Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Is Your City Biblically-Minded?

Daily I get e-mails from friends who literally scour the Internet looking for articles of importance.  I value these dear friends because they become the filters through which a lot of information flows.  So, when I get an e-mail from them, I know the article is worthy of my reading and examination.  This past Monday I received such an e-mail from a dear friend.  It is from The Patriot Post: Voice of Essential Liberty.  You can read this article at:  It is titled "Brief: Does Religion Matter in a Free Republic?"  The article begins with a quote from John Adams, the second President of the United States: "Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society."  Then the article goes on to cite research done by the Barna Group of 96 American cities as to which were most Biblically-minded.  Biblically-minded is defined as "individuals who report reading the Bible in a typical week and who strongly assert the Bible is accurate in the principles it teaches."  You might have guessed that the most biblically-minded cities were in the south, while the least biblically-minded were in the northeast.  Let me just post a few of the results.  The top seven were:
     1.  Knoxville, TN (52%)
     2.  Shrevport, LA (52%)
     3.  Chattanooga, TN (52%)
     4.  Birmingham/Anniston/Tuscaloosa, AL (50%)
     5.  Jackson, MS (50%)
     6.  Springfield, MO (49%)
     7.  Charlotte, NC (48%)

The bottom seven included:
    90. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, CA (16%)
    91. Boston, MA/Manchester, NH (16%)
    92. Hartford/New Haven, CT (16%)
    93. Portland?Auburn, ME (16%)
    94. Burlington, VT/Plattsburgh, NY (16%)
    95. Albany/Schenectady/Troy, NY (10%)
    96. Providence, RI/ New Bedford, MA (9%)

Dallas TX checked in at #27 with a 38% score.  Des Moines/Ames, IA came in a #49 with a 29% score.  Los Angeles, CA was #68 with a 24% score.  Minneapolis/St Paul, MN was #81 with a 21% score.  Minneapolis finished lower than Chicago (#76 and 23%), Green Bay/Appleton, WI (#78 and 23%) and Washington DC (#63 and 25%). 

What does this mean?  Simply put: In American communities across our land, less than 50% of the residents do not read their Bibles and certainly do not practice its principles and teachings in their every day life.  And, in a few communities, there is hardly a presence of Scriptural truth or of a godly witness at all.  What has happened?  I believe we have become too culturally adapted to the world around us.  We are more concerned about what others might think, than of what God thinks.  Other things crowd into our lives that drown out that voice that says, "Return to the Scriptures.  Follow the Scriptures."  It is so much easier to go with the flow than it is to swim against the popular current of our day. 

It is time for those of us who know Jesus Christ personally, to dig more deeply into the Word.  Get involved in a small group Bible study where the Bible is taken seriously.  Become a discipler of your own children and grandchildren, remembering that that is your first mission field.  Take a stand for what is biblical.  It won't be easy and there might be a price to pay, but I remember what Daniel did and what Joseph did.  And then we need to model in our office complexes, in our school board meetings, in our marketplaces, and in our neighborhoods the love of God and the principles of God's truth. 

Can we make a difference?  Absolutely!  Is it too late to begin making such a difference?  Absolutely, not!  I believe many are truly seeking truth in the midst of these perilous days.  They are looking for an anchor.  Let's point them clearly to Jesus...our Rock and our Fortress.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Election and An Anniversary

Yesterday Israeli voters went to the polls to elect members to the Knesset.  Like our House of Representatives, all members of the Knesset are elected every four years.  And the Knesset is a much smaller body - 120 seats.  The pre-election polls had strongly hinted that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his strong coalition of Likud and Yisreal Beytenu parties would easily have a strong showing (they presently had 42 seats in the Knesset). 

But pre-election polls often are not good predictors of outcomes.  Yes, with nearly all returns counted, the Prime Minister has held on to win the opportunity to form a new government.  But, the Likud-Yisreal Beytenu parties only secured 33 seats in the new Knesset.  Finishing second was the Yesh Atid party (There is a Future), headed by political newcomer Yair Lapid, with 19 seats. 

Of the 32 political parties that contested the election, 12 parties won enough support to have seats in the new Knesset.  And, what I found most interesting, was the there was a near even split between those parties that were center-right and center-left. 

The Prime Minister now has six weeks to form his coalition government.  He will need at least 61 seats in that coalition, but will try to have even more to keep a coalition together.  What will become very interesting in the forming of the coalition is America's response to the new Israeli government.  As we all know, our President and PM Netanyahu have not been exactly the best of friends these past four years.  How will the new Israeli government respond to the continued threats from Iran?  From the increased volatile rhetoric from Egypt?  From the continued violence in neighboring Syria? 

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision on abortion, known as "Roe v. Wade."  I read a statistic that over the past 40 years, over 54 million children in America have been aborted.  That is 54 million opportunities to find a cure for cancer - snuffed out; 54 million opportunities to help bring peace - never allowed to live.  Yesterday two articles caught my attention.  Both have to do with the treatment of fellow human being. 

