Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Great Book and A Great Article - Both Must Reads

I just finished reading the newest book by Dinesh D'Souza which is titled: "The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left."  First, let me warn you that this is not one of those books that you can sit down and read in the space of an evening.  Oh, I suppose you could, but you would miss much of what the author intended you to receive.  I found that I could only read a few pages before I would ask myself the following: "Wow! How did that happen?" or "That can't be true, can it?"  or "Now it makes sense." 


The premise of Dr. D'Souza's book is that there is a strong relationship between the policies and foundations that caused the rise of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany in the 1920's and 1930's and the American Left today.  In fact, D'Souza makes a strong case that Mussolini fashioned his Black Shirt Fascism in Italy around the teachings of Woodrow Wilson and then Franklin Roosevelt.  His conclusion is that the real Fascists in America today is not Donald Trump and ultra right, but the Left.  The problem is that the real Fascists, namely the American Left, has attached that title to the American Right.  And this "big lie" has been promoted by both the mainstream media and the Hollywood entertainment industry, both of which are dominated by those on the Left. 


This is an important book that I believe every American should read.  It is not an easy book to read.  It is a book that requires its reader to stop and do some critical thinking.  At times I know you will strongly object, but just read the footnotes and pay attention to the sources that are cited.  There is nothing secret about what D'Souza writes.  It is all very public.


I have shared with several that this book and a book written by Jonah Goldberg titled "Liberal Fascism" has really influenced my understanding of the current political and cultural climate in America today. 


Speaking of America's cultural climate, I received an article yesterday from one of our church leaders.  It is an article written by Jeannie Cunnion and found at the Fox News.com website.  (www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/10/16/Americas-teen-anxiety-epidemic-is-heartbreaking-parents-heres-incredible-thing-must-do-now.)


"I sat on a parenting panel last month with a well-known and widely respected counselor by the name of Sissy Goff, M.Ed, LPC-MHSP.  She is the Director of Child & Adolescent counseling at Daystar in Nashville and when asked about the biggest issue facing kids today, she confirmed what you've probably read about recently on your news feed or even your Facebook feed - the increasing anxiety epidemic in our country.  But it's not just an epidemic among our kids.  It's an epidemic among us - their parents.


"According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults.  In a recent article entitled, 'Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering from Severe Anxiety' we glean significant insight into the anxiety epidemic:
a.  Privileged youths are among the most emotionally distressed young people in America.  These kids are incredibly anxious and perfectionistic.
b.  For many of these young people, the biggest single stressor is that they never get to the point where they can say, 'I've done enough, and now I can stop.'  Kids have a sense that they're not measuring up.  The pressure is relentless and getting worse.


"We have to be willing to take an honest (maybe painfully honest) look at how we may have contributed to the anxiety our kids feel with the pressure we just might be passing down.  With our unrealistic expectations and impossible standards of ourselves, and of them.  See, we parents aren't the only ones linking accomplishment to acceptance and success to significance.  Our kids are attempting to answer the question, 'Is who I am enough?' by how well they perform on the field, how much they excel in school, and how many likes they get on their Instagram feed.  They are attempting to answer that question, 'Is who I am enough?' by proving they can do enough and be enough.  Whatever 'enough' is.  Because you and I both know enough is never enough when the goal is perpetual perfection.  The primary message our kids receive is that they'd better be the best at everything, and this leaves them afraid to reveal their inadequacies and insecurities - and hiding behind the best version of themselves.


"A key ingredient in helping our kids overcome their anxiety is facing and working through our own anxiety.  It starts with us.  It doesn't end with us.  But we are part of the solution.  We have to be willing to take an honest (maybe painfully honest) look at how we may have contributed to the anxiety our kids feel with the pressure we just might be passing down.  With our unrealistic expectations and impossible standards of ourselves, and of them.


"And ultimately, it is our responsibility to help our kids push back the pressure they face with the truth of God's Word.  I am not at all suggesting that therapy and medication aren't part of the solution.  They often times are.  But please let us not forget the alive and powerful Word of God that has the absolute power to show us where our significance comes from and ultimately set us free from proving our worth and our value in our performance.


