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)  
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Hate Speech—What It Is


Years ago, I learned that not all speech was protected in the US by our First Amendment to the Constitution. The words as they are written sound as if they are. In fact a former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once asserted that the Constitution and the First Amendment are not just about protecting “free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” Here’s what the First Amendment actually says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (emphasis mine)

However, as time passed the Supreme Court pivoted a bit, believing there were abridgments, or curtailment of rights, in speech. The classic example that makes such perfect sense is that no one has a right to yell, “Fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. To do so could be harmful, so people don’t have that freedom.

The idea of “hate speech,” then, was first tied to the concept of harm—if someone said something to incite violence, that was hate speech.

But like so many things, the concept of hate speech expanded. According to an article at The Heritage Foundation by Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D.,

All this started to change with the rise of radical multiculturalism. Under its influence the ideas of hate speech and hate crimes were invented. Instead of worrying about the violent intent of individuals, hate speech advocates wanted to ban utterances, gestures, conduct, or writing that they deemed prejudicial against a protected individual or group.”The Origins Of Hate Speech

The article goes on to identify President Clinton’s broad-brush blame placed on “the loud and angry voices of hate” for the Oklahoma City bombing, as moving the needle from blaming the actual persons engaged in speech deemed hateful to blaming people who held political or moral beliefs that they shared with that individual.

A decade later, the idea of hate speech advanced further:

In 2009, the National Hispanic Media Coalition outlined its definition in a report. It specified four areas as hate speech: false facts, flawed argumentation, divisive language, and dehumanizing metaphors.

Hate speech was no longer about the explicit words of individuals meant to incite violence, but a general atmosphere of public opinion that could be construed to encourage violence against certain kinds of people.

With this expanded definition, then, social media platforms declared a discussion of election irregularities as “false facts” (what an oxymoron), and therefore felt justified in removing those posts and even blocking any number of people from using their site.

Sadly, we have moved so far along the line that a writer at the Washington Post concluded his article by saying, “All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails.”

Ironically, his argument hinges on the idea that truth doesn’t always win out. We can’t just let people discuss ideas because they can be fooled. He cites some stats about middle schoolers and high schoolers to prove his point. Middle schoolers? High schoolers? Apparently his belief is that adults are just as easily fooled as they, though there was a marked increase in the ability of the older kids to discern lies.

Oddly, when I was of that middle school age, I had teachers who taught the class how to recognize loaded, slanted, negative words that were used to manipulate rather than to inform. We called it propaganda, and the USSR was the prime example of its use, though clearly anyone trying to sell something was apt to use loaded, slanted, and overly positive words to manipulate, too.

In fact, one of the reasons it’s important to know who is backing a particular article (the Washington Post vs the Heritage Foundation, for example) is to help recognize the direction of the slant those words might take.

Clearly, the move toward the use of “guardrails,” which is just a palatable way of saying censorship, is accelerating. The real issue today is, who gets to tell the rest of us where those “guardrails” are? In other words, who gets to censor our speech? Personally, I tend to think censoring someone is apt to make them angrier and less inclined to unite, rather than make them feel all peaceful and fuzzy and warm. Maybe that’s just me.

Featured photo by Stas Tsibro from Pexels

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

The Solution Is Not Political


The US has been pulled in two this year by all the rancor and accusations and rushing to judgment and anarchists and rioters. And then came the first Presidential debate.

Nothing could have demonstrated how divided we are more than those 90 minutes. At the same time, nothing could have demonstrated so clearly that what the US needs is not a political solution. It’s spiritual.

Pointing fingers and claiming that this person lied or said or did or didn’t do this or that doesn’t actually solve anything. It doesn’t bring clarity to the issues. It doesn’t actually answer the questions because those who agree with President Trump will believe him and those who agree with the former Vice President, will believe him.

This should surprise no Christian.

I understand, Christians like so many other Americans love their country, and it is hard to see people steadily dismantle what it has stood for all these years, to actually hate it and accuse those who are their neighbors and co-workers of hate.

I know this is old school, but all through my history and sociology courses, the clear ideal for which America stood was a place where all peoples from anywhere could find freedom and the pursuit of happiness. We though of ourselves during those years as a “melting pot,” a place where various peoples all became one—Americans.

No one hid from us the failings of our country—of slavery and the scar it left, of the Japanese interment camps during WWII, of the hatred Germans endured at that same time. But no one hid the great accomplishments of “people of color,” either.