The first article was from the Telegraph, a paper published in England.  It was titled, "David Attenborough - Humans are plague on Earth."  You can read the article at  David Attenborough is an acclaimed television reporter, best recognized for his documentary on the BBC called "Planet Earth."  He said "the only way to save the planet from famine and species extinction is to limit human population growth.  He went on to say, "We are a plague on the Earth.  It's coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so.  It's not just climate change; it's sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde.  Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now."  Well, David Attenborough, in America we have slaughtered over 54 million children these past 40 years.  How many more do you want us to sacrifice so that a few more animals can survive? 

The second article also came from a British paper - The Guardian.  It was titled, "Let elderly people 'hurry up and die', says Japanese minister."  It can be found at  "Japan's new government is barely a month old, and already one of its most senior members has insulted tens of millions of voters by suggesting that the elderly are an unnecessary drain on the country's finances.  Taro Aso, the finance minister, said on Monday that the elderly should be allowed to 'hurry up and die' to relieve pressure on the state to pay for their medical care."  The article quotes Mr. Aso as saying, "I see people aged 67 or 68 at class reunions who dodder around and are constantly going to the doctor.  Why should I have to pay for people who just eat and drink and make no effort?  I walk every day and do other things, but I'm paying more in taxes." 

I guess that last quote struck home with me - I will soon be 66.  Are Mr. Aso's comments typical of the way the younger generation views its aging parents and grandparents?  Are his comments typical of the way that governments will soon view seniors?  Sadly, I am afraid, those comments are more typical than we want to give thought to.  If we have no pangs of conscience in taking the lives of over 54 million unborn children, why should society have any pangs of conscience in seeking the "hurry up and die" mentality toward its seniors?  We truly are living in a moral vacuum. 

My friends, aren't you glad that we have the rock solid hope in the coming of the Lord Jesus.  He is our everything. 

Have you ever had a desire to go to Israel, to walk in the footsteps of our Savior, to visit the city where He will reign as King someday?  Let me share an opportunity with you.  I will be leading a tour to Israel this coming October.  The dates are October 17-31.  We will fly from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv for 12 wonderful days in Israel and Jordan.  We will travel up the Mediterranean Coast - visiting Caesarea, Haifa, and Acco.  Then spending time in the Galilee - remembering those places where Jesus spent His time.  Then it is down to Jerusalem - one of the most fascinating cities in the world.  We will conclude our trip with a journey across the Jordan River and down to Petra.  Cost for this tour is $4899 - includes airfare, all hotels, entrance fees, a wonderful Israeli breakfast buffet in the morning and a delicious dinner buffet in the evening, bus, guide, all taxes, tips, and others incidentals.  If you would like to receive more information, just let me know -  Will be excited to have you join us for this trip of a lifetime.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thoughts about God

I know there is a lot going on in the world right now.  Monday is the second inauguration of President Obama and the uncertainty of what the next four years will hold for our nation.  But, as I watch his cabinet appointments, I have to say that I am concerned as I believe we are seeing his agenda come to the fore.  Then Tuesday is the national election in Israel with the formation of a new government there.  More uncertainty.  The fiscal cliff looms ahead yet again, but has been lost in the panic of gun-control that now has center stage. 

May I focus our thoughts this week in a totally different direction?  Thanks.  This past Sunday I preached a message titled, "So, What Do YOU Believe about...God?"  It was the second in a series I am preaching about our church's new statement of faith.  If you are interested in hearing the message in its entirety, you can go to our website and the link will be on the home page. 

As I had time to think about the immensity and awesomeness of God, the things of this world that we seem to focus our time upon suddenly pale into insignificance.  I know this is a refresher for most of you, but let me just cite a couple of truths about God that we need to know in these uncertain days.

First, God is omnipotent.  Listen to these words of Jesus, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).  Did you get that?  "With God all things are possible."  There is simply nothing too difficult for God to do.  He can part the waves of a Red Sea.  He can flatten the walls of a Jericho.  He can feed the multitudes with five loaves of bread and two fish.  He can bring the dead back to life.  There is absolutely nothing God cannot do for you.  You know that heavy load you are carrying right is not too heavy for God to carry.  That problem that seems almost overwhelming right just a tiny speck to our awesome God.  There is nothing in your life right now that God is incapable of solving or leading you through.  I don't know about you, but that is an incredible thought that brings peace and hope.

Second, God is omniscient.  I love these words from the pen of David: "You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD" (Psalm 139:2-4).  There is nothing God does not know about you and me.  There is nothing in your life or my life that can be kept secret from God.  I don't know about you but I find that very refreshing.  God simply knows me...He knows you.  And, you know what, He has your very best in mind.

Third, God is love.  The Apostle John, often described as "the apostle of love," said: "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8).  Don't you find that incredibly awesome.  God loves you!  God loves me!  And it is a love that is not based on what you or I have done.  It is simply based on who we are!  Oh to just rest in that love.  I love the words to that great hymn written by George Matheson in 1882 on the eve of his sister's wedding as he remembered his days in college years before when the lady to whom he was engaged to be married said, "I cannot be married to a blind man" and walked away.  Perhaps as Pastor Matheson thought of his heartache, he was drawn to an even deeper love:
      "O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee;
      I give Thee back the life I owe, That in Thine ocean depths its flow May richer, fuller be.