"We need to know that failing doesn't make us failures and succeeding doesn't make us significant.  At least not in the eyes of our Creator - the only One whose opinion of us really matters in the end.  In God's eyes we are of great worth, not because of anything we have or haven't done, but because of what has been done for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  The cross has the final word on our value.  Believing that truth and embracing that truth isn't the only thing we need to do.  But it is a firm foundation on which to build a life of freedom from anxiety and the exhausting endless quest to prove our value through our performance."


What an amazing article!  Perhaps as parents, and even as grandparents, we are not fully aware of the pressures we place upon our children and grandchildren.  Our goal is not to have them conform to our image, but to conform to the image of Jesus Christ.  They are not to be "mini-me's" but to be reflections, in their own way, of Christ.  Challenge them - absolutely!  Admonish them - absolutely!  Drive them - absolutely not!  Paul said it best, "We are to bring our children up in the admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Of Paddock, Weinstein, and Columbus Day Mobs: Is There a Common Denominator?

Marlys and I have had the privilege of spending the better part of the past six days driving down to Carrollton, Texas and spending some time with Greg and Beth and Ethan and Max.  It certainly was a hot time down in Texas; guess it is still summer time there.  We enjoyed seeing both our grandsons run cross-country.  Not sure why anyone would want to run over 3 miles in 90 degree heat.  Also got to see Max in a baseball game - he has come a long way in his baseball playing abilities.  And also got to attend a high school pep assembly - I forgot how loud those could be.  And, of course, we ate a lot of Tex-Mex - couldn't be in Texas without that.  Now we are back into the coolness of the fall season here in Minnesota.  The trees are beginning to show some vibrant shades of reds, oranges, and yellows.  Landscapes are shrouded with the colors of fallen leaves, and bright orange pumpkins grace many a front porch.  It truly is a wonderful time to be in Minnesota. 


A lot has happened since I last wrote to you.  A lone gunman, sequestered in a 32nd floor hotel room, suddenly breaks windows and begins shooting down on a crowd of people who had gathered in a park below to share in a country-music festival.  Stephen Paddock fired hundreds of rounds, killing 58 innocent people and wounding over 500 others.  It was the largest mass shooting in American history.  We may never know exactly what prompted him to commit such a heinous crime, but this shooting has once again revived the calls for stricter gun controls.  There have even been a few voices that have demanded the repeal of the Second Amendment which protects a citizen's right to have and to bear arms.  It is almost as if these people actually believe that guns are the problems.  Friends, there are more people killed via automobiles each year than via all types of weapons combined, and yet I have never heard anyone champion stricter controls on who can drive a car.  The problem exhibited in Las Vegas is more serious than just a matter of controlling guns.


Then this past weekend multiple allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault were brought against one of the most powerful men in Hollywood - Mr. Harvey Weinstein.  And, since that story first broke, others have begun to share their stories.  This was not a once or twice moral failure, but a repeated culture of moral failure on the part of Mr. Weinstein.  And, because he wielded a lot of power that could make or break a young aspiring actress or actor, and because he had a lot of money, Mr. Weinstein's immoral behavior was never questioned in public.  The silence of many allowed for this culture to continue, almost as if it was approved.  But there is a deeper problem in Hollywood than just Harvey Weinstein.


This past Monday was Columbus Day - a day commemorating the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492.  Although Columbus was considered a hero when I was a student in school (of course that was 60 years ago), today Columbus is considered to be a monstrous villain.  The genocide of the Native Americans is laid at his feet.  The enslavement of minority people is laid at his feet.  And so there is a "mad" rush - and I do mean that it is a rush toward insanity - to destroy every vestige of Columbus that remains today.  Statues were assaulted with red paint, at best, or totally destroyed, at worst.  But there is a deeper problem than just statues of Columbus in the United States.


What is this deeper problem?  To put it very bluntly: It is the consequence of the abandonment of moral clarity based upon absolute truth.  When absolute truth is cast aside, then moral relativism reigns.  To put it very succinctly, when absolute moral truth is absent, then there is no measuring rod by which to measure another person' actions or attitudes.  So, Mr. Paddock can shoot dozens of innocent people because for him there is no absolute moral truth.  So, people can desecrate public statues of Christopher Columbus because they have no absolute moral truth.  And Mr. Weinstein can impose his will upon vulnerable young actresses because he has no absolute moral truth.  To be perfectly honest with you, I am very surprised by the outcry against Mr. Weinstein, for, after all, he is one of "them."  He could most assuredly wear the title of "Mr. Left."  Yet I applaud those women who came forward to expose Mr. Weinstein for the immoral creep that he was. 


But, here is where it gets very interesting.  Suppose I were to ask Ashley Judd, for example, why she believed the actions of Mr. Weinstein were wrong.  What would be her response?  Now, she would have to be very careful with that response.  She might say, "Well that type of behavior is very demeaning toward women."  And my response would be, "Why is that behavior so demeaning toward women?"  She might hesitate and say, "Well, it is just wrong!"  And, again I would ask, "How do you know it is just wrong?"  You see, what those on the Left refuse to state is that something is wrong because there is an objective standard of right and wrong that necessarily demands that there be an absolute truth with a foundation firmly planted in God.  But the Left cannot just come out and say that for that statement destroys the very foundation upon which they have built their belief structure. 


I have been teaching a class on Apologetics this fall here at our church.  I have nearly 40 students in two sections.  Over the past several months I have had the privilege of reading and studying about those questions the skeptics and agnostics ask concerning the Christian faith.  And one of the things I have discovered is that deep down in their hearts, skeptics and agnostics recognize that there is a moral reality.  Just try to break into the home of an agnostic and they will have you arrested as a burglar.  With that very action they have affirmed that there is a moral reality.  But you won't hear them talk about this or trumpet moral reality before the television cameras.  Why is that?  Because moral reality forces us to ask the question, "What is the foundation for that moral reality?"  And, of course, you and I know it as abiding in the person of a holy, righteous, loving, and just God.


Friends, great are the depths to which the human heart can fall when all restraint is cast off.  The prophet Jeremiah expressed that thought with these words, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).  "But for the grace of God..."  What powerful words!  God could have changed Stephen Paddock's life.  God can still change Harvey Weinstein's life.  God can change your life as you acknowledge Jesus as Truth. 



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

To Kneel or Not to Kneel - Connecting the Dots

"To kneel or not to kneel - ah, that is the question" that is the latest attempt by the liberal left to divide America.  What is a person to do when our national anthem is played in a public setting?  What is a person to do when our flag is presented?  Is the "Stars Spangled Banner" just another song, another piece of music?  Is the flag simply a piece of cloth?  Of course we should know the answers to those questions.  Both our flag and our national anthem are symbols that represent our nation.  When one sees the flag, one should see America - its strengths and its weaknesses.  When one hears the national anthem being played, one should hear the sounds of America's past: the thump of the gavel in Independence Hall as the Declaration of Independence is affirmed; the roar of cannons on a hot July day in Gettysburg; the powerful thrust of rocket engines launching the Space Shuttle into orbit; the anguished cries as a nation mourns its fallen leader. 


And what were we taught as children about the national anthem and the flag?  We were to show respect for both by standing when the anthem was sung or played and when the flag was presented in a public setting.  Furthermore, we were encouraged to put our hand over our heart when the anthem was played or sung and the flag was presented.  This was to show honor to what our nation has stood for; to show respect for the many men and women who died so that we might enjoy our freedoms.  This was our privilege as Americans. 


But for many Americans today, the flag no longer is a symbol of all the things that made and continue to make America great.  Instead, the flag is a symbol of what divides America today.  It is a symbol of racism, of oppression, of inequality.  It is not to be shown respect, but to be held in contempt.  Rise when the national anthem is played or the colors are presented?  No, instead I will kneel to show my utter contempt for both. 


Allow me to connect some dots.  Dot #1 - the elimination of Columbus Day making it Indigenous Americans Day.  Many states have changed the focus of the Columbus Day holiday.  After all, Columbus did a great disservice to the human race by discovering the New World.  Just look at what Columbus brought with him: weapons of mass destruction - muskets using gun powder; disease - small pox especially; enslavement - someone had to work the gold and silver mines.  But, look at what else Columbus brought: Christianity and the message of the Gospel; civilization and the advancement of learning. 


Dot #2 - the attempted eradication of symbols of the Civil War.  Robert E Lee - has to go because he was a traitor to his country, besides he was a slave owner.  Thomas J "Stonewall" Jackson - well, he has to go as well.  And so we remove those statues, or we at least shroud them in black. 


Dot #3 - the attempted removal of those Founding Fathers - Washington and Jefferson - who owned slaves.  Thomas Jefferson might have been the author of the Declaration of Independence and our third President who expanded our nation with the Louisiana Purchase, but he owned slaves, thus he is not fit to be memorialized.  The same is true with George Washington. 


Dot #4 - the disrespect shown to the flag and the national anthem. 


Dot #5 - the rewriting of American history texts that are used in our public schools.  In these new texts we see a revisionism of history.  The Pilgrims did not come to America for religious purposes, but the greed of gold and silver.  Those writers of the Constitution had as a goal the creation of a government run by men who were white supremacists.  And on and on the list would go.  This is what is being taught to your children and grandchildren as being historical fact. 


Is there a common link between these dots?  I believe there is.  It is the attempt by the radical left to destroy America by destroying its past.  America's greatness is built upon her past.  But, if that past is called into question as to its validity, then the foundations begin to shake and soon the nation will totter and finally tumble. 


Friends, we need reminders of our past - both the great as well as the not-so great.  We need the Mount Rushmores and the Gettysburgs.  We need the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial as well as the Lincoln Memorial.  We need the Trail of Tears as well as the Santa Fe Trail.  America has never claimed to be perfect.  Our nation was birthed as a grand experiment of men governing one another - not via dictates, but via ballots.  Yes, it has had some times when things were not as they should have been - the Civil War and the Vietnam War are two examples.  But, there have been many more times when America rose to the challenge and stood as an anchor for many - the Marshall Plan, following World War II, and the rush to provide assistance for hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquake ravaged countries demonstrate the beneficent heart of America. 


Let's not erase America's past that we dislike or strongly reject, but let us have a civil dialogue and learn from those periods.  Yes, there is much we can learn from one another when our objective is to truly listen to each other.  We have lost the art of dialogue today and have instead cultivated the art of demonstration which often ends in violence, destruction, and sometimes even death. 


Furthermore, I believe what we are seeing today is part of a larger plan to create a one-world government.  For that to happen, nationalism must be destroyed, thus the continued assault upon President Trump who has a strong national heart.  America is one of the last strongholds remaining of a nationalistic spirit.  But erasing its past and discrediting its founding, that spirit can be destroyed.  And, once it is destroyed or at least severely damaged, I believe we will see the ascent of the Antichrist who will complete the formation of that one-world government and rule all nations who have surrendered their nationalism for globalism and one-worldism. 


So, to kneel or not to kneel - ah, that should not even be a question.  I will rise to my feet when the flag is paraded in front of me.  I will rise to my feet, remove my cap, place my hand over my heart when our national anthem is played or sung.  I will do that because I honor my country and those who sacrificed their lives so that I could live in the "land of the free and the home of the brave."  And I will no longer support any team that shows disrespect to the anthem and the flag of our nation.   

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Another Hurricane, Another Earthquake: God Is Stil Shouting

Another hurricane is churning through the Atlantic at break-neck speed.  Hurricane Maria brought near total devastation to the island of Dominica.  The island's governor declared yesterday that to his knowledge not one roof remained in place on any building on the island.  Now the hurricane has Puerto Rico in its crosshairs.  This island territory received just a glancing blow from Hurricane Irma just two weeks ago, but it looks like it will take a full-frontal blow from Hurricane Maria. 


Resources are being stretched as first responders deal with a third major hurricane to hit the United States or its territories within the past four weeks.  Hurricanes Harvey, then Irma, and now Maria have caused untold billions of dollars in property and infrastructure destruction.  The suffering of those caught within the wake of those storms has been intense.  Yet Americans have pulled together in these moments of crisis to help others in their times of need.  America has always been good at this.  It is just sort of in America's DNA structure. 


And then there is the earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale, that hit Mexico yesterday.  The number of dead keeps steadily rising as the damage becomes more visible.  This is the second major earthquake to hit Mexico in recent weeks. 


Friends, I believe that God is sounding a wake-up call.  Time to get out of our apathy.  Time to clean the rust off the armor of God.  Time to get some Holy Spirit anointing and enter into the battle for God's Kingdom.  These are not days to be timid.  These are days for boldness and courage. 


I met this morning with a great group of men for a study in the book of Nehemiah.  This study is part of our discipleship-leadership development for men within our church.  This morning we were in Nehemiah chapters 2 and 3.  We talked about the opposition that Nehemiah received as he began work on his vision of seeing the walls around Jerusalem rebuilt.  Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab certainly did their best to cause a disruption of Nehemiah's plan.  Their primary weapons - fear and intimidation.  Do we not experience those same two threats today?  We constantly face the intimidation of Satan.  Don't speak out against the gay community because you might go to jail for hate-speech.  Don't speak out against evolution in your school because you might be branded a Bible-thumper.  And the list goes on and on.  And what has the Church done?  It has caused its voice to be silenced because of fears and intimidation.  As one young man said this morning, this has been going on for a long time. 


It is time to stand up for the Truth.  I like these final words of David to his son Solomon.  His advice to his son was this: "Be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires" (1 Kings 2:2-3).  What great advise!  "Be a man!"  Stand with a firm backbone upon those convictions of your heart.  Don't compromise your values.  Never back-down on what you know to be right.  Always follow the leading of the Lord.  How we need this today!  We need men, and women for that matter, who will get up in the morning and declare with all the authority of God, "Satan, you can't have me today!  I am serving Jesus!"  That is boldness inspired by the will of God.


Yesterday our President delivered what, in the eyes of many, was one of the most powerful speeches given by an American President at the United Nations.  He was unwavering in his commitment to "America first," but then urged the other national leaders to always put their nations first.  Nationalism before globalism.  He also addressed the threat from North Korea in no uncertain terms: you fire the first shot, we will totally destroy you.  That speech certainly repositioned the role of the United States within the international community: a role of strength and resolve; a role as leader.  How we need to keep our President and his team ever in our prayers. 


Before I close I want to wish all of you a "shana tova" as we enter into the celebration of Rosh Hashanah.  Actually Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown this evening.  It marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year - the year 5778.  So, to all my Jewish friends I wish you a year that is good.  A year of G-d's peace.  A year of light in the midst of darkness.  Shana tova!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

God: "Can You Hear Me Now?"

Another week and another part of our country has been devastated by another hurricane.  This time it was Hurricane Irma wrecking havoc upon Florida.  I must admit that it is hard to comprehend a storm that was 400 miles in diameter.  And to see pictures of the bay at Naples completely dried was mesmerizing.  I read an article that this storm changed the coastal line of western Florida.  Now that was one powerful storm.


Hurricane Irma following so closely upon the heels of Hurricane Harvey has caused many to ask the question: why did this happen?  We know that the property damage alone will reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars.  But no price can be placed upon those lives that have been turned upside-down.  Slowly the pieces of life will be rebuilt but the memories will often haunt those people for years.  So, what caused these two powerful storms to occur? 


But let's broaden the question.  Why is there evil in this world?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why is there pain and suffering?  Why are homes being destroyed and lives uprooted by the wildfires out west?  Why is violence on the increase within the urban centers of our country?  Why was a police officer struck and killed while doing his duty?  Why was a young would-be mother kidnapped, brutally murdered so that someone else could have the baby?  And the list of questions could go on and on for page after page. 


According to the actress Jennifer Lawrence, the hurricanes are a direct result of the election of Donald Trump as President.  According to Ms. Lawrence, Mother Nature is angry with the election results and is spilling out her fury.  One almost has to laugh at the foolishness of such thinking.  Yet I am sure that she is not alone with that opinion. 


I found a very interesting passage of Scripture that speaks to this matter of evil in the world.  It really is Jesus' comments about two tragic news stories of His day.  You can read the account in Luke 13.  The first news item Jesus comments upon is the violence that had occurred at the temple while some were making sacrifices.  For reasons not known, many were killed by Roman soldiers under the authority of Pilate.  People were shocked and asked Jesus about it.  Here was His reply: "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish."  It is as if Jesus is saying to those who asked the question: "Bad things happen to people.  The question that should be asked is this: Why didn't this happen to you?  How you need to be ready to die because you do not know when it will happen?" 


The second headline concerned eighteen people who died when a tower in Siloam fell on them.  We are not told how it happened; it was just some sort of construction accident.  These people just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Again, listen to the words of Jesus: "Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish."  Jesus is saying, "Accidents do happen.  The question that should be asked is this: Why didn't this happen to you?  How you need to be ready to die because you do not know when it will happen?" 


Friends, we live in a fallen world; a world under the curse of sin.  Storms happen as a result.  Wildfires happen as a result.  Innocent people are murdered as a result.  Bad things happen to people because we live in a fallen world.  Hurricanes Harvey and Irma occurred because we live in a fallen world.  Car accidents happen.  Innocent children die in our city's streets.  Property is destroyed.  And it is all because of a sin-ridden world we live in. 


But there is hope.  Tragedies happen, but God is always in control.  I was just reading this past week the account in Acts 27 of Paul's shipwreck.  The thing I rediscovered within that story is that the shipwreck did not need to occur.  It happened because of a foolish choice made by the captain of the ship.  If Paul's advice had been heeded, the ship and its cargo would have been spared.  The owners of the ship would not have suffered loss.  And the sailors, passengers, and prisoners would have been spared much trauma.  Yet through it all God was in control and He was exalted as that chapter of Paul's story came to a close.  And I believe we will see such closings as the stories of Harvey and Irma begin to unfold. 


But allow me to share just one final thought.  Let's see: two hurricanes, among the most powerful in recent times, a 8.2 magnitude earthquake that rocked southwestern Mexico, dozens of wildfires that are destroying hundreds of thousands of acres in California and the Pacific Northwest.  Is there a message to be heard?  Could it be that what Paul says in Romans 8 is happening right before our eyes.  You will remember his words: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" (Romans 8:22).  Could it be that the earth itself is yelling at us to get ready because the end is soon at hand and it, too, will be freed from the curse placed upon it there in the Garden of Eden? 


Yes, bad things are going to continue to happen to all people.  Yet we take solace in knowing that God is in control.  And we also heed God's warnings through nature that His return is soon.  (By the way, if you want to do a very interesting Bible study, look at all the references to how God will use His creation - nature itself - in the last days.  It is a fascinating study).


                                                                                                                                                                    

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Tolerance and Respect: Both Are Needed

The word "tolerance" is derived from a Latin word meaning "to bear."  The Webster's New World Dictionary defines this word: "to allow" or "to respect (other's beliefs, practices, etc.) without sharing them."  America's heritage is strongly rooted in the concept of tolerance.  The colony of Pennsylvania was founded with a religious tolerance, a place where all faiths could be accepted.  The First Amendment to the United States Constitution proclaims the foundation for the freedom of expression through speech and religion, which is the bedrock of tolerance. 


Now, by being tolerant, it does not mean that I have to personally accept a different lifestyle or manner of living.  But it does mean that I must show respect for that difference.  For example, if I go into a retail store and discover that many of the clerks identify with being Muslim by their manner of dress, I do have to show them respect even though I disagree with their belief-system. 


The problem in American culture today is that we have lost the sense of respect.  We want conformity, not tolerance.  We want everyone to be alike.  There is little room for differences and certainly there is no room to show respect for those differences.  This concept is dramatically displayed on college and university campuses where those who hold to a belief contrary to the majority on the campus are shouted down or prohibited from even speaking.  Why is that?  It is because they are not like the majority and, let's remember, everyone must learn to think alike and to believe just like everyone else.  Let's all be "inside-the-box-thinkers."  That is the safe place to be.  It is dangerous to be an "outside-the-box-thinker."  So, many of our colleges and universities today are educating our young people to be "inside-the-box-thinkers" focused upon only those ideologies and principles that have been approved by the mainstream educational organizations. 


Let me give you a recent example of how conformity was exacted in the guise of practicing tolerance.  The article was from the National Review, published on August 29, 2017.  The article, titled, "Catholic School Removes Jesus, Mary Statues Because They're 'Alienating' to Non-Catholics," was written by Katherine Timpf.  Allow me to share a portion of the article:


"The San Domenico School, the first Catholic school in California, has removed all but 18 of its 180 religious statues in an effort to be more 'inclusive' and 'forward thinking.'  Several parents have complained about the decision, accord to Marinij.  'Articulating an inclusive foundation appears to mean letting go of San Domenico's 167-year tradition as a Dominican Catholic school and being both afraid and ashamed to celebrate one's heritage and beliefs,' one of these parents, Shannon Fitzpatrick, told the news source.  'In our time here, the word "Catholic" has been removed form the mission statement, sacraments were removed from the curriculum, the lower-school curriculum was changed to world religions, the logo and colors were changed to be "less Catholic," and the uniform was changed to be less Catholic,' she continued. 


"Head of School Cecily Stock, however, said that the school is an 'independent' as well as 'Catholic' school - a whopping 80 percent of the school's students do not identify as Catholic - and that the move was simply meant to make the campus more attractive and 'inclusive' to students of other faiths.
Amy Skewes-Cox, who heads the school's board of trustees, doubled down on the idea that the statues could potentially make students with other beliefs feel too uncomfortable.  'If you walk on the campus and the first thing you confront is three or four statues of Saint Dominic or Saint Francis, it could be alienating for that other religion, and we didn't want to further that feeling.'"


Before I share with you the conclusion of the author of this article, let me ask you this question: Is there a fallacy within the argument of the San Domenico School's leadership?  You are a Catholic School which means that you celebrate your Catholic beliefs through many different avenues within the school.  If I, as a parent, would decide to send my child to this school, should I expect that the school would tone-down its Catholic beliefs just so my child, being raised as a non-Catholic, would feel comfortable?  Of course not!  Here is how the author of the article closed: "As an independent school, San Domenico obviously has the right to make whatever statue-related decisions it wants to make.  Still, there's certainly something to be said for keeping true to an institution's history and tradition - and I'm not entirely sure just how triggering these statues really could have been to non-Catholics, anyway.  I know, after all, from my own experience that I would not have been bothered: I attended a Lutheran high school as a non-Lutheran, and I never got upset at seeing or hearing 'Lutheran' things at school.  We had chapel every day where speakers taught the Lutheran faith - I even had to take Lutheran theology classes to graduate - but I never once considered that things should have been any other way.  Why?  It was a Lutheran school, and so I kind of expected that I'd probably be seeing some Lutheran things around me if I decided to attend.  I never felt that I was any less of a person, or even that I was unwelcome; it just seemed like something that made too much logical sense even to question."


The San Domenico School, in the guise of being tolerant of others, instead practiced conformity.  We will become like other schools because we want you to attend here.  The bottom line is the respect that should be shown to one another was missed.


Let me cite one more example.  This article was published by Townhall just today and was written by Todd Starnes.  You can find it at: www.townhall.com/columnists/toddstarnes/2017/09/05/teacher-compares-trump-shirts-to-swastikas.  "A Georgia high school teacher compared the 'Make America Great Again' slogan to a swastika and ordered students wearing t-shirts supporting President Trump to leave her classroom.  The incident happened Aug. 31 at River Ridge High School in Cherokee County - north of Atlanta - and it was all captured on video.  Turning Point News first obtained the exclusive video and it shows the teacher explaining to students that they could not wear pro-Trump clothing 'just like you cannot wear a swastika to school.' ... 'It's ironic to me that the political left claims to promote free speech, but then attempts to silence conservative free speech,' State Rep. John Carson told AJC.com.  Parents reached out to local news reporters and local lawmakers and the school district had no choice but to apologize.  The school district said the unidentified math teacher 'erroneously' told the students that shirts with campaign slogans were not permitted in class."


Just another case where "tolerance" equals "conformity" to the wishes of the majority.  Unfortunately this seems to be a growing phenomena within our culture today.  I may not agree with your position, but that does not give me the right to show disrespect toward you.  R-E-S-P-E-C-T - how we need to rediscover the wealth of relationship building found within that word.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Harvey: When Americans Come Together

All eyes have been riveted on those scenes coming from Houston that stagger our minds.  Homes which one week ago were filled with the sounds of life are now filled with flood waters.  People, who one week ago were dreaming of vacations, of work opportunities, and of the start of another school year are now in a state of shock and asking how they will be able to pick up the pieces and start all over again.  In a matter of hours last Friday evening, lives were unalterably changed.  The Houston area was forever changed. 


But, as I have sat and watched those images and listened to many of the stories, I was encouraged that, for all our differences, when a crisis occurs Americans band together.  As those boats went from house to house, they did not ask whether a person was gay or straight, whether a person was a Christian or not, whether that person was a Democrat or a Republican.  No, all were welcomed into those life-saving boats.  And, upon arrival at those mega-shelters people were not separated according to any particular system.  All were accepted because they were folks who needed help given in a loving way.  This is what Americans do best.  We saw it after 9-11.  We have seen it during those horrific wildfires in America's west.  We see it through the open arms of volunteers from the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Samaritan's Purse and other relief agencies. 


Why can't America act this way all the time?  Why must every weekend dozens of people living in Chicago be shot?  Why must Antifa react with violence when anything occurs that differs from their attempt to change American culture and history?  Why has violence become so embedded within our culture?  Whatever happened to civilized conversations?  Whatever happened to those times of civil debate?  Whatever happened to Jesus' command that we should love our neighbors as ourselves?  You might remember that Jesus said this was the second great commandment. 


I believe the answer to our dilemma is found within that first great commandment.  And what is that?  Jesus said that we were to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and spirit.  This is first, not just in its listing, but in its importance.  This first commandment has a vertical component.  It is how God desires we relate to Him.  We are to love Him wholeheartedly.  We are to be fully committed to Him as Lord of our lives.  He is to be the centerpiece around which everything else in our lives revolves.  Friends, when the vertical component is as it should be, then the horizontal component - that second commandment - will also be as it should.  If I have a deep love relationship with God, then I will also have a deep love relationship with those around me, whether it is in my home, my neighborhood, my community, or my nation.  It is a love that is shown through giving respect even when there are points of disagreement. 


I have to admit that I have almost come to the point of anger at how the main-stream media has covered Hurricane Harvey.  Yesterday's coverage of Melania's shoes almost was the final straw.  Who cares what shoes she was wearing as she walked from the White House to Marine 1?  Yet, her shoes became a feeding frenzy.  That became a point of fixation.  She and the President were on their way to bring encouragement to people who had lost everything, including their shoes, and all you could do was to criticize the First Lady's choice of shoes.  Let's see: there are hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been shattered and, for many of them, they will spend the rest of their lives trying to recover from this powerful storm, and yet you focus upon Melania's shoes.  How far removed from real life has the main-stream media gotten?  They really are out of touch with reality.


Since the time of the Great Flood, the world has experienced many natural disasters.  Innumerable earthquakes - some more devastating than others.  Floods - some that have swallowed up entire communities.  Tornadoes and hurricanes - think of Katrina, Sandy, and now Harvey.  Yet, each disaster was just a small microcosm in that it impacted only a small area.  Think of those pictures you have seen of the devastation from Harvey.  Now, imagine what it would be like if there were a hundred Harvey's all occurring at the same time.  Yet I believe the Bible tells us that in the last days that is exactly what is going to occur.  The prophetic passages describe earthquakes occurring that will literally change the landscapes of our planet.  Natural disasters will increase.  The death and the destruction will be incalculable.  Could Harvey be a wake-up call?  Is Harvey another one of nature's groanings as it senses its soon redemption?  I can't declare that with certainty.  But of this I am certain: the coming of the Lord Jesus is getting closer every day.  Are you excited for that day?