I could spend a lot of time elaborating, but that’s not the point here. Rather, despite the wonderful ideal and the good instruction that certainly did play a part in forming the attitudes of many of us, we are far more divided now than we ever were. Ever.

In other words, the public policy, the political solutions, the social engineering have not brought peace and harmony to our land. In fact, they’ve hardly moved the needle.

The fact is, each and every one of us needs to bow the knee to the Sovereign Lord God Almighty.

Interestingly the Bible has a lot to say about harmony and unity, most addressing believers. “To sum up, all of you, be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead.” (1 Peter 3:8-9, I believe).

Of course the Apostle Paul called the church in Philippi (and us right along with them) to have the same attitude Jesus had. To regard others as more important than ourselves.

Do you think we would have racial or political division if we were doing what Scripture calls us to do?

But people who don’t follow Jesus likely won’t ever get there. For one, they don’t recognize the Bible as an authority, and two they don’t have any motive to do what Jesus did. Christians have that motive: “But you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also died for you leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” (also in 1 Peter 3).

So the real need is not to try and make people with no motive do what Christ taught and did, nor is it to try and fashion a government after His principles that is void of the heart of what He said.

Christ came to preach good news—release for the captives, the forgiveness of sins. He didn’t come to set up an earthly kingdom. Various people groups have tried to do this before—the Puritans in England, the Calvinists in Geneva, and perhaps that’s what the Pilgrims wanted when they came to America. I know here the Amish have tried for the same idea.

It doesn’t work. Some might think the Amish have been successful, but that’s because they don’t know about the church splits over the use of a hook and eye instead of a button or zippers instead of either. Or about the Amish that excommunicate others for having a telephone or any number of other legalistic trivia. No, the Amish community is not an example of a successful earthly group that lives in harmony.

The only such group is the Church, and we aren’t setting up an earthly place to gather or to rule. That’s part of our heavenly inheritance. But what I’ve noticed is this: since God calls us brothers and sisters, there is an instant affinity, Christian with Christian. So if I’m talking to a Kenyan I’ve only just met or if I’m sitting on a small stool in the hut of a poor Guatemalan or I’m sitting at a sushi meal in Tokyo, there is a rapport, a recognition, that we are family.

The family of Christ supersedes earthly cultures or nations or ethnicities. When I sat in a church in Harlem and sang with an all black congregation, I was with my brothers and sisters. That’s the unity that can transform a nation.

I know a lot of Christians are familiar with a part of this verse:

[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Too many people are only interested in these parts, when they pray, I will heal their land.

First God spoke these words to Israel, and He was referring to the Promised Land. I don’t think there’s any evidence that the US is a Promised Land replacement.

But more importantly, the verse says if we call on God’s name, if we humble ourselves, if we pray, if we seek His face, if we turn from our wicked ways . . . then God will hear and forgive and heal.

So where is a national turning to God? Israel had the temple and the Mosaic Law and kings anointed by God’s prophet as David was, and still needed God to explain to them that they had to be ready and willing to turn back to Him. Their God established nation and political system was not enough.

Certainly, certainly we must see that it’s also not what we need today either. We need repentant hearts and a turning to God. That’s what we should be preaching.

Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels

Published in: on September 30, 2020 at 5:13 pm  Comments (5)  
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Praying For Leaders


I know many Christians pray for our leaders. Scripture is clear that we should obey them, honor them, pray for them.

Here in the US, we have lots of leaders: the President, our Federal legislators, our Governor, our state legislators. But I wonder, in all this, do our judges get lost in the shuffle?

As it happens, what takes place in our courts matters a great deal to the direction of our country.

I don’t know how many people were aware that this past Saturday there was a Prayer March in Washington DC, sponsored by Franklin Graham.

Here’s the thank you video that came out yesterday:

These are people praying for our nation in a way that I would have liked to do as well.

In truth, praying for our nation starts with repentance. We cannot continue in our sins and expect God to ignore them and shower His blessings on us, regardless.

My blogger friend, InsanityBytes, wrote a really good post today about sin and how the recognition of our sin actually makes all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. I highly recommend “What Are Conservatives Conserving?”

I’ve written about sin on this blog before, and I’ve had discussions with people who think it’s “abusive” to tell children that they are sinners.

Well, it would be if all we said is, You’re a sinner and you’ll do horrible things all during your life and then you’ll die. That would be cruel.

Our culture takes the “everyone gets a trophy” approach: we are all wonderful, good people who just have the misfortune to have bad things happen which causes us to do bad things in return. But we’re actually, really good.

That way of thinking has so many problems. First, if people are good, how did the bad things enter into the world and make our systems bad and our actions bad? In other words, the people who actually have a problem of evil is not Christians. It’s the irreligious who think humans are good.

The Bible clearly teaches where evil comes from, how it is something passed down from Adam, and something that actually has a solution. It’s not mysterious or unclear. Because of our sin, we need a Savior.

That’s the message that America needs to hear. The whole package, including, and actually starting with, the sin part. Because if people do not recognize the sin problem, they likely won’t recognize the Savior part. I mean, who needs a Savior if you’re not lost or drowning or buffeted beyond your ability to endure?

But lost people know they need to be found, drowning people know they need to be pulled to shore, buffeted people need someone who will rescue them.

As it happens, this Prayer March was an important part of our nation turning back to God. Some 50,000 people gathered to recognize our need for God, starting with repentance, and including prayer for our leaders.

I just hope we all include our judges and the debates tonight and the voting for both national and federal offices. If we Christians don’t care, if we don’t come before God and ask Him to act on our behalf, why would we think our nation will change in a positive way?

There’s a verse in Proverbs that says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD. / He turns it wherever He wishes (21:1).

May we unite to pray that God will turn the reigns of our US government into the path of righteousness through our elected officials and appointed judges.

BTW, Vice President Pence spoke at the Prayer March. You can see the whole of the march here, and his remarks are right at the beginning (about the 1 minute mark until the 5 minute mark or so):

Published in: on September 29, 2020 at 5:07 pm  Comments (5)  
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Current Nominee For The U.S. Supreme Court


Last Saturday, President Trump selected his nominee for the highest Court in the land. When the founders of our Constitution set up the system of checks and balances, I don’t think they ever envisioned the Court becoming so powerful.

But this is 2020 and we live in a very litigious society. People readily accept that laws legislatures pass will be tested in the courts. It’s who we’ve become.

Unfortunately there are jurists who interpret the Constitution as “a living document,” meaning that

the Constitution and other constitutions, holds a dynamic meaning, evolving and adapting to new circumstances, without being formally amended.

Except, the Constitution has very specific ways it can be changed. This “loose constructionism” allows for un-elected judges to create law because of their interpretation that “adapts” to the times.

But that’s what the Legislature is for: our voted representatives in both the House and Senate were designed by the founders to make laws, because they are directly responsible to the people. Judges are not.

All that said, President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a “conservative jurist,’ as she describes herself. Not because of a political leaning but because she hold to the belief that the Constitution and other statutes need to be interpreted based on what the original meaning was to those who wrote the documents.

Some times I think that position is described as “origionalist.”

Unsurprisingly the Democrats are up in arms because the President made the nomination and the Senate, conferred with the powers of “Advice and Consent” have enough votes to confirm her as a Justice.

The woman herself seems amazing. She’s a mother of 7, 2 adoptive children and 5 natural children, including her youngest who is a special needs child. She will be the first ever mother of school age children to sit on the bench.

In fact, she graduated at the top of her class in Notre Dame. Not, in the top. The top! I think she has a doctorate. She clerked for Judge Scalia, and he influenced her ideas about judicial interpretation. When what of her law professors recommended her for the position, he simply wrote, “I’ve never had a better student.”

So the woman is brilliant. And she’s experienced, having served on a federal appellate court since 2017.

In addition, Judge Barrett is a Catholic. One late night TV comedian tried to ridicule her by saying, she’s a Catholic, Catholic. You know, a nun. Well, of course she’s not a nun, but I guess the point is, he couldn’t find any dirt on her—her life apparently looks “boring” to him because all she does is car pool and sit on a judicial bench.

Not out there parting much, is she? Not a Catholic like Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi.

So that apparently is the big criticism of the recent appointee. They also try to rip the Republicans, perhaps rightly, for holding to the idea that President Trump should nominate anyone when in 2016 some of these same politicians were claiming that President Obama should not nominate a Supreme Court justice in his final year in office.

I thought the Republicans were wrong then, and I think the Democrats are wrong now. The fact is, the Constitution gives the Senate the right of consent. Unfortunately, because our government is so partisan, that means it’s rare for a Senator to vote across party lines. So in 2016, the Republicans didn’t need to come up with some lame idea that the President shouldn’t nominate someone. All they had to do was decide they didn’t want to consent—not if the nominee would take a liberal or “living document” approach to judicial interpretation.

As it happens now, the Senate has an even larger majority and therefore are all but assuredly confirming Judge Barrett.

What’s funny to me is that the Democrats don’t have to worry as they are, thinking that some of their pet liberal policies will now be overturned. If anything, the Supreme Court might return to the states the right to decide the laws that the Federal government has imposed on us all through the courts.

But the Democrats are hitting panic buttons all over because they don’t understand the difference between liberal and conservative judges. They assume that the conservatives will make law as they see fit, because that’s what liberal judges do. But a conservative Jurist is bound by existing law and understands that the Legislature or the states or the people are to make law, not the Court.

So no, we aren’t going to see Roe v. Wade abolished, unfortunately. But states may be permitted to place limits on abortions. Same with other laws like flag burning and the like. After these have been on the books for so long, they now have precedent—an important tool in the interpretation of the Constitution and legal statutes. The Affordable Care Act? Not long precedent there, so some of those provisions could be challenged. Other things, like “the right to die” and the imposition of a tax on people who want to leave California (only the wealthy, but seriously? How can they get away with that? I don’t think they will with a conservative court.)

All this to say, I believe American’s Bill of Rights is safe with this court, and I’m really relieved. I honestly didn’t know if President Trump, once he came into office, would keep his promises, and particularly the one about the judges he would appoint. I’m grateful he has.

But interestingly, this chain of events has shown why it’s so important for a conservative who will stand by the Constitution to be the next President and why it’s equally important for our legislators to be the same. All the bickering and political maneuverings can be rendered moot by our vote in November.

Published in: on September 28, 2020 at 5:07 pm  Comments (2)  
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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)  
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What’s It Going To Take?


Political upheaval in the form of an impeachment hearing back in January, and finally resolved in February, in time for the various state caucuses and primary elections to take place, started all the 2020 craziness.

Also in early February a spate of tornadoes took place. “Across the three-day outbreak, 37 tornadoes were confirmed, including several that were strong and long-tracked. In the pre-dawn hours of February 6, an EF1 tornado near Demopolis, Alabama killed one person. Total economic losses from the event exceeded $925 million” (Wikipedia)

A month later a pandemic that spread faster than anyone expected, reached the US and caused overcrowding in some hospitals, a shortage of ventilators, and a shocking number of deaths.

Panic buying followed. Sanitizer, rubber gloves, masks, bleach and other sterilizing agents, water and, for some unknown reason, toilet paper, all disappeared from store shelves. For about a week, so did canned foods and meat and cheese and fresh fruits.

No shortages, we were reassured, but because of high demand, the distribution grid was overloaded. Thankfully goods came back, but closures started. Schools, all but essential businesses, churches, restaurants and bars.

In March, the much anticipated college basketball tournament, fondly called March Madness, was cancelled. Soon after, professional sports came to a screeching halt.

Social distancing became the watch word, and incrementally the death rate of those contracting the deadly Covid virus, dropped, from 19 percent of those infected in the US, to the current rate of 5 percent.

In April, more Tornado events took place, the Easter storms lasting 2 days and hitting the southeastern part of the US. At the end of the month another collection of tornadoes hit parts of Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.

May came and an African American died while being arrested by police. His mistreatment is caught on camera and caused nationwide protests, even some in other countries. Many protests in the US quickly turned into riots. In Seattle a group of people took over a six-block area they declared to be a police-free zone. The city allowed the group to continue for weeks, breaking into businesses, looting, leaving waste and graffiti everywhere. Until there were several shooting incidents and a march on the mayor’s home.

As part of the riots, a number of statues were either defaced or torn down most of historical figures the rioters did not approve of, but also including one statue paid for by freed slaves to memorialize their freedom and one of abolitionist Hans Christian Heg.

Reports began to come in that rioters were paid participants, moving from city to city to foment unrest.

Meanwhile, the US economy pretty much tanked, a number of essential workers walked off the job because of unsafe conditions, and grocery stores and pharmacies all began requiring masks (at least in some states).

June saw more of the same. Then in July, the National Football League opened training camps all around the nation and Major League Baseball resumed, the pro basketball league began to hold their playoffs, in a bubble.

At the same time, the first of the California fires started, and a less reported fire in Colorado swept through several counties and soon became the largest in Colorado history.

Intermingled with all the rest have been the hurricanes. “So far, it [hurricane season] has featured a total of 24 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 23 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. With 23 named storms, it is the second most active Atlantic hurricane season on record” (Wikipedia).

In August, more shootings, riots, and fires. And now in September one of the Supreme Court Justices passed away. The fires in Oregon, Washington, and California continue. A protest that lasted for weeks in Portland finally ended. And the political animosity builds as we draw closer to the November election.

Believe it or not, these are only the high spots. The year 2020 has been . . . pick your adjective. Crazy, horrible, abnormal, abysmal, unprecedented.

The divisions in our nation are only becoming greater. There is the Cancel Culture movement and the dispute over wearing masks or not wearing masks, and the far left push for anarchy and socialism seems to have gained a foothold in the universities.

There is a #WalkAway movement that reports people walking away from the Democratic Party, often because they come to realize they have been lied to all along (Republicans are evil, hateful, bigots, racist, and so on, they have been told. And then they actually have occasion to talk to some Republicans).

Why have I taken so long to point out all the problems of 2020?

I want to make the point that what we are experiencing is not just like any other . . . sweeping illness or storm season or violence or fires or political unrest. For one thing, all these have happened all at the same time, within one calendar year.

The people who want to dismiss any or all of these as just something that happens, are wrong.

God moves through storms and riots and illness. Often these kinds of events, whether rooted in the sinfulness of humans or in natural events, comes for the very purpose of giving us a warning. Here’s what Jesus said about this exact situation:

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

No, Jesus said, those who died didn’t “deserve it.” But their deaths are a warning that all who do not repent will suffer the same fate. The clear point is, REPENT.

I’m not sure why American Christians seem to be slow to see God’s warning. It feels as if He’s writing it in the smoke that hovers over our land, in the storms that crash onto our shores and rip apart our buildings. And of course in the social distancing and the funerals which result from the illness that still takes its toll on people.

Now is the time for repentance. Now is the time for the US, for the world, to turn back to God. His message through it all, is, at a minimum, this: I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Published in: on September 22, 2020 at 5:48 pm  Comments (6)  
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Sidetracked


Becoming sidetracked—distracted, pulled off course, diverted—is something we all understand. I mean, how many times do we start one task and in the process see something that pulls our attention away and causes us to start a new task.

Facebook or social media in general is a good place for becoming sidetracked. Yes, we want to click over to read one article, but there’s a link that seems like it will give more information, so we jump over to a different site, then a notification comes which we have to read, which contains an important message we must deal with at once and . . . what were we planning to do at Facebook in the first place?

In some ways the issue is that we are bombarded by information. And options.

Of late, our society has bombarded us all with Problems That Need To Be Fixed. The current two, of course, are the Coronavirus and racism. Before those, we were told—or perhaps taught would be a better word—that the planet was at risk unless we got our act together and stopped using fossil fuel as a source of energy. THAT would solve all the problems.

Except, apparently, racism and Coronavirus.

Along with these issues, we’ve also been taught that we need to stand against sexual abuse in any shape, that women must receive equal pay and opportunities as men, that we should stand against Apartheid, fight a war on poverty, stop bullying, build up a child’s self-esteem so they don’t pick up a gun and try to kill as many of their schoolmates as possible.

I could go on.

The thing is, these causes and campaigns are not all wrong, though some have engendered a bit of controversy. So is the Coronavirus a real problem? Yes, as much as some people would like to say it’s a problem drummed up by government to control the population. Actually, people are getting sick and dying all over the world.

And racism? The very people who say “all ANYBODY are ANYTHING,” are racists. So all police aren’t racist. Nor are all whites. Those are actually racist statements (as is the statement that all BLM supporters are racist). So yes, the problem of racism does exist.

Apartheid was an issue in South Africa, but now it seems to have migrated to America where we have NAME-THE-RACE communities. In other words, we are segregating by choice—at least a number of us are.

And yes, the gender issues are real. Women should not be harassed, raped, abused, misused. Bullying is a real problem—no one should be shamed or coerced or mocked publicly, because of their beliefs, their looks, the way they talk, or think, for their background, or history. Of course mass shootings are a real problem, too, at least in the US. In South America, for decades the issue was bombings. And shootings. I guess the Middle East goes the bombing route. And of course the US has known a few of those, ourselves.

I could go on. The environment? Yes, actually God gave humans “dominion” of the earth—not to misuse it, squeeze all the goodness out of it, as happened during the Industrial Revolution in the West. When people realized that rivers were becoming so polluted they were toxic, that the air was so contaminated it was dangerous, measures began to come into practice to change the damage we had done.

I say “we” as a reference to humans, though none of us were even alive at the time.

But I don’t want to get too far afield from the main topic (although that would actually serve as a good example of what I’m saying). All the problems—and many more that I haven’t even mentioned—are only side issues. They aren’t the real problem.

But as long as we talk about these other problems in the media and with our children and in our schools, as long as we are writing books and signing petitions and participating in protests and pointing fingers about any of these issues, we are being sidetracked.

The real issue—the central issue above all else—is that we as a culture, as many cultures—have turned away from God. We show it by how we treat each other and by how we treat our world, but mostly by how we treat God.

Do we know God? Or do we buy into the “God is dead” rhetoric? Do we exclude Him from our schools? Keep Him locked in the privacy of our own homes rather than include Him as part of the public conversation about all these other issues?

After all, God knows the human heart better than we do. He knows my heart and He knows the heart of the guy in China who just lost his mother to the Coronavirus. He knows the heart of abusive cops and He knows the heart of criminals and He knows the heart of citizens who are just minding their own business.

God is mindful of us. “He knows we are but dust.” Jesus understands our weaknesses, because “He was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” God knows.

Do we turn to Him for answers? Or do we treat Him as an uninvolved spectator?

Do we live to make Him known? To turn the spotlight on Him as the One who deserves all praise and worship and honor?

Or are we focused on getting our lives back to normal?

What’s our mission statement, our assignment from God, and are we focused on accomplishing that or are we sidetracked by, oh, so many things?

Photo by Mark Plötz from Pexels

Published in: on July 7, 2020 at 5:21 pm  Comments (4)  
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Racial Divide, 2.0


Back in 2016 I wrote a post about the racial divide in America. The catalyst for my thoughts was completely different from those today.

American has continued to experience protests all over the country, and now protests have emerged all over the world because a white police officer and three others (one Asian, but I’m not sure of the ethnicity of the other two) were involved in the death of an African American accused of a misdemeanor. I covered the details of the tragedy in an earlier post.

What disturbs me beyond the needless, horrendous death of a man is the way the protests tear our nation apart. Granted, the violence, looting, and killing have subsided, but this whole event—from the death of the accused to the speeches made by the high profile media and sports types—cements the idea that racism is “part of our DNA.”

God doesn’t say that. In fact His word says just the opposite: There is no distinction; all have sinned; go into the whole world and preach the gospel; love, the perfect bond of unity; and many, many more such passages.

Of course, the primary concerns in the first century revolved around Jews and questions about including Gentiles—Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, you name it; basically anyone who was not a Jew—in the body of believers following Christ. While Scripture was written to people in the first century, it was written for all the rest of us, down through time, in every place.

So it’s not a stretch for us to read Paul’s statement in Colossians 3 “. . . there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all [believers, whom he is addressing]” and to conclude that there is no distinction between a Christian Italian, a Christian Swede, a Christian Kenyan, a Christian Mexican, a Christian Middle Easterner, a Christian from India, or a Christian from any other part of the world, from whatever ethnic or cultural background they have come out of.

The truth is, again from Scripture, that there will be people worshiping God in the new heaven and the new earth from every tribe and tongue and nation.

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10)

I love the part about God having made us all into a kingdom. Not a kingdom for each of the tribes or tongues or nations. One kingdom. United, because we have one God and Father:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all (Eph. 4:4-6)

He is One and He has and is making us one. One body. One bride. One temple. One family. One nation. The Bible uses all these metaphors to describe the Church. Because, the simple fact is that what we have in common because of Christ is greater than any cultural difference or economic divide or language barrier.

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, (Eph. 2:14-19; all caps indicate a quote from the Old Testament while the italics are my emphasis.)

The Apostle Peter echoed this same message in his first letter: “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

One nation, not many. One race. One people.

Therein lies the unity of believers. The fracturing and the divide in the world and in our nation come as a part of the upheaval created by sin. The only real, complete, long-lasting solution, is a Savior who makes us one.

Published in: on June 8, 2020 at 5:39 pm  Comments Off on Racial Divide, 2.0  
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