      "O Light that foll'west all my way, I yield my flick'ring torch to Thee;
      My heart restores the borrowed ray, That in Thy sunshine's blaze its day May brighter, fairer be.

      "O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee;
      I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain That morn shall tearless be.

      "O Cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
      I lay in dust life's glory dead, And from the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be."

I don't know about you, but when I begin to focus upon God somehow that day just seems to go better.  And to think that He is still sitting upon His throne.  So I just need to trust Him more and more.  I need to get to know Him better.  I need to rest in His care more often. 

I closed my message this past Sunday with a quote attributed to a father giving advice to his son.  It comes from the first century and the father's name is Paternus.  That is all we know about him...except for this statement he gave to his son.  My friends, it is advice I need to share with my children and my grandchildren; you need to share it with your children and grandchildren.  I read this and asked myself this question: Why don't we share words like this with our kids today?  Perhaps it is because our walk with God is not as was that of Paternus.  But I leave these ancient words of advice with you at the beginning of this near year:
     "First of all, my child, think magnificently of God.  Magnify His providence; adore His power;  
     pray to Him frequently and incessantly.  Bear Him always in your mind.  Teach your thoughts to
     reverence Him in every place for there is no place where He is not.  Therefore, my child, fear and
     worship and love God; first and last, think magnificently of Him!" 
Great advice for all of us, don't you think?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thoughts upon Entering a New Year

The ball dropped on Times Square.  The Crimson Tide won the national collegiate football title again.  The Bears were not invited to the NFL's second season - both the Vikings and Packers were with only the Packers taking advantage of the invitation and remaining in the hunt for the Super Bowl title.  The fiscal cliff was averted by some last minute persuasions, although in actuality, the only thing that really happened was the can was kicked down the road for another couple of months.  The "January thaw" has hit Minnesota early, only to be followed by the "polar plunge" next week.  Welcome to the reality that is known as 2013. 

I am watching carefully the elections that are occurring in Israel on January 21.  A lot of political intigue is being played out among the various candidates jockeying for position of Prime Minister.  The outlook still looks rather positive for Benjamin Netanyahu to retain that position; the concern is the type of coalition that he will need to form in order to retain that post.  Stay tuned because I believe this is going to get very interesting.

Meanwhile, in Cairo today Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is meeting with representatives from Fatah and Hamas to attempt to come to some type of reconciliation between these two factions of the Palestinians.  Basically these two groups have been at odds since the 2007 coup that led to Hamas's take over of the Gaza Strip.  In 2011 Fatah and Hamas reached an understanding that was to lead to political union.  However, pitfalls and stumbling blocks that have centered on basic mistrust between these two political entities have prevented that union from occurring.  A possible thaw occurred this past Sunday when Hamas allowed Fatah to have a public demonstration within the Gaza Strip, an event that had not occurred since the violent take over in 2007.  Both Hamas and Fatah have differed in their relations with Israel: Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel through violence; in the past this has included rocket assaults from Gaza into Israeli terrority and other acts of terror.  Fatah, on the other hand, has been more willing to sit down and dialogue with Israel about a two-state solution.  Most experts expect that if an agreement is reached, that it will not be long before Hamas will control the West Bank as well as Gaza.  That will present some incredible problems for Israel's leadership.

Staying in Israel: According to an article in the "Telegraph" a British paper, Israel is planning on building a 43 mile security fence in the Golan Heights, much like the one they have built around the West Bank.  There is a strong concern that when the Assad regime falls in Syria radicals will assume leadership and Israel will face an imminent threat along the Syrian border.  Such a security fence will cause another international outrage as it will be built on lands Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 War.  But Israel has to do what it has to do to protect its people.  Somehow things are never easy in Israel and that goes way back to Bible days.

One final article I want to share with you.  It was published in the "National Review" and was written by Thomas Sowell.  You can find it at  This is an important article as I believe it captures the essence of some of America's problems.  We have forgotten to teach our children our history accurately.  America's story needs to be told as it was, not as we would have liked it to have been.  America's story centers around a group of individuals who had a vision for a nation founded upon principles of ethics and laws grounded in the Bible.  Yes, our Founders would welcome people from all over the world.  But they would also have said, you come here because you want to be part of who we are, not to change us to become like you.  That was America's strength.  People did come.  They came as Irish, Swedes, Norwegians, Dutch, Italians, French, and Germans.  They learned our language.  They worked hard on our farms and in our factories.  They educated their children.  They became citizens, paid their taxes, voted in our elections and became Americans.  People come to America today and expect our nation to change to fit their traditions and values.  America simply cannot become all things to all people.  Anyway, read the article and I would be interested in your response.

Well this will be another year in which we have to depend upon God.  We are not to put our confidence in the decisions reached by men, nor put our trust in military or financial might.  For, as we have seen, political, martial, and financial plans can collapse.  "My hope is built on Jesus Christ and His righteousness."  May that hope encourage us and move us forward in this new year.