku Klux Klans or Jim Crow laws or black voter disenfranchisement or segregation.

Change would not have been easy but there were already allies President Lincoln could have called on to implement his ideas for reconstruction—hundreds of white abolitionists who had taken up the call to eliminate slavery and an untold number of heroic white station masters and conductors in the Underground Railroad.

Before the war was over, President Lincoln had begun to put into place piece of a reconstruction plan that would address the new societal realities—Southern plantation owners without a work force, and often with homes and outbuildings burned to the ground; and freed slaves without jobs, uneducated, and homeless.

He established temporary military governorships that would administrate the Southern states. He established The Freedmen’s Bureau which helped

African Americans find family members from whom they had become separated during the war. It arranged to teach them to read and write, considered critical by the freedmen themselves as well as the government. Bureau agents also served as legal advocates for African Americans in both local and national courts, mostly in cases dealing with family issues. The Bureau encouraged former major planters to rebuild their plantations, urged freed Blacks to gain employment above all, kept an eye on contracts between the newly free labor and planters, and pushed both whites and blacks to work together as employers and employees rather than as masters and as slaves. (Wikipedia)

The Bill that set up the Freedmen’s Bureau expired in a year. Congress voted to extend it, but the new President, Andrew Johnson, vetoed it.

How might history have been changed if President Lincoln had lived! It’s impossible to know.

Considering the possibilities, though, I’m mindful of the influence of one life, one life on an entire nation.

How might the world be different if President Lincoln had lived? How might the world be different if Hitler had died?

Above all the machinations of leaders and rebels and assassins stands our sovereign God. No, He wasn’t pulling strings like a puppet master, but He superintends all that is His—which is everything. So the struggle in our society today isn’t off track any more than the struggle the first Christians endured at the hand of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.

Humanly speaking we can look at causes and effects. We can play the “what if” game or the “if only” game. But God does more with less, and brings life out of ashes. He restores and redeems.

I wish He had seen fit to heal the racial divide in our country right out of the starting blocks, before the ink was dry on the surrender Robert E. Lee signed.

More so, I wish slavery had never become an American institution.

But I imagine many Germans wish Hitler had never happened, or that East Germany had never happened.

It’s the old story of evil and evil men seeming to flourish while the righteous helplessly cry out to God to be their refuge.

So I wonder. Does it take the progression of evil to make the righteous cry out to God? I don’t know. But I think we’re at the place where crying out to God to be our refuge makes perfect sense. In reality, no matter what our circumstances, crying out to God makes sense. But in times like these, we need an anchor.

Published in: on February 12, 2020 at 4:45 pm  Comments Off on Assassination  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: