Monday, June 19, 2017

Reacting to a Verdict

Making headlines here in the Twin Cities area this past weekend was the verdict of acquittal for Jeronimo Yanez, an office with the City of Saint Anthony police department who had been accused of shooting Philando Castile on July 6, 2016 after a routine traffic stop.  According to the Ramsey County Prosecutor's office, the verdict  was "the product of a fair and impartial investigation, thorough prosecution review and a trial by a jury of Ramsey County residents."  According to one juror who was polled following the reading of the verdict, the way the law was written just did not provide any reason for a guilty verdict. 


After the verdict was read, anger began to mount among the black community.  Friday evening protesters took to the streets blocking a major interstate highway causing hardships for those traveling those roadways.  Cries of discrimination filled the airwaves.  Fortunately, there was no violence.


But, as disappointing as the verdict was to many, it was still a verdict that had been reached fairly.  Officer Yanez had his day(s) in court.  A jury impaneled from among his peers heard days of testimony.  Both the defense attorney and the prosecutor brought their "A-game" to the courtroom.  Finally, after hours of deliberation, the jury reached a verdict of not guilty.  This was not a judge's decision; this was the decision reached by twelve members of the community.  For these twelve individuals, there simply was either not enough evidence to bring a conviction or their understanding of the law was not sufficient to render a guilty verdict.  Perhaps it was a combination of both.  This day and age to get twelve people to agree on anything is a minor miracle, let alone an agreement in a criminal case.


A trial among your peers is one of our foundational freedoms.  At times, juries do make a wrong decision, but that does not happen very often.  Yes, we may second-guess the decision.  We may even strongly disagree with the decision, but we must accept it.  Failure to do so will lead to a continued breakdown of both moral and legal authority.  I believe that submitting to a jury's verdict is one aspect of submitting to authority that the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 13.  It is part of our responsibility as a Christian and as a citizen. 


Tensions continue to increase over the skies of Syria where a Navy fighter plane shot down a Syrian warplane yesterday.  I am confident that the Russians will increase the volume of their rhetoric over this incident.  Tensions continue to also increase in London where an attack outside a mosque left one person dead.  Tensions continue to mount in the Korean Peninsula as the North Koreans continue in their attempts to develop a vehicle that could bring death and destruction to Japan and even to the United States.  I am so grateful that the Lord is coming and our hope is to be in Him.


There will be no blogs for the next couple of weeks.  I leave tomorrow with a group of teenagers and parents to spend 12 days in the Holy Land.  This will be my 12th tour to Israel and I am about as excited as I was when I made my very first trip some 38 years ago.  I know our group will appreciate your prayers while we are there.  I believe God has some wonderful truths to teach us as we walk in the footsteps of the patriarchs and of Jesus.  Upon my return, I will give you an update on what is happening there in that strategic part of God's world.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Flag Day - Has It Lost Its Meaning?

Today is Flag Day, a day set aside to give honor to the American flag.  Our flag is a piece of cloth adorned with thirteen stripes alternating between red and white and with a dark blue corner that fields fifty stars, each one representing a state within the Union.  But our flag is much more than a mere piece of cloth.  It is a symbol of American idealism.  It is a symbol of dreams and hopes for tomorrow.  It represents the greatest expression of the freedom of mankind since the inception of the world.  For the past two and a half centuries, people have come to our shores because of what our flag stands for: freedom of expression of ideas and opinions both written and spoken; freedom of worship as our hearts dictate; freedom to have peaceful public assembly; and freedom to even challenge governmental actions and decisions.  All of these, when exercised with propriety and restraint, are not contested by any authority. 


But, on this Flag Day 2017, let's ask ourselves this question: What does America really stand for today?  What does the flag symbolize today?  Allow me to share from two recent events that might bring some clarity.  First is an article that was posted yesterday on the Townhall website.  It was written by Todd Starnes who has become one of the guardians of the First Amendment.  You can find the article at www.townhall.com/columnists/toddstarnes/2017/06/13/school-students-may-not-pray-or-mention-jesus.  Let me just share briefly from this article.  "Moriah Bridges wanted to thank God for His immeasurable blessings on Beaver High School's graduating class.  But she could not, because she was told it was against the law.  The Pennsylvania teenager wanted to offer thanksgiving to the Almighty for parents and coaches and teachers.  But again, she could not, because she was told it was against the law.  'Make us selfless.  Make us just.  Make us successful people, but more than that, make us good people,' Moriah wanted to pray.  But that too, was determined to be unlawful.


"She [Moriah] crafted a lovely prayer that mentioned her 'Heavenly Father' and her 'Lord.'  'Lord, surround us with grace and favor everywhere we go,' she prayed.  'Soften our hearts to teach us love and compassion, to show mercy and grace to others the way that you showed mercy and grace to us, even to the ultimate sacrifice.  Help us love our brothers and our sisters deeply.  Lead us to bless them.'


"On May 31, the district notified the teenager that her prepared remarks were unlawful, unconstitutional, and therefore, impermissible.  'The selected students may still address their class and indicate the things that they wish/hope for their class, but they may not do it in the style of a prayer and most certainly may not recite a prayer that excludes other religions (by ending 'in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ' or 'in the matchless name of Jesus,' principle Steven Wellendorf wrote to Moriah in a letter.  The principal flat-out told the young lady that prayer - even student-led prayer - is not permissible by federal law.


"Moriah abided by the school district's edict - and then contacted First Liberty Institute, one of the nation's top religious liberty law firms.  Their attorney Jeremy Dys said that it was the school district that broke the law.  'In short, school officials - in violation of the First Amendment - forced Moriah to censor her personal remarks during the closing exercise of her commencement ceremony merely because of the religious viewpoint of her remarks.  Because of Dr. Rowe's instructions, Moriah was muzzled and restrained by school officials on the penultimate day of her high school career."


So, what does our flag stand for today?  If you are a young teenager denied the opportunity to offer a simple prayer at graduation, it means that you are not as free as you thought. 


Now, let's look at a second example.  Last week the Senate Budget Committee held confirmation hearings for Russell Vought, President Trump's nominee for the position of deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.  Mr. Vought is a graduate of Wheaton College and in January 2016 had written a article published by "The Resurgent" - a conservative outlet.  In the article Mr. Vought made the following statement: "Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology.  They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned."  Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont and former presidential candidate strongly objected to this statement and began to intensely grill Mr. Vought.  He stated: "In my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic and an insult to billions of Muslims throughout the world.  This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms...we must not go backwards."  To this line of questioning, Mr. Vought, with a calm demeanor, replied, "Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly with regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation."  As he concluded his questioning, Senator Sanders said, "I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about.  I will vote no." 


Really, Senator Sanders!  You can't mean that, can you, Senator Sanders?  Senator Sanders, how long has it been since you last read the United States Constitution - you know, it is that which you swore to uphold when you took the office of a United States Senator?  Perhaps you need to reread Article VI which states, in part: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any offence or public trust under the United States."  Did you get that, Senator Sanders?  What a person's personal faith is shall not be considered when being considered for a public office!  What you are ultimately saying, Senator Sanders, is that persons of Christian faith are not qualified to be in the public arena just because they are Christians.  Senator Sanders, that position is blatantly unconstitutional.  Such a position would have never entered into the minds of our Founding Fathers.  Maybe the reason, Senator Sanders, that you so strongly oppose people like Mr. Vought is that many Christians stand in the way of your progressive agenda.  Yes, I will admit that many of us fear your progressive agenda of a world governed from the top down; where the ordinary citizen has no say.  And, yes, we believe that there will be a day when your progressive agenda will become a worldwide policy; but we also believe that those days will not be described as "paradise" but more like "hell on earth." 


So, what does our flag truly symbolize today?  I say this with great sadness and reservation: I believe the flag is losing it symbolism.  When was the last time you "pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America?"  When was the last time you stood in awe as the colors were paraded down the main street  as part of a community celebration?  Sadly, for many today "Old Glory" has lost its "glory" and is just "old."  It's no wonder that we have a Senator Sanders and a school district declare that the flag doesn't mean what we think it does. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Remembering the Past; Acknowledging the Present; Anticipating the Future

The news coming out of Tehran was stunning this morning.  A team of ISIS attackers stormed the Iranian Parliament building and a nearby shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, resulting in the deaths of at least 12 and injuring scores more.  This was the first attack by ISIS inside of Iran.  The Iranians have been the presumed financial supporters of most terror organizations around the world, so this attack by ISIS upon "the hand that feeds them" was a stunning one.  Reports so far have been hard pressed to understand the exact nature and purpose of these attacks, especially the one upon the shrine to the father of the Iranian Revolution of 1979.  We know that ISIS is being pressed hard in Mozul, Iraq, and now in Raqqah, Syria.  Perhaps it is their way of saying that they are not ready to roll over and play dead.  It will be interesting to see how the Iranian government responds to these attacks.  The leaders in terror have now become the victims of terror themselves.  I wonder how "that shoe will fit?"


Today is June 7 - a day in which history remembers the reunification of the City of Jerusalem as part of the Six Day War of 1967.  For fifty years Jerusalem has remained a united city in spite of concerted attempts by the world leaders to render it asunder once again.  But the cry of June 1967 was "Never again!" and it has resonated among the Jewish people with solidarity these past years.  In just a few days I will have the privilege of standing before that Western Wall and giving thanks to God for His faithfulness.  It is always a moving moment. 


Today also marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the greatest naval battle in history.  A battle that turned the fortunes of World War II in favor of the Allies.  This battle marked the beginning of the ending of the visions of empire by Japan.  I guess we could say it was World War II's equivalent to "Gettysburg," but it would take another three long years before the War would end.  And, of course, yesterday marked the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, really the battle that changed the fortunes of war in Europe.  These are dates that should never be forgotten. 


Making headlines yesterday was the arrest of Reality Winner, an employee of a company contracted by the National Security Agency.  Ms. Winner has been accused of passing classified materials to a news organization, thus violating federal law and potentially putting American interests at risk.  So, a leaker has been arrested.  The question I have is this: how many more "Reality Winners" are there within our government?  These people are traitors to their government.  If they had reservations about the direction their government was going, the only right thing to do was to resign and move on to another place.  But somehow these people believe they have the right to expose that which they personally do not like in the hopes of bringing about the collapse of a government they do cannot endorse.  And these people feed right into the hands of a liberal, main-stream press that is ravenous for such materials.  The MSM salivates for these "juicy morsels" of leaked information.  In many ways, they are as complicate as is Ms. Winner.  The government must prosecute Ms. Winner to the full extent of the law in order to send a strong message to other leakers who are undermining our government.  If they fail to do this, then the leaking will not only continue, but more people will be encouraged to become involved in the leaking. 


As I read articles about Ms. Winner, I was drawn to the story of Achan, found in Joshua 7.  Achan was just another of the nobody members of the family of Israel.  He had heard the commands that emanated by God through the voice of Joshua stating that everything within Jericho was to be totally destroyed - EVERYTHING.  That word leaves NO ROOM for any exceptions!  Yet, Achan felt that the decree from his governmental leader was too restricting.  He did not like it.  So, he took some clothing and some gold and silver.  I don't know if Achan thought to himself "I'll show Joshua that he is wrong and I am right" or if he merely was looking out for himself.  But his actions had fatal consequences to the family of Israel - defeat and death and despair.  Through a legal process, Achan was exposed and punished severely - I would say being stoned to death and then having one's body burned was pretty severe.  Yet, from that point on we read of no one else who tempted to take that which did not belong to him or her.  The punishment of Achan sent a strong message to all. 


Attention will be focused tomorrow morning on the testimony of former FBI director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  The buzz is "what will he say?"  What I find difficult is the acceptance of anything that is said.  We are living in a time when truth has been "kicked under the bus."  Truth is now what I think truth should be.  Will James Comey tell the truth?  In his eyes he will.  In the eyes of those who approve of what he says, he will.  But in the eyes of those who disapprove of what he say, he will not.  How is one to know truth these days?  In the absence of any moral foundation, truth just becomes personal opinion.  So the testimony will take place tomorrow but, upon its completion, there will still be this nagging question - "Did he tell the truth?" 


Marlys and I had a great few days of vacation last week.  We went to Branson and parts of Northwest Arkansas.  If you will be in the Branson area, we highly recommend you get tickets for the Sight & Sound Theater production of "Moses."  It is outstanding!  And, if you want an outstanding meal served with youthful exuberance, then we recommend the Dobyn Room located on the campus of the College of the Ozarks.  You will not be disappointed. 


In these troubled days, it is good to know where our destiny really is.  And how we need to stay focused upon the certainty of the promise of Jesus - "I will come again."  May it be soon!






Monday, May 29, 2017

A Tribute for Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day - a day that is set aside each year to focus upon those who served our nation in the Armed Forces: Marine Corp, Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard.  It is a day filled with flag-lined driveways in cemeteries.  It is a day filled with gun-salutes honoring those who died while in the line of service to our nation.  It is a day filled with speeches from those who wish to capitalize on what freedom really means. 


Why do we need a Memorial Day?  The dictionary defines "memorial" as "serving to help people to remember."  It seems that it is easy for us to forget that which is important.  I am reminded of the many "memorials" the children of Israel erected upon their entrance into the Promised Land.  Their memorials were usually just a pile of rocks, but the meaning was just the same" "Don't forget what happened here!"  So, the purpose of Memorial Day is just that - to create an opportunity when we can remember that which could most easily be forgotten. 


According to the Memorial Day website, the very first Memorial Day was observed on May 30, 1868.  It was ordered by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.  He stated, "The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land."  Why was May 30 chosen?  It was because it wasn't the anniversary of any particular battle.  The first state to recognize Memorial Day as a holiday was New York in 1873, but by 1890 all northern states celebrated Memorial Day.  The southern states did not share in such observances until after World War I when they recognized all war dead.  (www.usmemorialday.org).


I remember as a young boy spending the day with my grandparents.  After a festive dinner of fried chicken, with all the fixings, as only my grandmother could make, we would load into cars and head to the cemeteries with armfuls of peony flowers.  With reverence we stood beside the gravesites of men and women whom I never knew, but who were a part of who I was.  We paused to remember the heritage that was passed down from them.  I can close my eyes and still hear those quiet breezes that seem to be a ubiquitous part of any cemetery, along with those little flags fluttering proudly those colors of red, white, and blue. 


Memorials - remind us of what was right about our past.  Memorials - remind us of what was wrong about our past.  We are living in an age when there is a storied attempt to erase that part of the past which we have deemed to have been wrong.  Just these past few weeks, the City of New Orleans removed all statues that celebrated the Confederate heroes of the Civil War.  It was almost as if the city leaders said, "If we remove them, perhaps the memories of that awful period of time will just go away."  Historians are rewriting history to whitewash those aspects of history we want to forget.  But, as hard as we might try, history cannot be sanitized.  History is what it is! 


So raise the flag proudly today.  Pay honor to someone who has served his/her country well.  Let them know that you are grateful for their sacrifice.  Friends, how we need to remember this old adage: "Freedom is never free."  The acres of white engraved headstones that are Arlington National Cemetery, that are Fort Snelling National Cemetery, that are Normandy National Cemetery, that are countless thousands of other cemeteries remind us that "freedom is never free."


Perhaps, instead of tearing down "memorials" we should learn from them.  We may not like the stories they have to tell us, but we must never forget.    

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

President Trump, Jerusalem, and Manchester: Time to Wake-Up

This has been an incredible week!  For the first time a sitting American President has visited the State of Israel.  One of the most poignant moments was when President Trump stood praying at the Western Wall or the Kotel as it is known in Hebrew.  He was there for several moments and then reached into his pocket and took out a piece of paper and did as so many have done before him, placed that piece of paper into one of the thousands of cracks within the wall.  I, too, have stood there in prayer before that Wall on many occasions.  I, too, have placed a prayer within one of those myriads of cracks within the wall.  Although I do not know exactly what President Trump had written in that prayer, I am fairly confident that it was a call for peace to come to Jerusalem. 


What made that scene at the Western Wall more dramatic was that it came at a time when the State of Israel would celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967.  In fact, today is Jerusalem Day on the Hebrew calendar.   History records it on June 7, 1967.  It was on that date that soldiers from the 55th Paratrooper Battalion of the Israeli Defense Forces entered into the Old City through the Lions' Gate and captured the Temple Mount and the Western Wall from the Jordanian forces.  As stunning as were many of the events that occurred during that Six Day War in June 1967, the reunification of the City of Jerusalem was the most significant and long lasting.  Cries were heard of "never again!"  "Never again" would the city of Jerusalem be divided.  It is Israel's Capitol city.  (By the way, last night Marlys and I and our grandson were privileged to see the CBN docu-drama titled, "In Our Hands: The Battle for Jerusalem."  It was one of those one-night movie moments.  It was extremely well done.  I would encourage you to see it when it comes out on DVD).


The question is asked, "Is a united Jerusalem that important?"  And the answer is, "Absolutely!"  Jerusalem IS Israel.  Jerusalem has had that role since the days when David took it from the Jebusites and made it his capital.  It was here, in Jerusalem, that two great temples to the living God were built - one by Solomon, the second by Zerubbabel and expanded later by King Herod.  This is the city that was the political and religious hub for centuries.  Even after its twice destruction - in 586 BC by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians and in 70 AD by Titus and the Romans - the Jewish people never forgot the importance of Jerusalem.  The last statement of the Passover Seder, proclaimed by Jews all over the world, is "next year in Jerusalem." 


Jerusalem stands for hope.  Jerusalem stands for a future.  Jerusalem - the city that unites Jews across the globe.  And this is God's declaration concerning Jerusalem: "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her" (Ezekiel 5:5).  Jerusalem is the epicenter of the world.  It is from here that one day the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Jesus Christ Himself, will reign. 


While in Israel, President Trump had meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin.  He also met in Bethlehem with Palestinian Authority President Abbas.  As with so many who have preceded him, President Trump left his brief stay in Israel believing that the time is right for a peace accord.  I guess only time will tell if his assertions are true or not.


Before arriving in Israel, President Trump traveled to Saudi Arabia where he delivered a speech before a group of statesmen from 50 Arab states.  The purpose of this meeting was to discuss how the Arab world should respond to the growing threat of a nuclear Iran and to the continued terrorism through ISIS.  I just share with you a couple quotes from President Trump's speech, which has generally been viewed with applause.  "America is prepared to stand with you - in pursuit of shared interests and common security. But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them.  The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.  It is a choice between two futures - and it is a choice America cannot make for you."  What do those words mean?  It means that President Trump passed the baton to the Arab States and said, "You need to become leaders in this war against terror and against Iran.  This is your problem even in a greater way than it is America's problem.  What will you do?"  President Trump understands that ownership of the problem is one of the first steps toward the solution of the problem.  And, for too long, the Arab world has not taken ownership of radical Islamic terror. 


President Trump also said, regarding terrorism, "Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith.  Terrorists do not worship God; they worship death."  President Trump dared to say what past administrations have been fearful of saying. 


Sadly, in response to President Trump's powerful Riyadh speech, ISIS carried out one of its most blatant attacks late Monday night in Manchester, England.  A suicide bomber detonated his vest just as a Ariana Grande concert was closing.  To date, twenty-two people were killed and scores of others were injured, some severely.  Many of those who died or were injured were young teen-aged girls out with their friends at this special concert.  Fortunately the bomber had not entered into the concert arena where the tragedy would have been even worse.  These terrorists have no respect for life, including their own.  They celebrate death.  And yet, even after this tragic event, there is still a strong aversion to stating that the cause is a radical Islamic ideology. 


When will we wake up?  When will Congress wake up?  When will our national leadership wake up?  We are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating a possible collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign to influence last year's election.  So far there has not been one shred of evidence supporting such collusion - NOT ONE.  Yet, every day people enter into this country who are not properly vetted.  Our borders are porous.  Our resources are inadequate to protect Americans from those who attempt to enter into this country for the sole purpose of destroying it.  Manchester should be a wake-up call to us.  The words of President Trump to the Arab world should be a wake-up call to us.  But, and I am saddened to say this, I don't believe there will be a wake-up.  At least not until we have a "Manchester" of greater proportions here in America - another 9/11 moment.  But, when that happens - and it is not a matter of "if" but "when" - the cry will be "Why didn't someone do something?"  By then, it will be too late!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Crisis of Truth Leads to a Crisis of Guilt

If you are following the recent events in Washington, D.C., you have heard reporters, primarily from the left, say such things as "we are in a crisis of credibility."  What they are saying is something like this, "we don't like what was just said."  The dictionary defines the term "credibility gap" as "a disparity between what is said and the facts; the inability to have one's truthfulness or honesty accepted."  Really what we have today is a crisis of truth - we are not confident in knowing what is true or what is false today.  How did we get to this problem?


This crisis of truth is part of a much larger picture of American moral values today.  According to a recent Gallop poll, cited in an article found at The Patriot Post website - www.patriotpost.us/posts/49067 - Americans are becoming more socially liberal in their thinking over the past 15 years.  Of the 19 values listed in this poll, all were trending toward the liberal or libertarian perspective, not one toward the conservative one.  Let me cite just a couple of examples:
a.   69% accept sex between an unmarried man and woman
b.  63% accept gay or lesbian relationships
c.  62% accept having a baby outside of marriage
d.  57% favor doctor assisted suicides


Allow me to quote from the last paragraph of this article because it is so telling.  "While this poll is honestly disheartening, especially when considering what this holds for nation's future, it's helpful in effectively displaying just how pervasive has been the impact of postmodernist ideology upon American culture.  When the concept of absolute truth dies, those values based upon those standards quickly collapse, and pretty soon people have a difficult time distinguishing right from wrong or good from evil."  That last sentence hits the "nail on the head."


Let me give you an example of how far we have come.  Yesterday, Todd Starnes posted an article on the Townhall website: www.townhall.com/columnists/toddstarnes/2017/05/16/school-praying-for-a-colleague-is-unacceptable.  "A school worker in Augusta, Maine was ordered to stop using religious phrases like 'I will pray for you' and "you were in my prayers' because such language is not allowed inside a public school building - even in private conversations with coworkers.  The Augusta School Department launched an investigation of Toni Richardson after they alleged she 'imposed some strong religious/spiritual belief system' towards a coworker.  The memorandum Ms. Richardson received from the school included: "In the context of the 'separation of church and state,' this case prohibits public school-sponsored religious expression.  Therefore, in the future, it is imperative that you do not use phrases that integrate public and private belief systems when in the public schools."


Friends, why would anyone get "bent out of shape" over someone praying for them?  It would seem that we could use all the prayer we could get these days.  I believe the answer is quite simple: To pray is to believe in a God to whom prayer is directed; to believe in a God is to believe in an absolute truth which our contemporary culture is vigorously denying exists.  If prayer in the public place can be snuffed out, it is just another affirmation that absolute truth does not exist.


I was forwarded an article this week by a friend which was also from The Patriot Post.  The article was written by Arnold Ahlert and is titled "Leftist Ideology's Greatest Threat: Guilt-Free Americans."  It can be found at: www.patriotpost.us/articles/49085.  Space does not allow me to quote all the article, but I highly recommend you download it and read it for yourself.  But let me just share a couple of paragraphs with you.  "In the last 50 years of culture wars in America, there has been no stronger weapon than guilt.  It is the Left's greatest hammer of progress - Mark Bauerlein, Professor of English at Emory University.  In an insightful column for American Greatness, Bauerlein nails the Left's fundamental reason for despising Donald Trump, 'He has not white guilt.  he doesn't feel any male guilt, either, or American guilt or Christian guilt,' Bauerlein explains.  'He talks about the United States with uncritical approval - "America first" - and that a thought crime in the eyes of liberals.'"


The author goes on: "Guilt - brilliantly sold as 'political correctness' to make it more palatable for an unsuspecting public - has enjoyed a long and prosperous run.  One that allowed leftists to dismiss every challenge to their agenda with epithets designed to simultaneously induce guilt and end debate.  Americans opposed to open borders or sanctuary cities?  Xenophobes.  Americans who eschew the LGBT agenda?  Trans- and homophobic.  Americans who question 'refugees' from terror-torn nations being granted asylum?  Islamophobic.  And son on and so forth.  'If you can persuade an opponent that he's wrong about a political issues, you can win the day's debate,' Bauerlein explains.  'But if you can make him feel guilty about his opinion, you've got him on the defensive forever.'"


As I read this article I began to see what is happening in Washington in a whole new light.  Much of the ineffectiveness of Congress today is due to these guilt feelings.  There is a guilt about the past: we attempt to remove Confederate statues as if their removal will change history.  But it won't.  There is the advocacy that all black people receive compensation from white people for the years of slavery in the past.  Friends, how long will we continue to live with that guilt?  America is no longer a slave nation; it has not been for over 150 years.  In fact, it took the lives of over 600,000 Americans to end slavery.  No white person today has owned slaves.  No black person today has been held in slavery.  yet we continue to live as if both still existed.  Guilt. 


This article got me thinking about the impact of guilt in one's life.  Guilt is a huge chain that enslaves one with an oppressive slavery.  What one sees and experiences is channeled through the lens of guilt.  Guilt is one of the major causes of depression today.  But there is a solution to guilt.  It is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Only Jesus can set you free from the heavy chain of guilt.  It was Jesus who set Peter free from the guilt of his denial of Jesus as they talked along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (see John 21).  With Jesus, our past no longer is master over us, but, with the Apostle Paul we can say, "Forgetting what is behind, I strain forward to what lies ahead." 


Friends, we come full circle, don't we?  It is the truth found in Jesus Christ that sets us completely free.  When that truth is abandoned, then guilt becomes the inevitable consequence.


Heads-up: This next week President Trump travels to Israel and the Middle East.  This should be provide for some interesting news.
 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Crisis of Integrity

Headlining yesterday's news stories was the seemingly abrupt firing of James Comey as the Director of the FBI.  Immediately sides were drawn as to the propriety of his firing.  Some proclaimed that Mr. Comey was fired because the investigation into whether the Russians had colluded with the Trump Campaign to influence last year's elections was getting rather close for comfort.  Immediately that group issued a call for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate.  Other reporters speculated that this firing was long in the pipeline and simply awaited the time when President Trump had those of his choosing heading up the Department of Justice.  When Rod Rosenstein was confirmed as the Deputy Attorney General two weeks ago, the door was now open for the firing of Comey. 


I listened to some of the talk programs last night.  The conversations were very energetic and interesting, to say the least.  But, as I listened to those who supported the firing and those who strongly opposed it, one word kept coming into my mind that I believe is key.  That word is integrity.  One of the dictionary definitions of integrity is "honesty, sincerity."  Interestingly, the word integrity comes from the Latin word "integer" which means "whole." 


FBI Director Comey has not been immune to being the subject of headlines.  Those headlines began on July 5, 2016, when, after an investigation into the email server scandal that plagued the Clinton Campaign, he went on national television and said that, although what Clinton had done was "extremely careless", there were no grounds for prosecution.  The investigation was perceived to have stopped.  Then, on October 28, just days before the November election, Comey related, via a letter to Congress, that he was reopening the email-server investigation based on new evidence.  That announcement sent shock waves, as you will remember, throughout the country.  The timing of the release of this information seemed more than coincidence and Comey was accused of aiding the Trump Campaign. 


In recent weeks, Comey has testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the investigation into a possible collusion between Trump campaign advisors and the Russians has been on-going but that no evidence of such collusion has occurred.  But, I believe the straw that finally broke the back of Mr. Comey came just moments before his firing yesterday.  Comey had sent a letter yesterday to Congress back-pedaling from some of his prior sworn testimony regarding the emails send from Hillary Clinton to her long-time advisor, Huma Abedin.  His testimony changed from "hundreds of thousands of emails" to "a small number."  And that produced this crisis of integrity for Mr. Comey.


From what I understand the role of the FBI is that of the investigative arm of the Department of Justice.  They seek to produce either the evidence or the lack of evidence for a particular case on behalf of the DOJ.  But, it is not the role of the FBI to determine whether a case should be prosecuted or not.  That belongs to the Attorney General and his staff.  So, back in July, Mr. Comey assumed a role that was not his.  The determination to prosecute Mrs. Clinton belonged to Attorney General Lynch.  Yes, she had compromised herself with her secret meeting with Bill Clinton at an airport tarmac in Arizona, but, nonetheless, it was her department that was responsible for making the decision, not the FBI Director's.  So, Mr. Comey had overstepped the parameters of his office - although I am sure he thought he was justified in doing so.


Did Mr. Comey's letter to Congress on October 28 sway the electorate away from Mrs. Clinton?  Only the historians will wrestle with that one.  But it was not for Mr. Comey to make that decision.  His role is that of an advisor to the Attorney General.  He speaks at the wishes of the Attorney General.  Another instance of a crisis of integrity.


What is the "take away" from the fall of James Comey?  It is imperative that we guard our integrity for upon its collapse, great is the fall.  The Bible reminds us that our "yes" is to be "yes" and our "no" is to be "no."  That is a sign of integrity.  We are to be people of our word.  Our youngest daughter reminded me of that fact more than once as she was growing up.  I would often make a rash promise which, when I said it, I had no intentions of keeping, but I said it nonetheless.  Later she would challenge me on that promise with these words, "But, Daddy, you promised!"  That was my crisis of integrity.  I had two options at that moment: I could sit down with my daughter and explain to her why Daddy could not fulfill what he had said he would do - which, often did not go well in her eyes; or I could tell her that Daddy would try his best to fulfill that promise he had made. 


I have been studying the life of David preparing for a summer series on his life as part of the longer series of preaching through the Bible.  David was a man of integrity.  This is best seen in those two occasions when he spared the life of Saul.  On each occasion he proclaimed that he would not raise his hand to strike the Lord's anointed.  That is a mark of integrity. 


My Grandfather was a man of integrity.  He always did business with a mere handshake.  After his funeral, I had one of the leaders of the community in which my Grandparents had lived for decades come to me and say, "I just want you to know that your Grandfather was always a man of his word.  A handshake with Hans Wunder was as good as a name on a dotted line."  What a sterling reputation!


Friends, integrity is the key in our walk with the Lord.  How we live defines who we are.  The words we say, Jesus proclaims, gives evidence of what is in our hearts.  The old saying that actions often speak louder than words is usually true.  When we lose our integrity, it does not take long for the rest of our lives to collapse.  Just ask Mr. Comey.